Pastor David's Devotional
June 02, 2020
"Then the woman saw Peter sitting in the firelight. She stared at him and said, “This man was with him (Jesus) too.” But Peter denied it, saying 'I don’t know him.'”
Protests continue over the murder of George Floyd and the systemic racism that has been a part of our country since it’s’ inception. News coverage reports beautiful scenes of peaceful protestors and law enforcement joining hands in solidarity over the value of all human life. News reports also report instances of violence perpetrated by angry protestors acting upon their anger by striking out at law enforcement as well as private property. Last night, one of our police officers was critically injured by gunfire, adding to the tragedy of this time in which we live.
As I think about all that is going on around us, as I think about the many stories of racism I have heard from good God loving members of our church, as I think about the good, God loving law enforcement officers who are a part of our church, I wonder what it means to be a person of faith today.
In Luke 22:56-57, Peter had an opportunity to stand up for his faith. But, rather than being faithful, he denied even knowing Jesus. This story of Peter’s denial is one of only a few stories told in all 4 gospels. It is a story that speaks to our experience of the Christian life in very direct ways.
When have I denied Jesus? How much of what is going on today amounts to denial of Jesus? Do acts of racism deny Jesus? Yes! Does the perpetration of violence against innocent people deny Jesus? Yes. Does instigating violence deny Jesus? Does failing to treat others with the dignity befitting a child of God deny Jesus? Do I ever participate in the devaluing of human life? When have I denied Jesus?
When it comes to following Jesus, Jesus makes it simple and clear: love God and love others as you love yourself. We call this the law of love. And, actions contrary to love are actions that deny the life and teaching of Jesus. We know this. So, in times like this, as we face the reality of the sin of racism, and as we face the reality of anger and hatred and the violence that is being perpetrated, as a follower of Jesus I am asking myself “what does love require of me this day?” One thing it requires of me is to be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. And so, in the words of St. Francis I pray: “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where this is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where this is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. Amen.
God bless you and stay well!
|June 01, 2020|
After a week up in the Mountains on the east side of Zion National Park, my family returned to Las Vegas last night. Much has happened while we were gone. News of demonstrations over the murder of George Floyd has become the top story of the day. Many people are pointing fingers, blaming people who are far right and/or far left extremists, for the violent demonstrations that followed. This morning I read an article by a local pastor who claims that the eruption of violence is directly related to the frustrations brought about by Covid-19, and went on to say that Satan is the instigator behind the violence. While some of what we are hearing is true: there are people who are trying to cease this moment for their own personal agendas, evil is at work, and Covid-19 does have our nation on edge, we have to be careful not to miss the real issue and what it is that needs to change: Racism.
We know all too well that people with dark skin in our country are victims of racism. We talk about this often in church. Racism is one of the faces of evil in our country, and it is a face that in recent years has come out of hiding, no longer having a reason to hide. As Christians, we know where racism comes from—sin! Racism is a form of idolatry as (in this instance) white people try to assert superiority over people of different races. Sin is contrary to the will of God, and the sin of racism is a direct assault upon people God created, people for whom Jesus died. As a church, we have responsibility when it comes to the sin of racism.
In our baptismal liturgy, we ask several questions. The second question asks “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms it presents themselves.” As a church, we have a God given responsibility in times like these. To fulfill our responsibility, it is important that we not miss the mark: we do not live in a just society where all people are granted equal rights. As Christians, it is our responsibility to call for change, to stand united in our commitment to bring about needed change, and to not be willing to turn our heads away from the racism that threatens to destroy.
Of course, when it comes to battling the evil of our day, we cannot legislate the human heart. We need help in overcoming evil, we need God’s help. So, today I am praying. I pray for all those who mourn the loss of George Floyd, I pray for comfort, healing and strength. I pray for peaceful demonstrators who are fulfilling their civic duty in taking a stand, I pray that their efforts will help bring about needed change. I pray for demonstrators that have turned to violence, I pray that they realize violence never brings an end to violence. I pray for the police officers in our congregation, all of whom I know to be people of integrity and decency, who always treat others with dignity and respect, I pray for their safety, and I give thanks for their willingness to sacrifice for the common good. I pray for police officers who do not have the same heart—those who have hearts corrupted by racism—I pray for their healing and that hearts of fear will be transformed by your love. I pray for our leaders, I pray that God will guide their decisions, and that they will do what righteousness requires. And, I pray for our church, I pray that we will be a witness of what is possible when people choose love over fear, life over death, and God over evil. Pray with me.
