Category Archives: Devotions

Meditations on a specific Scripture passage accompanied by a prayer.

A Time to Wait and a Time to Serve

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Scripture:

Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” The word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Go from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the LORD; he went and lived by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the wadi. But after a while the wadi dried up, because there was no rain in the land.

Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the LORD sends rain on the earth.” She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.

After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. She then said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” But he said to her, “Give me your son.” He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed. He cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” The LORD listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” So the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth” (1 Kings 17:1-24 NRSV).

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I do not usually write devotions based upon such long swathes of text, but many of us appear to have additional time on our hands these days, so I am going a little farther and a little deeper here. In fact, some of us might feel a kinship with Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, being unable to go about our lives as we were used to doing or hope to do now. Perhaps their story can speak to us even more so in this current context of isolation.

Elijah is a faithful servant of God, a prophet who speaks the Word of God when he receives it, trying to bring God’s lost people back into the path of righteousness. Our text opens with his prophetic pronouncement to King Ahab that there shall be no rain for the foreseeable future, a span of time that remain undefined. Just as many of us all over the world find ourselves in a nebulousness of when our isolation shall end, Elijah has to live and operate in less than idea circumstances. He does so. First, he lives off the land in the form of food delivered by ravens and water of the wadi as commanded by God. The thing about ravens is that they are unclean birds, eating carrion as well as being birds of prey. A kosher believer would not eat a raven nor take food from it, as it would be unclean from the raven’s touch, so already Elijah is having to make adjustments to his way of life and his expectations for himself during this time of stress.

When the wadi, the source of fresh water, dries up, Elijah then receives new directives: go to a foreign country to live with a widow there. I doubt Elijah is very excited. He’s about to become a stranger in a strange land literally, a country and people not his own. They do not keep his faith, nor the Lord’s commandments, which dictate purity in living and diet. If the ravens made him uncomfortable, then it is about to get worse. The mention of a widow would not have made him feel any better. In his day, widows were living on borrowed time, unless they had an adult son to take them in and provide for them. Otherwise, they became beggars and died. Yet somehow this widow is supposed to not only take him in, but provide for him. Wordlessly, Elijah departs for Zarapheth.

Do you feel for him? Would you want to be in the prophet’s sandals? Perhaps you find yourself feeling more a kin to him than you ever have before, as a stranger in a strange land yourself. No matter how weird or uncomfortable things get, so far Elijah carries onward. He responds to the call with faithfulness, even if he may have reservations, even objections, which he must have kept to himself. Elijah shows us that there is a time to wait and see, to remain faithful even when we feel doubt and are discouraged.

Our intrepid prophet arrives in Zarephath, and meets the widow. Their first interaction conveys the hopelessness that is being felt around their known world. Now out of his native country and into hers, Elijah discovers from the widow’s words that the famine and hardship is here, too. She has so little to eat, that she expects this meal she is preparing for herself and her son to be their last. Elijah responds with a promise that the Lord will sustain them, and that their food will not run out. These might appear to be empty promises from a stranger, but she quickly discovers that the meal and oil miraculously do not run out. Elijah moves into her upper room in her home, and takes up residence with her and her son. They seem to be waiting out the famine together under the watchful eye of God.

Then things get worse for the widow. We have to pause and think, “How can they get any worse?!” The whole world appears to be in a crisis, and death is all around. But now death has come to their house. The widow’s son dies, having been struck sick. This breaks the widow. She lost her husband, making her a widow, kept a strange Israelite in her home, and now her beloved son has died. In her cultural context, she truly has lost everything. Not even her remaining life could bring her hope. She cries out at Elijah from her pain and suffering. The time to serve has come for Elijah. Elijah takes the son, who is revealed to be but a boy, and intercedes on their behalf with God. Three times he lies prostrate over the child, a physical sign of humility and worship, and seemingly transferring his breath of life to the boy. Crying out to God, Elijah asks for the resurrection of the child, and God hears. The child revives, and Elijah restores him to his mother.

