Lenten Meditations

This page contains meditations for the first seventeen days of Lent (the rest will be added soon) – Sundays are not included by tradition.  Chapel member volunteered to read the Scripture assigned for each day according to the Lectionary, pray about what they had read, and then write a meditation based on how God spoke to them through the readings. We are most grateful for these persons for their time and thoughtful effort.  Most entries contain the Scripture reading on which the reflection is based.  Following the message is a suggested prayer and a listing of all the Scripture readings assigned for the day.

 

Return to Me with all Your Heart

by Isabel Weathersby

Ash Wednesday, February 14

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.  Return to the Lord, your God.

Time and again God’s chosen are called to repent and return to God.  God, through his prophets, warn of impending doom if the people do not reform.  This time it’s an army of locus that would destroy everything in its path.  (I thought of Pharaoh’s problem in Exodus).  It’s the same old cycle of sin, threat of punishment, repentance, mercy and forgiveness; then the cycle repeats itself.  It seems that God’s people never learn.  But I know God always loves us no matter our sinful nature.  Even today, thousands of years later, we see such sin in the world.  But God is always merciful and loving.  During this time of Lent, let us turn to God, with fasting, weeping and lamenting as the prophet suggests.  Remember, each time we renew our Baptismal vows we affirm, with God’s help, to persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.

What gives me hope and comfort is that, as a Christian, I know Jesus paid the price on the cross for the sins of the world, including yours and mine.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent:  Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.  Book of Common Prayer (BCP), page 217.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord, bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection. 

BCP, Litany of Penitence, page 269

Additional Readings: Psalm 103 or 103:8-14; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21.

 

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Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?

By Dick Lawrence

Thursday, February 15

Philippians 2: 1-5

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

In 2013, Adam Grant was 31 years old and was the youngest tenured and highest rated professor at Wharton. He regularly advises companies about how to get the most out of their employees and how to help their employees get the most out of their jobs. In 2014, he published a book entitled: Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. The book was not just about some “feel good” theory.  It relied on hard data: dollars, as opposed to manager assessments or self-reports. Of course, traditional thinking is that offering benefits that appeal to a worker’s self-interest is almost the only way to motivate most employees.

It is interesting to me that it took over 2000 years for a Wharton professor to discover that following some of Jesus’ instructions is good for business. Grant’s studies concluded that the greatest untapped source of motivation is a sense of service to others. Focusing on the contribution of our work to other people’s lives has the potential to make us more productive than thinking solely about helping ourselves. The most successful givers are those who rate high in concern for others. And giving our time and money in large enough “chunks” to have an impact is the best way to cause intense enough responses to be gratifying.

Grant does not recommend being a doormat that is exploited.  He recognizes that doormats go nowhere or burn out. Similarly, Jesus said “no” while he was in a solitary place and people wanted him to come back into town.  (Luke 4:42-45). Jesus said “no” because God had other plans for him.

Of course, the reasons behind Grant’s suggestions for a change in business culture are different from Jesus’ reasons behind His teachings.  Grant made his suggestions because they are good for business. Jesus taught that we should focus on other people because of love. It took 2000 years for a Wharton professor to realize that Jesus’ teachings make good business sense.  Maybe over the next 2000 years another business professor will discover that Jesus was right when he said that we should focus on other people because of love.

Additional Readings: Psalm 102: 15-22; Isaiah 52: 7-10; Luke 10: 1-9

 

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Stumbling Blocks

By Whit Rayner

Friday, February 16

Psalm 94: 18

As often as I said, “My foot has slipped”, your love, O Lord, upheld me.

Today, rather than focusing on an excerpt from just one of the daily readings, I would encourage you to read all four passages (yes, especially from the Apocryphal Book of Sirach). There is a common thread in all the readings, sometimes expressly stated, or in the case of the Gospel reading from Luke, implicitly referenced.  That theme is “stumbling blocks”. Sirach writes that “The eyes of the Lord are on those who love him…a guard against stumbling and a help against falling.” And Paul in his letter to the Romans writes, “Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.” And the Psalmist writes that “As often as I said, ‘my foot has slipped’, your love, O Lord upheld me.”

Our dog, Baxter has one of those nylon bones, the kind with bumps and ridges all over it for good dental stimulation.  And walking across the floor in the middle of the night, a recent direct contact with this stimulation send me whirling in circles around the dark bedroom—grasping at anything to maintain my balance.

But as Luke writes, these stumbling blocks are often more insidious.  Look at the list of stumbling blocks that prevented the invited guests from attending the wedding feast—“I bought a piece of land”; “I have bought five oxen, and I am going to try them out”; and “I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.”

As we pause to reflect during Lent, ask yourself “What are my stumbling blocks?”; “What detracts from my relationship with God?” And then take refuge in the fact that as often as our feet slip, the love of God upholds us.

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.     BCP p. 137

Additional Readings: Sirach 34: 14-19; Romans 14: 10-13; Luke 14: 15-24

 

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Birds in Our Attic

by Bill Horne

Saturday, February 17

John 12: 24-32

Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.

Today’s Gospel begins:”….. unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

So it is with us, are we not this grain? The False Self, the one we’ve developed from our earliest days, must at some time die so that the Real Self, that which God created us to be, may sprout forth and bear much fruit. It is a process we seldom willingly embrace as a dear friend of ours and an Episcopal priest, The Rev. John Bagby of Alabama, recently wrote of his attempts to chase a bird from his attic. His final attempt was to just leave the door to the attic opened in hopes that the bird would go to the light and leave the attic. He reflects:

“Like the bird, we sometimes refuse to head for the light, even though it’s in our own best interest to do so. We’d prefer the prisons of our own choosing- addiction, abusive relationships, gluttony, sloth, envy, regret, greed, self-pity, and on and on. We flail away with our wings in the dark, singing, “I did it my way!””

How many times does Our Lord have to call us? It takes humility on our part to admit that there could be a better way, one rich with joys we could not imagine, a way shining in celestial light. I am reminded of the words from the St. Andrews Hymn, #549:

“Jesus calls us from the worship

of the vain world’s golden store,

from each idol that would keep us,

saying, ‘Christian, love me more.’”

Dear Father, please do not stop calling us, for our need for the knowledge of your love will never die; it is only hidden and covered up, smoldering in anticipation of your breath to send it into the flames of joy you have always desired. And in the words of Your Son Our Savior Jesus Christ, Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Amen.

Additional Readings: Psalm 119: 41-48; Daniel 3: 13-29; 2 Corinthians 6: 2b-10

 

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Back to the Wilderness

By Robert Pooley

Monday, February 19

Mark 1: 11-13

And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’  And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Today’s Gospel reading tells about John the baptizer proclaiming repentance as he baptized the people of Jerusalem.  Later John baptizes Jesus which is accounted for in the above verses from Mark. There are heavenly signs and even the voice of God almighty speaking, saying he is pleased. I suppose Jesus and John were pleased also to earn God’s favor.  What struck me was what happened immediately following this wonderous mountaintop experience with God: the Spirit drove him out into the wilderness, fasting for forty days.

Every Cursillo weekend retreat I have attended has been a holy mountaintop experience.  The Holy Spirit is abundant, there are no worries, much joyfulness, celebrating, singing, great food, beautiful settings, and we see the presence of Christ in everyone involved.  I recommend the experience for learning and spiritual renewal.  Then on Monday, it’s back to what is called the Fourth Day, or the real world.  The wilderness.  Where Satan was still at work while I was gone, and where I have work to do also.   When my kids were young, I would kiss them goodbye in the morning, jokingly saying I had to go back to the jungle and tame the wild beasts, and the angels waited on me to come back home again.  As I write this, my family is planning our annual Mardi Gras celebration, a last blast before we make our sacrifices for Lent.

So we go through these cycles of creation and repentance, celebration and prayer, abundance and sacrifice.  We might experience God in different ways through these cycles. Sometimes we may have to try harder to find God’s abundant grace than others.  But if I try, I can hear God more clearly when I am quiet, in need, making sacrifice, or in the jungle wilderness, a place where we are tested, where we encounter the Lord, and a place where we prepare for renewal.

Almighty Father, whose Son endured temptation and hardship in the wilderness, grant us the strength refuse temptation and to find mercy in times of hardship, and that we may prayerfully hear you in the quietness and discern your direction, through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Additional Readings: Psalm 41, 44, 52; Genesis 37: 1-11; 1 Corinthians 1: 1-19; Mark 1: 1-13

 

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Your Father Knows What You Need

By Ben Robertson

Tuesday, February 20

In today’s Gospel reading, Matthew 6:7–15, Jesus teaches us to pray.  He says, “when you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.”  I am reminded of a story my former Rector once told me.  She took her youth group on an ecumenical mission trip with several other youth groups from the other churches in town.  One evening before supper, all of the leaders were invited to offer a grace.  As they began to pray, each leader prayed longer and more elaborately, seemingly attempting to “out-pray” their predecessor.  My boss opened the Book of Common Prayer, read a Collect, and was done.  As they filed in for supper, a member of her group pulled her aside and whispered, “I have never been so proud to be an Episcopalian.”

