Advent 1, Monday, Year B

Inspired by Micah 4:1-5

“He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.” Micah 4:3-4 (NRSV)

In political terms, ‘peace’ is contrasted with ‘war,’ meaning war could be defined as the absence of peace, and peace could be defined as the absence of war. Therefore ‘peace’ can be obtained by conquest, and can be maintained by force. But God’s view of peace encompasses so much more than the absence of war; it involves a world in which war is unnecessary. God’s ultimate justice determines the outcome of disagreements between peoples, without weapons. Weapons are turned into implements that encourage things to grow, rather than being used as tools of destruction. Nations are secure and self-sufficient, knowing that just as they are taking care of themselves, their neighbors are doing the same, eliminating the threat of attack for the sake of scarce resources.

When trying to determine what God’s will is for your life, ask yourself which of your choices most contributes to this view of peace. Then make that choice, knowing that God is teaching you his ways and you are walking in his paths.

Let us pray. Lord God, you created all nations. Help us to live in peace with all your people, that no one will know fear, hunger, or death by war. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

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First Sunday in Advent, Year B

Inspired by Mark 13:24-37

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.” Mark 13:32-33 (NRSV)

Have you ever been in a life-threatening situation? Your senses are heightened as adrenaline courses through your body, allowing you to be hyper-alert to your environment. This survival instinct can be helpful in certain instances when danger is immanent, however the human body is simply not designed to function at this level long-term. In this passage Jesus seems to be advocating for living under constant threat. The end can come at any time—watch out! Be on your best behavior!

Or is he? Do we only act the way we’re called to when we think someone is watching? The Christian life is about one’s whole outlook, one’s entire being. Being the recipient of God’s enduring love is not supposed to be stress-inducing, but life-giving! The coming of God’s reign is not a threat, but a promise. Christianity is not about where we go when we die, but about how we live now. So don’t worry about the end-times; we don’t know when they’ll be anyway. Instead just live in God’s grace day by day, never losing sight of the fact that his love for you is constantly being renewed.

Let us pray. Eternal God, you are the beginning and the end. Help us to seek you now that we may experience your hope and your grace today, rather than in some distant future. 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.

Advent 1, Saturday, Year B

Inspired by Micah 2:1-13

“‘Do not preach’—thus they preach—‘one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.’ Should this be said, O house of Jacob? Is the LORD’S patience exhausted? Are these his doings? Do not my words do good to one who walks uprightly?” Micah 2:6-7 (NRSV)

We all want to hear affirmation. We all want to hear that we’re doing enough. We all want to hear God say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We know that Christ has paid the price for our sin, washed us clean, and that we can never earn our way into heaven with our good works. But we need to be able to hear the other things that God has to say. We need to hear that has God freed us from sin for his service, and that Christ’s death and resurrection do not give us a free pass to do whatever we want. Words like those uttered by Micah warn those who exploit others for their own personal gain that what they are doing is not acceptable, that God will administer justice and restore his people. Of course everyone makes mistakes and must live with their own shortcomings, but there’s a difference between making a mistake and intentionally hurting someone else to make your own life easier or more comfortable. The promise of justice delivered is only threatening to those who are unjust, and a gospel that affirms injustice is no gospel.

Let us pray. Gracious God, you love all your people and desire for all to live in peace. Grant us the humility to accept your words and the courage to work for justice, that all your people may share in the bounty you have given us on earth. 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.

Advent 1, Friday, Year B

Inspired by 1 Thessalonians 4:1-18

“Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one.” 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 (NRSV)

How does one be a good Christian? There is certainly no shortage of zealous Christians proclaiming their views on that very subject, complete with step-by-step guides and long lists of forbidden and required behaviors. But it doesn’t have to be that complicated. God himself taught us how to love by sending his Son to tell us of God’s never-ending love and grace and taking upon himself the penalty of our sin. To show that love to one another doesn’t require a step-by-step guide, or long lists of behaviors to perform or avoid, and it certainly doesn’t require passing judgment on how others are living their lives. Rather, we are called to live and love quietly, taking care of ourselves so we’re not a burden to others, and freeing up resources to help those truly in need. A life of simple contentment and charity is a far more powerful statement on the benefits of Christian living than harsh judgments and condemnation. Indeed we are called to exercise self control and not give in to our base desires, but that is a result of God’s love shining forth in our lives, not the price of admission. Christ already paid that, because God loved us while we were yet sinners.

