Lenten Devotional 4/21/19

April 21, 2019                   John 20:1-18                          Rev. Erin Counihan

It’s Easter morning and we’ve made it! (Or else you skipped ahead because you’re a big ole cheater.)

But before we jump to the joy and wonder, the lilies and chocolates, I like to spend a little time with our sister Mary at the tomb. Imagining the despair, the frustration, the grief she must have felt, walking that morning, while it was still night, but he was already risen. Still lost in all that had happened, still remaining faithful, serving him past the end, even in her loss, even with it all seeming to be over. And he is already risen.

That morning Mary, that still serving Mary, that still walking in the night Mary- she gives me hope for all the times when I am lost, or grieving, or frustrated, or really, really unsure. That somewhere, somehow, even in my own despair, Christ has already risen, Christ is already making things right, Christ is already conquering evil, Christ is already changing the story… I just don’t know it yet.

God, I pray for us who are still journeying toward Jesus, especially when we’re trudging along in the night, especially when we’re praying for some wonderful, unimaginable, but desperately needed resurrection morning. Amen.

(And Happy Easter, friends!)  

Lenten Devotional 4/20/19

April 20, 2019                      Romans 8:1-11                            Rich Weithop

REFLECTION

The scripture talks about God’s law and Man’s law. God’s law is superior to Man’s law. God’s law deals with sending his son in the likeness of sinful flesh to deal with sin. Man’s law deals with the flesh and sin. Following God’s law is life and peace. Man’s law set on flesh is hostile to God. If you are under God’s law, though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life. You will have eternal life.

Man’s law can lead to people being materialistic, selfish, judgmental, untruthful, hateful, prejudiced, power hungry, etc. God’s law leads to people doing the right thing. This includes; helping, sharing, being positive and honest, calling out injustices, being courteous and respectful, etc. Following God’s law will reward you with peace and everlasting life.

PRAY

Thank you, God, for offering your word to us. Continue to remind us that following your word will lead us to happiness, peace, and everlasting life. AMEN

Lenten Devotional 4/19/19



April 19                                   John 19:40-42                                     Dena Roper

“They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with spices in linen clothes, according to the customs of the Jews.  Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.  And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.”

This poem was shared by Erin and Korla a year or two ago.  It spoke to me so I saved it.  Sometimes we just have to feel the feels even the bad ones.

“Blessing When the World is Ending”

Look, the world

is always ending

somewhere.

Somewhere

the sun has come

crashing down.

Somewhere

it has gone

completely dark.

Somewhere

it has ended

with the gun,

the knife,

the fist.

Somewhere

it has ended

with the slammed door,

the shattered hope.

Somewhere

it has ended

with the utter quiet

that follows the news

from the phone,

the television,

the hospital room.

Somewhere

it has ended

with a tenderness

that will break

your heart.

But, listen,

this blessing means

to be anything

but morose.

It has not come

to cause despair.

It is simply here

because there is nothing

a blessing

is better suited for

than an ending,

nothing that cries out more

for a blessing

than when a world

is falling apart.

This blessing

will not fix you,

will not mend you,

will not give you

false comfort;

it will not talk to you

about one door opening

when another one closes.

It will simply

sit itself beside you

among the shards

and gently turn your face

toward the direction

from which the light

will come,

gathering itself

about you

as the world begins

again.

—Jan Richardson

from Circle of Grace

Dear God, you are there and listen when we are going through stuff.  There is comfort know we are not alone when we are felling all the feels in life. Amen

Lenten Devotional 4/18/19

April 18, 2019                                     John 17:1-11 Rev. Erin Counihan

Loving You (Maundy Thursday) by Rev. Rachel Hackenberg, via her blog at www.rachelhackenberg.org on Maundy Thursday 2018.

We could make it work, you know. This drive of yours to persist all the way to death wouldn’t have to have the final word. Remember how often you talked about love? Remember how hard you laughed — with friends, with lepers, with children? Couldn’t that be the work that drives you? Couldn’t we carry that work together, or are you so determined to be alone? What if the poured-out sacrifice was healing oil instead of ebbing blood? What if the last touch we knew in this world was a loving caress instead of piercing spear? I’m trying to show you another way. Could we not break open a jar of blessing? Must it be our hearts that break?

Lenten Devotional 4/17/19

April 17, 2019                 John 12: 27-36                           Lisa Thompson

Reflection

As I read this passage, the parts that stood out to me were “walk with the light”, “darkness overtakes you and you don’t know where you’re going”. This reminded me of camping trips in the middle of the night, in the middle of the woods, and needing to go from a tent in the woods to another location. (If you’ve ever camped, especially if you’re a woman, you know that feeling of needing to find the outhouse in the middle of the night.) I would always forget to grab a flashlight. After a few steps, I would realize that this was a mistake, but then think “I’m fine. I’m a grown-up. I can do this by myself.” Why can’t I just admit that I can’t see without some help from a flashlight?”

There have been a number of times in my life when I felt discouraged, in the dark, when I couldn’t decide what I needed to do to make things right. Every time I have found myself in a situation like this, I fixate on the problem and stew over how I should respond. I play out all the scenarios in my mind and think through all the reasons why this or that won’t work. I wallow in feelings of “poor me” for much longer than I care to admit. The only thing that ever makes me feel better when I finally get to this point is “giving it to God”–realizing that I don’t have to have the solution. In fact, the solutions that I am capable of imagining are extremely limited. I am not the director of this movie. I didn’t create this jigsaw puzzle. It may not even be in my power to figure it out. It’s like admitting that I need a flashlight in the woods. I need to listen for God’s voice and look for God’s light in the midst of darkness. I can relate to the people in the verse who heard God’s voice and thought it was just thunder, or the people who had Jesus with them, but argued about whether he really was the Messiah because of their predefined ideas about what a Messiah should do.  In his blog, The Listening Hermit, Peter Woods reflects…”But when I close my eyes and still my mind from all its reasoning and overthinking, I notice that I can see dimly in the dark. Just enough light to take another step closer to his divine heart. He who hides from all my argumentation, is the very one who shines a torch in the dark labyrinth of my prayer.”

Lord, help me discern your light and your message in my life.

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 4/14/19

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 4/9/19

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,
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