Our Redeemer's Blog

Circles of Connection – Digging Deeper after Sunday Morning

Submitted by Pastor Gretchen

Many of you participate in our “Circles of Connection” – small groups on zoom that meet weekly to check in, study the Gospel, and pray for each other.  Pastor Kathy and I were thinking that this resource would also be great for individual devotion time.  As we are focusing on renovating our building AND our own spiritual selves, this is an excellent way to bring yourself closer to God, and reflect on your own journey. You’ll find many backlogged weeks of guides here, and you’re welcome to find the sermons on our Facebook page – all our worship services since stay at home are logged there. Find the Circle guides [here], and the worship services with the corresponding sermons [here].  Happy digging!

Backlog:

June 6, 2021

Hey Circle Leaders – Here’s your Pentecost +2  power point, and the text below.
Peace, GEM

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

And here’s the plain text: 

1. Checking in!

How are you doing?  
How does your body feel? 
How are your feelings?
How’s your connection to God?

Here’s a WARM question: 

Tell about a time when you moved out.

2. Bible Reading

Mark 3:20-35

[Jesus went home;] 20and the crowd came together again, so that [Jesus and the disciples] could not even eat. 21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
28“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—30for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
31Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

1. In this story, Jesus seems pretty harsh to his family members. Why do you think that is?
2. Wait.  Jesus has siblings?  What? What are their names? Who are they? Why are the gospels not answering my questions?
3. A house divided cannot stand. What are some things that might divide our house at church? How do we stay connected?

3. Pray Together
Our Small Difference

We may not be able to confront queens,
or challenge presidents;
We may not have the capacity to divert resources,
or uplift communities;
We may not have the voice to silence the noise of war,
or the words to negotiate peace between armies;
But, as we follow you, O Christ, we are able to do something.

And so, we pray that you would inspire us
to commit to and act on
the small difference we can make:
May we bring peace
through small acts of gentleness
and reconciliation;
May we bring wealth
through small contributions
and collaborations;
May we bring safety
through small acts of consideration
and acceptance;
May we bring wholeness
through small acts of care
and service.

And in the small ways, O God,
may our small difference make a big contribution
to your saving work in our world.

Amen.

~ written by John van de Laar.  Posted on his excellent Sacredise.com website.

 

May 30, 2021

Hey Circle Leaders – Here’s your Holy Trinity power point, and the text below.
Peace, GEM

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing


And here’s the plain text: 

1. Checking in!

How are you doing?  
How does your body feel? 
How are your feelings?
How’s your connection to God?

Here’s a WARM question: 

What is your favorite thing that comes in threes?

2. Bible Reading

Isaiah 6:1-8

1In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
6Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” 8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

1. The seraphs in this reading are usually referred to as angels.  Do they sound like angels?  What do you make of them?

2. The seraphs touch Isaiah’s lips with a burning coal for purification.  I’m pretty sure that after that I would not want anything to do with them.  But what does Isaiah say?  What does this mean for us as followers of Jesus?

3. Why do you think it’s significant the the writer tells us that it was in the year that King Uzziah died?  Could it be like referring to the year JFK was assassinated? What do you think?


3. Pray Together
O Holy God,
like Isaiah the prophet, we stand in awe of Your glory,
feeling tremendously small and polluted by our sin,
and the sin of our society.
Even so, You touch us with Your burning presence,
and we are made clean and whole.

O God, our Creator,
continue to build this household of faith into what You want us to be.
O Christ, our Savior,
lead us to do as You will.
O Spirit, our Power,
strengthen us for the work of the Kingdom,
a worship and a service which is ours today as well as tomorrow.

O Blessed Trinity,
fill this place and these people with Your presence.
For yours is the Power, and the Salvation, and the Creation,
now and always. Amen.

~ posted on My Redeemer Lives website. http://www.myredeemerlives.com/prayers.html


May 23, 2021

Hey Circle Leaders – Here’s your Pentecost Powerpoint, and the text below.

Peace,
GEM

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

And here’s the plain text: 

1. Checking in!

How are you doing?  
How does your body feel? 
How are your feelings?
How’s your connection to God?

Here’s a WARM question: 

Tell about a time when you felt God’s Spirit. What happened?


2. Bible Reading


Acts 2: 1-4

1When the day of Pentecost had come, [the apostles] were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.


1. They were all together in one place. I think we have forgotten what that’s like! What was the last time you were with all your people in one place?
2. What do you make of the tongues of fire in this story? What does it mean?
3. If the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to speak in many languages in this story, what do you think the Holy Spirit does now?


3. Pray Together

Holy One,
We are not sure what it would be like
if the Holy Spirit blew through our churches again
as it did on the day of Pentecost.  
However, we want to speak the language that you have given, 
louder, and more clearly in our lives and church.

So we pray,
come Holy Spirit come,
pour out your fire of love upon us 
to be the body of Christ
in a world that is often hurting, hungry, and cynical.

We want to bring the good news to the poor,
heal the broken-hearted,
preach deliverance to captives,
bring recovery of sight to the blind
and set at liberty all that are bruised.

Amen. 

~ written by rev karla, and posted on RevGalBlogPals. http://revgalblogpals.org/

 

May 17, 2021

Hey Circle Leaders – Here’s your Easter 7 Powerpoint, and the text below.

Peace,
GEM

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

And here’s the plain text:

1. Checking in!

How are you doing?
How does your body feel?
How are your feelings?
How’s your connection to God?

Here’s a WARM question:

What is your all time favorite song and why?

2. Bible Reading

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

15In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd
numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, 16“Friends, the
scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold
concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested
Jesus—17for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this
ministry.” 21So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the
time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22beginning from the
baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these
must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” 23So they proposed
two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and
Matthias. 24Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart.
Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25to take the place in
this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his
own place.” 26And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and
he was added to the eleven apostles.

1. In this reading, the disciples cast lots to decide who
should replace Judas. How do you feel about this
decision making process?

2. Matthias appears in this gospel and then never again.
Why do you think that is? Is it good or bad?

3. The disciples prayed that God would show them the
disciple with the best heart. What made them choose
that as the criteria for being a good disciple?

3. Pray Together

Prayers of the People: Easter 7
(inspired by John 17:6-19, Acts 1:15-17, 21-26)

Our gracious, eternal God, we thank you for the challenges which life brings. It also
brings changes which sometimes throws us into crisis. Be with us in such times in our
Christian community. Like the early disciples help us in our common life to find your
guidance in our collective decisions.

Help us to approach our decisions seeking your guidance through prayer.

Help us to examine our own hearts for any unseemly motives.

Help us to focus on the common good and not be driven by our own selfish interests.

Help us to seek consensus and never be satisfied with power plays and divisiveness.

Help us all to share in our mutual ministry.

Lead us forward and help us to create a community where love, acceptance, and
mutuality are expressed, where joy abounds, and where results are achieved because
we are all working hand in hand together. May it be said of us as it was said of old:
“See how those Christians love one another.”

Amen.

— written by Richard J. Einerson, from his collection of prayers, Prayers of the People. http://www.richardeinerson.com/

 

May 10, 2021

Hey Circle Leaders – Here’s your Easter 6 Powerpoint, and the text below. Talking about what it means to be a true friend!

Peace,
GEM

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

And here’s the plain text:

1. Checking in!

How are you doing?
How does your body feel?
How are your feelings?
How’s your connection to God?

Here’s a WARM question:

Who is your best friend from childhood?

Pictured: Weller and his best friend Jack going to Carkeek Park.

2. Bible Reading

John 15:9-17

[Jesus said:] 9“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

Reflection Questions:

• What do you think it means to lay down your life for your friends? I think I know what Jesus means for him, but what does it mean for you?
• The shift from servant to friend seems quite significant. What is implied?
• What is fruit that will last?

3. Pray Together

How deeply you have loved us, Jesus;
how willingly you stepped into our experience,
how completely you empathised with all that we endure.
Teach us to love as you have loved us.

How sacrificially you have loved us, Jesus;
how completely you gave yourself for us,
how courageously you suffered for our sakes.
Teach us to love as you have loved us.

How restoratively you have loved us, Jesus;
how generously you share your life,
how extravagantly you make yourself available to us.
Teach us to love as you have loved us.

We praise you for your love
which is given so freely and so unconditionally.
And we thank you for believing
that we could learn to offer such love
to each other.
Amen.

 

May 3, 2021

Hey Circle Herders!

Here’s Easter 5!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

And here’s the plain text:

1. Checking in!

How are you doing?
How does your body feel?
How are your feelings?
How’s your connection to God?

Here’s a WARM question:

What is your favorite food with a grape-related ingredient? Jelly? Raisins? Wine? Fresh fruit? Vinegar?

2. Bible Reading

John 15:1-8 [Jesus said:] “I am the true vine, and my Abba is the vine grower who cuts off every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit, but prunes the fruitful ones to increase their yield. You’ve been pruned already, thanks to the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit of itself apart from the vine, neither can you bear fruit apart from me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who live in me and I in them will bear abundant fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. Those who don’t live in me are like withered, rejected branches, to be picked up and thrown on the fire and burned. If you live on in me, and my words live on in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Abba will be glorified if you bear much fruit and thus prove to be my disciples.”