Now something incredible happens, and a lot of notable things have happened in the story thus far. Now the widow becomes a believer, a believer in God and in Elijah. She lived through the unending food, but that was just staving off the inevitable: death. Then death came, and somehow this foreign man was able to call out to his foreign God and bring her precious child back to life, and back to her. It is this climatic event that makes her a person of God, too.

For many of us, we find ourselves in a holding pattern, just waiting for our lives to get back to normal, back on track. For some of us, we find that we are called to do things here and now, even if they are vastly different than how we have always done things and the things we have always done. All of us are called to be ready and willing to serve the moment when the call comes. What that waiting looks like will be different for each of us. Some will rest and read. Some will work and produce fruits of their labors. Some will oscillate between the two. No matter what your waiting may look like, are you tending to your readiness to serve? Are you in prayer? Are you continuing to provide your gifts, in whatever form they may take? Are you keeping your heart ready to respond to God’s call?

Elijah lives with the widow and her son “for many days” (1 Kings 17:15) before his call to serve came. He didn’t take time to think about it, or get geared up. He immediately responded. All the food and rest were for that moment, and he was ready. May we all take this time, this strange time in strange land, to get and keep ourselves ready. Ready for the next thing, the next service the Lord requires of us. There will be a day coming when we shall emerge from this. Elijah did not stay with the widow in Zarephath forever. He had to come home, back to his home country, and so shall we. Until then, let us stay focused on making the wait count, because service always does.

Prayer:

Here we are, Lord.

From your home, you can see into ours.

You know the struggles we face, and the feelings that flood us.

Incline your ear to hear our prayers, asking for you to protect and sustain us.

During this time, we wait in a myriad of ways.

Let us hear you when you call, teach us to recognize the voice of God.

May we respond with faithfulness and our willingness to serve.

Let Elijah inspire us to bring others, like the widow, into your family of faith.

May this time be fruitful for your will and purpose.

Bring us forth into a new day together and back to you.

There is no life, no purpose apart from you, Almighty God.

For now we wait, wait to serve once more.

Amen.

The Sin of Scapegoating

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The Sin of Scapegoating

“Then Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and sending it away into the wilderness by means of someone designated for the task.  The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:21-22 NRS).


(Image by Sarah Wastella)

While the term itself, “scapegoat” is not in the Bible, the concept comes directly from Scripture.  In the Book of Leviticus, the Law of the Lord, made provision for the collective sins of Israel to be expelled from their midst.  The text outlines the High Priest laying his hands upon the head of the goat, transferring the sins of the people, and then sending it off into the wilderness.  Thus the sins are sent out of the presence of people and the Lord who dwells in their midst.  The notion of scapegoat is one humankind seem to have a natural affinity towards, probably because it takes the burdens of our guilt and bears them.  We do not like to be wrong, guilty, or at fault.  We appreciate the notion that someone else can be to blame.  I have always suspected that this is why so many Christians cling so tightly to the concept of a devil who cajoles us into sinning against God.  Jesus, while explaining what it truly is that defiles a person, tells the disciples: “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.  For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile” (Matthew 15:18-20 NRS).  Jesus blames our sin and the evil it creates in the world on our sinful inclinations, the evil intentions of our heart, not a devil, or Adam and Eve.  If we are looking for a scapegoat for our sins, someone to hold responsible, we need to look no further than the closest mirror.

We are held responsible for our sins by God.  We break the will of God when we sin, and we seek God’s forgiveness to be absolved of our guilt.  When the High Priest transferred the sins of the people to the goat, it was with full acknowledgment of who had sinned, and what those sins were.  It was a purposeful action.  It was not a case of “we are not really at fault, so this is just a fail safe.”  They had to repent, and that requires acknowledgement and ownership of the actions that caused evil to God and others.  There is no forgiveness without repentance, no grace without the will to receive.  We have to be honest about what we have done; honest with God and ourselves.

