Belmont University's Lent & Holy Week Devotional Guide 2013
This is the Lenten Devotional Guide for 2013.
2013 Lenten Daily Devotional Guide Belmont University School of Religion & University Ministries LENT 2013 The university community has often expressed its appreciation for the annual Advent Guide and the way it helps prepare everyone for Advent. For a second consecutive year, through an intentional partnership between the School of Religion and the Office of University Ministries, we have been able to create and offer a Lent and Holy Week Devotional guide to help our campus community prepare for Easter. In the Christian tradition, Lent (concluding with Holy Week) is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer—through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial—for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This guide has instructions for daily devotions during this season. You are encouraged to read scripture, the brief devotional and pray each day as you prepare your heart for Easter. We are truly grateful for all of the individuals who have helped to make this Lent and Holy Week guide a reality for our campus community, as it was indeed a campus-wide collaboration that includes contributions from students, faculty and staff from across the campus. May each day of reflecting upon God’s Word, and the words of these writers, lead us through Lent and towards a deeper unity with Christ—in His life, death and resurrection! Grace and peace, GUY M. CHMIELESKI Dr. Guy Chmieleski, University Minister DARRELL D. GWALTNEY Dr. Darrell Gwaltney, Dean, School of Religion 1 GUIDE TO DAILY PRAYER Opening Prayer Comfort, comfort your people, O God! Speak peace to your people. Comfort those who sit in darkness and mourn, Forgive us our sins and end the conflict in our lives. Confession of Sin Reflect quietly before God, asking for forgiveness for all those things done and left undone, that are unpleasing to God. Remember, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Scripture Lessons Read the Psalms for the day. Read the Old Testament passage for the day. Read the Epistle passage for the day. Read the Gospel passage for the day. Prayers The following is a suggested guide for prayer during Lent. ray for all Christians around the world and especially for those who endure persecution for P their faith. Pray for our nation and all those in authority. Pray that Christ’s peace may cover the world. Pray for the end of conflict and war and the triumph of truth and justice. Pray for all those who engage in the educational ministry of the Church and especially for Belmont University. Pray for those who suffer and grieve. Pray for closer union with Christ—both in His suffering and ultimate victory. 2 ASH WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 13 Psalms 51:1-17 Joel 2:1-1, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 Our cluttered lives distract us from the need for a Lenten season. Confession and contemplation do not schedule well. We cannot carve out silence and time from our lives without herculean effort. We struggle to find a place for God in our routine. Ash Wednesday had its origins as a special time of penitence for people who had committed a grievous personal or social act. The Lenten period created a time for that person to reflect upon his or her sins and to repent of them so when Easter arrived, he or she was in full fellowship once again with the community. Later, Lent began to focus more on every member of the community preparing for Easter by reorienting his or her life to God in Jesus Christ. The practice of â€œgiving something up for Lentâ€? recalls the sacrifice of giving something up for Christ. When we yearn for it, we are reminded of the commitment we have made to grow closer to God. Today, when we receive the cross of ashes on our forehead, we are reminded of our mortality and our sinfulness. We are reminded that from now until Easter we have a unique opportunity to reorient and reprioritize our lives to grow closer to God. There is nothing easy to this season of the church year. There is nothing quick about it. It takes time to clear the head and the heart of all those things that distract us from God. We will need to make time to meet God during this Lenten season. We will need to carve out silence and time to sit and wait upon the Lord. We will need to change our routines. May this Lenten season be a time for each of us to meet God anew in our lives. May God forgive us of our sins and our conceits. May God create new hearts in us. Let us begin with the words of the Psalmist David after he had sinned grievously before God: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. (Psalm 51:1-2) Let us begin our journey toward the heart of God today. DARRELL GWALTNEY Dean, School of Religion H. Franklin Pascall Chair of Biblical Studies and Preaching 3 THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14 Psalms 37:1-18 Deuteronomy 7:6-11 Titus 1:1-16 John 1:29-34 The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. (Deuteronomy 7:6) Today is the day all about love…or at least that is what we are told by the greeting card and chocolate manufacturers. It is the day we express, in often the most basic of ways, where we have set our affection. We affirm that we have chosen, and have been chosen by someone, to love. We look for new and creative ways to articulate the reasons why our hearts are inclined to our special someone: their beauty, their character, their passion, the way they make us feel. The season of Lent serves as a time for reflection on this notion of love and affection. As we prepare ourselves during this Holy season, we are challenged not only to reflect on why we love God, but on why it is that He loves us. The recognition of God’s deeds can produce thankfulness, but an examination of God’s love for us produces a deeper knowledge of His character. God loves because it is His nature to do so. All of the reasons we can surmise for why we are lovable are essentially meritless. God’s love, like the cross, is about who He is—not who we are. A reflection of God’s love for us inadvertently moves our perspective to the central theme of His character. God does not love us because we are His treasured possession. God’s love for us is what makes us His treasured possession. The question of “Why?” then pushes us to reflect less on our laundry list of lovable attributes and more on the incomprehensible nature of God’s love. It is a love so contrary to our own human nature that it could only fully be articulated through death and resurrection. During this season, and specifically on this day, let us reflect not only on what God’s love says about us…but what His love fully reflects about Him. CHRISTY RIDINGS Associate University Minister & Director of Spiritual Formation 4 FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15 Psalms 31, 95 Deuteronomy 7:12-16 Titus 2:1-15 John 1:35-42 When I was perusing the passages for this devotional, I was struck by some of the harsh, violent language in them. For example, “And you shall consume all the peoples that the LORD your God will give over to you. Your eye shall not pity them . . . (Deuteronomy 7:16).” Or the last two verses of Psalm 95: “For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.’ Therefore I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” I’ll admit, these wouldn’t have been my first choices for passages, but the more I thought about it, the more appropriate I found them. Let me explain. On this third day of the Lenten season, reflecting on the way things were before Christ’s coming can give us a more powerful understanding and appreciation of the new covenant that followed. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul says that we were all once children of wrath—the same wrath that caused God to swear that the evil generation mentioned in Psalm 95 would never enter his rest. As unbelievers, we also would have been the peoples that were to be consumed without pity by God’s people. These aren’t the prettiest images. But on the other hand, Christ dying a bloody, torturous death on the cross isn’t exactly the nicest image either. Because of his gruesome death and glorious resurrection, however, we are no longer subject to the horrific truths of wrath and consumption that God proclaimed against the sinful nations of the Old Testament. Christ took those awful things for us, and because of this sacrifice, we are now able to enjoy the wonderful rest, peace and freedom of God. In the events of Christ’s death and resurrection, we see the gruesome come before the glorious, the hurt before the healing, the blood before the bliss. The story of Easter is all of these things together. Without the ugly truth of the cross, there is no beauty of resurrection. So, as we prepare to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, let us remember where we were before his resurrection, and let us be thankful that because of the Easter story, we are no longer there. ROBERT O’BRIEN Senior, Religion & the Arts 5 SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 16 Psalm 30, 32 Deuteronomy 7:17-26 Titus 3:1-15 John 1:43-51 “You may say to yourselves, ‘These nations are greater than we are. How can we drive them out?’ But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt.” (Deut. 7:17-18) In Chinese there is a proverb: “There’s no flaming mountain you cannot surmount.” This proverb is derived from one of the four great classical novels entitled Journey to the West. The work is an allegorical rendition of the journey from China to India made by Xuan Zang, the famous monk from the Tang Dynasty. Mingled with Chinese fables, legends, popular beliefs and monster stories, the journey of the characters is a long and arduous one, full of trials and tribulation, dangers and adventures. As Christians, our hope in life’s journey, unlike that recounted in Journey to the West, is based on the history of the cross of Jesus Christ and the mighty act of our God in raising Him from the dead. The gospel affirms that no matter what obstacles we face, we are in God’s hands. As King David cries out to Lord, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance”(Psalm 32:7). Having come from China to seek my Ph.D. and now as I teach at a wonderful Christian institution, I have faced numerous mountains in graduate study, pursuing a job, teaching my classes and in making decisions in life. Although my Chinese culture has infused into me the drive and confidence to overcome all the obstacles on my path, my Lenten practice as a Christian reminds me that I cannot remove the mountains in my journey if I do not rely on God’s mighty power. My life experience in the U.S. over these years has confirmed this truth! Time and again, when I was at a loss as to what to do, when I felt desperate at the intersection of a challenging choice, I presented my eager heart to God and sought His help. He listens to my prayers and my cries. HE guides; HE heals; HE cares; HE supports; HE provides! Just as the children of Israel remembered God’s deliverance of their nation from Egyptian bondage, our Lenten reflection is turned toward the recollection that we are God’s children and His love for us is so vast that He gave His only son for us. We have to remember that “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3:5) QINGJUN (JOAN) LI Assistant Professor of Asian Studies and Chinese Language 6 SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 17 Psalms 91:1-2, 9-16 Deuteronomy 26:1-11 Romans 10:8b-13 Luke 4:1-13 What is it to truly dwell in the house of the Lord? I have always found “dwelling in the house of the Lord” an interesting portrait to try and paint in my mind. Even with a vivid imagination claiming, “He is my refuge and fortress, my God, in whom I trust,” (v2) it seems impractical, if not impossible, to believe in this physical world in which we interact daily. Despite this scripture’s claim of protection from bruised feet and earth shaking disasters, in honesty, at my core I doubt if God needs to send an angelical intervention to protect me from “striking my foot against a stone” (v12), even though His love offers even this. Why is my faith so limited given the evidence I have seen through life as well as His word? Do I truly dwell in the same place as the psalmist? Or is my trust simply lacking a depth of peace, which is offered me, from fully resting in God’s dominion in both the large and small things of life? When I was a child I felt safe because my parents were super heroes with super powers. However, as I aged I learned that it was the power of God that I was experiencing through my parents, not their power. As my parents read me Bible stories and sang songs from the Psalms with me in church, I slowly grew in my understanding of my parents’ role in caring for me as a member of God’s house, under His shadow of protection. At a young age my eyes were opened to the reality that a human promise, despite the sincerity, was only as good as the flesh of the person offering it. However, a promise from thee, God, is real and infallible. The promise of this heavenly fortress became the cornerstone of my faith, which I attempt to re-realize in greater ways with each passing season. In recent times this cornerstone and the walls built upon this faith, have been re-tested and confirmed in a new and exciting way—I became a father. I am humbled almost daily when I recognize that these children see my superpowers, and