Lenten Devotional – Thur, April 11th

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By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum

John 12:1-8

Reflection—v. 6 ‘not because he cared about the poor’

When Judas makes his compelling point about the wastefulness of Mary’s gift to anoint Jesus’ feet, it is as if the author feels the need to justify Jesus’ response by giving us insight into Judas’ motives. The author wants to affirm that, ‘just to be clear, Judas does not actually care about the poor,’ lest we be won over by his seemingly valid suggestion. Because it’s true, I think any one of us can acknowledge that Judas makes a fair point: wouldn’t that money be better spent if given to the poor? In fact, isn’t that what Jesus’ ministry is all about—good news for the poor, and all that? But if our author is right and Judas really doesn’t care about the poor, then Judas’ point is moot. He is merely trying to say the right thing, while caring about nothing. Mary, on the other hand, cares about Jesus with her whole heart, so much so that this love compels her to give humbly and freely. Oh, Judas, how we love that Jesus outsmarted you and honored Mary’s selfless gift of love—you had all the right arguments, and none of the heart. But before we move directly to joining Team Jesus, I invite us, in this season of penitence, to pause and reflect on when we care more about saying the right things than caring for humans. If we do not actually care about the poor—the human beings in our midst experiencing poverty—all the right words from the academy or the pulpit or seminary or your Facebook post are moot.

Prayer: God of the poor, give us caring hearts to do the messy work of justice that cares for your beloved children with abundant outpourings of love.

Lenten Devotional – Wed, April 10th

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By: Jill Oglesby-Evans

John 12: 1-8

Reflection—v. 3 ‘Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair’

Knowing how much I love words, every year a dear friend gives me a Word-A-Day Calendar. The word for this year’s Hallmark-hallowed day for celebrating love—Valentine’s Day—was ‘profligate.’ Interestingly, two very different definitions were offered. The first—‘wildly extravagant’—brought to mind Faberge eggs, Priscilla of the Desert, and Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet. The second, however—‘shamelessly immoral’—reminded me of Judas’ and our own betrayal whenever we fuss and fret about there not being enough to go around. When does the word ‘profligate’ strike you as overwhelmingly generous and when as wasteful and corrupt?

Prayer: Profligate God, ground us in your abundant love even as you forgive us when anxiety makes us fearful and stingy.

Lenten Devotional – Tue, April 9th

Jennifer Arnold

By: Jennifer Arnold

Psalm 126

Reflection—v. 6 ‘those who go out weeping…shall come home with shouts of joy.’

I love how this poem helps us imagine the relationship between mourning and rejoicing. Seen as seeds and sheaves, these two phases of life are visualized not as opposites but as different stages of the same whole. You cannot have one without out the other—within the seed is a future stalk of grain and within the sheaves are seeds waiting to fall to the earth. So, too, it is with our lives. How often I wish I could fast-forward right through my grief and trauma to a picture perfect ending. But God offers us something even better than a life absent of pain. God promises that in every stage of our lives God is working for our good. In our times of weeping and of celebration, and every feeling in-between, God is working with us to craft a beautiful story of redemption and hope. We rejoice not because our lives are perfect, but because God is our constant companion no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.

Prayer: Trustworthy God, we rejoice in your steadfast love which is always working for our good.

Lenten Devotional – Mon, April 8th

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By: Holly Reimer

Isaiah 43:16-21

Reflection—v. 18 ‘do not remember the prior things’

Don’t get stuck in the past. This is how I read this message from the prophet Isaiah. It makes me think about grudges or negative interactions I have had with people that I have held onto instead of letting go. It also makes me think of things in the past I want to over-romanticize—once again, albeit in a different way, holding onto something that doesn’t serve me.It’s easy to get stuck in the what-was, to look back in the rearview mirror. When I was learning how to drive, my Dad, in his infinite wisdom, would take me to abandoned parking lots and make me practice driving backwards. I spent a lot of time looking out the side and rear-view mirrors. Have you ever driven backwards for long stretches? It’s exhausting! It takes constant vigilance, slower speeds, and more concentration on the steering wheel. While I like to think of myself as a pretty skilled backwards driver, that is not how I navigate the streets, because it is not safe, productive, nor an effective use of my navigation. Moreover, it is definitely not the best way to share the road. To move forward we need to be looking forward, looking for the new things that God is up to right in front of us. It’s easy to get stuck looking in rearview mirrors. However, to move forward in life, it’s also important to pay attention to what God is putting in front of us.

Prayer: God-on-the-move, help us to be attentive to where you are leading us and look forward to what you have put ahead of us.

Lenten Devotional – Sun, April 7th

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By: Holly Reimer

Isaiah 43:16-21

Reflection—v. 19 ‘I will make a way in the wilderness’

My family and I really enjoy hiking. There is something about going out into the wilderness, going beyond the noises that exist in the day-to-day, that makes me feel closer to God. More often than not, the trails are well marked so the traveler can find their way. The trails are marked by certain colors so that you can be aware if a trail leads to water. And yet, even as I write this, I think about how few people know there are differences in the markings on the trees. Or know that there even need to be markings on the trees to show us the way. Sometimes I get lost on these journeys. I get lost in the expanse of the trees and the brush. Eventually, it all starts looking the same. It can be easy to get lost in the wilderness. Much the same way, I think about my daily journeys: each day is filled with a series of tasks that need to be accomplished, some which fade into the next day because there wasn’t enough time to accomplish them all. Before I know it, I get lost in the wilderness of my days and weeks. I lose sight of God, of things that have more meaning and importance, but have gotten lost along the way because I was too focused on accomplishing tasks. In this season of inward reflection, I pray for God’s guidance through the wilderness paths of our lives, that God may make ways for us when we get lost.

