LENTEN DAILY DEVOTIONAL GUIDE
COLLEGE OF THEOLOGY & CHRISTIAN MINISTRY & THE OFFICE OF UNIVERSITY MINISTRIES
LENT 2017 Through an intentional partnership between the Office of University Ministries and the College of Theology & Christian Ministry, this Lenten devotional guide has been created for our community. 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 commemorate the death of Jesus 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 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 students, faculty, staff and alumni. We are immensely grateful to those who have helped to make this Lenten and Holy Week guide available to our campus community. It is a testament to the giftedness of our community. May this season of reflecting on scripture lead us towards a deeper union with Christ and with one another. Grace and peace,
Heather Gerbsch Daugherty Rev. Heather Gerbsch Daugherty, University Minister, Office of University Ministries
Darrell D. Gwaltney Dr. Darrell Gwaltney, Dean, College of Theology & Christian Ministry
GUIDE TO DAILY PRAYER
Opening Prayer Comfort, comfort your people, O God! Speak peace to your people. Comfort those who sit in darkness and mourn, Forgive us our sins and end the conflict in our lives. AMEN.
Confession of Sin Reflect quietly before God, asking for forgiveness for all things done and left undone that are unpleasing to God. Remember, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Scripture Lessons Read the assigned passages for the day found at the top of each page.
Prayers The following is a suggested guide for prayer during Lent. ray for all Christians around the world and especially for those who endure persecution P for their faith. Pray for our nation and all those in authority. Pray for Christ’s peace in the world. Pray for the end of conflict and war. Pray for justice for all people. Pray for all those who engage in the educational ministry of the Church and especially for Belmont University. Pray for those who suffer and grieve. Pray for God’s transforming work in your life.
ASH WEDNESDAY, MARCH 1 Psalm 51 Joel 2:1–2, 12–17 2 Corinthians 5:20b–6:10 Matthew 6:1–6, 16–21 It is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent, which will last for the next 40 days. These texts, which are read on Ash Wednesday each year, remind us of the main themes of this season: when God comes, things are never the same, and there are places in our lives that need to be redeemed. God can do that, and we are invited to quietly pursue God’s transforming work in our lives. Many people often think about Lent as a season to avoid—who wants to deny themselves and give something up? Who wants to think about all of the ways that we fall short of what God has for our lives? Who has extra time to spend in prayer and devotion? These things are really hard, but even still, Lent is one of my favorite seasons of the Christian calendar. It is a reminder to me that I am a work in progress. One of the most amazing things to me about the Christian life is that we are not saved and then left to our own devices until the return of Christ someday. No, when we experience God’s salvation in our lives, it is only the beginning of the journey. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to seek after Him with all that we are, and by the grace of God, our lives we will be made to be more like Christ. Taking on the practices of the season of Lent—prayer, scripture reading, confession, giving alms (money) to the poor—doesn’t make us Christians. But those practices for us become a means of grace, places where God can be at work in our lives, where God’s grace is given to us that our lives would continue to be transformed and redeemed. As we enter into this season, I want to encourage you to allow it to be a reminder to you that you are a work in progress. Allow this season to be a reminder that God is still at work in you. As you spend time reading through this devotional (and other Lenten practices that you may choose), be open to what God wants to do in your life and the ways in which God wants to transform your life to look more like that of Jesus. Gracious God, we give you thanks for your work in our lives. Help us not be overwhelmed by this season, but instead to allow it to be a time in our lives where you are at work transforming and redeeming us. AMEN. HEATHER DAUGHERTY University Minister University Ministries
THURSDAY, MARCH 2 Psalm 51 Jonah 3:1–10 Romans 1:1–7 When I was a child, my mother drove a white, Jeep Grand Wagoneer, with faux wood paneling on the sides. We drove around Missouri in that vehicle, playing 8 track tapes that she’d stick into the player on the dashboard. One day she played a Kris Kristofferson tape, and for the first time, I heard His recording of “Why Me.” I loved it, and when I read Psalm 51, I thought of this song. I had to reflect about it before I could understand why I connected this song with the psalm. Psalm 51 is one of the most famous texts in the Psalter. It is attributed to King David, written after the prophet Nathan confronts him regarding his sin with Bathsheba. In the psalm, the writer petitions God to “have mercy” and to “blot out” transgressions. The author desires to be “washed” and “cleansed” and then, in verse 13, offers to instruct other sinners so that they will also return to God. The psalm reminds us that humanity is totally other than God. Surely, there are more comforting texts that remind us we are created in the image of God, who is as close to us as our own breath. Yet this text focuses our attention on our otherness and our radical need for God’s power to forgive and reconcile. These themes are why I was reminded of Kristofferson’s song when I read the psalm. Two lines came to mind, and I couldn’t quite let go of them. “Help me Jesus, I know what I am.” In this lyric, I think Kristofferson is prompting the listener to recognize what we are and understand that we are not God. We are other than the Divine, imperfect and broken. And finally, “Maybe Lord, I can show someone else what I’ve been through myself, on my way back to you.” With this line, the listener hears something somewhat similar to the line from the psalmist. There is a desire to teach and instruct others so that others may learn from the mistakes of the writer. Lent is a season of penance and reflection when we acknowledge we are in dire need of God’s forgiveness. It’s a season when we admit we are unworthy and recall the reconciliation available through the atoning action and love of Christ. In this season, we recognize our own brokenness and need, and we also remain aware of the needs of those around us, as we bear witness to what Christ has done in our own lives to reconcile us to the Divine. SALLY HOLT Professor of Religion College of Theology & Christian Ministry
FRIDAY, MARCH 3 Psalm 51 Jonah 4:1–11 Romans 1:1–7 Today’s Hebrew Bible passage begins at the end of Jonah’s story. Jonah has already delivered a prophecy of destruction on God’s behalf. And right after Jonah delivered His most compelling Hell-fire-brimstone sermon, the unexpected occurs. Nineveh repents. God spares them. And now, Jonah is mad about it. He wants God to follow through with the destruction. Silly Jonah. However, I wonder if we fight the impulse to trivialize Jonah and His candid confession, might we see ourselves in Him? In the last few years, I have become increasingly frustrated with the state of our world. As much as I want to believe that things are getting better, the testimonies of my community tell a different story: black humans killed by those who are supposed to protect them, churches closing their doors to LGBTQ people based on poor readings of six verses, college students feeling emboldened to post racist Snapchats, friends in denial, telling me, “It isn’t really that bad.” Like Jonah, I frequently find myself shaking a fist at God, candidly confessing my frustrations. Where is God’s justice? Where is God’s wrath? Why do evildoers prosper? Why doesn’t God smite the evil people of Nineveh, Nashville, Washington D.C.? How many more times must I read “How long, O Lord?” in my Facebook News Feed? And perhaps my candid, angry confession has just as much to do with me as it does with those on whom I want judgment to fall. Many times, it is much easier to point to the darkness out there as opposed to unearthing the darkness within. Perhaps, the darkness out there enrages me, enrages us, scares us because we know that, at least in part, the darkness out there also lives within. The unjust system against which we rage is also the system with which we are complicit and from which we benefit. We, too, are Nineveh. Today’s psalm invites us to look inward, confess our sins, and implore God to create in us clean hearts, broken spirits, and souls that are crushed for the things that crush God’s soul. May our frustration with the state of the world compel us, first, to journey inward, confessing our own sins of complacency and selfishness. Once we’ve experienced the Easter promise of pardon and transformation, may we, like Jonah, sometimes reluctantly, bear witness to God’s justice and mercy to a world in desperate need of both. BRANDON MAXWELL Class of 2009 College of Theology & Christian Ministry
SATURDAY, MARCH 4 Psalm 51 Isaiah 58:1–12 Matthew 18:1–7 We are reminded in Psalm 51 that, no matter how we sin against God, our Lord is merciful and gracious, having already taken care of our sin by sending His Holy Son Jesus. Verse 10 is so often recited that we tend to gloss over its meaning. It reads, “Create in me a pure Heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” This is a humbling cry meant to turn our sin into an opportunity. We may learn from it, and grow closer to God as a result. The beautiful thing here is that God is using our sin to our advantage, allowing a deeper knowledge and understanding of who God is through reconciliation. Isaiah 58:1–12 paints a picture of a sinful people who are missing the purpose of their sacrifice. They are fasting and assume that the act is what pleases God, rather than their motivations for performing the act. Verse 4b reads, “You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.” We should be motivated to take time out of our days to read the Word of God that we may know Him better and be careful that we are using every opportunity given to glorify Him because we love Him with a childlike faith! Both of these passages have a common theme: realizing that nothing we do can compare to what Jesus did on the cross for us. Even though we all fail in the sight of our Father, He will never reject us for it, and He will never deny us His grace and mercy that we could never earn or deserve. His love is a free gift, with no strings attached. Let’s rejoice in this fact and do our best to glorify our wonderful Savior every chance we get! FRANCES PRAET Senior Music Business Major
SUNDAY, MARCH 5 (First Sunday of Lent) Isaiah 42:1–9 Psalm 32 Romans 5:12–19 Matthew 4:1–11 As we delve into the word of God and read and understand these passages, we must remember and be thankful for Gods’ promise to us. In Isaiah 42, God tells us about His plans for us, that He will send His servant who He has specifically chosen to “bring justice to the nations.” He is telling us of His plan to send Jesus who carries the burden of all our sins. He handpicked someone to send to us to carries all burdens for us. When I think about this, I am overcome with joy. I am reminded of God’s faithfulness and unconditional love. At times, we stumble and take a misstep, but He is always there. His grace and mercy prevails over all and I am so thankful for this. I think about His grace and love for me and all those around me. Throughout Lent I sometimes feel disappointed in myself because I think about how I am not always perfect, but I am filled with joy when I remember that in His eyes I am always deserving of His grace. That alone makes me want to do better. In Isaiah 42: 6–7, He says, “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” God promises us rescue and help. He promises us someone to rescue us from our sins and to heal those who are broken and blind. Throughout this season, I will be thinking about this. Think about thepromise God made and acted on. He sent us the ultimate gift and Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for us! AKILAH PATTERSON Residence Director, Potter Hall Office of Residence Life
MONDAY, MARCH 6 Psalm 32 1 Kings 19:1–8 Hebrews 2:10–18 I often find myself being my own greatest critic. In work, life, relationships, and so on. During this season of Lent, I am reminded that my relationship with God is always one that can be improved upon, and that improvement begins with communication and prayer. Communication can be carried out in a variety of ways, verbal or non-verbal, internal or external. There are times when open communication and transparency are hindered by negative thoughts or “what ifs?” that ultimately keep a person from reaching out for help, understanding a situation better, or confessing that they made a mistake. During our various busy seasons, how many moments do we feel as though we are drowning in our work, our to-do lists, our thoughts and our uncertainties? In Psalm 32:6, we, as His faithful servants, are called to pray to our Lord and to be rest assured that “surely the rising of the mighty waters, will not reach them.” In our moments of need, we can find an outlet and a calmness by reaching out to God and communicating with Him about our thoughts, struggles, fears, mistakes and trust in knowing that God’s plan will give us hope and a future. I think of the popular song “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers and about how God wants us to lean into Him and be confident in knowing that we are not alone. How wonderful is it that we have a merciful God? A God whom we can lean on “so that we may receive mercy and find grace.” Jesus is God with us and is our voice in times when we feel we cannot speak out loud or when we cannot communicate our thoughts, fears and frustrations. He is there in our time of weakness and sin and when we are our greatest critics. In this time, we must communicate. We must communicate with Him in prayer and allow Him to fill our Hearts while speaking openly and honestly for He is the Great High Priest. With this season of Lent upon us, I encourage you to take the time to stop, listen and open yourself up to God regularly, so that your relationship may be strong and built upon the foundation of open communication. TAYLOR DILLON Admissions Coordinator Office of Admissions