my role is to ensure they too can see the source of those powers like my parents did for me. Some lessons truly are eternal, so for my wife, my new boys, and myself I say, “He is my refuge and fortress, my God, in whom I trust!” As for the rest of my story, I will seek to rest in the Lord in the large and the small vigorously! In His and your service! VINCE DILLER Assistant Dean, Student Affairs 7 MONDAY, FEBRUARY 18 Psalms 41, 52 Deuteronomy 8:11-18 John 2:1-12 Hebrews 2:11-18 See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction! (Psalm 52:7) I repeatedly doubt whether God is sufficient for me. This doubt doesn’t usually express itself in thoughts or questions, but in my desires and my attitudes. When I feel alone I seek people to fill my ache. When I am failing I seek my own strength to fix my situation. When I am succeeding I beam at my own performance. I am so like this man in Psalm 52. I think a lot of us are. Our trust is not always in riches, but often in our friends, our abilities and our personalities. We place trust in the things we find around us, and ultimately at some point, they fail to meet our expectations. I think I saw it on Pinterest somewhere that expectation is the root of all heartache, and I think this statement is very true. Humans—our friends, our parents, ourselves—whatever we expect of them, at some point they will let us down. But we have access to a God who is able to do far more abundantly than anything we could ask or think! We cannot even imagine the mind-blowing things He can do! Look at the Deuteronomy passage. The Israelites had at this time been brought by God again to a place of safety, had set up their lives there, and were in danger again of trusting in their own power and riches to fulfill them. But they served the same God that we do today. The same God who brought them out of slavery and led and fed them in the wilderness. The same God who can change the chemical makeup of a liquid without really doing anything. Meditate on this God today. Consider his might and his beauty and his bigness. List as God did for the Israelites in Deuteronomy the works that He has accomplished in your life, big and small. You can start with Him coming as a child and enduring life as you, as a human who felt and knew what it was to be lonely, to fail, to weep. Start there, but bring it into your today. In our thankfulness for socks and life and Christmas lights and health and lasagna and knock-knock jokes, we can come to know the care with which the Lord has crafted each of our lives. And we can be sure that He is sufficient. BECCA KENNEDY Junior, Missiology 8 TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 19 Psalm 45 Deuteronomy 9:4-12 Hebrews 3:1-11 John 2:13-22 Think back to the time when you were four. No matter what type of community you lived in, be it a city with bustling traffic or a small farming town with tractors and trucks, you had roads. And, when you were four, your parents (if they were the least bit responsible) made sure you held their hand when you crossed one of those roads. They paid close attention to you. Why? I think you know the answer to that. Love. They knew that in order to keep an adventurous, inquisitive, four-year-old alive, they had to pay attention and fix their thoughts on your safety. They could not allow themselves to be distracted—their little one was too important. Now think with me a bit about the idea of distractions. You might say they’re a bit sneaky, and if we’re not careful, we get swept right up into them. You might even say our culture has chronic distraction disorder. And let’s be honest, we are often most distracted by helpful things—phones, iPads, Facebook, activities, etc. But at the same time, we know that when something is deeply important to us, like holding a child’s hand while crossing the street, we pay attention. And that’s exactly the truth that the Lenten Season rightly reminds us of. During Lent, we vow to sacrifice something we normally enjoy having or doing so that we can 1) refocus our attention on Jesus’ amazing work on the cross and 2) strive to identify with Him in His sacrifice. As you read these four passages today, you’ll quickly note that the Israelites’ attention was swiftly moved from God to idols. You’ll see that the temple officials lost their focus on the importance of God’s house and turned it into a place of selfish money-making. God was angry with them for not striving to pay attention. And rightly so, He is our Holy God, who lovingly created us—and then Jesus left perfection to come to earth as a human, physically experiencing the filth of this sin-trapped world, and then dying with all the sins of the world cast on him. All for us. Why? I think you know the answer to this one, too. Love. So, what can we do to keep ourselves focused? First, daily admit your brokenness. Even the goodiest of goody-two-shoes are vainly flawed. Cling to your real identity (reread Psalm 45: 11-15—yes, that is a foreshadowing of the church—which hopefully you’re a part of!) Hold on to your Christ-based courage and the hope of the gospel (Hebrews 3:6). And enjoy Jesus for who He is (Psalm 45:2-8). Think of what He has for you in this life, as He enjoys and boasts over you. As you give up your “idols” for Lent, I ask you to think intentionally about how this helps you fix your thoughts on Jesus and His relationship with you. He doesn’t just want you to think about Him, He desires for you to be deeply, rawly convinced of your importance to Him, and out of that true love, share that core-fulfilling care and tenderness with people. ALYSIA GREEN University Ministries Assistant 9 WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 20 Psalm 119:49-72 Deuteronomy 9:13-21 Hebrews 3:12-19 John 2:23-3:15 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (John 3:14-15) Jesus assumes that we are in a very bad way without Him. We are like people who have been bitten by poisonous snakes and now have death coursing through our veins. We snakebit ones need someone to risk it all to get us the antivenom that alone can save our lives. Jesus reveals our true condition to us. He says that “whoever does not believe stands condemned already.” There is no more reason to be angry at Jesus for saying this than to be angry at the doctor who gives us a dreaded diagnosis. But when we get bad news, we tend to react first with anger, since it is easier in the short run to live in blissful ignorance of our true condition. Our modern world denies that we as individuals and as a society are trapped in a death spiral, which in olden times was called “sin.” C.S. Lewis writes, “The greatest barrier I have met is the almost total absence from the minds of my audience of any sense of sin. … The early Christian preachers could assume in their hearers, whether Jews . . . or Pagans, a sense of guilt . … Thus, the Christian message was in those days unmistakably the Evangelium, the Good News. It promised healing to those who knew they were sick. We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy.” During this Lenten season, we would do well to rekindle in ourselves an awareness of our sinfulness. Jesus cannot heal what we do not allow Him to heal. His first question to those who sought Him out was, “What do you want me to do?” If our deepest response is something like, “Oh, nothing, I’m fine the way I am,” then He can do nothing to help us. But if we own up to the lust, sloth, greed, anger, jealousy, pride and gluttony that drives us from within and allures us from without, Jesus’ invitation still stands. He invites us to believe in Him so that we “may have eternal life in Him.” Jesus was lifted up on the cross that we might be saved, if that is what we want. TODD LAKE Vice President, Spiritual Development 10 THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21 Psalms 50, 59, 60 Deuteronomy 9:23-10:5 Hebrews 4:1-10 John 3:16-21 This Lenten season, let’s go beyond a gesture of will power expressed through the suppressed appetites, for the Lord does not desire sacrifices (Psalm 50:6-15). Instead, He desires eternal intimacy with his beloved children (John 3:17). So then, if life is not meant to be defined by sacrifice, surely there must be something else which sets the season of Lent apart from others. According to the Word, Christ spent 40 spirit-filled days and spiritfilled nights fasting in the desert. At the end of this time, the enemy begins to tempt him with everything from physical comfort and eternal glory, to control over the heavenly army of angels. In his craftiness, Satan even quotes the scriptures in an effort to confuse Christ. However, the Lord Jesus is not fooled, for He is close to the Father’s heart. He prevails over Satan, but not through superior intellect, a quick wit, or unparalleled will power. He wins against the enemy because He has just spent 40 days seeking the Lord’s will with such sincerity and fervor that even food has become irrelevant. He triumphs over powers of darkness because His strength is from God. This story appears in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. In all three accounts, there is a pattern: the proceeding passage heralds the beginning of Christ’s ministry (Matthew 4:12-17, Mark 1:14-15, Luke 4:14). Twice, the subsequent passage announces the calling of Christ’s first disciples. The next lines, without fail, describe the fruits of His ministry. This is no coincidence! A quick study of the Gospels will prove the fact that they each reveal the same Good News, but in different capacities. The fact that these particular anecdotes are captured in consecutive order not once, but three times, should be a HUGE red flag. Our savior’s last command to us was this: that we should go make disciples of all nations and never forget the presence of the Lord (Matthew 28:16-20). According to the beautiful roadmap laid before us by the Lord Christ Jesus, we know that we can only fulfill this command by first spending intimate time with the Lord. This season of Lent, do not make sacrifices to the Lord your God. Instead, seek to know His heart in earnest desperation, and if anything stands in your, way cast it aside, for the Lord your God is the only one worthy of your attention. ELLE SANDERS Sophomore, Commercial Voice 11 FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 22 Psalms 40, 54 Deuteronomy 10:12-22 Hebrews 4:11-16 John 3:22-36 The truth is, we’re all so very weak. We may act like we have it all together, but at the end of the day, nobody needs to remind us that we’re broken people. We know. There are some things in life that are givens: you know, things like vegetables are good for you and don’t talk in elevators. Well, another one of those givens is this: we’re all just messed up. Forlorn and frail, we desperately try to walk in obedience to the Lord, yet stumbling blocks abound. And frustratingly enough, the most abundant stumbling block of all is the self. Temptations entice from dawn until dusk, and more often than not, selfishness is the victor. Stumbling time and time again, we find ourselves feeling downcast, defeated and dirty, convinced that God could never love anyone so wretched. Even the Lenten season—when viewed merely as a time to do more good deeds, to exercise self-discipline or to attempt to earn God’s acceptance through acts of penitence—can serve as a sobering reminder of our sinful disposition and weakness. The simple act of trying to give up something for Lent—whether it be chocolate, meat, smoking, Facebook or maybe even going to class (as if you needed an excuse)—creates the possibility of failure. And let’s be honest, failure is one of the few areas in which we all excel. Failure often leads to shame and self-condemnation, and in that dark pit—that place where our inferiorities and weaknesses loom so large—it’s easy to believe that God has nothing but judgment for us. Nevertheless, as Christians, those very moments that remind us of our shortcomings must turn our focus once again upon God’s amazing grace, which we can claim confidently through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. For that reason, don’t simply let Lent be another painful reminder of your weakness as a human; let it be a time in which you reflect on the strength, grace and love that are yours in Christ. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16) RYAN PINO Sophomore, Asian Studies Major 12 SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23 Psalm 55 Deuteronomy 11:18-28 Hebrews 5:1-10 John 4:1-26 “Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” (Hebrews 5:1 ) Many years ago we lived in South Florida. To save some money on a flight home to Missouri, I scheduled a flight from the Ft. Lauderdale airport instead of the more convenient West Palm Beach airport. The drive to Ft. Lauderdale took about an hour and Darrell dropped me off in plenty of time to catch my flight. I was flying Southwest and, at the time, passengers had to line up to get a number which would determine the order of boarding. So when the flight attendant announced the giving out of numbers all the passengers dutifully lined up. I fell in line behind a young man dressed in what I would call “grunge” attire. His clothing was big and baggy and he had visible tattoos and dreadlocks. The entire time I was behind him in line I kept hoping he wouldn’t turn around and I would not have to talk to him. The young man in front of me would have been someone I pointed out to my kids thankful they would “not be like him.” After receiving our boarding numbers, the only place to sit was right next to this young man. So being the polite Midwesterner that I am, I struck up a conversation with Mr. Grunge. I decided I’d rather have a few uncomfortable minutes of conversation with someone I didn’t know how to relate to than sit in silence staring at the other travelers. Besides, we’d be boarding soon and I could sit wherever I wanted on the plane. I started with the obligatory, “Where you headed?” I learned this young man was going to visit his grandmother in St. Louis. Exactly where I was going. I learned he was Jewish, and he studying to be a Rabbi. Imagine my surprise when he showed me the book he was reading. . it was a Hebrew Bible! Well, I got to thinking, “Maybe he isn’t so bad after all.” We shared some more about our families, then Mr. Grunge took off his jacket to show me his newest tattoo . . . a Star of David in honor of his grandmother. He then showed me the tattoo he got when he became an Eagle Scout! Once we boarded the plane, Mr. Grunge and I sat next to each other continuing our conversation until we landed. We hugged and parted ways at the baggage claim. My sister came up just as Mr. Grunge was leaving. She immediately asked, “Who was that?!” I told her it was someone who challenged my idea of judging people by their looks. So often we judge people by what they wear and not by who they are. I learned a valuable lesson on that flight. I hope I can continue to view people the way Jesus does and not by what they are wearing. DONNA GWALTNEY Senior HR Generalist 13 SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 24 Psalm 27 Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 Philippians 3:17-4:1 Luke 13:31-35 or Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a) During the Lenten season I usually end up thinking about self-denial. I may be thinking about giving up sweets, or deleting my Facebook, or committing to wake up earlier to read my Bible, but I am definitely thinking about giving something up. Sometimes I find myself participating in the “holy” act of self-denial simply for the sake of self-denial, and not because I truly believe Jesus is better than whatever I am giving up. I get caught up in the Christian activities and end up being a Christian just because it’s the subculture I’m a part of instead of being a Christian because I truly love Jesus Christ. So, I just want to offer this simple reminder to myself and others: Lenten rituals like 40 days of self-denial mean nothing if it is not from the overflow of a heart filled by the love of Christ. I don’t want to delete my Facebook because I believe that I’ll be more holy and Jesus will love me more if I do. I want to have the mindset where I delete my Facebook because I know it simply distracts me from what is true. I want to be in a place where I don’t need to find meaning through being well liked, or where I quantify my self-worth based on how many likes I can get on my most recent attempt to be clever in a status update. I want to know that my identity is found in a much deeper reality, the reality of Christ that says, “No, you’re not good enough even in all your attempts at being righteous, but remember I didn’t choose you because you were good enough; I chose you simply because I love you.” In Philippians 3:20, Paul reminds us, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” As we deny ourselves things this Lenten season, let’s do it because we believe Jesus is transforming us to be more like Him, not because we feel like we should or because we are worried Jesus doesn’t like us anymore. And as we continue to seek Jesus, may He give us new hearts that want Him more than the shallow satisfaction of empty self-denial. DANIEL WARNER Senior, Religion & the Arts 14 MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25 Psalms 56, 57, 58 Jeremiah 1:11-19 Romans 1:1-15 John 4:27-42 Recently, I was circling the parking garage on campus looking for a parking space. It was an especially busy time of the day and I knew finding a space on any of the levels would be very difficult. After making several laps and even waiting outside the elevator doors with the hope that a student might emerge at any time, I finally thought to pray. My prayer was, “Lord, will you please provide me with a space, but if someone else needs it more than me, that is okay, too.” Within a few short minutes, the elevator doors opened and two students walked out and began walking to their cars. I was reminded that God cares about my needs as much as He does in those around me (including the one arriving after me in the parking garage). I was also reminded that He is not limited by the options that are visible to me in order to meet those needs. In John Chapter 4, after Jesus had ministered to the Samaritan woman at the well, the disciples were concerned that Jesus was hungry and needed something to eat. In verse 34, we read his response to the disciples, “’My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.’” This passage suggests that Jesus found doing the Lord’s will nourishing and even lifesustaining. As believers, we are also called to do the will of the Father. We are instructed to have compassion, to give to others and serve one another, in the way Christ demonstrated so long ago. When we practice this calling often, it is very easy to feel depleted and far from nourished. It is no wonder why we hesitate bringing every need to the Lord, especially simple needs. During this Lenten season, let us be reminded that we are not alone in our calling, but that our Lord, Jesus Christ, is with us and it is by His power and strength that we have compassion, give to others and serve one another. All we need is to cry out to Him and He will fulfill His purposes for you and for me. JAMIE ADAM Assistant Professor of Nursing 15 TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 26 Psalm 61, 62 Jeremiah 2:1-13 Romans 1:16-25 John 4:43-54 Recently, I confessed to a friend that I am a worrier. “I worry about everything,” I told him in a joking way, adding, “I can even worry about the sun coming up tomorrow!” We all know that is not the way God intended for us to live. As a matter of fact, most of the things we worry about don’t really amount to much anyway. As I was studying the scriptures above for my writing, the thing that jumped out to me over and over again was TRUST IN GOD! So many times, I will pray about something, and then worry and try to solve the problem myself. I believe that many of us are like that. We confess our faith and trust in God, but are slow to put it into practice. In Psalms 61 and 62, the writer reminds us that God is our rock and salvation. The writer encourages us to trust in God in all things. We are told to pour out our hearts to Him. God is a refuge, and mercy rests with Him. These are words we need to keep close to our hearts as they will comfort us in times that are difficult. In his early ministry, Jesus was approached by a nobleman whose son was sick back at his home in Capernaum. The nobleman came to Jesus and asked that He heal his son. In John 4:43 Jesus said to him, “EXCEPT YE SEE SIGNS AND WONDERS, YET WILL NOT BELIEVE.” Continuing to plead with Jesus, the nobleman said, “Come or my son will die.” Jesus replied, “Go thy way; thy son liveth!: And the man BELIEVED the words Jesus spoke to him. As he returned home his servants came to the nobleman and told him that his son was alive. He inquired as to when he was well and they told him at the seventh hour the fever left him. Then in verse 53, “So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in which Jesus said unto him, THY SON LIVETH: and himself believed, and his whole house.” Henry Blackaby wrote, “Faith does not eliminate problems. Faith keeps you in a trusting relationship with God in the midst of your problems.” In this period of Lent, I pray that your faith in God as your rock and salvation would bring you peace, and trust that as long as God desires, the sun WILL come up tomorrow. HARRY CHAPMAN Director of Development and Major Gifts 16 WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 27 Psalms 72 Jeremiah 3:6-18 Romans 1:28-2:11 John 5:1-18 The prayer of David in Psalm 72 seems to foreshadow the plight and promise for all mankind. Mankind, despite its sinful nature, is greatly loved by God. Jeremiah describes the faithlessness of Israel, a nation chosen by God. Her immorality mattered so little to her and extended so far that God was willing to extend her a certificate of divorce. Yet He waited for her return. Time and time again He waited for her to no longer follow the stubbornness of her evil heart, acknowledge her guilt and return. “Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you…” Romans describes the plight of people so wayward that God had given them over to depravity of mind so that they do what ought not be done, every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. Although they know God’s righteous decree that such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these things but approve of those who practice them. Mankind, because of his unrepentant heart, stores up wrath, trouble and distress against himself. Yet, God loves us so much that He not only waits for us to return to Him, He also pursues us. As with the man by the pool of Bethesda, Jesus recognizes our sinful condition. He knows that we have labored there in a weak and defenseless condition for a long time. With mercy and tenderness He asks the sin-sick soul “Do you want to get well?” Still, for us, He awaits our return. Out of the riches of His love with kindness, forbearance and patience —He waits. Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds. “For He will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no help. He takes pity on the weak and the needy and saves of us from death.” ANGIE BRYANT Director of Fitness and Recreation 17 THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 28 Psalm 70, 71 Jeremiah 4:9-10, 19-28 Romans 2:12-24 John 5:19-29 Given the push we often feel to make a positive and therefore winning impression in our workaday worlds, surrounded by signs, subtle and not-so-subtle, urging us to hurry up and matter, the discipline of looking hard at where we are, how we feel and what we’re doing apart from the visions of power, success and ease crafted and churned up by brand strategies can feel awfully counterintuitive, deeply unwinning and grossly impractical. But in spite of the feelings of unsuccess that await us there, the Lenten season invites us into this very process of taking stock, of saying what we feel, not what we ought to say. Among our texts for today are passages that might surprise us with their expressions of raw candor and honest confusion, but any thorough reader of scripture can agree that, contrary to the way it’s often advertised, the Bible is more than a collection of sentences that fit well on a poster with a basket full of puppies. And even when we find such a verse, that which follows or immediately precedes it has a way of complicating the easy optimism we secured momentarily by quoting the Bible out of context. Anyone wishing to assert or imply that seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness will increase one/s shot at an unproblematic life is advised to steer clear of the prophet Jeremiah. God has a word for Jeremiah to broadcast. The inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem are urged to flee in view the arrival of their Babylonian conquerors, and Jeremiah is to wail and lament in sackcloth the better to note that their abominations, their sowing among thorns and their refusal to repent have not gone unnoticed. “The fierce anger of the Lord” is in effect, and their leaders “shall be astounded.” Jeremiah, however, isn’t one to passively harness an oracle: “Ah, Lord God, how utterly you have deceived this people…saying ‘It shall be well with you,’ even while the sword is at the throat” (4:9-10). Somehow, the prophet’s vocation isn’t simply to pass on the very bad news. His frustration and utter disillusionment with God’s own words is on the table. And if we take the whole of his testimony as scripture, his despair over God’s word is also God’s word. Jeremiah carries both, as it were, within his nervous system. May we live up to and somehow also bear this difficult and imaginative witness in our own beleaguered days. DAVID DARK Adjunct Instructor, School of Religion 18 FRIDAY, MARCH 1 Psalm 69 Jeremiah 5:1-9 Romans 2:25-3:18 John 5:30-47 Growing up Southern Baptist, we typically did not observe the Lenten season. I honestly did not hear about it until I was in college when some friends were discussing what they were giving up. It was not until much later that I actually observed Lent. Not truly understanding the season though I just gave up something for 40 days “because everyone else was doing it.” That’s probably not the best motivation for observing the Lenten season; however, I found it very liberating. I had a conversation during that time with a campus minister who educated me on the observance of Lent and the meaning it held for her personally. “It’s a matter of the heart and mind,” I distinctly remember her saying. A part of today’s Scripture reading says, “Circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” (Romans 2:29a). Our lives are fully and intentionally lived when done so by the heart and by the Spirit. As we chisel away something from our lives during the Lenten season, we