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For from God and through God and for God are all things. To God be the glory forever! Amen. - Romans 11:36

Links to:     Week 1     Week 2     Week 3    Week 4    

Week 5 (Sept 24): Rooted in Hope

2 Corinthians 4:12-18

7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you. 13 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

Commentary: The whole process of living, dying, and then living again starts with YHWH “breathing into clay,” which then becomes “a living being” (Genesis 2:7) called Adam (“of the earth”). Christ is the great divine memory and strength. Humanity is being re-animated with what it always forgets; breath and soil, spirit and matter are again reminded that they are in fact one. God is again breathing into “the clay of the earth” (Genesis 2:7) and reminding it that it is never just earth and clay. This, of course, makes resurrection a foregone conclusion, because in fact Spirit can never die “and as we have borne the likeness of the earthly one, so we shall also bear the likeness of the heavenly one” (1 Corinthians 15:49). Jesus’ resurrection is not a one-time anomaly, but the regular and universal structure of reality revealed in one person.

     - Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 81-83.

Questions: Because of what God has done for us, because God is a God of resurrection there's more to our story than what's been written so far. What more do you think is yet to be written in your story? There's a grit, dogged determination with Christians to keep going, because they know God is with them. In what ways in God calling you to keep going?

Daily Practice

Reflect on your life and a specific hardship you have faced. Where did you find hope in that situation? How did God serve as your source of strength? Give thanks to God for new life that comes through Jesus Christ.

Story

Eight years ago our beautiful, feisty daughter Kate died unexpectedly after a brief illness. That Christmas Day would have been her third birthday. Stunned and grief-stricken, we were reminded that the Bible promises eternal life and assurances that we will someday be reunited with Kate in Heaven. But in the quiet moments, especially late at night, God felt very distant and ever so SILENT...and the idea of Heaven was simply too infinite to grasp. Hopelessness and despair became my constant companions in spite of a yearning to feel whole again.

In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul reminds us of God’s mercy and God’s desire for us to claim the light of the Gospel even in times of death and despair. God says, “ ‘Let light shine out of darkness.’ ” But in 4:7, Paul says that “we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” He also encourages us not to lose hope.

When I think back to the months following Kate’s death, I realize that God was actually actively participating in our lives, that God was shining hope and light through His “clay jars.” The family, friends, church members and even strangers who prayed for us when we couldn’t and lovingly cared for us reminded me that we don’t have to stand alone in grief. We needed God, and God “showed up” in human, tangible ways through those whose steadfast faith guided their actions. And slowly, one kind gesture, one heartfelt condolence, one moment of shared tears at a time, our hope was restored.

Prayer: Dear God of resurrection, in the most challenging of times, help me to hold on to hope. Grant that I may rely on you for strength and remember that new life is possible through You. Amen.

     - Patti Otte

Family Devotional

What you need: Bibles, strips of paper, pencils, a jar (clay or pottery if you can find one)

Find a place at a table where children can more easily write.

Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-18

As you ask the questions below, allow time for discussion and for all family members to share their ideas and answers.

Say something like:

How do you think we did last week by adding Bible reading time to our schedules?
How do we keep ourselves connected to God’s word at times when we get really busy or when things aren’t going well?
Read verses 7-9 again and point out that sometimes bad things happen but we know the real goodness and hope in Jesus. So when bad things happen, we can find ways to help us remember the power of God like it says in verse 7.
We’re going to find Bible verses and stories that remind us of the hope we have in Christ and the goodness of God’s love. Then we’re going to write those on slips of paper to keep in a “clay jar.” Then if you ever need to reminded of hope and love, you can come grab a slip of paper and read it to yourself or have someone read it to you. Then you can put it back in the jar for another time.

Find a place to keep the jar with the treasures (slips of paper) where it is within reach of every member of your family.

Close in prayer “God of hope and God of glory, we are so thankful for having your treasure to keep for the days when we need to be reminded that you love us all. We ask for your blessings upon each member of this family (name them individually) so that they will spread your hope and love into this world. Thank you for loving us. We love you, God. Amen.”

Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina is Latin for divine reading, a traditional way of Bible reading and prayer to help communion with God. It describes a way of reading the Scriptures where we open ourselves to what God wants to say to us. Lectio Divina may be done alone or with others.

Begin by praying: You are the Potter, O Lord, and I am the clay in your hands. As I meditate on Scripture may your words form my heart to be more like Jesus Christ. Amen

Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 aloud. Each time, pay attention to the prompts below.

1st reading: What is the one word or phrase that stands out to you or touched your heart? Pause and savor the insight, feeling, or understanding.

2nd reading: Enter into the Scripture passage. What do you feel?  What specific situation in your current life relates to it? Write down a prayer or pray quietly.

3rd reading: Listen for God. What is God calling you to do? What is God’s personal invitation for you from the Scripture? Write down what God may be saying to you.

Close with a prayer of thanks or simply rest quietly with God.


Week 4 (Sept 17): Rooted in the Word

Psalm 1

1 Happy are those
    who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
    or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law they meditate day and night.
3 They are like trees
    planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
    and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
4 The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

Commentary: In this Psalm, one’s spiritual life is set forth negatively and positively, inwardly and externally, figuratively and literally. It presents two ways of life: the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. However, the key subject is the centrality of God’s Word to the life and fruitfulness of the righteous who truly love His Word. Two great thrusts flow out of this: (a) the importance and absolute necessity of the Scripture, and (b) the changed character, stability, and fruitfulness it promises to those who make Scripture the core of their lives.

Question: How do you seek out the Word—in the scriptures and in the person of Christ—in the rhythm of your days? How willing are you to go deep into the layers and complexities it offers? How do you take the Word into yourself and let it take root across the span of seasons and years? What fruit are you called to let the Word bear in and through you?

Daily Practice

Explore some ways to cultivate meditation on God’s word day and night. If you do not already have a daily devotional time, determine a consistent time and place to have one and create a plan. Consider reading a devotional book or simply read a chapter of the Bible a day.

Story

One of our favorite places to discuss the Bible is at our breakfast table.  There, we bless our food, enjoy eating, and discuss our separate devotionals we have read for the day.  We can see our courtyard full of birds and one rabbit, who has come for breakfast, also. It is easy, when observing nature, to remember that God is in control of creation.  God has made the trees, deeply rooted in the soil that bear fruit in season.  It is our job to strengthen our faith and remember the roots of his trees by continuing in Bible Study as we have for many years.  The roots of the trees that do not change, and the clouds in the sky that constantly change, are gifts from God.  They are reminders that the God who created us is always with us when things do not go as planned.  We can deepen our roots and grow our faith in our ever changing, and sometimes frightening world by studying the Bible ----- God’s word that does not change.

So it is in our spiritual lives.  When storms come and fears enter our minds, our faith is strengthened when we are deeply rooted in scripture and prayer.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for scripture that reminds us of Your love and deepens our faith in You.  Amen

     - Ken and Dorothy Cheairs

Family Devotional

What you need: Bibles

Ask family members to scatter throughout your home and find all of the Bibles you have. Find a place where you can all sit together with absolutely no distractions. Count your Bibles and talk about why it’s important to have them in your home. Come up with a list of Bible stories or passages that members of your family really like or that they remember easily. The Bible is full of so much and as we all grow into different ages and stages of life, we have the opportunities to hear stories differently each time.

Read Psalm 1. Focus on verses 2 and 3 with children.

As you ask the questions below, allow time for discussion and for all family members to share their ideas and answers.

Say something like:

We’ve talked about vines and branches, roots, and soil. Now let’s think about what this passage means when it says in verses 2 and 3: “but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.”

How do we keep ourselves by the streams of water? God’s word, the Bible, is like the life giving water that we need to continue to grow and produce fruit in our lives. It’s the way we keep our souls nourished and learn how to be God’s people in the world sharing hope and love with others.
Family Challenge for the week: Come up with a plan for how your family will read the Bible each day and night like verse 2 says. What will you prune away from your lives that will be replaced with the life-giving water of scripture? Maybe you’ll decide to find a way to extend this beyond one week.

