January 1, 2017 – The Lord Provides by Danny Wright


Scripture Overview: The scriptures that mark the new year offer a panorama of perspectives, from Ecclesiastes as a poetic musing on how life is measured out in seasons, to the vision in Revelation of what we commonly consider the end of time itself. Psalm 8 asks what the role is for humans in God’s magnificent creation, and Matthew 25 gives us a sobering criterion for how that role might be judged. At the core of all these scriptures is a strong sense of God’s presence, a loving steadfastness in which we can rest. [With only one day given, the writer has chosen to write on the Ecclesiastes passage; the other texts are Psalm 8, Revelation 21:1–6a, Matthew 25:31–46.]


Questions and Suggestions for Reflection


· Read Ecclesiastes 3:1–13. How will you celebrate this new year? What practices will you consider taking up in order to participate fully in God’s future?


 


Week of January 2–8, 2017 – Sensing the Sacred in a New Year by Whitney R. Simpson


Scripture Overview: Many will read the Isaiah text and identify the servant with Jesus, the one God enables to do the work of justice and transformation. The psalm announces the glory of God, a king powerful over the turbulence of nature and whose voice is a transcendent revelation. Matthew’s story of Jesus’ baptism joins the themes of servant and king. The baptism inaugurates Jesus’ ministry in which he proclaims God’s righteousness. Peter’s speech in Acts reminds us that Jesus’ baptism carries with it the promise of baptism in the Spirit.


Questions and Suggestions for Reflection


· Read Isaiah 42:1–9. In this new year, what promises of God do you want to breathe in?


· Read Psalm 29. When the storms of life rage, how do you listen for God’s promptings?


· Read Acts 10:34–43. To whom do you need to proclaim the promises of Jesus Christ?


· Read Matthew 3:13–17. How does your understanding of your own baptism encourage you to live as an obedient child of God?


 


Week of January 9–15, 2017 – Called to Faithful Service by Cynthia B. Astle


Scripture Overview: The theme of God’s calling all believers to a life of ministry runs through all four of this week’s scripture passages. We discover that God’s call always requires a response! The Isaiah passage, one of the Servant Songs that points to Jesus, reminds us that God is the one who pursues and calls. The psalmist exemplifies the call to give witness when God shows up and is found to be faithful. In the opening of his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul reminds us of his own calling and then goes on to emphasize that all are called by God and set apart for ministry. And in John’s Gospel, we receive an example of testifying to God’s presence in our lives and the important calling of bringing others to Jesus.


Questions and Suggestions for Reflection:


· Read Isaiah 49:1–7. How has God taken the initiative to work in your life and call you to faith? What mission has God given you?


· Read Psalm 40:1–11. List the ways that God has been faithful to you in showing up and answering your prayers. How have you given witness to God’s faithfulness?


· Read 1 Corinthians 1:1–9. What gifts has God given you to fulfill your calling to ministry?


· Read John 1:29–42. How might you cultivate the discipline of “mindfulness” in your spiritual life?


 


Week of January 16–22, 2017– No Need to Fear by Alina Kanaski


Scripture Overview: The image of light figures in three of the texts. Light not only illumines but brings a changed situation. The psalmist’s confession links light with salvation. The Gospel lesson expresses deliverance in terms of the nearness of God’s reign, which overcomes diseases and distortions. Light permits well-being. Light is the mode of God’s presence.


Questions and Suggestions for Reflection:


· Read Isaiah 9:1–4. When has God called you out of the darkness of an old habit, a familiar circumstance, into the light of new opportunity for ministry?


· Read Psalm 27:1, 4–9. Do you feel more comfortable talking with God about your joys or your pains? Is there need for more openness in either?


· Read 1 Corinthians 1:10–18. In your faith community, when have members found themselves at odds over priorities of no eternal value?


· Read Matthew 4:12–23. Put yourself into the story. What do you hear, see, feel, or smell? How have you answered the call of Jesus?


 


Week of January 23–29, 2017 – Who Are We Becoming in Christ? by Harriett Jane Olson


Scripture Overview: The four texts for this Sunday join in warning the people of God that they should not be confused or intimidated by appearances or by how the larger society values this or that. A faithful hearing and responsiveness to the God of the Bible may not fare so well or look so good in terms of the world’s standards of judgment. But what is required and blessed is a community ordered according to the covenantal commitments, shaped by God’s gracious promises, and attuned to what Paul called the “foolishness” and “weakness” of God.


Questions and Suggestions for Reflection:


· Read Micah 6:1–8. When have you sensed God’s anguish over human injustice?


· Read Psalm 15. Where do you need to speak truth from the heart, do what is right, be without blame, or be reconciled?


· Read 1 Corinthians 1:18–31. How have my limited expectations of how God works caused me to miss God’s action in my life or the lives of others?


· Read Matthew 5:1–12. Which of the Beatitudes do you feel most blessed by? Which best describes your life of faith?


 


Week of January 30–February 5, 2017 – Walking in the Light by W. Robert Abstein


Scripture Overview: Living genuinely out of a deep inner sense of connectedness to the Trinity (God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit) is a common theme for this week’s texts. By living out of this spiritual center, we match our actions with our words and avoid the judgment the prophet Isaiah casts upon the people of Israel. Psalm 112 is a hymn of praise for the blessings God brings upon those who revere and follow. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he urges them to move beyond their flirtation with wisdom and to go to the deeper regions of the Spirit, the source of true wisdom. And, finally, Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, calls his listeners to move beyond the mere words of the law to the deep meaning and intent of the law.


Questions and Suggestions for Reflection:


· Read Isaiah 58:1–12. When have you felt strengthened by God for a particular task? How did your light “break forth like the dawn”?


· Read Psalm 112:1–10. Where have you been a light to those struggling in the shadows?


· Read 1 Corinthians 2:1–16. When have you faced unimaginable circumstances and had no words to speak? How did God’s wisdom help you in those times?


· Read Matthew 5:13–20. How do you fulfill God’s intended purpose for you as salt and light to the world?