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Daily devotions for Lent


Pray like Jesus St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church Columbia, South Carolina

‘Amen’ © Jen Norton. Used with permission.

Dear Friends,

...Pray like Jesus

Amen: Pray Like Jesus. Where do ideas come from? This year’s Lenten Dramas were suggested by a member of the congregation who said, “Why don’t you do something on prayer?” Now, that seems pretty obvious, but maybe the truth is that we sometimes overlook or fail to emphasize the great importance of prayer. When children are young, parents make a point of praying at bed time and at the table. As the years progress we have a tendency, as parents and as individuals, to let other so-called “demands” edge out the time of prayer. Sleep overcomes us too quickly, or at meal time maybe there is a concern that friends around the table might not share our desire to pray. In the Gospels one of the things that is clearly important in the life and ministry of Jesus is prayer. Jesus prays alone, with the disciples, in public, on mountains, as he comes out of the water at his baptism, and elsewhere. So, if we want to pray like Jesus, the first thing we need to do is simply pray. This booklet is meant to help. If you have picked this up and are reading this introduction, then you are already expecting and hoping to do just that. I find this book especially meaningful because it includes the thoughts and devotions of this congregation, of your fellow worshippers, and disciples fed and nourished in this place. We share a journey. So let us pray. Let us read. Let us study God’s word on a daily basis and travel on together.

Peace Pastor Trump St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church

Ash Wednesday, February 10, 2016 Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. Joel 2:12-13

All through the Old Testament we have messages from God’s prophets calling the people back to God. (And always for their own good.) As I pondered the verses from Joel, the words “return” and “rend” seemed a bit stern. Obviously the need to return to God-guided living would have benefitted these Old Testament people. They needed God’s voice and direction in their lives to cope with the struggles of their time. Maybe it needed to be loud and strong. God’s call to us continues today in the loving words of Jesus who says, “Come unto me ye who labor and are heavy ladened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) This is a lifeline of hope, courage, and strength to see each of us through the situations of life. That is why prayer is part of my day. God hearing my cries, doubts, and struggles keeps me keeping on. Knowing He loves me gives me strength, and knowing He understands my weaknesses like no other is a blessing. Prayers of thanksgiving, needs, and for forgiveness allow me to be honest before God and help me face myself with reality. I am a child of God needing a Power beyond myself each day. In conversation with God my heart is open to what He would want for me. Holy God, Heavenly Father, thank you for this day. We pray that You will be glorified in our words and actions. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

- Betty Dawkins

Thursday, February 11, 2016 I have surely seen the mistreatment of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to rescue them. Come now, I will send you to Egypt. Acts 7:34

This verse is in Acts and is Stephen retelling the history of the Israelites to the high priest, after Stephen had been brought against the high priest's court as he was spreading the Gospel of Christ Jesus. The council had heard Stephen was blaspheming God. The verse is the retelling of the Old Testament story of the Lord speaking to Moses when Moses saw the angel in the flames of the burning bush after Moses had fled Egypt. God was sending Moses back to be the agent of "God's Work, Our Hands" to rescue the Israelites from Egypt. Was Stephen drawing a parallel to his predicament, as Stephen was one God had sent for His purposes? God sends us out and calls us to deliver His people and spread His Word. Rescue. They do not listen. Direction. Discernment.

Lord, please give us discernment to follow your call. Amen. - Claire Birdsong

Friday, February 12, 2016 Therefore, say to the Israelites: I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. Exodus 6:6-7

Over the past 13 months, God has been a very powerful voice in my life. It is hard to think, especially in 2016, that anyone can be a slave. However, I can consider myself a slave of many things: sports, money, and my own dreams. There is no doubt that God has a plan for my life and every time I have my own desires, they work out the way God intended. I had a dream for how I wanted the family dynamics to unfold when my first child was born. In this case, I was both the Egyptian and the slave. I wanted to control the situation. Still at 29 years old, I was lucky enough to have three of four grandparents still alive. My desire was for my child to grow up, for a few years anyway, knowing his/her great grandparents. When I found out Paulene was pregnant December of 2014, my dream began to take shape. However, God quickly intervened. By the end of December, the baby was gone. In June, the dream came back with the news of another baby. Again, with still three grandparents alive, I hoped. However, again my dream didn’t fit God’s plan. On Christmas Eve of 2015, I lost my last remaining grandfather. Despite my plans, God revealed himself to me. He stood beside me, even in my grief and anger, and claimed me. Although the pain was deep, it showed me that I needed to trust the Lord even more. Dear Lord, Though we often find ourselves to be slaves to many different things, continue to guide us to your love, your path. Shall your son’s death on the cross and your everyday presence in our lives be a reminder to us that you claim us as your own. - Josh Cruse

Saturday, February 13, 2016 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. John 12:31-32

He knew what was coming, and he did it anyway. The way John portrays Jesus resonates with me because through John, I see a messiah that will not be restrained from accomplishing his mission. I understand this messiah, and I like him. Nothing can deter him, not temptation nor discouragement, neither friendship nor adversaries, not even family. Jesus isn’t led to the cross in John’s gospel, he fairly marches to it. Jesus doesn’t wonder why he must die, he embraces a horrible death that, unlike so many deaths, has a glorious purpose. John shows us not a meek, sacrificial lamb, but a militant lamb who knows that the world must change and that he, Jesus, will be the one to change it. And change it he did. What courage! Every Sunday, we confess our belief that Jesus was crucified (lifted up from the earth), died and was buried, and that he rose again and ascended into heaven (lifted up from the earth). We, his brothers and sisters, are drawn to him and are called to live lives like his. Each of us has a picture in mind of what a life like Christ’s looks like. I pray that you will have the courage to act on your picture, and that I will have the courage to act on mine.