TUESDAY, MARCH 7 Psalm 32 Genesis 4:1–6 Hebrews 2:10–18 In this season of reflection and prayer, I find myself lacking just that: reflection and prayer, and if I’m being completely honest, I probably should have spent more time in reflecting upon these passages. In the midst of holiday travels, long shopping lines and the closing of a year, it is easy to get caught up in the chaos of it all. David in Psalm 32 takes a moment to literally offer up his praises, as he was known for his musical abilities. As I read through this passage, there seems to be a shift that takes place. Verses 1 through 4 are a cry for help, as David is literally in turmoil. The conflict of what he needs and what needs to happen are clearly put. Then in verse 5 the shift begins, with David providing a step-by-step process for how we can invite Christ to be a part of our struggle. If we “acknowledge” and don’t hide, if we confess and communicate, then our “transgressions” will be forgiven. At this point in verse 6, the tone seems to change, with David not only acknowledging His comfort, but also stating the promises He believes in. Phrases such as “You are my hiding place” and “you will protect me from trouble,” contain a deeper meaning simply because David spent much time hiding from the terrors of those attempting to kill Him. Therefore, for this person to say such a statement truly carries a different level of weight. As I reflect, some of David’s words, and the inner conflict he shows, can be quite relatable. The definition of the word “reflection” in the noun form is “the act of reflecting, as in casting back a light or heat, mirroring, or giving back or showing an image.” This act of reflection seems to take place between verses 1–4 and then 5–7. Our God will protect us. He will forgive us. He will accept us. But we must first acknowledge that which must not be “kept silent.” For when we lack the reflection, we “cover up our iniquity.” In a season in which is purposed to grow closer with God, may we not forget to recognize our intense need for Him. DAVID FRIEDRICHS Residence Director, Dickens Hall Office of Residence Life
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8 Psalm 32 Exodus 34:1–9, 27–28 Matthew 18:10–14 When I read Psalm 32, I feel very much connected to the journey that the psalmist is spiritually navigating. As a student, I often try to manage my future with my own desires, expectations and hopes. In some way, everyone can relate to this writer whose strength has become dried up and whose doubts, troubles and mistakes have become very heavy. In admitting our sins and difficulties to God, we are greeted with acceptance and forgiveness. It is written, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover in my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Following this confession, the psalmist feels relief, security and strength from the Lord. When we acknowledge our inability to control our lives, we find that a steadfast love surrounds us and gives us comfort and peace. In Exodus, we learn about the nature of the God that reaches back to us. When God enters the scene with Moses, the whole dynamic changes. “A God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” This is a God who wants to journey with us through our difficulties and accept us in the reality of our flaws. He is powerful despite our failed expectations and inherent flaws; the Lord our God has mercy and grace on us, love and faithfulness for us. God knows that we will become weary but gives us His word and promises to lean on when we find ourselves bound by the heartache of the world. Matthew 18 offers a beautiful image of God’s joyful and welcoming nature. Spiritual highs and lows may cause us to feel like the sheep that falls away. When we do have these moments of uncertainty, God doesn’t reprimand us but instead welcomes us back with joy and acceptance. God rejoices when we choose to acknowledge our flaws and put our trust in Him. Through our heartaches, mistakes and disappointments, God is there to greet us in prayer and walk with us through the journey. MARY BARBER Sophomore Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major
THURSDAY, MARCH 9 Psalm 121 Isaiah 51:1–3 2 Timothy 1:3–7 Many people might find reason to dread Lent because they see it as a season of avoiding. Some avoid social media while others avoid sweets. Some take a Lenten promise to do something extra every day, be it expressing gratitude or reading the Bible. Some hold steadfast traditions which forego meat on Fridays and still others do nothing but acknowledge Ash Wednesday, if they do anything, that is. Whatever your personal tradition is, the Lenten season should be one of remembrance, reflection, preparation and confession. It is a season of our personal sacrifices and of commemoration of the greatest one—Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. And it seems to me that the root of the Lenten season is one of refocusing our sights, needs and affections on Christ Jesus. In the day-to-day bustle of the 21st century, the world moves quickly. We rush from place to place, fill our schedules past the brim, ignore responsible sleep schedules and drive over the speed limit. We lack patience and, sometimes, kindness. The majority of us have seemingly all the answers to every question in the palm of our hands. So often, we find ourselves forgetting what’s important. Family. Friendship. And the first thing for so many of us to forget, I find, is that God is with us always. Watching us always. Supporting us always. Assisting us, always. We might find it easy to forget about our faith except in times when life feels like a storm; we need help from our God, so we look to our God. But God sent His Son to absolve us of our sins, so that we might live in His glory eternally—not just when life is difficult. We owe our lives and our undying attention to such an extravagant gift. God does not slumber as He keeps us from all harm. He does not sleep so that He might perpetually watch us. Might we not try to return the favor? In this season of remembrance and preparation for Jesus’s greatest sacrifice, I urge you to remember to lift your eyes towards God a bit more often. God gives us strength and wisdom, joy and gladness, shade and protection. There is thanks to be given for the love and power that He blesses us with. And we are so unconditionally and undyingly loved by our Father that we owe Him unending appreciation. ABI INGLIS Junior Music Business Major
FRIDAY, MARCH 10 Psalm 121 Micah 7:18–20 Romans 2:21–31 If we are honest with ourselves, I think many of us struggle to believe the words of the prophet Micah we read in today’s passage. Deep within our souls, we do not fully trust that God delights in showing mercy and has compassion toward us. Maybe we believe that He pardons our sin, but does so begrudgingly. We do not believe that God is actually for our good and delights in demonstrating mercy and grace. This lack of belief that God is for us leads to a lack of true repentance. When we have an image of God as a cantankerous old man waiting to reprimand us for the unreasonable expectations He has set then we find it very difficult to turn toward God in obedience. The ways of God, or the “law,” as Paul puts it, become a place of stress and anxiety, reminders that make us feel as though we are a disappointment to God. Often we create an unnecessary dichotomy between law and grace and feel as though we must submit to one over the other. However, Paul reminds us that God’s grace is not opposed to His commands, but instead grace brings God’s way of living into new light. Fundamental to Paul’s argument in Romans is the fact that God is merciful and for our good, inviting us into something sacred and beyond anything we could ever hope for. We read in Psalm 121 that God is our keeper and works tirelessly to keep us from evil. God wants us to become whole people who experience the abundant life. When we believe that God is fundamentally for our good and not simply waiting to damn us to Hell, then our disposition toward His commandments shifts. Repentance, then, is not coming to God with our proverbial tail tucked between our legs bracing ourselves to be wacked with a stick. Rather, repentance is a joyful return home and willing embrace of the rhythms of grace God mercifully invites us into. JOSH RIEDEL Assistant Director of Spiritual Formation University Ministries
SATURDAY, MARCH 11 Psalm 121 Isaiah 51:4–8 Luke 7:1–10 We are nearly one quarter of the way through Lent. The daily rhythm of evaluating our lives and cleaning out spiritual debris is helping prepare us for Easter. There is a long way to go, though. Saturdays have always been errand days for me. Monday through Friday are workdays filled with the insane to-do list items of responsibility. Sunday is worship and hopefully set aside for rest and reflection. Saturday, though, is about cleaning things up, taking care of odd jobs around the house and catching up on overdue tasks. This makes Saturday a particularly good Lenten day and our scripture texts specifically encourage us for a Saturday kind of day. Our Psalm 121 reminds us to “lift our eyes toward the mountains” because our “help comes from the LORD” (vs. 1–2). “The LORD protects us” and is “right by our side” to “protect us from all harm” wherever we go in life (vs. 5, 7–8). Isaiah 51:4-8 calls the reader to pay attention to God because instruction will come from God since God’s righteousness and salvation are near (vs. 4–5). The scripture reminds us not to fear disgrace by others because God’s “righteousness will last forever and God’s salvation is for all generations” (v. 8). Then our Gospel text sets before us the story about a powerful centurion unable to help his dying slave. He turned to Jesus and said, “Say the word, and my servant will be cured” (Luke 7.7). What is on your list of things to clean up today? What to do items are on your spiritual needs list? What have you been carrying for a long time that needs addressing? This is the season and this is a day for lifting our eyes toward the source of our help and calling to the one who stands beside us. This is the time for us to reach out to the salvation of God at our side. This is the time to call out to God and say, “Lord, just say the word and heal me.” This Lenten season, today, continue the good work of cleaning up the spiritual debris scattered among your life. Easter is waiting for you. DARRELL GWALTNEY Dean College of Theology & Christian Ministry
SUNDAY, MARCH 12 (Second Sunday of Lent) Psalm 121 Genesis 12:1–4a Romans 4:1–5, 13–17 John 3:1–17 Scripture seems to be full of stories of people who are asked to step out in faith and trust that God will do what God has said will be done. These stories call us to believe that God will show up in the difficult places and tell us that we can put our hope in that. We see this in the lives of Abraham and Nicodemus, whose stories are found in our scriptures for today. Abraham was called to leave his land, his people, his livestock, everything that he had to follow the call of God. He had a choice to make—would he follow, trusting that God would keep God’s promises, or would he stay because he wasn’t sure about what would happen? For Abraham, this didn’t happen once; he experienced it over and over again in his life. Each time, he had a choice to make—would he step out in faith or stay behind because he wasn’t sure. Nicodemus was a Pharisee. He had heard about Jesus, and he knew that he was not supposed to like or trust Jesus. But still he chose to come to him in secret to find out for himself who Jesus was and what he was all about. The things that Jesus said to him that night must have seemed a bit far-fetched, crazy even. As he heard the words of Jesus, he had a choice to make: would he believe what he was hearing or return to his community a skeptic? Many of us have our own stories to match those of Abraham and Nicodemus. We hear the call of God asking us to go somewhere, to step out in faith, to put our trust in God—and we must decide what we will do. We have questions about who God is, and when we are shown the answers, we must decide how we will respond. The good news of these stories is that God keeps God’s promises to Abraham, and that Jesus proves to be exactly who he told Nicodemus he was. So when we find ourselves at a crossroads in life, when we must choose what we will believe and who we will follow, we can look back at these stories and remember that God is faithful, we can be assured that we can put our trust in God, we can know that it is okay to hope in God’s work in our lives as we step out in faith. God has always been faithful to God’s people, and God will continue to be faithful in your life. HEATHER DAUGHERTY University Minister University Ministries
