Missionaries return for first-time visit
NIC Missionaries' husband and wife team Rev. Kyeong-AhWoo and Rev. Jin Yang Kim, who are serving the world Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva, Switzerland, hadn't been back to Northern…
The NIC Prayer Network is an entryway for joining in common prayer for the ministries of the Northern Illinois Conference. As we draw near to God, we can listen and ask for direction and inspiration.
Contact the Discipleship Task Force at DiscipleshipTF@umcnic.org for a more detailed prayer agenda or to request the Zoom link to join the NIC Prayer Team that meets monthly. Copy these prayer requests and add them to your prayer list and share with your local prayer group.
Ephesians 3:20-21 CEB Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; glory
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May 2022 Devotion
Ann Russell, laity from First UMC of Ottawa, Prairie South District
An Intercessory Prayer for Wars Around the World
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. - Matthew 5:9
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he was put to death their hostility. - Ephesians 2: 14-16
Oh God of mercy, You sent the Prince of Peace, Jesus, to die on a cross for your children. As the Romans persecuted first the Jews, and then the early Christians, evil still creates chaos, violence, oppression, destruction, injury, and death in many places of your world today. This is all too evident by the war happening in the Ukraine. Send your Holy Spirit to change the hearts and minds of the political and military leaders to end this violence. Protect the innocent. Assure all those who are afraid, wounded, mourning, or displaced, that while the battle rages on, the war was won at the resurrection of Jesus. Bring an end to this conflict so that tensions do not escalate. Forgive the fighters on both sides, and ease the torment that carrying out the atrocities of war takes on their souls. Rebuild relationships in a way that allows peace to grow and justice to reign once again. We ask these things for every conflict, small or large, found in any corner of the world in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen
April 2022 Devotion
Rev. J. Martin Lee, NIC Director of Congregational Development and Redevelopment
My Lenten Prayer:
God of Grace and God of Love, as we journey through this Lenten season, we remember the cry of David, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. (Psalm 51: 10-11).
Allow us, as we renew our spiritual disciplines in this time, to encounter your life-changing Spirit and open us to be moved by it into a new direction in our lives and our ministries.
Clear our hearts and minds so that we can be filled with your will for us and for this broken world. As war is kindled again in Europe, rally your Church to respond with the healing peace of Christ in every way possible.
Work through us, Lord, so that we can be instruments of your Grace and Mercy. In Jesus' name, we pray, Amen.
March 2022 Devotion
Connie Schweitzer, Certified Lay Speaker, Journey of Hope: Elgin, Prairie Central District
The Lion and The Lamb of Whom My Heart Forever Sings!
5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” 6 Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb … 9 They sing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; 10 you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth.” Revelation 5:5-6a, 9-10 (NRSV)
Each March childhood memories of my fascination and contemplation of clouds returns, and how I loved finding shapes while gazing at the sky. The phrase "If March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb" was the introduction to studying a variety of weather topics. Deciding that the weather each day was either like a lion or a lamb always seemed strange to me. Yet among my favorite assignments was a project on clouds and identifying types based on their properties.
Years later I learned from scripture that Jesus is called both a lion and a lamb. Actually, I am sure that I sang about that before having any real reference to what it represented. Being a young adult, I had learned more about animal characteristics, but understanding what this part of scripture meant involved much more study.
Revelation, here, directs our attention back to earlier scripture and establishes his identity firmly in the Old Testament prophecies. ... It confirms that Jesus is the Messiah and Savior foretold in all of scripture.
In verse 5 the reason the Lion of Judah can open the scroll is that he has conquered and in doing so ransomed people for God by his death, and this ransoming was the victory referred to in verse 5. In verse 9 the reason he can open the scroll is because he was willingly slain and by his blood ransomed men for God.
Augustine preached that the lion stands for Christ resurrected, the lamb for Christ's sacrifice; "He endured death as a lamb; he devoured it as a lion."—Augustine, Sermon 375A.
Jesus, as a lion, is majestic and fierce in His love for us. He conquered sin and death by His mighty work and strength so we can live in eternity with him. Jesus, as a lamb, offered himself up as an innocent yet perfect, obedient Lamb for our sacrifice.
God, our royal King came down off his throne in Heaven to be born into humble beginnings as a human man. He took on our sins and became our perfect, innocent, sacrificial lamb. Yet it is not His fierceness or the force of His power that makes Him worthy. The Lion has triumphed because He became a Lamb.
