Devotion for September 3, 2020

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Sep 032020

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit . . . (Acts 13:4a)

The story of the Bible is a story about going places – going out from comfortable places into unknown futures. Going places is one of the pervasive themes of the Book of Acts as the early Christ followers go from the comforts of familiar Jerusalem, to less comfortable Judea, to the uncomfortable Samaria, and on to the unknown ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). But they go not aimlessly, without objective. These are people who go with purpose; these are people who are sent. We are people who are sent to bring about God’s peace anywhere and everywhere we go. – rc

Devotion for September 2, 2020

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Sep 022020

O sing to the LORD a new song;

sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD, bless his name;

tell of his salvation from day to day. (Psalm 96:1–2)

On the surface, Psalm 96 is simply a song of utmost praise. The psalmist calls us all to sing: to bless God’s name (v. 2), to declare God’s glory (v. 3), to tell God’s marvelous works (v. 3), to worship God in holy splendor (v. 9). But the psalmist’s deep desire is for the entirety of the world to be set right with the righteousness and justice of God (v. 14). This means that the psalmist sings (and calls us to sing) even when times are difficult, even when righteousness is difficult to find, even when justice and wholeness and peace are hard to come by. May we sing the song of the psalmist, in good times and in difficult times, as our prayer for righteousness and justice – even now.            – rc

Devotion for September 1, 2020

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Sep 012020

The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” (Acts 12:8)

These are action words. These are adventuring words. These are the words that ring out to Peter as he mired in prison and they tell him that something new and exciting is going to happen. On the one hand, they are words that represent Peter’s immediate freedom: “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals; we’re getting outta here,” the angels says (v. 8, adapted). But on the other hand, Peter is freed for a purpose. We are freed for a purpose. We are all freed so that we might go and tell, so that we might go and live, so that we might go and bear witness to a new way of life in Christ. So “fasten you belt and put on your sandals” (v. 8). We’re headed toward a new future together. – rc

Devotion for August 31, 2020

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Aug 312020

The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea. (Acts 11:29)

As Presbyterians, we claim that we are a “connectional” church; that is, we are not solely independent congregations making our way on our own, left to fend for ourselves in difficult times. Instead, we are tied together, we celebrate joys together, we bear one another’s burdens together, we support each other – together. But I’d also like to suggest that our connectionality also binds us together as a human family. To be connectional means that we give of ourselves for the good of everyone – just as the early Christ-following communities gave of themselves (as they could), for the benefit of those in need. – rc

Devotion for August 28, 2020

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Aug 282020

You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ – he is Lord of all. (Acts 10:36)

As Peter understood it, Jesus came to bring peace. Peace-making was the primary purpose of Jesus’ life and ministry, death and resurrection. Peace is why Jesus was baptized (v. 37). Peace is why Jesus healed (v. 38). Peace is why Jesus died (v. 39).  And peace is why God raised him from the dead (v. 40). Now, we are given the task of preaching peace, making peace, being peace in the world. We could use a few more peace-makers right about now. – rc

Devotion for August 27, 2020

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Aug 272020

Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning,

for in you I put my trust.

Teach me the way I should go,

for to you I lift up my soul. (Psalm 143:8)

This morning, we arise with the psalmist after having expressed our deepest selves to God last night. We’re trying to hold two profound truths together; on the one hand, we feel myriad emotions on account of all that is going on in the world around us and on the other, we sing out, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, [God’s] mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22–23). So this morning we lift up our beings once more, praying for the steadfast love of God to be made known here and now. – rc

Devotion for August 26, 2020

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Aug 262020

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I bear pain in my soul,

and have sorrow in my heart all day long?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? (Psalm 13:1–2)

Today, we join with the psalmist in naming our own pain and disappointment saying, “How long?” How long will we be apart from one another? How long will we feel isolated and alone? How long until we see peace in our cities? How long until people accept one another? How long until people listen to one another? How long, O Lord? How long?

But as we join our voices to name the challenge of the present moment, we also join the psalmist  by trusting the God is in control. “I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”                     – rc

Devotion for August 25, 2020

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Aug 252020

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 118:1)

Today, the psalmist weaves together the distress of the present moment with the memory of God’s graciousness in the past all for the hope of a better future. She cries out in distress hoping for the steadfast love of the LORD, but it is the steadfast love of the LORD that compels her to cry out in the first place. Nonetheless, she (and we) sing out, trusting that God’s “steadfast love endures forever!” (v.1, 2, 3, 4, 29) – that’s why we can say with confidence, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (v. 24), even during difficult times. – rc

Devotion for August 24, 2020

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Aug 242020

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,

for in you my soul takes refuge;

in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,

until the destroying storms pass by. (Psalm 57:1)

This has been the year of storms – very real storms and very real metaphorical storms. So today, the psalmist cries out for mercy, taking refuge in the protective power of God’s loving embrace. It is God’s enduring strength that grants this psalmist courage. It is God’s steadfast love that grants this psalmist confidence. And it is God’s permanence that grants us hope during difficult times so that with the psalmist, we too can sing, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast” (v. 7) . . . “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens. Let your glory be over all the earth” (vv. 5, 11). – rc

Devotion for August 21, 2020

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Aug 212020

They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. (Job 2:13)

Job’s is a tale of suffering, pain, and loss. He’s lost his livelihood, his wealth, his well-being, his children and now he is left in his grief, miserably mourning, trying to make sense of why this devastation has happened. If you are not familiar with the rest of the book of Job, his three friends – Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar – don’t do much right; they are quick to blame Job for his wrongdoing and they are slow to support their friend in his pain.

But here, they get it right. Here, they sit with their friend in silence. Here, they “saw that his suffering was very great” (v. 13). Sometimes, there are no answers to life’s hard questions, life’s difficult moments. Sometimes silence is the best answer. Sometimes silence is the only answer. – rc