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December 11, 2012

By Mara Weaver, a senior history major from Bloomingtown, Ill.
SCRIPTURE: Zephaniah 3:14-20 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

When I was younger, my parents would tuck me into bed almost every night. No matter what juvenile trauma I had faced during the day or the squabbles I had had with my mom or dad, I could count on the fact that the day would end with them singing me the same lullabies, pulling the covers up to fold me tightly into bed and kissing me goodnight. The safety and love wrapped up in this routine was something that I was not necessarily able to name when I was five years old, but as the years have passed, I have come to realize how lucky I was to have that care and consistency in my life as a child.

As I transitioned out of childhood and into the mystery that is the teenage years, I left behind the ritual that had offered so much comfort. But at the same time that my parents’ gentle lullabies began to fade, a new song emerged, a simple tune carried by the words of Zephaniah 3:17: “The LORD your God is with you. God is mighty to save. God will take great joy in you. God with quiet you with God’s love. God will rejoice over you with singing.” This was — and is — a lullaby for me, a song stemming from the love of my God and heavenly parent restoring and renewing my peace when I most need it.

But it gets better than that. God is not just with us as some caretaker far away. Christ has come, Christ is risen and Christ will come again. When this passage delivers the words “the LORD your God is with you,” it does not mean that God’s presence is a thing of the past. This is a reality that we can — and must — proclaim in this season of Advent as we anticipate the coming of Immanuel, God with us.

SCRIPTURE: Zephaniah 3:14-20 (NRSV)
Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgements against you,
he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall fear disaster no more.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.
The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival.
I will remove disaster from you,
so that you will not bear reproach for it.
I will deal with all your oppressors
at that time.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
At that time I will bring you home,
at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes, says the Lord.
December 10, 2012

By Erica Grasse, a senior biology and environmental science double major from Chalfont, Pa.
THIS WEEK’S THEME: Repentance, Renewal, Restoration
DEVOTIONAL:

Power stroke, J-stroke, Pry, Sweep, Draw. A successful canoeing experience relies on a combination of these maneuvers, good communication and confidence using maps. May I also suggest avoiding eddies, leaning towards oncoming rocks and ruddering for quick turns are helpful. But in all reality, skip the jargon and recognize one thing: you are at the mercy of the water.

This summer I had the privilege of co-facilitating three weeks of canoeing with about a dozen adolescent boys. Within this time not only did I quickly come to develop a tolerance for high school humor, and an appreciation for a good night’s sleep, but I came to realize the power of water.

With upwards of ten hours a day spent on the water, I came to recognize my own strength, or rather, lack thereof. No matter how hard I pulled or how fast I paddled, the current was a larger determinate of my path and arrival time than my own might. It wasn’t until I finally learned to join the current did I come to see the river as a source of strength and renewal. The water became something to rely on. Through the routine of our days we came to praise our God who carried us — the tired, the restless, the expectant and the homebound.

This week’s Scriptures call us to identify the ways God renews our being. It invites us to participate in the changing of our minds: go beyond observation, acknowledge our weakness and open ourselves to the hope of restoration.

December 7, 2012

By Jan Emswiler, assistant professor of nursing
SCRIPTURE: Luke 3:1-6 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

Growing up and hearing this part of Luke, I always envisioned a hairy, smelly guy who had not showered in a while, coming up out of the dessert after eating strange things to survive there. I remember thinking, “did people really take this guy seriously?” Did they think he was a “madman”? He quotes from Isaiah, so although he may have looked quite scruffy, he proves to have studied the Scripture and to be knowledgeable in that realm. Does that make him more credible? He proclaims: “and all people will see God’s salvation” (v. 6). He was calling everyone, all people, universally, everyone without distinction, and declaring they would ALL see the salvation of God. How radical was that? John stood at the door of a new age of grace, welcoming all. I’m wondering, do I do the same?

PRAYER:

God, give me the grace and courage to be bold and radical like John. Open my heart and mind to realize the universality of your grace, your open door extended to all as John proclaimed so many years ago.

