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Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

March 1–March 2
March 3–5


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March 1, 2019 

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 99

Reflection
The Lord is king; let the peoples tremble!

This psalm reminds us whose reign we follow—God’s. We’re reminded that this isn’t an ordinary reign. It’s not like the governments, monarchies, and dynasties with which we’re familiar. It’s not about flawed human beings ruling authoritatively. It’s not the familiar reigns where a few have power and so many of the common people suffer. No.

Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice . . .

God’s reign centers on justice and equity. God’s reign cares about the plight of every human being. Whereas we might not see this kind of justice and equity regularly, we see glimpses of it, and that brings us hope. Just knowing that we follow a God who yearns for and calls us towards a different way of ruling than what we witness every day is enough to make us hope and live for this way.

Praise God indeed because God’s way is one where the oppressed are free, where borders are irrelevant and welcoming the refugee is a given. Oh how I yearn for this world now. But as much as I want it to magically appear, I know that through the power of community and following the lead of those most impacted by the brokenness of our human-run kingdoms, God’s transformation is possible. This hope inspires me to educate myself on the change I can personally impact—both within myself and for the work externally. Where is God calling you to act?

Prayer
God, we long for your reign. Empower us to act with the vision of your justice and equity. Shape us to be courageous in the face of reigns that conflict with yours. Embolden us to follow you, hope in you, and trust in you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Written by Abbi Heimach-Snipes, Pastoral Resident

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March 2, 2019 

Today’s Scripture Reading | 2 Corinthians 3:12—4:18

Reflection
To be honest, I stalled out with this at first. And then every commentary I read had a completely different focus. But that is the nature of trying to know God. Any view we have is incomplete. We see God’s glory as though in a mirror, and looking at something in a mirror is worlds away from seeing it directly. And even directly we can only ever see a part.

Any view we have is going to be partial and uniquely our own, formed by our history, our relationships, our bodies. A fragment of a fragment. And a flawed one at that: we are fragile vessels, broken in many ways, tender and temporary.

But we do know a couple of things. For one, while we can only ever offer our own view, when that is put together with the views of others a fuller picture can become clear. In 1 Corinthians Paul writes how we are together “the body of Christ and individual members of it,” every piece essential. So there is to be no shame in our weakness, no hiding, no losing heart. All of us are needed, all of us in full, all our light shining together.

It is God who gives this to us. Who gives us our light, who gives us the desire to know God, who gives us each other that we may see different facets of God. And it is God who transforms us, in part through that desire and that process of looking for God. We are lifted up and transformed, weak and imperfect as we are, made into something new together.

Prayer
Lord, may our fragile places be where our light shines most brightly, that together we may be shining fragments reflecting your light into the world. Amen.

Written by Anne Ellis, Program Manager for Congregational Life

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March 3, 2019 

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 9:28–36

Reflection
When I was in high school, I had a rather unique way of trying to remember special places I visited. I would take a different electric alarm clock on each vacation or band camp and when I unplugged the clock I thought I was locking that moment, that experience, in time on that one special clock. This lasted until my mom found a pile of alarm clocks in my closet and without wondering why they were all there started using them again in various places.

This story may seem strange now (and it is), but when Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him to the top of a mountain to pray and they saw the face of Jesus change, his clothes become dazzling white, and Moses and Elijah appear and talk with him, they wanted to do something to remember the moment also. They wanted to build a dwelling, a shrine, something to hold onto the moment and experience it over and over; they wanted to preserve it so others could experience it as well. The disciples had good intentions, but Jesus wasn’t content to just stay in that moment, because as soon as he came down from that mountain he went to work the next day. He met a crowd of people and started healing and helping them.

We can all have mountaintop experiences and hopefully do, but we can’t just hold on to them and not allow those moments to change us. It is what we do with the transformation within ourselves that matters. Jesus realized that he had to move on and enter the crowds. (My mom knew that alarm clocks were meant to be used, not piled up in a closet.) Transformation on a mountaintop, in a worship service, on a vacation, in front of a painting, or at a concert is important, but it is not enough; it is only the beginning. We are called by God to share that transformation to make the world a better place. We are all called to put into actions the transforming love of God.

Prayer
Transforming God, help me share the gifts you have given me so that my actions can help others and be a transformation for them and for me. Amen.

Written by John W. W. Sherer, Organist and Director of Music

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March 4, 2019   

Today’s Scripture Reading | Exodus 34:29–35

Reflection
It must have been something to have been one of those Israelites, seeing Moses make his way down from Mount Sinai. Something was definitely different about him. There was this glow. The story says, “The skin of his face was shining.” It was so unusual the people were afraid to come near him.

The glow on Moses’ face was the result of having seen God up close and personal. It couldn’t have been an ordinary glow, but rather was more similar to “shining like the noonday sun.” Maybe it was blinding and that’s what caused the fear. Or maybe the fear was simply because they sensed Moses had been changed and therefore they would be changed too. After all, this wasn’t the first time the people had heard what was on those tablets. They’d heard all of the commands before but had ignored them and sinned wildly. Moses had gone to bat for them, prayed intensely for them. Maybe they wondered if God finally had said to Moses “Enough is enough.” They were scared for so many reasons.

We take the Ten Commandments for granted. Even if we can’t recite them in order, they are embedded in our consciousness. Some of us view them as rules pronounced by a punitive,  Old Testament God, which is always a mischaracterization of God whether in the Old or New Testament. What strikes me most is that Moses’ face was glowing, reflecting bright, blinding light. He could have come down from that mountain with something more like a dark Darth Vader mask. Amidst all of the many layered meanings in this story, what I see is grace upon grace, light from light, forgiveness abounding. Moses glowed because he’d met the God of Infinite Love face-to-face, a God who sheds light and love and forgiveness.

Prayer
God, thank you for your infinite grace, for the blinding light of your love, and for always being willing to change us, hoping to transform us more and more into your image. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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March 5, 2019                

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 9:37–43

Reflection      
A father at the end of his rope, having exhausted all other options, begged Jesus to heal his son. He couldn’t bear to see his only child shriek in pain, overtaken by sudden convulsions. Jesus immediately responds with power and compassion. “Bring your son here.” Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit that had possessed the boy, heals him, and gives him back to his father, made new. “And all were astounded at the greatness of God.”

This scene is filled with sudden, urgent, dramatic transformation at the extremes of illness and wholeness. We don’t have such direct encounters with Jesus on earth. Yet there are many times we can be astounded by the greatness of God. God’s Spirit always moves toward healing, justice, harmony, and love. Whether in slow, incremental ways or in large chapters in history, God is working through us and among us. Advances in medical research and treatment are saving lives, including that of my husband, in ways that astound us. Gang members are having their tattoos removed and walking away from violent associations to start anew in ways that astound us. Nations who were formerly enemies are putting down their weapons and seeking peace in ways that astound us. People are demanding new policies and practices to reduce climate change in ways that astound us. Bipartisan efforts will be reducing incarceration in ways that astound us. Women throughout the world are being empowered in ways that astound us.

God is great and greatly to be praised. Let us open our eyes to recognize that wherever love triumphs over fear, justice over oppression, and healing over brokenness, God is there, at work.

Prayer
Liberator God, awaken me to recognize you at work, to praise your holy name, and to be a channel of your Spirit. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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