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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Another Point of View

Friday, July 25

night owlBy Joann Condit of Phoenix, Arizona, USA

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

—Colossians 3:12–15 NRSV

Since birth, I never remember a time when anything more than a few feet away appeared clear and sharp in my sight. Doctors tested my eyes when I was 11. I have worn glasses or contacts for nearly seven decades.

I had cataract surgery this year, and now I see! What a transformation! I can see far and near, in vivid color, in crisp detail. It is, to me, a tangible miracle. I expressed that thought to my eye doctor and asked him if people thank him for miracles. He laughed and said he hears that sentiment almost daily, adding, “I am on the happy side of medicine.”

He said that when he was a medical student, he and his girlfriend caught the distinctive cry of an owl and stopped to search the trees. He spotted the outline of an owl in a tree some distance away and pointed it out. She saw it immediately and said, “Oh, look at its cute little ears!”

He could not see the features in detail as she could. He mused, “I have often thought what it would be like to look through her eyes and be able to see what she sees.”

What change would occur in our lives if we could see through the eyes of another—physical eyes, mental eyes, or spiritual eyes? What if we could see clearly what the other sees? What would it be like to see from another’s perspective—walk in another’s shoes, have compassion for another’s life journey?

Prayer for Peace God grant us new eyes to see, new hearts to understand, and new compassion. Guide us to your peace.

Spiritual Practice: Tears of Compassion Offer a silent prayer for the gift of God’s compassion. Cup your hands and ask God to make you aware of the suffering that causes the Earth and its inhabitants to groan and weep. Be open to faces or places, sounds or voices, feelings of connection with those who suffer. Imagine catching the tears of those you see and holding them in your hands. Listen for prayer images or words God may give you. Discern any active responses of ministry or healing God invites you to complete for those who weep.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will try to walk in the shoes of another to gain a new perspective for peace.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come

Sunday, May 25

butterfly landing on flowerBy Becky Savage, First Presidency

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”

—John 14:15–17 NRSV

In July 2012, 150 women gathered for the first Women Leaders Conference in the mountains above San Pedro Sula, Honduras. They came from small villages and large cities, from Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. They ranged from teenagers to women in their 80s. There were single women, mothers, and professionals. It was a remarkable group of dedicated and gifted women.

Several younger women danced to the theme song played and sung by a band specially formed for the conference. The planners spent months designing decorations and ordering supplies, chairs, tables, water, and food. They brought everything onto the rented grounds to prepare the place for the women.

The preparations made the place look wonderful. The planners converted a large pavilion into a sanctuary filled with butterflies. Butterflies were on the banner, tables, pillars, hanging mobiles, and two centering posters.

As guest minister, I was dependent on simultaneous translations by Geri Macias. When translations are needed, there is greater complexity, leaving only half the time for effective ministry.

When Geri and I arrived, we walked into the pavilion filled with joyful women and a powerful Spirit of love and gracious peace. The Holy Spirit’s abiding presence enhanced the experience. Each woman left with a butterfly, taken from the centering posters, to symbolize God’s continuing presence in their lives and ministries. The Holy Spirit continues with each one of us.

Prayer for Peace Ever-present God who abides in us, help us be aware of your transforming presence. Help us be aware of opportunities to share Christ’s 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 smile at a stranger, an action that translates into any language.

Hosanna!

Sunday, April 13

4-13By Michele McGrath of Ridgewood, New Jersey, USA

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”

—Matthew 21:10

On January 17, 1994, I felt a huge jolt to the house, and then everything began to roll and sway for a half minute that seemed to last forever. I stood still in the hall and watched a bottle of lotion fall off the counter.

Having lived in Southern California my entire life, earthquakes were nothing new. I recently had moved from the San Fernando Valley, which was the epicenter of this quake. Though I lived 90 miles away, I could tell this earthquake wasn’t like the frequent temblors that simply make you feel off balance and ask yourself, “Is it me, or is something else going on?” Though the effect on my house was not serious, I knew it was serious for someone, somewhere.

As in every natural disaster, people set aside their regular lives to focus on what matters most. Their world was “shaken” in a literal way. When Matthew writes about the Palm Sunday drama that begins Passion Week, he says the whole city shook. Suddenly, the foundations shifted. People’s expectations radically changed.

What events have rocked your world? Did they cause turmoil, or were they transformative? How have they caused you to reflect on what matters most? How does our ritual reenactment today of Jesus’ arrival as Messiah make a visible difference in your life?

Prayer for Peace
Balance of the Earth, center us in you when we are on shaky ground. Help us focus on what matters most, when life feels distorted. Lift our eyes to the horizon, where peace seems possible.

