Lenten Devotional 2016 BRYN MAWR PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Introduction Dear Friends, The Gospel of Luke, which is our devotional guide and conversation partner this year for Lent, is probably my favorite gospel. I appreciate the uniqueness of each of the four and love the fact that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John each present the life of Jesus Christ with a different point of view. But Luke has some unique characteristics that I have come to cherish. Luke is the one who gives us angels and shepherds at the birth of Jesus and walks with us down that Emmaus road after his death, slowly helping us come to see and believe in the resurrection. If it is characteristic of Mark to rush from one major miracle to another, and Matthew to sit down and listen to long sermons, then Luke is better known for inviting us to one dinner party after another. Luke is a storyteller who relishes detail and nuance as Jesus’ life, death and resurrection unfold. Luke is also the only gospel with a sequel, the Acts of the Apostles, which recounts how the early church began to share the gospel with the world. So here is the key to making the most of this year’s devotions written by BMPC members, staff and friends during the season of Lent before us. In your Bible, you should read the gospel verses listed for each day first (only an excerpt appears on each page) and then read the reflection. Because each day’s devotional is based on a specific story in the gospel, you will get more insight and inspiration if you let Luke tell the story and then use these thoughtful reflections of church friends to guide your journey into the depths of meaning. Come Easter Sunday, when Luke proclaims that the women went to the tomb early in the morning (the Greek is best translated “at deep dawn”), we hope you will have been nurtured deeply in faith and understanding of Luke’s good news. On behalf of the congregation, I extend thanks to the writers and artists whose creative gifts have eloquently equipped us all for this spiritual journey from winter into spring and from death to new life. Grace and Peace,
Agnes W. Norfleet Pastor
Wednesday, February 10 | | Ash Wednesday
Luke 18: 9-14 (only excerpts are printed) This parable is familiar to many, when Luke relates the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee could have been a political contender of that time, relating all of his triumphs and bragging about his worthy contributions to the community. He publicly boasts of all his good deeds, describing more of his behavior than his actual character. When he finally prays to God, he does not ask for God’s mercy, nor does he ask for forgiveness of his sins. Instead he exalts himself and thanks God that he is “not like the other men.” In his eyes, he is so impressive that he must be acceptable to God. The Pharisee’s selfrighteousness is the supreme form of pride, something which blocks anyone’s way to God. On the other hand, the tax collector stands away from the crowd. He cannot even “lift his eyes” to look up to heaven because he knows that “nothing good dwells within him.” He feels that he is a sinner in the eyes of God. Yet after he asks for God to be merciful to him, he is the one who goes away justified because he humbles himself before God. How easy it is for us to think we are doing all the right things as we go about our daily lives. So often we end up subconsciously judging others and comparing ourselves to seek approval. God knows our true motives, because he created us and remains within us. It is only when we are humble enough to realize that we truly need God’s guidance that we come closer to receiving his blessings. - Susie Alexander
‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee …was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Prayer Heavenly Father, help us remember that each day we walk with your Son, who sees us as we truly are deep inside our souls. May we be humble in your eyes, knowing that Jesus was the one who taught us to walk in his footsteps as the ultimate Christian. In his name we pray. Amen. Page 1
Thursday, February 11 John said to the crowds… Bear fruits worthy of repentance. And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’
Prayer Lord, make me according to thy heart. Amen.
Luke 3: 7-14 Words matter. Scripture is our authority. Today’s text is prefaced by the words of the prophet Isaiah: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord. . . .” Lent brings us closer to the life of Jesus. His public ministry is linked to John the Baptist, a kinsman. Dressed in camel skins and surviving on wild honey and locusts, John lived in the wilderness. The crowds who came to the Jordan for baptism loved John for the enemies he dared to make. He used powerful words. His words drew crowds to hear of a coming judgment and the need for a baptism of redemption. John’s most pointed words were directed to the religious and social classes. He called them a “brood of vipers.” His call to conversion had a social message: “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and, he who has food, let him do likewise.” Participating in the baptism was not enough for John. It was necessary to “bear fruit that befits repentance,” beginning with the practice of justice and mercy. The question of the crowd speaks in our voice: “What then should we do?” Just as we each are uniquely placed in God’s world, our response in faith will be unique as well. John, the forerunner to share the message of justice, knew he would be judged by the king. How do you work out your salvation from the vantage point of the baptism of redemption? - Anonymous Prayer by Brother Lawrence
Friday, February 12
Wednesday night choir (kindergarten) learned a hymn to sing at a baptism; the children made illustrations to reflect on the sacrament of baptism.
Bridget Daley Gibson, water color and oil crayon on paper John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire…Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
Prayer Servant Christ, help us to follow you into the deep waters of baptism. Help us to be renewed and in turn to link our lives with those who grieve injustice; to break free from past wrongs; to make ourselves ready for your coming kingdom. Help us follow you. Amen. From the Church in South India Page 3
Saturday, February 13 Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work. He was the son…of Joseph, son of Heli, son of Matthat… son of Joseph…son of Joshua, son of Eliezer, son of Jorim, son of Matthat, son of Levi, son of Simeon, son of Judah, son of Joseph…son of Nathan, son of David, son of Jesse… son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham…son of Noah, son of Lamech, son of Methuselah, son of Enoch… son of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God.
Luke 3:23-38 Luke 3:23-38 provides a “family tree” for Jesus and reveals how God is at work in accomplishing his plans for us. As the 76th generation descended from Adam, Jesus’ genealogy tells us that our faith is rooted in history. It also shows that ordinary people matter to him and reminds us that he watches over everyone’s lives. This lineage differs from that in Matthew 1: 1-17. Luke’s genealogy begins with Jesus and traces that line all the way back to Adam, the Son of God. Luke wanted to show that Jesus was the Son of man and the Son of God. Tracing the descent back to Adam meant that Jesus shares his humanity with Jew and Gentile as well as with the divine, and that Jesus is the promised savior for all people. Luke’s gospel emphasized Jesus’ humanity. He revealed in the writings that all humans are children of God, and all that are human are created in God’s image. I believe that Luke drew an important contrast in this genealogy: Adam was created in God’s image but failed by yielding to Satan’s temptation. Jesus triumphed over temptation and evil and through his death on the cross, he offered all of us salvation. Through Jesus Christ, we have a new beginning.
Prayer Dear God, we are grateful and give thanks that all of humankind receives your love and blessing. Let us keep in our hearts that same compassion for all. Amen.
