Welcome to the Weekly Devotion. Mark 1:15-20 tells the story of Jesus at the Sea of Galilee where he found 4 humble fishermen: Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. Jesus approached them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people”. According to the scripture, the men immediately dropped their nets and followed Jesus. Immediately!
Welcome to the Weekly Devotion. Today the message on the DC Community of Christ front sign, as seen in the picture, says, “Be the Hands and Feet of Jesus the Peaceful One”. We often recognize that in our individual or group ministry outreach, we can and should be actively serving in the name of Jesus.
Scripture directs us to serve others. Hebrews 13:16 says: “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Luke 6:30 provides the following guidance: “Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.”
Monday, January 15, is Martin Luther King Day and it is the only federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. As we live the Enduring Principles identified by Community of Christ, “The Worth of All Persons” is one Enduring Principle that sets us on the right track to be in service to others.
Recently the DC congregation filled Shoebox Presents for the Homeless. Next week we will pack Blessing Bags, which are filled with bottles of water, crackers, fruit pouches, toothbrushes, hand lotion, etc. We hand these out to individuals who are standing at traffic lights holding signs asking for help.
In the DC area, there are numerous shelters and food programs seeking assistance with their food pantries. Friendship Place offers multiple volunteer opportunities to provide services for people experiencing homeless situations. See https://friendshipplace.org/get-involved/how-can-i-help/ to find volunteer opportunities.
May we be inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr, who said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"
Let’s be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Welcome to the Weekly Devotion. We’ve put away the Christmas decorations, and without the greenery, red bows and colorful lights, we may think the celebration is over. But it is not. It has only begun. Now we begin the year celebrating all that happened because God sent an amazing gift - his son, Jesus.
Looking at Acts 19:1-7 we have Paul’s accounting of his time in Ephesus when he met with people who had been baptized just as John the Baptist had instructed to be done, but when asked about their encounter with the Holy Spirit, they asked, “What is the Holy Spirit? We’ve never herd of it.” They did not know the “rest of the story”. Paul then baptized them in the name of Jesus and then laid his hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is a wonderful gift, a powerful gift, and one that is always available, so the celebration is not only not over, it is eternal. What do you remember about your baptism of water and the Holy Spirit? How old were you and what did it mean to you? When have you encountered the Holy Spirit and how did it make you feel? Don’t you just yearn for more time with the Divine? What happens – where does it go?
I love the story of the young man who complained that whenever he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he was like a bucket with holes. The Spirit merely drained out of him. His friend said, "That may be true, but even a bucket full of holes can be filled with water if it is immersed in the river and left there."
Sadly, we are all buckets with holes. How do we immerse ourselves in the “river” of the Holy Spirit? Even if total and continual immersion may not happen, we can seek those special moments that help us feel closer to God and the Holy Spirit. For example, when I start the day with a simple song from my church campfire repertoire, such as “In my life, Lord, Be Glorified”, the song comes back to me off and on through the day. It’s a spirit-seeking earworm. I also have an alarm set on my phone to direct my attention to God at 8 am every day. I may open a journal entry on my computer and type a prayer or prayer thoughts. Or I may only succeed in directing my attention for that moment. There are so many spiritual practices that help move us into a deeper relationship with God. What kinds of spiritual practices are special to you? If there is not a way to share in comments to this devotion, share your thoughts by emailing the DC Community of Christ through our email email@example.com, I’d love to hear from you and share your experiences with others. Your testimonies help others grow in faith.
Galatians 3:14 says that we “receive the promised Spirit through faith.” And in Romans 10:17, we are told, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” I pray that each of us find ways to connect our hearts to God’s heart, and may our buckets be full.
Welcome to the first devotion for 2024. As I look to the new year, I am excited about embarking on a new adventure. When I say that, people are expecting to see something like taking up scuba diving or visiting a foreign country. But my adventure is to build stepping stones to spiritual encounters. For me this means seeking God in the elements of creation, moments of simple conversations, and intentional acts of love. Please note that I have listed the act of building stepping stones and not engaging in major encounters.