Now, lion-like days remind me of the power of God, our King; the lamb-like one’s remind me of the peaceful and loving gift of our Savior. As we enter the season of Lent and the victory of Easter morning, guided by the Holy Spirit, may our praise show both attributes of Jesus as King of Kings and as our meek and sacrificial lamb.
O merciful, loving, powerful King, we are in awe of who you are! We come to you in obedience ready to be your people, wanting to serve, led by your will. Help us to be strong when we have no power, yet humble when we serve, guide us by your Holy Spirit to see our neighbors and their needs. We pray for our world, our nation, our leaders, our church and all people that they would come to know who you are and live in your will. For, you are worthy of our praise, let our hearts forever sing. May voices ring out so all will see the wonders of your love and majesty! Forever we will sing, How Great is Our God! Hallelujah and Amen.
Karen Yocum, laity of Ashton: Reynolds UMC in Prairie South District
“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
I love the Bible. My study Bible has more than 2,400 pages including maps, concordance, and notes to help me better understand. I go to Bible studies to learn more. And I do learn from study and discussion with others and from testimonies of how their lives have been changed by Jesus. Sometimes, I still don’t get it. What am I supposed to take away from this reading, studying, listening? I was wrestling with a particular family problem, so I prayed to God. I said, “Lord, I love you. I want to get this right. Show me the way." And you know how it is with prayer. Sometimes you wait for an answer and sometimes it comes right away.
After that prayer the subject of love came up everywhere - in devotions, sermons, conversations, songs, Facebook. Everywhere! While shopping I saw a garden stone with the inscription “JUST LOVE EVERYONE. I’LL SORT THEM OUT LATER. – GOD” I was getting the message. I may not be able to fix everything, but I could be there to encourage and support. And to love.
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen." 1 John 4:20
Father God, Thank you for your abundant love. Help us recognize your love and draw peace and comfort from it as we live for you today. Help us to share that love with others, especially when they feel unloved.
Carry Christ into the New Year!
Bishop John L. Hopkins, Interim NIC Bishop
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27
As the calendar turns to 2022, we look back with grief and gratitude for all that has happened in this past year. We also look to the future with uncertainty and hope. How do you face uncertainty? What gives you peace?
As a young Christian, I became aware that when I remembered what Jesus had done for me, I felt close to him. Of course, when I became busy, it was easy to forget that Jesus was present in my life. When I was afraid or sick, I would turn to God, remember Jesus, and sense the Holy Spirit was with me. With the “Trinity” surrounding me, I may not have been invincible, but I certainly knew I was not alone.
Over the years, people have given me items to carry so I would know the presence of Christ whenever I might be “troubled or afraid.” I have nails from Good Friday services, a “Cross in My Pocket,” a cross from the Holy Land, and a “Palm Cross” to hold on to when facing surgery.
I learned two things from carrying Christ with me. First, when you are mindful of Jesus, you do not have your mind on all that gives you fear. Secondly, when you face uncertainty with gratitude, you find joy in the midst of unexpected change.
As an old Christian, I still get sick and afraid. I grieve and give thanks over events during this past year. I cannot predict the future any better than when I was young. However, I know what to cling to for peace that passes all understanding.
Carry Christ with you into this New Year. When you are facing a relationship problem, take Jesus with you. When you are going through a medical issue, take Jesus with you. When you are heavy with grief or despair, take Jesus with you. When you do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly, take Jesus with you. Cling to something or someone who reminds you of what God has done in your life. Give thanks and find joy day by day in the year to come.
O God, we give you thanks for the peace you have given us in Jesus Christ. Help us to cling to that peace as we love and serve you in this New Year.
Rev. Arlene W. Christopherson, Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Connectional Ministries
Scripture: Mark 1:1-3
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way, a voice of one calling in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him”.
This fall we finally celebrated my mother’s 90th birthday. My mom had the misfortune of turning 90 the week the world shut down due to the pandemic. We had done a great deal of preparation to celebrate this milestone birthday with family and friends but in the blink of an eye the event was skuttled. The perishables (100 cupcakes) didn’t go to waste, we shared, but all the party favors and paper products were gathered into a box stored in my basement.
Twenty months later when we decided to try again, we started to prepare anew. What we planned in early 2020 didn’t work for late 2021. The box of party supplies were still good, but the way in which we celebrated required adjustments to keep our guests safe in a pandemic time.
