Devotions for Hope’s 40th Anniversary – Week 1: A New Creation

In celebration of Hope’s 40th anniversary, I’ve written a series of devotions for reflection and meditation.  Please feel free to comment!

Monday, January 23

“O sing to the LORD a new song, 

for he has done marvelous things.” 

Psalm 98:1a

Forty years ago tonight, the founders of Hope Lutheran Church had their first worship service together.  They did not know what the future would bring; they had left behind old and familiar ways of doing things, believing that God was calling them to do a new thing, think a new thought, see a new way, sing a new song.

That night, Hope’s members sang that new song.  They knew that God had done marvelous things and they hoped that God was doing a marvelous thing in them.  God still calls us to do a new thing, think a new thought, see a new way, and sing a new song.  For with God, all things are always being made new.

Lord, help us to welcome what is new, even as we remember your presence in days past  Make us witnesses to the marvelous things you continue to do.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 24

“I am about to do a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

And rivers in the desert.” 

Isaiah 43:19

Sometimes we can be so caught up in our own experiences of wilderness that we cannot perceive the new thing that God is doing in us and for us.  Our heads are bowed low, so we cannot see; we are lost in our own thoughts, so we cannot hear.  Pastor Vic and his congregation lifted their heads and saw and listened and they knew that God was doing a new thing in and through them.  They followed God as God made a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

This doesn’t just happen in Bible Times, and it didn’t end in January 1977.  God is ALWAYS about to do a new thing.  God is ALWAYS showing us new ways and new rivers in our wildernesses – whatever they are.  Open your eyes and ears and heart and perceive:  what new thing is God working in you?

Gracious God, you are with us in the dry places and by streams of running water, and you are always finding new ways to create in us new hearts.  Be with us as we testify to your boundless creation.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 25

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away/ see, everything has become new!”

2 Corinthians 5:17

Christians believe that we are made new in the waters of baptism and in the meal of bread and wine that we share every week.  Every week, we are invited to put away our old selves and put on Christ.  Doing this makes everything new for us, for we can begin to see the world in new ways.  We can begin to see that we are all connected, that we are all loved, that we are all part of God’s plan.

Just as Hope Lutheran Church began something new forty years ago, so we are made new in Christ. We can leave old ways behind and embrace a new way of love. When God opens up new things in the wilderness – we are part of that new creation, each and every one of us.

Creator God, you create us new in baptism and in the meal.  Help us to see the new creation in neighbor and stranger alike; help us to share the good news of the new creation with all we meet.  Amen.

Thursday, January 26

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. 

John 13:34-35

God is always making a new creation, and God has made us new in the new creation through water, wine, and bread. Now God has work for us to do: love one another.  It sounds so simple – almost cliché.  But love can be hard work.  Love is caring for our neighbor when it’s NOT easy, when we and they are NOT lovable, when we and they disagree, when we and they are different.  Love is more than a feeling; love is action: it’s putting our feet and our hands and our minds and our will to work.  Hope’s people have been called to this work of love, and this reminds me of a song from my youth, based on the verse above:

We will work with each other, we will work side by side

We will work with each other, we will work side by side

And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,

Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love!

Loving God, you have given us a new commandment – to love others as you love us. Be with us as we begin the hard work of loving each other and loving our neighbors – all of whom are beLOVEd children of God.  Amen.

Friday, January 27

“I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.”  Ezekiel 11:19

One of my favorite songs is “Here I am, Lord,” by Daniel L. Schutte, which alludes to this verse in Ezekiel:

I will break their hearts of stone

Give them hearts for love alone

I will speak my words to them,

Whom shall I send?

You see, WE are called to do this new thing for God.  WE are called to speak love to a world that believes hearts of stone are safer, stronger, and more powerful.  And the world is right.  When we give up our heart of stone for a heart of love, we become vulnerable.  We realize that we can rely only on the strength of God – our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.  But we are called to do this – to speak God’s words of love to the world.  Whom shall he send?  How will Hope respond?

Calling God, we having hearts of stone. We see only hearts of stone in others. Create in us new hearts–hearts of love–for the least and the lost, for the weak and the hungry, for all of your creation.  Amen.

Saturday, January 28

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.  The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  Lamentations 3:21-23

And another hymn many love: “Great is Thy Faithfulness” refers to this verse in Lamentations:

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided,

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Morning by morning, new mercies I see!  The hard work of loving God’s imperfect creation can be exhausting, and we can feel discouraged. The people of Hope certainly suffered setbacks as they started a “new thing” in the Lord. But God is gracious; God gives us a new creation each morning of our lives – a new chance to see and feel God’s love and compassion so that we can share that love and compassion with others.  God doesn’t forget; God’s faithfulness is sure!

Faithful God, you never forget us. Each morning, we rise anew to a new creation. Give us and Hope new purpose as we face each new day. Amen.

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