Daily Devotion – March 21, 2018

Devotion for March 21, 2018

Isaiah 50:4-9
The Lord God has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backwards.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.
The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
All of them will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up.

Devotion by Anne Mooney

The narrator in this scripture has made up his mind to live in God’s will.  It is not an easy task to live this way.  People don’t always like what he has to say.  They insult him, strike at him, and even pull his beard.  Yet he continues to listen to God each day and God continues to guide him.  He trusts that whatever happens to him, in the end, he will be vindicated.

As for me, living in God’s will is not an easy task.  I find it challenging just to listen to God.  My life is full of so much busy-ness, I miss a lot of what God would have me know and do.  On the other hand, I am also afraid of what God would have me do.  God is famous for asking people to step outside their comfort zone and stand up against the status quo.  This is not on my list of preferred things to do.  Yet my faith calls me to do just that.

Can I dare to stop and listen to what God wants me to do?  Can I dare to share God’s ways with a disinterested and distracted world?  Can I trust God will give me the tools I need along the way?  Can I take heart in the words of this Servant from long ago and have faith as he did?  I can pray for willingness.  I am called to try.  I am called to faith.


Breathe on me breath of God.  Fill me with life anew, that I may love and live as you would have me love and live and do what you would have me do.




Daily Devotion – March 19, 2018


“Listen to me you coastlands.” – Isaiah 41:1

I have been thinking about spending the spring working through some of the nature texts in the Bible for a sermon series.  When I started my search I realized that very few were NOT about nature, which presented me immediately with a problem.  Psalms about the forest or the land or the wilderness abound.   Jesus calms storms,  walks on water,  finds a coin in a fish, sees a fig tree withered, turns water into wine.  There are absurdly large catches of fish.  I could go on.  So, probably, could you.
I think my sermon series is a bust.  How do you separate what is about nature and what is about non-nature or the human?  And is even the non-human about nature?  Or the non-human a kind of conceited farce about ourselves?  After all, we are mostly water and rather depend on air.
The text for today is  God speaking to nature. “Listen up you coastlands. . . .”   Strange that God would command nature to listen to God.  I mean isn’t nature naturally attuned to the divine?  Hmmmm.  Maybe not.  Maybe nature is more like us than we think, maybe it too needs reminders of who it is and why it is and what it is.

What I want to do is to stop our use of nature as a thing.  I want us to treat nature with respect.  I also want it to treat us with respect.  Hmmmm, again.  Maybe we have to treat each other with respect?  The longer we preach, the more reason we have to come up with good ideas for sermon series.  Maybe the coastlands will have a suggestion?


O God, when we try our best to listen with the coastlands, grant us wise, exegetical ears. Amen.


Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her most recent book is I Heart Frances: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.

Daily Devotion – March 18, 2018

Mark 11:1-11


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. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’


Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.


I’ve always thought this story was kind of weird. Maybe it’s just the way my wacky brain works, I don’t know. But Jesus says, “Hey go borrow a colt and if anyone asks you what you’re doing, just say God needs it.” And they do it!  Ooooo-kk.  I’m imagining how this would go over in my life. I go to my neighbor’s house and start to drive her cool Dodge Charger away. I’m sure she’s gonna run out of the house yelling at me! “Why are you taking my car!?” And I say, “Oh it’s ok! God needs it! I’ll bring it right back!” And she’s like, “Oh ok, cool.” I mean. . . REALLY!?!?


This sort of feels like one of those stories I get from my youngest son. A WEIRD story where ONE very crucial piece of information is missing that makes the whole thing make sense. But, since Mark didn’t feel like we needed that one crucial piece of info, we’re left with this story.

