Thursday, May 31, 2012

No Condemnation!

Thursday, May 31, 2012
Scripture Reading—Romans 8:1-8

There is often a great chasm between knowing what is right and doing it.  In Romans 7,  Paul wrestles  with the reality that on one hand,  the law of Moses laid out in the ten commandments revealed to people God’s desires for human conduct, but on the other hand did not in itself have the power to produce that conduct.  Knowing what God required was a good thing; doing what God required was something else altogether.  You can understand the elements involved in playing a great piece of music—performing that piece is a whole other matter.  Paul said that the law was good.  It was necessary.  But it wasn’t enough.  Knowing what God wanted, Paul said, led him to a place of inward struggle and conflict.  If anyone was ever zealous for doing what he thought God wanted, it was Paul.  But, he always felt he was falling short.   “Wretched man that I am!” he said.  The central truth of the gospel Paul discovered was that God’s love for him did not depend on his performance of the requirements of the law. Reflecting back on all God had done for the world in Christ, Paul came to the conclusion that regardless of our goodness or lack of it,  God has chosen to look at us in a whole new way.  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!”  The good news is that regardless of what you think of yourself, or what others think of you, or what you think of God, God has decided that you are not condemned, but accepted, forgiven, and loved---no matter what!

Thought for the day:  How would my life be different if I really believed that, in Christ, God has accepted me as I am?

 Prayer:  O God, help us to realize that in Christ, regardless of our mistakes, sins, and failures, we are not condemned by you, but accepted, forgiven, and loved.  Amen. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Scripture Reading--John 20:19-23

It’s an interesting scene.  The first Easter evening, the disciples are gathered behind locked doors, still afraid.  They have heard reports of the empty tomb, but did not yet know how to understand those reports.  They assumed that they were still being hunted by the Roman authorities—and they were probably right.  But into this anxious, fear-filled situation, the risen Christ appears.  John doesn’t report Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, in the same way Luke does in Acts.  John says that Jesus breathed on the disciples and told them to “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  Elsewhere in John’s Gospel, Jesus told the disciples he had to go away so the Spirit could come.  In other words, if God’s universal presence was to be available, the earthly Jesus had to depart so that his Spirit could come and be with all people in all places at all times.  Jesus’ presence is not validated in the world by the exercise of miraculous powers.  It is evident where the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed and practiced.  That was finally why Jesus came and why he died and why God raised him.  However we construe what happened on the cross and why it happened, whether Jesus was an example or a sacrifice, the heart of the matter is the same—Jesus came because God wanted the world to know that we could all be forgiven.  If we as the people of God have anything to say to the world worth hearing, any gift to offer worth giving, it is this, “You are forgiven!”  How have you experienced this gift of forgiveness?  How are we as a Christian community offering this gift to the world?
Thought for the day:  The Holy Spirit's presence in the world, more than anything, makes forgiveness a possibility for all of us.
Prayer:  O God, help me to experience your Spirit's presence as true forgiveness, and through your Spirit, allow forgiveness to flow through me to others.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Basis for Unity

Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Scripture Reading--I Corinthians 12:12-27

All Christians are Charismatics.  That’s one of my favorite sermon titles based on this text by the renowned preacher and teacher, Fred Craddock.  It’s an arresting title because most of us would never associate ourselves with a label used to describe Christians who wave their hands enthusiastically in worship, go from one faith healing service to another, and speak in tongues.  But if I understand Craddock’s strategy with that title correctly, he wants us to realize that however we label ourselves—liberal or conservative, charismatic or mainline—if we are Christians, we are all charismatic.  We have all received gifts or charismata  from the Holy Spirit. Paul’s claim is that the body has many different members. For Paul, the church is a community where worldly divisions and hurtful labels are overcome.  The church is the place where, through baptism, Jews, Greeks, slaves, and free—are all one because they share the same spirit.  One could make the argument that a church like Centenary has become what it has become—a place of hospitality, diversity, and affirmation for all—because it is truly “charismatic.”  We are trying to be a place that recognizes that our unity is not a human construct or based on any ideology, but a place where unity amidst diversity is received as a gift from God.   As Paul argues, to truly experience the fullness of Christ’s love and grace, we need all the different parts that make up the body if we are to be whole.  How is your Christian faith stretched and enriched by being part of a church that sees diversity as an essential expression of God’s intention for all humanity?
Thought for the day:  Every person in the body of Christ is important!  We all have something others need--and others have something we need to be whole as well!
Prayer:  O God, even when it is hard to accept others who irritate or annoy us in the church, help us understand that we all need each other if our experience of God is to be complete.  Amen.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Have You Opened All Your Gifts?

