All posts by Cheryl Raine

Compelling Call

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
“As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea-for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people. Immediately they left their nets and followed him.’” [Mark 1:16-18]
 
I am always intrigued by the brevity and the immediacy of the way Mark tells stories. Simon and Andrew were in the midst of their work, probably focused and perfumed given their livelihood.  Yet, when Jesus simply says, “Follow me,” they drop everything and follow.  I would suspect that most of us are far more cautious. We would have wanted a background check or at the very least a resume. Also, a better explanation about what following this guy meant.  Our headlines are filed with stories of people who followed the wrong person, only to find themselves in a boatload of trouble.  What about Jesus was so compelling? What did Simon and Andrew know about Jesus that was not shared in the text by Mark? I have more questions than answers, especially given the analogy of fishing for people. I certainly don’t want to “bait” people into following Jesus. Yet, I don’t think Jesus does either. It seems that Jesus’s authenticity was compelling, enough so that it changed the trajectory of the lives of Simon and Andrew.
 
Prayer
Jesus, I have heard your call to follow as well. Yet, I admit that I am often far more reluctant than Simon or Andrew.  I always find myself weighing my options. Forgive my hesitations and help me to follow you so that I become more like you each and every day. Amen.
 

Keep Listening

Wednesday, January 13, 2020
“Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening… [then] Eli said, ‘What was it that God told you? Do not hide it from me.’” [3:10, 17a]
 
The lectionary gives the preacher a choice as to where this lectionary reading ends, either verse ten or verse twenty. If you end at verse ten the reading is very personal, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.” After three attempts, God finally gets through to Samuel, but at this point we don’t know what God is going to say. You have to keep reading. And let’s just say what Samuel hears is something he would rather not hear. It is judgment against his mentor Eli.  What do we do when the word from God is one of judgment, especially if it is not for us but for someone else? Do we ignore it, or do we do what is hard to do? The sin of omission, not speaking up or speaking out is no different than the sin of commission. Eli makes it clear to Samuel that he shouldn’t hold back.  But what happens when the Eli’s of the world do not want to hear what needs to be said? Recently I read that some employees at a company formed a union, not for pay raises or benefits, but to have protection for when they call out what it not right with employment practices. It takes courage to call out what is not right or what is unjust in our places of work, in our churches, in our cities, in our country and in our world. Will we dare to listen to God as Samuel did?
 
Prayer
Speaking God, I admit that I would rather stop reading at verse ten.  That way it is just about you and me. Yet, I know that like Samuel I need to keep listening. Give me the courage to listen and to act on the words you speak to me. Amen.

Do We See?

Wednesday, January 6, 2020

“John the baptizer proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” [Mark 1:7-8]

Today is Epiphany, the day traditionally celebrated as the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the presentation of gifts by the Magi. The Gospel of John reminds us of Christ’s universal purpose, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” Although Jesus was born into a particular family with a particular faith tradition, the revelation of God through Jesus is for all people. We are then catapulted from this manifestation of Christ to the River Jordan in a matter of days for this Sunday we will remember the baptism of the Jesus. In both these instances though, God is revealed. Christ is made manifest to the searching traveling Magi and in Mark the heavens are torn apart as the Spirit descends like dove and a voice booms from heaven, saying, ‘You are my Son, the beloved; with whom I am well pleased.” God reveals God self again and again throughout scripture, although often the people of God are slow to notice. What about us? Do we see the in-breaking of God in our daily lives? Do we see God at work in the world? “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me,” said John the baptizer. Are we ready to receive what Christ has to offer our lives?

Prayer

Holy God, it is apparent that my ways are not your ways. May understanding of power is different than yours. Christ came as an infant, and then as an adult willingly accepts the baptism offered by John.  As this new year continues to unfold, please help me fully grasp what Christ offers – life that is really life! Amen.

