Invite All to Christ

Sunday, October 12

10-12

Karin Peter

By Karin Peter of Adrian, Missouri, USA

Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. …For many are called, but few are chosen.

—Matthew 22:8–10, 14 NRSV

My friend, Libby, was one of those people who always looked disheveled. She wore stained clothing, her hair was uncombed, and her manner was less than refined. But people who knew Libby knew she was a follower of Jesus, even though she was not raised in a church community.

As an adult, she was invited into the life of her congregation, and there she discovered a community of people who valued her just as she was. In our congregation, Libby found a home, a place of covenant and compassion. Among this loving community she blossomed. Her many areas of giftedness, her resourcefulness, and her endless hospitality brought blessings to friends and stranger alike.

Libby lived the last years of her life in humble service to others. Her appearance might have been unkempt, but the stained clothing she wore was the robe of a genuine disciple.

Prayer for Peace Loving God, we know we are worthy, just because you made us. Help us be more responsive to your call, so we may affirm the worth of others. Help us find new ways to Invite People to Christ and share in the peace found here.

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, when you share 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 listen for your call.

Produce Fruits of the Kingdom

Sunday, October 5

10-5By Karin Peter of Adrian, Missouri, USA

“…There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

—Matthew 21:33–40 NRSV

The chief priests and Pharisees who heard this parable were not happy with Jesus. They realized Jesus was comparing them to the wicked tenants in the vineyard. They also realized Jesus put them on notice, “…the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom” (Matthew 21:43).

Jesus expected more of religious leaders than simple belief in God’s kingdom. Jesus was looking for the people to make God’s kingdom real in their choices, words, and actions.

In a similar way, Community of Christ has undergone a radical shift in understanding our call as a people of God. We have moved from believing in Zion to becoming a prophetic people, a people of peace, wholeness, and restoration. We discern together how God’s Spirit guides us through difficult issues. Christ sends us in mission to share the gospel in ways that release and value the gifts, ideas, skills, and passions of all people.

This exercise of becoming can be disconcerting, even uncomfortable. Yet I believe, even when we find ourselves at intersections of misunderstanding, disagreement, exhaustion, or doubt, we are on our way to becoming “new tenants” in the vineyard. Through our choices—our words and our actions—we learn to produce and to share the good fruit. We become a community of God’s peaceable kingdom.

Prayer for Peace God of wisdom, guide us as we become new tenants in the vineyard—new disciples in the community. As you bless us, may we bless others with peaceful actions.

Spiritual Practice: Making Responsible Choices Prayerfully seek God’s guidance in your choices. Discernment invites us to orient our lives toward God and God’s vision for us and creation. Begin by reviewing the responsibilities and opportunities in the day before you. Take these choices into prayer, asking God for wisdom and insight about what matters most. Be aware of images, thoughts, names, or actions that come to you. Ask for a blessing to live this day responsibly and compassionately in the Spirit of Christ.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will contemplate my choices carefully, always asking if they’re part of Christ’s mission.

How Shall They Hear?

Tuesday, September 30

"G" is for God

“G” is for God

By Susie Shelton of Independence, Missouri, USA

The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval.

—Romans 14:18 NRSV

I worked for years as a court reporter, but it seemed no matter how hard I worked, my work never satisfied me. Then I discovered real-time captioning—listening to people speak and transcribing the words instantly to the screen. I continued practicing and going to seminars. However, I still felt something was missing. My chosen career left me unfulfilled.

One day I used my real-time captioning skills to help a hearing-impaired man in court. Providing help gave me a deep satisfaction. As a child I learned: All that we are and hope to be, we can dedicate to God and use to serve others.

Years later, I prayed for guidance for my role in Christ’s mission. Then, the Architect of my life turned the light on. I recalled how I felt helping the man in court. I wanted that feeling back. I took a course in sign language to understand better those who were deaf or hard of hearing. I was afraid I wouldn’t measure up. I gave up my concerns to God. It was like jumping into the unknown, trusting God to catch me.

At a university I used my skills to help students. I was their ears. I wanted to expand this service into a ministry. I started contacting churches. Many did not need what I had to offer. I continued honing my skills and praying for opportunities to serve.

One Sunday I stopped at three churches before I came to the Stone Church Congregation in Independence, Missouri. I shared my idea of captioning for hearing-impaired people. The pastor expressed interest. I first wrote the services for me to build my biblical dictionary.

