Sunday, January 2

Author: Paul Hofman

John 1:1-18

Reflection: v.12 ‘he gave power to become children of God’

To those who receive him, to those who believe in his name, Jesus gives the right to become children of God. How do we receive Jesus? What does it mean to believe in his name?

Do you know why Jesus is also called Christ? I didn’t know that for a long time. Christ is a special title that people gave Jesus at that time. It means that Jesus is the Redeemer and that he unites the people with God.
We receive Jesus because we believe in that name, Jesus Christ. We receive Jesus because we accept him as our Savior and let him unite us with God. Jesus makes us children of God. Not because of our parentage. Not because of other people’s will. It doesn’t matter what other people think, how other people evaluate us, and what others strive for. We are children of God because we believe in this name, Jesus Christ.

Jesus gives true life to the children of God. And this gift is greater than any Christmas present. It is a gift that money cannot buy. This gift is a life in the love of God. At Mercy, we share this life in the love of God with one another. We think together on the word of God in the Bible. We eat together. We pray together. And we just hang out together. I cannot imagine how this gift from Jesus could be better received. We are a community and we share in the love of God.

Prayer Good God, we want to thank you for calling us your children. We want to thank you for sending us your Son, Jesus Christ, who gives us our life in love. Protect and preserve our community. Amen

Saturday, January 1

Author: Caroline Hurst

Colossians 3:12-17

Reflection: v. 12, ‘clothe yourselves’

Do you know that feeling when you put on a comfy shirt or sweatshirt? Maybe it’s your favorite one? You feel warm and comfortable and safe. That’s how I imagine the feeling of wearing love. Not only is it comforting to you but it becomes infectious and other people can feel it too. It’s a simple concept but the execution can be challenging. There are days when I wake up and whether it’s because of mental health, the state of the world, or something else altogether, I find it difficult to put on love when I put on my clothes that day. But, no matter our situation, one thing we can do is wake up every day and wear love. Put it on like it’s your favorite shirt or sweatshirt. This passage in Colossians says to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. What does that look like though? How do we wear these qualities? I believe in small acts of kindness. I believe that kindness can make a difference. I believe by clothing ourselves with these qualities we can create a just world where everyone is loved and treated with care. Imagine a world where every person woke up and put on love like we wake up and put on our favorite t-shirt. Despite the challenges in our lives or whatever situation we may be in, one thing we can do everyday is to put on love like it’s our favorite shirt. And above all, do all of this in the name of Jesus Christ.

Prayer Lord, give us the strength to clothe ourselves with love and meet everyone with the love of Jesus Christ. Help us remember the true meaning of the Christmas season and help us draw near to you.

Friday, December 31

Author: Kent Smith

Luke 2:41-52

Reflection: v. 48, ‘I have been searching for you in great anxiety’

My mother retells a story of how I wandered off in a shopping mall as a kid. Retrospectively, it’s a humorous little anecdote about the obviousness of a child preoccupied with something shiny or colorful. In the moment though, it was a scary experience! Neither she nor I had any ill intention, but some grief, guilt, and stress arose out of that interaction. Relationships have that power, sometimes whether we want them to or not. Relationships with our family can be intense since we aren’t easily able to put the brakes on them like a friend or community member. We can mean well, but a moment of miscommunication can cause real harm. The temptation is to throw judgments around like an umpire calling balls and strikes. ‘Oh, they’re wrong’ or ‘I’m right.’ The real power doesn’t come from the referee calling a penalty but from mediation and reconciliation. Communicating the feelings and effects our actions have on others in order to learn how we can repair relationships is power. Those are the times and places that God shows up. We can grow and strengthen ourselves and the love we have for each other through real reconciliation. If Mary and Jesus even had to have a hard talk about boundaries, then we better get ready, because it will certainly happen with us.

Prayer God, bring us to a place of reconciliation with our brothers and sisters, and give us grace to see beyond ourselves.

Thursday, December 30

Author: Holly Reimer

Luke 2:41-52

Reflection: v. 50, ‘But they didn’t understand what he said to them.’

Joseph and Mary did not understand Jesus’ needs and desires to be listening and learning in the temple. I imagine it felt like an affront to them that he’d stayed behind, creating worry and despair and the difficulties in looking past their own fears and expectations of Jesus. This event is just the beginning, a foreshadowing, of the emotional pain and conflict that will come as a result of Jesus’ vocation for those closest to him. How often is this true for us? Conflict comes when we go outside the norms and expectations placed upon us. For some who are seeking to be healthier, whether it is in their recoveries or creating boundaries in unhealthy relationships, it becomes difficult to make a change and break away, creating space to say, ‘no more.’ People who have been in our lives, can’t understand where they change is coming from or why things even need to change at all. Being faithful sometimes means that we must separate ourselves, refusing to live our lives by the standards of the world, recognizing our own responsibility and participation in God’s kingdom. Yes, Jesus went back with his parents, and was ‘obedient’ as my translation offers. But let us remember, that there will come a time when we will need to stand out and stand apart from what the world expects of us, so we can fully live into God’s calling for us—a calling that requires us to be agents of change, justice, peace, love, and mercy.