Spiritual Practice: Experience Congregations in Mission
Read and reflect on Doctrine and Covenants 164:9a–d. Re-read 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 likenesses 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 focus on solid, Enduring Principles to keep me steady.

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.

Uniform of Invisibility

Wednesday, February 5

2-5By Karen Brown of Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. … So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,

—Ephesians 2:17, 19

I went back to college recently to enable a career change. I spend most of my time in one building, and I often cross paths with a housekeeping staff person named Rosemary. I always smile when I see her, but I became aware other students ignore her.

I thought it must be lonely to work all day in a place where no one speaks to you or even acknowledges your presence. I, too, have experienced that to some extent, being older than most students.

I introduced myself to Rosemary and began speaking to her whenever I saw her. That seemed to cause a transformation. She went from avoiding eye contact to her face lighting up whenever I spoke to her. Then she began starting conversations with me. At first we just engaged in “small talk” such as the weather. Now we share more about our families and challenges in our lives.

One time I was going to class with another student, and I stopped to talk to Rosemary. When I caught up, the other student asked me what I was doing. I said, “I had to talk to Rosemary.” She gave me a worried look and said, “Do you know her?” I said, “Yeah, Rosemary’s my friend.”

Many times I have failed to respond appropriately in similar situations, but I’m glad I had the courage to speak to Rosemary and then say she was my friend. Every person matters to God, no matter what their job or their life circumstances. Every person should matter to us. Treating others with love, kindness, and respect wherever we happen to be, or whatever the uniform, is what Christ did and would do today. He expects the same from us. Can you make a difference today to a person made invisible by their position?

Prayer for Peace
God of those from every walk of life, may we look into every face and see Christ. Help us look beyond the clothing, the labels, the outer conditions, and instead look into hearts with love and acceptance. Help us look for ways to share Christ’s love and 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 peace represented by this circle.

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 us from loving one another.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will look at all people through the eyes of Christ.

Well of Transformation

Wednesday, June 19

6-19By Darrell Belrose of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

…and above all things, clothe yourselves with the bonds of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace; pray always, that you may not faint until I come; behold, and lo, I will come quickly, and receive you unto myself. Amen.

—Doctrine and Covenants 85:38c

From the birth of an idea to the fruit of its life, time and frustration levels swung from one extreme to the other. But in the end the journey was overwhelmingly sweet and satisfying. The expected ending was ironically just the beginning! This was the case when I planned an “Invitational Retreat” for the missionary-minded folks in the Canada West Mission Centre.

Two guest ministers shared equally their leadership in “mindfulness” practices and “tangible kingdom” opportunities. Not only did we learn to look at doing church differently, we sensed God’s call for us to respond affirmatively. We also discovered we were going much deeper within—to our God-center—where God wanted to love us. We rested within God’s presence, and the “well of transformation” refreshed us.

Our collective journey brought many opportunities to build connections with our group. God challenged us with a call for each of us to go beyond our horizons, to sense a personal call. Today, God reassures us of blessing as we continue to trust the divine promises for our futures.

I praise God for ideas birthed, for guest ministers who willingly gave of themselves.

I am most thankful for those who are willing to respond to the call and walk in partnership down unknown roads on pathways of mission.

Prayer for Peace
Transforming God, we are open to your calling. We are willing to respond. Inspire us with ideas to continue Christ’s mission, with ways to share his 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 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 live as an open invitation to Christ.

Rooted in God

Wednesday, April 24

4-24By Carolyn Brock of Independence, Missouri, USA

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

—Jeremiah 17:7–8

Once in an African desert we came upon a woman digging for water. Her thin, muscular body was dripping with sweat as she used a large tin can to scoop up soil along a dry riverbed. After hours of hot, strenuous work, she finally found the water. Tilting her head back, she poured the full can over her head and face, then laughed. The work of going deep into the earth in search of life-giving liquid was forgotten as the water caressed her skin, and she took a long, cool drink.

A deep underground river of Spirit is our source of life and joy. But it is not found merely by tapping into the surface waters. The transformation of the whole self requires digging through layers of ego and fear, illusions and false centers of meaning. Finding God at our center and choosing Spirit as our integrating identity is work that demands trust and perseverance. It is also the way we discover our thirst for God’s touch, God’s revitalizing presence.

As a people we have struggled long and hard, digging away at superficial issues—differences in language, names, words, interpretations of doctrines. Perhaps the real question must become: “Is God’s life flowing through us?” Have we dug down to what is essential, the presence of God in our bodies, minds, and spirits? Is that when we finally shall learn who God would have us become as Community of Christ?

