The views expressed here are those of each individual devotion writer. Thank you to our writers for their contributions to this ministry!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Luther's Bible: Reformation Day 2017

This year Presbyterians celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. The theses, which criticized the sale of indulgences by church officials, are considered the opening salvo in the Protestant Reformation—a movement that emphasized individual relationships with God and salvation through faith alone. Luther is also celebrated for a second piece of writing: his translation of the Bible into German. After Pope Leo X excommunicated Luther in 1521, the reformer took refuge inside Wartburg Castle. There he completed his translation of the New Testament, based on Erasmus’s 1516 Bible text. First printed in September 1522, the “September Testament” does not include Luther’s name on the title page, an elision meant to limit church reprisals.
The Old Testament translation proved more difficult, owing in part to Luther’s struggles with Hebrew and his insistence that the text be accessible to all Germans. “The translator must not be led by the Hebrew words,” Luther wrote. “He should make sure that he really understands the sense and ask himself: ‘What would the German say in such-and-such an instance?’” His editorial philosophy required inventive interpolations. For example, he replaced the word “chameleon,” which would have been unknown to sixteenth century Germans, with “weasel.”
It took Luther and a team of fellow scholars twelve years to translate the Old Testament, which was printed in 1534 together with Luther’s New Testament. Despite criticism for the way he valued certain books of the Bible over others and for editing passages to fit his own theology, Luther’s Bible was an immediate and lasting success; one Wittenberg publisher alone printed 100,000 copies between 1534 and 1574. Many Germans regarded it as a work of literary genius, the way English readers would revere the King James Bible in the century to come.

Reformation Sunday materials are provided by the Presbyterian Historical Society. For more information on the Reformation and PHS, visit us at
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Monday, October 30, 2017

Butterfly Season

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being. Revelation 4:11

Just when I feel that evil has taken over all the earth, God does something exceptional. Never before in my life have I looked out my window, or stepped out my front door and felt like I was in the Children’s Zoo butterfly house. The painted lady, monarchs, small white and pure yellow butterflies are landing on all my flowers and sedum. It is so tranquil and peaceful. God gave me this beauty and peace.

Elizabeth Elliot says in her devotion in my Women’s Devotional Bible, “All creation praises him all the time- the winds, the tides, the oceans, the rivers, move in obedience. The song sparrow, the molecules in their cells, the stars in their courses, and the burning seraphim do, without protest of slovenliness, exactly what their maker intended, and thus praise him.” Praise him also for the butterflies. Caterpillars are also affected by a range of bacterial, viral, and fungal diseases, and only a small percentage of the butterfly eggs laid ever reach adulthood (Wikipedia). Since we have so many butterflies this season, I feel our environment is very good.

PRAYER: Lord, after reading what Elizabeth said, I realize the grace of the butterfly is all your doing and they are flying around exactly as you ordered and praising you at each movement. If the butterfly can be so peaceful in this world, so can I. Please help me to feel your presence at all times, even when unbelievable events happen in our country. Amen.

Sandra Hilsabeck


Friday, October 27, 2017

Perceive and Listen; 1 Samuel 16:1-13; October 22, 2017; Rev. Dr. Melodie Jones Pointon

Our text for today is the story of the anointing of King David.  It’s a wonderful and rich text.  And it’s worth studying all of the many layers of meaning in this account.  But today, our purpose is to look at where this story falls in the context of God’s relationship with humanity throughout history, and our relationship with God.  Today, we look at this story for the transition and change it brings to God’s people.

The buildup to this narrative is vital to understanding the magnitude of what’s happening here.  At this point in the story, we know that Samuel, the great priest, has served God for many years.  Through Samuel, God heard the cry of God’s people.  God granted their request (demand?) to establish for them a King.  And so God did.  God (through Samuel) chooses Saul.  And Saul is a good King.  Kind of.  He’s a great King.  Almost.  He’s a mighty King.  Definitely.  Saul takes the reigns of power and is most known for his military achievements….and failures.  It is a time of bloodshed, war, and uncertainty.  But at some point, Saul rejects God’s word, and stops listening to Samuel.  In an emotionally raw scene in chapter 15, Saul is confronted with this sin, the responsibility of turning an entire people away from the Lord weighs heavily on him.  Desperately, he confesses, promises to turn back to God, begs Samuel to return with him, and begs God to stay with him.  But Samuel, listening to God, offers this indictment, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being King over Israel.”  Samuel turns to go, and Saul grasps into the air, and, kneeling on the floor, grabs Samuel’s robe, tearing the hem.  You can feel the desperation, “Please don’t go!”  But Samuel responds, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this very day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.”  Samuel leaves, and alone and afraid and left with nothing, Saul turns to worship God.