Monday, May 28, 2012
Scripture Reading--I Corinthians 12:4-11

The church is at its best when the Holy Spirit is allowed to inspire, motivate and equip every member to discover their unique gifts and utilize them freely in ministry.  Planning, accountability and order are good things in any organization.  I like to know what’s coming next as much anybody!  But the most effective ministries I’ve witnessed are those that arise because someone has the confidence to share their gifts so that the church is strengthened and the world is blessed. I’ve seen lay leaders with gifts for administration bring financial health to cash-strapped congregations.  I’ve seen churches follow the lead of  members with the gift of evangelism and go every week to serve a meal and hold services in a nearby trailer park. I’ve heard lay people with a gift for preaching deliver better sermons than I’ve heard from any television evangelist.  Centenary is still blessed by the Smethie family’s amazing effort to move beyond the grief of the death of their son over fifty years ago,  and hear a call to utilize their spiritual gifts to begin a young adult ministry which raised up a whole generation of former—and yes current—leaders and servants who have been a blessing to this church, and in turn to the world.  Paul envisions a church where every person receives the spiritual gifts God gives through the Holy Spirit, and joyfully uses those gifts to make Christ’s love real to the world.  What would our church look like if we based our ministry on our gifts, rather than what we perceive to be our deficiencies?  What joy could be yours if you acknowledged the gifts God has given you and allowed God to work through you to make a difference in the lives of others?

Thought for the day:  God has given you a gift the world needs! 

Prayer:  O God, help us to receive the gifts you give us and help us to experience the joy that comes from using our gifts to bless others.  Amen.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Led by the Spirit

“Led by the Spirit”
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
A Sermon Preached at Centenary United Methodist Church
Richmond, Virginia
Pentecost Sunday, May 27, 2012


Through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, we are led into ever newer, constantly expanding understandings of God’s character and nature and empowered to proclaim these truths to others.

We’re very curious about people’s last words before death.  We think that in those words, we will hear some great word of wisdom that sums up what a person thought life was about, or we may get some glimpse into the next world as a person departs this one.  Some people’s reported last words are mundane.    Bing Crosby supposedly said, “That was a great game of golf, fellers.”  Some are humorous, “I never should have switched from scotch to martinis,” Humphrey Bogart reportedly said.  Some are defiant.   “A King should die standing,” said Louis XVIII of France.  Some are humble.   “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have,” Leonardo Da Vinci reportedly said.  And Thomas Edison gave hope to those around him, “It’s very beautiful over there.”

 More than anything, the living desire words to give them peace as a loved one departs this world.  We’re certainly concerned about our loved one at the hour of death, but deep down, we want a word that assures us we will be all right in their absence. 

Jesus’ Departure

 The gospel reading today takes place in an extended account by John of Jesus’ farewell discourse.  It runs from chapter 13 through chapter 17.     Jesus is gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem with his disciples to eat the Passover meal.  Jesus teaches them about servanthood not by lecturing them but by washing their dirty feet.  He then goes on to tell them that he is leaving.   He is departing. He is going away, and he is telling them what he thinks they need to know to carry on.  And the disciples are trying to find some glimmer of comfort in his disturbing words.

The disciples don’t really understand.  Though we may anticipate someone’s imminent death, we’re never prepared for it.  We really don’t know how we’ll respond until that moment arrives.    They don’t understand why he has to go away.  Or maybe they’re in denial.  They’re afraid that  the movement they’ve helped him start will just wither on the vine.

 You can hear the whispers around the table, “He’s just getting started.  He’s young, energetic, and charismatic.   He’s built a large following.  Sure there’s some push back from some pretty powerful people—the government and the religious authorities—but isn’t that a sign that his message has power?  If he’d stay and see this through, who knows what good could come of this?   Our whole religious tradition could be transformed from a narrowly focused sect focused only on proper worship in the temple where religious leaders get rich, into a universally available path to salvation.  He could even change the government—with all his power and charisma, he could get enough followers to help us finally overthrow Rome!”

 But they were afraid for other reasons.  They did not think that they could carry on his work without him.  They didn’t know what he knew.  They didn’t have the courage he had.  “You’ve got to bear witness to me, tell others what I told you,” he’d told them.  “And oh, yes, some of you might get killed for that.” 