A few months ago I participated in a spiritual practice where the participants were instructed to settle down to observe something in God’s creation for 20 minutes. We were to look at the details and seek God in what we saw. This was a challenge as I pondered and explored a tree growing in an enclosed courtyard. The first thing that caught my attention was the bark. I noticed the color variants and traced the pattern with my eyes, watching for living creatures. Then my attention went to the movement of the leaves as they fluttered and swayed. There was so much time assigned to this activity that I was forced to keep exploring, entrenching myself into minute details. I pulled out a journal to document what I saw, what I felt, and what I discerned. It was a stepping stone to a spiritual encounter that continued to deepen as time progressed.
A few days ago I accompanied my youngest daughter’s family on a 1 mile hike in Mason Neck State Park which is located on a peninsula formed by Pohick Bay, Belmont Bay and the Potomac River. This hike provided me beautiful and spiritual invitations to ponder elements of God’s creation. With no opportunity to sit for a 20 minute observation and because there were so many amazing elements of creation, I found myself taking copious pictures to spend many 20-30 minutes spirit-filled sessions in the future.
Today I offer you one of my pictures of God’s creation in Mason Neck State Park. Expand the picture and take some time to see the details of God’s artwork in nature. Offer praise as you observe. Offer thankfulness. Ask the Divine to enter your mind and move to your heart as you encounter God in the details.
Psalm 148:5-10 leads us in praise of God and God’s creation:
“Let them praise the name of the Lord!
For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them for ever and ever;
he fixed their bounds which cannot be passed.
Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
Beasts and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!”
I pray that you, too, take time to pursue your own stepping stones to a deeper spiritual encounter with God. Engage with the Divine in thankfulness, praise and worship. Be sure to take along a journal so you can document what you see and feel in the presence of God’s creation. This can become your adventure for 2024.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Christmas Day has come to a close. At the Washington, DC Community of Christ we have a Christmas Eve service every year and I find it helps me to leave behind the hustle and bustle of the gift-giving and reset my focus on the real reason for the season.
At our Christmas Eve service we used the book “Listen to the Silent Night” by Dandi Daley Mackall, and Lou Fancher. Using beautiful storybook pictures and costumed tableaus, we experienced the birth story of Jesus together. An innkeeper beckoned us to the stable, then we were with a Shepherd hearing the Angels proclaim Jesus’ birth, and sat in anticipation of the approach of the Wisemen.
Together we enjoyed the best parts of Christmas by singing the familiar Christmas Carols – Away in the Manger; Hark, the Herald Angel Sing; We Three Kings and Joy to the World. But also, one of the best parts of Christmas is to sing new Christmas songs and add them to our favorites. For this Christmas Eve we turned to my newest favorite, “No Obvious Angels”.
This hymn brings us into our modern world and reminds us that today we have no angel singing in the skies, no shepherds following a star. We have the here and now, and how do we herald in Jesus’ birth? Here are the words of “No Obvious Angels”:
“No obvious angels sing through the night skies,
no thunderstruck shepherds tell out their surprise,
for Christmas comes into the here and the now
through star-sighted people, the watchful and hopeful,
who wake us to see a new world.
Our angel potential is waiting to start!
The Spirit will teach us the song of the heart,
for Christmas comes into the here and the now
through peacemaker people, the just and the gentle,
the stars who will light the new world.
Whoever will take it is given the role:
the fruitful, the faithful, the joyous of soul,
for Christmas comes into the here and the now
when we are the angels who dream and deliver,
who rise and create this new world!” 1
Today there are no obvious angels proclaiming Jesus from the skies. But this song reminds us that we are the “angels” in the here and the now. As a star-sighted people, we can visualize what the world should be. As peacemakers we can bring light and hope. “…for Christmas comes into the here and the now when we are the angels who dream and deliver, who rise and create this new world!”
As we ended our service, we meditatively reflected on these words, and in proclamation and commitment to be these “angels”, we brought paper angels to the manger and laid them within.
