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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.

 

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