Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Scripture:  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Psalm 23:1

Matchless in beauty and form, the 23rd Psalm is probably the most quoted scripture in the Bible.  It touches the core of who we are as human beings and our need to be comforted and assured. 

This familiar Psalm has been on the lips of humanity, Christians and non-Christians alike for centuries as they faced life's challenges and walked through the darkest valleys of life and death.  Its soothing lyrics are rehearsed by gravesides of loved ones while we ponder “how will we go on from here?” 

My belief is that if we allowed our entire theology to be wrapped up in this one verse, "
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want", maybe that would enough. Maybe if we were somehow able to live it out day by day in profound and personal ways, that would be all we needed. 

Because you see, embedded in this theology is the assurance of a matchless God who looks out for us and tends to us.  This God protects us from harm and restores us when we are tired and battered by life.  Shepherd God is never far away but always listening, watching and making sure our needs are met.  When the enemy – the wolfs and the bears of the world come after us they can only come so close because the Shepherd stands guard and is able to fight them off. 

The Shepherd is mine and I am his and because of that claim, I can settle down some.  I can let go of my grip.  I can release my fears and worries.  I can focus on the important things of life trusting that the Shepherd provides everything.  Imagine that…imagine that! 

PrayerLord, you are my Shepherd and I shall not want.  Amen. 

The Reverend Dr. Cathy Gilliard

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012


Scripture:  And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.  Mark 6:56

Nearly 20 years ago as I was beginning my career in ministry a friend gave me a copy of Henri Nouwen’s book The Wounded Healer.  At the time I was reeling from the initial blows of a separation and subsequent divorce and the only thing I knew for certain was that God had promised to be with me no matter what.  

Ultimately, time passed and wounds healed and my life has emerged in wonderful ways that I could have never imagined.  Over the years, I lost track of Nouwen’s book; however, I was in a bookstore recently and saw a lone copy sitting on a table as if it had been waiting for me.  I picked it up and flipped through the pages remembering how meaningful it had been all those years ago and why my friend had recommended it to me in the first place. 

Needless to say, I purchased it right away as it is a precious gem of a book worthy of every Christian’s bookshelf – and only 106 pages!  Though geared toward “ministers”, I highly recommend it to you for in a way, we are all ministers and we are all wounded healers.  

And that is precisely the point that Nouwen makes.  We follow a Christ who himself was broken, wounded in every way and it is because of our own wounded scars that we are able to be filled with compassion for others; perhaps in ways we might never have been able to otherwise.  While we do not know what the future holds, we can trust that our faith will lead us to new life and brighter tomorrows. 

Prayer:  Wounded Savior, thank you for showing us the way to compassion.  Amen.

The Reverend Dr. Cathy Gilliard

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Scripture:  When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.—2 Samuel 7:12

My father passed away the Monday of Holy Week 2005.  He had suffered a massive stroke 14 months prior.  In the latter months his tired and worn 84 year old body became weaker and weaker and one day, it simply gave out.  So, it was not a total surprise when I received the telephone call early that Monday morning saying that he had passed on.  We had been expecting it and truthfully, I breathed a sigh of relief - it was finally over.  Even so, there was an acute ache, a sharp pain, a deep awareness that a page in our family history had been turned - and life as we had known it as a family would never be the same.

In the three days between my father’s death and burial, I labored to find appropriate words to preach at his eulogy.  I concluded that in the end, his life had been quite remarkable.  Given where and how he had started out and how his life ended up, it was clear that he had beaten the odds in almost every way.  When all had been said and done, he had been a man honor and his life was worth emulating.  For as long as my father could speak, his words of wisdom to us were simple: love one another, work hard, do the right thing, do not be afraid. 

The question before my five siblings and I was how to carry on his good name and keep his legacy alive.  We had to figure out how to capture the essence of his being, live it out and pass it on to our own sons and daughters and grandchildren; and those we would meet along the way.  My father had done his part, now it was up to us to do ours. 

Love one another, work hard, do the right thing, do not be afraid – these four little nuggets are so simple yet they have become a light that guides my way in the world.  Somehow, I think if I can just hold onto them and live them out as best I can, I’ll be alright in the end – somehow.

Prayer:  Holy One, you are God of the past, present, and future.  Help me to live in such a way that your kingdom will be established forever.  Amen.

The Reverend Dr. Cathy Gilliard

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


ScriptureHe said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”  Mark 6:31a

I’m writing this reflection after being away from the office for a short vacation.  I didn’t go anywhere in particular; I just wanted to be at home.  I wanted to wake up at a slow pace in the morning and have the opportunity to sit by the window to read a book or to take a stroll through Central Park.  It was a wonderful time and I realized how much I had been neglecting this part of my life and ministry.  

My first year in a new parish had brought many wonderful moments but also its share of challenges.  My body was tired.  My mind, heart, and spirit were all exhausted.

Jesus seemed to understand this dilemma – the challenge to both work and rest.  He was often finding time to be away by himself or with a small group of followers.  Hear his word of invitation: "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest for a while.”  What beautiful music to the soul!

