Devotional || Psalm 104:24-34

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

24 Lord, you have done so many things!
    You made them all so wisely!
The earth is full of your creations!
25 And then there’s the sea, wide and deep,
    with its countless creatures—
    living things both small and large.
26 There go the ships on it,
    and Leviathan, which you made, plays in it!
27 All your creations wait for you
    to give them their food on time.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
    when you open your hand, they are filled completely full!
29 But when you hide your face, they are terrified;
    when you take away their breath,
    they die and return to dust.
30 When you let loose your breath, they are created,
    and you make the surface of the ground brand-new again.

31 Let the Lord’s glory last forever!
    Let the Lord rejoice in all he has made!
32 He has only to look at the earth, and it shakes.
    God just touches the mountains, and they erupt in smoke.

33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praises to my God while I’m still alive.
34 Let my praise be pleasing to him;
    I’m rejoicing in the Lord!

Psalm 104:24-34, Common English Bible

This is a beautiful Psalm of praise to God for all of creation. The earlier verses, not included in the reading for today, detailed the wonders of creation, and how the ecology of creation cares for itself, providing food for all God’s creatures. Verse 24 speaks to the wisdom of God’s creation.

We are to care for creation, because God gave us that instruction in Genesis 1. We are to care for creation because the Lord God made it all. We have seen the effects of what happens to the earth when we abuse it as we see the effects of climate change. We see areas with droughts as grass requiring water is planted in deserts, floods as fossil fuels raise the temperature of the earth and melt the glaciers. We have seen polluted water where fish cannot survive. We have seen decreases in pollinating insects, especially bees, which will decrease the food we have to eat. Populations of the smallest creatures are decreasing as we try to keep them out of our environment.

And yet, as the pandemic continues and we sit at home, rather than in our cars, we are watching the earth come back to life, polluted waters clear, animals come back to the streets. God had great wisdom in creating the earth, and God made it so that it could recover. As anyone who has plowed a field, then left it fallow for a year has seen, the wildness will quickly return. My parents visited Mount St. Helens 2 years after the volcano erupted. They expected a black mass of lava, but were amazed to see how much plant life had already recovered and was growing and healthy.

God is good. We need to care for God’s good earth because we love God and love all that God has created. Bless the Lord, Oh my soul! Praise the Lord!

Devotional || Psalm 33:12-22

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

12 The nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people whom God has chosen as his possession,
    is truly happy!
13 The Lord looks down from heaven;
    he sees every human being.
14 From his dwelling place God observes
    all who live on earth.
15 God is the one who made all their hearts,
    the one who knows everything they do.

16 Kings aren’t saved by the strength of their armies;
    warriors aren’t rescued by how much power they have.
17 A warhorse is a bad bet for victory;
    it can’t save despite its great strength.
18 But look here: the Lord’s eyes watch all who honor him,
    all who wait for his faithful love,
19     to deliver their lives[a] from death
    and keep them alive during a famine.

20 We put our hope in the Lord.
    He is our help and our shield.
21 Our heart rejoices in God
    because we trust his holy name.
22 Lord, let your faithful love surround us
    because we wait for you.

Psalm 33:12-22, Common English Bible

This Psalm reminds us that God is Lord of all. God has given each of us gifts to use, but we did not choose what gift we would receive. God has provided for each of us according to God’s plan. Our strength, our intelligence, our musical abilities, our sports prowess  are all gifts from God. Yes, we are called to use the gifts we have received, and we are to develop and improve them, but we have received our gifts from above.

Our strength comes from God, we are not in charge. All the power of world leaders comes from God. Our armies and navies have power from God. As we recognize this and look to God for strength, inspiration and creativity, we receive more bountiful gifts. We are fearful in this time of the pandemic, but God loves us and is watching over us. If we can put our trust in God, he will help us with fear and loneliness. If our leaders look to God for guidance, we will get through this.

When we think we are in charge, we ignore God and are filled with pride at our own accomplishments. We believe that because we can determine the human genome, or the genome of the Coronavirus, that science is in charge, and we forget that God created all, God gave us the intelligence to understand it scientifically.

As religion and belief in God become less important in our modern society, we lose something. We don’t see humility as a strength. Jesus’s power was most evident when the world saw him as weak, as he hung on the cross. Leave your pride behind, and open yourself to God’s power and love.

