2015 Devotions

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

by
Bobby Kates
Member: Cathedral of Hope, U.C.C., Dallas, TX
Member-In-Discernment: North Texas Association, U.C.C.
4th Year M.Div., Brite School of Divinity/T.C.U., Class of Spring 2015
A Harold Wilke & William R. Johnson Scholar, United Church of Christ.

Scripture
“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.” John 12:24-26 (NRSV)

A Word of Hope on Holy Tuesday
Holy Tuesday? Welcome to Holy Week.

Most people are familiar with Palm Sunday, a day of celebration as Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem upon an ass and “Hosanna” shouting admirers placed palm fronds beneath the poor, terrified beast’s hooves, keeping them from stepping into pot holes filed with water, with garbage, or perhaps even worse. However it was not until Tuesday that Jesus’ public ministry officially ended and the “wheels were set in motion” for his ultimate demise upon the cross, and God’s Glory, Christ’s resurrection. As Jesus finally states just before in John 12:23, “The hour has come…” after saying all the way through the Fourth Gospel, “My hour has not come yet.”

Jesus’ last act of public ministry was telling two traveling Greeks to give up their lives and follow him to his death. This, after these two men had traveled all the way from their homeland, just to hear what he might have to say about seeking eternal life, Jesus now tells them that they have to die to live? Imagine what their faces must have looked like when they first heard his words? Imagine our faces if we had been there?

I intentionally speak of Jesus’ Public Ministry in the present tense, for his words still can change us today, if we listen. The 40 days of Lent, a time for discerning one’s life and how one is living it, and perhaps how one might better live it, is now ending. Jesus set that example for us in the wilderness. It is now our time, “Our Hour” to set the example for ourselves and most importantly, for God. Jesus’ laid down his life on the cross for our sake, which glorified God. How do we now glorify God?

Very simply, Jesus tells us in Matthew, chapter 22, verses 37 through 39, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second [commandment] is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

It’s all about Love. If God can love us so much that he sends his son to die for us, surely we can look into a strangers eyes and smile? We can say “Hello” to people? We can feed, clothe, and shelter them, when they are in need? We can respect one another, even when we disagree? This is how we show our love to God. This is how we follow Jesus.

For nearly forty-five years now, the Cathedral of Hope has been welcoming all people to God’s table. Now we are welcoming a new pastor. May we never stop being a welcoming church, and never stop giving God the glory by taking care of each other, and those who come to us in need. Always remember we are “The Church Alive!” --- A Uniting Church of Christ.

Prayer
Thank you God for your continuing love as shown through your son Jesus. Now it is our turn to glorify you. Open our hearts to love and welcome one another and most importantly, the stranger among us. Amen

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Monday, March 30, 2015

by
Dr. Pat Saxon
Prayer Ministry Volunteer

Reading
Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.
Barry Lopez

A Word of Hope
It never failed. Every year as we read one of the great pieces of literature—Morrison’s Beloved or Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, for example, a student would get so caught up in the story that she’d read ahead. Then, during class discussion on the assignment, she’d inadvertently blurt out a “spoiler.” Groans erupted from classmates and teacher alike.

A good many of us are like my impatient student when it comes to Holy Week: We are ready to get on to Easter! To breaking our Lenten fasts and relishing extravagant brunches. To worshipping in a church filled with lilies and Alleluias. To celebrating Christ the Lord risen and set loose in the world.

But this morning I invite you to slow down and be truly present to each day of Holy Week, to each piece of the great human and cosmic drama—one of the greatest stories ever told. Below are suggestions for experiencing the journey anew.

  • Pray the lectionary readings each day. Find yourself in the scripture. What resonates most for you, for our church, for our times?
  • Continue your faithful reading of Richard Rohr’s Wondrous Encounters.
  • Go to Youtube and listen to Marcus Borg’s highlights of his book The Last Week (written with John Dominic Crossan). With substantive research, he sets the stories from Mark’s gospel in the socio-historic context of Jesus’ time and offers insightful commentary on their meaning. From the anti-Imperial peace protest of Palm Sunday through differing perspectives on the Resurrection, Borg’s teaching inspires. He also addresses “substitutionary atonement” and examines the meaning of “sacrifice” in the Bible. www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMkOUOf-E60
  • Attend at least one Holy Week service that has not been your custom.
  • Pray the Stations of the Cross, marking the last days of Jesus’ life. Though considered primarily a Catholic observance, many churches are integrating this practice. Multiple versions exist, but a few virtual experiences are www.youtube.com/watch?v=apAb4HAW3c8, a modern adaptation, and www.tearmann.ie/StationsoftheCross/ set in the Irish countryside.
  • Keep Vigil. On the eve of Holy Saturday, pray with pilgrims everywhere yearning for the hope triumphant over violence and death. Pray for those still persecuted and martyred for their faith. Pray for peace.