The first Sunday I provided captioning, a woman who was sitting behind me was watching my screen. When the service was over, she thanked me and gave me a hug as tears streamed down her cheeks. Many hearing-impaired people attend this congregation, and I feel joy in making the ministry accessible to them. I hope captioning ministry will expand to other congregations.

Prayer for Peace Architect of life, help us structure our lives to serve those in need.

Spiritual Practice: Develop Disciples to Serve As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to respond to people and their needs. Pray about using your skills to help another person. As you feel affirmed, thank God for the opportunity to be a responding, serving disciple while you move into the outward journey.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will give up my hesitation to serve, and trust you to guide me.

Forgiveness is only an “Amen” Away

Monday, September 29

9-29By Deb Crowley of Eaton Rapids, Michigan, USA

Do not turn away in pride, fear, or guilt from the One who seeks only the best for you and your loved ones. Come before your Eternal Creator with open minds and hearts and discover the blessings of the gospel anew. Be vulnerable to divine grace.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:10b

It was time for bedtime prayers, and 4-year-old Tyson wanted me to start. I prayed, “Dear Jesus, thank you for letting Tyson, and Uncle Dustin, and Papa get so much done on the house today, and…”

“Wait, Grammie,” Tyson interrupted. His eyes were wide, and with a serious manner he continued, “I didn’t really help because I couldn’t use the tools. I watched TV!” Somehow I got through the rest of the prayer while stifling my amusement!

I marvel at the honesty of a child—honesty before God! Oh, that I were as a child at times. Willingly admitting my failures and repenting of what I did or did not do through bedtime prayer, cleansing my soul through repentance. Knowing that forgiveness is only an “amen” away.

Jesus understood the innocence and breathtaking honesty of children. He challenged adults who became too rigid, fragile, and stubborn to become again as little children. Tyson’s experience to this point in his life helped him understand in some subliminal way that his admission would not bring rejection or scolding. That no matter what he said or did or did not do, God loved him unconditionally.

I, too, would be vulnerable before God, knowing that no matter my admission, God’s love, grace, and forgiveness wrap around me like blankets tucked around my sleeping grandson. How refreshing to think that on occasion, my admission might cause God to stifle a chuckle or two!

Prayer for Peace God of grace and wisdom, be patient with us when we forget to repent. We know you forgive us even before we ask. Bless us with the honesty of a child. Bless us with generosity to share Christ’s peace.

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 Tonight, God, at my bedtime prayer, I will be vulnerable to your divine grace. Amen.

Live the Gospel

Sunday, September 21(Heritage Day)

9-21By Richard Howard of Independence, Missouri, USA

…but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons…Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.

—Matthew 10:6–10 NRSV

Today’s scripture tells of Jesus’ commission to his disciples to spend their lives bringing healing and hope to people in desperate need. They were to trust the Spirit to lead them. They were to travel light—no money, no baggage, no extra clothing. Jesus was already their role model, for scriptures tell us he had no place to lay his head as he shared his life with others so fully.

Elkana and Alicia Odupa of Kenya, Africa, sensed deeply a call to travel and set up their home and family among the Turkana people of Nakwamekwi. The village was on the brink of economic and social collapse. Consumption of alcohol had become epidemic, and the whole population was desperate.

The Odupas began working with the citizens, introducing agricultural and handcraft skills that within several months worked a transformative miracle among people of all ages in Lodwar and Nakwamekwi.

Elkana and Alicia, members of Community of Christ, also introduced the Christian gospel to the people. Soon more than 50 people united with the church through baptism. Equally important, the community left its destructive life patterns by embracing the gospel. People healed their addictions and built vocational opportunities that rescued families from poverty, disease, and despair. This was redeeming and transforming work.

All of this happened a generation ago, because Elkana and Alicia Odupa found great joy in living the gospel. They were foundational witnesses and part of the heritage we claim today.

Prayer for Peace Tender Shepherd, lead us to your lost sheep. Help us be faithful to the good news of the kingdom, not the polls of approval from the world. May we be laborers for 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 rediscover my testimony in preparation to share the invitation.

Who Grew?

Tuesday, September 9

Gary McDonald

Gary McDonald

By Gary McDonald of Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

—Romans 14:19 NRSV

Whenever A.C. took to the podium to preach, I groaned. He was boring to this 10-year-old. I tried to get something from his sermons, but, as a youngster, I never could. Instead, I would count the minutes until they were over. His sermons were consistently tedious.

