Saturday, April 15, 2017
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered his prayers with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death. On this day, we pray in Jesus’ name: O Lord, do not be far away; O God, come quickly to help us. Remember your church . . . Keep us faithful to the gospel, proclaiming the good news of salvation even in the face of danger and death. O Lord, do not be far away; O God, come quickly to help us. Remember your world . . . Rescue this perishing planet, condemned by human cruelty; do not let it be destroyed forever. O Lord, do not be far away; O God, come quickly to help us. Remember all nations . . . Break the sword and snap the spear; trample the high walls and thorny fences that separate neighbors and nations. O Lord, do not be far away; O God, come quickly to help us. Remember those who face death . . . Restore the lives of those who suffer, give hope to those who are despairing, and welcome the dying into your arms. O Lord, do not be far away; O God, come quickly to help us. We ask these things in the name of Jesus, who suffered and died for our sakes. Amen.
Bartlett, David L.; Taylor, Barbara Brown; Long, Kimberly Bracken (2014-12-31). Feasting on the Word Lenten Companion: A Thematic Resource for Preaching and Worship (pp. 280-281). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
Friday, April 14, 2017
Holy Week Friday
We stand near the cross, O God— disturbed, distraught, discouraged. Yet we gather here as disciples, those whom Jesus loves. In the face of such suffering, show us the face of our Savior. In the shadow of such evil, show us the light of your grace On this day of great solemnity, let us stand as witnesses to your great love for all the world, revealed in the outstretched arms of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bartlett, David L.; Taylor, Barbara Brown; Long, Kimberly Bracken (2014-12-31). Feasting on the Word Lenten Companion: A Thematic Resource for Preaching and Worship (pp. 258-259). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
Thursday, April 13, 2017
Holy Week Thursday
God of love, during Holy Week, we give you thanks for this night Jesus shared with his disciples. Between the public parade and the public charade is this intimate hour. Though even now we do not fully understand, we long to follow his example: to serve as he served, to love as he loved. Jesus promised that if we know these things and do them, we will be blessed. Help us, then, to know and to do all that Jesus taught. Though we betray and deny, we still come seeking a blessing, for this much we do know: we cannot live unless you bless us. Amen.
Bartlett, David L.; Taylor, Barbara Brown; Long, Kimberly Bracken (2014-12-31). Feasting on the Word Lenten Companion: A Thematic Resource for Preaching and Worship (p. 229). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
The Creation Waits
I pray, O Lord, for the earth. Forgive us for the waste, the destruction, the disrespect. Heal the earth, O God. Heal the earth.
“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” Romans 8: 20-21
A Prayer at Tree-Planting
Lord, it may seem odd
That I should pray here, now.
But when I plant trees
I’ve things to say to God.
These little trees are Yours,
You know, not just mine.
A redwood grove twelve inches tall
Is hardly anyone’s at all,
I suppose except by faith.
A man gets to wondering,
Between bulldozers and fears
Of war, why look ahead
A hundred, even thirty years?
I don’t know…except
As these trees grow
I hope my great grandchildren
Or someone’s boys and girls
Among the towering trunks
And chattering squirrels.
I hope they hear beauty
In the singing boughs
And birds. I hope they
Breathe clean forest air
And find Your peace.
~Richard J. Foster, Prayers From The Heart
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Prayer for the Making of a Better World
O Thou who compasseth the whole earth with Thy most merciful favour and willest not that any of thy children should perish. I would call down Thy blessing today upon all who are striving towards the making of a better world. I pray, O God especially—
For all who are valiant for truth:
For all who are working for purer and juster laws:
For all who are working for peace between nations;
For all who are engaged in healing disease;
For all who are engaged in the releif of poverty:
For all who are engage in the rescue of the fallen:
For all who are working towards the restoration of the broken unity of Thy Holy Church:
For all who preach the gospel:
For all who bear witness to Christ in foreign lands:
For all who suffer for righteousness’ sake.
