Lenten Devotional GUIDE
Love God. Love People. Belmont University University Ministries
Guide to Daily Prayer
O P E N I N G S C R I P T U R E & P R AY E R Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity (Joel 2:13)
Holy God, I open my heart, my mind, and my life to you. Speak, so that I will hear your voice and my life will be changed. AMEN.
CONFESSION OF SIN Reflect quietly before God, asking for forgiveness for all those things you have done and the good things that have been left undone. 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 & REFLECTION Read the assigned passages for the day found at the top of each page along with the written devotional.
P R AY E R S The following is a suggested guide for prayer during Lent: Pray for all Christians around the world; especially for those who endure persecution for their faith.
Pray for all those who engage in the ministries of the Church and especially for Belmont University.
Pray for our nation and all those in authority.
Pray for those who suffer and grieve.
Pray for Christ’s peace in the world.
Pray for God’s transforming work in your life.
Pray for the end of conflict and war. Pray for justice for all people.
This Lenten Devotional Guide is a Belmont community tradition that helps us to enter more fully into the season of Lent. Our prayer is that the words found here will nourish and challenge you as you journey with Jesus to the cross during this Lenten season. In the Christian tradition, Lent is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday. The traditional purpose of Lent was the preparation of the believer for baptism on Easter Sunday. Today, the church affirms that through the practices of prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial, Christians are prepared to remember the death of Jesus on Good Friday and celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday. This guide has instructions for daily devotions throughout the season. You are encouraged to read the assigned scripture passages, the devotional, and spend time in prayer and meditation. Through these spiritual practices, God will be at work in your life. We are immensely grateful to all of those who have helped to make this Lenten and Holy Week guide available to our campus community. This is a campus-wide collaboration that includes contributions from faculty, staff and alumni. It is a testament to the giftedness of our community. As we enter into this season, I leave you with this Franciscan blessing: May God bless you with discomfort. Discomfort at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. Amen May God bless you with anger. Anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. Amen May God bless you with tears. Tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy. Amen May God bless you with foolishness. Enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen And the blessing of God, who creates, redeems and sanctifies, be upon you and all you love and pray for this day, and forever more. Amen
Grace and peace, H EATHER GERB SC H DAU G HER T Y Rev. Heather Gerbsch Daugherty University Minister, Office of University Ministries · 1 ·
W E D N E S D AY, M A R C H 6 Isaiah 58:1–12 | Joel 2:1–2, 12–17 | 2 Corinthians 5:20b–6:10 | Matthew 6:1–6, 16–21
The practice of Lent has not been a common one among many Protestant denominations, but in the last few years, there have been a number of pastors and congregations that have found it to be a helpful season for their spiritual formation. For those who may not be as familiar with this season, there are a few things that help to give shape to the way that we observe it in our churches and in our personal lives. • The season of Lent is one of the most ancient traditions of the church. The earliest Christians used this time to prepare new converts for baptism on Easter Sunday. These new converts would learn the traditions and practices of the faith as they prepared to enter into their new community. • The 40 days of Lent (from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, excluding Sundays), come from a number of significant events in the Bible: Noah survived the rainstorm that lasted 40 days and 40 nights, Moses on Mt. Sinai for 40 days, the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, Job on the ash heap for 40 days, and Jesus tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. All of these significant times included the number 40. • The season of Lent has been seen as a penitential season—a season where Christians are invited to reflect on their own faith and practice, to confess the ways that they have fallen short of the call of discipleship and to open their lives to the transforming work of the spirit. Many of the things that Christians do during Lent—making time for prayer and scripture reading, practicing confession, fasting and almsgiving—are things that we should probably be doing all of the time. However many of us fall short of the ideal version of discipleship. And so the season of Lent gives us the opportunity to hit the reset button—to acknowledge that we fall short of all that we are called to be and do and invite God to be at work in our lives. Our texts for today all call us to this kind of self-examination and change. They call us to something different—to new ways of life that keep our focus where it should be, on God. This new focus gives the most abundant kind of life, not only for us—but for those around us that we are called to love and to serve. Our texts also remind us that our practices during this season are not to show those around us what great Christians and faithful people we are. But instead, the focus and practices of this season put us in a place of intentionality where God can be at work in us—forming us more fully into Christlikeness. During this season of Lent, I invite you into this kind of life—opening all of who you are up to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life so that you may more faithfully love God and neighbor.
H EATHER DAUG HER T Y, University Minister University Ministries
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T H U R S D AY, M A R C H 7 Psalm 91:1–2, 9–16 | Exodus 5:10–23 | Acts 7:30–34 In these chapters of Exodus and Acts, there is a clear acknowledgement that we will face difficulty and be overwhelmed by times of destruction, oppression and disaster. Things will happen which cause us pain. Our hearts take on a posture of fear, what Jan Meyers, the author of “Listening to Love,” calls the second posture of our hearts. This second posture is where we live most of our lives and it is where following God is most difficult. “…following when we feel tricked, betrayed, lost, confused and angry. There’s a whole story line of possibilities as to what has brought the confusion. Maybe evil has come with its insidious jabs; maybe death has stolen with a mocking laugh; maybe someone else’s choices have caused havoc. But the fact remains: this is where following Jesus is hard.” How then can the psalmist promise that God shelters us in the midst of calamity? That He is our fortress in times of trouble and a refuge from despair? In the darkest of times for me, God did not deliver me—at least not in the way I had expected. I experienced pain and suffering, profound loneliness, abandonment and fear; and yet, during the worst of it, I felt the deepest peace and had the most confidence that I was indeed cherished by God. In the depths of my darkest fear, I was at my most vulnerable and was able to hear the still small voice of God calling me to abandon myself to Him so He could give me rest and companionship, so He could be my refuge. Jan Meyers continues, “The art of abandoning ourselves to what God’s love might have for us is not an elegant process. It is not a strong and steady one either. Sure, it produces elegant results. Strong results even. But the process is haphazard and unpolished, with bumps and rabbit trails and discouragement, misheard and misunderstood messages, and all-out tugs of war across the threshold of the door of our hearts.” Should you find yourself in a season of fear and frustration, may you also find solace in letting go. This Lenten season, may we abandon ourselves to the ugliness of our fear, to the depths of our pain so that God can take our unpolished lives, our haphazard ways and elegantly mend and strengthen us within the fortress of His strong arms.
NA N CY A LLEN , Assistant Professor School of Music
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F R I D AY, M A R C H 8 Psalm 91:1–2, 9–16 | Exodus 6:1–13 | Acts 7:35–42 The story of Moses, God and Pharaoh is not an easy one to digest. In Exodus 6:1–13 we watch Moses, an intermediary between “a ruler Lord” (Pharaoh) and “the Creator Lord” (YHWH), struggle to understand the quickly-degrading condition of the Israelites. Moses even has the audacity to charge God—not Pharaoh—with the mistreatment of the Israelites right before this section. Perhaps it’s God’s emotional, almost immature response to Moses which is so unsettling: “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh; by a mighty hand HE-WILL-LET-THEM-GO (my emphasis).” Finally, Abraham’s ancestors will get Canaan through liberation, God rails. Moses hungers for THIS promise so much he shifts the blame for the peoples’ doubt and suffering to his own poor speaking ability. I find this story difficult to digest because of the absurdities. One would think that a “Creator of the Cosmos vs. a 5'5" human” would have lopsided odds of victory. How could a human being stall God’s promises? Why does God have to prove anything? What’s wrong with God’s power? How, then, do these questions help me “digest” the actions of God in Exodus as good for humanity and the world—and me? Perhaps for the same reasons that Psalm 91 gives me comfort even though its claims are difficult for me to swallow. How do I trust in the promise, “Because you have made the Lord your refuge…no evil shall befall you?” Anyone who’s lived a number of years—or been a crisis responder—has seen evil befall faithful and God-fearing individuals. I trust these stories to remind me that any relationship worth having contains disappointments and failures. That without them, I would not be who I am. They nourish me even as they trouble me. They remind me that I am a thinking, feeling, deciding, and doing human being. I find myself in Moses and the psalmist both, and I am assured that the relationship I have with the Creator—tragedies and victories all—is real. These passages call us to remember real life in Jesus our origin: emotionally human. Moses experiences a Good Friday confusion (How could this be happening!?) about God. The psalmist’s experiences an unreasonable Easter Sunday confidence (I knew it would happen!) about God. We have to digest them both, for that is the nature of being human, of being part of “the beloved.” He is risen!
ANDY WATTS, Associate Professor of Religion College Theology & Christian Ministry
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S AT U R D AY, M A R C H 9 Deuteronomy 26:1–11 | Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 | John 12:27–36 My favorite internet personality is “Truth-Bomb Mom,” Kristina Kuzmic. If you’re unfamiliar with her, Kristina is known for telling the truth about life and parenting, in a matter-of-fact way. She squashes judgment and comparison. She recognizes that we’re all just doing our best as parents, and encourages women to support each other, especially as we struggle. A recurring theme is the idea of seasons in life—ups and downs that we experience which may be discouraging as they occur, but are in fact temporary. Kristina speaks of these seasons from experience: after a divorce, she was a single mom of two, often living in a oneroom apartment she couldn’t afford, sleeping on the floor, suffering from depression and believing she was not a good mom to her children. Of course, this season in her life was temporary, and she found her way out of that darkness. Kristina encourages her followers to acknowledge those dark seasons of life, but to frame them with the simple phrase “right now:” “I’m in a dead-end job I hate…right now;” “My child is struggling in school, and I’m struggling to help her… right now;” “I’m so depressed I can hardly get out of bed…right now.” Can you see the light those two little words bring to the darkness? The darkness is still there, but we have hope. Hope that “this, too, shall pass.” No darkness is complete, nor is any season permanent. As we travel through the darkness of Lent, let’s not ignore the darkness. God is in the darkness, after all, walking along with us as He did with the Hebrews during their Egyptian captivity, and with His son Jesus in the wilderness of fasting and temptation. Darkness gives us a greater appreciation of the light, and even magnifies the light. Think of the impact of a single candle in a dark room. That light is a small thing, but what it accomplishes is a miracle: the shadows flee, fear evaporates, and hope revives. That tiny flame offers hope to the hopeless, sight to the blind and joy to the grieving. Our season of Lent, this season of sacrifice, of mourning, of fear and darkness is our “right now.” But take heart: Easter is coming, and with it, the light of the world, Jesus Christ.
