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.

Advertisements

Have Mercy

Sunday, September 14

Jane Gardner

Jane Gardner

By Jane Gardner, president of Quorum of High Priests

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

—Matthew 18:21–22 NRSV

What a comforting message: No matter how off track I get, Jesus offers forgiveness. It’s personal and foundational to understanding the extent of God’s mercy and love for me.

But the meaning doesn’t stop there. While we can claim God’s mercy for us, Jesus’ message is much broader. It applies to all of our relationships, especially those within the church. No matter how off track we get with each other, we are to forgive. Wow! Forgive, no matter what?

The phrase “cheap grace” describes a surface approach. It says, “Everything is forgiven—no problem, no worries.” When in reality the hurt and pain are still present; we do not do the real work of forgiving.

Can we be in relation with one another that is genuine and not just superficial? Can we do the hard work of listening and processing with our honest, vulnerable selves? This perspective on the conversation between Peter and Jesus is counter-cultural and uncomfortable.

Listen together to one another, without judgment or predisposition. Do not assume that the answers to matters of conflict have yet been perceived. There is much labor to be done. Reason together in love, and the Spirit of truth will prevail.

—Doctrine and Covenants 162:5c

The next time someone offends or angers me, I’m going to try to go deeper. What is that person’s perspective? What might he or she be feeling? What are my assumptions about the circumstance? Can I protect myself and still be vulnerable and open? Is there a safe place for us to work this through together?

These are difficult questions prompted by the sayings of a Savior who confounded the disciples (and us): God radically forgives and we have to figure out how to authentically show the same mercy to each other.

Prayer for Peace Forgiving God, we feel your grace before we ask. As we forgive one another, we feel your grace growing in our hearts. As we share Christ’s peace, we feel at peace. Thank you.

Spiritual Practice: Healing and Reconciliation Gather a small mound of stones. Meditate on the stones as symbols of differences and destructive acts that continue to separate and wound the human family. Name and anoint each “stone wound” with a drop of water or scented oil. Offer them to God in a prayer for healing and reconciliation.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will walk in another’s shoes to understand that person’s perspective.

The Blue Camas of Idaho

Saturday, August 16

8-16By Joann Condit of Phoenix, Arizona, USA

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us…that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross…

—Ephesians 2:14–16 NRSV

My father’s childhood home was a small ranch house on the north side of Camas Prairie, where it backs up to the long range of the Soldier Mountains. His strong shell belied his soft heart, touched by beauty wherever he looked. The blue Camassia that blossoms in the early spring was his favorite flower.

Camas Prairie was once a bountiful place for the Bannock Indians. They came to Southern Idaho each year to catch salmon in the Snake River and to dig the bulbs of the camas plant. The bulbs taste much like sweet potato and were a nutritious staple after the long winter. The Native Americans dried, pounded, and ground the bulbs into meal that stored well. It provided bread for the hungry times. As a boy, Dad witnessed this yearly migration of the Bannocks.

When I was a child, the rich bounty of the camas nearly disappeared, plowed under by wheat farmers who flocked to that rich, black soil. Once, the composite of bright blue blossoms spread like lakes on the prairie floor. Then the lakes became puddles, where the flowers rarely grew. Here and there, in marshy places along creek beds, wherever the melted snow provides moisture, some camas continue to flower, telling a story of a migrating people who left when the flowers dwindled.

The bounty of God fed the early Bannocks for hundreds of years. The dominant need of another people plowed under this bounty. Do we put our own needs first? Can we break down the dividing walls and become a new humanity that shares?

Prayer for Peace Creator God, may we honor the sacredness of creation as we make choices that affect places on the Earth and the people who rely on them. Help us be aware of how damaging our footprints can be. Help us reconcile and make peace with those we have injured.

Spiritual Practice: Healing for Broken Spirits Begin with quiet prayer. Ask God to help you discern some “sore places” in the body of Christ and in God’s creation. Become aware of a people who feel separated, wounded, or left out. Ask God for words that will touch these people’s broken spirits like healing ointment. Keep them in your heart and prayers today, and act on any ideas that come to bring blessing and wholeness.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will become aware of historical hurts where I may foster reconciliation.

Return to Me

Tuesday, July 1

Painting by Vera Entwistle

Painting by Vera Entwistle

By Vera Entwistle of Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

Collectively and individually, you are loved with an everlasting love that delights in each faithful step taken. God yearns to draw you close so that wounds may be healed, emptiness filled, and hope strengthened.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:10a

Following my father’s suicide, I was bereft. I was angry with God, and I felt unable to pray. I was alone, drifting in my grief—afraid of running aground. One day my counselor asked me to sit facing an empty chair. “Imagine your dad sitting there. What do you think he would say to you?”

