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Cheryl Davis
Are You Ready to be a Shepherd?
2015.05.28 04:15:01

December 21, 2014


How many more days until Christmas? The kids know, and so do the adults. The kids are counting down the days in anticipation, and the parents are counting down their lists, checking off the things that are done and stressing over the things that aren’t. The excitement ramps up in the elementary classrooms, and the tension builds up in church offices where personnel are trying to keep all of the bulletins straight for the many Advent and Christmas services.

 

It’s truly a time of both expectation and preparation…and also exhaustion and frustration. So much is expected of us! We’re supposed to honor traditions and shop to find perfect gifts. We cook and bake, remember all of our friends with cards and letters, decorate the house and yard, go to parties, go to church, and at the same time, we try to express joy while cramming all of this into our already-crowded schedules.

 

Wouldn’t it be nice to be a shepherd instead? Shut your eyes and imagine it. You’re outside at night in the quiet, watching over animals that you know by name. While they sleep, you listen to the sounds of the night and count the stars. It’s incredibly peaceful. You look into the sky, wondering what lies beyond it, wondering if you’ll ever know.

 

And then, everything explodes into brightness, and the sky becomes as light as day. A heavenly creature and the glory of God surround you. You are seized with fear right before you are seized with wonder. Then the entire sky is filled with heavenly angels. They are singing about glory and peace. You have never seen or heard anything so beautiful. You can’t move. You can’t believe it’s real. You can’t wait to follow their instructions and go into Bethlehem to visit the Christ child who has been born to save you from your sins.

 

You and the other shepherds go quickly. You find the new parents, and you find the baby Jesus. You fall on your knees and worship. You can’t think of anything else to say or do. The Savior, the long-awaited Messiah, has been born. And you’ve been invited to his birthplace by heaven itself. Nothing will ever be the same again.

 

Are you ready to be a shepherd? To hurry to the manger with awe and wonder? Are you ready to find the Christ Child? If you are, you’ll discover that everything else slips into its rightful place when you fall on your knees and worship him.

 

Kneeling beside you there,

Vicar Cheryl Davis



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Cheryl Davis
Old Saints and the Goodness of God
2015.05.28 04:08:59

November 30, 2014


Old saints. Contrary to medieval art, they don’t have glowing halos hovering above their heads. They don’t wear long robes. They aren’t in a constant prayer posture; in fact, they’re often bent over a bit. They walk with canes and walkers and ride in wheelchairs. They struggle to see and hear. They often depend on other people to help them through each day.


You wouldn’t know they’re saints just to listen to them because they don’t spout religiosity. But when someone says to them, “We serve a good God, don’t we?” they light up and reply, “Oh, we sure do. We sure do.” As their physical abilities fail, their spiritual certainties kick into high gear. And so does their gratitude.


“We are so grateful for all God has given us,” they say, reflecting on the past and looking into their future in heaven with Jesus and the saints who’ve gone before. They wait with expectation for what lies ahead.


This mindset—“heart-set”—didn’t happen overnight. They were children once, and their faith was probably young and fragile. Their lives did not unfold perfectly. Many experienced extreme hardship and tremendous loss. But through it all they discovered that Jesus kept his promise: he never left them or forsook them, and now they rest in the knowledge that he never will.


Old saints show us how God works. God starts as small as a seed within the cold earth or a tiny baby within a woman. He grows that beginning into something beautiful. He uses the hardships of life to create strength and endurance. And as the end nears, he brings the beauty of faith to full-bloom.


Advent begins today: we wait anew for God to fulfill God’s plans. The old saints among us have learned to wait with confidence. They know that God is good.


Vicar Cheryl Davis

 

 

 

 

 



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Cheryl Davis
Our Weakness, God's Strength
2015.05.28 04:06:29

 November 23, 2014


“I use my morning drive to the health club to talk to God,” she said. “The morning of the first snowfall, I prayed that I would have patience with the way everyone would be driving because of the snow. Well, my trip there was fine, but on the way back, my patience was tried to the limit.”