God bless you,
Pastor Tim's Devotional
June 01, 2020
"O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence."
Last week I had the opportunity to get away. I left Monday morning and returned home late Saturday afternoon. I was camping with intermittent internet service and decided beforehand that I would purposefully take a break from the news cycle while I was away. When I got home and watched the news on Saturday evening, I learned of George Floyd’s murder and of the Amy Cooper video, and of the protests taking place across our nation. I turned off the TV, closed my eyes and began to pray. As I did Isaiah 64:1 came to mind. In this poignant chapter the great prophet is lamenting the state of his nation. In his anger and grief at the social injustice and violence that he sees, he cries out to God to tear open the heavens and to come down, to intervene, to bring justice, to make the mountains quake.
Many centuries later God would answer Isaiah’s prayer in the person of Jesus. God tore open the heavens and walked among us. Much of Jesus’ ministry was to the disenfranchised, the poor, and the oppressed. He brought them the good news of God’s love and grace. Jesus cared for their physical needs, he fed the hungry and healed the sick. Jesus’ ministry also included speaking with the prophetic voice to those in positions of power. He condemned the social injustice, inequality, racism, and violence that he found. Jesus even went as far as to protest, driving the money changers out of the temple, an event that is included in all four of the gospel accounts (Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-48 and John 2:13-16). An event, that caused those in power to begin plotting to take Jesus’ life (Mark 11:18).
Jesus’ ministry was one of both compassion and courage. As I write this, I feel convicted. As a white male in America who is a follower of Jesus Christ, I feel like I have not done enough to follow Jesus’ example of both compassion and courage. While I will always continue to pray that God intervenes, I feel as though it has been easier for me to ask God to do something about the inequality and injustice that I see, than it has been for me to follow Jesus’ example of speaking up when I see it. It is time for this to change. So, as I continue to pray for God’s intervention and healing for our nation, I will also be praying for courage, and for God’s leading and guidance in seeking to do justice in love.
He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8
Pastor David’s Devotional
May 28, 2020
I Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
This morning, I am sitting on our coffee deck up on our property bordering Zion. Geri and I built the deck together and for many reasons, it is a favorite spot to start my morning. The deck is located in the middle of a stand of ponderosa pines. Looking north, there is an opening through the pines. It is as if the pines frame a window through which we can look off into the distance at a series of mountain ranges. Above the mountains, the sky is blue with an occasional wispy cloud floating by. It is absolutely beautiful. There are lots of different kinds of birds out this morning: Robins, Mountain Blue Jays, humming birds, and some interesting little black and white birds (I don’t know their name) that walk up and down the trunks of the ponderosa’s pecking at insects. The morning is filled with the sounds of birds singing. “Morning has broken” and it is a beautiful day.
Of course, the day also brings its challenges. It has been far too long since I have seen you. It has been far too long since I have been able to be with you in the sanctuary. It has been far too long since my voice has joined yours in singing praise to God for the beauty of a new day. And, while around us the economy is starting to reopen, and people are starting to venture out, there is no certainty about when we will be able to worship together again. How will we know when it is safe for everyone to be together? I still don’t have the answer to that question. What I do know is the longer this goes on, the harder it gets. I am painfully aware of this reality, even as I look out at the mountains from our coffee deck! It strikes me that in many ways this is our life right now: blessing and struggle.
St. Paul reminds us that even in the midst of struggles, we have reason to give thanks. We understand that! Right now, I am thankful for the beauty of the morning, the ponderosa pines framing the spectacular view of mountains, the blue sky and wispy clouds, the sounds of birds singing, and Geri nearby. This is not all I am thankful for. In the beauty of this moment I am reminded of you and I am thankful for you. I am thankful for I know God will give us wisdom for the way forward. I am thankful that the day will come when we will once again gather for worship. I can go on. There is so much I am thankful for! But, now I feel compelled to pray for you, for your health and safety. I pray that you are having a blessed day, and that the beauty of this day is something you are able to enjoy, even if just for a few moments. I pray for our church, that we will get through this time and emerge all the stronger and more faithful. As I pray for you, I am increasing aware of another reason to give thanks: God is listening, and God will see us through. Thank you God. Thank you.
God bless you, and stay well my friends.
