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Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotion for December 14, 2017

img_1631-8Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Matthew 23: 13-26

Text: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. (v. 23)

Several years ago I noticed that the tile in our bathroom shower seemed to be bubbling on the surface. I never saw anything like this before. Over the next several weeks the bubbles began to break and paint began to peel away from the tile, exposing 1950’s coral colored tile! The previous owner, in getting the house ready to sell, decided to paint the bathroom tile white in order to make it look more modern! They presented a false reality in order to sell a house!

I thought of this as I read today’s reading, especially verse 23. For as long as I can remember I have been attracted to that verse. Jesus criticized those who “play” or “pretend” to being faithful to God rather than doing the hard work of being a faithful. They are being “hypocritical”.

It is this hypocrisy that causes a lot of people to say that they are “spiritual” but not “religious”. It is people who say that they take Jesus seriously and tell you that you should take Jesus seriously but there seems to be little evidence that they take Jesus seriously in their own lives Monday through Saturday. They are the ones who gossip and “tsk-tsk” about others or never find a “church” that “feeds them spiritually”. They are the ones who are quick to criticize and condemn but the least likely to forgive.  They are the ones of who U 2’s Bono once said in an interview, “I love Jesus; it’s Christians I can’t stand.” My wife is fond of saying that someone should not be surprised to learn that you go to church!

Religion is simply the discipline that helps us practice the teachings of Jesus and do the work of God’s Kingdom. When religion or the maintenance of an institution becomes an end in and of itself, it ceases to be Holy.  If our religion does not challenge us to work for Justice and Mercy than it has, as Jesus said in another place, become nothing better than a white-washed tomb. Dead.

Lord, let my “religion” be alive and push me to do the work of Your Kingdom. Amen.


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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.

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Glimpses are f Grace Dailey Advent Devotion, December 10, 2017

Luke 1:57-68

Text: Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth… (v. 57a)

Now the time came... What time? On the surface, the birth of John the Baptist, the heralder of Jesus. At another level this is the time that most people think of Christmas; only 14 more shopping days. Still, at another level, the time of our own end is drawing near. This is an inescapable fact. At a still deeper level, the time of the real Advent is nearer today than it was yesterday.

Too often we say to ourselves that “we still have time”. But we have less time than we know. We have less time than yesterday. So, Now is the time to make “those” changes that we’ve putting off for too long. Now is the time to seek reconciliation, to let go of past controlling hurts through forgiveness, to become a willing worker in the building of God’s Kingdom.

But it also reminds us that now is the hour of our repentance as we prepare for God’s Tomorrow.

Lord, teach me to number my days that I may obtain a heart of wisdom. Amen.

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotion for December 9, 2017

Devotional Reading: Matthew 22: 15-22

Text: (Jesus replied), “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s. (v. 21)

I am not a good swimmer. I am a poor swimmer, in fact. My parents tried, though. They registered me for swim lessons at the local YMCA, but I never progressed much beyond a “dead man’s float.”

I was afraid of the water and never liked getting my head wet. Part of this fear was well founded. When I was about 8 or 9 years old I had a terrible case of “swimmer’s ear” after swimming in a neighbor’s pool.  I never forgot that experience.

A couple of winters I decided that swimming would be a great full body exercise. So, I signed up for adult swim lessons. I’ve gotten better, but I am still very much of a raw amateur.

Bearing this in mind, I plan my swims during the slowest time of “adult swim”. Often I am the only one in the pool. Occasionally, though, the pool is crowded and someone will ask to “share a lane” with me. I warn them that I’m just a beginner and that more often than not I swim in a zigzag line within the lane. They never seem to mind, but I have an added worry. Not only do I have to focus on breathing lest I swallow water and come up coughing, now I have to worry about staying out of their way! I have to “stay in my own lane.”

When Jesus was asked about paying taxes to Caesar he replied by inquiring whose “image” was on the coin. “Caesar’s”, he was told. “Then give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”  His inquisitors didn’t see that response coming. They were left essentially speechless, for you see, Jesus essentially told them to “swim in their own lane.”

What they didn’t understand, though, was that God “owns the pool”!  “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,” the Psalmist proclaimed (24:1) Everything  … EVERYTHING… ultimately belongs to God; even our very lives. We are mere servants of the King.

So, the question to ask ourselves in this Advent season is, “How good of a servant are we of the King? In other words, “Are we good stewards of the King’s things?”

Lord God, give me a wise heart so that I  may “swim in my own lane”. Give me a generous spirit so that I can be the steward, the vessel that you intend me to be in this world. Amen.

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for Advent, December 8, 2017

Devotional Reading: Matthew 22: 1-14

Text: “Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” (v. 9)

The Kingdom of God is like a wedding reception, Jesus said in this parable. And there is definitely a different feel to a wedding reception and a wedding ceremony. At the reception, the pressure of the wedding ceremony is over. The bride can bustle up her dress and join her husband in thanking the guests who attended the ceremony. The reception is a time of toasts and laughter, food and fellowship, kicking off shoes and dancing in stocking feet!

In the parable Jesus told about a king who sent special delivery invitations to those he thought loved him. But when they “blew him off” he realized that they didn’t really love him. They merely used him!  He valued the relationship more than they did! This realization was a kick in gut.   Therefore he sent out a second invitation. This one was a blanket invitation to invite everyone! It was even sent to you and me!

