August 4, 2020

The Spiritual Gift of Service

It feels like Service is at the root of all the gifts that build up the church. I was reminded that because all Christians are called to ‘minister,’ we are endowed with gifts to use cooperatively to strengthen the body of Christ – that’s you and me – to better fulfil God’s purposes. These gifts are our deepest passions and capabilities and, when we use them, a sense of satisfaction and contentment fills us even when our energy gets depleted.

Our ministry is the place where our gifts meet the needs of the world. It’s important to remember that we don’t own our spiritual gifts; they are actually loaned treasures entrusted to us by God’s grace to serve others. Ah, there’s that word again … serve … action is at the heart of Service. The spiritual gift of service is the ability to see concrete, practical work that needs to be done for groups or programmes to function, and volunteer to do it.

All Christians have the responsibility to offer a helping hand. Scripture reminds us of this over and over. But having the spiritual gift of service or servanthood (as some inventories call it) is more than that. It takes the “I” out of the act of ministry. I wonder if that’s why an inner contentment can over-ride exhaustion for some people.

According to the Haugk Spiritual Gifts Inventory (HSGI), Servanthood, diakonia in New Testament Greek, is a humble and unpretentious way of thinking, being, and doing. Those possessing this gift are selfless, sacrificial, and loving – they minister without regard for recognition or public affirmation. They perform ordinary deeds with extraordinary humility – whether they are planting gardens, preparing meals, painting walls, planning events or preaching God’s Word.

Jesus is an incomparable model of servanthood. The Matthew story about feeding the 5,000 that was read on Sunday begins with Jesus withdrawing to a deserted place, quite possibly seeking some quiet time to process the news about the beheading of his friend, John. When the crowds follow and interrupt his solitude, he turns his attention to them and has “compassion for them.” I have watched people in our faith community serve in similar ways as they put their own grief on hold to answer what feels like a more pressing “call,” or when they stretch their own resources to ensure others are fed, clothed and sheltered, or even put themselves at risk as frontline workers during this chaotic time of COVID-19.

Today I am especially aware of one of our great “saints” whose life was celebrated on Friday: Ransford Chambers. He embodied the incomparable spirit of servanthood that Jesus modeled for us and he is now marching through the open door that eternally unites him with Christ.

Prayer

Thank you, God, for placing people in our lives who show us how to have the same mindset as Jesus. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for the “gifts” that enable us to put that mindset into action.

Amen

Philippians 2:1-11 (New International Version)

Imitating Christ’s Humility

2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy [the apostle Paul’s joy] complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

Devotional: Dale Kucharczyk

July 30, 2020

The Encouragement Spark

 

If your gift is to encourage others, do it!  Romans 12:8a To encourage is to enliven, or embolden; it is to elevate or play a role in the increase of a person’s courage; it is to share words of life with those we encounter along the way. We all know people who seem to show up and say the right thing in the right moment. These are people who are in tune with the Spirit’s whispers – whose encouragement is exactly what we need to hear at exactly the right time!  Such people embody a special gift of encouragement that plays an important role in the nurturing of a healthy, balanced community of faith.

But what about the rest of us, learning to live in the way of Jesus? Well, encouragement is for us too. A thoughtful card, a well-timed email, words of affirmation or an invitation to participation can all be moments of encouragement. As a community of believers we each get to listen for the Spirit’s whisper. Our actions and words can build up those around us, they can offer hope to those who are struggling and guidance to those who are seeking. Question to consider: How would our larger Islington United Church community be impacted if we turned up the dial on encouragement? Challenge: Why not take a few moments each week to be intentional about practicing encouragement? If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a simple way to begin engaging in the practice of encouragement: •  Spend five minutes reflecting on people in your circles: friends, family, acquaintances. Notice those who come to mind and write those names down. •  Next, take some time to write a card, send an email or make a couple phone calls. •  Finally, as you live into this act of encouragement, offer a simple prayer for each person you’ve connected with. Watch how this increase in acts of encouragement has a real and lasting impact on our community! Perhaps your words or action will be the spark that ignites a passion, affirms a decision or calms a spirit. On Music Sunday, our choirs shared a beautiful song: This Day. It was a reminder to fully live each day and share love with those we meet. Perhaps this would be a nice time to listen to that piece once again as we recommit ourselves to living into the gift of encouragement.
Prayer
Gracious God, inspire us that we may be an encouragement to others. Help us to speak words of life to those around us, and in doing so may we find delight in the joy your Spirit brings. Amen

Romans 12:4-18

4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. 9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Devotional: Jason Locke

Photo Credit: Mary Beth Wallace

July 28, 2020

The Spiritual Gifts of Encouragement/Exhortation

When I think of the word encouragement, the name of Barnabas immediately comes to mind. Barnabas means, ‘Son of Encouragement’(Acts 4:36). It was Barnabas’ belief in Paul of Tarsus that encouraged the apostles to accept Paul and take him in. Paul went on to become one of the greatest apostles of all time.

Barnabas also believed in John Mark (Acts13:4-13). Although John Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, Barnabas invited him to join their second missionary journey. Paul disagreed because he did not trust John Mark, so they parted ways. Paul took Silas with him and Barnabas took John Mark. This parting of ways enabled the gospel to reach more people and places. Without the unwavering encouragement of Barnabas, the spreading of the gospel may have taken a very different turn and John Mark may not have written the Gospel of Mark.

The gift of exhortation walks along side the gift of encouragement. Exhorters are positive people who trigger motivation in others, with their encouragement and enthusiasm. They are cheerleaders. “If you are an Exhorter, you have the Spirit-given capacity and desire to serve God by motivating others to action by urging them to pursue a course of conduct. You are the “how to” teacher, explaining how to apply God’s Word to every day life.” (Excerpt from the book, Your Gifts! Discover God’s Unique Design for You, Copyright 2015 ChurchGrowth.org).

Several years ago, at a workshop on Spiritual Gifts, I realized that I have the gift of encouragement/exhortation. This affirmation emboldened me to use my gifts to encourage others, specifically in the area of fitness. My ministry lies in keeping people fit and healthy. It is a passion of mine!  Over thirty years ago, I became a fitness instructor. By ‘word of mouth’ my small group of women grew. It went from six to eight ladies, to over 20. Today there are over 45 ladies in my classes.

I wonder if it was the spirit that led me to make a special effort to work with those who were inexperienced and cheer on others with a total dislike of exercising. I did my best to urge them on; I knew they could do it!  As time went on, they caught on and I saw their faith and confidence grow.  I think they even enjoy coming to class now.

The last part of each class always feels spirit-led. As we stretch and cool down, we breathe in God’s Spirit as we relax in His presence, giving thanks for all God provides. It feels like a time of prayer that we can all share despite our different beliefs.

So it is with this gift of “Encouragement/Exhortation” that I continue to use my passion to nudge and convince others to keep healthy and fit during this time of much uncertainly. Fitness will keep all of us more able to cope with the stresses that confront us, as well as lifting our spirits. I thank God for His never ending love and nudges of encouragement for me to keep on, keeping on!