We like to be right.  We like to be on the right side of an issue, we like to be on the side of the winning team, we like to do the right thing.  This tendency is not necessarily a bad thing.  The drive to do one’s best has lead to many great triumphs.  However, sometimes we don’t need to be “right.”  Sometimes we should just be.  Especially when we pray.

In chapter six of Matthew, we are in the midst of the Sermon of the Mount.  The crowds are looking for guidance and Jesus offers a great deal of powerful directive.  When he speaks about prayer, in comparing the empty phrases of some with his own prayer, I believe Jesus is telling us not to worry about being right or fretting about what we say or think as we pray.  Jesus says, “for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”   So, just set aside some time and be with God.  Sit and accept God’s invitation to commune with Him.  Listen.  Wonder.  In this season of Lent, we often try to fill the time with giving up things or taking on things.  And those disciplines are good.  But, also don’t forget to just be with God.  If we spent Lent “merely” getting closer to God, that would be a very holy season. 

Give yourself a little grace this Lent.  As Jesus says at the end of chapter six, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.”  Do not worry about your prayer.  Do not worry about getting it right.  Just be.  And God will be with you.

 

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Healing

by Susan Hedglin

Wednesday, February 21

Mark 1: 29-45

Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”

When Jesus passed through a synagogue in Galilee, a leper walked right up to him. Stricken by a debilitating disease and cast out by his community, the leper must have been desperate for help. He cried out to Jesus, “You can make me clean.” And Jesus was moved—”moved with compassion” by this man’s cry for help. How rarely are we this honest when when we are in crisis!

Now more than ever we feel pressure to put on a perfect face to the outside world. We tend to hide our darkest moments, in fear that others will judge us or be repelled. We’re afraid to reach out…to share our vulnerabilities…to share our brokenness.

There is healing available to all of us, for our deepest, darkest, most stubborn problems. But we have to extend our hand and ask for help. During this Lenten season, reach out. Your cry of help will be heard with compassion.

Lord, give me the strength to be vulnerable. Help me be honest about my needs, even when I am ashamed of my own shortcomings. I seek your healing touch.

Additional Readings: Psalm 119: 49-72; Psalm 49, [53]; Genesis 37: 25-36; 1 Corinthians 2:1-13; Mark 1:29-45 

 

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Troubles

by Becky Herren

Thursday, February 22

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble; Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change;

Though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though the waters roar and foam; though the mountains tremble with its tumult. 

Where do you go when troubles come your way? And I might add that as we live in this world, troubles WILL come.

The message of the Gospel is simply that God is closer to us than we have ever known; more loving, more willing to help us than we can imagine. Jesus declared that God is worthy of our trust and Jesus lived and died trusting God.

One of the certainties of our faith is that the future into which we journey is filled with God. It is not empty! We believe as Christians that God beckons to us and our fears are dispelled with confidence and hope.

I do not know what your particular trouble is; I do not know if you are worried about your health, or your children, or your future, or your marriage, or your job. But I do know that an essential part of our faith is to believe that we are not alone in our trouble, and that the future is not hopeless. In his loving kindness, God is already there!

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favor, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our words begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Additional Readings: Psalms 50, 59, 60, 19; Genesis 39: 1-23; 1 Cor 2:14- 3:15; Mark 1: 1-12

 

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Be Careful

By Bill Buhner

Friday, February 23

Mark 2: 15-16

When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?

The scribes, the eyes-and-ears of the Pharisees, seeking “dirt” on Jesus, ask the above question of the disciples. Jesus, knowing full well what the scribes are there for answers:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

I have found an unfortunate tendency of the “learned” (see the 1 Corinthians reading for today for more) to present Jesus as one who accepts all as they are and expects no change of behavior. I’m OK, you’re OK.

If He is the “physician”, calling the “sick”, is there not an expectation of a following “wellness” or change of behavior? I think so. As Jesus said to the adulterous woman at the well, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”

Let us pray that we may have the will to do the same.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on us, all sinners. Lord, give us the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the will to act on that which has been laid before us. In your most holy name, Amen.

Additional Readings: Psalm 95, 40, 54, 51; Gen. 40:1-23; 1 Cor. 3:16-23; Mark 2:13-22

 

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Signs and Symbols

By Lisa Stutzman

Saturday, February 24

Genesis 41: 1-13

Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile. And lo, there came up out of the Nile seven cows, sleek and handsome and fat; and they grazed in the reed grass in a marshy pasture. Then behold, seven other cows came up after them out of the Nile, ugly and gaunt and raw-boned, and stood by the fat cows on the bank of the Nile. Then the ugly and gaunt and raw-boned cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. Then Pharaoh awoke. Then he fell asleep and dreamed a second time; and behold, seven ears of grain came up on a single stalk, plump and good. Then behold, seven ears of grain, thin and dried up by the east wind, sprouted after them. Then the thin ears swallowed the seven plump and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and it was a dream. So when morning came his spirit was troubled and disturbed and he sent and called for all the magicians and all the wise men of Egypt. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them to him.

Then the chief cupbearer spoke to Pharaoh, saying, “I would mention my faults today. Two years ago Pharaoh was angry with his servants, and he put me in confinement in the house of the captain of the guard, both me and the chief baker. We dreamed a dream on the same night, he and I; each of us dreamed according to the significance of the interpretation of his own dream. Now there was with us in the prison a young man, a Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted our dreams for us, to each man according to the significance of his own dream. And just as he interpreted the dreams for us, so it happened; I was restored to my office as chief cupbearer, and the baker was hanged.”

I am always amazed at the signs our Lord will send to use.  Lent is a wonderful opportunity to slow down and deeply reflect.  While reading Genesis 41:1-13, I was struck by the symbolism of the 7 cows and the 7 ears of grain. After reading the scripture assigned and letting it percolate, I kept going back to the symbol of 7.  Overly curious, of course I googled it. Below is an edited version of what came up.   I want to believe our Lord delights when we take the time to research hidden, deeper meanings while also spending quiet time with Him for further revelation.  I invite all of us to dig deeper in His word to find the special inspiration and guidance our Father has for all of us.

The Meaning of Numbers: The Number 7

Used 735 times (54 times in the book of Revelation alone), the number 7 is the foundation of God’s word. If we include with this count how many times ‘sevenfold’ (6) and ‘seventh’ (119) is used, our total jumps to 860 references.

Seven is the number of completeness and perfection (both physical and spiritual). It derives much of its meaning from being tied directly to God’s creation of all things. According to some Jewish traditions, the creation of Adam occurred on September 26, 3760 B.C. (or the first day of Tishri, which is the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar). The word ‘created’ is used 7 times describing God’s creative work (Genesis 1:1, 21, 27 three times; 2:3; 2:4). There are 7 days in a week and God’s Sabbath is on the 7th day.

The Bible, as a whole, was originally divided into 7 major divisions. They are 1) the Law; 2) the Prophets; 3) the Writings, or Psalms; 4) the Gospels and Acts; 5) the General Epistles; 6) the Epistles of Paul; and 7) the book of Revelation. The total number of originally inspired books was forty-nine, or 7 x 7, demonstrating the absolute perfection of the Word of God.

Appearances of the number seven

There are at least seven men in the Old Testament who are specifically mentioned as a man of God. They are Moses (Joshua 14:6), David (2Chronicles 8:14), Samuel (1Samuel 9:6, 14), Shemaiah (1Kings 12:22), Elijah (1Kings 17:18), Elisha (2Kings 5:8) and Igdaliah (Jeremiah 35:4.

Other meanings of 7

Number 7 is the number of perfection, security, safety and rest.

Seven contains the number three of the heavens and soul with the number four of the earth and body.

The seven colors of the rainbow.

Isaac Newton identified the seven colors of the rainbow as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

There are seven days in a week.

There are seven notes to the diatonic scale.

There are seven letters in the Roman numeral system.

The opposite sides of a dice always equal the number seven when added.

Snow White

Seven is the number of dwarfs in the fairy tale, Snow White.

The seven dwarfs were named:

Bashful – Doc – Dopey – Grumpy – Happy – Sleepy – Sneezy

Additional Readings:  1 Corinthians 4:1-7; Mark 2:23- 3:6; Psalm 55, 138, 139: 1-23

 

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When the Golden Rule Has Tarnished

By Amelia Barker

Monday, February 26

Exodus 1: 15-21

“The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, ‘When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.’ But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live.”