circumcise our hearts through the Spirit’s direction. It’s a movement away from something towards God. In observing this season of self-denial, we are reflecting the 40 days Christ spent in the desert preparing and fasting. He was fed by the Spirit during this time, sustained in an unfathomable way to us. He was preparing His own heart, His very will to begin the ministry in for which He was born to live, and ultimately die. During this time of chiseling things from our lives, whether they are material or internal, let us recall what it is we are preparing ourselves for as well. We are circumcising our hearts for the purpose we were born to live. May we remember it is not the outward display of denial but the inward state of the newly sculpted heart. SARA STACY Assistant Director of Student Activities 19 SATURDAY, MARCH 2 Psalms 75, 76 Jeremiah 5:20-31 Romans 3:19-31 John 7:1-13 We all want to be told that we are loved, but you rarely find someone who enjoys talking about God’s judgment. To many, the idea of God’s judgment paints a picture of an angry God, but if we play close attention, it is in God’s judgment that we see one of the clearest pictures of God’s love. Jeremiah 5:20-31 tells of one of the many times that God is judging the people of Israel, and it is here that we can see that even when God casts out judgment, it is out of complete and utter love. In this passage, God speaks through Jeremiah, and addresses the judgment that He will cast upon Israel because of their evil ways. So what horrible thing have they done to deserve this judgment? The word of God says in Jeremiah 5:28: “They know no bounds in deeds of evil; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy.” God is upset because the fatherless are not being cared for, the needy are not being defended and evil is running rampant throughout the world, causing more and more people to become fatherless and needy. The people of God were not living in a way that embodied His character, which is love. Therefore, God became angry to the point of judgment. Put simply, God becomes angry when His love is not made known to all people. God has given us the opportunity to become His sons and daughters through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As people of God, we, just as the people of Israel were in Jeremiah, are to live in a way that embodies God’s character. We are to care for the fatherless and the needy. We are to love. To this you may ask, what about those who aren’t fatherless and poor? God is our Father, and He is full of all riches, so it is natural to say that those that do not know Him are fatherless and needy. We as God’s people are called to love all people, especially those who do not know Him. God desires that we all experience His greatness, and when there are people that do not know Him, He becomes angry. Can’t you see? God’s judgment is not out of hate, it is out of love. RYAN COMBS Senior, Mass Communications 20 SUNDAY, MARCH 3 Psalm 63:1-8 Isaiah 55:1-9 I Corinthians 10:1-13 Luke 13:1-9 Thirsty, parched, empty and hungry. No way to provide for ourselves or meet our dying needs. Nothing to offer. We approach the throne of God completely empty-handed and in desperate need of saving. Some days I forget that this is my natural condition. I somehow fool myself into thinking I am able to provide for myself. Other days, I am so overwhelmed by my empty-handedness, my weakness, that I get stuck there. I drown in self-deprecating thoughts, feeling too unworthy to even approach the Throne of Grace. Neither of those attitudes is what God desires. In these two passages, the Psalmist and the Prophet remind us of our natural condition—our need, our hunger, our thirst—that we cannot satisfy ourselves. But we cannot stop there. Isaiah calls us to come, to listen, to eat what is good and to delight in abundance. David reminds us that it is in God alone that we can be satisfied. That if we seek Him, praise Him, lift up our hands to Him, our souls will be satisfied as with marrow and fatness. We come to Him empty and broken, but He lavishes upon us such incredible loving-kindness, grace, mercy and provisions that are greatly undeserved. As we prepare our hearts and minds during this season of Lent, let’s sit in this truth today. Confess your need for a Savior, your emptiness and your brokenness. And—if you’re like me—confess your attempt to be your own Savior. Spend time thanking Christ for His saving grace, His lavish abundance, and His inexhaustible provisions. It’s crucial that we remember our sinful condition and our need for Christ, but we must approach His throne confidently—seeking His face, so that we may eat what is good, delight in abundance and be wholly satisfied. For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 68:7-8) HANNA EASLEY Coordinator of Student Enrichment, College of Entertainment and Music Business 21 MONDAY, MARCH 4 Psalm 80 Jeremiah 7:1-15 Romans 4:1-12 John 7:14-36 In the past I have had the pleasure of participating in the play, The Living Last Supper. That experience continues to guide me through a personal exploration during each subsequent Lent—namely, considering the feelings and thoughts of those who personally experienced the physical presence of Jesus and how that relates to us at this time. The Gospel lesson for this day brings forth a new group to consider—those hearing Jesus’ words in the Temple. Jesus says, “You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come” (John 7:34). This axiom may be strange to many of us growing up in Christian homes but think how terrifying these words may have been to an early follower of Jesus or to someone considering his nature. Most of our lives we have known how to find Jesus and have been blessed with a personal relationship, but from the perspective of an early follower of Jesus, what could this mean? It brings to mind the way a child experiences “peek-a-boo.” Are they frightened that Mommy or Daddy have disappeared and perhaps not returning or are they excited about the next phase of the game—the return? I remember the excitement my children would display during our “peek-a-boo” sessions and I wonder how the Jews at the Temple or, for that matter, those of us at Belmont might be experiencing the coming “disappearance” of Jesus. Are we fearful that he will never return to us or are we excited about the return? We have the experience of “knowing” the full story and the Victory that came and is to come. We have the writings and teachings of apostles, prophets and scholars to help us in our personal journey to FIND Christ but those in the crowd as he made these statements AND those today who continue searching for something to fill a void in their lives do not have the benefit of time and faith. As we travel through this Lenten season I hope you know where to look to find Jesus and that your life serves as a roadmap to others in search of Christ! DAVID SNEED Director of the GPS Program 22 TUESDAY, MARCH 5 Psalm 78:1-39 Jeremiah 7:21-34 Romans 4:13-25 John 7:37-52 The Lenten season is often seen as a season of waiting. We are waiting for the sacrifice Jesus made for us. We are waiting for Good Friday. We are waiting for the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. However, intertwined with this season of waiting is hope. Christians should be filled with this hope on a daily basis. The hope we have for eternal life, for grace and for God’s everlasting love. Isn’t that really what the Lenten and Easter season is all about? Hope is a theme that reoccurs throughout the Bible and Christianity as a whole. From the creation of the world in Genesis to the promise of Jesus’ coming back for his people in Revelation, there is hope present. In Romans 4:18-22, the author discusses Abraham and his faithfulness to God. The author uses the example of Rebecca’s barrenness and how through Abraham’s faith they are blessed with a child. “Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping” (Romans 4:18). Isn’t that what we are called to do as Christians? To keep hoping during times when it seems like hope is lost? Lent can mean very different things to different people. In your tradition it may mean sacrificing something you love for a couple of weeks, or giving up meat on Fridays. Lent is so much more than that. It is a time to reflect on your faith and what God has done in your life. Even if some of the events are not positive, I think just like Abraham, God wants us to remain hopeful that resolution and peace will come through faith in Him. WHITNEY BLACK Senior, Public Relations 23 WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6 Psalm 119:97-120 Jeremiah 8:18-9:6 Romans 5:1-11 John 8:12-20 Twelve years ago I was “dating” a young lady whom I had known since college. Our acquaintance had grown into a friendship, and our friendship had just been redefined as something “more than friendship.” As I considered what that “more” might look like, it became obvious I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. Consequently, I knew my life was about to change. I could no longer think about my own self-interests as I dreamed about the future and decided how to invest my resources. As we allow ourselves to grow in a relationship with another person, sacrifices are inevitable. But the motivation for our sacrifices demands reflection. Sometimes we sacrifice because we want the relationship so badly. We give time, energy, affection and even finances in hopes that the relationship will flourish. More often than not, those are the relationships that are built on unrequited sacrifice, and they rarely last. On the flip side are those relationships characterized by mutual love and reciprocal sacrifice. For nearly a month we’ve been observing Lent, a season characterized by purposeful fasting, penitence and prayer. Whether it’s a sacrifice of a self-indulgent pleasure or our time for more intentional prayer, meditation and Bible study, it’s important to remember that our Lenten sacrifices do not result in a relationship with God. Instead, our sacrifices result from the relationship that we have through Jesus Christ, our Savior. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege” (Romans 5:2a). There is absolutely nothing we can do to make us worthy of a relationship with God. In fact, the Bible is an amazing love story of God’s pursuit of a relationship with us—one that is possible only because of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross. My pastor recently shared a poignant truth: Surrender always precedes salvation. The sacrifice of surrender—the simple belief that we can’t do it, but He’s already done it—is the only thing we must do for a relationship with God. And because of that relationship, we have the privilege to sacrifice and obey. It’s been a joy to sacrifice because of the relationship I have with my best friend to whom I proposed on Good Friday 12 years ago. Even more, there is indescribable joy in the sacrifices that result from my 30-year relationship with the Lord. KEVIN S. TROWBRIDGE Instructor, Public Relations 24 THURSDAY, MARCH 7 Psalms 42, 43 Jeremiah 10:11-24 Romans 5:12-21 John 8:21-32 As March roars in like a lion or calmly entreats us lamb-like to enter the new month, thoughts turn to the warm weather that may only be weeks away. In this season of Lent, all too often my mind is centered on another season of longing: spring! Months of wintry weather and overcast skies inspire me to look to the skies for sunshine and obsessively check the forecast for rising high temperatures. Frankly, this is not the time I want to be reading about despair, discouragement and depression. I don’t want to be reminded of my aloneness, my anger or my anguish at the state of the world or the condition of my own heart. I’ve been sitting with those emotions all winter, trapped indoors by cold winds and early nightfall, freed from the many distractions that other seasons offer. Rather, by March I’m desperate for spring’s hope, light and warmth. But the Psalmist in our Lenten reading won’t let go, reminding us again and again of our downcast souls and mourning. “My tears have been my food day and night,” he writes, followed shortly by, “My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me” (42:3,10). Our culture teaches us to run from discomfort, to drown our sorrows, and here in the South, we tend to swallow our pain like big gulps of sweet tea. Repression and phony “joy” mask the ugliness and doubts that lie within us all. Why are we so afraid to sit in that darkness? What might we learn from this Psalm about honesty even in the midst of life’s struggles? I am reminded by Jesus’ words in John that “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Acknowledging the reality of our souls—particularly in their darkest moments—draws us deeper into relationship with the One who breathes life into our lungs, who gives grace to the undeserving, who even makes the mountains tremble. That is a God who can handle my questions and my pain. Yes, that is a God that I will thirst for. As one commentary noted, the God of mercy is present with us even in the midst of our misery. May this season of Lent inspire us toward authenticity in our faith and with one another. APRIL HEFNER Assistant Director of Communications 25 FRIDAY, MARCH 8 Psalm 88 Jeremiah 11:1-8, 14-20 Romans 6:1-11 John 8:33-47 Jesus tells us, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). Only recently have I realized the amount of daily life that I spend being a