Preparations for a big celebration often span multiple months, maybe even years. So too we prepare for the Coming of Christ each year and over multiple years. Our forefathers and foremothers in the faith were wise in designing a Christian calendar that includes four weeks of Advent leading up to our celebration of Christ’s birth. Four weeks to prepare for the big party.
Your box of preparations for Christ birth is already filled with some valuable tools – bible stories, traditions, carols, advent memories and prayers. Even with these historic tools we are still called by John the Baptist to prepare the way, to make straight the paths for our Lord.
Over these four weeks of Advent how will you prepare for Christmas – beyond the decorations and gift giving, how do we prepare? Will our prayer life, meditation, bible study, reflection and actions be framed to build on the past and help us arrive at the celebration of Christ with renewed, fresh and energized hearts?
I invite you to begin your planning, beyond the trapping of the season, deep in your own heart.
Let us pray:
Lord God of Advent hope, you have given us life and called us to reflect your love in our actions. Guide us through this season of preparation as we take steps to more fully love you and follow your way. In Christ, Amen.
Ilhan You, pastor at Creston & Steward UMCs, Prairie South District
By the grace of God, I was recently appointed to Creston & Steward UMC. You can't even imagine how difficult it was for me to be appointed. But for me, it was a time to give thanks to God and experience God's grace. I prayed for an appointment for a year. During the time, I did the best I could. I had many interviews related to the appointment process provided by the seminary and submitted my calling story and resume to other conferences and districts.
For me, a mentor pastor of my ordination process and the pastors of close friends helped me a lot. However, despite my efforts and their help, none of them gave me a ministry opportunity. I didn't even do interview. However, in many interviews, it did not lead to the appointment. My ordination process and life were going in a completely different direction from what I thought it would. I thought I would be appointed immediately after graduating from seminary. But in reality I was not. As those days went on, I became physically and spiritually exhausted. Complaints and dissatisfaction also increased from my mouth and heart. And when I started to doubt the calling that God had called me to be a pastor, God reminded me of Psalm 23. So I read Psalm 23 and meditated on it. We well know about Psalm 23.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake his. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.”
As I read it slowly for a few days and continued to meditate on it, and I became grateful to God for giving me such a long break. If I was appointed to a church and started the ministry, I wondered when I would be able to enjoy such a long break, and a confession of “Thank God” came to my mind and my lips. All the moments that I said that it was hard were actually not hard times. Rather, it was a time to fellowship with God and experience God's guidance.
Philippians 4:6 says that “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
My wife and I have been in a pandemic for a year but have been healthy. We were not economically prosperous, but we were not starving. I can't help but thank God for taking care of and guiding my family. And what I am more thankful to God is that I was able to have a deeper relationship with God through this time, and I am deeply grateful that I had the time to love God more and share it with Creston & Steward UMC, where I serve now.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says that “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
We are still going through a difficult time this year, but there are so many things that God gives us to be thankful for. In this season, we look back on the year and give thanks to God, thinking about the lists of things to be thankful for that God pours out.
Thanks be to God.
Our guide and good God,
We thank you Lord for being with us wherever we are and whatever our circumstances. This year has been and still is hard, but there are many lists of things that we give you thanks for. Help us, God, so that we do not forget this and give thanks to God in every moment of our lives to bear more fruit of thanksgiving. Through the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.
Brian Johnson, laity, Steward UMC, Prairie South
Rochelle Fire Department Chief, retired
Near the end of the shift as firefighters, dispatch asked for an ambulance for a man with chest pain. The man was a truck driver, parked eight miles from our local hospital, on a busy interstate. My partner, Brian, and I responded, asking dispatch for any other pertinent information. Dispatch stated the driver’s daughter was accompanying him.
Upon arrival at the semi-truck, the driver stated the chest pain was moderate. His 10-year-old daughter was seated in the front passenger seat. She was calm, but concerned. Brian was attending to the patient; I could hear them talking. Brian was questioning the patient, recording the answers. I was talking to the daughter, trying to keep her calm. I noticed Brian was lying the patient down; he started cardiac compressions.
While speaking with the daughter, I started to increase the speed of the ambulance. The daughter didn’t notice the situation. The patient suddenly woke up after Brian used the defibrillator. Again, the patient stopped talking; again, Brian “shocked” the patient. The patient began speaking to my partner again.
This happened six times during the trip to the hospital. Arriving at the hospital, the patient was awake; he was taken to the emergency department. A hospital attendant led the daughter to a waiting area.