Prayer
Slow us down, Lord, and teach us again the old, old story of Jesus and his love. Amen.

If you would like to receive the Cathedral of Hope Devotion we would love to be able to send it to you directly. Sign up today to receive your own copy.

 

Friday, March 27, 2015

by
Dennis Bolin
Member, Cathedral of Hope

Scripture
What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.

Do everything readily and cheerfully – no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.
Philippians 2:12 – 16 (The Message)

A Word of Hope
How long does it take for a healthy, positive practice to become ingrained and part of your daily routine and behavior? A quick Google search turned up studies and anecdotal reports that a positive behavior can be routine in as little as twenty-one to thirty days. So, after practicing a spiritual discipline for the forty days (plus Sundays) of Lent I should be in good shape, right? Well, I am not so sure. In fact, I am full of doubt as to whether I will keep up the disciplines I have practiced during Lent. I am worried my good intentions will not make it past the bright and sunny Easter morning.

Paul offers me words of encouragement however. “Keep doing what you have been doing. Better yet, redouble your efforts.” Paul seems to be saying that life throws challenges at you but remember you are God’s child so keep up your good works. And you are part of a community that supports each other.

Being a member of a community of faith that journeys with me gives me hope. The Voice translation says this about the Christian community in Philippi: They were “a community where every person considers the needs of others first and does nothing from selfishness; it pulls together rather than pulls apart, and it is a body that knows its purpose and lets nothing interfere with it. It is an extended spiritual family where others line up to become part of this sacred assembly and to make it their home because they feel encouragement and know they are truly loved. So Paul urges the Philippians to strive for this radical unity and fulfill his joy by having the mind of Jesus who humbled Himself, became a servant, and suffered the death of the cross. Jesus becomes the example of humility and service, leading to the kind of unity Paul imagines.”

In the coming days the members of the Cathedral of Hope will be entering into a period of discernment for the call to a Senior Pastor. The decision to accept the candidate rests with the congregation. As a member of the Pastoral Search Committee, I can share that it is a heavy responsibility and now it will be one that we all take part in together. As the committee spent hours reviewing candidate profiles it became clear that the success and future of the Cathedral of Hope rests not solely on the shoulders of our new pastor (though selecting a leader is critical) but our future success is a responsibility we all share – just as surely as the church in Philippi shared responsibility for caring for each other.

So, we will keep doing what we have always done. Stand for Extravagant Grace, Radical Inclusion and Relentless Compassion. We will carry the disciplines we have practiced during Lent far past Easter. And we will redouble our efforts because the past is not good enough and the future demands more from us.

There is a quote attributed to Rosa Parks that I have kept on my nightstand this Lent: “You must never be fearful about what you are doing when what you are doing is right.”

Prayer
Dear God of the energy that is within me. May I redouble my efforts to show your love to the world by following the example of Jesus. I know I will not always meet my own expectations. May I accept that experience and press on. Press on with confidence knowing that I am your child.

If you would like to receive the Cathedral of Hope devotion, we would love to be able to send it to you directly. Sign up today to receive your own copy.

   

Thursday, March 26, 2015

by
Dr. Pat Saxon
Prayer Ministry Volunteer

Scripture
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Phil. 2:5-8

A Word of Hope
This famous passage from Philippians calls for our attention as we draw closer to Holy Week—to witnessing once again Jesus’ sacrifice of love. It reminds us of his complete obedience to God and his humility. His willing kenosis, or self-emptying, challenges us to consider our own attachments to pride, power, and privilege.