Close in prayer “Beloved God, you have given us the Bible as a way to learn about you and Jesus. As we plan for a week of being rooted in your Word, open our hearts to the time and space for hearing you, for learning your story and our story, and for finding ourselves in your presence. Thank you for loving us. We love you, God. Amen.”

Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina is Latin for divine reading, a traditional way of Bible reading and prayer to help communion with God. It describes a way of reading the Scriptures where we open ourselves to what God wants to say to us. Lectio Divina may be done alone or with others.

Begin by praying: Lord Jesus Christ, “You alone have the words of eternal life.” You are the Word made flesh. I come to you in this time of Lectio Divina, eager to hear from you. Amen

Read Psalm 1 aloud. Each time, pay attention to the prompts below.

1st reading: What is the one word or phrase that stands out to you or touched your heart? Pause and savor the insight, feeling, or understanding.

2nd reading: Enter into the Scripture passage. What do you feel?  What specific situation in your current life relates to it? Write down a prayer or pray quietly.

3rd reading: Listen for God. What is God calling you to do? What is God’s personal invitation for you from the Scripture? Write down what God may be saying to you.

Close with a prayer of thanks or simply rest quietly with God.

Read the passage below. Highlight what sticks out to you and pray about it.

During our recent Saint Brigid’s retreat, we were treated to a poetry reading from Father Kilian McDonnell, one of the Benedictine monks of Saint John’s Abbey, where our retreat took place. Most of Fr. Kilian’s poetry finds its grounding in the scriptures. Fr. Kilian’s poems provide a wondrous witness to how the contemplative life calls us deeper into the world, not away from it. Part of Fr. Kilian’s charm and punch as a poet lies in his earthiness, as well as in his willingness to go deep and deep into the layers of the biblical stories and to confront and call forth, with his piercing poet’s eye, the complexities of human life in this world given to us by a God who is both marvelous and maddening. I will tell you that it is a wonder to be in the poetic presence of someone who has been pondering the Word—praying with it, contemplating it, ruminating upon it—in spitting distance of a century. Although we are not all called to become poets, Fr. Kilian’s deep engagement with the Word offers a window onto a life where the Word has found good soil and has born fruit.

     - Getting Grounded ©  Jan L. Richardson


Week 3 (Sept 10): Rooted in Good Soil

Mark 4:1-9

1Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

Commentary: Many of the people who were listening to Jesus were farmers. They knew a lot about dirt and soil. Jesus was talking to them using words and word pictures that they could understand. Jesus wasn’t teaching them something new about farming. He was using what they already understood about farming to teach them something they didn’t know about the kingdom of God. This is what Jesus was saying to the people: The seed that is sown is the gospel - the good news about Jesus. The soils are the hearts of the people who make a choice about the message. The condition of a person’s heart can be compared to the different kinds of soils that received the seed.

But just like when you plant actual seeds into the ground, the message of the kingdom will grow gradually. We don’t plant a seed and see a plant the next day. True growth takes time. And sometimes when we plant seeds, we see different kinds of things that actually grow. Some trees produce fruit; some plants produce vegetables. Some produce lots of fruit, and some produce little. Even the soil that produces a small crop is “good.”

Question:  As I ruminate on this week’s parable, I find myself wondering: What soil—what earth—is being found in our own lives? We’ve all been in these different soils, none of us stays in the good soil all the time. What soil do you find yourself in today? How might you get to a place where you can bear fruit in your faith?

Daily Practice

Think of one way you can sow seeds of love in another’s life this week. Who can you provide care, kindness, or service to? Remind yourself that you plant the seeds and may never see the fruit. Trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in ways far greater than you could ever imagine.   

Story

I have not gotten what I deserve.

