Mountain in the Clouds

Thursday, April 24

4-24By Jackie Porter Smith of Thornton, Colorado, USA

He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”…And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

—John 21:17 NRSV

Many years ago, a woman invited me to a women’s retreat in North Carolina. Because I lived about 60 miles from the nearest congregation, I could not attend often. I missed the companionship of those in my home congregation in Colorado.

I always approach retreats expecting to meet God there. So, I set off for the mountains of North Carolina. I missed the mountains of Colorado, as well as my congregation.

As we drove I was awestruck at the beauty of God’s creation. Already God’s blessings were raining down on me. The retreat theme was “Go and Feed My Sheep.” All weekend we talked about ways to reach out to the world, to share God’s love with friends, family, and strangers. I found love in Community of Christ 2,000 miles from home.

It is easy to connect to God and God’s plan when surrounded by others of faith in such a beautiful place. I prayed for the people of the world to know and feel this love. I prayed I would be a part of the mission to Invite People to Christ.

Sunday morning, our last service was in the chapel, high on the mountainside, overlooking a valley. As I entered the chapel, it and the whole hillside filled with billowy clouds. They covered the valley below. Nothing else was visible. It was the most awesome sight I had ever seen. Nothing but clouds everywhere! As we began to sing praises and worship, the clouds became fuller and more and beautiful.

As the speaker talked to us about our mission in the world, the clouds slowly began to lift. As we sang, “A Charge to Keep I Have,” the valley became clearly visible. The world opened to us, and the landscape become sharp, God was showing us the world and inviting us to go and “feed my sheep.”

Prayer for Peace
“God of the mountain, God of the hill, show us your Spirit, teach us your will. God of the bright cloud, God of the dawn, give us your vision, lure us on.”

—Native American, adapted

Spiritual Practice: Invite People to Christ
Read and reflect on Doctrine and Covenants 162:3b and 163:2b. Pray to be aware of people who might be receptive, and therefore blessed, by your sharing of the message of the Living Christ. Imagine being in relationship with them and inviting them to Christ. In preparation, discover your personal testimony of Christ. “Be persistent in your witness and diligent in your mission to the world.” Repeat this mantra throughout the day: “Christ’s mission, our mission, my mission.”

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will clear the clouds from my vision to see Christ’s mission for me.

Dark Night, Morning Light

Wednesday, April 23

4-23By Michalina Bartlett of Gainesville, Florida, USA

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion.

—Psalm 9:10–11

What is your night and what is your song? We spend much of our lives in darkness. It is hard to see the joy without light. Night can bring feelings of loss, depression, and suffering. It can mean feeling loneliness and separation from God’s love. Most of us can say, “I am one who knows the night.”

Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

—Psalm 30:5

Here is my psalm:
My night is sad; my night is so dark. I am afraid. Tears are in the darkness. The night is everywhere I go. The night is so alone for me. I am lost. Still I sing.

Arise and sing into the night. What does the song mean? The song of the nightingale is a song of longing—longing for a heavenly home. Nightingale, you break the lonely silence of the dark.

You are a hiding-place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.

—Psalm 32:7

Here is my song:
Let it be a song of joy, a song of peace, a song of love, an unforgettable song. I sing of God’s goodness as the light in my heart. The gift of our song is joy to us and is like no other. What is your night, and what is your song?

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

—Psalm 27:1

Prayer for Peace
We praise you, God, for the bird that sings, for the branch to which it clings, and the earth from which the tree springs. We rejoice in the light the morning brings.

Spiritual Practice: God’s Healing Light
Today’s intercessory prayer comes from the Quaker tradition. Become still and turn your attention to God. Prayerfully identify a person in need of healing, blessing, or guidance. Close your eyes and imagine God’s presence surrounding the person. See or sense the person held in God’s light. Continue holding the person in the light and release the person into whatever blessing God knows is needed.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will sing of you when my life gets dark.

Just Look!

Tuesday, April 22

4-22By Joann Condit of Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight.

