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Daily Devotion – March 29, 2015
03.29.15

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.

Mark 14:10

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

I have been betrayed.  Not too many things hurt more in this world than to have a person that you trust turn their back on you.  Years of investing your time and energy into someone only to have them speak against you in a time when you need them the most causes a deep pain difficult to get over.  Misunderstanding, anger, disappointment, and loneliness are all part of the feelings that pump through the heart in the presence of betrayal.  I don’t believe any parties involved in a betrayal escape the grip that it can have on a life.  The betrayed are often left wondering why or how this happened while the betrayer often lives with a tormenting guilt.  The wounds from being betrayed often remain and take years, and in some instances a lifetime, to recover from.

There is a lot of speculation as to why Judas betrayed Jesus.  Most will say motivations like jealousy, greedy ambition, desire and fear were in his heart.  Some might say it had to be done so that Jesus could make the needed sacrifice in order to fulfill prophecy.  Whatever the reason, Judas’ heart had changed to the point that any love he had for Jesus had been consumed by a darkness.  This growing darkness inside him led him to do the unthinkable.

The same motivations that Judas may have had for betraying Jesus live in our hearts as well.  Jealousy, greedy ambition, desire and fear all tempt us away from God’s love.  Once we have begun to deny the love of God in our lives anything can become possible, even betrayal.  This week we will reflect on the price Jesus paid for Judas’ betrayal.  We will reflect on Jesus’ path to the cross.  As we do, we might spend time becoming mindful of how we deny and betray the love of God in our lives.  We might think about how we can be merciful in the way Jesus was with Judas.  We might also think about how we can open our hearts further to love.

Prayer

Be with us God.  Keep our hearts full of your love and your light.  For we know that jealousy, ambition, desire and fear all lurk in our hearts.  Forgive us when we do stray away.  Forgive us for our betrayals and denials of your love.  Teach us to show mercy as you have shown us mercy.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – March 28, 2015
03.28.15

Mark 14:3-9 New International Version (NIV)

 

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages[a] and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you,[b] and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

 

Reflection by Holly CothranDrake

Wow!  What a powerful legacy to leave.   Imagine being the one to prepare Christ’s body for his burial.  Even though we can’t physically anoint Christ with perfume, we can honor him every day in our actions.  We can leave our legacy of our belief in his life.

Prayer: 

Almighty God, help to see opportunities in our daily lives to anoint your Son through our actions.  Help us leave our own legacy.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – March 27, 2015
03.27.15

 

Psalm 31:9-10

9 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;    my eye wastes away from grief,    my soul and body also. 10 For my life is spent with sorrow,    and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery,    and my bones waste away.

Devotion by Julia Shiver

Oh my goodness.  This passage takes me immediately back to some dark periods in my life, starting in early childhood.  All I could see or feel was pain, isolation, and bone-wearying fatigue, and I could not feel God’s comfort.  I kept hearing from the pulpit that if I had enough faith, God could heal me, ease my affliction.  Then I felt guilty because obviously I didn’t have enough faith.  I tried other ways to heal the pain, to fill the void, but it was short-term and always caused more problems than it solved.

It wasn’t until I could reach out, get counseling and then medication for clinical depression, that my relationship with God could be fully realized.  God was there, but depression is so isolating that I felt alone, even though I never was.  Yes, footprints in the sand and all of that.  God put counselors and doctors in my life to help me heal.  I didn’t have to do it on my own.

This is my prayer to God:

Dear God, I will always be more grateful than I can express for the healing and comfort you have given me.  It is only in offering that same healing and comfort to others that I can truly thank you for all the love you have given me.  I thank you for those opportunities and I pray for those who still need your healing touch.   Amen.



Daily Devotion – March 26, 2015
03.26.15

Psalm 118:1-2

 

1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;    his steadfast love endures for ever!

2 Let Israel say,    ‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’

 

Devotion by Lynne Buell

 

One of my favorite childhood memories is when we all received new shoes for Easter.  I don’t remember the entire outfit, but I do remember the new shoes.  One year, however—I think I was 7 or 8—I had a new straw hat with a couple of tiny flowers that were stuck in the band.  I may have sported a bit of an attitude that year when I entered the Sunday school class.  LOL

Shiny new, black patent leather shoes brought me a feeling of exhilaration.  The week leading up to Easter was when I would open the shoe box every day, gaze at those beautiful shoes, and be careful not to leave my fingerprints on them before I put them back in the closet.