PA MELA HOWELL , Call Center Director Admissions
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S U N D AY, M A R C H 1 0 Deuteronomy 26:1–11 | Psalm 91:1–2, 9–16 | Romans 10:8b–13 | Luke 4:1–13
First Sunday of Lent
“Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin; Each vict’ry will help you, some other to win; Fight valiantly onward, evil passions subdue; Look ever to Jesus. He will carry you through.” Horatio Palmer (1868) In 1967, Edwin Hawkins rearranged Philip Doddridge’s 1740’s hymn “Oh Happy Day” into a gospel song we teens loved. Yet, I remember singing “Yield Not to Temptation” in Sunday School thinking how dull that song was. Ironically, I still remember all the words. What I don’t remember is connecting “Yield Not to Temptation” to Jesus’ experience of the three temptations after his desert fast of forty days. Jesus is tested in areas where we are all vulnerable. Satan asks Jesus to succumb to fleshly desires by turning stones to bread to satisfy his hunger. Jesus’ response comes from Scripture.(Luke 4:4) True to the devil’s menacing behavior, his next trick is to cajole Jesus into worshipping him by offering Jesus all power and riches of the world. Again, Jesus’ answer is scriptural.(Luke 4:8) Appealing to Jesus’ pride in the third temptation, Satan’s argument includes scriptural reference to the angels’ ability to rescue Jesus (Psalm 91:9–16) if he would throw himself down from the temple roof for all to see. The Word again is Jesus’ retort. (Luke 9:12) Lent is the opportune time to examine what makes us so vulnerable that we choose to sin. When and where are we tempted? Are we aware of when we capitulate to physical desires? Do we want “stuff”? Do we have a price? Is our main purpose to be liked or seen by people who might not even care about us? How often do we become targets for Satan by placing ourselves in environments where we know we will be tempted? Or is it our practice to spend time with people not connected to God? Only becoming closer to Jesus by familiarizing ourselves with his Word and closely following his examples equip us to choose correctly. There is joy in believing that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead to ensure we get another chance.(Romans 10:8b–13) So even though I now better understand why we should yield not to temptation, I thank God for His grace and mercy reflecting on the sentiments expressed in the song that appealed to me as a teen. Oh Happy Day When Jesus washed my sins away
JOYCE ESPY SEAR CY, Director of Community Relations Community Relations
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M O N D AY, M A R C H 1 1 Psalm 17 | 1 Chronicles 21:1–17 | 1 John 2:1–6 There is no better response to turmoil, emotional pain and stress than crying out to God the Father. In the Psalm 17, David not only has faith that God will listen to his prayers, but that He will answer them. Later in the psalm, David asks God to keep him as the apple of His eye. This is significant in that it demonstrates we do not need to work to receive God’s love, rather, His love is the place we are meant to be kept and held. Have you ever heard a father say to his daughter that she is the apple of his eye? Well, this is a small reflection of the love God has for us, and the way that He views us. There is nothing sweeter to Him than a relationship with humanity and a people who cry out to be with Him. When you feel that distractions or even people are getting in the way of you and your relationship with God, ask the Father to contend for you and to save you from anything that might keep you from His love. As we continue to look at the redemptive arc of The Bible, we then begin to understand The One who ultimately contends on our behalf, and loves us beyond compare. In the time of King David’s reign throughout Israel, seen throughout 1 Chronicles, Hebrew warriors and kings, such as David, had to contend and plea for God to show mercy for their failures, faults and communal disobedience. Sometimes God was merciful, and other times He demanded famine or plagues. The Lord saw that humans constantly fell short of the Glory of God, and He willingly sent His Son, Jesus, down to the earth for us. We are not encouraged or advised to sin, but The Lord makes it very clear that we live in a fallen world, and the only true advocate for our sin is Jesus Christ. This is not an exclusive invitation and sacrifice made for a select group of people, rather, something that has been completed for the whole world through Christ. “But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1–2) Now, we are encouraged to live as Jesus did. This begs the question—How did Jesus live? As seen above in 1 John 2:1–2, Jesus acted as someone who loved others, sacrificed for others and advocated for others. Who can you advocate for today so that God’s light will shine through you? In what ways is The Lord asking you to sacrifice your desire so that God may be glorified?
JOHN KY LE BEE R M A N , GPS Coach GPS—Growth & Purpose for Students
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T U E S D AY, M A R C H 1 2 Psalm 17 | Zechariah 3:1–10 | 2 Peter 2:4–21 Christ offends men because his gospel is intolerant of sin Charles Spurgeon I am from a large family whose base is in the Chicagoland area. Of my five sisters, three brothers, mom and dad, no one has moved very far from the home base. During the holidays and special occasions everyone meets at my parents’ home to celebrate. In August of 2016, I moved to Tennessee. It was a very difficult transition because I was no longer close to the home base. Though I moved to Tennessee with my husband and children, I felt a great deal of anxiety and I felt alienated from the family. In this Christian walk, God is home base in the life of the believer. When we pray, fast and read our word, we draw closer to the home base and enjoy the presence of God and his sweet communion. However, when there is sin, the believer is separated from a holy God. Sin is like cancer in the relationship between God and the believer. It attacks all of the healthy characteristics God is building in our lives. Sin, like cancer, if left untreated will kill the believer’s spiritual life. When the believer’s spiritual life is dead, he is alienated from the home base. King David in the Bible is known as a man after God’s own heart, but God was not willing to overlook his sin. (1 Chronicles 21:1–17) Not only was He not willing, He was also unable. It is against the nature of a holy God to ignore sin. Sin causes anxiety in the life of the believer because he is separated from God. Though this is the cold hard truth, God in his infinite mercy does not leave us without remedy because He desires an intimate relationship with us. According to 1 John 2: 1–6, when we sin, we have an advocate in Jesus Christ who pleads our case before a holy God. And he can plead our case because he is a righteous advocate. When the believer recognizes sin, he must repent immediately, giving Satan no room to grow in his life. In this Lenten season and every day, let us not forget that a healthy spiritual life is only through intimacy with a merciful God. Like mom and dad, He would not let any believer feel alienated from the home base. God honors the cries of believers in a right standing with him. (Psalm 17)
DAWN SMITH, Program Assistant College of Pharmacy
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W E D N E S D AY, M A R C H 1 3 Psalm 17 | Job 1:1–22 | Luke 21:34–22:6 Prayers of gratitude and worship tend to come easily when blessings and joy fill our lives. However, what about when life throws us a curve ball or deals us a terrible hand? The words do not come so easily then. In fact, for me, words of praise and thanksgiving get replaced with tidal waves of emotions; big, messy, dark emotions. I remember the deep anguish and sorrow I felt when I learned my yet unborn daughter’s heart had stopped beating and she had died. The little girl I had longed for, prayed for, and already desperately loved was suddenly gone and the pain that settled over me was enormous. In the weeks and months that followed, my husband and I struggled to understand why this had happened to us. We thought we had done everything right and had thanked God every day for the gift of this child. So why were we being tested in this way? It felt unfair. In our grief, we turned to the story of Job for answers. Job is a man who has suffered loss in every area of his life. Health, family, fortune, everything, is taken from Job with no explanation. Yet Job does not lash out at God. Does that mean he did not have all the deep, dark, heavy emotions that we sometimes face in our lives? No. He certainly had intense pain, anguish, fear, maybe even anger at the situation, but he never blames God. At this point in his life, Job could have soothed his raw soul with any number of earthly distractions; yet even in his suffering, Job knows that God is enough. He praises God and worships Him because Job understands that the things of this earth are not lasting. At any moment, everything can change, but our relationship with God is eternal. That is the ultimate gift. He is all we need and He is enough. As we reflect through the season of Lent, these passages remind me to be intentional about worshipping God in times of darkness. Life is going to bring struggles and we are going to face tests. What those tests look like may be different for each of us and the emotions we feel during those seasons may vary. Our emotions are sometimes going to be heavy and overwhelming. This is when we are vulnerable. This is when we need to guard our hearts from the ways and distractions of the world and focus even more on our relationship with our Father. He is enough.
TA MA RA LEMMON DS, OTD Program Director College of Health Sciences
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T H U R S D AY, M A R C H 1 4 Psalm 27 | Genesis 13:1–7, 14–18 | Philippians 3:2–12 Wait on the Lord. For many of us, the word “wait” triggers a severe allergic reaction, complete with accompanying hives of uncertainty and anxiety. To reduce this unpleasantness, we have made great strides to diminish “waiting.” No longer must we wait for the morning newspaper or the 6 p.m. broadcast to learn the news of the day. With one swipe, we receive up-to-thesecond updates from around the world. Our movies and television shows are on-demand. We use apps to help us navigate around traffic. We don’t even wait at Chick-fil-A; we order ahead. Why?—waiting is uncomfortable; waiting is uncertain, and so we systematically abolish it. Yet, in today’s readings we find two individuals in this uncomfortable posture. In Genesis, God reveals an amazing promise to Abraham; yet nothing happens. Six times God communicates His covenant with Abraham, and each time Abraham waits. The psalmist finds himself in a greater predicament as he recounts the schemes of his enemies waiting to attack him. Yet, he too waits. One is given an impossible, God-sized promise. The other is surrounded by uncertainty that requires divine deliverance. Both wait on God. The psalmist understood the difficulty to wait, which is why he reminds us not once but twice to wait patiently on the Lord. For allergy-ridden people, waiting is hard. Abraham found waiting patiently nearly impossible and offered human assistance to a God-sized covenant. We do the same, hoping to diminish the divine wait time. The psalmist then adds a seemingly unrelated admonishment to this reminder: be brave and courageous. Waiting inspires many things—worry, fear, anxiety—but bravery and courage typically don’t make the list. Perhaps this is why the psalmist situates this statement between his reminders to wait patiently on the Lord. Waiting on our own, we break-out in the hives of fear and uncertainty. The psalmist, however, reminds us that God is the remedy to our allergic reaction. When we wait on Lord, like Abraham, we can wait on a God-size promise. When we wait on the Lord, like the psalmist, we can wait for divine deliverance. And when we wait on the Lord, we can be brave and have courage in the waiting.
CHRISTIE KLEINM A N N , Associate Professor Public Relations Department
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F R I D AY, M A R C H 1 5 Psalm 27 | Genesis 14:17–24 | Philippians 3:17–20 BUSY. So often when I ask how someone is doing or how their day is going, the reply is, “very busy.” Think about it; a typical day at Belmont involves: prepping for classes, giving lectures, grading papers, going to meetings, developing new programs, studying, writing papers, researching projects, hurrying to class, compiling reports, scheduling, scheduling, scheduling…This is our university world. It is all good, and all needed, to prepare ourselves for future careers and to help prepare others for theirs. Busyness has become an American value. When we are busy, we feel valued and needed. We sense we are contributing, accomplishing, and making a difference. We are about doing good things. And our busy Belmont world is far removed from David’s situation in Psalm 27, or Abraham’s in Genesis 14, where they were actively engaged in war, with enemies “bearing down,” “besieging” and “devouring” them. However, while we are not on the front lines of hand-to-hand combat, we do have an enemy who is subtly working to defeat us, stealing our peace and joy, drawing us deeper into activity and measurable accomplishment, and away from seeking the Lord’s face, waiting for the Lord, acknowledging (as Abraham did) that it is truly God alone who brings our success. If you are anything like me, you manage a bit of time in the morning seeking the Lord, and then are off to the races. Charge! Seize the day! Our busyness gets in the way and the immediate often supersedes the important. During this Lenten season, our Biblical predecessors draw us away from the busyness of life and encourage us to “wait for the Lord,” “seek his face.” Listen to all the wonderful goodness that is poured out upon us, just from waiting and seeking: light, salvation, stronghold, confidence, dwelling, beauty, safety, shelter, joy, music, mercy, help, acceptance, teaching, being led and goodness. David had all this from the Lord, in the midst of his battles for his very life. Abraham proclaimed when his battle was won that the victory and the reward came from the Lord. And we, in our busy, modern world, have all that they had and so much more—a Savior who not only sacrificed his all for us, but conquered death for us. In our daily race, seek his face, find his grace, and “eagerly await a Savior…the Lord Jesus Christ!” Dwell, each moment, with him! Selah!
SANDY DOWLIN G , Assistant to the Dean College of Health Sciences
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S AT U R D AY, M A R C H 1 6 Psalm 27 | Psalm 118:26–29 | Matthew 23:37–39 Psalm 118:28–29 translated in the English Standard Version (ESV) states: “You are my God, and I will give thanks to You; You are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” Now is the most important time for us to be thankful unto God. We should continually have a grateful heart. Particularly when we feel that the weight of this world is getting to be too much of a burden. In other words, we should always be grateful regardless of what our circumstances look or feel like. The last five words of Psalm 118 verse 29 is what we should focus on and be encouraged by “his steadfast love endures forever!” If there has ever been a time in my 58 short years on this earth where I have needed to be encouraged and strengthened by these words it is now. We are living in a time where we have forgotten about the three basic love commandments of Christ. 1.) Love the Lord: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37–38). 2.) Love your neighbor: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37–38). 3.) Love your enemies: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44–45). As we navigate our way through this Lenten season, we oftentimes look past the simple solutions in search of a more complex solution. Let us meditate this season on the three basic love actions of Christ. God loved the world so much that He sent His only son, then He loved us so much He died for our sins, and then He loved us so much He rose again. The common denominator here is love; the simple problem solver. Let our prayers for this season be about getting back to the basics by saturating our hearts with love. God bless you all. For as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.”