I am a rule follower. For those of you who know me, you’ll snicker, because that’s an understatement. Whether it’s parliamentary procedure in a meeting, (sorry vestry!) household rules, or the law of the land, if there is a rule then I will attempt to follow it. So the awful situation Shiphrah and Puah found themselves in is one of my worst nightmares. The king has instructed them to do something that they believe contradicts God’s law.

In this situation, right and wrong is pretty easy to discern, but in our daily life that isn’t always the case. We are all surrounded by decisions to make, and we’re all guided by conflicting rules. Even the most devout Christians can be confused by conflicting messages within our own religion, so what can we do?

Today, we’re lucky enough to have the teachings of Jesus to guide us. Even his disciples were faced with conflict, leading Mark to ask “Which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

The Hebrew midwives followed this moral compass years before, placing their love of God and their love of others before the king’s rule. We can do that same thing today. When faced with conflicting rules or conflicting guidance, we can ask ourselves, “Will my response reflect my love of God? Will it demonstrate my love for the other person?” If the answer is yes, we have our answer.

Dear God,

In this noisy world, please help us hear Your voice. In a land of conflict and contradiction, please help us to live by the great commandment as Your beloved son taught us. Let our love for You and our love for each other guide our actions and help us shine Your light upon the world. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Additional Readings: Psalm 84; Exodus 1:15-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-25; Matthew 5:13-16

 

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Above and Beyond

By Laney Crampton

Tuesday, February 27

Matthew 5: 1-12

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit, the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

This scripture is among the most well known in the Bible. It is part of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus is speaking to his disciples (including you and me). Included are the Beatitudes, the Blesseds, which many of us memorized in Sunday School as children. Here Jesus speaks of righteousness and the character of life one must have in the kingdom of heaven. His spiritual guidelines, if you will, don’t spell out how to do, but to do it. My thought is we are being asked to go above and beyond the call of duty of the Old Testament Law.

Although I consider Mississippi my home, I grew up in Baton Rouge and have followed the Louisiana Cajun Navy since it was so named in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It’s an ad hoc group of men and women who use their boats to rescue people stranded in floodwaters. These boat owners, who have saved thousands of lives, simply do the right thing. The Cajun Navy storms into action going above and beyond the call of duty. Grand or small, when we go above and beyond, we are showing that the body and blood of Christ live within us.   When we receive communion, we do so in the remembrance of Jesus Christ, reminding ourselves to go out in the world and go above and beyond as Christ expects us to do.

Prayer from St. Augustine’s Prayer Book:  Grant us patience, O Lord, to follow the road you have taken.  Let our confidence not rest in our own understanding but in your guiding hand; let our desires not be for our own comfort, but for the joy of your kingdom; for your cross is our hope and our joy now and unto the day of eternity.  Amen.

Additional Readings:  Psalm 23; Exodus 28:29-30; Philippians 4:4-9

 

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Come, Holy Spirit

by Lynne Stillions

Wednesday, February 28

1 Timothy 4: 14

Do not neglect your gift which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

As Christians our glorious gift of the Holy Spirit is first given to us when we are baptized into the faith, usually through our parents when we are infants. The faithful are then sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit during our confirmation when we have reached the age of reason. Confirmation reaffirms our baptism, that Christ dwells in our hearts through our faith, strengthens us and matures us into strong Christians.

I have often been confused by the difference between the nine fruits of the Spirit and the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. Writing this Lenten devotional has helped me realize the difference in the two and where they are located in the Bible.  The nine fruits of the Spirit are found in Galatians 5:22; they are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are different from the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are found in 1 Corinthians 12: 7-11 and are the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, the gift of prophecy, the gift of faith, the gift of healing, the working of miracles, the discerning of spirits, different kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. The fruit of the Spirit deals with attitude while the  gifts of the Spirit deals with action in service, both should be used to glorify God

Which gifts have I been given? Do I use them to spread Christ’s love and Christian faith in the world?

In pondering what my spiritual gifts are, I keep coming back to the Old Testament book of Daniel. We are currently studying Daniel in the Wednesday morning Bible study. I have been amazed at Daniel’s strong faith in God, especially at such a young age. He was still a teenager when, through his faith and the power of God, he foretold and analyzed the Babylonian king’s dreams. By predicting the dream, he saved lives and was given great authority by the king. Studying Daniel has made me wonder how strong my faith would be in the same circumstances. Not very strong I think, especially when I was 19!

During this Lenten season, I am going to pray more. I know that prayer is my conversation with God. He yearns to hear from me. I will ask Him to strengthen my spiritual gifts and to help me use them more for His good. I have a lot of work to do and I really want to follow Daniel’s example.

I will close this meditation with a prayer from Cursillo:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.

Additional Readings: Psalm 78: 1-7; Proverbs 9: 1-6; Luke 4: 14-21

 

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The Seed Growing Secretly

by Susanne Files

Thursday, March 1

Mark 4: 26-29

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.  But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Growing up as the daughter of a farmer, I particularly love Jesus’ parables of the sower, his seeds and his kingdom.   As most of you who know me, I am a “ new testament kind of girl”. So choosing this scripture was easy for me.

In my long journey of faith, I often struggled to find the meaning of the Kingdom of God. Is it in heaven, as I was taught as a child? On Earth?  Certainly not down below where the devil resides? Where? I could grasp it now and again but somehow it would just slip away.  Dear God, help us all out.  This world needs your presence now more than ever.

The scripture tells us that the growth of God’s kingdom is beyond our understanding or control.  When the farmer sleeps, the Kingdom of God is still growing.  Its growth is due to God, not man, and follows his own timetable.  This verse from John explains it best for me.

“The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit”. John 3: 8

As Ben said in a recent sermon, it’s a thin place, a transcendence. Ever so slowly His kingdom has surrounded my world; for me, His Kingdom is here and now.

Almighty God;

You give seeds for us to sow,

And bread for us to eat;

Make us thankful for what we have received;

Make us rich to do those generous things

Which supply your people’s need;

So all the world may give you thanks and glory.

Amen

                                   New Zealand Prayer Book

Additional Readings:  Psalm 16: 5-11; Proverbs 15: 14-21; Thessalonians 2: 2b-12

 

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A Joyful Lent

by Will Compton

Friday, March 2

Psalm 95: 1

Come, let us sing to the Lord. Let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Seriously, a psalm about singing, shouting and joy in Lent? What nonsense! How frivolous! Lent is cold. Lent is solemn and melancholy. Lent is stark. Lent is fasting. Lent is weeping and gnashing of teeth as we recall for forty days how wretched we are in the sight of God. Lent is the absence of Alleluias in our worship. Lent is the absence of flowers on the altar. Lent is highlighting our sinfulness and that we are in dire need of God’s forgiveness. What is this singing and shouting that Psalm 95 speaks of? What is this joy? That’s not Lent, right?

Wrong! Lent is a joyful season. Need I say it again? Lent is a joyful season. Yes, it is marked with palpable changes not only in our worship, but in our lives. Yes, it is more solemn and subdued. Yes, it is a time of repentance, fasting, self-awareness and self-reflection. Yes, it highlights our sinful nature.

Lent is many things, but chiefly among them, joyful. Joyful anticipation. Joyful repentance. Joyful mortality. Joyful forgiveness. Joyful self-awareness. Joyful fasting. Joyful reconciliation. Joyful prayer. Joyful hope. It would be a sin to remove joy from any season in which God loves us, and since God still loves us in Lent, may yours be joyful. Observe Lent with all its solemn, stark, and subdued trappings. Yearn for the return of altar flowers and Alleluias. But, do it all with joy. For at the end of Lent comes that delightful season of resurrection.

A psalm about singing, shouting and joy is entirely proper for Lent. So come, let us sing to the Lord. Let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation!

Creator and Lord of all seasons, you give joy to those whose hearts and minds are fixed on you. By the might of your Holy Spirit, lift us to you, we pray, where we will sing and shout for joy to the Rock of our Salvation. May our shouts, may our singing, may our joy, be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Now and forever. AMEN.

Additional Readings: Psalm 95: 1-7; Proverbs 16:1-3; Philippians 4:10-13; Luke 14:1, 7-14

 

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My Thoughts

By Greg Crotty

Saturday, March 3

Romans 12: 11-17

Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.   Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.   Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.   Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.

To fully appreciate the list of teachings Paul has given in verses 11-17, it’s helpful to read the earlier verses of the letter.  Paul is teaching how to live a Christian life by presenting ourselves wholly to God as a living sacrifice.    The underlying message of self-surrender and trust which when practiced, allows us to serve God unencumbered by worldly desire and fear.   Now Paul provides several triads of practical direction where self-surrender is most obvious.  When Paul speaks about zeal, I have no doubt he is instructing early believers to use their passion and enthusiasm for Christ to persevere during those early and most dangerous times for Christians.

