Aug 042020

When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” (Acts 3:3–4)

Healing comes in many forms. In this case, a man, having had a crippling disability since birth, was carried by his friends and placed at the gateway to the Temple complex so that he could make his living. Little did he know that Peter and John, freshly infused with the power of God’s Spirit, would change his life forever. With this power, they (of course) healed the man so that he could walk around by his own power and he (of course) praised God for the gift he had received.

But I find it interesting that Peter and John “looked intently” (v. 4) at the man and commanded him, “Look at us” (v. 4) even after the story clearly states that the man “saw” them already (v. 3). Seeing one another is important to the story, really seeing one another. Peter and John offered this man not only the gift of physical healing, but the gift of dignity, the gift of respect, the gift of recognizing their common humanness because healing comes in many forms. We too can offer this healing. – rc

Aug 032020

Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.  (Acts 2:46–47a)

This story follows on the heels of the first Pentecost story (Acts 2:1–41) as the early Christ-followers set their priorities as a community of faith: they learned from one another (v. 42), they shared fellowship with each other (v. 42), they ate together (v. 42, 46), they prayed together (v. 42), they shared with one another (v. 44), they worshipped together (v. 46), and they developed a deep love and commitment for their local community (v. 47a). Such practices call us to remember that even though we spend a good deal of time emphasizing the internal togetherness of our own group, mission and outreach are also an important part of our core values, central to our identity as Christ-followers. The Church is a missional community, rooted in its particular place, concerned about local issues, and “having the goodwill of all the people” (v.47a) in mind. – rc

Jul 292020

All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12)

The first Pentecost story is not only about God’s Spirit endowing the disciples with the gift of languages. It is also about the astonishment and confusion of people when God’s ways are made manifest among them; it’s a story about how the establishment of God’s kingdom threatens the status quo (in both good and difficult ways). When we do things to bring about God’s desires here on earth, here in these towns of ours, we should expect that people will be “amazed and perplexed” – amazed because experiencing the world the way God intended it is life-changing, life-sustaining and perplexed because experiencing the world the way God intended it summons everyone to give up our personal interests for the good of others. This type of discipleship is surely counter-cultural, but it’s also they type of discipleship we need right now.               – rc

Jul 292020

And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias . . . (Acts 1:26a)

“Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6b) – these are the last words utter by the disciples before Jesus is taken from them. “It is not for you to know . . . But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7–8) – these are the last words uttered by Jesus before he is taken away; this was Jesus’ response to his friends’ inquiry.

So I find it interesting that the first thing the disciples do is to take it upon themselves to select a new member to their group in order to fill the vacancy left by Judas. Yes, they had criteria that the potential replacement had to meet. Yes, they prayed about it. Yes, they cast lots for him. Yes, they seemed to conduct their business decently and in proper order. But Jesus told them that they would begin to fulfill their mission once they were empowered by the Holy Spirit. Nonetheless, eager to move forward and anxious to conduct their business in their way, the disciples made the hasty decision to act on their own. I pray that we learn from the error of their ways and always take the time to wait for God’s Spirit to guide us.            – rc

Jul 292020

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)

These are the last words that the remaining disciples speak before the resurrected Jesus ascends into heaven and is physically gone from their lives. It’s a question that reveals the deepest desire of their hearts (the restoration of the free kingdom of Israel), but it’s also a question that reveals their deep ignorance and complete misunderstanding of what Jesus actually came to do. The point of the Jesus story was never to re-establish the kingdom of Israel but to establish the kingdom of God here on earth, a kingdom that spreads out from Jerusalem, to all Judea and Samaria, and on to the ends of the earth. And now, it is up to the disciples – it’s up to you and me – to help establish this kingdom.                      – rc

Jul 282020

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites . . . I want you to be wise in what is good and guileless in what is evil. (Romans 16:17–18a, 19b)

Paul closes his letter to his friends in Rome with one final plea for unity. He calls them to avoid unnecessary dissention, to refrain from unnecessary offense, and to keep a watchful eye out for those who seek to satisfy themselves at the expense of the community. But at the root of Paul’s call is wisdom; he summons his friends to know the difference between the ways of God and the appetites of people. According to Paul, God’s desire is for unity in the community, but it will take a wise and discerning mind to live together as one. May such wisdom come to us, not only in our community of faith, but in our county and country as well. – rc

Jul 272020

And the people said to Joshua, “No, we will serve the LORD! . . . We are witnesses! . . . The LORD our God we will serve, and him we will obey!” (Joshua 24:21, 22b, 24)

In a world where so much seems to divide people, it is good to take a moment to consider what unites us. As the Hebrew people settle into their homeland, they cry out with one unified voice their commitment to serving God, to holding on another accountable, and to being one faithful people. It is their mission, their ministry, their purpose that brings them together under God. Likewise, it is our mission and ministry that grant us our purpose as one, unified community of faith. – rc

Devotion for July 17, 2020

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Jul 152020

The pastures of the wilderness overflow,

the hills gird themselves with joy,

the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,

the valleys deck themselves with grain,

they shout and sing together for joy. (Psalm 65:12–13)

So many of the psalms we’ve seen over the past few weeks were written during times of distress and turmoil. But not today. Today, the psalmist sings out about the abundance of God. Today, the psalmist sings out about the harvest of plenty. Today, the psalmist belts our her song about the rich gifts of creation, reminding herself and her community that God is good. So today, when we look around at the bounteous beauty of God’s good earth, let us join our hearts with the psalmist in overflowing gratitude.                – rc

Devotion for July 16, 2020

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Jul 152020

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1–2)

If we’re not careful, we can go through the humdrum of everyday life creating unintended patterns and ruts for ourselves as we simply follow established cultural norms. But Paul calls his community to be ever-mindful of living life faithfully in each and every moment so that our living life might be our good and acceptable and perfect sacrifice to God. I appeal to us therefore, to live thoughtfully so that our life together might reflect the patterns of God’s kingdom in this world.             – rc

Devotion for July 15, 2020

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Jul 152020

“. . . when was it that we saw you . . .?” (Matthew 25:37, 38, 39, 44)

In the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, deeds of compassion and justice are what distinguish the sheep from the goats, the righteous from the less than upright. Feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, taking care of the sick, and visiting the imprisoned – these are the marks of the righteous life of the sheep and the lack of these acts marks the life of the goats. Yet both groups ask the same question: “when was it we saw you . . . ?” Neither group saw the face of Christ in the hungry or thirsty or naked or sick or imprisoned, so what is it that compelled the sheep to act with compassion and justice? I contend that when those so-called sheep look at the individual standing before them, they see a person, a human, a child of God. That is why we serve as well; it is our common humanity that compels us to serve around us with compassion and justice.                         – rc