Day 308 | Thursday, 21 January 2021
(84 new covid cases yesterday)
Psalm 145:13-21 CEB
13 Your kingdom is a kingship that lasts forever;
your rule endures for all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all that he says,
faithful in all that he does.
14 The Lord supports all who fall down,
straightens up all who are bent low.
15 All eyes look to you, hoping,
and you give them their food right on time,
16 opening your hand
and satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways,
faithful in all his deeds.
18 The Lord is close to everyone who calls out to him,
to all who call out to him sincerely.
19 God shows favor to those who honor him,
listening to their cries for help and saving them.
20 The Lord protects all who love him,
but he destroys every wicked person.
21 My mouth will proclaim the Lord’s praise,
and every living thing will bless God’s holy name
forever and always.
13 Your kingdom is a kingdom eternal; you never get voted out of office. God always does what he says and is gracious in everything he does. 14 God gives a hand to those down on their luck, gives a fresh start to those ready to quit. 15 All eyes are on you, expectant; you give them their meals on time. 16 Generous to a fault, you lavish your favor on all creatures. 17 Everything God does is right - the trademark on all his works is love. 18 God's there, listening for all who pray, for all who pray and mean it. 19 He does what's best for those who fear him - hears them call out and saves them. 20 God sticks by all who love him, but it's all over for those who don't. 21 My mouth is filled with God's praise. Let everything living bless him, bless his holy name from now to eternity!
“When I was younger, prayer seemed like a chore to check off my To Do List. I would schedule time to pray and say the words I thought I should. Often, I would simply ask for things I wanted, and if I didn't get them, I would complain to God.
As I matured in my faith and grew closer to God, I began to ask for less and share with God more, and I often left my prayer time relieved of my burdens and fears. I found that prayer could be surprisingly refreshing especially if I didn't talk at God but spoke to God.
Now that I'm older, I've realized that far from being a chore, prayer can be like spending time with a beloved friend. The need to say something is often less important than simply being together. I try to listen more than I talk, and I Revel in the joy of being with God.
God will listen to our prayers anytime, regardless of what we've done in the past or where we are in our spiritual journey. All we have to do is show up, tune out distractions, and open our hearts. I'm not always successful in listening to God, but I've learned that it's always worth the effort.” Abigail Gary (Upper room page 26 January-February)
“Dear God, thank you for always being with us. Help us remember that your love for us is constant and steadfast. Amen.”
“Prayer focus: people who feel alone.”
“Thought for the day: I can experience God's love through prayer.”
Day 307 | Wednesday, 20 January 2021
On this day of New Beginnings for America, let us pray that God favor with good health and sound judgement our president, Joseph Biden; our vice president, Kamala Harris; and the members of Congress. Let us pray that petty party politics, mutual recrimination and self-justification yield to courtesy, forbearance and a paramount concern for the people of this nation. Let us pray that the divisions that have become so prominent begin to heal and close for the good of all. Let us also pray for patience as our new leadership begins to help our nation overcome the Corona Virus which has left over 400,000 dead. It is going to take time for this train to get back on the track.
God of Liberty, we rejoice in the blessed abundance you have bestowed on our cherished land. We praise you for the freedom of religious expression which allows us to gather in your name. We praise you for the freedom to say what we think without fear of the governing authorities. We praise you for the freedom to come and go as we please. We praise you for the benefits of education made available to all. We praise you for the freedom to dream our dreams and to strive to make them come true. We praise you for the gift of living in a land where peace is predominant. We rejoice in the bounty of this fruitful land, which provides us with plentiful food and beautiful places to rest and play.
In freedom we are strong, yet freedom is a fragile thing. Help us protect our freedoms through the exercise of personal and civic responsibility. Sting our conscience every time we say to ourselves, “Let someone else do it; It's their problem; I don't care”. Give us as citizens the brains to realize that poverty and violence anywhere weakens the nation everywhere, just as illness in one part of the body weakens the whole.