While putting the rig back into service, replacing the equipment used, I noticed Brian was very emotional. I sat down next to him, and he started to sob, which was uncommon. I let him talk. “I thought I would lose him,” Brian said. I informed Brian “You saved that man!”. Holding him, he continued to cry.
After that day, we spoke about it many times. I know we were led that day.
2 Corinthians 9 says. “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work”.
I believe Brian and I, as firefighters, were led at those times. When firefighters get there just in time, God makes sure that you have ALL sufficiency in ALL things. He provides, even when it doesn't seem like there's a way.
Isaiah 43:2 says “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Thanks be to God!
“Lord, please protect all firefighters as they help the sick, rescue the victims and fight the flames. Give them the skills, the courage and the ability to aid others and themselves. Please, Lord, bring them home safely. Amen”
Rev. Caleb Hong, Orland Park: Faith Lake South District
Life is challenging. Just when you think you have things figured out, you realize that you don't. Fires devastate forests. Hurricanes hammer communities. Loved ones get sick. Schools switch from hybrid to virtual (or vice versa) What do we do? Where do we turn for wisdom? Is it to Oprah? Dr. Phil? Uncle Jim or Aunt Judy?
While these are all good choices, the Bible teaches us that there is one SOURCE for wisdom. This source is more available than Oprah. it's more consistent than Dr. Phil. It's even more reliable than Uncle Jim or Aunt Judy.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; 7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly, 8 guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his faithful ones. - Proverbs 2:6-8
Now, there's nothing wrong with seeking the counsel of wise people. They are blessed by God. However, in those times when competing voices are deafening and opposing opinions are confusing, turn to the Lord. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. God offers wisdom for every facet of life. Whether it's family or finances, health or politics, we can turn to the LORD for guidance and direction and truth.
9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; 10 for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; let the wise listen and add to their learning - Proverbs 2:9-10
Lord, we are hard-headed and stubborn people. We need your wisdom – to live rightly and wisely every day. Help us to seek Your wisdom and truth. Help us to walk in Your way. Help us to experience Your gift of life. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.
Eugene Williams, Conference Co-Lay Leader
Scripture: Psalm 1: 1-3
1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
The book of Psalms is one of my favorite books in the Bible. The foundation of the Christian worship experience has relied heavily on Psalms; whether spoken or sung. Psalms were the hymnbook of the Old Testament Jews; mostly written by King David; along with Moses and Solomon. In Chapter 1, verse one, we are richly fed by words of wisdom, hope, and inspiration.
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked; or stand in the way of sinners; or sit in the seat of scoffers.“
We embrace the way God blesses those of us who are obedient, loving, and prayerful. Because when we are, our reward is that we are “blessed to be like trees planted by streams of water who will yield their fruit in due time”; provided that we do not allow our leaves to wither by failing to be obedient, loving, and prayerful. And in all that we do, we will prosper. Sisters and Brothers, don’t we want to be like those trees? With our leaves never withering? Don’t we want to prosper in all that we do? The Lord shows us the path of the righteous so we will not perish like the wicked. With the many difficulties and storms that rage around us, we would be well served to be like trees planted by the streams with deep roots secured by faith in Christ; that we might be a blessing to others that we come across in our walk of faith. Take strong root, then branch out.
Let us pray…..
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your great faithfulness. Let us likewise be faithful and obedient with our prayers and our works that we might be shown to be worthy of the strong roots that you have blessed us with. We want to walk worthy, our calling to fulfill; please order our steps Lord, and we will do your blessed will; so that everything we do will be to glorify You through the mighty and matchless name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen and Amen.
July 2021 Devotion
By Sara Macklin, laity, Steward United Methodist Church, Prairie South District
O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you. Psalm 83:12
We enjoy country living! Our home sits in the shade of large hickory trees and from our windows we have a great view of our pond. Many of God’s creatures live here too. To name one, frogs, make their home in the pond. We are reminded of their presence each summer as the nightly croaking begins. As all this croaking was keeping me awake one night, I remembered an acronym that I learned in vacation bible school many years ago.
FROG – Fully Rely On God
Isn’t it great to know that we can choose to:
Fully – completely, to the greatest degree
Rely – trust or depend
On – without stopping
God – our Creator and ruler of the universe
I purchased a ceramic frog at a flower shop several years ago that sits on a shelf where I see it daily. It reminds me to share with God what is on my heart and then let go. Best of all, this frog doesn’t keep me awake at night!