MONDAY, MARCH 13 Psalm 128 Numbers 21:4–9 Hebrews 3:1–6 In church when the creation stories of Genesis are discussed, we tend to hear about them in the past tense, understandably considering English translations use the phrases “God created the heavens and the earth” and “God made humans in his likeness.” Though we don’t always realize it, the simplest choice in diction can make all the difference in a person’s understanding, and this was definitely true for me. Having read these tales and listened to pastors describe this past constructing of the earth certainly made it seem that God, though still active in the world, had moved on from creating. He gave the blueprints for the structure of earth and the initial beings to inhabit it, and then, He stepped out of His role as Creator. However, the designated passages for today portray a different story. Not only do they describe God as “the builder of everything” that has been established in the past, they assert with confidence that God “will create new Heavens and a new earth,” projecting His actions into a future time. So we see that God is not yet done in His creation process. Similarly, if God is the ultimate builder and “we are His house,” God is still building, creating and shaping us into a dwelling place capable of housing the peace, hope and love He desires for us. The Lenten season is part of that creating and building process. During this time, we “fix [our] thoughts on Jesus” and His sacrifice, the foundation on which God is building us, by discovering what it means for us to sacrifice. When we sacrifice and reflect on its connection to Jesus’s sacrifice, we make room for the materials (faith, gratitude and confidence in Christ, to name a few) that can help form a more solidly structured “house” than one founded on our own strength and actions. God is using our experiences, whether they be filled with hope and abundance or heartache and want, all of which may occur both in and outside of the Lenten season, to create us and assist us in becoming what He intends for us to be. So then, let us be aware this Lenten season of how our sacrifices, so minimal in comparison to the grand gesture of Jesus Christ, are being used by God to create in us a stronger foundation for His “house.” ALLISON HARDEE Senior Mathematics Major
TUESDAY, MARCH 14 Psalm 128 Isaiah 65:17–25 Romans 4:6–13 In Psalm 128, those who fear the Lord are blessed with land brimming with crops, a house filled with the merriment of children and an enviously lengthy life to enjoy it all. The prophet Isaiah describes a future with a new heaven and a new earth. “New,” because unlike what we experience in our present day, there is no pain and suffering, injustice or strife, but instead continual praise, gladness and lasting joy. In Romans, Paul says the ultimate blessing from God is salvation, when sins are forgiven and a new life with God is born. But before we can look forward to the beauty of heaven and experience the blessing of a relationship with God, Jesus had to die. Jesus humbled himself and stepped down from heaven, a place where he experienced perfect peace and communion with his father. On the earth he was mocked, discredited and unjustly accused. His life of suffering culminated with the excruciating agony of hanging on a cross, dying a death he didn’t deserve and experiencing separation from his father. The perfect Son of God died the death of a cursed sinner. Why would he willingly do this? In the Gospel of John, Jesus answers that his sole purpose was to do the will of his Father. Motivated by love, God knew that the only way his holiness could be reconciled with our sinfulness was through a perfect sacrifice being made. And by faith, Jesus’ death becomes our way to experience true life as it was originally intended. His righteousness becomes our righteousness, and his holiness our holiness. Therefore, there remains a future hope of glory with God that can never be taken away. Just as Abraham was credited with righteousness because of his faith, before his good works, we too are counted as righteous because of our faith in Jesus apart from and prior to anything good that we have to offer. Until our glorious presence with God is fulfilled, we wait patiently in faith and hope. Although the circumstances of life may at times bring with it suffering, pain and injustice, we remain steadfast that our purpose here is to also do the will of our Heavenly Father. This life is not all that there is and things don’t always happen the way that they should. Yet, for those who believe, there will come a time and place where peace, justice, and incredible abundance reign. Our new life in Christ is just a foretaste of what is surely to come. Rejoice! ELENA WONG ESPIRITU & RODNEY ESPIRITU School of Occupational Therapy College of Health Sciences
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15 Psalm 128 Ezekiel 36:22–32 John 7:53–8:11 In life, I prefer clear-cut distinctions. I prefer breakfast and lunch, not brunch. In today’s Lenten reading in John 7:53–8:11, I find myself tempted to make similar distinctions. I want to make the story all about the Pharisees inability to have compassion or the woman’s adulterous ways. But on second glance, maybe this story is about both. Maybe this story offers us a “brunch perspective.” Maybe the woman caught in adultery and the Pharisees have both stumbled onto something that the other needs. Each character holds a piece of reality, but needs the other to offer a more complete picture. Maybe compassion, obedience and forgiveness are all part of the story, and Jesus stands in the middle and offers the change everyone needs. This brings us to the words in Ezekiel, “I am here to give you a new heart and a new spirit.” God seems to be in the business of transformation. He takes those bits and pieces in our life that are broken and creates something beautiful. He takes our half of the story and transforms it, pushing us into a larger understanding of life and love. God often uses other characters in our own stories to provide us with other perspectives that reveal more full ways of living. If I am honest, transformation scares me. It is awkward and makes me uncomfortable. It reminds me of my middle school days—trying to find myself in a new way of living that doesn’t yet seem natural or authentic. But transformation is essential to our story of redemption, and if I am going to fully enter this story, it might be time to befriend transformation. So for today, as we continue in the Lenten season, let us lean into transformation. Lord, give us the courage to loosen our grip on things that are not of you and let us receive with open hands what is of you. Help us to notice the other characters in the story. Help us to learn from the other characters in the story. Renew our hearts, renew our spirits and transform us for your glory. Amen. RYAN HOLT Director of New Student Orientation Programs Division of Student Affairs
THURSDAY, MARCH 16 Psalm 95 Exodus 16:1–8 Colossians 1:16–23 When I studied the scriptures mentioned above, I was compelled to perform a selfevaluation of my life. I had to ponder some serious questions about how I am living my life. Am I complaining about where God is leading me and the purpose He has already laid out for me? Am I showing gratitude daily, if for nothing else Him allowing me to open my eyes every morning? Am I praising His name and lifting Him up regardless of the circumstances happening around me? You see, earlier in my walk I could not answer all these questions in the affirmative. I was too busy trying to take control of my life and everything in it. I complained, murmured and was ungrateful about things happening to me that I thought were unfair. Then God reminded me of His death, burial and resurrection. Even though He was sinless, He still made the greatest sacrifice of all so that not only me but the entire world could live eternally by His side. This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way and I don’t believe that I am alone in this. I had to yield my will to God and submit to His purpose knowing that He is and will always be in control of everything. I learned you can’t be sad, depressed or worried and praise God at the same time. We have to do our part by having faith and trusting in His truthful promises. I now know how blessed I am even though I wasn’t doing the things I was instructed to. God was gracious and waited patiently to watch over me until I turned back to Him. In this season of Lent I encourage you to worry less, love more and treasure every special moment knowing that it is already done. Rest assured that God is in control and has designed a purpose unique to each of our lives. May God continue to bless you as we seek Him for all things. GARY B. HUNTER, SR. Telecommunications Services Manager Office of Telecommunications
FRIDAY, MARCH 17 Psalm 95 Exodus 16:9–21 Ephesians 2:11–22 During this season of Lent, let us use today to reflect on the faithfulness of God. As discussed in Exodus 16, the Israelites were traveling from Egypt to the Promise Land. Along their journey, they had cravings for bread and meat and cried out to God to satisfy their desires. Despite much unbelief and grumbling, God was quick to faithfully provide. The Lord sent meat and bread from the clouds to nourish His people. Often times, this text is used to highlight the disbelief and dishonoring actions of the Israelites, but it is also a beautiful picture of the unconditional love and faithfulness of God. The Lord did not punish them for testing Him and grumbling against Him, but rather was quick to lavishly provide for their needs. As stated in Ephesians 2:12–13, “You were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and stranger to the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Just as God faithfully provided to the Israelites despite their trying hearts, He unconditionally provides redemption to the world through the blood of Christ. Though we were once strangers, He welcomes us in to become one with Him. God is faithful to extend Himself despite our preceding conditions. Take a moment to reflect. Are there ways you find yourself working for the favor and blessing of God? Do you believe that you have to meet certain “standards” before you receive the love and faithfulness of God? These blessing have already been given to you through the blood of Jesus. There is nothing that you can say or do to earn the faithful blessings of God; Jesus already purchased that for you on the cross. This news should be incredibly freeing. Today, seek to understand and trust in the faithfulness of God’s unconditional love within your life. CIARA HUBER Senior Management Major
SATURDAY, MARCH 18 Psalm 95 Exodus 16:27–35 John 4:1–6 “For 40 years I was angry…” That is God talking in Psalm 95 about His attitude toward His people, Israel: “They are a people whose hearts go astray.” Not only did God’s anger last for four decades, it never really ended; the people He was mad at just finally died in the desert—unrepentant. Psalm 95 ends with this statement: “I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” The finality of God’s judgment is not something we like to ponder. But Lent is a 40 day period where we try to be especially open to God’s rousing us from our wishful thinking, so that the Holy Spirit can help us see why God might be angry with us, and then let God’s Holy Spirit change us so we are living lives more pleasing to Him. God does this only for our good, for “we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care.” Yet this concept of conforming our lives to what pleases “the Lord, our Maker,” is a radical departure from the age-old lie that we are free to live in whatever ways we are comfortable with. That self-deception was prevalent in ancient Israel, and has remained popular among God’s people in the New Testament era. In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author compares God’s anger toward ancient Israel with how God feels about disobedience in the new Israel— the Church: “How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has regarded as an unholy thing the blood of the Covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:29). It is clear that God does not take our lust, greed, anger, pride, sloth, gluttony and envy less seriously now that Jesus has died for us—God takes it even more seriously! God is eager to forgive our sins and help us become what He longs for us to be, but if anyone mistakes God’s grace for the pseudo-freedom of living however we please: “they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to public disgrace.” (Hebrews 6:6) The joyful alternative is to live lives of childlike obedience as we “sing for joy to the Lord… shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation, come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with song!” TODD LAKE Vice President for Spiritual Development
