Thursday, February 20, 2020
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with the idea of a man who stumbles upon a treasure in a field. He recognizes its value, but since the field does not belong to him, he is willing to sell everything he has to buy it. Nothing is said about full disclosure, or the fact that he was trespassing when he found the treasure. Nevertheless, he is willing to do the right thing in buying the field, because the treasure comes with the property.
To look at this story with the eyes of faith, it may be said that faith is worth more than any material goods, yet it is also a free gift. Sacrifices may be asked of us. To make choices by faith is to not choose other avenues of behavior. Some faith decisions may be costly in terms of taking personal risk. Yet we are offered faith as a result of Christ’s death on the cross, an action taken on our behalf. There was nothing we had to do; everything was done on our behalf. So in that sense, it is like the treasure that came with the field.
I have a much easier time with the story of the merchant who found one pearl of great value. He sold everything in order to buy it, because he knew this pearl was worth more than anything he had. On the other hand, faith can never be viewed as a simple business transaction. I give and therefore I get. Both of these descriptions are but partial truths that point to a greater truth. The kingdom of heaven is worth more than anything we could describe or buy in this world.
Jesus bought us and paid the price of his very life to redeem us. To look at his action puts the shoe on the other foot. God said we were worth sending his son as the price to dig us out of the mud, or diving into the sea to rescue us from the darkness of our shell. In God’s eyes, we are the treasure; we are the pearl. How amazing is that!
Thank you, dear God, for all your love. Thank you for Jesus’ sacrifice, made on our behalf. You believed we were worth it. Maybe I don’t feel much like a treasure or a pearl of great value, but you sent Jesus – for me. Help me make the sacrifice of my love in return for all he has done for me. Amen.
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.
I love this description of the first believers, who were so exuberant in faith that it affected the entirety of their lives – in their possessions, in their eating and giving and worshiping God. All the things that we hold so dear they willingly gave up to be used for anyone in need. They met together for worship. They ate together in their homes. They gave praise to God with glad and sincere hearts. What a special time it was!
What an amazing time it was for them, to be in love with the Lord, to be among a community of like-minded believers where they could share and be encouraged in faith, to be so whole-hearted that there was no holding back – of self or food or possessions. So much of God’s power is evident in these verses, spilled out to overflowing in their lives.
When church is good we see some of those same qualities coming out in our shared lives of faith. Great food in church – that’s a given. We want to bring our best to a potluck supper. Generous hearts are evident through our varied mission project, from bringing soups or paper products for the food pantry; knitting and buying hats, mittens, socks and scarves at Christmas to be donated to Geauga Jobs and Family Services; mission giving to our denomination, to soldiers overseas, Heifer Project, school supplies for local children, you name it. There are always opportunities to give of ourselves and our resources, for the needs are great.
In all we do, I hope we may emulate the example of these first believers and cultivate glad and sincere hearts. In our worship and praise, in our shared meals and mission giving, give thanks to the Lord for the gift of our community of faith in Jesus Christ our savior.
Dear God, thank you for our church, and for the good and committed people who are part of it. Bless our shared life of faith in all we do. Encourage us to continue growing in faith, in giving and sharing of what we have for the good of others. This we ask in Christ’s name. Amen.
1 Peter 3:15
Tuesday, February 18, 2020
15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
Maybe you grew up, as I did, thinking that faith is a private affair, something between you and the Lord. In some ways that’s not so bad, because it keeps us (hopefully) from thinking we are some higher ethical place or that we are somehow “better” people, as if we have an inside track with God. But in other ways I think it can do God a disservice, especially these days when faith is not a given.
Nobody wants to be bludgeoned about faith; there’s a sensitive and insensitive way of going about sharing faith. I’ve never been rebuffed in telling a person going through a tough time that I will pray for them. (And then I have to take the time to pray!) If someone asks me about faith, it’s good to prepare a summary way of explaining why it is important to me. Can you defend your Christian faith in a sentence or two? Could you answer why Christ is part of your life, and what Jesus has done for you?
In a quiet moment, think about it and perhaps write down a few things that have changed for you because of your Christian faith. God has helped me take a huge chip off my shoulder. God has helped me let go of self to focus more on others, which has been so good for me. I feel I can reach out to others better without worrying about whether they will accept me or not. I have a purpose in my life that I didn’t have before I knew Christ. I’m sure the list could go on, and maybe it could for you too. But it’s good to think about it, in order to better share with someone how faith has made a difference for you.
When you and I know clearly why we believe, we help someone else clarify their feelings for God. By our words, someone else might begin listening to what God has to say. We never know what a difference it could make.
Gracious God, remind me again of why I love you, and how you have made a difference in my life. Help me take faith to a new level by being able to share appropriately with someone about why faith works. Open me to possibilities where you could use me to help shepherd another, even as others have been a shepherd to me. This I pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
Saturday, February 15, 2020
For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.
Ezra was a scribe by profession – he made copies of God’s word. But he did more than that; he dedicated himself to carefully study scripture and then to teach others about it. He was born in Babylon during the time of Israel’s captivity, but he returned to his native Judah with several thousand others, carrying orders from the Babylonian king. When he arrived he found that many people had gone against God’s Law and married from outside their people. Sin was upon all of them. Through Ezra’s leadership, the people repented and great religious reform was begun.
Ezra was committed to the Lord. He was spoken about well in the Bible, not just for any accomplishments he made, but because of his strong faith in God and his desire to obey God’s commands. He studied God’s word. He taught what he learned to help others. He worked with Nehemiah to bring about a spiritual awakening in Israel.
