Today’s Devotional from Rev. Tami Nelson
Scripture: Proverbs 22:6
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
Thought for the Day: We all hear this scripture and immediately think about all of the ways we can pour into our children and youth. We are eager to give them the best foundation we can because as adults we know life will present an array of challenges. Unfortunately after youth we forget that young adults still need help in the area of faith formation. It is perhaps the most vulnerable time in a person’s life. They have the freedom to make life altering decisions even though their spirit is young and still eager to explore the unknown. As Executive Director of United Campus Ministry of Greater Houston (an ecumenical partnership between the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Church of Christ, and the Disciples of Christ, the Christian Church) I get a chance to pour into these young adults. Campus Ministry is life giving not just to the students but to all those who serve them. It is my prayer that we begin to extend faith formation to young adults and nurture their curiosity so they can be the church of tomorrow.
Prayer: God of hope, help us to know that as your children we are always seeking and needing your love. Help us to extend this same love to all those who find themselves in an adolescent faith. In Jesus’ name who is the greatest example of love. Amen.
From Mariah Newell, Youth Minister at CCCC
Prayer for the Week: There are times in our lives when we want to breeze past someone’s story. We are too busy or we just don’t want to pause. We want to believe others do not intentionally cause pain to one another. However, one of the many gifts you give is focused listening to our story, even when it is a story of pain. We ask your presence in our lives to help open our hearts to one another when our neighbor needs us to pause and listen to their story. Help us carry the names and stand in solidarity with those who may be hurting. You are a God of love and a God who remembers those who feel forgotten. Thank you for your continued presence. Amen.
As They Prepare
To Go Back
Scripture: Proverbs 31:6
Give strong drink to those who are perishing and wine to those whose hearts are bitter.
Thought for the Day: I don’t know why, but I’ve always liked this verse of scripture. According to these words, alcoholic beverages are for those who are in pain, both physical and emotional. There is no question that alcohol can dull what hurts, and in the time in which those words were written, alcohol was medicine for whatever might ail you. In today’s world, with all that we know about the unhealthiness of trying to dull the pain with alcohol, I don’t believe I can recommend the advice of the author. In fact, we too often reach for alcohol or drugs to mask the pain we are experiencing and never deal with the underlying cause. I’m not suggesting we should ignore the doctor and decline pain medication when it is necessary. But as people who believe God created us as whole creatures (the synthesis of mind, body and spirit), then we should acknowledge our need for a professional counselor or spiritual advisor to deal with the underlying cause of the pain we often seek to dull. At times, medication might be advantageous in our healing, but quite often it is only one tool toward wholeness… and other times, it keeps us from the real work.
Prayer: As I seek health and wholeness in my life, O God, I pray that you will venture with me as I face the root causes of emotional hurt. I wish to be whole. Amen.
A GREAT MORNING
TO BE TOGETHER
Scripture: Exodus 14:10-13
As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, “Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again.
Thought for the Day: I’ve always loved the line, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt…?” In the face of what appeared to be utter helplessness, the Israelites were willing to surrender everything. When hopelessness runs rampant, people are agreeable to almost anything. It’s as if the Israelites were saying, “We’d rather die as slaves in Egypt then to take a chance at a liberated life.” That’s hopelessness speaking. That’s despair talking. Of course, we see the opposite occur when those who are hopeless are suddenly inspired with a vision of the possible. We’ve seen it at Oberlin College where a young Lucy Stone began to question the inability of women to vote in this country. We’ve seen it on a public bus in Montgomery where Rosa Parks refused to move. We’ve seen it in Tiananmen Square where an unknown man stood against tanks. Even just a glimpse of hope is a powerful agent of transformation! Where are you seeing hope? Where are you a reflection of hope to others?
Prayer: Make me an instrument of your hope, O God, so those who are enslaved by despair might glimpse what’s possible through you. Amen.
9am & 11am
Scripture: Exodus 7:16
Say to Pharaoh, “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you to say, ‘Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.’ But until now you have not listened.”
Thought for the Day: God sends people into dangerous situations. Now I will hear folks say, “God would never send God’s people into places where God could not save them.” Of course, that doesn’t seem to make sense in light of the millions of martyrs who followed the call that lead to their own cross. With that said, God needs our voices to speak a prophetic word over and against the injustices of the world. We need to speak out as Moses did for the sake of the oppressed and enslaved. At times, it just might take us to the doorstep of those who would cause us harm. Yet without our voice, their unrighteous activity goes unopposed and unimpeded. And when that occurs, we can guarantee that many more will face harm.
Prayer: My Lord and my God, in the face of suffering, give me a fearless voice that will speak the truth wherever you feel it necessary. Amen.
