Advent 3, Thursday, Year B

Inspired by Habakkuk 2:1-5

“Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith. Moreover, wealth is treacherous; the arrogant do not endure. They open their throats wide as Sheol; like Death they never have enough. They gather all nations for themselves, and collect all peoples as their own.” Habakkuk 2:4-5 (NRSV)

Can money buy happiness? Conventional wisdom says no, however most people who struggle to pay their bills are convinced that a little more money would buy them some security, and feeling secure would go a long way towards improving their happiness.

But how much is enough? Three months’ living expenses in the bank? Six? A year? Our imaginations can easily come up with worst-case scenarios in which we will lose everything we own no matter how much money we have, because it will never quite be enough. Money is a finite resource, and it can always run short.

God’s grace is limitless. God is limitless. Trusting in our own resources and abilities leaves us frightened of not measuring up, but God will always measure up. Faith in God will bring the security we need to know that we will never be forsaken, that we will never have to face the struggles of the world alone, and that our needs will always be met. Letting go of our faith in wealth and those things which money can buy will free us from slavery to those things, and enable us to have a right spirit within ourselves and a right relationship with God. We will no longer look at the things and the people of the world as items to acquire for our own benefit, but rather as God’s good creation, all working together to his glory.

Let us pray. Faithful God, all of the world is your good creation. Enable us to trust in your abundance, that we may be content in the knowledge that you will always provide for us. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Advent 2, Wednesday, Year B

Inspired by Malachi 2:10-3:1

“Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our ancestors?” Malachi 2:10 (NRSV)

Differences abound throughout the world. We are different genders, have different skin colors, and speak different languages. We value different traditions, adhere to different cultural norms, and have different ideals according to which we’re trying to shape our world. There’s an awful lot to disagree on.

Yet we are all, every single one of us, the intentional creation of God the Father. We are all, every single one of us, human beings, created in the image of God. While there is much to drive us apart, at our core we have more in common than not.

The next time you are tempted to dismiss someone who is different from you as worthless or unimportant, remember that God loves that person as much as he loves you. And the next time you feel disregarded or ignored by someone who doesn’t recognize your inherent value, remember that that person is your brother or sister who is disowning a part of themselves by disowning you, and that his or her life will be much poorer for it.

Let us pray. Loving Father, you love wondrous diversity. Help us to appreciate the different gifts you have given us all, that we may better understand the breadth and depth of your creative love. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Advent 2, Tuesday, Year B

Inspired by Acts 11:1-18

“If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” Acts 11:17 (NRSV)

We try to be good Christians. We try to live good Christian lives, and not be a hindrance to a potential believer by living contrary to how we believe God wants us to live. And we try to help our sisters and brothers in Christ to also live according to God’s will.

But can we know for certain what is acceptable to God and what is not? Do we really have the authority to proclaim that God’s grace is unavailable to a person or a group of people who engage in a behavior we’ve always believed to be forbidden?

Everything Peter knew to be true regarding what and who was acceptable to God was being violated, yet Peter recognized that this violation of his dearly-held ‘truths’ was in fact God breaking out of the narrow confines that had once defined God’s mission. Peter had the wisdom to realize that holding on to his own beliefs about God would hinder God’s work, and he had the humility to accept that God’s work was more important than what he thought he knew to be true.

With Peter’s example, can we really claim any authority about who is eligible for God’s grace, or what behaviors must be changed before God’s grace might be given? And aren’t we blessed that no such restrictions stand between God’s grace and our own sinfulness?

Let us pray. Lord of all, your love is beyond measure, and your grace is freely given. Grant us the humility and the wisdom to value your will above our own beliefs, that we may not hinder you in your mission. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Advent 2, Monday, Year B

Inspired by Psalm 27

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1 (NRSV)

In these uncertain times, it’s easy to get caught up in the worries of this world: job insecurity, diminishing savings, rising health costs, political instability, and the stress of living in an environment that seems determined to frustrate our every effort at happiness. We work so hard to build the good life, and we know that we can lose it in an instant.

But what is it we’re working to build? Material comfort? Sure, it’s nice, but does our ‘stuff’ really bring us happiness? Are our relationships built on our bank accounts or governmental policies that work to our benefit? Or are they built on something more substantial, something that can’t be affected by market forces or partisan politics?

