DAY SEVENTEEN John 9:1-12 Kenneth Good,
Stockton Presbyterian Church
As we prepare to engage in a day of mission work and focus on the theme of Love the World, it is easy to read this passage and think of the people who we can help who are like the man born blind. We want to work, as long as it is day, to help those who have hurt and pain. We see people who live in the midst of deep struggle and difficult circumstance, which has not come from sin. Nor from their parent's sin. And so we envision the people that we want and can help. Simple enough.
But perhaps we should look at ourselves, not the ones we are about to serve, as the ones born blind. As we follow the instructions of Jesus (going to wash in the Pool of the Sent), we start to see. It is our neighbors who look at us as ones healed. Rather than our neighbors feeling we come to help them, they see that we have been healed. We were the ones who couldn't see, and now do, because of Jesus. We then have the chance to say to those who wonder if we are who we say we are, "I am indeed that person". And when they asked how we were healed, we, like the one born blind, can say, "Jesus told me to go and wash, so I went and washed." Simple enough.
Action Step: Go. Wash. Repeat.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be your servant this day. Thank you for your gift of salvation. Thank you for your call upon my life, and the lives of neighbors near and far. Amen.
DAY EIGHTEEN John 9:13-41
Anchor Presbyterian Church
Once again, in spite of seeing Jesus perform miracles, overwhelming evidence that Jesus must be from God, the Pharisees refused to accept the obvious truth. They were more caught up on the fact that Jesus had performed unlawful "works" on the Sabbath. Instead of praising God for a miracle, they sought to prosecute Jesus.
But isn't that like many of us today? It is often easier to categorize others based on a few legalistic behaviors. "Oh, they couldn't be Christian because they have tattoos," or they smoke, or because of the way they dress. We forget to apply God's standard to evaluate individuals and instead use public opinion.
In this story, we see the courage of a man who didn't give in to the standard of public opinion. Even when his parents were too fearful of speaking the truth, he courageously spoke the truth to the angry Pharisees about who healed him. In return they kicked him out.
Nevertheless, John explains, Jesus heard they had put the blind man out and wasted no time in finding him. Then he issued a call to faith. The blind man was given both physical and spiritual sight because of his faith. The Pharisees had their physical sight and thought they also had spiritual sight. However, they were blind to the truth.
Action Step: This week, focus on where you make choices about Christ and other areas of your life. Do you clearly see the truth of who Jesus is? Is He your guide, Counselor, Friend?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you challenge us to be like the blind man, help us to make the right choice, even though it goes against the standard of public opinion, to put you first in our lives above all other things. Amen.
DAY FOURTEEN John 7:25-52
First United Methodist Church of Fairless Hills
The Church Has Left the Building
In 1972 Richard K. Avery and Donald S. Marsh wrote, We are the Church: 'The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is a people. I am the church! You are the church! We are the church together. All who follow Jesus, all around the world! Yes, we are the church together.'
Musicians and poets grasp the message. One song writer questions "Art Thou the Christ?' While another counters with "God sent his son", "they called him, Jesus". The crowd described in John 7:25-52, the Pharisees, the elders, and the temple guards when face to face with Jesus had great difficulty dealing with the messages of Jesus. Verse 28: "you know me and where I'm from", "but you do not know him who sent me?" Many believed. Verse 35: "I am with you for a short time; then I go to the one who sent me." Are you really the Son of God? More believed.
Verse 38: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. "Whoever believes in me, streams of living water will flow from within you." The Holy Spirit indwells believers. The people questioned, is this Christ? The leaders allowed the teaching to occur. Did they believe or could they really do nothing about it? The temple guard reacted to what He said; ignoring their charge 'to capture Him and bring Him in'. The scriptures tell us, "no man cometh to the Father except through the Son." Believe! Receive!
Action Step: Let us go forth in Jesus' name with conduct that represents you in a constructive way for the world, so that they know us by your name, "Christian."
Prayer: Almighty God, aid our belief. We are the church. Amen.
DAY SIXTEEN John 8:31-59 Ernest Kelly,
Fairless Hills First United Methodist Church
Freedom, people write and sing about it. They fight and die for it. Every person wants to be free from slavery, poverty and ignorance. Jesus spoke of another kind of freedom. He referred to a freedom from the power of sin, a freedom to know and serve God. That freedom is not found through any religious activity. Nor is it obtained as a birthright, as some ancient Jews thought. Instead, true freedom comes through a relationship with the One who is the embodiment of the true path to salvation, Jesus Christ.