Help us choose leaders who will do what is necessary for the well-being of the nation, who will not simply promise to grant our selfish wishes in exchange for re-election. Help the citizens of this land to achieve consensus on our most pressing issues, so that united we can help our elected leaders lead with clarity, consistency and decisiveness.
As people who have been freed forever through the blood of Jesus Christ, help us defeat in ourselves the impulse to slavishly submit to the tyranny of self-interest and greed. Help us, whom you are preparing for eternity, to take the long-range view of what would be best for all, not merely what is expedient for those who presently enjoy political and economic advantage. Inspire us to be advocates for people whose voices cannot be heard in the public debate, that all your people may have a share in honor and prosperity and hope. In Jesus name Amen.”
“We thank you for these United States, for this nation of immigrants, for this noble experiment with unity within diversity. While it is our responsibility to recognize and to mend much that is wrong with our country, we give you hearty praise for so much that is right.
We thank you for our legacy of enterprise, fairness and hopefulness passed down among us through the generations from our very beginnings. We praise you for a system of government in which dissent is not merely tolerated but expected and encouraged, as we pray that it is peaceful. We thank you for a system of justice which, in spite of many flaws, manages to make room for mercy. And we glorify your name for the men and women in our midst who prod us, needle us, plague us to remember the gap between our rhetoric and our practice and to work at closing the gap.
So, we pray for our nation, fervently, in the name of him who loved his nation with all his heart but always put justice and compassion for people first. Amen.
Day 306 | Tuesday, 19 January 2021
As we prepare for a day of new beginnings tomorrow, these three themes are ones I wanted to lift up for our reflection.
Joy (Psalm 30:5, 11; Proverbs 12:20; 15:23; Isaiah 51:11; 55:12; John 15:10-11)
“We affirm God's anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. We believe weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. We believe God has turned our mourning into dancing; has taken off our sackcloth and clothed us with joy.
We affirm that deceit is in the mind of those who plan evil, but that those who counsel peace have joy. We believe that to make an apt answer is a joy to any-one, and a word in season, how good it is!
We affirm the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. For we believe we shall go out in joy and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before us shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
We affirm Jesus said, "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love."
We believe Jesus said these things so that his joy might be in us, and our joy be complete.”
“God, grant us to be:
Silent before you that we might hear you.
Open to you that you may enter.
At rest in you that you might work in us.
Empty before you that you may fill us.
Prayerful with you that we might be sustained.
Hungry for you that we would be nourished.
Powerless before you that we can be directed.
Singing to you that we can know your beauty.
Humble toward you that your awesomeness would transform us.
Loyal to you that we would be obedient.
Longing for you that we would find life's purpose.
Yearning for you that we would know completeness.
Loving to you so we could know your love.
Devoted to you to discover our priorities.
Honoring of you so that we, too, can be honored by you.
Servant to you in order to serve others.
Thankful to you so we can be thankful in all things. Amen.”
“God who is constant and ever-changing, we come before you as a people calling for your presence with us. With change upon us, we are anxious, not sure what the future will bring. God, you teach through Bible stories that change includes opportunity, and yet, again and again, we resist change for fear of losing control.
May we, as your people, evaluate change wisely, and when we perceive your presence in it, help us to welcome the new, embrace the different and move forward in the great expectation that all things work together for good for those who love God. And when we suspect that specific change is not for the good, but occurring nonetheless, help us to bring your word of healing and hope to the situation.
Bless the change we face, and may we be a people working with this new way, for fulfillment comes when we follow your path; and you would always have us grow. We pray in your name. Amen.”
Day 305 | Monday, 18 January 2021
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO VIC SCHNELL!
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as we reflect on what his life has meant to our country and its people.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (words in boldface are by Dr. King)
“Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. How can we share that dream?
We pass the dream on to all those to whom beauty is truth and truth, beauty, and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine sisterhood and brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.
How will living the dream enrich our lives?
The living of the dream will give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds, and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.
What will living the dream do?
If we but live the dream of love, we will bring about a new day of justice and peace. In that day the morning stars will sing together, and the sons and daughters of God will shout for joy. For God will have made all things new.”