 But more than anything--and this was the scariest thing of all--they had really believed that God had come to them in Jesus.  Incarnation we call it now—the divine in human flesh.  When they were with Jesus they felt close to God.  They felt loved, accepted, and forgiven.  They had the courage to go out and tell others what they had seen and learned about God from Jesus.  They knew that as long as Jesus was with them, they would be all right.  But he said he was leaving.  How would they know what to do?  How would they know what to say?  How would they have enough courage to speak up when confronted and challenged by the authorities?  And more than anything, how would they know and experience God’s presence with them, guiding them, and protecting them if Jesus left them?

 Searching for God’s Presence

 Many people in our world, perhaps more than a few of us here today, wonder where Jesus is, how he could be found, contacted, experienced.  And without a physical incarnation of God to touch and talk to, we wonder if God hasn’t abandoned us and our world.  We, like the first disciples, are struckdumb when pressed to give an account of our faith in a God we cannot see or touch.

 It’s hard for us to discern how a God of love, justice, and power is at work in a world where terrorists try to advance their cause through indiscriminate killing, and where, unfortunately, the rest of us are moved to respond to those attacks with more attacks where, unfortunately, more innocent people also die.  It is hard for us to recognize the imprint of the divine purpose in a world where a significant percentage of our population is obese, and yet scores can’t find enough food to eat.   It is hard for us to discover truth in a world where our most potent form of political rhetoric is not dispassionate discussion of real facts, but pointed personal attack.  It is hard to see how God could be at work in a political process where the main value is neither fairness nor truth, but money.  Someone recently said, “Washington D. C. is no longer a city of Republicans and Democrats.  It’s now just a city of rich people.”

 Is God with us, or has God abandoned us, left us here all alone to try to figure things out?

 We feel this in our personal lives.  How many times have we been in a relationship that unraveled because we could no longer talk without arguing?  How many times have we just run out of energy because we could not juggle all the demands of life—a job, children who need discipline, guidance, and love, parents who require attention and care, a church that asks us to give our time and gifts?   How many times have you wondered how to juggle it all?  How many times have you felt that understanding and handling life’s challenges was all up to you—you alone? 

 Some of you are here on Fridays when lunch is served to our guests who need a meal—and much more.  Some of you have gotten to know a number of them.  Many Fridays, after the meals have been served and the cleanup has begun, I think to myself, “Who are these people, really?  What are their stories?  How is it that life has become so hard for so many people?  Where is God in their lives?  What can we as God’s people do to really make a difference?”

 We do get to know many of the people who come and some of our members have a gift for knowing our guests by name and knowing something of their stories.  And yes, even many of the people who are here on Fridays can be heard thanking not only those who prepare the meal, but God for God’s goodness.  Isn’t that humbling? 

 I heard not long ago that Tony Borst, one of the guests who’d also worked here on Fridays, had died.  Not long after I came to Centenary, I met Tony.  He came to the office to talk one day.  He brought his girlfriend.  They’d found an apartment to rent and were going to get married.  They were happy.  They just needed help with making a phone call to their prospective landlord to verify that they had the deposit in order.  We helped them with that.  But I heard that Tony had passed away.  If you google Tony’s name, you’ll find an article dated November 3, 2008 in the Richmond Times Dispatch.  It tells of Tony living on  Devil’s Kitchen Island and being beaten one night by some guys with a baseball bat.  He endured the pain through the night after some friends had found him and brought him to warmth around their fire.  The next morning, a friend called 911 and rescuers came.  They had to figure out how to get Tony off the island to medical treatment.  Should they get a boat and get him across the river, or try a helicopter landing on the small island?   They decided to hoist him up on to a railroad bridge in the James River and carry him from there to be transported to VCU Medical Center.  Where was God in Tony’s life?  Where is God in our lives as we try to figure out how to relate to and care for people like Tony?

What do we do when we can’t easily discern God’s presence or what God wants of us—when it seems that Jesus is nowhere to be found?

Why Jesus Had to Leave

 The hard thing for the disciples as they listened to Jesus’ last words, telling them that he had to leave, was that they couldn’t begin to comprehend that something good was going to come from those words.    There was an important reason Jesus had to leave.    He didn’t put it quite this explicitly, but in his human body, he like us, was limited by time and space.  He could only be with one group of people at one time.  When he left, he said, he was going to send his Spirit, and his Spirit would be with all people, in all places at all times.  He’d only had a short time on this earth.  He hadn’t been able to tell the disciples everything he wanted them to know, but that was all right, because his Spirit would be with them, guiding them, giving them strength and power. 

