Devotions for Sunday 27th September 2020
Welcome to these weekly devotions. As you read, reflect and pray, may you connect with the God who loves you and calls you on into life at its very best for you and for the blessing of the world.
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of our land, and pay our respects to their elders, past, present and emerging. We honour their care of the land and acknowledge that as Second Peoples, we have benefitted from their dispossession. So we commit ourselves to reconciliation and justice as First and Second Peoples together, and to learn from them to care for each other and the land.
Prayer – based on a prayer by Kevin Lyon in Psalm-Prayers for Every Mood
I do not pray alone, Lord,
I pray with my brothers and sisters,
Who work together
For the coming of your Kingdom.
I make mine the prayers of each,
While they make my prayers their own,
Giving prayer a new meaning,
A new dimension,
A new depth
Even getting together in your presence Lord,
Is itself a prayer. When we pray,
The whole world prays.
We know its needs,
We live its aspirations.
All who suffer the same evils,
Need the same blessings.
There is no selfishness in common prayer.
Dear God, I like this prayer. It shows I’m not alone even though we can’t be together. We are all interconnected. We pray with gratitude and thanksgiving because the blessings of life and love so far outweigh the burdens of grief and our problems, and your gifts and giving to us are all that fill us. I take a moment to name just a few of those blessings and gifts . . . . . and surprises . . . . .
Thanks for our church and the faith I have in you. It makes such a difference in my life.
In Jesus’ name. Amen
In last week’s Devotions and in our free_key.com Zoom service we talked about the phrase ‘Love is Love’. During free_key I was struck with the question – ‘How would single people feel about what we’re saying here?’ In church we talk a lot about love, and emphasise families and marriage, but many of our members are single- some are young and unmarried, others are older and never married, some separated or divorced and we have many widows or widowers.
People living alone is a fast growing demographic. In the 2016 census 31% of households in Warrnambool were single person households.
In our reading last week from Matthew 19: 11-12 Jesus affirmed single people. John Bell (from the Iona Community who wrote a number of hymns we sing and is single) in the book Ten Things They Never Told Me About Jesus has a chapter title ‘Christian Family Values?’ in which he shows Jesus really challenges our Western nuclear family ideal. That’s not how families were in Jesus’ times. What he was calling for was such a close community in baptism that ‘water is thicker than blood’. Jesus invites us ‘into a larger family which is defined by commitment to the kingdom of God’. ‘Whoever does the will of God is my mother, sister, brother’ (Matthew 12: 50).
In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul recommends that being single is a better life- being single, like him, allows one to serve God with greater devotion, He’s giving his opinion, not making rules, and says it’s OK to marry, and you should if you have a strong desire to do so. Paul was, however, expecting the ‘second coming’ of Christ at any moment which would change everything. In the book Faith in a Time of Crisis Vaughan Roberts, an Anglican priest who is single, calls for us to “encourage godly singleness. Singleness is a great gift from God. Whether it’s chosen or not, singleness is a great context in which God can work wonderfully.” He calls for the church to have a “real community among God’s people, whether married or single . . . where they show their love for God and for each other in all kinds of practical ways . . . with greater value placed on friendship. Married people can have a wonderful ministry by ‘adopting’ single people as almost being extra family members.”
Exploring the phrases on this banner- this week’s phrase is KINDNESS IS EVERYTHING.
I found this banner originated from a handwritten sign taken up by the Wisconsin Women’s Health Authority. In wanting to make a banner for our church we decided to add ‘. . . we believe: God is Good’ at the start because everything flows from that. ‘Kindness is Everything’ doesn’t have the same political sting as the other phrases, but could be seen as a summary of them all.
Does Scripture attest that Kindness is Everything?
Well, yes. In the Psalms there are many references to God’s kindness; eg
Psalm 84: 11 The Lord is our protector and glorious king, blessing us with kindness and honour.
He does not refuse any good thing to those who do what is right.
The prophets called for kindness as the way to live; eg
Zechariah 7: 9 “Long ago I gave these commands to my people: ‘You must see that justice is done, and must show kindness and mercy to one another.
Jesus challenged the religious people of his day summarising the commandments as kindness;
Matthew 9: 13 Go and find out what is meant by the scripture that says: ‘It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’ I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”
Paul said kindness was one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit;
Galatians 5: 22-23 The Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 humility, and self-control.
Kindness, mercy and compassion are fairly interchangeable words. Jesus said;
Luke 6: 36 Be kind just as your Father is kind.
Here are some quotes from the website: kindnessiseverything.com
For your reflection, read through that list again and circle any thoughts that were new or were a good reminder.
Maybe design a poster with one of the sayings and with links to actual times you received, witnessed or acted with kindness.
These statements all feel warm and fuzzy, so how about this Scripture Verse?
Psalm 141: 5 Good people may punish me and rebuke me in kindness.
Every parent knows that there’s truth in that. We have to rebuke or in some way punish our children when the do the wrong thing- for their good (and everyone else’s good). But we’re not so easy to see it as kindness when it’s us being so rebuked or having something we want taken away from us.
Some more difficult questions to ponder:
1 What if we reversed it and said Everything is Kindness? Would that work? Could we see the bad things that happen could actually be kindness? (This is hypothetical and standing back from real suffering) But maybe the person that so sadly died suddenly was spared a later, long drawn-out and painful death? We can’t know this, but maybe with an eternal view we could see this? Could Covid-19 actually be kindness by giving us a jolt that we might change our ways and prevent terrible devastation of the environment and socially through our greed and inequality as a human race? We can’t say, but I affirm that God can turn bad things into good for us if we ask. What difference would it make to our lives if we could imagine everything as kindness?
2 Is kindness enough? We usually think of acts of kindness as personal and individual. Are they enough to change the power of greedy and corrupt interests in our world: or do we need to pull on the levers of politics and public opinion and legislation to make change? It seems so slow- like two steps forward and two steps backwards. My faith gives me a hope that in this ‘dance’ God is stronger, love is more powerful, and the Holy Spirit is bringing the world to the place of peace, justice, sustainability, and spiritual life that Jesus envisioned.
God of love and kindness, I open myself to be more of a channel of your kindness. Clean out the rubbish of wrong and regret so that it flows more easily through me. Prime my imagination with ways I can put love into action. May I know that all I give will be replenished by you Holy Spirit; and may my kindness grow a crop of goodness in my world and wider in your world.
And in prayer I send love to situations where I may not be able to act:
I pray for the whole Covid-19 situation: for those who are sick, those who are bereaved, for carers at risk, for leaders who have to make unpopular decisions in kindness, those who are losing their livelihoods and whose incomes are being reduced, and all who are finding the restrictions really hard – all throughout the world. We give thanks for the good progress that’s been made in Victoria.
I pray for my loved ones in their needs . . .
I pray for the issues in out local community . . .
For our national issues . . .
And I pray for myself with all that’s going on within me and around me . . .
Give me physical and mental health, spiritual strength, and enough for life; and where I have so much more than enough help me to wear that responsibility and find the joy of sharing . . .
And joined with others I pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil; for the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen
Thanks for giving your time to read and reflect on these devotions. I’m conscious that if I’m thought of as a kind person, it’s because you who support the church create the opportunities for me to be so.
In this time, may God fortify your inner being with hope and love.
May they be expressed in actions of kindness.
And like a goal assist- may you be able to receive kindness
and set others up to be kind as well.
What a blessing our interconnectedness with each other and the whole world is.
From God. Amen