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Glimpses of Grace a Daily Advent Devotion for December 12, 2017

Devotional Reading from Daily Common Lectionary: Matthew 22:34-46

Text: “Which commandment in the law is the greatest commandment? (v. 36)

When Jesus was asked what is the most important thing to do in life, He gave a twofold answer; love God enough not to place Him at the center of your life, and love others . It seems that you cannot do the former without the latter. If there is enmity between you and another you are also separated from God.

In Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol Scrooge began to rediscover himself, his true self, as he began to see a reflection of the Holy in the people and lives of others. Like the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas, his heart and his world had grown small.

Selfishness is a subtle thing. It is also a comfortable because we find ourselves no longer challenged. What we don’t realize is that selfishness is really an atrophying of the soul.

Our American culture encourages a certain smallness of spirit with its increasing Balkanization resulting in the loss of a sense of a greater community and the Common Good”. We begin to believe that the Common Good is synonymous with “my good.”

But when we take the effort to see the reflection of the Holy in our neighbor we find ourselves suddenly changing. We are growing.

During this season of Advent I’ve taken up a simple spiritual exercise. I’ve taken to wishing everyone a Merry Christmas for the message of Christmas is really a message of God’s Love breaking into the dark corners of the world. It is about a Love so great that God came into this world not to condemn it, but to save it. (John 3:17). That message is a glimpse of grace.

Lord, let the of scales that blind me fall from my eyes. Remove the barnacles of Life’s experiences which hinder me, fall from my being. Amen.

Advent devotion, Blindness, Christian, Congregationalist, devotion, Humble Humility, Matthew, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotional for December 7, 2017

Devotional Reading: Matthew 21:33-46.

Text: I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. (v. 43)

Probably noting produces more regret than missed opportunity. In A Christmas Carol when the Spectre (Ghost) of Christmas Past took Scrooge back to his younger self something in the old miser’s conscience stirred. Seeing himself as a child sitting alone in a run down boarding school he wished that he would have been kinder to the caroler who had come to his shop the previous late afternoon.

When, in a later scene, he saw his beloved sister Fan telling him that he could come home because “Father is so much kinder now,” he regretted how meanly he declined his only nephew’s invitation to share a cup of holiday cheer. These were glimpses of grace that allowed Scrooge’s to shed the spiritual barnacles that encased his heart for too long. Sadly, opportunities pass as quickly as they come.

In today’s reading Jesus told a parable directed at the “holier-than-thou” religious people of the day. You know who they are; they are the ones to are quick to judge others, too-sure of who’s a Christian and who isn’t a Christian. They are so sure of their own understanding of the nature of God, which have been solidified by the cement of their own prejudices, that they can recognize neither the True God nor God’s Kingdom in their midst.

It has been said that there are none so blind as those who will not see. In this season of Advent we are well advised to reflect upon our prejudices and preconceived notions of both God and others.  In humility we need to seek God and ask God to allow us, as much as humanly possible, to see this world through God’s eyes. We need to practice the spiritual discipline of being slow to judge and quick to forgive.*

Lord God, give me spiritual insights that shake the spiritual barnacles off of my heart so that I may, day by day, be a truer reflection of Jesus, the very revelation of Your Eternal Self in this Temporal world. Amen.

*At some time in the future I will write about the nature of “Forgiveness”, a greatly misunderstood concept.

Blindness, Christian, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace for August 29, 2017:Walking in the Dark

I’ve walked in the dark a lot in my life. Maybe you have, too. I don’t mean spiritual or psychological darkness but the physical darkness of the night in homes, buildings, and wooded areas. Over the years I’ve learned a few important things.

First, be alert and watch for shadows. They often indicate drop offs or dips of one sort or another.

Second, and most importantly, slide your feet along the surface without putting your weight on the front foot so that you can keep your balance and control.  It’s a lot like ballroom dancing.

My wife and I ballroom dance. Over the years I learned that the best ballroom dancers seldom “pick up” their feet. Rather they slide them forward. This is particularly true in my case, as my wife often wears open toed shoes. Sliding my foot cuts down on toe injuries–her’s, not mine!

Third, follow the lead. In any ballroom dance, and in any walk, someone has to lead.

Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear no evil… (Ps. 23: 4) There are many dark places in life. When you walk through one, which you will, remember to watch the shadows. Slide your feet forward. Keep your balance. And follow the lead of the One “Who brought you.”

Lord, make me sensitive to Your lead in life’s “dance”. Amen.

Blindness, Christian, devotion, faith, Lenten Devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), Romans 8:28, The Gospel of John, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for the 29th Day of Lent, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 9: 1-17. Morning Psalm 119: 73-80; Evening Psalm 121

Text: His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Once again we have the wrong question before us. In His response Jesus told his disciples that no one sinned, neither the man before birth, nor his parents. He was simply born blind. Period. But his blindness was not the end of the story.

So often we want to know “why”, especially when it comes to disease and disaster.  We want to know what they did or what I did to deserve what terrible thing is happening at the moment. Why did this happen to him or her or me?! And answers evade us.

In high school I read Thorton Wilder’s book, The Bridge Over San Luis Rey. It is the story of the collapse of a Peruvian rope bridge that killed several people. A Roman Catholic friar looked for a reason why each one of the victims had to die that day on that bridge. His research left him empty-handed. The novel left a sixteen year old student, me, empty-handed, too. Yet it had the air of unvarnished truth.

There is much in life that we will never understand. Easy answers and blame lack creditability, especially as we grow older and hopefully wiser. Jesus told his disciples that from the man’s blindness God’s glory would be revealed.

In reading the story of the man born blind I was reminded of something that the apostle Paul wrote, We know in everything God works for good… (Romans 8:28). The verse is tricky and is translated in several different ways but the point of Paul’s insight is that God can bring something good out of any situation. God can use even the broken pieces of our lives to do something good. Tragedy, hardship, disappointment, loss and even death cannot and will not have the last word. That word, the last word, belongs to God.

Lord, take even the broken threads of our lives and efforts and weave them into the beautiful tapestry of Your Kingdom. Amen.