Daily Devotion – March 31, 2016

Stay Put
Mary Luti

“With my whole heart I seek you.” – Psalm 119:10

I have an old friend whose search for God has taken her through four different organized religions and several disorganized ones, not to mention a glut of therapeutic and New Age practices, each one the one that was finally going to deliver God to her and make sense of everything.

The last time I saw her, she gushed about the latest thing. A wave of exhaustion hit me. She said she’d really found it this time, but she seemed more like a child in the woods who’s disobeyed the cardinal rule of being lost—Don’t try to find us. Stay put. Someone will find you.

I wish she’d stay put. I wish she’d stop listening to sales pitches for the latest and greatest technique of well-being, resist the latest invitation to go here or there to sit with yet another teacher. I wish she’d sit with herself for a while and be found by the One who’s already located her, who’s been available to her in the depths of her soul from before the day she was born.

We admire seekers. We like the lone protagonist who struggles to attain God. But God isn’t a reward, a prize at the finish line of striving. God isn’t waiting to be found in a hiding place we haven’t stumbled on yet. Maybe it would help in our heart’s seeking to know that in the end, we’re not the seekers. We’re the sought after. And if we let ourselves be found, we’ll find God. We’ll also find ourselves.

Seeking God, let me stay put long enough to know that you have found me.


Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.

Daily Devotion – March 29, 2016

Now on the first day of the week Mary Mag′dalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. 4 They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; 5 and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, 7 and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.
John 20:1-10

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

Last Friday, Good Friday, I listened to a woman express her grief as she remembered the life she and her husband had over the past sixty-six years. He is on hospice services because of advanced dementia. He is bed bound and sleeps most of the day. His wife truly enjoys the little moments she has with him, like when he is able to speak some and recognize who she is.

During this visit, we did a lot more remembering than we usually do. Typically, we have light and casual conversations, but this time I think the reality that her husband was not going to get any better had set in. She told me a lot of stories. She laughed as she told one of her favorite memories of him, she expressed frustration as she talked about the things that drove her crazy about her husband, and she talked about the struggles the two of them made it through together over the years. In the middle of telling stories, she proudly pulled out a 60th wedding anniversary album and flipped through the pictures and told me about each moment of that day. The pictures included a photo of an automobile that had been rented that was an exact replica of the car they drove away in when they left their wedding reception. When we finished, she closed the album and began to weep. Through her tears, she said she wasn’t ready to lose him. She said she just loved him so much. Being a woman of great faith, it was difficult for her to understand why God had not given her the miracle of healing that she was praying for.

After we talked about miracles more both in the Bible and those we have experienced in real life, we were forced to sit in the mystery of the unknown together. I did attempt to console her with the promise of Easter and Jesus resurrection on the cross. I tried to remind her that death was not the end but only the beginning of something new. While we both understood that, it still did not take away the sorrow and pain she was feeling at the thought of losing the man she loved for sixty-six years. So, we sat quietly. After some time had passed, I pulled out the communion elements I had brought at her request. I set them up, prayed and we all (including her husband who we managed to wake up just long enough to partake) shared in communion together. It was there in the mystery of death and potential death we remembered the story of Jesus and his last meal with his disciples.

I don’t have all the answers and certainly don’t understand all the complexities of death, but I read these verses and wondered if the disciples were experiencing some of the similar feelings concerning the mystery of death in the moment they went to the tomb and returned home after finding it empty. It’s easy to criticize them for running back to their homes, but maybe it was all they knew how to do in the moment. The man they had been following and cared for had just died, promising new life, but that new life had not come yet. There had to be so many questions with no answers, so all they could do was to return home and wait. They were going to have to remember, to share their stories, and to wait with hope that the promise of new life given through the resurrection would actually occur.

Sometimes Easter comes too fast for me. Sometimes I haven’t fully worked through everything I was working through during the season of Lent. Sometimes I just need more time. Sometimes I need more time to grieve and to sit in the mystery of it all. Sometimes I just need to be around my community so that I can be reminded that God is here with me. Sometimes, like the wife, I need to hope that despite the pain and sorrow of the now that new life will again flourish.