Prayer

Loving Father,
In this time of uncertainty and anxiety about the future, walk along side us, encouraging us to see the beauty of creation. May the wonders revealed remind us to trust that you will bring us through this fearful time. Give me the courage and discernment to encourage those who may be fearful. Help me teach them to trust you; showing them that you are in total control. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Devotional: Sally Cancilla

Photo Credit: Mary Beth Wallace

July 23, 2020

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Hebrew scripture is filled with prophecy, visions and dreams. For the Hebrews, the role of prophet was a central one. God spoke through prophets to the people whose dreams and visions helped to guide the Hebrew people. 

One of these dreams or visions appeared to Jacob as he travelled from Beersheba to Haran. The name Beersheba means “well of the oath” and Haran means “parched”. The “well of the oath” signifies a place of promise, so when Jacob left Beersheba, he was leaving a place of promise – and he went toward a place that was parched.

Along the way, Jacob rested for the night, putting a stone under his head. And he had a dream that there was a ladder to heaven. God stood beside Jacob and said, “I am the Lord, your God. I will bless you and all of your descendants. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” When Jacob woke, he set the stone up as a pillar and poured oil on it, saying: “Surely God is in this place, and I did not know it!” Jacob called that place Bethel, which means “a holy place.”

Jacob’s encounter with God reveals the essence of prophecy’s role for God’s people. God gives visions and dreams to bless, to encourage, and to guide. Although Jacob left a place of oath, a place of promise, God appeared and gave him a new oath or promise. Although the stone on which Jacob laid his head was hard, it became the symbol of God’s presence and blessing.

Jacob’s story calls to us, here and now. When we leave a place of promise and go toward a parched place, God travels alongside – blessing, encouraging, guiding us. When we find ourselves in “hard places”, we are reminded that those are also holy places, if we have the eyes to see and ears to hear. When we attend to our visions and dreams, they reveal a God who is with us and will never leave us, prompting us to say, “Surely God is in this place, and we did not know it!”

God calls us to prophesy, to tell forth, to speak the truth in love. Whether it be visions or dreams, convictions, stirrings, or longings – all are signs that God is in our midst. May we find our prophetic voice and speak out God’s love and mercy, so that all the people of the earth may be blessed.

Genesis 28:10-19

10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” 17 And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel.

Prayer

God of the Promised Land and the Parched Land, walk beside us as we journey. Bless us with your presence, and transform the hard places of our lives into holy places. Help us to follow your Vision and your Voice as we seek to build your Kin-dom. Amen

Devotional: Jan Wood Daly

Photo Credit: Jan Wood Daly

July 21, 2020

The Spiritual Gift of Prophecy

Prophecy is often misunderstood and even neglected by modern religions. It is often linked with fortune-tellers and psychics and seen more as prediction than as prophecy. But predicting a person’s future has little to do with prophecy. True prophecy is sacred prophecy. True prophecy focuses on inspiration, interpretation and revelation, and the meaning of God’s will for the people of God. In this way, wisdom and prophecy are alike. Wisdom isn’t about the wise one; it’s about the wise one’s community. Prophecy isn’t about the prophet; it’s about the prophet’s community.

Many think of prophecy as focusing on the future, but prophecy is not so much about “fore-telling” as it is about “forth-telling.” It is not so much about predicting the future as it is about proclaiming what is happening now – specifically, what God is doing here and now. Forth-telling means to tell forth, to declare the truth of God and interpret that truth for the faith community. Prophecy is timely truth. Prophecy is also loving truth. As Paul said in Corinthians: “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

Perhaps out of fear of being associated with secular practices like fortune telling, or with TV evangelists who claim to be prophets, the Church seems wary of the role of prophecy. But in order to truly be the body of Christ, the Church needs to reclaim prophecy as a spiritual gift. A healthy, effective Church is one in which all spiritual gifts are practiced, including prophecy. Without prophecy, a serving or helping church may lack a sense of sacred purpose. Without prophecy, a faithful church may lack clarity and discernment of God’s will.

Within the faith community, some people may feel more called than others to the role of prophecy. But to speak with a prophetic voice doesn’t require having university degrees, religious titles, or holding a church office. We are all prophets when we speak God’s truth in a timely way.

In Proverbs 29, we read: “Where there is no vision, the people perish. But blessed are those who heed wisdom’s instruction.” The Hebrew word for “perish” also means “unconstrained, without direction.” When there is no prophetic vision, the people wander without direction and die. But they are blessed – they find life – by attending to God’s wisdom. May we as a faith community seek that holy vision, that sacred truth. May we claim it, and proclaim it. May we be blessed, and may we be led to life in all its fullness.

Prayer

God of the Ages,
Stir in us a vision for your Kin-dom on earth.  Give us your Spirit to be a prophetic community.  Help us to tell forth your truth in a loving way.  And bless us with life, abundant and everlasting.  Amen

Devotional: Jan Wood Daly

Photo Credit: Jan Wood Daly

July 16, 2020

Wise Words

As we have reflected on the meaning of knowledge and wisdom, we have seen that they cannot be separated from their divine Source.  They are divine or spiritual gifts that, in their essence, express a relationship with God.  The writer of Proverbs said, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.”  We might say that the love of God is the beginning of wisdom. 

In order to love God, we must know God.  The idea of “knowing” in Hebrew is different than it is in modern English.  We may “know” someone, meaning we know that they exist, or we know things about them.  But in Hebrew, knowing someone means having a close, intimate relationship with that person.  To know God, to have a deep, abiding relationship with God, this is the beginning of wisdom.

We live in an age of information where thoughts have a life of their own – they can be extracted from human life and relationships.  Our society also values intelligence, but its focus is on the individual, not on the community.  The philosopher Rene Descartes wrote, “I think, therefore I am.”  Hebrew theology challenges this assertion.  It is not thought or intelligence that proves our existence.  It is love.  What makes us human is not our ability to think, but our ability to love.  Love is the proof of our existence.  “I love, therefore I am.”    

Wisdom does not grow out of intelligence.  It grows out of love.  Wisdom is loving engagement with the world.  Wisdom is embedded in daily life, in the struggles and challenges of the ordinary.  When we follow Wisdom, we see the sacred in everything.  When we see the sacred all around us, we know how to live our lives and show that sacredness to others. 

We see this relationship between knowledge, wisdom and love in Psalm 86.  “Teach me your way, O God, that I may rely on your faithfulness.  Give me an undivided heart, that I may love your name.”  Knowing God, loving God – this is the beginning of wisdom. 

Wisdom is Love.  Wisdom is loving engagement with the world – God’s engagement, and our own.  The psalmist writes: “Great is your love toward me, God; you have delivered me from the depths.”  God is engaged with us, with our world.  And we, too, engage with our world.  “Turn to me and have mercy on me, God, because I serve you.” 

Loving and Wise God, may the compassion and mercy that flow from you flow through us, bringing Love and Wisdom to the world – abounding, overflowing, unending.  Amen

Psalm 86:1-17

Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God;
3 be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all day long.
4 Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my cry of supplication.
7 In the day of my trouble I call on you,
for you will answer me.
8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
9 All the nations you have made shall come
and bow down before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.


