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Lenten Devotional #7

 April 10 | Monday                                Today’s Reading | Psalm 139:7-10

 

Whither should I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there; If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

 

I’ll never forget, back in my running days, I was on an early morning run in the pasture near my house and had just said these verses when I stumbled and fell flat on my face.    It’s a shock to fall at any time, but this was a double whammy, because  I had just thanked the Lord for holding me in his right hand, when I was sent sprawling.   It took a few minutes, but then the irony of the situation hit me, and I burst out laughing.   I had been feeling so self righteous that I wasn’t looking where I was going.

I memorized this magnificent Psalm of David over 40 years ago, and I have used it over the years to begin worship periods – both public and private, to entertain myself driving alone on a trip, or stuck in traffic or to fill my mind with good things on a crowded bus or subway.  It’s become almost like Pavlov’s dogs in that it kicks me into a spiritual attitude before I reach verse 4.   Over time it has become for me truly HOLY scripture.

No doubt all of us have from time to time memorized words that resonated, so you know that when you memorize you own the material.   Since this Psalm is one about God’s owning us – each individual  – from the time “we were made in secret and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth”  to the “way everlasting” it is truly one of the mightiest paens to faith ever written.  It opens my eyes  AND reminds me to look where I am going.

 

Prayer

God, the knowledge of you is too wonderful for me;  it is high I cannot attain unto it.   Awaken me to accept your surprising nearness. Amen.

 

Written by Jane Welch

 

 

 

Today’s Reading | Isaiah 43:1-2                                  Tuesday | April 11

 

But now, says the Lord—the one who created you, Jacob, the one who formed you, Israel: Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you won’t be scorched and flame won’t burn you.

 

On the day when I had to contact my sister-in-law & tell her to come quickly because her brother, my husband Noel, had begun the practice of actively dying, she suggested a prayer. Our prayer was for God to remember that we are in his hands. Specifically, to help us by putting people in our path, people who might help us, people of whom we were not even aware that would help us in ways we might not even be aware we would need. Over the next days my eyes were opened. I began to notice that things were happening, people were literally there just when I needed them, usually before I knew what was needed. I was literally being held up by God through the people who were placed in our path. The hospice chaplain who helped me make some final arrangements without me having to ask, the friend who called and gave me the idea of holding the phone up to Noel’s ear while in a coma so he might listen, the physician who made his dying so quickly, understandable to family members who were questioning how could this happen so fast because he seemed fine just the week before. God took up our burdens and made the unbearable bearable. All we had to do was see him present there with us surrounding us with exactly what was needed. Never had I seen God so present and active as he was for us just when we needed him most.

 

Prayer

Thank you God, for you presence in our burdens. Thank you for your presence in our challenges. Amen.

 

Written by Patti Pinkley

 

 

April 12 | Wednesday                             Today’s Reading | Isaiah 58:6-9a

 

“I give up Lent for chocolate, not chocolate for Lent,” he would say. Reared in a church culture where the Christian year comprised Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, and psychologically,  the Fourth of July, he didn’t observe a Lenten fast.   Moreover, such commonly mentioned “sacrifices” as temporarily foregoing a treat to honor the suffering of Christ seemed trivial.

Then he learned that fasting, not only in Lent but every Friday, was an expected discipline for several generations in his denomination, and that his forebears in faith saw Isaiah 58:3-12 as the fast the Lord desires.  The fast the Lord desires mirrors Jesus’ announcement in his home church that Isaiah 61:1-2 defined his ministry.  It links with Mary’s psalm of praise at Luke 1:46-55, her son’s social gospel sermon at Luke 6:20-49, his only description of the Lord’s assessment of our lives at Matthew 25:31-46, and his laconic summary of following him at Matthew 7:21.  The fast the Lord desires expresses Jesus’ bonding of spirituality and religion in his distillation of our Torah as simply calling us to practice the love of God – our love of God and God’s love of people (Matthew 22:35-40; Mark 12:28-34).

He researched how the founder of his “ecclesial community” used Isaiah 58:3-12 to interpret Jesus’ instruction on fasting (Matthew 6:16-18).  The chief points were these: 1) Fasting is different from abstinence. To abstain is wholly to do without an item or items of food or drink.  Fasting is temporarily to leave aside both. Abstinence can be permanent without harming, or indeed to improve, one’s health. Fasting is occasional — once, perhaps twice, a week — and should be adopted after checking with your physician. 2)Fasting is not merely skipping lunch. Apart from keeping hydrated, a fast is generally a 24 hour experience. 3) A fast includes prayer, especially intercession — praying at large for justice and mercy in all forms of human community, and praying in solidarity with persons in special need. 4) Fasting also includes redirecting the money you saved to help feed the poor. Thus did initial indifference to the Lenten fast lead to keeping the weekly one.