Prayer: Guiding Spirit, make a way for us when we feel most lost.

Lenten Devotional -Sat, April 6th

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By: Maggie Leonard

Psalm 32

Reflection—v .9 ‘Don’t be like some senseless horse or mule, whose  movement must be controlled with a bit and bridle’

And I continue to quote the Psalm, ‘Don’t be like that!’ I hope this Lenten season that you tap into your creativity. I pray you feel comfortable with yourself, to enjoy the quirks of who you are and to remember your own basic goodness. I encourage you to explore your own personal self-expression, whatever it might be–song, dance, painting, collages, jokes, needlepoint, gardening, writing, building. I hope that you look at problems from a new vantage point and discern a new way of engaging them. I implore you to do something out of the ordinary—maybe even something wild, something that will make your heart sing and help you to feel the newness of the day. Have some sense about you, no need to do anything cruel or foolish. God has removed the burden of our sin. We can be intentional and live into the freedom and joy we are given by God through our forgiveness. Living a faithful life isn’t about following directions and going through the motions. It’s about being guided by wisdom in new directions. May we all be moved by the creative Holy Spirit this Lent, working to make a more equitable and joyful world.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, inspire our hearts to acts of creation, wonder, justice, and joy!

 

Lenten Devotional -Fri, April 5th

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By: Maggie Leonard

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Reflection—v. 20 ‘so we are ambassadors who represent Christ’

I recently had the privilege to travel to Palestine and Israel as a part of a clergy cohort on a sponsored trip. During our time there, we visited a town in the West Bank and had the opportunity to visit with Father Firas Diab Khoury, a Melkite priest living in Zababdeh. He is an enthusiastic preacher and captured my attention as he implored us to ‘make your hands dirty! Make your hands dirty because we need builders, builders of peace.’ Typically, ambassadors and capital cities are meant to be impressive and intimidating—they are shiny, exuding power. But we must remember that we serve a different kind of Lord. The kind of Lord who rubbed his hands in mud to heal eyes, the kind of Lord who fished in lakes and camped in gardens, the kind of Lord who engaged the unclean, the kind of Lord who loved all. We are ambassadors of reconciliation and peace, of equity and equality, of mess and discomfort. This ministry of reconciliation calls us to clean bathrooms and tear down walls. This ministry of reconciliation calls us to make our hands dirty for the sake of love.

Prayer: God our Lord, empower us to be the kind of ambassadors that you desire us to be: ministers of reconciliation and peace.

Lenten Devotional – Thur, April 4th

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By: Maggie Leonard

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Reflection—v. 19 ‘by not counting people’s sins against them’

Another definition of reconciliation is ‘to bring to agreement.’ This term has been used not only to describe the merging of opinions, but also to balance accounts. Verse 19 tells us, ‘God reconciled the world to Godself through Christ by not counting people’s sins against them.’ Folks, if God did count our sins against us, we’d be in trouble because the balance is off. We are in debt. And there is nothing we can do to reconcile the amounts ourselves. We must acknowledge that we have not done right, in very concrete ways. But God does not want us to become so weighed down in our grief and shame that we are no longer able to look forward. Fear not! God works in another way, not keeping score of a game we are losing badly, but rather by pouring love out upon us and encouraging us to do the same. For many, keeping count, whether of misdeeds or debts, is a way of maintaining power. This call encourages us to turn away from power and toward right relationship.

Prayer: Forgive us our debts, O God, that we may forgive our debtors and seek right relationship.

Lenten Devotional – Wed, March 3rd

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By: Maggie Leonard

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Reflection—v. 18 ‘gave us the ministry of reconciliation’

In a recent conversation, my friend, Rev. Cassandra Henderson, was expressing frustration with people who want to pursue racial reconciliation. As she explained it, and I found myself agreeing with her, one definition of reconciliation is to restore, to bring back to its original state. However, where injustice is present, to restore a system that began as broken is not enough and might even be considered detrimental. We cannot in good faith restore our old racial systems of oppression (not that we yet have a society of equal respect and opportunity). Our ministry of reconciliation is about joining with God in a new creation, something more loving and just than we have ever witnessed. God draws us near, and we must be willing to let go of what we have allowed to divide us. This is the time to see what we cling to. This is the time to notice what keeps us at a standstill. This is the time to soften our heart and ready ourselves for change. This is the time to discover what new beginnings God has in the making. May we not work to rebuild systems of old—systems of death and destruction—but to seek the love that grows and changes and empowers each day.

Prayer: God of new life, empower us to relinquish systems of death and destruction and seek a new creation in you.

Lenten Devotional – Tue, April 2nd

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By: Maggie Leonard

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Reflection—v. 18 ‘God, who reconciled us’

It has been said that those who are abused can become the abusers. I’ve certainly seen evidence of that. Such transgressions might look relatively mundane—if someone talks to me with a harsh tone, I often respond in-kind, regardless of my previous mood. But sometimes that exchange is weightier. Many women understand the dynamics of abusive relationships. We especially might focus on the realities of finding oneself in an abusive romantic relationship. But imagine if you suddenly realize, heart-broken, that you were abused for so long that you forgot that love looked another way. You’re afraid that you’ve become the abuser because you also did emotionally abusive things to your kids and other loved ones in your life. You wonder if they will ever be able to forgive you. You hate that you did this, too. It just seemed normal for you at the time. Awareness is the first step. When that negative exchange is finally broken, it often changes everything. God does that for us. God breaks that cycle of abuse and harshness, seeking reconciliation instead of vengeance. God does not meet harshness with harshness, abuse with abuse, but rather seeks to make a new thing and right our relationships.

Prayer: Reconciling God, intervene to break cycles of violence and bring new life and wholeness to us all.