—Luke 12:6 NRSV

We were walking down a long, cobbled road curving around a hill on which perches the lovely medieval town of San Gimignano in Tuscany. Our friend, Dot, joined with Marcia and me just outside the city walls. I found myself, atypically, silent as we continued down the road.

Dot stopped suddenly and exclaimed with excitement, “Look!” I quickly looked up and out at the beautiful countryside spread below us. “No,” she insisted. “Look!” She was gazing, I thought, at her feet, her hands clasped under her chin and a look of intense joy on her face. I could not see anything to cause such delight until she jabbed a finger at the cobbles and said again, “Just look, my first Italian ant!” We indulgently had a good gander at the “Italian” ant before we continued down the hill.

I often think of Dot since that day. I wonder how many ants I have missed in my life by taking the loftier view. Surely, I might have seen a Portuguese ant, and perhaps one from Germany or even China. I might have taken in the larger sweep of countryside and then looked for the tiny mosaics of leaf, flower, and ant that compose the whole beautiful expanse of God’s world. I might find amusement, joy, and excitement, experiencing untold gratitude.

Blue vibration near my ear
dragonfly hovers by
with singing wing.

Deep throbbing in my chest
blue whales have an
ancient song to sing.

From tiny soloist to massive choir,
far-flung spectrum of
Maestro’s creative fling.
—Lu Mountenay

Prayer for Peace
God of all creatures—great and small, God of insects and sparrows, elephants and whales, give us keen eyes for what is at our feet as well as on the horizon. Like you, aware of all needs, may we take on your eyes and see where need exists—see where peace is needed.

Spiritual Practice: Caring for God’s Sacred Creation

Choose a way to notice, give thanks, and care for God’s sacred creation. Walk in nature with a spirit of gratitude while looking and listening for God in all things. Fall in love with the vast, intricate wonder of God’s creation, and give thanks.
Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will look for the small as well as the great.

Who Will Tell the Story Today?

Monday, April 21

4-21By Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

Be respectful of tradition. Do not fail to listen attentively to the telling of the sacred story, for the story of scripture and of faith empowers and illuminates…

—Doctrine and Covenants 161:5

The large cemetery was right across the street from my childhood home. A thick laurel hedge with dark, shiny leaves bordered the grounds. We knew where the secret portals were—the few thin places in the foliage wall that we could squeeze through. We came to think of it as our evening playground from closing time and after.

We liked to play hide-and-seek behind the gravestones, and it never occurred to us to be afraid. It never occurred to us that we were trampling on “sacred” ground. We were unaware.

We were not just errant trespassers but great translators of the characters on the markers in the Chinese and Jewish sections. The stones were mysterious and elaborate. We would try to describe the people buried there and tell their life story. We made each other wonder with our wild imaginations.

Some markers were old. We would try to find the oldest in the yard. We never looked for the newest one—we stayed away from the fresh mounds of soil. Somehow, even as children, we knew death was too close at these points.

My favorite marker was a large, natural stone that had large, ruggedly carved letters—“DAD.” Only that—no names or dates like the other markers. However, I had the feeling he was just as beloved as the other ones. He was someone’s wonderful dad.

I wonder…did children play around Christ’s empty tomb? Were they curious about the man who left it so mysteriously? Did they know what an impact he would have on the future of the world? Would they wonder at his rising from the grave to bring everlasting life? Who answered their questions? Who will tell the sacred story today?

Prayer for Peace
Mysterious God who presides over life and death, may we be faithful to the sacred story and carry it forward. May we carry Christ’s peace forward to share.

Spiritual Practice: Listening to Children
Sit in your quiet place and center your heart and mind on God’s presence. Spend several minutes asking God to bring into your awareness the names and images of children in your life. You may see their faces or hear their voice as you receive these impressions. Listen deeply to the unique gifts and needs of the children who come to mind. Offer a prayer of blessing for each child and the needs you sense. If you feel led, you also may want to write a note or card and give a message of affirmation and love to each child.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will delve into my memory and find a sacred story to tell.