Isn’t that just like God? We pray for something, and then he gives us a chance to put his strength to work. We pray for patience, and we discover that we don’t have any on our own: we have to rely on him. We pray for more faith, and a situation occurs that brings doubt and questioning. We have to ask God for clarity and strength. When we look back, we realize that our faith grew amidst the difficulty.


Today is the last Sunday of the church year. We call it “Christ the King Sunday.” We are reminded that Christ is glorious and powerful. We are also reminded that Christ comes to us in the weakness of others: the naked, the hungry, the imprisoned and the unlovely.

Christ even comes to us in our own weakness and ugliness. When we have lost our temper with our loved ones, when we have behaved with childlike impudence, when we have doubted God’s provision and neglected the needs of others…well, Christ still comes to us and offers us himself.


“Here I am,” he says. “Take my body and my blood. Receive my forgiveness. Receive my strength, patience, faith, and compassion. And after you’ve received me, you’ll be able to give me to others.”


Receiving Christ with all of you,

Vicar Cheryl Davis

 



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Cheryl Davis
Sparrows and Still Points
2015.05.28 04:04:17

November 16, 2014

Encouragement came in an envelope this week: a thoughtfully written note tucked within a beautiful card. Sunflowers and a sparrow adorned the front of the card, and their images jettisoned me back to one of the “still points” in my life.


It was at least 25 years ago. My kids were teenagers, and I was on overload. The clothes dryer had died, so I’d lugged the wet clothes to the laundromat at 6:00 am to get the job done before the day crashed in on me.


I sat in my car while the clothes were drying, opened the windows to the early morning breeze and tried to have devotions. I couldn’t focus. When was life going to get easier? When would I be able to relax? When could I let go of the anxiety associated with each and every day?


Just then a sparrow landed on the fence in front of my car. It was so close that I could see the amazing detail in its feathers. It hopped around there long enough for the Holy Spirit to speak gentle thoughts to my heart:


“Do you see that sparrow, Cheryl? It’s one of the most common,  non-extraordinary birds I’ve created, but look at it. Just look at it! It’s amazing in its detail and capabilities. Not one feather is out of place. It’s perfectly suited to its environment. Truly, it’s an unsung wonder.


Now, my dear, if I can create something like this—and someone like you—don’t you think that I’m wise enough and strong enough to bring calm to your heart and get you through this day?”


I observed the bird a while longer. Peace settled in. The Creator of the sparrow had spoken to my deepest need. God was still in control of the big picture as well as the details. He still knew what was best for all creation, and that included what was best for me. I could enter my day trusting him…and so can you.


Confident of this,

Vicar Cheryl Davis



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Cheryl Davis
Waiting
2015.05.28 04:00:47

November 9, 2014

I write these columns early in the morning. In the summer, the breeze wafts through the windows, the sun shines on my efforts, and the birds sing along. The beauty of nature soaks into my being as I sip my coffee.   The words flow easily.


It’s different today. This morning it’s pitch black outside. There are raindrops on the windows. The furnace is pumping out heat. I’ve got my warm slippers and sweatshirt on. Things have changed. We’re in a new season. It’s November.


I think of November as the “time before”—a waiting time that seems empty. Yes, Thanksgiving and deer hunting come at the end of the month, but before that we face increasing darkness, the leafless trees, the first snowfalls, and the realization that a winter of unknown proportions is right around the corner. We hunker down, change our mindset, start to complain, and try to predict the severity of what’s to come. We toughen up on the inside. And we wait.


Some say that waiting is the toughest of all spiritual disciplines. Waiting tries our souls: we wonder when and how God will answer our prayers. Perhaps we wonder if he has heard us at all. Sometimes we cry out, “O Lord, how long?” But within that “November” time, God’s Spirit draws near to remind us that God is good and has our best interests at heart.


And so, we can wait with expectation, hope and courage. We can expect God to act. God will make things clear. We will know what to do when the time is right. God will answer our prayers in the best ways possible. We will again be amazed by God’s marvelous goodness.

 

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” Psalm 27:14.