God’s steadfast love is there for us each and every day. We find our joy in trusting in God’s steadfast love.

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. Nancy C. Townley (selected by Willaim V. Burnside II, Conference Treasurer)

Lord God, you know us too well. You know that we would be like the disciples following the crucifixion and even the resurrection. We would rather hide and mutter and weep, than proclaim the power of your love. 

The world is a difficult place. We fear so much. We want people to like us, and so we hold back on our proclamation of our faith. We don’t want to offend anyone. But your love and presence are not offensive. They are empowering and healing. 

Bring your holy fire upon us this day to ignite a spark of joy in our hearts and our voices. Bring the power of your rushing wind through our spirits that we may be turned in new directions for service and witness. 

We pray this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

Devotional || Psalm 99

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

The Lord rules—
    the nations shake!
    He sits enthroned on the winged heavenly creatures—
    the earth quakes!
The Lord is great in Zion;
    he is exalted over all the nations.
Let them thank your great and awesome name.
    He is holy!

Strong king[a] who loves justice,
    you are the one who established what is fair.
    You worked justice and righteousness in Jacob.
Magnify the Lord, our God!
    Bow low at his footstool!
    He is holy!
Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
    Samuel too among those who called on his name.
They cried out to the Lord, and he himself answered them—
    he spoke to them from a pillar of cloud.
They kept the laws and the rules God gave to them.
Lord our God, you answered them.
    To them you were a God who forgives
    but also the one who avenged their wrong deeds.
Magnify the Lord our God!
    Bow low at his holy mountain
    because the Lord our God is holy!

Psalm 99, Common English Bible

God is Holy, God rules. God has been with us from the beginning of human existence. God was with Moses and Aaron before there was a temple, even before the Ten Commandments had been handed down. God ruled over the Israelites and over all the nations, and God still rules today.

When Jesus was born as a human baby, and grew to be the Messiah, when he gave his life for our sins, and was resurrected to bring us salvation, he showed us a better way to live.  Jesus taught us to bring his kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. Jesus loves justice as God does. Jesus showed us the way to care for the poor and needy, to love our enemies and  to love our neighbors as ourselves. He taught us who our neighbors are.

In this Psalm, God loves justice, God forgives our sins, but also punishes them. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross does not give us carte blanche to do whatever we want, Jesus expects us to repent and become like him, recognizing that as humans we will all have our bad moments.

In this time of pandemic COVID-19, we are seeing where healthcare disparities exist, as we see the socio-economic differences in who dies from the virus, not just the aged, but those with diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Nearly ¾ of those who have died have been African-American or Hispanic. As people become unemployed, they are losing their employer based health insurance. COBRA is expensive and how do you pay it when you’re unemployed? We are called to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.

Where are we called to be advocates and make a real difference in the lives of others? Remember, God is holy;God calls us to justice; and, God loves us and all the nations; God loves the poor and doesn’t care about the color of your skin.

Bow low before God’s majesty, because the Lord our God is Holy.

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. Dr. David V. Calhoun, Superintendent of the Connecticut/Western Massachusetts District (based on John 17:1-11 & Acts 1:6-14)

O God, we open our collective souls to your presence, and we bow before the mystery of your creative power. We lift our hearts to you as the source of our creation, and our help in every time of need. As we find ourselves at the dawning of a new day, we ask for your continued strength as we reach for greater knowledge. Impart upon us the spiritual gifts that we need for this day; and for all of our tomorrows. 

Though we encounter the trials of life, you, O God, remain our constant companion. Be with those undergoing difficulties in coping with the challenges of life today. You know our fears when life seems unfair and when we feel faint of heart. You know the angst that obstructs us, the temptations we resist, and the limitations we must overcome. Help us to release our resentments, and fill us with your peace.

We live in the assurance that you free us from that which is destructive. Preserve our lives according to your will, and for the sake of your realm. Help us to seek your good for the world, and to serve one another in the fellowship of our Christ like spirits. Give us courage in the midst of this pandemic, and grant us peace as we are walk through uncharted valleys. Make us valiant in our service to you and the world. Grant us with a sense of your presence, and fill us with courage as we come again to a greater certainty. 