Let us pray. Loving God, you saw our fallen state, and you lifted us up and made us worthy of your love. Continue to show us your love, so that we may reflect that love to others and help spread your peace throughout the world. 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.

Advent 1, Thursday, Year B

Inspired by Zechariah 13:1-9

“On that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.” Zechariah 13:1 (NRSV)

You see them on the news: people who have survived something terrible. An earthquake, a hurricane, an act of war or terrorism. They’re covered in dirt, sweat, and blood—their own or someone else’s—and the means to wash and change into clean clothes are not readily available. So instead they continue to be coated with a visible reminder of what they’ve been through, and they remain marked as what they now are: survivors. How glorious when they finally have access to a good shower and a fresh set of clothes! The memories are still there, but now they can begin to put the trauma behind them and move forward with their lives.

We are just as coated with our sinfulness as an earthquake survivor is coated with dirt and debris. No matter how hard we try to cover it up or ignore it, it’s there, an almost visible reminder of those things we’ve done that we wish we hadn’t, owning us and marking us as sinners and limiting us in what we can do. But through the prophet Zechariah God promised a fountain for his people to cleanse us from our sin, and to give us a new identity as his people. By the fast-flowing waters of God’s holy fountain we are washed clean, renewed in spirit, and freed to be the people God created us to be.

Let us pray. Lord God, you sent your Son to redeem us from our sin. Cleanse us from all unrighteousness, that we may serve you with the gifts you have so graciously given us. 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.

Fourth Sunday in Advent, Year B

Inspired by 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

“I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’” 2 Samuel 7:6-7 (NRSV)

We are human beings, and as such we think as human beings. God, however, is not a human being, though we frequently project our own desires and preferences onto him, as though they were his own.

David recognized that this period of rest from his enemies, and the fact that he was settled in a comfortable home, were blessings from God, and he believed that God should be blessed the same way. So he endeavored to build a house for the ark of the Lord, assuming that God would enjoy the same comfort.

God has his own priorities, and they involve the well-being of his people. He had no interest in the roof and four walls David envisioned for him, even as he knew that such comforts and symbols of security were essential to his people. Rather, he desired to be present among his people, with them in their daily lives, just as he does now. The things we treasure—comfort, security, wealth—are not what God desires from us. He would rather receive our love, our devotion, and our acknowledgment of his presence in our lives.

Let us pray. Transcendent God, your ways are not our ways. Help us to give to you that which you desire, that we may recognize all we enjoy as signs of your gracious love. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Advent 4, Saturday, Year B

Inspired by John 7:40-52

“When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, ‘This is really the prophet.’ Others said, ‘This is the Messiah.’ But some asked, ‘Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?’” John 7:40-42 (NRSV)

The devil is in the details. Jesus’ words and actions identified him as the long-awaited Messiah, yet there were some who were ready to dismiss Jesus on the grounds that—as they understood scripture—he had been born in the wrong place. The geographical location where Jesus’ mother happened to be when she gave birth was a more important indicator of the Messiah than Jesus’ own words and actions.

It may seem silly to us, but in many ways we make some of the same arbitrary claims regarding how God can and cannot work in the world. We have our own favorite litmus tests we use to determine who is a ‘true’ Christian and who is not. Perhaps it’s a specific interpretation of how scripture addresses a social issue that didn’t exist in biblical times. Perhaps it’s a particular moral code and how strictly one adheres to it. Perhaps it’s a style of worship or piety, or the display of certain gifts of the Spirit. Whatever it is, we elevate that particular detail to an importance that outweighs all other evidence of how God might be working in this person or in this situation, and we allow ourselves to be blinded to God’s truth by our devotion to our own limited understanding.

