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.

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One Minute, Please, across the World

Thursday, September 18

9-18By Donna Boyd of Independence, Missouri, USA

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

With moving day drawing close, I found myself thinking, “It takes only a minute” each time I considered packing an item. Finally, I realized that I had put off so much work that I had put myself under great pressure to be ready on time.

Looking back on God’s work entrusted to our hands in this place, I recall several jobs I intended to do. Because they would “take only a minute,” I had put them off, and they were yet undone. We cannot know the full results of these minutes. Too often, the opportunity is ours for only a short time, and then it is gone!

We can embrace the mission of Christ in minutes if we each give a few. We need to offer a minute of prayer, reflection, testimony, and active service each day. This Sunday, September 21, is the United Nations International Day of Peace. Peace is only minutes away. If it is to be, it is up to me.

Prayer for Peace Let me be a light, God, a signal on a dark, cold night. Let me be a smile, a handshake, a friend. Let me be an instrument of Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Peace Action Community of Christ is called to ministries of peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit. PeacePathways is a church-sponsored website sharing peace and justice ministries, educational materials, ideas, and opportunities. Visit (www.peace-pathways.org/) and prayerfully discern one ministry that speaks to you or captures your attention. Offer a prayer of blessing on the peace ministry you select. Listen quietly to see if God is calling you to additional responses to this ministry or another ministry of peace, reconciliation, or healing. If you cannot visit the website, offer a prayer of blessing on all peace ministries.

Peace Covenant Let there be peace on Earth, God, and let it begin with…doing the very next task on my list.

Through the Doors of the Temple

Friday, February 28

2-28By Karen Moreland of Independence, Missouri, USA

Generously share the invitation, ministries, and sacraments through which people can encounter the Living Christ who heals and reconciles through redemptive relationships in sacred community. The restoring of persons to healthy or righteous relationships with God, others, themselves, and the earth is at the heart of the purpose of your journey as a people of faith.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:2b

Recently three young adults entered the Temple in Independence. It was cold outside. They had come in to keep warm and to hang out until their ride showed up. I invited them to a tour of the building with one of our guides. They accepted.

After the tour one woman came to the counter with tears streaming down her face. “This has been a wonderful day in my life, on a day which would have been sad.” She shared that they were waiting for her dad to pick them up to visit her mother, who was dying. “This is the last time I will be able to see my mom,” she sobbed. “I thank you for letting us hang out until our ride arrived; I have never felt such loving peace.”

We may never know the pain people bear when they walk through the doors of the Temple or the doors of our congregations. However, I can testify that once they emerge from the sanctuary of God’s loving peace, the Spirit’s touch transforms not just their day, but perhaps their lives.

Prayer for Peace
God of hospitality, help us, as disciples of Christ, to open our arms wide and welcome all. We know they come, not just for shelter, but to be embraced with Christ’s 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 welcome any opportunity to serve.

God Prepares the Way

Monday, January 27

1-27By Julie Conway-Sword of Gainesville, Florida, USA

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

—2 Corinthians 13:11

I like to reflect on the story of Jesus preparing breakfast for his disciples on the beach (John 21). I can almost smell the fish cooking, and feel the stimulated hunger pangs as the disciples haul the guided catch from their boat. I see them realize it is Jesus who has watched, waited, and challenged them to cast their nets on the other side. Jesus prepared this surprise, and the disciples rejoiced in his presence.

We recently had moved into a new house. The children had picked the color scheme for their bedrooms, settled into their school routines, and developed some neighborhood friends. But then my husband’s employer moved him to a job in a different city. I did not want to move again, and I felt the Lord must know it.

One Wednesday evening I took our children to prayer service, wondering, but hardly daring to ask, what God would have me to do with my unwillingness to accept this move. During the service, the worship leader assured me God always prepares the way; that the Holy Spirit had been preparing me for the move. I was assured that God always opens doors for new opportunities to serve.

