Weekly Devotion

RSS Feed

Wednesday Words, March 18, 2020

Pandemic 
By Lynn Unger

What you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath –the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those to whom you commit your life. Center down.
 

And, when your body has become still, reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)

Know that our lives are in one another’s hands. (Surly, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands. Reach out your heart. Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move, invisibly where we cannot touch.

Promise the world your love – for better or for worse, in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

Wednesday Words
Cathy Daharsh

Here we are in unknown times which adds to anxiety, fear, and worry. Yet, in the midst of struggle and concern, I see people coming together. It’s a small gesture of bringing community together, but a neighbor in my neighborhood sent out a note Tuesday night on Facebook to encourage neighbors to put Shamrocks on our doors. The Shamrocks were put on doors to encourage families to go outside and try to find them and count them. Several families did go outside and as the children were carefully keeping count of the shamrocks, I saw retired neighbors waving at families from the window. Neighbors reaching out their hearts in care for one another.

I have been working from home these days because I have been sick. Fortunately, we live in a time where we can be in contact with one another through our technology. Technology can get in our way from connecting with one another, but we are discovering that technology used in the right way can bring us together. It warmed my heart to see our community of faith and beyond engage in the worship service on Sunday from home. As Pr. Paul finished a prayer, Amens popped up on the screen. After he said, “The peace of Christ be with you.”  “Also with yous” popped up on my screen. The group online shared the sign of peace and shared their heart in a new way. It was community! It was good!

In our gospel reading this Sunday, we hear about a man that was blind and through Jesus he is healed. But, here’s the thing, their fear distracted them from seeing the good that was being done through God. They are so distracted in how the blind man gained his sight that they lost sight that this is good.

My prayer for you is that you will promise your love to the world in this time of pandemic. Even in this unknown time that you work to see the good that is happening. My prayer is also that if you feel overwhelmed or in need, please call, email, or text. Our staff and the Thoughts, Prayers, and Action Group are here for you to share their hearts to help. Together we are much better, especially, when we lean into our faith. Amen.

Wednesday Words, March 11, 2020

March 11, 2020 
Wednesday Words

From Sanctified Art
 

“When she steps back, he steps toward her. When she steps out of the light, he steps into it. He will not let her retreat. If she is determined to show him less of herself, then he will show her more of himself. ‘I know that Messiah is coming,’ she says, and he says, ‘I am he.’ It is the first time he has said that to another living soul. It is a moment of full disclosure, in which the triple outsider and the Messiah of God stand face to face with no pretense about who they are. Both stand fully lit at high noon for one bright moment in time, while all the rules, taboos and history that separate them fall forgotten to the ground.” - Barbara Brown Taylor

It is easy to think of the wilderness as a place of loneliness. In the hardest parts of our lives, we often feel like we are going at it alone. In fact, it is all too easy (and all too common) for us to isolate ourselves, assuming that others are enemies—or at least would never be our friends. Sometimes it takes a wilderness encounter, outside of our typical lives, to break us out of our patterns. The Samaritan woman and Jesus were not only from different cultures—they were from opposing cultures. The fact that they talked at all was shocking. The text notes that the disciples were astonished by his camaraderie with the woman, and even specifically says that no one asked why he was talking to her. After all, that would have been the first question on everyone’s lips, because, “Jews and Samaritans do not share things in common.” But Jesus points out how much they have been missing by ignoring those around them who did not fit into their own cultural or religious norms. One of the first evangelists was a five-time-married, Samaritan woman. This is not at all whom the disciples would have expected. But because both Jesus and the Samaritan woman were willing to step out of their comfort zones and into the unknown, the good news of Jesus Christ spread farther than they could have imagined.

Maybe the wilderness is not a place of loneliness, but a place of unexpected connection. May you be open to the people that God’s put on your path. Amen.

Wednesday Words, March 4, 2020

Wednesday Words 

March 4, 2020 

Pastor Paul Cannon 

 

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.  He came to Jesus by night
 

John 3:1-2 

Isaac likes to sneak out of his room sometimes when he’s supposed to be sleeping in his bed.  He’ll quietly open the door in the dark hallway, tiptoe to the top of the stairs (he sleeps in the upstairs room) and perch himself on the landing where he might get a glimpse of mom and dad cleaning up, or if he’s lucky, watching a show on TV!  I know that he’s worried about being discovered, because he’ll sit there quietly, not moving a muscle, until someone notices him.  

 It’s an experience, I would suspect, a lot of us had as children – sneaking around to catch a glimpse of what your parents are up to (like the world’s most boring spy job). But even if you don’t have a memory of that, I believe we all share that fear of being discovered (on a spiritual level, if not a literal one).    

 That fear is ingrained in us.  We’re afraid of people knowing us for who we really are.  What would person X think of me if they only knew.  And so we sneak.  We hide our true selves from the world because we know the world would judge us if we didn’t.   

But as we learn with Nicodemus, there’s no hiding from God, who always sees us for who we really are. 

Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night.  It’s a detail that you could almost overlook if you weren’t paying attention, but it’s a detail that tells us a lot about who Nicodemus is.  He is a man who is drawn to Jesus and his teaching – but he doesn’t want the world to know.   