SUNDAY, MARCH 19 (Third Sunday of Lent) Psalm 95 Exodus 17:1–7 Romans 5:1–11 John 4:5–42 “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” When you think about it, our lives are filled with a series of progressions. We learn to crawl before we learn to walk. We graduate from the bottle to solid food. We learn our multiplication tables before we attempt to tackle algebra. We spend time dating before we even consider marriage. There are things that must come before others can. These steps serve as a foundation for the next to be built upon. I am reminded of the importance of progression by this passage in Romans. We would never conceive of the notion that suffering alone leads to hope. When we find ourselves in the midst of suffering, the last thing we usually feel is hopeful! It is, however, the progression of suffering-to perseverance-to character that leads to hope. Each of these experiences is necessary to allow space for the next. They are intricately woven together—each dependent on the former as a foundation for existence. But it is so easy to get lost in the progression. When the process of suffering to hope takes longer than we want it to, we are often blinded to the ways we are being transformed along the way. We become stuck at some point along the way. The Lenten season is also a progression. As we prepare for Holy Week, some foundations must be in place. Our reflection and self-denial are important steps that allow space for the full acknowledgement of the Cross. We cannot expect to simply be prepared any more than we can journey directly from suffering to hope. Lent is filled with intricately woven expressions that the celebration of Easter morning is built upon. We journey through them with the understanding that they are necessary. An Easter without the Lenten progression is simply an arranged marriage. It is a celebration without the crucial progression of relationship and a commitment without full disclosure. We must embrace those things that happen along the journey that give significance to the destination of sacrifice. As we find ourselves in the midst of the Lenten season, may we fully embrace each step as a necessary one in our own preparation. Father, help us to persevere and allow space for fullness of the Cross. Help us to not get lost in the progression of this season but to permit each step to serve as a foundation for the next. Amen. CHRISTY RIDINGS Director of Spiritual Formation University Ministries 21
MONDAY, MARCH 20 Psalm 81 Genesis 24:1–27 2 John 1–13 In so many instances and in so many ways we see the faithfulness and the provision of our loving God. In Genesis 24 we see just one instance of God’s faithfulness His word. God had previously promised to make Abraham a great nation, bless him abundantly and bless others through him. Having lived a long blessed life, Abraham was determined to see his son married to the right person. He knew that if Isaac continued the life of obedience and loyalty to God that had been modeled for him that he and his descendants too would be blessed. God yet again shows himself as Abraham’s faithful provider by answering the prayer of his servant. This most trusted servant was determined to fulfill his commitment to his master and find the perfect wife for his son Isaac. His prayer to the God of Abraham was simple: provide the perfect wife for Isaac and give me the wisdom to be able to identify her. God’s response was immediate. He faithfully provided an answer to a servant’s prayer and a wife for Abraham’s son. God yet again showed Himself faithful to the word He’d spoken to Abraham so many years before. When I think of God’s promises to Abraham and His faithfulness to His word, I am also reminded of the example that Abraham modeled for me. In order to be obedient to the word of God, Abraham left his native country, his relatives and his father’s family. In Psalm 81 God reminds us to never have a foreign god, not to bow down before a false god. God rescued us from our “native” land and blessed us with many good things. Like Abraham, we must not return to that which we have been rescued from. Even now, God is still fulfilling the promise of His word to Abraham…”all the families of the earth will be blessed through you.” Through Abraham God blessed all the families of the earth with His most precious gift, His only begotten Son. It is when we receive this gift that we receive life and light. Our goal, our challenge, is to live out lives in the light, in truth and in love. In 2 John we are reminded that there are many deceivers in the world. We must be alert so that we do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve; to be diligent so that we receive the fullness of our reward. Like the servant of Abraham if we require assistance we only need to ask the God of Abraham and He will faithfully provide. ANGIE BRYANT Assistant Dean of Students Division of Student Affairs
TUESDAY, MARCH 21 Psalm 81 Genesis 29:1–14 1 Corinthians 10:1–4 “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1–4) During this season of Jesus’ temptation and time in the wilderness, we are called to look at our own difficulties and trials of this current season. Something the Lord calls His people to do time and time again is to remember. Remembering from whence they came and how He had so faithfully delivered them. He carried His people out of Egypt, through the sea, and called them to remember that act each and every year. Lent is a time where we, too, need to look back and remember the Lord’s faithfulness. Remember the times you thought you weren’t going to make it, and you did. The times you felt so uncomfortable you wanted to throw up, and you survived. Remember the times when you thought God wasn’t there and He showed Himself. Know that the God that has been with you your whole life is the one that walks by your side right now and loves you. Remember the times He has been faithful to you and let that preserve you and strengthen you. The Lord’s faithfulness exists in different ways in our lives and His love for us is enduring. In long seasons of wandering and dry, arid deserts we must call our hearts to remember the God that we serve and how He has shown up in our lives—creating small “red seas” (tokens of remembrance) in our lives. The God that took the Israelites out of Egypt is the same God that poured water forth from the rock, the same God that bled forth and died on the cross, and the same God who dwells within us (those moved and changed by His saving grace). We serve a God who provides and a God who is faithful. Where have you seen that lately? Where have you seen Him in your life? What is He calling you to remember in this season? He is with you, He is nourishing you, His blood was poured out for you, fall upon Him, cast your cares upon Him, because He loves you. NATHAN ARNOLD Senior Social Entrepreneurship Major
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 22 Psalm 81 Jeremiah 2:4–13 John 7:14–31; 37–39 One of my favorite books to teach in the Christian tradition is Confessions by St. Augustine, who lived during the 4th century in the time of the decline of the Roman Empire. Augustine’s story is that of a young person who is filled with passions. He loves to hang out with friends, steal fruit from neighbors’ farms, go to stage and gladiator shows, and above all to drink, eat and carouse. Why does human nature cause people to prefer the wrong path? Eventually, of course, Augustine renounces his life of gluttony and sensual pleasure and commits himself to a path that leads to God through Christ after reading Paul’s letter to the Romans. But the question is one that endures: if we know the right thing to do, why is it that we often turn away from the good things in life and prefer things that irritate, separate and divide us? The Greek philosophers had a word for this: akrasia. It means the decision to choose the wrong path when we consciously know that it is not the correct choice. Sometimes, the choice of turning away from God is due to a predominance of emotion over reason. The Psalmist praises God while singing and playing the tambourine, lyre, harp and trumpet. But the bottom line is that we understood that the Lord is our God. We know that He brought us out of the land of Egypt and promised to stop our hunger, but we disobey. The psalmist writes that we do not submit, but follow our own stubborn whims. Our obedience would mean receiving “the finest of wheat” and “honey from the rock,” but too often we insist on our own selfish needs just like Augustine preferred the company of his wild friends to that of Ambrose and Alypius. Jeremiah similarly laments the fact the ancestors went from God and pursued worthless trivialities instead of looking into the heart of the matter. Jeremiah writes that God led the Israelites into a plentiful land with fruits and good harvests, but the people desecrated it and worshipped Baal. Instead of pursuing “the fountain of living waters,” the people had forsaken God and dug out barren cisterns. The final passage for today from 1 Corinthians comes right after Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul embraces the same imagery of eating food offered to idols instead of being “baptized into Moses” and drinking from the spiritual rock that is Christ. My prayer is that you turn away from darkness, drink of the living waters and embrace the light that is Christ today. JONATHAN THORNDIKE Director of the Honors Program
THURSDAY, MARCH 23 Psalm 23 1 Samuel 15:10–21 Ephesians 4:25–32 I was certain when I read the scripture readings for this devotional that there was some mistake! Why would I be asked to write a Lenten devotional on 1 Samuel 15:10–21? I wanted to write about the season of newness, of the upcoming renewal we find in this time of forgiveness and contemplation. The text in Samuel refers the reader to the story of Samuel and Saul: Saul has disobeyed God’s directive and in the following verses, Samuel must tell Saul that God is displeased with his disobedience. So what does this have to do with Lent, with the season where we anticipate the Risen Savior? Following after Christ is often being obedient even when we may not want to be obedient. Obeying God’s commandments may seem easy to us when we consider the Ten Commandments: I do not murder, I do not steal, I am faithful to my husband. I assume most of us do pretty well in these categories, but also in today’s reading we are reminded by Paul in Ephesians 4 to “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” These directives may be more difficult for us; in this same chapter, Paul reminds us to “build one another up” to not let the “sun go down on our anger.” We have gone through a season of division even among families and friends whom we love; these scripture are a sweet reminder that obedience is being like Christ himself. When we forgive, we are like Christ; when we are kind, we are like Christ. As we anticipate the season of renewal, may we be reminded of that as we forgive others, as we love others, as we are kind to others (even those we disagree with) we are being Christ to them and we are being obedient to the one who was obedient even to death. BETH HALLMARK Director of Simulation College of Health Sciences and Nursing
FRIDAY, MARCH 24 Psalm 23 1 Samuel 15:22–31 Ephesians 5:1–9 I feel like Lent is often a misunderstood tradition. Too often I see people giving up something they consider a luxury to try and make more time for God but they end up filling that time with something else. Too often, that something else is complaints. But God doesn’t want us sacrificing something if it won’t bring us closer to Him. 1 Samuel 15:22 says, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice.” God is after your heart, and He has been since the day you were born. He made you and He wants to spend time with you. I want to challenge you to use the time you gain from what you give up and spend it listening for the voice of the Lord. I know it’s hard and too often He seems silent, but as Psalm 23 teaches us, God is always guiding us. He leads us beside quiet waters and is with us in the valley of the shadow of death. He loves us and He comforts us, so much so that He paid for you with the blood of His son. That’s what this season is about. That is what every season is about. The wonderful love of a gracious God who “gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2). The sacrifice has already been made. The debt has been paid. Nothing you do can make you in more right-standing with God, because He already made you His child. Therefore don’t spend this time focusing on the sacrifice you are making, but on the sacrifice He made. Spend some time with the King over all kings, for He knows you and He wants you to know Him as well. Lord open up our hearts to receive your peace, and open our ears to hear your words. JOSHUA STARK Senior Computer Science Major
SATURDAY, MARCH 25 Isaiah 7:10–14 Psalm 45 Hebrews 10:4–10 Luke 1:26–38 The Lenten season offers us a space to think about sacrifice. Although most of us do not come from traditions where sacrifice is a part of our everyday worship experiences, during Lent we are invited to consider this seemingly obscure notion of our faith. Undoubtedly when we do consider this notion, we almost instinctively place ourselves in the role of “sacrificer.” We ponder the ways we sacrifice our time, our money and our resources. What do we bring to the table in any given situation? What are we willing to deny ourselves to provide our offering? However, we are challenged during Lent to acknowledge how inadequate we really are when it comes to sacrifice. In Hebrews we read: “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (Hebrews 10:8). We are reminded that even with the best intentions, even with the most significant cost to ourselves, even when we do so in accordance with the law—we still come up short. Thus, we move from the giver to the receiver. Any sacrifice we can claim to make only illuminates for us the larger sacrifice made by Christ in His words “Here I Am.” Our sacrifices could never warrant what has been made ours through the cross. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10) CHRISTY RIDINGS Director of Spiritual Formation University Ministries