11 Teach me your way, O Lord,

that I may walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
14 O God, the insolent rise up against me;
a band of ruffians seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them.
15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant;
save the child of your serving girl.
17 Show me a sign of your favor,
so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame,
because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Devotional: Jan Wood Daly

Photo Credit: Mary Beth Wallace

July 14, 2020

The Spiritual Gifts of Wisdom and Knowledge

Knowledge and wisdom have played an integral but complicated role in humanity’s story. In Genesis, Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden.  This gave them knowledge of good and evil, but because God did not want them to have this knowledge, they were considered to be cursed.  This illustrates an enduring belief that is part of all religions and cultures.  True wisdom is a gift from the divine.  It is sacred wisdom, or it is not wisdom at all. 

All religions value wisdom and see it as divine.  In Buddhism, the Buddha (wise one) seeks Bodhi (wisdom). In Hinduism, one of the most revered gods is Ganesha, the god of Wisdom.  In Ancient Middle Eastern civilizations, women were often the religious leaders. These “wise women”, who were trained not only as priests, but as healers and midwives, became the model for the role of “witch” in Medieval Europe.  The name witch means “wise one.” It wasn’t until the 1300s that these healers became associated with the devil.  During the Bubonic Plague, the Church, fearing that people would blame God (and the Church) for the disease and death, targeted women who practiced witchcraft. They turned a sacred practice into something evil.    

The Wisdom writings in Hebrew scripture include Proverbs, Psalms, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes and the Book of Wisdom.  In all of these books, Wisdom is depicted as the perfection of knowledge and a gift from God.  In Proverbs, Wisdom is depicted as female – a “righteous woman.”  The book begins and ends with a celebration of this Wisdom.  Proverbs 31, typically seen as a tribute to an individual woman, can also be read as a depiction of Wisdom as this righteous woman. 

Wisdom in Christian theology is also depicted as feminine – as “Sophia” or “Dame Wisdom.”  This was balanced with the image of Christ as the “Word” of God.  In the beginning, Wisdom and the Word were with God, and they were God. 

Wisdom as a spiritual gift is the in-dwelling of God’s Spirit. Wisdom is not something to be achieved. It is something to be received. Receiving wisdom requires a stillness of the heart and mind, an openness to the sacred in the midst of the mundane. Wisdom requires that we watch and listen for God. Only then can we speak and live out the knowledge and wisdom that God imparts.

We began by saying that true wisdom is a gift from the divine.  It is sacred wisdom, or it is not wisdom at all.  Like Eve and Adam, we need to remember that when we grasp for wisdom apart from God, when we try to become divine, we end up becoming less human.  We also end up treating others as less than human, often persecuting those who are truly wise. 

All-knowing God, grant us minds and hearts that are open to Wisdom. May we watch and listen for the divine in the midst of the human, the sacred in the midst of the ordinary. And may we speak the knowledge and wisdom you impart as we seek to build up the body of Christ. Amen

Devotional: Jan Wood Daly

Photo Credit: Dale Kucharczyk

July 9, 2020

The Key to Life in the Spirit

How sweet the sound of those words (Romans 8:1) for we who love to condemn ourselves and others!

In this passage Paul gives us the good news of Christ in a nutshell! In a few short verses we learn that those who belong to Christ Jesus are free from the domination of our “sinful nature”. While Paul goes on to explain how Jesus came to satisfy the Hebrew notion of atonement, he announces our key to freedom is through Christ’s Spirit!

What is Paul talking about? Could he be discussing the plight of our feeble human nature? Despite all our best intentions and efforts we remain stuck in our selfishness and subject to the hungers of “the flesh”. In the previous chapter Paul laments: “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway!” (Romans 7:19) I can relate to Paul’s dilemma for I often repeat the very habit or reaction that I despise! That is to say that our ego often works against us, not that we should entirely let go of our ego (sense of self). However we can celebrate the ‘self’ that God is birthing in us through the Spirit to raise our awareness of grace and love for self and others.

Jesus was the perfect model of “life in the Spirit”. He was so in tune with God that he could perceive and meet the needs of others. His focus on just actions and right relations with the God of love led to his total sacrifice for all. While we may never attain the “fullness of God in Christ” we can be filled with the Spirit of light who enlightens and empowers us beyond our own egotism. This is somewhat echoed by Eckert Tolle who said: “you cannot fight against the ego and win, just as you cannot fight against the darkness. The light of consciousness is all that is necessary.” The Spirit fills our minds and hearts with light and awareness.

Not only does Christ free us from the chains of our own ego-driven nature, he gives us the Spirit to empower our living. The Spirit sets us free to love and serve others and thus fulfill God’s mission and even equips us with gifts to do so! Thanks be to God!

Romans 8: 1-11

1 There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Loving God, thank you for sending Jesus to release us from condemnation! Thank you for the gift of new life every day in Christ! Life-giving Spirit fill our minds and hearts with your light to direct our actions in the way of Christ. Amen

Devotional: Pattie Aitchison

Photo Credit: Mary Beth Wallace

July 7, 2020

Empowered by the Spirit

When the weather channel says that today will be 34 degrees Celsius, but feels like 40 degrees with the humidity you PAY ATTENTION. In the middle of a heat wave, you have to slow down, you can’t overexert yourself or there are consequences, you have to hydrate and listen to what your body needs. Actually, every day we need to listen to what our body, mind and heart need; to awake to the gift of being alive.

Through scripture God continually empowers us to pay attention, to listen, to be ready, to not be afraid, to give thanks for the gifts that have been given. This summer in Sunday worship and these devotionals we are getting curious about the Spiritual Gifts hat the apostle Paul writes about in his letters. Individually and as a community of faith we are taking time to wonder about the gifts that God has given each of us uniquely. In a time when the world is waking up to the fact that being colour-blind doesn’t exist and that truly seeing all people for who they are and the gifts they bring as valued, heard, and needed.

Exploring Spiritual Gifts helps us see we are created equal in God’s image, and our oneness comes from our shared differences. Knowing ourselves as Children of God, knowing our limits and growing edges allows us to recognizing and honouring the gifts in others and to use our Spiritual gifts for the mending of the world. Each of these gifts is empowered by the Spirit, freely given and sustained. There are many different spiritual gift inventories online, and many interpretations – some helpful and some not. This one from the United Methodist Church’s discipleship program is helpful https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/spiritual-gifts-inventory.

I wonder if you are ready to be empowered by the Spirit? I wonder if you are open to explore this idea of a Spiritual Gift given just to you by God? I wonder if you are willing to see what new gift you may have been given just waiting to be opened?

1 Corinthians 12:4-6

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Dear Jesus, thank you for the opportunity each day to be empowered by the Holy Spirit and the wisdom in exploring these Spiritual Gifts. May we see ourselves and others as you see us, unique and valued. As your followers have done before, open in us new ways of seeing and living in your way, Amen.