slave to sin. Don’t get me wrong, I go to church every Sunday and pray often. But it takes a whole lot more than that to truly love and live as a disciple of Christ. Especially in our commercial, materialistic world, it is far too easy to slip away from the truth of God and give in to the countless idols that are prominent in our everyday lives. These idols are tricky. They steal our attention discretely and take our eyes off of God. Personally—and I’m sure this is the case for many others—I have been a slave to the idol of a busy schedule. I say, “Oh Lord, I’ll give you more of my time tomorrow.” I then slip into a dangerous cycle of disconnect from God and out of a consistency of prayer and reflection. I don’t let God in, even though I’ve become overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. This separation from God leads to an intense feeling of loneliness. I am left echoing laments of the psalms, “O Lord, why do You reject my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me?” (Ps. 88:14) Thankfully we may always come back to the comfort of knowing that God, the all-powerful maker of this universe is on our side. He Himself became man in order to die for our sins. Our idols and sinfulness are what held Him on that cross. The everlasting covenant and His everlasting promise to us is that we, sinners, can now be inheritors of the kingdom of heaven! As we continue our journey through this Lenten season of renewal, it is essential that we not only work to offer up our sins to Christ, but that we also ask God to fill those empty spaces left by sinfulness. Through repentance, adoration, fasting and prayer, we may find ourselves purified, back in a place of true joy in unity with the Lord. For it is said, “Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6). The Lord is our hope and our salvation! Thanks be to God! JOSEPH KENKEL Sophomore, Psychology Major 26 SATURDAY, MARCH 9 Psalms 87, 90 Jeremiah 13:1-11 Romans 6:12-13 John 8:47-59 Sin will have no dominion over you for you are not under the law but under grace. In a culture that is all about instant gratification, the Lenten season can seem counterintuitive. We spend weeks preparing our hearts and minds for Holy Week by prayer, almsgiving and fasting to ensure that the Sunday of Easter doesn’t just look like every other day. But instead, that it is a day where we feel, with our whole being, the gravity of the sacrifice of Jesus and the joy of his resurrection that paves the way to our salvation. Today’s passage out of Romans reminds me that often we take grace for granted. The writer poses the question: “Should we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?” To which he emphatically answers, “By no means!” And yet at some point, whether frequently or not, we use grace as our excuse. My hope, for all of us, would be that we would not enter this season of Lent out of obligation or to go through the motions. My hope would be that as we find ourselves halfway through this season of remembrance that it would be our understanding of grace that gives us the courage to turn away from sin, and the humility to approach God in reverence and excitement. The anticipation is building. We are on the downhill slope of the season. Let us engage the remaining weeks more confident of our salvation and more aware of our humanity. Let us not forget Jesus’ journey to the cross and our journey in light of an empty tomb. May we be ever mindful of the free gift of God, eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord. KENDRA CRABTREE Belmont Alumna, School of Music and Music Education, Class of 2008 27 SUNDAY, MARCH 10 Psalm 32 Joshua 5:9-12 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 There is a statue at Duke Divinity School called Reconciliation, created by artist Margaret Adams Parker. The subject of the statue is the three folks we find in today’s Gospel reading from Luke: The father, the son-who-has-returned, and the son-who-never-left. The statue captures the moment when the father, welcoming the repentant son, has to reach out to the older brother, the one whose anger is fired by his brother’s beloved reception. And in this moment, the artist has captured the heart of this Gospel passage. I mention this artwork because my encounters with it have caused me to rethink the story of the prodigal son. The traditional reading of Luke 15—that we, the readers, are the prodigal sons welcomed from our wild ways by a loving Father—is appropriate, but in many ways, it stops short of the fullness of the story. For the artist is right: this is a story about reconciliation. Reconciliation is three dimensional, and thus you can see each character from various perspectives. The angry brother helps us realize he is far more central to the story than perhaps he is often portrayed. Will he relent and welcome his brother and celebrate with his father? Will the errant brother reach out to him, apologize to him, and give him space to air his grievances? I am a brother and I have brothers; I know how tricky this can be. Will the older brother continue in his anger and reject his brother (and thus, his father)? How will they react if he does? Will the family be torn apart? Will the older brother demand his inheritance and head off on his own? If so, will the younger brother feel guilt for this? Anger? Both? We tend to think of Lent as a time of reflection on our own sins. Our current penchant for “giving up” “things” that are “bad for us” does much to perpetuate this reflection, of course. We use this time to focus on those things that separate us from God, or hinder our growth, or are unhealthy for us. But our Gospel passage reminds us that Lent is really about reconciliation. As Paul notes in 2 Corinthians, reconciliation is at the heart of God’s work in the world. Our preparation for Easter is nothing less than the kind of examination we wish the older brother had been able to do—to prepare our hearts and our spirits to welcome those who have gone astray, to accept the call to God’s reconciling work in this world and at this time. So, give up chocolate if you must, and spend more time reading your Bible. But remember, all is for naught if we forget that reconciliation is three-dimensional. MICAH WEEDMAN Associate University Minister & Director of Outreach, Office of University Ministries 28 MONDAY, MARCH 11 Psalm 89:1-18 Jeremiah 16:10-21 Romans 7:1-12 John 6:1-15 Wealth means that I can go into a restaurant and buy everyone a meal. Supernatural wealth means that I can take one meal and feed everyone in the restaurant. As sons and daughters of God, we have a supernatural inheritance. Phillip told Jesus that it would take “more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (v7) He was looking toward natural provision. He was dependent on money to save people. However, Jesus was confident in God’s goodness to provide supernaturally. Jesus knew that his inheritance was the resources of heaven, as is ours. John 6:11 says, “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted … .” Jesus gave out of a place of faith, not riches. He gave out of a place of gratitude, not entitlement. So often we look at our earthly circumstances and have no idea how the Lord could possibly come through for us. We see where we lack, instead of God’s abundance. As we give up things that are important to us, we lay them down as a way of telling God that God is more important than our things. How often do we give until it hurts? I notice in my own life that I often give out of convenience, not need. I give my time if I have enough leftover. I give my money if I have enough leftover. I give my heart if I have enough leftover. And when we partner with God to provide supernaturally, we’ll usually find ourselves where the disciples ended up after feeding everyone—abundance, overflow and bounty. The greatest part of living in a place of abundance is that God becomes glorified. John 6:14 says, “After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’” We are asked to give things up during Lent, so that we can see God provide supernaturally in our life. We often get caught up in believing that our money and things can provide for us, but the truth is, only God can. So as we’re in a period of fasting, let’s position ourselves as sons and daughters. We’re not living towards provision, we’re living from it. NICOLE BRANDT Junior, Religion & the Arts 29 TUESDAY, MARCH 12 Psalm 97, 99, 100 Jeremiah 17:19-27 Romans 7:19-27 John 6:16-27 The text in Jeremiah 17:19-27 reports a divine command to the prophet to stand by a gate in the wall of the city of Jerusalem and command the inhabitants not to carry items through the gate on the Sabbath. The text ends with a dire warning of destruction should the inhabitants of Jerusalem fail to heed the commandment. The incongruity between the offense and the punishment is so striking that it commands my attention. The text from the gospel of John is equally odd for modern readers. Jesus performs a magic trick, walking on water, the primary purpose of which seems to be to prompt the crowd to ask him a question, “Teacher, when did you come here?” Taking a cue from the Lenten season, which urges us to move away from our world for moments of contemplation, we might take the time to move ourselves into the worlds of these incongruous texts, avoiding the common impulse to try to pull them into our world and “make sense” of them. We move into and out of the season of Lent not to reduce and transform its story to some moral or point of application, but to be transformed and even reduced ourselves, to withdraw from religious practice that is self-serving. There is no way to do this work without the experience of discomfort, and it is exactly that kind of experience which these texts offer. I am preparing once again to take a group of Belmont students to Africa, a place that makes me uncomfortable, despite my many years of having lived there. Once again, I will struggle to make myself do what I will encourage my students to do, to lean into that discomfort rather than push it away, to resist the temptation to force a strange place, like a strange text, to fit into our lives. Instead, we let those worlds—geographical, social and textual—host us, even if the result is pain or confusion. Jeremiah and Jesus hurt and confuse me. The call of Lent is to let them. MARK MCENTIRE Professor, School of Religion 30 WEDNESDAY, MARCH 13 Psalm 101, 109 Jeremiah 18:1-11 Romans 8:1-11 John 6:27-40 As we prepare to celebrate Easter and focus on the Lenten season I reflect on a recent chapter in my life where I have experienced going without AND receiving a great gift. For the past five years, my husband and I have desired to have children and faced the pains of infertility. This past October, we brought a baby girl home—Livia Hope (meaning a “life of hope”). A few weeks after bringing her home the adoption was finalized, and I cried for the first time for joy of receiving a gift that fulfilled the desires of my heart. In anticipation of Easter morning, I’m reminded of what someone else had to give up in order that I might have this gift. I think of Livia’s birthmom most days and have a deep love for her that is hard to articulate. My husband, Chad, and I had the opportunity to meet the birthparents and spend time getting to know them. Livia’s birthparents chose the name Livia Hope; they wanted to give her a “life of hope.” This was a beautiful picture to us. Livia’s birthparents are two of the most courageous young people we have met who made a selfless decision. Remind you of someone? Livia has a great story—and I get to be a part of it. God has a great story, and He’s inviting us to be a part of it each day. And when we are in the midst of one of God’s great stories, I’m reminded of how much we need to rely on the Spirit of God in us for peace and life. This requires sacrifice that can look like waiting, trusting, giving and serving. Many times in life we will be asked to wait, and other times we will be asked to give something to someone else that will be their greatest gift. How will you wait? And how will you give? WAIT with anticipation and hope, walking each day in the peace of His spirit. GIVE free and obediently. And RECEIVE with joyful thanksgiving. And if you have not yet received God’s greatest gift of salvation, He is inviting you to be His child and a part of His great story. SARAH CATES Senior Director, Mike Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business 31 THURSDAY, MARCH 14 Psalm 69 Jeremiah 22:13-23 Romans 8:12-27 John 6:41-51 “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) I have this verse written in the bill of my baseball cap so that I may be reminded every time I put it on why it is I am playing. Make no mistake: it is not my will or my talent that allows me to play the game. It is God who gives me the ability to play baseball, which is why I must use that talent as an act of worship and service to Him. It is easy to let egos get in the way, especially when it comes to sports. Therefore, this is a friendly reminder to myself that I must also use baseball to give glory to God. What is it that God has blessed you with? Think about things that you are naturally good doing. Are you really using those to glorify God the way God intended? Jesus Christ is our hope. It is His death and resurrection that gives us the opportunity for salvation we do not deserve. It is the reason we observe Easter, and in addition, the 40 days leading up to