Friday, May 29, 2015
“The Voice of God in a Great Storm” Psalm 29
Nature intervened as I began thinking about this devotion. Early this morning, strong storms moved, slowly, across San Antonio. I awoke to close-by thunder and steady rain. How perfect, I thought, as I considered Psalm 29. I went outside to experience for myself what David heard in the “Great Storm.”
I was not disappointed—numerous flashes of lightening and crashes of thunder accompanied the torrent that fell from the sky. I admit, there was a moment when the lightening strikes, more and more insistent, made me afraid; and, like the apostles of Mark 4:38, I thought, “Teacher, do you not care that [I am] perishing?”
There is no mistake that David – King of Israel, father of Solomon, slayer of Goliath and ancestor of Jesus Christ – heard God’s voice speaking through nature. I, too, could easily interpret the storm as the voice of God—the “God of glory” did, indeed, thunder, and I could imagine God’s voice causing “…the oaks to whirl,” shaking the wilderness.
I remained outside as the storm finally waned. The birds resumed their songs and freshness arose from the rain-drenched earth. Calm was restored.
In that quietness, I also heard God’s voice. It soothed me and reminded me that God is everywhere and in all things. It was then that I recalled these words:
“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before Jehovah. And, behold, Jehovah passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before Jehovah; but Jehovah was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but Jehovah was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but Jehovah was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” -1 Kings 19:11-12, ASV
For me, it’s easy to find God in the natural world, but it’s the “still small voice” that speaks to me more loudly and profoundly.
God of all creation, your mighty power surrounds me, and your awesome supremacy is in all things; but I sometimes fail to hear you. Help me, God of the storm and God of the “still small voice,” to find you where I look and to hear you as you speak to me. Bless us, oh God, in all things with your peace. In the name of Jesus, I pray, Amen.
Thursday, May 28, 2015
“In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame…” 1 Timothy 6.13-14a
Today is a Limerick day. It reminded me of one the most famous limericks of my childhood: Hickory Dickory Dock. I thought it might be fun to create one humorous poem for today’s inspirational message.
When I think about God who has all power and reigns over the entire universe, it brings a smile to my face. No matter what I am going through I should smile and even at times laugh out loud because I know God is the Author of Life and controls everything. We should all smile more and relax because it increases optimism, energy, and hope in one’s perspective.
As in the Bible scripture for today, when you know the truth about your life and your destiny, you can have more of a positive outlook and increase your overall sense of well-being. In the exchange between Pontius Pilate and Jesus, Jesus confessed that he was the Son of God without hesitation and without denial. You might wonder, where is the humor in this scripture? Pontius Pilate thought he was going to intimidate Jesus; however, Jesus had the last word. He was confident and vigorous because he knew exactly who he was. There is joy, optimism, and hope when you are self-aware and happy with your life.
Having laughter and hope in God’s sight
Makes your life surely seem bright
Even when situations seem unfair
You should never ever despair
With God’s love everything will be alright.
Dear God: Thank you for allowing us to have a sense of humor in the midst of our busy days and lives. We know you don’t want us to take ourselves so seriously that we negatively impact our health. We recognize that it is good for us to take a deep breath and enjoy a good laugh while giving all honor and glory to God, the Creator of Life and the Universe. Rejoice! Amen.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Member of Cathedral of Hope
“At one time, the whole Earth spoke the same language. It so happened that as they moved out of the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled down. They said to one another, “Come, let’s make bricks and fire them well.” They used brick for stone and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower that reaches Heaven. Let’s make ourselves famous so we won’t be scattered here and there across the Earth.” God came down to look over the city and the tower those people had built. God took one look and said, “One people, one language; why, this is only a first step. No telling what they’ll come up with next—they’ll stop at nothing! Come, we’ll go down and garble their speech so they won’t understand each other.” Then God scattered them from there all over the world. And they had to quit building the city. That’s how it came to be called Babel, because there God turned their language into “babble.” From there God scattered them all over the world.” Genesis 11.1-9
I must admit that it has taken me a lifetime to come to a meaningful understanding of this story. I couldn't figure out why God was unhappy with people communicating with one another, working together to accomplish a common goal, seemingly living happily on the same page. Why would God destroy something that, on the surface, appeared to be a perfect picture of peace and harmony? And then it hit me. The prevailing themes in this passage are not communication, peace and harmony, but rather pride, disobedience and fear.
As is often the case with human endeavors, it is not so much the "what" in this story as it is the "why that is most pertinent." Though the builders say they want to build a tower that reaches to the heavens, which could potentially be interpreted as a desire to be closer to God, the next part of the sentence proves more significant; it is "the why." "Let's make ourselves famous..." Pride is a tough topic for people. Most of us are taught from a young age to take pride in our work. We are encouraged to do the best that we can in all that we attempt in the hope that we might rise to "the top." The top of what? Our own Tower of Babel?
How were those in the land of Shinar disobedient? God commanded that the people should not put down roots and congregate in one place. In Genesis 9:7, God says, "And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.’’ It was fear that kept the people from following God's word. Apparently, like us today, they felt that there was safety, and perhaps power, in numbers. Spreading out across the land, potentially being alone, was scary. God's actions surrounding the Tower of Babel forced those searching for security only in man made monuments to turn their hearts and their faith toward God, and follow God's plan for humankind on earth.