SCRIPTURE: Luke 3:1-6 (NRSV)
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’
December 6, 2012

By Emily Trapp, a senior music and communication double major from Canby, Ore.
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 1:3-11 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

Paul wrote the book of Philippians during his second journey to Philippi, where he found an invaluable environment of love and support in comparison to the other places he is known to travel to within Scripture. Unlike many of Paul’s letters, his address to the church of Philippi is full of thanksgiving and gratitude. For him, Philippi was clearly a place of comfort, joy and stability, similar to how I feel about the greater community of Goshen.

When I first read this verse, it reminded me of the many things I wish I could publicly announce in indebtedness to this place and these people who have impacted me in powerful ways as well. But most importantly, Paul’s emphasis on the importance of loving one another with more depth and understanding than that of yesterday is something we should convict ourselves to in the same sort of acknowledgment. When I reflect on the love I have experienced while being a student at Goshen College, I am overwhelmed, yet heartbroken for those who have not been shown a similar model of Christ’s love all over the globe. I cannot help but question if I, as a global citizen and passionate learner, am helping spread the equal, unconditional love that Paul encouraged of the church of Philippi in this letter. If not, how can I use my gifts to do so? If yes, how can I do more of it?

I would encourage each of you to go out on a limb today and remind somebody that you support them in a way that you have neglected to communicate to them lately. As Paul promises, you will be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.” Amen.

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 1:3-11 (NRSV)
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
December 5, 2012

By Luke Gascho, director of Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College
SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:68-79 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

My garden has grown silent. The approach of winter leaves little evidence of what had once been a flourishing array of vegetable plants. The shortened days – with the sun hanging low in the sky – do not supply the energy needed for gardening. As I walk around the garden, there are not clear indicators to tell me that there will be a new season. Instead the hope is within me. It is the remembrance of the consistent cycling of the four seasons. Spring will come!

In today’s passage, Zechariah speaks to us out of his period of silence. As a priest, he hoped for a Redeemer. He, along with his community members, longed for a new day – a day that would turn the tables of the empire upside down. But there was little evidence that liberation from the dark night would occur. He and his wife, Elizabeth, weren’t sure that there would even be a next generation in their family lines. Even with a visionary promise from the angel Gabriel, Zechariah did not believe that change would come to their plight. Spring was not in sight.

I imagine the many questions, doubts and hopes that ran through Zechariah’s mind during the nine months of waiting that followed the visionary experience. The silence must have consumed his whole being. But it is clear that hope was an emergent factor during this time of waiting. By the time his son was born, he was ready to act on what had been percolating in his soul. He boldly stepped out and called his son, “John.” Then he spoke the prophetic words that we read today. The new season filled with salvation, forgiveness, dawn, light and peace has come!

SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:68-79 (NRSV)
‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
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.’
December 4, 2012

By Brook Hostetter, a senior music major from Harrisonburg, Va.
SCRIPTURE: Malachi 3:1-4 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

Back in the day, the job of the metal refiner was an incredibly meticulous and important task. A refiner was to make a metal the best that it could be. In order to do this, the refiner would take their precious metal and hold it over an extremely hot flame. The refiner’s task was to sit, wait and hold the metal carefully, rotating it within the fire. It was incredibly important for the refiner to hold the metal steadily and never look away because as soon as the refiner saw her/his reflection in the metal, he/she must immediately pull the metal out of the flame. If the refiner held the metal in the fire too long, the metal would be ruined.

When I think of myself as metal and God as refiner, I am comforted. The fire hurts. The burn of the fire is miserable, but if God is the Refiner, I know that God is holding me steadily and watching carefully, never looking away. God is holding me in the fire to perfect me and make me the best that I can be. I will be held in the fire until God’s reflection is seen in me, but will not sit in the fire longer than I can bear. I am being refined to my highest potential.

SCRIPTURE: Malachi 3:1-4 (NRSV)
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
December 3, 2012

By Jeffrey Moore, a senior Bible and religion and communication double major from Ashland, Ohio
THIS WEEK’S THEME: Refined by Fire
DEVOTIONAL:

In the epically stereotypical quest to save the world, the hero always learns from a master. At some point the master says to the young hero: “You have learned well, now you are ready to forge your own sword.” Then comes the montage of blacksmith work: melting, hammering, melting and hammering again until the metal is just right. “You must remove every impurity so that it has no weakness,” says the master. The refinement process is a test in patience and evidence of the hero’s progression towards a greater purpose.

