11-29 Advent Devotional

Hope

Tara Wilkins

Daniel 3:19-28a

 Advent is an invitation to focus our attention on the expectation of God’s entry into our lives.  We begin with Hope.  The late Henri Nouwen said, “Hope is trust that God will fulfil God’s promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom”.  Hope is often born in the midst of dark times.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego experienced the despair of seeming powerlessness.  Instead of letting fear immobilize them, they stood in their faith in God and God’s ways, and the fire did not overcome them.  In fact, their act of truth-telling bore witness to the living God such that it changed the heart of an angry king.

Advent waiting is time to focus on the truth of whose we are, to wait for God’s presence to lead us through our fear and despair, and to proclaim that the God of all creation calls us to divine love, hope, joy and peace.  Advent waiting is not passive, it’s active.  Our waiting is with the confidence that what is going to happen is going to change and transform things in unexpected ways.  Advent practice is to wait, eager and alert, to be a part of God’s transformation.

This season in the midst of angry kings and uncertain times, we bear witness to God’s invitation to care for one another, to not lose sight of the invitation to open our hearts to peace, and not let our fear overcome us for God’s reign is at hand.

 

Rev. Tara Wilkins, pastor at Bridgeport United Church of Christ in Portland, Oregon, and executive director of the Community of Welcoming Congregations.

©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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11-28 Advent Devotional

Longing for God

Tracy Spencer-Brown

Daniel 2:31-45

Psalm 25:1-10

 

“I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord…….”

Today was a difficult day, and in the midst of it, I kept hearing this hymn.  I was reminded that we are not alone in this.  We do not have to face life on our own.  As Christian people, we know this; yet how easy it is to forget sometimes.

The psalmist reminds us, offering her soul to God, and proclaiming her trust, all the while asking for God’s help in being faithful.  She desires forgiveness and mercy, and longs for God’s presence.

Annie Hawks began writing poetry and hymns when she was fourteen years old.  The most familiar of those is “I Need Thee Every Hour.”  She describes the occasion of penning the hymn:

“I remember well the circumstances under which I wrote the hymn. It was a bright June day, and I became so filled with the sense of the nearness of my Master that I began to wonder how anyone could live without Him, in either joy or pain. Suddenly, the words I need Thee every hour, flashed into my mind, and very quickly the thought had full possession of me.”

We seek God’s nearness.  We desire God’s grace and love.  In Advent, that longing and desire become even more intense as we await the coming of Christ again.   The trick is to lean into it the longing, knowing that God is right there with us all along.

Musical meditation:  “I Need Thee Every Hour” as performed by Jars of Clay.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2w3y3iT3NlU

 

Rev. Tracy Spencer-Brown is the pastor of Andrews Presbyterian Church in Andrews, Texas.

©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

November 3rd E-votional

Just before the third presidential debate began, my friend said to me “let’s get this over with”.  I responded that I felt that could be the theme of the election this year.  Let’s just get it over with.  It feels like it has been going on forever.  To make things worse, this is the most vitriolic, hateful, divisive campaign I can remember.  While, there may be more divisive campaign, the general consensus is that we have hit a new low in politics.  The good news is, barring something extraordinary, it should be over next week.

I have wondered if this shift in politics is strategic by the candidates.  After all both major party candidates now have historic unfavorable ratings.  There have always been attack ads, because politically, they are effective.  This year, these attacks have been amplified, but when you boil them down, both candidates are saying the same thing.  The world is broken.  It is the fault of my opponent and people like my opponent.  Only I, and people like me,  can fix it.  It is a story of demonizing others to make ourselves look good.  It is a story of divide and conquer.  It is a story, ultimately, of creating teams and pitting us against each other.  Last month, theologian and ethics professor,  warned that when we give into these divisions, we trade our neighbors “for the sake of donkeys and elephants that will never love us back.”

Colossians 1:17 tells us that in Christ all things are held together.  We have to remember that we have brothers and sisters in Christ on both sides of the political divide.  We need to remember that it isn’t either political candidate that holds us together, but Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus Christ.  Colossians 3:13-14  reminds us, “bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

I am in no way saying that this election is not important or that you shouldn’t vote.  I am saying that we should not let the outcome divide us.  Next Wednesday, one of the candidates will be the president-elect and the other will go back to what they did before the election, relatively unaffected by the division they have wrought.  We will still be here, needing to move forward.  The way forward begins with remembering what unites us, the love of God as shown in Jesus Christ.

