Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. This is the time of year when I take a deep breath and turn my focus from the crazy end-of-summer fun to the gentle and blessed season of thankfulness and generosity. So take a breath, shrug off your stress, clear your mind, and come along as we walk the path of a thankful response to a generous God.
In thankfulness, I look around and re-engage in the beauty of nature and the joy of community. When I take a walk there is so much to see, even in the concrete jungle of our cities. And I say thank you, God, for helping me see You in all that is around me.
God is truly a generous giver. And in that spirit of generosity, I find myself looking for ways to give of myself. In Doctrine and Covenants 163:9 we are told: “Eternal joy and peace await those who grow in the grace of generosity that flows from compassionate hearts without thought of return.” Giving generously of our time, talents, treasure, and testimony - that is a life that embraces whole-life stewardship.
The gift of time is unique for each of us because we are the only ones who can give it. Time is precious and cannot be stored up like grain in a barn. Once a day is gone, it is gone forever. But does that mean we must fill every hour with a long list of tasks? Looking at my To-Do List, I feel the need to answer that question with a, “Yes”. However, that is short-sighted. It is the Martha in me (Martha, of Martha and Mary). God wants us to slow down and be like Mary. God wants us to spend time with Him, build our relationship with Him, and draw him into our minds and our hearts. Let the Martha in you make room for Mary.
Have you ever truly assessed your talents and gifts? Do you think you fall short? How about your “Mary” qualities? Do you listen as a friend shares? Do you offer a smile or word of encouragement to a stranger as you pass? If you are like me, it is hard to slow down. On Saturday we had the mission center’s Women’s Gathering and we were provided a preparatory booklet of spiritual practices. I started to rush through those about 45 minutes before the gathering began.
Soon I found myself slowing down, allowing my vision to clear and become more focused on my journey in life and what I could offer in God’s service to my neighbor. God gives us talents and gifts to use for enriching the lives of others and in that, we serve God.
When we address giving generously of our treasure, we can think about opportunities to make a difference in the lives of those neighbors whom Jesus tells us to love. Look at the poor widow who could only put 2 small coins in the temple offering, but whom Jesus pointed out was offering more than the richest people who gave only that which they felt was from their excess. Give generously without looking for reward. In 2 Corinthians 9:12-13, “What you are doing is much more than a service that supplies God’s people with what they need. It is something that will make many others thank God. You believed the message about Christ, and you obeyed it by sharing generously with God’s people and with everyone else.”
The last element in our whole-life stewardship is testimony. How can you spread the message of Jesus, the Peaceful One? You say you are not a preacher? Don’t forget, action is louder than words. All that you do, in even the smallest ways, makes a difference. Be the yeast that makes the dough grow. Be the seed from which springs a mighty oak. In Josh Wilson’s song, “Dream Small” it is the little things that change the world. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOBaLrItEyc)
Prayer: O, Heavenly God, we come in thanks for all things. Help us to see the world with our eyes opened to your generous hand. In thankfulness, may we dedicate our lives to being stewards and caregivers of your creation, realizing that in even the smallest ways, we are your hands and feet. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. Are you in your comfort zone? Do you awaken each day knowing that you are secure and happy? Not everyone is so blessed. Some people are facing insurmountable pressures of their jobs, the death of loved ones who had served as their anchors, or the unsurety of what each new day held for them. In this week’s scripture in the book of Ruth, we see where the death of a husband and sons put the Naomi in a situation of grave proportion. In the biblical culture of her story, Naomi has no property, no family, and no future to count on where she can survive.
But her daughter-in-law, Ruth, makes a sacrificial decision to stay by her mother-in-law’s side to offer a potentially hopeful future. “Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god.” These words in the book of Ruth have always spoken to my heart. There is such a sign of strength against adversity in this statement of compassion and loyalty. These are words of commitment, devotion, faithfulness, and self-sacrifice. With whom do you pledge such loyalty and commitment?
I am a transplant from the Midwest. I left behind my parents, my sister, my cousins, my community – everything that I had in my life up to age 21, and I moved from the midwestern culture and farmlands of Illinois to the dense metropolis of our nation’s capital. In our wedding vows, my husband and I recited this scripture from Ruth. It was part of our pledge together. But it was quite evident to me that I was the one who was moving. My husband had settled in the area before me, and he was established. I entered his world. Met his friends. Attended the church where he was already settled. I say this only because it really hit me after a few weeks - nothing here was mine. Have you experienced such a drastic move?
How do you go about becoming part of a new community? For one thing, you need to find people with whom you share something. That is where the Community of Christ was important – a church family. I view this expansive family as a rock on which to stand. There were always friends, fellowship, and new challenging responsibilities. It is an expanded family. How has your faith community provided for you?