Lenten devotion can be positive, permanently taking up a new ministry rather than merely briefly giving up some pleasure. The giving up takes care of itself as priorities are reordered to enable the taking up. The fast the Lord desires is such a discipline and such a service.  I’m a witness, for as you have surmised, I am the he in this story.

 

Prayer

Thank you God, for your sacrificial love. May our fasting tune our hearts to your grace, mercy, and justice. Amen.

 

Written by Parish Associate Charles Brockwell

Today’s Reading | Matthew 18:18-20                           Thursday | April 13

 

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

 

There is a specific section of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters that has always stuck with me, and I believe it offers a good analog of for this challenging collection of Jesus’ teachings. Lewis’ fable chronicles a series of letters from an older, experienced demon in Hell (Screwtape) aimed at mentoring a young, novice devil (Wormwood) in the ways of luring humanity away from God. The section that has long stayed in my mind occurs when Wormwood has become distressed that a man whom he has been trying to tempt has begun regularly praying. The older Screwtape tells him not to worry. He goes on to instruct Wormwood to merely encourage his target to keep all of his prayers vague and spiritual in nature and to pray for things far away or general so that the man would be praying to an abstraction rather than something real. At the close of his instruction, Screwtape says:

 

Think of your man as a series of concentric circles: his will being the innermost, his intellect coming next, and finally his fantasy. You can hardly hope at once to exclude from all the circles everything that smells of [God], but you must keep on shoving all the virtues outward till they are finally located in the circle of fantasy, and all the desirable qualities inward into the will.

 

  1. S. Lewis’ irony points to a clear but essential point: God is not an idea or a fantasy. The incarnation and resurrection reveal that the LORD is not an abstraction. He and His designs for the Kingdom are here in the real world, now.

Jesus seems to be saying something similar in this discussion with his disciples. Moral devotion is not a mental exercise; it is real action in the real world.  Likewise, don’t worship by yourself; engage in faithful communion with your neighbors and God will be there.

With that promise in mind, I am going to take more time to savor the passing of the peace in the coming weeks. God is there.

 

Prayer

God, thank you for calling us into community with one another and ultimately with you. Help us to love our neighbors and honor our promises as You have honored your promises to us.  Our faithfulness brings us closer to you. Amen.

 

Written by Clay Gahan

April 14 | Friday                                     Today’s Reading | John 19:40-42

 

Following Jewish burial customs, they took Jesus’ body and wrapped it, with the spices, in linen cloths. There was a garden in the place where Jesus was crucified, and in the garden was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish Preparation Day and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus in it.

 

Though Questions

What does sacrifice mean for a life of faith?

 

What does it mean to follow Jesus?

 

What can you see in the world that needs life to take shape around it?

 

 Prayer

God, give us patience to wait, to trust, to follow, and in time, to see your resurrection shape our lives. Amen.

Photo received by Associate Pastor Matt Nickel

 

 

Today’s Reading | Romans 8:38-39                               Saturday | April 15

 

I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.

 

After seven years as a faculty member at Austin Presbyterian Seminary, I accepted a call as pastor of First Presbyterian in Salina, Kansas. Between finishing my Ph.D. and teaching, I had not made a hospital call or led a funeral service in about ten years. My first weekend in Salina, two members of the congregation died, the first of nearly twenty my first year. Intellectually, I affirmed with the Apostles’ Creed that I believed in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. But it wasn’t until I sat with families in the middle of grief and stood beside open graves and said the words of Romans 8 over and over again, that those words began to take flesh – to embed themselves in my flesh, my voice, my hands. I am still somewhat agnostic about what “life everlasting” will look like, but I am more convinced than ever about the truth of this: “nothing in life or in death will be able to separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus.” Tonight, as we celebrate the Easter Vigil, we celebrate the deepest truth of Christian faith: love is stronger than death. Love wins. Alleluia!

 

Prayer

Dear God: thank you for your love for us and for the world that became flesh in Jesus. May we trust you with ourselves and those dear to us, knowing that in life and in death, we belong to you. Amen.

 

Written by Pastor Cynthia Campbell

 

 

 

April 16 | Sunday                                   Today’s Reading | Luke 24:28-32

 

When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?”

Though Questions

Where in your life would you invite God to walk with you?

Where do you see God alive and active in your life?

Remember a time when you participated in the Lord’s supper. What do you remember from the experience?

 

Prayer

Thank you God for the gift of resurrection and new life continually taking shape in the life of the world. Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional #6

Today’s Reading | Matthew 21:42                                     Monday | April 3

 

Jesus said to them, Have you never read in the scriptures: “the stone that the builder rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and is amazing in our eyes”?

