Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. If you are like me, you need help in pulling away from the helter-skelter of daily life. So let’s take this moment and focus together on the love and peace of God. Let’s take a breath, take a seat, and take a moment to turn our minds and hearts to God.
This week’s scripture story is about the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32) and it’s probably one of the best-known of Jesus’ parables. Having heard it first as a child, I aligned myself with the son who decided he could strike out on his own, then loses everything given to him by his father and he returns home. Have you ever been in this situation?
Humbly, the prodigal son comes down the road, no doubt rehearsing what he will say to his father – meekly asking for forgiveness and a place as a servant to the household. He completely submits to acknowledging the patience, wisdom and love of his parent. When the father sees his son in the distance, he drops what he is doing and runs with open arms to greet him. The father doesn’t seem to care about his son’s words of contrition; he just rejoices at his son’s return and sets about putting together an elaborate celebration. Imagine the son’s amazement at being received like this. Have you ever felt welcomed with a joyful hug filled with love?
Perhaps we do an injustice to this story by calling it the story of the Prodigal Son, because this is really the story of the Unchanging Love of the Father. This is a love that doesn’t care about what happened in the past. This is a love that flings open its arms before hearing words admitting wrong-doing. This is a love that is always ready for the return of one he loves. This is the love of God for all of his children. God is ready with open arms and all we must do is turn towards him. What magnificent, unconditional love, and it is ours to receive. All we need to do is turn towards God and God comes running with open arms, greeting us, loving us, and enveloping us in his arms. Close your eyes and imagine this overwhelming reception.
The scriptures tell us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
Even when the helter-skelter chaos of daily life pulls me in multiple directions and the presence of God seems to fade – I must remember that it is I who is drifting away, not God. Even when I feel guilty that I find myself wandering on directionless paths, making poor decisions, and becoming focused on mindless games and materialistic things – I must remember that God is ready to forgive unconditionally and in an instant welcome me back.
So don’t let your tarnished life ever keep you from turning or returning to God. You don’t need to do anything but turn to God and God will see you and rejoice. Allow God’s love to make a home in your heart, and then with God’s love inside you, you will find a new life, ready to reach out to others.
Dear God, our loving parent who stands ready to receive us with open arms. We come in awe and wonderment of your amazing love. We cannot comprehend how your love can be so unconditional – your grace so unending. Humbly, we seek you. May our minds and our hearts be always open to your spirit. May we take this faithful love and spread it out wherever we go. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. Let’s come together on this 3rd Sunday of Lent and evaluate our travels along the Lenten path thus far. Let’s all take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Do it again. Bow your head forward and stretch, feeling the pull in your neck. Then lift your chin high and throw your shoulders back as far as you can. I’m stretching out multiple aches and pains. How about you?
I’m not where I expected to be at this point along this Lenten path. I am not even ½ way through Lent and I find myself weary and I am seeking a chair and an ottoman upon which to rest my feet. My back aches and my feet are in pain. And I am thirsty. Jesus – how did you do it?
Jesus walked the wilderness for 40 days. He was thirsty, but drank only of God’s spirit. He was hungry, but denied himself the bread that God could have provided if he’d only asked. In his dedication to seeking a close relationship with God, he committed time to seeking God, speaking to God, listening to God. Why do I not have the same unflinching focus?
I am in the wilderness, too. My wilderness. And I find myself wandering aimlessly, at times. I get distracted and lose sight of my destination which is time with God. The sink full of dishes steals my attention. As I dry the frying pan and start to put it away, I see that the pan drawer has a few pans that are sitting askew, making the freshly washed pan jam into the drawer frame. I need to rearrange those pans into more efficient stacks. Then I remember the load of wash that needs to go into the dryer. While I’m in the basement, I realize that the meat in the freezer needs to be taken out and defrosted for tomorrow’s dinner. Where is that recipe? Since I’m cooking, I should use those ripe bananas and make a loaf of banana bread. Does your day dissolve like this? Different circumstances, but a similar pattern of distraction?
I go back to my chair and put my feet on the ottoman. I draw in a deep breath. “God – be close. Put your hands upon my head and pull the busy thoughts from my mind.” I take in another deep breath, close my eyes and feel God’s presence in me – in the very air I breathe.