 

Waiting, expecting, hoping,

 

 Vicar Cheryl Davis



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Cheryl Davis
Waiting for that Day
2015.05.28 03:58:14

November 2, 2014

For some reason, I remember that the sun was shining and the birds were singing that morning—a strange memory to hold onto for 53 years, except for the fact that it was my first experience with death.

 

I was seven years old and already a creature of habit: I awoke and looked for Mom. She was in the kitchen preparing breakfast. That was normal. But this morning she was crying. That was not normal. She stopped what she was doing to tell me that Melody’s mom had died.

 

Melody was one of my best friends. Her father was a pastor in our small town. Melody’s mom had been sick a long time with something they called cancer. No one talked much about cancer back then, so I don’t think I realized that her mom was going to die from it.

 

I went to one of my favorite spots in the house and thought about it. There was a window in that room that was translucent. The sunshine came in, but I couldn’t see out. Because of that, my hearing sharpened to what was outside, and that’s when I heard the birds singing. I remember thinking how strange it was that my mom could cry and the birds could sing at the same time. Even at my young age, it didn’t seem right that death and beauty were so closely entwined.

 

Today is All Saints Day, and we feel that same incongruity. With love and tears we remember those who have left this world to join the Church Triumphant in the next life. We miss them so much! At the same time, we know that now they are full of life and love and peace, and we can’t wish them back.

 

And so, we “see through the glass darkly,” as St. Paul said. And we wait. We wait for our grief to pass. We wait for our lives to feel normal again. We wait for the day when we, too, will enter the Church Triumphant and will once again see our loved ones face to face.

 

God’s peace to you,

Vicar Cheryl Davis




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Cheryl Davis
"JeSUS!"
2015.05.28 03:55:34


October 19, 2014

The envelope came in the mail on Wednesday. I hastily ripped it open with grandma-style urgency and pulled out the pictures. There he was: two-year-old Henry, blonde and blue-eyed with a beautiful smile on his face. His hands were plunged into his little jean pockets, and he looked like a miniature teenager. My heart melted.

 

Henry and his parents—along with nine of his cousins, two aunts, two uncles and two grandparents—lived for a week this past summer as one family in a large house on a lake. On the second day of our stay, his mom threw a big party for his dad who had just completed his surgical residency in Boston.

 

The house and porch were filled with people. Henry must have felt lost in the forest of legs. He couldn’t find his mom, but he didn’t dissolve into tears. Instead, he called out “MaMA!” accenting the second syllable. His mother would run to him and pick him up, or another caring adult would rescue him from the leg forest and transfer him to his mother or father’s arms.

 

We laughed about Henry’s “French accent” and his repeated cries, but now I realize that he was smarter than a lot of us adults when we feel lost. We often scramble over several rocky paths in our own particular forests. We get frustrated and anxious, lose sleep, kick the dog, and crab at those we love the most. We furrow our brows, sigh deeply, eat or drink too much, and complain. Sometimes we shut down or move into despair.

 

But all we really need to do is call out, “Jesus!” Whether we use a French, Spanish, or Wisconsin accent, Jesus is tuned in to our cries. He responds at once. He picks us up and carries us out of our dark, confusing forests and into the safety of his light.

 

Praising God for this,

Vicar Cheryl Davis



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Cheryl Davis
It Had to Be You
2015.05.28 03:52:23

I’m the crazy lady in the greeting card aisle. You know what I mean: the person who tries out every card that makes music or noise. I laugh as I reach for one card after another.   It may seem to onlookers that I have nothing better to do, but that’s absolutely untrue. I never have time to do this, but once I start, I can’t stop.

 

I had a great time in the card aisle in August right before our tenth wedding anniversary. The card I loved the most had a “pull me” ribbon on the right side. As I pulled the ribbon, the card stretched into an elongated tropical beach, and Frank Sinatra started to sing “It had to be you, it had to be you...”