 

Hidden Figures, the wonderful movie based on the book by the same name, is the story of the African American women responsible for figuring out the complex math behind America’s early space program. John Glenn relied on the accuracy of the “computers” as the young women were called, to ensure the safety of his historic orbit of the earth. Most of us have heard only of John Glenn and very few of us knew about the women actually doing the work while white male engineers received the fame and glory. These young women faced formidable odds because of discrimination in communities, schools, and work places. The film’s vivid portrayal of segregated bathrooms and prejudiced supervisors is absolutely heart breaking. And yet these brilliant women persevered, despite set backs and challenges never experienced by white citizens. Segregation in the 1960s was an ugly, heart braking, obstacle the computers were able to overcome by tenacity, perseverance, shrewdness, and hard work. I was brought to tears by their indomitability and success.

What if Jesus is yet again reminding us in this parable that God’s ways are not human ways? What if those of us in power have a God given responsibility to stay alert to the in breaking of God’s revelations in our lives? Is it such a stretch to say that there will be “Pharisees” in every age, whether literal or metaphoric? When, with self-righteous confidence, do we assume that we have God’s ways all figured out? What if this difficult parable is best understood within the context of our need to stay alert and be startled when we are so sure of ourselves yet actually need to be reminded over and over again that God’s ways are not our ways?

 

Prayer

God, teach us your ways that they may be our ways. Show us your love that we may love others as you love us. Amen.

Written by Chris Valentine

 

 

 

April 4 | Tuesday                                   Today’s Reading | Psalm 8:3-4

 

When I look up at your skies, at what your fingers made—the moon and the stars that you set firmly in place—what are human beings that you think about them; what are human beings that you pay attention to them?

 

As mundane, quotidian, and perhaps strange as it might seem, on an Wednesday evenings when I drag the trash to the curb and set the recycling next to it, I have this moment of peace. It means the day is done, Naomi is in bed, the meetings are finished and my mind can settle and be quiet. There is space.

In the space there is the clear markings of human ingenuity bumping into mighty expanse of creation. There is the distant sound of the highway—cars of people seeking a destination that invade the neighborhood full of tall trees. There is the light of the city that pushes into the night sky full of stars, daring to compete. Occasionally a small plane passes overhead, preparing to land at Bowman Field.

But it is clear to me when the sky is overhead that creation is foundational and primary, though we are a part of it. And God, full of grace and mercy, is mindful of us in the middle of all it is. And why, in the middle of doing chores would God’s presence seem so important? I imagine that it is because we are created to be part of creation. But how strange to me, that in the hustle of the day, it can be the entirely ordinary activities of human life where the space to meet God might be.

 

Prayer

God, let us meet your presence in the gifts that come each day, whether complex or simple. Amen.

Written by Associate Pastor Matt Nickel

 

 

 

Today’s Reading | Deuteronomy 10:17-19                 Wednesday | April 5

 

Because the Lord your God is the God of all gods and Lord of all lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t take bribes. He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt.

 

Growing up deep in Appalachia in the 1990s, trips to the BIG CITY of Lexington, Kentucky, were always an exciting experience. The girls in the malls wore less makeup than the girls back home, and their hair, though still late 80s – early 90s big, lacked the explosiveness of the mountain girls’ hair. Other differences, such as accent and dialect, became painfully obvious – a few occasions of the food court cashier laughingly asking you to say the word chicken (pronounced chee-ken) again will quickly teach you to leave the accent in the car.

So you learn pretty early how to “code switch” — you’ll still feel like an outsider, but at least it won’t be evident within 15 seconds of a conversation. I’ve never been great at it, so it’s been very meaningful to me to have been accepted and even embraced in places very unlike Appalachia. I spent a year working in New York City, mostly in the Bronx, and I will never forget the goodbye lunch my colleagues had for me just before I moved back to Kentucky. There I was, the son of a coal miner, sitting in a Jamaican restaurant sharing an amazing goodbye meal with a group of people whose life experience was fundamentally different than my own. I remain thankful to the New Yorkers who loved the Appalachian foreigner living among them.

As a White man, I’ll never understand the challenges encountered by immigrants and refugees in the contemporary U.S. But I am so proud to be affiliated with a congregation that has made such a significant commitment to “…loving the foreigner residing among you…”

 

Prayer

Dear God, help us to use our privilege to improve the lives of immigrants and refugees. Amen.