Jesus calls His spirit the Advocate.  Yes, it’s a legal term and suggests that his Spirit would  be like a lawyer arguing the case of Jesus’ followers in a court of law—certainly something they’d need as they would have to give an account to the Jewish and Roman authorities of their deepest beliefs and convictions, often under the threat of some kind of sanction or punishment.

 Jesus’ promise is remarkable, really.  “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

“When you don’t know what to say, don’t worry, I will be with you to help you.  When you don’t understand how I am present in the world, that’s all right.   My Spirit will give you insight and knowledge.  When you don’t know how to carry out the great mission I’m entrusting to you, that’s all right.  I will show you the next steps to take.  When you face persecution and are afraid, I will give you the strength to be true and faithful.  I will be with you.  I am  not forsaking you or abandoning you like some weak-kneed, unreliable, unfit parent.  I am leaving so that you can experience more of me, and so that all those who come after you in the future, will know that I am with them.” 

Jesus is promising, “The God you’ve witnessed in me is more vast and amazing than you can begin to fathom.  You will face trials and challenges and problems and questions in the future as you try to be faithful.  If I told you about all those things now you’d be overwhelmed.    But be sure of this, my Spirit will unfold to you ever new understandings of the one who sent me, and who sends you.  You will never be alone.”

 The Spirit Still Leads

 And isn’t that the promise we need to hear on this Pentecost Sunday?  And isn’t that really the miracle of Pentecost, not just that a group of Jesus’ followers gathered in Jerusalem had an ecstatic experience of God and were enabled to communicate across language barriers, but that God’s presence is universally available as a gift to all of humanity?  And that this Spirit will lead us into truth when we are confused, and will remind us of the love of God revealed in Jesus when we are afraid, or lonely, or discouraged?

 The Holy Spirit is always leading us forward.

 Can’t you see that?  Haven’t you seen that in your life?  How did you get to this point today?  If someone had sat you down when you were a teenager and said, “You know you’re going to have struggles understanding your vocation and your identity.   You’re going to have some tough times getting through school, and finding a job.  You’ll work for awhile in places you’re not all that happy, or feel that you just don’t fit.   You’re going to have this illness, or this reversal.  Your children will face these problems.  You’re going to have dark nights when the faith you received as a child just doesn’t seem adequate any longer, but it will be all right.  I will be with you.  My Spirit is with you, guiding you into the truth, reminding you of my gracious and loving presence with you.”

 Haven’t we seen that as a church? Two hundred years ago, if someone had said, “Your church is going to be located in a capital city, but that city will experience devastation because of a great war.  You will endure financial ups and downs great depressions and recessions in the economy.  You will live through a time when people are not welcomed because of their race or sexual orientation.  You will see your fortunes rise and fall as people leave downtown and the business district declines.  But do not worry, I will be with you.  I will not abandon you.  I will guide you.  I will show you the way.  I will reveal to you new truths, new understanding about God, about other people.  I will be with you.”

 And so, when I think of people like Tony whose lives have been touched by the ministry of this church, I think back to those stories I’ve heard about meetings where people discussed how they were going to respond to the hungry and homeless, and yes, sometimes hopeless here in downtown Richmond.  And through prayer and discussion and probably some disagreement, this church decided that though it did not have all the answers to all the ills of society, and though it did not know always how to make it easier for people for whom life is quite difficult because of mental illness, homelessness, histories of abuse, abandonment, and addiction, the doors would be open.  We would do what we could.  We would try to allow the presence of Jesus Christ to be made real in a world where people often feel as if God has abandoned us.

 Wasn’t that the work of the Holy Spirit, leading and guiding people as they faced difficult challenges, as they struggled to discern God’s will, as they sought to carry out the mission of Jesus? 

 Yes, we’ve lived through two centuries as a church, and have begun to look toward our third.  And we do that in confidence, not because we are all that smart, or righteous, or virtuous, but because we believe—no, we know—that  it is not all up to us.  We don’t know how we’ll make it another 100 years.  We’ll encounter challenges and problems we can’t begin to anticipate just like the first disciples faced. 