Before I was even born, other people were influencing the choices and opportunities I would have. They made decisions affecting my life. Decisions to live with love and humility – believing in Christian teachings, going to church on Sundays. These were my parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and neighbors. The stage was set, and I didn’t even know it. Much more than I deserved. In terms of the parable of the soils, this soil was prepared for me in advance.

When I struggled as a young adult and felt lost, I asked God for a woman I could love forever. He gave me my sweet Helen. I certainly did not deserve her. She is a blessing to me. Her strong faith has strengthened me, and her influence has kept my faith growing.

As a young father in the struggles of family and difficult work schedules, I wasn’t sure about exactly where I stood with my faith.  Then I heard about Disciple Bible Study. That first year in Disciple changed my life. I realized how little I really understood about God and the Holy Spirit. God seemed to have plans for me. Awareness of Christ and the opportunities available have led to many, many, more blessings.

No, I have not received what I deserved in life. I have received so much more through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. I have been so blessed to have been put in good situations, in good soil that allowed me to grow in my faith and to enjoy such a blessed life. It is nothing that I did, but is due to Christ and to the positive influence of so many others. Thank you, God.

Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for giving me far more than I deserve. Today, open my eyes and heart to ways I may continue to cultivate good soil in my life. Amen. 

     - Charlie Allison

Family Devotional

What you need: note cards and if you’re willing, seed packets

Find a place outside where you can look at different kinds of soil. You might find a path where people have worn down the grass by walking on it, a flower bed prepared for plants, or an area covered with gravel or weeds.  Look at the different kinds of places in the ground and lead a discussion on how well seeds would grow in each of those places. (If we threw seeds on the ground, do you think a plant would be able to grow? Why do you think that?)

Read Mark 4: 1-9.

As you ask the questions below, allow time for discussion and for all family members to share their ideas and answers.

Say something like:

Jesus explains that our hearts are like soils and God’s word is like a seed. If our hearts are hard, and don't care about Jesus, the truth can't get to us. If our hearts have trouble enduring hard times, it's like stony ground. If we let the cares of this world distract us from Jesus, it's like the seed in thorny ground. If we open our hearts to Jesus and listen to and believe in God’s word, we will be able to grow like beautiful flowers and do many things for Jesus.
Let’s think of what we can say to friends that would be like sowing seeds in other people’s lives. Brainstorm some phrases telling others about God’s love for them. The good news is that God continues to sow seeds in our lives and the lives of others over and over again. We get to share in that work with God.
Write these phrases on note cards and anonymously (or maybe not) deliver them to friends.
You could also attach the cards to seed packets and decorate them to have some additional impact.

Close in prayer: “Awesome God, thank you for always sowing seeds in our lives, over and over again. We are blessed to know you and to share the Good News about Jesus with others.  As we spread the seeds of your love to others, open their hearts to receive the gift. Thank you for loving us. We love you, God. Amen.”

Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina is Latin for divine reading, a traditional way of Bible reading and prayer to help communion with God. It describes a way of reading the Scriptures where we open ourselves to what God wants to say to us. Lectio Divina may be done alone or with others.

Begin by praying: Dear Lord, as I begin this time of Lectio Divina in your holy Bible I open my heart to listen to you. I know that even a child can hear your voice. I pray with the little boy Samuel, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Amen

Read Mark 4:1-9 aloud. Each time, pay attention to the prompts below.

1st reading: What is the one word or phrase that stands out to you or touched your heart? Pause and savor the insight, feeling, or understanding.

2nd reading: Enter into the Scripture passage. What do you feel?  What specific situation in your current life relates to it? Write down a prayer or pray quietly.

3rd reading: Listen for God. What is God calling you to do? What is God’s personal invitation for you from the Scripture? Write down what God may be saying to you.

Close with a prayer of thanks or simply rest quietly with God.

Read the passage below. Highlight what sticks out to you and pray about it.