Reflection Questions:

Does being attached to the vine that is Jesus feel
supportive or constrictive? Why?

What would the fruit of being attached to the
vine of Jesus Christ be? How would you know if
you’re bearing fruit?

Tell about a time that you felt that you were
being pruned. What happened? What was it
like?

3. Pray Together

Benediction

Go now, and love one another, because love is from God.
Proclaim God’s salvation to every generation.
Remain in Jesus Christ, and like branches of a vine, draw your life from him.

And may God the vine grower tend you and make you fruitful;
May Christ Jesus abide in you and give you life;
And may the Holy Spirit cast out all fear and fill you with God’s love.

We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
…In the name of Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

 

April 26

Here’s Easter 4! https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

April 19, 2021

Hello Circle Herders! Happy Easter! Again!

Here’s the link for today’s powerpoint:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

And here’s the plain text:

1. Checking in!

How are you doing?
How does your body feel?
How are your feelings?
How’s your connection to God?

Here’s a WARM question:

What is your favorite food after a hard day of work?

2. Bible Reading

Luke 24:36b-48

36bJesus himself stood among [the disciples] and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.
44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.”

Reflection Questions:
• Jesus eating fish in this story is often said to show the “humanity” of the risen Jesus. What do you think?
• I love that the disciples are “still disbelieving in their joy” because it gives me hope. How does that contradiction make you feel?
• If Jesus showed up hungry at your house, what would you offer him? Why?

3. Pray Together

Witnesses
(based on Luke 24:36-48, John 20:19-31)

How do we find the faith to believe the story of Easter, Jesus?
How do we grasp its truth?
We can only accept it;
refusing to reduce it to scientific debate
or historical literalism
kneeling with humility and awe beside the blood-stained cross
and the empty grave;
For then, we are your witnesses.

How do we understand the mystery of your death and life, Jesus?
How do we explain it?
We can only live it;
allowing it to permeate every grain
of this sand that forms us,
every thought, every priority, every act and every interaction,
For then we are your witnesses,
and you deserve nothing less from us.

Amen.

— Copyright © John van de Laar, on his excellent Sacredise website. Visit there for many other excellent lectionary-based resources for worship.

 

April 11, 2021

Hello Circle Herders! Happy Easter!

Here’s the link for today’s powerpoint:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

And here’s the plain text:

1. How are you doing?
How does your body feel?
How are your feelings?
How’s your connection to God?

Here’s a WARM question:
What is something that you know is true, but you just have a hard time accepting?

2. Reading & Reflection

John 20:19-31

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Questions:
Thomas is often judged for this story as a doubter. How would you feel if you were in his shoes?
Jesus gives the disciples the gifts of his peace and the Holy Spirit. When have you felt the gift of God’s peace, or the Holy Spirit? What is it like?
John says there were many other signs not written in this book. What do you think they might be?

3. Prayers

Thomas said:

“Unless I see the mark of the nails
and put my hand in his side,
I will not believe.”

We are often skeptical people,
driven by our senses,
relying on that which we can hear, see or prove.

Our Lord asks us to see the invisible,
to trust in the spirit, to have faith.
Lord, give us faith!

Sometimes we get carried away by our emotions,
by wishful thinking
and by popular trends that pull us in.

Lord, help us to be bold in our beliefs,
but also careful as Thomas was.
Move us beyond mere trust in ordinary things
and open our eyes for spiritual realities.

Jesus said: “Blessed are those who have not seen
and yet have come to believe.”

Amen.

~ written by Pastor Andreas Wagner and posted on Modern Liturgist. http://modernliturgist.org/

 

April 4, 2021

Here’s the link for today’s powerpoint:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

And here’s the plain text:

1. How are you doing?
How does your body feel?
How are your feelings?
How’s your connection to God?

Here’s a WARM question:
What was Easter like for you as a child? What’s your favorite memory?

2. Reading & Reflection

Mark 16:1-8

1When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint [Jesus’ body]. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

This is the end of Mark’s gospel. Is it surprising that there are no resurrection sightings? No doubting thomas, no road to emmaus, none of those stories. Why do you think that is?

Mark describes a young man in white in this story. Who do you think he is? What’s his story?
At the end of the passage, the women experience “terror and amazement.” What other life experiences have that combination of feelings? Can you think of any?

3. Prayers

Dear God, I know I was just complaining about waiting my turn for the vaccine, but now that I’ve gotten mine, this part also feels tricky. So, I have some Easter-related questions, God. I’m wondering – that one dawn, so many years ago, when Jesus came out of his own tomb, did he step haltingly toward the light or did he run? Did he know who he was right away, or did that take a minute? Did he harbor resentments about his faltering friends or was he free? I’m asking because many of us are stepping into the first light of a post-pandemic dawn and one minute I want to run full speed and the next I am unable to move. And If I talk too much about what was lost, I feel like a bummer but if I talk at all about the unexpected gifts, I feel like I’m callous. And I’m not sure I can ever be who I was before, but I’m also not totally sure who everyone else is now, either. My Easter request is this: Help us remember that resurrection isn’t reversal, that as we return to life, we are carrying our own wounds from loss and isolation. But we are also emerging with new beauty and new wisdom. We are not who we were. But we do get to discover who we are. Help us not foreclose on each other. Maybe just grant us a holy curiosity for a while? Please give me courage to trust the hope I feel right now. Save me from squandering this moment of new life. Remind me that all the fear and cynicism in the world never protects me from pain and disappointment in the way I think they will. Give us back to each other when the time is right. May we recognize you, our wounded and resurrected God, in our belly laughs and crocodile tears…and maybe … even in each other. Amen.

– Nadia Bolz Weber, Sunday Prayers https://thecorners.substack.com/p/resurrection-isnt-reversal

 

March 28, 2021

I chose to focus on the Palm Sunday text for today, I hope you enjoy! Peace.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

You can find the generic text below.

Check in:
How are you doing?
How does your body feel?
How are your feelings?
How’s your connection to God?

Here’s a WARM question:
If you had to be the queen or king of something, what would it be?

Bible Reading & Reflection Questions
Mark 11:1-11

1When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, [Jesus] sent two of his disciples 2and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’ ” 4They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
“Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
11Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

• Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem was very humble compared to what some folks were expecting. What do you make of it?

• Skipping from Palm Sunday to Easter, going straight from hosanna to alleluia, is very tempting. Why is holy week so important?

• What would you have thought or felt if you had been present to witness the first Palm Sunday?

Prayer:

You are on your way to Jerusalem, precious Lord.
You are one your way to suffering and to death
for the sake of our freedom and our salvation.
This is mystery and wonder.

Our hearts overflow into songs of praise.
“Hosanna!”, we cry with the crowds.
“Blessed are you who comes in God’s name!”

Yet, you puzzle us:
you puzzle us with your suffering love
that is more powerful than our brokenness;
you puzzle us with your freely chosen humility
that brings blessings in our weary places;
you puzzle us with your forgiveness
that summons us beyond our hurt.

Liberating Saviour,
you make us uncomfortable
so that you can lead us
into more life
and deeper wonder;
so that God can take who we are
and break us open,
and bless us
and give us to the world.

Grant us grace
to welcome this holy restlessness,
that we may live by the power of your Spirit,
and in your name. Amen.

~ posted on Christine Jerrett. https://christinejerrett.wordpress.com/

 

March 21, 2021

Did you know Jesus talked about gardening in the Bible? Well, not exactly. Find out more in your Circle of Connection this week!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

Here’s the generic text:

Check in:
How are you doing?
How does your body feel?
How are your feelings?
How’s your connection to God?

Here’s a WARM question:
Do you like gardening? Why or why not?

Bible Reading & Reflection Questions
John 12:20-33

20Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

27“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

1. Jesus says his soul is troubled. What do you make of that? What does it mean to you to be troubled?
2. Jesus’ phrase about the seed being buried to create fruit is a complex image for us. Some find it hopeful. How do you feel about it?
3. The Greeks are coming to “see” Jesus. People come to Jesus for many different reasons in the Bible. What are some various reasons you can think of? If you had a chance, why would you want to see Jesus?

Prayer:

Blessing the Seed
(inspired by John 12:24)

Very truly, I tell you,
unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
~ John 12.24

I should tell you
at the outset
this blessing will require you
to do some work.

First you must simply
let this blessing fall
from your hand,
as if it were a small thing
you could easily let slip
through your fingers,
as if it were not
most precious to you,
as if your life did not
depend on it.

Next you must trust
that this blessing knows
where it is going,
that it understands
the ways of the dark,
that it is wise
to seasons
and to times.

Then—
and I know this blessing
has already asked much
of you—
it is to be hoped that
you will rest
and learn
that something is at work
when all seems still,
seems dormant,
seems dead.

I promise you
this blessing has not
abandoned you.
I promise you
this blessing
is on its way back
to you.
I promise you—
when you are least
expecting it,
when you have given up
your last hope—
this blessing will rise
green
and whole
and new.