Cast down, O Lord, all the forces of cruelty and wrong. Defeat all selfish and worldy-minded schemes, and prosper all that is conceived among us in the spirit of Christ and carried out to the honour of His blessed name. Amen.
~Richard J. Foster’s Prayers From The Heart
Monday, April 10, 2017
Give Us This Day
“Give us this day our daily bread.” How do I pray those words, Lord? I live in the context of abundance. I simply do not worry about where my next mela will come from.
Perhaps I should pray on behalf of those who really and truly live from one meal to the next. And I do pray for them. Yet, action on their behalf is the real prayer for the poor—prayer in action.
I do need faith daily, Jesus, and strength and patience and wisdom and love and so much more. And real material needs, too. “Give us this day our daily baby sitter.” Is that how I pray for daily bread?
Teach me, Father, a life of daily dependence upon you for all things—even for the bread that is already in the pantry.
~Richard J. Foster’s Prayers From The Heart
Sunday, April 9, 2017
Reaching out a hand…and then holding that hand
Matthew 25:40, NIV “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Luke 10:27And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
On my way to work in the morning, I see kids on their way to Irving Middle School in my neighborhood. They look so vulnerable, and they remind me of my childhood, getting ready for school and the anxiety that it would sometimes bring. One of my memories is of being five years old and waiting for the bus on the first day of kindergarten, and seeing it pull up in front of our home (instead of at the end of the driveway, which would be where it would park in the years to come) so yellow and gigantic, with all of those BIG KIDS on it. I was petrified, and my mother sensed it. She told the bus driver that she’d be bringing me to school that first morning. In the years to come, while I became comfortable riding the bus, I never got over that “the bus is here, we’re not ready!” feeling when it would arrive early. I can still see it, a silhouette lumbering along the horizon as it came around the township road to our country driveway.
Each day, we come across people who are hiding their vulnerabilities, or perhaps not hiding their vulnerabilities…people who are insecure, lonely, depressed, needing help. While reaching out to them and wanting to help them is great, I think we often do it from a standpoint of feeling removed from their situation, or that we’re better equipped to deal with life’s curveballs. We congratulate ourselves that we’ve done our good deed for the day, but we don’t want to get too close. We feel more in control of our own lives, and, while that may be true, I think when we put ourselves in one box and others in a different box, we miss out on wonderful friendships and opportunities to grow AND to show God’s love…opportunities that God has put in our path.
Prayer: Lord, help me to open my eyes and notice those who may be vulnerable in our society. Help me realize we are all vulnerable at some point, and in need of love, care, and compassion. Show me opportunities to reach out and really befriend someone in need, not just give them a lift up and then keep them at arm’s length. Amen.
Contributed by Donna Gustafson
Saturday, April 8, 2017
We Need Disciples
Matthew 28:19 Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”
From the beginning God designed the world with the idea that we would participate in the process of filling the earth with blessing. God wants us to be active in the world. God could have filled the earth with goodness without out our assistance. Yet by his creative act, we have both the capacity and the purpose to work with him to reproduce goodness in the world as his children, as extensions of his will in the world. God wants the world full of goodness, and it is our job to assist in this process.
How do we do that? By following Jesus and inviting others into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are extensions of Christ in the world-that is what a Christian is. When we make disciples for Jesus Christ, we are filling the world with goodness. It is important to hear that Jesus commands his followers to make disciples of all nations. As people who believe in Christ, we cannot be satisfied with the status quo, either in our families, our church, or our neighborhoods.
“Follow me” is Christ’s call to his disciples and “I will make you fish for people” (Mark 1:17)
Dear Lord: Help us to heed your call to become Fishers of Men. Amen.
Reprinted from “Daily Devotional Guide March 2010 By Members and Friends of the Congregation
Of Sheldon United Methodist Church”
Friday, April 7, 2017
A Prayer for My Child
1 Chronicles 5:20They were helped in fighting them, and God handed the Hagrites and all their allies over to them, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him.