G ARY HUN TER, Telecommunications Services Manager Network Services
· 12 ·
Second Sunday of Lent
S U N D AY, M A R C H 1 7
Psalm 27 | Genesis 15:1–12, 17–18 | Philippians 3:17–4:1 | Luke 13:31–35; Luke 9:28–36 (37–43b)
As you look around today, you’re likely to see popular representations of the holiday named for the Patron Saint of Ireland: leprechauns, pots of gold and lots of green. And while fantastic legends about St. Patrick—invented long after his death in the fifth century—are more familiar to us, the narrative of his spiritual conversion and mission seems particularly well-suited to the season of Lent. Patrick recounts his story in his “Confessio,” written after many years of missionary work in Ireland. Raised in a religious family, likely on the west coast of Britain, young Patrick was often bored with his lessons and rash in his actions, and by his own account he “did not then believe in the living God.” But when he was 16 years old, he was captured by marauders and taken into captivity in Ireland. As a slave he suffered from extreme hunger and exposure, and he was put to the dangerous work of tending sheep in rough terrain. At the same time, he was undergoing a profound conversion, praying constantly in darkness, ice, wind, and rain, kept warm only by what he called the “burning” of the spirit inside him. After six years’ captivity, he ran away and began an arduous journey home. But even after reuniting with his family in Britain and becoming a priest, he was prodded by dreams and visions to return to the land of his captivity. In a ministry that spanned several decades during which he was faced with difficulties both dramatic and mundane, Patrick by his own reckoning converted and baptized thousands of people in Ireland. It’s not difficult to hear echoes of scripture in Patrick’s narrative. Like the author of Psalm 27 (another shepherd), Patrick writes about being confident of God’s protection during difficult times when it seems he is beset by enemies. Like Paul, he is confident in God’s power to transform the humblest of believers into citizens of heaven. Even if God doesn’t visit us in our dreams, or we don’t get to be on that mountain top during Christ’s transfiguration, we are called to have the confidence of a Patrick, trusting faithfully the movement of God in our lives. “I was like a stone lying in deep mud,” Patrick reminds us, before God “pulled me out, and lifted me up and placed me on the very top of the wall.”
DAVID CURTIS, Professor of English and Chair English Department
· 13 ·
M O N D AY, M A R C H 1 8 Psalm 42:2 | Isaiah 58:7–7 | John 10:10 As the deer longs for streams of water, so my life soul longs for you. (Psalm 42:2) Lenten observation has long been part of my spiritual life. Growing up in a home where we were expected to follow the Lenten observation of abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday made for long days when I was a small child. We were also expected to “give up” something for Lent. As a young person, most of what I would give up would be inconsequential, such as candy, sodas or bread. As I got older, I moved away from following Lenten devotion by simply saying that “God did not expect those kinds of sacrifices.” It was a great way to justify my decision. Eventually, I began to understand what the Lenten tradition truly meant: A time of reflection, a time for change, a time for experiencing grace and a time for compassion. As Psalm 42:2 states, my soul does long for my God and my soul desires to see him, and the Lenten season reminds me of my constant preparation toward that event. I have learned to look at the Lenten season with different “eyes.” There are several things that stand out for me when I think of Lent: a.
To be wise and understand that change is necessary for growth: Am I wise in the decisions that I make that might create a stumbling block in my relationship with my LORD and how do I deal with change? Do I embrace my spiritual growth or reject a change that I know will bring me to a closer relationship with Jesus?
To honor: Am I honoring a tradition that brings to the forefront the death and resurrection of my LORD, which gifted me everlasting life through Jesus?
To reflect and self-examine: Am I taking time to reflect the type of life I am living and to self-examine those things that I am doing out of love for Jesus and stop doing those things that are harming me out of a love for Jesus?
Grace and compassion: To experience the favor of God and to recognize suffering (knowingly or unknowingly) when there is no relationship with Jesus.
Lenten devotion is an act that we do during a time in the liturgical calendar to remember our Lord’s sacrifice for our salvation and through that sacrifice recognizing the path back to him. In reality, we need to daily be Lenten observant as we strive to be wise, honor, reflect and self-examine who we are and what we do. This daily activity will help us during times when we are doing well, but more so, during those times when we are in a “valley of our life.”
MARY MAYORGA, Associate Professor College of Theology & Christian Ministry
· 14 ·
T U E S D AY, M A R C H 1 9 Psalm 105:1–42 | Numbers 14:10b–24 | 1 Corinthians 10:1–13 One of God’s most challenging characteristics to understand is the coexistence of firm, unyielding holiness with open, uninhibited grace. On the one hand, God demands complete and total adherence to His statutes from His followers, and the consequences for failure to uphold this standard are very severe. On the other hand, God displays a constant willingness and openness for forgiveness, mercy, and grace, even if it comes at the expense of great sacrifice on His part. C.S. Lewis reflects on this idea in his classic tale, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” In the opening stages of the story, the Pevensie children are told by Mr. and Mrs. Beaver about the great lion Aslan, King of Narnia. One of the children asks Mr. Beaver about Aslan: “Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you,” replies Mr. Beaver. This response reveals some very sage wisdom on the part of Mr. Beaver. He recognizes that lions are not safe. Lions are great beasts with sharp claws, large teeth, and incredible strength. Aslan is not merely a lion, though—he’s the King. He’s a good king who loves and protects his subjects. Mr. Beaver faithfully believes in this goodness and trusts wholly in the kingly nature of Aslan’s character. The God we worship is not safe. Many of the deeds described in today’s readings are terrible and awesome in their power. The consequences for rebellion and disobedience serve as a strong reminder that sin is a serious matter. Our God is holy, and as such, the standard for His followers is complete, total holiness. He cannot and will not accept anything less. The verses also show us, however, that God is good. They reveal to us His kingly character by reminding us that He will always uphold His end of the covenant. Despite our sin and brokenness, He will not fail to remember His promises. He will provide ways for His followers to uphold their end of the covenant. He does not leave us alone to battle the temptations we face, providing a helper and guide to walk us through our challenges. And, although we do not deserve it, He will gracefully forgive our transgressions, showing immense, unending love and compassion, restoring our relationship with Him when we fall short. The cross itself is the ultimate manifestation of God’s goodness. Our good king willingly giving of Himself to provide for us the final, all-encompassing sacrifice for sin. Grace abounding for all eternity, ensuring that our relationship with Him will be secured forever. As we reflect this Lenten season, let us praise and thank God for this goodness—His love, His grace, His mercy, His provision. Let us cast our eyes towards a glorious and hopeful eternity with our King.
JEREMY LA N E, Director School of Music
· 15 ·
W E D N E S D AY, M A R C H 2 0 Psalm 105: 1–42 | 2 Chronicles 20:1–22 | Luke 13:22–31 The more I take the time to remember who God is, what He has promised and what He has done, the more I’m able to keep calm and anticipate the great things that He is going to do. Psalm 105 explains it like this, sing praises to the Lord and remember what He’s done! He’s made and kept His promises and He has made His people fruitful. So again, praise the Lord! I’d say these are pretty clear and concise commands. If I had to simplify Psalm 105 on a t-shirt it would say “Keep Calm and Praise On!” Now, if you’ve ever seen images of the posters created by the British government to raise the morale of the people during World War II you’d notice that typically the Tudor’s Crown is above the text Keep Calm and Carry On. Today, Keep Calm memes, posters and t-shirts have been recreated, crown included, to send a morale-raising message about a variety of topics. For example, there is (insert crown) Keep Calm and Dance On, (insert crown) Keep Calm and Love On, (insert crown) Keep Calm and Eat Pizza, Keep Calm and…you get the point. Well, my t-shirt would signify another King’s crown. In 2 Chronicles 20:1–22, Jehoshaphat sums up about 90% of my life in verse 12b when he stands in the assembly of Judah during a time of war and boldly declares: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” Regardless of what is happening around me, I am calm, I am made steady and I am encouraged when my eyes are on Him. Jehoshaphat made a vulnerable yet encouraging statement before the people. As he and the people took the time to remember who God is, what he’d promised and what he’d done, they began to sing praises to the Lord. I’d like to imagine each of them wearing a Belmont blue t-shirt with ultra-white text that says (insert crown) “Keep Calm and Praise On!” As they “praised on” verse 22 states: “the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.” During this Lenten season my prayer is that we praise God and keep our eyes not on the Tudor’s Crown but on the one of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! The one who keeps His promises and remembers and makes His people fruitful. The Lord is going to do great things as we Keep Calm and Praise On!
ADRIA N N E ARCHI E, Assistant Dean and Director of Leadership Development Division of Student Affairs
· 16 ·
T H U R S D AY, M A R C H 2 1 Psalm 63:1–8 | Daniel 3:19–30 | Revelation 2:8–11 Many biblical texts are written by, about, or to those who are suffering for their faithfulness. In today’s texts, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are carelessly flung into a furnace by a reckless king who lacks such control of his emotions that “his face was distorted” by his senseless rage at their worship of someone other than him (Daniel 3:19). After they emerge unburnt from the furnace, this same king, apparently impressed by their convictions, seems to have a change of heart and exclaims, “They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God” (Daniel 3:28, my emphasis). American Christians can have a hard time relating to these texts. We generally have it pretty easy, here in this purportedly Christian-majority nation. Most of the time, no physical harm will befall us if we are faithful to our convictions. The sacrifices we find ourselves making for our faith pale in comparison to those of our biblical heroes. Moreover, it is often difficult to fathom the suffering of our siblings in the faith in other parts of the world. The Daniel story and other similar texts take place within the context of living under and often resisting oppressive empires. So, to me, the first step in our context is to identify those forces that need to be resisted. Lent is a time to reassess our priorities and think about how we spend our time, money, privilege and energy, and to consider how to spend these gifts in sacrificial ways. So what would it actually look like for us to lay it all on the line, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, or like the members of the church in Smyrna in the Revelation passage from today are being asked to do? Does it look like showing up to the bus station to offer welcome to weary asylum seekers from the southern border as they travel north? Does it look like showing up to serve at a soup kitchen on your day off? Where are faithful people in the U.S. today able to put their bodies on the line for their faith—for the purpose of doing justice and loving mercy—and how can we join in that sacrificial work? Who are the Nebuchadnezzars whose faces “contort with rage” at having their tyrannical authority challenged? This is often how we know we’re doing something right.
BETH RITTER- CON N , Lecturer College of Theology & Christian Ministry
· 17 ·
F R I D AY, M A R C H 2 2 Psalm 63: 1–8 | Isaiah 5:1–7 | Daniel 12:1–4 | Revelation 3:1–6 The Book of Life. We strive all our lives hoping that our names are written somewhere in this book. Recently, I have been thinking the complete opposite in terms of life. In the past couple of months, I have been around a lot of death. In November, I had to decide to put my dog down. It felt like my heart was breaking but that compared nothing to my close friend’s heartache. His mother took her life a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. A couple of weeks later, a neighbor in my apartment unit lost his mother the day before Christmas. Through these situations, I stayed focused on God and knew that He was close to me, my friend, my neighbor. Daniel 12:1 speaks about “a time of anguish greater than any,” but “at that time every one of your people whose name is written in the book will be rescued.” Many times, when people are going through trials and tribulations, they become angry. Never once was I angry with God. I felt God’s spirit with me and to be a comfort to my friend and my neighbor. I felt God rescued me out of my own anguish to help others out of theirs. I encourage you to speak out loud the Psalm for today. “Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!” (Psalm 63:3 NLT) Yell it out loud if you want. God is so good to us. He loves us through any type of emotions. All the trials of this life can bring us closer to Him. Continue with your Lent sacrifice. This may or may not be comforting but the Book of Life is already written and sealed. Follow Jesus and your name will be sealed inside.
