Tuesday, January 31
“Your word is a lamp unto my feet,
and a light unto my path.”
Have you ever been camping—tent camping in a remote area? If so, you might know what it’s like to walk in the woods or over unfamiliar terrain in the dark. You can’t see anything, so obstacles loom up without warning. You stumble over rocks and roots; every hoot and every creak terrify you. It’s easy to trip, to hurt yourself, to end up flat on your face.
A flashlight or a lantern changes everything. But here’s the thing about a flashlight—its light does not go very far out in front, and outside of the flashlight, everything seems darker. But within the circle of that light, we feel safe because we can see where we are and that helps us know where we are going.
This is what God’s word is like. God’s word, including the prophecy, is not meant to tell the future in some magical way. It’s meant to shine a light so we can see where we are—right here, right now. We may not know exactly what the future holds (because, in fact, God gives the world freedom, so what is going to happen IS unknown), but we know where we are, who we are, and whose we are, because God and God’s light – the word – are always with us.
These are important words for Hope to remember as we step out into the next 40 years—we may not always see where God is leading us, but God WILL be with us always..
Lord, we’re not always sure where we are going or where you are leading. Help us to realize that you are always with us and always with Hope no matter what turns we may take. Amen.
Wednesday, February 1
“Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the LORD your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.”
The people of Hope might have felt a bit forsaken 40 years ago. Why didn’t the congregational vote go the way they had hoped? Why hadn’t God changed the outcome? Why?
But the founders of our church had a strong faith and a strong conviction that following God was not always easy and that answers were not always immediately apparent. They trusted that it was the LORD who was with them, and that God would never “fail or forsake” them. Just like the children of Israel, they were wandering in a sort of wilderness, but they trusted God to provide—and God did!
This experience is a powerful witness that God is always with us, speaking to us, supporting us, loving us. We may feel forsaken at times, but if we look around and pay attention, we will begin to see signs of God’s loving-kindness and providence everywhere.
Lord, when times are hard, it is so easy to lose faith that you are with us. Help us to trust in you as the founders of Hope did , believing that you will never fail or forsake us. Amen.
Thursday, February 2
“You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and with great terror; and you gave them this land, which you swore to their ancestors to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
In popular culture, February 2 is called Groundhog Day, and we celebrate with some silly rituals that actually have some history behind them. February 2 is an important day in the historical church calendar—it’s known in some places as Candlemas, because it was the day in English churches when the beeswax candles for the next year were blessed. But the day’s importance goes back to pagan times—it’s a quarter day, meaning that it is roughly halfway between the Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year) and the Spring Equinox (when day and night are of equal length.) The Quarter Days were important pagan celebrations, and the Christian Church wisely took those days and recast them into Christian terms. It’s about this time at our latitude that we start to notice that the days are getting a little longer, that the birds are starting to sing, that groundhogs are peeking their heads up out of the ground. It’s about this time that we begin to feel in our bones that maybe the light and warmth of spring really will come once again.
We celebrate leaving the wilderness of winter for the milk and honey of spring, and just like the founders of Hope, we remember how God led God’s people Israel to a land of milk and honey. Pastor Vic and the first Hope members trusted in God to lead them to this land, even though the way forward was not always clear. They trusted in the promises of God to God’s people, and if we look around us, we see that God is good—God’s given us a beautiful church with beautiful people and a true purpose in the world.
Lord, we thank you for leading us out of the wilderness into the promised land again and again and again. Amen.
Friday, February 3
“Commit your work to the Lord,
and your plans will be established.”
“The human mind plans the way,
but the LORD directs the steps.”
The founders of Hope made many, many plans as they began the daunting process of starting a new congregation. We are fortunate that we had people of skill and foresight and perseverance. But at every step of the way, they committed their plans to God, and asked God for God’s help and strength. They planned the way, but they trusted God to direct their steps at every turn.
As we move forward into a new venture with Shepherd’s Way Lutheran Church in South Lyon, let us remember this example: using our minds to plan our steps but trusting God to guide us as we go.
Gracious God, we lean on you, knowing that our plans are nothing without your guidance. Be with us as we step forward into new paths for your name’s sake. Amen.
Saturday, February 4
“O most high, when I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God whose word I praise,
In God I trust; I am not afraid;
What can flesh do to me?”
The superscription for this psalm tell us that it is associated with a time when David was captured by the Philistines. Like David, there are many times in our lives when we feel fear, and we know that Hope’s founders must have been afraid on numerous occasions. What if they couldn’t find a property? How were they going to pay Pastor Vic’s salary? What if they went into too much debt?
Our fears, uncomfortable as they are, are often good for us—they remind us of what is important, and help us watch out for dangers. But no matter what, the people of Hope knew that God was with them. Whatever happened, they put their trust in God and knew that the uncertainties of this world (the “flesh” in the psalm above) were nothing compared to God’s loving-kindness and faithfulness and commitment.
Dear God, help us to remember this psalm when we are afraid—help us to put our trust in you when we doubt. For you are with us always and your promises are sure. Amen.
Sunday, February 5
“The LORD is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts;
so I am helped, and my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.”
God lights our way, God supports us as we go, God leads us with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Another metaphor the psalmists used was of God as a shield, protecting us from “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” Who knows what hardships we and Hope have avoided because God has protected us? We don’t need to know—we simply need to trust that God gives us strength, God is with us, and God gives us reason to trust. Alleluia!
Be with us God in all we undertake and in everything we face, for you are our strength and shield forever. Amen.