 

I wanted to buy it for Horace but decided that it was too expensive; I’d tell him about it instead. But I didn’t need to tell him because the card he gave me had a “pull me” ribbon on the right side. It turned into an elongated tropical beach, and Frank Sinatra started to sing. We laughed about it for awhile and then put it on the fireplace mantel.

 

For days it sat there, a gentle reminder of our déjà vu. And then one morning at 7:01 when I was spending quiet time with the Lord, Frank Sinatra started up: It had to be you… He jolted me out of my reverie. I chuckled because I suspected it was God’s humorous way of reassuring me that he had chosen me to be his own.

 

Since then, the card sings to me almost every morning when I’m having my quiet time. It always surprises me. It always splashes the refreshing water of love over me. It always reminds me that God comes to each of us in the most unexpected ways at the most unexpected moments just to remind us that he has intentionally claimed us as his very own.

 

Joyfully,

Vicar Cheryl Davis

 

 



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Cheryl Davis
Reflections and Remembering
2015.05.28 03:44:31

September 17, 2014


Joyful thoughts have been on my mind this week as I’ve reveled in the burgeoning beauty everywhere—the bright blue skies, balmy air, brilliant trees, golden corn fields and country landscapes that take my breath away.


But there have been other thoughts, too. This fall is just like the fall when my mom died.   The air smells the same, and the sun feels the same on my skin. It transports me back to those days in September 1986 when Mom fought her last battle on earth and entered into the glorious, joyful presence of God.


Mom had brain cancer and was in a coma her last few days. We sat vigil by her bedside. Her favorite hymns were playing. They unlocked our tears and turned us toward God. They reminded us that God was with us in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.


For three days the wind howled. Thunder and lightning split the skies, and the rain pounded the roof. In the middle of the third night, Mom breathed her last breath and the rain stopped. The next morning the sun shone in all its brilliance. The air was clean and new. The sky was sapphire blue, and the leaves of the trees had somehow survived the storm and were resplendent in shades of gold and orange.


My three little children and I walked down to the lake. We talked about Grandma and heaven. When we sat down to eat lunch, my nine-year-old daughter said, “I wonder what Grandma’s having for lunch today.” We laughed and made some wild guesses and felt the comforting arms of God around us. Twenty-eight years later I am still warmed by this memory.


These are my thoughts this autumn. I wanted to share them with you.


Reflectively,

Vicar Cheryl



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Cheryl Davis
Precious Jewels
2015.05.28 01:44:47

We finally hit it off. I’m not sure why it didn’t happen sooner, except, perhaps, that Horace bonded with her first. She chose him early on and would run right past me to be swooped up in his arms. They’d play games and drink tea together. She even wore a T-shirt that read, “Grandpa’s girl.” If I showed up without him, she’d want to know why and then walk away in disappointment. However, during my last stay with my son’s family, Thea and I finally became friends.

 

It happened like this. I leaned over to kiss her goodnight. As I brushed the hair out of her eyes, I said, “You’re a jewel.”

 

“What’s a jewel?”

 

“It’s something beautiful. It’s a treasure. It sparkles. It’s usually worth a lot like the diamonds in wedding rings. If you’re a jewel, you’re precious.”

 

“What’s precious?”

 

“Precious is something very dear. Something that’s loved a lot. Something that we hold close. If I tell you you’re precious, it means that I love you. It means you’re important to me, and you always will be.” I paused and then said, “You’re a jewel, Thea, and you’re precious.”

 

She smiled and was quiet for a few seconds. Then she said, “Guess what, Grandma? You’re a jewel. That means you’re precious.” I was surprised and warmed by her response. We grinned at each other and bonded for life.

 

It feels great to know you’re precious to someone. My conversation with Thea reminded me of God’s words to God’s people through the prophet Isaiah:

 

“For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you (Isaiah 43:3-4).


The Hebrew word that is translated as “precious” also means, “to be valued, rare, esteemed, honored.” Wow! Can you get your mind around that? Can you believe that God is saying it to you? It’s true! Allow it to permeate all the nooks and crannies of your heart. Maybe you’ll find yourself responding to God as Thea responded to me. When you do, you’ll realize that you are lovingly bonded to the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…..forever.

