Archive for March, 2013

John 19:8-16

March 29, 2013

Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”

 

When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.”  Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.  John 19:8-16

 

There is a lot of killing in this world.

 

“Battlefield” seems a nostalgic memory as we read about Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Burma, Thailand, and Nigeria.  The old rules intended to keep some semblance of sanity to armed conflicts have fallen by the wayside.  “Unarmed non-combatants” is no longer a category.

 

A movie theater.  An elementary school.  A university campus.  A political speech.  A street.  A playground.  A home.

 

What are we doing?  What are we hoping to accomplish?

 

What is it that rages inside of us that eventually erupts, spewing forth our desperation down to our clenched fist or trigger finger?

 

How can people, even, especially, religious people, not see the incongruity in ignoring God’s “You shall not kill” behind whatever the latest version of “We have no king but the emperor” happens to be?

 

Were we to pluck Jesus out of history and put him back in any age, the story wouldn’t change.  Our desire to be our own little gods with our own little kingdoms would be the same.  People with power, legally sanctioned or not, would be there to do the bidding of the crowd.  Politicians with one wet finger in the air would still settle for peace and quiet rather than peace and justice.  Jesus’ way of being in the world would still be rejected.

 

Make room in your life today to sit before the cross.  Do it in a house of worship.  It doesn’t matter if you’re driving to Grandma’s house for Easter…you will pass by many churches with a blacked out cross on your way.  Don’t let this day pass you by.

 

Sit before the cross today and listen to what it tells you.

 

You’ll hear the groaning of creation.  Every cry that has pierced the night.  You’ll see every tear that has fallen in pain.  Every misguided attempt to wrest control over life.  Every twisted path of destruction.

 

At the heart of it, you will see God’s heart of love.  And just perhaps a new-found willingness to walk Jesus’ way of being in the world despite its costs.

 

Let us pray:  Lord Jesus, may we see today that your surrender to the cross is the victory of your love.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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John 13:6-8

March 28, 2013

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”  John 13:6-8

 

Peter said to Jesus, “You will never wash my feet.”

 

How do we hear those words?

 

On the one hand, they shed a soft glow of friendship and devotion on Peter. He doesn’t want to see Jesus humiliate himself.

 

Foot-washing was a common practice in the ancient world.  In a world where walking was the primary form of transportation, a world without concrete sidewalks and asphalt roads, a world without modern medicines, an injury to your feet could lead to a potentially deadly infection.  Taking good care of your feet was essential.

 

In a world where the vast majority of people lived in the social caste of slavery, even relatively modest homes could greet guests with a servant prepared to wash their feet upon entering the house. 

 

Peter didn’t want to see Jesus stoop down to the level of a foot-washing servant.  But Jesus sensed something different going on.  Something more deadly than a foot infection.

 

In seeking to defend Jesus, Peter risked missing out on the benefits of Jesus’ love.  Peter didn’t see how his defense of Jesus demonstrated Peter’s own unconscious inner caste system.  For to Peter, to wash another’s feet was demeaning. Peter also thought of himself as “above” a common house servant.  So Peter rejected what Jesus was offering. 

 

How often, in our confession, though our mouths say the right words, do we still maintain the illusion that we are “better” than others?  Or, while seemingly more pious, do we harbor the fear that we are “worse” than others?  Can we see, in either, how such thoughts thus place us in judgment over Jesus?

 

Jesus alone is King, everyone else stands at the foot of the cross.  Jesus stoops to wash feet, commanding us all to see the reality that we are all servants of one another.  There are no levels.  Better and worse are categories that don’t apply.  Life happens only on two levels – incarnate love revealed on a cross and expressed in service to others.

 

Let us pray:  Dear Lord, on this Maundy Thursday we pray that you reveal to our hearts and minds the good news of your love for us.  That while we are yet sinners, still you died for the ungodly, for all, for us.  May this love propel us to lives of gratitude and service.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

John 10:7-10

March 27, 2013

So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  John 10:7-10

 

My mornings used to begin with sitting quietly, wondering what in the world I could say about a passage from the Bible that morning that might be valuable in someone’s life that day.  I look back now at that time in my life with amazement.  Years of early mornings.

 

And then it stopped.  Caught up in the rush of life.  Accommodating myself to changes in calls and changes to routines and the sudden awareness that time was slipping away.  It just stopped.

 

Over the course of Lent this year I have enjoyed reading the little snippets of the faith lives of people I love in the congregation that I now serve.  I’ve read their words and each day remembered when I used to begin my days writing.  And I have realized that I forgot the original purpose for writing devotions and the blessings they became.

 

I forgot that I started writing them to hold myself accountable to listening to the Word every morning.  Instead, now I read the news – which always feels like the same bad news over and over and over again.

 

I forgot that, every once in awhile, God used my willingness to write to bless someone out there in a profound way that I will never know.  Knowing it was possible was enough.

 

So I got up early Monday morning with hopes of writing something worthwhile.  My mind was a blank.  I did the same yesterday.  Same result.

 

Now I realize that I had forgotten something else.  I was hoping that I would come up with something to say.  I had forgotten that, at least for me, writing is something that comes to me in a flash of God-given inspiration.  It isn’t something that I carefully craft.  Something comes and I type as feverishly fast as I can until it is on paper.

