Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. In what directions has your life journey moved recently? Have you pursued new ventures? Have there been times where you felt you were stuck and needed help moving forward? Or perhaps, you just needed a way to keep your head above water. Take a moment now to breathe. Release the tension and just breathe. Allow God’s presence to enter into your space.
In the last few weeks I have had to contend with the tension of thrusting forward in my life’s rush. It seems to be the way I run. I live by “To Do” lists. But I think I need to add my down time to my list. I need to add my time with God. How do you claim your time with God? Is it in brief flitting moments or greater amounts of intentional time?
Jesus knew that he needed the alone time to be with God, to listen and to pray. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35) So before I pick up my phone or turn on the TV news program in the morning, that is the time that I need to claim with God. I can rejoice over the new day and seek God’s care, blessings and help.
I also find time when I lay my head down on my pillow at night and reflect on God’s presence during the day. I find God in the friends and strangers whom I encountered. I find God in the blessings. I find God in His comfort and grace as I reflect what has happened.
God’s love and grace is transforming, if we allow it. We can find and make a better world by seeking God intentionally and discerning God’s will in our lives. May we keep and protect our time with God. May we push away the “To Do” lists that feed anxiety and fill our busyness of life. It is our oneness with God offered through Jesus that has the potential to transform us and the world.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday devotion. As we move forward in this new year, we are looking at new ways to face and embrace changes that seem to be happening rapidly in our lives. Even as we engage in pursuing Christ’s mission, we must discern how we go about doing that amidst a new normal that seems to be constantly evolving. When you go to church, what are your expectations? Why do you go? Or why do you choose not to go? What parts of Sunday morning traditional worship speak to your spiritual self? Do you find the music to be the most engaging, or is it prayers, readings, sermon, etc.?
As I reflect on my worship experiences, it is often the music that fills me with the presence of the divine. It is said that those who sing, pray twice. Whether it is the music of the choir, the hymns or special instrumentals, music calms, inspires and fills my heart, mind and soul. It helps nullify the anxieties of my daily life. It awakens my senses and allows the spirit more avenues to enter in. What parts of worship speak to you?
Some people question the value of gathering together for 1 hour a week – what does it really accomplish? In the traditional worship service, it offers a separate time to intentionally spend time worshiping and focusing on our relationship with God. Some may not find this valuable. Others really look forward to it and need it. We must realize that the diverse ways of worship help speak to the unique and diverse souls gathered together. Plus, it brings us together with others who share our basic beliefs and need for community and fellowship with those who share our faith.
I also have to admit, I really like it when worship is ”outside the box” and offers something new. I catches my attention. Perhaps it is something like writing special thoughts of God on strips of cloth and attaching them to a tree in the churchyard to “allow our prayers and thoughts to blow in the wind and into the world.”
But we must also recognize that we are a community that pledges to live Christ’s mission. And that mission exists outside the church walls. As a way to reach out in mission and take advantage of the dedicated Sunday worship time, our congregation has found ways to incorporate service into the worship hour. We’ve created inspirational artwork to send with packages to Ukrainian people, letting them know we are thinking of them. It is amazing the responses we hear about these handmade offerings. We’ve also packed lunches for those experiencing homelessness and cooked meals to be delivered to shelters. This, too, is worship.
May we continue to expand our expectations of what is worship and how we express God’s love to others. May we grow to appreciate the spiritual needs of others and allow the unity of diversity and the blessings of community to be exhibited in our worship time and expanded in living Christ’s mission.
We’d love to hear about your experiences. Feel free to contact the Washington, DC Community of Christ at firstname.lastname@example.org and share with us what worship means or can mean to you.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. We step out every day, making a new path at times and, at times, retracing the old. Are there significant moments where you have had the good fortune to cross paths with someone who shared their experience and their faith and hopes bolstered your state of mind or resolve? Those moments, those testimonies, big or small, may offer strength or peace, hope or grace, just when you need it. Sit back for a moment and allow yourself to draw those experiences from your memories and reflect on the good feelings they offer.