Ruth made a strong commitment when she decided to go with her mother-in-law Naomi to Naomi’s homeland. Ruth sacrificed her own security and well-being to follow Naomi because she knew her mother-in-law was facing a bleak future with no husband or family to care for her. Have you committed to something or someone where the benefit was purely for someone else and not yourself?
In my life and in the lives of my children, I have experienced and witnessed commitment to stick with someone through tough times. What an amazing experience when you come out the other side. It may take a while – a long and tumultuous while. As I made my way through heartaches and times of brokenness, I learned that faith gave me strength to keep moving. With faith came undefined hope. And with that faith, God delivered blessings I hadn’t foreseen. When has faith helped you hang on and given you a lifeline?
In Doctrine and Covenants 163:3c we are told, “Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God’s shalom, invites all people to come and receive divine peace in the midst of the difficult questions and struggles of life. Follow Christ in the way that leads to God’s peace and discover the blessings of all of the dimensions of salvation.”
There are so many in our world, even in our community, who are suffering brokenness and threat of injustices. People in need of divine peace. We need to have our eyes wide open so we can see where we need to make the commitments of Ruth. Then act upon those inequities. Speak up. Make a difference. Community of Christ believes in “The Worth of All Persons” (one of the Enduring Principles). Our actions must be a testimony of this commitment to the worth of all people.
Dear God of All, thank you for putting people in our path who challenge us and push us to be an active testimony of your word. May we keep our eyes open and our hearts ready to risk unsurety and discomfort so we may bring surety and comfort to others. May we keep faith and hope in our hearts and our eyes on You. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Author: Bonnie Barber, Pastor
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. I’m writing this as I’m traveling home from a week in Florida where we visited Disney World and Universal Studios. It was a tiring week and the leg muscles are sore, but my spirit is light because we had wonderful experiences with people. As I look back, it is my experiences with people outside my family that brings special smiles because it was a generosity of spirit that shone at unexpected times. So sit back and take a deep, relaxing breath and let’s allow the spirit of generosity seep within us.
I know that within these theme parks the employees (i.e., cast members, as Disney refers to their employees) are told to smile and be friendly. But a smile usually causes a smile in return. And just the physical act of smiling affects our emotions. While waiting in lines, I found it fun to see how people react to those around them when conversation is initiated. It can start over a fun phrase on a shirt or our experience on a particular ride. My favorite experience is when we shared a raft with 6 others on a white-water ride. As we prepared, we helped one another get settled, put on jackets (like that would help), and offered to share plastic bags to keep cell phones dry. Laughing with strangers as we all experienced a generous deluge of water and braced for another – well, it makes you feel closer. Lol. There was definitely a spirit of generosity that reached beyond our individual worlds. There were so many other instances of generous spirit – what have you witnessed?
Generosity grows. It’s like planting a seed. From the seed grows a flower, a bush or possibly a tree. A year ago, we planted a spindly tomato plant in a planter on our front porch. It didn’t grow big and luscious, but it grew and offered us some wonderful homegrown cherry tomatoes. This year as we cleared our side garden next to our porch, we discovered a tomato plant starting to blossom and it had by far the best offering of cherry tomatoes this season. It had to have grown from a cherry tomato gone astray last fall whose seeds fell on fertile soil. You plant a seed of generosity and it grows where you planted it, which can also send off other seeds that spread, sprout, grow and blossom. What seeds of generosity have you witnessed from others or planted yourself?
When asked to give generously, remember that it can go beyond money. We do need to give generously where money makes a difference but enrich the experience by adding your heart.
How else can you give generously of yourself?
Generous with thoughts — about our neighbors AND ourselves. Be generous and non-judgmental even to yourself.
Generous with words — Break the silence. Speak words of encouragement. Don’t save accolades and encouragement for just the children.
Generous with attention — undivided. This is not a time to multi-task. People need to feel your focus.
Generous with time — This is our most valuable commodity. Be sure to share it because you can make a difference.
In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 it says, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (ESV)
As we gaze upon the creation around us, we realize that God has given us so much. Receiving such generosity from God creates gratitude, and gratitude creates a reaction of generosity.
“Free the full capacity of Christ’s mission through generosity that imitates God’s generosity.” (Doctrine and Covenants 165:2a)
Dear Generous God, we come in thankfulness for the breath we draw today. We give thanks that we can share a word with those we love and with those we do not know. Help us to recognize your spirit within us and to use it to form words and actions of generosity. Amen
Go forth today and give freely with extravagant generosity.
