Astounded


The Spirit Calendar

A Weekly Devotional from the Connecticut Conference United Church of Christ


January 22, 2018


This week's author is Drew Page, News & Media Editor for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.

Scripture: Mark 1:21-22 (NRSV)

They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.
 
They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Reflection:

 They were "astounded" at his teaching. This is only the 22nd line of Mark's account of Jesus' life. Nothing has really happened yet. A few people saw him baptized by John and a handful of fishermen dropped everything to follow him. That's it so far.
 
Then Jesus goes to Capernaum, a tiny fishing village with a synagogue. In goes Jesus to teach, and "they are astounded" by what he tells them. It even appears they liked what he said because it was different from the way the scribes taught.
 
So let me get this straight: Jesus is still fairly unknown. He enters the synagogue and starts teaching. What he tells the people present is nothing like what they've always been told — nothing like what they've always done.
 
And they liked it?
 
Imagine the church today – a young woman walks in on Sunday. She tells us to rethink the way we are doing church, that the way we have done church for the past 60 years is no longer the the way to keep the church vital and relevant. She tells us to examine our finances to see what we are spending money on – mission or institution? She tells us to open our hearts and listen to what the youth are asking and to stop sending them away from worship? She tells us to look around our congregation and ask the question: who from the community is not here and why? She tells us that our institutions, our communities, and even we as individuals, are tacitly, and not so tacitly, proliferating a culture of racism that benefits the privileged few – and points out that 99% of those in the room are among that privileged few. She tells us that being Christian means speaking out and acting to change the injustices of the world, not just praying for it on Sunday so we can go back to our comfortable spaces on Monday.
 
I wonder what word they would use to describe our reaction? Astounded?

Prayer:

Loving God, we do not always hear you. We do not always see what you mean us to do. We do not always follow the path, even when we know which direction it leads. And yet, you continue to love us and send us those with messages to astound us. For this everlasting love, we are grateful.
 
Special Prayer Requests:
  • Rev. Meg Boxwell Williams, Associate Pastor of the First Congregational Church of Stratford, for a full recovery as she recuperates from intestinal surgery and experiences chemo treatments.
Continuing Requests:
  • Those grieving or suffering a mudslide in California left 20 dead and 4 people missing on Jan. 9;
  • those grieving or suffering after a train crashed in South Africa killing 18 and injuring over 200 on Jan. 4;
  • those grieving or suffering after an apartment fire in NYC left 12 dead on Dec. 29;
  • those grieving or suffering in Afghanistan after a suicide bomb attack killed over 40 and wounded dozens more on Dec. 28;
  • Robert G. Hale Sr., grandfather of Emily McKenna, Office Manager of the CT Conference, who struggles with health issues and is waiting for surgery scheduled next month;
  • the people of Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria caused massive devastation on Sept. 20;
  • the community of Conway, MA, and the United Congregational Church, UCC, Conway after a tornado touched down on Feb. 25 causing significant structural damage;
  • the members and staff of Thompson Congregational Church after a fire severely damage the building on Dec. 29;
  • Mark Engstrom, member of the CT Conference Board of Directors, and his wife Nina, who are facing health issues;
  • Michael White, former Operations Manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who was diagnosed with colon cancer;
  • Juliane Silver, the daughter of the Rev. Jim Silver of Middletown, who is in dire need of a liver transplant. We pray that a donor will come forward giving the gift of life and a portion of their liver to Juliane;
  • Chacy Eveland, husband of the Rev. Marcia Eveland, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Ansonia, who has been moved to a full-time facility for care of dementia;
  • the thousands of migrants worldwide who flee from violence and persecution in search of safety;
  • our ecumenical partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea;
  • the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
  • the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
  • this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism; and
  • those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
To be added to the prayer list, please send an email to Drew Page at: drewp@ctucc.org.

Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:

Darien
The First Congregational Church of Darien UCC

Dale Brian Rosenberger - SP
Gary Morello - AP
 
Deep River
First Congregational Church, Deep River, UCC

Timothy E. Haut - SP
Sybil Higgins - CE
 
Derby
The First Congregational Church, UCC

James R. Tudesco - IN
 
Devon
The United Church of Christ in Devon

Karl H. Duetzmann - P
 
Durham
United Churches of Durham UCC

Jeanette Cooper Hicks - P
 

The Spirit Calendar: January 22, 2018 , by Drew Page.