“Holy God, we come fully recognizing that all people of whatever race or back-ground belong to you. Prompt us, O Lord, to reach out in love to our brothers and sisters on earth. Help us especially, to remember, that as we gather about the cross that reveals your love for everyone, we are all God's children and that Christ died for every soul on earth. In his name, we pray. Amen.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
God of grace and truth, we bow our heads in remembrance: With dismay we remember a time when the Christian people of our nation were content to buy and sell human beings, often fellow Christians, like livestock. With thankfulness we remember how you have inspired generations of courageous leaders who sacrificed everything in order to remove the shame of slavery from our land.
We remember the peaceful warriors, like Martin Luther King Jr., through whom you have worked to increase dignity and liberty for all. We turn to you and hope, for the task is not yet complete. Inspire us mightily, that we may continue the work of freedom in the cause of peace. Create in us such a thirst for justice and such a horror of bigotry, that we will strive willingly to comprehend complex issues and to train ourselves and others in the ways of respect and acceptance. Work in our hard hearts, teaching us to judge people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. In our daily lives, so sharpen our consciences that we can break the habit of making degrading comments about entire populations because of the actions of a few.
Enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may see one another as you see us: beloved children, forgiven sinners, trying to make our way through life as best we can with the resources we have. Prevent us (consciously or unconsciously) from denying anyone the chance to pursue their dream simply because their gender, their race or their ancestry doesn't conform to our expectations. Deliver us from that hardening of the attitudes that refuses to listen and learn, and by so refusing condemns us to repeat the sins of the past. Help us forgive one another, advocate for one another and delight in one another, that through us the world may see all the colors of your creation in a new and holy light. For the sake of Jesus our Lord. Amen
Day 304 | Sunday, 17 January 2021
The assigned Scripture readings for this the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany are: 1 Samuel 3:1-10; Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 and John 1:43-51
1 Samuel 3:1-10 Samuel’s call
3 Now the boy Samuel was serving the Lord under Eli. The Lord’s word was rare at that time, and visions weren’t widely known. 2 One day Eli, whose eyes had grown so weak he was unable to see, was lying down in his room. 3 God’s lamp hadn’t gone out yet, and Samuel was lying down in the Lord’s temple, where God’s chest was.
4 The Lord called to Samuel. “I’m here,” he said.
5 Samuel hurried to Eli and said, “I’m here. You called me?”
“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go lie down.” So he did.
6 Again the Lord called Samuel, so Samuel got up, went to Eli, and said, “I’m here. You called me?”
“I didn’t call, my son,” Eli replied. “Go and lie down.”
(7 Now Samuel didn’t yet know the Lord, and the Lord’s word hadn’t yet been revealed to him.)
8 A third time the Lord called Samuel. He got up, went to Eli, and said, “I’m here. You called me?”
Then Eli realized that it was the Lord who was calling the boy. 9 So Eli said to Samuel, “Go and lie down. If he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down where he’d been.
10 Then the Lord came and stood there, calling just as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel said, “Speak. Your servant is listening.”
43 The next day Jesus wanted to go into Galilee, and he found Philip. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter.
45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and the Prophets: Jesus, Joseph’s son, from Nazareth.”
46 Nathanael responded, “Can anything from Nazareth be good?”
Philip said, “Come and see.”
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said about him, “Here is a genuine Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
48 Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are God’s Son. You are the king of Israel.”
50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these! 51 I assure you that you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up to heaven and down to earth on the Human One.”
These two scriptures are about being called into God’s service and as a disciple of Jesus. Samuel was very young and probably didn’t know much about how God spoke to God’s servants. His clue was that he was in the service of Eli and he was being mentored by Eli. Jesus calls Philip who in turn introduces Nathanael to Jesus.
What memory do you have of hearing God calling you? I shared my call on one of these 304 days. But when I read these Scriptures for today, I went right to the hymn “Here I am, Lord” words: Dan Schutte 1981. The refrain is: “Here I am, Lord, Is it I Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.”
Lord, thank you for calling us to be your servants. Hear our prayers. Amen.
WAY TO GO BUFFALO!!!!