I still have that feeling of excitement the week before Easter.  It isn’t over a new pair of shoes, though.  It is because of my faith and the love that God and Jesus have for me.  It’s that love that I feel when I wake up every day.  It’s the faith I have that their love will bring me comfort and guidance each day.  For this I give thanks and sing God’s praises that the feeling of exhilaration hasn’t gone away, even if it is for a different reason.

 

Prayer: 

Glorious God, today I am thankful for the relationship I have with you; that I can lift up my burdens to you; and for your Son who walked the path to a painful death in order to salvage us from our sins.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – March 25, 2015
03.25.15

Psalm 51:10-12

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.

 

Devotion by Rochelle Lofstrand

Easter is approaching and I know I’m feeling the need to be more connected to Jesus. We know what the next couple of weeks will be like in the life of the Christian church. We will break bread together on Maundy Thursday, we will weep together on Good Friday, and we will celebrate together on Easter Sunday. Today’s scripture sounds like a call from someone who also is desperate for a deeper connection to God. “Don’t cast me away . . . do not take your holy spirit from me.” Instead the writer wants to be “restored” and “sustain(ed)”.

As Easter approaches, maybe we can all take some time to come clean with God, restore our hearts and our souls, and get ready . . . for the miracle is right around the corner!

 

Prayer:

God, create in me a clean heart and put a new spirit within me. Do not cast me away but instead draw me closer. AMEN.



Daily Devotion – March 24, 2015
03.24.15

Mark 11.1-6

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’ They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

Who has faith in this scripture? Is it Jesus because He can foresee the future? Is it the disciples because they obey Jesus’ command based purely on faith? Or is it the bystanders because they allow the colt to be taken based on the hearsay of the disciples and what they were told?

I believe the answer is all three. Faith is somewhat contagious. When one is surrounded by like-believing people, their faith encourages your faith. Their faith encourages my faith. And your faith encourages me. And hopefully my faith encourages you. That’s why Pilgrimage is such a wonderful church. It is a faith encouraging place of worship. But don’t just attend to get yourself rejuvenated in Christ. Also come to church because your presence is an encouragement to me and others as well!

Prayer:

Dear God our Lord, bless our congregation of faith. May it continue to grow in love, support and faith. Amen.



Sermon: “God Is Still Speaking” (Lent 5, Year B–3/22/15)
03.23.15

God is still speaking…has been from the beginning of time.  God spoke, and creation came into being.  After the flood, God spoke again, making covenant with all people and creatures of earth.  Later, God makes covenant with Abraham, promising numerous descendants and always to be with them.  Later still, God speaks again, this time putting it in writing in the Ten Commandments. Today, we hear through the prophet Jeremiah that God is making yet another covenant with God’s people. This time, the covenant is written on their hearts.

Our journey through covenant this Lent has revealed an exceedingly chatty God.  Why is that?  Why has God kept, why does God keep speaking?

Those of you who have children–Is your relationship with your children the same now as it was five years ago?  Ten?  Fifty?

What kinds of rules or guidelines did (or do) you have when your child was 18 months?  (Responses)  Age 5?  (Responses.)   Age 10?  (Responses)  Age 15?  (Responses)  Age 18?  (Responses)  Age 50?  If you’re relating to your 50 year old children the same way you related to them when they were 5, I’ll be available for pastoral counseling after today’s service.  :-)

Why is God still speaking?  Because we keep changing; we keep growing.  The circumstances of our lives keep evolving.  Good thing God keeps making new covenants with us….Because–To whom does God go for pastoral counseling?  :-)

One way to understand all the different versions of the covenant we’ve been exploring the past few weeks, is to see them as God’s responses to Israel’s maturing as a faithful people.  Just as parents’ covenants with their children adapt to the children’s natural maturing process, so does God adapt to our maturing process.

The flood story is about the need for a covenant between God and human beings–so human beings will know what to do.  Abraham’s story is about human beings learning to trust the covenant God has made; that’s why God has to make the covenant with old Abe four times…that we know of.  :-)   The story of the Ten Commandments is about our need to have the terms of our relationship with God “in writing,” that is, to make the relationship more formal–to form a religion.

So, what does Jeremiah’s new version of the covenant suggest about the maturational stage of God’s people?  Let’s look at Jeremiah 31:3-34 again.