Loving Father, In the midst of the challenges we are facing in our world today, we give you thanks that we can fully rely on you (Romans 8:28) “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” Amen
June 2021 Devotion
By Irma Clark, member of Hartzell United Methodist Church in Chicago, Director Lay Servant Ministries, Chicago Southern District, Certified Lay Servant and Certified Lay Minister
II Corinthians 8:7-9
7 Be the best in this work of grace in the same way that you are the best in everything, such as faith, speech, knowledge, total commitment, and the love we inspired in you. 8 I’m not giving an order, but by mentioning the commitment of others, I’m trying to prove the authenticity of your love also. 9 You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Although he was rich, he became poor for your sakes, so that you could become rich through his poverty.
Paul points out in our scripture that The Corinthian believers excelled in everything --they had faith, good preaching, much knowledge, much earnestness, much love. Paul wanted them to also be leaders in giving. Giving is a natural response of love. Paul did not order the Corinthians to give, but he encouraged them to prove their love was sincere. When you love someone, you want to give him or her your time and attention and to provide for his or her needs. If you refuse to help, your love is not genuine.
Interruptions can interfere with the best intentions of communities and churches. And those who would manipulate God for their own purpose or franchise God's blessings through corporate channels can disrupt benevolence efforts for the needy. Corinth was a center for extremism in almost every human appetite: commerce, luxury, sexual liberties and abuse. Corinth was also a city at the crossroad of almost every kind of trade. It was a city where you could buy anything and almost anybody. It was a city of great diversity. Romans, Greeks, Jews, slaves and liberated ones, men, women, and children.
There were the worship centers for a host of deities, including a temple for Aphrodite which provided slave- prostitutes in a cult of what today would be considered unrivaled sexual abuse and human trafficking. It was difficult enough for Paul to proclaim the gospel and to plant churches in this diverse culture. He and the Corinthians Christians also faced interruptions. These opponents of Paul challenged his leadership as the servant of Christ and his integrity as one who shared in the suffering of Christ. The disruption was severe. Reconciliation between Paul and his friends was delayed for nearly a year. Here Paul found people who were eager to hear the word of liberation in Jesus.
Finally, when peace had been restored, Paul encouraged his friends to finish what they had started, to feed the hungry and care for the homeless. Their love in Christ, he said, should become tangible care for those in need. Love calls us back to our original mission: God's Blessings, to love, to feed, to shelter, to heal and to comfort, and God to follow Christ – whose richness in the form of God was interrupted and depleted for our sake.
Loving God, help us to be reconciled not only to you but also to one another, both near and far. Help us to know that both Spirit-filling is in your design for all your children, help us like Jesus, to embrace poverty and sacrifice that all of your earth may be rich together in your love and our care in your precious name we pray. Amen
May 2021 Devotion
By Karen Bonnell, Laity, Steward UMC, DeKalb District
When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. 4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak. Acts 2:1-4
Dios te ama! Աստված սիրում է քեզ! Бог те обича! 上帝愛你！Mahal ka ng iyos! Dieu t'aime! Gott liebt dich! אלוהים אוהב אותך! Dio ti ama! 神は貴方を愛しています！ भगवान तुम्हे प्यार करते है! 하나님은 당신을 사랑하십니다! Gud elsker deg! Bóg cię kocha! Mungu anakupenda! Бог любит тебя! พระเจ้ารักคุณ! Unkulunkulu uyakuthanda! God loves you! الله يحبك!¡
What an outpouring of the Holy Spirit! What an amazing message went out to all in Jerusalem that day! Peter boldly spoke that God in the form of the Son personally came down from heaven, lived among them with signs and wonders, was crucified, buried, and was resurrected. Jesus is alive! All of this was for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit to enable communion with God.
The Holy Spirit is active today, not limited to doing what Google Translate does for us. God is God and there is no limit to how God chooses to work among us.
Who will join in watching and waiting, anticipating the Holy Spirit?
Holy Spirit, we joyfully anticipate Your movement among us as You worked in Jesus’ disciples and humans throughout history. Fill us. Empower us. We offer ourselves to You. May your work be done through us. Amen
April 2021 Devotion
By Rev. Arlene Christopherson, Assistant to the Bishop/Director of Connectional Ministries
Scripture: Psalm 98:4-6
Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth!
Rejoice out loud!
Sing your praises!
Sing your praises to the Lord with the lyre—
with the lyre and the sound of music.