Through no merit or achievement of our own, God created us and loved us enough to send his own Son to die for us. We are his, and there is no force–market, political, or otherwise–that can separate us from his love. We might lose our jobs. We might lose our savings. We might even lose our good health. But none of those things defines us, and no matter what happens, God is with us, strengthening us and comforting us, and reminding us that our true worth is beyond measure.

Let us pray. Eternal God, you created us from dust, and to dust we shall return. Help us to remember that our worth is not measured in dollars, prestige, or achievements, but in the fact that you have deemed us worthy, that we may be freed from the fear of losing things which pale in comparison to your grace. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Second Sunday in Advent, Year B

Inspired by Mark 1:1-8

“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’’” Mark 1:1-3 (NRSV)

Is your life chaotic? Especially now, as we’re in the middle of the Christmas season, do you feel as though you’re lost in the wilderness of obligation, busyness, and mandatory good cheer? Do you feel as though the true meaning of Christmas is being missed as you rush about with your shopping, decorating, baking, and partying?

It is exactly in the midst of that chaos that the good news of Jesus Christ appears. Jesus didn’t take the easy path, waiting for us to have our lives perfectly in order before coming to grant us his grace. Jesus comes to our messy houses and our messy lives, not judging us for not having it all together, but loving us because we don’t. The good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, can break through our obligations, our busyness, and our mandatory good cheer. He can remind us that even though we are in the wilderness, he is capable of evening out our ups and downs, and he can focus us on the wonder of God’s love made manifest in human flesh.

Let us pray. Lord God, you saw us lost and wandering about in the wilderness, and you sent your Son to both proclaim and be the good news of your love. Focus our Christmas preparations on hearing you, that we may be led out of the chaos and into your peace. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Advent 2, Saturday, Year B

Inspired by Ezekiel 36:24-28

“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26 (NRSV)

We all need and want to protect ourselves from hurt, but sometimes in order to protect ourselves, we build walls around our feelings and emotions. Those walls are designed to keep out that which can hurt us, but those walls lack discernment and keep out everything, both hurtful and helpful. We languish, isolated and alone behind our walls, safe from harm, but cut off from connecting with others, including those who mean us no harm. Over time our heart grows cold in its loneliness, and we convince ourselves that we don’t need anyone or anything, that we’re fine just as we are.

But we’re not fine. Deep within us we long for a connection, to take down those walls, but fear prevents us from doing so. What if we can’t trust what’s on the other side? What if we’re hurt again? And worst of all, what if we’re no longer capable of connecting, of loving?

God tells us that it’s never too late. God has the power to lead us out of our own self-made prisons and back into his grace. God has the power to change our very hearts into living organs that pump lifeblood through our entire bodies, rather than the cold keepers of hurt and pain we’ve allowed them to become. God can and will change us into the people we want to become, the people we were created to be.

Let us pray. Creator God, your creation is ongoing and never-ending. Create within us new hearts of flesh, that we may feel your love through the connections you have created throughout the whole body of Christ. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Advent 2, Friday, Year B

Inspired by Acts 11:19-26

“Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord.” Acts 11:19-21 (NRSV)

Our church leaders hold strategic planning meetings to target our mission and ministry. Who do we want to be sitting in our pews? How can we reach them? Such planning is not necessarily wrong, though it does tend to value some classes of people over others. So we overlook those not in our target demographic, and focus only on those we think we want or need to join us.

The good news of Jesus Christ was meant to be shared far and wide, and God is continually at work to make that happen. Even when the first followers were specifically targeting only Jews to hear the good news, God was at work seeing to it that their strategic planning failed, and the message was spread beyond that narrow demographic. All are sinners in need of salvation, and God is working to proclaim that message to any and all who need to hear it, sometimes with our best efforts, and sometimes in spite of them.

Let us pray. Loving God, you sent your Son that all may believe in him and have eternal life. Help us to look beyond labels and reach out to all who desperately need to experience your grace, that we can be the whole people of God in Christ Jesus. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Advent 2, Thursday, Year B

Inspired by Hosea 6:1-6

“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6 (NRSV)

How many congregations have suffered conflict over a proposed change in the style of worship? How many Christian denominations have refused to recognize a baptism performed in another church, because the amount of water used or the manner in which it was applied wasn’t sufficient?