“The days are surely coming, says God, when I will establish a new covenant with the people.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt (Great image!  “When I took them by the hand…”  like a child, right? Back when you didn’t know any different.)  —a covenant they broke, though I was their husband.” (Okay…like a child or a spouse)

Whether child or spouse, God acknowledges here that the relationship with God’s people is changing.  Now, God could be changing things because the other rules just weren’t working–the people kept breaking them. I like to think, though, that the people weren’t recalcitrant; they were just maturing. (Teenagers, you’re welcome to borrow that phrase whenever you need it. “Mom, Dad. I’m not being recalcitrant. I’m just maturing.”) Maybe the people kept breaking the old covenant because they were ready for a new kind of relationship with God.  Think about it. What happens when you try to enforce a 14-year-old’s rules on your 17-year-old?  Is the 17 year old likely to abide by those rules?  I rest my case.  :-)

So, what is this new covenant God makes with the people?  The still-speaking God continues:  “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days:  I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Those of you who have been through — or are about to go through — the process of sending your children off to live away from home for the first time–whether for college, a job, the military, or to get married… What was that like?  Did you send them off with a set of rules?  Did you write up a contract about what behaviors would be tolerated and which wouldn’t be?  Did you remind them of their curfew?  Did you have every expectation they’d keep it? Did I mention that I’ll be available for counseling after the service?  :-)

If you didn’t write up a contract, how did you send your children off?  What words did you say?  Or, what words did your parents say to you when you left home the first time?  (Responses)  

Many of us have entered the stage of life when we’re beginning to set rules for our parents.  Strange, isn’t it?  The roles are reversing.  The anxieties are shifting–from them to us.  Now it’s we who go to bed at night just praying God keeps them safe.  Some of us are even having to write rules for the ones who once wrote rules for us.

As our relationships with our loved ones evolve, as the rules change, God’s words through the prophet give us hope: What’s real, what’s deepest, what’s best is not what we write down or chisel into stone.  What’s real and deepest and best is what’s written on our hearts.

I’m reminded of that scene from “Still Alice” we heard in Trish’s sermon last week. As Alice Howland sinks deeper into dementia, she says to her daughter, Lydia, who has moved home to care for Alice: “You’re so beautiful. I’m afraid of looking at you and not knowing who you are.” Lydia responds: “I think that even if you don’t know who I am someday, you’ll still know that I love you.” Still anxious, Alice asks: “What if I see you, and I don’t know that you’re my daughter, and I don’t know that you love me?” “Then,” Lydia says, “I’ll tell you that I do, and you’ll believe me.”

This scene gets to the heart of covenant. No matter how much our lives change, no matter how many times we have to re-visit the parameters of our relationships, one thing never changes—the love that brought us into covenant to begin with. Isn’t that the reason we stay with the maddening process of continually adapting our covenants with each other–with our children, with our parents, in communities like this one?  We do it because we love each other, right? It’s the same with God.  God continues to adapt covenant with us because God loves us. Deeply.

This is one of those sermons that went in a direction I didn’t plan for it to go. I thought we’d look at the covenant and use it to motivate ourselves to get out there and act the world into well-being in bold, new, creative ways…sort of a, God-has-kept-covenant-with us-How- are-we-going-to-keep- covenant- with-God thing.  That’s just what we need, isn’t it?  One more To-Do list?

But while I was writing, our chatty God kept speaking. The content wasn’t complicated, but it was profound. As I wrote, I heard the same words, over and over: I do it because I love you. I do it because I love you.

In the end, the details of the covenant aren’t nearly as important as the FACT of the covenant. A big part of our work together as a community of faith, is working out the details. That’s great. It’s important.  But sometimes, it’s more important simply to sit. And listen. And hear the still-speaking God say over and over: I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.

[Song:  O Love That Will Not Let Me Go]

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

O Love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in you;

I give you back the life I owe,

That in your ocean depths its flow may swell with ardor true.

O Light that follows all my way, to you I yield my flickering flame;

Renew my spirit’s feeble ray,

That from your brilliant sunlit day it may new brightness claim.

O Joy that seeks me through my pain, to you I cannot close my heart;

I trace the rainbow through the rain,

And know the promise is not vain that you will ne’er depart.

(Here’s a blurb from the New Century Hymnal about the writing of the hymn: Although he was nearly blind, George Matheson studied for the Church of Scotland ministry, assisted by his sisters, who learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew to help him. Matheson wrote this hymn in five minutes on June 6, 1882, at his parsonage.)



Devotion – March 22, 2015
03.22.15

Song of Solomon 3:1-2

1. All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves;

I looked for him but did not find him.