I can remember when as a young adult I first heard people offer personal testimonies in a church Prayer and Testimony service. In Community of Christ, there is a rich history of these services. I remember being amazed by people’s testimonies. Not necessarily because those testimonies were astounding, but because they gave witness to people seeing and experiencing God during their normal day. It made me aware that every day, God was present in even the simplest of moments. I began to look for those moments in my life where I encountered God. I found my faith expanding as I felt God walking with me, holding me and loving me.
Have you shared such testimonies from your life with someone? We shouldn’t be shy about sharing. Just as another’s testimony spoke to my heart, your testimony and my testimony may also offer a window of hope, love, peace, insight, or any of so many feelings. It builds relationships with each other and with God.
Perhaps as you sit here reading these humble words, you have recalled such testimonies. Even if you don’t remember the details, your heart may remember the sense of a spiritual space where you felt God working in people’s lives.
Make it a point to develop new testimonies where you see God working in the lives around you and in your life. At the end of the day, as you settle your head on your pillow, look back at the course of the day and find your moments where you see God’s presence. And be ready to share your testimony, remembering that not all testimonies are through words; many testimonies are through actions.
Dear God, our Ultimate Companion, help us to approach each day with eyes open to your presence. Help us to share our stories with others so they may find You in their life. May our community of faith grow and reach out to others so that the peace of Jesus is shared throughout the world. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion for 8 January 2023. As of this morning, we have completed 7 days of the year 2023. How have those 7 days been going for you? Have you been able to rewind, refuel and regain a calmer, less stressful life? We can find ourselves so focused on the secular part of Christmas, we get tired and worn out. Let’s take a deep breath and turn our mind’s focus on what we were really celebrating at Christmas – the amazing gift of God coming to earth through the embodiment of Jesus.
As I look through our church’s worship resources, I see “Siyahamb' Ekukhanyen' Kwenkhos' as our weekly worship theme. Being curious about the literal interpretation of these words, I go to Google Translate and find it is Zulu meaning “We walk in the light of the Lord”. We have a song in our Community of Christ’s Sings Hymnal where we sing this song “Siyahamb' Ekukhanyen' Kwenkhos'” - “We are Marching in the Light of God”. I get excited and imagine drumming along on my djembe as the congregation sings with strong rhythm and joy-filled voices. If you are not familiar with this song, listen to it on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyNn5nPW57Y .
"We are marching in the light of God. We are marching, marching, marching. We are marching in the light of God.” This song shines light in my life’s path. It helps me refuel and I can feel God’s spirit swell within me. It draws me to the love of God by reminding me we can live and move and work in the light of God.
How do we walk in the light of God? The Bible states in James 1:17 that light comes from the Lord God, the “Father of the heavenly lights”. In John 1:3-5 John states, “What has come into being [God] is life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it.” And “If we walk in the light as He [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)”
The lesson we learn from scripture is that as we walk with God, we walk “in the light of God”, which also means we walk with Jesus whom we consider as “the light” in this world. We “walk” in Jesus’ light by following His teachings, drawing upon His power, and putting his lesson of love and grace into action. In John chapter 8, Jesus said again to the people, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
I find refreshing hope, generous love and a blossoming spirit when walking with Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. “Siyahamb' Ekukhanyen' Kwenkhos'” Let us walk in the light of the Lord together. Let’s create testimonies of peace and love, generosity and grace as we claim the peace of Jesus Christ and make Christ’s mission our mission.
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. It was so beautiful to wake up this morning and realize, “It’s Christmas!” My head is full of the images from last night’s Christmas Eve candlelight service and the live nativity performed by the children. We hadn’t been together for the Christmas Eve service since Dec 2019, so it was very special to be together again and hear the story of Jesus’ birth through scripture and song and then ending the service with our traditional handheld candles whose flames originated with the Christ Candle of the Advent Wreath. May this special season of Christmas bring to mind the great love God has for you, and may we all strive to share love, hope, joy and peace daily as we find ways to reach out to all people with a generous heart.