~ written by Jan L. Richardson, and posted on The Painted Prayerbook. http://paintedprayerbook.com/

 

March 14, 2021

Hey Circle Herders! Here’s your material for this week.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

And here’s the text if that’s easier:

Check in:
How are you doing?
How does your body feel?
How are your feelings?
How’s your connection to God?

Here’s a WARM question:
What is something that you would die for?

Bible Reading & Reflection Questions

John 3:14-21

[Jesus said:] 14“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved shadows rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

• John 3:16 is maybe the most well known verse in the Bible, held up at concerts and sporting events. Why do you think that is?
• Luther said that John 3:16 is “The Gospel in miniature.” Do you think it leaves anything out? If you had to choose a verse that sums up the gospel, what would you pick?
• Nicodemus is the only hearer of this conversation with Jesus. Does it change how it sounds to know it wasn’t a speech, but a middle of the night answer to a question?

Prayer:
God, you loved this world so much
that you sent your own son, Jesus Christ
to live and die among us,
in order that we might have life.

Forgive us for keeping that abundant life to ourselves,
for jealously hoarding your generous gifts,
for choosing self-interest over compassion and justice.

Teach us what it means to live as children of the light,
generously sharing your abundance
with our brothers and sisters in need. Amen.

— Christine Longhurst, posted on the Canadian Foodgrains Bank website.

 

March 7, 2021

So glad you’re still meeting. Here’s the google presentation for this week:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

And here’s the text if that’s easier:

Check in:
How are you doing?
How does your body feel?
How are your feelings?
How’s your connection to God?

Here’s a WARM question:
What is something that makes you really angry?

Bible Reading & Reflection Questions

John 2:13-22

13The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

• As Christians, we know that God is love, and sometimes teach that anger is a sin. But in this story Jesus is clearly angry. Why?
• This story is paired with Exodus 20, the 10 commandments passage. How are they related?
• It says that the disciples believed the scripture after Jesus was raised from the dead. Is this encouraging for you or discouraging, as you walk in faith?

Prayer:
Call to Prayer
(inspired by Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple)

Who is this who enters the doors of our temple,
who overturns the tables,
strews silver and gold on the floor,
frees the sacrificial doves from gilded cages?
Listen, as they rise, the beating of their wings
is a song of loud hosanna.

It is Jesus of Galilee, the Son of God,
who comes to cleanse the great temple,
to restore its subverted chambers
to a house of hallowed prayer.

Then let us open the doors of our hearts even wider,
so he can cast out the thieves
who would take what is sacred and tender
and turn it hard as gold in a fist.

May the temple within us
be a refuge where doves of peace roost in the rafters.

May it be a garden
that bears the fruits of a generous spirit.

Oh Lord, take what is corrupt and withered
and let it break forth in beauty.

For thine is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever.

Amen.

— written by Shari Miller Wagner, in Celebrating the Season. Posted on the website of the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference.

 

February 28, 2021

Here’s the google presentation for this week:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

And here’s the text if that’s easier:

Check in:
How are you doing?
How does your body feel?
How are your feelings?
How’s your connection to God?

Here’s a WARM question:
Who is someone that your follow, in real life or on social media?

Bible Reading: Mark 8:31-38

31[Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Questions:
1. Jesus says to follow him involves three things: deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow. Which is the most important? Why?
2. Peter rebukes Jesus for saying he will be killed. What do you think he’s feeling that makes him say that?
3. Jesus says one of the most confusing things in this reading: Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel will find it. What does this mean?

Prayer:

Prayer of Confession
(inspired by Matthew 16:24-26, Mark 8:31-38, Luke 9:23)

We hear the words from Jesus:
“Take up your cross and follow me.”

These words scare us.
We know what taking up a cross meant for him.
We do not feel able to sacrifice our lives.
We are not even ready on most days
to sacrifice smaller things for the sake of the Kingdom.

As we gather today—
as we look at the cross in front of us,
as we remember the crosses
that marked our foreheads on Ash Wednesday,
such a short time ago,to begin the Lenten journey,
as we think of the Cross that Lent calls us to journey towards
may we find strength in new places deep within our souls.
May we find courage, hope, and the peace
to really follow Jesus.

Hear our prayers,
remind us of the grace that covers our sin
and offers us the endurance
to the run the race of faith.
Amen and Amen.

~ written by Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo, Watchung Avenue Presbyterian Church, North Plainfield, New Jersey.

 

February 21, 2021

Two things:

1. Sonja Braach and Judy Wright have asked to be added to a circle of connection.  Do any of you have room in your group?  If so, can you invite one or both of them, and cc the rest of us so we know?  Thank you!

2. Here’s the connection tool for this week!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

And here’s the regular text if the link is too hard.

WARM:

Have you experienced wilderness? What was it like?

Reading:

Mark 1:9-15 9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. 14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Questions:

1. Jesus is tempted in the wilderness. What is a temptation for you? 2. What kind of wild beasts do you think were with Jesus? What does it mean for angels to wait on him? 3. The word “repent” means “to turn around, to face the other direction.” Why would Jesus ask people to turn around? 

Prayer: Reflection for Lent

I just realized that in my imagination the wilderness is always somewhere else; a foreign landscape i actively have to enter in the act of being faithful. truthfully, the wilderness is always where i am right now and faith is the courage to stay with it when i’d rather pretend i am anywhere else. ~ written by Cheryl Lawrie and posted on [hold this space]. http://holdthisspace.org.au/

 

February 14, 2021

Hey Circle Herders – here’s your leader link for this week!  Peace to you.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

 

 

February 7, 2021

Here’s this week’s power point for your circles of connection.  

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing


January 31, 2021

Here’s this week’s power point for your circles of connection.  
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

January 24, 2021

Here’s this week’s power point for your circles of connection.  
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

 

January 17, 2021

Here’s this week’s power point for your circles of connection.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/view?usp=sharing

 

January 10, 2021

This week’s power point for your circles of connection. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1RRUTAb50TCh9nwDc9KBgbehe_JjAhai3/edit#slide=id.p1

 

January 3, 2021

 

This week’s power point for your circles of connection.

December 27, 2020

1. Check in.

How are you doing? Physical, mental, and spiritual?

Here’s a WARM question: Who is the oldest person you know?

2. Dig Deeper – Luke 2:22-40
22When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, [Joseph and Mary] brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
25Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
29“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
30for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
33And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
39When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Here are the reflection questions:
1. Simeon sings the “Nunc Dimmitis” and it is so familiar to us. What do you think of when you hear his words?
2. Anna rejoices when she meets Jesus. What do you think she is thinking about? Why is she praising God about a baby? Babies probably were brought to the temple all the time, right?
3. The desire to “do the right thing” comes on strong for new parents. We see that when people who are inactive or barely associated with our church come to have their babies baptized. It seems in verse 39 and 40 that there is good reason for this. What was your experience of being baptized, or having your kids baptized? Why did you do it?

3. Pray for each other. Or, you can pray this prayer:

Here’s a litany inspired by Simeon’s song (Nunc Dimittis) found in Luke 2:25-32. It was written by Dr. Sheila Klassen-Wiebe, Associate Professor of New Testament at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Seeing God’s Salvation
A Litany for Advent based on Simeon’s Song
(Luke 2: 25-32)

1: Simeon saw God’s salvation in a little child
2: A light for revelation to the Gentiles
3: And for glory to the people Israel

1: We too long to see God’s salvation:
2: healing for broken bodies
3: hope for broken lives
2: light for those in the darkness of war
3: warmth for those in the chill of fear

1: We long to see the glory of angels
2: Peace on earth, good news for all
3: Harbingers of joy, glimpses of grace
2: On earth as it is in heaven.

1: Simeon saw God’s salvation in a little child
3: Radiant light, glory streaming down
2: Stretching across the centuries to us today.

1: Our eyes can see God’s salvation too:
2: healing for broken bodies
3: hope for broken lives
2: light for those in the darkness of war
3: warmth for those in the chill of fear

1: Open our ears to hear good news of peace today.
2: Open our eyes to see glimpses of your grace
in enemy and friend.
1: Open our lips to sing with joy.
3: Open our lives to bear fruit for your reign,
on earth as it is in heaven.

All: Like Simeon, we have seen God’s salvation
1: And his name is Jesus.

Have a great meeting, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help or would like someone to talk to about the process.

 

December 20, 2020

1. Check in.

How are you doing? Physical, mental, and spiritual?

Here’s a WARM question: Who is a person in your life that you would trust if you were in trouble?

2. Dig Deeper – Luke 1:26-38

26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Here are the reflection questions:

1. Mary seems awfully put together for a 13 year old girl. What would you say if an angel appeared in your bedroom?

2. Gabriel says nothing is impossible with God. Sometimes, this seems so true, and sometimes I wonder what God is up to. What do you think about this statement from Gabriel?

3. I love the story of Mary and Elizabeth. Think about who in your life has been an Elizabeth to your Mary, helping you when you were in dire circumstances. Think about a time when you got to be an Elizabeth, listening without judgment to a friend in trouble, and offering help or shelter.