Pastor Tim’s Devotional
May 28, 2020
Experiences of Hope – Part 2
Scripture Reading — Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
In the 1994 movie Shawshank Redemption, there is a scene that for some reason always brings a few tears to my eyes. It is well into the movie, and the main character Andy (Tim Robbins), locks himself in the office of the prison and plays an opera record that he finds over the prison’s PA System. As the scene unfolds, the music soars, and every man in Shawshank stops what they are doing to listen. As the camera pans across their transfixed faces, Red (Morgan Freeman), Andy’s best friend, narrates the scene as only Morgan Freeman can do:
“I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can’t be expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you those voices soared, higher and farther than anybody in a grey place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.”
Have you ever experienced something so beautiful that it filled you with hope? Have you ever experienced something so beautiful that words failed you, and it caused your heart to ache? I don’t know why this scene moves me like it does. I think one of the reasons is that our heart aches when we catch a glimpse of the things that we hope for.
The author of Hebrews calls “faith, the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hope springs forth when we experience something so beautiful that it seems to transcend our world. When we catch a glimpse of “things not seen” it has the power to fill us with hope. It reminds us of the promise of God, of the unparalleled beauty of the Gospel. It causes our hearts to ache with an unspeakable yearning for the day when we will experience the things hoped for in all of their fullness.
You can see a clip Shawshank Opera Scene Here:
God Bless You!
Pastor David’s Devotional
May 27, 2020
I Corinthians 13:4-7
“Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous or boastful or arrogant or rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, but it is happy with the truth. Love bears all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, and endures all things.”
Of all the verses of scripture written by St. Paul, I Corinthians chapter 13 certainly is among the favorites of many Christians. I have read I Corinthians 13 at countless weddings and memorial services. I have quoted it countless times in sermons. Most all of us can finish St. Paul’s words from verse 13: “Now faith, hope and love abide these three, and the greatest of these is ____.” Of course, St. Paul finishes the statement with “love,” the greatest of these is love!
When St. Paul wrote these words, the church in Corinth was struggling. Within the congregation, there were folks who believed themselves to be better than others. Some of the problem was related to a specific spiritual gift: speaking in tongues. Those who had the gift believed themselves to be more “spiritual” and better Christians than those who did not have the gift. St. Paul corrected those people, letting them know that all Christians have important spiritual gifts, and no one gift is more important than another—for all are needed and help build up the church (I Corinthians chapter 12). In I Corinthians chapter 14, he told folks to pursue love and to recognize the importance of the gift of prophesy which builds up the congregation, giving comfort and encouragement. In between chapters 12 and 14, St. Paul wrote about love. He said “If I speak in the tongues of angels and have not love, I am a noisy gong. In other words, spiritual gifts void of love are meaningless to the church.
In verses 4-7, St Paul said “Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous or boastful or arrogant or rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, but it is happy with the truth. Love bears all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, and endures all things. St. Paul wrote those words because the way people were behaving in the church of Corinth was the opposite—they were not patient or kind, instead they were jealous, boastful and irritable!
As I read over what St. Paul was facing in the Church in Corinth, I am so grateful that Desert Spring does not have these kinds of problems. We are patient and kind. We do bear all things in love. We do trust in God in all circumstances (at least we try!). And, we are a people of hope. We know we can endure all things, including the time we are in.
Today, St. Paul’s words to the church in Corinth came to my mind, not because the church has problems. We will endure! They came to my mind because we are all out of our normal routine of life, and there is so much uncertainty about the days and weeks and months to come. We can add to the uncertainty, the stay at home order, and the impact current life is having emotionally on us. This is a time when it is easy to lose patience! I, for one, don’t know how much longer I can wait to see you. This is a time when it is easy to become irritable and to even be a bit rude. In times like this, St. Paul’s words are particularly relevant: Love is patient and kind, it is not irritable and does not keep record of complaints. Love bears all things (we can help hold each other up through this time, trusts in all things (God will see us through), hopes for all things (our best days are before), and endures all things (we can do this, we can!). Thank you St. Paul for reminding us that no matter our struggles, loving one another is so very important! Love and the grace of God will see us through.
God bless you, and stay well.
Pastor David’s Devotional
Mark 15:39: “When the Centurion who stood facing Jesus saw how he died, he said ‘This man was certainly God’s Son.”
A primary question the Gospel of Mark asks of readers is “Who is Jesus?” Throughout the Gospel, the question is asked, in one way or another, many times. And, throughout the gospel, the disciples struggle to fully understand who Jesus is. It is not until Jesus dies that anyone in the Gospel understands that Jesus is the Son of God.