I believe that the lack of responsibility for our actions and words is part of the moral decay in the world today, especially in American culture.  I have been the one who has hurt others, and I have been the one hurt by others.  There are times when I might have been able to stave off pain and suffering I have endured, but maybe not.  Sometimes nothing we can do could prevent our suffering when someone else was determined to cause it.  The sin of causing suffering is only compounded when we try to blame someone else for inciting our sin.  No one makes us sin.  It is a choice to do what we know is wrong according to the Lord.  It is to speak or act in such a way that we know will cause harm.  Granting grace and forgiveness does not mean that we should ever blame the victim, the one who bore the evil sin brought.  No one deserves the evil another’s sin visits upon them.  That’s why I was taken aback by the words of Chrissie Hynde, the lead singer of the Pretenders, in this article published by The Washington Post: “Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde says women can be at fault if they are raped”

Sexual assault is one of the greatest perversions of sex.  It is to take something meant to bless and turn it into the means of hurting another.  Nearly one in every five women in the United States have been sexually assaulted, whether successful or not, even to attempt it is a violation, a sin against the intended victim.  With so many of the female population being victimized, this is statement about the way women are understood, rather than the way women act, speak, or present themselves.  As someone who was sexually assaulted in Middle School, I was shocked to read Ms. Hynde’s remarks.  I was further stunned to discover that she was once raped.  According to her own words, Ms. Hynde blames herself.  It is a dangerous line of thinking.  This is where legalism and God distinctly diverge.  There are no sins of opportunity.  We will ourselves to sin, and God makes no distinction between planned sin and improved sin.  It is all equally sin.  Perhaps like so many others Ms. Hynde makes a distinction.  Maybe she thinks she could have prevented what happened to her.  Maybe, maybe not.  We can spend all our lives conjecturing, but that will never change was happened and what is: a sin was committed, someone was violated, and suffering entered into a life against the will of God.  God never blames the victim in Scripture.  Only the sinner is held responsible for their sin.  Legalism can forget this, and strip the victim of their dignity by placing the blame sinfully back on the one who was hurt.

People make poor choices.  This cannot be denied, but in the face of the truth that people who make good choices can still be made to suffer from the sins of others, our choices may have nothing to do with the sins others commit.  I believe that connection can only be made and validated by God.  If God wishes to make that known to a victim, then that is God’s business, not mine or anyone else’s.  We do not have any right to lay the sin of one person on the head of another.  God never told the High Priest to lay his hands on a human being, but an animal.  When I was sexually assaulted, I was wearing a tunic length shirt, leggings, and sneakers.  I was trying to get my books out of my locker before my next class.  I cannot imagine how I incited the assault.  The reality is that a male wanted to express his dominance and in a sexual manner.  He did so, and that was his sin.  He didn’t even know me.  If I had been twenty-five, dressed to go out dancing at a club, and with someone I had once dated, it still would have been his choice to sin, his guilt, and not my fault.  We are all inclined to sin, and God has given all of us the power to resist.  The tragedy is that some will not.  They will sin, and then add insult to injury by blaming the one they hurt.  Follow that line of thinking and meet with disastrous, sinful consequences: “she wanted me to hit her,” “the child kept testing me as if he wanted to get beat,” “he disrespected me so I shot him.”  The battered wife does not deserve her beatings.  The abused child does not deserve their abuse.  A false sense of respect does not justify violence and death.  The victim of sexual assault is not at fault.  Jesus did not deserve the abuse and death he suffered either.

We scapegoat because it makes us feel better, spreads the guilt around.  By making someone else even partially responsible, we have lessened our burden, but God does not share that mindset.  My sin is mine.  Your sin is yours.  Only I can take responsibility, and only I can repent of what is mine.  The same goes for all people.  While we spend so much time and energy trying to pass the blame, we could just be honest and seek forgiveness.  God is ever ready and willing to forgive the one who repents.  Even if other people are not willing to model this graciousness, God will exonerate the victims we have failed to shield from scapegoating.  Then we will all have to account for the times we participated in scapegoating another person.

Prayer:

Have mercy, my God.

Forgive me for my sins, those I commit according to my will.