3. Pray for each other. Or, you can pray this prayer:

Be Glad!

God is soaked
in our world.
God’s Spirit
lives and breathes
in and through
all that is.

We are lost
only when we
do not understand
that God
is already with
and in
each one of us.

Our task is recognition
of God’s initiative
to be at home in us—
acceptance
of God-With-Us.

Then we cannot but
be glad.

~ written by Edwina Gateley in There Was No Path So I Trod One (1996, 2013). Posted on Journey with Jesus. http://www.journeywithjesus.net/poemsandprayers/

 

 

December 13, 2020

1. Check in.

How are you doing? Physical, mental, and spiritual?
Here’s a WARM question: Tell about a time in your life when you were expecting one thing, and received something completely different.

2. Dig Deeper – John 1:6-8, 19-28

6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

19This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23He said,
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ ”
as the prophet Isaiah said.

24Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 28This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

Here are the reflection questions:

1. The religious authorities seem very concerned about John’s identity. Do you think they might have been threatened by him? Why or why not? 2. Kathy talked in her sermon a great deal about expectations – how we set them, and how we change them. This has been a year of our expectations being thwarted, and God still being faithful. What expectations do you have about Christ’s return? What are you hoping for? How will you know if God is still being faithful? 3. I love John’s clarity about who his is. He’s not the light – he came to testify to the light. He’s not Elijah, he’s not a prophet, he’s not the messiah, he’s none of that. When you think about who you are – with clarity – who do you say that you are?

3. Pray for each other. Or, you can pray this prayer:

In your time, Creator God This world was put in place And in your time Became beautiful Through the craftsmanship of your love. Remind us always As we look at sunrise Landscape and tiny child That at the centre of all things Is the creative love of God. In your time, Loving God When we had wandered far In your perfect time You embraced the prodigal Within the security of your arms. Remind us always As we look at pain caused And hardship endured That at the centre of all things Is the forgiving love of God. In your time, Saving God You walked upon this earth And in your time Became one of us To show what we could become Remind us always As we look at our lives In comparison with yours That at the centre of all things Is the saving Grace of God In your time, Mighty God You will come in glory And in your time Gather the harvest From one end of this earth to the other Remind us always In times of plenty And in times of famine That at the centre of all things Is the love and mercy of God Amen

 

December 6, 2020

1. Check in.

How are you doing? Physical, mental, and spiritual?
Here’s a WARM question: What is the most unusual food you have ever eaten?

2. Dig Deeper – Mark 1:1-8

1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’ ”
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Here are the reflection questions:
1. John the Baptist is a unique individual, to be sure. If you met him on the street, would you listen to him? Why or why not?
2. John was baptizing people, but claims that Jesus’ baptism will be different. What do you think he means?
3. John quotes Isaiah and says we should “Prepare the way in the wilderness.” What do you do to prepare the way?

3. Pray for each other. Or, you can pray this prayer:

Wilderness

We have wilderness and dry land
at the heart of Australia.
We may not venture into it very often
but we know it is there,
it has its place on our maps.

More familiar to us, however,
is the wilderness in our own hearts,
the empty spaces in our own lives,
the desert of longings
that engulf us at Christmas.

Wilderness is a hard place,
but also a place of beauty and grace,
revealed by its sunsets and sunrises,
the glow of ancient rocks,
the moon shining on the sand.

Do not be afraid
of the desert places in your life,
for it is here
that the Good News
may be heard most profoundly.
May it be so.

~ written by Ann Siddall, and posted on the Stillpoint Spirituality Centre and Faith Community website. http://stillpointsa.org.au/prayer/prayers-and-liturgies/

 

November 29, 2020

1. Check in.

How are you doing? Physical, mental, and spiritual?
Here’s a WARM question: It’s the first week of Advent! What are your favorite Advent traditions?

2. Dig Deeper – Mark 13:28-37
28“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

Here are the reflection questions:
1. Jesus tells us to keep awake and watch for signs. What kind of signs do you think he mean?
2. Often times we tend to leap ahead to Christmas, and forget the part of Advent that talks about the end times and Jesus’ second coming. What do you think the second coming will look like? Do you think it’s real?
3. I always laugh when I see the quote, “Jesus is coming! Look busy.” But this passage is about exactly that! Paying lip service to God’s will is a real thing. What can we do to actually stay engaged and awake to what God needs us to do?

3. Pray for each other. Or, you can pray this prayer:

Loving God, be to us as a bulldozer of the spirit.
Clear your road in us; clear a path through the detritus of possessions and obsessions.
Thrust aside our divided aims and devious games.
Topple the ramparts of pride and the doubts that deride.
Make a highway on which Christ may come and take possession of the whole territory of our being.
To the glory of your name we pray. Amen! ~ written by Bruce Prewer, and posted on Bruce Prewer’s Home Page. http://www.bruceprewer.com/

 

November 22, 2020

 

1. Check in.  

How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual? 

Here’s a WARM question: What was your favorite servant experience of all time?

 

2. Dig Deeper – Matthew 25: 31-46

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family you did it to me.’ 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

 

Here are the reflection questions: 

1. This is the final reading from the Lectionary year from Matthew, and is for Christ the King Sunday.  What does this say about Christ’s idea of a kingdom?

2. This reading always makes me hope I’m a sheep, and pretty sure I’m a goat.  Do you read this lesson as a warning or an encouragement?

3. What does “the least of these” mean to you?

4. Pray for each other.  Or, you can pray this prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Open my eyes 
to see as you see and weep as you weep
 
Open my heart 
to love the broken and care for those without hope
 
Open my hands 
to hold what I have lightly and to share cheerfully
 
Open my mouth 
to speak for the voiceless and to shout for mercy
 
Open my ears 
to the gentle whispers of your Spirit and to obey what you say
 
Open up my life 
to the call of your voice and the needy cries of the dying
 
Amen
 
~ written by Fred Drummond.  Posted on the Tear Fund website. http://www.tearfund.org/
November 15, 2020


1. Check in.

How are you doing? Physical, mental, and spiritual?

Here’s a WARM question: What is a talent that you have that people may not know about?


2. Dig Deeper – Matthew 25:14-30

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 14“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves* and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

26But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents.

29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ”

Here are the reflection questions:

1. There’s a part of me that sees the slave who received one talent as honest and brave, and I have surprise at the master’s harshness. But I also see the other side, where playing it safe doesn’t always pay off. What do you think of this part of the story?

2. Pastor Anne in her sermon yesterday talked about how we are called not to hold our talents to ourselves, but to give them away. To giveaway our money, to give our selves, as Jesus gave himself. What feelings do you have when you think about giving money, or your very self away?

3. We talk a lot about how God gives us more when we trust God to give away a little. Do you find that to be true? What has been your experience of God’s blessing you – often when unexpected?

4. Pray for each other. Or, you can use this prayer below to pray:

Blessing

(inspired by Matthew 25: 14-20)
There are blessings
meant for you
to hold onto

clutched
like a lifeline
carried
like a candle
for a dark way

tucked into a pocket
like a smooth stone
reminding you
that you do not
go alone.

This blessing
is not those.

This blessing
will find its form
only as you
give it away

only as you
release it
into the keeping
of another

only as you
let it
leave you

bearing the shape
the imprint
the grace
it will take

only for having
passed through
your two
particular
hands.

~ written by Jan L. Richardson, and posted on The Painted Prayerbook.http://paintedprayerbook.com/

November 8, 2020
1. Check in.  

How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual? 

Here’s a WARM question: What’s your favorite word?  One that you love to say?

2. Dig Deeper – John 1:1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through the Word, and without the Word not one thing came into being. What has come into being in the Word was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the deepest night, and the night did not overcome it.

These was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  John was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.The Word was in the world, and the world came into being through the Word; yet the world did not know the Word.  The Word came to the Word’s own home, and the Word’s own people did not accept the Word. But to all who received the Word, who believed in the name of the Word, power was given to become children of God, who were born, not of blood  or of the will of the flesh or of human will, but of God.And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen the Word’s glory, the glory as of a parent’s only child, full of grace and truth.Here are the reflection questions:

1. ‘The Word’ has three significant ways of being defined: 

2. The creative word from God that made and continues to make all things. 

3. Jesus as the enfleshed embodiment of that creative word. 

4. The Good News of scripture read and preached.  

Of these definitions, which one make the most sense to you?  Which one is surprising? Which one is new?

2. Hearing God’s word can have many responses in us.  When you hear God’s word, what is your usual feeling? Joy? Comfort? Peace? Discomfort – the urge to move? 

3. What is a good word that you have heard this week?

4. Pray for each other.  Or, you can pray this prayer from Martin Luther:

Lord God, heavenly Father,
you did not spare your only Son,
but gave him up for us all to be our Savior,
and along with him
you have graciously given us all things.
We thank you for your precious, saving gospel,
and we pray that you would help us to believe
in the name of our Savior
faithfully and steadfastly,
for he alone
is our righteousness and wisdom,
our comfort and peace,
so that we may stand on the day of his appearing;
through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, our Lord.
Amen.