Together we ask God to help us in this world of no obvious angels to realize our own roles. Are you a star-sighted person, following the teachings of Jesus in the here and the now? Are you a peacemaker, a visionary, a person who gives of their heart and their hands? How can you be an angel today in your community? Together let’s give voice to this message and share where we find our angels in the here and the now, counting ourselves among them.
1 Words: Shirley Erena Murray, 1931–
Music: Carlton R. Young, 1926–
Words and Music © 2000 Hope Publishing Company
License number: 722962
A Community of Christ Sings resource
Welcome to the 3rd Sunday of Advent when we celebrate with the Advent Candle of Love. We are getting so close to the day we celebrate Jesus’ birth. The best-known passage of scripture is about God’s Love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16) That amount of love in hard to fathom. Even as I told my kids, “I love you so, so much, but God loves you more,” it was hard for me to fully comprehend.
In the Old Testament, Isaiah prophesied the words of the Lord, “‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed.” (Isaiah 54:10).
For 100’s of years God was steadfast in his love for us – humankind. Then he sent his son and God incarnate was a human infant child. God brought his love to earth, to live, love and suffer as humankind lives, loves and suffers. Jesus lived a life teaching and exhibiting love. What do we do with that? Are we just waiting for a second advent – a new arrival of Jesus? As we wait, what do we do? We do what Jesus did.
When his critics tried to test him, asking which commandment is the greatest, Jesus answered “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39).
In 1 John 4:7-12 we are told, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
I recommend you read the above scripture from 1 John 4:7-12 again, then read it tomorrow when you wake up and read it everyday. Share this with others, for there are some who do not feel loved. God has given them to us to nourish and care for, and to show God’s love through our hearts.
From Community of Christ’s Doctrine and Covenants 153:9a-b:
“Let my word be preached to the bruised and the brokenhearted as well as those who are enmeshed in sin, longing to repent and follow me. Let the truths of my gospel be proclaimed as widely and as far as the dedication of the Saints, especially through the exercise of their temporal stewardship, will allow.
My Spirit is reaching out to numerous souls even now and there are many who will respond if you, my people, will bear affirmative testimony of my love and my desires for all to come unto me.”
If you have a candle at home, any candle, light it, and declare it the Candle of Love. Breathe in God’s love and hold it close to your heart and let it grow. And get ready for the birth of Jesus Christ.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the 2nd Sunday of Advent. Welcome to the anticipation of Jesus’ birth. In Isaiah 9:6 we read, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”
We still seek the promise of this scripture. What is not fully stated here, however, is that we have a responsibility in creating this world of peace. This child of God provided us the blueprint for a life of loving our neighbor and caring for all of God’s sacred creation.
The second candle in our Advent Wreath this week is the Candle of Peace, also referred to as the Bethlehem Candle because it represents Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem before Jesus’s birth. They had a lot to do to prepare for Jesus’s birth. We, too, have a lot to do. In John 14:27 we are told that Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Jesus put peace into our hands. There is a hymn that is not in the Christmas section of our hymnals, perhaps because it is a song for all times of the year, but it belongs here with the Advent Candle of Hope. “Put Peace Into Each Other’s Hands” (Reprinted using OL 722962)
“Put peace into each other’s hands and like a treasure hold it; protect it like a candle flame, with tenderness enfold it.
Put peace into each other’s hands with loving expectation; be gentle in your words and ways, in touch with God’s creation.
Put peace into each other’s hand like bread we break for sharing; look people warmly in the eye: Our life is meant for caring.
Give thanks for strong yet tender hands, held out in trust and blessing. Where words fall short, let hands speak out, the heights of love expressing.
Reach out in friendship, stay with faith, in touch with those around you. Put peace into each other’s hands, the Peace that sought and found you.“
God sought to give us this message through Jesus. May the anticipation we feel in the preparations for Christmas light a flame within us to find and fuel a passion for peace and love in our homes, our communities, and our world.