One memory I have of my childhood is of my mother in prayer. Each morning, she would sit in the living room, where it was quiet and the shadows dark before the sun lit up the day. She would either be reading her Bible or have her head bowed, arms folded between her knees. My brothers and I knew to leave her alone during this time, and simply walking through the room felt like intruding. At the time I didn’t think much of this, but as I’ve grown and had children of my own, I’ve often thought about for whom and what she was praying. As parents, we earnestly pray for our children’s well-being.
There have been times when I've wondered how prayer works, times that I thought praying for specific results was a waste of time. Shouldn't we simply be praying that God's will be done? However, I believe my mom prayed that God’s will be done in my life, and I believe she prayed for more specific things for me. God wants us to pray that His will be done, because He knows what’s best for us, but He wants us to be specific in what we ask for, too. Because my mom trusted in God, her prayers were answered.
Often I've looked back on my teenage years as a time that my life could have gone many different directions. Of course, we can say that's true of any time in our lives, but what has stayed with me over the years is the belief that my mom's prayers kept me safe. No matter what was going to happen, she was asking God to guide me and be with me.
Dear Lord: Thank you for guiding and directing us. Help us to remember that we must trust in you, no matter the circumstances. When we cry out to you in prayer, Lord, hear our plea. Amen.
Contributed by Donna Gustafson
Thursday, April 6, 2017
Giving all we’ve got
Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
We all have a tendency for complacency with mediocrity. We set our own limits to what we can do and then never even try to do more, because we are convinced this is enough. When I was 9 months pregnant with my fourth baby, Lilly, I realized that I always have more to give. It was a beautiful, hot summer day and I waddled over to the school to fly a kite with my three boys, ages 6, 6, and 4 and we took along my two nephews, who were around the same age. Since I was so pregnant and miserable, I assured them this was all I could do that day, no bike ride, no walk, just standing and flying a kite. They soon grew tired of this mundane activity and my youngest, Charlie, took over, while the other boys went to play with some friends on the school's play-set. He had all the string out on the kite and was trying to hold the plastic handle with one finger. It was quite windy and we had slowly made our way across the playground to the street opposite of our house. In an instant, it slipped off his finger and soared through the sky, headed back toward our house – and the power lines. I jumped up from the ground, where I was lounging in my pregnant misery, and started sprinting after the kite. The children all started running after me, laughing and yelling. I'm sure we were quite a sight; pregnant lady running after a kite, stream of children running after and heckling the pregnant lady. “Is that all you've got?” my nephew yelled.
Is that all you've got? Obviously if I had been asked that question 5 minutes earlier, I would have wallowed in my exhaustion and said, yes, this is all I have to give today. But when I was called upon to avert the inevitable catastrophe, I had plenty to give. Couldn't you give a little more? With God's help, we all have more to give. Whether we can do more with our time, give more financially, share more of our gifts, pray for one more person today, give five more minutes to our children – God will give us the strength to not only survive the circumstances, but to persevere and give even more.
I did catch the handle of the kite, with a few leaps and jumps at the end, just as we reached the other side of the playground. It didn't get tangled in the power lines, I didn't pass out from exhaustion, and if they would have been able to I'm sure all of the children would have put me on their shoulders and paraded me around. Every child from the playground was cheering and laughing and I realized I always have more to give...just give me a minute to catch my breath.
Dear Lord, we praise you for how wonderfully you have made us. Thank you for providing us with the strength we need to give a little more every day. - Amen.
Reprinted from “Daily Devotional Guide March 2010 By Members and Friends of the Congregation
Of Sheldon United Methodist Church”
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
3. We believe (Belhar Confession continued)
•that God has entrusted the church with the message of reconciliation in and through Jesus Christ; that the church is called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, that the church is called blessed because it is a peacemaker, that the church is witness both by word and by deed to the new heaven and the new earth in which righteousness dwells.
