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Lenten Devotional 3/20/19

March 20                       John 5: 1-18                 Rev. Meredith Jackson
                                                   Hunger Program Director, Isaiah 58 Ministries

Sometimes we get very caught up in work. We think that if we are busy, then we are successful. If we keep going, we must be demonstrating our worth. This work can get us so tunnel visioned that we lose sight of the moments of opportunity around us.

In Jerusalem, Jesus approached the place where many people needed healing. He approached a man who had not walked for many years, and the man walked again. While the authorities criticized Jesus for healing someone on the sabbath, Jesus replied that even on the sabbath, “My father is working, and I also am working.”

Jesus knew that his work was work of love. Bringing love to the people and love to the world. He also saw that all around him were opportunities for this work. Work wasn’t something that should be restricted to 9am-5pm. Work was caring for the people, and it was something that could be done in every moment, every interaction. For Jesus, there were opportunities for love everywhere.

What if we approached life like this? What if we knew that in every smile, and every kind gesture, there is an opportunity for love and healing? What if we saw it as our mission to spread this love and healing to all the world? What if we measured our own success by how much we shared loving kindness with others?

This Lent, I pray that we may take the opportunity to pursue love and healing in every moment of our lives. That we may take a deep breath to examine our work and our mission in the world, and that we may take a step away busy-ness, and toward the work of healing and loving all of God’s people.

Gracious God, let me follow in your work of loving kindness. Let me busy myself with recognizing each moment as holy, and let me care for each person who crosses my path. May I be a part of your work on earth, right here and right now. Amen.

Lenten Devotional 3/19/19

March 19              Jeremiah 2:1-13, 29-32            Rev. Dr. Alan Meyers

Why would someone do that — turn away from a fountain of cold, refreshing, life-giving water, and try to drink instead from a cistern, a basin chiseled out of rock to hold stale rainwater, especially if the cistern were cracked and empty and waterless? I don’t know, really. It is something of a mystery about us humans that we so often fail to do what is good and joyful and healthy and rewarding and choose instead something trivial and boring and ultimately worthless. I have looked back with regret on many a lost hour I could have spent taking a walk or reading a book, but which in fact I spent scrolling through nonsense on Facebook or watching a dumb TV show. C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters tells of a man who arrives in hell and says “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.” When I first read that book I shivered when I felt how much I identified with that man. How often do I waste time doing something that’s not anything I’m obligated to do nor anything I really enjoy?

Is this just laziness we’re talking about here — being drawn to whatever takes the least energy and concentration (Facebook rather than the walk, TV instead of the book)? Is it sheer human perversity? Or is it something deeper, what Christian tradition calls sin? Human beings have a mysterious bent toward turning away from God, the greatest of all goods, and chasing after lesser goods that ultimately cannot satisfy. This is what Paul is talking about in today’s reading from Romans: “they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles” (1:23). Theologians have said this is the essence of sin: choosing something less than God over God. It is what is called idolatry. Idolatry may involve choosing unGodly values instead of what God cares about: choosing cruelty instead of kindness, selfishness instead of concern for others, trust in our own powers instead of faith in God (Romans 1:16-17). Lack of love for God leads to lack of love for our neighbors.

The best reason for giving things up for Lent is to make space in our lives for concentrating on God and practicing enjoyment of the supreme Good. In moments of devotion during Lent — reading Scripture and good devotional literature, praying, reflecting anew on God’s amazing love for us in Jesus Christ, just sitting quietly and enjoying the presence of God — we may learn to abandon those cracked cisterns that cannot finally quench our thirst, and to run instead to the fountain of living water.

Prayer:  Great God, revealed in Jesus Christ, you are the fountain of living water. May I drink deeply and be satisfied. Amen.

Lenten Devotional 3/18/19

March 18                        Romans 1: 1-15                   Christine Woodward

Reflection:  I specifically reflected on praying to God in these verses.  Praying has been an extremely important part of my life.  I feel like I can have a conversation with God whenever I stop and pray. I can tell God my thoughts, worries, and good news.  Sometimes we fight, sometimes we are best friends, and sometimes God is the parent I need comforting me.  I went through a hard time several years ago, and we had a long battle.  I trusted God but was upset.  We had a lot of conversations about my needs and wants.  It took me a long time to understand God has a plan for me, and I just need to be patient to see that plan.  God trusts us to believe and is patiently waiting for us to share our belief with others.  I am not the perfect Christian, but I have my faith to keep me strong.  I feel the best way I can share my faith with others is just to pray for or with my loved ones. 