(Author: Bonnie Barber)
Welcome. We are entering a new season. Some may think I’m speaking of winter since the weather in the DC area is becoming quite cold. However, I am speaking of the season of Advent. ‘Advent’ refers to “the arrival of a notable person or event” and during the Advent Season we prepare for the arrival of Jesus, the One who has come, whom we expect to come, and whom we are promised will come again. Although the formal recognition of Advent has been part of my church life for years, I realized this year that I have not made it personal.
I prepared a Hanging of the Green service for church yesterday and focused on the symbolic decorations of candles representing God sending light into the world, evergreens representing God’s eternal love, and the flower of the poinsettias representing the star over Bethlehem. As I look around the church, I see evergreen garlands nestling around the candles on the windowsills and draped over candle sconces on the wall. I see poinsettias adorning the sanctuary. We recognize the significance of these decorations in our church settings. But do we contemplate what they represent as we use them to decorate our homes? Which of these symbols do you find among your home’s Christmas decorations? Perhaps we need to bring our Advent experience into our homes. Let’s remember that the candles represent God giving us Jesus, the Light of the World; the garland draped over our doorways and around our banisters represent the everlasting love of God in giving us his Son; and the deep red, star-shaped petals of the poinsettia represent that Jesus is for all, even the humblest of humankind.
Another of the advent traditions at church is the Advent Wreath, a circle of candles where a new candle is lit each week leading up to Christmas. Yesterday we lit the first candle, the Candle of Hope. This candle starts the promise of the season with the flicker of one lone flame. That is the special message of Jesus’ coming into the world. One lone flame pushes back the darkness and offers hope.
Each week the wreath will increase in brightness as new candles are lit, heralding the coming (or advent) of the Light of the World and the joy, hope, love and peace manifested through the presence of Christ in the world. May your eyes and your heart find the Advent in your personal Christmas preparation this year.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth and thick darkness the people, but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”
Welcome to our weekly devotion. This Sunday, Nov 26th, we celebrate Christ the King Sunday or otherwise known as Reign of Christ Sunday. The titles for this Sunday, expressed in those two ways, made me think about what this really means.
For me, the image of a king includes riches and a crown of jewels. However, Christ doesn’t fit into that image. No jewels and riches, and Christ’s crown, as we know it, was a crown of thorns. In Jesus’ world, he reached out to the poor and the hungry. He ate with those whom the world despised, and he preached forgiveness and love, often clashing with the norms of his day. He didn’t preach about a King’s power but his words were about the power of God’s love.
The world we seek where Christ is King is a world that serves others. When we live out Jesus’ teachings – that is where the power really is. That is when Christ reigns! What do or can you do to bring about the reign of Jesus in your community?
Jesus ate with people who were looked down upon within the society of his time. Who are those people today in our society? Don’t we find them on our street corners holding signs asking for help? What do you offer them? When have you sought to bring hope, reconciliation, and healing to a corner of your community?
I find that the idea of the Reign of Christ means so much more. A king represents the government side of power. And today, in our country and in the world, there is upheaval, divisiveness and violence in words and actions. It is the reign of Christ that is needed. We need to love and value humankind in the ways Jesus taught.
Whether you live a life where “Jesus is King” or where “Christ Reigns”, how do you show this in your community? Next week we begin Advent and emphasize love, hope, joy and peace in our church services. But we need to do more than light candles and share the stories of old. We need to go outside the doors of the church, out into the mission field, and take love, hope, joy and peace into the world. Show what it means when “Christ Reigns”.
We must heed the words in Doctrine and Covenants 162:7d. “The call to respond is urgent. Look to the needs of your own congregations, but look also beyond your walls to the far-flung places where the church must go. Each disciple needs a spiritual home. You are called to build that home and care for it, but also to share equally in the outreaching ministries of the church. In that way the gospel may be sent to other souls also yearning for a spiritual resting place.”
Christ Reigns. His heart is our mission.
Various authors throughout the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center and beyond provide these thought-provoking weekly devotions.