Welcome to the Sunday Devotional.
Today is Transfiguration Sunday and the main scripture, Luke 9:28-36, tells about Jesus’ trip up the mountain to pray and talk with God. I feel like I’ve climbed a mountain this week, as I’m sure many of you do, as well. So let’s consider ourselves at the top of the mountain. This is a good time to sit down, put our worries aside and spend time with God. Come join me.
I realized on Friday that I had only been home from my trip to Missouri a week. I had to look hard at the calendar to double-check. It does feel like I’ve trekked up a mountain this week. Just getting back into my normal routine has been part of this rather arduous journey.
In the scripture three of Jesus’ friends, Peter, James and John, went with him and witnessed an amazing sight. Standing with Jesus were Moses and Elijah who had lived long before. Then the friends saw Jesus’ face change (transfigure) and his robes became as white and bright as lightning. As they took all of this in, a cloud overcame them and they heard the voice of God saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” What a marvelous experience! What was their reaction? They told Jesus they should make a shelter for Jesus and the prophets who were standing with them. It seems they expected everyone and everything to stay unchanged. For Peter, James and John this was surely holy ground.
As I read through this scripture, I wondered, “Was Jesus transformed in front of them, or did they witness the presence of God shining through him?” Perhaps we should look for that brightness and light as the presence of God in others and in ourselves? Does God’s light shine through me? Can others see it? As I journey with Jesus, I know there is a change within me. I am not the same today as yesterday. But does that change show through to others?
How can we let that glow of God’s love shine on those around us? What can we do to fan that flame? This week I reflected on where that intenseness of God’s spirit showed itself in my life and realized it was when I focused on God’s love and the message of Jesus. It was at church camps, reunions and retreats - places where I was able to put the daily stresses of life aside. But it would do no good to stay at camps or retreats and never move on. God’s light shines on us so we can take His light and cause it to shine on others through us. Like Peter, James and John, I cannot stay on the mountaintop. The mountaintop is not the destination. It is the starting place.
Dear God, With Jesus as our guide and our companion, we climb the mountain. And from there, may we step into the world around us, transformed, and ready to share all that we have gained. May others see our transformation that reflects God’s presence and God’s love. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotional. “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16 (NIV) I’ve been singing a lot the last two weeks. I’ve been visiting my grandchildren and revisiting all the songs we sang together when they lived close by. One of my grandsons requested “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, a song I sang to my children and one that my daughter now sings to hers. In recognition of Black History month, I delved into the history of this Negro Spiritual and wish to share what I found with you.
Many of the words of Negro Spirituals have covert meaning. "Swing low, sweet chariot" refers to Ripley, a "station" of the Underground Railroad, where fugitive slaves were welcome. Because Ripley sits at the top of a hill by the Ohio River, which is not easy to cross, fugitives had to wait for help to take them to the top of the hill. The words of this spiritual, "I looked over Jordan and what did I see/ Coming for to carry me home/ A band of angels coming after me" referred to this part of their travel.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCWtysB-uB4
While I am familiar with other Negro Spirituals, I was surprised to find that “There is a Balm in Gilead” is one as well. We sing this song quite often during a communion service. In the Old Testament, the balm of Gilead is taken most directly from Jeremiah chapter 8:22: "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wounds of my [God's] people?" In this spiritual, the balm is spiritual medicine to deal with the sins of God's people. We also have the message that there is a promise of healing, hope, and liberation in Jesus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mO17UImQcto
Another well-known Negro Spiritual is “Let Us Break Bread Together on Our Knees”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DO69zb_0CJk The humble image of being on our knees takes me there every time we sing it. “When I fall on my knees, with my face to the rising sun, O Lord, have mercy on me.”
We have such rich, beautiful Negro spirituals that have spoken to us through time. May we always be aware of how they came to be, and what they meant to those who first sang them.
Dear God, thank you for the many songs that have come from people’s hearts. May we remember with each word and each tune, that the message of Christ is one to be shared. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. I really look forward to greeting you each week. And this is a great time to be together as we get closer to the national day of love – Valentine’s Day. If you’ve been in any store in the last month, you’ve probably seen the red heart-shaped boxes – a clear reminder that Valentine’s Day is coming. I don’t know about you, but I feel deluged with red heart-shaped boxes of chocolate candies everywhere I turn. The commercialism of it all can be off-putting, but the heart shape softens the blow for me. However, as I look at these chocolate symbols of love, I realize that I need to look for love itself. Stop a second and think about where you find love.