Jesus, you draw all people to you. Lead us to live lives like yours. Embolden us to seek true justice and mercy. Help us to see you in the sick, the poor, the homeless, and the imprisoned. Grant us joy in service, Lord. - Ron Walrath

Monday, February 15, 2016 Then David said to God, "I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.� 1 Chronicles 21:8

Like David, it is very easy for us to do things our own way instead of going by what God asks of us. It's when we think we have it figured out that we often make mistakes or make things worse. Thankfully, God doesn't hold it against us. Instead, He allows us to grow and learn from our mistakes. I own a small business and often times I try to figure it all out on my own. When I do this, I often end up questioning why God placed me in this path. I lose sight of why I do what I do and become wrapped around numbers, what others are doing and things that don't matter in the end. This year, my one goal is to let go of the reigns and let God guide me instead. If it aligns with His intentions, it will happen. If not, then there is a far greater plan He has in store for me. In the past, when I put God first, things fell into place; the right opportunities came, I was able to help others, and I was focused on His purpose. Though we are imperfect and stray away from God often, He corrects our path. We need only to focus our eyes on Him.

Dear Lord, May we find our way back to you when we find ourselves lost and astray from the path you intend for us. May your voice become clear so we can carry out your purpose for us. -Paulene Cruse

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 For they speak bombastic nonsense, and with licentious desires of the flesh they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for people are slaves to whatever masters them. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 2 Peter 2:18-20

I have to confess that the first thing I thought of when I read this passage is politicians -- "they speak bombastic nonsense;” "they entice people;” "they promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption." I've learned during my life to validate other people's words by observing their actions. Too many times, people's actions contradict their words and reveal their words as "bombastic nonsense" and those people as "slaves of corruption.” They don't truly believe their words. Unfortunately, this applies not only to politicians, but also people who profess to be Christians. Peter is warning us about people like this. True Christians don't just talk about God's love and compassion -- they live it. Be a true Christian. Dear God, Help us to walk the walk as well or better than we talk the talk. Give us wisdom to recognize those who try to deceive. In Christ’s name. Amen. - Steve Slice

Wednesday, February 17, 2016 Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshiped. He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing. Job 1:20-22.

Job was a prosperous, wealthy man. He had ten children. We are told "He was the greatest man among all the people of the East." Even God acknowledged Job's greatness. But, Job is struck by calamities – the work of Satan. First, he loses "the farm" so to speak, then all ten of his children. Yet, as the tragedies begin, he stays faithful in all saying "‌blessed be the name of the Lord." Later, his faith in God is tested further as he undergoes more afflictions. Where do calamities and tragedies come from? And, what have we done to deserve them? These questions have an undertone that God is the cause of the 'bad' in our lives and that right living should equate to freedom from affliction. It is a question any one of us has likely asked, maybe more than once. "God, I'm a good person, why is this happening to me?" we might ask. Eventually, Job, after being worn down by pain and suffering and by prodding by wellmeaning but uninformed friends, asks this same question of God. He wants to know what he has done to cause these calamities and why God doesn't seem to be doing anything about them. In the end, God and Job speak. God is indignant and hurt that Job does not trust God. Job is humbled before God. He recognizes how little he understands about how life plays out. He understands that God is aware of everything, that God is at work, that God delivers us from evil. He understands that God's good desire is for us to trust Him. The story of Job is a lesson for all of us who have experienced difficult, even hellish times. Trust God. Hold fast to your faith in Him. He is real and he does care about you. Do not let a seed of doubt sprout in you that your life circumstances are an indicator of who God is and of God's love for you. And, do not think you can earn freedom from suffering by leading a life of obedience to God. Do not let other people convince you that your faith is pointless. Seek God's wisdom.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, please help us to trust that you are present with us through difficult and sorrowful times and that you have a plan for our good and the good of all. -Jan Breuer

Thursday, February 18, 2016 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. Philippians 3:7-9

I need. How many times per day do we begin sentences with those two words? How many times do we really mean it? I daresay all we “need” here are those things that sustain us: food, water, love. In Christ we have our eternal sustenance. So, do our “needs” simply fill our greed?

Dearest Lord, help us to recognize the truth in our words. Help us to recognize the true needs of others and provide for them in the way Jesus instructed us. Thank you for wanting us and keeping us in your love. Amen. - Beth Mullins

Friday, February 19, 2016 Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path Because of my enemies. Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence. I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:11-14

Who are my enemies? The Psalmist pleas for God’s help both in fighting his enemies and also being taught His ways to follow a level path. As I read these verses the question arises in me, “Who are my enemies?” No one to my knowledge is wanting to harm me, nor has expressed a false witness against me. I do know that we live in a world where real violence occurs daily. But I am not fearful of imminent harm to me. So, who are my enemies and how is this passage helpful in enhancing my relationship with God? Well, my immediate enemies are those things that tempt me to sin and therefore interfere with my love of God and my fellow men. Things such as anger, thoughtlessness, failing to use my talents to serve God and others, sometimes failing to ask forgiveness when there is need, pride and worrying instead of trusting God. And yet unlike the psalmist in this scripture who believes he SHALL see the goodness of the Lord, I HAVE seen the goodness of the Lord who, time and time again, has demonstrated His love for me even with all my brokenness. Therefore, my prayer is like that of the Psalmist: that I be led on that level path which will help me fight my enemies.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the love you show us daily and for your willingness to forgive us and guide us away from those enemies both from within and without. Help those people who daily live in imminent danger and bring peace in the world. Through Jesus the Christ. Amen. -Greta Robinson

