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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God-size Job…We Need Not Apply

Wednesday, August 27

8-27By Deb Crowley, of Charlotte, Michigan

My child, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare they will give you. …Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge God, and he will make straight your paths.

—Proverbs 3:1–2, 5–6, NRSV adapted

God is God, and we are not. These words from a sermon resonate loudly for me. The job of administrator of close to a hundred congregations is daunting. On good days, there is excitement, camaraderie, and the Holy Spirit, giving insight, energy, and hope.

Other days, there is dealing with conflict, anger, heartbreak, and overwhelmingly heavy burdens. Do you ever have days like that?

A couple of months ago I had a hard day. Bickering members in a few congregations saddened me. Financial woes that go with every charitable organization depressed me. I cried to God in frustration because no easy answers could relieve the pain and suffering. “Why, God? What can I possibly do to make a difference? People are too stubborn. They’ll never get along, and it’s just too hard! I want to quit before the dark hole swallows me!”

At my lowest point, God spoke. Not in a verbal voice, but through a message in my mind that was clear and concise. “All you have to do is love them. I’ve got everything else under control!”

I could feel the weight fall from my shoulders as God reminded me that God is God, and I am not.

There is no way I can carry the weight alone. No way to solve the problems of the world. No way to stop the bickering over insignificant concerns that stem from fear or a sense of loss. It is a God-size job!

It is my job to administrate justly and ethically. It is my Christ-like joy to love unconditionally and pastor with tenderness and patience. It is also my job to trust God as directed in Proverbs. God is God, and we are not. Bring on the challenges! With God anything is possible, and there are plenty of good days for those who faithfully rely on the Lord!

Prayer for Peace God of wisdom, help us lay our burdens at your feet. Help us trust your love when life challenges us. We rely on you to help us share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Praying for Leadership of the Church An important spiritual practice for disciples is praying for members of the body of Christ, particularly those who carry leadership responsibilities. Ask God to guide your awareness of persons who lead the community of faith in congregations, mission centers, and the World Church. Pray for God’s outpouring of grace on each servant leader who comes to mind.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will be aware of your comforting presence when I face a challenge.

Have Faith!

Sunday, August 10

8-10By Richard James, Council of Twelve Apostles

Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” …And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

—Matthew 14:28–31, 33 NRSV

As we try to encourage our grandson to take his first few steps, it is heart-warming to see the support of family and hear words of encouragement. We are there to hold him, catch him, and applaud his efforts, until the moment that he takes two or three faltering steps. Then there is no stopping him! What a remarkable step in his development. He did it! He can walk “all by himself.”

When Peter is thinking about taking his first step onto the water, it is Jesus’ encouraging word, “Come,” that helps him. Fixing his eyes on Jesus, Peter makes some progress. But, as the strong wind distracts him, he begins to be afraid and starts to sink. He cries in desperation. Jesus reaches out and catches him. Then they get back into the boat.

Is our action similar to Jesus’ when we help our grandson learn to walk? “Come,” we say, and we are there ready to catch him whenever he starts to fall. We know that with perseverance and encouragement he will make the life-changing steps.

Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not easy. We need to help each other learn to walk “the way” of Jesus. By holding each other in prayer, support, and accountability, we encourage one another. We fix our eyes on Jesus. If we fall, we trust that Jesus and our companion disciples are there for us.

Discipleship is about taking steps of faith. We never stop learning. At first we may take small steps, and then we learn how to trust God more. So what “life-changing” steps of faith can you take today? What life-changing steps of faith are you taking for the mission of Jesus Christ? Jesus says to you, “Come.”

Prayer for Peace Faithful God, you are there for us when we falter. You encourage us to try to have faith. Help us encourage others. Journey by our side, God, as we take steps for the mission of Christ.

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 journey in faith and encourage others to have faith.

God Knows the Words

Friday, August 8

8-8By Vera Entwistle of Eugene, Oregan, USA

…pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

—2 Timothy 2:22 NRSV

I was visiting with a friend who was preparing for baptism the next day. She shared her concerns that she felt she did not word her prayers properly. She said, “I am not good at praying.” As she spoke I thought of a story I had heard recently and I shared it with her.

Peeping through her little boy’s bedroom door, a mother saw him kneeling by his bed. However, what she heard puzzled her. He said, “A, b, c, d, e, f, g….” She tiptoed into the room and asked what he was doing. “I’m saying my prayers. I am so tired tonight I just can’t think of the words, so I am just telling God all the letters. God knows what I need and he can put the words together for me.”

This story eased my friend’s concerns. For most of us there will come times of great need or stress when we do not know what to say. We feel our prayers are inadequate. Perhaps it is enough for us to be still and call on God to accept the love and trust expressed in our silence.

Prayer for Peace Dear God, a…b…c…

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 have faith that you know the desires in my heart, even before I speak.

I Close My Eyes…

Tuesday, July 29

7-29By 14-year-old Rachel Huerkamp of Delta, Colorado

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you…to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.