John Wesley, who is considered the father of the Methodist tradition gave advise about division caused by elections in 1774.  He advised, “1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy. 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”

The divide and conquer approach will be a winning strategy for one of the candidates, but it is a losing strategy for both the church and for society.  Society is better than that.  The Church is better than that We can disagree with one another and continue to love one another.  We can remember that our salvation does not come from a politician, a political party, or anything else created by human hands.  Yes, we do live in a broken world, but it can only be healed through that which unites us, the love of God in Christ.

Galatians 3:28  “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

November 12th News and Notes

Time Change

Don’t forget to set your clocks back this Sunday for Daylight Savings time!

Committee chair meeting

The committee chair meeting is this Sunday following Sunday School.

Hanging of the Greens

Mark your calendars!  This year, we will have the hanging of the greens after service on November 20th.  We will also have a soup supper accompanying it.

Pre-K Sunday School

The Pre-K Sunday School class will begin this Sunday, meeting in the daycare room.  The lesson will be “The Beginning: A Perfect Home”   from The Jesus Storybook Bible to learn about the Creation Story form Genesis 1-2.

Crisis Center meal

The family Crisis Center dinner is November 20th.  There are still several openings, you can sign up here.

Young Adult’s Night Out

On Friday, November 18th, the Children, Youth, and Family committee is encouraging a “Young Adult Night Out”.  Baby sitting will be provided at the church from 6:00-9:30, giving the young adults time to get together and do something.  If you plan on participating in the night out, please email ckdeacon@yahoo.com.  If you would like to help out with the babysitting, please email Suepiano49@aol.com.

Congregational Meeting

There will be a brief congregational meeting following worship on December 11th to elect officers for the coming year.

Newsletter Submissions

Newsletter Submissiosn are due November 21st.  Please have anything for the winter newsletter into Dina Bickel by that date.

Two Week Outlook

Wednesday, November 2nd

  • Christmas Play Rehersal, 5:45 PM
  • Choir Practice, 7:30 PM

Sunday, November 6th

  • Worship, including celebration of the Lord’s Supper, 10:00 AM
  • Sunday School following worship
  • Committee Chair meeting, following Sunday School

Monday, November 7th

  • Worship Team Meeting, 4:00 PM

Wednesday, November 9th

  • Christmas Play Rehersal, 5:45 PM
  • Choir Practice, 7:30 PM

Thursday, November 10th

  • Men’s Breakfast, 7:45 AM, Nautilus Diner

Friday, November 11th

  • Ladies Luncheon, 11:30 AM
  • Book Club, 7:00 PM

Sunday, November 13th

  • Worship
  • Chat & Chew, following worship
  • Sunday School, following worship

Wednesday, November 16th

  • Christmas Play Rehersal, 5:45 PM
  • Choir Practice, 7:30 PM

Wednesday, November 2nd

  • Christmas Play Practive, 5:45 PM
  • Choir Practice, 7:30 PM

Looking Ahead

  • November 20th: Greening of the Church
  • December 18th:  Christmas program
  • June 25th: Church in the Park
  • July 9th-15th, 2016: Mars Hill Mission Trip
  • July 24th-28th, 2016: Art & Music Camp

October 20th E-votional

Our car radios are usually turned to either WTOP or NPR, usually depending on who was driving the car last.  This week, NPR has been on and it is their membership drive.  If you listen to public radio, you know what I am talking about.  It is the week or two when they are constantly asking you to donate.  After about fifteen minutes, it gets old quick.  I think this is one of many reasons churches only talk about stewardship once a year.

It’s a shame because a theological understanding of stewardship is vital to our spiritual life.  Psalm 24:1 reads, “The earth is the LORD’S and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” When we understand that God has blessed us immensely, that all we have is from God, we begin to realize that we are to use our gifts, whatever they may be to further the ministry of Jesus Christ.  We are to use our gifts to God’s glory.  I’m not necessarily talking about giving of our gifts to the church, although I hope you do give freely of your time, talent, and treasure.  I’m talking about being the church in the world, about using our gifts in a way that makes a difference.  One of the most famous verses in the Bible is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  God’s love is a love made clear in a selfless act of given.  Our stewardship simply, yet profoundly, imitates God’s example of giving and of sacrifice.  It is no wonder that Jesus told the rich, young ruler that he should sell everything and give the money to the poor before following Christ.  It is no surprise that Jesus lifted up the widow who gave her final two coins to the temple.  A healthy understand of stewardship is an essential part of our faith.