We thank you for the qualities of goodness, mercy, wisdom and love that you have blessed us with; and may we be a witness to these things.   Amen and Amen

Devotional || Psalm 47

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

Clap your hands, all you people!
    Shout joyfully to God with a joyous shout!
Because the Lord Most High is awesome,
    he is the great king of the whole world.
He subdues the nations under us,
    subdues all people beneath our feet.
He chooses our inheritance for us:
    the heights of Jacob, which he loves. Selah

God has gone up with a joyous shout—
    the Lord with the blast of the ram’s horn.
Sing praises to God! Sing praises!
    Sing praises to our king! Sing praises
    because God is king of the whole world!
    Sing praises with a song of instruction![a]

God is king over the nations.
    God sits on his holy throne.
The leaders of all people are gathered
    with the people of Abraham’s God
    because the earth’s guardians belong to God;
        God is exalted beyond all.

Psalm 47, Common English Bible

God is in control, not just of our corner of the world, not just of Christians, but of the whole world. God is creator and redeemer and God’s grace welcomes everyone.

Jesus came to the earth to live among us and show us a better way, a way to love God and one another. Jesus taught and prayed and preached as he healed and cared for all he met. He told the disciples: “19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age” (Matt:28:19-20).

Then he ascended into heaven. This Psalm refers to God going up, other versions say God ascended, and there was a joyous shout. After the ascension of Jesus, the disciples waited and worried about the promise that Jesus had made to send them an advocate until on Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended upon them and they were energized to preach the gospel and bring thousands to Christ. We still can shout with joy, for we, too, have the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us and bring us hope.

We long for the day when the leaders of all nations can sit together singing praises to God because God is the king of the whole earth.

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. Jill Colley-Robinson, Vermont District Superintendent

Rising Christ,
 
Couldn’t you stay just a bit longer?
Couldn’t you teach us more about the scriptures?
There is so much in this life that we still do not understand.
Couldn’t you sit down to one more meal with us,
keeping us company while we keep our distance from others?
Couldn’t you tell us one more time about forgiveness —
how it changes everything and sets us free?
Couldn’t you hold off on sending the promised power?
We want you here with us.
We know you.
We need you.
Are you sure you want us, with all of our inadequacies,
to be your witnesses?
If indeed we must be your witnesses
stay, and show us more of what you intend.
Please stay.
 
Why does it always feel like there is not enough time —
like we should have known then what we know now and made different choices?
….. These are yesterday’s questions — even last night’s desperate requests.
But in the light of today, in the most graceful way imaginable,
you lift our doubts and longings and uncertainties
and take them with you.
We are unburdened and ready, just as you hoped.
…..

If in the future the old ache creeps back in, as it invariably does,
help us to once again embrace today’s final, miraculous gesture
as we lift our faces to the stunning spring sky —
you
blessing us.

Thanks be to God for this indescribable gift.

Amen.

Devotional || Psalm 93

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

The Lord rules!
    He is robed in majesty—
    the Lord is robed,
    clothed with strength.
Yes, he set the world firmly in place;[a]
    it won’t be shaken.
Your throne is set firm for a very long time.
    You are eternal!

Lord, the floods have raised up—
    the floods have raised up their voices;
    the floods raise up a roar!
But mightier than the sound of much water,
    mightier than the sea’s waves,
    mighty on high is the Lord!
Your laws are so faithful.
    Holiness decorates your house, Lord, for all time.

Psalm 93, Common English Bible

God is in charge! From the beginning of time and on into the future. God is in charge. God rules. God is and has always been–Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer. The waters of the earth are powerful; floods and hurricanes with all their power are not more powerful than God, though they may seem to be stronger in the midst of the storm.

The coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic are not stronger than God. God stands among us to carry us through and God will be with us as we begin to move out of our homes and back into the world.  In the midst of suffering and death, in the midst of economic collapse, we believe that God is there. Jesus came to call us to the kingdom of God, and invited his disciples to enter the kingdom. “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:14-15). We are called to decide- are we kingdom people or not.

The Hebrew people complained repeatedly through their time in the wilderness and God always provided for them. So, if today is one of those days when you are miserable and can’t think of anything except your complaints, raise them up to God.  Just as God provided for the Hebrew wanderers, God will provide for you and find a way to lift your spirits. We are seeing improvement in our situation now, but we don’t know when it will be brought to a new normal. Yet we have the promise of the kingdom, the promise of God’s rule in the world, which brings us comfort, peace and strength despite the reality of the troubles the world faces.