- Marian Chitester
Monday, February 15
Luke 4: 14-30 Jesus has returned from his forty days in the wilderness, and he is “in the power of the Spirit.” In this passage, Luke introduces three themes of Jesus’ ministry. First, Jesus continues the prophetic tradition and proclaims God’s salvation for the poor, the captive, the blind, and the oppressed. By reading from the book of Isaiah, he acknowledges that he is the one to whom the prophets pointed. Second, Jesus emphasizes that God’s love extends beyond the Jewish people when he retells the story of Elijah, in which Gentiles are blessed while the Israelites reap nothing. This inclusiveness angers the Jews and marks the beginning of those in power to turn against Jesus. Finally, Jesus illustrates the healing power of his ministry by telling two stories. One demonstrates the transformative power of God’s love, and the other shows his compassion for all that is broken in God’s world. During this Lenten season, we are called to acknowledge all that is broken in our lives and pray for release so that we may go forth and serve. - Karen Dunkman Prayer from Psalm 51:10
And Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.
Prayer Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and steadfast spirit within me. Amen.
Tuesday, February 16 After leaving the synagogue he entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them. As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them. Demons also came out of many, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he rebuked them…because they knew that he was the Messiah.
Luke 4: 31-41 In Jesus’ time, there was a widespread dread of demons and a general sense of helplessness when facing perceived demonic activity. It was thought that demons were hostile to humankind and rebellious against God. It is important for us to understand humankind’s universal need to be healed from the condition of suffering or enslavement to the evil forces that appear to be in control. The first of the two stories in this passage has to do with casting an unclean demon out of a man. Simply saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” was enough to cure the man. News of this act and Jesus’ name spread quickly. In the second story, Jesus heals a woman of her high fever. For me, the amazing message is what happens next: the woman, having being healed by Jesus, begins to serve them.
While we may not find agreement about whether a literal devil exists, I think we can agree that all of us face demons: the demons of gluttony, the demons of excess alcohol, the demons of greed . . . . Serious physical or mental illnesses present another kind of demon. We are frequently tempted with the demons of promises of a better life, if only we bought this car or that mattress or this cereal. We are bombarded with so many temptations/ demons that our time with Jesus often threatens to be limited to a few minutes on Sunday morning.
Silence, Lord, the unclean spirit, in our mind and heart. Speak your word that when we hear it, all our demons shall depart. Clear our thought and calm our feeling; Still the fractured, warring soul. By the power of your healing, make us faithful, true, and whole. Amen.
- Jeffrey Brillhart Prayer by Thomas H. Troeger, 1984mas H. Troeger, 1984
To serve Christ in response to his healing power is our greatest calling. To be Christ’s servant isn’t easy. We can no more avoid demons than a gardener can avoid weeds! Serving Christ, following Christ, and daring to be a witness to Christ’s healing of the demons in our lives is neither easy nor comfortable, but doing so will lead to true freedom.
Wednesday, February 17
Luke 5:1-11 I’m a wife, a mom to two beautiful boys, a full time lead programmer, a driver with a long commute, and a volunteer. There is this sense that with enough time and effort, I can get everything done without any help. It is interesting to contrast that idea with Simon’s experience in this passage. He had just worked all night and still needed to clean and repair his nets. When Jesus asks Simon to help him out, Simon takes on that volunteer opportunity while listening to Jesus’ sermon and getting everything ready for his upcoming night’s work. Jesus finishes speaking and asks Simon to try his night’s work all over again. That would require Simon to continue on without sleep and likely without refreshment. He would need to sail out, re-fish the same waters at a less ideal time, and then clean and repair his nets again. He probably would not have the energy to work that night at his normal time, and he already would have been behind. In the same situation, I might say “Don’t worry about me, Jesus. I’m Superwoman. I’ll work hard and get this all done tonight.” But Simon, after a minor protest, decides to trust Jesus and do what he asked. Simon and those around him were overwhelmingly blessed by his step of faith and that led to a life of radical trust in God. What if we stopped trying to do it all on our own and allowed God to bless us? - Kathy Fisher
When Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break…But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken.
Prayer Jesus, Oh Lord, helpwe meask to trust that you you reveal and notyourself to rely only to uson inmyself our dailymy and lives abilities. and give Help us me theto courage follow where to truly yoube lead your me and servants. take your Amen. opportunities for overwhelming blessings in my life. Amen.
Thursday, February 18 Once, when he was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he…begged him, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ Then Jesus…touched him, and said, ‘I do choose. Be made clean.’ Immediately the leprosy left him. And he ordered him to tell no one. ‘Go’, he said, ‘and show yourself to the priest, and, as Moses commanded, make an offering for your cleansing, for a testimony to them.’ But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.
Prayer Gracious God, please keep me ever humble and may I always have unwavering faith in your saving grace. Amen.
Luke 5:12-16 The story of Jesus healing the leper speaks to us on many levels. For one thing, we can learn much about a proper relationship with God from the leper who, as we often are, was in desperate need of God’s saving intervention. Despite his circumstances, the leper approached Jesus with reverence and humility. Rather than demand that Jesus heal him, the leper implored Jesus to help him, if Jesus chose to do so. How differently do we sometimes approach life’s challenges – as if we are somehow entitled to a satisfactory resolution, particularly from God! Equally important, the leper obviously believed unreservedly that Jesus would take pity on him and that He could help him. So, too, are we called to have an unwavering faith in God’s abiding love for us and in His power to save us. The story also provides insight into the nature of God’s love for us, no matter who we are or how undeserving we might be. Upon being asked to heal the leper “if you choose,” Jesus immediately responded and without qualification, “I do choose. Be made clean.” This response to one who, by all appearances, was a perfect stranger is the epitome of selfless, uncalculating compassion and love for another in need. The depth of such love is all the more apparent since Jesus responded this way, not to a respected member of society, but to one who was viewed as unclean and an outcast to be avoided at all cost. As with the leper, we can take comfort that God will respond in our time of need, sometimes in obvious ways, sometimes perhaps less so, but always with effect and always with loving concern. - John and Judy Frazier
Friday, February 19
Students traced their hands on paper, cut the images out, combined them into an offering bowl, and listed their individual gifts. By joining them together, we are reminded that God takes our individual offerings and forms something greater.
Students at Camp Kirkwood, fabric, marker and glue
Prayer When Jesus perceived the Pharisees and teachers of
the law questioning, he answered them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you”, or to say, “Stand up and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ - he said to the one who was paralyzed - ‘I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.’ Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God.
Prayer Be in my hands and in my heart. Be in my helping and in my words. Lead me to the places where I can serve and give me the strength to show your love. Amen.
Saturday, February 20 After this he went out and saw a tax-collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up, left everything, and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax-collectors and others sitting at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?’ Jesus answered, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.’
Prayer Let me open my heart and mind to the possibility of a new way. Amen.