“What if the Christian faith is supposed to exist in a variety of forms rather than just one imperial one? What if it is both more stable and more agile—more responsive to the Holy Spirit—when it exists in these many forms? And what if, instead of arguing about which form is correct and legitimate, we were to honor, appreciate, and validate one another and see ourselves as servants of one grander mission, apostles of one greater message, seekers on one ultimate quest?”

     - Brian D. McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith


Week 2 (Sept 3): Rooted in Love

Ephesians 3:14-19

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Commentary: There is a very singular shrub, which grows abundantly in the west, and is to be found in all parts of Texas. It is no less than the "mosquito tree." It is a very slim, and willowy looking shrub, and would seem to be of little use for any industrial purposes; but is has extraordinary roots growing like great timbers underground, and possessing such qualities of endurance in all situations that it is used and very highly valued for good pavements. The city of San Antonio is said to be paved with these roots. It reminds one of those Christians who make little show externally, but their growth is chiefly underground -- out of sight, in the depth of God. These are the men and women that God uses for the foundation of things, and for the pavements of that city of God which will stand when all earthly things have crumbled into ruin and dissolved into oblivion.     - Rev. A. B. Simpson

Question: How can your faith be one of endurance and depth? In what ways are you longing to grow?

Daily Practice

Ask for God to open your heart and mind to how you may show love to others today. Begin with those in your home. Expand to include those who live in your neighborhood, who work in your office or go to your school, and each person who you interact with today. Make an effort to fill the day spreading God’s love.

Story

Anyone who knows me can tell you that almost all of my free time is spent on choir. I've been in choir since Kindergarten. I am not in choir because I'm some virtuoso, but because years ago, my mom signed me up for the FUMCR children's choir. The directors of that choir made me fall in love with singing, but more importantly, inspired me to grow in my faith and help others the way they helped me.

Recently I've started volunteering with that same children's choir, getting to help some of the same directors who taught me. I look forward to seeing the kids all week, and in that one hour of craziness and noise I feel happier than any other time. The love I share with the choir kids is a deep love that makes me feel stronger in my faith.

The scripture this week refers to how great God’s love is for us and states that this love is “greater than anyone can ever know.” It is difficult for me to imagine a greater love than the love I have for those kids. But, if that is the case, God’s love is truly amazing, and I hope I can continue to share some of this amazing love of God even more every day!

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for your unimaginable love for me! This day, may I open myself to the fullness of your love and share it with all I encounter. Amen.

     - Darci Williams

Family Devotional

What you need: a houseplant or something from the yard to repot or a new plant to put in a new pot

As you ask the questions below, allow time for discussion and for all family members to share their ideas and answers.

Shake off the dirt and soil to expose the roots and ask questions like:

Do you know what we call these parts of a plant?
Do you know what the purposes of roots are? (1) absorption of water and nutrients, 2) anchoring of the plant body to the ground, and supporting it, 3) storage of food and nutrients.
What will happen to a plant if it doesn’t have strong roots?

Read Ephesians 3: 14-21 and say something like:  You do not have roots that grow deep into the ground like this plant. If you did, you would have a really hard time going places in the world like to school, church, the pool, or anywhere actually. Let’s reread verses 16 and 17. What do you think it means to be rooted and grounded in love?”

Last week we talked about being connected to the vine and we talked about ways our family can stay connected to Jesus.  Now let’s think about how being rooted and grounded in love helps us share God’s love to others. Let’s re-pot this plant (or plant it in the ground) together.  People don’t see the roots of plants below ground. They only see the plant growing and thriving above ground. All different kinds of plants share many different things above ground - beauty, fruits or vegetables, shade or shelter, etc. So what are we going to share with others this week to show that our roots are growing deeply in God’s love? Post these ideas along with last week’s so that family members are reminded of them all week. Check in every once in a while to see how everyone is doing with their sharing of God’s love.

Close in prayer - Good and gracious God, our source of hope and love. Be with us this week as we…(include your list here). We know that you love us more than we can ever imagine. Open our eyes to share your love with others, and you continue to share you love with us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina is Latin for divine reading, a traditional way of Bible reading and prayer to help communion with God. It describes a way of reading the Scriptures where we open ourselves to what God wants to say to us. Lectio Divina may be done alone or with others.