In this season of Advent I encourage you to think about a couple different but related things. First, Jesus wants us to invite everyone to God’s party. God does not want to leave anyone out. Don’t be discouraged if not everyone accepts. Your job is to invite.

Second, do you allow other things to get in the way of your relationship with “the King”?Does God get your best or your leftovers? I truly believe that if we seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness that everything else in life will fall into place; everything, our spiritual, family, work, and social responsibilities. But, that is another glimpse for another time.

Lord, direct my thoughts as I reflect upon where I place Your invitation to fellowship in my life. Amen. 

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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.

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Glimpses of Grace for a Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2017

In a few hours my family will gather around a table with this centerpiece and celebrate Thanksgiving. The cornucopia made by my wife from the herbs on our garden remind me of the bounty bestowed upon us. The 106th Psalm reminds us to give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

While today has largely become a forgotten “secular holiday” sandwiched between the marketing behemoths of Halloween and Christmas, it maintains its “holy” vestige. Some families will seem incomplete because of loved ones not present. But the separation is only physical. Those who we love and loved are never really far from us. They are as close as a memory or a twinge in the heart.

God’s infinite love and mercy envelops all of us; Past, Present and Future, Near and Far. Our live have been intricately woven together in a weave that can never be torn apart. We are one with each other.

Yes, today give thanks to the Lord for his mercy endures forever.

Lord, I bow before you with few words, only a thankful heart. Amen.

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Glimpses of Grace for November 21, 2017

When I came home, what should greet me but packages left outside the front door of my house. Two were early arrival Christmas gifts and the other was something that we intend to give later.

As I carried these harbingers of the Christmas season into the house I thought about the gifts found in the Christmas story. There are the obvious gifts of the Magi, those travelers from the East who followed the Star in search of the Promised King. But there are also lesser recognized gifts; the visitation of the angel Gabriel to Mary, Gabriel telling Mary to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth for confirmation of her own pregnancy. Gabriel’s visit to Zachariah reminiscent of the Strangers’ visit to Abraham generations earlier. Jospeh’s dream telling him not to be afraid and the Mary’s Child was the longed for Holy One. Later, a warning in a dream sending him to Egypt.

So many unexpected and largely unrecognized gifts, each a glimpse of grace. I believe that God still sends gifts our way, packages on our doorsteps. They always come as a surprise. All we do is bring them into our heart’s home and open them.

Lord, thank you for Your many unrecognized and too often unappreciated gifts that flood our lives Daily. Give us humble and thankful hearts. Amen.

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for November 2, 2017

Change is in the air. Literally.

Change is in the air, literally. The buds of Spring gave way to the green leaves of Summer. It is now the season of the red, yellow, and orange leaves of Fall. Yes, change is in the air. Mornings are crisper and days grow shorter, despite our best efforts of grudgingly giving up “Daylight Savings Time.”

Change is a part of life. People enter and leave our lives. Children are born and grow up and begin families of their own. We are changing, too, as we gain new experiences and hopefully, greater wisdom.

Four-star General Eric Shineski once said, “If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.” The saddest thing in life is the inability to change, especially in the face of new circumstances and information. Survival does not belong to strongest but to the most adaptable.

Jesus once observed that we are so good at discerning the seasons but so bad at discerning the “new thing” that God is doing in our midst. (Matthew 16:2) We continually try to put new wine into old wineskins. (Matthew 9:14-17, et al) We resist change, God’s new thing. 

The challenge for those who take Jesus seriously is to be open to God’s movement in this world. The movement toward justice, equality, respect, humility and generosity. All of these things are elements of the thing we call Love. “Others will know that you are my disciples,” Jesus said to The Twelve on His last night with, “by seeing how you love one another.” (John 13:35)

May the World see a glimpse of grace in our love. 

Lord, let me not be afraid of change but see it as a part of the “new thing” that you are doing. Use me as You will to do the work of the Kingdy every day of my life. Amen. 

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for Ocober 9, 2017

On a recent flight between Glasgow and London we descended through clouds so thick that I couldn’t see the ends of the plane’s wings. Bumping from the smooth clear blue skies above  I began to think about the Old Testment figure, Moses. On the mountaintop he had a theophany with God–a God moment, some would say. But when he came down from the mountain he saw a people who had given up hope and worshiped a golden calf! (See Exodus 32)

In life there are moments when we rise above life’s clouds and are given a glimpse of grace, a vision, of who we are called to be as well as Who God is. We cannot stay above the clouds too long. The air is to thin. So we live belong the clouds in the land of the golden calf. 

But we never really forget the mountaintop, and what it is like to be above the clouds. People who take Jesus seriously are called to never lose sight of the blue sky of God’s Kingdom. They are to pray and work for that Kingdom to come here on earth.

At the eulogy of his brother, Robert, the late United States Senator Edward Kenedy ended his remarks with these words: Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?  May we who take Jesus seriously ask the same question.

Lord God, let me never be satisfied with the way things are in this world of too much pain and sorrow. Give me a vision of Your blue sky above the clouds of hopeless and despair. Make me a master craftsman in the building of Your Kingdom.  Amen.