Written by Martin Hall

 

 

 

April 6 | Thursday                                     Today’s Reading | Romans 12:2

 

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

When deeply engaged in some reading, I find myself in an internal, ongoing conversation with the author, narrator, or characters. When reading a suspenseful novel, I’m apt to silently scream, “don’t go in there!”, or I ask, “have you considered this?” when reading a thought-provoking article. I presume many of you do this, as well. So, when I read “do not be conformed to this world,” I want to yell in frustration, “BUT I LIVE HERE! And not just some of the time, all of the time–every second that I have ever known has been in ‘this world.’ How do I not conform to this world? What does that even mean?”

Once that frustration subsides,  I find myself initially disposed to take Paul’s directive on a kind of practical level and assume Paul is encouraging spiritual discipline.  In this reading, this verse is just a reminder to put first things first. Love your family, not your car; devote time to prayer, not just Netflix; seek truth not power–that kind of thing. There is clearly some important wisdom in this reading of Paul’s statement. We can all agree that perpetual pursuits of club memberships, the most exotic wines, and/or the perfect body are unlikely to  lead to salvation in God. If we are honest, we can all also likely agree that when these pursuits get intertwined with our considerations of our careers, our health, and our relationships, the trappings of “this world” often dominate our attention, and we “conform” without much consideration otherwise.  At the same time, I am not convinced that maintaining a discipline of putting some better earthly things above some worse earthly thing, no matter how rigorously practiced, is what Paul is getting at. I am not sure that kind of discipline will necessarily reveal “what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The deep moral insight that Paul describes is more likely born out of communion with God–something that discipline can foster but it is not discipline in and of itself.  The aim is God, not performance and not self-perfection. To not conform to “this world” is to see and and feel things as God does, not as humans do–to see God’s story, not only our own. We cannot will ourselves to that perspective, in my estimation; we must genuinely invite God in. Whatever we as people need to do to ready ourselves to make that sincere invitation to our LORD is good, but discipline without opening of the self to God is still conformity.

 

Prayer

Dear God, I love being part of Your story. Thank you for allowing me to share in it and enjoy it.  Show me how to love the life You have given me in ways that also love You. Thank you for being with me here so I can, with Your help, revel in your wisdom. Amen.

Written by Clay Gahan

 

 

Today’s Reading | Romans 12:4-5                                    Friday | April 7

 

 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

 

Working in a JK-12 school allows me to see this scripture in action every day. I am lucky to be surrounded by colleagues who have dedicated their lives to a particular craft: teaching first grade, coaching middle school cross country, and developing a Robotics team, just to name a few. What unites us all is a love for young people. What inspires me most is the way each member of our school community applies that love to helping people learn something specific, meaningful, and impactful.

 

My own classes focus on writing and literature. My high school senior students are also actors, athletes, artists, engineers, introverts, and extroverts, just to name a few of their many roles and identities. My favorite classes are the ones when my voice is replaced by their individual and collective voices as they discuss and debate the topics of the day. Their leadership of class is a daily reminder to me that everyone is gifted with his/her own talents, interests, and perspectives. In the moments when I celebrate and embrace those, rather than try to align and control them, I sense God’s presence in my life and in the world.

 

Teaching and learning from young people affirms for me that we are all called to love others and to love learning. To me, there is no greater joy.

 

Prayer

Lord, may we see you in the moments of listening, learning from, and loving others, all of whom offer us gifts from you.

 

Written by Sara Gahan

 

 

April 8 | Saturday                                Today’s Reading | Psalm 32:6-7

 

Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters  shall not reach them. You are a hiding-place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.

 

The Mid-Kentucky Presbytery Hispanic/Latino Commission supports outreach in the Preston Highway area known as “little Mexico.”  Rev. Elmer Zavala oversees a ministry to this community which includes worship, bible study, pastoral care and, at times, navigating the court system.  Among those he serves are families which have been separated due to deportation.

 

My eyes were opened when I recently attended a worship service with a friend who also knows very little Spanish.  Elmer’s wife sat behind us, translating as he delivered his sermon.  He preached on the David & Goliath text.  He pointed out that no one expected David, the least of all his kin, to be chosen to face the giant, much less to emerge a hero.  He preached that David had God on his side, as do we all.  He preached to this vulnerable, fragile community that if they come for you, don’t hide under the bed, but when they take you away, let your children see what you are fighting for.  I probably don’t need to add that this was a deeply humbling experience.

 

Prayer

God of compassion, we thank you for those you send to walk with the most vulnerable during frightening times.  Amen.

Written by Carol Pye

 

 

Today’s Reading | Micah 6:8                                    Sunday | April 9

 

He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.