“O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord, Immanuel”
Today the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center offers a pre-recorded Christmas Day worship service. Friends throughout the Mission Center have offered their ministry in this worship video. Link for this video is below.
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. We are so close to Christmas and it is exciting. One of the things I love most are the immense changes in all that we see and hear. It means something’s different. I love the Christmas carols. We are taken back in time to hear the story of Jesus’ birth and all the hope and love it promised. The words are timeless, however, because the hope and promise are still so important today.
One song, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and the story about its origin really speaks to me. Phillips Brooks, a young preacher and staunch abolitionist, found himself exhausted from years of the Civil War and longed for rest, so he went to the Holy Land, hoping to find peace.
There, he visited the small town of Bethlehem. He found a silent spot and looked over the land, bathed in the darkness of night, and the lines jumped to his mind: “O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, a silent star goes by.”
There is so much to experience as we read through the verses. The first two lines of the third verse is not well known but comes with a special message that Jesus, God’s amazing gift to us, entered the world with no pomp and circumstance, but in the quiet stealth of night.
How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
Someone recently suggested I go to the last verse of the carols, because there we often find a profound message so needed by today’s world. The fourth and final verse reads:
O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us; abide in us, Our Lord, Immanuel.
What better words are there for us to pray?
O come to us; abide in us, Our Lord Immanuel.
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. I love finding inspirational stories and today I want to share the following story. This week the Advent theme is Joy. What better way to add joy to someone’s life than do something unexpected for them. Give of yourself. Be generous. You can make a difference.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A man was asked to paint a boat. He brought his paint and brushes and began to paint the boat a bright red, as the owner asked him.
While painting, he noticed a small hole in the hull, and quietly repaired it.
When he finished painting, he received his money and left.
The next day, the owner of the boat came to the painter and presented him with a nice check, much higher than the payment for painting.
The painter was surprised and said “You've already paid me for painting the boat Sir!”
“But this is not for the paint job. It's for repairing the hole in the boat.”
“Ah! But it was such a small service... certainly it's not worth paying me such a high amount for something so insignificant.”
“My dear friend, you do not understand. Let me tell you what happened:
“When I asked you to paint the boat, I forgot to mention the hole.
“When the boat dried, my kids took the boat and went on a fishing trip.
“They did not know that there was a hole. I was not at home at that time.
“When I returned and noticed they had taken the boat, I was desperate because I remembered that the boat had a hole.
“Imagine my relief and joy when I saw them returning from fishing.
“Then, I examined the boat and found that you had repaired the hole!
“You see, now, what you did? You saved the life of my children! I do not have enough money to pay your 'small' good deed.”
So no matter who, when or how, continue to help, sustain, wipe tears, listen attentively, and carefully repair all the 'leaks' you find. You never know when one is in need of us, or when God holds a pleasant surprise for us to be helpful and important to someone.
Along the way, you may have repaired numerous 'boat holes' for several people without realizing how many lives you've save. ❤️
Make a difference....be the best you...
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. In this second week of Advent, we light the candle of Hope. Advent is a time of preparation as we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus. As we move toward Christmas, we must take advantage of this time of preparation. Otherwise, Christmas Day will come and go in a flurry of wrapping paper, cards, and cookies. We could miss the real reason and all the peace and hope that we experience on the path. It is the power of hope that moves us forward.
In Romans 15:4, Paul talks about how the scriptures “were written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” When I read that statement I decided to query the internet for scriptures offering hope and encouragement.
In Isaiah 41:10 the scriptures say, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
In Philippians 4:6-7 we read, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I personally find strength and hope as I read these passages. In Joshua 1:9 it says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
I worry about too many things and sometimes I get discouraged. But when I read even these few lines of scripture, I feel a sense of peace and hope. I am reminded that God is always with me. When I close my eyes at night, I try to look back at my day and be thankful. So many times, I have witnessed God’s hand in my life and felt blessed. Intentionally reminding myself of specific times that God has eased my fears and allowed me to be hopeful, even confident, about future outcomes, strengthens me and bolsters my faith.