Prayer Lord, help us to be faithful to you. Help us to have the courage to stand out and stand up with it is most important, even when it is most difficult. Amen.

Wednesday, December 29

Author: Holly Reimer

Luke 2:41-52

Reflection: v. 6, ‘sitting among the teachers, listening to them and putting questions to them.’

Every time I read this verse, I think of our bible studies at Mercy—folks spread throughout the lawn of another church’s property, curious about the scripture, sharing words or phrases that stick out from our lectionary passage, waiting to ask a question or share a way that the scripture speaks to them. This is a time where we come together, in a space created for the wisdom we all have to be shared. Some folks sit and listen, while others might doze off, glance off into the distance as their minds wander, still others have their hands up to ask questions or share prophetic stories. It is a space where we learn from each other, because we are all both students and teachers. As a child, Jesus models for us what it looks like to learn in community. Maybe we feel like we are experts in a particular topic or field, and maybe we are, but may we also remember that we are never done learning and others can have something to teach us. Maybe, there are some who believe that they don’t have anything to offer. May God remind us that we have wisdom and insight to share as a part of our belovedness. May this verse remind us to sit amongst one another, eager to share and listen. It is holy and good to ask questions, to listen, and to learn.

Prayer Lord, we thank you for a space created for learning and teaching. May we continue to facilitate this in our own community, and share it with other communities as well. Amen.

Tuesday, December 28

Author: Holly Reimer

Colossians 3:12-17

Reflection: v. 15, ‘the peace of Christ must control your hearts’

It can be so easy to get caught up in the chaos of this world—particularly right now. More and more we are worried about our safety, security, health, livelihood, and sense of interconnectedness. We are left feeling uncertain about the future—will I get sick, will we be able to pay our bills, where will we live, will I ever get housing, will my child be the next to die, will I survive the night, does anyone care about me? These questions and their uncertainty can be unnerving, unsettling, and down right scary. Yet when we allow these things to rule our hearts it can lead us to make decisions that are detrimental to ourselves or to other people, creating disunity, violence and destruction. It traps us into a scarcity model that creates a stampede, trampling anyone who gets in the way of our own survival. On a basic level, it is like the toilet paper shortage we experienced early on in the pandemic—some people collected more toilet paper than they would need in a year, while others wondered if they had enough to make it through the week, when in reality, there was plenty for everyone to have enough. It becomes more about ‘me’ to the point that we forget we even have neighbors. I believe this is a part of Paul’s message and warning to the church community. Paul is imploring us to allow Christ to control our thoughts and actions, rather than fear, anger, uncertainty, isolation, or jealousy. Paul re-centers us, reminding us that we have been called into one body. We are responsible for one another, and there is always room at the table when Christ is at the center.

Prayer Lord, may we be driven by your peace rather than the chaos of the world. Amen.

Monday, December 27

Author: Holly Reimer

Colossians 3:12-17

Reflection: v. 12, ‘Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved’

This passage reminds us of the ways we are to exist in community with others. The verses preceding remind us that ALL are included with Christ. Not some. Not particular genders, races, ages, or classes—ALL. Christ fights against the barriers, stigmas, and beliefs that one person or group of people is more ‘chosen’ or valuable than another. Since we are ALL God’s choice, we need to ask ourselves, ‘What does that look like for how we are to engage one another?’ If I am truly going to live and believe that I am holy and beloved by God, my actions must reflect that calling. My holiness and belovedness doesn’t preclude me from works of justice and mercy, rather it propels me toward this work.

Prayer Lord, thank you for loving and choosing us all. May we live as though we believe all of your creation is holy and beloved. Amen

End of the Year Letter from Pastor Brittany

Dear Beloved Community,

It’s hard to believe that it is once again the time to send this note and share with you about our community’s year. I must confess that this year I found it harder than usual to put to words what exactly I should tell you.

I could tell you that in some ways this year has been harder—that we have worked more, adapted more, and bended more than ever before. I could tell you about how we have been meeting exclusively outdoors in the rain, the cold, and the heat–packing and unpacking our supplies from a mobile trailer each day. I could tell you about how we lost our Food Truck in an accident, mere weeks after serving our community from its window. I could tell you of the endless hours we have searched for new rental properties, and the many doors and opportunities closed in our faces. I could tell you that our rent will increase significantly in the coming year, and how we still so desperately yearn for a place of our own. I could tell you of the powers we daily combat and the pressures from those who refuse to know and love us as their neighbors.