In Wondrous Encounters, Richard Rohr asserts that the ego loves to distinguish itself by feeling separate and superior. And while we may criticize the Pharisaic posture of spiritual superiority or the “me first” sons of Zebedee-- elbowing others out of the way to be Jesus’ best men in the afterlife, we all have our own ego dramas. Have we not sometimes “pushed others aside and sweet-talked our way to the top?”(The Message) Do we not “cling to the advantages of status,” claiming “special privileges” when we can, even when we have so much or another is more deserving?

If we are open to God’s transformation, we’ll get regular check-ups at the Ego Clinic. Lent is a time to get grounded in humility again, to be reminded that Jesus did not “grasp” after superiority and separateness. Rather, in love he sought identification and communion with us in our humanness and brokenness. His compassionate presence healed—and continues to heal—our blindness, our paralyzing fears, our addictions, our isolation.

If we are committed to the Way, we do lose our lives to find something deeper: the life more abundant. That truth allows us to companion the parolee who tells us he has done terrible things in his life and seeks to begin anew. It allows us to ache for the young addict who tries to run a scam on the very people who have embraced her. It allows us to claim the Peter or the Judas in ourselves and still believe in grace.

Prayer
Were the whole world of nature mine, that were a present far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all. Amen. (Isaac Watts)

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

by
Rev. Mike Wright-Chapman
Associate Pastor

Scripture
“Then I, Daniel, looked, and two others appeared, one standing on this bank of the stream and one on the other. One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was upstream, “How long shall it be until the end of these wonders?” The man clothed in linen, who was upstream, raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven. And I heard him swear by the one who lives forever that it would be for a time, two times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end, all these things would be accomplished. I heard but could not understand; so I said, “My lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are to remain secret and sealed until the time of the end.” – Daniel 12:5-9

A Word of Hope
Our reading for today involves an apocalyptic vision of the end of human history. God’s angel, Michael, will intervene during a time of distress and bring deliverance to the faithful who are living, while some of the dead will be resurrected and judged. This sounds a little like the Left Behind series with good reason. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to the United States has stirred interest in the “end times” for evangelical Christians who believe relationship with Israel is crucial to the “second coming” and their imagined eventual conversion of Jews.

I grew up the 1970s in a Methodist family with Southern Baptist roots. My mother was raised reading the Schofield Reference Bible so she was familiar with “premillennialism,” the theory of Christ’s physical return to gather the faithful. A group of women in our church read and discussed the apocalyptic books of Hal Lindsey. According to Lindsey, God prophesied all of these things and we were seeing them fulfilled right before our very eyes. To be honest I found their obsession freaky and trivial. It was not trivial for all. Our little church actually split over it. Ten families left and went to three different churches.

In Daniel’s vision, he describes two people standing on each bank of a river, one is reward and the other is punishment. Bishop John Shelby Spong tells us in his book, Re-claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World, “Reward and punishment from this time on became a major feature of life after death in Jewish and later in Christian circles.” Before the second century Jewish people spoke little about life after death. They spoke of Sheol, a place “in the middle of the earth,” that was neither a place of reward nor a place of punishment.

Daniel’s story was written during a period for persecution for the Jewish people. Their enemies forced them violate all their purity laws including eating food regarded as unclean. Those who refused to violate their practices were executed. The experience gave birth to a new belief in and a new passion for life after death. Without life after death for these faithful martyrs, the justice of God was at risk. If faithfulness to God could not be rewarded beyond this life, then God could not be just, and evil could triumph over God. So heaven and hell became the categories of divine justice and the afterlife was used to make this unfair world fair.

The message I want to express here is that, whether or not we believe in an afterlife, divine justice, or the “end times,” we can trust that God’s grace and compassion never end. We believe in Christ’s resurrection and we believe that the God who created and loves us will resurrect us. If there is a Heaven we know there are no divisions, no walls, no doors and that all are welcome. Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Creator God, help us see past our need for a reward and punishment theology so that we can welcome your compassionate grace that seeks to gather all of us together. Help us trust our resurrection faith and embrace you’re love for all humanity. Help us live today for you, serving your people, and sharing your goodness with all we encounter. Amen.

If you would like to receive the Cathedral of Hope devotion, we would love to be able to send it to you directly. Sign up today to receive your own copy.

   

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