Heartbreaking.  It’s not too terribly difficult to put ourselves in Saul’s proverbial shoes. Anyone who’s ever worked for anything, given your whole life for it, and watched it slip away, can identify with his plight in this story.  Be it a relationship, or retirement savings, or a career, or a house and possessions, at some point, we will all encounter hardships.  Because life, dear friends, just isn’t easy.  We live in a world where made up words like Enron and Equifax bring to our mind betrayal and loss; where our lives are fragmented into segments according to their purpose…school, friends, family, work, ball field, cornfield, arena, and mall.  It’s hard to be one authentic person, whose heart is firmly locked on God, especially when this world offers so many bright, shiny, and fun things.  So I want to stop for just a moment here and consider these two Kings:  Saul, a man with considerable experience as King; and David, a boy shepherd with none. 

It is devastating.  To work and work and work, and find that your accomplishments are all…gone, and that you have sacrificed the one thing that matters.  The cautionary tale here is this:  “without love, I am a noisy gong, or a clanging cymbal.”  Stay firmly rooted in your faith, and love of God.

It is devastating for Samuel, the King maker who here becomes the King breaker.  He was the one who anointed Saul, he was there before anyone else even knows who Saul is.  I wonder what his delivery here is.  If he, too, felt his knees go to jelly as he realized just what kind of trouble Saul was in.  If saying those words were as difficult as hearing those words.

Grieving.  That’s what we are told.  That’s how the story for today begins. 

We aren’t really given a clue for how much time rests between these two events.  Samuel never sees Saul again.  Samuel grieves for Saul.  And God is sorry he made Saul King over Israel.


And into that grief, just the beginning glimpses…if we are able to hear them, to perceive them…of hope.  That’s what this David story, of anointing a new King, is all about.  It is about that time of transition.  When what we thought was certain – our livelihood, our relationship, our patterns and traditions, our purpose and our hope – turns out to be a source of grief and sorrow.  When God, very slowly, starts revealing what has been happening all along, and that we have not known…that even when we come to an ending point in our journey, God has been preparing something new.  Our eyesight is limited. 

So I’d like for us to take two points from this story this morning, (even though there are many left unexplored.)

The first being this – endings are hard.  The desperation felt by Saul in that moment of rejection is matched in fervor by the grieving of Samuel is matched by the sorrow of God.  Endings are hard. 

But we need not be hopeless.  Because God is preparing something new for the future that we cannot predict, but that we will know.

So here’s my challenge to us from this text…what I believe is a very strong lesson to all of us…as a congregation and as individuals in it….

Let’s pray now for what God is doing next.  Let’s take those lessons that we’ve learned and vision for the future.  This, dear friends, is a prophetic act.  We’re going to have to remain good students of God’s history with us, good students of the scriptures, of telling our own personal stories. And we’re going to have open hearts, minds, and yes, eyes and ears to perceive and understand what is happening around us.  Because God is already laying the groundwork for what is next for us.  As a congregation.  As individuals.  God is already bringing us into the future.

And that doesn’t mean we won’t have times of feeling almost overwhelming loss.  That doesn’t mean we won’t grieve what we thought would be.  That doesn’t mean God doesn’t feel sorrow. 

It’s a long transition from Saul to David.  This is just the beginning of the story.  These events have happened, but only Samuel, Saul, David, and God know it. 

Saul is left to work as King, a hollow task without God’s presence resting on him.  It’s clear that he’s become the placeholder for what God will do next.  A reminder of all there is to lose. Bruce Birch point out that what happens to Saul is not a matter of retributive justice. It’s not about what Saul does or does not deserve.  God’s interests here are in the future of a nation, God’s nation.  And Saul over and over again showed that lacks the attribute that God is looking for.  “It has simply become clear in the story that Saul cannot be God’s future for Israel.  Disobedience to God’s Word, Saul’s need for the assurance of ritual and oath, his indecision and inability to assess situations clearly…have made this evident.  Israel’s future is at stake, and God acts to move toward a new future in David.”[1]

Friends this morning, this Stewardship Commitment morning, I ask us to live into the future God is preparing for us.  Perceive it, listen for it, pray for it, work for it, love for it.  Amen.