 

Savoring this truth,

Vicar Cheryl



Tags: Jewel | Isaiah 43:3-4. Thea

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Cheryl Davis
The Mark of a Christian in a Broken World
2015.05.21 01:39:37

The Trestle Trail shootings have brought me back to one of the most important reasons I’m a Christian. It’s expressed clearly by Elton Trueblood: “For the Christian, there’s something deeper than the tears.”


That “something deeper” holds us steady when all of life is spinning out of control. It gives us hope when we have every reason to despair. It keeps its promise when every human promise has been broken. It lifts our head when we have no strength to lift it on our own. It looks tragedy and broken dreams in the face and says to them, “You are not the winner. Just wait. God will bring something good out of this yet.” (Romans 8:28)


Today is Pentecost Sunday. Today we remember that the Holy Spirit was sent by the Father and the Son to the believers in Jerusalem who could not imagine what would happen next. Jesus had recently returned to his Father. He’d said that they would not be orphans; he would send them another Counselor to be with them forever.


The Spirit-Counselor would go deeply into their beings and live with them there. It would light a fire in their hearts. It would hold them steady when life was not steady. It would give them hope when they could not hope on their own. The Spirit would give them direction, comfort them in grief, and give them holy joy in the darkest nights.


And so they waited…for something deeper than their sense of loss at Jesus’ departure, for something deeper than their fear and uncertainty. And the Spirit came—in a rush of wind and fire--and made them new. It gave them the power to live out Jesus’ commands and to spread his gospel to the ends of the earth. It gave them the power to live in unity with one another. It gave them power to remain strong in the faith.


That same Spirit empowers us today, no matter the circumstance, no matter the pain of life in a broken world. Even when our pain goes all the way to the depths of our being, the Holy Spirit goes deeper. The Spirit enables us to hope in God’s faithfulness even when the world expects us to despair.


This is the mark of a Christian in our world today. Thanks be to God.


Vicar Cheryl



Tags: Pentecost | Hope | Romans 8:28

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Cheryl Davis
The Crow Revisited
2015.05.21 01:34:16

Last week I wrote to you about the crow that had taken over our backyard. I likened it to evil because it had scared away the wildlife that brought goodness and joy into our lives. If you remember, I told you that Horace had smacked a couple boards together and scared the crow away. At the time of my writing, the crow had not come back and our yard was once again teeming with songbirds, squirrels, and a rabbit or two.

 

Well, the crow came back. But since we’d evicted it once, we were determined to keep it away forever. So now, every time we see it floating over our yard or resting on the neighbor’s fence, we rush into the yard with boards and start beating them against each other. It flies away for a couple more days. We’ve realized that we have to be vigilant. Perhaps if we’re consistent, the crow will get the message and never come back.

 

This has been a powerful illustration to me of the Bible verse from 1 Peter 5:8: “Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.” How might victory over this kind of evil play out in our everyday lives?

 

Well, let’s say that you’ve got a habit that really brings you or others down. For instance, you judge others and want them to live up to your expectations. You decide to evict this “crow” from your life, and so you ask the Holy Spirit to give you the power to do so. You have a day of freedom….and then, you find yourself face to face with your own personal “crow” again. This is not the time to give up or give in. It’s time to call on the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to choose different behavior as often as is necessary.

 

Be disciplined. Be alert. Beat the boards together. They will sound the triumph to evil: “Jesus died and rose again so that we can be free from sin and death. Jesus gives us the freedom to be free. We live in step with the Spirit and not with evil. Hallelujah and Amen!”

 

Fighting the “crows” with you,

 

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: 1 Peter 5:8 | Evil | crow

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Cheryl Davis
We Can Cling to This Truth
2015.05.07 04:58:46

The crow is gone. It wasn’t as hard to get rid of it as we’d thought it would be. Following the advice of a stranger, Horace took two cutting boards from the kitchen into the backyard. He smacked them together good and loud. The crow flew away and hasn’t come back.


