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.

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The Mission of the Children

Monday, June 23

6-23By Lisa Soignier of Independence, Missouri, USA

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

—James 3:17 NRSV

My grandmother loved taking her family to summer church camps. When I was a little girl she and my grandfather took me and my two young uncles to a reunion (family camp).

The two adults rode in the cab of the truck, and the children rode on a bench in the back. It was raining. A big plastic tarp was tied over the truck bed to keep us dry. Today’s law would consider this method of transportation unsafe. As I got older, transportation got a little safer.

One year my grandmother drove a large motor home to camp and took 10 grandchildren. It was comical to see so many children emerging from the vehicle—like off-loading the ark.

My own mother continued this tradition, plus seatbelts. This past summer four generations from our family attended reunion at Bald Knob, Arkansas.

Attending reunions affects our family’s involvement in church in a big way. The children learn from an early age that they are an important part of our faith community. They become familiar with reading scripture, offering prayers, ministering with music, and receiving the offering for worship services. They are enthusiastic to serve the Lord. They minister with their presence, as only children can do.

May our children continue to lead the way. May Christ’s mission be our mission, and their mission.

Prayer for Peace God of wisdom, may we be as children—peaceable, gentle, without hypocrisy. May we follow them to share the good fruits of Christ’s Mission.

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. 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 send an e-mail or letter to a child who has touched my life.

I Think I Can! I Think I Can!

Tuesday, June 10

6-10By JoAnn Condit of Phoenix, Arizona, USA

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

—Philippians 4:13, adapted NRSV

Many children have grown up knowing the theme from the cherished book, The Little Engine That Could, written by “Watty Piper,” a pen name of Arnold Munk. For three generations it was also a favorite of our family. Each child always joined in to joyfully recite the repetitive theme, “I think I can! I think I can!”

While visiting our grandchildren in Oklahoma, we took Stephen and Tyler to a favorite hamburger place for lunch. The draw was not the food but the play area. Tyler, 3 years old, could hardly wait to join the others in the magical room that was a couple of feet deep in soft plastic balls. On the far side was a short basketball standard, and Tyler loved basketball.

We launched him down the steps, and he disappeared from view, too short for the depth of the balls. An older girl led him across the little room, brushing the balls aside for him. He then tried his best to toss a few balls through the net, not easy when you can’t see what you are doing.

Time passed and finally we called that it was time to go. Tyler turned, cleared away enough balls to see us, and acknowledge he had heard. He then disappeared again, only his small cap visible as he made large swimming motions on his return trip. We could see his mouth moving, and when he was close we heard, “I think I can! I think I can!”

Indeed, he could. It is that same determination that has carried him in his life—to a career in the US Air Force, to a wife, and baby daughter. He thinks he can, therefore he can.

It is a testimony of faith and a choice to devote our giftedness to the mission to which God calls us—Christ’s mission. “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”

Prayer for Peace Steadfast God, help us look at the day before us and be assured of your presence. Help us discern our part of Christ’s mission and assure us of our ability to respond accountably.

Spiritual Practice: Making Responsible Choices Prayerfully seek God’s guidance in your choices. Discernment invites us to orient our lives toward God, 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.

Offer yourself to God with the prayer of Teresa of Avila: “God, what do you want of me today?” Sit prayerfully with this question as you review the day again. 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 have faith in my ability to do what is asked of me for the sake of the peaceable kingdom.

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.

Make a Difference Day

Tuesday, October 22

10-22By Eleanor St. Claire of Oak Harbor, Ohio, USA

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

—Matthew 11:30

Donnella is the most generous person I know. Because of her concern for others, she is the neighborhood repair/recycle center. Nothing is thrown away if it can benefit someone. She washes and bleaches clothing until it is sparkling white. She collects and delivers furniture to bare homes. She even takes care of the trash from our congregation. Her daughter, Kristine, is at her side in much of this ministry.

Donnella is generous in her encouragement and support as well. Joyous laughter often comes with her exclamation, “Wonderful!” She spends many hours caring for local children, without charge. And she helps people find jobs. She is on her knees for those in need of prayer and she finds pleasure in filling her offering envelope on Saturday night.

Is this a young whirlwind? No, she is a diabetic senior citizen who has bad days with aches, pain, and fatigue. But she spends her healing time planning for tomorrow. Her heart also knows the spiritual pain from poor choices of loved ones, but it doesn’t affect her joyous response to the community.

Many take part in the Make a Difference Day in October. Donnella is making a difference every day, and her joy in her work is evident. In her way, she busily engages in the Mission Initiative Abolish Poverty, End Suffering. She inspires the neighborhood to be a part of it, too.What an example of doing Christ’s Mission!