[1] NIB, 1093.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

An Affluenza Epidemic

A thick bankroll is no help when life falls apart, but a principled life can stand up to the worst. Proverbs 11:4 (The Message)

According to many advertisements and announcements, it’s time to get an influenza shot.  The ads reminded me of an adult Sunday school class from several years ago that discussed “affluenza,” a term combining affluence and influenza.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “extreme materialism and consumerism associated with the pursuit of wealth and success and resulting in a life of chronic dissatisfaction, debt, overwork, stress, and impaired relationships.”  It’s also been described as an epidemic of compulsive shopping, overwork, high debt, and obsession with externals.  (

It’s easy to come down with affluenza, whether it's a 24-hour virus or a chronic condition.  We’re easily influenced by media advertising telling us we need the most recent basketball shoe or the smartphone featuring the most advanced technology.  But we sometimes forget that we are also called to help others in need.  

An appropriate quote attributed to John Wesley states, “Earn all you can, give all you can, save all you can.” This requires us to work hard to earn money, but to spend less, in order to be able to give to others.  There is no vaccine for affluenza.  God will provide what we need.  He asks only that we worship him and share our blessings with others.     

Prayer: Dear God, Forgive us for succumbing to affluenza.  We are blessed by you in so many ways, but we often focus on our worldly wants, rather than what you ask us to do.  Help us to remember that everything we have comes from you.

Robin Hadfield

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Your Servant is Listening

Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening. 1 Samuel 3:10  

Pastor Thomas’s sermon was on 1 Samuel Chapter 3.  Samuel’s fourth response to the Lord’s calling was “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  Eli, Samuel’s mentor, told him that was the correct response when the Lord spoke.  That phrase has been on my mind. So I changed a few of my prayer times to saying that exact phrase—“Speak, for your servant is listening.” It is actually very peaceful to just be with God during those few minutes when I can practice pushing back all of the thoughts in my head and just simply listen. Practice is the optimal word! 

Prayer:  Dear Father, Forgive us for the many times we come to you in prayer with our thoughts and requests and yet you desire a two-way communication which requires us to listen.  Help us to be still and listen to you and others each day.  Amen.

Cathy Schapmann

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Dancing with God

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. Psalm 30:11-12

Let them praise God’s name with dancing and make music to Him with tambourine and harp for the Lord takes delight in His people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Psalm 149:3-4

So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him: he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15: 20 (Parable of the Prodigal Son)

One of my favorite TV shows is “Dancing with the Stars”. As I watch from week to week, it amazes me to see the improvement each celebrity exhibits as he or she becomes more confident in themselves and their ability to execute the dance with their professional dance partner. Some celebrities possess a natural ability to dance while others show more awkwardness. But even the most awkward celebrity shows progress as their professional dance partner guides and leads them through the steps during their daily practices in an attempt to put their assigned dance performance together.

As I reflect on my life, I view it as a dance with God. At times, it has been as smooth and graceful as a Viennese Waltz while at other times it has been exuberant and joyful like the Lindy Hop or Jive. Still at other times, I have allowed my anger and haughtiness towards God to resemble the Paso Doble or take the form of the freestyle dance when I wanted to throw out all the rules and do things “my way”. Through the years, I’ve even allowed myself to drift away from God’s arms, all the time knowing, God’s arms would be open wide and ready to accept me back into His loving and guiding embrace at a moments notice.

Prayer:  Dear God: Thank you for being my dance partner in life and, ultimately, in death. Open my heart to feel your guiding hand each day as we move together through our ups and downs and joys and sorrows. May my trust in you increase daily knowing you have a plan for my life if I just will take notice and feel your gentle, guiding touch.  Amen


Patty Niemann

Reprinted from October 2009

Monday, October 23, 2017

What is Important to Me?

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21

In a recent Bible study that our Wednesday morning group completed (James: Faith that Works by Andrew and Phyllis LePeau), there was a group of meditative questions following one of the final lessons. One study member asked if I’d make a copy for her, then several others chimed in, so I decided to make bookmarks for the group (shown below).

Is God a significant part of your life? How and where does He fit in? Food for thought!
Donna Gustafson

Friday, October 20, 2017

Food for the Soul

A third time he said, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt that he asked him a third time. Do you love me? "Lord," he said, "you know everything; you know I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep." John 21:17 (NEB)  

Tend the flock of God whose shepherds you are and do it not under compulsion; but of your own free will as God would have it; not for gain, but out of sheer devotion . . .  1 Peter 5:2 (NEB)  

In 2003, I decided that a whole loaf of homemade bread was too much for one person to eat, so I started sharing half my loaf with friends whose health or age no longer allowed them to stand in their kitchens to bake or who lived in retirement centers where they missed that "homemade" taste. Back then, I had the feeling that my visit was more important to them than the food.