But wait, let me explain. This spring a glistening crow decided to take over our yard. Each morning we’d look out the window to see the big, black bird dominating our lovely space that had been teeming with life before. Now, all of the songbirds and animals had disappeared—except for the squirrels. They remained, but only navigated along the fences so that they could make quick escapes. The crow’s presence had taken out what was good, leaving fear in its place.


The crow reminds me of evil. Evil never promotes life or wellbeing. It replaces joy and trust with fear. Habits and addictions form that are almost impossible to overcome. Misunderstandings occur and fester. Relationships fracture. Violence explodes. Hope slips away. Isolation results.


This week in the Fox Valley we have seen evil up close. We have experienced it in “full bloom,” and we are shocked and in grief. How could this have happened here in our beautiful backyard?


The more important question is how will we—as believers in Christ—continue to live as people of the resurrection when evil threatens to extinguish our hope?


First of all, we will stand firm in the knowledge that the crow does not have the last word, and neither does sin. Jesus triumphs. His death and resurrection pronounce the resounding clap of thunder against the devastation of evil.


In the midst of all that is wrong, Jesus gives us the power to hold to all that is right. In the midst of his crucifixion, Jesus cried, “Father, forgive them!” And in the quiet of Easter morning, Jesus spoke with love to the heartbroken Mary Magdalene. He was making everything new then, and he still is. He will make all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28). Life will flourish again.


We can cling to this truth.


Vicar Cheryl



Tags: Trust | crow | violence | Evil

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Cheryl Davis
Faith Stepping
2015.04.30 00:24:57

Sometimes we have a pretty good idea where we’ll be a year from now, but sometimes, we have no idea at all. Right now, my husband and I are at the “no idea at all” place. We hope that I will have received and accepted a call to a parish, but we simply don’t know if that will happen and if it does, where it will be and how it will play out.


So the poem I wrote over a year ago is helpful to us now, and perhaps it can be helpful to you, too—as individuals and as a church body. As Christians, we are anchored in the trustworthy character of the One-who-Promises. We are on a sure path—even when uncertainty is all around us.


Stepping into nowhere

My foot over the edge of a cliff

 

“Do not fear”

“All is well”

“I will never leave you or forsake you”

“I know the future; it is good”

 

Well, then

 

There is no cliff

There is no step into nowhere

 

There is only

A step of strong assurance

A step into the Promise of God

 

This is good news! This is our assurance as we navigate every day of our lives within the care of our good and loving Father.

 

Faith-stepping with you,

 

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: faith | Trust | future

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Cheryl Davis
Yours is the Kingdom of God
2015.04.30 00:22:15

Enough.


Have you ever thought about the stress we experience when we don’t have enough of something? Many people in the prime of life would say that they don’t have enough time or money.   When they get older, they may have enough time and money but not enough health or companionship to enjoy it.


Throughout our days we may long for rest, better communication with those we love, more patience and wisdom, more security, more self-confidence, enjoyable employment, time alone or not alone, stronger friendships, healing for emotional pain, the touch of God on our spirits. The list goes on. If we’re honest, we all have to admit that there’s something lacking in our lives, and it may be something that we deeply need.


That’s a good thing. As Luther said at his death, “We are beggars, every one.” We come to God in need. We need his forgiveness and grace. We need his abundance. We need to know that those who mourn will be comforted, and those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled. We need God to remind us that his grace is sufficient for us; that he will meet all of our needs according to his riches in glory; that we can turn to him and he will heal our souls.


We need to be reminded that there is always enough in the risen Christ. There really is. So rejoice and be glad—at work, at home, at rest. Yours is the Kingdom of God!


Grateful for this,


Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Enough | sufficient | abundance

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Cheryl Davis
Resurrection Power
2015.04.30 00:19:36

Our voices were barely audible as we started to slowly sing the first verse:

 

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus, my Savior.

Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord.

 

Everything exploded when we hit the chorus. The pianist picked up the tempo and started to pound it out. We all stood taller, breathed from our diaphragms and sang with gusto:

 

Up from the grave He arose with a mighty triumph o’er his foes!