Saturday, February 20, 2016 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 118:26-29

These verses seem to tell us that we should invite people to worship God with us. God keeps us in his light and warmth instead of in the darkness, where it is cold. We should be praising God and wanting others to praise Him with us because he loves us and that won’t stop. - Nathan Mullins

Monday, February 22, 2016 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.

Romans 4:2-5

This passage can be summarized by the ELCA outreach slogan, “God’s work, Our hands.” When we are helping others, we shouldn’t do it for recognition or attention or money. We should do it because God has called us, just like He called Abraham, to follow him and show his love to others. The Bible tells us about Abraham, but it is really God’s story and how He worked through a man. Lord, help us to forget about earthly rewards when we are doing your work. We want our lives to be yours and for our good deeds to reflect your love for us. Amen.

- Youth Sunday School

Tuesday, February 23, 2016 These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:11-13

This passage is probably the source for the saying, “God never gives you more than you can handle.” I have heard that said many times, and it has usually been intended as a reassurance to someone who is facing a difficult challenge like a life-threatening illness. If this is the source, the old saying over-simplifies the 1st Corinthians passage in several ways. It also undersells the reassuring words of Paul’s letter. First, the testing is not the major challenges. It is the temptations that we face our daily lives – anger, jealousy, self-indulgence, etc. As Paul wrote, “no testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone.” Second, the testing is not “given” by God. It comes to us from living in an imperfect – and sinful – world. The testing overtakes us. Finally, the point of the passage is not that we can handle the challenge; it is that GOD is always there to help us to withstand the challenge. As Paul wrote, “with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” This passage from 1st Corinthians is therefore a reassurance that God is present to sustain us, not just in our most difficult days but every day. Lord, Thank you for your faithfulness. As we face challenges and temptations, please help us to remember that You are with us and to look to you for the way to endure our testing. Amen. - Layne Birdsong

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 Someone asked [Jesus], “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. … There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” Luke 13:23, 28-31


Someone asked Jesus, "Lord, will only a few be saved?"

Like those days of Jesus, the world has many examples of the world going to hell in a hand basket. It makes a body wonder if there were a list of the ten worst places to be, it would include where you were standing. Goodness is a light of hope and an indicator of God’s favor, isn’t it? So if you see so little goodness around you it has to beg the question, "Lord, will only a few be saved?" What is Lent like? What is it like to see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and be ourselves thrown out? Lent is noticing that those named as in the kingdom are flawed characters who put their hand to doing what the Lord called them to do. What happens when you hear that the Kingdom comes and you might be left out? I hope that it changes things. You begin to see the Kingdom as what we do in the moment, right now, to be the goodness and mercy that is graced upon us by the Lord. Being saved seems less about finding a correct door to open and step in, and more about our doing what we can, where we are, adding grace and mercy to our bit of the world. In the end, Jesus announces that the saved will be many. From everywhere. And who we thought would be at the head of the line will be near the last. And who we thought would not be in the line at all will be at the head of the line. Not my opinion. Not your decision. It is the Lord’s doing.

Inspire in me, my Lord Jesus, the confidence that I am of the many who come into your Kingdom. Inspire in me the confidence that I live for good when I live mercy and grace in your name. Amen. -Zeke Hanford

Thursday, February 25, 2016 O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name. Psalm 63:1-4

Upon reading this passage, I was reminded of an experience I encountered with our son Xavier after having read a children's Bible passage to him over a few times. It is actually another Psalm, 47:1. "Clap your hands, all you people; shout to God with joy!" I used animation with the passage to help relay the message to our son better and after a few times, he really started to get into it when we got to that passage. Whether we are at home, school, or church, the words and power of the Lord still bring tremendous joy to our lives. What this passage states is that we are always hungry for that chance to praise him, whether it is from our children or from ourselves. Let's rejoice in that knowledge, and remember why we are serve Him! Lord, it is in your name that we lift you up and praise you. We thank you for the many blessings you give us and pray that your peace and understanding spreads through us to those that may not know of you. In Your name we pray, Amen. - Darrick & Kelly Williams

Friday, February 26, 2016 I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Revelation 3:1b-3

Wake up! That’s my favorite line in this passage. It’s part warning and part command. The people of Sardis are overconfident—maybe they think they’ve got this faith thing down and aren’t focusing too hard on it anymore. Perhaps, like us, they are getting caught up in things that are distracting—like Facebook or work worries or our kids’ soccer team or Netflix or the next awesome thing we want to buy—and forgetting to focus on the important things. The spiritual things. Overconfidence breeds laziness. In Sardis, everything seems alive and good. But the reality is far from it. Their actions don’t measure up; their deeds are “unfinished” in God’s eyes. That, too, rings true in our daily lives. How often do we have good intentions, but something ultimately goes awry? Martin Luther said, “How soon not now becomes never.” It’s easy for little things to steer us off our path. But Jesus also reminds us that there’s hope. We can repent and “strengthen what remains.” We can learn to be watchful, so that we don’t miss Him when He comes for us. Take heart and wake up! He is coming; we only need to be ready to embrace him. Heavenly father, help shake us awake from the distractions of our daily lives. Strengthen us spiritually. Put our whole hearts back into our work to glorify you. Amen. - Krystal Overmyer