Focused on Us

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

“Long before God laid down earth’s foundations, God had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure God took in planning this!) God wanted us to enter into the celebration of God’s lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.” [Ephesians 1:4-6; The Message]

As we prepare to close 2020 and welcome 2021, take to heart this phrase, “Long before God laid down earth’s foundations, God… had settled on us as the focus of God’s love.”  God’s love is focused on us, on all of humanity! Wow! This should cause us to pause and to give thanks, for God’s love is steadfast, extravagant and will never run dry. God pours love into humanity, yet are we willing receivers? It is hard to dispense God’s love into the world, if we first have not received God’s love. So, as this year turns to a new one, how will you prepare your heart to receive God’s love ever more fully? What spiritual practices might help you dwell in God’s loving presence more regularly? Will you spend more time in the Word?  Will you allow creation to speak to you of God’s love?  Will God’s first language of silence teach you the ways of love?  Will being with others in prayer help you connect more deeply with God’s love?  As 2021 dawns, may we be drawn ever deeper into God’s lavish gift-giving love through Jesus Christ.

Prayer

Loving God, thank you for focusing your love on humanity. Open wide my heart and mind to receive the extravagance of your love for me. Make me whole and holy by your love, so that I may pour your love generously into the world through my very life. Use even me, I pray. Amen.

Burst Into Songs

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

“Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people, God has redeemed Jerusalem. 10 The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” [Isaiah 52:9-10; NRSV]

When I heard Isaiah’s words to Jerusalem and the people of God, this paraphrase surfaced for where we find ourselves this year, “Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of 2020, for the Lord has comforted us.” I know that my vacation plans lie in ruins.  I know that many of my plans for 2020 lie in ruins. I also know that countless families around the globe lie in ruins given the death of those whom they loved to the coronavirus or other tragedies. 2020 has been a difficult year for humanity, yet the hope of comfort is ever present. The exiled people of Jerusalem were comforted and redeemed by God, why not us? Can we hold fast to the miracle we will celebrate on Christmas Eve that Christ, indeed, is born? As Ann Weems writes, “It is not over, this birthing… When we begin to think we can predict the Advent of God… that’s just the time that God will be born in a place we can’t imagine and won’t believe.” Into the ruins, the life that was light shines. Into the ruins of our lives and this world’s, this birthing we await continues to happen again and again and again. How will your life be a part of this birthing process, bringing life that is light into the ruins of our world?

Prayer

Holy Mystery, I await your birthing once again. Birth within me life that is light for this world. Do not let me be overcome by the darkest ruins in my life or in this world. Fan the flames of your love deep within me, so that your light would shine through me. Amen.

Deep Peace

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

“Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.” [John 1:3-6; Common English Bible]

John’s Gospel is not like the Gospels’ of Matthew, Mark and Luke. John’s version of Jesus’s story begins at the beginning of time and encompasses the cosmos.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” writes John. In Proverbs we hear an echo Continue reading Deep Peace

Possibility of Joy

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb’ …And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.’” [Luke 1:41-42, 46-47; NRSV]

Do you remember a time when you heard about a child that was to be born? What leaped within you?  Did your heart leap or your thoughts take flight? Every time I hear of a new birth, I hear God’s, “Yes!” Mary exemplifies that yes saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Rejoicing Continue reading Possibility of Joy

Courage to Love

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and yo are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” [Matthew 1:20-21]

“Do not be afraid… to love.”  Joseph was faced with a monumental decision. He didn’t want to disgrace Mary, but it was obvious to him that she had disgraced herself.  Joseph had resolved to dismiss her quietly, but then Continue reading Courage to Love

Anticipatory Waiting

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” [Mark 1:1-3]

Advent marks the beginning of the liturgical church calendar. It is our New Year, and it begins with anticipatory waiting, a waiting that expects something as miraculous as God with us in the flesh. In the Gospel Mark this new beginning sweeps Continue reading Anticipatory Waiting

Harmonies of Love

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

“14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.” [Colossians 3:14-15]

Do you have a favorite song or melody that lifts your spirit and brings you joy? When times are tough, I turn to contemplative music by Rufino Zaragoza. The particular instrumental CD I own, the music is almost liquid, Continue reading Harmonies of Love