See, Believe, and Share

Sunday, April 20

4-20By Linda Booth, Council of Twelve Apostles

Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

—John 20:17–18

It takes faith to listen for and hear Christ’s voice calling your name, inviting you to join him in mission to a broken world—to declare to the suffering, “I have seen the Lord.”

My husband, Doug, and I were driving to Memphis, Tennessee, to share with a congregation. I received a text message on my cell phone. “Good news…8 new small groups with 51 different participants—total number from Monday through Wednesday—237. This is Tay from Chattanooga, and I am hoping these reports are blessing you.”

I smiled. For years I didn’t know Tay’s name. He and his two brothers, commonly referred to as “the nephews,” lived with their grandmother. The Chattanooga Community of Christ has helped raise the three boys.

“Thanks for the good news,” I texted back.

“I am starting high school now and been a co-pastor of three small groups…”

“How are you feeling about starting high school?”

“High school will be good. Jared coached me in basketball. Basketball keeps me focused and away from gangs. Our pastors keep us out of trouble. So many kids have nobody helping them, and we have a whole church helping us stay safe and have a future. Kyree, Petey, and me would be dead and in gangs if we didn’t have you and the church. I wonder how it feels to know you are saving kids’ lives.”

I replied, “It feels good! Good because I know that is what Jesus is all about—saving lives.” When you hear the voice of the Living Christ call your name, you respond, joining him in a mission to save lives.

Prayer for Peace
Loving God, thank you for the Living Christ who shows us what matters most—saving lives. Bless us that we may be a blessing to others in this way. Help us be aware who is vulnerable and needs us to share Christ’s love and peace.

Spiritual Practice: Invite People to Christ
Read and reflect on Doctrine and Covenants 162:3b and 163:2b. Pray to be aware of people who might be receptive, and therefore blessed, by your sharing of the message of the Living Christ. Imagine being in relationship with them and inviting them to Christ. In preparation, discover your personal testimony of Christ. “Be persistent in your witness and diligent in your mission to the world.” Repeat this mantra throughout the day: “Christ’s mission, our mission, my mission.”

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will share how Christ lives in my life.

The Light in the Rock

Saturday, April 19

4-19By John Bonney of Springfield, Oregon, USA

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.

—John 20:1

We walked to the rock in the predawn darkness. A large, bare mound of granite topped the rise in the ground. It was smooth and warm, still holding heat from the previous day’s sunlight. As we waited in darkness, no one talked. It seemed right. The air was still and heavy with potential. It was as if we waited for an expected but unknown appearance—other than the sun.

I lay on that rock and looked to the eastern horizon. I could hear my heart thumping the pulse of blood in my ears, the sound of my breathing, even though I suspect it was shallow. The seconds and minutes ticked on, and we waited. The sky remained dark, and there was no gradual lighting of the heavens by the approaching sun.

Then there was a sense of something about to happen. While we expected the sun to rise from the darkness, the moment the sun appeared over the distant ridge was still a surprise. A feeling of elation filled our hearts. The sliver of light broke and gradually increased until we no longer could look directly at it. The wonder of the moment was profound. The marvelous rays of that life-giving star shined on us with kindness, grandeur, and a mantle of gracious warmth. It was astounding! To this day, almost decades later, I can feel the emotion and the warmth of that moment.

The light of eternity grew and grew in my poor vision until I no longer could look. And, even in my inability to understand or fully appreciate the gift, still, it bathes me in blessing and acceptance. There is in that experience a testimony of the love of the One who creates for the created.

With you, I wait in breathless wonder the approach of the eternal movement of the rock, opening the tomb to shine the Light on the waiting world.

Prayer for Peace
God, who sets alight our life, remove the blinders from our eyes that we may see the Eternal in your creation; that we may see Christ’s vision of peace.

Spiritual Practice: Light
Close your eyes, and become centered with your breath. Reflect on the statement: “The light of God is in all things,” as you breathe gently in and out. The light has a bright, soft beauty and radiates God’s healing love. The light of God reaches you and permeates you with a deep sense of peace. Rest in the light as it surrounds and fills you. Thank God that you live in God’s light, and it lives in you.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will see beyond the darkness and know your light will come.