Claim the Kingdom!  Praise the Lord!

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. Ted Crass, President of The United Methodist Foundation of New England

Loving God,
Thank you for these Spring days that explode with new life.
For the flowering crab apple, cherry, dogwood, redbud, and plum
For the buds that pop with leaves that unfurl
For warblers, phoebes, grosbeaks, and indigo bunting
For the blue skies and warm sun.
I thank you that this same Spring comes in the diversity of other plants, trees, birds and signs in other lands, too.
And that the warmth of your sheltering love can be felt all over creation.
This morning, I bring to mind the faces of friends in Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceana, South America, the Middle East, and also here in my little corner of the world.
Whether welcoming the same Spring or facing the same pandemic,
They are my sisters and brothers.
Today, I pray a prayer of peace for these my siblings, for their land and for mine.
Help me never to forget 
That their joy is my joy and that mine is theirs,
That their suffering is my suffering and that mine is theirs,
That we cannot fully realize our own being without each other.
O God, help me never to forget our shared oneness in Christ 
As I enter this blessed Spring morning.
Amen

Devotional || Psalm 68:8-20

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

8 All you nations, bless our God!
    Let the sound of his praise be heard!
God preserved us among the living;
    he didn’t let our feet slip a bit.

10 But you, God, have tested us—
    you’ve refined us like silver,
11     trapped us in a net,
    laid burdens on our backs,
12     let other people run right over our heads—
    we’ve been through fire and water.

But you brought us out to freedom!
13     So I’ll enter your house
        with entirely burned offerings.
    I’ll keep the promises I made to you,
14         the ones my lips uttered,
        the ones my mouth spoke when I was in deep trouble.
15 I will offer the best burned offerings to you
    along with the smoke of sacrificed rams.
    I will offer both bulls and goats. Selah

16 Come close and listen,
    all you who honor God;
    I will tell you what God has done for me:
17 My mouth cried out to him
    with praise on my tongue.
18 If I had cherished evil in my heart,
    my Lord would not have listened.
19 But God definitely listened.
    He heard the sound of my prayer.
20 Bless God! He didn’t reject my prayer;
    he didn’t withhold his faithful love from me.

Psalm 66:8-20, Common English Bible

Once again, we sing a Psalm of praise. We sing of God’s love and care for the world even in the darkest times. The whole world has been tested, but despite that, God has brought the Israelites out of their troubles. They’ve been burdened and struggled through fire and water, but God brought them out to freedom. Now the individual Psalmist is ready to give sacrifices to God, to keep promises that he made when he was in deep trouble. He prayed and was answered, and now offers songs of praise.

Throughout the ages there have been repeated trials and disasters. In each time, God was there, God was working among the people during the previous pandemic in 1918, during the world wars, during the black plague.  God is with us through the Covid-19 pandemic. God is working in the world and God is working in each one of us.

God is with the scientists who are trying to find and effective treatment and with those working on vaccines. God has given the gift of creative thinking and experience with other diseases to the scientists doing this work. God is giving courage to the health care workers going into hospitals and nursing homes to treat those infected and the love and care they bring to their patients despite their own risk. God is with those who are trying to make ends meet and keep their businesses despite the shutdown. God is with those of us who are isolated, so that we are never alone.

And so, as things improve and we begin to slowly open up businesses, we will praise the God who has been with us throughout this experience and we will find ways to sacrifice to God in thanksgiving for all God has done.

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. Dr. Jacquelyn Brannen, Northern Maine District Superintendent

Lord, during this pandemic, life has become so confusing.
There is fear, grief and so much anxiety.
And yet, your Spirit resides within me. Sometimes, I feel you as near as my breath.
Sometimes, I long to feel you but cannot. 
Today, I will trust that you are here. I will trust that you are with me even when my emotions hide your presence.
Today, Lord, I will concentrate on keeping your commandments and I will trust that the Spirit that resides within will help me with that, for I do love you God.
Thank you for loving me. 