L AUREN SHEP PA R D, Security Officer Campus Security
· 18 ·
S AT U R D AY, M A R C H 2 3 Psalm 63:1–8 | Luke 6:43–45 We all want to produce fruit in our lives. It’s a desire rooted deep in us to see our lives matter in a way that we can see externally. In Luke 6, Jesus communicates a truth that most of us probably realize: unhealthy trees cannot produce healthy, or “good,” fruit. The same is true with us as people and as leaders: unhealthy leaders cannot produce healthy fruit. So what makes a tree (or a person) healthy? A couple of years ago while we were living in Cincinnati, my wife and I bought our first house. There were no trees in our yard so we started to think about what we wanted to plant. We thought about how cool it would be to have a fruit tree in our yard. We did some research on different types of fruit trees and if they could even survive in Ohio (spoiler alert: the ones we wanted do not survive in Ohio). We ended up planting a different type of tree in our yard only to have it ripped out of the ground and chewed up by our neighbor’s dog on the first day…Anyway, the point is what we found in our research on what causes fruit trees to be healthy, and thus causes it to produce good fruit: • Healthy fruit trees need to be pruned, or trimmed, so that the tree can produce more fruit. • Healthy fruit trees need exposure to direct sunlight for at least half of a day. • Healthy fruit trees need periodic soaking with water in order to grow. • Certain fruit trees need cross-pollination to grow effectively—they need other fruit trees near them, no more than 100 feet apart. Since God created the Earth, and us, He knows the best ways to produce healthy fruit. He knew these tips to produce healthy fruit in trees long before people understood them and there is a reason why He uses trees, plants and fruit as an analogy frequently. In order to grow and produce healthy fruit: • We need to prune our lives of the things that are not helping us grow. • We need consistent, regular exposure to our sustenance, the grace and truth of God. • We need other fruitful people around us to help us grow. I love how in Psalm 63, David shows us the heart of someone who is soaking in the goodness of God, even when he was in the desert. Not just a desert season in his life, but the actual dry, barren desert. There is no fruit around, no water to be seen, but David is longing for true water and sustenance in God. When Jesus talks about abiding in him in John 15, that’s a picture of what he is talking about. If we commit ourselves to trimming back the things that are not fruitful in our lives, exposing ourselves to Jesus daily, soaking in his grace and truth, and getting around others that are fruitful, we will see our hearts changed. And when our hearts are changed, we will see ourselves produce healthy, good fruit like Luke 6:43–45 mentions.
RYA N NIESES, Coordinator of Academic Services and Sports Ministry Athletics · 19 ·
Third Sunday of Lent
S U N D AY, M A R C H 2 4 Isaiah 55:1–9 | 1 Corinthians 10: 1–13 | Luke 13: 1–9
I can’t remember when drinking water became so important to me, but it is. I never go anywhere without a water bottle—it is almost like it is an extra appendage on my body. I fill it up several times a day, and even wake up in the middle of the night to drink out of the bottle that I set on my nightstand each night. If I don’t get enough water, I find myself uncomfortable, thirsty and all out of sorts. When I read the Hebrew Bible passages for today from Psalm 63 and Isaiah 55, I began to ask myself if I thirst for God as much as I do my daily water. Do I pay as much attention to my need for God and God’s work in my life as I do being sure where my water bottle is and keeping it filled up? Does my whole being long for God as the psalmist’s does? If I am honest with myself, my answer is usually no. My days get busy, my to-do list is never ending and I don’t usually think to spend my precious few free minutes reflecting on God’s work in my life. But, the season of Lent gives me the opportunity to do just that. This season serves as an invitation to make space in my life for God. It is a season where I can intentionally make space to stop, to pray and to be reminded of what it is that my soul truly needs. The good news for me, and all who find themselves thirsty for something different in their lives, is that we are invited into the waters of God—waters that quench our every thirst and that give us new life. As we open ourselves to the season of Lent, we have the opportunity to be reminded (or perhaps learn for the very first time) what is truly important, what truly gives life, and what satisfies the deepest desires of our heart and life—a God who loves us, a God who is with us and a God who can and will transform our life if we answer the call to come.
H EATHER DAUG HER T Y, University Minister University Ministries
· 20 ·
M O N D AY, M A R C H 2 5 Psalm 39 | Jeremiah 11:1–17 | Romans 2:1–11 I wouldn’t say that I had a hard time adjusting to college life; and even though I started freshman year almost nine years ago, I can still remember the vibe that I got from my room and the community in Pembroke Hall. If I were to list all of the fantastic times that I had throughout that year, I would need an entire devotional to myself so for now, I’ll just focus on one in particular. You experience a lot of firsts in college, but very few of them stick with you like your first roommate fight. Now, maybe you never had one—and to be clear, when I say “fight” I mean animated, verbal argument—but if you did, you know what I’m talking about. For me and my roommate, our animated, verbal argument came about because I was “using big words to make myself seem smarter than everyone else”…In reality, it came about because I was getting a little too big for my britches. I started to overlook the agreement that we had made as roommates that we were going to be respectful of each other’s space, both physically and emotionally. Simply put: I had a huge ego (spoiler alert: it’s much better now). Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, these passages would have been great for me to explore at the time. To me, the one thing that these passages share is the awareness of our ego and not our foundational agreement with God as Christians. Throughout the Old Testament, we as readers are reminded of this covenant—that among many things, we would have no other gods before our God—and the consequences of us not holding to it. In Jeremiah, we witness the anger of the Lord and his frustration with the Israelites for breaking his promise. In the New Testament, this message doesn’t change much EXCEPT in our passage from Romans; we are reminded of the treasures that God has in store for us if we adhere to this covenant. The one part from this passage that sticks out most is the quote: “But He will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves.” When I read this, I am taken back to that room in Pembroke Hall, the awkwardness of community bathrooms, the festivity that accompanied winning a game of Super Smash Bros. in the lobby and the mindset of living for myself rather than others. Nowadays, I look toward the message in today’s Psalm where the speaker asks for guidance, specifically: “Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is.” I use verses like this to help me stay focused on the purpose of my life. Maybe you can do the same thing. If you knew that your days were numbered, or if you remembered the fleeting nature of life, where would you focus your time?
JOE MA N KOWSK I , Assistant Director of Fitness and Recreation Division of Student Affairs
· 21 ·
T U E S D AY, M A R C H 2 6 Psalm 39 | Ezekiel 17:1–10 | Romans 2:12–16 One of the many contributions VeggieTales has made to my Christian walk is having helped me make connections between Christmas and Easter. Our hope begins in the manger and becomes complete in the emptiness of the tomb. As “An Easter Carol” reminds us, he died to give us life, but he rose from that death to give us hope. Just as we celebrate Advent leading to the beginning of the Savior’s earthly life, we celebrate Lent on the way to the commemoration of that life’s interruption. Since both of those events work to our otherwise impossible good, why do we greet one with joy and the other with sorrow? For we do focus in the season of Lent on the sacrifice of the Christ, lamenting his death. We often celebrate it by sacrificing something ourselves, giving up something that brings us pleasure in order to share in the season of loss. Maybe we are missing the point, though. Our sacrifices should bring us joy, too. I know that seems entirely backwards from our perspective, but it would hardly be the first time that seeing the world through God’s eyes caused ours to cross. So what sacrifices does God ask of us? Hosea 6:6 says: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” God wants our willing hearts engaged in His work; He wants our obedience. The sacrifices we should make, then, are of the things that stand between us and obedience. God’s will is that we become more like His Son; what could be more joyous than making progress on that pilgrimage? The sorrow we experience should be from what we do not yet have, rather than what we have given up. We see this as well in the scriptures for this day in the devotional. It’s not what we surrender, it’s why we surrender it. In Psalm 39, David cannot hold his own tongue. But when he humbly accepts God’s control, he cannot speak. In Ezekiel 17, we read the story of a cutting from a tree, planted so as to prosper by one eagle, which then seeks care from another eagle. Although it makes sense to the plant to seek out more resources, more security, in fact it harms it— making it a vine rather than a tree. Lastly, then, we see the clear statement of the fulfilment of the law in Romans 2:15–16, speaking of the day of judgment that it is not our works that God wants, but our hearts. We could tithe even our dill and cumin, and it would only offend God more. The point is our motive, our heart. Other motives, whether to please others or to feel better about ourselves, are the wrong motives, because they do not accomplish the purpose our Master set: to make our hearts more like His. Of course, we are also promised that we will run that race without finishing on this earth. Nevertheless, Lent allows us to look at our lives, see what impediments are weighing us down, and lighten our load for the race. Examining ourselves, our hearts, our motives is never easy; it’s so very difficult to be honest with ourselves, but especially about ourselves. But how great is the joy of a runner suddenly unburdened in the race? How great the hope that follows? Let us press on, indeed!
NATHAN GRIFFI T H, Associate Professor Political Science Department · 22 ·
W E D N E S D AY, M A R C H 2 7 Psalm 39 | Numbers 13:17–27 | Luke 13:18–21 Growing up in Indiana, I often thought spring would never arrive. Gray clouds and brittle cold blighted the hills as far as I could imagine—and even when spring’s earliest green simmered, the ground remained a thick, soupy muck from the earth’s freezing and thawing. So I am sometimes critical of Nashville’s short winters. Its frequent bouts of sunshine and blue skies are of course a kindness. But when I kvetch about these didos into pseudo-spring, it is because I see them as interrupting the important practice of waiting: waiting for spring, wondering when it will arrive and truly not knowing if I can survive that long. Like waiting for the Christ child during Advent or Jesus’ resurrection during the Lenten season, the wait for warmth, new growth, unknown possibilities is a vigil worth keeping. In Psalm 39, David, mired in frustration, bemoans his lack of answers. Obsessed with life’s brevity, he frets about his sinfulness, his failure to quell it, his unfulfilled requests for God’s presence. David’s underlying question is about eternal life: people are aggrieved, he laments, because they don’t know how their lives will turn out, who will gather them up. David lacks the patience to see if spring will come and cannot abide the winter either. Numbers 13 tells of Moses, at God’s behest, sending Israel’s tribal leaders to scout out Canaan to determine whether the land is fruitful and the people vulnerable to invasion. They report that the land is rich, but they question Moses’— and God’s—notion that Canaan could be the Israelites’ promised land, for the cities are fortified and populated by strong communities. Israel’s tribal leaders have no hope for the spring that God has promised. Luke 13:18–21 presents two analogies for God’s kin-dom. Both derive from nature, capture the unseen’s mystery, and express expansiveness—growth and possibility beyond our knowing. Heaven is a tiny mustard seed that develops into a mature tree, a fit home for nests and birds. God’s kin-dom is also yeast wafting through air, drawn by a woman who uses it to leaven flour. The slow growth from seed to tree, the invisible yeast transforming flour into bread, is a mysterious, invisible process worthy of our waiting. The reward is in the faith that keeps the unknown a possibility. The waiting for spring, for Christ’s inexplicable resurrection, is cold but necessary. This bone-chilling vigil reveals how our hunkered-down human selves are capable of belief we can neither understand nor claim; ours is the merest raw hope that mystery will body forth a miraculous spring.