Source: Collect for Reformation, found in Allgemeines evangelisches Gesang- und Gebetbuch zum Kirchen und Hausgebrauch, Hamburg, 1846, p. 694.Original in German: Herr Gott, himmlischer Vater, der Du uns Deinen Sohn zum Heiland und in ihm Alles geschenket hast, wir danken Dir für dies theure, seligmachende Evangelium, und bitten Dich: Hilf uns treu und festiglich glauben in den Namen unsers Heilandes, der allein unsere Gerechtigkeit und Weisheit, unser Trost und Friede ist, auf daß wir können bestehen am Tage seiner Zukunft: durch Jesum Christum, Deinen lieben Sohn, unser Herrn. Amen.

November 1, 2020

1. Check in.  

How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual? 

Here’s a WARM question: Luther says we are all both saints and sinners.  What are your percentages? (Like I’m 80% saint, and 20% sinner.). Be honest!

2. Dig Deeper – Matthew 5:1-12

1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: 

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 

5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth

6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 

7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 

8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 

9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 

10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

11“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Here are the reflection questions:
1. Sunday was All Saint’s Sunday.  Jesus says “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  Does this sentiment make sense to you?  Does it feel blessed to mourn? What is Jesus telling us?

2. Jesus preaches this sermon after climbing the mountain to get away from the crowds.  What does that tell you about his mindset as he delivers these words?

3. This is a pretty familiar passage for most people.  What do you associate it with?

4. Pray for each other.  Or, you can pray this version of the Beatitudes, by Nadia Bolz-Weber.  It’s not exactly a prayer, more of a re-framing, but I feel like its very prayer-full:

Blessed are the agnostics.

Blessed are they who doubt. Those who aren’t sure, who can still be surprised.

Blessed are they who are spiritually impoverished and therefore not so certain about everything that they no longer take in new information.

Blessed are those who have nothing to offer. 

Blessed are the preschoolers who cut in line at communion. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are they for whom death is not an abstraction.

Blessed are they who have buried their loved ones, for whom tears could fill an ocean. 

Blessed are they who have loved enough to know what loss feels like.

Blessed are the mothers of the miscarried.

Blessed are they who don’t have the luxury of taking things for granted anymore.

Blessed are they who can’t fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else.

Blessed are those who “still aren’t over it yet.” 

Blessed are those who mourn. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are those who no one else notices. The kids who sit alone at middle-school lunch tables. The laundry guys at the hospital. The sex workers and the night-shift street sweepers.

Blessed are the forgotten. Blessed are the closeted.

Blessed are the unemployed, the unimpressive, the underrepresented.

Blessed are the teens who have to figure out ways to hide the new cuts on their arms. 

Blessed are the meek. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are the wrongly accused, the ones who never catch a break, the ones for whom life is hard, for Jesus chose to surround himself with people like them.

Blessed are those without documentation. Blessed are the ones without lobbyists.

Blessed are foster kids and special-ed kids and every other kid who just wants to feel safe and loved.

Blessed are those who make terrible business decisions for the sake of people.

Blessed are the burned-out social workers and the overworked teachers and the pro bono case takers.

Blessed are the kindhearted football players and the fundraising trophy wives.

Blessed are the kids who step between the bullies and the weak. 

Blessed are they who hear that they are forgiven.

Blessed is everyone who has ever forgiven me when I didn’t deserve it.

Blessed are the merciful, for they totally get it.

October 25, 2020

1. Check in.  

  • How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual? 
  • Here’s a WARM question: When you picture Jesus, what does he look like?

2. Dig Deeper – Matthew 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Creator in heaven; for God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your sisters and brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Creator is perfect.

Here are the reflection questions:

1. The story of Jesus and who he is changed everything – he upended the way the world carries on by destroying death and bringing justice.  What do you think is the most significant thing the life and story of Jesus has impacted in the world?

2. “If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” These are some tough words.  What does this imply in your life? What shift does this create in you?

3. “God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good.”  Why is God so unfair? Discuss.

4. Pray for each other.  Or, you can use this prayer below to pray:

Here’s a beautiful prayer for enemies by the 11th century Benedictine monk, Anselm of Canterbury.

A Prayer for Enemies

Almighty and tender Lord Jesus Christ,

Just as I have asked you to love my friends, 

so I ask the same for my enemies. 

You alone, Lord, are mighty.  

You alone are merciful. 

Whatever you make me desire for my enemies, 

give it to them and give the same back to me. 

If I ever ask for them anything which is outside your perfect rule of love, 

whether through ignorance, weakness or malice, 

good Lord, do not give it to them 

and do not give it back to me.

 You who are the true light, lighten their darkness.  

You who are the whole truth, correct their errors.  

You who are the incarnate word, give life to their souls.

Tender Lord Jesus,

let me not be a stumbling block to them, 

nor a rock of offense. 

My sin is sufficient to me, without harming others.  

I, a slave to sin, beg your mercy on my fellow slaves.

Let them be reconciled with you, 

and through you reconciled to me. 

~ written by Anselm of Canterbury ( (c.1033-1109).  Posted on Beauty and Branding. http://beautyandbranding.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/a-prayer-for-enemies-and-gods-perfect-rule-of-love-anselm-of-canterbury/

October 18, 2020

1. Check in.  

How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual? 

Here’s a WARM question: Can you think of a time that you were exiled, or felt exiled? What happened?

2. Dig Deeper – Matthew 2:15-17

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

Here are the reflection questions:

1. In modern exposition, we talk about Jesus being an immigrant and a refugee.  This text from Matthew is often used to support this idea.  What feelings do you have about this claim? How does it relate to our world and our lives? 

 

2. Can you imagine what this would have been like, to travel with a toddler on foot (the donkey isn’t in the story, just our pretty manger scenes) for hundreds of miles? There are obvious parallels with refugees from all over the world, and particularly close to us with Latinx refugees and children at our own border. 

 

3. What are the stories of exile that you can think of in the Bible besides this one? What do you think about exile being a prevailing theme in our lives? What do you make of the idea that perhaps exile is one way of thinking about “the human condition” – that we are separated from God by our brokenness? 


3. Pray for each other.  

Here’s a prayer from re-worship that you are welcome to use:

Prayer for Immigrants

Our God, you have given us in your word 

the stories of persons who needed to leave their homelands—

Abraham, Sarah, Ruth, Moses. 

Help us to remember 

that when we speak of immigrants and refugees, 

we speak of Christ.

In the One who had no place to lay his head, 

and in the least of his brothers and sisters, 

you come to us again, a stranger seeking refuge. 

We confess that we often turn away. 

You have chosen that the life of Jesus be filled 

with events of unplanned travel and flight from enemies.

You have shown us through the modeling of Jesus 

how we are called to relate to persons from different nations and cultures. 

You have called us to be teachers of your word. 

We ask you, our God, to open our minds and hearts 

to the challenge and invitation 

to model your perfect example of love. 

Amen.

~ adapted from Justice for Immigrants, “Prayer and Liturgy Suggestions,” originally posted on the Justice for Immigrants website. https://justiceforimmigrants.org/ 
Available now on the NC Council of Churches website.  
https://www.ncchurches.org/lectionary/httpwww-ncchurches-orgp19454/

Oct 11

1. Check in.
How are you doing? Physical, mental, and spiritual?
Here’s a fun WARM question: How and where were you born? Hospital? House? Side of the road? C-Section? Natural birth? Breech? What’s your birth story?

2. Dig Deeper – Exodus 1:8-22

8Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. 10Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. 12But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. 13The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, 14and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

15The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16“When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” 17But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. 18So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” 19The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. 21And because the midwives feared God, God gave them families. 22Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”

Reflection Questions:
1. What do you make of the response of the midwives in verse 19?
2. What do you think of Pharoah’s change between verse 16 and verse 22?
3. We often see ourselves siding with the oppressed people in Biblical stories. Alan Storey, our guest preacher on Sunday, encouraged us to see ourselves as everyone in this story, including Pharaoh. Does this challenge you? Why or why not?

3. Pray for each other. Here’s a prayer from Grace Church in London, England:

Almighty God,
we thank you for the witness of Shiphrah and Puah,
who disobeyed Pharaoh’s orders
in order to obey what they believed you wanted them to do.
Even today we as disciples of Christ may be called upon
to peacefully resist human-made laws
while being true to your commandments.
Give us courage and strength to live as you would have us to do.
In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.

– From Alan Harvey, https://www.firstpreswh.org/daily-devotional/shiphrah-and-puah-two-god-fearing-midwives/

Have a great meeting, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help or would like someone to talk to about the process.

Oct 4

Check in.How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual?Here’s a fun WARM question based on Pastor Kathy’s sermon: Denial is not just a river in Egypt!  What is something you are in denial about?

Dig Deeper – John 1:1-5

In In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through the Word, and without the Word not one thing came into being. What has come into being in the Word was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the deepest night, and the night did not overcome it.

Here are the reflection questions:

1. In Sprouts class, Mr. Dana taught the preschoolers about how important words are, especially for how we know ourselves and know others.  What does this Bible passage tell you about who God the Creator is?