Luke 5:27-39 Jesus calls Levi, the tax collector, by saying to him, “Follow me.” With no hesitation, Levi gets up and follows Jesus, leaving everything behind except his reputation. Then, in the grace and confidence of his new life, Levi holds a huge banquet for Jesus at his house and invites a great number of tax collectors, outcasts, and others to eat with them. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law complain to the disciples that eating and drinking with those guests and “sinners” is not lawful. Jesus answers this complaint by clearly stating why he has come: to call sinners to change their ways, not to call the righteous. When Jesus is questioned about why his disciples eat and drink and don’t fast and pray like disciples of John the Baptist or disciples of Pharisees, Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom. There is no need to fast now, because new life is to be celebrated. Later, the disciples will fast and pray while remembering what they saw and heard in following Jesus. New life is not like an old garment patched with new cloth. New life does not function within the housing or architecture of an old life, just as new wine cannot be put into an old wineskin without destroying it. We will always be tempted by our old life. We must allow new life to grow. - E. Colby Madden
Monday, February 22
Luke 6:1-11 In this passage, we see that Jesus puts the Kingdom of God on a higher footing than the laws of people. His compassion for those around him – the hungry and the lame – is an expression of his love as demonstrated through eating together and healing the crippled. These acts don’t line up with the laws instituted by the rulers around him. Jesus knew that his mission, making a significant difference in the lives around him, would cost him his life. He loved anyway. There were a lot of rules in Jesus’ time. There are a lot of rules in our time. May we look to the greatest teacher, live by his example, and show love and compassion for those around us. This approach might not line up with the rules surrounding us. May we love anyway. During this Lenten season, may we reflect on the final lines of a camp song, They’ll Know We Are Christians.* - John Heard
One sabbath while Jesus was going through the cornfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, ‘Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’ Jesus answered, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?’ Then he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.’
Prayer And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. They will know we are Christians by our love. Amen.
* Christian hymn written in 1968 by then-Catholic priest Peter R. Scholtes Page 11
Tuesday, February 23 Then Jesus looked up at his disciples and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. ‘Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. ‘Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. ‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
Prayer Loving God, may we come face to face with the shocking news of your Kingdom this season. May we be shocked, not just by the cross, but by the empty tomb. May it give us comfort in our struggles, challenge in our ease, and hope for your Kingdom come. Amen. Page 12
Luke 6:17-26 When we think of the “Beatitudes,” those comforting and encouraging words for those who struggle, it is almost guaranteed that we remember them from Matthew as part of his iconic sermon on the mount. But in Luke, Jesus has gathered his disciples and followers on a level plain. Here the playing fields of life are leveled as well, as we read of the less comforting and more challenging words of woe. Fred Craddock comments on these blessings and woes: “Jesus is making the official proclamation of the way life is inside and outside the reign of God. These are not suggestions about how to be happy or warnings, lest one be miserable; blessings and woes as words of Jesus are to be heard with the assurance that they are God’s word to us and that God’s word is not empty.” (Interpretation, 1990) There is no responsible way to make us more comfortable with this passage. Luke shocks us with the hard truth of the Kingdom of God. The Lenten task is to allow ourselves to sit in our discomfort for a season, to experience the impact of the shocking news of the Gospel, and to allow ourselves to be affected by it, so that when we reach the cross, we might be affected by its shock as well. Luke is all about reversals, and there is none greater than the one we experience in the days between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. - The Rev. Rebecca Kirkpatrick
Wednesday, February 24
Luke 6:27-36 We often get back what we give out in this life. If we greet someone with a courteous “hello,” we usually get a kind response in return. Conversely, if we are driving down the road and someone does something pushy, it is all too easy to give him a dirty look or honk our horn in return. In this text, Jesus teaches us that, as his followers, we are to live on a different level than tit-for-tat – remember, even sinners do that. Essentially, we are to live by God’s good ways. Hear his commands: love, do good, bless, pray for, offer, give. He sums it up by saying, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” – his golden rule. A place to start with this scripture is to realize that we cannot do it. It doesn’t make sense; we would be a sucker or foolish to treat someone who is against us in such a gracious manner. Paul, in Romans 12:2, gives us a clue: “Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” In other words, we need the help of the Spirit to stop ourselves from following the world’s way and to become something better. Jesus could say, “This is a difficult teaching, good luck with it,” but he doesn’t. He just encourages us to be merciful, just as God is merciful. - David and Barbie Heaton
‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Prayer Lord, I know I need you to show me how to speak, act and think with faith. Please give me the courage to do what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect, for I can’t do it alone. Amen.
Thursday, February 25 Jesus also told them a parable: ‘Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye”, when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
Prayer Lord, forgive us when we make poor choices, and teach us to be merciful, generous, and forgiving. Help us to truly love one another, and guide us as we endeavor to travel the path you would have us follow. Amen.
Luke 6:37-42 Unlike other passages in the Bible, the mystery of these verses isn’t necessarily in the words, but in how to actually live them. Here we are given some clear directives, provided in short order, stressing the need for us to be humble and loving in order to follow in the footsteps of Christ. It’s my belief that the Bible really sets forth guidelines for each of us, as individuals, to help us develop a personal relationship with God, and not for determining if others measure up. The more we grow in our personal relationship with God, the more love we can bring to the world. The impact of Christianity then comes from a positive effort rather than a negative one. The theologian and author, Ronald Rolheiser, suggests that Luke teaches us how to pray. Prayer has always been a difficult concept for me, but thinking about this text in terms of prayer, it seems to mean taking time for selfreflection, in communication with God. I pray, “What effect have I had on others, where do I need to ask for forgiveness, and how can I better serve others?” Are we not all truly blind to the mysteries of God? So how is it that we profess to understand that which we cannot fully understand? For me, this is an invitation to pray in dialog with God, turning our focus inward and asking for forgiveness and the ability to improve our behavior, not that of our neighbors. - George Yerger
Friday, February 26
Larry Arney, ink on paper vignette The practice of Christianity is a journey. At Advent, we are on a journey expecting Christ’s birth; during Lent, we follow the forty-day journey of Jesus to his death and resurrection. In between, we journey with Jesus during his ministry.
Jesus went with the Jewish elders, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. . . . When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’
Prayer Lord, help us walk in your ways in all our journeys. Amen.
Luke’s gospel account offers two healing stories, back to back. In the first ten verses, Jesus heals the centurion’s servant without even being in his presence. In the second, Jesus is moved to travel twenty-five miles to bring back the child of a widow at Nain. These stories remind us that whether we are near or far from God on our journey, God is always with us. He seeks us out, and we are renewed in him. Page 15
Saturday, February 27 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.