Devotional: Rev. Maya Landell

July 3, 2020

Day 14: Jan Wood Daly

This morning marks the last of our fourteen meditations. We have reflected on the themes of finding shelter, being still, giving thanks, and being raised up. Living in different circumstances means that we will experience restrictions in different ways. Some of us will continue in isolation, while some of us will be able to move more freely. All of us, at some stage, will be impacted by the “new normal” that will eventually unfold.

The last fourteen days have been an opportunity to pray for ourselves, for others and our world. Like the Anchorite nuns, we call out from our enclosures, from our prayer cells. I am here! Can you hear me? I am praying for you!

As it has for the whole world, the coronavirus has altered our lives, and our way of being in the world. We don’t know when we will be able to meet with family or friends again, when we will be able to gather together in our communities. But until that time, we will be together in spirit, holding each other in prayer.

Until we meet again, God be with you…

July 2, 2020

Day 13: Jan Wood Daly

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mark 16:1-8)

“Jesus has risen!” The words ring in our ears. We struggle to take in their meaning, to grasp their significance. We are alarmed. It is not what we were expecting. Jesus is not where he is supposed to be. “He is not here!” If he is not here, where is he? How do we find him? We are bewildered and afraid.

The angel spoke to Jesus’ friends, saying, “Jesus has risen!” We may interpret this to mean, “Jesus rose.” But the true meaning of the phrase is, “Jesus was raised.” In his letters, Paul always refers to the resurrection by saying that God raised Jesus from the dead. It’s an important distinction. Jesus did not raise himself; he was raised by God In death, there was nothing that Jesus could do for himself. In death, Jesus committed himself into God’s hands without knowing exactly what lay ahead.

We find ourselves in a tomb of sorts. We are closed in, cut off from the outside world. There is a heavy stone rolled over the entrance. We have suffered, if not death, then the death of life as we know it. There is nothing we can do to raise ourselves, or to roll away the stone. And yet, although it is difficult to be in the tomb, the thought of leaving it is alarming. Truth be told, the resurrection is a frightening prospect. We commit ourselves into God’s hands, but we don’t know exactly what lays ahead.

The angel said, “Jesus is not here!” Jesus left the tomb, and he calls us to follow him. We remember that we do not raise ourselves, but that it is God who raises us. God is with us in death, God is with us in life. The angel said, “Jesus is going ahead of you. There you will see him, just as he told you.” In different ways, we will all venture out of the tomb. Some of us will step outside of our homes, some of us will be able to venture out to see family and friends, or go to work or to stores. Wherever we venture, whatever we go through, whenever we are bewildered or afraid, may the Risen Christ calm our fears and give us strength to follow him.

You raise me up so I can stand on mountains,
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas,
I am strong when I am on your shoulders,
You raise me up to more than I can be.

July 1, 2020

Day 12: Jan Wood Daly

Jesus said, when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to God, who is unseen. Then God, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And this is how you should pray:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread
And forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
(Matthew 6:6, 9-13)

Jesus’ words resonate as much now as at any other time. The health experts have told us, “Go to your room!” And we have gone to our rooms and closed our doors. And there, we pray. Oh God, may your name be kept holy, may your will be done. Give us what we need for today. Forgive us, as we forgive others. Keep us from sin and deliver us from evil.

May it be so.

June 30, 2020

Day 11: Jan Wood Daly

In Psalm 17:6-8, we read:

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love,
those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings.

If ever there was a time for hiding, this feels like it. We want to hide from the coronavirus, from social and economic turmoil, from an uncertain future. The psalmist tells us that it’s OK to hide – to step back, to find shelter, to take refuge. And it’s OK to be afraid. It’s OK to hide and to be afraid – as long as we don’t try to hide from being afraid. In the midst of our fear, the psalmist encourages us to call upon God. Turn your ear to me, God! Hear my prayer! Show me the wonders of your love!

May we find our hiding place in the shadow of God’s wings, and there may we sing songs of deliverance.

You are my hiding place
You always fill my heart
With songs of deliverance
Whenever I am afraid
I will trust in you…

June 29, 2020

Day 10: Jan Wood Daly

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace…
(Ecclesiates 3:1-8)

There is a time and a season for everything in life. For our world, this feels like a time of winter – a time of being scattered and uprooted, a time of giving up and tearing, a time to refrain from embracing, a time of weeping and mourning, and a time of death.
But with every winter comes spring – a time of planting and building, a time of keeping and gathering, a time of embracing, a time of laughing and dancing, and a time of rebirth. God is with us in the winter, but calls us to rebirth, to new life, in the season of spring.

In whatever time or season we find ourselves, may we be surrounded by God’s peace and hope.
In the cold and snow of winter
A spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season,
Something God alone can see…

June 26, 2020

Day 9: Jan Wood Daly

In Psalm 46, we read:

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the sea.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
God lifts his voice, the earth melts.
God Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress

Come and see what God has done.
He makes wars to cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear.

God says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted in all the earth.”(Psalm 46:10)

This psalm is filled with images of God’s action – giving refuge and strength, making wars to cease and kingdoms to melt, bringing peace to the earth. And in the midst of all of these mighty acts, God says, “Be still.” It seems odd that the psalm would end with this image. We expect the psalmist to end with a call for us to take up God’s struggle to bring peace and justice. The psalmist is reminding us, though, that our relationship with God begins by being still before Him.

It isn’t as simple as it sounds. In these times, we know all about being still. We are told to shelter in place, to isolate, to quarantine. Stay home. Stay still. But we are restless. We are distracted. We are discouraged. Nations are in uproar. Kingdoms fall. The earth gives way. Surely we should be doing something about it all? Being still goes against our instinct, against our sense of what is right. But the psalmist, like the health experts, calls us to find shelter – to be at home in God, to be at peace in God. It is precisely in the midst of the chaos and the turmoil that this stillness is so important. To be still in these troubling times is to bear witness to the power and love of Almighty God. It is the highest form of worship we can give. It is to exalt God in all the earth.

God is here. Be still. God is shining. Be still. God is moving. Be still.

June 25, 2020

Day 8: Jan Wood Daly

This morning’s song is “In Christ Alone”. It reminds us that, through his life and death, Jesus embraced the human experience in a unique way. When I am suffering and feel that God has forgotten me, I remember that Jesus experienced that same feeling. In his suffering and death, Jesus felt forsaken by God. Jesus understands my forsakenness, and is with me in the midst of it. Jesus, the God-forsaken God, is with me. Jesus’ own forsakenness allows me to feel God’s presence. This is the mystery and the power of the cross – when we feel God-forsaken, this is precisely when God is closest to us

In the midst of our suffering, may we discover the God who, in living with us, suffers and dies with us, and who, in suffering and dying with us, offers us new life.

June 24, 2020

Day 7: Jan Wood Daly

In Psalm 42, we read:

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.

Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
By day the Lord directs his love
at night his song is with me –
a prayer to the God of my life.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God.

