Sat, March 18th

By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum

Psalm 121

Reflection—v.3, He who keeps you will not slumber.

When reading this psalm, I cannot help but to think of the harsh conditions of the outdoors. Have you ever sat out in the sun too long without shade or enough sun-block, knowing your skin is burning and your body temperature is rising? Have you ever shivered as the wind whipped you and cold rain drops landed on your face, knowing that soon you will be shivering and chilled to the bone? Such feelings can capture the intensity of feeling unequipped, uncared for, and unsafe. Sometimes the only relief comes when you rush indoors with a deep sigh, trusting that you are now protected from the elements. However, many of us do not have the safety and comfort of such places of relief. Whether it is because they are fleeing unsafe conditions in far-off countries, or living on the streets within our very own neighborhoods, many of our brothers and sisters find it difficult to experience the relief of a safe night’s sleep indoors. But, as Christians, let us acknowledge that we have a God who wants that for us, and for all humans. Our God is one who would shield us from the harsh elements, and keep us while we slumber. Let us participate in this, God’s work, that all may feel such relief and protection.

Prayer God, you stay up while we sleep. You never slumber. May we do a better job of caring for one another, even as you so lovingly care for us all.

Fri, March 17th

By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum

Genesis 12:1-4a

Reflection—v. 2, …you will be a blessing

Sometimes we forget what all Abraham’s call entails. We get so caught up in what it means that Abraham is chosen, special, and called that we can forget what exactly Abraham is called to do. God tells Abraham that God is choosing him to ‘be a blessing’ so that ‘in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ If we are to think of our own call as Christians in this way, then we must accept the work that goes into being a blessing to others. We cannot ignore those seeking refuge in our country. We cannot ignore those living on the streets without access to showers, shelter, and healthcare. We cannot villainize and disassociate from those who may have voted differently from us. The work of being a blessing is a daunting task to anyone who may rather turn inward and put themselves first in the difficult times ahead, but that is not what our call entails. When God called Abraham to be a blessing, things did not suddenly get easy for him. It was a difficult journey, one in which he fell short, doubted, and messed up. Like Abraham, we are not called to be perfect, but in our beloved choseness we are called to the difficult work of being a blessing.

Prayer Everlasting God, guide us that we may be a blessing to all others, and instruct our hearts that we may do so in gracious and accepting love.

Thurs, March 16th

By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

Reflection—v. 13, not…through the law.

One of the things Paul emphasizes in his letter to the Romans is that God is not hung up about Christians maintaining the practices of Jewish law. While the law is not inherently bad, he admonishes Christians to be more concerned with faith in God than keeping the law. However, it can be quite easy to ignore Paul’s cautions and get caught up in a ‘right and wrong’ legalistic version of Christianity, even as we tell ourselves that God’s justice works differently than the ways of this world. We would rather have order and law than grace. Daily, we are forced to acknowledge that while some of us have housing, others do not, while some of us have the advantage of an education, others do not, while some of us live in comparatively safe and comfortable situations, others do not, and while some of us have the obvious advantages that privilege affords, others do not. It could be easy to say we deserve things like comfort, safety, housing, and refuge because we work hard, because we follow the rules, or because we’re American, but the nagging and unavoidable truth is that things aren’t that simple. Instead of getting hung up on the law or what we think we’re owed, let us practice grace.

Prayer God of truth and light, help us to see and acknowledge your truth, even and especially when we would rather ignore it.

Wed, March 15th

By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

Reflection—v.5, such faith is reckoned as righteousness

Paul loves talking about faith and righteousness: good Christian words that are used just often enough to have a vague ambiguity about what they mean for us. For even if we know that living faithfully and righteously is essential, Paul gives little constructive advice on how to do this in the real world. In the real world, we encounter many reasons to lose faith, as well as several factors that make it difficult to live righteously. When I think of the resources of showers, meals, and shelter lost to my brothers and sisters as ministries in our area close, I can start to lose faith that God will come through for our community. When I think of the power that the swipe of a pen can have in affecting the lives of countless people seeking refuge, education, or reuniting with family in our country, I can lose faith in the power of God to inspire change. But I do not believe that living faithfully or righteously is about never losing hope or not feeling overwhelmed by the state of affairs. I believe the faithfulness we are called to is the kind that, in the face of injustice and even hopelessness, stirs us to show up anyway because we believe that our God is a God of love and justice. Show up, even when it seems that hope is lost, and in doing so, practice faithfulness and righteousness.

Prayer Holy Spirit, stir our hearts that even in the most difficult of times we may have the strength and courage to ‘show up’ for your people and for justice.

Tues, March 14th

By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

Reflection—v. 1, Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh…

Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome contains the most detailed description of his theology about how there is space in the church for both Jewish and Gentile Christians. Jewish Christians, as their traditions prescribed, found following Jewish law to be of the upmost importance.  Newly converted Gentile Christians found this aspect of belief in Christ to be non-essential. For the Christian community, it was a highly-polarized time. Each group looked to the other and spitefully thought to themselves that only they were practicing Christianity as it should be practiced. In his letter, Paul calls upon the example of Abraham, the facilitator of God’s law to the Jewish people, to remind everyone that at one time even he did not have the law, but was called upon by God for his faithfulness. In our own polarizing times, when it is easy to judge others—for who they voted for, where they are from, whether or not they work or can afford insurance, or whether or not they are practicing Christianity by our own set of standards—let us instead be called together. After all, in our humanity we truly do have something in common.