As we prepare for consecration Sunday this Sunday, we should be thinking about stewardship.  We should realize that pledging is a way of putting God first in our lives.  When you get your income for the month, you pay your bills first.  When you have a pledge, ideally, you include it there.  You take it into account when making financial decisions.  You aren’t giving to God out of what is leftover.

So often, we think about stewardship and giving as what God expects us to do.  I think another way to look at it is what has God empowered us to do.  Stewardship is using the gifts that God has given us, whether they be time, talent, or treasure, and using them to God’s glory.

1 Timothy 6:17-19   17 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share,  19 thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.

October 19th News and Notes

Trunk or Treat

We will be having Trunk or Treat this Saturday, October 22nd at 4:00.  We are asking members to decorate their cars so community children can go car to car and “trunk or treat”.  If you are planning on attending, please email Hadeacon@gmail.com

Consecration Sunday

This Sunday is Consecration Sunday.  Please prayerfully consider what you will pledge to the church in 2017.  We will have a potluck following worship.  Please sign up for the potluck here.

Hanging of the Greens

Mark your calendars!  This year, we will have the hanging of the greens after service on November 20th.  We will also have a soup supper accompanying it.

Homework Club

We are in the process of exploring starting a homework help club at Northview Elementary to reach out and help our community.  We need to have a feel for how many people we will have to help out. The club would be Wednesdays from 2:30-3:30.  If you think you might be able to help out, please email ckdeacon@yahoo.com and let me know how often you think you will be available.

Committee Chairs

We are looking for people to chair the Ministry Support committee and the Christian Spiritual Formation committee.  If you are interested in chairing one of these committees, please see Chris Deacon.

Two Week Outlook

Wednesday, October 19th

  • SEEDS, 6:00 PM
  • Choir Practice, 7:30 PM

Thursday, October 20th

  • Mens Night Out, 6:30, Mike’s Crab House

Saturday, October 22nd

  • Trunk or Treat, 4:00-6:00

Sunday, October 23rd

  • Worship, Consecration Sunday, 10:00 AM
  • No Sunday School
  • Celebration Potluck following worship

Wednesday, October 26th

  • SEEDS, 6:00 PM
  • Choir Practice, 7:30 PM

Thursday, October 27th

  • Men’s Breakfast, 7:45 AM, Nautilus Diner
  • Ladies’ Night Out, 6:30 PM, Old Bowie Towne Grill

Sunday, October 30th

  • Worship, Joan Berry filling the pulpit
  • Sunday School, following worship

Tuesday, November 1st

  • Parish Board Meeting, 7:00 PM

Wednesday, November 2nd

  • Christmas Play Practive, 5:45 PM
  • Choir Practice, 7:30 PM

Looking Ahead

  • October 22nd: Trunk or Treat
  • November 20th: Greening of the Church
  • December 18th:  Christmas program
  • June 18th: Church in the Park
  • July 9th-15th, 2016: Mars Hill Mission Trip
  • July 24th-28th, 2016: Art & Music Camp

October 13th E-votional

As a father, I love watching Hannah grow and learn in the church.  Lately, whenever it is time for the offering she rushes to the front of the church.  The first time she did it, I thought she saw the other kids coming to take up the offering and she wanted to do what they were doing.  Instead, she was excited about putting her offering into the plate!  Every week, we give her fifty cents (depending on the availability of change!) to teach her stewardship.  Honestly, she has no concept of money yet, she doesn’t realize that she could use it to buy something else.  Still, she cannot even wait until the plates were passed to her, she had to run up to them!  As both a pastor and a father, it makes my heart sing.

I wish we all approached the offering like that, with joy, with excitement.  So often, we don’t even think about it.  It becomes routine.  Many people give out of guilt or obligation. Those are terrible reasons to give.  We should give to support the ministry of the church, true.  But we should also give out of joy and thanksgiving for all that we have been blessed with!  There are churches in Ghana where the offering plates are not passed.  Instead they are left up at the front of the church and people dance to the front of the church to give their offering!  Can you imagine being so filled with joy that you danced your offering forward?

As we approach Consecration Sunday and you consider your pledge for the coming year, approach your pledge not with obligation, not with guilt, not with the boredom that comes with routine, but with prayer, excitement, joy, and thanksgiving.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 “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”