He arose the victor from the dark domain,

and He lives forever with his saints to reign.

He arose! He arose! Hallelujah, Christ arose!

 

The little church reverberated with joyous sound, and I suspect the rafters lifted an inch or two. It was Easter. It was the day to be loud in church.

 

I’ve always imagined that Jesus’ resurrection was a noisy affair—probably because of this song. But could it be that the resurrection was peaceful? Resurrection in nature is quiet. A seed dies in the ground before the new life begins to grow from it. Quietly, without fanfare, the tiny shoot makes its way to the light. New life. No noise.

 

What was it like for Jesus?   What happened when his broken, dead body was replaced with a resurrected, glorified one? Did he burst from his burial wrappings like a super hero, or did the new life awaken him slowly in the quiet morning as new energy coursed through his being? Were tears of sheer joy flowing down his cheeks? Did he reach for the sky and shout, “Hallelujah!” or did he sit for a moment in quiet communion with his Father so that they could rejoice together?

 

We don’t know. But this we know for sure: we have been given the power that raised Christ from the dead (Philippians 3:10). That power doesn’t turn us into frantic, noisy Energizer bunnies. It doesn’t make us supernatural. We don’t burst from despair and despondency into ecstatic joy in a millisecond or two. Instead, new life courses through our beings little by little. In the quiet of an early morning we receive the joy of Christ and strength for the day. We are given the patience and love to care for our families even when we’re dead tired. We read Scripture and understand it for the first time. We have the strength to admit we’re wrong and the grace to apologize and ask for forgiveness. We are being made new. This is the power of the resurrection at work in me and at work in you. Hallelujah, Christ arose!

 

Rejoicing with you,

 

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Resurrection | Easter

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Cheryl Davis
That Nasty Five-Letter Word
2015.04.30 00:16:40

Guilt. Here, let me say it louder. GUILT! What’s the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear that word?

 

My first reaction is visceral: my stomach churns. I want to get away from the nasty feeling, but since it’s inside of me, it’s pretty hard to escape.

 

I first remember feeling guilty when I was about six or seven years old. Mom had placed the newly-baked cherry crisp dessert on the cupboard to cool. It was my favorite, and since she wasn’t in the room, I started to nibble around its edges. All around its edges. Yup, company dessert. I touched every edge I could touch.

 

Well, I didn’t feel guilty at that point, just satisfied. That is, until Mom asked me if I knew who had done the evil deed. I blamed my younger brother and sister. She reminded me that they weren’t home. I was busted. Also punished--as in a spanking and then a serious prayer to God to ask for forgiveness.

 

I lied to her one or two more times. Busted again. And again. I stopped lying. I hated the punishments, but mostly, I hated the guilt.

 

No matter how hard I’ve tried since then, I can’t get used to feeling guilty. Its power pushes me to confess and ask for forgiveness. I try to live honestly so that I don’t have to go through the whole process very often. Even so, it’s a relief every Sunday to confess at the beginning of the worship service and hear the words, “Your sins are forgiven through Jesus Christ.”

 

It’s Lent right now. We’re moving toward the day when we commemorate Christ’s death for our sins. Have you ever wondered what he experienced when all of our guilt and its resulting shame got dumped on him? He couldn’t escape either. He was nailed to a cross.

 

With renewed gratitude to Jesus,

 

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: guilt

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Cheryl Davis
This is "For YOU"
2015.04.29 22:30:30

“Do you ever get tired of saying that?” the acolyte asked me after we’d served communion. He was referring to the words, “The body of Christ given for you” and “The blood of Christ shed for you,” that I’d said to each person who’d received the bread and wine.

 

“No, I don’t,” I replied, shaking my head.

 

“You really have to say it a lot.”

 

“I know, but when I think about what those words mean…well, no, I never get tired of saying them.” And it’s true, I don’t.