ANNETTE SISSON , Professor English Department
· 23 ·
T H U R S D AY, M A R C H 2 8 Psalm 32 | Joshua 4:1–13 | 2 Corinthians 4:16–5:5 Today’s passages remind us that we are continually pointed towards the hope that God is renewing us day by day. However, this process is not a passive one that we just happen upon. It requires our obedience and an acknowledgement that we cannot just live our lives on our own. God asks us to become active participants in accepting the renewal of our bodies, hearts and minds. The difficulty of repentance is obvious. We’ve done wrong, said wrong or thought wrong, yet we too easily find ourselves in silence, groaning from our own wickedness that is our own mortality. Our bodies are continually wasting away, but we have been offered an alternative. We are asked for one step, repentance, and it is sometimes the most difficult part. The good news of repentance is that it brings us into a level of humility that serves as the beginning of the renewal process. The repentant heart aligns itself with a purpose bigger than whatever it was that led us to a place of repentance. We become active participants in a bigger story that God has invited us into. We say with not only our words but also our hearts, “not my will, but yours be done.” When we do so, God guides us. He leads us and empowers us to follow wherever He is leading. But, we can only follow after we have first set aside that which keeps us separated from God. Repentance then becomes an act of faith that frees us from the miserable nature in which we too often find ourselves. In that freeing act, we begin to see God fulfilling His promises to us. The psalm for today draws us towards repentance, so that we do not continue to sit in our own suffering. The words of Joshua tell a story of God’s people responding with obedience to point back to the fulfilled promise that God gave them. The passage from the second letter to the Corinthians speaks directly of the promise which we are actively pursuing. We are not following blindly, but rather, we are given God’s spirit to guide us. He does not leave us alone. He remains faithful the entire way, fulfilling His promises all along the way as we remain obedient to Him. Then, as we remain obedient we see God renewing us day by day through the guidance of His Holy Spirit.
LOGA N NEWKIRK, Residence Director for Dickens Hall Office of Residence Life
· 24 ·
F R I D AY, M A R C H 2 9 Psalm 32 | Joshua 4:14–24 | 2 Corinthians 5:6–15 “What do these stones mean?” This rhetorical question posed by Joshua in the text is one that I try to frequently revisit throughout my spiritual journey. Joshua has just instructed the Israelites to build a monument out of stones after God has just brought them across the Jordan River on dry land. In the future, when people look back and ask about these stones, they will serve as a holy remembrance of God’s deliverance of His people when they had no hope and nowhere else to go. When I go through difficulties, when I face hardships and when I feel like I have nowhere else to go, I often turn to God for help. God has never left or forsaken me during these times, even if my circumstances didn’t turn out quite like I thought they would. Nevertheless, it’s so easy for me to move on with my life once I’m out of the river, forgetting the great work God might have done in my heart, life, relationships, vocation or whatever else was bringing me strife. As we continue through this Lenten season, perhaps we might all pause and think back to a time, recent or long past, where God has been faithful to deliver us through our difficulty. What pain has God brought healing to in your life? What relationships have been restored where there was no hope? What life circumstances has God shown Godself to be good, faithful, and constantly loving? May we all take a moment to write those moments down so that when we inevitably go on to face more hardship and pain, we can look back at the marker we placed by that river—knowing that God will be faithful and His love will endure through whatever we might face.
L A RKIN BRILEY, Associate Minister and Director of Missions and Outreach University Ministries
· 25 ·
S AT U R D AY, M A R C H 3 0 Psalm 32 | Exodus 32:7–14 | Luke 15:1–10 There is a moment, a turning point, when we decide to lean in to God’s forgiveness. Before that moment, we are in a dark place where shame can run the streets, denial can be a strategy, and hiding can be a necessary practice. But when we lean in, open our hearts, reach our hands toward the grace that God offers, lightness and transparency take the place of all that darkness. The psalmist describes the moment before he leans in: his strength is sapped, he groans, his bones are wasting away. After that turning point, however, he is forgiven, protected, covered, and surrounded with songs of deliverance. Why do I not live perpetually leaning in to God’s forgiveness? Well, partly because I enjoy doing things in my own strength. It is a problem. It is also denial. Living well this life I have been given requires more than my strength alone. I have to let go of that “me do it!” two-year-old attitude and live in God’s strength. For me, this is an ebb and flow in life. Despite moments of clarity, in the grind of life I slowly turn away, resist, get occupied, or simply enjoy flexing my own muscles rather than living in the spirit. I become like the visual in Psalm 32:9 of the horse or mule who turns whichever way it is led, blindly reacting to life rather than rising up in the joy of God’s empowerment and grace. Moses reminded God of His purpose for bringing the Israelites out of Egypt—that they would live, not that they would die. The same for us. Jesus reminded the Pharisees of the joy that comes when we are found rather than lost. That moment of surrendering DIY-ness and instead leaning into God’s grace and forgiveness is the difference between darkness and light. In that moment, I give up one to receive the other. When I think about it that way, why wait one minute to let go and lean in?
CA ROL SMITH WA LT ER , Assessment Coordinator Office of Assessment and Institutional Research
· 26 ·
S U N D AY, M A R C H 3 1 Psalm 32 | Joshua 5:9–12 | 2 Corinthians 5:16–21 | Luke 15:1–3; 11b–32
Fourth Sunday of Lent
At my deepest core, I am a lover of experiences—both simple and complex. I love good food and drink and all sorts of well-crafted objects. I love art and museums, and big cities with their sidewalks and endless shops. Well-planned or impromptu parties both delight me, as does riding on airplanes and taking road trips with my family. As a result, I don’t generally like Lent (whereas I can’t get enough of the Christmas or Easter seasons). Where some folks see Lent about discipline and fasting and refocusing their sights on Jesus and the reign of God, I have a hard time seeing Lent as anything but giving up all the fun experiences—eating out, cooking elaborate meals, etc.—that help to shape my life and give it meaning. Today’s Gospel text, then, is helpful for me. It is a reminder that God is also, in fact, a lover of experiences. Jesus’ defense of his own anointing in Bethany might be a startling text for those of us who have spent the last few weeks forgoing coffee shops or restaurants or chocolate or meat in order to think about God’s justice or their own relationship with Jesus. Even if we know that Judas was a betrayer and a thief, we also hear ourselves in his complaint: aren’t we all supposed to be giving up such luxuries and experiences in exchange for good deeds? Shouldn’t we be focusing on more “heavenly” things than perfume and anointing and burial and bodies? Apparently not. It’s worth noting that this is (in all probability) the same Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet while her sister Martha ran about her work in Luke’s Gospel. In that story, we might also hear ourselves in Martha’s complaint: shouldn’t we all be working harder and being more disciplined instead of just sitting around? Again, Jesus’ words might come to us as startling. Maybe Lent is less about self-denial and the rejection of worldly things and more a reminder that the things and experiences of our lives have Godly significance—that is, that Jesus’ death and resurrection is about the redemption not just of our souls but our bodies, and not just our eternity but also our days. To that end, Lent itself becomes a kind of “meta-experience,” in which we realize that all of our experiences are places in which we might meet Jesus.
· 27 ·
M O N D AY, A P R I L 1 Psalm 53 | Leviticus 23:26–41 | Revelation 19:1–8 The text from Revelation describes one of my favorite pictures of heaven—a wedding. I’ve been to a lot of weddings, and I’ve played almost every part that you can play—groom, groomsman, best man, participant, friend, officiant, videographer, DJ, you name it. In most cultures, weddings are a celebration beyond the typical every day. Money, energy, time and planning go into this celebration so that it stands out as a significant moment in the lives of everyone involved. So when people wonder what the New Heaven and New Earth will be like, I love to offer up the picture of the best wedding you’ve ever been to, multiplied by a thousand. The best food, drink, dancing and celebrating that you can imagine is the picture that the writer of Revelation paints for what it will be like when all things are restored. Of course, all of our metaphors will fall short, but this beautiful occasion of two coming together in a marriage celebration gives us a great taste of the celebration. The anticipation is shared by all involved as eager waiting transforms into fulfillment. I think this adoration and love of Christ is most clearly seen in his prayer for you and for me in John 17, when he prays: “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us…I in them and you in me.” Jesus earnestly prays that we would be united and experience depth of love that he shares with the Father and Spirit. So as the great multitude shouts in Revelation 19, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!”
L A RKIN BRILEY, Associate Minister and Director of Missions and Outreach University Ministries
· 28 ·
T U E S D AY, A P R I L 2 Psalm 53 | Leviticus 25:1–19 | Revelation 19:9–10 Disruption. It’s a word that often has negative connotations. “Christy is a disruption in class’ or ‘A disruption broke out on the floor of parliament.” The actual meaning of the word is to disturb or interrupt which, depending on your own feelings about being interrupted, may not seem any better. However, as we read Leviticus 25, we see that God’s work is often the work of disruption. It disrupts personal biases, social constructs, and our view of ourselves and the world. It allows a reset, of sorts, to give us the opportunity to situate ourselves differently in the narrative. In Leviticus 25, this was called Jubilee! Every 50 years during Jubilee, all debts were cancelled, indentured servants were freed and land was returned to its original owner. This disruption to the socioeconomic system was God’s way of limiting the effects of economic calamity and injustice that were often passed down from generation to generation. It disturbed the perception of ownership and interrupted generational poverty. The people no longer had to feel the effects of poverty caused by their grandfather’s bad harvest season, the inability of their mother to earn after the death of their father or the injustice of slavery. It was a chance for the people to begin anew without having to bear the burden of their distant ancestors. In many ways, the Lenten season is about God’s disruption to our lives. It is a chance for us to reflect on how the resurrection interrupts our narrative. It gives us the opportunity to situate ourselves differently, more equitably, without the burden of the sin passed down to us. The cross reminds us that we not only benefit from God’s work through the person of Jesus, but are called into that work as well. We are called to be disruptions: to pain, to injustice, to the systems of oppression. We are reminded that through God’s work, all people have the chance to begin anew. As verse 19 tells us, “Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there in safety.”
CHRISTY RIDINGS, Associate University Minister University Ministries
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W E D N E S D AY, A P R I L 3 Psalm 53 | 2 Kings 4:1–7 | Luke 9:10–17 Many of us observe Lent by giving up something. We might give up a favorite food—candy or sugar-related foods in general, or perhaps meat. Centuries ago, this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere was the time in which people would naturally run out of the food they had prepared for storage in the fall. Eating in a sparse way made sense agriculturally as well as religiously. Many of us still give up certain foods during Lent even though almost everything is available to us in our local grocery stores. In an age of devices, we might give up Twitter or Instagram, or we might put our phones away for part of the day instead of carrying them with us all the time. The point is to feel like we are making a sacrifice of some kind, in order to feel in some small way the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. At least that is one interpretation of Lent. However, I am interested in our reading from the New Testament for today and what it might say to our practices during Lent. Our reading is the account in the Gospel of Luke in which Jesus feeds the 5,000. In a sense, this story is the opposite of our usual observance of Lent. This is a story about abundance and about feeding people so much that there is more left over than they started with. Why would this section of Luke be included in readings for Lent? I am sure there are multiple answers to this question, but I would like to explore this one: perhaps Lent is not only about giving up something, but it is also about making sure others have an abundance. We are very eager to be generous around Christmas. Maybe Lent also needs to be a time of great giving. What if we not only gave up our favorite foods, but also we made sure people who were hungry had more? I am not suggesting we stop our personal practices of self-sacrifice. We all might benefit from fewer hamburgers, cookies and tweets. But I am hoping we think beyond ourselves and consider ways we can sacrifice our time and money to create abundance for others, so that, as in the Gospel of Luke, “all ate and were satisfied.”