Prayer for Peace
Burden-sharing God, we thank you for the gift of Christ who lightens our burdens. Thank you for your everyday community disciples who show they care. Thank you for all those who share the peace of Christ.

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 are suffering. 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, and every day, I will try to make a difference.

The Far-flung Places

Saturday, October 12

10-12By Kenny Wilson of Nevada, Missouri, USA

There are many lives waiting to hear the redeeming words of the gospel, or to be lifted from hopelessness by the hands of loving servants. But they will be lost to you without the generous response of disciples who share from their own bounty that others may know the joys of the kingdom . . . The answers you seek are not inherent in the things of this world but in a faith that places its trust in the promises given to all who would follow Jesus Christ . . . The call to respond is urgent. Look to the needs of your own congregations, but look also beyond your walls to the far-flung places where the church must go. Each disciple needs a spiritual home. You are called to build that home and care for it, but also to share equally in the outreaching ministries of the church. In that way the gospel may be sent to other souls also yearning for a spiritual resting place.

—Doctrine and Covenants 162:7

Mary Ann had mission: to help children in Nevada, Missouri, make a difference through the World Hunger Fund for those in Africa dying of starvation due to severe drought and famine. The plan included a bake sale at a family-owned store. Grandparents and grandchildren throughout the congregation baked cookies, brownies, muffins, and cupcakes.

The project, Cookies for Kids, was a success, raising a generous amount of money! The project enabled children and adults in the Nevada Congregation to engage in the Mission Initiative Abolish Poverty, End Suffering. Your contributions to this initiative, which includes the World Hunger Fund, enable Community of Christ to respond as a worldwide church to those in need. Thank you for responding faithfully to a generous God.

Prayer for Peace
Generous God, give us eyes to see past our immediate surroundings to the needs of those across the world. Let our communication technology tell us of conditions in places we cannot go ourselves. May we share with those who are out-of-sight, but not out-of-mind. May we share Christ’s peace.

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 are suffering. 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 open my eyes to see the need. I will open my ears to hear the cries.

Increase Our Faith

Sunday, October 6

10-6By Linda Booth, Council of Twelve Apostles

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

—Luke 17:5–6

Sometimes we think that our faith is too small. However, Jesus told his disciples that even faith as small as a mustard seed can bring amazing results.

I spent five days with the Mayfield, Kentucky congregation. This band of faithful people put their faith in action and daily live Christ’s mission. As a result, they invite many people to Christ, baptized and or confirmed them. They become his disciples, and go out to impact the lives of others.

During my time there, I met a young father who told me his family’s story. His parents made and sold crystal meth. When he was 10, he began to use drugs. When he was 20, he decided to escape his family’s influence.

He moved to Mayfield, met a young woman, and their new daughter arrived. His girlfriend knew a little about Jesus and so they began to attend a Bible-based congregation. They enjoyed going to church as a family until one Sunday the minister pointed to them during his sermon and used them as an example of sin. This young family left and never returned. They yearned for a community that would love them and teach them about Jesus.

Someone from Community of Christ listened to their story and invited them to a church activity. The young father said these folks cared about his family. As a result, for the first time he felt he was worthy of God’s love. The couple married in the church, became fully integrated into the congregation, and experienced the blessings of community. Their four-year-old daughter said to me, “I love Jesus so very much.”

Prayer for Peace
Responsive God, learning of the life of your Son has caused our faith to grow. Worshiping among your loving, accepting community has developed us as disciples who care. May we respond as disciples who share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Welcoming 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 circle of peace.

Who is easiest to welcome? Whom do you struggle to include? Confess the dividing walls between you and people too different or “dangerous” to invite into your spiritual home. Ask God to forgive and heal barriers that keep you and others from being one in Christ’s peace.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will search for those outside the peace and invite them in to the embrace of the community.

Happening in Spain

Saturday, September 28

9-28By Keith McMillan of Waltham Cross, England

God is calling for a prophetic community to emerge, drawn from the nations of the world, that is characterized by uncommon devotion to the compassion and peace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Through divine grace and wisdom, this faith community has been given abundant gifts, resources, and opportunities to equip it to become such a people. Chief among these is the power of community in Christ expressed locally in distinctive fashions while upholding a unity of vision, foundational beliefs, and mission throughout the world.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:11a

“There is something happening in Spain!” I heard this many times on a recent visit to Madrid and Barcelona. Many people are asking about Community of Christ. Several have chosen baptism. The church is beginning to recognize its potential in that nation.