Help me rid myself of the will to blame others.

Help me take responsibility for my sin, so that I can repent.

Sin destroys the good you created, and the love you give.

It perverts the blessings you bestow, and makes evil a real presence.

For those I have wrongly blamed, I cry out my shame.

For those I have made suffer, I reject those ways.

I cling to you, and seek your grace.

Let me stand with others against the sin of scapegoating.

Let me speak up for those who have been silenced by unjust words of condemnation.

Allow me to be a vessel of your love.

Amen.

Devotion for the Fourth Sunday in Advent

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(Image courtesy of poetrysync.blogspot.com)

(Image courtesy of poetrysync.blogspot.com)

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, hear these words concerning Christ our Lord, from Jesus himself, according to the Gospel account of Luke:

“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you– that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’  Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high'” (Luke 24:44-49 NRS).

Lord, hear our prayer:

Sovereign God,

By your power can we receive the divine wisdom necessary to understand the sacred texts.

Open the Scriptures to us once more,

So we may see with opened eyes the prophetic fulfillment we discover in Jesus.

Christ came down from heaven,

Incarnate in human form, full of grace and truth.

Forgive us when we have kept our mouths closed where we should have proclaimed.

Grant us grace when we hold ourselves back from declaring his mighty acts of salvation.

We are witnesses to your goodness, recipients of your grace.

Give us the words and the courage,

And we shall fulfill the words of our Lord,

Having received the power of the Holy Spirit,

We are the Body of Christ manifest.

Now may we manifest his love for all people.

Amen.

Devotion for the Third Sunday in Advent

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(Image courtesy of poetrysync.blogspot.com)

(Image courtesy of poetrysync.blogspot.com)

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, hear these words concerning the prophecy of the Messiah, Christ our Lord, from the Prophet Isaiah:

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion– to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.  They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.  Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines; but you shall be called priests of the LORD, you shall be named ministers of our God; you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations, and in their riches you shall glory.  Because their shame was double, and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot, therefore they shall possess a double portion; everlasting joy shall be theirs.  For I the LORD love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.  Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the LORD has blessed” (Isaiah 61:1-9 NRS).

Lord, hear our prayer:

Spoken first by your prophet,

The words fulfilled by our Savior are the divine proclamation about the purpose of salvation.

Those that struggle and suffer find the promise of blessing.

We are welcomed into your Kingdom to come.

Now we work, but the hope of heavenly reward is sure.

Our deeds build upon the cornerstone of Christ.

Our words herald the truth of the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood.

So too shall our love seal our lives:

Our love for you, for one another, and for your holy Word.

What you began in us, bring to fruition,

And we shall be living proclamations of your unbridled grace.

For your honor and glory, we live and pray.

Amen.

Devotion for the Second Sunday in Advent

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(Image courtesy of poetrysync.blogspot.com)

(Image courtesy of poetrysync.blogspot.com)

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, hear these words concerning the prophecy of the Messiah, Christ our Lord, from the Prophet Isaiah:

“Who has believed what we have heard?  And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?  For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.  Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.  By a perversion of justice he was taken away.  Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people.  They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.  Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain.  When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the LORD shall prosper.  Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.  The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.  Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:1-12 NRS).

Lord, hear our prayer:

By your mercy, we find forgiveness.

Though we are undeserving, grace has cleansed us.

For our sake, the Son became truly human,

For us, you suffer and died.

We first rejected the Father’s Law,

Then we rejected the Son’s love.

Help us to embrace the transformative power of the Holy Spirit.

Let us remember what sin and hatred can do:

It nailed our Lord to the cross.

Having done nothing wrong, Christ made us righteous by his sacrifice.

May we live out that gift, this marvelous grace.

Amen.

The High Cost of Holding Grudges, Withholding Forgiveness

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“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15 NRS).