—Romans 12:1–5 NRSV

I close my eyes and lock my hands. I pray away my sorry day and end it with the hope of tomorrow. With the dreams that follow me to sleep, I see my life of faith carved by mistakes, wisdom, and my surroundings. With these, the Divine helps me learn and choose the person I will be.

I will be a person who makes a change. I will not fear change, but absorb and embrace it. I will be the person who not only seeks change, but is part of creating change. I will choose change. I will be a person who makes a difference in the world God has created for us.

I will trust God’s call and praise God for lessons learned. The result of my response will reflect what I put into it.

With my eyes shut and my hands together, I lift everything that I am to you, O God. Know my faith is genuine—so you may cleanse my heart, soul, and mind. Help me on the path of life to finish the race at home with you.

Prayer for Peace Creator, God, shape us with the breath of your Spirit. Help us respond to our experiences with faith and generosity, willing to change what needs changing; willing to accept the shape that is good and acceptable to you.

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 choose to be a person who will share Christ’s peace.

Bring forth the Kingdom of God

Sunday, July 27

7-27By Steve Hatch of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

—Matthew 13:31–32 NRSV

In the mid-1980s, my faith was in crisis. I experienced what many theologians call the “dark night of the soul.” The crisis offered no resolution, and it felt like God had abandoned me. I was alone to deal with my darkness, and I felt all my pleading was fruitless. I kept asking God why this was happening, and why God wasn’t helping. The more I prayed, the more distant from God I felt.

One week amid my darkness, I went to Sunday school, where we were studying the parables. We explored the parable of the mustard seed. The author suggested one important lesson from this parable is the need to plant our seed in faith, leave it alone, and allow God to provide the germination. We must leave the seed alone and let it “die” as a seed so it can become the tree that God intended.

Instead, we sometimes dig up the seed to make sure it’s viable and still growing. That, of course, keeps it from doing exactly that…growing as God created it to do. As I heard these words I realized I never had left my issue with God. I hadn’t planted my seed with faith that God would provide the germination. That day I committed to leave my seed planted in God’s fertile soil, which would allow my faith to grow to maturity.

Prayer for Peace Master Gardener, help us cultivate rich soil where we can plant seeds of faith. With your rain and sunlight and our tools and labor, may we be co-creators with you for a healthy spirituality. Help us sow seeds of peace.

Spiritual Practice: Trees Watch the trees outside your window for a few moments. Close your eyes and meditate on Alma’s words about seeds and trees (Alma 16:152–173). If you were to plant and grow the Word of God in your heart, what tree might symbolically represent this process? Imagine a seed as it grows into a tree of life and blessing. Ask God to show you how to begin.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will pull weeds from my life, and bring them to you as a repentant bouquet. Then I will accept your grace as flowers of forgiveness.

Experience God Personally

Wednesday, June 11

6-11By Beryl Swain of Port Macquarie, Australia

You are a good and faithful people, but sometimes you fail to see the power that is resident in your own story and fellowship. Look carefully, listen attentively, and sense the Spirit among you. …Be fervent in your witness, passionate in your discipleship, and vigorous in your labor on behalf of peace and justice.

—Doctrine and Covenants 162:8a–b

When I was raising my first child, I had never experienced God personally. To me, God was “up there.” My beliefs were handed down to me from others. I even was a Sunday schoolteacher, telling stories of the wonders of this God who I only had read about in books.

My husband often had to work late hours. Being of nervous temperament, I always locked the doors securely. One particular night, I couldn’t find the key to the back door. My 5-year-old son and I searched everyplace we could think of. No luck. By now, I was agitated and tearful. My son sensed my worry.

“Let’s ask God to help us find it,” my son suggested.

“You don’t ask God to find keys,” I stammered.

“Why not?” he asked. “We’ve done our best. Now I’ll ask God.”

Fearing his childlike faith would be dampened, I decided to pretend his prayer had given me strength not to fear the unlocked door.

He prayed, “Dear God, we did our best, but we couldn’t find it, so please show Mommy where the key is.”

I reached into my pocket for a hankie to dry my tears, and yes, I pulled out the key! Whether or not God helped me find the key, a little child’s trust set my feet on the path of faith. That day, I met the One who became the center of my life. I met a true friend, who is concerned with every part of our lives.

Prayer for Peace Trustworthy God, help us change directions when we doubt. Help us form a personal connection with you. Help us find personal ways to share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Listening to Children Sit in your quiet place and center your heart and mind on God’s presence. Spend several minutes asking God to bring into your awareness the names and images of children in your life. You may see their faces or hear their 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 listen to the faithful testimonies of others and develop a connection with you to be able to share my own witness.

Fault Line

Monday, May 12

 

Danny Belrose

Danny Belrose

By Danny A. Belrose of Independence, Missouri, USA

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.

—Isaiah 11:6 NRSV

(Editor’s note: One Sunday, Danny led a discussion on the difference between beliefs and faith. He shared his poem titled “Fault Line.”)

Beneath my iffy beliefs and fleeting hopes faith’s fault line never sleeps.