Saturday, February 27, 2016 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. Luke 6:43-45

These Bible verses are true in many aspects of our daily lives. If you hear something mean, there may be anger in that person’s heart. If God is in their heart, anger usually will not spread. In Charleston this past year, one person appeared to have God in his heart for about one hour, but nine members of the AME Church Bible study group were murdered by that person who had anger and hatred in his heart; surely he was not raised by parents with evil hearts? Many children are taught to pray beside their beds prior to going to sleep, and some continue the same practice even as they become adults. Some people pray during their morning or evening walks in their neighborhood. Many who are ill due to disease or accidents believe that praying to God and Jesus is of great help and comfort, and some doctors at hospitals pray with visiting pastors prior to operations. Lutheran Men of St. Andrew’s prays the Lord’s Prayer at the conclusion of the monthly meetings. LM hopes that in the future we can have many more men attend, and we prayerfully hope so. Also, we hope that your prayers during Lent are of great help to you, your family and our fellow men. -Buddy Lewis

Monday, February 29, 2016 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:1-4

These past couple years have been a struggle to understand my child and myself. What I have learned is that what I have judged to be teenage defiance has in fact been anxiety and depression and my child’s struggle to cope with such intense feelings. How often do we make assumptions/judgments about “those people” whether “those people” are teenagers, homosexuals or Muslims? We judge others based on our prejudiced view while God judges all of us by our moral behavior. Paul is writing to a specific group of new Christians who believed they were more righteous than another group of new Christians (Jews vs. gentiles). Even in the early church there were “those people”. Not one of us is more righteous than the other for we all sin, so no one should be pointing fingers.

When any of us consider ourselves more righteous because we are not “those people” we have sinned. God’s mercy is for ALL people. As Rev. Paul Buchnell wrote, “When we judge others, we are showing contempt for God’s mercy – not only his mercy towards others, but also his mercy and patience towards us.” We are all God’s children…even “those people.” Thank God!

Dear Father, Put into my heart the mercy that you show me. Please give me the will to empathize with others when I do not know and could never fully understand their story. Open my heart and mind to be patient and kind to others as you have been so abundantly to me. Amen -Mandy Glowacki

Tuesday, March 1, 2016 All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all. - Romans 2:12-16

Part of what Paul wants to do is bring the Gentiles into the new Christian community, and disarm opposition from the Jewish Christians. After spending most of the chapter before recounting all the bad things people say about Gentiles, he now raises the conscience of the Gentile, the “law… written on their hearts,” to the same level as Jewish law, saying that the Gentiles will be judged in the same way by this “law to themselves.” Jesus will “judge the secret thoughts of all.” How do we apply this to our lives? Suppose we see ourselves as those who live under the law. Although as Lutherans we don’t judge each other much, most of us have certain expectations for what it means to be a good Christian. I think I’ve heard Nadia Bolz-Weber say something like, being Christian isn’t “Christian living,” as in a code of rules you follow perfectly, but it is acknowledging the constant need for God’s grace. But let’s pretend for a minute that we’re good at “Christian living.” Imagine we are like the establishment Jewish Christians, instead of the Gentiles. Now, suppose instead of saying “Gentiles,” we say “the Others”—perhaps Muslims, or unbelievers, or atheists, or secularists, or whatever outsiders whom we’ve heard bad things about. Do we, as Christians, sometimes think we are better simply by virtue of being Christian? Let me make the substitution I am proposing more obvious: “…all of [us] who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law…. When [the Others], who do not possess [our] law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having [our] law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness….” In truth, we probably rely much more on our conscience today than we do “law” in the sense of a code of religious living. We are more heirs to the Gentile Christians than the Jewish ones. But it is worth considering that perhaps, in God’s eyes, the actions of “the Others” may be just as good if not better than our own; that by following their consciences, “the Others” are a law unto themselves; and that, in the end, we are all judged by the witness of our hearts.

Our Lord and Savior, help us to follow the law that is written on our hearts. Help us to see your goodness in the good deeds of others, and not judge others for not living or believing the same way we do. Help us see clearly, that we will not use our church and our ideas of the way things ought to be to keep others out, but will instead embrace others in your love and mercy. Amen. - Todd Hoppock

Wednesday, March 2, 2016 “And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you. Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool. I am silent; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it. “Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; do not hold your peace at my tears. For I am your passing guest, an alien, like all my forebears. Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more.”