I didn’t know that A.C. was a convert to the community and was slowly growing in his discipleship. Years later, I recall him saying his few experiences with church had been during childhood, when an aunt took him on special occasions. This meant he had no mentors or teachers to emulate or question. He was learning on the job.

I grew up and matured while A.C. continued improving on his sermons. I remember a Sunday when I was listening to him. How intelligent and interesting he was!

I wondered when the change took place. Later I realized it had happened only after years of practice. I soon realized I had changed only after years of listening.

In remembrance of his valuable friendship and service, I can say only that I am glad God gives us room to grow.

Prayer for Peace God of wisdom, forgive us when we expect perfection from one another. We are all flawed. Thank you for loving us as we are and as we may become. Help us support and encourage one another.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring God’s Call to Others Reflect on God’s call in your life. Quietly reflect on the moments when you have experienced God’s presence and invitation to expand your gifts. Write in your journal or quietly reflect on images and insights that come. When have you experienced God through the calling and gifts of others? How do your gifts connect with the call of God you notice in your family, friends, congregation, or community?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will remember of me and my friends that we’re not perfect, and that’s OK. That’s perfect!

My Shepherd, Emily

Monday, September 8

9-8c

Lisa Soignier

By Lisa Soignier of Independence, Missouri, USA

You have put gladness in my heart…I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.

—Psalm 4:7–8 NRSV

I was sitting on the front row at church one Sunday morning when my 8-year-old friend, Emily, walked past me to hug a visitor. Not wanting to leave anyone out, she continued down the row until she hugged everyone on our side of the church.

Then, as I bowed my head, she returned to where I was sitting to make sure I received a hug, too. At that moment I felt like the lost sheep, and the shepherd had returned for me! What a joy it was to receive that reassuring hug! I could feel Emily’s love.

I often feel like a lost sheep when facing circumstances over which I have no control. I try to find my own way to handle my problems. After struggling for solutions, I remember I am not alone. My Shepherd comes to me with an even better plan than I could imagine.

My Shepherd comes in many forms—a card in the mail from a friend, an invitation to lunch with colleagues, a visit with my neighbor, or a phone call from my sister. Seek the sheep that need your ministry and the different ways you minister. Christ calls us to be disciples serving in his stead.

Prayer for Peace Tender Shepherd, how can my heart be sad when I know you are near? How can I feel lost when I trust you know where I am? How can I feel left out when I know you will return for me? How can I be afraid when it is you who sings me to sleep and gives me peace?

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 voices 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.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will write a note of affirmation and love to a child.

What Can I Do for You Today, God?

Tuesday, August 26

BibleBy Wendy Ballard of Forster, New South Wales, Australia

…do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

—Psalm 34:14 NRSV

Recently I had the privilege of conducting the memorial service of a 95-year-old disciple, with emphasis on the word disciple because she was. She was also faithful, prayerful, scripturally literate, and an inspiration to me. Whenever I visited her, we would pray. First I prayed. She would follow, thanking and praising God for life, her many blessings, and then—wonder of wonders—for me.

She shared with me her favorite scriptures, her significant hymns, her beloved people, and her love of writing and reading poetry. Here are a few lines from one of her poems, which I quoted at her celebration service:

I love my God, and God loves me, too,
without my faith what would I do?
God is my strength and my refuge, too,
God’s response is amazing and true.

I can remember thinking, she is 95 years old, and in life and near death, she still finds ways to proclaim her love of and total faith and trust in the Living God. I remember her morning prayer: “Dear God, what can I do for you today?” Wow! What if we prayed a prayer like that each day?

God relies on people like you and me to engage in mission. God needs us to share our experience of the Living Christ. Let us, like my friend, begin our day by asking God what we can do for Christ’s mission. Let us also listen for a response and then act. This opportunity might be the one waiting for our response.

Prayer for Peace Great Listener, we thank you for the mentors in our lives. Help us listen to them and by doing so come closer to you. May we then encourage others to listen for ways to share peace.

Spiritual Practice: Praying with a Partner Pray with a partner if possible, or imagine Christ sitting with you. The heart is a center of compassion and spiritual connection. Stand or sit across from your partner with hands open and palms up. Invite your partner to place his or her hands, palms down, on your hands. Close your eyes and be aware of the connection between your heart and your partner’s heart. What needs, feelings, or longings do you sense? Invite God’s presence to flow into you, and move from your heart to the heart of your partner. Feel or see God’s healing light and love flowing between your hearts. After silent prayer, thank God and your partner. Say, “Amen.” (You also may pray this prayer by envisioning a particular person across from you.)