ANN COBLE, Lecturer in Religion College of Theology & Christian Ministry
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T H U R S D AY, A P R I L 4 Psalm 126 | Isaiah 43:1–7 | Philippians 2:19–24 For many, the end of Lent can be a relief. Whether it be a result of our own personal decisions or social pressure, many change parts of their lives in preparation for Holy Week. Many are happy to go back to their “normal” life. During this Lenten season, I hope we are challenged to be warring against our humanity daily. In a world of constant strain, we need the discipline that Lent brings. The Lord shows us grace through scriptures during this time of preparation. When things happen to us or at our expense, the challenges we face are magnified. When we look at Psalm 126, verses 5–6 in particular, we notice that the text indicates weeping associated with sowing—not a typical practice that would bring weeping. I believe this a reflection of the fact that when life is hard and weeping is inevitable, sowing must still be done. In order to prepare for a future harvest, we have to sow. The Lord reminds us through the text that it is the sowing that produces the reaping and the subsequent joy that follows. While weeping over the calamites of our life will happen, we should be reminded of the great work to be done despite the hurt that our humanity brings. For those called into the fold of God, we should expectantly weep with those who weep and pursue the interests of others as they are a reflection of Christ’s interests. In Philippians 2:19–24, Paul makes note of a co-laborer in Timothy who pursued Christ over his own interests. He took joy in denying himself because of Christ and the church. Many of us prefer our own credit and safety over the pursuance of holiness and truth. The words of Paul show us that Timothy was an example of a life worthy of the Gospel—he oriented himself around people for the sake of Christ. As believers, seeing a broken world around us might make us question how we reconcile to a good God. When troubles seem overbearing and we find ourselves weeping while we sow, God has reminded us that we should not fear for He has redeemed us. Man was created for God’s glory. We consistently see man rely on himself and seek his own glory. Isaiah 43:1–7 shows us that in spite of ourselves, God has redeemed His people. He has created us for His glory and the joy we share as believers. I sincerely hope the expectation of Easter offers your soul focus and purpose to move from the natural tension of daily life. I pray that your affections may be sharpened towards Christ and your joy be multiplied.
DEA N N A MEY ER , Assistant Director of Admissions Admissions
· 31 ·
F R I D AY, A P R I L 5 Psalm 126 | Isaiah 43:8–15 | Philippians 2:25–3:1 Both Psalm 126 and the passage from Isaiah prompt the reader to reflect on God as redeemer. The passage in Isaiah in particular reminds the reader that it is not just any god, but Yahweh, the God who established a covenant with the perpetually outcast people of Israel who saves and redeems. It is this very same God who took on human flesh, becoming human so that we might experience redemption. These passages invite us to reflect on where we expect redemption to come from. They prompt us to ask ourselves “where do we put our hope?” We often put our hope in many things other than God. Our success in school or work. Our relationships. Our intellect or skill. Maybe we put our hope in money or education. Regardless of where we place our hope, more often than not our hope is misplaced. God promises redemption, but doesn’t promise that we will avoid suffering. I often wonder if this is why we put our hope in things and people other than God. The psalmist is speaking from the place of one who knows suffering, one whose “fortunes” have been ruined and are in need of restoration. Too often we place our hope in that which promises the redemption we long for, but without suffering. We sign up for quick fixes, but underestimate the toll they take on our soul. Where do you place your hope? Do you look for quick solutions, but miss the redemption that awaits through suffering? Lent is a season in which the Church makes intentional space to acknowledge the pain and suffering of the world and cry out for God to heal. It is also a season in which we are called to turn away from all that we place our hope in other than God, and return to the one who ultimately heals and redeems.
JOSH TENHAKEN -R I ED EL , Assistant Director of Spiritual Formation University Ministries
· 32 ·
S AT U R D AY, A P R I L 6 Psalm 123 | Exodus 12:21–27 | John 11:45–57 A serious moral hazard of professorship is incessant judgement. Every article I review, every recommendation I write, every grade I record is a judgement. While I like to frame these judgements as assessments of work, each one affects an individual who may or may not publish a paper, get a job, or pass a class. I am expected to make these judgements fairly, efficiently and knowledgeably, based on the standards of the University and my discipline. I am also expected to communicate my judgements clearly and persuasively, so that my colleagues and students will accept my authority and have confidence in my work. In John’s Gospel, Caiaphas imposes his judgement with a skill I recognize too well. By telling his peers, “You know nothing at all!” he pushes them into the shadow of his knowledge and authority. They accept the insult, because it absolves them of responsibility for the argument that follows. Perhaps my peers in philosophy, or communications, can name the rhetorical technique Caiaphas used; I have definitely heard a more diplomatic version used among my peers, with my students, perhaps out of my own mouth. I also recognize in Caiaphas the pride that propels him: he may know that his own judgement is imperfect, but he sees himself as better than the cowards around him. Just as he singles out Jesus as the “one man” to “die for the people,” he singles himself out as the one responsible for his murder. (He will try to evade that responsibility later; his pride only goes so far.) So, how can Caiaphas, or I, have any hope of salvation? I love the commandment in Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37 not to judge lest I be judged, but I find it impossible to follow. I pray for humility, but those prayers are no more sincere than Augustine’s prayers for chastity. I pray a lot for empathy, and try to put myself in the place of the Israelites in Exodus, waiting in fear for the angel to take or spare their firstborn. Psalm 123 is translated in two distinct ways. Some1 render the second verse as though the we are victims of the scorn of others, but this is the translation2 that speaks to me: Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy. We are filled with contempt. Indeed all too full is our soul with the scorn of the rich, (with the proud man’s disdain).
W ILLIA M HOOPER , Professor Mathematics and Computer Science Department 1
e.g., The New English Bible, Cambridge University Press, 1971, p. 728.
e.g., The Psalms: Singing Version, Paulist Press, 1991, p. 222.
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S U N D AY, A P R I L 7 Isaiah 43:16–21 | Psalm 126 | Philippians 3:4b–14 | John 12:1–8
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Well, we’ve really made a mess of things. The Good Lord provided everything that Adam and Eve needed and wanted in the garden of Eden—everything that we humans desire. However, they made the decision to push Him away and try to do things on their own. When they rejected God, they rejected everything that was good, because God is the source of all good things. The void that was created was filled by evil, and with it came murder, torture, hunger, violence, deception, cruelty, disease, war and everything else that humankind is suffering from. And each of us carries their own share of contributing to this misery, for “all fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Lent is a time of reflection on our sin and our contribution to the pain of this world. But, our Lord is compassionate and merciful. We have separated ourselves so far from Him that we cannot make our way back on our own. When we were perishing under the weight of our sin, we cried out to God, and He delivered us. Jesus, the “pearl of great value,” came to earth and lived among us as a fellow human, paid the price for our sins on the cross to satisfy justice and rose again to demonstrate his victory over Satan, sin and death—God’s great and perfect solution to the devastation caused by our rejection of Him. “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30–32) The reading in Isaiah 43 reminds us of God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt and is a foreshadowing of His deliverance of His people from their sins—a great demonstration of the Lord’s love, mercy and power. “See, I am doing a new thing!...I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” (Isaiah 43: 19a, 20b, 21) And now we wait in anticipation of Easter. “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy…The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy…Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.” (Psalm 126:2a, 3, 5)
DA N IEL BILES, Professor Mathematics and Computer Science Department
· 34 ·
M O N D AY, A P R I L 8 Psalm 20 | Exodus 40:1–15 | Hebrews 10:19–25 This past year has tested and refined my faith on many levels: my husband went through a season of unemployment, we struggled through infertility and loss, and we experienced death in our family. In those moments and months when God felt silent, I felt challenged to examine and declare what I truly believed. When my circumstances say otherwise, is God still faithful? Does God keep His promises? Does the power of Christ still exist in sea-parting, life-raising, illnesshealing ways? Seasons of doubt and struggle often reveal where our faith is honestly seated and challenge us to recommit with renewed fervency to the hope we have through Jesus. Isaiah 50:7 contends, “For the Lord God will help Me; therefore I will not be disgraced; therefore I have set My face like a flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed.” This aptly connects to the “full assurance of faith” that today’s passage from Hebrews emphasizes. In the face of death itself, Christ found the Lord to be faithful, and we can have the same hope that our Father is for us and will help us. We are called to set our face like flint and resolve to remember why we have hope. The church calendar is vital because it calls us to remember and rehearse the story and faithfulness of God repeatedly, throughout the rhythm of our years. Today’s excerpt from Hebrews offers us relevant life instruction: “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful…let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…” We choose to continually draw near to God because we now have access to the presence of the living, loving, steadfast God. We can have hope in the midst of adversity, because He is faithful to His promises. And in all of this, we journey together in community, because encouragement and exhortation lead to the byproducts of love and good works. In this Lenten season, may we resolve to deeply experience the depth and beauty of our faith—that in the end, it’s not over until things are made whole, until justice is restored, until life and relationships flourish. Whether in God’s Kingdom on earth or in God’s Kingdom in heaven, our hope and faith will find fruition.
MEGAN MCNEES E, Student Support Specialist Bridges to Belmont
· 35 ·
T U E S D AY, A P R I L 9 Psalm 20 | Judges 9:7–15 |1 John 2:18–28 Have you ever been on the edge of a battle? Maybe not an actual battle, but perhaps a challenge or struggle that you see on the horizon? Perhaps it is a hard conversation with a family member, or the night before a medical procedure, or even the beginning of a recovery journey. These types of circumstances remind us “the calm before the storm” is anything but calming. That is where we find the psalmist in Chapter 20—on the cusp of a battle and seeking God in the midst of trouble. It is a prayer of petition for the Lord’s presence during a “time of distress.” We can understand can’t we? Like the psalmist, we have found ourselves in seasons of trouble. We experience dark days and sorrowful nights. We often grow weary from the constant and unrelenting pressures of life. Seeing the next challenge on the horizon can be daunting. Like the psalmist, we ask God for answers, to send help, to grant support, to remember us, to accept our offerings, to give and to grant. We seek God’s face as the only beacon within the storm of life. Also like the psalmist, we have confidence in our petitions because they are coupled with the trust in the One who hears them. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (v.20) What battle do you see on the horizon of your life? What are you petitioning God for this Lenten season? However you are seeking God’s presence, know you are not alone in the battle you are facing. Put your trust in the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will raise you up, steady your feet and answer when you call!
CHRISTY RIDINGS, Associate University Minister University Ministries
· 36 ·
W E D N E S D AY, A P R I L 1 0 Psalm 20 | Habakkuk 3:2–15 | Luke 18:31–34 Have you ever had that moment where it felt like the weight of the world was crashing down upon your head, where seemingly nothing was going right and everyone was against you? As we proceed in our Lenten journey, it’s important to remember that this is exactly how Jesus must have felt. As he tells his disciples in Luke 18, Jesus knew what was in store for him once he travelled into Jerusalem for Passover that year: the mockery and insults, the imprisonment, the condemnation, the torture, and finally death. This was the barrel that Jesus was staring down, can you imagine having full knowledge of the pain and hurt that the world would heap onto you and readily entering into that fray anyway? It may be tempting to chalk up Christ’s courage solely to his divinity, but we also shouldn’t lose sight of the confidence he had in God the Father to bring him through that trial. Look at the last thing he tells his disciples. On the third day, he will rise again. Nothing would make the humiliation and scorn and pain any better, but the hope of the resurrection kept Jesus on target and confident. So what do we do when we feel overwhelmed or under attack from all sides? It may be wise to be like the prophet, Habakkuk. Reacting to the fallen state of his world and hoping for revival, Habakkuk praises God for exactly who He is: GOD. This is the God whose glory spans the Heavens and Earth. Whose presence makes the mountains and waters and sun and stars crumble. Whose mere glance makes the greatest nations tremble. This is the God who proactively takes the first step in vanquishing our enemies. This is the God that Jesus knew and trusted would fulfill the prophecies laid before him. And this is the God that we are called to trust. As David sings in Psalm 20, some trust in the powers of this world, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. A name that will never fail us. So if you feel defeated, or lost, or at odds with the world, I repeat the words of David to you: “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress,” and implore you to trust in the blessing: “May the Lord grant all your requests.”