My dad’s image came to me so powerfully that I wept. I saw myself as a young child, distressed over some perceived hurt. My dad picked me up and comforted me. For the first time I could sense the distress my dad may feel, watching me wallowing in my grief, and I knew that for his sake I needed to pick up the pieces of my life and go on. But how?

After my counselor left, I again sat facing the empty chair. This time I visualized God sitting there. I demanded that God show me how I possibly could go on.

I felt prompted to turn to the scriptures, and I began to search for comfort. As I turned page after page, one sentence stood out: “God yearns to draw you close so wounds may be healed, emptiness filled, and hope strengthened.” In that moment, I began to heal.

Prayer for Peace Healer of wounds, help us always to keep our prayer contact with you. Help us pray, even when we are angry. Do not leave us alone in our grief. Draw us close. Give our hearts peace.

Spiritual Practice: Healing and Reconciliation Gather a small mound of stones. Meditate on the stones as symbols of differences and destructive acts that continue to separate and wound the human family. Name and anoint each “stone wound” with a drop of water or scented oil. Offer them to God in a prayer for healing and reconciliation.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will pray when I am empty, and I will pray when I am full.

Community Heart

Saturday, June 7

Artwork by  Ken McLaughlin

Artwork by
Ken McLaughlin

By Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

When your willingness to live in sacred community as Christ’s new creation exceeds your natural fear of spiritual and relational transformation, you will become who you are called to be. …the peaceful reign of Christ, awaits your wholehearted response to the call to make and steadfastly hold to God’s covenant of peace in Jesus Christ.

—Doctrine and Covenants 164:9b

Our tears roll into the cracks of our broken heart,
and there the salty spirit heals.

Hearts can break in different ways. They may break because of another person or an outside force or event. We do not choose it. This heart needs healing.

Our hearts can break for a world in need. We choose this brokenness. This heart does not need healing—it does not want the wound to close. Our hearts remain broken—open to the needs of the world and, with the grace of God, we never let them close. We will not turn away.

Our community heart chooses to respond to the brokenhearted with compassion and love. This is what hearts are good at. This is the signal we send to one another. We open our hearts to beat as one, to include all, and embrace all. We extend the heartfelt invitation and follow with a warmhearted welcome. To end suffering, we cannot let our hearts grow cold. We abolish poverty by following in the way of hearts that throb with generosity. This is the heart of a disciple. Let us be the heart of Jesus, “serving in his stead.”

Prayer for Peace Covenant God, we take comfort in your healing spirit, when our hearts break. Open our hearts to share your comfort and peace with a world in need.

Spiritual Practice: Abolish Poverty, End Suffering Read and reflect on John 21:15–17 as a meditation. Let your mind be drawn to places where people have no homes. Think of refugees whose homes were destroyed by war or natural disaster. Be aware of the hungry and homeless, who wander the streets or live in shelters. Let the images fill your mind. Offer a prayer for those who suffer. Imagine Christ tending those sheep. Think of ways you might end their suffering as part of your mission. Throughout the day, carry in your mind the voice of Christ saying: “Feed my lambs…tend my sheep…feed my sheep.”

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will add to my believing “deeds that prove it true.” I will put my money where my heart expresses desire to serve.

(Phrases from hymn “Let Your Heart Be Broken” by Brian Jeffery Leech)

Stop “Showing up” at Church

Saturday, May 17

5-17By Sydney Arden of Nashville, Tennessee, USA

As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes…and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! …and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.” A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins…“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.”

—Mark 12:38–40, 43 NRSV

Yes, you read it right, stop showing up at church.

Years ago I tired of merely attending church services. No longer did the prayer-hymn-word-hymn-prayer “sandwich” connect with me. I am not sure it ever did. I soon realized my soul stirred and longed for something more.

Sunday mornings and I were like a shallow middle-school relationship, and I was ready to break up. For a while I wrestled with feelings of frustration, hopelessness, and hurt. I tired of just “showing up.”

After soul-searching sessions while driving my car, waking in the middle of the night, and doodling during my college classes, a phrase formed among the black ink scribbles.

Start being the church. Stop just “showing up” at church and start being the church.

This is what I call a light bulb moment. The light kept shining. I realized that being a disciple of Jesus Christ doesn’t involve “pew sitting” alone. It is hard work, messy work, and nonstop work. And, most of the time the work does not show immediate results.

What I’m looking for is the glimpse of the sacred in the mundane. I want to see the sparkling moment of Spirit in the hurt and pain. I am aware this is who God calls me to be. There is much more I can do. There are more people to serve, more hurts to heal, more hungry mouths to feed, more to give.

All the while, I realize there is much work to do in my own heart. There are more layers to peel, fewer judgments to give, and much more stretching and growing. So I feel the growing pains.

As I move forward from “church-going” (just showing up) to “church-being,” I will feel the uncomfortable stretch. Sometimes it might hurt. I hope you join me on this changed journey. We can encourage one another rather than allow frustration to take over. Patiently we can reach out. We can help each other to go beyond the pew and engage in Christ’s mission.