When I read these lines today, the following thoughts come to mind which I hope are helpful.   .

Do not lag in Zeal – Say “I love you” as often as it takes

Be ardent in Spirit – Trust your Christian instincts   

Serve the Lord – Use your talent to help others

Rejoice in Hope – Be thankful for this moment and optimistic about the next

Be patient in Suffering – Learn from your struggles

Persevere in Prayer – Try moving forward on your knees

Contribute to the needs of the Saints – Imitate the good deeds of others

Extend hospitality to Strangers – Create positive change with a smile

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them – Know that hate dulls the soul

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep – Empathize

Live in harmony with one another – Look for similarities not differences

Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly – Dust-to-Dust

Do not claim to be wiser than you are – the truly wise recognize their ignorance

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the site of all – Vengeance is mine, says the Lord

Amen.

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Monday, March 5

We Walk By Faith

by Janet King

Mark 5:21-43

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ 29Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ 31And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ 32He looked all round to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’

Faith can be defined as the complete trust or confidence in someone or something. In Hebrews, we learn that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.

In our life with Christ, we walk by faith. In today’s Gospel reading from Mark, Jesus demonstrates his healing power to the people. I am most taken with the woman, who after twelve years of sickness, just knew that she would be healed if she all but touched Jesus’s garment. What faith! After she touched His garment, Jesus turned around and demanded of the crowd to tell Him who had touched Him. The woman immediately dropped to her knees and confessed all. Jesus commended the woman’s faith and told her to be healed.

Let us pray: Gracious God, I pray that we all grow more deeply in our faith walk with your Son, our Savior, this Lenten season. Help us to grow in our knowledge and love of you as we continue our journey of faith. Amen.

Additional Readings:  Psalm 77, 79, 80; Genesis 44: 18-34; 1 Cor. 7: 25-31

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Tuesday, March 6

God Commands We Teach the Children

By Nelwyn Madison

Psalm 78:4

We will recount to generations to come the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord, and the wonderful works he has done.

In this Psalm, God is showing mounting frustration with the people of Israel as they have forgotten all of the miracles he had performed for them and all of the times he had fed them and lifted them from horrible trials.  They would believe and be grateful for a short while, then they would forget, lose the faith and rail against him.

Psalm 78:5-6

He gave his decrees to Jacob and established a law for Israel, which he commanded them to teach their children; that the generations to come might know, and the children yet unborn; that they in their turn might tell it to their children.

God wanted to stop this cycle of ignorance and forgetting.

When we first started attending services at the Chapel in the 1990’s one of the first things we noticed was the glaring absence of children.  The area surrounding the Chapel was still fairly rural and there were no subdivisions with the types of housing that attract young families.  The Madison city limits ended just west of Summertree and there were no elementary schools west of I-55.  The church was crawling its way back from periods of inactivity.

I mentioned this observation to the rector at the time, John Sewell.  His response was, when a church has very few children, it is difficult to draw children, so we are raising our own.  And, so it happened!

Today, when the Sunday School children join the worship service, the Chapel becomes a buzz of clattering little feet and speaking in tongues.  What a joy to my ears.  In Psalm 78 God commands us to teach the children so that they might put their trust in God, and not forget the deeds of God, but keep his commandments.  This is a job, not only for the parents, but for all members of the Community of Christ.

Oh Lord, we pray to incline our ears to the words of your mouth that which we have heard and known, and what our forefathers have told us, and we will not hide it from our children.  Amen.

Additional Readings: Psalm 78:1-39; 78:40-72 ; Gen. 45:1-15; 1 Cor. 7:32-40; Mark 6:1-13

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Wednesday, March 7

Forgiveness

by Ralph Stillions

Joseph gave them wagons according to the instruction of Pharaoh, and he gave them provisions for the journey. …. 24Then he sent his brothers on their way, and as they were leaving he said to them, ‘Do not quarrel* along the way.  Genesis 45: 16-28 (21-24)

Everybody is familiar with the Genesis story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. Later, of course, they are reunited when Joseph, now a man of great power in Egypt, and Joseph not only forgives them, but bestows upon them great blessings and riches.

The Bible is replete with stories about forgiveness, probably beginning in Genesis with Joseph and his brothers. We have the parable of the Prodigal Son and his father’s forgiveness. Of course, we have the “bigee”, Jesus’ plea on the Cross for forgiveness for those who were crucifying Him. And dozens of others.

Sometimes the biblical admonition to forgive is tough to understand! Jesus’ forgiveness is a little easier for me to understand because, well, he is Jesus! He is divine! But it is harder for me to understand mere mortals like Joseph forgiving his brothers after they did such a terrible thing to him. I told my wife I have probably had 20 or more hours of lessons and instruction on the parable of the Prodigal Son and I still don’t fully get it!.

All of these stories involve our call to forgive others. We often find that to be incredibly difficult. But maybe we find forgiveness of others so difficult because we find it can be even more difficult to forgive ourselves. Maybe sometimes our difficulty in forgiving another is because we do not feel worthy to forgive as Jesus did. Maybe the first step in forgiving others is to first learn and be able to forgive ourselves for our transgressions.

The book we are reading in our Friday morning study group is entitled Jabbock, by Rt. Rev. Kea Sloane, Episcopal Bishop of Alabama (by the way – great read – highly recommended). The book is fiction and one of the main characters is an elderly, uneducated, former itinerant tent preacher who becomes a mentor to a young boy who ultimately goes off to seminary. “Preacher Jake” is full of homespun wisdom and one area he talks about is self-forgiveness. One of his pearls of wisdom comes when he lectures the young seminary student and some of his friends:“It isn’t enough for God or someone else to forgive you; you have to forgive yourself. It is pure arrogance to hold on to something God has already let go of.”

Father, I sometimes find it so difficult to forgive others that have harmed or hurt me. I sometimes don’t feel worthy to forgive others. Help me to know that you love me unconditionally and if I ask for forgiveness for my transgressions, you will give me such forgiveness and know that I don’t need to hang on to something you have already let go of and I am fully worthy to forgive others. Amen

Other readings for this day: Psalm 119: 97-120; Psalm 81, 82; Genesis 45: 16-28; 1 Corinthians 8: 1-13; Mark 6: 13-29

 

Thursday, March 8

Faith is Sufficient for Those Who Hunger: They Shall Be Fed

By Teri Gleason

41Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all.42And all ate and were filled; 43and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray. Mark 6:30-46

I don’t know how I lived without Google. I love history, so the first thing I did in thinking about this scripture was Google “where is Bethaisda”? Turns out it’s not exactly known, as is the case with many Biblical places. Many archaeologists believe it is on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs endorses this as its location. Others believe Bethaisda is closer to the Jordan River, in a place called Et-Tell, which is Arabic for “house of hunting” or “house of fishing.” At any rate, Mark tells us Bethaisda, the home of apostles Philip, Andrew and Peter, was on the shore and the crowd sat on green grass. If you Google Bethaisda, it is indeed, lush and green. As we know, Jesus, at different times in the New Testament, caused his disciples to bring in large cast nets filled with plenty of fish, when they couldn’t catch even one fish on their own, skilled as they were. The nets were so heavy with “Jesus” fish, they could not lift the bounty into their boats.  On the night in this scripture, Jesus did not ask his disciples to cast nets. It was late, it was dark, in a “deserted” place. The disciples had arrived by boat, after working all day, fishing for men as they say.  Presumably, the five thousand walked. They were exhausted. The disciples asked Jesus what to feed the congregation. Jesus put it back on them and asked what they had on hand. I am sure when the disciples answered five loaves and two fish, they thought Jesus was joking when he replied it would be enough. Though resourceful in faith, they watched in amazement as Jesus blessed the meager meal and turned it into a feast, with leftovers! The disciples were sent away by Jesus to rest as He dismissed the crowd. Then, Jesus went away to pray in solitude.

Today, there is hunger, strife, worry and lots of fear in our world. Mark reminds us of our Savior’s promise to believers. We are challenged to feed our hunger through faith. Though our faith, we can be completely and peacefully satisfied, with enough left over to share with others who long and hunger for the Gospel.  Let’s share!

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as you fed the multitude in a deserted place, you graciously continue to feed us spiritually.  We humbly and graciously thank You.  Use us to cast out the hunger in others by joyfully spreading Your anointed word, the Gospel. Amen.   

Additional Readings: Ps. 83, 42, 43, 85, 86; Gen. 46:1-7, 28-34; 1 Cor. 9:1-15

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Friday, March 9

Look How Hard I Ran For You

by Gabbie Munn

Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:26-27

When I decided I wanted to be stronger and run faster, I started going to the gym. When I decided I wanted to be a better cook, I practiced with different recipes. No matter what we do in life, if we want to do it well, we must practice. Lawyers must practice law to become better lawyers. Doctors must practice medicine to become better doctors. The same principle applies to our lives as Jesus Followers. If we want to become better Christians, we must practice. During Lent, we are asked to give something up or add something to our lives that challenges us in some way. This is not some secret way the church is getting us to eat less dessert or work out more, but a way to teach us how to be self-disciplined. In 1 Corinthians, the importance of being self-disciplined is clearly explained. If we are not disciplined in our lives, all of our talk will be for nothing. If we preach love, but do not show love, our words become irrelevant.

