As the word of God starts out in Ephesians 1:3-14, it states that God has blessed us. Just as he blessed Jesus for the world, he has also blessed us. As I continued to read, I noticed the reminder that we are redeemed of our sins. For me, I think of the image of being covered in the blood of Jesus. I remember that I am made blameless and even holy. In this covering, the mystery of God’s will for us is unveiled. What that big unveiling shows is that we may have everything in heaven and on earth—it’s for all of us. In Christ, we have earned the inheritance! With purpose, we can live with hope and praise our God in heaven, which in turn strengthens us in faith, love, understanding, belief, trust, and salvation through the Holy Spirit. The word tells me this is our ‘pledge inheritance’—to praise our heavenly Creator in heaven and on earth.
Prayer Thank you God for blessing us—thank you for choosing us!
Reflection: v. 13, ‘I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.’
How many times have we needed a reassuring and living word to move us into hope in God once more? Through the trials and tribulations in everyday life, God has promised that there is a time for sorrows and for the tough times to have an end! It is a time when God lifts us up above these circumstances and turns what may have been a long and difficult moment and gives us joy through his love for us. God tells of his promises to take off the old yolk of the world and its ways, and suddenly causes a miraculous change of circumstances to fulfill God’s plan in and for our lives. Our Lord and Savior Jesus will move heaven and earth to help us through a situation. He has given us life and through his life, death, and resurrection, the promises of God’s will is fulfilled. Reflect on that. God gives us life, joy, and peace to come.
Prayer Thank you, Father God, and thank you, Lord Jesus, for your steadfast love and care. Put in us your spirit, cleanse us so that we may receive your promises of salvation and new life by Christ Jesus!
These are a people who are in exile—people who feel abandoned, likely betrayed, and experiencing desolation. Although it feels as though God is absent and cares little about God’s people, particularly in their distress, this is a reminder that God is present in the darkness and pain. God will not be still. The prophet will not be still. We are not to be still. I have found for myself that it is easy to be paralyzed with inaction when the work to challenge oppression and injustice, a work of love and grace feels, overwhelming. We freeze in body and voice. I am reminded of the work of Stacey Abrams, who in the face of discouragement and loss, was determined to be anything but still and silent. She refused to allow defeat to paralyze her and, as a result, made space for a work of justice. This is the message, folks. We are not to be still. We are not to be silent. We have been called to do the tough work of moving one limb at a time when paralysis threatens to take over. If we are to be faithful, that means we will not be still, and we will not be silenced. It is not enough to say ‘black lives matter’ or ‘love is love.’ Be grassroots. Put your feet on the ground. Build relationships, and get to know one another—and not because you have something to gain, but because your stillness means there is something lost. Yes, the work is hard. No, we may not see the promises of God clearly in the moment. But that doesn’t mean God isn’t present.
Prayer Lord, I pray that we won’t keep silent anymore. May our voices be an action that leads to peace and justice for all.
I believe that God definitely wants me to be healthy. I talk to God every day. I’m designed to be healthy and clean. I’ll pass by the liquor store, and there were days when I would have just went in there when I had the money, but I choose not to, because that’s where I’m at today. I take it one day at a time. I have to make the same choice tomorrow—I have to choose not to. And I thank God that he helps me to do that. God is the foundation of my trying to get clean. He connects the dots for me. Every day I try to involve myself in the Bible studies we have here at Mercy—they connect to my recovery. Studying the Bible in community helps me build a foundation and gives me a reason to stay clean and stay sober. It also makes me want to live not just for myself, but to help somebody else. It’s not only about me, but the people around me. Other people, if they see you’ve had long-term recovery, they go by what they see.
Prayer Lord, let my actions live out what I’m trying to do and what I believe in.
Reflection: v.10, ‘he has clothed me… he has covered me’
This passage makes me think of the image of being out of fellowship, but then coming back to be welcomed and clothed with the grace, mercy, and righteousness of God. This is what being in fellowship with God is like. God wants to and can provide for all of my needs. This passage says, ‘he has clothed me…and covered me.’ That verse stands out to me, because it reminds me that God cares about my needs. He is giving me my basic needs, both spiritually and physically. This gives me hope, direction, and purpose. The volunteering I do with a ministry downtown gives me an opportunity to give back and to show people who have a background just like me that God is able to and wants to care for us—if he can do it for me, he can do it for you. From crack to Christ, from weed to the Word, from a six-pack to a four-pack—that’s Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Prayer Provide for our needs, O God, and help us to lead others to you.
Reflection: v. 3, ‘Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!’
