Weekly Devotion

RSS Feed

Wednesday Words - October 26, 2016

Maybe you’ve had this experience recently.  I was on my morning walk with my dog Danger and my son Isaac, when I noticed a political sign up in a neighbor’s yard.  It was advocating for a position that I disagreed with, and so for the rest of my walk, I was fuming about how so-and-so could hold such-and-such an opinion!

Welcome to the political season!  It has been a divisive year, with all sorts of heated rhetoric flying around.  In ways that are both literal and figurative, it has been splitting up neighbors and making enemies out of longtime friends.  That is the nature of politics.

But the nature of God is different.  Our lessons for Reformation Sunday (don’t forget to wear red!) tell us that we all come before God from the same place.  “For there is no distinction,” Paul writes in his letter to the Romans “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 

Confessing that we have all sinned, and that all need God’s grace is where, as followers of Christ, we can begin to find healing even in a divisive political climate. 

On Sunday, we’ll be celebrating the Reformation with words about all of us being equal before God.  We are all sinners in need of grace.  That doesn’t mean that we will always agree with one another.  The Reformation itself sprang up from a disagreement about scripture. 

What it does mean, however, is that when we come to a disagreement, we approach the other side as a fellow child of God – a brother/sister in Christ.  We disagree, but we do it with love, respect and understanding for the person standing across from us, because before God we all come from the same place.

And from there, by the grace of God, we move forward together.

For that we say, “Thanks be to God!”

Amen.

Wednesday Words - October 19, 2016

We celebrate God’s grace each day in our lives and we give of ourselves in response to God’s gift of grace in Jesus Christ. Our Celebration and Commitment Sunday will be this Sunday, October 23. Please join us in celebrating our ministry and discipleship together by filling out the commitment card and time and talent sheet mailed to you this week. If you did not receive these in the mail please call (815-459-2690) or email (churchoffice@bethanylc.com) the church office.

You are invited to prayerfully consider how God is calling you to share your gifts and then complete the commitment card and time and talent sheet with a spirit of joy and thanksgiving for the many blessings God has given us. We would like to invite you to bring  your envelope to worship this Sunday to give during our worship service or you may send the commitment card and time and talent sheet to church.

This Sunday the Pierzina Family will share a “Mission Moment – Giving in Grace.”

BIBLE STUDY: “Giving of Grace”

The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother (Luke 15:11-32)

 Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

 ‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” 

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is a story of grace and the joy of sharing the gift of grace.  Luke shares this story first to illustrate the completeness of God’s grace in Christ.   It is a gift that is not limited in any way by the bounds or barriers that we are so inclined to erect in life.  Secondly, the grace given by the father to the prodigal and his brother, has the same characteristic of grace we receive from God in Christ.  It is a grace that fully encompasses us as individuals and celebrates our being a child of God no matter the circumstances.  Such is the abundant and rich grace of God.  Thirdly, this is the grace in which God’s people live each day.  It is a grace that is life giving and full of surprises.  This is the great gift of God in which we live our lives.

Christian stewardship can be defined as “how we, as people of God, walk in the midst of this abundant grace each day.”  In other words, the question for us is, “How do we share the joy of this gift in our own giving of grace by what we do and say in life?” The answer to this is how we live a “grace-full” life of stewardship.

Reflection Questions

·         How is the Parable of the prodigal Son an example of “giving of grace”?  List some of the actions and behaviors in the story that lie behind this giving.

·         What gift of grace did the brothers receive?  The father? 

·         What do you think motivated his “giving in grace”?                       

·         The writer of I John tells us: “We love because God first loved us” (John4:19).   God’s love in Christ is the foundational principle and motivational factor in a life of stewardship that is grace-filled and grace-given.  How does God’s gift of life transforming grace in Christ inform and motivate you in your giving?        

·         How does a grace-filled sense of stewardship transform our giving from somethingwe should do to something we do in joy and celebration?  What do you see as characteristics of a grace-filled lifestyle of stewardship?  How would this transform your own sense of life and “giving of grace”?

·         Beyond the obvious such as family, friends, and church, what are some ways you have experienced the gift of God’s grace this week? 

·         What are some ways you were involved in the “giving of grace” this past week?

Crop Walk - Rev. Dr. Rafael Malpica Padilla

The Crop Walk has a long history among mainline churches in the United States. It has been the main instrument to support the work of the churches to combat hunger and poverty around the world. For twenty years I was privilege to represent the ELCA as a member of the board and executive committee in Church World Service, the parent organization for CROP Hunger funds, seeing the direct impact these funds have on people’s lives.In May of this year I visited the countries in the Balkans to see CWS at work supported by CROP Walk funds.. In Bosnia-Herzegov

ina CWS works in rural communities building the capacity of local farmers to increase their production and to improve their living conditions. In the Drabar area communities were torn by the senseless war and access to basic life necessities such as water and electricity were non-existent. Through CWS a solar energy project was implemented. For the first time in their lives these communities had electricity to facilitate their daily lives: refrigeration to keep food and produce, pumps to bring water into the house, the ability to mechanize some activities such as shearing sheep. The children were joyful in sharing how much they have appreciated this gift. Now they can study better. Before they had to study under a candlelight. “Now I can stay in my room and read for a long time!”