Devotional || Psalm 102

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

Lord, hear my prayer!
    Let my cry reach you!
Don’t hide your face from me
    in my time of trouble!
Listen to me!
    Answer me quickly as I cry out!
Because my days disappear like smoke,
    my bones are burned up as if in an oven;
    my heart is smashed like dried-up grass.
    I even forget to eat my food
    because of my intense groans.
    My bones are protruding from my skin.
I’m like some wild owl—
    like some screech owl in the desert.
I lie awake all night.
    I’m all alone like a bird on a roof.
All day long my enemies make fun of me;
    those who mock me curse using my name!
I’ve been eating ashes instead of bread.
    I’ve been mixing tears into my drinks
10         because of your anger and wrath,
        because you picked me up and threw me away.
11 My days are like a shadow soon gone.
    I’m dried up like dead grass.
12 But you, Lord, rule forever!
    Your fame lasts from one generation to the next!
13 You will stand up—
        you’ll have compassion on Zion
        because it is time to have mercy on her—
    the time set for that has now come!
14 Your servants cherish Zion’s stones;
    they show mercy even to her dirt.
15 The nations will honor the Lord’s name;
    all the earth’s rulers will honor your glory
16     because the Lord will rebuild Zion;
    he will be seen there in his glory.
17 God will turn to the prayer of the impoverished;
    he won’t despise their prayers.

Psalm 102, Common English Bible

Psalm 102 was probably written at the end of the Jewish exile, a time when the people were preparing to return to Jerusalem. They were tired and sick. The Psalmist cries out to God for help. He describes himself as skin and bones, weary, eating ashes with his food and his tears are mixed in his drinks. He can’t sleep or eat, he is lonely like a bird alone on the roof, like an owl in the desert. His days disappear like smoke.

This seems to mirror how many people feel during this pandemic, I think.  People are worried, they can’t sleep, they are lonely. We’re tired of all of this. And so, we cry out to God, just as the Psalmist called God.

He also spoke of his enemies mocking him and cursing him. When I read that, I thought of the protesters making their way to statehouses with their weapons and posters cursing the governors who won’t open their state’s businesses.

The Psalm switches from an individual prayer to one for the whole nation. We know that we can’t recover ourselves until the whole nation is recovering and for us the whole world!

In verse 12, the Psalmist remembers that God is Lord and rules forever. God will have compassion on Zion, because it is time to show mercy. He trusts that the Lord will rebuild Zion, and be seen in God’s glory. God will hear the prayers of the poor and will not despise their plea.

We also trust that God will hear our pleas. In Massachusetts, we are beginning to see the decline in hospitalizations and new cases of the virus now. We are praying that we can begin to reopen carefully in the next few weeks. We trust that God is with us and has been walking with us through the worst of the pandemic and that God will continue to walk with us over the next weeks as we try to recover. We believe God has been with the sick and the dying and their families. We believe that God will help those whose businesses have been decimated and we pray for a time when we can gather together again in God’s presence.

Remember, Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Hold on to Jesus’ promise, and to God’s compassion and love for all humankind as we move forward.

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, Resident Bishop of the New England Annual Conference

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

John 14:15-21, New Revised Standard Version

Growing up in India, I saw orphaned children daily. I saw first hand the sadness, the longing, and the experience of abandonment.That vivd childhood memory comes back to me when I read the promise, ‘I will not leave you orphaned.'” — Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar.


Merciful God,
We stand in the midst of 
   sickness, death, and grief;
we see people 
   without jobs, standing in mile-long food lines;
we witness the unjust distribution
   of resources and racial discrimination, 
we watch health care providers 
   exhausted and overwhelmed
   farmers with no market for their crops
we wonder … 
   have they, have we, been abandoned?
   
   Jesus promised …
that we would not be orphaned*
that you would send your Spirit
that, because he lives, we shall live
that you are not gone from us
that we have not been deserted
that you abide with us, 
and in us.

   O God our Help, hear our prayer —
to love you
to keep your great commandment to love others
to know you revealed through our loving acts
to see you —
here and now
with us and in us,
forever. 

   Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. 
Amen.