As time went on, I added baking cookies and other treats to the things I delivered to these friends.   Over the past ten years, many of the names on my list have changed. As they aged, some of my friends have moved away to be nearer to family and some have gone home to be with Our Lord.

Last month, I again delivered plates of cookies. Much to my sorrow, two of the friends I have been visiting for a number of years no longer recognized me. It was so sad to see people I care for lose the everyday ordinary skill of thought processing. However, it was encouraging to see the lights in their eyes as they looked at the cookies. Their lifelong habit of good manners came forward and they thanked me.

Perhaps now the food is more important to them than the visit. At this point, I'm unsure if sharing time and treats with my friends has been food for their souls; but it has definitely been food for mine. "Tending the flock of God" as Peter admonished us to do will keep me baking and visiting even if though it makes me sad and I am no longer recognized.

PRAYER: Thank You, Father, for Your Son, Jesus, who taught us about loving and serving others. Make us ever grateful for Your blessings of a strong body and a sound mind that enable us to conduct our lives using every day ordinary skills. In Jesus' holy name we pray. Amen.

Judy Welch (reprinted from February 2013)

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12   

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11   

As a child, I can recall looking to the horizon and wanting something more. Whether that was looking to my small town baseball field with lights blazing, wanting to be attending a game; or the southern horizon which comprised a hill and a huge oak tree half a mile in the distance and wanting to be “somewhere bigger”; or the western horizon where I could see the banks of the Missouri River 30 miles away. I wanted more than what my little town had to offer; I wanted to be living in those places I’d only read about. I wanted my life to start! And not on this little farm in South Dakota.

However, while I don’t long to live there, I enjoy going back home. The new home owners allow me to explore the property that has changed so much since I lived there, and changed not at all. I appreciate what that farm and my life growing up has given me: contentment with quietness, appreciation for nature, an introspection that I think serves me well today.

God always knows what’s best for us. We may not know this until later, when we have the benefit of hindsight; but, His way is always the BEST way.

Prayer: Dear Lord, sometimes we long for what we don’t have…it may be related to finances, friendship, career, family.  We might be impatient when things aren’t going well, or when we are suffering through crisis. Help us to be content where we are and to call to you for peace. Let us ask you for help in changing those things that we need to change. Remind us that you are with us, every day. Amen.
Donna Gustafson

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

For Everything there is a Season

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:

A time to be born and a time to die…

A time to weep and a time to laugh ; and a time to mourn , and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:1-4


Recently I worked with two families who were facing the death of their loved ones. The first involved an 80+ year old who was told by his physician that there was nothing more he could do for him. He was dying--and this was overwhelming for both him and his family. It was hard for them to even say the word “dying”. We talked for over an hour about his and the family’s wishes and what was important for them during this time. He held firmly onto my hand during our conversation as if just by holding on, he could make this all go away.

The second patient was a younger man whose body rapidly took a turn for the worse. As I sat with his elderly father, we talked through the family’s decision to remove the ventilator, feeding tube, and other technology. The doctors would keep him comfortable while life support would gradually be withdrawn. The father did not know what to expect, but he knew the family had made the right decision to let him go.

The above Ecclesiastes passage came to my mind during both these cases. We are all in the act of dying over time, some longer and some shorter. The love in these families was very evident, and as they struggled with “dying,” both had spiritual support through their faith and the hope of a better life to come.


Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your love throughout our lives from birth to death. Thank you for your blessings so that even with the finality of death there is the promise of a new life to come. Amen.  


Nancy Hall

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

See the Good, Be the Good

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me--everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (NLT) Philippians 4:8-9 

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. (NIV) Psalm 40:3 

We all have those times in our lives that really stink. Looking back on those awful days--and in the midst of them--sometimes all we want to do is complain, cry, yell or maybe even throw something. Ouch. In those times, we have to learn to lean hard on God. When we do, he can bring us great comfort. Not only that, but he can give us perspective.

God has taught me to pray this at the beginning of the day, “No matter what this day brings, Lord, please open my eyes to see the good in it.” Lysa TerKeurst, in her devotion “When God Isn't Answering Our Prayers” says: “In the midst of what you’re facing, find simple things for which to praise God. I don’t mean thank Him for the hard stuff. I mean thank Him for the other simple, good things still in the midst. A child’s laugh. A bush that blooms. The warmth of a blanket. The gift of this breath and then the next. Psalm 40:3 reminds me God will give me a new song when I make praise the habit of my heart and mouth.”