Take your moment. Push aside the distractions and breathe deeply. God promises to be near. He pardons our shortcomings. In Isaiah 55: 9-12 we hear God’s words.
“Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.”
God pardons our weaknesses and continues his promises for us, the imperfect.
Dear God, Our Rock and Our Lifeline. Help us to give you our minutes when our hours are consumed elsewhere. Cleanse our minds and unburden our hearts. Help us focus on You that as we seek, we listen. As we look, we focus. And as we breathe, we feel. May our wilderness never be without You. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. I believe most of us have experienced crazy March weather with roller coaster temperatures and alternating rain and snow. But there was the promise of spring. Let’s close our eyes as we breathe deeply, cleansing our lungs, relaxing our shoulders, and emptying our thoughts so we can center ourselves on God and God’s creation.
Have you looked up at a star-filled sky recently? The scriptures this week tell us how God told Abraham to look at the stars of the sky, more stars than Abraham could count. Those stars showed Abraham God’s promises. I want to see the sky that Abraham saw.
And then suddenly I realized that I do. I see the sky that Abraham saw. I am overwhelmed when I think about that. Isn’t this the same sky that Abraham saw? The stars have existed since long before Abraham’s time. As I gaze up at the infinite number of stars, I think about these being the very stars that God pointed out to Abraham. I am transported across time, feeling like I am standing near Abraham. Abraham had such a strong faith in God. Despite the hardships he had endured, Abraham kept trusting God, and as I look at Abraham’s sky, I feel the strength of his faith.
Does that sound strange to you? When in the midst of a joy-filled crowd, we absorb the group’s enthusiasm. When worshiping with a faith community, the power of the cumulative faith is also strengthening. As we look to the sky on a clear night we should remember that it is the sky that Abraham pondered. It is the sky under which David composed his psalms. It is the sky of the shepherds and the Wisemen (with a little modification for that special event). Abraham saw the stars with a faith that was strong despite the hardships of life. Let that faith soak into your soul. In faith-threatening moments look at the star-filled sky and turn your thoughts to the never-changing love and promises of God that were evident to Abraham. The message of those stars is still true today.
May we look up at the stars and feel the strength of Abraham’s faith. May we go into the world with faith that is kindred to Abraham’s and put that faith into action, delivering hope and kindness, compassion and love.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. It is sobering to realize that we are now in the season of Lent. It seems that time moves on sometimes without notice. But time is a precious gift from God and we must use that gift and give time back to God. We have entered these 40 days that call us to fast and pray and repent as we walk with Jesus. It’s a time to slow down, reflect, and live with intentionality that focuses on God. So let’s do that now. Let’s take a deep breath, clear our minds, and spend some time with God.
Each year, we are reminded to enter the Lenten season with a focus on the sacrifice that Jesus faced. Many people do this by giving up something, usually a food like chocolate or dessert. If we follow that choice, we face this sacrifice as a daily reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice as his journey took him closer to the cross. If you were to give up something, what would it be?
Others look to add something instead of taking something away. It might be a commitment to daily prayer or some other spiritual practice, such as journaling or meditation. It might be new involvement in volunteering a service to others. What could you add?
Whatever the decision, the action should remind us of God and provide us a new moment of time with God. Today’s challenge is to find an action or inaction that reminds you to turn your mind and your heart to God. As part of this challenge to spend time with God, I’ve passed out 2-minute timers of sand to the children in our congregation and tasked them to use the timer to help them focus on spending time with God. Start the timer and focus on God and Jesus. How much time passed by? Did the sand fall all the way to the bottom of the timer? We all need to look at how much time we spend with God in our thoughts, in study, or in conversation. I wonder how we’d all do with a 2-minute timer.
Dear God – our Giver and Forgiver, we thank you for the blessings of life. As we course through our day, may we set our mind on you in thankfulness and repentance. Forgive us those times we get so caught up in the trivial. Help us focus on you and hold you in our hearts. May we walk this journey to the cross with Jesus, ever aware of the sacrifice that was made in love. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen
Author: Bonnie Barber
Various authors throughout the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center and beyond provide these thought-provoking weekly devotions.