Begin by praying: God, your love is deep within me. During this time of Lectio Divina, direct my heart so I am led by that love, and so that my efforts in the name of Jesus may bring about unity and peace in the world. Amen

Read Ephesians 3:14-21 aloud. Each time, pay attention to the prompts below.

1st reading: What is the one word or phrase that stands out to you or touched your heart? Pause and savor the insight, feeling, or understanding.

2nd reading: Enter into the Scripture passage. What do you feel?  What specific situation in your current life relates to it? Write down a prayer or pray quietly.

3rd reading: Listen for God. What is God calling you to do? What is God’s personal invitation for you from the Scripture? Write down what God may be saying to you.

Close with a prayer of thanks or simply rest quietly with God.

Read the passage below. Highlight what sticks out to you and pray about it.

This is why we live and breathe: for the love of Jesus, for the love of our own souls, for the love of our families and people, for the love of our neighbors and this world. This is all that will last. One of the best parts of being human is other humans. It's true, because life is hard; but people get to show up for one another, as God told us to, and we remember we are loved and seen and God is here and we are not alone. We can't deliver folks from their pits, but we can sure get in there with them until God does. God measures our entire existence by only two things: how we love Him and how we love people.

     - Jen Hatmaker, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards


Week 1 (Aug 27): Rooted in Christ

John 15: 1-11

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

Commentary: The motivation, meaning, and inherent energy of any action come from its ultimate source, which is a person's foundational and core vantage point. What is his or her real and honest motivation? "Who" is doing the seeing? Is it the "cut-off branch," the egoic self, trying to do the seeing? Is it a person needing to be right, or is it a person who wants to love? There is a very different kind of seeing from a branch that has remained lovingly and consciously connected to its Source (God, Jesus, our Higher Power). When Jesus spoke of a "cut-off branch," he meant a person who can only see from its small position of "me" and what meets "my" needs. It seems our society is largely populated by such cut-off branches, while a commitment to the common and real good has become a rarity. When you live in this state of love, at that level of communion where you let the Life get in and let the Life flow out of you to others, you are experiencing pure transformation. This is what it would mean to be totally in Christ.
     - Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 65-66.

Question: What does it mean to you to abide or remain in God's love? How can you live more fully IN Christ?

Daily Practice

Reflect on what needs to be pruned from you, so you may bear more fruit.

Consider the question: What unhealthy attachments or habits are keeping me from spiritual growth?

Pray for God to gently remove these things from you.

Story

I love to garden. I plant lots of flowers, because I love the colors of all flowers. I believe that flowers are God's way of smiling at us. But, I love tomatoes too, so every year I
plant tomatoes. Some years are a challenge and other years, like this year, are very productive. I have learned over my many years of gardening that tomato plants are fickle. I
spend time preparing the soil, making sure the irrigation is correct, selecting the sunniest location and giving them the right fertilizer for maximum growth and productivity.
Following all of these directions yields a productive crop.

This is exactly like being a Christian. I am like the tomato plant; I am a fickle disciple. The hard part is following the directions. This scripture, John 15: 1-11, helps me to understand my relationship with God. God is the vine, from which I draw nourishment. Without the water of God, I will wither. When I miss attending Sunday school and church, I am missing the water to sustain me. Without the sunshine of God, I will not grow to my fullest potential. I must receive the message of God to be inspired and productive.

Without the fertilizer of God I will not bear fruit. I must join others and share the joy of Christ. As I strive to grow my journey in Christ, I welcome others, as together we grow to become better disciples.

Prayer: God, thank you for sustaining me. As I go through each day, help me to abide in you, so I may experience life abundantly. Amen. Give thanks to God for the new fruit that you will produce.

     - Bodie Pyndus

Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina is Latin for divine reading, a traditional way of Bible reading and prayer to help communion with God. It describes a way of reading the Scriptures where we
open ourselves to what God wants to say to us. Lectio Divina may be done alone or with others.