it—Lent. The Lenten season is a chance for all of us to think about what we have and what we can give up, in remembrance of what Christ gave up for us. “So then brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:12-13) Paul, in this passage for today, says that we need not the flesh or the things of this world. We need only the Spirit of God that dwells within us. During this season of Lent, consider the sacrifice God made for us by sending His only Son to die on our behalf. As you choose to give up a piece of your life for a short while, think not about the sacrifice itself, but what it represents, so that we might all live our lives for the glory of God, not by the flesh, but by faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord. CHASE BROOKSHIRE Senior, Business Management Major 32 FRIDAY, MARCH 15 Psalm 107:1-32 Jeremiah 23:1-8 Romans 8:28-39 John 6:52-59 My aunt is an artist. As a very young girl, I admired her abilities and knew that the images she depicted with her paints captured interesting and varied perspectives. Several years ago, I went to one of her shows to see what she had recently produced. I still remember turning a corner and seeing a small, solitary painting hanging on the wall in front of me. It was a painting of a sheep’s face. The animal seemed to have a slight smile on its face, but part of the face was obscured. The image fades into light, or maybe into shadow, or maybe, somehow, into both at the same time. I bought the painting that evening. It still hangs on a wall in my home. Reading and thinking about the passages for today’s devotional made me think of the painting of the sheep. The face of the animal shows vulnerability and at the same time somehow depicts peacefulness. Lent seems to me to be such a season, a season that is marked by vulnerability and also the promise of peace. In the Psalms, we are reminded that God’s love is steadfast. Even if the sheep are scattered, as depicted in the book of Jeremiah, there will be a time when righteousness prevails. In John’s Gospel, we are beckoned to remember that Jesus is sent to us, and that we must partake of the gift offered through Incarnation; in Paul’s beautiful passage in Romans, we are told that there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from God’s steadfast love. I sometimes question whether such promises are true. My humanity, my own vulnerability, demands that I ask such questions. How can this promise of enduring love be real, given the other things Paul mentions? What of hardship, distress, persecution and famine? What of peril? What is enough? How much suffering can be endured before the belief in God’s steadfast love is broken? Is the fragile sheep in my painting just a reminder of one more casualty, one more life lost or slaughtered? During the Lenten season, peace abides, hand in hand with vulnerability. The sheep in my painting reminds me of this peace. The promise of these passages seems true to me because I am not the one carrying the burden of steadfastness. The authors of the passages don’t suggest that I, in my human vulnerability, am steadfast. They promise that God’s love is enduring. I may rebel. I may be lost and I may suffer. But God loves me still. During Lent, think of vulnerability and think of peace. God reached to us in our human vulnerability through Incarnation, through crucifixion. Peace comes alongside vulnerability in the promise that God is with us. And we wait for the victory of Easter. SALLY HOLT Associate Professor, School of Religion 33 SATURDAY, MARCH 16 Psalms 102, 108 Jeremiah 23:9-15 Romans 9:1-18 John 6:60-71 “The Spirit gives life: the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” (John 6:63) Growing up, Lent was always an exciting time for me. In my family, it always began with Ash Wednesday and questions from family and friends about what you were going to give up. Most of the time it was the typical answer of chocolate or soda products which these days, has been replaced with Facebook or Twitter. Growing up in a Catholic school it was even more memorable with days of going to church with classmates, reading and following the Stations of the Cross, literally being able to see Jesus’s journey through beautiful paintings or stained glass windows while our teacher read us the Gospel. I loved the Friday night fish fries in the gym where we ate the best fish in town, running around the gym with my friends while all the adults enjoyed great fellowship while keeping an eye on how Kentucky or Louisville was doing in the basketball tournament. I can remember Palm Sunday and being so excited that after church I would take the Palm and keep them in my room as a reminder of what matters most. With all the distractions in today’s world, it is easy to miss the true meaning of Lent. But now that you are older and in college, there are so many places and avenues in which you can receive your Spiritual fulfillment. You can get it from church, small groups, spiritual mentors, campus ministers or Spiritual Life Assistants. For me, it was the campus affiliated Catholic church that I attended and the amazing Father Darryl. It was not until college that I could truly grasp the meaning of Lent and sacrifices that Jesus made for all of us. As I look back on this transformative time in my life and why it was so impactful for me, the reason I came up with is because I stayed true to His words. As I have gotten older, they had more meaning and relevance in my life. It is what I followed and how I have tried to live my life. Now in reflection, I undoubtedly believe His word is “full of the Spirit and Life.” My prayer for all of us is that during this great transformative time of year, stay to His word. JAMIE ZELLER Assistant Director, Fitness and Recreation 34 SUNDAY, MARCH 17 Psalm 126 Isaiah 43:16-21 Philippians 3:4b-14 John 12:1-8 As a college student, I find that my culture demands that I find my worth in my successes and my pedigree. I have to be proud of from where I came. I have to work hard in school, in extra-curricular activities and at my job to prove my worth and myself. Only through this hard work can I move up in the world and bring even more worth to myself. There is no limit to how hard I can push myself and how high I can climb the social and professional ladder. If I am satisfied, however, with where I am, my culture deems me lazy, a failure. Paul, in Philippians 3:4b-14, gives us a great reminder about how we ought to live our lives. He implores us to count all that we may boast in as loss because, when compared with Christ Jesus, it is nothing. Paul is offering us a counter-cultural message that can bring us relief and true worth. This is hard for us to do on daily basis, being so consumed with our own lives, and our culture tells us to boast in our own achievements, in our families, and in our wider communities, just as Paul’s culture told him to boast in his upbringing and way of life. The season of Lent is a time for us to take Paul’s admonition to heart every day. We can practice, on a small level, self-denial. The season of Lent is itself a reminder of what we ought to do every day of our lives. Paul says, “For [Christ’s] sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3:8b-9b). As you prepare your heart for Holy Week, remember that the sorrow and pain of Good Friday leads to the joy and restoration of Easter Sunday. In order to participate in the power of Christ’s resurrection, we must also “share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10b). We cannot be Easter Sunday Christians only; we must also be Good Friday Christians. Faith in Christ is what brings us righteousness, not our own works or status. To join with Christ in that righteousness, we have to deny ourselves and suffer the loss of all those things that once brought us such pride. Those things may not be as impressive or powerful as Paul’s résumé, but to each of our own hearts, they can be just as detrimental. KELSEY SPINNATO Senior, Biblical Languages and English Writing 35 MONDAY, MARCH 18 Psalms 31 Jeremiah 24:1-10 Romans 9:19-33 John 9:1-17 As I read through the scriptures for this day in Lent, I am comforted with their relevance to my first year at Belmont University. When I applied to Belmont, I had no clue that I would end up finding the home that I have found here. I’m sure many of us have similar stories. I think back to applying here and feeling so terrified of a new work environment, a new city, a new story to be written. … I remember feeling alone. A friend at the time offered me a piece of advice: “trust the process.” In my first few months at Belmont, I’ve learned that “trust the process” really means “trust yourself and trust in the Lord.” Today’s scriptures are all about this concept of trust. In Psalms: 31:22, David sings: “Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love while I was in a city under siege. In my alarm I said, ‘I am cut off from your sight!’ Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called you for help.” Though I would not describe my time at Belmont as a “city under siege,” I have been met with a lot of challenges. Missing and making friends, learning while leading, adjusting. … The passage reminds me of a quote I pulled off Twitter in August that has been on a sticky note by my desk since my first week here that reads: When things are rough and you’re wondering where God is. …Remember, the teacher is always quiet during the test. I believe that I am supposed to be at Belmont University. I believe that we all are —together. It took me a little while, but when I opened my heart to those around me—to the Belmont community, and most importantly, to the Lord—I found a home in Belmont and in Him. In this Lenten season, let us prepare ourselves for the days to come; days where we remember the pain of The Passion and the celebration of Easter. Let us quiet our hearts and minds and let us trust that even though we can’t see Him, our God is never far. Let us open ourselves and let us always remember that we are never alone. As it says earlier in today’s Psalm: “I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and new the anguish of my soul.” Let us share in our God’s pain as he shares in ours. Let us celebrate His Good News as He celebrates ours. Let us trust in Him, and in one another see and share His works. KEVIN REYNOLDS Coordinator of Student Activities 36 TUESDAY, MARCH 19 Psalms 121, 122, 123 Jeremiah 25:8-17 Romans 10:1-13 John 9:18-41 If the Lord protects and provides for you, why is self-preservation such a priority with you? People, to one degree or another, have a tendency to over-rely on self and under-rely on the Lord for self-preservation. Consequently, wisdom dictates that we should not attempt to do more for ourselves than we ought. Of course, a healthy self-concept and self-esteem has its place. However, the Bible tells us “to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought” (Rom. 12:3). Typically, during Lent people are tasked to surrender vices having to do with material things or simple pleasures. However, I want you to consider handing over a very serious intrapersonal matter to the Lord. Let me offer you a few biblical prescriptions that can help you give-up your self-help tendency. Like David, raise your eyes off self and onto someone transcendent, the Lord (v1). Jesus is able to help us move beyond our self-help tendencies to self-preserve and instead rest our needs, wants and desires in Him. Will you relax and immerse yourself in the truth of this claim? Like David, prayerfully ask yourself where and how the Lord might help you to rely less on self and more on Him (v2). Interestingly, He’s the Maker of heaven and earth and, yet, we try to replace His role by manufacturing our own piece of heaven and earth. Where or how do you find yourself usurping His role as such in your life? Like David, accept that unlike your Sacred-Helper your self-help is always just a step or a “slip” away from self-hurt (v3-4). Why? Because it can lead to the following behaviors: perfectionism, the need to please people and the desire for approval. Are you slipping away to this place or to a safe place—in Him? Like David, own the reality that the Lord will always be nearer to you than you ever will be to yourself (v5). David reassures you that the Lord is “sheltered” right by your side. He also reassures you that the Lord does best at protecting you. The notion of self-protecting or self-preserving yourself is as unrealistic as you protecting the Lord. This Lenten season will you accept the Lord’s desire or determination to be your great helper? BENITA WALKER (AND ROOSEVELT) Executive Assistant, Office of Spiritual Development 37 WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20 Psalm 119:145-176 Jeremiah 25:30-38 Romans 10:14-21 John 10:1-18 At the start of a new semester we focus upon the present, the task at hand. We look upon our past and contemplate our future. There is much to be thankful for and much to look forward to. In many ways, it’s as if we are able to see our world with a bit more clarity than is typical. Yet the further we move into the term, the more we struggle to maintain clarity. The waters of our world muddy. We begin to feel the weight of our academic load, of relationship under duress, of the building pressures regarding our future. Truly, we begin to feel lost. When this happens, it becomes all too tempting to simply give our attention to the distractions and luxuries of the world—with the hope of