Day 301 | Thursday, 14 January 2021
As we continue to follow the aftermath in Washington DC, I came across this quote that I wrote down during a speech made by someone I do not remember. “Those who travel the high road of humility in DC are not bothered by high traffic.” Just thought I would share it with you.
One of the gifts I count among my blessings from God is the gift of a good voice. I have always enjoyed singing. I sang in the high school chorus. I sang in my home church children’s choir and adult choir. I continued singing during my college years both with the local church choir and the college choir. I have sung with every church choir while serving as pastor and continue to sing at Christ First (when we are able to do so). I am not a trained musician, but I do have a good voice. I also played the trombone in high school, college and in the Cassadaga Community Band.
Singing hymns and anthems is a way of praising God for blessings. Not everyone is blessed with a singing voice. In fact, I have always had parishioners’ who belonged to the monotone choir.
God knows the power of music, and God told Moses to “write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it” (Deuteronomy 31:19). God knew that long after Moses was gone, when God had brought Israel into the Promised Land, they would rebel and worship other gods. So, God told Moses, “This song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants” (v. 21). Chapter 32 is the poem which Moses recited for the people.
Some hymns, songs, anthems get stuck in my head and they just keep playing over and over until another one comes along and replaces them. How about you – do you have a favorite hymn or song that is meaningful to you?
The hymn “Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above”, words: Johann J. Schutz, 1675; trans. Frances E. Cox, 1864, is based on Deuteronomy 32:3.
1. “Sing praise to God who reigns above, the God of all creation, the God of powers, the God of love, the God of our salvation. With healing balm my soul is filled, and every faithless murmur stilled: To God all praise and glory.”
2. “The Lord is never far away, but through all grief distressing, an ever-present help and stay, our peace and joy and blessing. As with a mother's tender hand, God gently leads the chosen band: To God all praise and glory.”
3. “Thus, all my toilsome way along, I sing aloud thy praises, that earth may hear the grateful song my voice unwearied raises. Be joyful in the Lord, my heart, both soul and body bear your part: To God all praise and glory.”
4. “Let all who named Christ's holy name give God all praise and glory; let all who own his power proclaim aloud the wondrous story! Cast each false idol from its throne, for Christ is Lord, and Christ alone: To God all praise and glory.”
To you oh God all praise and glory. Thank you for those whom you have inspired to write songs of praise, songs which express our love, our praise. Our thanks to you for your many blessings. Thank you for hymn writers, song leaders, choristers, accompanists and people who love just to sing. Lord help us to use the words of these songs to express our gratitude to you.
Today: those who lead us in singing praises. (Do you have a favorite hymn you would like to share?)
Another COVID-19 death in the county reported yesterday
Day 300 | Wednesday, 13 January 2021
A week ago, we observed Epiphany Day. It seems like that was a long time ago with all that happened on that day and since then. I thought I would share some more Epiphany prayers today to remind us that even in the darkness, Jesus’ light outshines the darkness.
“For people in darkness, Christ is the light. For people in despair, Christ is the hope. For people grieving, Christ is a comfort. For people burdened, Christ is a friend to share the load. For people anxious, Christ is calm assurance. For all people, Christ is for you. For everyone, hear the call to follow Christ and be Christ to others.”
“God of all worlds that are: like the wise men coming from far away, we would see that guiding star. We would follow them while they follow its light to the Manger. There lies the little boy whom you appointed as bearer of your compassion and redeemer of all who would acknowledge their need of redemption. May the brightness of your Son illumine our path as we strive to live as children of light. May your Word made flesh guide us through all the dark stretches and dark hours of our lives so that in your own good time, we may be welcomed, by your mercy, into heavenly Jerusalem where there is no night, ever. To this end prepare us for Jesus’ sake. Amen”
“Show forth, O God, in power and peace what you have done and are doing in our world. Before some of us can sing a song of gladness again, O God, we have to get over something. We have a fear of your story, an estrangement from it. Some of us are angry. Some of us are hurt. And no one seems to notice. They keep telling us everything is going to be okay, but still we're hurt. Help us tell the truth without making people even more afraid of us.