Rumbling here then there its troubled dance divides my head and heart—hiding, shifting, shaking, awakening questions posed and answers sought.

While dreams of feathered angels’ wings soar far beyond veracity in search of simple certitude stamped sure by childlike psalms and prayers that push the dark away.

Astride this deep divide, each foot a world apart, I fix my gaze on treasured times when wonder ruled my heart.

Sweet memories of mysteries of miracles and fantasies, of words and deeds and prophesies—where crumbs of bread and drops of wine cupped within Love’s healing hands spun promises of pearly gates, a never-land of joy and peace for lion, lamb, and child.

But comfort’s kiss of yesterday is fleeting and benign and sacredness cannot be bound by magic’s sleight of hand.

Foundations deeply shaken by probing of the mind have silenced songs of make-believe and stirred within my revelry the witness of eternity:

The Spirit breathes beyond our creeds, and Love is not a dream.

Stripped clean of measured litanies, of strained beliefs and fantasies, the mystic will not die.

Faith’s whispered invocation forever calls my name.

© Danny A. Belrose, 2011, used by permission

Prayer for Peace
Creator God, we study your word and build our beliefs. We breathe your Spirit and build our faith. Thank you for revealing Christ’s mission to us that we might respond.

Spiritual Practice: Breathing God’s Compassion
Light a candle and sit quietly, reflecting on the fire and light of God. Pay attention to your breathing and let it become calmer and deeper as you focus on God’s presence. Ask God to breathe in you. Imagine each breath carrying the light of God into your lungs, bloodstream, and every cell in your body until God’s Spirit fills you. Now imagine breathing out God’s compassion and grace each time you breathe out. Pray to have the Spirit of Christ radiate from your life like the gentle flame of a candle.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will discover where my faith leads me.

Next Step—Now. Destination—Later.

Tuesday, April 1

4-1By Beryl Swain of Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia

Sustain each other in peace, and ye shall be blessed with my Spirit, in comforting and strengthening you for my work.

—Doctrine and Covenants 117:13

While on holiday, I decided to take a walk alone. I delighted in the beautiful scenery, but the return trip was up a steep hill. I didn’t remember the hill being so steep on my outward journey. By now the walk nearly had depleted my energy.

I looked at the summit and groaned. “Oh, help. I’ll never make it. It’s so far to the top.” My view of the far-off destination overwhelmed me. Then it occurred to me to let go of the “far-off” destination, so I could manage the journey. I gave my eyes a rest from that seemingly impossible peak and looked only at the ground immediately before me. It worked! By taking one step at a time and looking only at what was right in front of me, I reached the top in comparative ease.

I think of that experience sometimes, when the problems of life seem insurmountable. By taking only one step at a time—living only one day at a time—and leaving the outcome to God, the journey no longer overwhelms me. Then, when I gather strength, I can look to the destination with hope for a journey completed.

Prayer for Peace
Encourage us, God, to let go of views that make life difficult. We lay our journey at your feet. We trust in you to challenge us with what we can—with faith—accomplish each day, each step of the way. Help us share Christ’s peace on our journey, one step at a time.

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. Ask 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
Peace is a manageable destination. Let it begin with the next step I take.

Companions on the Journey

Monday, March 31

3-31By Steven L. Shields of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

—Luke 1:78–79

Not long ago, my friend and his fiancé needed a ride from the airport. I met them at baggage claim and helped them load the luggage into my car. Not knowing the way from the airport to the fiancé’s house, I asked for the destination. My friend replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you where to turn along the way.”

I headed toward the motorway, when my friend suddenly said, “Take this exit.” With screeching tires, I barely made the turn, cutting off another car. I asked my friend to tell me where we were going, so I could think ahead of the route to avoid such dangerous maneuvers. He said, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you where to go.”

I knew that somewhere along the way I would have to exit the motorway, so again I asked, “What exit do I need to take next?” He replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you when we get close.” I do not know that part of the city well, so I begged him to tell me what street we were looking for. He told me the name of the street, and soon I saw a signboard telling me it was a mile ahead.

We exited and headed east along the main thoroughfare. I asked, “What street are we looking for? Will we need to turn right or left?” My friend said, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you when we get there.”

I have a much easier journey if I know the destination. However, the path of the disciple is not so much about the destination as it is about the journey. For it is along the way that we share the peace of Jesus Christ. Our minds focus so much on the destination we do not often notice the scenery. As we travel along the path of the disciple, we will meet many people who need our loving touch or kind words of encouragement.

With my friends in the car, I did not need to worry about the destination. We were together; we were community. As long as we journeyed together, we knew we would reach our destination, and we would know along the way when and where it was best to turn.

Prayer for Peace
Guide us, God. Shine your light on the path you would have us take. Whisper to us at each turn. Open our eyes to see your creation along the path to peace.

Spiritual Practice: Offering 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? How have you felt the love of the community? Go deeper each day as you discern what act of blessing you are invited to complete for stranger and friend alike.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will let go of having to know. I will put my trust in you.