T IM SCHOENFELD, Assistant Professor of Psychology Psychological Science Department
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T H U R S D AY, A P R I L 1 1 Psalm 31:9–16 | Isaiah 53:10–12 | Hebrews 2:1–9 In this passage the psalmist is appealing to God’s mercy for his great sorrow and misery. He asks for the Lord to be merciful as he is overcome with great sorrow. After reading this verse and reflecting on what God was inviting me to in this Lenten season, I was struck with how essential mercy is in my walk with God. The psalmist implores God for mercy in response to all the troubles his life has come across. He is a horror to his neighbors, dreadful to his friends, and a broken vessel. After continuing his “woe is me monologue,” the psalmist then moves to a position of trusting in God during all his troubles and asking God to save him with unfaltering love. I find the latter part of this passage encouraging and challenging. Sometimes in our times of despair and difficulty, we explore our own depths of human sorrow or misery and find a plethora of personal afflictions. It is challenging to trust God in our misery because we often feel that God is not proactive in our lives. This is when mercy is instrumental, when we seek renewal. Renewal not for ourselves personally, but in our relationship with God, which then pours out into other aspects and relationships in our lives. It takes a degree of humility to ask for mercy. I often overlook the stipulation of God’s mercy in my life, not just as an extension of Grace and Salvation, but as a foundation for trusting in God and finding renewal in that refuge. A challenge for us as a people of God, is to be mindful of the necessity of mercy in our lives. When we are in our deepest sorrows and misery, we need mercy. I like to believe that God sees humanity in its suffering and conscientiously thinks “If I do not help my people, what will happen to them?” My hope for anyone reading this is that they do not become stagnant in their misery but instead are reminded that we can trust in God. We simply need ask for mercy and grace. And in that mercy can we find renewal in God’s steadfast love.
JOHN A HN, Graduate Intern University Ministries
· 38 ·
F R I D AY A P R I L 1 2 Psalm 31:9–16 | Isaiah 54:9–10 | Hebrews 2:10–18 Incarnation, the fancy theological term for God becoming human, is central to the Christian story. We celebrate the birth of Jesus every Christmas. We read about the life of Jesus in the Gospels. We honor and celebrate his physical death and resurrection on Good Friday and Easter. Yet despite the regular reminders in scripture and the church calendar that God became one of us, the incarnation often loses is wonder and mystery. What should be a reality that evokes awe and gratitude, becomes just another piece of our theology. The writer of Hebrews here reminds the readers of the radical implications of God becoming human. In order to remain consistent with the steadfast love described in our other readings for today, God had to become human. It was a necessity. The one “for whom and through whom all things exist” had to take on human flesh and all the limitations, pain, and suffering becoming human entailed so that we might be rescued from sin and death. The God who formed all the creatures that fill this earth became a baby utterly dependent on others for survival. The God who can move mountains and fill valleys was a toddler with skinned knees and a snotty nose. The God who would later defeat death once and for all, succumbed to death. God’s heart stopped beating. God died. God’s love is ever present. God is gracious and faithful. Often we hold on to so much that we are unable to receive and embrace the love and grace of God. God emptied himself and embraced suffering so that we might live and receive this love. The question for us is what must we empty ourselves of so that we might experience that life? What are we holding onto that prevents us from experiencing God’s redemptive love?
JOSH TENHAKEN -R I ED EL , Assistant Director of Spiritual Formation University Ministries
· 39 ·
S AT U R D AY, A P R I L 1 3 Psalm 31:9–16 | Leviticus 23:1–8 | Luke 22:1–13 As a child who grew up in the church, I remember observing our church participate in communion every Sunday. My parents asked me to wait to partake until I was older. I didn’t understand at the time why they asked me to do this, because all I could think was that our church was offering free snacks and I was being forced to turn them down. A few years later, I was taught the meaning of “The Lord’s Supper” and I felt so excited that I “understood” the meaning behind this special meal. Little did I know, I had barely scratched the surface of all that it meant. In Luke 22, Jesus tells his disciples to go make preparations for the Passover meal. In Jewish culture, the Passover Meal is celebrated in remembrance of all that God did to save the Israelites from enslavement in Egypt. The beginning of the meal consists of four cups of wine, each representing a specific redemption from the Lord. The first cup represents Israel’s emigration from Egypt. The second cup represents Israel’s release from slavery. The third cup represents their redemption. The fourth cup represents God taking Israel as His own people.1 Finally, the unleavened bread was symbolic of the dough the Israelites carried out of Egypt, which did not have time to rise.2 As New Testament-believing Christians, we take communion with reverence for Jesus’ body, which was broken for us on the cross, and with the wine representing “the new covenant in His blood.”3 Yet imagine how meaningful this sacred act would be if we also took time to remember the original Passover’s events like Jesus did as he reflected during the Last Supper, his last supper. For example, in the same way that God brought Israel into the Promised Land, Jesus brings us into the promise of eternal life. Just as God saved Israel from enslavement, Jesus saves us from slavery to sin. As God redeemed the nation of Israel, Jesus redeems us by casting our sins as far as the East is from the West.4 In the same way God called Israel His chosen people, Jesus calls all who proclaim his name sons and daughters of the Most High. And finally, like the bread represents the dough they carried out of Egypt on their backs, Jesus carried Calvary’s cross on his back, to redeem us in his name.
JORDA N N E CLAR K, Intern University Ministries
1 Corinthians 11:25
· 40 ·
S U N D AY, A P R I L 1 4 Psalm 118:1–2; 19–29 | Luke 19:28–40 | Isaiah 50:4–9a; Philippians 2:5–11 |
Psalm 31:9–16; Luke 22:14–23; 56; Luke 23:1–49 This particular text tells the story of Jesus’ journey from Jericho to Jerusalem where he will live out the final week of his public ministry prior to the crucifixion. As he entered the small villages of Bethany and Bethpage, he gave instructions to his disciples about obtaining a colt on which he would ride into Jerusalem. They were told to go to a certain spot to find a colt, untie it, and bring it to Jesus. And if asked by the owners why they were taking the colt, they were to respond, “The Lord has need of it.” It is interesting that the owners of the colt quickly, obediently, and willingly gave up their animal as soon as they learned that “The Lord had need of it.” The gift of the colt obviously meant some sacrifice, if not some inconvenience, on the part of the owners. Knowing that Jesus wanted the use of their animal brought immediate obedience. Hearing their story makes me a little self-reflective. Am I so ready, willing, and able to offer whatever possession I have, if Christ demands its use? What about all of us? Are we willing to sacrifice and even put ourselves in a position of hardship all for the sake of the Kingdom? Would we surrender our cars, our homes, our books or our phones if Christ demanded that we do so? Would we willingly empty our bank accounts if impressed with the need to help someone who is struggling? We claim the Lordship of Christ, but we still cling tightly to our “stuff.” Remember how the rich, young ruler once went away from the presence of Jesus saddened because of his unwillingness to “turn loose” of his stuff in order to “take hold” of the Kingdom? What is it that you possess of which the Lord has need? Is there a talent you haven’t offered to His glory? A skill that you could use in ministry? A check you could write to help a noble cause? If we are truly his disciples, our hearts must become obedient, our attitudes compassionate and our “stuff” more compliant. More than anything else, the Lord has need of your life. Will you offer it quickly, obediently and willingly when he calls? Discipleship makes demands of us all. How will you respond?
JON ROEBUCK, Executive Director Reverend Charlie Curb Center for Faith Leadership
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M O N D AY, A P R I L 1 5 Psalm 36:5–11 | Isaiah 42:1–9 | Hebrews 9:11–15 | John 12:1–11
Monday of Holy Week
In today’s reflection on John 12:1–11, we find Judas objecting to Mary’s expensive gift of the perfume foot washing. Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? Examining the heart of Judas, we see his avaricious desire to benefit himself rather than others. His was a callous heart. This same callousness is the default that we despise in ourselves and fight against. Our mouths proclaim that we serve the cause of Christ to bring justice for the nations (Isaiah 42:2), but too often our own sin creeps in as we become hardened to people in need. We selfishly center our service around our own benefit or lose our focus on Christ. We do not see ourselves as embezzlers like Judas, but as we get busier in our service for Christ, our love for Christ sometimes syphons away. Returning to reflect on the heart of Mary, we find a heart responsive to the prompting of the Spirit. She did not donate the expensive gift to the poor. Mary may not have completely understood what she was doing, but she was moved by the Spirit to anoint the feet of Christ. Surely Judas was not the only one shocked at this expensive gift for a man who cared not to own a house. But a heart that would be this sensitive to the Spirit is a heart that can be moved to give to the poor at the right time. If only our hearts were more open to the Spirit and our hands grasping our material possessions were less closed. Christ made sense out of the exorbitance explaining that the perfume of honor was part of his burial event. Yet instead of condemning Judas, Christ demonstrated that his heart was a merciful, teaching heart that pointed to his great sacrifice. Christ directs us into grace by his example and by his means. “It is the blood of Christ who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself unblemished to God, cleansing our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14) We must continually comprehend the depth of God’s grace to fend off callousness so that our service for Christ adorns his sacrifice rather than undermines it. God’s mercy is convicting not with a crushing guilt but with a captivating worship of the one who can bring a justice for the nations. During this Lenten season, we have the opportunity to draw closer to Christ by becoming sensitized to the Spirit as we put off false ways and put on the truth. We confess the depths of our sins and the heights of the love of Christ. “How priceless is God’s unfailing love!” (Psalm 36:7).
BEN RA IN EY Belmont University Class of 1997
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T U E S D AY, A P R I L 1 6 Psalm 71:1–14 | Isaiah 49:1–7 | I Corinthians 1:18–31 | John 12:20–36
Tuesday of Holy Week
“But I said, ‘I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity.’” Laboring in vain is extraordinarily discouraging. Numerous times in my life I put forth enormous effort, only for my efforts to seemingly fail. I had relationships I was certain God was leading not work out. As someone in “professional” ministry, one of my greatest fears is that I will plan an event only to have nobody show up. While I have never had no one come, I’ve come close, and it is no less discouraging. Perhaps most disheartening is when it feels like I’m doing this whole Christian thing by the book and it feels like laboring in vain. Sometimes it feels like I’m doing exactly what I was told would lead to deeper relationship with God, only to have God feel more distant and the light grow more dim. I would read scripture, pray, journal, do spiritual practices, join a small group and experience nothing. Every place I thought I would find Jesus he seemed nowhere to be found. The doubts only grew and God seemed more distant. It wasn’t until I started to let go of my need to control when and where I experience God in my life that I actually began to experience him. Now when I say experience God I don’t mean warm and fuzzy feelings or lack of fear or doubt. In all honesty I’m not always sure what I mean when I say experience God, but I do know I am more free than I once was, which I take as a sign of God’s active presence in my life. I wonder if this wasn’t what Jesus was getting at when he said “those who love their life will lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it.” I wonder if the foolishness of God is in the fact that we often find Him where we least expect it. We find God not when we do everything by the book, but when we give up. We find grace not when the relationship works out or everyone shows up, but when our hearts are broken and we are left alone. We find the love we long for when we quit trying to get others or God to love us and accept that we are loved as we are.