 

I had been struggling to sing. My voice was cracking, I couldn’t hit my high notes, I would cough when trying to sing certain notes. The ENT had discovered a small lesion on my vocal fold, and the prescription was vocal rest. I had to go the entire summer of 2014 without singing?! And only speaking at half volume and only when necessary?! Singing is who I am, my connection with God and with my own spirit. How would I survive?! I headed to Cherokee Park to walk and think and pray (yell at God?). And then, I encountered this. I stopped. I stood there for a long time. “Out of the darkness and into the light.” I had to trust that something good would come out of this mess. I snapped this photo on my phone, and to this day I keep it as a reminder that there will be times of darkness and that light will follow. And light did follow. I have my voice back, better than ever. And that summer of “half volume” made me more patient and a better listener. I certainly learned something about walking humbly with God.

Prayer

Creator God, thank you for using nature to remind us of the Truth that you are always with us in times of darkness and that out of the darkness, light and good can come. Amen.

 

Written by and photo received by Suzanne Bowman

 

Lenten Devotional #5

March 27 | Monday                          Today’s Reading | Matthew 11:28-30

 

“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.  Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves.  My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.”

 

On a trip in Mexico to learn about people fleeing from violence, injustice and poverty, I met an angel. Nearing death 25 years ago, Olga Martinez was invited by a priest to visit people in a hospital. Inspired, she began taking invalids into her home and found new life for herself. She asked for money on the street to support her efforts. Gradually she collected enough to buy land and build a shelter, chapel and medical clinic for people injured as they tried to migrate north. Her Auberge Buen Pastor now is a place of comfort and healing for migrants seriously maimed in their perilous journeys. Their calm belies the devastation in their lives and reflects the love and acceptance they experience. With her warm, welcoming smile, Olga exudes grace, joy and peace.  The burden seems light for this woman of action. Many, including the Dali Lama, have recognized her for her work and ministry.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me” Jesus proclaims. And learn from those who are ‘imitators of Christ’. While Olga is extraordinary, all around us are people who experience joy in serving others, and inspire us to ponder how God may be calling us to bear others’ burdens that we can bear and so provide healing, rest and hope in Jesus’ name.

 

Prayer

God, may we find joy in our service and love in your peace. Amen.

Written by Linda Valentine

 

 

 

Today’s Reading | 1 Kings 8:27-29                             Tuesday | March 28

 

“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! 28 Regard your servant’s prayer and his plea, O Lord my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; 29 that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place.”

There is an inherent paradox in building a house of God, and Solomon voices this dilemma in a poignant way in the 27th verse. The great king has devoted the bulk of his treasure and more than a dozen years to build the first great Temple. Further, this is not just his goal; it is a goal that has been in the works for a long time, conceived by his Father, King David, decades before. Despite all of this build up and the veritable marvel of the Temple from any human perspective, Solomon, in some of his very first moments of gazing upon its completion, cannot help but see its insignificance: “[T]he highest heaven cannot contain you,  much less this house that I have built!” It seems we cannot build anything with boards and stones bequeathed to us by our Creator to establish our worthiness for His attendance (or for the covenant He has offered us). Solomon realizes the futility of this endeavor, and we should, too.

Then whom is the Temple for if God does not and will not ever need it? In the end, I think it is for Solomon, but not in some cynical, self-serving way. Rather, the Temple is simply a fecund time and place laid out for Solomon (and then those who join him) to do good work, and the king rightly seizes the goal laid out before him to pour out his love for God and His people. Put another way Solomon has the opportunity to make it so that his life’s work will scream out that he and the people he embodies love the LORD. And, those who come and worship in the Temple for the years to follow have a place to add to that chorus.

That is the good work; may all of us be able to look at our own life’s work and say that it has been poured out of us in ways that glorify God. There is great joy in that, I think.

 

Prayer

Dear Lord, steer our hearts to good work. Show us how to pour out our efforts, feelings, and imaginations in ways that glorify you. Help us to stay true in our aims and give us strength to finish in your name. Amen.

 

Written by Clay Gahan

 

 

March 29 | Wednesday                                Today’s Reading | John 12:21

 

They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and made a request: “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”

 

It is such a simple and profound request: we want to see Jesus. In context, it simply is a group of people who desire to meet Jesus. But brought into the context of our lives so removed in time from the stories in scripture, I feel like it is still an honest request. One of the ways that a modern faith expresses the desire to meet Christ in our lives is in asking questions. In my own life, I feel that times that I allow myself to become vulnerable to deep and challenging question, I find myself in a place where I learn more about God. Rainer Maria Rilke has a terrific reflection on questions:

 

Love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

 

I love the expression “live the questions now.” It is a reminder that a faith that asks questions and dwells with the questions is a living faith. And oh do I have questions that don’t have answers. But Rilke offers me a reminder that wisdom is found in living with the questions. I suppose it is a wisdom that I seek.

 

Prayer

Open good questions, God. Teach the way to live faithfully with the questions. Let the questions be engaged with love and care. Amen.

