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Daily Devotion – March 31, 2018
03.31.18

 

Mark 15:40-41

There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

 

Reflection by Ellen Green

Here is the crucified Jesus, seen through the eyes of those who loved him. These are the disciples who not only admired Jesus but also provided for his human needs. In practical and unglamorous ways, the women at the cross had harbored, nourished, and nursed this man, keeping body and soul together.

Parents and other caregivers know the intimacy and risk involved in caring about another body as it moves through the world. There’s a gut feeling of protectiveness, and secondhand pain when the one you love is hurt. We can imagine what it felt like for the women at the cross to witness that body tortured.

Central to the Christian story is a body in pain. A Divine spark, enfleshed. A tender body, subjected to brutality and public humiliation. God is in those whom we despise and dispose of. God, the Creator and Sustainer, calls them beloved. And God, witnessing our brokenness, breathes life back into the world.

 

Prayer

May we look on one another with tenderness today. When precious bodies suffer, may we weep with God and the women at the cross. Then, let us witness newness of life and nurture it to wholeness. Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – March 27, 2018
03.27.18

Mark 14:12-16

The Passover with the Disciples

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

Devotion by Julia Shiver

The Passover is a holy time in the Jewish year.  Everyone in Jerusalem, and Israel, would have been busy preparing themselves and their families.  Jesus knows he is about to enter into a great trial, possibly ending in his death.  As he and his disciples enter the city, Jesus has them prepare a place so that they can break bread together in the traditional manner.

Jesus knows he only has a few more hours with his disciples; so as they prepare for the Passover, Jesus prepares his students for his departure.  Even at this time of greatest crisis, he is focused on helping his followers understand what is about to happen.  He leaves with them the tools they will need to guide their followers.

How have you prepared for Holy Week?  Are you prepared for what is to come?

Prayer:

Dear God, The most holy time in our Christian year is upon us.  Please help us to focus on what you have done on our behalf.  We give you all the praise.  Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – March 26, 2018
Mark 14:1-11
   
14 It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; 2for they said, ‘Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.’

3 While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. 4But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? 5For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. 6But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. 7For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. 8She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. 9Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’

 

10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
Reflection by Lynne Buell
Today my scriptures in Mark of some events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion during Holy Week were cleverly portrayed by Matthew, Trish and Rochelle from first person perspectives during our Palm Sunday service yesterday. Trish established the format, and it was her intent to allow the members in the congregation guess who those first persons were supposed to be. The renditions were delivered in the form of conversations that would take place in the present day. Below I copied the bulletin section which includes who the first persons were supposed to be:
 
Readings and Reflections
Introduction (Moving from triumphal entry into the week)
Rochelle
Reading MARK 14:1-2                                                                                                                                                                                                                            First First Person Reflection (Insights from the scribe/Pharisee perspective)
Matthew
Reading MARK 14:3-9
First Person Reflection (From a guest at that dinner party)
Trish
Reading MARK 14:10-11
First Person Reflection (Judas or an old friend/classmate of his)
Rochelle
Reading MARK 14-12-16
Story to be Continued this Thursday Night
Trish
This week is more than focusing on what Jesus might have been struggling with in his mind knowing that he would soon suffer cruel inhumane death. This week was also a time when the disciples underwent four tests that they failed; it was a week that taught us how the disciples responded when things became a bit too intense.
Thanks to Trish’s account of what folk’s reactions might have been as observers in today’s world, the events seemed more real to me.  I was able to reflect on how this might have affected me personally if I was a guest at the meal. How would I have reacted?  The disciples were preoccupied with the poor–and while this is a good thing–their precedence was supposed to be Jesus. The question we should ask ourselves is what needs rearranging in our lives so that we can put God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit as our top priorities?
Prayer:
Gracious God, show us areas of our lives where we desire You more than Your blessings. Amen.


Daily Devotion – March 24, 2018
03.24.18

Philippians 2.12-30

Shining as Lights in the World

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you— and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me.

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

Paul is writing to the Philippians about 50 AD. He is thankful for their following Paul. He acknowledges that being a Christian after the crucifixion of Christ is difficult. He tells them to work out their “own salvation with fear and trembling”. I’m amazed that he would acknowledge that followers were in fear. Of course they were, but to acknowledge the fear somehow makes it sensible.

“It is God who is at work in you.” I believe this is how the Holy Spirit works. It works within and through people. Think how far Paul’s thinking has progressed since the times of Roman Gods when storms meant they were fighting in the sky!

If we can be thankful instead of grumbling, we can set ourselves apart in the eyes of God. “Shine like the stars in the world.”

Prayer

Dear God. It amazes me that back in the day, Paul had learned so much from Jesus that he could pass along his teachings to others. May my heart be open to the teachings of Paul, in these times, here and now. Amen.



Daily Devotion – March 22, 2018
03.22.18
Psalm 31:9-13

9. Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
My eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and my body with grief
10. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction and my bones grow weak.
11. Because of my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
I am the dread of my friends-those who see me on the street flee from me.
12. I am forgotten by them as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
13. For I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side;
they conspire against me and plot to take my life.

 

Reflection by Darlene Wagner

The psalmist here reflects the deep-seated human fear of enemies along with
yearning for faithful friends. Here, enemies need not be people. Poverty, natural
disasters, corrupt religious institutions – all these can break a person, whether they adhere to a faith tradition or not.

The value of scriptures lies in their ability to teach all humankind about the human
condition, regardless of creed, belief, ideology, or culture. As American society
becomes increasingly secular, these longings for friendship and fear of harmful forces will continue their hold on the human heart. Unfortunately, the average, hard-working agnostic of the new America will lack the insights afforded by knowledge of ancient scriptures. Much good will certainly arise from secularization, but our souls may end up poorer.
Meditation:

Let Springtime roots wrap round me where I rest;
To burst forth green, red, gold and silver flowering breath!
All shall change when none the same remains!


Daily Devotion – March 21, 2018
03.21.18

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.

Prayer

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.

Amen

 

 



Daily Devotion – March 19, 2018
03.19.18

Nature

“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?

Prayer

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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,


‘Hosanna!
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
03.17.18

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.
Prayer:

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
03.16.18

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.

Prayer:

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.