12-31-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

December 31, 2019

Scripture: Matthew 2:1-2

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”

Thought for the Day: When we first brought Zach home from Guatemala, we had all kinds of visitors. The birth of a child (or in our case, an adoption) is like a magnet that draws well-wishers from far and near. Of course, family came to see the little one, but so did folks we didn’t imagine ever having much interest. In fact, there were people we didn’t know very well who showed up with gifts in hand. Yet there is something about the arrival of a new life that draws a crowd, and that’s the way it should be. Whatever the family circumstance (adoption, traditional family, single parent, surrogate mother, foster, etc.), a baby needs to be honored.

Prayer: For all life that arrives in this world, we give you thank, O Lord. Amen.




12-30-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

December 30, 2019

By Rev. Paula Gembala

Prayer for the Week: Loving and merciful God, you have taught us you are the Light of the World. All throughout the bible, in the old and new testaments, we hear of your light. We want your light to shine from within us, that others may want what we have.

Allow us to be your beacon of light so others will know you and love you. Allow us to share your word with those who seek to know you more.

Remind us day and night to read your word and be in conversation with you. Teach us to allow you into each part of our lives, the good and the bad alike.

Help us to understand your love is as far as the East is from the West, as deep as the ocean and as high as the mountaintops and beyond.

Your word has taught us your light shines in the darkness, darkness has not overcome the light. Your light is not just for a day or a season, but all throughout our lives as we follow your son Jesus. It is in his name that we offer this prayer. Amen.

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12-29-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

December 29, 2019

Scripture: Matthew 2:8-9

Then Herod sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.

Thought for the Day: The Buddha spoke of how the wise are diligent, and how diligence is the way to life. I think the same idea is found within Christianity as story after story portrays those who were willing to sacrifice so much in their tenacious search for the Source of Life. The magi (wise men) from the East left behind everything and traveled into the complete unknown with a starry hope as their only guide, yet they did so willingly. For those of us at Cypress Creek Christian Church, we will need the diligence of the magi as we find ourselves following a starry hope into the complete unknown.

Prayer: We go with faith, O Lord, and not much else… yet we believe you will be present in both the destination and the journey. Amen.




12-28-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

December 28, 2019

Scripture: John 1:16

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

Thought for the Day: What is grace upon grace? According to William Barclay, the wonderful scholar from the last century, this phrase is referring to how grace comes to us as we need it. Grace is not one-dimensional, with only one means of expressing itself. Grace is multifaceted, with an ability of conveying itself in any circumstance. Too often we define grace so narrowly that we are incapable of seeing grace when it comes to us in unexpected ways – like a child laid to rest in a feeding trough.

Prayer: Transform my narrow expectations of you, O Lord, so I may see your loving-kindness at work in the most unanticipated places. Amen.



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12-27-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

December 27, 2019

Scripture: Luke 2:21-24

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

 

Thought for the Day: Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus did what any good Jewish family would have done which included making a sacrifice of gratitude to God. Luke, the Gospel writer, offers details that the other Gospels did not. Among the details included was the type of sacrifice made. Jewish law set forth a specific sacrifice to be made after the birth of a child, but if the family was poor and unable to make the appropriate sacrifice, the option of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons was allowed. This little piece of information reminds us of the economic situation in which the baby Jesus was born. Luke offers us this important detail to turn upside down the old thinking that God showed concern only for certain people with certain status. In today’s Christianity, it is hard for us to appreciate how much of religion, in the days of Jesus, tied divine blessing with economic wealth and social status. I know you’ll be shocked to learn (sarcasm) that those who controlled the religious narrative in those days were the wealthy and powerful. Then came the Jesus story to obliterate the idea that tied wealth to divine blessing, though I remain surprised how this thinking has returned in every generation of Christianity in one way or another. Today, it is called the Prosperity Gospel, and it has a lot of followers. Sadly, it has a lot of money and absolutely no Jesus.

 

Prayer: O God, we give you thanks for the little reminders of your far-reaching grace that has no interest in social status or appearance. Amen.