Ezra is a great example for me. No matter what God has called us to do, whether significant for many people or for a few, we do well when we allow God to work through us. It doesn’t matter whether our impact is upon a large group of people or not. What matters is how well we listen to God and strive to follow him.
Dear God, help me keep my eyes open and my ears alert to how I may serve according to your will. Keep me diligent in reading your word and finding ways to apply it in my daily life. There is someone you wish me to care for or be for them a positive influence. Let me be eager to follow you in ways that bring glory to you, through Jesus’ name. Amen.
Friday, February 14, 2020
3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. 5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convertto Christ in Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles,and they were in Christ before me.
This is but a portion of the list of people Paul wants to be remembered to among the believers in Rome. They are fellow workers who risked their lives, a believer who was first to make a decision of faith. They have worked hard, are in prison, or preceded Paul in faith. But the list goes on. They are beloved in the Lord, approved in Christ, a family in faith, as a mother or other kinsman. The relationships are close and the network is large.
On this Valentine’s Day, remember one who is special to you, but remember also those who are part of your network of relationships. Remember those who have preceded you in faith and helped you become who you are. Think of those who are going through hardship (as Paul did for those in prison), and those who have become like family to you over the years. They are beloved in the Lord, and people who mean a lot to you too.
Some people have only recently entered your life, and some people you have known a long time. Each is important, no matter how long is the relationship. Paul took the time to acknowledge each person’s unique contribution to Christ in ministry, whether in hosting a church community at their home or working hard for the Lord. Paul wanted to remember each of them, because he loved them as brothers and sisters in faith.
Praise God for whomever is part of your larger network in faith, and find a moment as you can to thank them for being part of your life. As you remember how much they mean to you, so you will seek new opportunities to be with them in the future, and further strengthen these relationships. Praise God for all the people you love.
God of love, thank you for each person I care about – in my family, in my church family, among my neighbors and co-workers, and those I don’t get to see on a regular basis but who are also dear to me. I get busy but I don’t want to forget them or neglect to tell them how much they mean to me. Help me keep the channels open – among relationships I already treasure, as well as someone new whom I do not yet know. Help me love others like Jesus did. Amen.
Thursday, February 13, 2020
13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
There are many things a friend may do to help another friend, and encouragement is so helpful. Any one of us can get discouraged, or feel overwhelmed by troubles, worry or fear. On our own, our fears can become magnified, and worries can tear us apart. For one who has lost a close family member or friend, the loss is more difficult with no one to help bear the load. We truly need one another.
This scripture passage is telling us to encourage one another in faith. If one is struggling on the periphery of a church body, it helps so much to extend to another your support and understanding. Offer to pick up someone for church whom you haven’t seen for a while, or one who needs a spiritual uplift. Sit with another in worship, so no one has to sit alone. Pick up the phone for a friendly chat with someone you miss not seeing in church. No judgment, just encouragement.
When one has gone a long time putting faith in a corner, he or she begins to convince themselves that they didn’t really need faith, but that’s sin’s deceitfulness talking. They may think no one cared about their absence from worship. Their friendship didn’t matter. No one needed what they had to offer.
Today is the day we have to reach out to another. Yesterday is over, and who knows what tomorrow may bring? As we are able, let us be a source of faith encouragement to someone. We may not realize what a gift it is to the recipient of that grace, and how deeply it is appreciated.
Gracious God, thank you for our body of believers in this church, but we lift up today one whom we don’t see much in church. Inspire us, Lord, to reach out as we are able to one whom we could encourage. Soften our hearts, Lord, to work enthusiastically for you, in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
5 So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
We don’t have a large church, especially in comparison with some of the so-called mega churches with thousands of members and several campuses for worship. We are large enough to have lots of differences and distinctions among us, but still we are all one in our faith in Jesus Christ. We have skills that differ from one another, that may be used in God’s service.
The differences can threaten to tear us apart, and at times, most any church has experienced conflict. Read through the book of Acts, and it’s obvious that early believers were not immune to it either. Our differences can be our strength, when we match a person’s interests and skills with the right ministry. Together we can accomplish great things.
Christ is our head and we are the body, not the other way around. We do well when we allow Christ to guide us, to design our plans and be in charge. We don’t do so well when one or another of us tries to take the reins away from Christ. A human body has nerve cells that communicate the wishes of the brain to the rest of the body. Our body in Christ stays together as we commit to being in prayer and obedient to the will of God. Despite our differences, it is faith that unites, and God who calls us to be members of Christ’s body.
Dear God, I pray for the health of our church, this body of Christ where I belong. I pray for each of us to be able to work together to accomplish your will. I lift up those in need, and especially those who are housebound or in nursing home care. Bless all that we do today, to the glory of your name. Amen.
What We Believe
We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only son and our savior, who lived among us to teach us and die for us. He rose again to give us the promise of eternal life in him John 3:16. He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is God dwelling in us John 14:15-17. We seek God’s word in the Bible, the foundation of our faith. Our mission as a church is to proclaim the good news of Christ to all. We honor Christ through worship and fellowship, encouraging one another in faith, hope and love 1 Corinthians 13:13, and serving our neighbors with compassion and justice.
We belong to the United Church of Christ. As a congregation we are granted the autonomy to govern our local church, and prayerfully make the best decisions we can on how to live out our calling as believers. Each person has the freedom and responsibility of discerning for themselves how faith in Jesus Christ impacts their daily walk and their worldview. We respect one another’s differences because even though we are diverse, we are still part of Christ’s body.
We look forward to welcoming you some day soon. Peace to you in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
10:00 am Worship Service
10:00 am Children's Adventure Hour