Activity:  See next page. 

Prayer:  Hey God!  Thank you for listening to me and comforting me when I am struggling.  This lent, help us to communicate our thoughts and feelings with God.  Help us share our prayers and blessings with others.    

Lenten Devotional 3/17/19

March 17, 2019                          Mark 3:31-4:9                         Carole Adams

I often think of this passage and what it means to be a “sower.” 

During Vacation Bible School (VBS) at Oak Hill, I think of all the “sowers” we had who participated in leading our children.  Some lead in the opening to tell what the scripture was for the day.  Some taught crafts, some read Bible stories, some played games, and some helped prepare the “snacks.”  The Bible story of the day was carried throughout all of the stations the children went through.  In addition, there were the wonderful crew leaders in charge of the same group of children  (crew) each day who took them through these stations.  And the music!  How the children loved the music, singing and dancing to the songs in the sanctuary.  (We had rented a large screen TV so all of the children could see the words and dance moves for the songs.)  Our “sowers” were 16 to 80 years of age.  Each had their own talent and excelled in what they did.

During the “Time for Growing Young Disciples” on the Sunday following VBS the children told about what they had learned during the week.  The pastor made the comment, “I don’t think I need to preach a sermon today, the children have done it for me.”

I have no idea what has happened to all of those children who attended our VBS.  I do know that seeds were planted.  I don’t know if some fell on the path, if some fell on hard rock, if some fell in the thicket, or if some fell on good ground.  I think we have to remember that we were the “sowers” and not the “grower.”  We have to leave the growing to God, and keep on sowing.

Prayer:  Our Heavenly Father.  Please help us to continue to tell your story to our children so they may grow in your word.  Amen

Lenten Devotional 3/16/19

March 16                                 John 4: 1-16                                   Deb Weithop

When the disciples discovered Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, they were amazed.  Jews should avoid Samaritans. A man should not be alone with a woman. And if they find themselves in that situation, they should not have a conversation.

But Jesus and the woman at the well have a remarkable conversation. She wonders where true worship is found. She is surprised when he reveals that he knows her personal situation. They discuss the meaning of “living water.” Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah and the great “I AM.” After a lengthy discussion, she leaves a true believer and brings many others to the faith.

Through this story, we see that Jesus wants a true relationship with us. He loves us enough to seek us out and welcome us to intimacy. We can learn from the woman at the well to continue conversation with the one who knows us best and can bring us eternal life.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for allowing us to have conversation with you always through prayer.  Give us the wisdom of the woman at the well to ask questions and seek your guidance daily.  Amen

Lenten Devotional 3/14/19

March 14, 2019                                  Deuteronomy 9:23-10:5

And when the Lord sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, “Go up and occupy the land that I have given you,” you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God, neither trusting him nor obeying him. 24 You have been rebellious against the Lord as long as he has[a] known you.

25 Throughout the forty days and forty nights that I lay prostrate before the Lord when the Lord intended to destroy you, 26 I prayed to the Lordand said, “Lord God, do not destroy the people who are your very own possession, whom you redeemed in your greatness, whom you brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 27 Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; pay no attention to the stubbornness of this people, their wickedness and their sin, 28 otherwise the land from which you have brought us might say, ‘Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land that he promised them, and because he hated them, he has brought them out to let them die in the wilderness.’ 29 For they are the people of your very own possession, whom you brought out by your great power and by your outstretched arm.”

At that time the Lord said to me, “Carve out two tablets of stone like the former ones, and come up to me on the mountain, and make an ark of wood. I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets, which you smashed, and you shall put them in the ark.” So I made an ark of acacia wood, cut two tablets of stone like the former ones, and went up the mountain with the two tablets in my hand. Then he wrote on the tablets the same words as before, the ten commandments[a] that the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain out of the fire on the day of the assembly; and the Lord gave them to me. So I turned and came down from the mountain, and put the tablets in the ark that I had made; and there they are, as the Lord commanded me.       