For Christians, the refinement process is a metaphor for the kinds of changes God wants for disciples. There is a temptation to define Christianity solely on what we believe – on our theology, or on what we do – our praxis. But disciples of Christ also care about who and what we are – our character or identity. Being a Christian means letting God shape us into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). It means undergoing a difficult process of refinement in which our impurities are slowly melted away and God molds something simple into something unique. It is a test in patience and evidence of our development as God’s creation.

Refinement is not comfortable for the metal, nor is it easy for the metal worker, but it is necessary. In the end, the hero and the metal undergo a similar process. They are each refined through hard work, commitment and patience.

Take some time this week to think about how Christ might be trying to refine you into something unique: an instrument for a greater purpose.

November 30, 2012

By Liliana Ballge, financial aid assistant director
SCRIPTURE: Luke 21:25-36 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

With so much turmoil in our world, sometimes we may question: “God where are you or why is this happening?” Hurricanes, earthquakes, wild fires and many other natural disasters — in addition to wars and acts of violence — can at times cause us to run weary and feel overwhelmed in our walk with God.

However, in times of distress and uncertainty, Jesus instructs us to “stand up and raise our heads.” Both literally and figuratively, I believe that Jesus also faced times of distress and uncertainty during his life and ministry to the point that at the Garden of Gethsemane he models the prayer of “not my will, but your will be done” and concludes his life by fulfilling the mission he was sent here to do.

He goes on to say that the life that we are currently living is only temporal; however, that we can stand on his word for truth as his “words will not pass away.” I urge you to know his word, study it and live it, for in a world that is constantly changing, you will find confidence, strength, wisdom and guidance through the Holy Scriptures.

Finally, he closes with a command to “be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength.” Prayer is simply communion with God. In this Advent season, recommit yourself to renewing your walk with God by standing up, raising your head towards him, spending time knowing his word and praying at all times that you may receive strength.

SCRIPTURE: Luke 21:25-36 (NRSV)
‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’
Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’
November 29, 2012

By Grace Boehm, a sophomore history major from Merriam, Kan.
SCRIPTURE: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

“May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.”

As we come away from the Thanksgiving holiday and transition into the Advent season, this verse in today’s Scripture reminds us to thank God for what joy we are feeling and relish the love that is in our lives.

I think sometimes we can get distracted by the ups and downs of daily life and forget to pass on the love. If we remember the abounding love, the peace like a river, the strength in our hearts, we can make it past the daily qualms and struggles that come with force into our lives. Seek out those struggles and do away with them, for your heart will be strengthened, which will provide you with the ability to give and receive the love that is out there for the taking.

Additionally, in this time of family, friendship and community, it is important for us to remember that the abounding love that we are feeling should be passed on to those that are not as fortunate. Paul writes this letter to the Thessalonian congregation, supporting them through prayer and encouragement. I invite you to do the same in your congregation or your community today.

SCRIPTURE: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 (NRSV)
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.
Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
November 28, 2012

By Grace Parker, a senior English and Bible and religion double major from Wichita, Kan.
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 25:1-10 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

The psalm for today tells us to wait. Now I don’t know if it’s because I am young and graduating soon from college, or simply human, but I am ready for the next things in my life to happen. I am ready to have an answer to the ever-recurring question, “What are you doing next year?” I am ready to know where I will live or what I will do or who I will meet in my ever-looming future.

I am tired of waiting.

It should be no surprise then that today’s psalm is probably my most-read part of the Bible. In the first line — “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul” — I enter anew into a relationship with God. To God, I lift up my soul. The psalmist is clearly aware of the multiple paths that present themselves to any person. In whatever way it appears in your life, God’s path already has a direction and destination for you: steadfast love and faithfulness.

In this time of Advent, waiting is not only a virtue, but the only action we can do. With the psalmist, I encourage you to wait all day long for the Lord who sustains us in our indecision, anxiety and weariness in waiting.

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 25:1-10 (NRSV)
Of David.
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
do not let me be put to shame;
do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.
Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!
Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
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