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12-26-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

December 26, 2019

Scripture: Luke 2:8-9

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

Thought for the Day: Have you ever been minding your own business, doing what you were expected to do, and the unexpected happened? How many nights had some of these shepherds watched and protected flocks? Let’s say they had been doing it for 15 years, and let us dream generously that they got a couple weeks off every year. If that’s the case, they had done this over 5,000 times. To suggest it was routine would be an understatement. I’m sure there were some exciting nights when a wolf or thief attempted to take one of the sheep, but even that was somewhat expected. Angels, in all their glory, were not even on the radar of the most creatively imaginative shepherd. In those moments, what is your reaction? Fear is a common reaction, and an understandable reaction. But does fear in the face of the unexpected need to be the defining emotion and/or reaction? As you’ve often heard me say: fear can be an engine or information. We can let it be an engine that causes us to run away, or it can be information that says, “Wow, that was unexpected… (after catching one’s breath), but what does it mean?” Let’s go beyond the reading of the story and try to live the story, following the example of the shepherds, for though they were terrified, they paused long enough to see how the unexpected was, in fact, glorious news.

Prayer: Give me space to react when the unexpected occurs, O Merciful and Gentle God. Allow for your grace to help me pause long enough to see through the shock and to glimpse the message being revealed. Amen.



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12-25-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

December 25, 2019

Scripture: Luke 2:4-7

Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Thought for the Day: Take some time to simply read these words – both silently and out loud. Pick a word or phrase that resonates with you and allow them to reside in you the remainder of the day.

Prayer: O what a beautiful moment! It’s not the weather or even the forecast, but your love enfleshed, O God, that is beautiful. Allow for the story of Christ’s birth to be a story of hope and joy that we share this day and throughout the year ahead. Make a receptive manger within each of us, so that your sacred gift has a place to reside and embody itself. May the meaning and the value this gift portrays be manifest not only in the words I share but in the life I live. Thank you for this Christmas Moment, a moment made beautiful because of a child, Christ the Lord. Amen.



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12-24-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

December 24, 2019

Scripture: Luke 2:1-3

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. All went to their own towns to be registered.

Thought for the Day: I have referenced this so many times, but I think it deserves repeating. The Gospel Writer believes this information is important to his audience. Why not just say, “The couple had to make a visit to Bethlehem to take care of some business”? It sure seems as if the Gospel Writer wants us, the readers, to understand that God is acting in history, and not “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” What God is about to do is happening among real people, living in real life circumstances. Mary and Joseph woke every morning to a Roman Empire that held power over the Jewish people. The story is not told from the perspective of middle class folks doing well and enjoying Roman life. These are people who are forced to make a journey to comply with bureaucratic rules, often imposed on people just to reinforce who had the power and who did not. What does it tell you about God when rather unknown people under incredibly difficult life events are the focus of God’s attention?

Prayer: It is upon us! The glorious news spoken to shepherd will once again be announced to the world: A child is born to us! O Holy One of this day, let us again hear the news of your eternal presence entering human existence, not because certain people deserve it or can pay for it. You enter because you love us. Amen.



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12-23-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

December 23, 2019

Prayer for the Week: Holy God, you have no beginning, no starting place, no birth, yet you chose to enter this world through a nativity, through a woman’s womb. The fullness of your love took on flesh and bone and blood. The completeness of your mercy became one of us to reveal a vision of a life no longer ruled by guilt and greed. As we celebrate the Emmanuel, your presence with us, let us truly reflect upon what it means to suggest the divine put on skin. Forgive us when we simply celebrate a moment in the past instead of recognizing how your presence is always seeking a life to embody, a body to give it life. Let your church be reborn this Christmas, allowing for the fullness of your love and the completeness of your mercy to be woven into our flesh and bones and blood. Make our individual bodies and our corporate body the nativity of your transforming gift that comes to a world once again needing a vision of life no longer ruled by guilt and greed. This we pray in the name of the child born into the Bethlehem of every generation. Amen.



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12-22-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

December 22, 2019

Scripture: Isaiah 60:1

Arise! Shine! Your light has come; the LORD’s glory has shone upon you.

Thought for the Day: This is the opening verse of today’s text at Cypress Creek Christian Church, the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The reader (listener in the day of the Prophet) was to arise and shine. Notice that it doesn’t say, “Arise! Bask!” It doesn’t say, “Arise! Revel or Wallow!” The Light has come, the Glory of the Lord engulfs us. We arise, for we have seen the light. But with that awakening comes responsibility. We need to shine! We never arrogantly claim to be the ultimate source of the light, but once we’ve been awakened by this experience, it burns within us. Let us feel confident in our capacity to bring the light of the Christ Child to the world, specifically those places and people we encounter every single day.

Prayer: Your light, O Lord, has come! It shines all around me, engulfing me with its warmth and welcome. Allow for that light to become a part of who I am so that wherever I am, your light can be made visible through me. Amen.