Written by Associate Pastor Matt Nickel

 

 

Today’s Reading | Psalm 100:5                               Thursday | March 30

 

Because the Lord is good, his loyal love lasts forever; his faithfulness lasts generation after generation.

 In March 2007 my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. A dear friend sent me a small, 3″x3″x3/4″, glass block, etched with the words, “God is Good”. I placed it on the windowsill over the kitchen sink where I could see it everyday. God was good; He provided us with wonderful, compassionate doctors and nurses, treatment plans, supportive friends, and Fairfax Fair, who was available to us whenever we needed her.

Two and a half years into this journey I was overwhelmed. We had to put our beloved Golden Retriever to sleep, then we rescued a young dog who had to have lots of attention, and my husband was again feeling the effects of more chemo treatment. I was anxious, depressed, and weepy all the time.

Then one morning I went into the kitchen; the sun was shinning in through the window (and the glass block) so that it cast a rainbow on the sink. It was an uplifting sight for me and reminded me that God is good and faithful and I would be okay. He reassured me that He was there with us.

 

Prayer

Signs of your promise are blessings to our lives. Nurture our vision that we may see your promises present in all of our living. Amen.

Written by Carol Neb

 

 

March 31 | Friday                             Today’s Reading | Matthew 25:37-40

 

“Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’

 

In December, I volunteered at an event that supplied gifts to  families in need. The last mother to come in for her family’s gifts was soaked to the skin on a wet, cold night. She had walked most of the way. As she carried away the gifts to a waiting car, I asked her if the only coat she had was the soft hoodie she was wearing. It was – and it was woefully inadequate for winter.

I looked at my own coat. It was warm, and waterproof, and my favorite color, a bright jade green. I didn’t even hesitate – I gave it to her. I could not send her back out into the cold when I had an abundance of warm clothes and coats at home.

Giving her that coat changed me and my perspective on the world around me. I’ve always been hesitant to have even limited contact with people who are impoverished. I’m much more inclined to write a check. That’s not what we’re called to do. We’re called to go, and do, because it changes us. It makes us connect with other people, and with Christ.

Christ walks among us, each day. He is the refugee. He comes to us as a dad seeking diapers for his child at a food pantry. Christ is the mom gathering gifts for her children, who comes sopping wet and late.

Christ is us.

 

Prayer

God, walk with us so that we may walk with others. Amen.

Written by Robyn Sekula

 

 

 

Today’s Reading | Malachi 2:10                                      Saturday | April 1

 

Isn’t there one father for all of us, one God who created us? Why does everyone cheat each other to make the covenant of our ancestors impure?

 

In this time of walls and boarders, I am reminded of my days working at Kentucky Refugee Ministries. I worked with a remarkable Sudanese woman who I have written about in the past named Nianchock. She came to this country as a single mom with six children. She was illiterate in her own language never having been in a classroom, however, it soon became apparent that she was smart and had a knack for languages. She learned quickly and one day I looked out the window and saw that the ESL classrooms were on their morning break. Usually the different nationalities grouped together during this time, but today they all seemed to be laughing together. In the center was Nianchock. It was Valentine’s Day and Nianchock had picked up some Spanish and Somali and was trying to wish them a happy Valentine’s Day. To everyone’s amusement she was not doing it very well, but no one was enjoying the situation more than she. This woman who had the weight of the world on her shoulders trying to care for six children, not knowing if her husband was alive or dead, opened my eyes in her love of life. Truly the love of God lived within her.

 

Prayer

Dear Lord, Be with those refugees struggling to find a better life for their families. Amen

 

Written by Sue Latta

 

 

April 2 | Sunday                                        Today’s Reading | Psalm 34:8-9

 

Taste and see how good the Lord is! The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy! You who are the Lord’s holy ones, honor him, because those who honor him don’t lack a thing.

 

 

Thought Questions

Is there a place that you feel most at home with God?

 

Today, what do you give thanks to God for?

 

Where do you feel that God’s presence is most needed in the world?

 

Prayer

Gracious God, there are so many who need the gifts of love and mercy. May they know your merciful presence today. Amen.

 

Lenten Devotional #4

 

Today’s Reading | Psalm 84:1-2                                  Monday | March 20

 

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord of heavenly forces! My very being longs, even yearns, for the Lord’s courtyards. My heart and my body will rejoice out loud to the living God!

 

I have always seen God in the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, the calmness of the woods and the awe inspiring reflecting sunset on the water.  But last fall, the WINGS Retreat went to St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana and my eyes were open to a new “dwelling place.”

As we traveled up the curvy drive, we entered a different place in time, for the Archabbey was built in 1850 by monks from the Swiss Abbey of Einsiedeln.  One could not escape the history of a longstanding Benedictine tradition, a tradition that’s primary purpose is to pray.  The community of monks gather five times each day to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and celebrate Mass.

