Lenten Devotional 4/16/19

April 16, 2019                     John 12:20-26                        Rev. Miriam Foltz

                                                                                                  Pastor, Ukirk St. Louis

My seminary travel group arrived to the city on ‘Jerusalem Day.’ For one side, the day celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem by the Israeli state in 1967 at the end of the Six-Day war. For other sides, it’s a mournful and fearful day as large crowds amass and congregate in a powder-keg city already cramped, crowded, and still carefully divided. For my part, I had never seen such a concentration of nationalistic flags or young soldiers openly carrying weapons.

In Jerusalem, in the days after Jesus’ entrance to palms and crowd’s chanting, I imagine the streets of the city held similar tension and excitement. Roman soldiers congregating to ‘keep the peace.’ Jewish pilgrims gathering in the city for the holiest of festivals – Passover. And for the disciples of Christ, their fears, expectations, anxieties, and hopes simmering together within the walled city. In today’s passage in John, Jesus begins to conclude his public ministry. Jesus speaks of death and life, of service and honor, of now and eternity. It’s the big speech before game day; he’s trying to get out the message one last time. Do you feel the nerves and anticipation?

            Tuesday of Holy Week might feel like the ultimate twiddle-your-thumbs day. In the grand scheme of Holy Week, three days go ‘unnamed’ – Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday – and Tuesday falls smack dab in the middle of ‘em. We’ve come down from the high of Palm Sunday and aren’t yet building up to Maundy Thursday. But don’t be lulled by the calendar. Do you hear the voices in the streets!? Do you see the anticipation in the crowds?! Even the Greeks are showing up to catch sight of Jesus! Aren’t you just a little curious about what’s going to happen?? Jesus speaks, “If a grain of wheat dies, it bears much fruit.” Will there be peace in Jerusalem even today?

Prayer: God, who was in the beginning and is now and ever shall be, we give you thanks for the middling days, for times when we feel somewhere in-between and not-yet, for days of waiting and anticipating your kindom. We seek the fruits of your kindom. Come, Lord Jesus, bring heavenly peace to this anxious world. Amen.

Lenten Devotional 4/15/19

April 15, 2019                           Romans 12:9-16                     Joe Bradshaw


 Break down of Romans 12:9-16 revised version 1.2     

So John 12:9 begins with the words ”meanwhile …” which basically means there’s been a lot of stuff going on  in the story up to get to this point, and you need to check it out.  The basic  characters are…Lazarus (walking miracle…Jesus of course (Savior and King)….chief priest (Reigning Authority), the disciples and adoring crowds.  Well the chief priests  are plotting to kill Lazarus, while the  adoring crowds are  rolling out the red carpet for their new king, the disciples (having not yet received the Holy Spirit nor having attended seminary) contemplate on the recent batch of confusing words from Jesus. Jesus humbles himself before the world.   This section ends with the Pharisees saying “This is getting us nowhere”. Behind the scenes, the Pharisees work to devise a better plan (to manipulate the Romans into killing Jesus for them) so they won’t be blamed.   

Prayer, Dear Father, Give us strength and courage to not waver in our adoration of you, while in the face of the “reigning authorities”.    

Lenten Devotional 4/14/19

April 14, 2019                    Luke 19:28-40                     Heather MacArthur

The Donkey

By G. K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked

And figs grew upon thorn,

Some moment when the moon was blood

Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry

And ears like errant wings,

The devil’s walking parody

On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,

Of ancient crooked will;

Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,

I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;

One far fierce hour and sweet:

There was a shout about my ears,

And palms before my feet.

Lenten Devotional 4/12/19

April 12, 2019                                     Psalm 148                               Donna Cook

“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created. The Lord established them forever and ever; The Lord fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.” (v. 5-6)

Monarch Butterflies became a complex “back to school“ sign for me in the 1980s. I was teaching in High Ridge and living in Lafayette Square. During a walk in the park I noticed what looked like orange flags or ribbons all over the shrubs that were around the small pond near the park entrance. They looked like those little flags that the utility companies use to mark their lines. Why were they all over the shrubbery? It wasn’t flags, it was butterflies, at least 100 butterflies! Monarch Butterflies all over the shrubbery! (Yes, I’m saying shrubbery, repeatedly.) I had never seen anything like it. I saw a similar vision outside of my school one day. The school neighbor hadn’t mown his lawn and the clover flowers were blooming beautiful purple. They too, were covered with orange butterflies galore. Around the world people view the butterfly as representing endurance, change, hope and new life.

I learned that the monarchs migrate through our area during “back to school time”. ( I often think of them as little orange and black school buses, heading off to school with a crew of kids starting a new year.) I now relish every monarch I see fly by during those months and try to lure them to my yard. (I have a friend in Baltimore who hatched out over 100 monarchs in her back yard last summer. I am so jealous.) I keep looking for those visions and I know they are rare to see in my own community.

As I learn more about butterflies I now know they migrate to special areas in Mexico and along our southwestern border. One of those areas is clearly in danger. The most diverse butterfly sanctuary in the county, the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas and other protected ares in the lower Rio Grande Valley are under threat from the current administration’s plan to build a extensive border wall. In December 2018 the US Supreme Court issued a ruling allowing the current administration to waive 28 federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act and to begin construction on 33 new miles of border wall in the heart of the river valley – and right through the butterfly center. This project will include a 30 ft tall concrete and steel wall, roads and a 150 ft “reinforcement zone” where all vegetation will be cleared.