momentarily escaping our current situation. What we fail to recognize in these moments, however, is that we are allowing our attention to be diverted from the Lord. In these moments, we forget that we would have nothing if it were not for Jesus making the ultimate sacrifice of dying on the cross for all of our sins. We forget that possessions are but gifts from God, left in our care, to be stewarded during our time on Earth. We fail to recognize that choosing to escape from the world, in some ways, is giving up on God. Psalm 119:174-176 reminds us that although we may stray like lost sheep, His law will sustain us. As we long for salvation—from a moment, or from this life all together—God continually pursues us. What more could we ask, but the constant love and nourishment of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? CHRISTIAN BRUCKMAN Freshman, Music Business Major 38 THURSDAY, MARCH 21 Psalms 131, 132, 133 Jeremiah 26:1-16 Romans 11:1-12 John 10:19-42 One topic that students in my Bible classes often discuss is the question of the “Other” in the biblical text and in our world today—the question of living, working and worshipping with those who are different from us. This seems to be a constant struggle for us as humans; it is always easier to divide rather than unite, and to demonize another group rather than get to know them for who they truly are: individuals created, loved and valued by God. In today’s reading from Romans, Paul is trying to help the early Christian communities of Rome as they struggle with the relationship between Jewish and Gentile (non-Jewish) followers of Christ, and the relationship between Judaism and its new sect that eventually came to be known as Christianity. Paul himself spent much of his life and ministry wrestling with this important question (see, e.g., most of his letter to the Galatians). A little history is helpful here. The earliest groups of Jesus-followers in the city of Rome sprang from the synagogues, and were almost certainly of Jewish descent. But when the emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome in 49 C.E., that edict included these early Christians. The few Gentile members of the Christian communities had to step up and take leadership if they were to survive. But when the Jews (and Jewish Christians) were allowed back into Rome after Claudius’ death in 54 C.E., there was, inevitably, considerable tension in the early churches as the Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus had to reintegrate with one another. Paul tries to address this issue by arguing that Jewish and Gentile Christians actually help each other to fuller faith. Diversity within the body of Christ is something to be celebrated, rather than avoided. While we may not agree today with all the specifics of Paul’s argument, the concept that really catches my attention in Romans is the breaking down of boundaries among God’s people. As we approach Holy Week and its commemoration of Jesus’ death as the ultimate “Other,” we are reminded that we have the power and unfortunate tendency to exclude and push people into the category of the Other, even to the point of death. But let’s also remember that we have the power—and a call from God—to unite with those who are different, to learn from one another and to work together to make Jesus’ vision of a better world a reality for all people. AMANDA C. MILLER Assistant Professor, School of Religion 39 FRIDAY, MARCH 22 Psalm 22 Jeremiah 29:1, 4-11 Romans 11:13-24 John 11:1-27, 12 I really appreciate the Lenten season. I like how it causes us to examine and often reevaluate how we are living our lives. I like that the Lenten season is just far out enough from our New Year’s Resolutions for us to wonder if we set out to accomplish our goals. If you are reading this, it’s probably fair to assume you have thus far participated in Lent. You are two days away from Palm Sunday, and so the season is almost over. As you look back on the past several weeks, how has your life changed? As you look towards Easter, how will your life change? Read John 12:1-10. It’s the part in the story when Mary pours perfume on Jesus’ feet and cleans it with her hair. Judas makes a snappy comment about how the perfume should have been sold to feed the poor and Jesus responds, “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended, that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” (John 12:7-8) I’ve always liked to operate under the thought that eternity starts today. Eternity does not begin when I take my last breath. The rest of forever is from this moment forward. It was intended that Mary would have this perfume for Jesus’ body, but what if she never used it? What if she hid it for her own use or sold it for the poor? That perfume would never have graced the Savior’s feet. Jesus encourages His disciples to cherish the time they have with him. And he encourages Mary in her gift. I want to encourage you, in your Lenten journey, to cherish every last day you have in this walk with the Lord. And as you move on in 2013, think on how God has shaped you in this time. Do you have a gift that has been intended for you to have? Have you been using it for God’s glory? For those of you who decided to abstain this season, there is nothing like a blank slate for a new season. For those of you who have added something to your life, maybe this is something that was intended for you to pour out all over the rest of the year. Don’t wait until Lent is over. Eternity starts today. KRISTEN WRIGHT Belmont Alumna, Class of 2012 40 SATURDAY, MARCH 23 Psalm 137, 144 Jeremiah 31:27-34 Romans 11:25-36 John 11:28-44 or 12:37-50 “…for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” Nobody has ever seen God. That’s true from our own lives, as well as from the Scriptures. We don’t know what God looks like, and we can’t always see the work He does in people’s hearts. What we can see, however, is the world—its inhabitants, its loves, its work. And we seek the glory that comes from it. In this season of Lent, we prepare ourselves for the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We recognize the glory of the Lord as He suffered and laid down His life for us. His glory was physically evident to the world 2,000 years ago, and it is evident in our hearts today. It’s so easy to see the world and live in its glory. But it’s especially during this time of year that makes it completely apparent that it is only the Lord’s glory we should seek. John 12:37a says, “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him.” Even though the glory of Jesus is right before our eyes, evident in His followers and His creation, we search for the immediate pleasures of the world. Take this time to relinquish your hold on the loves of this world. Here today and gone tomorrow, they keep hold of your heart, impeding your view of the Glory of God. The assurance of man does not steer your heart to fulfillment. Rather, the assurance of God makes you fully aware that you are one of God’s children. You belong, you are loved and you have a home with the Creator of this universe. Let that thought fully take you over. You do not have to suffer the pains of this world, but delight in the life Jesus has given you. For as Psalm 144:2 says, “He is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer.” The Lord secured our lives by laying down His own life for us. May we always praise Him for it. SARAH BETH FALBE Senior, Studio Art 41 PALM SUNDAY, MARCH 24 Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 Luke 19:28-40 On September 18, 1793, George Washington laid the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol with great pomp and celebration. According to the U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center, he and his entourage of a company of volunteer artillery crossed the Potomac River and joined with Masonic Lodge members. Together they marched with music playing, drums beating, colors flying and spectators cheering to the Capitol site. The symbolic meaning was rich with democracy’s hopes. On Palm Sunday, in churches around the world, rituals of pomp and celebration will revel over a different kind of cornerstone: Jesus. Many Christians will read the account of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem as a story similar to that of the Capitol Cornerstone. The Gospel of Luke reports that as Jesus “rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road” (19:36). A multitude praised God joyfully “with a loud voice” for all the deeds of power they had seen. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” they sang (19:38). Moreover, biblical scholars point out that Jerusalem had thrown many victory parades for conquerors and liberators, replete with glorifying hymns praising their raw authority. Jesus, too, seems to be received by Jerusalem as God’s new ruler. Yet, as Luke tells the story, something about this celebration troubles us. The crowds that gathered probably did so because Passover was around the corner. The multitude that sang praises was the rag-tag group of Jesus’ disciples. Most likely the cloaks thrown on the ground were the torn garments of the poor. No army accompanied him; no secret society, unless we call his disciples a secret society. And if Jesus was the new cornerstone of Israel, he was the stone “the builders rejected” found in Psalm 118 to which he later alludes. Ironically, when the Pharisees implore him to silence his disciples, Jesus says, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out” (19:40). This is a crucial phrase that reveals whose and which cornerstone Jesus is. In the shadow of the imposing Temple structure and all its stones, Jesus is the outsider. Yet, even the Temple cries out for God’s upside-down kingdom, a kingdom of prophetic justice and salvific love. It is a kingdom rejected by the builders of power and the masons of violence. How then shall we sing, “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand?” ANDY WATTS Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, School of Religion 42 MONDAY of HOLY WEEK, MARCH 25 Psalm 36:5-11 Isaiah 42:1-9 Hebrews 9:11-15 John 12:1-11 In Psalm 36, David declared: “Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, LORD, preserve both people and animals. How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart. May the foot of the proud not come against me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.” One of the Lenten practices focuses on preparation. Like many rituals and liturgical seasons in the church, it is a defined time in which we experience the tension of waiting, preparation and anticipation. In the Episcopal tradition, one of the many ways this time is marked is that we leave out the alleluias we usually say in certain prayers. Stopping short of that alleluia is a jarring reminder of the mood of Lent. About half way through Lent, I begin to really miss the alleluia. When Easter arrives and the service is filled with jubilee, we don’t just add the alleluia back in, we often shout it. We want the alleluia. We need the alleluia. This Psalm reminds me of a good alleluia. God is good. He is here, not just in abstract ways, but as a refuge and fountain of life. Alleluia indeed! DR. BECKY SPURLOCK Associate Dean of Students 43 TUESDAY of HOLY WEEK, MARCH 26 Psalms 71:1-14 Isaiah 49:1-7 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 John 12:20-36 “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25). As I think of Lent specifically, I recall people saying, “So I’ve decided to give up sugar for Lent,” or, “I’m going to stay electronic free this week.” Now, both of those examples are great ideas and probably hold a greater margin for success than your New Year’s resolutions. However, I find myself wondering if there is something even deeper that each of us could do in preparation for Easter. If we choose to merely give up the distraction of electronics, we may still be missing even deeper matters of the heart. So, what might it look like if you gave up a part of your LIFE this season? Not a part of your lifestyle or your routine, but a part of you, maybe even something that you feel defines you? It could be fear, anger, anxiety, boredom or negativity. They could be things you’re bound to without even realizing it. Consider what it could do to your life if you let go of not just your worldly possessions, but also those things that possess you and keep you bound to this world. Perhaps we would see it as foolishness, because there are, in fact, things on this earth that seem quite worthy of our fear and attention. But, if we could give up the natural allure of fear in exchange for the recklessness of pure faith, we might just find that such “foolishness” of desperate dependence upon Christ overcomes the wisdom of earthly courage that’s gained by our own self-reliance. MICHAEL FLAYHART Sophomore, Entertainment and Performance 44 WEDNESDAY of HOLY WEEK, MARCH 27 Psalms 70 Isaiah 50:4-9a Hebrews 12:1-3 John 13:21-32 There seems to me a theme arising from the collection of texts today: shame. It is something I know from my own story. I know too, there are different ways to look at shame. There is toxic shame which leads to isolation and fear (“I am no good”), and healthy shame which leads to humility (“I need help”). We have, I believe, examples of both in our readings, windows to see what shame drives us to do—to retreat and isolate, or press in and know. In this season of repentance and contrition, I sense that shame