Scripture: Exodus 3:13-15
But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, “What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.’ “ God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.
Thought for the Day: I have three names (first, middle and last), but they really are not very revealing about who I am. When God uses three different names, they are very self-revealing. At first, God shrouds the divine nature in mystery—I am who I am. Those words sound so ambiguous, yet they also describe One who is self-reliant and autonomous. Then God gives the great “I am” statement which is usually followed by some noun that further describes the individual. In God’s case, it remains empty as if God is saying there is no single word that would make sense. Instead, I am the One who cannot be defined, yet I define and give meaning to all others. And finally, God makes a significant transition as the divine nature is connected to the great names in Jewish history: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This One who cannot be defined is One who still wishes to be in relationship with humanity. There is a lot to learn and a lot to ponder in these words, yet I see One who continues to challenge me whenever I try to wrap up God in some easily defined package.
Prayer: Awesome God, let me never forget that you will always be more than I will understand. Amen.
What Are You Doing
To Prepar For Worship
Scripture: Exodus 2:1-3
Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river.
Thought for the Day: Throughout history, some of the great hero stories began just as this one does. This is the story of Moses who would become a hero of the Jewish faith. The idea of an infant who was miraculously delivered stretches as far back as 3000 BC when the Mesopotamian King, Sargon the Great, had an almost identical story told of him. Even the story of Jesus told in Matthew’s Gospel portrays the holy family’s narrow escape to Egypt when Herod was threatening violence. In a sense, each of these early years of life become a lens through which the entire life story can be told. When hope appears to have been lost, little acts of redemption and deliverance become a foretelling of what’s to come. These stories are a hint of what will later happen on a large scale.
Prayer: May your redemptive work in my life, O Loving God, be the model by which warring groups, races and nations find healing and deliverance. Amen.
COMING THIS SUNDAY
Scripture: Exodus 1:8-10
Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, 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.”
Thought for the Day: This will begin a week with Exodus. There is no way we can explore all of Exodus in one week, but maybe this will encourage further exploration.
Things can change quickly. The Israelites were living in Egypt and enjoying a good relationship with the Egyptians. But with a change of leadership, the future of a people was forever altered. The stories of ancient Israel parallel the life of real people. One doctor’s visit; one bad choice; one new boss; one angry word; one little thing can forever alter our future. For Israel, it appeared as if the promises of God would no longer be achievable, and the people felt utterly hopeless. Yet the larger story of Exodus is one of a God who remained faithful in the midst of changing circumstances. Though the future was nothing like the Israelites thought it would be, God demonstrated faithfulness squarely in the middle of the unexpected. It just wasn’t apparent to those who were living it. Amidst our changing circumstance, let us look to the story of Exodus for confirmation of God’s faithfulness, even when we can’t see it.
Prayer: Trustworthy God, may my faith grow in confidence despite a changing and often uncertain world. Amen.
PRAY FOR OUR YOUTH
WHO ARE AT CHURCH CAMP
Prayer for the Week: There is so much more to the stories of faith than we might first believe. There is so much depth and contextual meaning that is not visible at first glance. There is so much beauty that is lost when we read it through the lens of pithy and empty religiosity that has co-opted following Jesus. O Holy One of the Universe, there is a beckoning that echos throughout creation that draws us beyond some narrow view of life. This invitation is seen in the complexity of literature and genre found in the holy texts of our faith. So many voices attempting to speak faithfully within their ancient world, and we too attempt to speak faithfully in this unique moment of human existence. Encourage an eagerness within us for the purpose of exploring a faithful life that moves beyond a bunch of Do’s and Don’ts, beyond a catchy feel-good phrase. Let us wrestle with the musty, dirty, uneasy and mosaic-like stories of the faithful. Where new questions arise that do not appear to have simple answers, provide us peace as we sit with the questions. Let us push aside the pain-free explanations that require nothing of us. We ask this in the name of the one who was the Living Word, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 118:24
This is the day the LORD acted; we will rejoice and celebrate in it!
Thought for the Day: It is Sunday, and this is the day the LORD acted. I believe most folks know this verse as the LORD made, but the Hebrew word can be translated in a dozen or so ways. At first, I didn’t like the word acted. The poetry didn’t feel right to me, yet as I reflected on it more and more, I liked the invitation to live in the moment, to live today. It doesn’t suggest that God acted yesterday or will act tomorrow, though it does not eliminate the possibility. My prayer for you this day is simple: that you go beyond declaring this day as a day the LORD made, and experience God acting in this very moment.
Prayer: I wish to live a life of celebration, a life that rejoices in you, O Lord. May all my senses be made available to your presence at work in this day. Amen.
SEE YOU IN WORSHIP