The themes of this psalm can be summarized in these four words: I thirst, I remember, I pray, I praise. We find ourselves in the midst of a desert, a wilderness, and there we search for God – thirsting, panting, longing for comfort, for reassurance. And in our longing, we remember – how we used to go to church, to visit family and friends, to go to work and social events. As our longing threatens to sweep over us, we pray. The deep longing in us calls to the deep love of God. And as we pray, God’s love and mercy sweep over us. The waterfall and waves of God’s comfort wash over us. When we are downcast and disturbed, we search for God. And in our search, we discover that God is also searching for us. We find God, and we are found. As we pray, we praise God for the life and hope that God brings.

We thirst, we remember, we pray, we praise. May we find God, and may we be found in God.

June 23, 2020

Day 6: Jan Wood Daly

In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul writes: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”(1 Thess 5:18)

At first reading, it seems that Paul is saying that when we give thanks in all circumstances, it is because those circumstances are God’s will. But I don’t think this is what Paul means; he is not saying that all circumstances are God’s will. Paul is saying that it is not the circumstances that are God’s will, but the giving thanks in the midst of them that is God’s will. Years ago, I heard someone say in a sermon that Paul doesn’t say we should give thanks for all circumstances, but give thanks in all circumstances.

At this time, we are surrounded by circumstances that are not God’s will – the pandemic, particularly its effects on the elderly and poor, the economic crisis and the devastating toll it is taking in other ways. We are not being called to give thanks for any of these circumstances. But we are called to give thanks for God’s presence in the midst of them. We are called to rejoice, pray, give thanks – even, and perhaps especially, in the midst of circumstances like these.

This morning, may we rejoice and give thanks that God is with us, even as we pray for ourselves and the world.

Bless the Lord, oh my soul,
Worship his holy name.
The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing your song again…
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing
When the evening comes…

June 22, 2020

Day 5: Jan Wood Daly

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

When there’s no peace on earth, there is peace in Christ…

June 19, 2020

Day 4: Jan Wood Daly

This morning’s song is another well-known hymn – “It Is Well With My Soul”. It was written by Horatio Spafford in 1873. Spafford lived with his family in Chicago, where he was a lawyer. His life would be marked by a series of tragedies.

In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed his law office and investment properties, along with a large area of the Chicago city core. In 1873, an economic recession further eroded his business interests. Later that year, he and his wife decided to travel to England but, at the last minute, he decided to stay behind to attend to business while his wife and four daughters went ahead. They travelled on the Ville du Havre. A week after setting sail, the ship collided with another ship during a storm. Spafford’s wife survived, but all four daughters died.

Shortly after, Spafford boarded another ship to join his wife in England. The captain of the ship told him when they were passing over the spot where the Ville du Havre had gone down. It was there that Spafford wrote the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul.”

June 18, 2020

Day 3: Jan Wood Daly

This morning’s song is the hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour”. It was written by Annie Sherwood Hawks, who lived from 1835 to 1918. She lived in Brooklyn and went to a Baptist church there. She wrote over 400 hymns, with “I Need Thee Every Hour” being one of her most famous. About the hymn, she wrote, “I remember well the morning when in the midst of the daily cares of my home, I was so filled with the sense of the nearness of the Master, that wondering how one could live without him either in joy or pain, these words ‘I Need Thee Every Hour’ were ushered into my mind. The hymn was wafted out to the world on the wings of love and joy, rather than under the stress of great personal sorrow. It was not until long years after when the shadow of a great loss fell over my way that I understood something of the comforting in the words I had been permitted to write.”

Especially during this time, we know well the “daily cares of the home”. Sometimes it feels like we need God not every hour, but every moment – every breath. May we feel the breath of God today, bringing us peace and comfort, filling us with strength for the hours ahead.

June 17, 2020

Day 2: Jan Wood Daly

This morning’s song is based on Isaiah 40:29-31(NIV)

God gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even the young will grow tired and weary,
but those who hope in God
will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not grow faint.

May we be carried on God’s wings, strengthened by Love and Hope.

June 16, 2020

Day 1: Jan Wood Daly

In these days of isolation, I am reminded of the Anchorite nuns of the Middle Ages. These nuns were named after the buttresses that supported either side of the cathedrals. These buttresses were anchors, helping to support the building. Small enclosures were created between the buttresses, where the nuns would live, and they became known as “Anchorites”. These women chose to remain enclosed in a small space, where they spent their days praying and writing. There was a small window through which the nuns could receive food, donated by church members. There was also a small window in the wall of the church, through which they could observe the Eucharist.

We may not have chosen it, but we, too, are enclosed within small spaces. We are isolated from the outside world. We are also only able to observe church services through the “window” of the internet. In this time of separation and isolation, we are not free to be in the world, or in the church. We are not able to be physically present. But like the Anchorite nuns, perhaps we can be present through prayer. We may feel like we are in prison cells, but by being open to God’s presence, those prison cells are transformed into prayer cells. Although our enclosures are small and confining, God sets our spirits free.

In these distressing times, may we find peace, and may Peace find us.

June 15, 2020

New Series by Jan Wood Daly

Greetings Friends,

I hope you had chance to watch the Music Sunday service yesterday, June 14. I have to start by giving thanks to God and all those involved in making that service possible. I give thanks for opportunities to worship that move me to a place beyond words where ‘profound Hallelujahs’ resonate within me and all around. So with words of the anthem echoing in my head, I invite you to celebrate by sharing love with this amazing video of our virtual choir singing “This Day.”

It feels right to be continuing our Daily Devotionals with a 14-day series that reflects on the power of music to connect with us. “Fourteen Mornings for Meditation” was put together by Jan Wood Daly, who has been a member of Islington for the past 20 years. Jan trained and served as a Stephen Minister from 2003 to 2011 until she needed to step back from community life for health reasons. We’re grateful to be recipients of her creative gifts.

Each meditation includes a musical YouTube link. The meditations were written for family members who were needing to quarantine, but they can be used by anyone feeling isolated or who loves music. There are many soul stirring links.

As you read, listen and reflect, may you be blessed by knowing that you are not alone, you are part of a faith family praying together. Thanks be to God – the One who created us out of love to be love to one another and the world. May it be so!

MAY 29, 2020

Come, Holy Spirit, Come

Did you know that we will be celebrating a very important birthday this weekend? Pentecost Sunday marks the birth-day of the church. In the Book of Acts, chapter 2, we learn that the Holy Spirit arrives just as Jesus promised.

A wind rushes through the house where the apostles are gathered and tongues of fire touched them. Miraculously the apostles could then speak a multitude of languages so that all the people gathered in Jerusalem could hear and understand that God raised Jesus to life had made him both Lord and Messiah (v.36).

Part of what Peter shared was an invitation for the listeners to change their lives. “Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites.” (vs. 38-39 MSG).

Peter urged them to save themselves from corrupt ways of the present generation. And you know what? About three thousand were baptized and signed up that day. The church was born:

43-45 Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.

46-47 They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved. (vs. 43-47).

Isn’t it amazing to think of all the ways we are becoming new creations? Looks like the Holy Spirit is blowing through Islington, too – from transforming our church building to opening our hearts and minds to new ways of being and doing ‘Church’.

Ask God to show you how the Holy Spirit is transforming your life and celebrate!