•that God’s lifegiving Word and Spirit has conquered the powers of sin and death, and therefore also of irreconciliation and hatred, bitterness and enmity, that God’s lifegiving Word and Spirit will enable the church to live in a new obedience which can open new possibilities of life for society and the world;
•that the credibility of this message is seriously affected and its beneficial work obstructed when it is proclaimed in a land which professes to be Christian, but in which the enforced separation of people on a racial basis promotes and perpetuates alienation, hatred and enmity;
•that any teaching which attempts to legitimate such forced separation by appeal to the gospel, and is not prepared to venture on the road of obedience and reconciliation, but rather, out of prejudice, fear, selfishness and unbelief, denies in advance the reconciling power of the gospel, must be considered ideology and false doctrine.
Therefore, we reject any doctrine which, in such a situation sanctions in the name of the gospel or of the will of God the forced separation of people on the grounds of race and color and thereby in advance obstructs and weakens the ministry and experience of reconciliation in Christ.
4. We believe that God has revealed himself as the one who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people;
•that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged
•that God calls the church to follow him in this; for God brings justice to the oppressed and gives bread to the hungry;
•that God frees the prisoner and restores sight to the blind;
•that God supports the downtrodden, protects the stranger, helps orphans
and widows and blocks the path of the ungodly;
•that for God pure and undefiled religion is to visit the orphans and the
widows in their suffering;
•that God wishes to teach the church to do what is good and to seek the
•that the church must therefore stand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream;
•that the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.
Therefore, we reject any ideology which would legitimate forms of injustice and any doctrine which is unwilling to resist such an ideology in the name of the gospel.
5. We believe that, in obedience to Jesus Christ, its only head, the church is called to confess and to do all these things, even though the authorities and human laws might forbid them and punishment and suffering be the consequence. Jesus is Lord. To the one and only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be the honor and the glory for ever and ever.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Confession of Belhar September 1986
1. We believe in the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects and cares for the church through Word and Spirit. This, God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end.
2. We believe in one holy, universal Christian church, the communion of saints called from the entire human family.
•that Christ's work of reconciliation is made manifest in the church as the community of believers who have been reconciled with God and with one another;
•that unity is, therefore, both a gift and an obligation for the church of Jesus Christ; that through the working of God's Spirit it is a binding force, yet simultaneously a reality which must be earnestly pursued and sought: one which the people of God must continually be built up to attain;
•that this unity must become visible so that the world may believe that separation, enmity and hatred between people and groups is sin which Christ has already conquered, and accordingly that anything which threatens this unity may have no place in the church and must be resisted;
•that this unity of the people of God must be manifested and be active in a variety of ways: in that we love one another; that we experience, practice and pursue community with one another; that we are obligated to give ourselves willingly and joyfully to be of benefit and blessing to one another; that we share one faith, have one calling, are of one soul and one mind; have one God and Father, are filled with one Spirit, are baptized with one baptism, eat of one bread and drink of one cup, confess one name, are obedient to one Lord, work for one cause, and share one hope; together come to know the height and the breadth and the depth of the love of Christ; together are built up to the stature of Christ, to the new humanity; together know and bear one another's burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ that we need one another and upbuild one another, admonishing and comforting one another; that we suffer with one another for the sake of righteousness; pray together; together serve God in this world; and together fight against all which may threaten or hinder this unity;
•that this unity can be established only in freedom and not under constraint; that the variety of spiritual gifts, opportunities, backgrounds, convictions, as well as the various languages and cultures, are by virtue of the reconciliation in Christ, opportunities for mutual service and enrichment within the one visible people of God;
•that true faith in Jesus Christ is the only condition for membership of this church;
Therefore, we reject any doctrine
•which absolutizes either natural diversity or the sinful separation of people in such a way that this absolutization hinders or breaks the visible and active unity of the church, or even leads to the establishment of a separate church formation;
•which professes that this spiritual unity is truly being maintained in the bond of peace while believers of the same confession are in effect alienated from one another for the sake of diversity and in despair of reconciliation;
•which denies that a refusal earnestly to pursue this visible unity as a priceless gift is sin;
•which explicitly or implicitly maintains that descent or any other human or social factor should be a consideration in determining membership of the church.