With trumpets and a horn blast,
shout triumphantly before the Lord, the king!
Can you feel it? It’s in the freshness of the air as we first step outside in the early morning. It’s in the shifting angle of the sun. It’s in the little surprises of color as crocuses peek out of the cold soil. Eastertide in our Christian calendar coincides with spring in the western hemisphere and spring is here.
As we bask in the glow of Christ’s resurrection, God’s boundless love for God’s people, the miracle of our salvation, we see signs of new life all around us. One of my favorite Easter refrains is from “Was It a Morning Like This”.
Did the grass sing?
Did the earth rejoice to feel you again?
Over and over like a trumpet underground
Did the earth seem to pound, “He is risen!”
Over and over in a never-ending round
“He is risen, hallelujah, hallelujah!
The trumpets sound, the pounding earth all call us to witness to the love of God that transcends our darkness.
There are challenges on the horizon. We are bombarded by the evils and injustices that surround us. We cannot become blind to all that we are called to witness, the places our earth is groaning but God also calls us to proclaim places where we see hope!
Where are you seeing signs of new life in this Eastertide?
God of creation, new every morning is your love for us. In thanksgiving, we celebrate your sacrifice which becomes our blessing. May we see the risen Christ in the dawning of every day. Amen.
March 2021 Devotion
By Karen Bonnell, laity from Steward UMC in DeKalb District
"And [Jesus] said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” ~Luke 12:15
It all started with pancakes. On Zoom, our church was discussing them concerning a Mardi Gras evening meal. I didn’t understand the big deal. Hardly a worthy splurge meal, because pancakes are, in my experience, what we serve for supper when the food budget needs to be stretched. Besides, what vegetable do you put with them?
My pastor, Rev Megan Thompson, explained the reason many people eat pancakes on Mardi Gras was because early church customs included using up the eggs prior to the time of Lenten fasting (and they must not have heard of spinach quiche 😉). During Lent, chickens were allowed to stop producing eggs so they could brood their eggs, renewing the flock.
The word Sabbath came to mind, and God’s tenderness to allow for a time of rest and renewal. Thus, my Lenten quest of brooding over eggs began. I gave them up, so I would note more carefully what things contain eggs. *True*, eggs are easier to give up than chocolate. But when I think of eggs, I also consider my consumerism. I look for ministries showing tenderness and donate money to them. I also consider my apparent inability to rest on the Sabbath. I have already written out checks for good causes, but, I’ll have to let you know later how the Sabbath rest is coming!
Jesus, remind me that life does not consist of constant production and striving for things this world has to offer. You have blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. You have destined us for adoption into God’s family. What more could we want? All praise be yours. Amen
February 2021 Devotion
by Pastor Seamus Enright, Ashton: Reynolds UMC
“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
4 “Lift up your eyes and look about you:
All assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters are carried on the hip.
5 Then you will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
to you the riches of the nations will come.
6 Herds of camels will cover your land,
young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come,
bearing gold and incense
and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.
Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “it’s always darkest just before the dawn”. As the liturgical calendar changed to a new year, the days were still getting shorter, at least as far as daylight was concerned. Now that the everyday calendar has turned, that trend has reversed, but there are still several more weeks where night-time will exceed daytime to endure.
Many years ago, I regularly worked an overnight shift, loading and unloading trucks. One set of dock doors faced east, and I recall the simple joy of noticing, as trucks came and went, the way that the horizon would become visible long before the sun actually came up, the anticipation, and the inexpressible beauty of the sky, illuminated and radiant already, before dawn had actually broken.
Through Isaiah, God offers an epiphany – a revelation, an insight – of the manifestation of the Divine. The prophet can already see the horizon of salvation. The language moves from the “right now” to the “coming soon”, but the action begins in this very moment. In the midst of seasons of struggle and trial we’re invited into awareness of the Divine radiance that is already with us. Before the “dawn” comes, we still rise and reflect the Son, living into the promise of hope, peace, joy, and the supreme love that is born in us, and among us, every day. Lift up your eyes, and see; arise, and shine as God gives the glory.
Prayer: Glorious God, give us ears to hear your message of hope, eyes to see the beauty around us, and voices to share the story of your goodness. Strengthen us for the work of these days, that through our faithfulness others might come to know your love. Amen
New Year 2021 Devotion
Bishop John L. Hopkins, Northern Illinois Conference
This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Jeremiah 31:33
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