As your life races on, do not run aimlessly. Run with the purpose of serving, forgiving, and loving others. When you deliberately choose to uphold your Lenten promise of not eating dessert or whatever you have chosen, remind yourself why you do these things. We practice self-discipline during Lent with small things, so hopefully when we are faced with adversity or crisis, the big things, we are self-disciplined enough to rely on our faith, act boldly, and point others in the same direction. We practice now to be better later.

Lord, grant that I may serve you through my actions. Help me make decisions that point others to your love and mercy. When I run, help me to run hard. When I love, help me to love entirely. When I preach, help me to back up my words with action. Amen.

Other Scripture for the Day: Psalm 88, 91, 92, 95, Genesis 47:1-26, 1 Corinthians 9:16-15, Mark 6:47-56

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Saturday, March 10

Letting Go of Idols

by Betty Ruth Fox

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,* that God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

My aspiration, some would call it my resolution, for 2018 and hopefully beyond is to joyfully serve God with the gifts He has given me.  I thought about it for quite some time. It could be that I have finally hit the ‘second half’ of life as Richard Rohr puts it.  Now I must figure out how to live it.

The above reading from Corinthians provides guidance, support and promise.  Paul tells the Corinthians they will be tested by idols and that God will not allow them to be tested beyond their power to remain firm and that He will provide the strength to remain firm and endure by providing a way out.

This scripture reminds me of one of my favorite idols — being comfortable at home with family, friends or alone . . . or in my office eating lunch at my computer.  There are so many opportunities to serve during these times . . . the ones that come to mind are serving lunch at Stewpot or working at an animal shelter or on habitat project.

There is a world of service opportunities right here and right now . . . ready to pull me out of my idol comfort zone.

This Lenten season, I pray that God opens my eyes to opportunities and either helps me or pushes me out of my comfort zone to the service of others.

My favorite prayer for action is – thanks to Rev. Luther Ott —

May the Lord Bless you and keep you. 

May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. 

May God give you grace not to sell yourselves short, 

Grace to risk something big for something good, 

Grace to remember that the world is now too dangerous for anything but truth, and too small for anything but love. 

May God take your minds and think through them. 

May God take your lips and speak through them. 

May God take your hands and work through them. 

May God take your hearts and set them on fire.

May God’s Love, Strength and Peace be with you!

Amen.

Other Readings:  Psalm 87, 90, 136; Gen. 47:27-48:7; 1 Cor. 1-13; Mark 7:1-23.

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Monday, March 12

Being the Face of God

by Searcy Fox

Colossians 1:28-2:3 — It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me. For I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face. 2I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself,* 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Throughout my life, I have always prayed to God asking for His wisdom and truth for a greater good, especially for others who may not know of His wisdom and truth. This verse spoke to me for that very reason. I grew up attending Camp Bratton Green. To this day, I still attend Camp Bratton Green but in a different role than before. I have spent the past 8 summers serving as a counselor during special session. This is a week dedicated to campers from ages 10-80 (80 I think is the oldest camper we’ve had) with special needs, both physical and mental. While I strive to be the face of God for all the campers and staff, the campers end up being the face of God for me. This is something I not only hope for every time I go to camp, but also in everyday life. Many of these individuals struggle daily with their disabilities and their living situations, but they do not let those struggles bring them down. God is truly struggling for them to have the best lives they can. This is something I witness in every move my campers make. All of the staff awaits the arrival of every, and I mean every, last camper in the parking lot of camp. We run up to their cars, vans, and trucks ready to grab their luggage and welcome them to the best week of their lives. Little do we know, they are just as excited to jump out of the car and bear hug all the staff. Some of these campers have never been to camp before or have never meet the staff, but they still hug you like you are their best friend. This is amazing to me and it never gets old. I could not even tell you the number of times a camper has gotten off of their bus and said “Hey girl, how are you. I’ve missed you so much.” Many times, I do know the camper and I have missed them just as much, but there have been a few times that I have no clue who the camper is, and they have no clue who I am, but we have really missed each other even though we have never met. This is how I think God wants us to live. Unfortunately, many have never experienced this and do not know how to experience it.  This is where each of us comes in.  We are supposed to be the “face” of God. I know that regardless of the adversity I am facing, God is struggling so much more for me so that my light can shine through. In return, I am supposed to show everyone I meet love and encouragement so that others can understand God and know He can take away their pain as well. If we focused only on our struggles and did not know that God has so much love and support for us, we would never get anywhere in life. It is very hard for us to do this. God empowers us with so much strength that we do not even know what to do with it, but this verse helps explain a little of what he is doing. I challenge all of you to think of how you can be the encouragement and love of God tomorrow and every day forward.

Scripture for the day: Psalm 57:6-11, 1 Chronicles 25:1a,6-8, Mark 10:42-45

•••

Tuesday, March 13

Responding to a Call

by Caroline Milne

Then an angel of the Lord said to Phillip, “Get up and go towards the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.)  So he got up and went.  Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury.  He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.”  So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. Acts 8:26 – 28. 

How magnificent it must have been for Philip to behold the majesty of an Angel of the Lord.  I dare to guess the visit was even more overwhelming in that the Angel was sent with personal message from God with specific instructions as to where God wished him to go.  I admit that I have always been a bit jealous when reading Biblical encounters between humans and angels.  How easy it must be to have God’s will for you verbally spoken out loud by one who has recently left the heavenly realms just to see you and bring you a personal message from God, even if that message is to travel down a road into the wilderness.  Knowing it is what God wants for you must provide much comfort and security that this is where you are supposed to be.  Thus it is easy to accept that, “Phillip got up and went.”  I think this is what we might call a “no-brainer.”

On December 2, 2016, my husband Jack and I visited Jackson, Mississippi, from our home in Jacksonville, Florida when “something” inside of each of us urged us to explore an invitation for him to interview for a job here.  We had not previously discussed looking for this type of change at this point in our lives, with all of our children grown and our lives humming along smoothly in our town full of family and friends and a with church home where we were flourishing.  During that visit and in the days which followed, we prayed, cried, and occasionally argued as to why this would happen to us in this timing.  If only there had been a physically present heavenly being to pronounce aloud that this is what God wanted from and for us, at the very least we would not have lost quite as much sleep.  There were much more subtle, yet still very real, pronouncements and occurrences that repeatedly affirmed to us that this was indeed where we were being called.

When reading this passage from Acts, I could not help but notice the verbiage utilized by the writer when the Spirit provided Philip with instructions to go over to the chariot and join it, “Philip ran up to it.”  As much of a no-brainer it must have been to follow God’s command as spoken by a physical angel, it appears that Philip much more enthusiastically responded to the instructions from God’s Holy Spirit deposited within him at Pentecost.  While I admit that we did not jump up and immediately run into the “wilderness” of Mississippi, Jack and I regularly revisit the many ways we experienced God using his Holy Spirit within and around us to affirm that this was His will for our lives.  We are also more mindful in praying for our eyes, ears and hearts to be open and aware of the many other ways that God is regularly using the still, small voice of His Holy Spirit within and around to guide us in the paths where we can best serve Him.

Dear Lord, in the Lenten season of penitence and preparation, please forgive our willfulness and prepare our hearts for your plans for us.  Open our eyes and ears to the moving of your Holy Spirit within and around us, so that we may grow more deeply into delighting in your will, and walking in your ways to the glory of Your Name.  Amen

Lectionary scriptures appointed for today: Psalm 86:11-17; Deuteronomy 6:20-25; Acts 8:26-39; John 4:31-38

•••

Wednesday, March 14

Life Through the Son

by Pam & David Allen

John 5: 19-29.

I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

The striking part of this passage in John 5:19-29, is the fact that this is the only Gospel where Jesus formally, systematically, makes a statement of his own unity with the father.

What bravery to speak this way that was sure to court his death.  Instead of avoiding trouble, Jesus makes his claim emphatically. He boldly claims to be the Son of God, equal with God, and having authority to act like His Father.

Jesus knew that by claiming to be King the listeners had only two alternatives. The listener must either accept Jesus as the Son of God, or hate Him as a blasphemer and seek to destroy him.

It was impossible for our Lord to act in any way that is not like His Father. As we say, “Like father, like son.” Satan continually tried to entice Jesus to do something that was impossible for Him to act un-God like.  Jesus loved His father too much to be tempted by Satan.