 

But there’s more to the story. When I first started to attend a Lutheran church, the pastor explained the Lutheran understanding of Holy Communion to me. He said that the bread and wine are just ordinary physical elements, but when they are combined with the spoken promise of God, they become a means whereby Christ is present with us. Christ’s grace, strength, and forgiveness are freely given to us through the bread and wine, and in such a simple yet profound way, Christ gives us himself to be taken into ourselves.

 

This understanding brought deep peace and joy to my heart, and back then in the early 1980s, I felt the pull toward the ministry—partly because I wanted to share communion with others.

 

Now I serve communion every week, but it never gets tiring. That’s partly because of the words, “for you.”   People come forward for communion with a great deal going on in their hearts and minds. Some people are filled with joy and contentment, and others are struggling or in pain. Many are weary from the demands of their lives. Regardless of what’s happening in their lives, all come to the table just as they are—as both saints and sinners. And then…and then, Christ is present to them and for them. “The body of Christ given for you; the blood of Christ shed for you.”

 

Christ is making a covenant with you when you receive his body and blood. You are his, and he is yours. Truly, Christ is with you in real time, in real space, and in absolute truth. Thanks be to God!

 

We are so blessed,

 

Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Communion | Sacrament

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Cheryl Davis
What Would Happen?
2015.04.29 22:24:41

His big, brown eyes sparkled at me as he said, “All of you guys love me.”


“Can you tell me the names of everyone who loves you?”


He could. His mom and dad, grandmas and grandpas, brothers, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors. All of us guys. And yes, he’s right. We all love him. A lot.


I left that conversation with almost-three-year-old Levi with some deep thoughts running through my head. His open, childlike reception of our love and his bountiful joy exemplify a child who has not been hurt by life. There has always been love available and there has always been enough. He asks and receives, and he’s able to count on that. Jesus was talking about this kind of trust when he said in Matthew 18:3, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”


It’s harder for us adults to trust and to receive love like that, isn’t it? Most of us have been tossed around by life. We know what it’s like to have our trust betrayed. We’ve grown self-sufficient and competent as we’ve learned to function well within the systems of the world. That’s probably a good thing as far as our outward selves, but what about our spiritual selves? How do we get to the place where we look into the face of Jesus and those of our Christian brothers and sisters and say, “All of you guys love me”?


What would happen to us as individuals and as a Christian Body if we all believed we were loved that dearly? I wonder if we’d add little skips of joy into our walking the way Levi does.


Walking, skipping, sometimes tripping,


Vicar Cheryl Davis



Tags: Levi | Trust | Love

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Cheryl Davis
Longing for Fresh Starts
2015.04.29 22:21:42

“God is relentless for newness.” This short statement shouts at me from a commentary on Jeremiah. What does it mean and why has it captured my attention?


Right now I’m gazing out the back window. The lawn is white—dirty white, and everything that is exposed is brown—the bare branches, the dead foliage from perennials and the back fence. It’s not a pretty sight, and I’m tired of it. I need some color, some evidence of new life. Every day I look out there, remembering the vibrancy of green grass and leaves and the lush beauty of the flower beds. I understand what it means to be relentless for newness.


I wonder how God feels when he looks out his back window and views the world. In the time of Jeremiah, God’s view was pretty bleak. His people were either in exile or going into exile in Babylon. There was no immediate hope of restoration. God told them to settle into Babylon because they were going to be there for a long time. But even as God punished them for their obstinacy, disobedience, and arrogance, God was still envisioning a time when they would be allowed to return to Jerusalem. They would get to start over. They would be blessed with a new life.


This is a tremendous word of hope! No matter how colorless our lives have become or how impossible things may seem, God is planning a homecoming for us. There will be a second chance. There will be color again, freshness, springtime and joy.

  

So, wait with patience and hope with the firm belief that you can trust in God’s goodness. Learn from God during the waiting times. Believe in the resurrection when everything is brown and white and your world feels more like winter than spring. God is working, and God will do a new thing for you and those you love.


God is the God of fresh starts. God is relentless for newness.


Grateful for this,

Vicar Cheryl Davis




Tags: newness | regeneration | Spring

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