 We’ll be handed questions on morality, theology, and practice that seem daunting and difficult.  Those questions about how to be faithful disciples and a faithful church won’t be resolved automatically by some quick consensus or show of hands vote.  But we will not be stopped by our fear of the unknown.  We will not be undone over the prospect that what we think about God or other people at this moment may yet need to be stretched, changed, or altered.  We won’t worry that we don’t have all the answers, strategies, and plans in hand at this moment for the third century of ministry in the city.  We won’t be overly anxious, because like the disciples, we know that it’s not all up to us.  The Spirit of Jesus, that same Spirit they experienced in the one who loved them enough to wash their feet, to forgive them of their sins, to die on the cross—that spirit, the same spirit that was infused with God’s power to conquer death, and evil, and selfishness, that Spirit is at work in each us.  That spirit will constantly lead us, push us, and stretch us to see God and other people in new ways.  That Spirit will remind us that a power greater than ourselves is responsible for our well-being.  And that Spirit will remind us that though our cooperation, work, and prayer are required—God is leading us, taking us into the future with courage!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012
Sermon Title:  Led by the Spirit
Text:  John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Look for the sermon to be posted here following Sunday's worship at Centenary!


Saturday, May 26. 2012
Scripture Reading--John 7:37-39

I don’t know what saps life from you, but I’ve discovered it can be almost anything.  Losing a job, enduring a serious illness, disillusionment with the way your life has turned out, concern over a child, financial pressure, discouragement over the injustice and suffering in our city, or just too many things to juggle—we’ve all been there.  The Bible has a number of ways of describing those lifeless, listless places.  They are like a desert, a wilderness, walking in darkness, travelling through a shadow-filled valley.  Or they are like having a hunger nothing seems to quench or a thirst nothing seems to slake.  To people not so different from us, Jesus stood up at the temple in Jerusalem during one of the three main religious celebrations for Jews, the Feast of Booths, and cried out to any who would hear him, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.  As the Scripture says, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”  John goes on to say Jesus was talking about the Spirit’s ability to satisfy our deepest longings, to make God’s gracious and powerful presence real, regardless of our outward circumstances.  Of all things in life worth having, that living water has to be the most precious!

Thought for the day:  When we feel empty, confused, or disillusioned, Jesus offers us something that will truly satisfy.

Prayer:  O God, help me to experience the satisfaction that knowing, loving, and following Christ can bring.  Amen. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

No More Fear

Friday, May 25, 2012
Scripture Reading--I Corinthians 15:50-57

The new movie Bully is an attempt to portray the reality some children face every day.   Some people estimate that 13 million children are bullied every year.  One definition of bullying says that it involves an “an imbalance of power . . .” and that  “people who bully use their power to control or harm and the people being bullied may have a hard time defending themselves.”
Bullies may not always come in human form.  Some of us have felt overpowered by circumstances, institutions, or forces over which we felt we had little influence or control.  We have probably fantasized about eviscerating those destructive powers through our words or actions.

In fear, though, we often choose to avoid confrontation with those people or forces that threaten to do us harm.  The greatest bully of all is death.  We speak only in hushed tones about it.  But the Apostle Paul had such courage and confidence in God that he mocked this bully:  "'Where O death is your victory.  Where O death, is your sting?'  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Walking with Christ reminds us that since we have victory over the biggest bully of all, all the lesser ones have been put on notice that they no longer exercise final power over us!

Thought for the day:  Christ's power enables us to overcome our greatest fears.

Prayer:  O God, when I am afraid help me to remember that Christ has conquered our greatest enemy--death--and that Christ will enable me to stand strong against all other enemies.  Amen.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How's Your Image?

Thursday, May 24, 2012
Scripture Reading--I Corinthians 15:42b-49

Many of us think there must be some way rationally to explain what happened that first Easter.  Moreover, many of us wrestle with what happens to the bodies and souls of loved ones and ourselves when we die.  We are tempted to think that our questions are unique to this modern, sophisticated, more advanced age in which we live.  But the people to whom Paul wrote had their questions, too.  Their questions took a different form than some of ours, but were no less perplexing.  Their question wasn’t so much whether the resurrection of the dead could have happened in some unique, miraculous one-time event.   No, many of them simply concluded that resurrection for ordinary people was just too good to be true.  Paul’s argument is complex, but logical.  Earlier in the letter, he’d made the point that if the dead aren’t raised, Christ isn’t raised, and this whole Christian enterprise is a great big painful waste of time!  Here, Paul advances his argument by claiming that we all bear the image of Adam—we are human, sinful, finite, and destined to return to the dust from which we came.  But we also bear the image of Christ, the man who was from dust like us, but also from heaven, and through whom we receive the gift of new identity and new life!  Our salvation begins now, but our future is God’s as well—even the future that begins the day we die! 

