Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. In the DC area this week, we have had a huge range of weather. I looked at our outdoor church sign and it made me smile. ”Weather forecast – God Reigns and the Son Shines.” I had to leave it up one more week because it will, no doubt, bring smiles to commuters’ faces as they pass by the church this next week, as well.
God reigns. Jesus, God’s son, shines. This simple statement gives me hope and I believe it can do that for you, as well. The power of God is great. And I need to hang onto that promise of God’s power.
When we dealt with ferocious winds this week, I cowered, afraid of the power of that wind which was accompanied by sizable hail. I prefer to think about the goodness of God’s power, but the wind blowing sideways and the battery of hail against my windows reminded me of Old Testament stories of God’s wrath.
Some people really focus on the wrath of God. And I’d have to agree that God certainly could have a long list of the awful things we human beings have done. But my Christian upbringing has focused on the love of God, his forgiveness, his grace. He is the source of the strength we all need to keep going in the face of the ugly parts of our lives. He is the source of comfort and support we all need when we find ourselves falling into the depths of despair. How could we possibly pull through life’s painful times without our faith to hold us together?
"The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1
"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:31
And when my faith is hitting empty like my gas tank, I need your faith to keep me going.
We are a community, a faith community. We find additional strength in that. We have a responsibility to one another. Community is life-giving—and essential to following Christ. Scripture says that’s because we’re better together than we are alone. “A body is made up of many parts, and each of them has its own use. That's how it is with us. There are many of us, but we each are part of the body of Christ, as well as part of one another.”Romans 12:4–5.
We are stronger as a faith community.
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1
“This is true because if two or three people come together in my name, I am there with them.” Matthew 18:20
I am truly thankful for all of you who walk this path of faith. May we call on one another as we navigate through life. May we reach out our hands and draw our circle wider, pulling together, taking a risk in the name of Jesus, to correct the wrongs and set straight the journey.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. A song keeps going through my head these last few days as I prepared for Sunday’s lectionary theme, “Prepare a Sanctuary”. This is a song often sung around a campfire at retreats and camps. It is one of the ways we close the campfire, having shared in fun and fellowship, recognizing the ever-presence of God in all the moments we engaged with him individually and in community. It can provide a transition to a deepening relationship with God, or it can be seen as a meaningful step before we go back out into the secular world. I want to share the words with you using a spiritual practice called lectio divina which is usually used for prayerfully reading scripture. The message or petition of this song is truly a parallel to scriptures given to us in the old and new testaments.
Lectio Divina means “divine reading” and it is a way to take the words of scripture and personally engage in finding a deeper meaning. Some describe it as reading with the “ear of the heart.” So let’s begin with step one – read the words all the way through, looking for a word or phrase that stands out to you.
“Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. And with thanksgiving, I'll be a living sanctuary, for You.” This song is a conversation that we initiate with God; a prayer of the heart. Read it again and let the words flow into your mind and soak down to your heart.
Don’t restrict yourself to a specific number of times you read it. This is your time. Feel free to read it again. I find that reading it several times just takes it deeper and deeper into my conscience. What word or phrase stood out to you as you read it? There is no right answer. This is a time when you are conversing with God, so let the Spirit speak to you.
As you reflect on this word or words, repeat them over and over. [Do that now.] Each one of us probably picked different words. Use the silence to repeat them and open the “ears of your heart” to hear God’s response to you. Do you feel encouragement? Peace? A desire to deepen your connection to God?
For me, the first time I used lectio divina with this song, the words “prepare me” stood out. “Prepare me.” “Prepare me to be a sanctuary.“ At that moment the sanctuary represented a peaceful place devoted to worship. I realized that I deeply needed that. I needed to find that place within me where I could wall off the outside world and center my heart and mind on God and devote myself to God. Please realize that whichever words stood out to you and what they meant to you is personal. It is your time with God.
And what you hear as God’s response is also unique and personal for you. Give time to your experience. Take the feelings and reverence of the moment to extend your reflection, your thoughts, and your understanding. Take those thoughts and respond in prayer to God, telling him however you feel led to respond.
Then take a moment and just sit in silence with God.
What was your experience using the words of this song?
I pray you engage in this spiritual practice and allow this special time with God. Any scripture can be used. And it is okay to expand this to use other songs or text. I would love to hear your testimony of your experience. (http://www.cofchristdc.org/contact)
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. I love the theme for this week – “Love One Another – Can We Do It?” We know “Love one another” as one of the great commandments, but we are being quite blunt in asking, “Can we do it?” Let’s look at that.
This is a true challenge. And by using the word “can” in “Can we do it?”, the question asks, “Are we capable of doing it?” Look at the adversity in our world, in our country, and in our communities and read this again, “Love One Another – Are we capable of doing it?” It’s a big question and we must look at it with hope. We must believe that we can do it. We need that hope. And as a faith community, we live that hope.
Let’s take a look at John 13:31–35, the scripture for this week. Jesus is talking to his disciples and saying that as his disciples they must love one another. He’s not directing this commandment this time to the world. I am a little surprised by this. Why is Jesus directing this commandment to his community of disciples? And by this statement, Jesus is directing this commandment to us as a community of disciples. This makes it a different kind of challenge. Are there people in your faith community with whom it is a challenge to love? Have you seen firsthand the power of a faith community that works through times of disagreement and love shines through? What a powerful experience and what a powerful witness of Jesus’ teachings.
