Friday, February 28th

By: Bethany Apelquist
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Reflection – v.5 ‘whenever you pray’

If you have ever visited Mercy during prayer time, you have probably felt the presence of the Spirit and felt the warmth of community. You may have sensed some peace in the bustle of a busy city. As we all squeeze into the small basement church, always making room for one more person to join, there is a sense that this thing we do together— gathering to pray—is important, even sacred. I think that this is the kind of prayer that Matthew is talking about. I don’t think Matthew is arguing that praying together or in front of others is wrong. Rather, he believes that prayer is a holy moment, a moment in which we stand just a bit closer to God–a moment of refuge in the midst of the hardships of our lives. Prayer isn’t about one person being the center of attention. Prayer is about the community holding each person as equally important to God and holding God’s presence in the center of our lives together. Prayer is a moment that makes room for one more person to join. Prayer is a moment in which together we hold the joys and the concerns of our community in our hearts, knowing that God is close to us, that God cares for the things we care about. So this Lent may we make room for prayer in our lives. May we remember that God is present with us, and may we remember that we aren’t called to do this alone, but that we are called to do this in beloved community.

Prayer Thank you God for being present with us and for the joys of community.

Thursday, February 27th

By: Ivan Cooley
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Reflection—v. 5 ‘do not be like the hypocrites’

Usually when I come home I turn on the TV. Until the other day when I turned on the TV and it was dead. I panicked, because what was I going to do without my TV?! When I get on the train, I guarantee that 60-70% of the people around me are looking at the screen on their phones. I’m amazed at how many people are addicted to their screens. But then when my TV went out, I had to admit that I was addicted to a screen too! But then I started playing my music. Since I had gotten the TV I wasn’t listening to music near as much. I couldn’t concentrate on the music because I wanted to watch TV. The next day I was downtown walking and there on the sidewalk were some speakers—I took them home, plugged them into my phone—it worked! The music was sounding good! Oh, I see what I’ve been missing now! At first, when the TV went out, in the quiet, I started thinking thoughts that I didn’t want to, but then after a while, my mind let that stuff go, and I noticed that it wasn’t that bad without the TV. I had to give up the TV. It wasn’t my choice, but I believe that God leads us. When I could hear my music again, I began to hear other things. I could hear good things in my head for a minute, and then even when I turned the music off, I knew I was going to be alright and my mind went to a different place. What I thought was going to be a bad thing, God showed me, might be what I needed. Peace is a good thing.

Prayer Lord, sometimes I’m a hypocrite; in your mercy, help me to look at others with the same love you look at me.

Ash Wednesday, February 26th

By: Chad Hyatt
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Reflection—v. 1, ‘Beware of practicing your righteousness’

I’m a pretty weird guy—I really love Ash Wednesday and Lent. I love the smells and bells when we gather with other neighborhood churches. I love the imposition of ashes and the chalky black crosses that paint our foreheads. I love coming to the table to share with one another in the bread and wine that is the body and blood of Jesus. And I really, really love the theme of penance. It’s old-fashioned and cringe-worthy enough of a word to make us ill at ease—and yet radical enough to invite us to serious transformation. Francis of Assisi often described himself as just a penitent. Think about it: one of the most beloved holy people in all of history thought of himself as living a life of constant turning from sin. That makes me feel that real holiness is actually about practicing it— which, for me at least, would have to include a lot of messing it up along the way—and not about some idealized version of being human that is pretty much out of our reach. But I wonder if we haven’t allowed penance to become too church-y. We might come closer to what Jesus was talking about if our repentance was less religious and more real world, less bourgeois aspirational ‘spiritual growth’ and more righting and repairing our relationships with other human beings and creation. Jesus commends alms-giving, prayer, and fasting not as status-driven virtue-signaling but as ways to widen the capacity of our hearts for doing right by our neighbor and realizing the kingdom of heaven in the here and now. I think that’s a kind of weirdness our world could use a little more of.

Prayer Jesus, help us always and ever to turn toward you—in our streets as much as in our pews.