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will do what you want me to do.

Community Expands and the World Seems Smaller

Monday, August 25

8-25a

Australians and Grover’s – IYF 2014

By Janné Grover of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

Praise the Lord, all you nations! Extol him, all you peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!

—Psalm 117 NRSV

Five young men from Australia became part of our family during their stay for the International Youth Forum (IYF) at the Temple and Auditorium in Independence, Missouri, this July. Brodey, Tarron, Zac, Sam, and Tim were delightful and generous guests who shared with us a glimpse into the similarities and differences of our cultures. They never did get used to vehicles and traffic being on the opposite side of the road from which they are accustomed.

On the first day of IYF, I walked into the Temple Sanctuary for the Prayer for Peace, and was immersed in the energy of nearly 1,000 young people from around the world. I was overwhelmed by the hope and potential these young people embody. What an amazing experience! My personal challenge is to live beyond the feeling of that moment. I want to be awake and ready to respond. I want to risk something new to be a blessing of God’s love and peace in the world. The great news is I’m not doing this alone. I am on this journey with my church family. We are on this journey with brothers and sisters around the world. Our community is ever expanding, and the world continues to get just a little smaller.

On the last night of their stay, we shared in a gathering with yet more Australians, as well as a group of young women from Tahiti. We learned how to play cricket and touch “footie,” and enjoyed some traditional Tahitian dancing. I marveled at the event that brought this particular group of young people, leaders, and host families together from different cultures to enjoy an evening of fun and companionship—transcending language and culture.

Events such as IYF and World Conference highlight the rich blessings of a diverse community. I feel at home among brothers and sisters from around the world, and as my sense of community is greatly expanded, the world grows smaller. I capture a glimpse of God’s vision for all of creation…each person finding voice and belonging in a community of oneness and equality.

How do we extend those experiences beyond church events happening every three or four years?

Becoming a radically invitational and welcoming community goes beyond our hospitality to those who walk through our doors. We have a message of hope and acceptance that has the potential to transform lives, communities, and the world. We do not keep it to ourselves; it is what “Christ’s Mission, Our Mission” is all about.

Prayer for Peace God of the wide world, God of the small world, bless us with hospitality inclusive of all. Expand our realm of concern; bring your finest details into focus. Help us gather your world into a community of peace.

Spiritual Practice: The International Community Find (or imagine) a globe or map of the world. Look at all the nations and find a country other than your own. Notice the geographic distance between your homeland and this one. Picture a person living there. Pray for this person. Sense God’s love connecting you just as the oceans connect the continents. Thank God for the spiritual connection you have with all of God’s people around the globe. Ask a blessing on the church as a community sharing Christ’s peace, drawing all into the family of God.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will expand my community to the world and get to know its people personally.

Don’t Forget the Humble Housekeeper

Tuesday, August 19

8-19By Merna Short of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. …If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

—1 Corinthians 12:12–14, 26–27 NRSV

Those who work in the fabric industry know it is important to keep floors clean of scraps and lint. These are a potential fire hazard. Just a spark would allow a fire to take hold, destroying everything in its path. Imagine the loss in an inferno of fabric, chemicals, and machinery.

In industry, managers, supervisors, and workers are all necessary, yet we often undervalue the humble housekeeper. When cost cutting, the accountant is apt to look at the volume of goods made by the factory and overlook the need for continual cleaning. The cry from those who produce the goods is, “Don’t fire the ones who clean!”

Jesus can’t do without his leaders and workers in the church, either. Many people give noticeable, public ministry and are a blessing. There are also those who work diligently and quietly in the background. How grateful we are that they are always serving. They are an unheralded blessing for Christ’s mission.

Seeing these faithful servants reminds me of how much we need them. I again become aware that as the body of Christ we cannot say of any part, “I have no need of you.” We are all are called to serve the children of God.

Prayer for Peace Universal God, help us look beyond the seemingly “unimportant” positions and see the humble servants. Help us see and know of how much worth they are to all. We would suffer without them. Help us bridge the gap of imagined worthiness by sharing Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring God’s Call to Others Reflect on God’s call in your life. Quietly reflect on the moments when you have experienced God’s presence and invitation to expand your gifts. Write in your journal or quietly reflect on images and insights that come. When have you experienced God through the calling and gifts of others? How do your gifts connect with the call of God you notice in your family, friends, congregation, or community?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will recognize and value the call of each person.