Prayer: Lord, do not destroy your people. Pay no attention to our stubbornness. Keep trying. Keep believing in our ability to change. Give us another chance! AMEN.

Lenten Devotional 3/13/19


March 13                          Hebrews 3:12-19                    Sarah Gibson

                                            John 2:23-3:15

Hebrews 3:12-19  – Warning Against Unbelief

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.

John 2:23-3, 15

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.

LORD,

Each day I have opportunities to experience and give GRATITUDE, see and feel BEAUTY, receive hugs and LOVE, give GRACE, SHARE talent, HEAR laughter and make CHOICES that allow me to better my health to better do your service.

I also have days when I have the opportunity to COMPLAIN about people and responsibilities, INSULT instead of kindly disagree, DISMISS and make an excuse not to teach, experience STRESS that clouds judgement, and IGNORE someone in need of my attention because I am distracted.

LORD,

Soften my heart so that I feel your presence and open my ears so that I hear your wind blow through. Help me to cut through the busy-ness, the rush, and the stress and recognize that every interaction is a chance to lift-up, praise, teach, and show love. Thank you for not giving up on us….you said it yourself in Deuteronomy:

“I HAVE SEEN THIS PEOPLE IS A STUBBORN PEOPLE”

Help me to control my “human-ness” and the instinct to doubt. Allow me to see you each day and not to turn away….not to harden my heart.

AMEN

Lenten Devotional 3/12/19

March 12, 2019                                  Hebrews 3:1-11                      Donna Cook

Hebrews 3:4 “For every house is built by someone but the builder of all things is God.”

It was a wild and crazy dream those “mission trippers’ had. While sitting on the floor at the Calvin Center in Hampton, Ga, outside of Atlanta, they munched on cheeseballs and AirHeads and suddenly decided, “WE CAN DO THIS AT HOME!”. We had a house, we had volunteers. We had lived and worked in so many models of mission. How hard can it be?

Those “mission trippers” had faith and hope and love and a whole lot of patience and perseverance. They envisioned what would be come AMEN – Saint Louis, A Ministry Embracing the Neighborhood.

Inspired and driven by the Holy Spirit , those mission trippers, along with family, friends, and community renovated the space, planned a program, connected with area ministries and businesses, bought bunk beds and air conditioners. Those builders, used hammers and pry bars, drywall and plastic pipe. They wrestled with web sites and bulk mailing. They wrote checks big and small, and sold beer and brats at the stadium. Finally they bought t-shirts, learned to play human foosball, and opened the doors to middle school and high school seekers, college students on break, social justice activists seeking respite, intergenerational missioners, and the occasional Buddhist Meditation retreat. All came to learn, love, worship, serve and grow. Inspired by God. Built by God. To the Glory of God.

Prayer:Loving creator and builder of all things, help us to live Christ’s example, to live as he did, faithful, hopeful,  loving, and patient everyday, AMEN

Lenten Devotional 3/11/19

March 11                                  Psalm 6                                   Rev. David Gerth

                                             Executive Director,
Metropolitan Congregations United

I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
    and drench my couch with tears.

Wow, that’s a lot of tears. I’m not much of a crier, even when I’m bawling inside. But I’ve been around people who are gifted at the fine and sacred art of letting it rip. Even the most joyful celebration of a well-lived life ought to have a moment when nobody can hold back. Every good funeral has somebody who just plain blubbers all over and burns through a box of Kleenex. Those tears show that someone mattered and still does.

We don’t have to wait until it’s all over to shed tears. Evil is working death all the time, all over the place, in endless ways. One of the main reasons I got involved in faith based organizing in the first place was that my prayers and my tears needed some feet of action to carry them and hold me up.

Working on lots of different social justice issues has also taught me that my best effort sometimes isn’t enough. The grief and pain soars after a cruel judicial or political decision. The tears flow when people I know are sent back to prison for a crimeless violation of probation. My heart breaks when we flat out lose.

Yet, tears as prayer have a special power. God hears tears as prayer.

Away from me, all you who do evil,
    for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.

God, today there just aren’t any words for my pain, so I’ll just cry. You’ll know what to do. Amen.

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