God of Hope. God of Mystery. Be with us all as we sit in the mystery of the Easter season. Be with us as we continue to ponder the mystery of death and resurrection. Be patient with us so that we can have time to grieve what we have lost. Grant us eternal hope as we wait for the promised hope given to us through the resurrection of your son, Jesus. Be with us on this journey. Amen.

Daily Devotion – March 28, 2016

Luke 24:1-12New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Resurrection of Jesus


24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.[a] While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women[b] were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men[c] said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.[d] Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.[e]


Devotion by Holly CothranDrake

In 47+ years of living, I have been more like the apostles. I thought most of the Bible was “an idle tale.”  But after 3 years at Pilgrimage United Church of Christ, worshipping along with others on their individual paths, I have become a full believer.  Now I feel like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James.  I believe my Lord is risen.



Almighty God, thank you for my church and the women and men who have witnessed to me. Amen.

Sermon: “Stained Glass Love” (Easter, 3/27/16)

This year’s journey to the cross has taken some unexpected turns.  I’m not a crafty person, but I had been thinking about a mosaic cross for a while.  With no idea how to make it happen, I tossed the idea aside and forgot about it…Until I remembered Jaime Fulsang.

Jaime told me about plexiglass, stained glass, and E6000 craft glue.  We debated the best size for the cross.  Then Jaime asked if I knew someone with a circular saw. 

As it happens, I know someone with two circular saws. 

Bill Dischinger and I talked about it.  He visited a plastics place and purchased a sheet of acrylic.  A few cuts with one of the aforementioned circular saws and—Ta da!  We had a cross!

I’m not a crafty person, but I do think theologically about things.  As Bill worked on crafting the cross, I began working out the theology.  Bringing broken glass to the acrylic cross could symbolize bringing the shards of our individual brokenness to the cross and creating something beautiful out of that brokenness.  That’s how I’ve come to understand the meaning of the cross in the life of faith—as a symbol of our collective brokenness redeemed by love.

What I wasn’t prepared for in the cross project was just how meaningful it would become, just how deeply it would touch us.  Each week during Lent, we came to the cross, chose a piece of glass, and glued it down.  We negotiated for space around the table, shared glue, touched the shoulder of a friend who teared up.  When Bill told me that he and Ric Reitz had found a way to backlight and display the cross once we’d finished, I thought, Cool.  After only a couple of weeks, I already had a vision of the end product.  Easter was going to be great!

Then I got an email from Chris Shiver.  “I have an engraver,” he wrote.  “Perhaps we can write names or words on some of the glass.”  Another unexpected turn, but one that deepened the experience even more.  Loneliness.  Anxiety.   Addiction.  Estrangement.  The names of loved ones gone or still alive, but struggling.  “Even broken, it is well with my soul” one person wrote.


Seeing our own brokenness and that of our friends spelled out, literally clinging to the cross…was deeply moving.  After revising my picture of the end product to include engraved words and names, I once again looked forward to the project’s completion.

Then last week happened.  As in previous weeks, I invited everyone to bring their brokenness to the cross.  Because there still were empty spaces, I encouraged you to fill them up.

Then, before we could get started, Ric Reitz raised his hand.  Now, you need to understand.  Unless it’s Joys and Concerns, nothing instills fear in a preacher in a worship service like a raised hand.  Unless it’s Children’s Time.  J  “Do we really want to fill up the spaces?”  Ric asked.  “Won’t an unfinished cross better represent who we are as a community?  Aren’t we all still in process?  Isn’t God still speaking?”


I confess — Ric’s suggestion threw me.  After six weeks of being open to the Spirit’s leading on this thing, taking lots of people’s ideas and weaving them together to create this beautiful cross, I was done with openness.  I was ready to tie this thing up with a bow and announce, “It is finished!”  I was ready to fill those spaces and get on with our next project.

Then the guy who plays a minister on TV (“Turn,” April 25th, AMC, 9:00 p.m.)… Rev TV derails all my plans by inviting us to remain open, to keep the artwork open by NOT filling the spaces.  Those of you who were here last week saw me struggle with the idea, think it through, look around helplessly…like I often do during Children’s Time.

After wrestling a bit, I realized that Rev TV was right.  We are people of the still speaking God.  We are not complete.  There still is brokenness in the world longing to be redeemed by love.  Brussels and several state legislatures are sad cases in point.