Our next day began before sunrise, with the tolling of the morning bells and Vigils & Lauds.  The Archabbey’s church was silent as people shuffled in from the cold darkness.  Then entered the monks with their chants echoing through the chapel.  Their deep voices filled the space and the rhythm beat created calmness in the air.  I had never heard such beauty in the singing of the Psalms.

We had the opportunity to attend Noon prayer, Vespers and Compline over the weekend.  They all had many elements of prayer thru forgiveness, thanksgiving, songs and blessings.  But I think I will remember most my dawn worship experience for I cannot think of a more holy “dwelling place” to celebrate God’s gift of a new day.

 

Prayer

Lord God, thank you for the many dwelling places for which we can worship you.  Help us to be aware of all the heavenly beauty of the day. Amen.

 

Written by Kathy Reed

 

 

March 21 | Tuesday                                Today’s Reading | Luke 19:40-42

 

He answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.” As Jesus came to the city and observed it, he wept over it. He said, “If only you knew on this of all days the things that lead to peace. But now they are hidden from your eyes.

 

There is a certain inevitability in the Gospel of Luke’s rendition of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  The people are shouting and getting worked into a frenzy.  The local Pharisees urge Jesus to scold his disciples and make then stop.  The last thing they need is a commotion that gets the attention of the Romans, who are already anxious during these holy holiday mass gatherings.  But Jesus offers a strange retort that ignores their concerns, suggesting that even if the noisy crowds became quiet, inanimate objects, the very stones upon which they walked, would continue the shouting.

 

What is he saying? Perhaps he is expressing his confidence that the time had come for God’s values of love and justice to be made evident to all present… …in a bold declaration of truth to power.  Perhaps he believed that when God’s truth is spoken, no human intervention can silence it.

 

The text continues on to say that the next thing Jesus did after standing up to his critics with his odd pronouncement was to take a moment and look carefully at the community he had entered.  I think he looked around him and saw the desperate shouting of the people.  He saw the fear mongering of the religious establishment.  He saw the scary and powerful political machine of Rome that held the city of Jerusalem, and its entire empire, in a death grip…..And then he wept.  He wept because he saw that none of these people were seeing the bigger picture.  None grasped the reality of what God intends for humanity.  He saw that none recognized the vision that God has for a peaceful world where selfishness and greed are held in check by love for others.

 

I think if he sat in my house today and watched 20 minutes of the news with me, tears would be rolling down his cheeks.  But even through tears of disappointment that much of the turmoil, the violence, and the injustice that plagued the first century is just as prevalent in our time, I suspect he would also embody that same hope that informs the assumption that God’s truth cannot be repressed.

 

It seems I can always find a story in the news, or on social media, that captures the very worst of humanity in this divisive and hateful age.  These are easy to find.  What is sometimes harder is forcing myself to see the other stories.  However, when I take the time to look more carefully at my community, focusing on many of my fellow church members and close friends, I see people everywhere who refuse to give in to complacency.  I see serious discussions aimed at raising awareness of important issues.  I witness acts of kindness that reinforce the core values I believe in.  I see passionate people engaging their world, unwilling to remain on the sidelines and let evil go unchecked……….I see God!

 

Prayer

God, please keep showing me where to look.  Amen.

Written by Kevin Burns

 

 

 

March 22 | Wednesday                         Today’s Reading | Psalm 22:26-27

 

Let all those who are suffering eat and be full! Let all who seek the Lord praise him! I pray your hearts live forever! Every part of the earth will remember and come back to the Lord; every family among all the nations will worship you.

 

 

These Days: a poem after Robert Bringhurst

 

These days, these days, she said,

Are days without a tomorrow.

These days, her daughter said,

Are days without yesterdays.

They are days of promises

Neither kept or broken. Such days

are turning corners to find someone,

Whose name is lost,

not forgotten. These days,

Are days folded together,

like running errands

With no keys to find

and no car to drive,

Places to go if we only knew where.

These days are like a woman

Writing down lunches,

Appointments and meetings,

That will not be kept

or cancelled without concern.

These days, she said,

Are good days,

but not as good as the old days,

She said, which were like a couple,

waking early to watch the sun rise.

The days pass by, she said,

Like the days when

her husband returning home from work

Late at night, walked shoeless

Trying not to wake the children, she said.

These days, she said,

are like anticipating an anniversary

that never arrives, that is always coming,

A surprise that is not a surprise, she said.

These days are days to remember, she said,

taking a piece of bread.

 

Prayer

Guide us into our days remembering you, O God, and remembering the gifts of your presence. Amen.