SUNDAY, MARCH 26 (Fourth Sunday of Lent) 1 Samuel 16:1–13 Psalm 23 Ephesians 5:8–14 John 9:1–41 The passage from John today is one of my favorite stories in the Gospels. I love the blind man’s honesty about who he knows Jesus to be. The religious leaders try to force him into a theological debate about whether or not Jesus is a sinner and the blind man sidesteps the whole issue with a brilliant response. He tells them “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” He doesn’t know with certainty who Jesus is, but he does know that Jesus healed his vision. He had eyes to see Jesus for who he was and therefore found healing. The irony of this story is that those with physical sight are blind to who Jesus was and the one who was physically blind saw who Jesus was. Jesus made claims and did things that shook up the social order and upset expectations, and therefore didn’t fit into the framework that some of the religious leaders had made. The blind man on the other hand allowed whatever framework he had be reshaped by who Jesus revealed Himself to be. We face the same challenge today that the blind man faced then. We often feel forced, or force ourselves, to have a watertight response to every theological issue that arises. We struggle to sit in the tension between what we know and what we are uncertain about. Instead God calls us to bear witness to all that is “good and right and true” even if we don’t grasp the full picture, and perhaps especially when it challenges our current framework. In this season of Lent, I pray that we find the grace to loosen our white-knuckled grip on our current understanding of Jesus and let Him reveal Himself in new ways. JOSH RIEDEL Assistant Director of Spiritual Formation University Ministries
MONDAY, MARCH 27 Psalm 146 Isaiah 59:9–19 Acts 9:1–20 One of the most difficult lessons I’ve had to learn over the course of my life is that sometimes, even those who identify as people of God can make mistakes and do something terribly wrong despite good intentions. Saul is an extreme example, a man who persecuted and killed Christians in the name of his religious beliefs, operating as man who likely saw himself as a great reformer of God called by the high priest for whom he worked. And yet, even commissioned by a priest, Saul was not doing right by God at all. In each of these passages there is an emphasis on righteousness, a call to be morally sound in action. For many years of my life, I believed “good intentions” and “righteousness” to be synonymous. But every day, people discriminate against and oppress other human beings for their identities, who they love, their religion, their lack of rack of religion, all with good intentions stemming from what they believe to be right. And at the end of the day, oppressing any human being is not morally sound, discrimination for any reason never righteous. Good intentions do not guarantee righteousness, and they don’t matter at the end of the day when wrongdoing takes place. As someone who grew up around many different interpretations of religion, I have made this mistake, oppressing others simply because they did not believe in my God or because they had been born with a different identity than those I traditionally knew. I had good intentions, but that does not change the fact I hurt people, and acted without righteousness. It was actually during Lent, one of the best times to answer God’s call to reflection, that I was finally able to see the error of my ways and realize that I wasn’t doing what God would do in my place. God is a God that advocates for all, including if not especially the oppressed (as mentioned in our psalm).God loves all equally and could never discriminate against those creations whom He loves. And though God didn’t blind me and knock me off a horse to see my mistakes like He did Saul, He did find His way into my thoughts during those reflections and invite me to think simply about if at the end of the day, my actions were righteous. And that, combined with God’s great forgiveness and mercy, changed my life. I invite each of you during this time to reflect in the same way, to examine your actions simply in the lens of righteousness. And, if you aren’t exactly doing the right thing by God as I unfortunately was doing several years ago, take comfort in the message from this passage. That God truly accepts all righteous hearts, regardless of what the bearers of those hearts may have done in the past. And He will show you the righteous way to love if you only open up your heart. Pray, friends, that He opens up all our hearts.
HOPE GIPSON Junior Audio Engineering/Social Entrepreneurship Major 29
TUESDAY, MARCH 28 Psalm 146 Isaiah 42:14–21 Colossians 1:9–14 I love these last few psalms, a collection of beautiful variations on the repeating theme of “Hallelujah!” (Hebrew for “Praise Yahweh!”). Psalm 146 is no exception, opening with a double hallelujah: Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! But then the songwriter of Psalm 146 goes somewhere a little different—a warning not to put our hope in princes and other human leaders, for they will fade away, the same as any of the rest of us, frail beings of dust that we are (146:3–4). Rather, the psalmist calls us to trust in Yahweh, the LORD, and spends the rest of the song extoling the virtues of our God. Our God, the one we praise, is characterized in this psalm primarily as Creator and Liberator, who made everything we see (146:6). This God, the one we are called to follow, offers justice to the oppressed, food for the hungry, freedom for the captives, sight to the blind, hope for those who are bowed down or crushed or marginalized by the walls we humans constantly put up between those who are “different” from us (146:7–8). This God, the one in whom we trust, watches over the stranger and the foreigner in our land, the orphan and the widow, those with no one to speak for them (146:9). This God is the one who will reign forever (146:10). Hallelujah indeed! This God is our hope and the one whom we are called to emulate. No matter how much human politics and human love of power try to sell us a different story—that God is only for us, only for me and mine, that God is embodied in human rulers, that God thinks it’s okay to shut out everyone who looks or thinks or speaks differently from my own personal experience. This is what the world tries to tell us, but that is not the God we sing of in Psalm 146. Colossian 1:9–14, the New Testament reading for today, reminds us that the God of the Psalm 146 continues to call us to live our lives worthy of our faith and the grace that we have received—to bear fruit out of our ever-deepening knowledge of this God who is characterized by His love for the other, the least of these, the “heretics” and the “sinners” in eyes of humans. May we indeed be strong and joyful as we share in the work of our LORD. Hallelujah. AMANDA C. MILLER Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies College of Theology & Christian Ministry
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 29 Psalm 146 Isaiah 60:17–22 Matthew 9:27–34 The scripture passages today orient us toward the reality of God’s coming Kingdom. The author of Isaiah paints a picture of a world so radiant with the light of God that the sun and moon become obsolete. The psalmist reminds us that God cares deeply about the poor and oppressed, and while the blind, imprisoned, hungry and widow still exist today, one day everything will be made whole and justice will rule. The oppressors will finally reap the seeds of wickedness they have sown all their lives and all wrongs will be made right. We see glimpses of this coming Kingdom in the life and ministry of Jesus. In the Gospel passage today, we find Jesus bringing the blind sight and liberating the possessed. If we pay attention, we too can find windows that let in the light in our own ordinary lives. Racial reconciliation, welcoming the refugee and standing in solidarity with marginalized people groups are all moments in which the Kingdom of God breaks in, even if just for a moment. However, we live in a world in which many people, religious and “non-religious” alike, scoff at the reality of God’s kingdom. In God’s economy the “least” and the “smallest” are those who will become great. The attitude of the religious leaders accusing Jesus of using demonic power is often the attitude many of us hold today. Too often we do not want to relinquish what little power we think we have. We do not want to submit to the rule of a King who turns our notions of who is worthy and unworthy on its head. The question we must ask ourselves today is will we live by the rule of God’s Kingdom? Will we seek racial justice in our communities? Will we welcome the stranger in a time of need? Will we give up our power and privilege so that others might experience the smallest taste of God’s coming kingdom? My prayer is that the answer to those questions becomes yes more often than not and we place our hope in the one whose way is just and rule is righteous. KIRSTEN RIEDEL Residence Director, Heron Hall Office of Residence Life
THURSDAY, MARCH 30 Psalm 146 Isaiah 60:17–22 Matthew 9:27–34 The Lenten season is a time for self-reflection—a season to think beyond ourselves and toward Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. We are also reminded of our never-ending anticipation of the coming of Christ. We look forward. We anticipate. We long for the coming of the Messiah. And yet we live the routines of each day with the challenges we place upon ourselves coupled with the expectations of others, all while struggling with how much importance we should place on our earthly pursuits. After all, we live within a university community where thousands of students focus on their daily studies in expectation of successful careers and a lifetime of continuous learning. Many of us plan to leverage the intellect, resources and commitment to serving others for years to come. But as Christians, our ultimate hope does not rest in how we conquer the challenges that come and go with each 24 hour period, nor is our vision limited to the impact we can and should make during the years we walk this earth. Matthew Henry summarizes well how Psalm 146 speaks to us: “If it is our delight to praise the Lord while we live, we shall certainly praise Him to all eternity. With this glorious prospect before us, how low do worldly pursuits seem!” “Eternity” is a familiar concept for believers in Christ. From an early age, we were introduced to the promise of life beyond this earth—an eternal existence. But how often do we pause in attempt to grasp what this really means? For if we truly embrace the “glorious prospect before us,” as Henry suggests, our daily lives should assume a new meaning, one that is uncommon amongst those whose vision is limited to seven or eight decades. May we never forget Christ’s sacrifice that provides the type of hope this world will never be able to offer, while we live earthly lives of purpose as a reflection of Christ’s love for us. DAVID MEE Associate Provost & Dean of Enrollment
FRIDAY, MARCH 31 Psalm 130 Ezekiel 33:10–16 Revelation 11:15–19 In Psalm 130, the psalmist pens a beautiful prayer full of longing for God to answer Him and the hope of believing that His prayers are already being answered. He tells all of Israel to put their “hope in the Lord” because “with Him is full redemption. He Himself will redeem Israel from all of their sins” (vs. 7b–8). They did not know at the time when God would redeem them or how He would do it, but through prophets and Scripture Israel knew God would come. Fast-forward to Ezekiel 36. The Israelites have been overtaken, destroyed and plumaged multiple times. They are losing hope that there is a God at all, much less the type of God who would come to them and rescue them. But verses 9 and 10 offer a new hope to the people. God says to His people, “I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor… the ruins will be rebuilt.” God sees and knows His people. He never forgets His promises to them. He gives them timely words of encouragement in their moments of despair because He knew they needed it. He continually brings us hope. Move to Luke 24:44. The disciples’ Teacher has just been murdered in an unthinkable way. Many of them abandoned Him and went into hiding after His death. They had what they thought was an unshakeable hope, but now it was all over so quickly. How could something so true be snuffed out so fast? How could they dare to have hope in anything ever again? And that’s where our hope comes in again. Jesus has just risen from the dead and shows himself alive to his disciples. Jesus tells them that everything that has happened to him is to fulfill Scriptures written long ago that they knew but just needed the reminder. He is a God who Himself made the way for us to be redeemed. He cares greatly for us and sees each of our needs, looking on us with favor. He offers hope in every situation. So now let us continue to pray Psalm 130 knowing that our great Hope has come for us and will come again to bring us to Himself. I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope. I put my hope in the Lord for with Him is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption. ASHLEIGH MARTIN Junior Nursing Major
