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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

 

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