It surprised us to find our new home would be one of our favorite places to live—a friendly creative congregation, great schools for our children, and a place to call home. We were grateful. Be prepared—there may be something new in store for you. God will surprise!

Prayer for Peace
Tender Shepherd, thank you for giving us tools to cope with change. Thank you for your comfort, guidance, and companions on the journey to peace.

Spiritual Practice: Examining God’s Call to Me and to All
Reflect on God’s call in your life. Begin by prayerfully asking to recall particular moments when you have experienced God’s presence and invitation. Write in your journal or quietly reflect on images and insights that come.

When has God seemed most real in your life? How and when has God called you to use your energies and gifts? When have you felt God’s love in your life? When have you felt disconnected or resistant to God’s call? How do your gifts and callings connect with the call of God you notice in your family, friends, congregation, or community?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will be aware of preparation going on in my life.

Under the Bed

Monday, June 24

6-24By Ward Serig of Pensacola, Florida, USA

A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

—Mark 12:42–44

Several children in our congregation were preparing for the time when they would enter the waters of baptism. Their teacher asked, “What are some ways you help your parents at home?” One boy responded, “I push everything in my room under the bed so it will look like I cleaned the room.”

I have often thought about the youngster’s reply. I find myself wondering if, and when, I have pushed things “under the bed” and out of sight to impress others. Jesus came down hard on those in his time who behaved in this manner. He didn’t think much of those who prayed in public to remind their hearers how righteous they were.

He affirmed the widow who gave her last, small bit rather than those whose large coins made a loud noise when tossed into the offering bowl. He rebuked those who tithed meticulously but were dishonest in their private dealings, not caring about helping those in need.

Perhaps when I am tempted to push debris “under the bed” I should ask myself, “When will it pile up and be pushed out on the other side for all to see?” A better question might be, “What would Jesus do?”

Prayer for Peace
All-seeing and all-knowing God, may we be sincere in our generosity and give with sacrificial love. May we never separate ourselves from you by trying to hide that for which we are ashamed. May we come repentant and freely receive your grace. May we be transparent and genuine so we may freely share Christ’s peace.

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.

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 repent and rejoice in your grace.

A Small Price to Pay

Thursday, June 20

6-20By Jeanne Hough of Clare, Michigan, USA

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

—Romans 14:19

I sat in my recliner, suffering in great pain after a serious fall. I broke my arm and bruised my whole body. Why did this have to happen? My favorite ministry project is to serve at Clare’s Senior Center. I was indispensable. I took charge of all the little tasks that needed to be done—calling bingo, buying prizes, baking cakes for birthday and anniversary celebrations. I decorated for holidays. And coming up next week, the silent auction flea market, of which I was in charge, needed to be set up for bidding.

Now what do we do? As chair of the Senior Advisory Board I often found myself complaining that I had to do everything, and no one else helped. The truth is I needed to feel needed. Now I had to find others who would see the project through. Their response amazed me.

They set up the silent auction with 10 big tables of donated, saleable items. The auction went off without a hitch and was a huge success. It was then that I realized others also need to feel needed. This turn of events made their blossoming possible.

I found an interesting way to look at indispensable people like me. My mishap put me out of commission, and others in the community stepped up. They had the opportunity and joy of being needed. Thank you, God, for helping me find a positive at the cost of my discomfort. It was a small price to pay.

And to those who lead: Don’t hesitate to share with those who usually follow. Let them experience the opportunities and joys of accomplishment while serving in their own way.

Prayer for Peace
God of grace, when we feel needed, we feel we are addressing what matters most. Help us remember to share that feeling with others. May we build up others to have the confidence to share the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Offering Blessings of Community
Receive and share Blessings of Community. Begin with a prayer of gratitude for the relationships in your life. See and feel connections with family members, spiritual friends, people in your congregation and community, and people and creatures in God’s sacred web of life. What blessings flow to you from these circles?