He’s afraid of who’s watching.  For all his curiosity, he doesn’t want to be seen approaching Jesus and so he comes to him in the cover of darkness.  Darkness is comfort.  In the darkness, he doesn’t have to reveal himself.  In the darkness he can hide this part of himself.   

But Jesus offers him a different option, and that is to be born from above (sometimes translated as ‘born again’).  When Nicodemus wonders about what this might mean, Jesus gives him an indirect answer.  He tells Nicodemus that God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life. 

In other words, to be born from above, is to be given a new identity in Christ – one in which we are so deeply loved that God would even give his son to die for us.  This identity tells us that all the parts of us that we try to hide from the world (for fear of being judged) are in fact things that God loves. 

Which means 
 there’s really no reason to hide.   

Wednesday Words, Feb. 26, 2020

Wednesday Words

From Sanctified Art

Wilder ‱ ness

“state of the wild”

Lent begins in the wilderness. The Spirit guides Jesus into the wilderness where

he comes face to face with temptation and struggle. Yet, in his forty days of fasting,

resisting, and wandering, Jesus is shaped and formed for his ministry. Similarly,

through the wilderness of Lent, we are invited to surrender to the wild leadings of the

Spirit. We rarely enter the wilderness willingly, but hopefully through our wandering

we remember who we are and whose we are. The wilderness can become sacred even

if it remains dangerous. There is no wilderness space too harsh or threatening for God's Love.

Join us this Lent as we journey in the wilderness.

This Sunday Jesus’ ministry begins in the wilderness.

Immediately after being baptized, claimed as God’s own beloved child (Matthew 3:13-17), Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness in order to be tempted. It is tempting for us to stay in the glow of baptism and move immediately into Christ’s ministry, but the movement of the Spirit in this text is clear: Jesus must go to the wilderness. He must experience hunger, fear, scarcity, and loneliness. He must be brought to the point where the offers of the devil become more and more enticing. There is something for Jesus to experience in the wilderness. This passage is central to our practice of the season of Lent. We observe this forty-day season to match Jesus' forty days in the wilderness—and like Jesus, we are led into this wilderness by the Spirit. Despite physical weakness, Jesus finds spiritual strength to hold fast to God. As the distractions of the world fade away, the things that are truly important come into focus, and the devil's diverting words lose all power. Perhaps one of the gifts of the angels that dwell in this wilderness is the opportunity to discover how courageous, how steady, and how faithful we have the ability to be. That does not mean that these forty days will be easy. That does not mean that we will not fall short or beg for an easy way out. But it does mean that here, at the beginning of our own forty days, we are reminded that there are both devils and angels waiting for us in the wilderness.

Join us in the Wilderness: a place of beginnings.  
 

Instead of giving up something for Lent, consider giving in to prayer and worship. Maybe this Lent you can make a worship goal. We have many opportunities to participate in worship from Lenten services on Wednesdays, Sunday worship, Holy Week services, and Easter. Hope to see you today for Ash Wednesday worship and this Sunday.

Wednesday Words, Feb. 19, 2020

Wednesday Words 

Pr. Cathy Daharsh
February 19, 2020 

Worship has been on the minds of our staff this month. The question that we have been pondering and processing is, “Why is worship important?” I mean it should be obvious, right!?! But, if you had to answer that question, what would you say to someone who does not worship in a faith community, only worships on Christmas and Easter, or worships occasionally.  

Here’s a few thoughts:  Worship is a place. . . 

  1. where we are reminded of Christ’s unconditional love for us, that Christ forgives us not matter what.
  2. where we remember who God is and who we are to be as God’s people.
  3. when people and the world let us down that we are reminded that Christ does not, his promise of peace, love, and forgiveness is forever.
  4. where we can bring our sadness, anger, and frustrations. God is big enough to listen and be there for any problems that come our way.
  5. where you are not alone.
  6. where you can lean on others to pray when you cannot pray.
  7. of renewal, to take a breath, and center yourself in Christ.
  8. where you can become grounded in your faith, so that, when life challenges come your way that you have footing to carry on.
  9. where you can be you, nothing more nothing less because God loves you just the way you are.
  10. to thank God for all that you have been given.

Sister Appolonia Irika, a chaplain, at Northwestern Hospital in Huntley during an informal conversation with the Faith Leaders of McHenry County talked about being concerned that many people she visits have family and friends but still feel lonely,  are struggling in life, don’t know how to talk about death, feel hopeless and empty. She said they need a faith community, but some share with her of being challenged to go to back church because they have not attended for a long time or have never been in a faith community. Sister tells patients in the hospital, “It’s easy to go back to church.”  

I was moved by her response. I think that we can make things harder than they are and get caught up wondering what others will think if they have not been in church for a while or have never attended a church. They wonder if they will be judged or feel out of place. But truth be told, it is easy to come back to church. I believe that it is harder for the church when you are gone. We are better together!  

So, if you notice someone hasn’t been in church for a while, give them a call, see how they are doing and let them know you miss them. God can work through you to bring a message of hope to those who feel disconnected.  If you haven’t been in church for a while, please come and be with us because we do miss you.  

Lent starts next week Wednesday. Maybe instead of giving up something for Lent you can make it a practice to come to worship more often this season. My hope and prayer for you is that worship becomes a place of rest and renewal as we journey together in the wilderness this Lent. Amen. 

Posts

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