Monday, April 3, 2017
About the Confession of Belhar
What is the Confession of Belhar?
The Confession of Belhar is a powerful confession of Christian faith that emerged in South Africa during the years of Apartheid. It is named for the city in South Africa where it was first adopted. It is a statement that focuses on three themes, Unity, Reconciliation, and Justice, in a church environment where racial separation made it impossible for brothers and sisters in Christ to worship together or come to the Lord’s Table together. Churches around the globe have recognized the power and theological insight of Belhar as an expression of Scriptural truth for their own contexts.
Who wrote the Belhar Confession?
The Belhar Confession was originally adopted by the Dutch Reformed Mission Church as it protested the sin of apartheid. Just a few years later it became the confession of the Uniting Reformed Church of Southern Africa, the reunion of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church and the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa. The two principal authors were Russel Botman and Dirkie Smit.
Sunday, April 2, 2017
The Least of These
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:34-40 (The Message)
Lent provides us a time to think about the sacrifice Jesus made for us. And may make us wish to take action to be more like Jesus in our daily lives.
In this scripture passage, Jesus tells the story of the sheep and the goats who are divided by the Son of Man. The King tells those who have been blessed by God to take their inheritance because they provided him with food, drink, shelter, clothing, and companionship when he needed it. The listeners do not believe him and ask when they provided those necessities of life. The King replies that whenever people helped one of the least of the brothers and sisters, they did it for the King. And by doing so, the righteous will have eternal life.
Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of problems we see in our nation or community, we can take this lesson to heart and reach out to help one person. Whether it's someone we know personally or a complete stranger, our assistance can mean a great deal to the person who is in pain. During this period of Lent, as we prepare for the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord, let us look around to see where we can assist someone in need. For by helping another, we are serving the King, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for the blessings you have poured down on us. Help us to remember that our inheritance awaits us in your kingdom. If we see someone who is hungry, thirsty, homeless, sick, or in prison, let us remember that what we do for any one of them, we do for our Lord.
Contributed by Robin Hadfield
Saturday, April 1, 2017
CIRCLE OF FORGIVENESS
Ephesians 4:26 “In your anger do not sin”…..
Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
“I hate you!” shouted my angry sixteen-year-old self at my inebriated, alcoholic father one cold February evening. He had disappointed me again, and we had argued. After stalking dramatically out of the room, I left the house to go wherever small-town teenagers might have gone on Tuesday nights in the 1960s. Library? Play practice? I can’t remember. What I do remember vividly, however, is what happened early the following morning as my three siblings and I got ready for school. Our uncle, Mom’s brother, appeared unexpectedly at our front door bringing with him the devastating news that there had been an accident during the night, and Dad was dead!
As the world crumbled around my family, I internalized my grief and began to wonder. Wow! Was it possible that I had somehow caused this horrible event? I had sinned by lashing out in anger. And I had long blamed Dad and his drinking for everything that wasn’t quite right in my life and in my family. I had pleaded and bargained with God, praying fervently that the drinking would stop. Well, now it was stopped, but in a way that I certainly never anticipated. That self-assumed burden of guilt was heavy, but impossible to share. Bringing added pain was the knowledge that my last words to my father had been so hateful. Why had I been so mean? Did he know that I loved him? Could I ever be forgiven?
Biblical scriptures and my Christian faith eventually brought assurance that God, my heavenly Father, had graciously forgiven me for no other reason than that He loves me. Over time, as my family survived, and as I gained better understanding of alcoholism, it became easier for me to forgive Dad for all the ways in which he had failed us. I could only hope that Dad had forgiven me for my last angry words. Forgiving myself has been the most difficult of all, and I’m still working on it after all these years.
Prayer: Thank You, God, for Your endless grace and forgiveness. I ask, as did the psalmist in Psalm 51:10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”
Contributed by Judith Keller