Devotional || Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

I take refuge in you, Lord.
    Please never let me be put to shame.
        Rescue me by your righteousness!
Listen closely to me!
    Deliver me quickly;
        be a rock that protects me;
        be a strong fortress that saves me!
You are definitely my rock and my fortress.
    Guide me and lead me for the sake of your good name!
Get me out of this net that’s been set for me
    because you are my protective fortress.
I entrust my spirit into your hands;
    you, Lord, God of faithfulness—
    you have saved me.

14 But me? I trust you, Lord!
    I affirm, “You are my God.”

15 My future is in your hands.
    Don’t hand me over to my enemies,
    to all who are out to get me!
16 Shine your face on your servant;
    save me by your faithful love!

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16, Common English Bible

In Psalm 31, David takes refuge in God. He depends on God for protection. He depends on God for guidance. He knows God hears him when he asks for help. He trusts that God will help him out of difficult situations. Jesus quoted from Psalm 31:5 on the cross- “Into thy hands I commit my spirit.” Even  in death we can trust in God.

Trust. Do we truly trust in the Lord? Do we give God our fear and anxiety? Do we trust our future to God?

In this time of pandemic COVID-19, we have reason to fear: we fear getting the virus and becoming very ill; we fear dying; we fear being an asymptomatic carrier and unknowingly spreading the virus to others; we fear getting medical attention; we fear that our retirement savings are being depleted in the stock market; we fear our businesses will go bankrupt; we fear we won’t be able to get what we need. We are expected to step up: to teach our children; to work from home; to go out to work and risk getting the virus; to stay home and be isolated; to change the way we do business.

David reminds us that God is with us, God loves us, and God wants to take away our fears and anxiety. God wants to lead us through this pandemic so that we can move forward. We can say “I trust you, Lord! You are my God. My future is in your hands.” We can ask God to “shine your face on your servant; save me by your faithful love!” If we truly mean it, our anxiety and depression can be relieved by the grace of God.

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. Jill Colley Robinson, Vermont District Superintendent

Loving Christ,
You say to us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
I guess our hearts are troubled, or you would not need to say it.
You say to us, “Believe …”
I guess we struggle to believe, or you would not need to remind us.
Tell us again that you go to prepare a place for us.
Tell us again.
Tell us you will take us to yourself —
that you will be with us no matter what,
that we get to be with you,
that your way will be made plain before our faces.
Love us the way you loved Thomas
who so often gave voice to everyone’s doubts.
Love us the way you loved Philip
who needed to be shown again and again.
Dwell in us so that we can be about your greater work
of finding your way,
of speaking your truth,
of honoring your gift of life,
even now …
especially now.
We ask all of this the way you teach us to ask — in your name,
believing that you will make it so. 
Amen.

Devotional || Psalm 100

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with celebration!
    Come before him with shouts of joy!
Know that the Lord is God—
    he made us; we belong to him.[a]
    We are his people,
    the sheep of his own pasture.
Enter his gates with thanks;
    enter his courtyards with praise!
    Thank him! Bless his name!
Because the Lord is good,
    his loyal love lasts forever;
    his faithfulness lasts generation after generation.

Psalm 100, Common English Bible

Shout with joy to the Lord, or Make a joyful noise in some versions. Celebrate God’s goodness. If you play an instrument, even if it’s collecting dust in a closet, pull it out and play joyfully. If you sing, sing joyfully. If you can’t sing, listen to joyful music. Music calms the restless soul. Music brings back memories of times when you heard a particular song before.

God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. God cares for us. God claims us and loves us and wants what is best for us. So, celebrate God. Celebrate the beautiful flowers and the budded trees. Celebrate the longer days and the stronger sun. Celebrate what you can do, even in isolation, rather than worrying about what you can’t do.

God’s home is not in the sanctuary, we can still find God when we can’t enter into the church building. God is everywhere around us. We can see God’s creation and call it good, just as God called it good on each day of the creation story in Genesis. We have so much- food and clean water and shelter which meet our basic needs. We also have so much more than we need. Thank God and bless God’s name.

Even on those days when we are frustrated and irritable, God still loves us. God’s loyal love lasts forever. No matter what we do, God forgives us and loves us.  And that is an incredible promise which we can celebrate joyfully.

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. We Hyun Chang, Metro-Boston Hope District Superintendent

Good morning, God,
Thank you for such a wonderful and warm day yesterday. 
Looks like today will also be nice. Thank you for making the beautiful sky, the shining sun, green grass, budding flowers, birds in the air, dogs and cats in our houses, and all toys we can play with and books we can read.
 