This inclusive translation of this passage uses the words “deepest night” instead of the traditional translation “darkness.”  Why do you think that is? Hint: it is a big social issue in our country today!

This passage is often read on Christmas Eve.  Why?

Pray for each other.  Here’s a prayer from Grace Chuch in London, England:

Creator God
swirling, formless one,
hovering over creation and bringing new things to life
you speak new worlds into being with language that creates and liberates

Eternal God
living, limitless one
inhabiting the vast universe with the rich complexity of your being
you reveal yourself to your creatures and invite us to know you

Friendly God
nurturing, welcoming one
opening yourself wide to the joy and pain of loving your people
you place us in communities and families that echo your true nature

(pause to think about the language we instinctively use for God)

Holy God
We thank you for the ways in which

we have known and understood you;
We thank you for the metaphors

that have opened our eyes to more of who you are;
We thank you for the language that has brought

the transcendent, timeless, mysterious God within our grasp.

Holy God
We are hungry for more of you
We ask you to reveal more of yourself to us
to take us beyond the confines of familiar habits
to free us from the restrictions and distortions of our language
to expand our understanding of you
so that we can love you whole heartedly
we can communicate you faithfully
and we can reflect your full image to a world that needs you
Amen.

~ posted on the Fresh Worship website of Grace Church, an alternative congregation in London, England. http://www.freshworship.org/

Sept 27

Check in.How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual?Here’s a fun WARM question: What was your first impression of Our Redeemer’s?  How long ago was it?2. Dig Deeper – Luke 12:35-38, 48b 

“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”

Here are the reflection questions:

It seems that our lamps have been running low lately.  What are you doing to keep your lamps burning?

Have you thought about what it will be like when Jesus comes back?  What do you imagine?  If you close your eyes and picture it, what do you see?

In Pastor Kathy’s sermon, she suggested using this time out of our building as a time for reaching out to others – those in need, those who need encouragement, those who are grieving, etc.  What would be a healthy challenge for you in this way?

Pray for each other.  Here’s a prayer from hellohope.com:

A PRAYER FOR LIGHT

God, with you there is no darkness. Your character has no shadows, and you are pure and good. Yet in our broken world, we see so much darkness around us. Pain, sickness, and disease are in our community and in many of our homes.

Bring your light and restoring presence to the dark places in our lives. Bring your hope to hearts that feel defeated. Bring your love and compassion to those in pain.

Give us faith to say with the psalmist, “Lord, you light my lamp; my God illuminates my darkness.” May your light of hope shine in the darkness for families today. Show us glimpses of your presence with us and the comfort you bring.

In the busyness of today, help us to take a moment to be still and sit with you. To slow down, breathe deeply, and release our burdens to your strong hand. You are trustworthy, good, and true, and we thank you for caring for us so deeply and beautifully. Open our eyes to see you at work today. Give us your light.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Sept 20

Check in.

How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual?
Here’s a fun WARM question: What was the first job you ever had?  What was it like?

2. Dig Deeper

Matthew 20:1-16

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 1“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Here are the reflection questions:

Who are you in this story? Who do you relate to?

What do you think Jesus means, that the first will be last?  What does that mean for us?

From a social justice bent: Do you think the last workers hired were different from the first?  What if they were black? Latinx? Female?  What if they weren’t hired because they were less appealing than the first group?  What then? Does that change this parable for you?

Pray for each other.

I love to ask people for joys and concerns – if you’re concerned about remembering them all, you can ask them to type them in the chat window on zoom.  (This is what I do with the confirmands.).

Or, you can pray this prayer, from Nadia Bolz-Weber:

God of all beings,

A lot of us feel less safe than we did a few days ago and a few days ago we weren’t feeling that secure to begin with. Help us draw upon you, our Divine Source, when what we have just isn’t enough to get through the day.

A lot of us are grieving. Actually, all of us are grieving: lost friends, lost kin, lost homes, lost income, lost connection to others, lost health.  Help us not also lose hope. We can lose a lot and still survive, but not that.

A lot of us are so angry. Angry that our inherent worth and dignity seems up for debate by those who have never had their worth and dignity questioned in courts of law. Angry that love of power seems to trump love of neighbor. Repurpose our anger into righteous action, Lord.

(Personal note: My fear is turning to anger and I am afraid that my anger can turn so easily to hate and hate is the thing I say I am against. Turn me away from hate. My heart can’t take that kind of brittleness because I need it to give and to receive love. Remind me that my heart is spoken for.)

A lot of us are ashamed of how numb we feel, but honestly we’ve run out of emotional bandwidth and the system needs to re-boot before it comes back on-line. Give us rest and self-compassion.

A lot of us are joyous and feel like we have to shield that joy from others, lest it seem like we are callous toward those who are hurting. Help us see and celebrate what good there is in our lives and the lives of those around us.

I don’t think you created us to be able to metabolize such a constant stream of bad news everyday, Lord. But I do know that you created us to metabolize cookies. And for that I give you thanks and praise. They are helping. But they are not enough.

So if you could show the hell up right now, that would be great. And if you are already showing up, give us new eyes to notice you.

Amen.

Sept 13

Check in.

How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual?
Here’s a fun WARM question: What was the first job you ever had?  What was it like?

2. Dig Deeper : Matthew 20:1-16

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 1“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Here are the reflection questions:

Who are you in this story? Who do you relate to?

What do you think Jesus means, that the first will be last?  What does that mean for us?

From a social justice bent: Do you think the last workers hired were different from the first?  What if they were black? Latinx? Female?  What if they weren’t hired because they were less appealing than the first group?  What then? Does that change this parable for you?

Pray for each other.  I love to ask people for joys and concerns – if you’re concerned about remembering them all, you can ask them to type them in the chat window on zoom.  (This is what I do with the confirmands.).Or, you can pray this prayer, from Nadia Bolz-Weber:

God of all beings,

A lot of us feel less safe than we did a few days ago and a few days ago we weren’t feeling that secure to begin with. Help us draw upon you, our Divine Source, when what we have just isn’t enough to get through the day.

A lot of us are grieving. Actually, all of us are grieving: lost friends, lost kin, lost homes, lost income, lost connection to others, lost health.  Help us not also lose hope. We can lose a lot and still survive, but not that.

A lot of us are so angry. Angry that our inherent worth and dignity seems up for debate by those who have never had their worth and dignity questioned in courts of law. Angry that love of power seems to trump love of neighbor. Repurpose our anger into righteous action, Lord.

(Personal note: My fear is turning to anger and I am afraid that my anger can turn so easily to hate and hate is the thing I say I am against. Turn me away from hate. My heart can’t take that kind of brittleness because I need it to give and to receive love. Remind me that my heart is spoken for.)

A lot of us are ashamed of how numb we feel, but honestly we’ve run out of emotional bandwidth and the system needs to re-boot before it comes back on-line. Give us rest and self-compassion.

A lot of us are joyous and feel like we have to shield that joy from others, lest it seem like we are callous toward those who are hurting. Help us see and celebrate what good there is in our lives and the lives of those around us.

I don’t think you created us to be able to metabolize such a constant stream of bad news everyday, Lord. But I do know that you created us to metabolize cookies. And for that I give you thanks and praise. They are helping. But they are not enough.

So if you could show the hell up right now, that would be great. And if you are already showing up, give us new eyes to notice you.

Amen.

Sept 6

Check in: Talk about a time when you were tended to when you were sick, other than your mom when you were a kid.  Who took care of you?

Dig Deeper: Matthew 16:21-28

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? 27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

What does Jesus mean when he says “What will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit they life?”

What does it mean to you to get behind Jesus, or to follow Jesus?  How do you do that?

Have you ever been a stumbling block for someone else? How did you recognize it?

Pray for each other:

Gracious God, take my life, and my habits of stumbling and making a mess, and turn them into stepping stones so that I myself, and everyone I encounter, can find the path clear to you.  Amen.

August 30

Check in.  How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual? Here’s a fun WARM question: Have you ever climbed a mountain?  What’s the highest place you’ve ever been?2. Dig Deeper – Matthew 18:15-20

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 15“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Here are the reflection questions:
– People like to quote that where two or three are gathered, God is there with them.  However, I like to think that God is with us when we are alone also. What do you think this is about?
– Does it seem like this teaching of Jesus conflicts with the “turn the other cheek” teaching?  Why or why not?
– I love that Jesus tells us to deal with our problems directly first.  As humans, many of us have a hard time with this.  What do you think that is about?

Pray for each other.  I love to ask people for joys and concerns – if you’re concerned about remembering them all, you can ask them to type them in the chat window on zoom.  (This is what I do with the confirmands.).Or, you can pray this prayer from St. Alban’s Anglican Church:Oh God, our Father,In a world turn apart by fear and suspicion,Teach us your children that Love is the only means to conquer fear:

The Love we encounter as we search you out,

The Love we encounter as we accept your embrace.

Oh God, the Son,

In a world full of anger and frustration,

Teach us, your servants, your friends, your sisters and your brothers,

To overturn the tables and tear down the fences

Which turn away the hungry and homeless:

To feed and house the disciple that knocks on our door

In the guise of the stranger,

And to find the Love we seek in loving others.