Prayer Beloved God, allow us the humility to acknowledge our need of your forgiveness. And then, strengthen in us our desire to show our love of you in all whom we meet. Amen.
Luke 7:36-50 The great joy of this story is in the woman who found forgiveness for all her sins. Forgiveness is such a powerful and positive force in our lives, which helps us to unburden great weights caused by mistakes and sins that we carry within our hearts. Some of us silently carry drastic memories of horrors which we are desperate not to think about, yet we know hover in the corners of our past lives. We yearn to find the relief that this woman has found. So great must have been her sin that the forgiveness that she found led her to our Lord’s feet, where she poured forth her gratitude, her thankfulness and her love. We do not know how she found such a relief, but we do know that she poured out her gratitude and love in Jesus. It is interesting that we already know how to find that forgiveness. It is in this Lenten time, in this soulsearching period, that we purposely take time daily to look down into our souls and seek to make a deeper relation with our Lord who is already within us and who can shower us with the forgiveness for which we yearn. Perhaps we can search within our souls and know that the Lord, that Spirit of God, is actually in us wanting us to wrap our arms about him and feel his forgiving power and his endless love of us. It is possible to discover the forgiveness that the woman in this passage found and for us, too, to be so thankful for that love given to us by our Lord that we cannot stop showing that love to others. - The Rev. Dr. George Hollingshead, Jr.
Monday, February 29
Luke 8:4-15 A visual image comes to mind when I think about this parable and Jesus’ response to the disciples’ request for clarification. It is of the sower going out and of the seeds he sows falling on the path, rocks, thorns and good soil. The picture is compelling, and though it has focal points and general form, it is not prescriptive. The words in verses 11-15 remind me that I have been in the described circumstances. I have walked the path, listening to the word of God before turning to doubt. I have stood on the rock, joyfully taking the word in before falling away from it when challenged. I have been in thorns, hearing the word, then succumbing to distraction before applying it. I have had awe-inspiring views of the good soil in the examples of those whose actions speak of “hearing the word, holding it fast in an honest and good heart, and bearing fruit with patient endurance.” I hope to join them in living this out.
When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: ‘A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.’ As he said this, he called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’
I hope that by accepting the Lenten invitation to repentance and reaffirmation, I will honor Jesus’ call: “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” - Anita Iyengar Prayer adapted from Worship Sourcebook
Prayer Lord, open my heart and mind by the power of your Holy Spirit, that I may hear your Word with joy. Amen.
Thursday, March 1 One day he got into a boat with his disciples…A gale swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. They went to him and woke him up, shouting, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’
Prayer “If my people, who are called by my name will humble, themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Help us to follow this guidance. Amen. Page 18
Luke 8:22-25 We find many passages in the Bible which describe God subduing the raging seas and thereby showing his power. An example is found in Psalm 107:28-30: “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them from their distress. He made the storm be stilled and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad the waters were quieted, and he brought them to their desired haven.” Wind sweeping down from the hills surrounding the Sea of Galilee could quickly lead to a storm, which would upset a tiny boat very easily. This could be very dangerous and frightening. In our age, catastrophe can also occur suddenly and unexpectedly. Fear is ever present, even in our era of science and high technology. Our electronic media are filled with images of violence and pending economic and ecological collapse. As in Jesus’s time, the nations in this world are disregarding God’s advice to place mutual welfare and concern above covetousness, greed, and arrogance. In our era, the very balance of nature is being seriously damaged in the rush for material affluence. We again can see that technological marvels and excessive material wealth will not provide us with true security and happiness. This story reminds us we can face even the fiercest inner and outer storms if we have enough faith to call upon Jesus and follow his commandments. Following his example of love and compassion will lead to inner peace that passes all understanding. - Dr. Joel Griska Prayer from 2 Chronicles 7:14
Wednesday, March 2
Luke 8:26-39 Two sets of people with two very different reactions to a miracle: There is the man who is mentally ill. To him and his contemporaries, he is possessed by a “legion” of demons. Homeless, unclad, wracked by violent and terrifying seizures that give him maniacal strength, the man nonetheless is addressed calmly and healed by Jesus. His demons are cast out into a herd of nearby swine who rush down the hill into a lake and are drowned. Healed and in his right mind, the former madman sits at Jesus’ feet and asks to go with him. Jesus instead tells him to stay and be a witness of God’s power to the Gentiles. Now the other group - the Gentiles. Imagine the gaping astonishment of the swineherds at what they see with their own eyes. They rush to town to tell. People come from far and wide to see for themselves their terrifying neighbor, now calm and clad, sitting peacefully at the feet of this stranger from Galilee. Do they react with joy, gratitude and awe at the healing of their neighbor, at the power of God? No! Instead, they say, “Okay, Jesus, umm, you need to go.” What Jesus did was even scarier than living with a legion of demons next door. They were accustomed to the latter, but this change threatened their complacency, their material possessions, their whole concept of normal. “Get back in the boat, Jesus! Thanks, but no thanks!” - Kathleen Rais MacMurray
Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine . . . When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it . . . Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear.
Prayer Jesus, dear elder brother, when my world is rocked like the man’s you healed, help me to follow you. Amen.
Thursday, March 3 Then Jesus asked, ‘Who touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.’ When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’
Prayer Father Almighty, increase our faith. Help us to depend on your healing power in times of need. Help us to embrace your word as stimulus for our soul. Amen.
Luke 8:40-56 Reading this passage renews my faith and reminds me of the healing power of God. We are often so caught up in our daily activities and problems that we forget the power of faith. About a week prior to the visit of Pope Francis, I spoke to a woman originally from Poland, who was very excited about getting tickets to the outdoor mass. She shared with me the story of how her son, then just a small child in the mid 90s, was diagnosed with cancer and not expected to live. There was an event in Poland where she had the opportunity for her son to be touched by Pope John Paul II. Her son lived, went into remission, and is a successful member of society today. However, the cancer has returned. She expressed a need to be on the parkway with her family to receive a blessing from Pope Francis so that her son and also her husband may be healed. This is truly faith. When I was a kid, the church gave out a little pouch with a mustard seed. The pouch contained a small card that read, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20) Truly this woman has this kind of faith. As we meditate during Lent, perhaps we can focus on our faith through prayer. - Lawana R. Scales
Friday, March 4
Mary French, acrylic on canvas
Prayer The disciples said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.’ For there were about five thousand men. And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.’ They did so and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.
Prayer Dear God, just five loaves and two fish to feed 5,000. That is the miracle we know but help us to recognize that after all had eaten, there was still more food, 12 baskets full. Help us to have faith that there will always be more than enough for all our needs. In His name we pray. Amen. Page 21
Saturday, March 5 Then Jesus said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.’
