Welcome to the JCPC Daily Reflections Blog. Reflections are daily devotionals authored by JCPC pastors, staff and members and provide insight, guidance and comfort to help you make it through each day. If you’d like to receive Reflections each day via email, provide your email address.
I once heard about a student taking a class in preaching at a prominent seminary. The student, a young man who was a bit full of himself, delivered his sermon with eloquence and evident passion. He sat down self-satisfied, and the professor paused a moment before responding. "That was a powerful sermon," he said. "It was well organized and moving. The only problem is that God was not the subject of a single one of your sentences."
The professor highlighted a problem all of us struggle with at times: We can talk as if we're the primary actor (emphasizing what we do, what we say) when in truth God is the primary actor in life. We often profess that God is somehow generally "in charge," but we act as if all the outcomes depend on us.
The Scriptures insist that God is the true subject of our lives, the true force. Even our necessary acts of faith are done "in the name of the Lord"-in the Lord's power (Psalm 118:10-11). God enacts our salvation. God rescues us. God tends to our needs. "The Lord has done this" (v. 23).
So the pressure's off. We don't need to fret, compare, work with compulsive energy, or feed our many anxieties. God is in charge. We need only trust and follow His lead in obedience.
Prayer for Today
God, I've been paying lip service to You being in charge of my world. It's exhausting, and I want to stop doing that. Help me trust You. Amen.
And rend your heart and not your garments " Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in mercy And relenting of evil.
"Therefore say to them, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, "
Return to Me," declares the LORD of hosts, "that I may return to you," says the LORD of hosts.
'I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will
return to Me with their whole heart.
Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the LORD.
Therefore, return to your God, Observe kindness and justice, And wait for your God continually.
Rabbi Leizer survived the Holocaust and returned to his hometown of Czenstockchow, Poland after the war. For many years, he wandered the streets playing his hand organ. Mostly, he would play familiar secular tunes. But he would occasionally play the Kol Nidrei, a tune set to the words of a sort of liturgical rite or prayer in the service for Yom Kippur - the day of atonement. He would look for a glimmer of recognition in the eyes of the children who heard him play. And by this, brought many children back to their people. In worship, this familiar tune and the Aramaic words bring the people back, to recognize and return.
Our own weekly worship in the Christian church is filled with a specific order and familiar words that invite us back. The earliest followers of Christ, a devout Jew, steeped in tradition, were called Followers of the Way. Our way, like our Jewish brothers and sisters is marked by signposts lived by Christ, righteous living through forgiveness, kindness, grace, and humility. We are called to return to our people and to the Way each week in the ritual calling of worship.
I attended Yom Kippur services at Congregation Dor Tormid on Tuesday at the invitation of Rabbi Jordan, a friend from our interfaith clergy group. He recognized me and a few others at the start of worship, including a WWII veteran. He didn't recognize him by age, but by the words, "celebrating his 97th Yom Kippur." How wonderful would it be to mark our lives by our faith, our commitment, our returning on High Holy Days? This will be my 97th Christmas or Easter? I hope to say that one day. Even war could not keep our brother from returning again and again. What shall keep us from returning each high holy day? Each Sunday? Let us hear the call and keep returning to God and the people of God.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to hear you, and I'm hearing, return to you and your people. Amen.
One of our church members just shared with me that world-renown scholar and author N.T. Wright will be speaking at Peachtree Presbyterian Church the evening of Sunday, November 17, at 7:00 p.m. Many of you may recognize his name from how often I refer to him. I think N.T. Wright is the most influential Christian thinker of our generation - as was C.S. Lewis in his time. Wright is often quoted in magazines when a Biblical or historical perspective is needed. He is an Anglican priest who has served in England as the Bishop of Durham, in addition to his teaching duties. We will plan to get a group from the church to go hear him, so keep your eyes open for more details as the date gets closer.
One of my favorite podcasts is called "Ask N.T. Wright Anything." I wholeheartedly encourage you to check it out. Listeners send in many of the more challenging questions those of us who are pastors often hear. Tom Wright always gives what I think are helpful, accessible, and even practical answers to every question.
So, I want to try to take a different approach with my "Reflections" blog each week. I want to make it an opportunity to "Ask Gray Anything." I will try to answer questions you give me if they are appropriate for this column, and if I can do that in about 350 words - which is our limit for this blog. I want to invite you to think of those question you want me to try to answer and I will do my best. If I don't get a question each week, I will try to answer one of the many I have been asked before. Now I do not mean to suggest that my answers will be the final word on anything. More than likely, they will be merely my first word of an ongoing discussion which we may get to continue later in another setting. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone is 770-813-9009, ext. 224.
Prayer for Today
I want to close today with a prayer from William Barclay:
O God, help me all through today to do nothing to worry those who love me, to do nothing to let down those who trust me, to do nothing to fail those who employ me, to do nothing to fail those who are close to me. Help me all through this day to do nothing which would be a cause of temptation to someone else or which would make it easier for someone else to go wrong; not to discourage anyone who is doing his or her best; not to dampen anyone's enthusiasm or to increase anyone's doubts. Let me all through this day be a comfort to the sad, be a friend to the lonely, be an encouragement to the dispirited, be a help to those who are up against it. So grant that others may see in me something of the reflection of the Master whose I am and whom I seek to serve. Amen.