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. This is a special day. Every year in October we celebrate Children’s Sabbath, a day organized by the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) to raise awareness of and offer opportunities to get involved in social justice to children all over the world. It is a day where people of many faith beliefs focus on the needs of children, and call God's adult children to act on behalf of God's younger children. We need to respond to issues of child poverty, education, health, hunger and nutrition, and homelessness. Join us in experiencing the heartfelt prayers and calls for justice provided through CDF’s worship resources. May these words of others touch your hearts and make you respond asking, “What can I do?”
Where does it hurt?
We gather this morning with listening hearts
to hear the voices of our children.
What do you hope?
We gather this morning with listening hearts
to hear the hopes of children and
to nurture the hope within each of us.
How can we help?
We gather this morning with listening hearts
to hear how we can help
in partnership with those who are hurting,
as ones who are hoping.
Who are you and why are you here?
We gather this morning as God’s people to worship God,
in confidence that God hears our hurts and hopes
before they are even on our lips,
and calls us, as God’s partners, to help
with a passion for justice and hearts full of love.
Come, let us worship God on this Children’s Sabbath day.
(written by Shannon Daley-Harris)
Prayer for Illumination: O God, by your Spirit quiet our minds, center our hearts, and open our ears that we might hear the word you speak to us through the Word written and proclaimed. Help us to listen so deeply and truly that we might be prepared to go out and loudly live your Word in the world, raising a ruckus for justice, speaking boldly for love, for the sake of your beloved children. Amen. (written by Shannon Daley-Harris)
Prayer for Leaders: O God, as you anointed leaders and called prophets of old, lead us to recognize our true representatives and authentic leaders: men and women who love your people and can walk with them, who feel their pain and share their joys, who dream their dreams and strive to accompany them to their common goal. In your fire, with your Spirit, embolden and commission us to transform our political system, to serve your people, and to bring real glory to your name. Amen. (Philippines, 20th Cent., in United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 544)
Prayer For Children: Great God, Guard the laughter of children. Bring them safely through injury and illness, so they may live the promises you give. Do not let us be so preoccupied with our purposes that we fail to hear their voices, or pay attention to their special vision of the truth; but keep us with them, ready to listen and to love, even as in Jesus Christ you have loved us, your grown-up, wayward children. Amen. (From the Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Common Worship)
Prayer for the Courage to Do Justice
O Lord, open our eyes that we may see the needs of others;
open our ears that we may hear their cries;
open our hearts so that they need not be without succor;
let us not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong
nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.
Show us where love and hope and faith are needed,
and use us to bring them to those places.
And so open our eyes and our ears that we may,
this coming day, be able to do some work of peace for thee. Amen. (By Alan Paton)
Prayer to Take Action: O God, help us to recover our hope for our children’s sake. Help us to recover our courage for our children’s sake. Help us to recover our discipline for our children’s sake. Help us to recover our ability to work together for our children’s sake. Help us to recover our values for our children’s sake. Help us to recover a spirit of sacrifice for our children’s sake. Help us to recover our faith in Thee for our children’s sake. Amen. (In Guide My Feet: Prayers and Meditations on Loving and Working for Children by Marian Wright Edelman, founder of Children’s Defense Fund.)
I Am Standing Waiting
I am standing waiting, waiting at your door,
one of hunger’s children from a billion poor,
though you cannot see me, though I am so small--
listen to my crying, crying for us all.
I stand at your table asking to be fed,
holding up my rice bowl, begging for your bread,
I stand at your schoolroom longing just to learn,
hoping that you’ll teach me ways to live and earn.
I stand at your clinic begging for vaccine,
I stand at your wash place where the water’s clean,
I stand at your office, beg the heads of state,
I am just a child, so I must hope and wait.
I stand in your churches, listen to your prayers,
long to know a God who understands and cares.
If there is a God, a God who loves the poor,
I’m still standing waiting, waiting at your door.
(Hymn # 298, Community of Christ Sings. Words: Shirley Erena Murray, 1931– . Music:Words © 1992 Hope Publishing Company. Reprinted with permission under ONE LICENSE #A-722962. All rights reserved.)
Benediction: Be strong and let your heart take courage. Go forth with the listening love of God to hear our children; Go forth with the tender love of Christ to heal our children; Go forth with the empowering love of the Spirit to seek justice with our children; On this Children’s Sabbath day and ever more. Amen.
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. How has the week played out for you? Can you look back and count your blessings? Were there any obstacles or stumbling blocks that were particularly hard? This week we look at the story of Job, a man of great faith who loved God through the bad times, as well as the good. Like Job, we can find ourselves facing extreme hardships, but the question is, will we react like Job? How strong is our faith? Get comfortable, take a deep breath, and let’s examine how we can use our faith to face the struggles of life.