Written by Associate Pastor Matt Nickel

 

 

 March 23 | Thursday                 Today’s Reading | 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

 

I received a tradition from the Lord, which I also handed on to you: on the night on which he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread. After giving thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this to remember me.” He did the same thing with the cup, after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Every time you drink it, do this to remember me.” Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you broadcast the death of the Lord until he comes.

 

These are special words that remind me of my experiences at the Lord’s table. I celebrate the very special relationship and covenant I have with Jesus Christ each time I hear or read these words. I have been privileged to use these words to invite others to our Lord’s table many times and just as privileged to have been invited to this table many more times. Each time I have invited people to the table and every time I have been invited to the table I have seen God. God in Christ is evident in the faces and lives of each one that I have invited or served. I see, feel and celebrate God’s grace through those that share the table with me and the cloud of witnesses that have shared it with me in the past. I thank God for this concrete way to remember our Lord’s promise and our oneness in Christ. I look with hope for many more celebrations and our Lord’s return.

 

Prayer

May we all feel the presence of God in Christ in the bread and cup whenever we come together around The Lord’s table. Amen.

Written by David Crittenden

 

 

Today’s Reading | Psalm 121:1-2                           Friday | March 24

 

I raise my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

 

When I was in elementary school, I was sick on and off much of the year. Mostly, this was the result of allergies triggered by air pollution in the Los Angeles area. Our family owned a small house in Twenty-nine Palms far out in the Mojave Desert. This was not Palm Springs of resort fame; this was barren desert populated mainly by an air force base. To say that it was desolate was kind. For years, I hated being taken there by my grandmother for a week or so at a time – except for the fact that my symptoms stopped and I felt great. Both in Pasadena and Twenty-nine Palms, one of the most striking features of the landscape was the mountains. Tree and brush covered in one place; rugged rocks in the other, but mountains in both places. I don’t remember when it was, but eventually I began to connect the words of the psalm with these trips to the desert. On the one hand, I was very lonely (even with my grandmother whom I loved dearly). On the other hand, I began to realize that there was a source of Help that was with me wherever I was.

 

Prayer

Holy God, help us to sense your presence wherever we are and to know that you are always there to be our Help. Amen.

Written by Pastor Cynthia Campbell

 

 

March 25 | Saturday                           Today’s Reading | Psalm 119:76-77

 

Let your steadfast love become my comfort according to your promise to your servant. Let your compassion come to me, that I may live; for your teaching is my delight.

 

The Book of Psalms features an array of explicit metaphors for God: rock, fortress, light, shield, fountain, etc. Metaphors link similarity and dissimilarity, prompting a fresh, greater-than understanding. “God is my rock” means that God is like a rock in certain ways, unlike a rock in other ways, and therefore greater than God = rock.

Sometimes God metaphors are implicit rather than explicit, as is the case with Ps.119:76-77. These verses conjoin two core, familial characteristics of God: steadfast love (hesed) and compassion (racham).

The Psalmist sings extensively of God’s comforting, steadfast love (also translated “loving-kindness”). Hosea’s loyalty to Gomer becomes a parable of God’s steadfast spousal love for unfaithful Israel. In Luke 15, Jesus tells a parable of steadfast parental love that a father has for both of his sons — each of which finds himself “homeless.”

God’s compassion is also parental and often paternal: “Like a father has compassion for his children, so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him” (Ps.103:13). Yet the root of compassion is the same as the Hebrew word for “womb,” so this characteristic is motherly as well as fatherly: “On you I was cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God” (Ps.22:10). Divine compassion is as necessary for life as the maternal womb.

I’m drawn to these parental God metaphors as I give thanks for the steadfast love and compassion of my own beloved mother and father, of blessed memory. By word and deed, their lives reflected how faithfulness to God’s teaching (torah) is both our highest calling and our delight.

 

Prayer

Merciful God, fill us with your compassion, and make us channels of your steadfast love. Amen.

Written by Don Richter

 

Today’s Reading | John 3:17-21                                   Sunday | March 26

 

God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him isn’t judged; whoever doesn’t believe in him is already judged, because they don’t believe in the name of God’s only Son. “This is the basis for judgment: The light came into the world, and people loved darkness more than the light, for their actions are evil. All who do wicked things hate the light and don’t come to the light for fear that their actions will be exposed to the light. Whoever does the truth comes to the light so that it can be seen that their actions were done in God.”

 

Thought Questions

Where does human life and the life of God intersect?

 

Can you think of a time when God was light for your life?

 

Has there been a time in your life that was an “ending” where you sense God was walking with you through the experience?

 

Prayer

Come into our life, O God. Let our ways intersect with your ways, our faith intersect with your mercy, our shadows to meet your light?

 

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