How strong Jesus was to face life on earth with all its trials and tribulations and carry out His Father’s wishes.  We too are made in our Father’s image.  Our challenge every day is to act as Jesus did and to reflect our love for our Father by our actions.

If we hear His message and believe in the One who sent Him, we will have eternal life.  AMEN!  PRAISE GOD!

Dear God, Give us the strength and courage to live our lives in your honor.  May our actions be a beacon of love to others.  Amen

Additional Readings: Isaiah 49: 8-15; John 5: 19-29; Psalm 145: 8-19

•••

Thursday, March 15

Knowing God

By Annetta Allred

The Old Testament called for two individuals to confirm a religious experience.  Jesus in John 5:30-47 assures us that we need only his word to confirm our religious experience.  For Jesus Christ is confirmed by God.  He has told us that God sent him to us.  Therefore, we can believe whatever he says to us.

We are called to be in unity, and to feel that we are part of the Christian unity.  We belong to God and Christ, God’s son; Jesus’ Abba is also our Abba.  Jesus urges us to know God as our own Father.  And we pray “our Father’ when we pray the Lord’s Prayer.  We want to know who God is, and in Jesus Christ, God’s son, we are able to know God.  We are able to know God’s kingdom.  We pray that God’s kingdom will be realized in the lives of His people.  The Father to whom we pray is almighty and God’s blessing and plan is bigger than anything we can imagine.  We pray that God’s will be done; and may our vision grow and stretch so we may start to realize and understand God’s vision.  He is our advocate and guide.

When we feel loneliness; we feel distanced and separated from our source of salvation: love and help.  We feel as though the fellowship of believers is not available to us. Let us look at ourselves when we feel this way.  Let us look at our religious community and how we can reunite with that community so that we can accept the loving goodness of God and that nothing is ever the same for us.  Keep us in the scriptures and help us know you, Lord, and our hearts will be reborn again.  May God make it so.

We pray that the grace of Jesus Christ and the love of God, the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit will revive us and be with us always as our guide.  Amen.

Additional Readings: Exodus 32:7-14; Psalms 106: 6-7, 19-23; John 5: 30-47

•••

Friday, March 16

Then Why Is There Still So Much Evil in the World?

By Ellen O’Neal

Psalms 34: 15-22

“If you obey the Lord, he will watch over you and answer your prayers. But God despises evil people, and he will wipe them all from the earth, till they are forgotten. When his people pray for help, he listens and rescues them from their troubles.  The Lord is there to rescue all who are discouraged and have given up hope.  The Lord’s people may suffer a lot, but he will always bring them safely through. Not one of their bones will ever be broken. Wicked people are killed by their own evil deed, and if you hate God’s people you will be punished. The Lord saves the lives of his servants. Run to him for protection, and you won’t be punished.”

Oh, REALLY?! That is my knee-jerk response to reading this passage and is perhaps yours too. And that response is, in all likelihood, one of the primary reasons so many non-believes and doubters turn from Christianity and is, for me, one of the greatest obstacles to faith.  Isn’t the Bible supposed to be the unerring Word of God, the Truth, the message that we can completely rely on and take to the bank?  Here God promises to watch over us, to answer our prayers, and, most significant to me in these troubled times, to despise evil people and “wipe them all from the earth.”  What? The news channel is running a continuous loop about yet another shooting in a school that left 17 dead.  Children.  So how do we fit this beautiful and uplifting passage with our current lives and the world, so full of evil, death, disease, grief, and, frankly, “unanswered prayers.”

I am no theologian and sometimes feel unqualified to interpret scripture, but I believe this passage, and so many like it in the Bible that indicate our lives will be rainbows and flowers if we believe, is not talking about our earthly lives, but about the ultimate resolution of God’s universe, of our ultimate destiny and that of evil.  God promises that, for his followers, He DOES “listen and rescue” us from our troubles, and He WILL bring us “safely through.”  But not necessarily here on earth.  He does not promise that our loved ones won’t suffer and die from cancer, that we won’t lose that job and have trouble paying bills, that the romance we so desperately want will come to fruition.  Reading this passage in a cursory and “humanly” way, it would seem otherwise. I see TV evangelists who promise their followers that they will make more money and be more successful if they believe; that their children and loved ones will be cured.  But that is not God’s message. I often feel uncomfortable when someone IS cured or has their prayers answered and the response is “See, prayer works! If you believe, God will listen.” My response is: then what about all those desperate parents at the children’s hospital whose children died anyway? Did they not pray “hard enough?”  I believe this passage promises us something much deeper and more profound: that I WILL be rescued, that I WILL be brought safely through, that evil will NOT destroy me or the world. I will surely die in this life, but one day, and God Himself only knows when, if I continue to have faith, I will thereafter and forever live with God, and there will be only goodness, and evil and disease and human suffering will be “wiped from the earth until it is forgotten.”  It is then that God’s promise will come to fruition.

Prayer:  Lord, help us to remember that the trials and suffering we all face in our earthly lives are only temporary.  There is so much evil in the world, so much suffering. Help us to know that your promise to us is to bring us to your heavenly kingdom and to live in eternal bliss and love and happiness with you.  Give us the strength and courage to work through the difficult times and to steadfastly choose to walk in your love, with faith that, by handing ourselves over to righteousness, rather than sin, we will be set free from death and sin and evil  and will have eternal life with you.

Additional Readings: Wisdom: 2:1a, 12-24; John 7:1-2,10,25-30

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Saturday, March 17

Thank you

By Suzie Pooley

Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name. Psalm 97:12.

I always thought that my life was busy when my children were young.  School, church, soccer, dance, band, football, and swimming.  Their activities (and therefore mine!) were endless.  I just knew that once they were grown that life would slow down.  Then I would have time to concentrate on my life.  I would have time to relax, to read more, to be in a more spiritual frame of mind.  Now that they are grown, I find that I am still busy.  Somehow free time is like a closet, if it’s empty you can always find something to fill it!

Now at the end of another busy day I find that I have neglected to pray, to listen and to be in that “spiritual frame of mind.”   Lately it seems that my short prayers are more about “please help” than about thanking God for the many gifts that He has given me.  One of my favorite quotes is from Meister Eckhart:

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘thank you’, that would suffice.”

I have been blessed with so much that saying thank you is the very least that I should do.  I live in the hope that God understands my “busyness”and knows how very grateful I am to him for all he has given me and all the “please help” prayers he has answered.  I should never take these things for granted but instead rejoice and be thankful!

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you havedone for us. We thank you for the splendor of the wholecreation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life ,and for the mystery of love.We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and forthe loving care which surrounds us on every side.  Amen

Additional Readings: Ezekial 36:33-38       Psalm 97:1-2, 7-12       I Thessalonians 2: 2b-12      Matthew 28: 16-20

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Monday, March 19

Rooted in Love

By Susan Lawrence Hedglin

Ephesians 3: 17-19 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

How wide is God’s love? How long? Our words often come up short. Here, Paul simply writes that the love “surpasses knowledge”–it is more than any of us can ever know. What a wonderful love this is.

To know God’s love, it helps to be “rooted and established in love…together with all the Lord’s holy people” as Paul says. What does that mean? It means seeking out the Christian community around us, and grafting ourselves to it like a branch. It means rooting out the anger, the jealousy, and the fear in your own heart and filling it with love for others. It means building an active life of spiritual reflection and prayer, in order to strengthen your relationship with God and with others here on Earth.

Commit to love during this Lenten season. Commit to a daily prayer: first, reflect on God’s presence in your life. How has he shown his love to you? Spend a few minutes in quiet thought. Secondly, commit to praying for others: send out love into the world, the way God sends his love to you. Take a few minutes to pray for someone in your life. It could be a close friend, or even someone that you see each day whose name you don’t know. When you firmly root yourself in love and kindness towards others, you will know the fullness of God.

Lord, help me know you more deeply during this Lenten season. Teach me to see the fullness of God and Jesus in my everyday life.

Additional Readings: Psalm 132; Isaiah 63:7-16; Matthew 1:18-25  Psalm 34; 2 Chronicles 6:12-17; Ephesians 3:14-21

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Tuesday, March 20

Take it to the Lord in Prayer…….

By Sarabeth Clark

Philippians 4:4-9

“Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and mind through Christ Jesus.”       

When I was asked to help with Lenten Meditations, I have to admit I was a bit hesitant. I am a science major; English was never my strong point. Believing in God’s timing has always been how I have walked my path in faith. I gladly agreed I would do my best! As I read through the scriptures provided for me the old hymn kept humming in my head, “take it to the Lord in prayer.”  I knew that when I reread Philippians 4:4-9 that it would be the passage I needed at this time in my life and would be what the Lord wanted me write on.

