Friday, November 6, 2020

Today’s reflection is by Deacon Karen Katamay.

“I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness. I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things.”  —Isaiah 45:6-7

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” —2 Thessalonians 3:5

As the days get shorter and darkness comes earlier, the part of the verse from Isaiah about God forming light and darkness stood out for me. Although I may see the shorter days and longer nights as an inconvenience for me and a reminder that winter is on its way, the change in daylight hours is a natural occurrence and part of God’s natural order of things. The shorter, cooler days signal plants and trees to begin to store energy in their trunks and roots to survive the winter. They are a sign to the birds to begin their migration, and a sign for all creatures to prepare for the colder weather to come. God forms light and darkness as part of his plan for creation.

Yet sometimes we face our own personal darkness, such as when we are angry, or depressed, or have bad thoughts about others. I admit that I have caught myself at times slipping into negative thoughts, especially with the polarization of our politics lately. But when I do, I take this to the Lord in prayer and he shines his light into my heart and mind and lifts me out of my negativity.

If we just take the time in prayer to ask for forgiveness and guidance when we feel the darkness in our lives, then, as the second verse today from 2 Thessalonians reminds us, the Lord will direct our hearts to the love of God and to our Savior, Jesus Christ, who will always be there for us and will guide us. Our loving, faithful God is truly like no other. Amen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

“Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” — 1 John 2:2

I always brush my teeth before going to the dentist for a cleaning. I’ve wondered, over the years, if doing so is necessary or just redundant. A Google search I did about five minutes ago confirms that brushing before a dental appointment is a good idea: it improves the efficiency of the cleaning. While efficiency is a good reason to brush before going to the dentist, it’s not really why I do it. I brush before going to the dentist because I want to make a good impression. I want to show up to my appointment all cleaned up and put together, so I won’t be embarrassed, and so I can demonstrate my good dental hygiene. It’s not unusual for us to want to “show up” to the stuff in our lives looking all put together. We do some light cleaning around the house to get ready for the professional cleaners arrive. We aim to lose a few pounds before joining a gym. Sometimes this instinct is harmless; sometimes it really gets in the way of our progress.

Have you ever felt like you need to get yourself cleaned up before you can approach God? I have. Like if I just behave a little better, sin a little less, read my Bible a little more, get my bad attitudes in check, do a few more acts of kindness—then I’ve earned my right to pray. If I just get my act together, then I can expect God to listen to me. I can finally expect God to love me a little more. 

But, of course, that approach to God is totally backwards. 

Today’s passage reminds us that our access to God—to God’s forgiveness and acceptance—has nothing to do with our own goodness or efforts. Our access to God has nothing to do with how “put together” we are. Our access to God has everything to do with Jesus. Jesus is the active party. Jesus is the one who’s already done the heavy lifting. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection we can, and should, turn to God just as we are: broken, messy, sinful, doubtful, confused, tired, regretful, hurting…you name it. There is no amount of tidying up you can do that will make God listen more, forgive more, or love more. God is already doing these things to the full. And no amount of cleaning up we do comes close to the washing away of sins that Jesus has already done, once and for all, for you and for the whole world.

When we feel we need to get our act together before we can start following Jesus, we miss the point. It is in following Jesus that we can enjoy being wholly ourselves: wholly loved and wholly forgiven.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Today’s reflection is written by Jade Schwich.

There is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. —Romans 3:22-24

I’ve been known to screw up now and then. The spring before my senior year of college, I never signed up for housing for the following school year. I ignored email after email thinking that they didn’t pertain to me. When I finally realized this screw-up, it seemed too late. The deadlines had passed. Would I have to commute each day to school? Would there be any spots left for me on campus?

I walked to the housing office and sheepishly admitted my mistake. The woman working there was understandably frustrated by my negligence but she said I wasn’t to worry. There would be a spot for me on campus after all! I breathed a sigh of relief and was grateful that I didn’t have to suffer the natural consequences of my stupid mistake. Not only that, but I ended up getting to room with an amazing young woman whose faith continues to inspire me to this day!

God is good. We have all screwed up. We don’t deserve good gifts. And our Lord showers us with gifts anyway. And he has given us the gift that no one else could give: forgiveness for our sins and redemption through Christ. Rejoice and be glad in our Lord who is faithful to us all! Amen.