Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Week of November 14, 2021
Begin your devotion time by praying this prayer: Mighty God, you bring renewal and change into the world. Give us the courage to face change and the bravery to turn toward you, and a new day. Amen.
Reflect on the Way of Love together: This week’s practice on the Way of Love is TURN. Sometimes, in order to turn toward God’s love, we have to experience change or uncertainty. When you face uncertainty, how do you feel? What reminds you that God is still present and loves you?
Adult and Small Child
Read: Mark 13:1-8
Reflect: Think of a forest. Every now and then, a tree dies. It falls to the ground and becomes food for animals and plants. The tree may be gone, but it also helps new life grow. In the same way, God helps new things grow out of bad or scary things.
Jesus told his followers that there might be difficult times ahead for them, but that they should not be afraid. God will be with them. God will help good things grow no matter what else happens.
Scary or hard things might happen in our lives or in the world. Our lives change all the time - when we move to a new place or a new school or have to learn something new. That can also be difficult and a bit scary, but there are always people around to comfort us when we are afraid and show us God’s love. There’s always hope that good things will grow.
Respond: Go out into nature. You could go to a park or a garden or your backyard, or anywhere plants grow. Look closely at the dirt. Do you see any dead leaves there, or anything that fell off a plant? Do you see anything growing, like mushrooms or small plants? What else do you see? Bugs or worms? Talk to an adult about things that grow from the dirt and live in the dirt. The plants that die become food for other plans, and new things grow because of them. Even though things change, there is always hope and new life.
- Jeremiah Sierra
Adult and Elementary
Read: Mark 13:1-8
Reflect: When Jesus says cryptic things, the disciples have questions. He tells them that the great buildings won’t last long – that one day soon they’ll be destroyed. Obviously, they have some questions. “Tell us when that will be!” they say. “What will the sign be? How will we know this is about to happen?” The disciples are curious, maybe like you. They want to know what to look for – they want to know when things will happen, and how. They want to be prepared.
Jesus challenges them, though. He turns their attention away from the future and into the present. He tells them to beware when people claim to know what the future will bring. Jesus says that many people will say that the end is coming, but the disciples are to stay calm.
It’s part of our nature to want to know what’s going to happen next. Like the disciples, maybe you want to be able to see into the future. But Jesus asks us to trust Him, instead. We are told not to get caught up in predictions of the end of the world, but to stay secure and rooted in our faith.
Respond: Have you ever wanted to know what comes next? Or wanted to predict the future? Take a sheet of paper and write on it all the things you think will happen on Friday. From the things you know (like “I will eat breakfast” or “I will put on my clothes”) to the things you might not know. Tuck it away. Live your life, and try to forget about your predictions. Then, once you’ve lived through Friday, take out your paper and see what predictions came true. How did it change the way you lived, to be focused on what might happen, or trying to make the things in your predictions come true? Did you feel any happier with this future-focus?
Just as Jesus asks the disciples to turn their attention to the present, and not focus on the past, so He asks us to do the same. Turn away from living in the future, and controlling the day – and turn towards trusting in God.
- Jazzy Bostock
Adult and Youth
Read: Mark 13:1-8
Reflect: The last year and a half has been pretty weird. I have made plans, cancelled them, made new plans, and then given up and found the ice cream in the back of the freezer. I long to know what will happen next, but that’s not possible.
Like Jesus warns the apostles, we hear of all kinds of disasters. The disciples are worried about their future, and I’ve been pretty worried about the future, too. When Jesus responds, he doesn’t give the disciples certainty about what will happen next, and he doesn’t tell them that everything will be okay. He just reminds them to be careful who they follow. Even if people come in his name, be suspicious.
How do we know who to follow? I like the way Presiding Bishop Michael Curry clarifies it: “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.” Every era has scary things happening. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors in the midst of it, and make sure we’re following Him.
Respond: Love is an action verb. There are plenty of reasons to worry, but we are called to turn to love. Are there things you’re especially worried about right now? How do you want to turn from worry toward love? Sometimes our concern about the world can be one step in discernment, it can help us notice where God is calling us to use our skills and our heart. Identify one thing that you’re worried about, and find a way to respond with love.
(Remember that you don’t have to do everything yourself! A few years ago, a group of my friends decided to love the world, relay-race style. We each took a leg of the race—a day to help, a piece that was ours to do. Knowing we were all involved helped each of us trust that the work of God is a shared project.)
- Di McCullough
Adult and Adults
Read: Mark 13:1-8
Reflect: Nine months…. the length of a woman’s pregnancy. I have never been pregnant myself, but I have watched as many friends have carried their children to birth. A woman’s birth begins with signs that she is in labor. She has contractions. Sometimes her water is broke. In our text, Jesus reminds us that there are signs that there is so much more to come. We read in verse eight, “This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.” (Mark 13:8, NRSV) Our world is filled with so much pain. One need not look far to see that. One must first experience pain to see the joy that comes with new beginning/new life. It reminds me of another verse from Scripture, one of my favorites: “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:8, NRSV) Jesus walks with us in the midst of life’s joys and sorrows. Jesus reminds us that the birth pangs will lead to new life.
Respond: Turn! The birth pangs lead to new life but not before we have to experience the pain. This seems like a great opportunity to learn more about the divisions we have in this world. Join a local book club on racism or read a book on racism. Some suggestions are “White Fragility,” “Just Mercy,” and many others. Sit down with other people and discuss how you can turn and change your mentality on this issue. Come up with a list of ways you can help support one another as we experience the labor pangs and work towards racial justice.
- Tara Ulrich