Jesus instructs the disciples and us to take some time to be renewed and to be re-created in whatever forms that might take.   Most often in the gospels we hear him say to the disciples “go” and to the crowds "go" – go into the world; go be my witnesses; go the extra mile.  But today, Jesus says “Come away” and be with me.  Come find rest.

Are you feeling tired?  Weary?  Burnt out and about ready to drop?  Don’t forget to tend to yourself and perhaps develop a plan of care for the remainder of this year and beyond.  Think of it as a gift to yourself but also to those around you with whom you live, work, and serve.  Everyone will be better for it, I’m sure.

PrayerGod of Rest, help us to lay aside everything so we might be still in your presence for just a little while.  Amen. 

The Reverend Dr. Cathy Gilliard

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


ScriptureSo then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.--Ephesians 2:19 

I was at dinner recently with some friends and they had also invited several other people to join us for the evening. We were having a wonderful time and somehow the conversation got around to the topic of what we do for a living. I was somewhat reluctant to say mine - not because I am ashamed of what I do but as is often the case upon learning that I am a minister, the conversations shifts and people find themselves being modestly reserved.  

One of the guests who had been particularly lively and entertaining saw this as an opportunity - unsolicited I might add - to confess his faults and to "bear it all" - far more than I cared to hear especially since this was our first meeting and we were in the company of mutual friends.  And to be honest, I really didn’t feel like being a “minister” that evening. 

It wasn’t very long before the conversation became a dialogue between just the two of us. He went on to tell me about his career at a local high school, the good work he does in his church, neighborhood, and alumni association. He declared himself a role model among the teenagers and coaches his sons little league team.  “Only one thing Reverend, only one thing,” he said, “I’m a good man, I work hard, I bring my money home, I take care of my wife, there’s just one thing that gets in my way; one thing that I just can’t seem to control."

I imagined that in his own mind he was speaking the truth.  I was aware of the potential devastation for him and others if this “one thing” were ever exposed and what a tragedy it would be given all the good going on.  It seemed that the benefit was not worth the risk but that was my opinion. 

It also occurred to me that this young man was nearer to the kingdom than he could possibly imagine.  If only, if only, he could be free of that “one thing”.

PrayerAlmighty God, you have called us to be a new creation.  Grant that we always remember our true home.  Amen.

The Reverend Dr. Cathy Gilliard

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012


He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two…Ephesians 2:15

Just a few weeks ago we celebrated the birth of our country and the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The original intent of the declaration was to provide a framework; a set of laws that would ensure that the government of the United States would be just and would protect its citizens from within and without throughout its history. It held the hopes and dreams of those early fathers and set forth a set of truths "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Likewise, the laws of the Old Testament were intended for the livelihood and well-being of creation.  According to N.T. Wright, they were not intended to portray "a celestial tyrant imposing his will on an unwilling world and unwilling human beings, cramping their style, squashing their individuality and their very humanness, requiring them to conform to arbitrary and hurtful laws and threatening them with dire consequences if they resist.”  Rather they were intended to bring us into a deeper relationship with a loving God and one another.  Jesus said that all the Law could be summed up in these two:  love God and love neighbor. 

Instead of the law being a prison, we have been set free to be God’s new creation – a new humanity that loves God and one another not because we have to but because we want to. Not because the law makes us or because God will strike us down but because God has set us free to choose.  Each day, we have the opportunity to choose love rather than hate. Peace rather than violence. Forgiveness rather than anger. Truth rather than lies.

Prayer:  Loving God, help us to make wise choices today that reflect the love and freedom you give.  Amen.  

The Reverend Dr. Cathy Gilliard

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mission Accomplished!

ScriptureThey brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the LORD.  When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts, and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.--2 Samuel 6:17-19

There are very few times that I visit my parents that I don't leave their home with stack of food containers and a bag of fresh produce harvested from their garden.  This has become a ritual for us.  While I only live 3 hours away and have everything that I need to care for my own family, my parent's rations hold a certain symbolism.  Given they have nourished and cared for my siblings and I for decades, their provisions indicate a commitment to our lifelong well-being.

Similarly, David's kingship transcends the prestige of wearing a royal crown.  He truly cares for his people.  As soon as the ark of Lord is safely in its place, David offers sacrifices including sacrifices of well-being and he blesses the people.  He understands this moment to be bigger than his divine appointment as king.  The ark's arrival in the city of David is an important milestone in Yahweh's relationship with Israel.  God loves Israel and has always provided for her every need, likewise as king, David not only blesses the people but sends them with food for the journey ahead.  Symbolically, I think that this was his way of pledging that as their leader, he would always hold their well-being as a priority and would do what was necessary to ensure Israel's stability.

PrayerDear Lord, thank you so much for your love and care.  Even when we don't see it, you are anticipating our every need and we are so grateful.  We appreciate your many blessings and ask that you will lead us into your truth.  Amen.

The Reverend Tiffney Marley

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