Scripture: Daniel 6:13
Then they responded to the king, “Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the interdict you have signed, but he is saying his prayers three times a day.”
Thought for the Day: The internet here at the church office was running slow the other day, so I did a quick speed test. A speed test shows what your download and upload speeds are, and in most cases, the download speed is two to five times faster than the upload speed. I’m sure some smart people could explain to me why that’s the case, but for the sake of this morning’s thought, I’m simply making the observation…and thinking about its relationship to prayer. I would guess that the speed of prayers and prayer response has a lot to do with the one on the receiving end. In the case of our prayers lifted to God, the ‘upload’ speed is probably pretty quick as God’s ability is beyond measure. When it comes to receiving God’s response to our prayers, we are very measurable, and depending on the day, the receptivity is pretty low. Daniel prayed three times a day, not because God needed a specific amount of prayer or because God needed reminders. Daniel prayed three times because Daniel needed to pray, to open himself to God and the words of grace that God was attempting to speak to him. Daniel was incredibly faithful and deeply connected to God, and if he needed to pray three times a day, how often do I need to pray… 30? It is important to remember that God hears every prayer you offer, even those without words. Know that God responds to those prayers, and even when our ability to receive that response is less than adequate, God will try again and again.
Prayer: I thank you, Lord, for the way you listen with such grace. May I learn from you, and grow in my capacity to receive your response of love. Amen.
4th Sunday of Advent
When a Name Says A Lot
Scripture: Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.
Thought for the Day: I love the words of James G. Kirk who said in speaking Emmanuel, God with us, “Your footsteps shall accompany us, your breath shall give us new life, your arms will console us, and your hands will be there to welcome us home” (from the book, “We Gather”). God is often described in grandiose style, so amazing that we cannot picture this divine being as anything but distant, yet our eyes are drawn to a young woman who shall bear a son. In seeing this, the people declare, “This is God with us!”
Prayer: May your gracious presence, O God, teach us to be a presence of grace to one another. Amen.
Cypress Creek Christian Church
Scripture: Jeremiah 8:18
My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick.
Thought for the Day: Yesterday, I went to CNN’s website to check the stock market, yet I never made it to the stocks after reading the headline: The Slaughter of Children. The murder of more than 130 children makes all my wishes for a good return on my investments seem rather petty. Since reading the article and watching news stories, I can only describe my reaction as a combination of shock and denial. It is similar to my reaction after the Sandy Hook tragedy. These are normal feelings, a part of grief and sadness in the face of unspeakable and unexplainable evil. I echo the words of the Prophet Jeremiah when he speaks of his joy being gone, and I ask the same questions he will go on to ask: “For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?” Darkness falls upon us and upon the world, yet we claim again that the darkness could not overcome the light. It sure may appear that darkness has won, but my faith looks into the deep darkness and sees what my eyes may not be able to see through the grief and heartache… a child being born.
Prayer: Today, Lord, I grieve for my sisters and brothers who have experienced great loss. I pray for comfort and strength as they attempt to make their way in the darkness of grief. May my voice and witness continue to speak of light and life, hope and joy, in the face of such tragedies. Come, Lord Jesus! Come! Amen.
Children’s Christmas Program
In the Forum
Scripture: Luke 2:1-2
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
Thought for the Day: Many have leveled the complaint that Christianity is too far removed from the realities of most people. They say that Christianity is not relevant, and it does not speak to the issues of our modern world. In many ways, I believe those accusations have merit, but not because the Christian message is irrelevant…only because we have made it irrelevant. The Gospel of Luke places the story of Jesus smack-dab in the middle of 1st century day-to-day life. The birth story not only has a pertinent context for the original audience of the Gospel, but the story is truth being spoken to the power of the day. As long as we can stop derailing the Jesus-message with all kinds of peripheral and inconsequential issues, we will find the Jesus-message (from birth to death to resurrection to Kingdom-living) speaking clearly on the issues of poverty, exploitation, violence, war, fear, addiction, hopelessness, hatred and the list goes on. The Jesus-message is not irrelevant, but I would suggest that Christians have too often made it that way to diminish the true challenge of discipleship. We blame the culture, but there is a lot of ownership we need to accept in our exile to irrelevance.
Prayer: When I declare the Good News of Christ’s birth this Christmas season, may I see you, O Gift of Grace, being born into the very specific circumstance that is this December of 2014. Amen.
the Cramer Retreat Center
(1800 Meadow Edge Lane)
A Simple Dinner will be served
Scripture: Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Thought for the Day: George Mason is the Sr. Minister at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas. He has been this amazing figure and faithful voice for many years, and he has worked with us Disciples through his work at Brite Divinity School. Recently, The Dallas Morning News had an article by Gordon Keith, entitled: George Mason is my Texan of the Year (December 11, 2014). In the article, there was a single sentence that resinated with me. Keith wrote in regard to Rev. George Mason, “He knows the difference in defending the faith and being defensive about it.” How many Christians have utterly confused the two, and in doing so, driven away those on the fringes who have genuine questions and concerns. We should not be ashamed of our message, but at the same time, we should not be blindly arrogant about our faith. This arrogance only leads to a defensiveness that is neither attractive nor compelling. This coming year, I am going to work on joyfully defending my beliefs without getting defensive.