Serbia is a transit country for the thousands of refugees migrating through Europe. Asylum Protection Center is an organization of young lawyers, social workers, educators and therapists working with the refugee community providing legal assistance and orientation to asylum seekers, psycho-social support to deal with the trauma experienced during their journey, and food and clothing (especially in preparation for the Winter). At a temporary shelter I met a family that have just arrived from Syria. The mother shared her story of leaving in the middle of the night as bombs feel on her community. Her 10 year old son engaged me in conversation. He spoke excellent English. I asked him “What do you want to do?” He replied, “to go to school and study hard.” “And what do you want to study?” “Something that will help me stop the suffering of other children in my county.”  Your contributions to CROP Hunger Walk assist us to support Asylum Protection Center in giving these migrant families a better chance at living.

Pax,
Rafael

Rev. Dr. Rafael Malpica Padilla
Executive Director, Global Mission 
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
8765 W Higgins Rd., Chicago, IL  60631-4101

Phone: +1 773-380-2640; Fax: 773-380-2410
rafael.malpica@elca.org  
ELCA.org 

Wednesday Words - October 12, 2016

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.[a] “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 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.”28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii,[b] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”- Luke 10:25-37

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus provides a compelling example of “giving in grace”.  The story relates the experience of a man on a journey who was beaten, robbed, and left beside the road.  We are told that three people came upon this man and his suffering, a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan.  The priest and Levite passed the man by while the Samaritan came to his aid and did all that he could to care for the man including making provisions for recuperative care. From this experience, Jesus asks the question, “Which of these three do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”  The answer given was, “The one who showed him mercy.”  To this Jesus tell us, “Go and do likewise.”

Reflection Questions

  1. How is this story of the Good Samaritan an example of “giving in grace”?
  2. What are some characteristics of this giving?
  3. What do you think was the motivation of the Samaritan as he helped the traveler?
  4. How does the Samaritan’s actions reflect an understanding of stewardship as “how we live each day in the midst of God’s rich grace in Christ.”?  How do the Samaritan’s actions reflect “giving in grace”?
  5. Beyond the obvious, such as family, friends, and church, what are some ways you have experienced God’s grace and mercy this week? 
  6. In what ways have you given in grace and have been a grace-full neighbor this week?

Wednesday Words - October 5, 2016

Our focus for October is “First, We Give of Ourselves: Giving in Grace.” We will explore, together, the wonderful gift of God’s grace in Christ and how it is the foundation of our discipleship and giving.
We began our discussions on “First, We Give of Ourselves: Giving in Grace” on Sunday, October 2.  We continue with our “Mission Moment - Giving in Grace” on Sundays in October.  

  • October 9 Gene Bengston
  • October 16 Pastor Raphael Malpica Padilla
  • October 23 The Pierzina Family

Here’s our “Giving in Grace” Bible Study for this week: 

FIRST, WE GIVE OF OURSELVES: Giving in Grace

BIBLE STUDY: “We Give of Ourselves”

Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-7

2 Corinthians 8:1-7 (NRSV)

"We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints— and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you. Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking."

In this passage of Scripture, The Apostle Paul writes of what we might call the first “world hunger” offering. In the passage from 2 Corinthians 8, Paul commends to the church at Corinth, the Macedonian Christians who, despite their own trials, shared a grace filled offering for God’s people in Jerusalem. As Paul speaks of this gift from the Macedonians, he uses descriptive terms such as “the grace of God”, “abundant joy”, “and wealth of generosity”, and others. But the most interesting description of the Macedonian giving is the phrase found in verse 5 of this text. Paul says this about the Macedonians offering: “and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord…” 2 Cor. 8:5

Giving of oneself is set out by Paul as the spiritual understanding of our grace filled giving. Our giving is more than what is in our pocket book at any given moment. Giving in grace is a life filled response to God’s grace in Christ. It is the joy and delight in the giving of oneself in response to God’s rich and abundant gift of grace. This is the measure of grace filled stewardship.

Reflection Questions

1. What do you think Paul means when he says about the Macedonians; “…they gave themselves first to the Lord.”?

2. What characteristics might be present in this attitude of giving?

3. How would this attitude that Paul describes affect your understanding of giving and your faith practice of giving?

4. If we understand stewardship as “how we walk each day in the midst of God’s grace, how might “giving oneself” be lived out in this context? Does this apply only to the sharing of gifts or does it impact other facets of life such as relationships with others?

5. How does the concept of “giving oneself” impact your understanding of stewardship?

6. How does the concept of “giving oneself” impact your understanding of stewardship?

7. Beyond the obvious, such as family, friends, and church, what are some examples of God’s grace have you seen or experienced this past week?

8. What are some ways you have “given yourself” in grace this past week?

Posts

.container { position: relative; width: 100%; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.25%; } .video { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }