ChildServ name change puts Kids Above All
After 34 years as ChildServ, the Chicago-based child welfare agency officially announced that it has changed its name and visual identity to Kids Above All. The transition, which took…
The Discipleship Task Force is launching this new webpage to provide an opportunity to join together in common prayer.
This webpage will host a weekly prayer calendar with a Bible verse and devotion by a NIC pastor along with some holy humor and other resources. We will be encouraged to pray for a NIC church, pastor, events of the week, and more.
We encourage groups to gather for a short time of prayer starting with our NIC Prayer Network page, but individuals can join in privately from their computer, as well.
~~The Discipleship Task Force invites laity or clergy who are good writers to submit a devotion (250 words), including a Bible verse and prayer. Share what is on your heart with the NIC by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 3-9, 2020
By Jacques A.Conway, District Superintendent for Chicago Southern District
Who Will Offer Love
Bible Verse: Luke 10:25-37
Devotion: The question of who is “righteous” or “worthy” is often spoken by persons in the position of power and who have authority, opportunity, and resources that others lack. Their status is typically based on race, wealth, education, and acceptance by their peers. As I prepared for this theme, I was drawn to the story of a man traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, told to us by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. The story is about a traveler who was beaten and robbed of his clothes and property and left to die alongside the road. Three men, all of providence and means, separately discovered his body and each decided to deal with this injured man differently and in an ungodly way.
For Jesus, this question was a test to trap him and find fault with his message of love, acceptance, and forgiveness.
The theme of this story is based on racism, prejudice, and discrimination against someone that was judged simply by the way he was created. His physical appearance was the sole evidence for his conviction. The religious scholar in our text was well trained on the teachings of his faith and that is why Jesus answered him with the question of “What is written in God’s Law?”
I pause here to interject my personal experiences with the method and images of God and how it is taught in order to fully deal with racism in our church and community.
These three men who responded to this injured man came from different places in their faith journey. I grew up in the Catholic Church because my parents believed I would receive both a quality education and faith in God. Yet my lens wasn’t so clear. I was surrounded by images of godly people who didn’t look like me or anyone in my community. They resembled the priest and nuns in my parish and in my school books. My “Neighbors” in my community looked and talked like me. They were there in times of need and more than willing to accept persons for who they were without prejudice.
At the end of this story, Jesus asked the religious scholar the question, “Which of the three persons who came across this injured man showed compassion and was a good neighbor and this religious scholar answered, 'The one who treated him kindly.'” I would define kindly as treating someone like you would want to be treated, notwithstanding your skin color religion, faults, physical appearance, gender, economic status, sexual orientation, or age.
We live in a country which was birth in violence, racism, and sexism. The question Jesus asked in our text is still being asked today, “Who will offer love and acceptance like the “good neighbor”?
Prayer: My Lord and my God, the creator of all that is good and holy, please touch our hearts and open our eyes to the love and value of all you have created. Let all of us see the our God in each of us, so that their worth and our worth, will be appreciated and valued as a gift from you, my Lord. Amen.
Churches: Evanston: Hemenway, Franklin Park: First, Glencoe: North Shore, Glenview, Highland Park: Galilee, Maywood: Neighborhood, Melrose Park: Cosmopolitan
Pastors: Allen R Campbell, Bonnie F Campbell, James Frank Campbell, Robert B Campbell, John R Cantwell, Richard T. Carlson, Jay D. Carr.
NIC Staff: Anne Marie Gerhardt
NIC Advance Projects: Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems
July 21-26, 2020
Devotion submitted by Rev. Dr. Michelle Taylor Sanders, pastor of Kelly Woodlawn United Methodist Church.
Matthew 2: 16 - 18 “When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled because they were no more.’”
Right now, a voice is heard in America. We can hear the wailing and loud lamentation of mothers and fathers whose children have been murdered by the police. Some have been shot, some have been patiently choked to death. These corrupt police believe they can do that with impunity because they are steeped in white privilege, supported by the racism that undergirds all the systems in this country. Modern-day Herod’s are still preserving their power by keeping their knees on the necks of people of color.
Let’s listen to the weeping and wailing; let’s hear voices of the protestors, chanting, “Black Lives Matter.” Let’s respond to their pain and the cries for justice. Let’s ask ourselves what we can do, to confront and de-throne the Herod’s. Let’s make this more than a moment, let’s make it a movement that brings about true and lasting transformation.
Let’s pray...Lord, listen to your children praying. We know you are a God who liberates your people from oppression, injustice and racism. We come to you in the midst of the cries for justice in this country. Speak to us, as you spoke to the wise men, telling them to find another way home, to avoid Herod’s trap. Guide us to find new ways to make changes in ourselves and in this country so that your Kingdom might come on earth as it is in heaven.
Churches: Chicago: Parish of the Holy Covenant, Chicago: Ravenswood Fellowship, Chicago: Urban Village (Wicker Park and Edgewater), Chicago: West Ridge, Deerfield: Christ, Evanston: Emmanuel, Evanston: First
Pastors: Robert G. Burkhart, Jean E. Bush-Norris, Robert Butler, Brenda Byrne, Cathryn Caliendo, Digna Campanano, Juancho C. Campanano
NIC Staff: Arlene Christopherson
NIC Advance Project: Facing Forward to End Homelessness
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Week of July 13-20, 2020
From Rev. Pamela Pirtle | NIC Commission on Religion and Race
No Justice, No Peace!
“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:11
If kneeling is an act of reverence for that which one holds sacred, in honor, and to which one is committed in devotion, then what happened on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis? How does someone kneel on the back of another man’s neck, hear his cries for release from trauma, calling for his mother, and yet continue in this act of worship? This scene showed that what the officer held as sacred in his heart, by kneeling on that man’s neck, was a worship of hatred so deep, so dark, that many of us cannot comprehend it. In doing so, the officer and his colleagues declared themselves superior and victorious, venerating racism and deep hatred.
The video of George Floyd’s murder has shaken this country because it is a reminder of the rampant culture of hatred that has been a part of this country’s dark history of enforcing white supremacy for more than 400 years. This is based on a set of beliefs in which every soul is not equal, nor deserving of life itself. But, if we’re all made in the image of God, then every life matters to God.
This devotion is simply a call to action for every person who professes to be a Christian, and who believes in the God in whom all are created, the giver of life, the one who gives us the breath that George Floyd was losing by the minute when he yelled, “I can’t breathe!” The Bible reminds us that as people of faith, we are not only called to represent Christ in the earth by gathering in worship centers. where we kneel collectively in honor of God; we are called to use the breath that God gave us to speak out against the evils of hatred that have permeated our society.
If we are going to live like Jesus we have to speak out against the oppression of all persons and critique their mistreatment. Jesus showed this example countless times when he refused to be silent about the inequities that persisted in his day. The theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once stated:
“We are not Christ, but if we want to be Christians, we must have some share in Christ’s large-heartedness…by showing a real sympathy that springs from the liberating and redeeming love of Christ for all who suffer…The Christian is called to sympathy and action.”
Let us pray: God grant that we will be participants in doing good, in taking the high way, in standing together in unity, seeking your justice, your peace, your highest good for all humankind. Amen.
Churches: Chicago: Humboldt Park, Chicago: Indo Pak, Chicago: Irving Park, Chicago: Mandell, Chicago: Mision Hispana at Irving Park UMC, Chicago: New Hope, Chicago: Olivet
Pastors: Norval I Brown, P Devon Brown, Richard G Bruehl, Bill L Bryan, Sharon L Bullmer, Steven F Bullmer, Julie L Bunt.
NIC Staff: J. Martin Lee
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Week of July 7 - 13, 2020
Pastor: Rev. Dr. Nicole Oliver Snyder, Durand, Rockford District
Scripture: John 16:29-33 (CEB)
"His disciples said, ‘Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’"
Jesus’ disciples scattered for a variety of reasons: some out of fear, others harassed, pressured to disburse. We, too, have effectively been scattered by the force of COVID-19. While isolation, each to her home, began at the direction of governing officials, many maintain isolation out of choice. Yet, for those who believe Jesus has conquered the world, the decision to remain at home is no choice at all. Not really.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, a being with exceptionally acute vision – eyes to see – wrote in his essay, Circles, “everything looks permanent until its secret is known.” Emerson circles around and again the idea that one’s view is a circumference about him, a border that can be built upon and solidified, or, expanded. If his expansive view extends far enough, it will bump another’s. The only way forward (outward) is to flatten his border and welcome the other’s view, the couple’s vast sight now vaster.
For one who believes, an ever-expanding view, circles of countless others cross her circumference, and reveals horizons with more features, varied hues, extraordinary textures. And notice. Notice the sister – a mom, an RN, only source of income for her family – now quarantined, acutely ill with the novel virus. Notice the brother – a grandfather, physician, working inhuman hours to care for the persistent overwhelming number of C-19 cases. Notice that brilliant minds developing antidotes and vaccines give us hope, yes.
Still. Expand the circumference further and notice my role in this healing future means that I choose to remain sequestered. Then, along with all whose circles expand and overlap my own, we may envision a more perfect way of being in this healing world.
Breathe in the life-breath of the Spirit.
Breathe out fears concerning the future.
Breathe in the courage Jesus who conquered death, gives.
Breathe out the intension to live into faith, this truth.
God, whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere, fill and expand our view, horizons burgeoning with the peace Jesus gives, ample. Focus our collective, fractal vision, galaxies of possibilities, to be(come)-ing a more perfect church. We are not alone; we believe – help our unbelief! Amen.
Churches: Chicago: El Redentor del Calvario/The Redeemer of Calvary, Chicago: Elston Avenue, Chicago: Emanuel, Chicago: Epworth, Chicago: Vietnamese; Chicago: Grace of Logan Square, Chicago: Granville Avenue.
Pastors: Gavin C. Brandt, Jack William Bremer, Barry William Britton, Roger Bronkema, Gary L. Brooks, Jeffry John Bross, Carol Ann Brown
NIC Officers and staff: LaMeise Turner
NIC Advance Projects: Disaster Preparedness
In his sermon, a pastor told his summertime congregation: “Nature is a gift from God and every blade of grass is a sermon.” The next day, the pastor was mowing his lawn when a church member came along. The parishioner stood watching his pastor mow. Then, nodding his head in approval, he said, “Way to go, pastor! Cut it short.”
Rev. Harry Nahoney, Dedham, Mass.
Printed with permission of JoyfulNoiseletter.com.
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Week of June 28-July 4, 2020
Pastor: Brenda Morris: A Letter of Hope
Scripture: Revelation 21:1-5a (CEB)
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.”
Revelation is definitely not my favorite book of the Bible. It’s full of crazy stuff that you have to be a biblical scholar to understand, and that’s just not me! Still, whenever I have braved the apocalyptic language and symbolic imagery, I’ve always come away with the same thought. The book of Revelation is a book about hope.
It was written as a letter to the seven churches of Asia Minor, who were experiencing various and awful forms of religious persecution under Roman rule. John writes to offer encouragement during a hopeless time.
It could be argued that we are currently experiencing extreme hopelessness right now also, as a result of the coronavirus. In a very real sense, we can relate to those seven churches who hunkered down to wait for the day when they could go about the business of the church without fear. Imagine their joy to receive word from John then, that things were going to change. That’s not just good news, that’s great news!
I know we’d all love to get a message like that right about now. I can just imagine the governor delivering it too. “A cure has been found! It won’t be long now. Soon there will be no new deaths to report!” It may be a while before we hear that kind of message from Governor Pritzker. Still, we have heard the good news. “Christ has come, and Christ will come again!” Until that day we have been given an Advocate; the Holy Spirit, to live with us. Things may not be ideal right now. Far from it! Still, we know that Christ is coming again to fix what’s broken in this world. Until that time, it’s up to us to embody the spirit of the Living God, right here, right now!
Lord, Your Good News far outweighs any news of disease and despair that we might be hearing from the world. You are with us now, as always, and You are already making all things new. Thank you for the assurance of tomorrow, while we’re living yet today. Amen
Churches: Chicago: Adalberto Memorial, Chicago: African Community, Chicago: Berry Memorial, Chicago: Broadway, Chicago: Church of 3 Crosses, Chicago: Bethany Riverview Pk-Jesus El Buen Pastor, Chicago: Edison Park,
Pastors: Thomas Edmond Bourke Jr., Douglas Quaife Bowden, Sally Ann Bowers, Elizabeth Lee Bowes, Richard M Boyer, Jeffrey Brace, Gale T Brandner.
NIC Officers and staff: Athena Staveris
NIC Advance Projects: ChildServ
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Week of June 21-27, 2020
NIC Pastor: Rev. Megan Thompson of Creston UMC and Steward UMC, DeKalb District
We are all familiar with Jesus’ command to “Pick up your cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Like many verses, this one can be used to hurt another person, as in telling them that a disease or situation beyond their control is “their cross to bear.” I think Jesus meant it slightly different than that, though. I think he wanted us to choose to follow him, choose to practice a different way of life than what the world often tells us is the way. We have to choose to pick up that cross. But what cross is ours to pick up? We are in the season after Pentecost, Ordinary time, a time that we look to the teachings of Jesus and try to grow with the help of the Holy Spirit. It's a wonderful time to look for crosses: Watch for crosses, and when you find them, find a way to reach out to those people. Even if it costs you, even if it is hard or if your friends laugh or you are unsure about the difference you can make or if the person doesn’t say thank you, find a way to reach out to those people—that’s the kind of cross Jesus is talking about. Watching for crosses takes courage, takes hard, sometimes painful work. But it is that kind of work that builds the Kingdom of God. And we don’t do it alone—Jesus promised he would help us carry the burden of crosses. And we might even find that helping others, bearing the crosses we choose to carry, that we don’t mind the cost, and that is a kind of grace in and of itself. So, will you take up a cross? Maybe find a wooden cross to put in your pocket as a reminder, or carve a cross into a bar of soap. Every time you feel your wooden cross, (or wash your hands!) may you choose to ask yourself, “What crosses have I picked up today?” This is the work of those who choose to follow Jesus.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, help me carry the crosses I willingly pick up for the sake of my neighbors. Grant me the courage to reach out in love, in support, in encouragement, that those I encounter in my every day, walking around life might know they are not alone. May I see the Spirit leading me to do your will. Amen
Churches: Wheaton: Aldersgate, Wheaton: Gary Memorial, Wilmington, Winfield: Community, Winfield: South Asian, Woodridge, Yorkville: Trinity
Pastors: Rosalee Turvy Blake, William H. Blomberg, Mary Bohall, Douglas B. Bonebrake, Patricia Boniall, John Alan Boryk, Ilza Enid Bosque-Nieves
NIC Staff: David Quinn
NIC Advance Projects: Crossroads of Life Prison Faith Community
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Week of June 14-20, 2020
NIC Lay Person: Lisa Williams Aldersgate UMC in Rockford IL, Rockford District.
Devotion: Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you. Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you, Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loves us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. ~Ephesians 4: 30 – 5:2 (The Message)
There is part of a plastic bag stuck in the tree behind my home. It has been in the tree for a long time. It is too high for me to remove it. I have watched it stay there through snow, rain, winds, and birds pecking at it. Wrapped in the tree branches, it keeps clinging through it all. It’s more tattered and smaller than at first, but it stubbornly is entangled in the branches of the tree. It reminded me of how we can hold on to something and not let it go. It can be a hurt caused by someone else, negative words we were told, resentments that we carry, or unforgiveness. We can stubbornly cling to our past mistakes, disappointments, negative self- talk or negative self- image we have or not forgiving ourselves for something. Somehow these things become entangled in our hearts and minds, just like the bag in the tree branches. They may have become a bit tattered or smaller over time yet we haven’t let them go. It can prevent growth in us, it can change our inner beauty, hold us back, and prevent us from moving forward. Our holding on to something keeps us from being fully open to others, keeps us from embracing opportunities and moments in our lives. God gives us the grace that makes it possible to let go, even if we feel like we can’t reach it, it’s too high or too deep, too entangles. God can! It won’t be easy. It might be scary. It will probably feel like hard work, but to let go and no longer have it entangles will be beautifully freeing. What are you holding on to? What is entangled right now in your heart and mind? Let God’s love and grace help you. As we follow God, become more like him, trust His love for us, our hearts become less entangled with the things that hold us back and we exhibit gentleness, understanding, compassion, forgiveness, and love to others and to ourselves. I don’t know when the bag will not be entangled in the tree branch, but I do know that In Christ, that our hearts and lives can be free of entanglement and love like Christ. What a gift God gives us to be able to let go of the things that entangle us and to let his love and Spirit live in us.
Dear Lord, help us to let go of the things that entangle our hearts and minds and keep us from loving like you. Thank you for your forgiveness and an example of how to live and love. May we live and love more fully and more like Christ each day. Amen
Churches: Plainfield: Sharon, Plano, Platteville, Sandwich: United, St. Charles: Baker, Sugar Grove, West Chicago: First.
Pastors: Timothy J Biel Sr., Betty Jo Birkhahn-Rommelfanger, Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger, Eric F Blachford, Geraldine J Black, Philip L Blackwell, Nancy Eileen Blade.
NIC Staff: Nicole Minter
NIC Advance Projects: Community Partners for the Common Good Fund
Week of June 7-13, 2020
NIC Pastor: Rev. Caleb Hong, Faith UMC: Orland Park, Aurora District
Eighteen years ago, I married the woman, who has become my best friend. She listens to me moan and groan. She lets me crab and cry. She watches me grow up and give up childish ways. She encourages me to dream and dance.
There's a beautiful passage in Ecclesiastes about friendship. I've quoted v12 above, but here's the fuller passage.
"Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor.
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
Also, if two lie down together,
they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
- Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Every day, I wake up and say prayers of gratitude for the gift of friendship. I give thanks for my wife, family, church, for many of you. I am grateful for people, who I trust, who I can talk to, laugh with, fight with, grow old with. I am grateful for friends, who know me and love me anyway.
None of us are perfect. All of us are flawed. The good news - the Bible tells us about the "third strand" in relationships. This is God's love. Divine love is like a "secret sauce" that makes any relationship better. It's the promise that whenever love is shared - in even the most subtle way - God is near and present with us.
Friends, I remind us that a Stay-At-Home order is not a Stay-Apart order. Yes, we need to be socially distant, but we do not have to be relationally disconnected. Call and connect with family and friends. Encourage and bless neighbors and strangers. Offer kindness to those who drive you crazy.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for this new day and the gift of friendship. Help us find ways to share your love. Amen
Churches: New Lenox, Orland Park: Faith UMC, Orland Park: First Korean, Oswego: Good Shepherd, Palos Heights, Peotone, Plainfield
Pastors: Philip Arnold Bergstrom, William Warner Bergstrom, Frank M Berman, Gessel Berry Jr., Judith Early Best, Robert Biekman, Timothy J Biel Jr.
NIC Staff: Dwayne Jackson
NIC Advance Projects: University Christian Ministry
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Week of May 31-June 6, 2020
Prayers from Rev. Glen Stewart, retired pastor
God’s Job Jar
After laying awake for too many nights worrying about all the pieces of upheaval in my life, I decided to write some of the issues down on a piece of paper and put in a jar I call GOD’S JOB JAR. As I dropped each piece of paper into the jar I told God I was going to quit worrying about this and it was His job to take care of it. I put the lid on tight and vowed to not take the issue out of God’s hands and fuss about anymore. To be sure from time to time when I started to roll an issue around in my mind I had to stop and remind myself to leave it alone, it was in God’s hands, in God’s Job Jar.
I do allow myself to open the jar and staple a note of thanks to an issue that God had dealt with. One such note of thanks was used on March 27 when our house in Paw Paw was sold. I had spent many sleepless nights playing the “What if..” game: What if it doesn’t sell and I have to keep lowering the price? What if an inspection shows a lot of corrections are needed? What if…..What if? I found a sense of quiet and peace after I put “Sale of the house” in the jar and I could remind myself it was in God’s hands now.
I don’t know if you would want to start a God’s Job Jar, but it beats laying awake at night worrying.
Churches: Mokena, Morris: First, Naperville: Community, Naperville: Grace, Naperville: Korean, Naperville: Wesley, Naperville: Wheatland-Salem
Pastors: Kelli R. Beard, Bonnie L. Beckonchrist, Lori Bee, James M. Bell, John Bell, Donald Robin Benson, Fred Arthur Berchtold
NIC Staff: Lonnie Chafin
NIC Advance Projects: Albright-Wesley Society
A cake decorator in New Zealand was asked to inscribe I John 4:28—“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear.”—on a wedding cake. The decorator misread the verse, and when the cake arrived at the wedding reception, it was discovered that John 4:18 was inscribed on the cake. “For thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband.” Submitted to JoyfulNoiseletter.com by Harold W Bretz of Indianapolis IN, July-August 2020 edition. Used by permission from JoyfulNoiseletter.
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Week of May 24-30, 2020
From Rev. David Kaller, retired
“Give thanks to the Lord, who is good, whose love endures forever.” Psalm 118:1, 29, New American Bible
As I write this, we are just a few days away from Palm/Passion Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. It is also the beginning of April, the first full month of spring, and it definitely looks and feels like spring. How wonderful, the season of new birth and resurrection!
At the same time, we are all under orders to “stay at home,” due to the coronavirus, COVID 19, which is killing many people, and disrupting “business as usual” around the world, in all sorts of ways. Yes, we are in the midst of a world-wide crisis, such as most of us have never seen before… And our churches are not even able to gather for Easter worship. What are we to make of such a time?
Perhaps nothing is more needed than the Easter message. Out of death, God brings forth life. The Church itself was born in the wake of the death of our Savoir. Early Christians, as well as Jews in the first century, were often under severe persecution from the Roman government. Life was anything but certain. And yet, the church multiplied and flourished.
Our funeral liturgy reads, “In the midst of life, we are in death; from whom can we seek help?” And the response is given, “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (The United Methodist Book of Worship, p.155) It is ever so. Let us not panic. Let us practice love and faith. Let us put our trust in God, who alone can save.
Gracious and merciful God, draw us ever closer to you, as well as one another. Make us faithful disciples in this time of need. Amen.
Churches: Lemont, Lockport: First, Lockport: Faith, Manhattan, Millbrook, Millington, Minooka
Pastors: Joshua Bailey-Green, Donald A Baker, Robert L Baker, M Barclay, Laura E Barkley, Norma Lee Kerns Barnhart, Frederick Vincent Bartels
NIC Staff: Woody Bedell
NIC Advance Project: Inclusive Collective Ministry UIC/NIU
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Week of May 17-23, 2020
By Rev. Dr. John Meyers, retired
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” 1 Peter 2: 9-10.
"Whose are you?” Every year at Annual Conference the Ordained Elders of Northern Illinois meet in what is called, “The Clergy Session.” At that session, those seeking election as Ordained Clergy come before the 4oo or so members and are voted on. Many years ago a clergy session was being held at the Northern Illinois University in DeKalb; Bishop Paul Washburn presiding. The session was nearing it’s end; all the candidates had appeared, been questioned and voted upon. The Bishop was sharing his final words when the door opened and a young man came racing down the aisle. “Who are you and what do you want?” the Bishop said very loudly as he pointed his finger at the young man. The man froze; the room went silent, the Bishop kept pointing. After a few moments, the man spoke up and said, “Sir, I am a child of God, I come to be ordained a Deacon (commissioned clergy today), and I am sorry I’m late.” The silence was broken as someone started to clap. Others joined in and soon every person in the room was standing and clapping. The Bishop smiled and came down to greet the man. After the applause died down, the Bishop said, “Are there any questions?” There were none. “All in favor of electing this man to probationary membership and ordaining him Deacon say, Aye.” There was a unanimous shout of “Aye.” Most of the clergy in the room did not know this man, so why was there such a great sign of approval? Because he knew “whose” he was. Before saying who he was and why he was interrupting the session, he said “whose” he was; “I am a child of God.” “Whose” are you? Do you wake each morning and say to yourself, “I am a child of God?” Do you claim the words of Peter, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation!” Are you one of God’s chosen. Do you know and feel that you are wrapped in the mercy of God, forgiven and loved? We are living in scary times! There is an enemy out there waiting for us. A virus, COVID-19. The stock market has fallen, there’s no toilet paper in the stores, we are told not to gather for worship, kids are out of school, people are not working and not getting paid. We are scared. But, God is still God and we are still God’s people, and God still gives us mercy. So, be scared, take precautions, be safe as you can. And never forget “whose” you are.
Prayer! Eternal God, you who have formed us from the dust of the earth and call us your people, lift us up from fear and the darkness of the unknown. Remind us “whose” we are and fill us with the power of your holy spirit that we may see your light in each day. Protect and encourage all those called upon to care for others; guide our world leaders; help us to “proclaim” your mighty acts as we reach out to bring mercy and love to others. We offer these prayers in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Amen!
Churches: Green Garden, Crete, Hinsdale, Joliet: Grace, Joliet: Hope, Joliet: Ingalls Park, Joliet: Trinity, Kaneville.
Pastors: Corey Ashley, David P Aslesen, John C Atherton, Robert A Atkins, Jr., Donna Louise Atkinson, Thomas Eugene Babler, Jeffrey Dean Baer.
NIC Staff: Marva Andrews
NIC Advance Projects: Korean-American Campus Ministry
Events: Businesses on hold, delayed Annual Conference
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Week of May 10-16, 2020
Rev. Chris Winkler, Barrington UMC, Elgin District
17For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—and their descendants as well. (Isaiah 65:17-19, 21-23)
When the prophet Isaiah brought this word from the Lord to the People Israel, hope was a rare commodity. For decades the People had watched as the land they had worked so hard to develop, the land they loved had experienced incredible devastation and destruction. The Temple, the center of their worship life, lay in ruins and the great City of Jerusalem was little more than a smoldering ruin. The Babylonian empire had overtaken their country and exiled many of their most important citizens—just as the prophet had warned would happen. From where they sat and observed the world around them, there seemed to be little to be hopeful about. Their future was far from certain, everything they thought they knew was in question and everything they could count on had been dismantled.
Just then, at this incredibly low moment in their history—and just when trouble and turmoil seemed to be in control—now, that same prophet stands and delivers a new word from God, “I am about to create new heavens and a new earth, the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.” It is an interesting and informative word for our Church today. Perhaps God is getting us ready for a new thing, a new creation—one the will bring us great joy and delight. One thing I know from scripture is that our God is not a God of death and destruction, our God is one of new life and new beginnings. Throughout our faith story, God constantly turns the tables on despair and creates something new and wonderful. It happened for Abraham and Sarah when God turned their barrenness into God’s chosen people. It happened when Moses led the people out of bondage in Egypt and—though they would experience a time in the wilderness, delivered them into the Land of Promise. It happened most prominently on Easter when God turned the despair of death and the devastation of the tomb into resurrection and restoration. It turns out that God is—and always will be—in the business of new creation, new beginnings, and new life.
Notice, however, that every story of resurrection and restoration required a faithful response of the people. Abraham and Sarah had to trust that God would fulfill God’s promise before it could happen. Moses had to leave the comfort of his life and trust that God would go with him to lead the people to freedom, and the people had to leave everything they knew behind to cross the Red Sea and begin their incredible adventure of faith that would lead them to the Promised Land. The disciples not only had to believe that Jesus was resurrected, but they also had to spread that Good News or the Jesus Movement would have been nothing more than a blip on history’s radar. Likewise, the people of the United Methodist Church must believe and trust that God is leading us to a new and better place.
We may have our times of doubt and despair—we are human, after all—but God is still with us and God is still in the business of restoration, reconciliation and restoration. So let us move boldly into the future that God has in store for us. It is a matter of hope. It is a matter of faith.
Let us pray:
Dear God, when calamity befalls us and the forces of evil rise against us, remind us that you are a God of hope, justice, mercy and grace. You do not promise us a life without suffering, but you assure us you will never abandon us. Walk with us now, in our need, our sorrow and our hope. Amen
Churches: Carol Stream: St Andrew, Channahon, Downers Grove: Faith, Downers Grove: First, Frankfort, Geneva.
Pastors: Danita R. Anderson, Lino Aragon, Stephen Paul Aram, Francisco Arroyo, Douglas A Asbury
NIC Officers and Staff: Arlene Christopherson
NIC Advance Projects: Bethany Methodist Good Samaritan Program
Events: Issues not resolved, General Confernece Postponed
* * *
Week of May 3-9, 2020
Devotions by Rev. Caleb Hong, Orland Park UMC
1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.
3 They are like trees planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
Before choosing to read any book, I usually skim the opening pages. If the writer piques my interest, I continue reading. If not, I reshelve the book and look for other options.
With its opening word, the first chapter of the Psalms grabs my attention. In some translations, like the one above, the opening word is ‘Happy.’ In others, the Hebrew word is translated ‘Blessed.’ Regardless of the translation, the psalm reminds me of Robert Frost's poem, “The Road Not Taken.” (You know, the poem that everyone quotes in their high school yearbook.) The Psalmist declares that there is a particular “road” that leads to happiness and life. It also makes clear that another “road” leads to unhappiness and death.
The road to Happiness is where we “delight in the law of the LORD” and reflect on God’s law day and night. We center our thoughts on God’s word. We reflect on the goodness of God’s will in our actions every day. We allow God’s love to serve as the motivation and foundation for every aspect of our lives.
It’s like when you’re in love. Love captures your heart and mind, day and night. You constantly think about the other person. You daydream about them at all hours, at work, at school, at home. You miss them even though you’ve just spent the last five hours on the phone with them. Love makes you act goofy (for the better) around friends and family. Love increases your capacity to see the beauty and wonder of the world. Love changes you – in part because it consumes you – for the better.
Friends, as we begin this holy season of Lent, let’s heed the words of the Psalmist. The “road” that leads to life is the life of Love – receiving and responding to God’s amazing love for us. It’s embracing the heart-melting, soul-renewing, life-transforming love of God this day and always.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost
Churches: Aurora: Bethany of Fox Valley, Aurora: Flowing Forth, Aurora: Nueva Vida, Aurora: Wesley, Batavia, Bollingbrook: Crossroads of Faith
Pastors: Ilsup Ahn, Joseph Joo-young Ahne, Melwyn S Alagodi, Lowell Dean Allen, Patricia Allen-Stewart, Martin Paul Alphonse
NIC Officers and Staff: Bishop Sally Dyck
NIC Advance Projects: Abounding Ministries
Events: The Church Deployed
Holy Humor: Delivering a speech at a banquet on the night of his arrival in a large city, a visiting pastor told several anecdotes he expected to repeat at meetings the next day. Because he wanted to use the jokes again, he asked the reporters who were there to omit them from the stories they write for their newspapers. A cub reporter, in reporting on the speech, ended his article with the following: “The pastor told a number of stories that cannot be published.”
(This was submitted to The Joyful Noiseletter by Rev. Dr. Karl R Kraft of Dover, DE and appeared in the March-April 2020 edition)
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