Have you noticed that the writers of the Psalms seem to deal with every struggle that we humans face? In the 39th Psalm, the writer is facing a low time in his life and asks the Lord to save him from all his shortcomings. “Lord, don’t look at me, for You can see through me and know my every fault. Spare me from Your judgment that I may know gladness again. I am a passing guest.” Is he thinking his days are numbered? I remember a 94-year-old lady who said she was ready to die and wondered why the Lord didn’t take her. But her daughter, her faithful caregiver, scolded her and said she was tired of hearing such talk. I followed her to the kitchen and suggested that she could be thankful that her mother felt ready to die and was not afraid. Couldn’t she say something like, “Mom, I am glad you feel ready to die; but, you know, I still like having you here with me.” Do you recall when you accidentally broke a vase or a dish, you really dreaded seeing your mother? That’s the way the psalmist feels when he asks the Lord to turn His gaze from him. But, thankfully, he has hope in the God of grace. “Give ear to my cry!” An 87-year-old Japanese gentleman came to faith late in life. In the rainy season he looked out, saw a break in the clouds and a bit of blue sky. He wrote a little poem on a chopstick paper as follows: “Forgiven today beyond the clouds I go.” Indeed that is our only hope. Thanks be to God for the grace of calvary.

Lord, give us the faith of Nakayama-san that when our time comes we may trust completely in Your forgiveness and be in Your presence. -Charles Dawkins

Thursday, March 3, 2016 While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them. You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah Psalm 32:3-7

In the scripture reading for today, we are reminded to trust in the Lord and to seek him in prayer rather than to keep silent in our hearts. Often our struggles create a wall of silence within us, whether due to sinful ways, extreme grief, guilt, anger or the loss of a loved one. Psalm 32:3-7 reminds us that “yes life is a continual struggle” and God is our refuge and strength in dealing with the struggles of this life. We need to come to the Lord in prayer seeking assurance - not just for ourselves, but also for others who touch our hearts, and those who need touching and tenderness themselves.

Father God we pray for the inner strength to help our neighbors in time of grief or peril because Jesus taught us that helping others is the best way to lift ourselves from the pit of grief and tribulation. May we make time to pray often and with those we seek to help always in our prayers to you. -Steve Blackwell

Friday, March 4, 2016 So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.

2 Corinthians 5:6-10

" the body....away from the Lord" We go to church for many reasons. We were brought up in doing so because the family was always in church on Sunday mornings. We have had hardships we hope to overcome with God's help, and seek it in worship. If we're younger, we are sometimes made to go because it's what the family does on Sundays. We are there purely to thank God for all He does in our lives, and praise Him for his Mercy, Love, and Care! As we sit in worship are we 100% engaged in that worship? It is so easy for the mind to drift with thoughts of things that occur in our daily lives, that sometimes it is hard to feel the worship or hear the message spoken to us on that day. I have certainly had to jerk myself back into the moment at times, and remember why I am in worship.

Paul reminds us in the above scripture that God's love is unconditional and merciful, and that we are encouraged to live full lives in service to our Maker. Eternal Life is a free gift through God's Grace, but, Paul says, we will be made accountable before God for how we have lived. Father God, We are thankful that in the hardest times of our lives you are there with us, holding us, loving us, and assuring us of the Greatest Gift of Salvation! Give us courage to right our wrongs and live each day as you would have us, loving and serving you and our fellow men. In Jesus' Name we pray, Amen. - Pat Blackwell

Saturday, March 5, 2016 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15:1-7

Jesus welcomed all people who wanted to listen and learn from him. We should be more like him in our daily lives-teaching all people who want to learn about Jesus inside and outside of the church. This could look like teaching people who are less fortunate or “different” from ourselves. I think of our prison ministry and of helping others in our community such as Victoria (VBS). I admit being a bit hesitant to her situation. However, I realize that everyone is not in the same situation as me. I became more receptive and compassionate to her and her family. In reading my scripture, I feel as if we should all be “accepting” of sinners and less judgmental of others. Forgiveness also comes to mind for me in reading and studying this. Asking for forgiveness and being willing to forgive others is an important lesson and powerful tool I have learned. This, at times, applies to me being able to forgive myself. By God’s grace we are all forgiven of our sins. My prayer is that I live and teach my son in this manner to be accepting of all people with a strong willingness to help those less fortunate with no preconceived judgements. And that sins are forgiven by God’s grace to all. -Carol Cochrane

Monday, March 7, 2016 Revelation 19:6-8 Three important phrases can be taken out of these few verses: great multitude, granted to be clothed with fine linen, and righteous deeds of the saints. In this passage, it talks about how all of the faithfulness came in with a voice of great multitude and cried out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.” The first phrase we see in bold here is great multitude. God is calling ALL of us to walk with him in this journey. The more people the greater the sound. Once we accept the Lord as our Savior, we see that he reigns throughout all of time and his love is unending. This pure joy becomes even more astounding when our brothers and sisters join in the cry with us. In Revelation, it next states how God is married to the church. God looks at the church as a big wedding celebration full of love and dancing. He wants everyone to be a part of the church and feels so strongly about this statement that he clothes each of us with fine linen that is bright and pure. In this passage it doesn’t state that he will clothe only the most righteous with pure linen. It states he will clothe each of us, because he loves each of us so much that he is willing to give this fine linen to wash away our sins and make us pure. This is his way of saying he forgives you for all you have done now and all you will do in the future.