In the story of Job, Job’s faith is intentionally tested. The ha-satan, a member of God’s court, proposes a wager with God because the ha-satan is sure Job will lose his faith, love and trust in God when faced with the loss of his animals, his livelihood, his health, and his loved ones. The ha-satan is sure Job will rebuke God. Have you ever faced so much heartache that you get angry with God and your faith “breaks”? When have you “fallen away” and doubt God cares, or even exists?
Job kept his faith even when all was lost and his body was covered in sores. He did not listen to his friends who told him his hardships must be his fault and that God was punishing him. He held onto his love of and trust in God. “…until I die I will not put away my integrity from me. I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days” (Job 27:5-6). Job states that suffering is not always the result of sin which was a radical assertion in his day, and an important one to affirm even today.
Perhaps you don’t walk away from your faith. But do you turn a bewildered and battered heart toward God and ask, “Why?” In my darkest moments, when my world feels like it is mortally wounded, my question is, “God, why did you even allow this to happen?” In our deepest despair many of us cry out , “Why, God? Why?” Why is my child sick? Why did a co-worker say those awful things? Why does the bullying never stop? Why….WHY? Job shows us that asking these hard and true questions is actually part of being in a relationship with God. His experience resonates with us. Job is at times confident of God’s love and compassion and places his full trust in God. At other times, Job is baffled by what happens in life and realizes there is so much about God he does not understand. But Job does know that God loves him and will listen to his rants and his lament and will hold him as a parent holds his child at the end of a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”. Have faith knowing that God’s love is steadfast.
In a recent discussion with friends (part of our weekly Friday, all-are-welcome, Zoom Lunch discussion), we talked about the value of faith. Faith makes us stronger and a result of faith is hope. If we have hope we can keep moving forward. That is worth repeating – a result of faith is hope and when we have hope we can keep moving forward.
So we need to build our faith so it becomes a shield of armor that we can use when faced with the onslaughts of life. There is a sense of peace knowing that we are prepared to face our struggles. So give your anxiousness to God.
Close your eyes and take a deep breath and exhale. Relax your shoulders and invite the Holy Spirit to live inside you. Let the Holy Spirit fill you with each breath. "Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord!" - Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NLT) This is faith – a faith that brings hope that the blossoms will come again and the vines will bear fruit. Faith that God holds us in the palm of His hand.
Dear God, the Forger of Shields. Help us to build-up the metal of our shields and seek the possibilities and promises of tomorrow. During those times of duress, may we remember that You stand near, always ready to hold us close. May we delight in your love and feel safe in your arms, knowing your love is forever. Hear our prayer as we praise your goodness and accept your grace. Amen
Author - Bonnie Barber, Pastor of the Washington, DC Community of Christ and Mission/Social Justice Team Leader for the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center.
The United Nations designated Saturday, October 2nd, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence, as the International Day of Non-Violence. Community of Christ offered a Taizé Worship Service in observance of non-violence. In Taizé worship there are songs, chanted prayers, meditation and periods of silence. In recognition and observance of our mutual desire for a world of non-violence, today we offer elements of a Taizé worship. May the peace offered in this devotion’s time and space speak to you, inspire you and fill you with the desire for peace for all the earth and for all people.
Experience the worshipful words of asking God to hear our prayers. The music is simple, repetitive and beseeching,
“O Lord, Hear our prayer”.
Prayer of Peace: Dear God of All People and All Creation. We come meek and humble, acknowledging the pain and suffering of your world and your children. Our hands do not always reach out in peace. Forgive us. Our hearts are not always filled with compassion. Forgive us. Help us to transform our energy, thoughts and actions to reflect your love and the peace of your son, Jesus. May all people feel their worth because we treat all people as worthy. Help us to heal the scars on this earth by recognizing the damage we inflict and taking steps to renew, regrow and revive its beauty and richness. May we embrace the vision You have for us and this world. Amen
The Kingdom of God is justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirt. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMaCK9JFAZc What is the Kingdom of God to you?
In the words of Ravi Sathavivam, seek the peace of the world.
When you look for peace
then the peace lies within you
When you search for peace
then it is not hard to find
When you want to keep peace alive
then you allow white doves to fly over you
When you make peace with others
then the whole world lives in your heart
When you let peace be in the world
then you live in wonderful world
Dear God, Look upon us and bless us. May we be all that you have to offer us. Amen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYLKrFOLS-E&list=RDj4YgfHcyLlE&index=2
Bonnie Barber is the Pastor for the Washington, DC, Community of Christ and the Team Leader for the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center Mission/Social Justice Team.
Sunday Devotion - Social Justice