Christian, Congregationalist, devotion, faith, Iona, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed theology, The Gospel of John, Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace—“The way is hard”

For devotional reading:John 6:60-71.

Text: “Many of Jesus’ disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching; who can accept it?’ …Because of this teaching, many of Jesus’ disciples left him.” (vss. 60 & 66)

When I was in eighth grade I fell in love with the poetry of Robert Frost. Back then, “graduating” eighth graders selected a “class poem”. Ours was Frost’s The Road Not Taken. It’s closing lines are:

I shall be telling this with a sigh/ Somewhere ages and ages hence:/ Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–/ I took the one less traveled by,/ And that has made all the difference.

When Jesus’ disciples began to take Jesus seriously, they came to one of Life’s forks in the road of life. They had to decide if they were “all in” or not. Earlier in John’s gospel Jesus said that He was “the Way, the Truth and the Life”; to walk in His Way (to take Him seriously) was the means to discovering both eternal Truth and Life. As long as the road was easy, many of his disciples were “in”, but as soon as taking Jesus seriously became hard, well, that was a different story.

I once led a bible study for a group of men who were new disciples of Jesus. We were studying Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”. One night, when we talked about “God and mammon” and the impossibility of serving “two masters”, one of the participants grew quiet. A few days later he sent a text message to the group saying that he could not continue. Nor would he be in church any more because the “Way” was too hard. Like many of the disciples in today reading, he decided to take a different road.

Taking Jesus seriously is not easy. Jesus didn’t promise the riches of the “prosperity gospel”. He promised a Cross. He also promised that taking up His Cross was the road that led to a contentment that the world could never take away.  And, He promised to help bear the “yoke” of the Cross with us.

Lord, in our lives we find two roads that diverge. Give us the courage to walk the road that You walked and promised to walk with us. Amen.

Standard
Advent devotion, Christian, Congregationalist, devotion, faith, Matthew, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotion for December 16, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Matthew 24: 1-14

Text: The Jesus asked them, “Do you see all these buildings?  I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” (v. 2)

Everything in this world is temporary. Everything. This is hard for us to accept, but it is the truth. It is a truth that we know instinctively but too often deny.

In today’s reading Jesus’ disciples marveled at the beauty of the ancient city of Jerusalem. In the midst of their wonder, Jesus reminded them not to become too attached to things of this world for they are fleeting.

Once upon a time there was a holy man who had a precious tea cup. His grandfather gave it to him before he took his final orders. It was his prized possession. One day a strong wind blew it off of the shelf and it broke into a hundred pieces. A fellow holy man came into the room as the man swept up the pieces of the cup. “I’m sorry,” the second man said. “You must be very sad. I know how much that cup meant to you.” “No,” the holy man replied, “I am thankful.” This surprised the friend. “I don’t understand,” the friend said. “Well,” the holy man replied, “now the cup is more precious because it is no more. I will never drink from it again, but I have the joy of many memories. I am thankful that Grandfather brought it from the Old Country and gave it to me. I am thankful for the many cups of tea I drank from it.”

After reading the story I began to see the things of this world differently. I try to focus on the pleasures of this moment and become thankful for the memories that have graced me.

Maybe in this season of Advent you can learn how to be less attached to things of this world and learn to be thankful for the Present moment. For in the Present moment there are glimpses of grace.

Lord, let me not become so in love with the things of this world and I miss Your Grace contained in this and every moment. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard
Christian, Congregationalist, devotion, faith, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), Psalm, Psalms, United Church of Christ (UCC)

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.

Standard
Change, Christian, Congregationalist, devotion, faith, Love, Matthew, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), The difficulty of change, United Church of Christ (UCC)

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. 

Standard
Christian, clouds, Congregationalist, devotion, Exodus, faith, Moses, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), Robert F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

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. 

Standard
Congregationalist, devotion, faith, Forgiveness, Love, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 24, 2017

I got lost today. After visiting Glasgow University on the Weat End of the city I took a few wrong turns while taking pictures and suddenly realized that I didn’t know where I was. I pulled out my very scanty “tourist” map and tried to find my “bearings”. I was at the bottom of a large hill in what appeared to be a warehouse district. Looking around, I saw a familiar name on a directional sign and began to follow the directions. Still, nothing looked familiar. To make matters worse, what was a light sprinkle of rain became a steady shower. I pulled the hood of my jacket over my head and soon saw drops of rain falling off of the hood I front of me!

On the upper part of the hill, though, I looked to my right and saw a familiar site; the Sandyford Henderson Memorial Church of Scotland, the very place that I worshipped only a couple of days before! It was a welcomed sight! I finally knew exactly where I was and what I had to do next!

 

There are times in all of our lives when we “lose our way”. We take a wrong turn, make a bad decision and suddenly wonder to ourselves, “How in the world did I get here!” 

When the Church is at its best it is a collection of people who have decided to take Jesus seriously. They encourage one another in both life and individual faith journeys. At its best the church is not a place of judgement but grace, not a place of “have to’s” but “get to’s”. It is a place of encouragement and love and acceptance enabling us to grow more and more into the image of Christ.

Such a place, such a church, is a hint of the Kingdom of God and the very embodiment of a glimpse of grace.

Lord, when I stumble and lose my way, help me find a faith community that will help me get my “bearings” again.  And, Lord, help me be a mirror reflecting Your life-changing love seen in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Amen. 

Standard
Christian, Congregationalist, devotion, faith, Holy Spirit, Luke, Gospel of, Mark, Matthew, Parable, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 22, 2017

The winds in Glasgow, Scotland today have been particularly blustery, whipping flags and pushing pedestrians. While coming back from worship, suddenly a strong gust shot up the street stripping the hood of my jacket from my head and then just as abruptly turning around and tossing the hood back where it was! 

In the afternoon, as I read a book I looked out a picture window standing before me. I watched the ever-changing blue-gray clouds of October dance across the sky.  

Jesus once said  that the Holy Spirit is a lot like the wind. We can hear the sound of and even feel it. One moment it can buffer our progress, and the next moment it can push us forward as if to say, “Hurry! Onward!” 

I think that deep down many of us don’t trust the Holy Spirit. We are afraid of it. We are afraid of it because it is so wild, untamable, and free. Yet, it calls to us throughout all of the seasons of life; in the cool winds of spring, the warm lazy winds of summer, the changing winds of fall and the frigid winds of winter. 

If we can but go with this wind in all of our seasons, we can become a glimpse of grace.

Lord God, give me the courage to go where the wind of Your Spirit will lead me. Let me be not afraid. Amen.

Standard