Thought for today:  Because we all bear Adam's image, we can be patient with each other's weaknesses; because we bear Christ's image, we see in ourselves and others great beauty and potential.

Prayer:  O God, help me to accept my human frailities, but help me also to allow the power of Christ's resurrection to transform me into the person you intend for me to be.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Why this Blog?

The Background for this Blog
First Devotional Coming Thursday, May 24, 2012

Centenary United Methodist Church is a wonderful congregation in downtown Richmond.  We are located at 411 East Grace Street.  Our website is  I consider myself very fortunate to serve this church with a great history and an exciting future.

We are a church of about 400 members.  We are a diverse congregation in many ways.  We are located all over the Richmond metro area.  It is hard for us to get together in face to face groups as often as we'd like.  But all who are part of our ministry feel a strong sense of calling to our downtown ministry that extends from near the capital of our commonwealth througout the Richmond metrolpolitan area.

These writings are driven by several personal factors.

1) Centenary is a  church that uses the lectionary ( a calendar for reading from Scripture based on the Christian year)  in our worship.  I have been looking for a way to link my own sermon study and preparation based on the lectionary readings for Sundays to my personal devotional practices throughout the week.  Other liturgical traditions have prayer books with prescribed daily readings.  What would be an equivalent resource for mainline Protestants?

2)I believe in the power of traditional, liturgical worship which Centenary has done for many years with excellence.  There are many valid ways to worship, but I believe Centenary has something to offer that the world needs--a place to experience the transcendence of one greater than ourselves who inspires awe, loyalty, and devotion.

3) These convictions were crystallized for me about two years ago.  My brother, age 47, was dying of colon cancer in Dallas,TX.  The week before he died I went to visit him.  He was not lucid for very long intervals.  But on several occasions, when he was awake, he asked for help to find his way to the daily readings from the Book of Common Prayer from his Episcopal tradition.  That was what gave him comfort in his last days.

4)  Our family made another trip to Dallas about a week after that first visit for his funeral.  His service was carefully planned before his death with his priest and was a full Episcopal service with majestic hymns, creeds, and the eucharist.  It was one of the most powerful worship services I've ever experienced and convinced me that worship that is grounded in the church's great ecumenical tradition and conducted in the presence of the communion of the saints is what we really need to face life's greatest challenges and to be formed as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

The Method

The idea of writing brief devotionals came to me in part from hearing the stories about one of Centenary's former legendary ministers, Dr. A. Purnell Bailey.  Dr. Bailey was well-known for writing brief devotionals entitled Our Daily Bread which were published daily in newspapers and read by thousands.  He was able to communicate great truths in less than 250 words each day to help people orient their thoughts toward Christ.  These writings won't compare with those--and I am discovering it's harder to say what you mean in 250 words than 2500 words!  So, I am inspired to try to communicate with you, our congregation, and any others who are interested through these brief daily devotionals, with the hope that I'll get better with more practice!

These devotionals are based on a list of Scripture readings entitled Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings (Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 2005).  (You can order this from Cokesbury or if you'd like your own copy).   This work was an attempt by mainline Protestant scholars involved in a project entitled the "Consultation on Common Texts"  to develop a daily lectionary somewhat like the Book  of Common Prayer, but simpler.  This format offers a New Testament Lesson and an Old Testament Lesson for each day and a psalm for each week.  I've chosen one reading for each day of the week, except Sunday to guide my prayers and reflections. 

The readings for Thursday, Friday and Saturday of each week are designed in a broad way to prepare us for the Scripture readings we will hear on Sunday in worship.  The readings and devotionals for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday lead out of Sunday and look back on the themes highlighted in those readings. 

 My hope is that in some small way, we can allow these readings during the week and what we encounter on Sunday mornings to give us some common texts for reflection, discussion, and more than anything,  living.

My hope is that these brief Scripture readings and reflections will connect us to one another and the church universal.  I would love for you to respond to these thoughts and Scripture readings.  We can certainly learn from each other and encourage one another in our attempt to be disciples of Jesus Christ, sent forth to witness and serve each week, from the heart of our city!