God has also taught me to take my morning prayer a step further. I ask him to also open my heart to BE the good in the day ahead. This way, instead of resigning myself to being a recipient of the bad, I try instead to be a giver of good. I say this prayer hoping that God will show me how I can be a blessing...even if it's just a small gesture or a few kind words. The thought of possibly making someone else's awful day a little brighter lightens my heart.

PRAYER: Gracious Heavenly Father, forgive us for losing our cool when our days are awful. Open our eyes to see things the way you do; and open our hearts to love the way you do.  e need your grace to do this, because sometimes looking beyond all the awfulness around us is so very hard to do. And thank you so much for the peace you bring us when we finally learn to trust in you. Amen.

Sharon Irvin

Monday, October 16, 2017

Surprise! Surprise!

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:17

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophesy, in proportion to faith; ministry, on ministering; the teacher, in teaching.” Romans 12: 6-7

Last April, I was given a blooming orchid plant – my first orchid plant gift. I watered it carefully and it continued to bloom for two months. I enjoyed its beautiful blooms and was sad to see it go. I placed it under our back yard deck and forgot about it.

Last week as I picked tomatoes at the edge under the deck, the orchid plant greeted me with brilliant new blooms. What a special gift! I couldn’t wait to show the orchid blooms to my family and neighbors.

Daily, each of us receives gifts from God. Often we do not recognize them or give thanks for these gifts. Can you name gifts you have recently been given by God? Even though we haven’t earned these gifts, we receive them gratefully.

PRAYER: Dear God, we are thankful for your most precious gifts. Help us to follow your example and to share our talents and gifts with others. Amen.

Lois Poppe

Friday, October 13, 2017


When God made a promise to Abraham, because he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore to himself saying, "I will surely bless you and multiply you."  And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise. Hebrews 6:13-15

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10: 23-25

His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises. 2 Peter:  1: 3-4

One of my favorite old time hymns is Standing On The Promises of God.  The tune of that hymn causes me to repeat the words to myself.  The words of "eternal praise," "overcoming doubt and fear," "listening to the call," "bound by love" keep repeating in my mind as I think of that song.  It reminds me that our Christian faith is based on promises from God that we have learned about from studying the message that Jesus brings to us in the Bible.  The promises become our expectations that we have because we believe in God.  I suppose we become disappointed and somewhat doubters if certain promises don't seem to come our way in a timely manner.  However, as written in Hebrews, as our faith grows, we overcome our doubts and concerns and rely on the "promises from God."

While we live to claim the promises from God, our church has promises from us.  We made promises of support and involvement when we joined Eastridge Church.  We continue to make verbal promises during worship activities and responses.  Our church lives because of our promises.  Today, our church has several service and financial needs.  Are we living up to our promises?  Can we expect to claim promises from God if we haven't fulfilled our promises to our church?  Let us meet the needs of Eastridge Church.

PRAYER:  Dear Heavenly Father, we give You thanks for the messages of promise that You have presented to us through Your son, Jesus.  Help us to grow in faith in order to fulfill our promise to follow Your word and to search for the direction You would have us live so that it would be pleasing in Your sight.  Amen

Lauren Holcombe

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Price of Our Peace

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53: 5-6

The prophet Isaiah addressed the Jewish people around 700 B.C., during the time that they were in captivity in Babylonia. They were displaced and miserable. Isaiah was reminding them that they needed to turn away from their sinful ways and back to God, who had promised to send a messiah to save them. Isaiah seemed to know more about the future savior than anyone, and he accurately foretold the suffering that Jesus would endure in order to save God’s people.  But while the Jewish people had to wait hundreds of years for their messiah, and many did not recognize Him when he appeared, we have the advantage of knowing “the rest of the story,” as told in the New Testament. By sending His son to earth, God proved how much He loves even His sinful people, and we have only to believe His promise that our faith in Jesus Christ will lead us to “the peace that surpasses all understanding.”

PRAYER:  Gracious and loving God, we thank You for the mercy You have shown Your sinful people by sending Jesus to live among us. We thank You for the peace that comes with our faith in the Trinity, and we pray that others will find such peace as well. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done. Amen.