Begin by praying: Dear God, when you speak you impart life. Your words are living and active. All of Scripture is inspired by you and useful to train me to become more like
Jesus. I ask you to speak to me through this Bible passage and help me to apply your grace and truth to my life today.

Read John 15:1-11 aloud. Each time, pay attention to the prompts below.

1st reading: What is the one word or phrase that stands out to you or touched your heart? Pause and savor the insight, feeling, or understanding.

2nd reading: Enter into the Scripture passage. What do you feel? What specific situation in your current life relates to it? Write down a prayer or pray quietly.

3rd reading: Listen for God. What is God calling you to do? What is God's personal invitation for you from the Scripture? Write down what God may be saying to you.

Close with a prayer of thanks or simply rest quietly with God.

Family Activity

What you need: A blanket

Find a place outside where there is at least one tree to lie under. Have your family lie on their backs on the blanket under the tree and look up at it.

Read John 15: 1-11. As you ask the questions below, allow time for discussion and for all family members to share their ideas and answers.

Say something like:

Imagine the tree we are under represents Jesus Christ and his followers. Which part of the tree you are looking at would represent Jesus? Which part of the tree would
represent Jesus' followers?

Look at the branches of the tree. Are there any dead branches or branches that look like they are dying? Any branches that need to be cut off? What causes branches to die? Are there any branches that look more alive than others? Move vibrant? More green? Or have fruit, nuts, acorns, or flowers?

What are ways that we can stay connected to Jesus so that we are alive in Christ?

Brainstorm a list of 3 things that your family will do all together during the week to stay connected to Jesus. Post the ideas somewhere in the house where everyone will
see it and check in during the week to see how you're doing as a family.

Close in prayer - Creator God, thank you for the ways Jesus teaches us using the trees around us. Help us stay connected to Jesus this week as we (include your list here). You
are an amazing God who has created so much beauty in this world. Thank you for loving us. We love you, God. Amen.

Read the passage below. Highlight what sticks out to you and pray about it.

True Christianity is growth in the life of the Spirit, a deepening of the new life, a continuous rebirth, in which the exterior and superficial life of the ego-self is discarded like
an old snake skin and the mysterious, invisible self of the Spirit becomes more present and more active.

The true Christian rebirth is a renewed transformation, a "Passover" in which [a person] is progressively liberated from selfishness and not only grows in love but in some
sense "becomes love." The perfection of the new birth is reached where there is no more selfishness, there is only love. In the language of the mystics, there is no more ego-self, there is only Christ; self no longer acts, only the Spirit acts in pure love.

The perfect illumination is, then, the illumination of Love shining by itself. To become completely transparent and allow Love to shine by itself is the maturity of the "New Man."

     - Thomas Merton, ed. Naomi Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart, "Rebirth and the New Man in Christianity," Love and Living (Harcourt Books: 1979), 199.


Clergy

Clayton Oliphint
Senior Pastor
972.235.8385
Debra Hobbs Mason
Executive Associate Pastor
972.235.8385
Joy Anderson
Director, Missions & Outreach; Liaison to UMW
972.235.8385
Scot Bontrager
Pastor, Caring Ministry
972.996.0149
April Johnson Bristow
Director, Caring Ministry
972.996.0139
Jonathan (JB) Bryant
Welcoming Ministries Associate, Liaison to Men of Faith
972.996.0158
Dan Flanagan
Pastor, Senior Adults, Adult Faith Formation, Caring
972.996.0148
Don Hood
Pastor, Caring Ministry
972.996.0137
Pavielle Jenkins
Pastor, Faith Formation, Student Ministry
972.996.0132
Faith Nyagato
Pastor, Zimbabwe Ministry
972.235.8385
Julie Richter
Pastor, Access Modern Worship, Group Life, Young Adult Ministry
972.996.0117
Rich Rindfuss
Pastor, Access Modern Worship, Men of Faith, School Partnerships
972.996.0136