Prayer for Peace
Faithful God, we trust in you. We seek your Living Water. We will share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Deepening Roots
A tree with superficial roots will wither during drought or be uprooted by severe storms. A tree whose roots go deep is stable and draws from deep waters. Imagine yourself as a tree by a river or stream. Sense your roots extending deep into the earth in search of God’s Spirit. Reflect or pray about what you hope to find as your spirit searches for deeper identity in God.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will dig deep to find the disciple you would have me be.

God-centered

Tuesday, April 16

4-16By John Bonney of Springfield, Oregon, 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.

—Doctrine and Covenants164:9b

My wife had laparoscopic surgery. The nerve involved was highly displeased. Injured nerves are said to be “hot.” A hot nerve does not simply settle down after the trauma is over. It takes nerves a long time to cool, perhaps months.

When she came home from the hospital, I told her how difficult it was for me to see a loved one suffer and not be able to do anything about it. Suffering from pain, she was a bit prickly. She said, in no uncertain terms, “It’s always about you!”

I thought about that, and realized that, of course, it’s about me. How else can I relate to what goes on around me? Everything in my life is about me. I look out at the world from me, the center. For good or ill, we each are the center of our own universe. We can demur all we want, and make an effort not to focus on ourselves or from ourselves, but it’s a lost cause. We are trapped within our mind and body, and we relate to the world from our perspectives. Yes, we are vain, and we are self-centered or centered on and from ourselves.

We can reach a useful balance. Selflessness is fine and should be practiced and understood. But when we are selfless, we are still in relation with ourselves—that’s who we are.

The moments when I have not focused on myself have been few. When I move away from self-centeredness, I find I am in contact with the Eternal. I am no longer an individual noodle, but find myself realizing I am part of a pot full of noodles. The result is a disappearance of rigidity—psychological, emotional, physical, mental rigidity. In my experience there is a blending from one with all, and all with the One. At these times I find I am not the center, and it’s not about me. It’s about what matters most. It’s about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit—the eternal community—and how I can share this with others.

Prayer for Peace
Ever-creating God, give us courage to let go of ourselves so we may grow closer to you. May we be at peace with who we are.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring the Worth of All Persons
Read Psalm 139:13–18. After each reading sit quietly and let the words sink deeply into your mind, heart, and body. Imagine God watching you grow in your mother’s womb. What thoughts and feelings do you have about being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14)?

Sense the intimate knowledge God has of you and every child. Be aware of the sacred worth of each person. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth. How are you invited to notice, protect, heal, and affirm the spiritual identity of all God’s beloved people today? Pray for God’s compassion.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will not fear my spiritual, God-centered self.

Surrender to Love: Transformation Journey (Part 2)

Friday, April 12

4-12By Nancy Hylton of Seattle, Washington, USA

I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

—Psalm 121:1–2

As I walked quietly toward the main campground, I heard the forest awakening around me. A family of bald eagles was out for a morning ride on thermal streams above the camp. At first they were close enough that I could see their powerful wings, holding weight against the air—I could see them lift with subtle but powerful precision.

Higher and higher they circled into the clouds, until they disappeared Yet, I knew those eagle eyes could easily see me! Another gift—gifts upon gifts. My heart overflowed like the psalmist’s.

I was there for a women’s retreat, which was coming to a close. It was time for the final meal. A good friend walked up to me and directed my attention toward the woman whose burdens I carried on my heart. “You need to talk with her,” she said gently. “I know…thank you,” I replied, praying, “Lord, I know you have this handled, just show me what to do.”

I smiled and asked permission to sit down across from my burdened friend. Neither of us ate much, but our presence continued with little awareness of what was happening around us. I was prompted to tell her how troubled I was about her sense that she could not ask for or expect forgiveness from God.

Finally, almost in desperation, I knew the transformation experience on the beach that morning was meant to be shared with her. I told her what happened; that I felt as if in an ocean of love with every fiber of my being! I told her, “A God that loves like that, does not condemn anyone who turns to and seeks the Divine with a broken heart.”

We embraced as the retreat closed. I hoped I could help open a small pathway toward healing. I hoped I was an instrument of God’s love and acceptance. For my part, the experience on the beach that morning changed my life forever. I continue to feel God’s infinite love washing over me. I know my Redeemer lives, and I am called to struggle with others who seek his love.

Prayer for Peace
God who permeates the world with love, grow love in us that we might share. Grow healing and peace in us that we may change lives.

Spiritual Practice: Chalice Prayer
The chalice prayer is a form of intercession. Create a cup or chalice with your hands in front of your heart. Open your heart to God’s concern for the human family as you hold them in your chalice. See beauty and suffering as you lift the chalice and release hurting persons (open hands) to be blessed and healed by God.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will wash in your ocean of healing love.