(Image courtesy of dani-kelley.deviantart.com/art/Forgive-180080742)

(Image courtesy of dani-kelley.deviantart.com/art/Forgive-180080742)

Each generation has its cultural super villan.  For my parents’ generation, it was Adolf Hitler.  For mine, Saddam Hussein.  For my sister’s, perhaps Osama bin Laden.  All three were men who perpetuated great evil upon masses of people, causing incredible numbers of human deaths that equate to murder.  Yet they are not irredeemable.  Sure, our culture and political propaganda would say otherwise, but Christ came to bring grace and salvation to all people, even those we cannot fathom for the breadth of their sin.  Can we forgive the likes of these three men?  We should try, because God declares that God will hold our standard of forgiving others to us.  Consider that for a moment.  Each time I deny someone my forgiveness, my grace for whatever reason, God will use that standard for me.  The difference is that I want to be forgiven for everything, anything I do.  So I cannot practice anything but total and complete grace for one who seeks my forgiveness and to be reconciled to me.

When I teach Confirmation to the youth of my church, I ask them if there is anything we can do that is unforgivable.  They usually say no.  When I ask them if there is anyone who is unforgivable, there is more pause and discussion, because they are aware of the portrayal of certain people in our media.  They know that people are described as being “pure evil.”  That would be judgment, brothers and sisters.  We are not granted that liberty, for it belongs to the Lord alone.  Our duty as those who have been the beneficiaries of grace and the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ is to pass it along, doing likewise for all those in the sphere of our lives.  We are called upon to model radical grace born of God’s transformative and redemptive love for all people everywhere.  Our forgiveness directs others back to God who first forgave us.  It is testimony, and even divine encounter through human vessels.  To withhold such blessing, to restrain our grace is to truncate the outpouring of God through us.  We have no such right.  Jesus tells us repeatedly, almost constantly in Scripture to love not only God, but others: our neighbors, our enemies, and even the stranger we do not yet know.  To fully love is to forgive when someone says they are sorry, and entrust the healing of the Holy Spirit to work within them, us, and between us both.  We do not have to bother with whether or not they are genuinely sorry.  That is a human construct that we have created to give us an out from granting grace, but God gives us no such right in the Bible:

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times”
(Matthew 18:21-22 NRS).

Keep forgiving every time they say they are sorry, because we keep sinning, and often times the very same sin we confessed and repented of previously.  We often fall prey to the exact same sinful inclination over and over again, so why would we expect another person to be any different?  Forgive as you wish to be forgiven.  Love as you desire God to love you.  Let nothing come between you and granting grace, so that nothing will stand between you and God’s grace on Judgment Day.  We have been freed from the burden of testing true repentance.  That tremendous task is the Lord’s, the only one qualified to do it anyway.  So cherish the liberty you have from sin and judgment.  You have been set free from sin to love and to do so abundantly.  How can we truly say we love if we refuse to forgive those who ask for such grace?

Prayer:

Lord,

Forgive me.

Grant me grace for the times when I have failed to do so myself.

Help me to move beyond my hurt,

And embrace the blessing of reconciliation.

I want to model you in my life.

I desire to shine forth the glory of your limitless love.

Only with your power and strength can I accomplish this,

And I must so that all people will discover the love I have in you.

Amen.

Devotion for the First Sunday in Advent

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(Image courtesy of poetrysync.blogspot.com)

(Image courtesy of poetrysync.blogspot.com)

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, hear these words concerning the prophecy of the Messiah, Christ our Lord, from the Prophet Isaiah:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness– on them light has shined.  You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.  For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.  For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.  For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom.  He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:2-7 NRS).

Lord, hear our prayer:

Out of the darkness we cry to you, O God.

We wait for your return, the Second Advent, by recalling with great anticipation the first time you walked among your people.

Born to bear our burden, to free us of our guilt,

You carried our sin to the cross.

All authority is given to you, and by your word we are healed.

Help us to wait with patience, but not inertia.

Lead us onward to build the Kingdom,

And spread hope to the ends of the earth.

Let our days be filled with acts of kindness and mercy,

Born of Christ-like hearts filled with love and compassion.

We yearn for the grace born only of your offering upon the cross.

Come, O Lord, and fill your people.

Amen.