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

Wednesday, December 8

Author: Holly Reimer

Philippians 1:3-11

Reflection: v.6, ‘the one who started a good work in you will stay with you’

As I read through this verse, I think about two words we use a lot in our community: recovery and process. We all find ourselves either actively participating in recovery or in need of recovery from something. The second word, process, speaks to something that is in motion and fluid. Both process and recovery go hand-in-hand. God has begun a good work in all of us and desires this good work, whether it is recovery and/or some form of grace and love. The best part? God is not a God who is going to begin a work in us and get distracted, or lose interest, leaving us to wonder what happened. God is going to go with us on the journey. God partners with us. We have not and will not be abandoned. The work of goodness, love, justice, and mercy can be difficult and isolating. We are often fighting against powers and systems in the world that are a complete 180 from God’s ways. It can be tiring work to look within ourselves and come face-to-face with our trauma and pain instead of looking into a bottle, swiping our credit card, or staring mindlessly into a screen. Dear friends, remember that no matter what stage of the process we are in, in all of it, we are never alone.

Prayer Lord, thank you for the good work that you have begun in us all, and for your presence with us along the journey. Amen.

Advent – Tuesday, December 7

Author: Holly Reimer

Luke 1:68-79

Reflection: v. 78, ‘because of our God’s deep compassion’

Earlier in this passage, we hear blessings to the Lord for all the Lord has done. We are reminded of the Exodus, the time in the wilderness, and eventually the time in the promised land, too. In each of these times the Lord is with God’s people. In the midst of suffering and injustice, time in the wilderness, times of famine, uncertainty, and despair, and eventually in a season of abundance and new life—God is in it all. God journeyed with the Israelites, and journeys with us in each of our own seasons of exodus, wilderness, and the promised land. This, I believe, is another expression of God’s compassion for us. In spite of our times of trial and suffering, God wants us to ultimately experience the promised land—to have life and to have it abundantly. God’s compassion for us speaks to God’s connection to us. God is connected to our peace, joy, anger, sadness, and fear. We don’t only experience these things in nice, peaceful, controlled environments, but in our daily lives. God is with us for it all, just like God was with the Israelites through it all.

Prayer Lord, thank you for your deep compassion for us. Thank you for showing up alongside us in the good, the bad, and everything in between. Amen.

Advent Devotional – Wednesday, Dec. 1

Author: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Reflection: v. 12, ‘love for one another and for all’

In our modern cultural context the Advent and Christmas season has become a time that many of us gather with family and friends. We have cozy Christmas parties with treats and presents at work, at home, and at church. We participate in seasonally themed activities curated to give us warm fuzzies and fond memories. We fill our calendar with visits to see the people we love. Of course there is nothing wrong with any of these practices, particularly as such festivities can evoke that ever-wonderful feeling of the love we have for one another. However, I would challenge the Christian community to remember in this season of preparation and anticipation, that the love we are called to is for more than just our inner-circle. The love we are called to is for more than just our close family and friends. The love we are called to is for more than just our neighborhood, our church, our company, or our country. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul implores the early church to remember to abound in love for one another, yes, but also to abound in love for all. This Advent season as we are tempted to nestle into the comfortable patterns of loving our own nearest and dearest, may we be challenged to love in deeper ways too. May we be challenged to love when it is hard and feels little like warm fuzzies. May we be challenged to love when it is different and requires solidarity, empathy, and understanding. May we be challenged to love when it asks of us and requires us to think beyond the scope of our inner-circle of existence. Love can look like many things, but the love of God that we anticipate and pray for in this season is a love that is for all of us.

Prayer May our love overflow beyond just those we know.