can be for us a powerful teacher. The Psalmist heaps shame against his tormentors—shame, in the poetic ring of Hebrew parallelism, that leads to disgrace, that they suffer and feel the pain they have attempted to inflict. Then, the voice of the prophet as he sets his face rock-hard toward the truth, refusing to bend to voices that say he is not worthy to speak with his God-given, “well-instructed tongue.” The Gospel reading sets in motion both Judas’ and Peter’s betrayals; preambles to scenes of isolating toxic shame for Peter, and for Judas, a shame that literally leads to death. And, finally, in Hebrews, is the shame Jesus endures in his execution. It is here, though, that we shift vantage points. This is where I find the teaching on healthy shame. Jesus’ example for us is not to be defined or identified by our shame (“grow weary and lose heart”). The author of Hebrews recognizes, “the sin that so easily entangles us” that leads to the isolation of toxic shame, but he sets before us Jesus’ embrace of the shame of crucifixion to redefine how shame can lead to relationship, not away from it. There is a light that healthy shame brings to the recognition of our dependency, a dependency for the mutual relationship and connection we are made for. This dependency finds its ultimate expression in our penitent approach during this season; to come before God holding both our inherent beauty as the Imago Dei and the humility of our healthy shame. This is, for me, the promise and hope of the Lenten season. May we find humility and freedom in our shame that embraces community in “such a great cloud of witnesses.” And may we embrace our dependency as a holy gift rather than a weakness. DANE ANTHONY Adjunct Instructor, School of Religion 45 MAUNDY THURSDAY, MARCH 28 Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 John 13:1-17, 31b-35 In Dostoevsky’s novel, The Idiot, he tells the story of a man sentenced to death who spent 20 minutes “absolutely convinced he was going to die,” and then received official pardon at the very last moment. Dostoevsky writes that the man “would never forget anything about those minutes” in that interval of time between his sentence and his pardon. During this time the man drunk deeply of all around him: the people, the cobblestone street, the scaffolding. … Then the man looked and “Not far away there was a church, and its gilt roof gleamed in the bright sun. He remembered that he gazed with terrible intensity at that roof and the rays of sun that sparkled from it; he could not take his eyes from those rays of light; it seemed to him this light was his new nature and that in three minutes he would somehow melt into it.” The man was being overwhelmed by this lighted scene and suddenly thought, “‘What if I was not to die! What if life was given back to me! What an eternity! And it would all be mine! I would turn each minute into a century! I would miss nothing. I would reckon each passing minute and waste nothing!’” How much do we miss? Maundy Thursday is the day on the liturgical calendar that precedes Good Friday. It commemorates the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples. Typically we do not think of eating as something exceptional. Food is necessary to human life. Most people in the world eat every day (though there are many, many people around the world who are starving. And they have something very important to teach us about the Last Supper.) But what does it mean to have finished eating? To have a last meal? To be done with eating here on earth forever? If I knew that the meal I was eating was to be my last, I would certainly not take it for granted and would savor every bite. For Dostoevsky’s character, as soon as he received that death sentence, every moment in time blazed with holiness. And I daresay that Jesus, there with his friends during that last meal before his death, saw that ordinary bread and wine and those familiar faces all burning with holiness. We miss that holy beauty in the world too often only because we take it for granted. We take it for granted because it is all around us all the time. The Last Supper reminds us that any normal, uninteresting moment can erupt in holy flame. We just have to be on the lookout. STEPHEN REGISTER Adjunct Instructor, School of Religion 46 GOOD FRIDAY, MARCH 29 Psalm 22 Isaiah 52:13-53:12 Hebrews 10:16-25 or 4:14-16, 5:7-9 John 18:1-19:42 MISSION ACCOMPLISHED Today Christians everywhere commemorate one of the most marvelous events in history’s past and eternity’s future, the crucifixion—the death—of Jesus, the Messiah. What a marvel, what a wonder! It is at the same time among the worst and the greatest events of all time. It counts among the worst because it was the result of a conspiracy to kill the God-man, Jesus, and yet it was the greatest because of the awesome things Christ accomplished in his death. In a state of humble obedience to God the Father, Jesus gave all. On that day, on Good Friday, God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:28). Christ’s death was an atoning death. He atoned for our sins. That means he made amends for all our many failures. We often fall short of the mark, but Christ made up for our deficiencies. Even though we were previously estranged and separated from God, through Christ’s death on the cross we can have peace with God. Peace with God is no small thing, and it took the sacrifice of the Son of God to achieve it. More than that, however, it takes personal faith in Christ to enjoy it. All who believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ can be assured peace with God that is beyond all human understanding. In today’s world, it appears that the person and work of Jesus Christ have become almost commonplace, and the finished work of Christ’s atonement is often taken for granted by Christians. How can that be? The atoning death of the Lord of Glory is never to be regarded merely as an historical artifact. Redemption has been accomplished! In the grand story of Scripture, God reveals the salvation of His people. This story is punctuated by our Savior’s cry recorded in John 19:30, “It is finished.” Good Friday is so very good because it marks the day when Christ, a friend of sinners, finished His perfect work of atonement. There is nothing to be added to it. Christ’s work on the cross is indeed a mission accomplished. DR. BRYCE SULLIVAN Dean, College of Arts and Sciences 47 HOLY SATURDAY, MARCH 30 Psalms 31:1-4, 15-16 Job 14:1-14 1 Peter 4:1-8 John 19:38-42 Today is Holy Saturday. The season of Lent is coming to a close as we look forward with anticipation to the celebration of Easter. But it is not Sunday yet. There is still waiting to be done. Job 14:12 echoes what we know to be true, yet fear greatly: “So a man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep.” Death is final; it is a fact of living. Or is it? When Jesus lay in the tomb, the Pharisees petitioned Pilate for permission to guard it. They were not worried about Jesus coming back to life, of course, but they didn’t want to risk the scandal of a faked resurrection by the disciples. Restoring order meant reassuring everyone that death was final. It’s a fact of living, after all. Or is it? The problem is Jesus made a distinction between death and life the Pharisees didn’t understand; it was a distinction between the flesh and the spirit. Death happens to the flesh, but the spirit doesn’t work that way. 1 Peter 4:8 says, “...the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.” The flesh is not the spirit, and God brings life to the spirit no matter the state of the flesh. So right now we wait. We sit in the sadness of death and the heaviness of the tomb. But we who are in Christ know there is something more: life belongs to the spirit. Let us wait in anticipation of the hope that is to come. JORDAN YEAGER Senior, Christian Ethics 48 EASTER SUNDAY, MARCH 31 Isaiah 55:1-11b Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 Luke 24: 1-12 Confirmation. Assurance. A guarantee. Don’t these things sound nice?! If we’re honest, I think we’d all agree that life would be a lot more peaceful (and therefore enjoyable) if we had more of each of these—confirmation, assurance, guarantee—no matter what area of life we are talking about. Few people desire “loose ends” in their livew, appreciate the unknown or crave unending change. Few live peacefully with much uncertainty and complexity. We like things simple. Easy. Controlled. And yet, the Lenten season has made us more than a little aware of just how out-of-ourcontrol life really is. Jesus lived a life that exemplifies the complexity, difficulty and out-of-our-control that we can experience on any given day. Without doubt there aare both joy and blessings to be grateful for, but there’s also much more struggle and strife than we believe there should be. There’s more pain and sorrow, and life, indeed, is not perfect. We often wish that life was perfect—and sometimes even believe that it should be. Yet, today things feel different. Today is Easter! One of two days that completely turns upside down our understanding of life. On Christmas, Christ entered the world as a babe—in order to show us The Way. And on Easter, Christ provided for us something equally important and special. Confirmation—that He is who He says He is. Assurance—that He was leaving to sit at the Father’s side, as an advocate for us. A guarantee—that life would never be the same, because He had risen from the dead and created a way for us to access God! Confirmation, assurance and a guarantee—three things that have absolutely changed everything. We’ve been given so much. So let us not forget this, but instead, live in light of this truth to the glory of God. He has risen! He has risen indeed!! GUY CHMIELESKI University Minister 49 SCHOOL of RELIGION VISION The School of Religion seeks to be a premier academic community that nurtures a living faith in God, reflects critically on its discipline, develops skills for Christian ministry and distinguishes itself through its emphases on contemplative spirituality and social justice. PURPOSE The purpose of the School of Religion is to provide student-centered, academically challenging religion classes to the diverse student body of Belmont University and to provide a foundation of religious studies for students preparing for congregational ministry and advanced theological studies. GOALS • To provide all Belmont students with a solid foundation in biblical and theological studies. • T o teach courses for religion majors and minors in the following areas: biblical languages, biblical studies, religion and society, theological and historical studies, practical studies, seminars and special studies. To offer professional education courses in practical ministry. • T o offer continuing education opportunities to ministers and laity. • T o integrate contemplative spirituality and social justice into the curricular and co-curricular program. SCHOOL OF RELIGION FACULTY AND STAFF Dr. Marty Bell, Church History Dr. Ben Curtis, Pastoral Care & Spiritual Formation Dr. Darrell Gwaltney, Dean Dr. Steve Guthrie, Theology Dr. Sally Holt, Christian Ethics Ms. Debbie Jacobs, Assistant to the Dean Dr. Donovan McAbee, Religion and the Arts Dr. Mark McEntire, Hebrew & Old Testament Ms. Amanda Miller, Greek & New Testament Dr. Steven Simpler, Theology Dr. Judy Skeen, Biblical Studies & Spiritual Formation Dr. Andy Watts, Christian Ethics 50 UNIVERSITY MINISTRIES MISSION We exist to… • Foster a culture of worship and spiritual formation at Belmont. • Cultivate lives of intentional service to God and to others through church and outreach. • Promote the integration of all University life including academic, co-curricular and residential. • U ltimately, University Ministries equips students to engage and to transform the world by loving God and loving people. WAYS YOU CAN BE INVOLVED WORSHIP Join us for Chapel every Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. in Neely Dining Hall. NEAR 48 A residence-hall based discipleship/spiritual formation ministry that is designed to engage first-year students in on-campus community. You can connect to intentional Christian community through your Spiritual Life Assistant. OUTREACH Into.nashville: a popular convo-credit based out reach program that takes students into Nashville for education, service and reflection that happens on various Saturdays throughout the year. Immersions: Fall and Spring break trips to national destinations to be immersed in service, culture and love of neighbor FAITH DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS Belmont Catholic Community, Campus Crusade for Christ, Chadasha Gospel Choir, Christian Artist Fellowship, Christian Pharmacists Fellowship International, Every Nation Campus Ministries, Reformed University Fellowship, Wesley Foundation OFFICE OF UNIVERSITY MINISTRIES STAFF DR. GUY CHMIELESKI, University Minister ALYSIA GREEN, University Ministries Assistant CHRISTY RIDINGS, Associate University Minister and Director of Spiritual Formation MICAH WEEDMAN, Associate University Minister and Director of Outreach 51 52 NOTES School of Religion (615) 460.6405 Check us out: www.belmont.edu/Religion facebook.com/BelmontUniversitySchoolofReligion twitter.com/BelmontReligion University Ministries A branch of the Office of Spiritual Development (615) 460.6419 UMN-12452 Check us out: www.belmont.edu/universityministries facebook.com/BelmontUM twitter.com/BelmontUM http://belmontum.wordpress.com/