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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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