Judith Keller
(reprinted from 2016)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"Get Woke": October 1, 2017 Sermon notes by Rev. Dr. Melodie Jones Pointon

The story of Moses begins with God’s people, the Israelites, slaves in a foreign country. Over the years I’ve read commentaries that always try to soften this story, altering some of the details. Slavery at that time simply meant the lowest class of physical laborers – it wasn’t slavery like we think of it. Or, they weren’t really treated poorly, the Israelites. It’s just that they had forgotten God, and so were living for money instead of for vocation and purpose. But no. No! That’s not right! The text is very clear that the Pharoah (or King) that we are dealing with here is the sort of person who demands all boys under the age of 2 be slaughtered. Our protagonist for today, Moses, was saved from this, placed in a basket by his mother, rescued by the Pharoah’s daughter, and raised by and Israelite handmaiden (who turns out to be his mother) in Pharoah’s house. Later in the story, Moses is forced to flee the palace after he goes for a walk one day, and witnesses brutality amongst his people, the Jews. He loses his cool, retaliates, and is banished to the hills to become a shepherd. He makes an in with a priest’s family when he marries Jethro’s daughter. He leaves his old world, and his people, behind. 

Our narrative text for today finds us dealing with all the same issues that I’ve just summarized. Pharoah has died, making leadership uncertain with a change in power. “When an oppressive ruler dies, everything comes unglued…”
[1] God’s people get “woke.” They groan under their slavery, and they cry out. The groan, they cry. God hears, God remembers, God looks, and God knows. This, dear friends, is a turning point for the people of Israel, for God’s people living in a horrible, desperate situation at the very bottom of the social and economic rung. Out of political chaos and unrest, God’s people get “woke,” and find their identity. 

These, dear friends, are God’s people.

And God, God hears, remembers, sees, and knows God’s people.

It is out of this context that Moses re-enters the scene. It’s a story so familiar to us that modern-day horticulture embraces this story in a bush called “burning bush.” Moses, while shepherding, stumbles across a burning bush. 

Or, rather, he stumbles across a burning bush that is not consumed, and angel who does not speak, and a God he cannot see who does speak. It’s almost as if God is trying to get Moses’ attention. Or, as Katherine Schifferdecker from Lutheran Seminary wonders, maybe God is trying to get someone’s attention. Maybe God has been there, in that spot, for years, for decades, and other’s have just walked by. After all, God is about to ask Moses to do something…impossible. And Moses doesn’t want to go. Moses doesn’t want to do it. Depending on who you consult, Moses makes either 5 or 8 objections to why he can’t be the one to go back to Pharoah. Not the least of which is that he’s not eloquent, or he can’t speak (likely has a stutter). 

“Moses must have had misgivings about going against the people to whom he owed his life and his privileged upbringing.”

And yet…it’s not just because we know how the story ends – that Moses does go on to do the impossible, to demand the Israelites freedom, to become the instrument of liberation, to lead God’s people out of the plagues, through the Red Sea, and into the desert. It’s not just because we know all these things…

Moses does something here that God’s people haven’t done since they became slaves in a foreign land. And he does it repeatedly. Three times, in three different ways, Moses realigns his life to be a servant of God. He realigns his identity, removing the political, economic, and social structures that tell him he is no more than a slave in a foreign land whose worth is counted by his work. 

God speaks, and Moses hears. “Here I am,” he says.

Moses enters into God’s presence, acknowledging God’s holiness by taking off his shoes.

And Moses hides his face, so as not to see the Holy One who speaks. This makes the final statement that Moses willingly submits himself to the God who has yet to be named.

These three actions tell us, from this pivotal story, that Moses will go. These statements say, “Here I am…”

And “…I am here.” He puts aside all those things, the politics, economics, and social forces that tell him who he is, and chooses to find his identity in God.

It is pivotal for the people of God! Over and over, throughout the rest of God’s story, we hear it repeated, “I am the God who brought you out of the land of slavery…” When David defeats Goliath, finds himself in front of the ark of the presence of the Lord, and brings God’s people into a unity they have not known since: remember…I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of slavery.” Through the prophets…remember…I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of slavery. 

But we also learn something here about God’s story. As Terrence Fretheim points out, “Following a pattern set in God’s interdependent ways of creating the world , God chooses to work in and through that which is not God in moving toward a resolution of Israel’s suffering dilemma in Egypt. To save the people of Israel, God chooses not to act alone. Initially, God chooses to engage a human figure as an instrument of this action.”

Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson came as a part of that same series of lectures at Nebraska Wesleyan earlier this month. And I am told, that as a part of the questions asked by the students he was asked where to begin. In a system that is so obviously broken in so many different ways, with inequality and injustice surrounding us, it is easy to be overwhelmed. What is the point of entry to changing the world? Where do we begin? His answer: begin changing the world, one small injustice at a time. Change your attitude. Change your direction.