SATURDAY, APRIL 1 Psalm 130 Ezekiel 36:8–15 Luke 24:44–53 It seems strange—as we fast and prepare ourselves for Good Friday and Easter—to encounter a text that tells about Jesus after the resurrection. That’s kind of like cheating, isn’t it? The mournful optimism of the psalm seems fitting; the hopeful prophecy of Ezekiel affirms our journey towards the cross and the resurrection. But why think about the ascension now? It is useful to recall that the period immediately after the crucifixion was a frightening time for the followers of Jesus. Prior to the discovery of the empty tomb—and even after—the disciples were frightened and afraid and confused. This story from Luke is actually a part of a longer narrative about just this confusion and fear. A couple of travelers—presumably close followers of Jesus—are walking on their way to a village named Emmaus. They sum up their fear and disappointment: “We had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel.” So, Jesus travels with them, and hopes to explain what it was that had happened, using an impromptu bible study as they go. But they still don’t recognize Him until later that night, when seated around a table, He breaks bread and pours wine just as He had at the last supper, and they immediately see Him for who He is. Jesus appears to them in the midst of their fear and disappointment. After this, Jesus appears among the group of disciples and, oddly, does some very human things: he offers up his scars to his disciples to inspect, and asks for a piece of food because he’s hungry. After eating and presumably getting his fill, he reminds them that they have witnessed the redemption not just of Israel but of the world, offers a blessing and ascends into God’s presence. It’s a two-fold reminder. On the one hand, Jesus died and rose again so that all of eternity might be redeemed. But Jesus himself came among us and lived out his days in his body, thus also redeeming our bodies and our days. As we wait in patience for his coming again, may we remember these things. MICAH WEEDMAN Director of Outreach University Ministries
SUNDAY, APRIL 2 (Fifth Sunday of Lent) Ezekiel 37:1–14 Psalm 130 Romans 8:6–11 John 11:1–45 The passages from Ezekiel and John seem custom-made to be paired together: the work of God in the life of Israel has long hinted at re-birth and resurrection, and the vision of the prophet, strange though it is, is clear that God will bring about the resurrection of Israel after the exile. Then we encounter the Son of God calling a friend back from death and into life again—shortly after announcing that he himself is the “resurrection and the life.” The passage from John gives us one of the most human portraits of Jesus—a man who weeps at the death of a friend, and is moved by the mourning of others around him. This is a Jesus who feels the depth of powerful emotions. But John’s passage also gives us a cosmic vision of Jesus—one who has come as the fulfillment of Israel’s hope, the one who is able to raise the dry bones from death and call them back into the fullness of life. This is why, perhaps, it’s important that we read Paul’s passage from Romans alongside these two. There has been much said—and there is probably much still to be said—about Paul’s use of the words “flesh” and “spirit.” But when read alongside the Ezekiel and John passages, it’s entirely possible to read the words “flesh” as pertaining to death, and spirit as pertaining to life. And in this sense, these three passages in concert become a great meditation for Lent. Lent is that time where we often subject our bodies—our flesh—to disciplines meant to remind us of the presence of the Spirit of “him who raised” Jesus” dwelling in us. This is not a rejection of the body or of bodily existence at all. To the contrary, this focused attention on God’s spirit dwelling in us renews our understanding of the importance of our embodied selves. This is why, of course, we look forward to feasting on Easter once our fast is finished. But that feast, once it comes, is best framed by what all of our passages for today highlight: the broken state of the world necessarily means that our bodies—our flesh—will encounter suffering and, eventually, death. Ezekiel and Paul, Lazarus and the Psalmist—each knew well that the body is a site of suffering. And Jesus is the great fulfillment of this. But each of these texts—and ultimately the reality of the resurrection—remind us that the way of Jesus is not the way of death, but rather of new life. MICAH WEEDMAN Director of Outreach University Ministries
MONDAY, APRIL 3 Psalm 143 1 Kings 17:17–24 Acts 20:7–12 I’m sure we can all identify with David’s cry for help in Psalm 143. There are days when your heart is just overcome with dismay. Maybe you have lost a loved one or a job. Maybe you just had a bad day. Isn’t it great that we have a God who hears us when we call in the midst of such despair? And, He is powerful to save, even from death. In 1 Kings 17, Elijah prays to God to bring a young boy back to life. In Acts 20, Paul throws himself on a boy who had died after falling from a third story window. Through the power of God, both boys returned to life. Our God is in the business of saving lives. This should be a comfort to each of us, but it is also a commission. Do you notice how God went about saving the lives of the two boys? He did so through the words and actions of His followers, Elijah and Paul. God can and sometimes does act independently and directly in this world, but He often chooses to work in and through the lives of His people. Sometimes in our life as Christians, we are like the two boys or David in Psalm 143. As our life seems to be falling apart, we need a God who saves, redeems, and restores. But do you realize that you have also been called to be an Elijah or a Paul? As followers of Christ, we are His hands and feet, called to go out and be His instruments, restoring life unto the world. That does not mean that we should be seeking out children to raise from the dead. We most certainly should, however, find those who are lost and show them the Way. There is a lot of pain in this world. How are you using the resources you have been given (time, talents, and possessions) to show people the healing power of God? CAL BOWEN Class of 2017 College of Law
TUESDAY, APRIL 4 Psalms 143 2 Kings 4:18–37 Ephesians 2:1–10 “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.” Christian D. Larson Has catastrophe entered into your life? Does it seem as if the only one in the world suffering is you. Remember this: throughout the Bible there are several moments where the characters acknowledge that God will not leave nor forsake His children. Multiple times, God through His faithfulness listened to the outpouring request of His people and poured out a blessing. There is suffering in this life. The greatest example of such turmoil is the pain and suffering of Jesus Christ. It is, however, through God’s righteousness and love for us that He hears our prayers and provides a path for us to follow. God has provided us with something special and it’s inside of us to overcome all obstacles and to do great things. David in his knowledge and reverence of and for God cried out and asked for guidance. He spoke to God about his faithfulness. He recognized that only God could provide him with an abiding peace in his life. The entirety of Psalm 143 highlights David’s desire to be heard and to do for the Lord. He was fully aware of how much better his life would be with God in full control and him following God’s plan for his life. The ability to utilize the talents God has provided us with. Talents to uplift downtrodden humanity. Talents to have altruistic character. The great provision God offers to His people is not empty. We must adhere to what it is God desires for us—ultimate surrender. From an earthly vantage if you sacrificed something so important to you for someone else, would you want a small amount of thanks and loyalty? God is only asking that we do the same. Since He has unfailing love for us, He wants us to have unfailing love for Him. He has provided a Savior on our behalf and He is asking that we accept His lordship. As difficult as it may seem, the benefits are amazing and the alternative is horrifying. I cry out to you, oh Lord. Create in me a clean heart. Allow for my thoughts, actions and being to be of You. Let every interaction I have create a new relationship or enhance an existing one with you. Give this community the strength necessary to help grow your kingdom. We humbly submit to all You have been, are and will be in our lives. Thank you and Amen. JEFFERY BURGIN Associate Provost and Dean of Students Division of Student Affairs 37
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5 Psalm 143 Jeremiah 32:1–9, 36–41 Matthew 22:23–33 King Zedekiah imprisoned Jeremiah because he told the truth about the coming destruction of the nation. While Jeremiah was confined in the royal palace, his cousin came and asked him to “redeem” some family property. The Lord told Jeremiah to buy the property, so he did. He bought a field in Judah even though he knew the whole nation was about to be exiled to Babylon. He told his friend Baruch to put the deed to the property in a clay jar to preserve it. He saw present destruction, but he also heard and acted on the promise that God would bring the people back to this land. God promised. Jeremiah trusted beyond his own understanding. And it came to pass. The people eventually were returned to the land. God is timeless, limitless, creator of time but not limited by it. God always has been and always will be. He said, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Jesus said of His Father, “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” How can it be that people who lived centuries ago are not dead? He Himself says He is the God of living people, not dead people, and He says He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So they must not be dead? They must not be dead. We live in time and within the circumstances of our lives on earth. Sometimes, we see too much of today. We cry like the psalmist, my heart is dismayed, my spirit grows faint within me, my spirit fails. We ask, “In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes.” Help me in my present circumstances. I cannot see beyond them. We forget about forever. We forget that a Redeemer has already bought us for a price. We forget that, though this earthly body may die, yet we shall live. The God of promises has promised to redeem us. He already has. BRENDA SEE Professor of Legal Practice College of Law
THURSDAY, APRIL 6 Psalm 31:9–16 1 Samuel 16:11–13 Philippians 1:1–11 Of course none of us are “pure and blameless” as suggested by Paul as he writes from prison to the Philippians. Both the Old Testament and New Testament are filled with stories populated with individuals who struggled mightily, and failed, often in small and large ways, to follow the call of God. In one of the readings for today, we hear of David’s selection by God acting through Samuel and we need only remind ourselves of David’s serious transgressions after he was chosen. Yet God sees beyond David’s past and into his future, knowing that future will contain more mistakes by David but also knowing that David will be a key link to our encounter with Jesus. The psalmist voices for us today a petition to God and a prayer of Lenten hope: “Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress. But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’“ David Brooks in his recent book The Road to Character distinguishes between what he calls “résumé virtues” and “eulogy virtues.” His suggestion that we individually and as a community should increase our focus on the eulogy virtues that sit in the center of our humanness rings true for me as an invitation to a meaningful Lenten practice and reflective devotion. When Brooks states that “wisdom isn’t a body of information. It’s the moral quality of knowing what you don’t know and figuring out a way to handle your ignorance, uncertainty and limitation.” I am drawn back to my own need to acknowledge the source of all wisdom by saying with the psalmist, “I trust in you, Lord; You are my God.“ For Lent 2017, I feel invited to spend 40 days in the desert of my own ignorance and uncertainty. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words of inspiration add hope to my Lenten experience viewed through the lens of my limitations: “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” But why Lent once more in 2017? I have “done Lent” for many years since childhood. The answer I give myself is that Lent requires practice alongside reflection. The potter Warren McKenzie, quoted by Angela Duckworth in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, notes, “The first 10,000 pots are difficult, and then it gets a little bit easier.” I need the yearly practice of Lent, challenging myself to “do small things” as best I can. Lenten practice—even with 10,000 or more repetitions—won’t make us pure and blameless, but it can be a vessel for us to encounter the Christ in us and among us. We come to a richer understanding of our human condition—we have fallen and will fall again and again, but our God is with us throughout. As expressed in the person Jesus, God seems to ask of us that we walk our faith journey with everyone we can, especially when that faith calls us beyond people who look, think and act like us.