January 6th–Epiphany

By: Chad Hyatt
Ephesians 3:1-12
Reflection—v. 10 ‘made known to the rulers and authorities’

As I write, I call to mind my community. I can see it, loud and brash and rowdy. I marvel at it, so compassionate and generous and forgiving. Truth be told, I am overwhelmed by my community, for we are painfully honest and undaunted by struggle and so very wonderfully human. There is no place I would rather be than with this people, just one among the many that make up this little flock of the followers of Jesus. Perhaps you have seen it, too, as you have prayed and reflected on Scripture with us through Advent and Christmas. And now it is Epiphany, a time for seeing, for the light has come to us. We are called to carry that light—the light of God that shines so deeply in our humanity because God has become one with us. Christ has bestowed upon all of us the gift of life in its marvelous fullness. Our vocation is to make this truth known to the powers that be—the ‘rulers and authorities,’ indeed every system and institution and ideology that seeks to hold sway over the hearts and minds of human beings. Here in a little basement off a back alley, huddled with those who are hungry for bread and hungry for justice, I can see and feel it, be encouraged by it and be overwhelmed by it. Because it is here that I see the church living the truth and truly making it known. My prayer is for every one of us, in every church and community, to shine so radiantly that our world may be awash in the glow of such ardent life.

Prayer: God of variegated wisdom, make known the joy of life and redeem us all.

Sunday, January 5th

By: Sid Imes-Burkett
Jeremiah 31:7-14

I invite you to read the Jeremiah passage again (starting at verse one for bonus points).

Take it in slowly, savor it, and walk in to the text.
What do you see?
Where are you in this gathering?
With whom do you walk?
In what ways do you feel God’s arms around you?
Where in your communities do you see places of healing? Abundance? Salvation?

Prayer: God who gathers us in your arms, we give you thanks for your gentleness. Wipe away our tears, shower us in your mercy, and bless us with eyes to see the ways you are bringing life into our midst. In your good and joyous name we pray, amen.

Saturday, January 4th

By: Bethany Apelquist
Psalm 148
Reflection—v.5b ‘God commanded and they were created’

God Commanded and they were created, I love that, I love that we serve a God who can create beauty out of nothing with a single command. In a world that is so often filled with war, and violence, and heartbreak I think that there is something that is deep within us that longs for God the creator to be close to us, we long for God to create something new. We long for God to show up and take most broken parts of our hearts, and our world and say the word to create something new, something better, something more holy. And while we celebrate that big awesome power of a God who created the mountains with a single word, I think where the real hope lies is that believe in a Creator who emerges in the bleakest hour to create something new, is that not what the incarnation of Christ is all about? That Christ showed up when the world needed him to the most to offer us something new- offer us a new creation, a new way of life. A way of life that resists the temptation of violence and says yes to peace, a way of life that hold heartbreak with tenderness, a way of life that is marked by more love, more justice, more mercy? This Christmas season may we celebrate the presence of the Creator among us, and work hard every day to co-create that new way of being.

Prayer: Creator God, inspire us to be co-creators with you.

Friday, January 3rd

By: Kevin Whitside
Hebrews 2:10-13
Reflection—v.11 ‘not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters’

It’s clear that it’s not angels that Jesus helps, but people. Jesus was made like his brothers and sisters in every way and is merciful and faithful. In a practical realm, since he was human, it is kind of like he’s ‘been there, done that.’ He knows exactly what we’re going through, because he’s been through it! Particularly, I think of the humility Jesus went through. Jesus hung out with people like us, people like myself—those who didn’t have much, those who had issues, those who had vices—the people under the radar. Jesus decided to walk with people who didn’t have much. People who were talked about and even criminals. I think he put himself with people who needed him. But these were also the people he found value in. That’s what it means when it says, ‘brothers and sisters.’ I’m not perfect, but Jesus still values me as his own brother. ‘Why me, Jesus? Why stick around with me when I do so much that’s not God-like, that’s not Jesus-like?’ But he’s still with me. He still never takes his hands off me. He’s allowing me to turn my life around and that’s why I’m still breathing. I’m not perfect, my past isn’t perfect. But I try to live the best I can, and I’m truly grateful, because he hasn’t taken his hands off of me. He gives me another chance to live God-like, and I have to acknowledge that and live it.