I was walking my dog one evening. It was dark and cold outside. I had my jacket zipped up tight, hands in my pockets, shoulders pulled up towards my ears. My gaze settled downward and I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of loneliness as Thumper and I navigated our nightly route. With family far away and suddenly a single mom to two young daughters in a new city, the feeling of isolation was overpowering. Eventually, Thumper and I reached the corner and turned around to walk home. As we made the U-turn, I took a deep breath, glanced upwards and audibly gasped. My eyes locked on the biggest, brightest moon I had ever seen. My impulse was to reach out and touch it, even though I knew that would be impossible. Thumper and I stopped walking for a moment while I just stared and was overtaken by the moon’s beauty. Praising God amid loneliness, fear, rejection, and isolation is not necessarily the first thing that naturally springs forth. But God is in everything. If we take just a moment to shift our gaze towards that which is purely of our Creator God, praise can become us. We are never alone if we are willing to glance in the direction of the Creator, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Prayer May we trust that God will never leave us alone.
Reflection: v.11, ‘the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise’
Reading this passage reminds me that I can turn the corner. I used to think that I really didn’t deserve good things, because of all the stuff I’ve done in the past. I beat myself up a lot. And sometimes I will fall short. But I’m grateful today that I can turn the corner. I’ve seen so many of my friends pass away from addiction or other things. When I went to the hospital, it gave me a reality check. When they had me hooked up to all that stuff, it was a reminder that my life is important. My family was calling me, and I had people surrounding me that really cared, even when I hadn’t cared for myself. Sometimes it takes other people around you who value you to make you realize that you have value. Like my community at Mercy. I come here every day to get spiritually fed, and because it is important to have people around you who care about you.
Prayer Lord, help me to remember I am surrounded by your love.
This psalm reminds me that we are called to praise the Lord with all our heart, mind, and soul—our everything. It is God’s kingdom that reigns forevermore. We’re reminded not to ever forsake God, because God will never forsake you. God is the all, the everything. And God cares about all people—all people. This makes me want to live my life and give all the praise and glory to God.
Prayer Give all praise and glory to our God Almighty. Amen!
Reflection: v. 5, ‘a light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it’
Though liturgically Christmas has its twelve-day season, for many of us, today just feels like ‘the day after Christmas.’ For some of us the holiday season has always been difficult—it can remind us of strained family relationships, missing loved ones, or better years long past. For others of us this year in particular probably hasn’t lived up to our expectations and the holidays have likely felt the same. What small glimmer of nostalgia or tradition we were able to capture from a family Zoom dinner or the promise of ‘next year will be better’ quickly fades today as we sit with the obvious pangs of disappointment. Maybe your existential dread, like mine, strikes deeper to the core this year. My own small sadnesses seem trivial when I think of the thousands of people who have lost someone beloved to Covid-19 this year, when I think of the loved ones of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and so many others, mourning their unjust and unnecessary deaths, or when I think of the families torn apart at our borders without power or promise of reuniting. Without the numbing distractions of holiday social events and ready excuses to make Target trips for unnecessary last-minute gifts, I am left only with the stark reality that the warm-fuzzies of Christmas mornings past did not save us from ourselves. I am left with the dread of the world I help to create and yet feel powerless to change—what chance does my small and flickering Christian hope have of combating the deep gloomy night of this season? My flame remains small, but I will not relinquish it just yet, even now as the dawn stretches far away. For what hope was a small baby boy born to a poor and homeless refugee family all those many years ago? I have to keep hoping that as this Scripture promises us, in all eternity, God chooses to be with us and cares about our well-being. And whatever evil looms—love and mercy and justice and hope will not be overcome.
Prayer Strengthen our flickering hope, O Lord, that we may see your love and justice in the world.
Reflection: v. 7, ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation’
When my daughter Emi was born, a flurry of texts went out to family and friends—the fast-footed digital messengers announcing the joyous good news of her anticipated arrival. The after-experience of birth was quite different for poor displaced Mary and Joseph, but I can still imagine the delight they must have felt to cradle their new baby as angelic messengers announced the coming of our salvation to shepherds. Today we celebrate that Christ has come, and we are invited to embrace that good news and share in the joy of it. And no, Christmas tidings do not mean that everything will suddenly be easy or okay now. Even as God’s own messengers proclaimed peace and salvation on the day of Christ’s birth, the powers that be were already plotting our sweet Savior’s demise. For love incarnate will always challenge the ways of the powerful and privileged and the work of bringing peace never ends. As we near the close of this uniquely challenging year, we too are faced with the task of holding in tandem our Christian hopefulness and the unavoidable reality of the difficulties and work still yet to come. Yet the truth of God’s good news is no less actual for we who have waited for it. Though it is not always as we expect it, God still comes and love still prevails. The messenger has arrived, proclaiming peace and good news! It may not always feel like it, but our salvation has indeed come, so let us celebrate—and then get to work.