It is not surprising to me that the first person in the Gospel to make this proclamation was a Roman soldier. Soldiers understand sacrifice, and they understand the importance of sacrificing for the benefit of others. In Mark 15:39 we hear that a Roman Centurion was present at Jesus crucifixion and seeing how he died, he proclaimed: “This man was certainly the Son of God.” The Gospel of Mark makes it clear that we cannot understand who Jesus is or what he has done without spending some time at the foot of the cross.
It is Monday evening and Memorial Day is coming to an end. As I read this passage, I find myself thinking of the many, many people in our church who have served our country in the military. I can see your faces. I know your faith, and I can hear you saying of Jesus “He is the Son of God.” You understand sacrifice, and you understand how one person’s sacrifice can be life giving for others.
There are many people in our church who have loved ones who died while serving our country. Today, we enjoy great freedom that has been won and protected through great sacrifice. On this Memorial Day evening, I want to say to all the men and women of our church who have served our country, thank you for your service. And, for those who lost loved ones to death, I know the cost of our freedom, and I am forever grateful for their sacrifice.
Finally, I am taking this moment to remember my grandfather, Rev. Boyd Tryon who served as an Army Chaplin during World War II, and was stationed in North Africa. He died before I was born (his death was military related), but I know of him and of his ministry, and I can hear him saying of Jesus “He is certainly the Son of God.’
Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice and the freedom from sin that you have given us.
God bless you and stay well.
Pastor Tim’s Devotional
May 25, 22020
Experiences of Hope – Part 1
Scripture Reading — 1 Peter 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.
I have been thinking a lot about hope lately. What it is, and how it works in our lives. Psychology tells us that human life cannot be sustained without hope. Hope works like gravity, drawing us forward into the future. The greater our expectation that the things hoped for will come to be, the stronger the pull, the greater the momentum hope imparts to our lives. When hope is diminished the force pulling us forward weakens, we can begin to lose our momentum. We can start to feel like we are “going through the motions,” slowing down, drifting along.
Recently, I have begun watching the 2019 Nova series, The Planets: The life of our solar system told in five dramatic stories spanning billions of years. This week I watched the episode on Saturn: The Jewel of Our Solar System. Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and the second largest planet. Saturn is big enough to contain 764 Earths and is the most recognizable planet due to its mysterious water-ice rings.
The episode revealed the many new discoveries made about Saturn by the Cassini spacecraft which orbited the ringed planet for thirteen years. Saturn is almost a billion miles from Earth and there is no way Cassini could carry enough fuel to get there. To generate enough momentum to reach Saturn, Cassini did a couple of laps around Earth before heading out to Venus. The pull of Venus’ gravity drew it onward at increasing speed before launching it toward the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter (1,300 Earths). Jupiter’s massive gravity pulled Cassini to the fastest speed ever reached by a spacecraft before sending it on its way, ensuring that it would have enough momentum to reach its new home.
Hope works like gravity pulling us forward into the future. Peter describes our destination, an inheritance kept in heaven, imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. A living hope that pulls into a new life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Of this we can be sure
Experiences of hope give us momentum along the way. Each imparting something to us for the journey. Without them, we can begin to feel like we are losing our momentum. What experiences of hope are creating momentum in your life today? How would you describe them? Where do you find them? What spiritual practices renew your hope each day?
“Sometimes hope is a radical act,
sometimes a quietly merciful response,
sometimes a second wind,
or just an increased awareness of goodness and beauty.”
– Anne Lamott
God Bless You!
Carolyn Wood’s Devotional
May 23, 2020
Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow, 1674
Jesus said, ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ John 13:34-35
This past week I have been blessed by beginning a new personal ministry which I hope will bring a smile to your face someday. The idea came to me on the occasion of a friend’s birthday. I was inspired to give him a call and sing Happy Birthday. Yes, I thought it would bring a bit of a distraction and perhaps some joy, but I did not act on the initial inspiration. Several times during the day he crossed my mind and the act of singing Happy Birthday kept coming back, but I kept procrastinating. You know, finding other things that were much more pressing and pushing the urge to make the call further away. Finally, it overtook me…. What if I missed this opportunity to show love, small though it would be? So, I dialed his number and, of course, heard his voice instructing me; “Leave a message.” I just began singing the little happy song and wished him the best. After I hung up, I decided that I could do this for the beautiful people of Desert Spring. The first call I made was received with giggles that turned into bursts of laughter. I’ve been told for years that laughter is the best medicine, so we’ll see. Finding ways to spread happiness isn’t always easy in this world that throws us curves every day, but we keep trying.