Prayer: Christ, my brother, thank you for loving me. Help me to love myself and others.

Thursday, January 2nd

By: Kevin Harris
Isaiah 63:7-9
Reflection—v.9 ‘he lifted them up and carried them…’

When I read this passage, I felt as though God had increased me completely. I was able to ponder and be grateful for the many gifts the Lord has allowed me to experience. This year it feels as though I have been tried like Job. But even in the midst of my hardships, God constantly tells me ‘you may bend, but I won’t allow you to break.’ God says ‘I love you’ to life and I trust that God wants my life to be full and abundant. My Lord has shown me the love of a community that carries the Lord’s shield when I’m faced with trouble. Through my community I’m reminded of God’s promise to lift me up–God’s promise to carry us all to health and well-being. Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed by the tasks of mercy and grace, yet it warms my heart to serve. So when God calls, I try to just listen. I hear birds, trees, and family. In conclusion, what the prophet Isaiah is describing in this passage is life. I love love and I love God’s people. Amen.

Prayer: God of abundant life, in our times of trouble and strife bring us health and wholeness through your beloved community.

Wednesday, January 1st

By: Bethany Apelquist
Isaiah 63:7-9
Reflection—v. 7 ‘I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord’

In a world that is often complicated and filled with violence and hardship, I love that we see Isaiah doing the brave work of recounting the gracious deeds of God. In November, I was ordained as a minister in the Christian Church by Mercy Community Church and First Christian Church of Decatur. That celebration reminded me so deeply of the gracious deeds of God. I was reminded of those moments, places, and people through which I have seen glimpses of God that are a little closer, a little more tangible, a little more of the God incarnate that we celebrate in this season of Christmas. So many of those moments have often taken place in this small basement church on the crowded street of Ponce. As I reflect during this Christmas season on God’s goodness, I can’t help but think of the faces of Mercy Community Church. Faces of those who have spoken prophetically, sung joyfully, and shared vulnerably. Every meal shared, every sound of laughter, every prayer lifted up in our community is a gracious deed of God. I have had the honor and privilege of worshiping with the Mercy Community for over five years now, and when I think about the gracious deeds of God, I count the Mercy Community on the top of my list. My prayer for you this Christmas season is that when you recount the gracious needs of God in your own life, your list includes all the love and warmth that Mercy Church represents for me.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for all the good things you are working in our lives.

Tuesday, December 31st

By: Jill Oglesby-Evans
Isaiah 63:7-9
Reflection—v. 9 ‘It was no messenger or angel but God’s presence that saved them’

In The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek explores the concept of finite and infinite games. In a finite game there is a clear beginning, middle and end, the players are known, and all the rules agreed upon ahead of time. An infinite game has no clear beginning or end, engages both known and unknown players, and proceeds with ever-changing rules! At Mercy, worship is a joyfully played infinite game with few time constraints, unexpected players, and rules with which the Holy Spirit plays any way She pleases! Preaching at Mercy, for example, is a community event, ala lectio divina. After Scripture is read everyone is invited to call out a word or phrase that grabs us. When a word or phrase someone else brings up jumps out at us, too, we call out, ‘check!’ At Mercy you can trust that the presence of God will be made known not just through the voices of a few enlightened messengers, or simon-pure angels, or over-educated preachers, but through the voices and insights and struggles of the whole community. At Mercy, worship is a decidedly infinite game during which, through ALL our questions, doubts, fears, and wonderment, the lively love of God saves us, redeems us, lifts us up, and carries us through the coming week.

Prayer: Loving God, keep us ever humble, open and ready to play with the infinite ways you come to us through your creation and one another. Amen.