And so, here’s our cross.  A visible reminder that our brokenness can be redeemed by love, especially when we share it with each other.  A reminder, too, that there still is much brokenness in our lives and in the world that longs for redemption, for resurrection.  We still need each other.  The world still needs us to reach out.  God’s spirit still hovers over us, calling us to new ways of being, calling us to wholeness.


All through Lent, Allen and I kept noting how the cross project had taken on a life of its own.  We were puzzled and amazed–kind of like Peter at the end of today’s Gospel lesson.

My puzzlement lessened when I read the resurrection story.  Joseph of Arimathea takes Jesus’ body and lays it in a tomb.  Luke tells us that some women had followed Joseph to see where Jesus’ body was laid.  That was so they’d know where to come two days later to prepare the body for burial.  Leaving the tomb Good Friday evening, they returned to the place they were staying, and prepared the death spices and ointments.

Dawn of the morning after the Sabbath—the earliest time they could arrive—the women came to the tomb bearing the spices they’d prepared, intending to finish the burial process.  In their grief, they were doing the expected thing, the honorable thing—completing the burial process for their friend.  They were there—respectfully–to tie the bow on Jesus’ life.

Except there was no body.  There was no body, but there were two men, who asked the women:  “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  Jesus is not here; he is risen.”

In all four Gospels, the first people to discover Jesus’ resurrection are women, which makes sense when you recognize that it was women who tended to the bodies of the sick, the dying, the dead.  It was women who removed the garments from the deceased, applied the burial spices and ointments, and wrapped the burial shroud around the body for the last time.  Just as bodies entered life through and in the company of women, so did bodies leave life through and in the company of women.

At first stunned by the absence of Jesus’ body and the appearance of the messengers, when reminded of Jesus’ words about being raised, things clicked for the women.  Luke doesn’t tell us whether they believed, but they must have sensed something significant had happened, because immediately they go and tell the disciples what they’ve seen.

How do the disciples respond?  To them, the women’s account sounds like idle tales.  They don’t believe.  They don’t remember.  They still are looking for the living among the dead.

I wonder if the disciples’ dismissal of the women’s story of the resurrection comes from the fact that they had not been to the tomb.  They hadn’t seen the empty space.  They hadn’t stood there with jars of spices and jugs of ointment looking for Jesus’ body.  For them, the resurrection was still an abstract idea.  It’s easy to dismiss things— ideas, news, people—if you distance yourself from their flesh-and-bone, dirt-and-water, living-and-breathing reality.

The only one of the 11 who doesn’t dismiss the women’s story is Peter, who, Luke tells us, ran to the tomb and saw the linen cloth lying in a corner.  We don’t know if Peter believed in the resurrection yet, but after his visit to the tomb, he did wonder about it.  Engaging the material reality of the resurrection—seeing the empty tomb and the abandoned death shroud—helped Peter move closer to believing.

When I reflect on my ministry in retirement, I suspect I’ll recall this season as “The Year Lent Got Hijacked.”  I had such plans!  And you all—because you opened yourselves to the deep meaning of the season—kept interjecting plans of your own.  I’m being playful when I use the word “hijacked.”  Of course, what’s happened this Lent is exactly how living faith in community is supposed to go.  No one of us has the best ideas for how to connect with God …not even me.  The point of everything we do here is to listen to each other, to engage our imaginations, and together create space where people might meet God.  We’ve definitely done that this Lent.

And it hasn’t just been you all.  Each week, I’ve posted pictures of the cross on FB.  A couple of weeks ago, a songwriting friend who lives in Nashville told me about a song written by her friend, Marcus Hummon.  “It would be perfect for your Easter service!”  Really?  Another detour on our way to the cross?  I was resistant.  I felt like I’d stayed open to this project well beyond the point most pastors would have.  I’d done my part….and now I was done doing it.

Then I listened to the song.  It’s called “Stained Glass Love.”  Here are some of the words:  “It’s a picture made of broken things, Falling feathers from an angels wings The shattered pieces of my past, Are held together like stained glass.”  Great, right?

Then I heard the second verse.  “Hold the pieces in your hand, and think of how glass is made from sand.  Sand together becomes clay.  And clay is flesh when God breathes our way.”