I dare you to stop just showing up at church.

Prayer for Peace
Make us, O God, a community that dares to stretch for the sake of the World and Christ’s peace. From the strength we gather in the pew, help us grow and reach out to others.

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 put my trust in the community to help me be the church.

Compassionate Cup of Tea

Friday, March 7

3-7By Carole Heathers of Stratford, Ontario, Canada

“And you will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due.”

—Mosiah 2:24

My niece rang me on the phone. She had met a young woman in distress and wanted to give her my number. It wasn’t long before the young woman called. I invited her to our house. I wondered if she needed money.

When she arrived I discovered she was well educated and from a wealthy family. She didn’t need money, but she did need friendship. She had just arrived from Indonesia to join her husband, only to be met by news that caused her great pain. Someone had taken advantage of her financially. She was in a strange country and knew few besides the people who had caused the hurt. My heart broke for her. She did need a friend, and God had sent her to me.

We had tea, and she began to tell me her story. After a few hours she was feeling a little better. She went home with my promise that I would be there whenever she needed me. Over the next few months and countless cups tea we became close. Even after she moved to a different city we still got together as often as possible. We drank tea, she talked, and I listened.

Our conversation always seemed to get around to the hurt, disappointment, and anger she was hanging onto. I wondered if she ever would be free of hate and mistrust. She wanted to move on. She wanted to let go and heal, but it was too difficult. She read every book that might help her through the darkness and pain.

She prayed and prayed. It took a long time, a lot of work, and many cups of tea, but with God’s help she was able to let go, forgive, and heal!

Now she and her husband live in a city several miles from us. They have two children and are happily involved in a congregation with other Indonesian émigrés. I don’t hear from her often, but she sent me a beautiful tea set. It was a lovely surprise, a reminder of the many cups of tea we drank as she walked her path of healing. How blessed I was to share in her journey to wholeness.

Prayer for Peace
Compassionate God, help us realize your forgiveness as we forgive others. Help us rid ourselves of hurt, disappointment, and anger. Help us live peaceably with one another.

Spiritual Practice: An Offering of Ashes
God promises healing for our wounds and losses. Hold (or imagine holding) a pinch of ashes in your hands as you become aware of situations in your life, family, congregation, and world that are broken, lost, or falling apart. Be honest with God about the fear, sadness, or burden you feel. Offer the ashes to God in prayer. Ask God to create beauty, peace, and healing in the places and people now experiencing the ashes of despair and grief.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will forgive and shake off hurtful actions.

Darn Socks!

Tuesday, February 11

Karen Hutchinson

Karen Hutchinson

By Karen Tousley Hutchinson of Loveland, Colorado, USA

The earth, lovingly created as an environment for life to flourish, shudders in distress because creation’s natural and living systems are becoming exhausted from carrying the burden of human greed and conflict. Humankind must awaken from its illusion of independence and unrestrained consumption without lasting consequences.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:4b

I love to darn socks. That statement can immediately shut down all conversation around me. Who in the world still wants to darn a sock? They are inexpensive to buy, and a pain to keep wearable—at least that’s how many people respond.

But I find great enjoyment in picking up the holey sock that needs fixing, finding a matching color yarn, and getting out my wooden darning egg. I sit down and make that useless item into something useful again.

I do have to admit that most socks I darn are socks I knitted myself. I know these socks well—they are my creations. I want them to be whole and beautiful again. I want them to fulfill their mission—to warm toes and comfort the foot in the shoe.

I wonder if God feels that way about us, God’s creation. God already knows us in ways far better than I know the socks I have made. God wants us to be whole, useful, and spiritually beautiful. And God tries to keep us “darned” all the time. When we become holey, tattered, and worn out, God is there with matching thread waiting for us to respond to divine repairs.

As much as I enjoy being the one doing the repairing, I want to be open and receptive to God’s efforts to heal me (no pun intended), so I can become that useful and beautiful creation again.

“If our minds and senses are alive to the trace of God in all creatures, we shall never waste…nor spoil…nor destroy in all the Earth. If we take and eat one piece of bread, how can we drop it half eaten and reach for another?

If a length of cotton, grown from so miraculous a seed in so complex a soil, tended, and harvested, and woven, and shaped by so many hands and minds…if such a scrap of stuff wears thin, shall we not hold it in careful hands? If it tears, shall we not mend it with love?”

—Faye Malania, The Quantity of a Hazelnut, adapted

Prayer for Peace
We would touch your Earth carefully, Lord. We would use it gently. We would treat it as the fragile creation that you have lent us. Help us mend it with love and peace.