And I would add this, from our text today: change your identity. Listen for God’s voice, take off your sandals, and hide your face. You, my friends, are a child of God. Now, go out into the world and do something about it. Amen.

[1] Brueggeman, NIB, pg 705.
[2] Rev Blog Pals, Liz Crumlish is a Church of Scotland Minister,
[3] Terrence Fretheim Working Preacher

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Servant's Heart

Would any of you say to your servant, who had just come in from the field after plowing or tending sheep, “Come!  Sit down for dinner?”  Wouldn’t you say instead, “Fix my dinner.  Put on the clothes of a table servant and wait on me while I eat and drink.  After that, you can eat and drink”?  You won’t thank the servant because the servant did what you asked, will you?  In the same way, when you have done everything required of you, you should say, “We servants deserve no special praise.  We have only done our duty.” Luke 17:7-10


It is easy to be focused in our daily activities on relishing the sense of a great job well done.  We also, perhaps, have come to expect to be rewarded, recognized or, at least, thanked in some way for performing so admirably amongst our peers.  In our culture—one that emphasizes individual achievement, supply and demand, expectations for fair compensation—Jesus’s message here may at first seem counterintuitive, if not downright disrespectful.  Yet, Jesus invites us into an opportunity for grace—serving without clinging to expectations about what we should receive in return.  His servants’ rewards do not depend upon recognition or praise, but in the act of serving itself.  As slaves or servants do not expect accolades for fulfilling their responsibilities, Jesus’s followers, likewise, should expect no special praise for obeying His teachings, even if they are hard or humbling.


Prayer: Heavenly Creator, thank you for your teachings and for opportunities to serve you and those around us.  Help us to focus on acting as faithful followers without expecting accolades or personal benefits.  We ask for your forgiveness when we become distracted by our own desires for tributes and flattery.  Amen


Barry and Alinda Stelk

Monday, October 9, 2017

Unexpected Insights

Trust in the the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6  

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand. Psalm 37:23-24  

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3 

Recently my car situation has been in limbo.  This has changed everything about my ability to run errands, get to work, and feel independent.  Facing this has made me reconsider how much I can "make do" with what I have.  This reminds me how creative my brain can be, and I rejoice at its wonders.

At the end of the summer, one of my cars became disabled, and I was trying to donate it; but I could not find the title in all my moving boxes.  It was amazing to me to see how much I had accumulated, and how difficult it was to organize. I saw how debilitating this can become.  I also found a lot of forgotten treasures which are so much more valuable than a certified document.

The search process had been lengthy and fruitless, and eventually I had to procure a duplicate title.   Cleaning out the car was a burdensome chore, because there were still vestiges of a trip to Rochester, Minnesota last year when my daughter and I stayed for two months (during which she received her fourth liver transplant). But I realized as I was lugging bags of pillows and umbrellas and scrapers and a shovel and all sorts of human necessities that I need to challenge myself in order to be more resilient.  I patted myself on the back as I rested after that chore, and looked forward to the next bit of discomfort that would help me grow.

On the appointed day for pickup the tow truck did not show.  So I still had to plan for uncertainties.  And that can be rather freeing.  How much does it really matter? Why should I invest too much dependence on things going as planned?

The back-up car needed work in order to be driveable after the first one tanked. The AAA tow truck driver delivered it to a repair place that was different from the one where I had made an appointment.  At the end of the day, I called the repair shop only to be told that my car wasn't there.  So AAA and I had to call and search a number of nearby places to see if my car had ended up there, since the tow truck driver couldn't be reached.  These things can happen, and it makes for more work but it also makes for a good story.  Also, the place where my car ended up did a good job of fixing it, and I had it back in no time. I was glad to find a reliable repair place that was within my budget.

In the ensuing month, the back-up car developed more issues. One of them involved tail lights staying on, and the battery drained.  AAA gave me a battery boost and told me to drive directly to the repair place; I managed to find a place open on Sunday, so I felt pretty lucky.  But they couldn't actually work on the car until Monday.  I hadn't really accomplished what I felt I had needed to do.  But the right things happened, only a day later than I had hoped.

During this time I was relying on my daughter for trips to and from work.  It was nice to have time to talk with her, and I enjoyed looking out the window at the sights I often miss while focusing on driving.  I was able to sip coffee and nibble on snacks.

Then more issues arose with the car, and because there was a risk of the engine overheating I was told I shouldn't drive it.  At this point, I realized that my '92 Geo Prizm might not be worth the $600 it would probably cost to fix it.  I have had to restructure my thinking about continuing to maintain something that doesn't really serve its purpose.  The car has no airbags, and doesn't travel well over 45 mph.  It doesn't really need my allegiance, even though it reminds me of my mother, from whom I inherited it. 