When Jesus lives within a person, he liberates that person from enslavement to sin and death. If you've struggled with sin, and we all have, you know about its oppressive hold. You've felt its tight, vise-like grip on your soul. In this passage of scripture Jesus offers freedom from sin's oppression in our lives. All we need to do is to "hold to his teachings" through the power of the Holy Spirit and become his true disciples in thought, word and deed.
As we prepare for our Sunday of outreach may we deepen our relationship with God as a true disciple and share God's love with the community.
Action Step: Remembering what Jesus did for us is not recalling His sacrifice, but the acceptance of true freedom that changes us. May it be clear to the World that we are children of God by everything we do and say.
Prayer: Lord, we lift you up in praise and thanks for all you have done for us, may we share your love and true freedom with the world. Amen.
DAY FIFTEEN John 8:1-30 Diane Coyle,
St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church
"Let the one among you who has no sin be the first to cast a stone at her."
Who among us could cast the first stone? In today's society, as it was in the society of Christ, it is so easy to judge without thinking. Emotions, stress, life's circumstances, and temptations have all caused us to stray and make decisions that we later regret. Christ did not judge nor did he condemn. He did reach out to the adulteress and asked her to avoid sin.
One has to believe that she saw the light after this and became a thoughtful and forgiving person who tried hard to do what was right. Perhaps we should do the same. Instead of judging our fellow human beings, let us reach out to them and offer understanding and support. Together we can help one another to follow the correct path. The one lit by Jesus Christ.
Action Step: Today reach out to someone who is struggling and offer them support and understanding.
Prayer: Lord, help us to love one another and together follow your guiding light. Amen.
DAY NINE John 5:1-15 Mike Matlack,
Titusville Presbyterian Church
Faith in Action
"Pick up your mat and walk!" As Jesus speaks these words in the passage, imagine that He is speaking these words to you. In life, we are often challenged to get up and live for Christ, whether it be because of our jobs, our circumstances, our fears, or our complacency. Like the man in the story, despite our greatest needs and desires, it is easy for us to become comfortable and immovable from our current condition, even if that condition is less than desirable.
If we truly want to be healed by the forgiving grace of Jesus, and to share His truth and His love with others, we need to allow Christ to move us, both in a physical and spiritual sense. We need to leave behind the comforts we cling to and not be afraid if a few worldly rules and perspectives get challenged along the way, aka the Pharisees' disapproval of Jesus' miraculous work.
Know that God is bigger and stronger than anything else in this world, and when your faith is in Him, mountains will move, the paralyzed will walk, and hearts, maybe even your heart, will be changed!
Action Step: Don't get stuck - get up and walk! Walk with Jesus, and walk towards the world so desperately in need of His love.
Prayer: Lord, mold us and move us, for Your Kingdom and for Your glory. Amen.
DAY SIX John 3:22-36
Narberth Presbyterian Church
When Less Really Is More
People crave attention and power, whether its roots be in celebrity, politics, or business. We are fascinated by stories of how the rich and famous rise to power, and riveted when they stumble and fall. So when Pope Benedict surprised the world and resigned the papacy, the media was confounded: Was there a scandal behind the scenes? Was he ill and about to die? Why would a person willingly let go of such power and fame?
The disciples of John the Baptist had a similar question for their teacher: "What should we do about this Jesus movement?" John had built up quite a following by the Jordan River; even the leaders in Jerusalem were coming out to see him because of the crowds. But now the people were leaving him and going to Jesus. John's response: "He must become greater, I must become less." He knew that the veneration he enjoyed was not his own, but came from heaven. And he experienced fullness of joy in turning it all back over to the Lord of heaven, Jesus Christ. When "He must become greater, I must become less" is the prayer of our hearts, we are able to experience this joy also.
Pope Benedict is now being hailed for his humility in relinquishing power to Pope Francis, who in turn has become renowned for his own demonstrations of humility. While we Presbyterians do not submit to these Catholic leaders, we can appreciate their examples of humility and follow suit by submitting more of our lives to Jesus.
Is there something you need to let go of so that Christ can become greater in your life? Prayer: Lord, help me become less so that you can become greater in my sight. Amen.