I have been spending this last week visiting my daughter and her family. As a grandparent, I love looking into the faces of my grandchildren and seeing the pure love that shines through as they gaze at their world. They live in a world of pure faith - faith that they are loved, faith that they will be taken care of, faith that they are forgiven when they’ve done something wrong. Then I realize that that is how it is with God. We, too, can live with the faith of a child – faith that we will be taken care of, faith that we are loved, faith that we are forgiven when we do something wrong. But as adults, we can be jaded in our outlook, thinking we are not worthy, thinking we have gone too far away from God to be welcomed back into His arms. But we are not to judge others, let alone ourselves.
God’s love is abundant and free. As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, we have the most wonderful example of love in the love God has for us. In Romans 5:8 we read, “...God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.“ Think about that. What a tremendous love that is. God loves us this much!
There are so many references in scripture about God’s boundless love.
John 15:12 “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
Corinthians 16:14 “Do everything in love.” 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. ..”
1 John 4:8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Join me in making a personal pledge to show love this week. Even the smallest gesture can make a person feel worthy. Consider making a personal phone call just to check in with someone; buy a pack of blank notecards and a dozen stamps and write a few words of kindness to a friend or family member; or just offer a friendly ear and allow someone to pour out their heart to you.
God has promised that all things work together for good to those who love and serve Him faithfully (Romans 8:28). It may be difficult for us to see and understand how this is accomplished at times, but God has promised it, and He will deliver.
If you are particularly lonely as we approach Valentine’s Day, let me tell you that I am sending you my love. You are special; you are worthy. I’d love to have a conversation with you. But above everything else remember how much God loves you.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. (1 John 4:7).
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. It’s time to take a deep breath, relax your shoulders and take another deep breath. Our lives can be so busy and full of distractions. Let’s tune out the noise of the world and tune in to the promises of God.
The scripture Isaiah 6:8 says, “Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?’ I said, ‘Here I am. Send me.’” (NLT) Do you hear God’s voice calling you?
If someone is trying to talk to you and you are far away, the voice may be hard to hear. It may be too soft and the words may not be distinct enough. But if you move closer, the words are louder and clearer. That is how it is with God. God is talking to us, but we are too far away so we do not hear His voice. When we focus on God and work on our relationship, we move closer to Him. The closer we are to God, the better we can hear the voice of our Heavenly Parent.
God is always speaking to us, through creation, through scripture, through the Holy Spirit. Hearing God’s voice requires that God is speaking, but also, and this is the one most challenging, that we are listening.
Sometimes God is calling us to new paths and sometimes God is confirming the path we are on is where we should be. When I am tired and thinking of giving up, I might not be listening for God’s voice. But God finds a way to communicate despite my lack of focus. Researching and creating lesson plans for my ESL classes can leave me drained and wondering if this is where I should be. But then the dynamics within the class feel like the magic of fireworks and I see the relationships glow brightly and fan out in all directions. Students are happy and excited, helping one another, joining in on the humor of a situation, commiserating with each other, and offering advice and encouragement. Overcoming their language barriers and the restrictions of being online, the students are building relationships with each other and creating building blocks of peace that cross all manmade borders. That is confirmation that I am following where God is calling me.
Do you hear God’s voice? Perhaps you need to move closer to Him. What can you do to close the distance? Set a small goal to acknowledge God’s presence daily. Speak to God, even if it is just to say hello. Open your mind and your heart to God. Grow your relationship intentionally. You will hear God’s voice talking to you, encouraging you, guiding you, and affirming you as worthy and loved. God is calling each and every one of us to something every day.
Dear God, the one who is ever watchful over all of us, thank you for calling out to us each day. Help us to open our eyes and our ears and to move closer to you so that we may hear your voice. May we listen and respond, “Here I am, Lord. What is it that you would have me do today?” Amen.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Various authors throughout the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center and beyond provide these thought-provoking weekly devotions.