The last part of this passage states that the fine linen is righteous deeds of the saints. This is God’s way of saying that by coming to him, he will bestow onto you righteous duties. Like the paragraph above, God doesn’t call the best or the most righteous. He says that if you come to him, he will make you righteous and has a plan of wonderful jobs set in your path. You just have to be willing to let him take over your life to see the great change. This passage is great at showing us that we do not have to compare ourselves to other people in the church. I sometimes look at myself as not being “Godly” enough when comparing myself to other parishioners. This passage was just what I needed to hear in a time when I felt like I was letting God down. In Ephesians 2:10 it states, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Between this verse from Ephesians and the devotion verses for today, I can see that God lets anyone into his house and gives different jobs for different people, BEFORE they even enter into his kingdom. I need to stop comparing myself to other Christians, because God uses each one of us to live out his message for the world. He made each of us the way we are for a reason and we cannot question his planning. If all of us were the same, we would never be able to live out the plan he has for us, because he uses each one of us for different jobs to help spread light to the world. Throughout this week remember that God calls the multitude to rejoice in his name and clothes his church with fine linen by giving each of us righteous deeds like the saints. No matter who you are, what you have done, or what you plan on doing, God wants you to become his child and will change your heart to remain holy and pure.

Dear Lord, I pray that the words of the devotion today are instilled in to my heart. I pray that even though I might feel like I’m not worth your love, you remind me in this passage that all of your children deserve your love. I pray that throughout this season of Lent you prepare righteous deeds for me to carry out and lead me in to the life of pure sainthood. Amen. - Danielle Sill

Tuesday, March 8, 2016 Revelation 19:9-10 Throughout scripture, angels serve as messengers and servants of God willing to share His message. In Revelation 19:9, the angel is inviting "me" to the marriage supper of the Lamb. Okay, so I certainly do not consider myself so holy and anointed as to think I am worthy of being invited to this most magnificent occasion, but, Revelation 19:10 offers me the chance to make myself worthy. To prepare myself and make ready for that day, I need to take inventory of my spiritual life.

In the verse preceding this scripture, the bride is instructed to "put on fine linen, clean and bright." I can remember as a very young girl there were signs posted on telephone poles and trees that read: "Get right with God." Admittedly, at age 6 or 7, I didn't know what that meant. Now considerably older than 6 or 7, I am acutely aware of the importance of taking daily stock of my life and ensuring that my priorities are in the right place. Not only do I need to "get right with God," I need to "be right with God" on a daily basis. On the morning of January 2, 2016, while listening to a national news program, I heard a question asked to which the various news anchors gave a mixed bag of answers that ranged from materialistic to downright bizarre. The question was: "If you could be granted one wish in 2016, what would it be?" In the days following that news broadcast, I found myself pondering that question over and over again. Now, chief among my wishes would definitely be "world peace," though a voice in my head kept telling me that might be a bit grandiose and unrealistic. Moreover, I feared the only way world peace can be realized is when God annihilates the world again and, quite frankly, I still have a few things on my bucket list. When Sandra [Holland] approached me about writing a devotion, I had no idea what the scripture would be. When I read the scripture, I was immediately reminded of that question and my response to it. Coincidentally, in the Revelation scripture, the "marriage supper of the Lamb" is believed to take place after judgment day when all believers have been cleansed and the Church is made whole and there will be peace on earth. And, by the way, after considerable thought, I did arrive at my answer to the question and I shared my wish with family and a few friends. My wish is personal peace and happiness and, added to that, is my hope that my personal peace and happiness can spread exponentially to others and, perhaps, world peace can be attained. What is your wish?

God of Peace,

 Help me to dress in clean, bright linen and to strive every day to bring peace and happiness to, not only myself, but to all who are in my presence. Help me to learn the peace that comes from forgiving. And, above all, I pray for peace throughout the world.

 Amen. - Kristine A. Thompson

Wednesday, March 9, 2016 The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish – unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” They did so and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. Luke 9: 12-17

In the preschool Sunday school class, we read this story from their Spark storybook Bibles. This version of the feeding of the 5,000 aligns more closely with the account in the gospel of John. The basic story is the same, but in John we are told that the five loaves and two fish come from a young boy. The inclusion of the boy in the story gives the children a way to connect more fully to the miracle. Not only can they appreciate this amazing act by Jesus, but they can also see how someone small with seemingly little to offer can take part in a miracle. When asked what the little boy did to help, the children answered, “He shared.” As a class, the children talked about things they can share with others and drew pictures. Their pictures are on display in the hallway outside our classroom. Feel free to come have a look. These preschoolers have a lot to share. They are a pretty amazing group! Here are a few of their ideas: With God’s help, I can share . . . Food. My family. My room. The Earth. My toys. The church. Myself. My heart. It seems like a simple lesson: sharing. We all learn it as children, but do we remember the importance of sharing as adults? Even when no one is watching? Even if we have so little that it seems like it won’t make a difference? Dear God, Please help us to remember that we all have gifts from you that we can share with others. Whether we are young or old; rich or poor; we can do amazing things with your help and guidance. Amen. - Reflection offered by the Preschool Sunday School Class

Thursday, March 10, 2016 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. - Isaiah 43:1-3a

Most of us answer to more than one name. I am routinely called one of four different names - Mrs. LaSalle, Lynne, Mommy or Sis. And there have been a few nicknames over the years too. Research shows that we relate better to people who call us by name. Even though people may stumble over the pronunciation of your name, doesn't it feel good to hear your name spoken aloud? But no matter who knows our name and who says it, we cherish hearing it said by those who care about us. Especially in times of turmoil or when things are not going so well.