All some of us want is the day before we were assaulted ... or hurt ... or betrayed ...or our spouse died. And we know we can't have any day back; we know that some days are just gone. And then comes Epiphany, the time when God is revealed.
Reveal yourself, O God, to each one of us here. Bring us to your glory and help us move on to new days. In the name of Jesus, who is never far away. Amen.”
“God of eternal hope, you place a light into every darkness and a star in every sky, and yet we prefer to walk in the darkness of despair and worry. We cover over the light of possibility with a flurry of worry. We walk bent over with care and concern and miss the reach of the stars. We fear the worst and distrust the best. We forge ahead on our own, not noticing your outstretched hand. We forget that there is never a moment that you are not with us, that your Son was called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” You bring a candle of hope, a light of peace, the radiance of joy. Shine your light on our path and walk with us through all our valleys with the sun at our backs. Amen.”
“God of our lives: In the midst of distractions, worries, fears, remind us to look up and to keep looking up in hope. We thank you for humble shepherds who allowed themselves to be aroused from sleep to discern that strange display of your grace in the night Sky. We praise you for the wisdom of the wise men, who were paying attention to the heavenly bodies and thus did not miss that odd little star with its portent of good news. We give you thanks for the perseverance of Simeon, who believed so deeply in the trustworthiness of your promises that he refused to die until he experienced their fulfillment when cradling the little Jesus in his arms.
God help us to stay alert to your word, wherever it may sound forth. Grant us courage to follow the light of any star you may have placed in our personal firmaments. And grant us patience so that, whenever some cherished promise of yours is delayed almost beyond endurance, we may nevertheless remain faithful to you as our loving God who keeps his promises.
We hail you as children of light in the name of him who is the light of the world. Amen”
Day 299 | Tuesday, 12 January 2021
The month seems to be moving along rather fast and yet it seems like the assault on our Capitol was a long time ago. As I mentioned on Sunday, our anxiety level increased last Wednesday. Our focus has been on how unbelievable this event has been to Democracy. There are many people who need to take responsibility for what led up to this terrible day.
In my mind, the number one problem is misinformation. As many have said since then, leaders just need to tell the truth. As we continue to internalize the changes taking place in our democracy, there is also the continuing battle with the Corona Virus. We have had days where four thousand people plus have died each day due to COVID-19.
There are areas in our country that are epicenters of this virus. As a former EMT of 15 years, I have been trying to wrap my head around hospitals telling first responders that they have no room and that they either have to go someplace else or the responders now are forced to make choices as to who has a chance to survive and who does not. This puts some individuals between a rock and a hard place.
I don’t want to become complacent when it comes to the numbers of cases and deaths due to COVID-19. We are approaching one year of this pandemic here in our country. In that time, around 376,000 souls have died, and we are approaching 23 million cases. Thank God for the researchers who have developed the vaccine. In the county the numbers are now: 5,010 cases with 715 active, 3,003 in isolation, 44 deaths, 1,316 in Jamestown, 914 Dunkirk, 640 Fredonia, 196 Lakewood, 161 Bemus and 169 in Frewsburg.
It seems to me today that it is time to hear from Ecclesiastes chapter 3.
"There is a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens:
a time for giving birth and a time for dying,
a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,
a time for killing and a time for healing,
a time for tearing down and a time for building up,
a time for crying and a time for laughing,
a time for mourning and a time for dancing,
a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,
a time for searching and a time for losing,
a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,
a time for tearing and a time for repairing,
a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,
a time for loving and a time for hating,
a time for war and a time for peace."
What this passage tells us is that there are realities in life that confront all of us, but these realities are in God's time, not ours. God does invade our experiences and fills them with God's presence, grace and meaning. God brings God's presence into each and every experience of life as well as bringing God's peace.
Holy God, our experiencing life as we have known it has changed dramatically. Help us to remember that you are present in all our experiences of life and that you bring us peace. We need to feel your presence and peace during this time in our lives. This is a time for us to rely on our faith in your continuous, ever strengthening love. Be present with us today. Amen