I guess the application I get from this story (after I pick myself up off the floor laughing, cuz the Bible is really funny sometimes!) is that sometimes God tells us to do weird things. Weird things that NOBODY else is going to understand. Years ago God told me to be a foster mom. We lived in an incredibly UNdiverse place, Northern Minnesota. I was a pastor’s wife in a very conservative church. The church ladies wanted me to be a good church lady. I’m a terrible church lady. And an even worse pastor’s wife. I don’t do pastor’s wifely things like teach Sunday School and play the piano and plan stupid teas. But, I did know there were 300 foster kids in Duluth, MN alone who desperately needed a loving home. So I did it. And everyone thought I was nuts. And lots of people in the church got mad at me. And I just said, “Hey, it’s cool. God needs me!” I mean, ok, it wasn’t that easy. But I knew that being a foster mom to the 9 precious babies I ended up mothering over six years, was absolutely what I was supposed to be doing regardless of how crazy it sounded to everyone else. And today, my daughter is at the end of her junior year of college studying to be. . . a social worker. Kind of amazing what happens when we do crazy things.


So the next time Jesus randomly tells you to go get a baby horse (whatever your “baby horse” might be), just do it! God uses the willing and the faithful.

Daily Devotion – March 17, 2018

John 12:27-33

 ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say-“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
Reflection by Janet Derby
Lenten Scriptures are difficult to read. One can only imagine how troubled Jesus was as he faced his approaching death. Yet, he continued on, spreading God’s word and love to the world. He surely had God’s law written on his heart. As tough as this passage is, it is a comforting reminder of the depth and breadth of God’s love for us.

God of Steadfast Love,
Thank you for being always with me, no matter how difficult the times. Help me to feel that presence, and be that presence for others. Amen.

Daily Devotion – March 16, 2018

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival.  They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request.  “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Phillip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.  John 12:20-26

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

Christ, in John 12, tells his disciples and followers that unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it cannot bear fruit.  Christ knew just how important it was to continue to let go of the beliefs of this world so that we can bring forth the fruits of the kin-dom of God.   The secular world offers many ways to convince us that we belong to it and not to the kin-dom of God.  These ways of the world can be very tempting.  They lead, however, to despair as they fade away.

At the heart of the message of the gospels is this: that we are all loved by God from the least of us to the greatest among us.  Christ came to share that message but in order to believe it we must die to this world.  We must let go of those beliefs that hinder our ability to embrace that love and keep us from sharing it with one another.  Only when we are willing to die can we transform into an abundant life that bears fruit.

We are approaching week 5 of Lent now.  As we continue this time in the wilderness we would do well to continue to seek this love God has for us and allow it to draw closer to our Creator.


May we pray as David taught to pray in Psalm 51,

Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.  And do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take away Your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of your salvation, And uphold me by your generous Spirit. Amen.

Daily Devotion – March 15, 2018

Hebrews 5:7-10

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Reflection by Ellen Green

Jesus suffered, died, and rose again to life. This series of eventsthis storypaves the way for humanity, too, to experience new life. The exact metaphysical mechanism at work in our salvation is a matter that’s open to debate. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews writes here that Jesus’ experience of human suffering is essential. Having shared in that fundamental human experience, Jesus has sympathy for and solidarity with us in our lamentation. Jesus’ experience of human suffering enables him to act as an intercessor between humanity and the Divine, like the high priests familiar to Jewish Christians. Other followers of Jesus have looked at his life, death, and resurrection in a different light. Communities of Christians throughout history have found many ways of connecting to God’s saving grace through the person of Jesus Christ.

While the how of salvation is shrouded in mystery (at best) and violent division (at worst) the why is clear. For God so loved the world.


God, you aren’t easy to pin down. You have given all of humanity the gifts of curiosity and imagination. When my understanding differs from others, remind me that you contain many truths. Give me a little of your capacious love. Amen. 


Daily Devotion – March 13, 2018


Jeremiah 31:31-34


The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt – a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: 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. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. 


Reflection by Janet Derby


In looking at the Sunday school material for this week, I read this quote from Anne Lamott.


“There’s a lovely Hassidic story of a rabbi who always told his people that if they studied the Torah, it would put scripture on their hearts. One of them asked, ‘Why ON our hearts, and not IN them?’ The rabbi answered, ‘Only God can put Scripture inside. But reading sacred text can put it on your hearts, and then when your hearts break, the holy words will fall inside.'”

Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith


This is so true. I’ve never believed that learning Bible verses was important simply for the memorization of it. Rather, it allows the lessons of Scripture to become a part of our basic beliefs. It is what enables us to keep faith alive when times are difficult. Jeremiah understood this also. No set of rules will keep a relationship intact, it must be something deeper. When our sons were teens and were going out somewhere, their dad would say to them, “Remember who you are and whose you are.” Not a long list of rules about what they should and should not do. Just a simple reminder that they needed to behave appropriately as a representative of our family and as a Christian. This is only possible when we have God’s words written on our hearts.



Faithful God,
Help me to keep your covenant on my heart and to always remember that you are with me. Amen.


Daily Devotion – March 11, 2018

John 3:17-21


17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.


Devotion by Laurie Spencer 


These verses, along with John 3:16, is the crux of it all, isn’t it?  Intellectually I know that Jesus came into a world of great sin, and that God’s gift to us was intended to save us from condemnation and judgment. We believe, we behave, we are saved.


Yet emotionally, and humanly, I just can’t help reading through the verses and wondering, how do I stand? Do I merit saving? Is my life more dark than light?  Do I create more harm than good? What is good enough? Is perfection required?  Is it OK for me to repent over and over and over again, or after a while, does God just get darn tired of my shenanigans?


Intellectually John gives reason for great hope.  For to be saved is to have complete confidence that death is not to be feared.  What joy!  Yet he raises enough questions to fill a life on earth.




Dear Lord above, this Lent, lay the answers to my questions on my heart. 



Daily Devotion – March 8, 2018

Ephesians 2:1-7

From Death to Life

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

I listen to a lot of Beatles music and earlier today listened to George Harrison’s “Living in a Material World”. He says he met “John and Paul here in the material world”. I’m surprised that George would call out his good friends, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, by name. He published this song just three to four years after the Beatles broke up.

After some reflection, isn’t that what Jesus is doing? Maybe not by name, but he is calling us out to stop living in a material world. Stop living for the flesh and start living a more spiritual life. We don’t know life until we live in the light of Jesus. No matter what we do, the ever-patient God is waiting to help us with his grace.


Dear God. Help me “back out of this material world”. Help me lead a more spiritual life. Amen.

Daily Devotion – March 6, 2018

Psalm 107:1-3; 17-22, 30-43

1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
those he redeemed from trouble
3 and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

17 Some were sick through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress;
20 he sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from destruction.
21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
22 And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.

30 Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

33 He turns rivers into a desert,
springs of water into thirsty ground,
34 a fruitful land into a salty waste,
because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.
35 He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
36 And there he lets the hungry live,
and they establish a town to live in;
37 they sow fields, and plant vineyards,
and get a fruitful yield.
38 By his blessing they multiply greatly,
and he does not let their cattle decrease.

39 When they are diminished and brought low
through oppression, trouble, and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41 but he raises up the needy out of distress,
and makes their families like flocks.
42 The upright see it and are glad;
and all wickedness stops its mouth.
43 Let those who are wise give heed to these things,
and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

Devotion by Lynne Buell

The first three verses of Psalm 107 signify thankfulness and hope.  But if you read on, there begins the roller coaster ride.  You are plunged into gloom and doom; bad things happened because you have sinned.  You have reached the lowest of low; only then will you ask God to forgive you.  And then God listens, and the words of this Psalm begin on an upward incline where there is no more misery, pain, or suffering.

Our lives have ups and downs, and there are times when we feel like God has left us out in the cold.  From the song the choir sang last Sunday, “Christ is Our Brother” by Pepper Choplin, one of the stanzas has the words, “My God, why have you forsaken me,” (also found in Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46) which were cried out by Jesus from the cross.  How many times have you cried out, “Why, God, why?!!?”

If you pay attention to the underlying meaning of this Psalm, I believe it is reminding us that God is the core of righteousness and love.

This Lent, I chose to focus on God’s goodness.  Before Jesus came, I think the world was without hope.  Even present day, there are many who are living without hope.  Nevertheless, we cannot give up.  We can make this world a better place by continuing with our missions in helping others and spreading God’s Word.  Each life that we influence is one less that suffers from hunger, loneliness, and sorrow.


“For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.”  Psalm 107:9