JOSH TENHAKEN -R I ED EL , Assistant Director of Spiritual Formation University Ministries
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W E D N E S D AY, A P R I L 1 7 Psalm 70 | Isaiah 50:4–9a | Hebrews 12:1–3 | John 13:21–32
Wednesday of Holy Week
There’s something about running that’s different from other types of exercise. Unlike lifting weights or doing yoga, there’s no real technical difficulty involved. You simply put one foot in front of the other, and…that’s it. Do that a few more times, and you’re off! It’s not a particularly complicated strategy for getting in shape. Yet, for all its simplicity, it is an exercise that takes focus. When a sprinter leaves the starting block, he does not look to the right or left or to the runners behind him. If he did, he might trip or veer into another lane and be disqualified. He keeps his eyes forward, and the faster he runs, the closer he gets, the more everything in his peripheral view blurs. He’s not distracted by the crowds or the other runners because his eyes are so laser-focused on the finish line. The writer of Hebrews speaks of running a different type of race in Hebrews 12:1–3, one toward Christlikeness. He calls us to fix our eyes on Christ, to know Him, love Him, and desire to be like Him. This means immersing ourselves daily in God’s word. This means actively seeking righteousness and obedience. And since it is only God who gives strength, it means resolving to ask Him each day for the strength to continue. The world is full of distractions, so let us lower our heads and fix our eyes on the one who has gone before us. Let us run so eagerly toward Him that everything else fades to a blur. As the song says, Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in his wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of his glory and grace.
MATTHEW EN OC H, Gift Processing and Records Coordinator Advancement Services
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T H U R S D AY, A P R I L 1 8 Psalm 116:1–2, 12–19 | Exodus 12:1–14 | I Corinthians 11:23–26 | John 13:1–17, 31b–35
They had taken the Passover before: Peter, Andrew, James (son of Alpheus), John, Mathew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, James (son of Zebedee), Jude, Simon, even Judas. They had probably been taught the words from Exodus in early boyhood, learning exactly what to do and why. “It is the Lord’s Passover…This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” (Exodus 12:11b; 14) But this Passover supper was different. Jesus was there. That usually meant something unexpected might occur. This occasion was no different. “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:3–5). But why? Some years ago, when I lived in Maryland, I belonged to a church that had small groups that met in someone’s home during the week. One year my group took the Passover Seder, observing it with the bitter herbs, lamb, unleavened bread. Taking the meal was intended to serve as a symbol of our recognition of its significance. And that was good. Indeed, it lives on in my memory as an unforgettable experience. Yet if we left the meal with no more than a memory of taking it, we missed the point, just as Peter, and undoubtedly the others, almost missed it. Jesus asked them if they understood what he had done for them, then challenged them. “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:14–15). Every step Jesus took on his way to the cross speaks to us. On this Maundy Thursday, which commemorates Jesus’ last Passover before the crucifixion, and commemorates Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet, I am reminded to meditate on the heart of Jesus’ words, but also to act. “Whose feet I can wash today?”
CHERY L SLAY C A R R , Associate Dean College of Entertainment & Music Business
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F R I D AY, A P R I L 1 9 Psalm 22 | Isaiah 52:13–53:12 | Hebrews 10:16–25 | John 18:1–19:42
What’s so good about Friday? That’s an honest question I first encountered from one of our young sons. We’d shared the Veggie Tales version of Holy Week with him when he stared back, wide eyed, pondering how someone’s dying could be considered “good.” And, why on earth would his parents want him to be like this person? Is death good? Probably. In “Listening for the Soul” Dr. Jean Stairs asks, “What would happen to our pastoral care if we did not save our dying until the end of our lives?” 1 Dr. Stairs encourages the reader to understand all of life as a series of cyclical processes that involve living, dying, and resurrecting to new life. In today’s lectionary texts, the prophet Isaiah suggests that we are collectively complicit in injustice and that we are healed by the “pouring out” of our lives, while the psalmist laments suffering and anticipates deliverance. The writer of Hebrews declares in chapter 4 that humanity is sinful and salvation is available through obedience to Jesus’ teachings. The writer also encourages us in chapter 10 to consider consequences of sin and forgiveness. The gospel writer of John declares (among other things),“it is finished.” But what is it that is finished on Good Friday? What has God done? What has humanity done? What has Jesus done? The gospel passage beats with a pulse of violence caused primarily because of a stand against political power. Only in the silence of death do the Good Friday characters begin cleaning up for the Sabbath. And in those quiet, somber moments the ongoing, eternal work of God through Jesus has begun. Trembling yet? I surely am. As Jesus followers we might ask, to what should we figuratively die today? To what new life is God resurrecting us? Holy One, help us combat the sin of injustice by pouring ourselves into others. Deliver us into Jesus’ teachings of love and forgiveness. Ready us for Sabbath rest and renew us to a new way of being in the world.
K ELLY MORELA N D J ON ES, Trainer & Self-Service Analyst Administrative Technology
Jean Stairs, “Listening for the Soul” (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2000), 74.
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S AT U R D AY, A P R I L 2 0 Psalm 31:1–4, 15–16 | Job 14:1–14 | I Peter 4:1–8 | Matthew 27:57–66
Absence shapes the rhythm of grief. Casual conversations among family and friends pause when a familiar laugh fails to sound. Passing the mashed potatoes requires an awkward stretch past the empty chair at the table. We catch ourselves when we call someone’s name to join the conversation. They are gone and we long for them. Job asks, “If mortals die, will they live again?” (Job 14:14). In this simply profound question, Job captures the ache of absence. When someone we love leaves us, then will they return to us? Will they live again? The psalmist cries out to God, “My eye wastes away from grief, my soul and my body also” (Psalm 31:9). Death’s absence brings great sorrow into our lives, unspeakably deep and silent sorrow. Like Joseph of Arimathea, when death brings its absence into our lives, we carry those whom we love to the grave. We prepare their bodies, we follow our customs, and we leave them to return to the dust from which they came (John 19:38ff). Grief covers us with a sorrowful time of absence. No matter of longing for our beloveds brings their laugh back to us, fills their seat at the table, or enlivens their voice in a fractured conversation. This is Holy Saturday. The disciples sit in the absence of Jesus. They miss his laugh. They look to the place at the table where he passed the bread and wine. Someone absentmindedly calls his name to join the conversation and silence falls on the room in his absence. We wait in the absence of grief. We long for what tomorrow will bring.
DA RRELL GWA LT N EY, Dean and H. Franklin Paschall Chair of Biblical Studies and Preaching College of Theology & Christian Ministry
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S U N D AY, A P R I L 2 1 Psalm 118:1–2, 14–24 | Isaiah 25:6–9 | 1 Corinthians 15:1–11 | John 20:1–18
“On the first day of the week…they did not find the body.” It all began with nothing. Just like the first creation ex nihilo—out of nothing. There was nothing in the tomb. And the women who showed up to look into the tomb were nobodies. Nobodies who were the last people at the cross, and the first people at the tomb. “For God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.” Jesus had so little clout, that he was easily “delivered over to the hands of sinners to be crucified.” And the women who went to his borrowed tomb to honor their dead friend were nothing in their society; their testimony was not even allowed in a Roman or Jewish court of law. So when they told the apostles what they had seen, “they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” So, two of the male disciples ran to the tomb to see what was really up (and John, being a guy, couldn’t resist writing in his Gospel that he “outran Peter and reached the tomb first”). Peter “went away wondering to himself what had happened.” For if the Romans or Jews had the corpse of Jesus, they would have displayed it publicly to prove he was not the Messiah. Jesus’ body was not there, which was a mystery. But the two billion people on the planet who believe in Jesus do not gather to worship him on Sunday morning because the tomb was empty. Christians have gathered Sunday morning after Sunday morning for 2,000 years because on that first Sunday, “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’).” And beginning on that first Sunday and for 40 days afterward, the disciples “ate and drank with Jesus after he rose from the dead.” Christians in Iraq and Nigeria and Nepal risk their lives to gather on Sunday mornings because Jesus lovingly invites us to come together as we draw closer to him. Since that first Easter morning, he has not stopped saying, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me.” Welcome, Lord Jesus!
TODD LAKE, Vice President Spiritual Development
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THE OFFICE OF UNIVERSITY MINISTRIES MISSION The Office of University Ministries provides opportunities for students to: • See God at work in their lives and in the lives of those around them. • Find a place to belong on campus and in the world. • Develop a sense of purpose in leadership and service.
Ways you can be involved WORSHIP
International trips are spring break and summer mission
Join us for Chapel every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
experiences in partnership with faculty/staff leaders that
at 10 a.m. in the JAAC Chapel (convocation credit offered.) have either a general or discipline-specific emphasis. Continuing Conversations: Continuing Conversations gives Into.Nashville is a convo-credit program that exposes a chance to discuss the chapel topic for the day in a more
students to the diverse communities of Nashville and helps
conversational setting. Keep an eye out for more
students engage and embrace the most often neglected
information throughout the semester!
people of the community.
S P I R I T U A L L I F E A S S I S TA N T S
201 8– 201 9 FA I T H D E V E LOP M E N T
In partnership with Residence Life, SLAs engage first-year
OR G A N I Z AT I ON S , A FFI L I AT E D G R OUP S
students in on-campus community within their residence
& G RA D UAT E FE L LOWS HI P S
halls through small group and service opportunities.
Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM), Belmont Bridge Builders, Belmont Catholic Community (BCC), Belmont
Wesley Fellowship (BWF), Chadasha Gospel Choir, CRU,
Service Year is a year-long program centered on
Delight, Every Nation Campus Ministry, Fellowship of
intentional community, service, spiritual formation, and
Christian Athletes (FCA), InterVarsity, Navigators, Ukirk,
hospitality. The purpose of Service Year is to provide
Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), Young Life, Christian
space for a small group of students to grow in their understanding of self, deepen their relationship with God, and discern how they can uniquely love God and neighbor.
OFFI C E OF UN I V E R S I T Y MI N I ST R I E S STA FF
BELMONT ON MISSION Plunge trips are four-day fall break immersion experiences in domestic locations for first-year students and a fantastic way to start your freshman year by getting to know other students as you serve alongside each other. Immersion trips are week-long spring break trips that offer students a chance to be immersed in a local domestic
Legal Society (CLS), Christian Pharmacy Fellowship International (CPFI), Nurses Christian Fellowship (NCF)
Assistant Director of
Larkin Briley, Associate
University Minister, Director
LaReace Carr, University
of Missions and Outreach
Christy Ridings, Associate
culture and grow in understanding of the cares and
University Minister, Director
concerns of those communities.
of Spiritual Formation · 49 ·
OFFICE OF UNIVERSITY MINISTRIES
Belmont University is a Christian community. The University faculty, administration, and staff uphold Jesus as the Christ and as the measure for all things. As a community seeking to uphold Christian standards of morality, ethics, and conduct, Belmont University holds high expectations of each person who chooses to join the community. In compliance with federal law, including provisions of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Sections 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Belmont University does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, military service, or sexual orientation in its administration of education policies programs or activities; its admissions policies; or employment. Consistent with applicable civil rights law, the University seeks employees of Christian faith who are committed to the mission of the University. The University has appointed the director of the Office of Human Resources to serve as coordinator of compliance with Title VII and IX issues and questions for staff and faculty. The Director of Title IX Compliance and Prevention Programs serves as coordinator of compliance for Title IX issues and questions for students. UMN-182086