Prayer: Let me celebrate and share the faith you have given through love, O Lord of Light and Life, yet do not let me forget to be humble and listen and be willing to learn. Amen.
THIS TUESDAY EVENING
Cramer Retreat Center
Children’s Christmas Program
In the Forum
Scripture: Luke 1:37
For nothing will be impossible with God.
Thought for the Day: It was the great Green Bay Packers’ coach, Vince Lombardi, who said, “We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.” Mary seemed to think that what the angel suggested would be impossible, and I would probably have joined her in that assessment. Yet when God is an active participant in the workings of the things we claim to be impossible, we learn that the impossible is in fact a designation we have offered out of our fears or lack of vision. God is the One who makes a way when there does not appear to be a possible way for the simple reason that God always knew there was a possible way.
Prayer: Creative God, let me learn the heavenly vocabulary that does not include the word: impossible. Amen.
SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Special Music at all three Services
Scripture: Proverbs 18:12 (the Message)
Pride first, then the crash, but humility is precursor to honor.
Thought for the Day: From the Interfaith Youth Core, Eboo Patel writes, “I think it pleases God when people who have deep disagreements have deep friendships also.” I would go as far as saying it brings God joy to see people of different values and ideals humble themselves and appreciate the humanity of the other. A meeting place such as this requires that the individuals separate their need to be right from a higher calling of love and respect. When it happens, not only is their joy in heaven, but I have seen skeptical people discover real joy as they stumble across something they did not think they’d find – a good person on the other side.
Prayer: May I continue to learn the depth of your humility, Lord God, that chose to befriend even those who did not appreciate you. Amen.
THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Special Music at all three Services
Scripture: Luke 1:52-53
The Lord has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
Thought for the Day: Every Advent I come across these words, and I find myself squirming in my chair. As you compare my income and potential power to the average person in the world, I am both rich and powerful. 1.5 billion people live on less than $1.25/day. In those terms, I might be considered among those who God is bringing down and sending away empty. As easy as it is to dismiss that idea, I think it is important to allow the scriptures to make us feel uncomfortable when we have become a bit too comfortable. Though we may not feel very wealthy or powerful within our present context, we need to recognize the responsibility that comes with having what we have. Too often people uncouple their faith from sources of influence. Instead, those are the areas where our faith should be most diligent. It is faith that can both shape and utilize those sources of influence for God’s greater good.
Prayer: Allow what I have, Mighty God, to help lift up the lowly and fill the hungry with good things. Amen.
This Sunday Night
Consider Inviting A Friend
Scripture: Luke 1:78-79
“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Thought for the Day: From the beginning of time, God has been changing darkness into light. Where shadows shroud what God loves, the divine nature looks for ways of casting off the shadow. But once the cloud has been lifted and light shines, there remains another step. God guides our feet into a life of peace, yet we must choose to actually take the steps in the direction we are being guided. Too often we relish the new found light so much that we do not take note of God’s Spirit beckoning us in the ways of peace.
Prayer: If I appear to be a little awestruck by Your gift of light, O Lord, be persistent and continue to invite me into the life that exhibits Your peace. Amen.
Third Sunday of Advent
And Don’t Forget…
Scripture: 2nd Chronicles 9:1-2 (the Message)
The queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s reputation and came to Jerusalem to put his reputation to the test, asking all the tough questions. She made a showy entrance – an impressive retinue of attendants and camels loaded with perfume and much gold and precious stones. She emptied her heart to Solomon, talking over everything she cared about. And Solomon answered everything she put to him – nothing stumped him.
Thought for the Day: Though I have never read any of Victor Hugo’s novels or even his poetry, I remain enthralled by the story line of Les Miserable. Among his plethora of amazing quotes, I am draw to the words: “He who opens a school door, closes a prison.” The open doors of a school opens the minds of children and youth, yet those who for whatever reason are unable to enter those doors will often find themselves feeling as if their opportunities are limited – real or perceived. Whether it is school or any experience that will broaden the thinking of a young person, the church needs to do whatever it can to keep the path clear and the door wide open. Though some segments of Christianity along with other religions will do whatever they can to discourage education and to keep people in the shadows of ignorance, the church should never shy away from engaging in difficult and challenging conversations. Narrow thinking within religion has never brought about good, only destruction. By encouraging the pursuit of knowledge and celebrating educational achievement, the church itself will be strengthened.
Prayer: Give me an open mind, Lord God, and a willingness to listen gracefully to challenging questions others might articulate. Even when I do not know how to respond, provide me your peace so that I can continue in my own search of truth. Amen.
Noon & 6:30pm