 

So, this morning, instead of pressuring myself to write, I read a book written by a colleague of mine.  It was a mid-Holy Week blessing.  The only way I can express my gratitude for having read her words is to write some of my own.

 

Welcome to Holy Week.  May God bless you with time in the company of strangers all gathered to worship the One who knows us by name, Whose voice we recognize when it calls.  May your journey through the days to come rekindle in you that blessed love that continues to hold you close.

 

Let us pray:  Gracious Lord, lead us now through these days of peace, pain, and promise.  Come to us as we come to you in worship.  Resurrect what is best in us and invite us to leave the rest at the cross.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

John 1:6-11

March 22, 2013

Our devotions this Lenten season have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s devotion is by Gene and Karen Ellison.  Also, if you would like to join our staff in praying the liturgy for Responsive Prayer/Suffrages just click here.

 

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.  John 1:6-11

 

Have you ever been in a situation where someone introduces you to someone else? You exchange names, maybe shake hands and move along.  Within 3 minutes you have forgotten the name of the person you just met.  Why is that?

 

You heard their name, you repeated their name and you shook hands. Were you really listening, were you thinking about something else, maybe what this new acquaintance is thinking about you.  Why do we sometimes have difficulty meeting and remembering someone?  Maybe if we fully open ourselves to receive someone, we will truly receive and remember them.

 

In John 1:6-11 we hear how John the Baptist was sent by God to testify to the light that was Jesus, so that through him al might believe.  Jesus was in the world, the world he created, yet the world did not recognize him.  God sent John to introduce Jesus but just like our introduction that goes for naught, the same happened to the light of the world.

 

Let us pray:  God, please open our hearts to receive you.  Let us believe in the name of Jesus so that we can become children of God.   Amen.

Mark 6:30-44

March 21, 2013

Our devotions this Lenten season have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s devotion is by Paul Baerenwald.  Also, if you would like to join our staff in praying the liturgy for Responsive Prayer/Suffrages just click here.

 

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he

began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking 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. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.  Mark 6:30-44

 

The disciples were tired and looking forward to rest – we can certainly empathize – yet when the crowd appeared, Jesus didn’t send them away, he had compassion on them.  He taught them.  They needed their shepherd; they needed nourishment for their souls and he provided.

 

When they needed nourishment for their bodies the disciples resisted, looking for an excuse.  Send them away.  It would be too expensive!  Yet in Christ all things are possible.  Five loaves and two fish became more than enough to feed 5000 – with leftovers!  It may not have looked like much but with God, little equals unlimited potential.

 

Like the disciples, we resist.  We have better things to do, we’re tired, it will be too expensive.  We search for excuses, but Christ insists, “You give them something to eat.”  He asks us to lay aside our objections and let him be our shepherd, providing for us what we need, and through his example he asks us to do the same for each other.  Have compassion.  Have faith!  Let him take what may seem insignificant and turn it into something astounding, just as he did with the bread and fish.

 

With God little is much.

 

Let us pray:  Lord God, break down our resistance.  Give us compassion to help those in need and let us see that through You all things are possible, that through You little is much.  Amen.

1 Kings 8:35-40

March 20, 2013

Our devotions this Lenten season have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s devotion is by Daniel Grimmer.  Also, if you would like to join our staff in praying the liturgy for Responsive Prayer/Suffrages just click here.

 

When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, and then they pray toward this place, confess your name, and turn from their sin, because you punish them, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk; and grant rain on your land, which you have given to your people as an inheritance. If there is famine in the land, if there is plague, blight, mildew, locust, or caterpillar; if their enemy besieges them in any of their cities; whatever plague, whatever sickness there is; whatever prayer, whatever plea there is from any individual or from all your people Israel, all knowing the afflictions of their own hearts so that they stretch out their hands toward this house; then hear in heaven your dwelling place, forgive, act, and render to all whose hearts you know—according to all their ways, for only you know what is in every human heart— so that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our ancestors. 1 Kings 8:35-40

 

I have come back around from making mistakes in my life. God has put people in my life that have helped me grow. My principles used to be about what can I get out of people or what do I have to lie about next? Those principles have become more about what can I do for the next suffering person? For the broken imperfect person sitting next to me? My life today revolves around honesty, love, and bringing my spirit into my reality.

 

One thing that God has given me is my own destruction.  God has never had to punish me more than I already have done or will do in my life, and I think that others who have been destructive in their lives can relate. God can be there for me when I turn toward him, and ask for his love and his guidance as I go through my life. I ask what would be the next thing that I should do for him, so that I may better understand and practice his will.

 

Let us pray:  Thy will, not mine, be done; however I can best serve thee. Amen.

Matthew 5:14-16

March 19, 2013

Our devotions this Lenten season have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s devotion is by Randy and Robin Schawe.  Also, if you would like to join our staff in praying the liturgy for Responsive Prayer/Suffrages just click here.