Community of Christ has worked through differing thoughts and opinions using Faithful Disagreement and I find this to be an amazingly empowering action/reaction. We love one another even if we don’t agree. The commandment to love one another that Jesus told his disciples is for all of us. Allow the differences. Show the power of God in our lives, the teachings of Jesus, and embrace the Blessings of Community, the Worth of All Persons, and Unity in Diversity - just a few of Community of Christ’s Enduring Principles from which to live by.
If we show our commitment to this love commandment, this is how people will find meaning in Christ, God’s son. The invitation to know Christ will be alive. The communities of joy, hope, love and peace will grow. Because as Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (v. 35). It’s not “Can we do it?” Instead, it should read, “Yes, let’s do it!”
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. Do you ever feel so distant from God that you believe God doesn't even know who you are? We are told that the Good Shepherd knows all of his sheep. In John 10:14 we are given the words of Jesus, "I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and my sheep know me." When we feel we have drifted away, we can find assurance in those words, "I know my sheep and my sheep know me." How does that make you feel?
We know God. We are his sheep and we can find God by listening for his voice. Sometimes there can be so much noise that it can be difficult, so it may take some effort. But we need to realize that in all the time we are seeking the voice of the Shepherd, the Shepherd is also calling out to us. But you can still feel frustrated and unsure, believing the Shepherd’s voice must not be speaking to you.
Do not despair. It's not impossible to hear the Shepherd's voice. God wouldn't assure us that we'd know his voice if it were impossible to hear his voice.
I love knowing that although God loves us all as part of his flock, his love for each one of us is intentional and personal. I may be the lost sheep in a flock of 100, but God, our Shepherd, will come for me. I mustn't doubt myself so much that I feel unworthy and hide.
Are you hiding? Are you hiding behind feelings of unworthiness or self-doubt? Do you think you are just too busy right now? Or do you think you are too old? Or too tired? Give those feelings to God. I am one who can get overly anxious about getting something done and done well. But I have someone close to me who reminds me that I'm too focused on doing it all by myself and I need to give it to God. I need to be open to God’s voice, to know God's intentions and to trust our Shepherd.
Listen for the voice of the Shepherd. Find that activity (or inactivity) that provides an opening to the Shepherd's voice. Seek out the companionship of others of faith. In their strength, find your focus. Or spend time alone when you can concentrate on listening for God's voice. Listen in the silence and find your focus. And always proceed with expectations that you will hear the Shepherd's voice.
"Listen in the silence. Listen in the noise. Listen for the sound of the Spirit's voice." (Community of Christ Sings, hymn 153)
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. How do you feel right now? Are you happy? Are you anxious? Are you feeling the spirit of God? As you identify your current emotions, take a breath, then another. Inhale deeply, exhale to the fullest amount you can. Now breathe in again – easy and relaxed. Let’s center our thoughts and our focus on God and walk together spiritually for a moment.
I come to the close of my Saturday feeling tired, with aching feet and an exhausted mind. But I am full of joy. That’s the most satisfying of feelings. Exhausted, but filled with deep satisfaction, love, and renewed spirit. Within our faith community, we tried something new today – a new expression of exploring Christ’s mission is our mission. A group of Community of Christ members and friends went to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, with the intent to learn, question, embrace and be challenged in mission and social justice issues.
Within the culture of the First People of the Americas, we found pure truths that match Community of Christ’s Enduring Principle Sacredness of Creation. We witnessed in this history of Native Americans the honor and respect for the land, the sky, the waters and the living creatures that inhabit this amazing planet. I found myself being drawn in awe and reverence to a new spiritual relationship with God’s creation. But I also was reminded of the vulnerability we are facing with limited natural resources and the real evidence of climate change. With the amazing gifts of nature comes amazing responsibility.
I also found Native American history painful, heartbreaking, and even agonizing. My mind turns again to more of Community of Christ’s Enduring Principles, the Worth of All Persons and Unity in Diversity, and I question how people in U.S. leadership could have made such inhumane decisions. What about the Enduring Principle ‘Responsible Choices’? How did our governing leadership miss the ‘Blessings of Community’, another Enduring Principle we profess?
We gathered together after this trip to reflect on all that we had learned and what it meant to each of us and to us as a community. We asked ourselves hard questions. What will we do, individually and collectively, with what we have learned? What is our role as a community of believers in challenging these things?
I wish I could offer you a list of the profound and concrete answers we came up with. We did not create such a list. We still face these challenging questions. But we do have a better understanding and appreciation of the challenge we face with Community of Christ’s Mission Prayer: "God, where will your spirit lead me today? Help me to be fully awake and ready to respond. Grant me courage to risk something new and become a blessing of your love and peace. Amen "
We experienced “Mission at the Museum” and pray for discernment as we search for ways that we as a community of believers can make a difference.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Various authors throughout the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center and beyond provide these thought-provoking weekly devotions.