MIKE PINTER Director of the Teaching Center 39
FRIDAY, APRIL 7 Psalm 31:9–16 Job 13:13–19 Philippians 1:21–30 A week before Good Friday, we are reminded of Jesus’ command to take up our cross and follow Him. We are reminded that the call to discipleship is not easy or enviable. It is a path on which we flee from the slander of our enemies, feel the burden of our iniquities and wait for that which is to come. It is a lowly path, the road less traveled, the one which reveals our broken state. This was the path of Christ and the journey to which we are called. David, Job and Paul experience the hardships of this path and cry out to God to deliver them. They had every reason to doubt God’s faithfulness when they lingered at death’s door. They had their possessions stripped away, their health deteriorate and society persecute them. But even through this, they did not turn bitter. They expressed their anguish to the Lord, who they knew was listening. They recalled how He had been faithful in the past and each passage ends with a profound sense of hope, one that did not doubt the goodness of God. As I look at these men of God, I am constantly in awe of their conviction of faith. Their laments are not complaints, but authentic expressions of their suffering to the Judge of heaven and earth. They know that what they experienced on earth pales in comparison to the Glory of God. I am reminded that hardships are not the absence of God’s love, but vehicles that show us how deep His love is. God does not always prevent the storm but provides the shelter that will get us through. Almighty God, We thank You for Your faithfulness to us. We cry out to You, knowing You will hear our petitions and act on them in accordance to Your will. We recognize that the path You have called us to is not an easy one nor one that is exempt from suffering. Lead and guide us, comfort us with your everlasting love. Make Your face shine upon Your servants, save us for Your mercy’s sake. Amen. SEAN GROSSNICKLE Sophomore International Business Major
SATURDAY, APRIL 8 Psalm 31:9–16 Lamentations 3:55–66 Mark 10:32–34 The readings today are probably some of the most brutally honest passages in scripture. The words of the psalmist and author of Lamentations are filled with grief, despair, hope, anxiety, trust and anger. These poetic expressions are deeply rooted in human experience and emotion. We often feel as though there are “correct” and “incorrect” emotions. The correct emotions are those found in Psalm 31:14 where the Psalmist says, “I trust in you, Oh Lord” and places his hope in God. Incorrect emotions are those found a few verses earlier when the same person says his soul wastes away in grief, bordering on utter despair. Even more incorrect are the demands found in Lamentations that God curse and destroy one’s enemies. What we see here, and elsewhere in scripture, is that no emotion is off limits. The biblical authors have no qualms moving from accusing God of abandonment in one line to praising Him in the next. When we honestly examine scripture we find that it is less the content of our thoughts and feelings that make them holy or unholy, and more to what, or whom, we direct them. All of the above emotion—despair, hatred and trust are directed toward God. The biblical authors do not hold back like we often do, but instead bring everything before God and let Him sort it all out. I hope that we can take a cue from the biblical authors and begin to be more honest with God and ourselves. We all feel the full spectrum of emotion, sometimes feeling multiple emotions at once. A loved one passes away and we are simultaneously relieved they are no longer suffering, grieved because of the loss and angry because their death seems unfair. God can handle all of it, and in some ways we demonstrate a lack of trust in God when we withhold our doubts, sorrow and anger and only proclaim the “trust” we have in Him. Take a moment and ask yourself today do you trust God with all your emotions, not just the ones that make you feel good? JOSH RIEDEL Assistant Director of Spiritual Formation University Ministries
PALM SUNDAY, APRIL 9 Psalm 118:1–2, 19–29 Matthew 21:1–11 Isaiah 50:4–9a Psalm 31:9–16 Philippians 2:5–11 Luke 23:1–49 As we begin Holy Week, we do so with Palm Sunday. We celebrate Jesus’ entry into the city on a donkey while those around Him waved triumphant palm branches and proclaimed “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” The palms celebrated Jesus as the long awaited relief to their suffering. We also know the same hands that held these palms would rise up against their Messiah and call for His crucifixion a few days later. So what can we learn from the psalms? In many traditions the palms play a larger part in the Lenten story. After their use on Palm Sunday, the leaves are kept and burned for the next Ash Wednesday service. It is a beautiful ritual that connects the ongoing observance of the Lenten season. My sister-in law will tell you this is one of her most cherished traditions as a pastor. Each year in her church in Tennessee, the burning of the palms marked the end and the next beginning. When she moved to a parish in Nebraska a few years ago she realized she was not prepared for her first Ash Wednesday service not having any saved palm leaves available to her. A few days before Ash Wednesday, a package arrived in the mail from her former church with the ashes from her last Palm Sunday there—a reminder of the connection of each Lenten season and the body of Christ. And so we learn from the palms that today’s celebration makes a way for next year’s call to repentance. We are reminded of the ways we celebrate Christ and then deny Him days later. We learn from the palms that we are frail, able to be reduced to ashes once again. CHRISTY RIDINGS Director of Spiritual Formation University Ministries
MONDAY of HOLY WEEK, APRIL 10 Psalm 36:5–11 Isaiah 42:1–9 Hebrews 9:11–15 John 12:1–11 Reading through the verses for today, I think of Christ’s authority. Historically on Holy Monday, we know that the religious leaders challenged His authority, and today, we live in a time when many oppose the thought of the “A” word. In the Cates’ home in 2016, it came down to the question—do we TRUST Him (in His total authority) with EVERYTHING? Do I trust Him in a situation when the outcome may be my worst fear? Do I trust Him with life and death on this earth? In March, my husband, Chad was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer, and I wrestled with God’s authority in our lives. Shortly after Chad was diagnosed I was reading 2 Chronicles 20 and thinking about being in a physical war. In this passage, the Lord speaks to His people saying, “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.” Then God went on to give them specific instructions. The people were obedient and followed God’s instruction as they marched into battle—marching toward their enemy singing His praises. I’ll let you read the rest of the story—it’s really good! During that season, I began to more fully understand that in His full and perfect authority I can rest as He fights battles on my behalf. Will you let Him fight your battle? Will you rest in His authority, walk in obedience and trust Him to the point that you sing His praises as you march into battle. I’ve always loved the hymn “It is Well with My Soul.” It’s a good litmus test for me—when the outcome is unclear or not the one I would have hoped for, can I sing this song? When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say It is well, it is well, with my soul When Horatio G. Spafford wrote the song, he had just experienced a grave loss. The words of his song (in its entirety) show evidence of his trust in the authority of Jesus. This is a daily journey for me—sharing my struggles and letting Him fight my battles. Remembering what He did for us on the cross, we already know that He fought and He won—and one day we’ll be with Him in paradise in perfect peace. As Spafford articulated in a later verse in His song, The sky, not the grave, is the goal, O trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul. I’m trusting in His perfect and total authority and looking forward to the day.
SARAH CATES Director of Development and Industry Relations College of Entertainment & Music Business 43
TUESDAY of HOLY WEEK, APRIL 11 Psalm 71:1–14 Isaiah 49:1–7 1 Corinthians 1:18–31 John 12:20–36 For those who wish to draw from, imitate and enact the thinking of Jesus of Nazareth (having “the mind of Christ” as Paul puts it) to see the world as He sees the world, it’s sometimes helpful to think of him as a student of the prophets and the psalms. The good news of God’s kingdom is a vision of which Jesus was himself a learner and a lifelong discerner. When we forget this, reducing the gospel to the personal forgiveness of our own personal sins, we miss the larger fact of God’s righteous purpose for the whole of creation and the accompanying ethic of radical hospitality this purpose entails. This long work of discernment, of paying attention and enacting what we of God’s goodness, is evident in today’s scripture reading. We’re right to imagine Jesus receiving the prophet Isaiah’s oracle as normative for the Jewish community in a violent world: “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation will reach to the end of the earth” (49:6). “What kind of light?” Jesus and other hearers of the prophets were sure to have wondered. And what sort of salvation should those who worship the God of Israel hope to see in the land of the living? According to John’s gospel, Jesus tells his hearers that the thriving God intends is the yield of an othercentered love in the form of community: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it does, it bears much fruit” (12:24). Self-giving, Jesus seems to insist, is the currency of the kingdom of come. And those who take this path are seen to be what he refers to as “children of light” (12:36). In our day, this path of downward mobility, of emptying oneself for love of others is radically countercultural, especially when the allegedly powerful would divide the world up between winners and losers, successes and failures. But the God made known in Jesus relentlessly overturns our standards. Or as Paul puts it in his letter to the community of Corinth, “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (11:25). Our challenge is to bring God’s wisdom to our every interaction and estimation of our fellow human beings. The victory of Jesus’ seeming lack of success goes before us. DAVID DARK Assistant Professor of Religion and the Arts College of Theology & Christian Ministry
WEDNESDAY of HOLY WEEK, APRIL 12 Psalm 70 Isaiah 50:4–9a Hebrews 12:1–3 John 13:21–32 The season of Lent has always been something I look forward to, year after year. To me, it seems like a Christian’s “New Year’s Resolution.” Lent gives us a reason to focus in on God and listen to His calling. After the 40 days, however, the hardest part is to acclimate our lives to live out in a way He calls us to. Lent reminds me a lot of church retreats. Last fall, University Ministries hosted a fall retreat that I attended, being a Spiritual Life Assistant for the new freshman. At the retreat, I felt the peace of God gloss over me in a way I’ve never felt before. The retreat was wonderful and peaceful, but by Tuesday the following week, I was as stressed as before. God urges us to stand up to fears and opponents, keeping our eyes on Him. Sometimes we feel such a “high” on our faith after mission trips, church retreats or seasons like Lent that seems so easy to display our faith and stand up to opponents. The days and weeks following these, however, create distance between what we should be doing versus what our opponentss believe about us. In a world full of anxiety, distractions and vices, it is important to know that we don’t have to fight these battles alone. Whenever we are challenged, it is essential to always fix our eyes on Jesus, no matter the pain or hatred that may arise at that moment, knowing that something much better will come. As you follow the readings of Lent, I pray that God’s peace will wash upon you, allowing you to fix your eyes on Him and Him alone. That you will be able to stand against your oppressors with God fighting your battles by your side. Blessings! AMY DALTON Sophomore Public Relations Major