I could tell you of our year through this lens, yes. Sharing these details wouldn’t be untrue, and perhaps, it would even solicit some sympathy and prayers—we need them. However, sharing only our hardships would be an injustice to the beauty and life sprouting forth from our little church. For in this year of too many cold nights and harsh letdowns, our community continues to thrive nonetheless. It is almost as if there is grace here.

So let me tell you of some other things. Let me tell you how we have become a place families call their church home—how, on Sunday mornings, children run around and serve lemonade to their friends without housing and each other alike. Let me tell you about how, despite being outdoors, we have created warm, welcome spaces for people to come and relax in a city that makes less and less space to just ‘be’—how on any given weekday, the back parking lot where we meet feels akin to a cozy outdoor coffee shop filled with laughter, music, and the best breakfast in town. Let me tell you about the many new members, visitors, volunteers, and interns (housed and still unhoused) who have found purpose and belonging in our diverse and quirky community. Let me tell you about the deep theology, thoughtful artwork, and powerful music our community creates and shares. Let me tell you how we are grounded in the confidence of knowing that the ways we care for and support one another matter. Let me tell you how we showed up for one another when few other churches were thinking as creatively as us. Let me tell you how, even when we do not always get it right, we try to lead with compassion and grace. Let me tell you how our church has thrived in the wilderness because of the grace of God.

So, there you have it. Perhaps I struggled to share these words, because such things are better understood when experienced in our community. Embodied, you know what it is to shiver and laugh at the same time, to feel heartbreak and hope simultaneously, to sing so loud that you combat the rain. Still, I hope to have given you a glimpse of how God is still at work in our humble community–how grace abounds here yet.

As we continue to adapt, continue to search for a home of our own, as our rent increases, but we continue to show up day in and day out, we hope you’ll consider continuing (or beginning) to support our work in some small way. Truly we have found that the smallest of gifts, put together and shared, make a difference that is meaningful to many.

And, on behalf of Pastor Chad, Pastor Holly, myself, and the entire community–thank you! Thank you for believing in our little community and for praying for us. Thank you for considering contributing to our work. Your simple generosity helps to empower all the many ways we show up for one another, and all the ways we create hospitality and welcome, even in the wilderness, the back-alleys, and church parking lots.

Sincerely,

Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum

Pastor

Advent – Sunday, December 26

Author: Holly Reimer

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26

Reflection: v. 26, ‘the boy Samuel kept growing up’

Growing up is a verb that is active, and in process. For Samuel, this is true about his physical, spiritual, and emotional development—it is something that is active and continuing to grow and form. I often find myself in physical and mental spaces where I allow myself to believe that if I can just get to a certain level of education, or if I read a certain number of books, I will find the desired level of enlightenment I seek. This verse reminds me that there is no end to my learning and growth. We are all to be lifelong learners, and will always be growing, changing, and adapting. In community and in connections with others, we are nurtured and cared for in ways that allow us to flourish. As we continue to grow in body and spirit, we need to find and create spaces that allow for such growth, recognizing the importance of being a lifelong learner. This also means that we need to continue to show up to do the work. We talk a lot in our community about ‘process,’ but it isn’t just something that we show up for and it happens to us, it is something that we play an active role in our own growth and process.

Prayer Lord, may we never stop learning or growing, and may we always be mindful of the role we play in our own learning and development. Amen.

Advent – Saturday, Christmas Day

Author: Chad Hyatt

Isaiah 9:2-7

Reflection: v.6, ‘For a child has been born for us’

As usual, the children were laughing at jokes only they understood and devouring their meal like ravenous wolves. The after school program in Clarkston wound down towards a gently chaotic close. Outside drab clouds hung over another cold Fall day. While my students continued to tease and elbow each another in a good-natured battle for seconds and dibs on hot sauce, I sat to the side and picked up my guitar, strumming and humming, searching for a little melody I could hear beginning in my heart. My thoughts turned to an Advent that would soon be upon us and the Nativity it would lead us toward—and to this well-worn phrase of scripture. I have a little recording of it on my phone, a brief audio draft of the song idea taking shape. I treasure that short clip because it represents a moment of birth of sorts—and it comes replete with the joyful uproar of children just being themselves, safe and warm and fed. And most of all, loved.

As we celebrate this Christmas, the truth is grace is giving birth all around us. It is that same grace which saves us. But the grace that saves us isn’t some lovely thought or a hazy mystical abstraction—an idea of something good with no grounding in the real world. Grace comes to us in flesh and blood and moments and years. In the words of the song I began to write that day, such grace is fragile, like ‘a nursing child crying in the night.’ Grace has always called for our response, demanded our care. May another Christmas not come and go, along with primary color lights and spangly tinsel, and we not take a moment aside from it all to allow grace to give birth to something new in us, in our world.

Prayer Oh, Christ child, our hearts leap to contemplate your birth and shudder at the fragility of such wondrous, saving love. Lead us, oh gracious one, to marvel at every child—at every human—as the true tabernacle you choose as your holy dwelling place.