2. I will get up now and go about the city, through its streets and squares;

I will search for the one my heart loves. So I looked for him but did not find him.

Reflection by Darlene Wagner

Emotional longings and physical desires seem incongruent with the spirit of Lent and its

solemn introspection. Worse yet, church demonization of sexuality over the centuries has led

to the exclusion of physical desire from the inner-world of positive, devotional reflection. Yet,

in Hebrew scriptures, the Song of Solomon (also called Song of Songs) offers an extended

reflection on desire, both fulfilled and unfulfilled. No doctrinal grandstanding nor

sanctimonious prudery of church leaders can suppress the sensuous spirit found in the writings

from ancient people of faith.

In my life, the springtime season change overlapping Lent sets my heart towards the

regenerating beauty of Nature. Instead of esoteric meditations on sin and redemption, I reflect

upon Divine restoration of my body’s wholeness. As I struggle under the curse of infertility, I

seek wholeness in my sexuality and in my relationship with my partner.

Meditation:

Consumed by yearning starved-heart pangs

I plead before you Goddess Queen!

Midst Winter’s famine my strength fails;

I faint before harsh, frigid winds.

Like early springtime violets languish

under snow, my body fades

in longing for Love’s tender touch.

Such nourishing warmth you’ve ordained!

My skin yet bears the chafes and gashes

dealt by ice-tongued, whispering hordes.

Dear Goddess lend your healing Presence

as I flee Hate’s prudish words.

Reach forth your Angel’s ardent hand

to guide me to your hearth. I pray

please bid her stay, her arms enclasped

around me near the fireside blaze.

On her soft bosom, cheek, and breast,

my lovelorn longings are assuaged!



Daily Devotion – March 21, 2015
03.21.15

 

Psalm 51:6

6 You desire truth in the inward being;    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Devotion by Anne Mooney

These words are part of a prayer of David’s. He wrote them after being confronted by the prophet Nathan for indulging in a relationship with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. David had gone to great lengths to cover up his “crime.” I can relate. Even as a young child I would try to deny my guilt about the not so good things I had done. Today it is still hard. I want what I want when I want it. Eventually I come to realize the folly of my self-centered decisions and wish I had made a different choice. I wish for the willingness to live in God’s will. If I truly want to know the wisdom that God has to share with me, I must continually cultivate a relationship with God. I don’t know about you, but I need a lot of help to not just be aware of how God wants me to live, but to be willing to live that way. I have a tendency to want short cuts or the attention of others rather than the satisfaction of an honest and authentic life. Later I see that I have sacrificed my own integrity and it hurts to realize how foolish I have been. I can pray with sincerity these words of David’s to know God’s wisdom in my secret heart.

Prayer:

Oh God, help me to always seek your will and your way of life. Help me to live with authenticity and honesty. Amen



Daily Devotion – March 20, 2015
03.20.15

Psalm 55:16, 17, 22

 

16 

As for me, I call to God,

    and the Lord saves me.

17 

Evening, morning and noon

    I cry out in distress,

    and he hears my voice.

 

22 

Cast your cares on the Lord

    and he will sustain you;

he will never let

    the righteous be shaken.

 

 

Devotion by Don Tawney Sr.

 

David perseveres in his resolution to call upon God. “I will call upon God, for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord in the right manner, shall be saved.”  Romans 10:13  David is not afraid or ashamed to cry out loud and he resolves to continue it, now that he is in his distress.  We, also, may come boldly to the throne of grace when in trouble.  It was Daniel’s practice to pray three times a day, Daniel 6:10, and noon was one of Peter’s hours of prayer, Acts 10:9.  We should not be weary nor ashamed to go to God in prayer two, three, or even a half of a dozen times or more during the day to bring before God our earnest needs, because our Heavenly Father wants us to depend on Him and even cry out loud to ask Him to hear our plea.

Our scripture lesson says, “Cast thy cares upon the Lord.”  When I think of casting, I think of fishing, of casting your line out as far as you can.  The scripture urges us to cast our gift, or ourselves, upon the Lord.  That is one way to cast ourselves upon God.  Whatever you want God to do for you, try to leave that request or burden upon Him, and allow Him to answer in His way and time.  Care or anxiety is a burden.  Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down.”  To cast our burden upon God is to trust His Word which is His Promise to us and brings us the assurance that He will work everything out for our good.

 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for being with us in our burden bearing, even when we don’t feel your presence with us.

                                          Amen