Most of us know that as individuals pride, disobedience, and fear can separate us from God. We need to be aware of these things as a faith community as well. Many churches today seem much like the tower built in the land of Shinar, shrines built by and for people trying to make a name only for themselves, fortresses built by people trying to create security through sameness, safe zones built by people striving to drive away fear by driving away difference. As God clearly demonstrates in the narrative about the Tower of Babel, we are called not to hide behind the walls and dogma of our churches, but to go out into the vast and sometimes scary world spreading God's love to everyone everywhere.
O God who created all people, all nations, and all languages, tumble my inclinations toward being prideful, fearful, and disobedient to your call. Grant me such a gift of communication that I can speak, hear, and respond to the language of your love with all whom I encounter. Amen.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven’.” John 20. 19-23
Prior to and during the crucifixion of Jesus, people used anger to justify their condemnatory and violent behavior toward Jesus. When reading about these events, the brewing anger of the crowd is palpable as is the seething resentment of the chief priests. I have to wonder exactly what it was that truly drove that anger. Was it because Jesus had broken laws and they were therefore justified under the law to kill him? Was it because the chief priests wanted to retain their status to continue receiving the benefits of that status under the guise of the laws of Moses? Was it because they were afraid of how differently Jesus behaved and viewed the world?
I cannot imagine being part of the crowd and exhibiting such judgement and hate solely because I believed and behaved differently from Jesus. It seems quite easy for me to say that I would not have succumbed to the opinions of the chief priests and would not have allowed hate to prosper in my heart to drive violent actions. However, fear and anger are powerful emotions and can certainly be the impetus to a person engaging in behavior that they normally would not. I can easily think of personal and more global situations where I have behaved similarly and felt completely justified in doing so. Typically, my justification is driven by what I believe to be true and right.
In contrast, I have been on the receiving end of judgment and hate for being gay without regard for who I am as a human being. I wonder what could have happened if in those instances I did not let anger fuel my need to convince those judging me that their beliefs were wrong. What if my interactions came from a place of love in hopes of both parties reaching a deeper understanding for one another? Perhaps deeper understanding and respect for differences would foster creative solutions for living together peacefully. I have to believe in the possibility – the possibility of peace for all of us.
God, I am so grateful for your unwavering love and acceptance of me – just as I am. Today I pray for the strength to love compassionately – even when I may not understand.
Monday, May 25, 2015
Minister of Youth, Young Adults & Missions
“Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, one for each of the tribes of the Israelites, so that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever.’” Joshua 4:5-6
A Word of Hope
In the book of Joshua we read about the journey of the Israelites to the Promised Land. When they arrived at the Jordan River there was no bridge to cross so the Israelites had to trust that God would provide a way to cross over. The story tells us that the Levite Priest stood by the river with the Ark of the Covenant. When the Israelites crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. Joshua Chapter 4 talks about how a man from each tribe created a memorial with stones to remember the wonderful things that God made.
Today is Memorial Day. I salute and celebrate the men and women who have died serving our country but I also salute and celebrate their families. Just as the Israelites placed stones by the Jordan to remember the wonders of God, we mark graves with stones bearing the names of those who have sacrificed themselves for us. Today we visit those grave sites to remember. I didn't really pay attention to the stories of soldiers in the Bible until I experienced what it was like to have a family member serving our country.
When I was young I read a letter addressed to my mother’s military cousin, Francisco. Mother would write to my cousin quoting Bible verses to remind him God was watching over him. Although I don’t remember exactly when it happened, I do remember preparing to attend my cousin’s funeral. I remember our family being together at the grave site while soldiers saluted the casket before us. I remember the flag that lay on his casket being folded and handed to my aunt while my cousins held on to her. I particularly remember the gun salutes. Every year after that, my mother would take us to make sure the grave had flowers and a flag. She would always tell us that he had been a good man of God.
Many of our brothers and sisters serve our country out and proud today. My own daughter serves in the Navy. As a congregation of Peace and Justice we might not always understand the military and its ways. But, just like Joshua’s days, may we continue to remember the miracles and wonders of God.
God may your peace, love and Justice prevail. Throughout this Memorial Day weekend, may we remember those who have died, those who have served, and those for whom we hold the light and await safe return. Amen.
- Devotion Friday, May 22, 2015 - I Corinthians 15: 54 – 55 - Dennis Bolin - Member, Cathedral of Hope - Cathedral of Hope UCC Dallas Texas
- Devotion Thursday, May 21, 2015 - Psalm 33: 18-19 - Dr. Pat Saxon - Prayer Ministry Volunteer - Dallas - Cathedral of Hope UCC Dallas Texas
- Devotion Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - Revelation 14.6 - Dan Peeler - Minister for Children and Families - Dallas - Cathedral of Hope UCC Dallas Texas
- Devotion Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - Matthew 5:3 - Dr. Gary G. Kindley - Pastoral Counselor - Cathedral of Hope UCC Dallas Texas
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