Ritual is important to our worship life, but the ritual itself is not of utmost importance. Ritual serves to focus our attention and bring us closer to God. If ritual fails to do that, then it must be adjusted or abandoned. If ritual becomes an idol to us, then not only has it failed in its purpose, but it’s driven us further from God.

God doesn’t care if we use a contemporary worship setting or a traditional one. God cares that we worship. God doesn’t care if we sprinkle a few drops of water on a baby’s head over a small bowl in the sanctuary, or if we fully immerse ourselves in a river. God cares that we are baptized. And God cares that we understand the relationships that worship and baptism assume.

Ritual can play a vital role in bringing us closer to God, but it is no substitute for God.

Let us pray. Lord of all, you have revealed yourself to us in many and various ways. Help us to remain focused on you, that our rituals and traditions may continue to reflect our living faith. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Advent 1, Wednesday, Year B

Inspired by Micah 5:1-5a

“And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.” Micah 5:4-5a (NRSV)

Hunger. War. Greed. Injustice. Corruption. These are the challenges that Micah and his contemporaries faced, and these are the challenges that we ourselves face. And we ask, just as Micah did, what can be done?

The answer, simply put, is God. Micah’s prediction of the coming Savior in this passage describes someone who will feed the people with the strength of the Lord and the majesty of the name of the Lord. Then security and peace will reign throughout the earth. The not-so-simple challenge is how to live that out today. Jesus has already come and done all that, yet we’re still living with the same struggles Micah lived with. What went wrong?

Nothing went ‘wrong.’ Jesus fed his flock the prescribed strength and majesty, but he does not force-feed us. Many choose not to accept what Jesus has to offer and have chosen instead to eat the food of greed, injustice, and corruption because they believe those to have greater personal rewards. But Jesus is still offering to give us his grace, and living in his grace frees us from bondage to those things that would destroy us. The rulers of this world can only deny us what they first give us; if we do not embrace what the world embraces, then we cannot be denied the peace and security of knowing that we have been fed with the strength and majesty of the Lord who is, who was, and who is to come.

Let us pray. Savior God, you have offered us your peace. Continue to feed us your grace as we struggle to live in a world that chooses not to accept it, that we may bear witness to your better way. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

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Advent 1, Tuesday, Year B

Inspired by Micah 4:6-13

“In that day, says the LORD, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away, and those whom I have afflicted. The lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation; and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion now and forever more.” Micah 4:6-7 (NRSV)

Even in today’s ‘enlightened’ society, we have our undesirables. There are those who are considered mentally or physically ‘less’ than perfect or ideal, and those who—for whatever reason—are simply rejected. As a result, many of us go through life painfully aware of our shortcomings, and we go to great lengths to deny the existence of those shortcomings and hide them from the world. We pretend to be who we’re not, and the world is dominated by people who are frightened, insecure, and unwilling to acknowledge the reality that we all live in brokenness.

But God knows. God knows of all our shortcomings, all our brokenness, all our sinfulness. And God has promised to gather us together, lift us up, and guide us—not in spite of our shortcomings, but because of them. Because God does not value the things of the world, but the things that are God’s. And we are God’s, and therefore are valued exactly as we are.

Let us pray. Lord God, you see us as we are, and accept us as we are. Help us to reject worldly values and definitions so that we may recognize in each other the worth that you have created. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: DUE TO THE INFILTRATION OF SPAM-BOTS, THIS MAILING LIST WILL BE DELETED ON SATURDAY, DECEMBER 9. IF YOU WISH TO CONTINUE RECEIVING QUIET DEVOTIONS, PLEASE RE-SUBSCRIBE IN THE SIDE BAR BY CHECKING THE QUIET PUBLICATIONS LIST CHOICE BOX AND ENTERING YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS. WHEN YOU RECEIVE THE E-MAIL CONFIRMATION OF YOUR SUBSCRIPTION, CLICK ON “MANAGE YOUR PREFERENCES” AND CHECK THE “DAILY DEVOTIONS” BOX. IF YOU DO NOT DO THIS, YOU WILL NOT RECEIVE DAILY DEVOTIONS. THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE AND UNDERSTANDING.