2 Corinthians 5:17

New Living Translation (NLT)

17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

A Prayer from Voices United #376
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mould me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the living God, move among us all;
make us one in heart and mind, make us one in love:
humble, caring, selfless, sharing.
Spirit of the Living God, fill our lives with love!
Amen.

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

MAY 28, 2020

Living Water

Don’t you love the way a raindrop can hold a whole world within it? I am in awe at how drinking the ‘living water’ of Jesus opens us to what God has to offer: “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”(John 4:14).

God of Water and Life,
May your gift of ‘living water’ flow in me and through me so that I can splash others with your promises of hope.
Amen.

John 7: 37-39

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

37 On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me,

38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.'”

39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

MAY 27, 2020

God’s Delight

Has observing nature at work ever filled you with awe? Think of a bee and the intricacies that are a part of bee-life. They are programmed to work as a community – in the hive and out. The health of their communities impacts the food systems of the world.

I am amazed by how such a small creature has such a great impact. I wonder if you ever stopped to think that God put the same care into creating you. What you do impacts the circles in which you moved.

Awesome God,
Keep me mindful of all the ways my life intersects with the lives of those around me. Help me gather and spread joy as I go about my day.
Amen.

Zephaniah 3:15-17

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

15 The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
16 On that day
they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.
17 The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
God will take great delight in you;
in love God will [calm all your fears],
God will rejoice over you with singing […and buzzing].

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

MAY 26, 2020

A Plan for Us

Looking out on the wonder of the day awakening before me, I wondered if Creation was God’s original Bible. The opening chapter of Genesis reminds us that everything God created is “good,” and the creation of humans made it “very good.” I wonder if it was the plan for a cooperative relationship amongst all the parts of creation that made it all “very good.”


All-knowing One,
Fill me with the wonder of You and the gift of creation. Show me how to live in right relationship with others, the world and You, so together we can usher in a hope-filled future.
Amen

Jeremiah 29:11

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD,
plans for your welfare and not for harm,
plans to give you a future with hope. 

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

MAY 25, 2020

Light on our Path

The month of May is drawing to a close and we are struggling to find our way forward during these times of social distancing. Today’s photo is of a path that seems to go on forever with no end in sight. The path is cracked and the way is unclear but the dappled shade means the sun is shining. Even though we can’t see the sun, we can see evidence of its presence. May you be blessed to experience of the Son’s Presence in some way today.

My own prayer is like Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians.
Oh Gracious God,
Anoint the eyes of my heart and fill me with hope.
Amen

Ephesians 1:17-19

The Voice (VOICE)

17 God of our Lord Jesus the Anointed, Father of Glory: I call out to You on behalf of Your people. Give them minds ready to receive wisdom and revelation so they will truly know You. 18 Open the eyes of their hearts, and let the light of Your truth flood in. Shine Your light on the hope You are calling them to embrace. Reveal to them the glorious riches You are preparing as their inheritance. 19 Let them see the full extent of Your power that is at work in those of us who believe, and may it be done according to Your might and power.

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

MAY 22, 2020

Focus

These past several weeks have invited me to think deeply about many things.

Some of the challenges during this time may have first seemed ‘light and momentary troubles’ but, as the weeks have turned to months, they have become heavy burdens for many.
The one truth that threads its way through all of this is that ‘We are not alone.’ God is with us always, in more ways than we can imagine.

God of all time,
Help me to keep my eyes on what is important and lasting.
Amen

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

New International Version (NIV)

17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Photo credit: Dale Kucharczyk

MAY 21, 2020

Here Comes the Sun!

I peeked at the forecast for this week as I prepared these devotions. Delight filled me when I noticed that today, Thursday, the sun is supposed to be a constant companion.

I wonder if you can take time today to find a sunbeam and rest in it. Close your eyes and pretend you’re a cat without a care in the world.
Breathe in the possibility of letting go of your cares …. hold that breath and feel the warmth of God’s light …. Now release those cares as you breathe out.

Give thanks for that moment of freedom.Take it with you into your day.

Numbers 6:24-26

New Living Translation (NLT)

24
‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
25
May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26
May the Lord show you favour
and give you peace.’

MAY 20, 2020

We Give Thanks

Holy One,

We give thanks for those who care for the sick at this difficult time.

For diligent family practitioners and experienced specialists,

We thank you.
For care-full nursing staff,
We thank you.
For cheerful housekeeping workers,
We thank you.
For attentive care aides,
We thank you.
For skilled x-ray technicians,
We thank you.
For administrators and support staff,
We thank you.

Holy One, we know that in hospitals and care homes,
in emergency rooms and in intensive care units,
the work of healing is dangerous and challenging,
We thank you for those willing to serve.
(time of silent reflection)

We acknowledge the sacrifice and continual pressure that is the lot of those who care,
We thank you for work they do for us, and for the communities to which we belong.

Holy One,
May your Love sustain them, your Peace surround them
and your Holy Spirit inspire them through the most challenging times,
Amen.

Colossians 3:16-17

The Message (MSG)

15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness.

Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense.

And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

MAY 19, 2020

A Prayer to Care

Be with me here, O Lord, I pray,
as I care for others today –
those assigned and those who cross my path,
as well as those with whom I start and end each day.
You know better than I, the words they need to hear;
make my words be kind – it means so much –
and help me impart knowledge with clarity and care.
In my hands, place Your healing touch;
offering comfort and peace, courage and strength.
Let Your love shine through all I do,
So those in need hear and feel You.
Amen

An Adaptation of a Nurse’s Prayer

2 Timothy 1:6-7

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

6 For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7 for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

Mosaic floor of St John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong

Photo credit: Dale Kucharczyk

MAY 18, 2020

Holidays are Holy Days

Holy and perfect God,

You know I want to be available, to You, to others,
to all the calls I think need answering.

Help that desire sink deeply enough into my being
for me to understand that play and rest are also calls.

Those near and dear are here to be enjoyed
so on this holiday Monday, help me say “no”
to a least one worthy, but not urgent, task today.

Give me the ability to be open
to the life I am leading right now;
not the one I am planning to lead in the future.
Amen

Psalm 118:24

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

MAY 15, 2020

Hope

God of Hope,

You know all things – the lost and anxious feelings that disturb my peace as well as my need to share these concerns with you. Weary, confused and vulnerable, I struggle to escape from feeling as if I’m on a treadmill to nowhere.

It is easy to lose perspective. Lord, help me to settle my fears and anxious thoughts so that I can patiently await your divine direction. Provide me with the strength and courage I need to push through barriers, real or imagined and step out in faith. You will be there to show me the way. Shower me with the gentle rain of hope that will help me grow again. Amen.

Romans 5:3-5

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

3 And not only that, but we[a] also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

MAY 14, 2020

A Spiritual Daily Dozen

A modern version of a ‘prayer exercise’ from Audrey Stevens an Islington United Church  ‘saint’ 
 
Repeating these once or twice every morning, while breathing in and out deeply, helps to develop strength, stimulate life and release power. Each line comes from scripture and by repeating them you immerse yourself in God’s Word thereby entering into a relationship with Him.
 