As a mother of four, I worry about my children daily. Are they getting what they need? Do they like their teachers? Are their friends good influences?  Am I being the role model they need to see? What are they being exposed to that I don’t know about? Am I giving them enough one on one time? Will they get into college? Am I helping to mold them into productive citizens that will be able to care for themselves along with others? Will they make the team they’ve worked so hard for? WHAT WILL THEY WANT FOR DINNER?!?

It is so easy to let the day-to-day world take over our lives. Worry and anxiousness can consume us and cause grief and anxiety before we even know what has happened. But God is there telling us to bring it to Him. To cast our cares and worries on Him!  I remember as a child I asked my godmother, “How do you pray?” I will never forget what she told me, “God just wants us to talk to him like you are talking to me!”  That is the simplest of truths! He wants to hear it all! All of our worries, fears and anxieties! But He also wants to revel in our joys, loves and happiness! He truly wants us to just talk to him!

The scripture tells us when we bring every situation to God in prayer; His peace will guard our hearts and our minds. It truly is that simple, but oh how I can make it so very, very difficult.

My prayers for us this Lenten season is take everything to the Lord in prayer. From the simplest of thanks and praise, to our most trying times, let us take all of our thoughts to God and let him fill our hearts and minds with peace and love.

Prayers for Guidance from the Book of Common Prayer

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favor, and further us with thy continual help;  that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy Holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Additional Readings: Philippians 4:4-9; Psalm145:8-13; Deuteronomy 26:16-19; Luke 6:17-23

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Wednesday, March 21

STAYING CONNECTED

by Betty Ruth Fox

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss[a] your servant in peace.” Luke 2:25-35

In accordance with ancient Jewish practice, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple on the 40th day after his birth and presented Him to the Lord.  This event is celebrated today as the feast of the Presentation of the Lord or the feast of the Encounter.  The scripture reveals that Simeon was ‘moved by the Holy Spirit’ to go into the temple courts on this certain day.  That day, Simeon met the Lord as had been promised by the Holy Spirit.

This passage caused me to reflect on the many times the Holy Spirit spoke to Mary, Joseph, and many others in the months before and following Jesus’ birth.  The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said “Greetings, you who are highly favored! . . . So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God .”  An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph three times in a dream and told him to take Mary as his wife, to flee with the Holy Family to Egypt and to return to Nazareth.

These passages urge us to stay connected to God through prayer, meditation, and paying attention to our dreams.  Pope Francis’ message at the feast of the Presentation of the Lord urged everyone to keep open ears and open hearts to stay connected to one another.  “Lift up your eyes from your smartphones and see your brothers and sisters, those who share your journey of faith and those who are longing for the Word of life.”  Pope Francis continued that “today’s frantic pace leads us to close many doors to encounter, often for fear of others.  Only shopping malls and internet connections are always open.  Yet believers’ hearts must be open as well, because every believer receives the faith from someone and is called to share it with others.”  The pope said “members of religious orders must realize that they need each other–young and old—to renew and strengthen their knowledge of the Lord.”

Dear God, in the words of our Lord, please help us stay connected: Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

Other readings:  Psalm 119:73-80; 1 Kings 8:54-62; Romans 11: 13-24; Luke 2: 25-35

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Thursday, March 22

Oh, You Weren’t Paying Attention?

By Bill Buhner

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” Matthew 13:47-50

I have had, and still occasionally do have, a recurring dream: It’s the last day of class. The paper, mentioned only on the first day of class, is due. Don’t have it.

In the great scheme of the Bible, passages such as this are easy to conveniently miss. I suspect we do so at our peril.

There are a number of such parables in Matthew that Jesus relays to his disciples—and now, to us. All concern the “End Times”: a sower planting a field (Matt. 13:3-9); a woman kneading yeast into bread (Matt. 13:33); a treasure-hunter (Matt. 13:44); a pearl merchant (Matt. 13:45-46); some fishermen (Matt. 13:47-50); and a householder (Matt. 13:52). My take is that there are expected standards of behavior and consequences for not doing so. That said, we will fall short, but, as the 1928 Book of Common Prayer states, there is forgiveness:

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

So be it.

Additional Readings: Psalm 132:1-7; Exodus 24:1-8; 2 timothy 2:10-15,19; Matthew 13:47-52

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Friday, March 23

Salt and Light

By Laney Crampton

Matthew 5:11-16: Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 or do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

The Chapter 5 verses that precede Matthew 5:11-16 are the Beatitudes, the “Blessed are the…” verses which begin Christ’s Sermon on the Mount to the multitudes. Matthew 5:11-16 are additional words of encouragement, more specifically to his disciples. In verse 11, Christ gives them his encouragement by blessing them for being Christians, though religious persecution and conflict might just be around the corner.

Verse 13 says. “You are the salt of the earth.” That is an often used expression that has come to mean that you are a good person. It is more than that. As a metaphor, salt is a preservative and also adds zest to food just as knowing and living a Christ-like life is our spiritual undergirding. But salt is also an antiseptic. Before the pharmaceutical industry created a pill for everything, salt was used to cleanse the body. Have you ever waded in salt water with a minor abrasion on your foot? It is painful as it stings, but it also cleanses.

In verses 14-16, Christ tells his disciples, “ You are the light of the world” “Let your light shine before others.”  I have been a Kairos prison ministry volunteer for seven years. If ever there were a dark place, it is prison. Our ministry imparts that Jesus is the light, and that we, the volunteers and residents, all reflect his light and grow the Holy Spirit in this dark place. Being among a community of believers helps us strengthen our resolve to share this light with those who are not believers.

When we think about the word “evangelism”, many of us conjure up a picture of someone standing on a corner either handing out religious tracts or shouting scripture to an unseen audience. In our Daughters of the King chapter at the Chapel, we  have discussed what “evangelism” means since it is  part of our three-fold mission of service, prayer and evangelism. The national Daughters’ Director of Evangelism wrote, “Evangelism is showing Christ in our everyday walk, in the simple things we do or say and when we may not even realize it. This may cause another to think,  “I want what she has. What does she have that, even though her life may be troubled, she still carries that light within her?”

Jesus expects good works and good words. As one of my prison sisters said, “ If I were being tried for being a Christian, I would want there to be lots of evidence to convict me!” Think about that!

 Our Heavenly Father, teach me to shine Christ’s light in my life through my words and in my deeds so that I may reflect your light and your love to the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Additional Readings: Psalm 119:153-160   Job 42:10-12   Acts 17:22-31

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Saturday, March 24

Crop Rotation

By Bill Horne

John 12:23-32.

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Surely Jesus was using parables to tell us truths that we have to consider and make our own, not just words of stories that are repeated for their singular message. He was masterful at this. His dying grain of wheat points to His impending death and resurrection, but it also directs us to evaluate our own lives, lives that must bury their transgressions and still grow, bearing much fruit. 

We are all getting closer to dying, but I, for sure, am not gleefully anticipating this terminal moment. On the other hand, I do not fear death. I’ve grown to appreciate that a benefit of my senior citizenship is an acceptance of death whenever it might befall me. But this one death will just be the last and final one, ending for me a lifetime of repeated demises and rebirths. I have innumerable times died to my sins and seen life on the other side, more brightly and more delightfully real. Though I was much too young to remember my initial death, it was at my baptism. Surely the prayers offered at that time on my behalf have been answered many times as I have wandered from God’s path, repented, begged for and been given forgiveness and a new life.

Dear Father, Creator of all that is good, please continue to patiently accept and put aside my sins against you and others. See the good in me that I cannot see myself, the good that, to your glory, may bear much fruit. Through Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, hear my prayer and help me to continue to grow where you have planted me. Amen.

 Other scriptures appointed for the day: Rev 7:13-17, Isa 2:5-7, Ps 31: 15-24

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 Monday, March 26

Stop Signs

By Martha Rayner

Psalm 36: 5-11

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, and your faithfulness to the crowds…Your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.

Isaiah 42: 1-9

I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you.

Lately I have gotten so caught up in the business of life that I have become stressed and “too busy” for so many things, such as spending time in prayer. When we are trying to live our eventful and demanding lives with our own strength, we need to be reminded that God is there to hold us up. The scripture for today from both Psalms and Isaiah reminds us that God is our protector. The vastness of His love cannot be measured, and we are able to find refuge and rest in His loving arms.

When you approach a stop sign while driving, you must make the effort to look around before continuing. You are required to fix your eyes on what matters in that moment so you do not hit another car. I think we must also recognize stop signs in our spiritual life. No matter what overwhelming, time-consuming path you may be walking in, I think it is important that we stop for a moment this Holy Week. Take time out of your busy day to remember who has control of your life. As we prepare for Jesus’ death and resurrection, we must first realize the power of God, who lives in us. In this time of Lent, rest in knowing that God is protecting you under the shadow of His wings.