Wounded Feet

Friday, April 18 (Good Friday)

4-18By Peggy Michael of Cantonment, Florida, USA

You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.

—Psalm 22:23–24

It was I, my redeeming Lord, who touched your garment. Yes, I—soiled with sin, reaching for you—pure and holy. I considered turning away and hiding in the crowd. But when my eyes met yours, I knew you cared as no physician had before. You did not hide your face from one in need.

Later, as you hung dying, the thick gray clouds shed tears while the Earth sobbed violently, shaking its massive shoulders. Darkness swallowed up the wailing people, and we cried out, “Is light banished forever?”

Anguish consumed us.

A timid ray pushed through the storm clouds. Another and another burst on us, and we rejoiced. We then knew God’s love had penetrated the world’s most frightful storm.

Though dark sin cost you your life, you loved us still and set us free. So what can we do but hurry and tell the suffering world, so it, too, may cast its burden below your wounded feet?

Prayer for Peace
God of the rising sun, touch your holy flame to us, that we may kindle others. Rest your Spirit on us that we may share your peace.

Spiritual Practice: Invite People to Christ
Read and reflect on Doctrine and Covenants 162:3b and 163:2b. Pray to be aware of people who might be receptive to, and therefore blessed by, your sharing of the message of the Living Christ. Imagine being in relationship with them and inviting them to Christ. In preparation, discover your personal testimony of Christ. “Be persistent in your witness and diligent in your mission to the world.” Repeat this mantra throughout the day: “Christ’s mission, our mission, my mission.”

Peace Covenant
Today, God I will not turn my face from one in need of the good news.

Sign of Humility, Symbol of Service

Thursday, April 17 (Maundy Thursday)

4-17By Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. …I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.

—John 13:14–15, 34

Community of Christ publishes a great series of bulletin covers for Sunday services. Each cover has a picture and a scripture reflection that follows the Revised Common Lectionary. However, for Maundy Thursday, worship planners need to create their own bulletin, or go to a Christian bookstore, which is what I did one year.

I met the clerk’s blank stare when I asked for Maundy Thursday bulletin covers. “We have only Sunday bulletins.” I tried to explain, but again, “We don’t have Monday or Thursday bulletins, only Sundays!”

I thought I was in the twilight zone. Thinking the clerk must be new, I looked around on my own, in vain, while the clerk watched with unmasked amusement and pity. So I thanked her and left.

What is Maundy Thursday? The Thursday part is easy, but Maundy? It comes from the Latin “mandatum” or mandate. A mandate is something we must do, a commandment.

The observance and symbolic reenactment of washing feet at the Lord’s Supper helps us remember Christ’s “new commandment.” We do as he has done. He took on the role of servant to his disciples and washed their feet. He showed them a sign of humility and a symbol of his message of service—a way to show “love for one another.”

Good hosts in the Jewish world provide guests the opportunity to wash before a meal. After traveling dusty roads to celebrate the Passover meal, this was a welcome respite. Jesus goes one step further and does the washing himself. Jesus, Lord and Teacher of this gathering, has done the opposite of what we might expect from hosts in high positions. We would not expect a president, prime minister, or head of state to attend to the personal needs of guests at a formal dinner. However, that is exactly what Christ does. He gives us an example of how to express love. He gives us a mandate, a new commandment to love one another as he loves us.

If your congregation has not planned a Maundy Thursday service for tonight, you might attend the service of another congregation or church. Plan to have a service next year—or next week—or have a Maundy Monday. Why not? The message of service and love is for every day.

Prayer for Peace
Servant Lord, you have stooped to ask of us the love of our poor hearts. We respond.

Spiritual Practice: Spiritual Hunger
Jesus discerned hungers of body and spirit, and he fed them through a physical, verbal, spiritual ministry of presence. In a time of listening prayer ask God to help you discern physical needs of people in your congregation, community, and global family. Invite the Spirit to move you to one hospitable act that “feeds” someone’s hunger today.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will take on the role of servant to show my love for another.