 

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:14-16

 

Jesus came to the earth to show us that God loves us. Often it seems we live in a very dark world.  For Robin and I, our faith and beliefs had always been held close to the vest and kept basically to ourselves and within our immediate family.  Watching Helen and Matthew grow up with their universes expanding almost daily and new influences impacting their lives, we realized that we, as parents, needed to become better examples of action taken rather than words spoken.

 

We all have our unique gifts and strengths. Jesus wants us to use these gifts for good.

 

It’s often difficult to recognize your specific gifts and once recognized even more difficult to make the first steps toward application and action.  Being a training facilitator, I was very good at stressing to employees that “awkward is good.” Once new practices/processes were put in place and practiced they become easier and easier until common place.  This concept resonated within us. We made the commitment to become better doers. Robin volunteered for the Day School Board and she soon found that she enjoyed that opportunity.

 

I became involved in the kids athletic ventures, coaching when needed, then jumping into opportunities of running concessions for their teams. Together, we became active participants in Faith Family Fun nights volunteering to help prepare the meals. We enjoyed those nights as we grew and expanded friendships among our fellow Church members. And most recently, when Helen started confirmation in 2011, I fully embraced “awkward is good” by volunteering to become a confirmation mentor.

 

We’ve both found that we have many more lights than we expected and it’s becoming easier to let them shine but we still have a long way to go. But the first and most difficult steps have been taken.

 

Let us pray:  Heavenly Father, help us to see and to recognize the many glorious gifts that you have given us.  Give us the strength and courage to use these gifts to help others, shining light on your good deeds, and glorifying your name.  Enable us to become beacons in our community, spreading the lights of Jesus’ teachings wherever we go.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Luke 10:1-12

March 18, 2013

Our devotions this Lenten season have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s devotion is by Bill and Courtney Fast.  Also, if you would like to join our staff in praying the liturgy for Responsive Prayer/Suffrages just click here.

 

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.  Luke 10:1-12

 

Jesus knew that the healing of sick people would make them receptive to the Gospel.  So many people work in health care or support various disease-related causes and still we feel like we’re not seeing enough progress.  How amazing would it be to instantly heal any physical or mental illness!

 

My mother was unresponsive in the ICU for weeks and suddenly, one day, she got better!  Of course many friends, relatives, and strangers had been praying for her but her Jewish surgeon, who had always been confident in his own ability, came to see her after her recovery.  He shook his head and said that he had been at a loss of what to do for her.  He was in Temple one day for a high holiday and not knowing what else he could do, he prayed. The next day she got better.

 

There is only so much we can do when we rely on our ability but when we ask God, there is nothing in this world he cannot help with.  And when we rely on Jesus we look forward to the Kingdom of God.

 

Let us pray:  Dear Lord,  please bless us with spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional health.  Amen.

Philippians 2:1-11

March 15, 2013

Our devotions this Lenten season have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s devotion is by Dylan Murphy.  Also, if you would like to join our staff in praying the liturgy for Responsive Prayer/Suffrages just click here.

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 

he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Philippians 2:1-11

This passage begins with Paul stating that if Christ means anything to you, then resolve your differences and be joyous in Christ’s love with one another, and to do things for the benefit of others and not for personal gain. To show the Philippians how powerful unselfish behavior can be, he cites Jesus as an example. He cites Jesus, saying that because Jesus emptied himself and gave himself over to his Father’s plan for him, even to the point of accepting death on a cross (the equivalent of the electric chair in 1st century Palestine), that is why his name is exalted by God.

Now would be a good time to take into account Paul’s situation in life at the time of his writing this letter to the Philippians. Paul was in jail and was at risk of execution. So, when we take this into account we learn several things.

First, that Paul is willing to die for his Christian faith. Second, that he accepts this willingly and gives himself over to it. And third, that Paul could also serve as his own proof that caring for others more than for oneself is far more powerful than self interest. He is eventually freed and spared, so that he can continue to follow God’s plan for him, in spreading the word of God through signs, healings, baptisms, and conversions.

Let us pray:  Jesus, give me comfort that my loved ones who do not know you – will know you in the end when every knee bows to you. Amen.

Galatians 2:15-21

March 14, 2013

Our devotions this Lenten season have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s devotion is by Laura Michaud.  Also, if you would like to join our staff in praying the liturgy for Responsive Prayer/Suffrages just click here.

 

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.  Galatians 2:15-21

 

So, what happens when faith is nowhere to be found?  Are we lost, hopeless?  How do we get it back or do we?

 

The trauma and pain I have experienced over the past 2 years have led me to seriously question my faith.  I often (very often) wondered…Why me?  Why did God abandon me?  I thought I LOST my faith.

 

Stepping beyond the trauma and pain has taken a lot of faith.  Faith I did not realize I had – but it was there all the time.  I am now aware that my faith is challenged every day as I am still wading through profound grief, sadness, and pain.  But the mere fact that I am still standing and getting up every day, working, caring for two kids and trying to accept where I am in my spiritual life is a testament to faith – through grace.

 

Faith is also in the questioning!  You don’t question something you don’t believe in.  Faith is a GIFT – one that gets me through every moment of every day.

 

Let us pray:  God, thank you for the gift of faith and help me remember to call on you when all faith seems to be lost.  Amen.