Quiet Devotions

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.

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.

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.

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.