Lord, guide me to rest in You this Holy Week. Help me to be aware of your immeasurable love as we enter a time where we can see your love for us the most. Amen.

Additional Readings: John 12: 1-11; Hebrews 9: 11-15

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Tuesday, March 27

Finding the Right Words

By Sarah Anderson

In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be ashamed. . . I have become a portent to many; but you are my refuge and my strength.  Let my mouth be full of your praise and your glory all the day long. Psalm 71: 1-14 

Throughout my life, one of my biggest religious struggles has been finding the right words to express my relationship with God.  In my heart, I know what I believe, how I worship, and why I choose to devote my life to Christ; but often, in the past, when I tried to vocalize my thoughts, they turned to mush in my mouth.  I was worried that I was wrong, afraid of causing a debate about the “right” way to worship, and sometimes I was even made ashamed of my faith by those around me.  I’ve never been one to love an argument, so too many times I would just keep quiet rather than try to express myself.  I continued with my worship; I worked for the Church; I never wavered in my love of God; but I also never learned to feel fully comfortable with expressing my religious beliefs to others.

This all changed about a year ago, when I answered God’s call to become a missionary working in central Tanzania.  As it turns out, when you decide to become a servant of the Lord halfway across the world, the biggest question you get is “why?”.  Through this decision to serve, I’ve been forced to explain my faith to so many people, both believers and nonbelievers.  Sometimes I still get that word-mush feeling, but as I grow in my understanding and get more comfortable with speaking about Jesus and the Episcopal Church, I have become more confident and I even want to talk about it more.  I find myself praising God more openly, I encourage difficult conversations rather than run from them, and I find myself with a better relationship to God than ever before.

I think about this psalm often, and I believe it is a reminder to all of us that we, as Christians and Episcopalians, are called to speak the word of God as often and as truthfully as possible.  We are the faces of God and we can only hope that we put our best face forward.  Conversations about God and religion can be uncomfortable, difficult, and polarizing; still, as Christians we are called to fill our mouths with praise and hope that God will fill us with the right words to express our unending love.

Lord, we thank you for all that you have given us.  Thank you for filling our hearts with your love and filling our mouths with your praise.  Please be with us whenever your love is called into question and give us the right words to spread your truth to all that we encounter.  Help us to never be ashamed or waver in our beliefs.  Be with those who struggle in their faith and help them to come into your light.  Help us to take refuge in you and lean on you for all our needs.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen

Additional Readings:  Psalm 35: 5-11; Isaiah 49: 1-7; 1 Corinthians 1: 18-31 John 12: 20-36

Sarah Anderson will begin as Youth Director at the Chapel later this year. Currently she is in Tanzania as a missionary for a year. She wrote, “I appreciate this opportunity to share my words with my future Chapel community.”

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Wednesday, March 28

Getting Across the Finish Line

by Maridine Wall

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such hostility against himself  from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.” Hebrews 12: 1-3.

As we go through life, at times it seems that we are running a race.  Sometimes we know where we are going and have specific milestones or goals to mark the way, but at other times we seem to be on a treadmill but not making any headway.  Then there are the times that we stumble and fall and are not sure how to get back on the path.

N. T. Wright, in his book Hebrews for Everyone, speaks of our Christian pilgrimage as a long-distance race, and he sees a great cloud of witnesses at the finish line cheering for us and encouraging us.  Wright mentions that “…in a race the runners are competing against one another, whereas in the journeying of God’s people what matters most to each runner is that all the others make it safely home as well.”

Wright suggests three things we can do to run the race with efficiency and success.  First, we should get rid of those things that are slowing us down such as anxieties, resentments, greed, and sins that get in the way of our completing the course.  Second, we need patience and the realization that this race is not always easy.  Third, we should keep our eyes on the finish line and those who are there encouraging us – especially Christ, who is in the center of the cloud.

Wright encourages us to focus on Jesus, who endured far more than we could ever face, and who is now at the right hand of God.  The writer of Hebrews reminds us to keep going and to remember Christ, the trailblazer who shows us the way.

Heavenly Father, give us strength to run the race you have asked us to run.  Help us to look to you when we stumble and fall and when we are not certain of our direction.  Let us remember that Jesus showed the way and that his saints are encouraging us to continue.  Amen

Other scriptures: Isaiah 50: 4-9a; John 13:21-32; Psalm 70

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March 29, Maundy Thursday

New Commandment to Love

by  Mary Anna Ingram


John 13: 31-35

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Jesus knew prior to the feast of the Passover, time was near that He should depart out of this world unto the Father.  After He had finished washing the disciple’s feet, He gave them this “new commandment”.  In Jesus’ time, people wore sandals and walked everywhere.  Usually when a person arrived at their destination their feet were tired, hot and dirty. Washing someone’s feet was a task performed by the lowest ranking servant in the household.

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

“To love one another” is a well-known statement in biblical text.  How could a commandment to love others be called “new”?   With this new commandment, loving one another was much more.  With this commandment, we are required to love one another with a love of the same wholeness and magnitude as Christ’s love for us. We are called to be servants to others.   

35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

This love is not just a warm feeling, not just a sentimental love. This is a love evidenced to the world by acts and deeds for others-by acts as humbling as washing another’s feet or by acts as simple as listening. This kind of service to others is devoting and giving when it’s not easy or convenient, by lifting burdens from others without complaining. By doing so, we are recognized by the world as disciples of Christ.

Prayer:    I thank you for my many blessings, and ask for continuing guidance as I strive to love others as you have loved me.

Additional Readings: Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31-35 Psalm 116:1, 10-17

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Good Friday, March 30

The Suffering Servant: Isaiah 52:13-53:12

By Bill Buhner

This prescient passage, written some 700 years before Christ’s birth, concerns the imminent release of Israel, the Suffering Servant, from captivity in Babylon, likely by Cyrus of Persia. It is a song of triumph and praise to God, concerning an unsung one who acts in-the-place-of, for their forthcoming freedom. Read this through the eyes of a happy people, long and undeservedly imprisoned, going home.

13 See, my servant shall prosper;
    he shall be exalted and lifted up,
    and shall be very high.
14 Just as there were many who were astonished at him
    —so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
    and his form beyond that of mortals—
15 so he shall startle many nations;
    kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
    and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
53 Who has believed what we have heard?
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
    a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him of no account.

Surely he has borne our infirmities
    and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
    struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
    crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
    and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
    Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
    and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin
    he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
11 
    Out of his anguish he shall see light,
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
    The righteous one my servant, shall make many righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

Now, read it again, this time through the eyes of Peter who had just denied his Lord three times.

Israel received their freedom—and so have we.

On this Holy Day, Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on us, all sinners.

Additional Readings: Psalm 22; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 10:16-25; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:4

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Holy Saturday, March 31

The Closeness of God

by Betty Ruth Fox

Job 14: 14 If someone dies, will they live again?

1 Peter 4: 8  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

 John 19: 40-41 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with spices, in strips of linen.  This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.  At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.

The scripture readings for Holy Saturday question life after death.  They also talk about profound love.  In Job, the question is asked:  if someone dies, will they live again?  1 Peter 4:8 reminds us that to love deeply is most important.  Then John focuses on the burial of Jesus and how two close friends wrapped Jesus’ body in spices and laid him in a tomb.

These scripture readings cause me to wonder what happens after death as we know it on earth?  I recently read an article by a priest, who wrote on the closeness of God at death.  The priest noted that there are hundreds of stories regarding death experiences.  He wrote: “What’s interesting (and consoling) is that virtually all these stories are wonderfully positive, irrespective of the person’s faith or religious background. In virtually every case their experience while partially indescribable, was one in which they felt a warm, personal, overwhelming sense of love, light and welcome, and not a few of them found themselves meeting relatives of theirs that had passed on before them, sometimes even relatives that they didn’t know they had. As well, in virtually every case, they did not want to return to life here but, like Peter on the Mountain of the Transfiguration, wanted to stay there.”

One particular woman shared that she had been clinically dead for some minutes and then revived through medical resuscitation and experienced a wonderful warmth, light and welcome, and did not want to return to life here on earth.  The woman stated “I learned that God is very close.  We have no idea how close God is to us.  God is closer to us than we can imagine.”

Like all Christians, I believe that Jesus died and was raised from the dead, and through his death and resurrection all our sins have been forgiven.  This gift of forgiveness is amazing grace.  It also gives me great comfort to read about the closeness of God felt by those with death experiences.  I pray that we may all experience the closeness of God in our everyday lives.  He is right here and right now and He has more to share with us than we could ever imagine.

Holy Saturday prayer from Book of Common Prayer:

Dear God, Creator of heaven and earth:  Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life, who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Additional Readings:  Job 14:1-14 or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24; 1 Peter 4:1-8; Matthew 27:57-66 or John 19:38-42; Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16

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