We have been home with our parents and family for so-o-o long. It is not easy and sometime very boring. But we know that there are people who are very sick and that we need to stay home and stay away from people to help one another. Help us remember that you are our best friend. We believe that we can tell you anything in prayer and you will do your best to answer our prayers.  
 
Our parents are doing their best. Help us remember their love for us even when we get little antsy and bored. Be with our teachers also. They are trying their best too! We pray for all who are helping people to stay safe and get better. Cheer them up every time they may feel tired. 
 
We miss our family and friends at the school and the church. Until we can see and play with one another, please keep them safe. We pray for many people who are hurting and sad all over the world, especially children who do not have homes or are very afraid. Please be their best friend too. 
 
Dear God, you’ve got the whole world in your hand. Please keep all the people in the world safe and healthy in your hand. We will make sure to wash our hands, wear our masks, and remember to pray to you always. Amen.

Devotional || Psalm 112

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

Praise the Lord!
    Those who honor the Lord,
    who adore God’s commandments, are truly happy!
Their descendants will be strong throughout the land.
    The offspring of those who do right will be blessed;
    wealth and riches will be in their houses.
    Their righteousness stands forever.
They shine in the dark for others who do right.
    They are merciful, compassionate, and righteous.
Those who lend generously are good people—
    as are those who conduct their affairs with justice.
Yes, these sorts of people will never be shaken;
    the righteous will be remembered forever!
They won’t be frightened at bad news.
    Their hearts are steady, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are firm; they aren’t afraid.
    In the end, they will witness their enemies’ defeat.
They give freely to those in need.
    Their righteousness stands forever.
    Their strength increases gloriously.
10 The wicked see all this and fume;
        they grind their teeth, but disappear to nothing.
    What the wicked want to see happen comes to nothing!

Psalm 112, Common English Bible

Psalm 112 is a praise song to God. Those who honor God are truly happy. Their children will be blessed. It begins to look like prosperity gospel- if we trust in God, we will be blessed with wealth and riches and all good things, but the wealth we accumulate may not be material wealth, it may be a wealth of reputation and happiness.

It reminds us that we are an example to others- we will shine in the dark for others. Our actions speak for us, as we give to the poor and show compassion to others.

The Psalm does not promise us that we will have perfect lives and perfect health. In verses 6–8,  the Psalmist tells us that the righteous will not be shaken, that we won’t be frightened when we hear bad news because our hearts are steady, trusting in God.  Because we can be free of fear, we can give freely to those in need. We don’t have to hoard what we have, because we trust that God will provide for us when we have needs.

In this season of the Coronavirus, hoarding is rampant. Because people are hoarding, shortages are a self-fulfilling prophecy. People who bought out stores, thinking that they could make a big profit reselling at exorbitant rates hurt everyone, and when they were shut down, they were left with products they couldn’t get rid of. The Psalm ends with, “The wicked see all this and fume, they grind their teeth, but disappear to nothing. What the wicked want to see happen comes to nothing.” So, for all those who are hoarding, scamming and trying to take advantage of those who trust too much in people, the Psalm offers a warning. Your attempts to hurt others will be thwarted.

For those who are righteous, God is with you. Trust in God and God will stand beside you and keep you firm and steady, even in the face of this virus.

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. Rick McKinley, Director of Congregational Development

Life. Life! LIFE! 
This is your promise — your intention for us. 
“I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly,” Jesus said. 
Abundantly. 
Over the top.  
Excessively abundant. 
Disproportionately bountiful. 
Extravagantly exuberant.  
God, we really need some of that right now. 
When the thieves around us and within us 
   threaten to kill it, 
When worries and fear build to the point 
  they begin to strangle it, 
When our own tendencies toward selfishness and dark things 
   begin to smother, 
O God, call us. Call us again. And again. And again. 
Call us back to life. 
Call us to dwell in your words, the words of life. 
Call us to sit in silence, listening for the heartbeats of life all around us. 
Call us to love our neighbor, in whom you dwell. 
Call us to the table, where in the breaking of bread, you are to be found. 
Life. Life! LIFE! Abundant, extravagant, wonderfully, disproportionately full LIFE! 
Amen.