In the Scripture verses above, Isaiah was speaking to a people who were in turmoil - unsure of their personal futures and the future of the nations of Judah and Israel. Through Isaiah, God lets his chosen people know they have not been forgotten as they call to God, but God knows them , … by name, … and they are his. And by way of reference to the flight from Egypt (when you pass through the waters) and the survival of the three believers thrown into the furnace (when you walk through the fire), God tells his people he is with them and will protect them – for he is the Lord, the one God of Israel, and their Savior. Lord, I pray that my ears are open to hear you calling our names. You know each one of us and you will be with us through all our trials. For you the Lord, are God, the Holy One of Israel and our Savior. - Lynne LaSalle

Friday, March 11, 2016 You are my witnesses, says the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses, says the LORD. - Isaiah 43:10-12

Listening to the radio this week, I heard an interview with an amazing witness. Pastor Larry Wright of Heal the Land Outreach Ministries in Fayetteville, NC, was in the middle of a sermon on the topic of violence on December 31 when a man walked into his church carrying a semi-automatic assault rifle. Wright calmly asked the man, "Can I help you?" and the man asked Wright to pray for him. He willingly handed over his weapon and was welcomed with hugs from several parishioners and prayers from the congregation. In the interview that I heard several weeks later, Pastor Wright described how, despite his fear, he had felt moved by God to respond to the gunman with love and compassion. Pastor Wright is a retired Army sergeant, and he admitted that he had planned to tackle the gunman if he had responded with antagonism. That would have been a natural response given the situation, particularly in the wake of the tragedy at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, but it would almost certainly have led to more tragedy. Instead, Pastor Wright allowed himself to be a conduit for God's grace and created an opening for a peaceful resolution to what appeared to be a hopeless situation. While most of us will probably not be called to witness under circumstances as dramatic as this, Pastor Wright's story made me think about the ways in which we can be witnesses to God's grace in our own lives. It's relatively easy to sing God's praises when things are going well, but it can be much harder when we feel threatened and afraid. Maybe it is these moments though that bring real power to our acts as witnesses.

Dear God, Please help us to be receptive to your grace, even (especially) in the face of our own fears. Help us to be witnesses to others and to be open to the possibilities that your love can bring. Amen - Elizabeth Roma

Saturday, March 12, 2016 Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go, select lambs for your families, and slaughter the passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood in the basin. None of you shall go outside the door of your house until morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike down the Egyptians; when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over that door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you down. You shall observe this rite as a perpetual ordinance for you and your children. Exodus 12:21-24

In this passage we learn about how the Israelites were saved because they listened to the instructions given to them by God. We have all been saved when Jesus died for us on the cross. The Bible helps to guide us in our daily lives as we read God’s word. It is not always easy to follow the instructions we have been given. However, it is easy to focus on our failures and compare ourselves to other people. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of just how much we are cherished by God. He only wants good for us and has promised us that when we turn to him and confess our sins that we are truly forgiven. If God can forgive us, we surely can forgive ourselves. Dear God we are so grateful for your ultimate gift of life and salvation. Please help us to not only remember your commandments, but also your willingness to forgive us. We thank you for your love and many gifts. - Lisa Player

Monday, March 14, 2016 Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:19-25

In this exhortation, the writer of Hebrews is urging a community to gather together because of Jesus’ great sacrifice for them, through his flesh and blood. The life that the writer of Hebrews is calling the community to live is a bold one, a life empowered by the love of Jesus. This life the writer exhorts them to live is a life that holds fast to the confession of their hope, a life where they “provoke one another to love and good deeds,” a life where they meet together, and a life where they encourage one another. This bold life is a “new and living way” that Jesus’ life and death opened for them and for us. So how are we living a bold life? As you go through this day of your Lenten journey I encourage you to think about ways that you can be more encouraging to others in this community. As a community engaged in “the new and living way” that Christ’s death for us made possible, we are called to reach out and encourage one another, provoke one another to love and good deeds, as God in Jesus Christ calls us to do. Abiding God, Thank you for providing us life together as a community. Be with us as we live bold lives because of your love. Work through us as we love and encourage one another in this community, empower this community to do great things in your name. Amen. - Cassandra McIntosh Overcash

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and you know that no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; everyone who confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he has promised us, eternal life. 1 John 2:20-25

People sometimes wonder how my four brothers and I managed to become productive college graduates, loving partners to our spouses, and even parents ourselves, after we first lost our father to depression as children and then suffered through a Christmas holiday four years later with our mom hospitalized two hours from home for severe mania/bipolar. The irony is that our parents were well-respected and beloved physicians who could diagnose cancer or deliver a newborn. Even I sometimes marvel at our lives today with eleven children among us and marriages averaging nearly fourteen years apiece. The answer I believe is fairly simple: faith, love and resilience. We were all baptized as infants in a Lutheran church, and though we have taken various paths back, we all worship in some fashion in a Lutheran church today. I believe that the faith and the love and, yes, even the resiliency of our parents, has guided us to what is right in this world. Our parents taught us to be kind, to listen, to serve, and to be compassionate to all people. Did not Jesus follow the lessons of his Father? The love of parents is enduring and nourishing even through the darkest hours, and we have faith that we will have eternal life, together again in the comforting presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Dear God, Please comfort all of those who suffer with a mental illness and extend that comfort, too, to their family and friends who love them. Let them all feel peace and love and faith in a new day and the promise of everlasting life with you and your Son. Amen. - Kara Montgomery

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 Now I know that the LORD will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand. Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the LORD our God. They will collapse and fall, but we shall rise and stand upright. Give victory to the king, O LORD; answer us when we call. Psalm 20:6-9