Prayer Today, O Lord, help us to find joy in your anticipated arrival. Tomorrow, help us to get to your work!
Chad is pastor and founder of Mercy Community Church, a grassroots community of worship and action—a group of people who believe Jesus wants the hungry fed, strangers welcomed, and every child of God housed.
Originally from North Carolina, in the fall of 1986, he made the move to Atlanta to attend Emory University. Following graduation, Chad enrolled in Candler School of Theology, graduating with a Masters of Divinity in 1993. That same year, Chad was ordained and began to serve as an associate pastor at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Atlanta.
Chad and his wife Camille began Mercy Community Church in August, 2005. A small circle of friends gathered for simple worship, sensing a call to begin an intentional community in a congregational form with an unmistakable preferential option for the poor at the heart of its worship and life. Today Mercy makes it home on the campus of Druid Hills Presbyterian Church, serving meals, sharing clothes, talking about the Bible, welcoming strangers, and trying to build a diverse and faithful community with over a hundred people a day, five days a week.
Chad is an Associate of the Missionaries of the Poor, a Catholic religious order that embodies a daily commitment to the spirituality of Matthew 25. He and Camille and their two sons, Matthew and Levi, live in Scottdale, Georgia
Brittany grew up in Jacksonville, Arkansas. She first learned about God and what it means to be a church community that loves and cares for one another from First Presbyterian Church, Jacksonville, AR. Brittany graduated from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky. After teaching abroad and working for a travel company, Brittany began her studies at Columbia Theological Seminary, taking steps to answer a call to ministry that she had felt since her childhood. Upon moving to Atlanta, Brittany’s passion for being present with those on the margins led her to volunteer at Peachtree and Pine’s Taskforce for the Homeless and to become a pastoral intern with Mercy Church. After completing her MDiv at Columbia, Brittany began a PhD program at Emory University, but left to answer God’s call on her life to full-time ministry as a pastor to our community. Brittany was jointly ordained by the PC(USA) and Mercy Community Church in 2018. Outside of Mercy, what gives Brittany life and joy is spending time with her husband Cooper and daughter Emi, traveling via plane, train, and foot, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and nerding out over Karl Barth.
Holly grew up in Ocala, Florida where she was nurtured by her faith community and encouraged to find ways to be a leader in the community. Holly graduated from the University of North Florida with a degree in Psychology. After a period of discernment, she was called to a church community in Lady Lake, Florida where she served as the Youth Director for over six years. She began her seminary career in 2014 at Columbia Theological Seminary where she earned her Masters of Divinity and Master of Arts in Practical Theological (Pastoral Care). During her time in seminary, Holly began attending Mercy Community Church where she fell in love with the community. Upon graduation, Holly served for two years as a Chaplain Resident at Grady Memorial Hospital and specialized in pastoral care through the lens of behavioral health.
In her free time, Holly loves to exercise, travel, spend time with her family, read, and organize.
In May of 2020 Mercy Community Church ordained Pastor Maurice Lattimore to ministry in his own organization, Feet on the Streets Ministries. Before and throughout the pandemic Pastor Lattimore has worked alongside the other Mercy pastors to care for our community through his Empowerment and Recovery groups, pastoral care, and by connecting people to invaluable resources. He continues to serve and support the Mercy community while also pastoring his own community and creatively and compassionately supporting those experiencing homelessness across the city with showers, community, empowerment, and the love of Christ. Mercy is thankful for Pastor Lattimore’s partnership with Mercy as well as his own faithful work—here is Pastor Lattimore’s story:
My name is Maurice Lattimore and I'm a 62 year Black man and native of Atlanta Georgia, I'm the oldest of five siblings and the last one standing, and I'm the one that did it all wrong. I was raised in the projects during some very racist and discriminating times. With the bias that developed in me during those times I quickly got off to a bad start. I was 12 years old when I did my first piece of real drug, and from that point the next 35 years of my life were like a rollercoaster of drugs, incarceration, and eventually homelessness. What a vicious cycle! A change of events did come about in 2004 in Phoenix Arizona in a jail cell--I found Christ, Amen! The best and freest years of my life until then were lived in that prison. This is what accepting Christ as my personal Lord and Savior did for me. Today I am in the life of my daughter and my grandchildren, and God saw fit to give me a wife. At the ministry that God has entrusted me with, Feet on the Streets Ministries, as well as here at Mercy Church, today I get and give service to a community of brothers and sisters whose lives I can identify with on a personal level. Glory be to God the father and our Lord and savior Jesus Christ forever and ever Amen!