When I heard that verse, this whole Lenten adventure with the cross—especially the way it went so deep for most of us—made sense.  This glass doesn’t just represent our brokenness…  We and the glass are made of the same stuff!  Which means that all those bits of broken glass are pieces of us, of our real flesh-and-blood lives.

I think some of the power of this project has come from the fact that we got out of the abstract—out of our heads–and into the real world.  As we see in today’s resurrection story, the people who kept things in the abstract—the disciples—struggled to believe.  It was the people who actually came to the tomb—the women and Peter—who took one step closer to belief.

Often on Easter we get bogged down asking, Did Jesus really come back to life?  That’s a conundrum…which means it’s a question without an answer.  It’s academic.  It’s abstract.

If we are to understand resurrection, if we are to have some hope of believing in resurrection, it’ll be a whole lot easier if we get out of our heads and into the real world…the world filled with people and food and trees and grass and homes and public restrooms and metro stations and hospital beds …  and acrylic…and E6000 glue…and tiny bits of broken glass.

So…Would you like to hear the song?  As the song plays, you’re invited to write down a word or two describing what this Lenten experience of the cross has meant for you.  When you come forward for communion in a minute, you can bring your response and put it in the basket.  I’ll compile them this week and share them next week.

Hear now Marcus Hummons’ song “Stained Glass Love.”



In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness.  Amen.

Kimberleigh Buchanan  ©2016

Two Good Friday Poems

Good Friday


This story is so sad.
There’s so much love and evil.
And fear.

Maybe that’s what evil is—
fear gone bad.  Or mad.

I really think that’s
mostly what this story is about—

Pilate was afraid.
The Pharisees and other religious leaders were afraid.
Everyone was afraid.

Was Jesus afraid?
Was Jesus afraid?

Mostly, I bet he was sad—
Sad because he didn’t have time to
help his disciples interpret what was happening.
Sad because he still had so much to teach them.
Sad because they hadn’t yet learned
the things he’d already taught them.
Sad because he loved them.
Sad because they were afraid.
Sad because he was lonely.





It’s the halo I don’t get—
in every picture…
colored yellow, always yellow—


Does it mean that you’re God,
wholly divine and all that?
If so…that annoys me…
…and disheartens me…

If you’re not God,
then the pain you feel from the beatings,
the deprivations,
the unjust decisions and proclamations….

If you’re not God,
then the pain you feel
is very close to the pain I feel.

If you’re not God,
then this day is a day I can understand,
it’s a day that you can understand,
a day you can understand me.

And I need to be understood by you.
I don’t know why, but I do.
I do need to be understood by you.

Maybe for the artist,
the halo does mean you’re God…

But I choose to see it otherwise.

I don’t think you were God,
not that day—

If you were God on that day,
then what was the point?
I ask:  What was the point?

I don’t think you were God that day…

But still.
The halo.


I think it means God—
not you as God,
but God as God,

God, who tags along with those who suffer
because there is no other place in the universe
she’d rather be.

I think the halo-yellow-halo in every picture
isn’t a reminder of just how God you were,
but of just how close God stayed with you that day
until you died.
Even after you died.

If that is true,
Then we should all be wearing halos.


Daily Devotion – March 27, 2016


Luke 23:50-56

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.

On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Devotion by Julia Shiver

It is almost the first Easter morning. The sun is just beginning to rise.  There is a chill in the air.  Jesus’ broken body has been prepared for burial, according to the customs of the times.  Shock is beginning to fade to grief.  Fear builds as these followers wonder “What comes next?”  Will they be arrested?  What are they supposed to do now that their teacher is gone?

These followers don’t know what we know. All they can see is Jesus’ body, hanging from the cross.  But we know what comes next.  We know what the women will find when they go to the tomb.  We know that death is not the end of the story, but the beginning.  May you and yours have a most blessed Easter.


Dear God,

Thank you for the beginning of the story. For the new day and the new covenant between you and yours.   Amen.

Daily Devotion – March 26, 2016

Luke 23:44-49


The Death of Jesus 

44It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. 47When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ 48And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.