Seeing with New Eyes

Wednesday, April 16

4-16By Nancy Hylton of Seattle, Washington, USA

You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! …he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.

—Psalm 22:23–24

While flying 40,000 feet over the North Atlantic Ocean, I cannot help staring at the sea of clouds below and watching the sun come up along the horizon. It layers the sky in shades from orange to yellow and then blue. I have made the flight many times, but this perspective always startles me. The perspective brought to life by being so high sheds a new and different light.

I once watched a lightning storm from up here. It was the middle of the night over west Texas. I could not take my eyes off the sight for a long time. It was God’s laser light show magnified a thousand times! The clouds lit up in ever-changing patterns and colors, and everything was black between flashes.

It reminds me of our limited view of creation. We find our energy sapped by that perspective, which darkens with the clutter of the mundane. We fail to recognize the bigger picture—what matters most. Often in Seattle, the sun hides behind the clouds. We know the sun is still there, and we expectantly wait for it to rise each morning.

The week is here when we remember that Christ faced a darkness of his own. However, he had faith in the new life of the rising sun.

We cannot always see with a perspective from 40,000 feet, a space station, or even the moon when looking at this fragile home we inhabit. As we focus our mission on God’s peaceable kingdom, we seek to see with new eyes. In times of light and during our dark days, we have the light to know God does not hide God’s face from us.

Prayer for Peace
God who rises with healing wings, grant our souls a season of clear shining after rain. The theme of your salvation, may we find ever new. While in you we confide, we cannot but rejoice.

—adapted from Sometimes a Light Surprises, text by William Cowper

Spiritual Practice: God’s Healing Light
Today’s intercessory prayer comes from the Quaker tradition. Become still, and turn your attention to God. Prayerfully identify a person who is in need of healing, blessing, or guidance. Close your eyes and imagine God’s presence surrounding the person. See or sense the person held in God’s light. Continue holding the person in the light and release the person into whatever blessing is needed from God. Words are not necessary. Trust the Spirit to see and penetrate more deeply than human awareness. Thank God and close with “amen.”

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will stretch myself for a new perspective.

The Stubborn Sheep

Tuesday, April 15

4-15aBy Nancy Hylton of Seattle, Washington, USA

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.

—John 10: 14–17

Because the Sunday-morning speaker was ill and could not preach, the presider shared spontaneously. She had been pondering what we could learn from Jesus during that week before Good Friday and Easter. She related her experiences as the child of a sheepherder.

She shared about the meaning of “sheepfold,” the high walls meant to protect the sheep from predators in the night. Her father had a special call that all the sheep knew. Because sheep are followers, when he called them to the fold, they would follow him.

At least, most of them would follow. Often a stubborn little sheep would be eating grass and not feel like going. So he was left behind. Because he was alone, the stubborn sheep soon would begin “crying” for the shepherd.

What a genuine metaphor our Lord used! How often I have been like that stubborn sheep! At times I found myself deciding there were better things to do than answer the shepherd’s call to guidance and safety, to purpose and mission.

The message was powerful! I often think of myself trying hard not to be that stubborn sheep! I remember the sacrifice of the Good Shepherd and I listen for his voice.

Prayer for Peace
Tender Shepherd, be patient with us when we think we don’t need you. Call us again and remind us whose we are. Remind us of Christ’s mission of peace and of our part in the community fold.

Spiritual Practice: Voices of God
What is the voice of God saying to us? Do we hear the whispers of God’s longing for shalom, God’s dream of beauty and wholeness for all creation? Do we hear the “voice” of God calling to us in faces and eyes, in the sounds of suffering and joy, in scripture and sacred word, in tears and laughter, in silence and noise?

Spend a few moments reflecting on when and how God’s voice has spoken to you. When did you first feel called to follow Christ in the pursuit of peace and justice? How does that call to shalom continue to come to you through the many “voices” of God?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will listen for your voice and follow.

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