MAUNDY THURSDAY, APRIL 13 Psalm 116:1–2, 12–19 Exodus 12:1–14 I Corinthians 11:23–26 John 13:1–17, 31b–35 Maundy Thursday is all about connecting—connecting the presence of the Lord in the life of Israel to that of the early church, connecting the leadership of Jesus to the kind of service He displays, and connecting ourselves to Jesus’ own work in today’s broken world. Our passage in Exodus sets the stage: The Israelites are instructed by God to not only to prepare for the Passover event itself, but to formally institute its remembrance. That is, they are instructed to connect the salvific work of God in their exodus from Egypt to the whole of their lives afterword: remembering what God does becomes a way of “re-membering” God’s people into their communities. In 1 Corinthians, Paul does a remarkable thing: He takes the remembrance of the Passover that Jesus celebrated and makes it something open, something new: Now, Passover becomes Eucharist, a remembrance of thanksgiving for God’s radically inclusive act in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. By indicating that He had “received” this tradition, Paul connects the Eucharist to the Passover celebration. Remembering Jesus’ death with wine and bread is a direct remembrance itself of God’s work with Israel, also remembered with wine and bread. In this case though, Paul realizes that Jesus makes this remembrance open to all persons (and not just the Jews). Finally, in the Gospel passage, we read not about Jesus’ celebration of the Passover, but what takes place immediately before. To the dismay of Peter, and likely the confusion of the other disciples, Jesus washes their feet. In doing so, he makes it explicit that this kind of humility and service are what characterize his presence on Earth, and he indicates that those who love him will also wash the feet of those around them. And thus, Jesus makes the final connection. The mighty work of God in the exodus, remembered for centuries in the celebration of Passover, now finds the very Son of God extolling his followers to be known by their love for one another. To remember the work of God—and to declare God’s glory for that work—necessarily requires that we subvert our usual postures and adopt that of the foot-washer. May we remember this as Easter draws near. MICAH WEEDMAN Director of Outreach University Ministries
GOOD FRIDAY, APRIL 14 Psalm 22 Isaiah 52:13–53:12 Hebrews 10:16–25 John 18:1–19:42 It is a dark day. The Messiah that we have long awaited has come down through a manger, lived in the earth, preached to the masses, fed the multitudes, healed the sick and raised the dead. The promised King has come to make all things new, to rewrite the course of human history, to transform the kingdoms of this world into the never-ending kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. But not today. It is a dark day. We had hope in this One. We looked forward to this coming Christ. We have long awaited the great confidence that we were assured of through Jesus. Now what? The Almighty One—the One who came down from the heavens, took up flesh, and dwelt among us—has been betrayed by a disciple. The Good One—the One who was with God in the beginning and was one with God in creation—has been denied thrice by a friend. The Holy One—the One who promised to provide for us a new and abundant life and the splendid promise of eternal life—is hanging on the cross atop Calvary. It is a dark day. We were promised a Savior that would overcome death, and seemingly death is winning the battle. We were told about an Emmanuel that would be “God with us,” and seemingly God is not present. We were comforted by a Christ that would take away pain and sorrow, and yet we sit in mourning. We were hopeful about the Lamb that would take the sins of the world, yet the lamb is slaughtered. We were assured of a redeemed world, yet seemingly the oppressive forces have dominated. It is a dark day, but we hold true to our hope. It is a difficult time, yet we remain expectant in the resurrection that was foretold to us. They have crucified our Savior, and nailed Him to the cross, and it is a dark and desolate day; the sun is not shining and the birds are not chirping. Life as we know it has been broken. But we are waiting. We are hoping. We still believe. “But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!” (Psalm 22:19) CORWIN DAVIS Graduate Residence Director Office of Residence Life 47
HOLY SATURDAY, APRIL 15 Psalm 31:1–4, 15–16 Job 14:1–14 I Peter 4:1–8 Matthew 27:57–66 Today is Holy Saturday—the in-between day. The gospel reading in Matthew lays out the events of Saturday: Joseph of Arimathea giving his grave for Jesus’ burial and tending to his body, the placing of his body in the tomb, the concern from the critics that his followers might steal his body therefore placing a guard at the tomb and sealing the stone. And then the passage ends. And…we wait. This day is a liminal space situated between the tragic, mystical drama of Good Friday that we honored yesterday and the miraculous joy of resurrection day in which we will rejoice tomorrow. What an inexplicable time. Many of us have the urge to move on to Sunday, to avoid this uncomfortable day of sadness and waiting. We know what Sunday brings, that joy comes in the morning. But in our lives we often have these seasons of “Holy Saturday” where, while we know intellectually that ultimate redemption will come, we have to wait. We achingly stay in the discomfort and loneliness of the in-between. The sitting in the solitude of this space between the pain of our current reality and what we hope for is like dissonance sometimes. The psalm for today is a beautiful reminder that though we walk through pain, shame, disappointment and experience the vulnerability of life, we have the promise of God who is our Refuge and Deliverer. Our heartache and sorrows are so tangible, and yet, the Lord is our righteousness and fortress. He inclines His ear toward us. He is our Rock. His steadfast love can save us. Henri Nouwen wrote about “Holy Saturdays” as a time of resting in Walk With Jesus. “It is the rest of faith that allows us to live on with a peaceful and joyful heart even when things are not getting better, even when painful situations are not resolved, even when revolutions and wars continue to disrupt the rhythm of our daily lives…We need always to remain connected with the rest of the Holy Saturday when Jesus lay buried in the tomb and the whole of creation waited for all things to be made new.” We are called to rest in this day, experiencing the weight of Good Friday, yet breathing deeply of the hope and truth that this is not the final word. JULIE HUNT Associate Professor of Social Work College of Nursing & Health Sciences
EASTER SUNDAY, APRIL 16 Psalm 118:1–2, 14–24 Acts 10:34–43 Colossians 3:1–4 Matthew 28:1–10
We began this Lenten journey with a reading from the book of Joel about the coming of the day of the Lord, and an affirmation that when God shows up, everything will be different. As we have given ourselves to the practices of this season—confession, introspection and reflection—God has shown up. We have probably found ourselves reading through these passages of scripture and words of devotion faced with hard things—things about ourselves, and things about the world around us. And we have probably asked some hard questions: “How can I be changed and redeemed?” and “How can the world be changed and redeemed?” These questions are hard ones, and those things seem like a daunting task, an impossible one really. But the good news of Easter is that no matter how daunting the task of redemption and restoration, for us personally or for the world around us, it is not impossible for God. You see, in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we see the impossible become possible. Christ faced hardship and a horrible, brutal death. He descended into the depths of hell. And then he was resurrected. When Christ experienced all of those things, they were redeemed. Through his death and resurrection, Christ conquered those things that seemed unconquerable— disease, hell, and death. Through his resurrection he made resurrection possible, not just in his life, but in our lives, too. Through Christ we have experienced the impossible—the restoration and redemption of all things. It is so easy to be overwhelmed with what we should be, with what the world around us should be. It is easy to give up because there is nothing that we personally can do about it, or because we have failed when we have tried. But as Christians, we need not give up or be discouraged, or be convinced that it is impossible. Because through his life, death and resurrection Christ made the impossible possible—and as his disciples we have the joy of living in the light and the hope that His resurrection will one day be our resurrection. Gracious God, we give you thanks for your work in us during this Lenten season. Let us not see Easter Sunday as the end of a journey, but simply as the beginning. Continue your redemptive and restorative work in us that we may be your body for the world. In the name of our resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
COLLEGE OF THEOLOGY & CHRISTIAN MINISTRY VISION The College of Theology & Christian Ministry seeks to be a premier academic community that nurtures a living faith in God, reflects critically on its discipline, develops skills for Christian ministry and distinguishes itself through its emphases on contemplative spirituality and social justice. PURPOSE The purpose of the School of Religion is to provide student-centered, academically challenging religion classes to the diverse student body of Belmont University and to provide a foundation of religious studies for students preparing for congregational ministry and advanced theological studies. GOALS • To provide all Belmont students with a solid foundation in Biblical and theological studies. • To teach courses for religion majors and minors in the following areas: Biblical languages, Biblical studies, religion & society, theological & historical studies, practical studies, seminars and special studies. To offer professional education courses in practical ministry. • To offer continuing education opportunities to ministers and laity. • To integrate contemplative spirituality and social justice into the curricular and co-curricular program. COLLEGE OF THEOLOGY & CHRISTIAN MINISTRY FACULTY AND STAFF Ms. Tola Akhom-Pokrywka, Assistant to the Dean Mr. Dane Anthony, Lecturer Dr. Marty Bell, Church History Dr. Robert Byrd, Greek & New Testament (Emeritus) Dr. Ann Coble, Lecturer Dr. Manuel Cruz, Theology Dr. Ben Curtis, Pastoral Care & Spiritual Formation Dr. Cynthia Curtis, Practical Theology & Spiritual Formation Dr. David Dark, Religion and the Arts Dr. Steve Guthrie, Theology & Religion and the Arts Dr. Darrell Gwaltney, Dean 50
Dr. Ernest Heard, Lecturer Dr. Janet Hicks, Mental Health Counseling Dr. Sally Holt, Christian Ethics Dr. Tom Knowles-Bagwell, Mental Health Counseling Dr. Donovan McAbee, Religion and the Arts Dr. Mark McEntire, Hebrew & Old Testament Dr. Amanda Miller, Greek & New Testament Dr. Gideon Park, Lecturer Dr. Beth Ritter-Conn, Lecturer Dr. Steven Simpler, Theology (Emeritus) Dr. Judy Skeen, Biblical Studies & Spiritual Formation Dr. Andy Watts, Christian Ethics
OFFICE OF UNIVERSITY MINISTRIES MISSION We exist to… • Foster a culture of worship and spiritual formation at Belmont. • Cultivate lives of intentional service to God and to others through church and outreach. • Promote the integration of all University life including academic, co-curricular and residential. • Ultimately, University Ministries equips students to engage and transform the world by loving God and loving people. OFFICE OF UNIVERSITY MINISTRIES STAFF Heather Daugherty, University Minister Christy Ridings, Associate University Minister, Director of Spiritual Formation & Discipleship Micah Weedman, Associate University Minister, Director of Outreach Josh Riedel, Assistant Director of Spiritual Formation LaReace Carr, University Ministries Assistant *Please see reverse side for ways you can be involved
WAYS YOU CAN BE INVOLVED WORSHIP Join us for Chapel every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m. in in the JAAC Chapel (Convocation credit offered) SPIRITUAL LIFE ASSISTANTS In partnership with Residence Life, SLAs engage first-year students in on-campus community within their residence halls through small group and service opportunities. SERVICE YEAR HOUSE Service Year is a year-long program centered on intentional community, service, spiritual formation, and hospitality. The purpose of Service Year is to provide 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. OUTREACH Into.Nashville: a popular convo-credit based outreach program that takes students into Nashville for education, service and reflection that happens on most Saturdays throughout the year. Immersions: Fall and Spring break trips to national destinations to be immersed in service, culture and love of neighbor. CONNECT GROUPS Each semester faculty and staff lead Connect Groups for students engaging in a variety of topics including: vocation, leadership, faith & culture, Christian formation, justice & global engagement, and relationships. 2016â€“2017 FAITH DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS, AFFILIATED GROUPS, & GRADUATE FELLOWSHIPS Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM), Belmont Bridge Builders, Belmont Catholic Community (BCC), Belmont Wesley Fellowship (BWF), Chadasha Gospel Choir, CRU, Delight, Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), InterVarsity, Navigators, Ukirk, Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), Young Life, Christian Legal Society (CLS), Christian Pharmacy Fellowship International (CPFI), Nurses Christian Fellowship (NCF)
THE OFFICE OF UNIVERSITY MINISTRIES 615.460.6419 Check us out: BELMONT.EDU/UNIVERSITYMINISTRIES facebook.com/BelmontUM twitter.com/BelmontUM COLLEGE OF THEOLOGY & CHRISTIAN MINISTRY 615.460.6405
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. Belmont University does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, military service or sexual orientation. Inquiries or complaints concerning the application of these policies to students should be directed to the Dean of Students, Beaman Student Life Center Suite 200, 1900 Belmont Blvd., Nashville, TN 37212, email@example.com or 615.460.6407.
Check us out: BELMONT.EDU/THEOLOGY facebook.com/BelmontTheology twitter.com/BelmontTheology
Published on Mar 1, 2017
Again this year, Belmont University has been able to create and offer a Lenten Devotional Guide to help our campus community and others prep...