Prayer God of our ancestors, gather us together that we may find common ground in the humanness of one another, and treat one another accordingly.

Mon, March 13th

By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum

John 3:1-17

Reflection—v. 8, you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from.

After participating in the Women’s March in Atlanta, what Jesus says about the power and work of the spirit struck me in a new way. Jesus says that those born of the spirit are like the wind. You cannot see it, and you don’t know where it’s coming from or where it’s going, but you can hear it. I would add that you can feel it. Before the march, I had been feeling pretty hopeless about a lot of situations. From my perspective, it seemed that the hearts of those living within our country no longer cared about the marginalized, the immigrants, those living on the streets, women, Muslims… I began to feel small, inconsequential, and insufficient for change. Even as I knew it was not true, I began to feel alone in my convictions. Upon arriving at the march that day I realized I was surrounded by hopeful, eager, and inspired people. Where did they all come from? How were there so many of us who cared about these issues? I did not know how it all came together or why as individuals so many people joined together that day in one hopeful voice, but I could hear it, and I could feel it, and I knew that the Spirit was at work.

Prayer God of new birth and new hope, help us to live as those born of the spirit.

Sun, March 12th

By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum

John 3:1-17

Reflection—v.16, for God so loved the world.

In his clandestine meeting with Nicodemus, Jesus says a lot of really confusing things. He uses a lot of metaphors and descriptions of water and spirit and being born from john-magee-danteabove. It’s a bit perplexing (don’t worry; Nicodemus struggled with it, too). But the one bold, unconfounding message of this dialogue is when Jesus asserts that God did not send him to condemn, but in fact sent him because God loved the world so much. Maybe it is both the simplicity and incredible reassurance of this statement that makes it such a popular verse. But if God loving the world is so easy to comprehend, why then do we find it so difficult to live this way? We do not act like we believe God loves the world. Sometimes we act like God loves America, but the world? Not so much. Other times we can trust that God loves Christians, but the Muslim world? They’re definitely out. Sometimes we can even decide that God loves our political party, but those other people? How could God? It’s simple. God so loved the world. The whole world. In those moments when we’re feeling confused like Nicodemus, and we’re not sure how to be a Christian in the midst of everything we experience, remember that this part is simple: God loves the world, do the same.

Prayer God, thank you for loving us beyond our comprehension. Continue to remind us that you love us, that we are loved, and that we are called to love one another.

Christmas Vigil —Sat, Dec 24th

By: Brittany Fiscus

Romans 1.1-7

Reflection—v. 7, ‘called to be saints’

Paul writes to the Romans as ‘God’s beloved, who are called to be saints’ as if all are called to img_20161023_143609sainthood. When we hear the word ‘saint,’ it’s easy to think of the awe-inspiring and maybe a bit intimidating goodness of St. Teresa of Calcutta or even St. Paul, who writes this letter. Who could be expected to live up to those standards? But stepping into the basement room where our Mercy community meets, one sees a host of different, less-familiar saints who are probably more similar to the ‘saints’ Paul writes in Rome. Hanging from the kitchen ceiling of Mercy’s rented space are prayer flags honoring members of the community who have passed: many of whom died on the streets. These prayer flags honoring saints in our own community serve as a reminder that sainthood is in fact something we are all called to. Beloved, you are all called to welcome Christ into a broken world: be empowered to do the hard work of sainthood.

Prayer God, empower us to be unafraid and unashamed.

Fri, Dec 23rd

By: Brittany Fiscus

Romans 1.1-7

Reflection—v. 5, ‘Jesus Christ… through whom we have received grace and apostleship’

We find hope in the fact that Jesus is coming to bring healing grace to our broken world—but what about the call to action that accompanies this grace? Paul reminds us that the grace Jesus brings into our world inspires our participation in it. Though we wait for the grace that only Christ brings, we cannot sit idly by. As those of us struggling with mental health are ignored on the streets, and as those of us who weren’t born in this country, or do not speak English, are told we are not welcome here, and as those of us with black skin live in constant fear of being targeted or murdered because of the color of our skin, we are not merely called to wait and hope for grace, but are charged with the work of spreading a ‘good news’ that is better than our sad state of affairs. We are empowered to point to something beyond the systems of this world, where grace looks like finding value in all human beings.

Prayer God of grace, may we be ready to respond to your grace with action.

Thurs, Dec 22nd

Romans 1.1-7

Reflection—v. 5, ‘to bring about the obedience of faith‘

Phrases like this can make Christians squirm. Wrapped up in the word ‘obedience’ are all the negative connotations of ‘Christian guilt.’ Don’t tell us we have to come to church on Sundays, or volunteer, or be on a committee to be a good Christian. We want living the gospel to be ‘choose your own adventure’ style, where we determine how much commitment it is. But here we have Paul in his letter to the Romans blatantly, and almost embarrassingly, stating that his purpose for writing is to bring people to the ‘obedience of faith.’ But what if obedience was not associated with the training classes you take your dog to? What if obedience did not sound like Sunday morning guilt, but instead had more to do with admitting that we live in a world full of broken systems and addictions and ache for the humility to submit to God’s help and our need? In this season of anticipatory waiting, may we all have the humility to respond to God’s invitation to the obedience that brings hope and healing.

Prayer God, give us sustaining, guiding obedience to the faithfulness of Christ.