God does not fit neatly into the boxes we create for him, and he does not follow the rules we set for him. And praise God for that, for if he did, then all of us would be denied his grace, because someone else would believe we hadn’t earned it. Instead, God gives his grace freely and generously, more freely and more generously than we may be comfortable with, but it’s his to give, not ours, and because of that, we are able to receive it despite our own limited sight and understanding.

Let us pray. God of grace, you have given us the ability to think and to understand much of the world around us. Help us to recognize the limits of our own wisdom and understanding, that we may use such gifts not to judge others, but to serve you. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Advent 4, Friday, Year B

Inspired by 2 Samuel 6:12-19

“When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts, and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.” 2 Samuel 6:18-19 (NRSV)

It is standard practice in many churches to dismiss the congregation with a command along the lines of, “Go in peace, serve the Lord!” The congregation responds by saying, “Thanks be to God!” and then everyone gets up and goes about their day and the rest of the week. But how do we serve the Lord once we leave our weekly worship service? How are we supposed to serve the Lord?

The chronology of events in this reading from 2 Samuel is interesting. First David worships, then he goes out and blesses everyone else in the name of the Lord, and then he shares the richness of his own material blessings (good food) with them. He does not do these things in order to earn favor with God, but rather as a response to worshiping God. As David ‘went in peace and served the Lord’ he did so by proclaiming God’s love to those he saw when he left the worship space, and sharing with them his own possessions.

While we may not have the riches of King David, we still are capable of responding in the same way. Many people who don’t attend worship still need to hear that God’s blessings are upon them. Most of us, if we’re being honest, will acknowledge that we have more material possessions than we strictly need, and are able to share some of those blessings with others. Being able to worship the Lord of hosts is such a blessing to us; as we leave the worship space, let us truly go in peace, and serve the Lord.

Let us pray. Lord of hosts, you have blessed us not only with your presence among us, but with your grace and with material possessions. Refresh us in worship, that we may be so filled with your love that we can’t help but proclaim your good news and share all the good things you have given us. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Advent 4, Thursday, Year B

Inspired by Hebrews 1:1-4

“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.” Hebrews 1:1-2 (NRSV)

Change is a part of life. People change, cultures change, expectations change, even language changes. Sometimes it seems as though the only thing you can count on is that everything will change, and finding your way through this tumultuous world can be very difficult.

But one thing that doesn’t change is God’s love for us. As the world changes, God finds new ways to communicate that love to us. First God created the world through the Son whom he loves. Then he spoke to his people through the prophets. Then he sent his Son into the world to speak to us directly. And now we are the body of Christ, a living, breathing, dynamic body of love that can adapt to our current environment and continue to proclaim the never-changing love of God to an ever-changing world.

Let us pray. Lord God, you are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Help us to be the body of Christ in the world, that we may be your voice and proclaim your love and grace to all your creation. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

December 23, Year A

Inspired by Galatians 3:6-14

“Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,’ so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham.”  Galatians 3:6-7 (NRSV)

God made his covenant with Abraham and with all of Abraham’s descendents.  The generous promises of God were limited to Abraham’s family.  But God never intended for his grace to be limited by something as arbitrary as genealogy, and God opened the door for anyone—regardless of birth—to be counted among Abraham’s descendents.

Thousands of years later, people with no genetic tie to Abraham whatsoever can claim the blessings of the Abrahamic line.  People who don’t know their family of origins or who are limited by their family’s circumstances are free to connect themselves to this family history.  People who are proud of their family’s accomplishments can recognize that there’s more to life that their own privilege, and choose to be a part of something greater than themselves.

Abraham was chosen by God not because he was a great man, but because he believed God’s promises.  We who believe God’s promises today are also chosen, and can count ourselves blessed along with Abraham and his many descendents.

Let us pray.  Generous God, you have blessed all the peoples of the earth through your servant Abraham.  Inspire us to claim that narrative as our own, that we may participate in those blessings and continue to bless others through the goodness of your promise.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.