DAY FIVE John 3:1-21
Morrisville United Methodist Church
The Whole World?
A Pharisee named Nicodemus comes under the cover of night to ask his questions. We can only assume that he will either be embarrassed or punished by his peers for seeking out Jesus. Though he is a Pharisee Jesus treats him like a seeker, not an enemy. What Nicodemus hears seems to be mysterious to him. "You must be born again." And then "For God so loved the world...." The whole world? Some people seem to think God only loves some of the people. Or loves some a bit more than others. And later "that the world might be saved..." Not just a select few, but the world.
Believers sometimes feel alienated from the world, with all of its conflict, sin, and injustice. Sometimes we just want to condemn and withdraw from the world around us. It's understandable, but not in the spirit of the one who loves the world and continually reaches out with the offer of grace.
"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
What happened to Nicodemus? He apparently took the message to heart, and shows up at the end of the gospel when he assists Joseph of Arimathea in burying Jesus. Loving is our business, not condemning. What would happen if we really loved the world, as God loves the world?
Action Step: Reflect on the situations that make you want to withdraw from the world. How can you offer or practice God's love in those situations?
Prayer: God of love, show me how I can love the world that I live in, the world that you love. Amen.
DAY SEVEN John 4:1-26
Morrisville United Methodist Church
Well, Well, Well...
When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, she had no idea who he was; but the Lord knew her; still he asked her for a drink of water. He told her that if she knew God and who He was, she could have asked him for a drink and he would have given her living water.
Jesus did not avoid her or judge her because of her past or her present situation. He offered her the "living water" knowing all about her. He didn't mind that she was a Samaritan or that she was currently living in sin. He reached out to her, and offered her the living water and shared with her that it didn't matter where people worship but rather what kind of worshipers they are. And then he went on to tell her "I who speak to you am he".
How do we act towards other sinners? Do we avoid or shun them? Do we force them to hide in the shadows? Do we remember that we too are sinners? Can we accept others without judgment, the way that Jesus did?
Step out of your comfort zone....speak to someone that you would normally avoid. Give a dollar or spare change to the person asking for it, or pay for the groceries for the person in front of you...even if they do have food stamps.
Prayer: Lord, Thank you for all of your many blessings. Please help us to be like you and reach out to those who need us and our help. Help us to not judge others but to try and see them as you do. In Jesus name. Amen.
DAY Eight John 4:27-54 Joel Estes,
Grace Presbyterian Church, Pennington NJ
Harvest in Plain Sight
The disciples find Jesus talking with a Samaritan woman. They know nothing of the conversation they have just had - how utterly life-changing it was, how full of mystery and revelation. They do not perceive the living water that is flowing beneath the rim of their mundane concerns. Instead, all they think is their master is associating with a person they would rather not.
They do not see what Jesus sees. They have not learned to "look." The disciples wonder if Jesus is hungry. They don't perceive that, while they have been out searching for food, he has been feasting on the will of his Father. "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work," he tells them. And what is that work? It is the work of the harvest. Look up, Jesus says, the harvest is before you, if only you have eyes to see.
The harvest comes in the form of a person we'd rather not rub shoulders with - a person we dislike, devalue, or with whom we disagree. The harvest involves outsiders, Gentiles beyond the bounds of Jewish piety who, nevertheless, exhibit extraordinary faith. Outsiders are seen by Jesus, are recipients of his love, are transformed by his grace, and become witnesses of his power. Because of the Samaritan woman, an entire town comes to faith. And it all happened because Jesus saw what was hidden in plain sight: a harvest ripe before his eyes. Who do we encounter everyday, but don't really see? Where is our harvest in plain sight?
Action Step: "Look around you," Jesus says. Take a moment and reflect on the people around you in your life. Consider especially those you find difficult to be around. How can you be a witness of God's grace and an agent of God's love to them? Ask God to show you one way you can do that today, and then commit to obeying God's call, taking on the attitude of Jesus "to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work" (v. 34). Prayer: God, give me eyes to see the harvest all around us. Give me grace to love those I find hard to love. Give me faith to believe you can transform anyone into a witnessing disciple, even me. Give me a desire for your will that is stronger even than my need for food. Use me to do your work, in your way, for your glory. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Shannon Smythe
United Presbyterian Church