Prayer Dear God, please help us to spread your love in the world. Help us to worship your glory with confidence, knowing that, unlike many others, we are safe to do so. Amen.
Luke 9:18-27 There is a lot to handle in this section, but the message that speaks the most to me is that being a disciple of Christ will not be easy. While Jesus’ crucifixion is quite famous, the deaths of the twelve disciples, aside from Judas, are not as commonly known. In fact, John was the only original disciple not to die a gruesome death. Many of the disciples were themselves crucified. The Roman Proconsul Aegeates even tortured Andrew before crucifying him in such a way that he suffered two days before dying, and Peter went so far as asking to be crucified upside down, as he did not want his death to be equal to Jesus’. While the modern world is much more understanding of religious tolerance now than during the time of the apostles, there are still many parts of the world where people of faith are persecuted. Fortunately, the United States embraces religious freedom, and our biggest fear on a Sunday morning is not finding a parking spot. We should cherish this liberty, remembering that many have suffered for us to have the opportunities we have today. Preserve this gift to the future by taking up your cross and spreading Christ’s love. - Andrew Schmid
Monday, March 7
Luke 10:1-20 Can you imagine venturing to unknown places with nothing more than the clothes on your back and the assurance that your faith will provide what you require for your journey? For people like us who want to have a plan and to be in control, it is a daunting prospect. Yet this is just what God asked his 70 disciples to do. More often than not, our mission is not easy. It requires us to leave our comfort zones, reach out to others, and act in a selfless manner. It may mean not having a plan and having faith that we will find the right path, which can be the most challenging of all. Our mission and faith journey is meant to be exacting, to force us to think and grow in faith and love of God’s people. Fortunately, we can be reassured that God provides help from others: friends, co-workers, neighbors, and church members to help us if we stumble along the way. Just as God sent his disciples out in pairs, He, too, provides companionship and guidance to us as we complete our own journey of faith. To us, faith means giving up control - something we admittedly find challenging. However, knowing we have the church and God to provide for us, even when we have nothing, eases our anxieties and brings us peace. - Jeff and Alyssa Snow
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.
Prayer Heavenly Father, we pray for guidance as we strive to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Help us set aside our anxieties and realize that we are never alone in our mission to do your work. Amen.
Tuesday, March 8 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. . . .
Prayer Lord, help me love with my whole heart and my whole life. Amen.
Luke 10:25-37 “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The student asks, and Jesus responds in perfect form with a question, “What is written in the law?” The student knows the right answer: love God and your neighbor. But can it really be that simple? The student studies the law; he knows scripture; he is a faithful man. And yet, he doesn’t trust the “right” answer. There has to be more to eternal life some secret that Jesus can share. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus challenges us with his description of unconditional love shown to a complete stranger. His words must have been in the back of my mind several years ago as I drove to lead a week of church camp. As I zipped along a lone stretch of highway, I saw a bicyclist walking with a limp, trying to guide a slightly mangled bike alongside the road. There was no cell reception and in a fit of naiveté, I pulled over. I could hear my parents’ warnings in the back of my mind, and I could imagine the potential newspaper headlines. The moment my car stopped, I thought about the mistake I had just made. In the end, I gave the man and his bicycle a ride to the next gas station. Nothing bad happened, and we had a lovely conversation. But that moment changed the way I read the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’ parable reminds us that there is no secret to eternal life, just a deceptively simple commandment to love. . . with a generosity that can be scary and transforming. - The Rev. Rachel Pedersen
Wednesday, March 9
Luke 11:1-13 This selection from Luke in which Jesus teaches us to pray, has three parts: The Lord’s Prayer, a parable, and Jesus’ comments on prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is well known to all of us. The parable – about knocking on a friend’s door at midnight to borrow some bread – has had various interpretations. Since the word parable means something laid along side, it can make a point by a similarity – or alternatively – by a contrast. By similarity, it could mean we should exercise the same importunity in praying to God as is seen in the parable, when the friend knocks persistently on the neighbor’s door at midnight until he responds. That interpretation makes it sound as if we should badger God to meet our needs. I don’t believe that’s what Jesus means, for he goes on to contrast an earthly father (who, though sinful, gives good gifts to his children) with the heavenly Father, emphasizing that God – our Heavenly Father – who is all goodness, will give us the best gift of all, the Holy Spirit, if we but ask.
‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’
Why is the Holy Spirit the best gift of all? I think this is why: •The Spirit moved across the face of the water in the Creation (Genesis 1): the Spirit is a powerful creative force. •Mary was with child as a result of the Spirit coming upon her (Luke 1): the Spirit became incarnate in Jesus, the Son of God. •The Spirit filled the disciples at the time of Pentecost (Acts 2): the Spirit gave power to the early church and empowers the church today. •The Spirit empowers each of us to glorify God, and when we allow the Spirit to control our lives, it produces in us its fruit (Galatians 5), attributes we all desire and need, and which speak so forcefully to our neighbors.
Prayer We love and worship you, Lord, and each week we pray the prayer Jesus taught us. Give us daily sustenance, forgive our sins, and grant us the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower our lives in service. Amen.
- Dr. Joe Vanderveer Page 25
Thursday, March 10
Luke 12:13-34 Prayer Gracious God, keep us from the temptation to believe that worldly possessions will bring us happiness or keep us safe. Show us how to live without worry and deeply in the knowledge that your constant love sustains us. Amen.
Patti Hallowell, oil on canvas Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe youâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Friday, March 11
Luke 12:49-56 Reader warning: If you are looking for a soothing, comforting Jesus, do not read this passage. This Jesus is telling us what we do not want to hear: There will be consequences for following him. We are warned that accepting Christ will lead to divisions with our friends and dearest ones. This Jesus is dismayed with our lack of understanding of his message. He asks how we can discern the weather from the clouds and wind, but can be oblivious to God’s signs concerning his holy Son. This Jesus is eager to get on with his fate – the betrayal, the crucifixion and the resurrection. Eugene Peterson’s translation in The Message quotes Jesus as saying “I’ve come to start a fire on this earth – how I wish it were blazing right now! I’ve come to change everything, turn everything right side up – how I long for it to be finished. Do you think I came to smooth things over and make everything nice? Not so. I’ve come to disrupt and confront!” Katie Hoyt McNabb, author of Does It Really Say That in the Bible? writes, “I think the main thing the passage addresses is the mistaken notion that Christianity is about being ‘nice’. Being a Christian more often means doing what is not popular, and standing up against ‘might makes right’.” Though the ultimate end of the Gospel is peace with God, the immediate result is frequently conflict, with others and within ourselves. The essence of Christianity is that loyalty to Christ has to take precedence over the dearest loyalties of this earth.
‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’
Prayer Oh Lord, we ask that you reveal yourself to us in our daily lives and give us the courage to truly be your servants. Amen.
- Linda Walters Linda Walters also took the front cover photograph.
Saturday, March 12 But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
Prayer Loving God, upend our lives so that we can be again startled to attention by your grace and love. We are grateful you walk to us and with us on our Lenten journey. Amen.
Luke 13:10-17 After eighteen years, she can hardly remember a different way of seeing her world. But what does Jesus do, and on the sabbath, no less? He frees her and upends all she has known. Healing stories in Luke are not new, yet we are surprised by what each contains. Today’s sabbath miracle is one more example of Jesus’ healing and Pharisee scrutiny. We see that Jesus decides to heal, restore and, yes, break an oral law pertaining to sabbath-keeping. If he keeps the law, Jesus withholds the blessing the bent woman needs. We witness a woman who has one way of looking at the world, looking down at the dirt, seeing people out of the corner of her eye, and existing in a submissive posture. But this bent woman is also identified as a daughter of Abraham; in healing, Jesus meets her tentative hope and restores her to health and community. What better day than the sabbath to heal and liberate this woman from her oppression? Jesus values her, and us, over the law. He overturns convention. What if we were to internalize this concept as we navigate laws we’ve written for our own lives? What if we were to turn things upside down when we look at rules, written and unwritten, in our church? Are we choosing to hold ourselves captive by clinging to the law or are we choosing to let go of the way we have always done things, freeing ourselves to restore hope, health and community? - Courtenay Willcox
Monday, March 14
Luke 14:7-14 In this passage Jesus uses parables to teach us lessons about humility, opening our hearts and extending our gifts to others with no strings attached, and - on a deeper level - accepting God’s invitation to embrace the blessings of his kingdom. These lessons can be boiled down to: • Cultivate true humility — be less self-centered and more concerned with serving others. Jesus is the gold standard example here. He deserved the highest seat but took the lowest, and ultimately he was granted the highest seat. • Open your heart with kindness and compassion, sharing what you have with everyone - not just with your friends and family, but with those from whom you have nothing to gain. No strings attached. • Be conscious of the excuses we make to put off spending time with God and following the path of Jesus. He’s knocking at our door and is always there. Are we opening that door? These are not easy lessons to learn and live out. Initially, many of us are not ready to commit to all this. If we really reflect on the lessons of Jesus, it can seem overwhelming, but if we long to follow Christ, what can we do? The self-awareness, love, and compassion required here are vast, but we can start wherever we are now and build on that. - Melanie Wilson Prayer by St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)
When Jesus noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. ‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host…But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher”; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Prayer All Highest and Glorious God, cast your light into the darkness of my heart. Grant me right faith, firm hope, perfect charity, profound humility, with wisdom and perception, O Lord, so that I may always and everywhere seek to know and do what is truly your holy will, through Jesus Christ. Amen. Page 29
Tuesday, March 15 As Jesus entered a village, ten lepers approached him. . . saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ . . .He said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’
Prayer God of restoration, there is much in my life that still needs your healing words. Where there is suffering and pain, bring grace and renewal. When my heart is heavy, bring me the faithfulness of the leper, that I may live a life characterized by worship. Amen. Page 30
Luke 17:11-19 As we make our way through this Lenten journey, many of us find ourselves searching for healing and restoration. Like the men with leprosy in today’s gospel reading, we call out to the God we have come to know in Jesus, desperately reaching, but carefully keeping our distance. Sometimes we look at the world around us, reflect on the struggles of our own lives, and find ourselves hoping that relief is waiting over the horizon. We sojourn through our lives as followers of Christ, learning how to ask new questions and striving to see our joys and concerns in a new light. On the road of discipleship, our definition of healing begins to broaden. Our desperate search for refuge, holy in itself, gives way to a more complete renewal - the restoration of our relationship with God. Before long, our life journey begins to mirror that of the Samaritan leper who became a model of faithfulness when he turned back, praised God, and thanked Jesus for the healing he had experienced. I pray that this season of Lent offers us many opportunities to turn back, offer praise, and give thanks for the ways that God has brought, is bringing, and will bring wholeness to our lives. May the Spirit also open within us enough space to be honest with God about the ways we are still searching for healing. When our trek through Lent comes to an end, may we reach Easter with the joy of the lepers who found healing and the faithfulness of the one who turned back. - David B. Smith, Seminary Intern
Wednesday, March 16
Luke 18:15-17 “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” So said Jesus in response to the disciples who wanted to shoo away those who had brought their babies (“infants” the text says) to Jesus. “No,” Jesus told the disciples, “Let the little children come to me . . . for it is to such . . . that the kingdom of God belongs.” The phrase “kingdom of God” was frequently on the lips of Jesus. He was referring not to some chunk of geography, not to a political entity, but rather to any place or person where God rules, any time or circumstance where God’s will is done, God’s love is recognized and received, where justice and peace prevail. The disciples were surely surprised to hear Jesus say that the only way to experience such a reality is “as a little child,” and maybe you are as well. What on earth can he mean? Surely Jesus is not encouraging childishness in matters of faith. This is, after all, the same Jesus who urged loving God with our mind as well as with our heart, soul and strength. And despite many sermons to the contrary, Jesus neither says nor means that we are to become as children. It’s not as if we are to identify all the beautiful qualities of children (humility, curiosity, dependence, trust) and try to emulate them. The ones brought to Jesus were “infants.” They brought nothing but themselves. Actually, they couldn’t even do that; they came in the arms of others. They brought nothing about which to boast, no claim of accomplishment, nothing by which to merit “the kingdom of God.” In such a manner, we, too, are encouraged to enter the kingdom of God. To come “as a little child” is to come empty-handed and receive all that God is prepared to give.
People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’
Prayer Help me, this day, to trust the promise of the gospel, that when I come to you “as a little child,” I will receive all that you are so willingly ready to give. Amen.
- The Rev. Dr. Eugene Bay Page 31
Thursday, March 17 A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother” ’ …Those who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ He replied, ‘What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.’