1. You are God; in You I put my trust. 
2. Your Presence is everywhere. 
3. Your Presence is in me, strengthening, inspiring, healing and perfecting me. 
4. Your Presence helps me to overcome fear and worry and anxiety. 
5. Your Presence surrounds me; in You I live, move and find my being. 
6. Your Presence gives me strength for all my needs. 
7. Your Presence gives me confidence and courage in every situation. 
8. Your Presence drives out resentment and hatred and tames anger. 
9. The inspiration of Your Presence gives me understanding, so that I may have clearness of vision, steadfastness of thought, and trueness of speech. 
10. Your Presence helps me battle evil and disease in all forms. 
11. Nothing can separate me from Your Presence. 
12. Praise be to You, O Lord, Who gives me Victory, through Jesus Christ, my Friend and Mentor, my Judge and Saviour.  Amen

John 3:8

The Voice (Voice)

8 The wind blows all around us as if it has a will of its own; we feel and hear it, but we do not understand where it has come from or where it will end up. Life in the Spirit is as if it were the wind of God.

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

MAY 13, 2020

We All Belong to God

A Prayer:
Gracious God,
who created all we see and more.
Thank you for the sun and sky,
for all the things that like to fly and swim,
for refreshing rain that makes seeds sprout,
for the earth we know –
and the world unseen – for stars and night, and once again – the every morning sun. Amen.


Modified prayer of Myra Cohn Livingston in Graces by June Cotner

Acts 17:24-28

The Message (MSG)

24-28 “The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him! One of your poets said it well: ‘We’re the God-created.’ 

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

MAY 12, 2020

Called to Care

Did you know that our Stephen Ministry team has been meeting twice on month on Tuesdays for the past 20 years? The team has changed over the years but the heart of the care remains the same.

The ministry is named for Stephen whose story can be read in Acts 6 and 7. Stephen was chosen to help provide caring ministry to those in need. Since the time of the Apostles, caring ministry has been considered a hallmark of the Christian faith community.

Stephen Ministers are trained to listen, care, pray, encourage, and offer emotional and spiritual support. If you’d like to learn more about Stephen Ministries visit www.stephenministry.org or email stephenministry@islingtonunited.org.

Compassionate God, Help us help others to believe that You are still here inspiring others to offer care as Stephen did in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

Galatians 6:2

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

A window in the Islington United Church sanctuary depicting Stephen.

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

MAY 11, 2020

Known in Doubt

I wonder if you were as relieved as I was to hear James preach about doubt on Sunday, May 3. James explained that doubt and wonder are two faces of the same coin. Doubt opens us up to becoming alert to what refuels and refines our faith. Thank you, James, for the reassurance. 

James also shared this prayer by Thomas Merton.

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Amen.

John 20:24-29

Living Bible

24 One of the disciples, Thomas, “The Twin,” was not there at the time with the others. 25 When they kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord,” he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands—and put my fingers into them—and place my hand into his side.”
26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them and greeting them.
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger into my hands. Put your hand into my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas said.
29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. But blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway.”

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

MAY 8, 2020

God Is Love

Prayer:
Dear God,
I know you love us and watch over us.
Thank you, o God, for being with us every day.
Thank you for Jesus,
who shows us your Way.
Thanks for the Spirit,
who helps us to pray.
You’re awesome, God,
we just have to say.
Help us, o God,
Be our strength and our peace.
Bless our family, friends, and world,
for your love will never cease.
Amen

 

Adapted from materials by Susan Lukey of High River United Church, Alberta

1 John 4:7

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

MAY 7, 2020

Dressed by God

The Prayer of St Francis of Assisi

Lord, Make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.

And where there is sadness, joy.
O divine master grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love

For it is in giving that we receive-
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

Colossians 3:12-17

New International Version (NIV)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

MAY 6, 2020

God is Enough

 The ‘Bookmark’ prayer of St. Teresa of Avila

Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing upset you.
Everything changes.
God alone is unchanging.
With patience all things are possible.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone is enough.
Amen

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

Isaiah 55:10-13

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
12 For you shall go out in joy,
and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands

MAY 5, 2020

Breathe in the Stillness

You’re invited to stop right now and breathe …
Take in a deep breath that fills your lungs, hold it for a moment before letting it go, ever so slowly. Do this again a couple more times with your eyes closed.
Can you sense your heartbeat?
The indwelling presence of God pulses in and through you.

Prayer:
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be Still and know.
Be still.
Be.
Amen

Psalm 46: 1-3, 8-10

The Message (MSG)

46 1-3 God is a safe place to hide,
ready to help when we need him.
We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom,
courageous in seastorm and earthquake,
Before the rush and roar of oceans,
the tremors that shift mountains.
8-10 Attention, all! See the marvels of GOD!
He plants flowers and trees all over the earth,
Bans war from pole to pole,
breaks all the weapons across his knee.
“Step out of the traffic! Take a long,
loving look at me, your High God,
above politics, above everything.”

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

MAY 4, 2020

The Inescapable God

When I first saw this photo, I wondered how many of us were feeling the need to burst out beyond the borders that were hemming us in. Then King David’s words from Psalm 139 came to mind – God knows us better than we know ourselves. Maybe God is the One filling us with the desire to burst out to discover the ways God is showing up right where we are.

Prayer:
Inescapable God, companion in our bubbles,
Open our hearts to your power moving
around us, between us and within us.
Burst the bubbles of discontentment that threaten to dim the Light of Your Love. Amen.

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

Psalm 139:1-10

New International Version (NIV)

1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

MAY 2, 2020

Easter Mystery in Extraordinary Times

MAY 1, 2020

Celebrate

Now is the time
To free the heart,
Let all intentions and worries stop,
Free the joy inside the self.
Awaken to the wonder
Of your life.

Open your eyes and see the friends
Whose hearts recognize your face as kin,
Those whose kindness watchful and near.
Encourages you to live everything here.

See the gifts the years have given.
Things your effort could never earn,
The health to enjoy who you want to be
And the mind to mirror mystery.

By John O’Donohue, An Abundance of Blessings

Psalm 47:1

Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

April 30, 2020

For Equilibrium

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.

As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity be lightened by grace.

Like the dignity of moonlight restoring earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.

As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.

As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.

As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.

May your prayer of listening deepen enough
To hear in the depths the laughter of God.

By John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us

Matthew 11:28-30

The Message (MSG)

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me.
Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

April 29, 2020

Trust

From where we are
to where God needs us to be.
From the security of what we know
to the adventure of what God reveals.
Trust that the fabric of this world can be refashioned,
until it resembles the shape of God’s kingdom,
because good things have been prepared
for those who love God.
Go in peace.
You are blessed and can be a blessing.
Amen.

Proverbs 3:5-6

New International Version

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Photo credit: Dale Kucharczyk

April 28, 2020

We Need Each Other

I do not stand alone
but with others to support me,
I will stand my ground.

I do not see the way
but with others to walk with me,
I can make my path.

I do not possess the truth
but with others to witness to what they know,
I will be able to discern what is right.

I cannot master all skills
but with others who will lend their accomplishments,
I can do enough.