Recently, about 25 members and friends of the church gathered in Madrid to celebrate Communion, the first time in many years for some of them. A wonderful spirit prevailed as the group sang hymns, prayed, and shared in companionship. This is just one example of how the Spirit of God calls us into new places to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

Your contributions make Christ’s mission a reality throughout the world. Thank you for responding faithfully to the Mission Initiative of Invite People to Christ.

Prayer for Peace
Welcoming God, may we send the sound the Earth around, inviting people to Christ. May we take Christ’s message of peace and share with all who might hear.

Spiritual Practice: Ongoing Revelation
One Enduring Principle of Community of Christ is Continuing Revelation. We are a people always in process, becoming shaped by God’s interaction with us. In prayer, listen deeply to the name, “Community of Christ.” Write or say a prayer asking God to continue to form us through our name. Listen deeply to what it would mean to live in community, following and sharing the way of Christ. Become comfortable with sharing who we are.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will do what I can to expand Christ’s mission beyond borders.

New Congregation Engages in Mission Initiative

Saturday, August 10

8-10By Debbie Hogan of New Port Richey

and Brenda Cummins of North Fort Myers, Florida, USA

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.

—1 Peter 4:10

Excitement rose in 2011 as 31 people attended the first worship service in the New Port Richey Congregation in Florida.

Each week, all who attend share hot meals. Services typically last about three hours, including the meal and community-building activities.

As the members provide a witness of Jesus Christ, relation-building skills, and ministry, the congregation partners with community projects that relate to the Abolish Poverty, End Suffering Mission Initiative. This congregation remains a place where people can share meals, ministry, and mission. Your generous contributions make it possible for congregations such as New Port Richey to make mission real. Thank you for responding generously to move forward.

Prayer for Peace
Creator God, may we be aware of needs in our communities and around the world. May we always be ready to address those needs by witnessing for Christ and sharing his peace.

Spiritual Practice: Experience Congregations in Mission
Read and reflect on Doctrine and Covenants 164:9a–d. Reread the sentence, “If you truly would be Community of Christ, then embody and live the concerns and passion of Christ.” Make a list of the issues you feel mattered most to Christ. Make another list of issues that matter to your congregation. Reflect on the similarities and differences. How can you help align the lists? Throughout the day, as issues arise, ask yourself, “Would this matter to Christ?”

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will expand the breadth of my sharing.

A Good Fit

Monday, July 1

7-1By Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

Listen to the Voice that echoes across the eons of time and yet speaks anew in this moment…Listen carefully to the many testimonies of those around the world who have been led into the companionship of the Community of Christ. The richness of cultures, the poetry of language, and the breadth of human experience permit the gospel to be seen with new eyes…

—Doctrine and Covenants 162:1b, 4a

We are now halfway through the year. I hope you find Daily Bread a valuable part of your spiritual journey. As the editor, I’m the fortunate person who gets to read these stories first. I want to share some thoughts about how each page comes together. The ideas and words of many people draw together to form these daily devotionals. Care is taken so each devotional creates a cohesive flow from one moment to the next. I have found some surprising collaboration.

If you submitted reflections or stories, you may notice a bit of “editing.” Some are shortened; others have minor grammatical edits. I try hard to keep the intended message. Also, I may insert, as summary, some “language” of Community of Christ—like an Enduring Principle or Mission Initiative, as they are implied by the story.

If your story tells how members of the church have been there for you, to pray for you, help you, comfort you, I try to point out that these are Blessings of Community. It fits.

If a story tells how a congregation has set up a pantry for those who are hungry and homeless, I might note this as an example of Experience Congregations in Mission or Abolish Poverty, End Suffering. It fits.

The stories also fit with the scripture passages. This is not a hard match to make. To have scriptures reflected in our life stories, we must be doing something right. The pool of spiritual practices comes from members of the Spiritual Formation Team. Almost as soon as I read a story, I can match it with a practice that fits. I draw on all these features to write the short Prayer for Peace and Peace Covenant sections. At times it seems they almost write themselves (but don’t tell my employer).

I shouldn’t be surprised that almost every story, testimony, scripture reflection, and poem includes language inspired by the leadership of the church and our books of scripture. It’s amazing how that happens! I guess Christ’s mission must be our mission!

Please keep writing. And thank you to writers and readers, alike.

Prayer for Peace
Your Continuing Revelation, God, causes us to see with new eyes. It gives us new voice to share our reflections on your word. It gives us creative ways to share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Connecting with God as Center
Connect with God through journal writing or contemplation. Open yourself to God’s presence and share what flows from your heart and mind. Your “communication with God” might include thoughts, feelings, or scriptures. It might take the form of a prayer or poem.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will write in my journal or reflect on the spiritual writings of another.