Saturday, August 11, 2012

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Wedding Feast

Scripture: 1 Kings 19:4-8               

The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, 
“Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” 
1 Kings 19:7

Whether the rain trickles down from gray clouds or the sun rays dance on the tall grass, two of my friends will commit their lives to each other this afternoon. With each “I do,” their journey together will continue. I do not know if the way ahead will take them up steep cliffs, through rivers, or across sandy shores, but I do know that they will go together, supported by a community of family and friends.

No one will have to say, “Get up and eat” today, but as the days go by and their journey changes course, from time to time someone might need to say, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.”  The bountiful feast shared today will provide the couple and the community who supports them energy for the initial journey, but it will not be enough for a lifetime together.

All our relationships are nurtured and sustained by what we consume. Take a look at your plate.

What are you eating?

Is your plate filled with the protein of love, the rich greens of grace, the fortifying grains of mercy? Or are you having more than the daily recommended allowance of fatty despair and salty negativity?

It is no coincidence that in our economic market we, the purchasers, are called consumers. We eat everything we take in: television ads, people’s opinions, song lyrics. We feed on these daily without much thought. But do they sustain us for the journey? Are they nutritious for our body and soul?

As you go through your day, pay attention to what you consume. Which relationships help you grow as a person? Which relationships eat away at you? Which activities build you up and which activities leave you feeling drained and abused?

Fill your plate with the bounty of the wedding feast each day so that wherever your journey may take you, you will be nourished.

Prayer: Holy Bridegroom, you invite us to the banquet table. Make us yearn for you and the fruits of the wedding feast. Sustain us with a wedding party who cares for our whole being and keeps us nourished by your love. Amen.

Jennifer M. Manis

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Thorny Truth

Scripture: Ephesians 4:25-5:2                      

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, 
for we are members of one another. Ephesians 4:25

The truth is a thorny rose. I heard this statement time and again from my pastor growing up. As a tween, I couldn’t fully grasp the meaning of this statement. Yet, in the past few days, these words resounded in my head as I witnessed conflicts in two different environments.

The truth is a thorny rose.

In each instance, two people presented their opinion/perspective on a topic. The conversation escalated to conflict when the people involved shifted from making a statement to hearing the other person’s viewpoint as a challenge to their own. A simple opinion morphs into a defense; not just a defense of an idea, but a defense of the person’s being.

But what does this mean if we hold fast to the reality that we are members of one another?

How does it alter the way we speak truth to our neighbors?

Often, in our attempts to speak truth to another, we engage them as an “other,” as a person distinct from ourselves. Yet as people of the Risen Lord, we are members of the body of Christ. To speak truth to another is to speak truth to ourselves.

Like holding a rose, encountering truth and beauty often stems from pain. But if we remember the person we speak to is part of who we are in Christ Jesus it just may alter how we hold a thorny rose with them.

Prayer: Eternal Truth, you immerse us in the pain and beauty of life together. Guide our interactions with one another. Temper our anger and enable us to speak the truth with your grace and mercy. Amen.

Jennifer M. Manis

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Haters Gonna Hate

Scripture: John 6:35, 41-51

They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  
John 6:35

My friend and I have written a few new Proverbs. The one most cited is Proverbs 32:1: Haters gonna hate. It’s easy for people who don’t know us well to talk smack about us based on the few details they do know about our lives.

“Is this not Casey, the son of John, the local drunk? He’ll never amount to much.”

“Is this not Sharonda, the daughter of Mary, who can’t hold down a job? She’ll be just like her mama.”

“Is this not Jesse, the foster child whose parents disowned him? He won’t amount to much.”

While my friend has taught me that “haters gonna hate,” for many years I internalized negative messages like these and lived as a captive to the shame induced by statements such as these. Jesus knows who he is and whose he is and does not listen to the negativity. Instead, he lives into the boldness of our Creator’s love. Trusting he is loved unconditionally, Jesus lives boldly.

Who are the negative voices in your head? Who are the negative voices around you?

Do the voices ever morph into your own voice?

Addressing and naming shame is not an easy process. But once you begin the journey, healing emerges and the beauty of God’s grace enfolds you in ways never before imagined.

I encourage you to pause today and watch this video. Brene Brown’s message may help you or someone you know to live more vulnerably and deal with the shame that lives within.

Prayer: Healing Lord, you love us regardless of who are parents are and where we are from. Enable us to see ourselves as you see us. Empower us to heal the pain that resides deep within us. Amen.

Jennifer M. Manis

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hungry for Bread

Scripture: John 6:35, 41-51

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

I struggle with Jesus’s words here. Never be hungry? Really Jesus?

As I serve at local food pantries and soup kitchens, I hear repeatedly the stories of neighbors who are hungry. Chronic illness, lay-offs, car repairs – it only takes a minor incident to make putting bread on the table a challenge.

At some soup kitchens, the practice is to preach to the crowd before they are allowed to eat. Each time I hear this passage I can’t help but wonder, how would I receive the gospel story if I were hungry, if I did not know when I would eat again?