Oh God, the Holy Spirit,

Mother of Wisdom,

Teach us, your children, to be caring of one another,

To protect one another,

As you gather the nations under the feathers of your wings.

Help us to know peace that steals gently in through quiet acts of kindness.

Amen

August 23

1. Check in.  How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual?
Here’s a fun WARM question: When was a time that you had to stretch to make ends meet?

Dig Deeper – Matthew 14:13-21

13Now when Jesus heard [about the beheading of John the Baptist], he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Here are the reflection questions:

– This is often recalled as the feeding of the 5,000.  But there were probably more like 20,000.  Was it a miracle that there was enough?  What do you think?

– The disciples say that the place was deserted.  With all those people?  What do you think they meant?

– Jesus, in this story, is mourning his cousin John.  Yet, he still has compassion for others.  What can we learn from this?  What is the takeaway for us?

Pray for each other.I love to ask people for joys and concerns – if you’re concerned about remembering them all, you can ask them to type them in the chat window on zoom.  (This is what I do with the confirmands.).Or, you can pray this prayer:

Prayer of Confession

We come believing in our emptiness,
believing that we will never have enough,
believing that what we have is unworthy.

We come fearful of sharing,
fearful of losing our tenuous grip on security,
fearful of touching and knowing the pain of others.

We come overwhelmed by the hunger,
overwhelmed by the suffering of children near and far,
overwhelmed by the endless tales of senseless violence, greed, and death.

We come aching from the weight of the responsibility,
aching from the chilling challenge of knowing our abundance,
aching from the gnawing awareness that we have much to share.

We come clinging to our meager lunches;
bless them, and us.
break them, and us.
share them, and us.

~ written by Katherine Hawker, on Liturgy Outside.
http://liturgyoutside.net/

August 16

1. Check in.  How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual?
Here’s a fun WARM question: Tell about a time that you had to be persistent.

2. Dig Deeper – Matthew 15:[10-20] 21-28

10[Jesus] called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand:11it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” 12Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” 15But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” 16Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”
21Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Here are the reflection questions:
– When you think of the word “defile,” what does it imply to you? What do you associate with it?

– This woman is often seen as persistent, or impertinent.  Jesus seems to think that that makes her faithful. What do you make of that?

– The blind leading the blind. Where do you see this kind of leadership today? Think about social media.  What could we do differently, so we do not fall into the pit?

Pray for each other.I love to ask people for joys and concerns – if you’re concerned about remembering them all, you can ask them to type them in the chat window on zoom.  (This is what I do with the confirmands.).Or, you can pray this prayer,

O Christ our Lord,
as the Canaanite woman brought her daughter’s need to you,
overcoming stigma and rejection to do so,
confident of your healing in her life,
we bring the needs of others in prayer:

Those for whom pain is a constant companion
Those who daily live with chronic illness or ill-health
Those who struggle with the confusion and distress

of mental illness
Those who care for and treat people who are ill

and sometimes have agonizing decisions to face
Those for whom treatment is not available or affordable
And for ourselves in our own weakness

To all your children everywhere,
Lord Jesus Christ,

bring healing,

bring peace. Amen.

~ posted on the Monthly Prayers page of the Christian Aid website. http://www.christianaid.org.uk/

August 9

Check in.How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual?Here’s a fun WARM question: How do you feel about boats? About water? About swimming?  Why?2. Dig Deeper – Matthew 14:22-33

22[Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side [of the Sea of Galilee], while he dismissed the crowds.23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
28Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Here are the reflection questions:

Why do you think Peter began to sink? Why did Peter want to go out on the water anyway?

The boat is often a metaphor for the church – the body of Christ.  What does that imply for this story?

Where are you feeling called out onto the water these days?  Where is it overwhelming?  Where is it exciting?

Pray for each other.I love to ask people for joys and concerns – if you’re concerned about remembering them all, you can ask them to type them in the chat window on zoom.  (This is what I do with the confirmands.).Or, you can pray this prayer, from re:worship:

Gracious God,

You call us to let go of the things we cling to

and step out in faith,

trusting in Your love and provision.

Give us courage to step out boldly,

and sufficient faith to follow without fear.

Take our lives and our gifts.

Use them to accomplish more than we could possibly imagine,

so that, through us, Your kingdom might come

and Your will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.  Amen.

August 2

1. Check in.  How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual?
Here’s a fun WARM question: How good are you at forgiving people?  Are you someone who holds on to things, or lets them go easily?

2. Dig Deeper – Matthew 16:13-20

13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do

people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others

Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say

that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17And

Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed

this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build

my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the

kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever

you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell

anyone that he was the Messiah.

Here are the reflection questions:
– Who do you say that the Son of Man is?  What does this mean to you? What are the implications?

– The keys to the kingdom of heaven involve bondage and freedom, says Jesus.  What does this mean?  What does it mean if you have the power to loose and to bind?  Why would you choose to bind?

– What does it mean for Jesus to say that Peter is his rock?  I mean, Peter’s not a very consistent person, right?  What is Jesus thinking?  What does it mean for us today?

Pray for each other.  I love to ask people for joys and concerns – if you’re concerned about remembering them all, you can ask them to type them in the chat window on zoom.  (This is what I do with the confirmands.).Or, you can pray this prayer, from a student at Asbury Seminary:

Champ Squires, student – 5/1/2020

Father, Son & Holy Spirit, in these days when everything around us, above us, and the ground beneath us seems to be unsettled and shaking, remind us that you are unchanging and the immovable rock. For Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand. Lord Jesus, keep our eyes and mind ever fixed on you so that our gaze is directed upward. It’s so easy in times of trial and difficulty to feel like we’re walking through the wilderness. Lord in our humanness do not let us settle for the path of least resistance or for the waterholes that pigs wash themselves in but Lord, give us the strength and the endurance to keep moving forward to climb the mountain and give us the endurance that we need not just for the days ahead but for the here and now. It’s because of you, Lord Jesus, that we know better and brighter days are ahead of us and that the best is yet to come. All we have to do is take you at your word and trust in you with the confidence and the assurance that you’ve been faithful before and you’ll be faithful again. Lord, oh how we need you. Amen.

July 26

1. Check in.  How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual?
Here’s a fun WARM question: What is the best treasure you have ever discovered?

2. Dig Deeper – Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

31[Jesus] put before [the crowds] another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;32it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
33He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
44“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Here are the reflection questions:
– Jesus is telling us that the kingdom of heaven is like many things of value.  What do you think the kingdom of heaven is like?

– The last line of this reading is often overlooked.  What do you think ti means to bring out of your treasure what is new, and what is old?

– Pastor Kathy told in her sermon that we seem to be in a time of waiting.  What are you the most impatient for right now?  Where are you finding patience?

Pray for each other.  I love to ask people for joys and concerns – if you’re concerned about remembering them all, you can ask them to type them in the chat window on zoom.  (This is what I do with the confirmands.).Or, you can pray this prayer:

Prayer: Lord My God (St Anselm of Canterbury)

O Lord my God.
Teach my heart this day,
where and how to find you.

You have made me and remade me,
and you have bestowed on me all the good things I possess,
and still, I do not know you.
I have not yet done that for which I was made.
Teach me to seek you,
for I cannot seek you unless you teach me,
or find you unless you show yourself to me.

Let me seek you in my desire;
let me desire you in my seeking.
Let me find you by loving you;
let me love you when I find you. Amen.

July 12

Check in.  How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual?
Here’s a fun WARM question: Who is the best gardener you’ve ever known? What made them great?

Dig Deeper – Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!”

18“Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Here are the reflection questions:
– Which type of soil do you think you’re working with these days? Rock ground? Weedy? Good soil?
– We don’t always get to reap what we sow. What does it meant you to plant crops you may never harvest? How do you cope with that?
– Jesus got in a boat to get away from the crowd and gather his thoughts.  What do you do when you’re overwhelmed?

Pray for each other.  I love to ask people for joys and concerns – if you’re concerned about remembering them all, you can ask them to type them in the chat window on zoom.  (This is what I do with the confirmands.).

Or, you can pray this prayer, from Rev. Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia:

Jesus, you sow yourself
The Word of Truth, generously
The Word of Life, graciously

Defend us from the Evil One
Who seeks to snatch us away

Fortify us for hard times and costly discipleship
That we may endure

Deliver us from distraction
From worldly desires and
All that would lure us and choke us with false promises

Till us
Turn us
Enrich us with every blessing of your Spirit
That we may be good, good soil
Forever faithful and fruitful for you
Amen

July 5

1. Check in.  How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual?
Here’s a fun WARM question: When was the last time you felt fully rested? What made that possible?

Dig Deeper – Matthew 11

[Jesus spoke to the crowd saying:] 16“To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

17‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’

18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

25At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Here are the reflection questions:

– There seems to be a “Catch 22” feeling here in verse 18 and 19.  What is Jesus talking about?

– Wisdom seems to make some strange choices in v 25-27.  What infants is Jesus referring to?