I pray you find a bit of hope every day that speaks of God’s presence. And as you find the presence of God, remember the hope that Jesus represented. For generations, people spoke of and longed for the Messiah, God’s son, to come among us. We are fortunate that we know the Messiah did come. We must use this very short time to once again prepare the manger. Prepare it with love, peace and hope.
author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. I expect there are still leftovers in the fridge from your Thanksgiving meal. And, I pray, you have some meaningful and special memories of time spent either in person with family or friends, or via phone, texts, or social media. This is a wonderful time of year when we get to transition from a swelling of thankfulness to the special meaning of Christmas.
This is the first Sunday of Advent and as we progress through the weeks leading to Christmas, we often assign Peace, Hope, Joy or Love to one of the four candles of the Advent Wreath. This week we assign Peace to candle #1.
If you are feeling euphoric from your season of thankfulness, it might feel natural to move into the sense of peace emitted from the flicker of the Advent candle. God gave us His son, Jesus, to further His love and peace into the world. However, there is not peace in the world today. There are warring nations, heartbreaking acts of violence, and politically-divided people. As we face unrest, frustration and brokenness, this is a perfect time to gaze into the flame of the Advent candle and remember the immense love and grace of God as we reflect on the birth of His son, Jesus.
One of my favorite scriptures foretelling of a peoples’ move toward peace is in Isaiah 2:1-5 where “[people] will beat their swords into iron plows, and their spears into pruning tools. Nation will not take up sword against nation; they will no longer learn how to make war.” In Isaiah, the people of Judah were being invited to take the first steps toward creating Zion and the reign of God: “Let us walk in the light of the Lord” (v. 5). We must also walk in that light and we keep alive the hope of peace to come. But how can we do that?
Remember in your preparation for Christmas to mindfully move through each step, allowing God and God’s call for peace, to be part of it. What gestures or generous acts, big or small, can melt the weapons and words of war into a spirit of love, compassion and oneness?
Let’s begin our Advent season with peace. May God’s spirit fill you and give you inspiration and resolve to be an ambassador for peace and justice as you walk your journey in this world. Amen.
(author: Bonnie Barber)
"Witness the Suffering Servant" Christian liturgy on this day calls for us to remember the suffering Jesus went through on the last day of His life. Why is it important to remember His suffering? Perhaps it’s to realize in times of need our solace is in our relationship with the Divine.
When the time came for Jesus to embark on his final journey, he asked for time alone to talk to God. His disciples waited under the olive trees while Jesus walked ahead and prayed. He lay his burdens at his Father’s feet for he was troubled, however he wasn’t afraid of death or pain. His very heart was heavy-laden with the weight of the sin of the world on it. Like Jesus, we need to surrender our fears and turn to Him in meaningful prayer and discernment.
Why is it important to remember His suffering? Perhaps it’s to recognize that as Jesus walked that lonesome Calgary Road, so must we. In the lyrics of hymn “Jesus Walked this Lonesome Valley, Community of Christ hymnal #452, it reads: “You must go and stand your trial, you have to stand it by yourself. Oh, nobody else can stand it for you. You must stand it by yourself.” Yes, there will be difficult times, but we must have faith and be comforted by the knowledge that we don’t walk the valley alone. God is with us. There was only one path for Jesus and that was to the cross. So must we too carry our cross in the same manner and surrender wholly and fully to God’s will.
Why is it important to remember His suffering? Perhaps it is to remember that hard times don’t last forever. For three days after Jesus’ death, darkness descended over the world. Many might have thought it was the end of days, not fully understanding it wasn’t the end, but the beginning of true salvation for everyone. We are all worthy of His compassion and His forgiveness – be assured. That assurance is dawn in the distance, light on the horizon. It is HOPE for all mankind.
The world reawakened with Jesus’ resurrection and so, too, on this day, we must remember Jesus’ suffering not as a reminder that His life ended, but the new beginning his sacrifice gave us all.
What possibilities do you see for the compassion of Christ to be transformational in today’s world? And how can you be part of that transformation?
(author: Deb VanHeest)
Various authors throughout the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center and beyond provide these thought-provoking weekly devotions.