I cannot carry every burden
but with others to share it,
I may bear my own load.

I cannot meet all needs
but with others to nourish and replenish me,
I will be able to give enough.

I do not have limitless choice
but with others to consult,
I will make my own choices gladly.

I will not always be consistent
but with others to laugh with me I will regain my equanimity silence

I am not invincible
but with others to reach out a hand,
I may learn from my mistakes and start again.

I cannot be perfect
but with others to make up the shortfall of my imperfections,
I can be content to be good enough.

‘A Statement of Interdependence’ from Peace Church United Methodist in Munich, Germany

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

New International Version

9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

April 27, 2020

The Secret Is Within Us

I wonder if the disciples on the road to Emmaus realized what they were saying when they asked Jesus to ‘stay with us’.

When we eat the bread that is broken for us during communion, we consume many gifts from the body of God’s creation. Grains of wheat that were planted in the earth, warmed by the sun and watered by the rain are ground into flour that becomes the bread. When that bread of life is eaten it becomes part of us empowering us to nourish others. I wonder if Jesus disappeared from the sight of the disciples because His Spirit now lived within them.

Prayer:

Almighty God,

Make our heart burn with the desire to get to know the You that lives and moves in and through us.

Amen

Luke 24:28-32

New International Version

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

 

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

April 25, 2020

April 24, 2020

God of my life, I welcome this new day.
It’s your gift to me – the first day of the rest of my life.
I thank you for the sleep that’s refreshed me.
I thank you for the chance to begin life all over again.
Lord, this day is full of promise and opportunity;
help me waste none of it.
This day is full of mystery and the unknown;
help me face it without fear and anxiety.
This day is full of beauty and adventure;
help me to be fully alive to it all.

During this day may I become
a more thoughtful person,
a more prayerful person,
a more generous and kindly person.
Help me not be turned in on myself,
but let me sensitive and helpful to others.
Let me do nothing today that will harm anyone,
but let me help, at least a little,
to make life more pleasant for those I meet.
When night comes, may I look back on this day without regrets;
and may nobody be unhappy because of anything I have done
or anything I have failed to do.

Lord, bless this day for me and for all of us.
In Jesus’ name I pray,
Amen

Found in an obituary from The Globe and Mail

Psalm 5:3

New International Version

3 In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

April 23, 2020

Let Us Give Thanks

Let us give thanks to our Creator
for the Creator is always with us.

God is with us in the call of a loon
and in the flight of an eagle.

Our Creator is with us in the changing of the seasons.

God is with us when we gather together
and when we are alone.

Our Creator is with us in our giftedness
and in our search for new understandings of ourselves,
new visions of our communities.

Let us give thanks to God, our Creator.

—A prayer from The Dancing Sun (United Church of Canada/Anglican Church of Canada)

2 Isaiah 40: 28-31

New Revised Standard Version

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

April 22, 2020

O Guiding Light,
Where, O where can I turn for help?
I am lost in a maze of decisions,
afraid of making a wrong turn.

Help me recall the promises I learned as a child.
Help me believe them again.

I turn to your word, the compass that will direct my path.
I’m not stuck in a maze full of dead ends
but on a trail whose design is hidden from my eyes.

Because You are my guide and protector.
I will trust that even a poor choice can be redirected,
leading me where You would have me go.

Provide the courage I need to just take a step.
Thank you for watching over me.
Amen

Psalm 121

1 I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth!
3 He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
5 The LORD himself watches over you!
The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade.
6 The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon at night.
7 The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.
8 The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever.

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

April 21, 2020

Jesus the Light of the World

“Once there was someone who did such amazing things, and said such wonderful things that people just had to follow him. And they often asked him questions, one time they asked him who he was and he said I am the Light.”

I wonder if you have noticed that these words are often repeated when the Christ candle is lit as we gather for worship in the sanctuary and when the children gather for Godly Play. I love knowing that I can go to Jesus with my questions and that somehow a response will rise up that could be a clear answer or more often an encouragement to look at the question or problem from a different perspective.

God of perspective,
Thank you for all the ways you catch my attention when I get bogged down by news or events that make my heart heavy. Help me keep my eyes on the lighthouse ahead instead of the waves around me as You guide me to safety.
Amen

John 8:12

New Revised Standard Version

12 … “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace

April 20, 2020

Easter Morning Musings

By Jason Locke

As I rise to greet this morning I am reflecting a little on the dullness of the outdoors and the rather embarrassing (perhaps even childish) fact that I kind of expected to wake up this morning and feel totally energized and different from yesterday. I thought perhaps the sky would break open and the risen Christ would appear riding a white horse, with a trumpet in his right hand and a vaccine in his left. I chuckle as I write that, but it’s what I wanted. Just like Jesus’ disciples wanted a conquering hero, I wanted the same thing this morning too. And they didn’t get it – instead they got a risen Christ who was empowering those around him to pick up the work and invite others into a new way of living and loving. 

It’s not that following Jesus is drab or boring – but would a little ‘swoop in and save the day’ really be so bad!? Lol … perhaps it would be.
Maybe faith does grow best over time, with patience and careful pruning. Perhaps the flashy David Blaine faith my imagination sometimes wishes for would be a recipe for all sorts of disasters. Baby-step resurrection is still resurrection; small sprouts are still new life. 

This morning the Christian faith feels to be a little like the opposite of ‘death by a million pin pricks’. It is life by a million moments of differing sizes – tons of intricate instances and mini-episodes. And in the moment where I wish most deeply for a John Deer to plow the field quickly, a small trembling hand plants another seed … new life, tended to in a garden, by a tomb; on a balcony, overlooking the city; in a youth shelter, surrounded by courageous volunteers; in front of a computer screen, inundated by an onslaught of website updates; at home grant-writing, puppy-sitting and self-caring; on a chesterfield, speaking on the phone for 1000s of minutes; in a condo – praying that our church won’t implode or fall apart with all the stress; in the tight-quarters of a home office – administrating against the current of often-unreliable technology. It seems that resurrection is all around us: in our persistence, in our prayers, in our service, in our care … in you, dear friends. 

Maybe with all the bustle, I stopped noticing. Oops…my bad. As I let my heart embrace, once again, the hope of the resurrection, I am going to start in this place – – that far from being a new feeling, it is the very foundation on which our faith is ever-forming. It isn’t the place our lives eventually get to – as though our lives unfold year after year in lectionary time and we happen to stumble on resurrection, each year, sometime around my birthday … far from it. It’s the place we start. Every act of love reminds us that life is springing-up despite death. 

So, Happy Easter to you! May it be filled with family hugs, virtual hugs, Easter bunnies, scalloped potatoes (if you enjoy that sort of thing), chocolate (in whatever volume you feel suitable/necessary) and joy beyond measure – even in the midst of gloom and dullness. May hope spring up from the ground all around us as we step into the strangest of Easters.

P.S. Please, God, inspire a smart person to find a breakthrough cure for this terrible virus.

1 Peter 1:3 - A Living Hope

Good News Translation

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy God has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 

Photo credit: Mary Beth Wallace