Perhaps some of the people following Jesus grumbled about his message because they were hungry. “Who does this guy think he is? Bread of life? I need some bread in my stomach.”

In this moment Jesus speaks to both our physical and spiritual need for food. The two are never separate. Consider these words from Archbishop Desmond Tutu: 

"I don't preach a social gospel; I preach the Gospel, period. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is concerned for the whole person. When people were hungry, Jesus didn't say, 'Now is that political or social?' He said, 'I feed you.' Because the good news to a hungry person is bread."

Prayer: Bread of Life, feed us each day. Give us our daily bread. Make us slow to speak and eager to listen to the stories of our neighbors. May our desire to preach the gospel be tempered may your call to feed the hungry. Amen.

Jennifer M. Manis

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Waiting for Peace

I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears…
This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, 
and was saved from every trouble. 
Psalm 34:4&6

She resides at the intersection of Fear and Pain. Each day people walk by and do not notice her. Recently diagnosed with HIV, she struggles with how to tell her friends and confront her lover.

He waits alone in the room. A loosely tied hospital gown drapes over his diminished frame. The television crackles in the background and he waits.

Barbara continues to search for meaning in her life. Eighteen years of marriage ended when her partner lost control of the car and hydroplaned into an ancient oak tree.

Each cries out to God and waits for peace. They wait for courage and as they wait, they question.

Why did God do this? How could God let this happen? When will God take the pain away?

While the Psalmist boldly proclaims how “the Lord…delivered me from all my fears” (v. 4) and “saved [me] from every trouble” (v. 6), I wonder what he muttered in the moment. Did he cry out like Elijah for death? How long did he beg our Creator for release from the pain?

As people of faith, we know that the Gentle Shepherd accompanies us in the valleys of our lives. Yet, we may struggle with feeling the Holy One’s presence and peace in times of great stress.  Our experience of pain and heartache may prevent us from experiencing the steadfastness of God.

What habits or practices enable you to connect with God in the midst of distress and uncertainty?

Who waits with you under the broom tree?

Prayer: Eternal Lord, you accompany us in times of pain and sorrow. Surround us with a community that radiates with your patience and grace. Hold us in the dark places of our lives and continue to shine your light in the world. Amen.

Jennifer M. Manis

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

Death Cries

Scripture: 1 Kings 19:4-8

Then [Elijah] lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. 
Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” 
1 Kings 19:5

“Kill me Lord,” Elijah cries out. Sore muscles and jittery nerves overcome him as he stops at the broom tree. Surely Elijah completed his mission; surely the Holy One is done with him. Or maybe he is done with the Holy One.

Perhaps Elijah’s cry to the Lord is yours. “I can’t do this any longer God. Just end my life so I don’t have to suffer, so my family doesn’t have to suffer.” 

Perhaps your cry echoes the Israelites: “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Exodus 16:3).

Why God? Why did you bring me here? I thought I was following you. I thought you would provide for my every need. I am hungry. I am tired. I am scared. Kill me Lord, for I can take no more.

I imagine by the time Elijah rested his head that night exhaustion overcame all emotion and he slept. Last night as you fell asleep, what hopes and fears crossed your mind? Did you cry out for death? Did you question our Creator’s presence in your life?

Elijah cries out in his pain and the Great I Am hears him. Not only does God hear Elijah, God acts.

An angel touches Elijah and says, “Get up and eat” (1 Kings 19:5). A call to life answers a cry for death. Get up and eat.

In times when death seems better than life, who calls you to eat?

In times when you cry out for death, who answers with life?

What angel beckons you to come and eat?

Prayer: Living God, you hear our cries for death and answer with life. Open us to experience your life-giving power in times of death and sorrow. Send angels bold to declare, “Get up and eat.” Amen.

 Jennifer M. Manis

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Scripture:  John 6:24-25

What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.
As a child, my mother frequently sent me to find things for her, and when I went to the spot she told me to look, I did a quick glance over and called out,” Momma! I can’t find it!” My short attention span, impatience, and tendency to overlook details caused me to glaze over the item I was looking for. My mother would come behind me, look for a second, find the item, and say, “girl if it were a snake it would have jumped up and bit you!”

As opposed to the synoptic gospels, the gospel of John Jesus states explicitly who he is, He is the bread of life, He is the door, he is the way the truth and the life. He repeats these phrases throughout the book, so it should be no surprise to the people when he doesn’t perform signs and wonders, because his very presence is the sign and the wonder.  The people wanted signs, something external, something tangible, like the manna from heaven--not realizing the gift of God in front of them.

PrayerGod in our human sensibilities, open up our hearts to the super natural. Allow us to see both the tangible and intangible signs that you give us, and show us how to respond. God give us the vision and sight to see you when you are right in front of us. Remove the blocks and clouds that have us searching for everything except for what you have put right in front of us. When you call to us, we will answer.

The Reverend Emma Akpan

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