Spiritual Practice: Weaving a Life
Hold (or imagine holding) a piece of woven cloth. Examine it carefully. Notice overlapping threads, the strength of their intermingling. Write a journal entry or meditate about the threads and patterns of your life. What design do you see? How does the life pattern you are weaving create justice and wholeness in God’s world? What new pattern are you called to weave?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will use the Earth less, and leave it as healthy as I can.

Revealing Steps

Thursday, November 28

11-28By Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

Collectively and individually, you are loved with an everlasting love that delights in each faithful step taken…

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:10

Moses stepped down from the mountain
confronted by God’s mystery
challenged by God’s authority
changed by God’s love.
Tablets enfolded in strong arms—
Heavy. Heavy on his heart.
Disappointed by the people
broken covenant
broken hearts
broken tablets.
Moses stepped back up the mountain
into the Presence.
Brokenness reflected
people atoned
covenant renewed
Mosaic law restored
and God said,
“It is an awesome thing
I will do with you.”
And the people were healed.

If you look closely at a piece of mosaic art you might see rough, ragged edges. The artist breaks individual pieces into irregular shapes and sizes—no two exactly alike. They don’t fit with perfect and precise margins. You’ll find the pieces varying in color and you might not see how they matter to the big picture. Step back.

Now we see. The difference in colors is what it’s all about. This light shade brings the figure forward; this dark shade takes it back, creating a shadow, lending depth. The artist groups like-colored shapes together forming an image—perhaps a figure or a landscape emerges. Placing contrasting colors next to each other defines a new shape for us. The varied surfaces of the tiles, glass, or other pieces, help define the artist’s theme and give it texture. Step closer.

We lose the intended shapes once more. The image disappears. We see chaos again. The artist created this piece with a certain perspective in mind. The various colors, textures, and shapes have a purpose—they do matter. Step back.

The image comes back into focus. The fragments work together to complete the whole when we don’t try to judge each piece’s worth. When compelled to judge, we need to step back and pause. Now, reflect on one particular tile, one life. If we left it out because of its flaws, the creation would not be complete. All Are Called. Diversity unifies us. We are whole.

Prayer for Peace
Creator God, may we always find Unity in Diversity.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring Unity in Diversity
Meditate on Unity in Diversity. Create a large circle with your arms. See and feel the diverse people God invites inside the sanctuary of Christ’s peace. Ask God to forgive and heal barriers of unfamiliarity that keep you and others from being one in Christ’s peace.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will step back to get a better perspective on what matters most.

A Kind and Compassionate Voice

Monday, September 23

9-23By Don Streeter of Dallas, Oregon, USA

Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Luke 18:38

(Inspired by scripture)

“You are beautiful!”

You might wonder why a stranger would say this to you. But you must understand—until three days ago I was blind. I lost my sight as a child and lived as a beggar on the road outside Jericho.

For many days recently as people passed, I heard them talking about a preacher named Jesus. He traveled the area teaching and preaching. I learned he was a descendant of David. He had the gift of healing. Some said he might even be the prophesied Messiah. But what do I know of prophets and Messiahs? Blind beggars aren’t welcome in the synagogues.

What I wanted more than life itself was to see—to see flowers and faces, sunrises and sunsets. I wanted to see even the dirt upon my feet. If only this Jesus could heal me. But how could I find him? Who would take me to him?

Then my whole life changed. As I sat on the road begging, I heard a crowd approaching. “What is this? Who passes by?” A person joyfully answered, “It’s Jesus of Nazareth. Come.” My heart leapt inside me. Jesus, the one who could make me see again. In my soul I knew he could heal me. I had no doubt. I cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He just had to hear me!

Someone from the crowd told me to hold my peace, that Jesus had important things to do. He had no time for me. But I knew he could heal me if he could just hear me. I called out again, “Son of David, Son of David, hear me. Have mercy on me!”

Through the noise of the crowd I heard Jesus ask that I come to him. They led me to where I could feel a strong presence, and I knew Jesus must be near. I feared I might collapse. But a kind and compassionate voice said to me, “What do you want me to do for you?” With a calm voice I answered him, “Lord, let me see again.”

Then he said to me, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” Immediately I could see. The first person I saw was a man who, despite great fatigue, carried an uncommon strength. As my newly opened eyes met his I saw a depth of love and compassion I had never known.

I praised God right there. I blessed God for my wholeness. Your bodies may not be blind, crippled, or sick; but your spirit may be blind to God’s love, crippled with hate, or sick with loneliness.

Call to him as I did, “Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me!” Ask him as I did, “Have mercy on me!”

Prayer for Peace
Open our eyes, God, that we may see your love.

Spiritual Practice: The Jesus Prayer of Mercy
Silently enter prayer. Greet God and take up the prayer phrase: Lord, Jesus Christ (as you breathe in)…have mercy on me (as you breathe out). Prayerfully repeat these words several times. Breathe in the transforming presence of Christ.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will be transformed as I accept your mercy.