At this writing heavy equipment has arrived on the site and bulldozing may begin soon. Local inhabitants fear for the destroyed habitat, the ecotourism and the undocumented immigrants that are pushed further into marginal and dangerous areas.

The Psalmist (and God) surely would condemn any action that would drive a species to extinction or endanger human lives. We can’t claim to have dominion over God’s gift of the earth and all that is in it (Gen. 1:26) if we allow government policy and our own actions and inactions to “diminish the praises of earth and heaven.” We need to protect creation’s capacity to praise it’s Creator.

More information can be found here.

https://www.nationalbutterflycenter.org

Prayer: “Let them praise the name of the Lord, for the Lord’s name alone is exalted. The Lord’s glory is above heaven and earth.” (v.13)

Lenten Devotional 4/11/19

April 11                       John 10:19-42                  Christine Woodward

Reflection:  In John 10 27-30 Jesus lets us know the many blessings he gives us.  The Shepherd’s voice offers us assurance, direction, and learning.  I can hear the Shepherd speaking to me if I take the time to listen.  The Lord of creation knows and loves me.  I am offered direction and guidance in my life.  I am offered the promise of eternal life.  The Shepherd offers me protection and security.  I feel safe and protected because I know I am part of the Shepherd’s sheep.  I know I have a strong relationship with my Shepherd, and they will continue to watch over me.  If I get lost, they will find me and/or patiently wait for me.  This is important in my life since I have struggled with my beliefs when bad things are happening.  Even in these moments of doubt, I know God accepts and loves me.  God will find me again, and our relationship will be even stronger.

Activity:

Prayer:  Hey God!  Thank you for accepting and loving me.  Thank you for holding me when I am sad.  Thank you for lifting me up when I am in need.  This lent, help us to grow our relationship with you and to listen when you are speaking. 

Lenten Devotional 4/10/19

April 10, 2019                                                                                                     Josh Smith

Psalm 27:13-14 – I am still confident of this:  I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

John 10:11, 17 – I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again.

Patient?  Nope.

I prefer short devotionals.  Actually, I prefer no devotionals, because I want to do my stuff, not God stuff.  But if there must be devotionals, better they be short.   I have trouble warming up to the idea of waking up much earlier or staying up much later for a lengthy set of scriptures, when I could be spending that time in something “productive”.  And, compounding the impatience, sometimes I have to read the scripture a couple of times to get it.  It’s hard to be patient and wait for understanding.  But I find that when I do offer up patient time to God, it’s good.  Always.  And it’s productive.  Always. 

As local pastor Bob Hagel said (in his farewell sermon to Oak Hill), we should think of waiting as you would a waiter in a restaurant.  Waiting is serving.  When I lay down my life, when I put aside my wishes to pursue God’s wishes, when I devote time to God instead of me, I am serving the Lord.  Jesus knew that the only way to find true goodness in life is to serve the Lord and others, giving of our time and energy and resources and our lives, and then wait patiently for the opportunity to do it again.

See?  Short.

Prayer:  God of patience and strength, help me to wait patiently for you.  And help me notice the goodness around me as I wait.

Lenten Devotional 4/9/19

April 9, 2019                               Psalm 146                         Brian Heuckroth

                                               Romans 10:1-13

                                                 John 9:18-41

Christianity brings to me a spirit of thankfulness, a practice of openness, and a lifelong pursuit of the truth in all things. Lent is for me a time to focus on inner meanings and higher truths, and to be comforted by the timeless support of a God who loves us all.

Praise the Lord, O my soul. Psalms 146:1

Every day which goes by contains many gifts and opportunities for thankfulness. I try to make it a point to recognize these moments, whether it’s a hot meal with loved ones, a job especially well done by my employees, or making the green light on that long left turn in my commute.

“Thank you Lord, for thinkin’ about me, I’m alive and doin’ fine…”

Signs, by the 5-Man Electrical Band

For the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For hosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:12

We live in a complex world which is now very divided, particularly when strong forces benefit from a divided population. Compassion for others has never been more important. We can set an example each day of the type of world we wish to live in, where all are important and even the people with whom we disagree are not the enemy.

“My sweet Lord, Hallelujah, My my Lord, Hallelujah

Mmm, My Lord, Hare Krishna, My my my Lord, Hare Krishna”

– My Sweet Lord, by George Harrison

Whether he (Jesus) be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. John 9:25

Jesus gave sight to a man blind from birth. The Jewish authorities could not accept such a miracle and wanted to assert that Jesus was a sinner. There are many parallels between the Jewish authorities of Christ’s time and the politicians of today. In both times, an agenda becomes more important than the truth to people who cling or aspire to power, and inevitably the truth becomes a casualty of the struggle, unless we care, unless we act, unless we persevere.

“I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

– Amazing Grace, by John Newton,
popularized by Judy Collins and 1,000 others

Lenten Devotional 4/8/19

April 8, 2019                           Psalm 121

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

Mary Oliver
Wild Geese

Lenten Devotional 4/7/19

April 7, 2019                   Mark 8:31-9:1                   Tegan Counihan Ratliff

Listen and reflect with these questions and the lyrics of the song Oceans by Hillsong

When do we save our life from sin?  When do we lose our life to sin?

When do you find it easy to follow Jesus?  When is it hard to follow Jesus ?

Have you ever suffered because you are a Christian?

Have you ever been tempted with the ability unto avoid suffering?

How does this passage encourage you to keep going?

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

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