Prayer Loving God, thank you for your patience with us when we are so slow to understand and accept the abundant and eternal life you have given us through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Luke 18:18-30 One of the things that interests me about this story is its location in Luke’s narrative. It is placed immediately after Jesus blesses the children and says, “Let the little children come to me… for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” So when the rich ruler then asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” I like to imagine Jesus just standing there and saying, “Really?! Have you not heard what I just now said about these children? There is nothing you can do to inherit eternal life, anymore than these little ones can earn their spot in God’s kingdom. The rich ruler’s question also comes just before Jesus announces his passion, not for the first or second, but for the third time. Jesus is drawing closer to Jerusalem, where he will be betrayed, suffer, die, and be raised on the third day. He alone does what needs to be done for us to inherit eternal life. The fact that the rich ruler’s question is asked in between the blessing of the children and the third announcement of Jesus’ passion just goes to show us how hard it is for us to accept God’s grace and favor – unmerited and freely given. We have become so accustomed to earning what we get and getting what we earn that it is nearly impossible to open our minds and hearts and say, “Thank you, God, for your suffering love for us.” - The Rev. Dr. Agnes W. Norfleet
Friday, March 18
Stained Glass squares were made by Summer Sunday School children under the guidance of Valerie Craig. Each panel is made up of individual pieces of broken glass affixed to wood. We imagine how vivid the colors and the world would be after a lifetime of blindness.
Summer Sunday School children, broken glass and wood As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ Then he shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.
Prayer Have mercy on me. Let me see again. Let my life lead others to praise your name. Amen.
Saturday, March 19 ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’
Prayer God, give us open hearts to accept the unexpected from you and eyes to see all that Jesus can be for us today. Amen.
Luke 19:1-10 Are there perhaps four different ways to think about this story in Luke? Is this an ideal conversion story, one in which Zacchaeus pledges future behavior as repentance for his sins? Or is this story about the many possibilities that occur in Jesus’ presence? Almost everything that occurs seems so unlikely - that a chief tax collector would want to see Jesus; that Jesus would stay in his home; that this sinner was so generous; that Jesus would declare not just him but his whole household saved? Is this an example of the unlikely possibility that is Jesus? Is this about Jesus doing the unexpected? Jesus calls to this tax collector by name. There is urgency in Jesus’ summons. Zacchaeus is despised by his neighbors, yet Jesus singles him out. Does he know of Zacchaeus’ recent exemplary behavior? By seeing him, calling him, staying with him, and blessing him, Jesus declares for all to hear, unexpectedly, that this tax collector is a child of God. Or is this story simply about a desire to see Jesus? Zacchaeus cannot see Jesus, because he is too short, both physically and morally, and the crowds impede his sight. Yet this wealthy tax collector is so determined to see Jesus that he climbs a tree. Is this story about the belief that anyone who desires to see Jesus will? Zacchaeus can be viewed through any of these lenses who wishes to be converted, what is possible with Jesus, who might surprise us by their generosity and faith, and who may just want to see Jesus. - Scott Zelov
Monday, March 21
Luke 19:41-48 The scripture for today opens with, “As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it.” Only twice do we have passages in the Gospels telling of Jesus’ weeping. The first is in John 11:35 which concerns the death and resurrection of Lazarus. He weeps, not for Lazarus’ death itself, for he knew Lazarus would soon be raised from the dead to spend eternity with him in heaven. Rather, it was in response to being confronted with the wailing and sobbing of the mourners, given his knowledge. In today’s reading, he weeps over the future of the city of Jerusalem, populated by those he came to save and who would shortly insist on his crucifixion. Commentators have described that he wept aloud, just as John had written of the wailing and sobbing of mourners. The following verses provide an indication of why he weeps this way, knowing what is to come as he describes what will befall the city. In less than 40 years, more than a million residents of Jerusalem will die in one of the most gruesome sieges of recorded history. He wept differently in these two instances, each with two different outcomes. Do we find ourselves weeping more with emotional joy or with wailing and sobbing? Do the closing verses of our text offer insight into ways we might weep more with emotional joy and less with wailing or sobbing? Jesus goes into the temple and as he has done before, he again casts out those who have made it a den of thieves. Our text ends with “ . . . for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.” Are we spellbound, and do we act on it? - George Henisee
As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.’
Prayer Heavenly Father, we are ever thankful for your Son’s presence on earth. May we be more than spellbound by what he has taught us. May we recognize the things that make for peace and act on them. Amen.
Tuesday, March 22 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question…In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her’…Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.
Prayer Eternal God, as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s resurrection this Easter, may we believe fully in your power that changes our lives forever. Help us to worship and serve with hearts turned toward you as we look toward the fulfillment of your sacred promises. In Jesus’ name, Amen. Page 36
Luke 20:27-40 Throughout the Gospels, Jesus was often in the process of answering questions and debating them with those around him. Since early on in Luke’s gospel, Jesus has been arguing with the religious leaders. And Jesus loves a good theological debate! In today’s passage, the Sadducees approach Jesus and want to know the answer to a hypothetical question involving a widow having had multiple husbands. They ask, “In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be?” They are intending to make the resurrection look implausible. The Sadducees are identified as not believing in the resurrection, unlike the Pharisees who found reason in the scriptures to believe in a resurrection of the dead. Rather than addressing their question with a question as he often does, Jesus answers directly that in the age to come, in the resurrection, marriage will not be necessary. In that age, there is no death. Jesus argues that all people are made one in the resurrection. Additionally, the patriarchal marriage system of the culture at that time would no longer apply. The hope of the resurrection trumps the human structures of this life. In the resurrection, we become one in God’s family for all time. As followers of Christ, how might this truth play out in our own lives? May we look for opportunities to live as people of the resurrection, finding unity as the body of Christ. In a divided world and a dispersed church, we can be witnesses to a world yearning for hope. - The Rev. Kellen A. Smith
Wednesday, March 23
Luke 21:5-19 Generally, I nervously anticipate any episode’s end. Easter, representing a profound and miraculous climax to Lent, is undeniably exciting and rejuvenating, but preparing myself spiritually while readying myself logistically is also stressful. For me, celebrating resurrection involves sacrificing personal reflection for coordination of family reunions, travel, meals, and presents. I prefer bottom lines, plan-making, and finish lines over savoring journeys. I rely upon deadlines as fearsome motivators. Surely nothing beats the satisfaction of an errand’s completion. Those chores must equate with progress toward a noble end! This is where I need Jesus’ teaching about endurance. Avoid responding zealously to false appeals from urgent, God-like voices that the next big thing is approaching, and persist through conflicts that suggest an end is drawing near. No matter which signs I observe or how I manage my affairs, the Gospel mandate for patience in anticipating Easter is clear. Jesus reminds me that the truest culmination of time does not come unless and until we endure persecution in God’s name. This Christian trial is ironically comforting; we know that tempting falsehoods and cataclysmic events come and go, but that we advance closer to God only when our faith is questioned. Recently, a student questioned me during a school retreat: “If you were tried for being Christian, would there be evidence sufficient for conviction?” When I experience that crucible and betrayal, I hope it’s an opportunity to testify, knowing that God has already provided my defense. So, while I may dispense with knee-jerk reactions to signs and Lenten to-do lists, one paramount task remains: “Testify and endure!” The deadline: today.