As we accept each other as we are, as we share our worldly goods with those less fortunate, as we forgive minor irritations and major wrongs, we are showing our love for Jesus and obedience to the commandment given. May God open your hearts and minds this day to new opportunities to show his love to others.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6
Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow - 1674
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Ephesians 1:3
Before Charles Wesley or Isaac Watts, there was Thomas Ken who has been called “England’s first hymnist.” He was born in 1637 in Little Berkhamstead on the fringes of greater London. When his parents died, he was raised by his half-sister and her husband who enrolled him in Winchester College, an historic boys’ school. Thomas was later ordained to the ministry and returned to Winchester as a chaplain.
To encourage the devotional habits of the boys, Thomas wrote three hymns in 1674. This was revolutionary because English hymns had not yet appeared. Only the Psalms were sung in public worship. Ken suggested the boys use the hymns privately in their rooms.
One hymn was to be sung upon waking, another at bedtime, and a third at midnight if sleep didn’t come. His morning hymn had thirteen stanzas, beginning with:
Awake, my soul, and with the sun thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth and joyful rise, to pay thy morning sacrifice.
His evening hymn, equally meaningful, included this verse:
All praise to Thee, my God, this night, for all the blessings of the light!
Keep me, O keep me, King of kings, beneath Thine own almighty wings.
All three hymns ended with a common stanza, which has since become the most widely-sung verse in the world. If you attend one of the traditional services at Desert Spring, you will recognize this as it is sung every Sunday as the offering is presented at the alter:
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow; / Praise Him, all creatures here below; /
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; / Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
In 1680, Thomas was appointed chaplain to England’s King Charles II. It was a thankless job, as Charles kept a variety of mistresses. Once the king asked to lodge a mistress in the chaplain’s residence. Thomas rebuked him, saying, “not for the King’s Kingdom!” Afterward the king referred to him as “That little man who refused lodging to poor Nellie.”
During the reign of the next king, James II, Thomas, by now a bishop, was sent to the Tower of London for his Protestant convictions. After his release, Thomas retired to the home of a wealthy friend where he died on March 11, 1711. He was buried at sunrise, and the Doxology was sung at his funeral.
Today, I have provided two separate listening links that I hope you will appreciate as much as I.
The first is the traditional version sung by a congregation and led by a soaring organ. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kmskQGUIlc
The second is a new, more contemporary song which incorporates the timeless words and tune from the “Doxology”. This piece is written and performed by Hillsong. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tP3CsHfU7dc
May the listening bring you peace and joy during troubling times.
Pastor David’s Devotional
May 22, 2020
“Come, let us sing out loud to the Lord! Let us raise a joyful shout to the rock of our salvation! Let us come before him with thanks! Let us shout songs of joy to him! The Lord is a great God.”
I woke up yesterday morning with a song in my heart: “Morning has broken, like the first morning, blackbird has spoken like the first bird. Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning! Praise for them springing fresh from the Word!” The first hours of the day were so beautiful, so glorious, I just had to sing.
After breakfast, as I sat and prepared to start my work, another song ran through my mind. The song was my favorite Christian hymn, especially when Geri sings it: “Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; naught be all else to me, save that thou art. Thou my best thought, by day or by night, waking or sleeping thy presence my light.”
Later in the day, as I was preparing for a meeting, I read something that reminded me of a song Katie sang during our Easter service. I love the song: “Ain’t no grave gonna hold my body down, ain’t no grave gonna hold my body down. When I hear that trumpet sound, I am gonna rise up out of the ground, ain’t no grave gonna hold my body down.” What a great song! What a great reminder of the victory of God!
As the day came toward an end, and I thought back over my day and all I had to be grateful for, I thought of another great Christian hymn: “Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices, who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices, who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.”
Psalm 95 tells us to shout songs of joy to God, for the Lord is a great God. What words of praise do you have to offer? Is there a song on your heart? For, “This is the day, this is the day that the Lord hath made, that the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice, let us rejoice and be glad in it and be glad in it.” As Christians, we have reason to sing! And, so Psalm 95 ends with these words: “For the Lord is our God, we are the people of God’s pasture, the sheep of God’s hand.” Now, that will sing! Thanks be to God.
God bless you and stay well!