So now I am looking into buying a reliable car.  My recently-retired friend has been chauffering me, and we have had jolly drives reconnecting.  When we were in high school, she used to come pick me up and drive me to school.  I am reminded of how much I enjoy starting the day with her. She is such a light in my life, and I love being cared for by someone so generous and fun.  We always have lots of chances to laugh on the drive, and it is an uplifting way to start and end my day. 

Even something as mundane as our transport away from home and back again can reveal something as great as God's presence.  I look forward to more road trips with surprises.

Prayer: Thank you for creating my hands, and continuing to hold them.  Thank you for giving me eyes, and fresh sights to amaze them.  Thank you for interrupting my steps to show me something new about your world and the life you have given me.  Learning new things keeps me alive and present, and newly aware of your grace.  Let my inconveniences move me closer to you.  Amen.

Mollie Manner

Friday, October 6, 2017

Prayers Never Answered

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

Awhile back I was driving with my six year old grand-nephew riding in the car with me. He is quite the conversationalist; out of nowhere he says "Auntie didn't you ever want kids?"  Giving him the quick answer I said yes.  Then he proceeds to ask me then why don't you have kids?  Realizing this is a topic he wants to dig deeper into.

This is a painful subject for me as I had always prayed I would have lots of kids, it had been in my life plan. I was to get married and be a stay at home Mom.  I had babysat throughout my school years and knew what I wanted.  But life didn't work out that way, none of my relationships blossomed into that perfect life. For years I battled endometriosis and after many procedures and surgeries my chances of being able to conceive diminished. I think that's why I concentrated on my career in management, making my career my life plan.  But with a few exceptions, my nephew was born during all this struggle and I had been blessed with a sister who allowed me to become "Auntie".  She let me take my nephew on vacations, be involved in his school activities, be involved his upbringing. I am as close to my nephew as if he were my own son.  He is now married and has two children.

I turn to my grand-nephew and say sometimes life doesn't turn out the way we plan, I don't have children of my own, but I have you and your sister to love.  He said are you sad?  I said I was but I have you and you make me happy.  He said I love you Auntie, but I think I am going to have lots of kids, maybe 200.  I laughed and said I hope you do have kids but maybe not quite that many.

Prayer: Thank you Father for my nieces and nephews.  Thank you for those heartwarming moments they come running from across the room yelling "Auntie" with arms wide open and a big smile on their faces. Thank you for answering my prayers in a way I could never have dreamed. I pray for all those hurting with prayers unanswered, that they find their blessings in your plan. Guide us to the life you have planned and give the understanding and vision to see it. In Jesus name we pray. Amen 

Lori Hood

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Let God Steer

Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do and he will show you which path to take.  Proverbs 3:5-6 

This verse actually takes the pressure off me at those times when I do not know how to solve a problem or do not know which way to turn.  Oh, the wisdom of Proverbs, if only I would heed it!

I have a small plaque with this verse on it on my kitchen counter.  I was so happy to have found this at a local Christian shop at a time when I was facing a very difficult decision which had some very good consequences for me and some very negative results also, no matter which direction I took.  This plaque helped me to "let go, and give it to God", a catch phrase of my Mother's.  It reminded me to reflect on His word and to pray.  When I do this, I focus on listening to God, by being still and not constantly talking and organizing.  This is a constant challenge for me and my take charge personality. 

Prayer: Thank you for your divine wisdom.  You are all knowing and have a plan for my life.  Please guide me to trust you and to listen for your direction, even in the midst of all the noise in my life, most of which is of my own making.  I want to let you steer, and I will pedal hard.  I trust you with all my heart.


Connie Barry

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Let There be Peace on Earth, and Let It Begin with Me

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”   Matthew 4:44

There is conflict all over our world, and divisiveness is rampant in the United States.  It is easy to become overwhelmed by it all and feel discouraged and depressed.  Of late, there has been a hymn going through my mind daily, sometimes hourly or almost continually.  I can’t seem to forget it, and don’t really want to.  It’s a lesson for me and all of us in these troubling times.

“Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me; let there be peace on Earth, the peace that was meant to be.

With God, our creator, children all are we.

Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now.

With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow:  to take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally.

Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, use me as a channel for Christ’s love by showing peace to all those around me.  Help me to share love to those most in need of it, and let me focus on peace for all.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Carolyn Brandle