You will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.
Prayer Dear Lord, Against the backdrop of life’s distracting signs, lead us not astray; grant us courage and patience to endure life’s trials; and inspire us with opportunities to speak and act in Christ-like ways, that we might live as testimonies of your love. Amen.
- Seth Thayer Pidot Page 37
Thursday, March 24 When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’
Luke 22: 1-23 In his ministry, Jesus understood the power of tradition. Then, as now, traditions provide cultural touch points that bind us together as a community, as family members, and as people of faith. In Luke 22:1-23, Jesus instructs his disciples on how they should prepare for the Passover feast . . . where it should be held, what would be served and who should be there. This gathering was going to be special, but only Christ knew the significance. This was to be the occasion where he would establish the covenant that connects Christians of every denomination more than 2,000 years later. “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,” Jesus says in Luke 22:15. Then, after the meal, he instructs his disciples to take the cup they’ve all been sharing and the bread that was a staple of every meal as symbols of the covenant of faith that would be shared for generations. Why would Christ choose something so common and so familiar as the ritual of remembrance that is one of the cornerstones of our faith? Even those who took the bread and wine didn’t fully understand the significance until after he rose again.
Prayer Lord, let us always give thanks for the so-called “ordinary” blessings that grace our lives every day. During this season of sacrifice, teach us that it is in the ordinary that extraordinary miracles happen. Amen. Page 38
Sometimes, it is the common and the familiar that gives us the most comfort. In the work of WePAC re-opening closed elementary school libraries, we often see children who have more chaos than comfort in their lives. That is why the simple act of sharing a book can sometimes be the rock that holds life steady in a sea of turmoil. - The Rev. David W. Brown Executive Director, WePAC
Friday, March 25
Exploring the Story in: Mark 3:31-35
Children created these unique crosses together.
Friday Morning Out Program (ages birth-3 years), background: tempera paint on poster board, crosses: found object collage
Prayer One of the criminals who were hanged there kept
deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’
Prayer Where would I have been? Seized from the side of the road? Would I have been among the mockers? Help me Lord, in a world of distractions, to follow you. Help me, Lord, when I do not have the strength, to find strength in you. Help me, Lord, to gather up my cross and follow you. Amen. Page 39
Saturday, March 26 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Prayer Holy God, how great is your love for us that you would raise us up from death to life. For this we praise you and ever seek to be your followers. We thank you that you care for those dear to us, whom we have loved in life and whom you hold in your eternal care, life without end. Amen. Page 40
Luke 23:44-56 It is both an ending and a beginning. The end has come for Jesus. After the betrayal, the arrest, the flogging and humiliation and the mock trial, death has come for Jesus on a cross in public view. It was a “shameful” death, the apostle Paul would later write. But even then there are signs of vindication. The centurion who stands watch for the authorities hears Jesus commend his spirit to God as he breathes his last. And the centurion senses Jesus’ innocence. At the same time, some of Jesus’ friends — especially women who have followed him — stand by, watching and listening. And what they see frames the drama for the beginning of another story, the one on which our faith is founded. For what happens next is that a man named Joseph from the town of Arimathea, identified in the other three gospels as a wealthy man, a member of the council who did not agree with Jesus’ sentence and, in fact, is a follower of Jesus who longs for the coming of the kingdom, gets permission from Pilate to bury the body of Jesus in a new rock-hewn tomb. The women witness all this. They will know where to go to anoint the body on the Sabbath. Jesus has been buried, but the scene is now set for the resurrection. And in these intervening hours, there is a sense of calm, not unlike that which I have experienced grave side on any number of occasions. With tenderness and care, we lay our loved ones to rest. We have done all that we can do. But God still has a plan and a power beyond our understanding. - The Rev. Richard Wohlschlaeger
Enrich Your Experience of Lent and Easter Ash Wednesday
Wednesday, February 10 • 5:30 p.m. Family Service in the Chapel with Imposition of Ashes led by the Rev. Rachel Pedersen. • 6:00-7:30 p.m. Wednesday Night Dinner served in Congregational Hall. Cost: $8/adults, $5/students and children. All welcome. • 7:30 p.m. Service in the Chapel with Imposition of Ashes led by the Rev. Dr. Agnes W. Norfleet.
Saturday Vesper Worship
Holy Week Services
Week of March 20 - 27 Palm Sunday, March 20 • 8:00 a.m. Worship with Communion by intinction in the Chapel. • 8:45-9:45 a.m. Breakfast in Congregational Hall. • 10:00 a.m. Worship with Choirs and children’s palm procession in the Sanctuary. • 11:00 a.m., Egg Hunt, Ed. Bldg. Playground Maundy Thursday, March 24 • 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. Labyrinth Walk, Gym
Saturdays, Feb. 20 & 27 and March 5 & 12 Gather in the Chapel at 4:00 p.m. for a more intimate time of intergenerational, grace-filled worship led by the Revs. Rebecca Kirkpatrick and Rachel Pedersen.
• 6:00 p.m. Simple supper in Congregational Hall. Free will offering.
Sunday Lenten Studies
Good Friday, March 25
• 7:30 p.m. Worship with Communion in the Sanctuary led by the Rev. Dr. Agnes W. Norfleet.
In addition to three on-going Sunday classes for adults at 8:45 a.m., two new opportunities begin on Feb. 21 at 11:15 a.m.:
• 8:00 a.m. - noon. Labyrinth Walk, Gym
• Exploring Christian Practices. led by the Rev. Rebecca Kirkpatrick, Ed. Bldg. Rm. 205
• 7:30 p.m. Musical worship experience in the Sanctuary. Led by the Rev. Bill Carter and his Presbybop Jazz Quartet.
• Let’s Talk About Sin led by Paul Burgmayer, Witherspoon Parlor
• 12:00 noon. Service commemorating Good Friday in the Sanctuary led by BMPC Youth.
Easter Sunday, March 27
Concerts & Recitals
• 6:30 a.m. Sunrise service on the front lawn led by the Rev. Rachel Pedersen; continental breakfast follows.
• Sun., March 13: Sanctuary Choir Concert with The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia featuring works by Mozart & Handel, 3:00 p.m., Sanctuary
• 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 a.m. Worship with Sanctuary Choir and Easter Brass in the Sanctuary. The Rev. Dr. Agnes W. Norfleet will preach.
• Tuesday organ recitals in March, 12:00 p.m., Sanctuary
He is not here; he is risen! - Luke 24:6
BRYN MAWR PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH 625 Montgomery Avenue, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010 | 610-525-2821 | www.bmpc.org