– Pastor Kathy mentioned being yoked implies being tied to some kind of work, and Jesus’ yoke is different from other yokes we may put on.  What yokes are you currently carrying?  What would it be like to have Jesus’ yoke instead?

Pray for each other.  I love to ask people for joys and concerns – if you’re concerned about remembering them all, you can ask them to type them in the chat window on zoom.  (This is what I do with the confirmands.).

Or, you can pray this prayer, from Nadia Bolz-Weber written July 3, 2020.

Dear God,

Everyone’s exhausted right now: parents, activists, cashiers, people who are just now actually learning about systemic racism, delivery drivers, the unemployed, the chronically sick, ER nurses, those who fear the police, the elderly, performers with no hope of an audience any time soon, clergy, social workers, those who can’t make their rent, and everyone who has to spray something down with disinfectant for the 1,000th time.

Teach us to rest, Lord. Help us dial back our obsession with productivity. Raise up more helpers for those who are over-extended Lord – stir up the desire to serve in those who only take. Remove barriers to napping. Quiet babies for an hour so those new mamas can sleep. Make us aware of any new binge-able NETFLIX shows that might help. Give employers the will to grant extra paid mental-health days. Quiet those voices that tell us we should be doing more right now, especially the ones that come from inside of us. Teach us not to confuse respite with laziness. Increase our compassion for one another. And while you’re at it, increase our compassion for ourselves.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

AMEN.

June 29

1. Check in.  How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual?
Here’s a fun WARM question: Tell about a time in your life that you felt revolutionary! Happy fourth of July!

2. Dig Deeper – Matthew 10:40-42

[Jesus said to the twelve:] 40“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

Here are the reflection questions:

Jesus seems to imply that there is a disciple’s reward.  What do you think that might be?

Welcome is a very general term in the English language.  How do you define welcome? How do you think Jesus might define it?

This past Sunday we celebrated Pride Sunday – celebrating our LGBTQIA+ siblings in the body of Christ.  Do you think we did well? Too much? Not enough? Why?

Pray for each other.  I love to ask people for joys and concerns – if you’re concerned about remembering them all, you can ask them to type them in the chat window on zoom.  (This is what I do with the confirmands.).Or, you can use this prayer from Pastor Ruth Harvey that I found here:  https://www.spiritualityofconflict.com/readings/260/fourth-sunday-after-pentecost.Welcoming Godwhen we have rejectedyour wide open arms

forgive us.

Embracing God
when we have closed the door
on the homeless, the lost, the sick,
remind us

that your welcome at our birth,
and your radical hospitality at our death
are unconditional moments of grace
– of welcome and reward –

which in our turn we offer to
the ‘other’ always in our midst.

In the name of Jesus,
the reconciling Son and Christ we pray.
Amen

June 22

1. Check in.  How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual?
Here’s a fun WARM question: Tell about a time in your life that you learned a truth that changed something significant in your life.

2. Dig Deeper – Matthew 10:24-39

[Jesus said to the twelve:] 24“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
26“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
32“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
34“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Here are the reflection questions:

1. One of the ideas I talked about in my sermon was that God is both everywhere and omnipotent, creating mountains and oceans; and at the same time God is close in and focused, knowing the hairs on our heads.  Does this make you comfortable or uncomfortable?  Why?

2. Jesus says that acknowledging him may cause disruption in families.  In some families, conflict is not tolerated at all.  What do you do? Is it worth it to create the discord?

3. Jesus says that everything will be made known, or ’uncovered.’ What does this mean to you?  Is there a sense or relief, or a sense of anxiety? How does it feel?

4. Pray for each other.  I love to ask people for joys and concerns – if you’re concerned about remembering them all, you can ask them to type them in the chat window on zoom.  (This is what I do with the confirmands.).

Or, you can try this prayer together from the RevGalBlogPals website.

Dear God,

As on so many days in our world,

a lot of tragic things happened yesterday.

You have counted the hairs on the head

and know the names of each one who died

in the school shooting in Florida

and in the famine in the Yemen

and in the war torn cities of the world

and in the places with no medicine or clean water…

You know their names,

each one’s name,

and call them beloved.

Help us to live and to love

into the full truth of their belovedness;

working for a world

where children are treasured,

where life is honoured,

where peace is pursued,

where justice is done.

Confront us with your love,

confront us with your justice,

and, by your Spirit,

make us your living, loving people.

Amen.

June 15

1. Check in.  How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual?
Here’s a fun WARM question: Tell about a time in your life that felt like you needed to shake the dust from your shoes and move on.

2. Dig Deeper – Matthew 9:35-10:8

35Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming

the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36When he saw

the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep

without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are

few; 38therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

10:1Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits,

to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2These are the names of

the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son

of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax

collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the

one who betrayed him.

5These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the

Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of

Israel. 7As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8Cure the

sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give

without payment.  [9Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10no bag for your journey,

or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. 11Whatever town or village

you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12As you enter the house,

greet it. 13If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your

peace return to you. 14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust

from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the

land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

16“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and

innocent as doves. 17Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in

their synagogues; 18and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a

testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19When they hand you over, do not worry about how you

are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time;

20for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21Brother will

betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have

them put to death; 22and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures

to the end will be saved. 23When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell

you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”]

Here are the reflection questions:

1. What does it mean to be a disciple?  What do disciples do?

Why would Jesus ask us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves? What does that mean?

What does gathering lost sheep look like these days? Who would Jesus says is lost in our world?

Pray for each other.  I love to ask people for joys and concerns – if you’re concerned about remembering them all, you can ask them to type them in the chat window on zoom.  (This is what I do with the confirmands.).Or you can pray this prayer from Henri Nouwen:

Dear Lord, you have sent us into this world to preach your word. So often the problems of the world seem so complex and intricate that your word strikes us as embarrassingly simple. Many times we feel tongue-tied in the company of people who are dealing with the world’s social and economic problems.

But you, O Lord, said, “Be clever as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Let us retain innocence and simplicity in the midst of this complex world.

We realize that we have to be informed, that we have to study the many aspects of the problems facing the world, and that we have to try to understand as well as possible the dynamics of our contemporary society. But what really counts is that all this information, knowledge, and insight allows us to speak more clearly and unambiguously your truthful word.

Do not allow evil powers to seduce us with the complexities of the world’s problems, but give us strength to think clearly, speak freely, and act boldly in your service. Give us the courage to show the dove in a world so full of serpents. Amen.

June 8

Check in.  How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual?

Here’s a fun WARM question: If you had to pick just one member of the trinity to hang out with, who would you choose?

2. Dig Deeper – Matthew 28:16-20 – Trinity Sunday Reflection

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Here are the reflection questions:

What is the Trinity?  What is a doctrine?

Why do we baptize people?  What’s the point?

This is one of two things Jesus actually tells us to DO – to baptize.  What’s the other one?

Pray for each other.  I love to ask people for joys and concerns – if you’re concerned about remembering them all, you can ask them to type them in the chat window on zoom.  (This is what I do with the confirmands.).

Here’s a thoughtful prayer about the trinity from Steve Collins.

three is the magic number
three is the magic number
calling us out of individualism
insisting on relationship
i to you
we to another
trinity seeding networks
until all the cosmos joins in

one to create
one to save
one to sustain

one to author
one to fight
one to enliven

one to conceive
one to die
one to resurrect

one to plan
one to act
one to explain

one’s sufficient
two’s company
three’s community

trinity expose our self-reliance
trinity break open our exclusivity
trinity seed our joining tonight

amen

June 1

Check in.  How are you doing?  Physical, mental, and spiritual? Here’s a fun WARM question: Who was the first person of a race different than your own that you were close to?  How did you meet?

Digging Deeper: Acts 2:1-21

What do you think that the story of Pentecost holds for us today? I mentioned that I hope that the gift of deeper understanding between each other might be a continuing gift.  Perhaps that we could understand the prophesying of our black sisters and brothers more clearly and deeply.  What do you see in it for us today?

Pray for each other.  I love to ask people for joys and concerns – if you’re concerned about remembering them all, you can ask them to type them in the chat window on zoom.  (This is what I do with the confirmands.). If that’s too uncomfortable, here’s a prayer from the ELCA that is great to pray in these days:

Save us, O God, from ourselves,

from racism often cloaked in pious words,

from the machinations of white supremacy hidden in calls for civility,

from micro aggressions thinly veiled in arrogance,

from apologies when they don’t give way to action,

from forgiveness without facing the truth,

from reconciliation without reparation.

Deliver us, O God, from expecting siblings of color to continue to bear this emotional work,

which is not theirs to do.

Grateful for the long arc that bends toward justice, we pray:

Grant us wisdom,

give us courage for the facing of these days,

by the power of the Spirit, all for the sake of the kin-dom that we share in Christ Jesus.

Amen.

Our Redeemer’s Blog

Along with our calendar, our blog is a great place to see what we’re up to. Read the posts below to hear musings from Pastor Kathy, ministry leaders and folks in our community. You can use a filter to read updates on our high school youth activities, Kids’ Church and much more. There’s a lot happening around here. Feel free to leave a comment, email the author, share things on facebook, and join the conversation.

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