Devotion by Lynne Buell


Every year as we approach Good Friday, I envision the torture and humiliation Jesus suffered before his death. I ponder the moments leading up to Jesus’ last breath.  It’s difficult for me to reason with the way Jesus was beaten and scorned prior to his death; I think ‘why so brutal?’

As I contemplated today’s scripture, I thought about love. The greatest love of all is the love God—who was willing to sacrifice the life of a son—has for us.  All we need to do is love each other and live our lives according to the Ten Commandments.  We have this great guidebook:  the Bible.  Have faith and open your heart to God’s love and the wisdom of Jesus if you haven’t already.  You will experience the sensation of that love and have a feeling of contentment every day.


Loving God, I am ever so grateful for this solemn, yet triumphant time of reflection. Amen.






Daily Devotion – March 25, 2016

Montage Sequence
Molly Baskette

“When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” – John 19:30

My favorite thing in the world is that scene in the movie: the one in which the peppy music comes on, and the wrong-for-each-other couple falls in love, or the gritty neighborhood gets turned around, or the ugly duckling becomes a swan. In other words, the montage sequence. Why can’t the universe be tidy like this, instead of: a hot mess that is rapidly cooling and spreading out into the infinity-frigid-dark-and-formless-void?

Here’s the rub: even Jesus couldn’t escape the hot mess and the cold pain of betrayal, abandonment, and death. If God had to do things the hard way, why should we be exempt? Most of our spiritual progress, at least once we reach adulthood, is made by lurching from crisis to crisis, grief to grief, and somehow surviving all of them.

The fact of the cross says there is something spiritually important about the hard things that happen. God may or may not send them, but God will absolutely use them, when they happen, to transform us and teach us what we need to know next. There’s no resurrection without a crucifixion.


God, as we live through this long, hard day with Jesus, thank you for not editing out the fiddly bits. Help us to share deeply in this dying, and may our own sufferings and hard slogs serve to draw us closer to you.

Molly Baskette is between churches, working on two new books before starting her next call. You can read more from her in her two current offerings, Real Good Church and Naked Before God.


Daily Devotion – March 24, 2016

Luke 22:39-46

He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’ Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ [[ Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.]] When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

If words have power, then a turn of a phrase can change the power. In this translation, the term “time of trial” is used. If taken as the upcoming “trial” with which Jesus is confronted by Pilate, this passage can be taken that Jesus hopes the disciples are not crucified along with Him. He seems worried about them and is worried for Himself as well.

But in another translation, this phrase is replaced with the word “temptation”. So Jesus is hoping that the disciples will not become sinful, but will stay with Him. He knows that many will turn against Him, and He is praying that His disciples will not be among them.
How sad it must be for Jesus to know that people will turn against Him and urge Pilate to crucify Him. How sad it must be for Jesus to know that Judas will betray Him and that Peter will deny Him. Similarly, how sad it must be for Jesus when I turn against Him or deny Him. I don’t mean to, but for example, when I try to hide the fact that I’m praying when I’m in public, I’m kind of denying Jesus. It makes me feel sad knowing that I make Jesus feel sad.


Dear God, please help me continue to consciously grow closer to You. Amen.

Daily Devotion – March 23, 2016

“God the Artist”
Donna Schaper

“Know how to sustain with a word . . .” – Isaiah 50: 4

Artists know how to sustain with a word or a picture. Some of us imagine God is an artist. We are unapologetically anthropomorphic, creating God in our own image.

When we imagine God as an artist, we think we are doing God a favor. Then again, there is the possibility that we will remember what it is really like to be an artist. Does God have a day job? Or an agent? A proposal to be writer-in-residence due on Wednesday? What about the struggle to say something true? Does God have the never-ending unfinishedness of the unfinsihedness? Or what T.S. Eliot described so well as his inability to write because the “distractions from his distractions left him distracted”?

Creatives know what it is like to be so unsettled that all they want to do is settle down, only to discover just how boring settling down really is. Creatives understand the hassle of focusing. Seeing deeply. Finding what is light and gentle and soft in a hard world.

Is there an artist in you? Does she have a sustaining word? Does he know how to be God’s agent? Or does God work alone?

Refresh us, O God, with a sense of how little it takes—just a word or a picture—to refresh us. Put our hand on someone’s shoulder and let it matter.


Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Check out her book: Prayers for People Who Say They Can’t Pray.