Reflect, pray, or write in your journal about the call to be “Community of Christ.” Go deeper each day as you discern what act of blessing you are invited to complete.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will take a break from being indispensable, and allow others to feel needed.

God’s Care Given by Us

By Paul McCain of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!  Psalm 36:7–10

A co-worker fell and was taken to the emergency room (ER). Our administrator asked me to e-mail the worker’s supervisor and then go to the ER.

When I arrived, the doctor was putting stitches in my friend’s forehead. Shortly afterward someone came to X-ray her foot, on which I dutifully had kept an ice pack. My friend apologized for the inconvenience, but I told her I would stay as long as she needed.

After reading the X-ray, the doctor told her the foot was broken and he would have to give her a cast. My job was to talk to my friend, joke with her, and assure her whatever help she needed would be provided.

Soon a technician came and shaped the cast, wrapped it, and held her foot in the needed position while the material dried. A wheelchair was brought in, and I drove the car to meet the attendant and my friend at the ER door. When back at our workplace, I left her in the car while I found another worker to help us get her and her car home. The other worker also offered to help in any way needed, and we left my friend in her living room to rest.

As we went through the afternoon, I remember looking for ways to help, trying to be the hands and feet of God. We try to help so people do not feel alone in the world—to let them know they have a community that cares. We hope through us people will know of God’s steadfast love. May we always be bringers of peace wherever the opportunity presents itself.

Prayer for Peace:

Steadfast God, we look to you for light. We look to you for a community of faithful servants. We would be faithful, too. We would share the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Caring for God’s Sacred Creation

Notice, give thanks, and care for God’s sacred creation. Walk in nature with a spirit of “holy attention.” Or write a prayer of healing and blessing for the wounds of the Earth. Learn about and engage in an act of Earth-keeping, such as recycling, simple living, fasting from over-consumption of resources. Notice the unique diversity of the planet’s creatures and be gentle to plants, animals, trees, and people! Fall in love with the vast, intricate wonder of God’s creation.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will be your hands and feet. Show me where I am needed.

Learning: A Prelude to Teaching (Part I)

By Barbara Howard of Independence, Missouri, USA

…he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge…  Isaiah 33:6

Emily, a child with Down syndrome, saw some visitors sit in the congregation. She immediately ran over and gave a huge hug to every person in the row. The spirit of love abounded.

During the service I kept going back to the scene. There were many visitors in the sanctuary, so I decided I would be a learner. In that moment I vowed to welcome each guest rather than going to beloved old friends and having my usual Sunday chat.

The more I ponder that moment I realize how easy it is when we are older to think of ourselves as teachers. Learning may be a more-significant calling.

Learning can be difficult. Comfort sometimes keeps us from risking new ways of thinking, of wrestling with new ideas. Learning is an act of change. In recent years we’ve been asked to learn how to be more open, vulnerable, more accepting, and more loving. Such actions need practice and commitment.

Or do they? Does Emily deliberately commit herself to embracing visitors at church, or does she just follow her open, Spirit-led heart? She seems so open to the Spirit, so eager to embrace others.

Our calling as disciples is an opportunity as teacher-learners to spend time with those who are younger. They will teach us to delight in new technology, to move our bodies to music in church, to laugh, and to embrace. It makes me want to enroll in Childhood 101.

Prayer for Peace:

God of wisdom, teach us to be learners. Open our hearts to what the children would teach us. Let us be young-at-heart peacemakers.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Examining God’s Call to Me and to All

Each day this week reflect on God’s call in your life. Begin by prayerfully asking to recall particular moments when you have experienced God’s presence and invitation. Write in your journal or just quietly reflect on images and insights that come.

When has God seemed most real in your life? How and when has God called you to use your energies and gifts? When have you felt most deeply connected and responsive to God’s movement in your life? When have you felt disconnected or resistant to God’s call? How do your gifts and callings connect with the call of God you notice in your family members, friends, congregation, or community?

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will listen with my heart and learn to be a teacher.