In the midst of our battles, where do we find God? The battles are there for all of us. Sometimes in the every day stresses that build up to breaking points - bad bosses, deadline, and change; sometimes in full quick gusts of tragedies in our lives – loss of loved ones, cancer, and loneliness. Being a Christian, being one of God’s people does not protect from our problems. It helps us get those long days, months, and sometimes years. Psalm 20 reminds us that God is with us and will be help us. It is our task to keep our sights on our God and remember that the victory is ours through Christ. - Melinda Crenshaw

Thursday, March 17, 2016 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the LORD shall prosper. Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:10-11

God’s prophet Isaiah gives us a pretty blunt description of Jesus’ grand purpose. These verses can be hard to read, but it’s important that we don’t just read scripture that is easy for us. Jesus did suffer for us, and it was his suffering that made us righteous. Whenever we pray, we can always begin with thanks for what Jesus endured for our benefit. Thanksgiving is a perfect reason to pray, and what better to give thanks for than the ultimate gift? Merciful Father, we give you thanks that you loved us so much as to give up your only Son. Be at work in us and guide us each day, and for your Son’s sake, forgive us when we stumble, as we know we will. It is in your precious Son Jesus’ name that we pray. Amen. - Todd Cook

Friday, March 18, 2016 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. Hebrews 2:14-18

“Christ wants to help us when tempted. When we rely on His Word, presence, and power, we too can overcome temptation.” Lord, please inspire us to read your Scriptures and to meditate upon them. I beg you to give us real understanding of what we need. In Jesus’ name, Amen. - Donald Trentham

Saturday, March 19, 2016 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked. He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. Luke 22:7-13 This would be the scene in the action movie that is in slow motion. Close up on the eyes, low camera angles, zoom-in tight on the sweat that drips from the chin. Just then our hero would look over his shoulder right before the final set of explosions. Only, in this story the hero did not look over his shoulder. Not once. This scripture describes the hours just before Jesus is betrayed by Judas. Jesus knows that he is going to be betrayed. But instead of looking for a way to escape, he uses his last free moments setting up a dinner to spend meaningful time with those he loved. Instead of running around making last minute preparations, it was important for Jesus to have a private room so that he could share his last hours with his Disciples. There is a calmness to this scripture. Jesus was not worried about his impending capture but instead focused on the last meal for his followers. Can you imagine the amount of noise that was heard that night? Armored guards rushing into the city with livestock mooing, children crying, and people screaming. When we think about our own lives, are we able to separate our noise? We get preoccupied by our work, overloaded with information, seem to only hear piercing opinions, and it’s more important to cross it off the “todo” list today, than to write it on there again. Jesus had a huge distraction looming just outside the door. However, he focused on what was most important, those sitting beside him.

Dear God, help us trust that you will clear the noise in our life and allow us to focus on your journey for us. Help us deal with stress and distractions. Open our hearts, minds, an even our ears to your words so we can listen to what you are telling us. Instead of hearing what is loudest, help us hear what is important. Amen. - Shawn Skillman

Monday of Holy Week, March 21, 2016 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them [ a ] with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii [ b ] and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” - John 12:1-8 Jesus is visiting in Bethany (about two miles from Jerusalem on the road from Jericho) with his friends Mary, her sister Martha, and Lazarus. Martha has served dinner while Mary has anointed the feet of Jesus, not the head as would be expected, with expensive perfumed oil from the nard plant. The disciples and possibly other friends are present. Judas Iscariot complains that Mary has not sold the oil and given the money to the poor. Judas serves as treasurer for the disciples and this scripture clearly reveals that he is a thief, helping himself to money from the common purse, and that he does not care about the poor. Jesus, no doubt, already knows of the dishonesty of Judas. He uses this opportunity to remind everyone present that he would not remain with his friends for much longer and that he approves of Mary using the oil which she has purchased for his funeral. Perhaps only Mary feels how soon that may happen. The needs of the poor are not minimized here, only recognized as an on-going need among Christian believers.

Perhaps another theme found in this scripture is envy or jealousy. Do Martha and Judas envy Mary her sensitive, humble service to their friend Jesus? Do we as "servers", like Martha and Judas, wish for more recognition and appreciation, mistaking that for "closeness" to Jesus? Do we feel less special or less "spiritual" because our service is not so visible, nor as expensive? God created all of us equally and loves each of us equally, regardless of our gifts. Through regular prayer, worship, and Bible study we grow closer to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Through service we grow closer to each other as Christian brothers and sisters, using the gifts which God has generously given to each of us.

Lord, heavenly father, we thank you for the sacrifice of your son Jesus. Help us to remember his suffering and pain on the cross when we begin to focus on ourselves excessively. Help us to be sensitive to the needs of others around us and to find ways to serve as your hands. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. - Pat Ceresoli

Tuesday of Holy Week, March 22, 2016 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

When I first read this scripture, I immediately thought of something my mother would say to me all the time: “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Indeed He does. From this passage, I am reminded of the countless times I have been humbled by God in thought and deed. I can remember one particular time when I was driving down to Florida with my wife and child to go to my sister’s house for Thanksgiving. I cannot remember exactly what we were talking about but whatever we were talking about was getting me heated and I was getting on my high horse about something. Then I remember Edie saying to me, “You know, God is listening to everything you’re saying.” I turned to her and responded, “Please, God has more important things to do than listening to me rant.” As I turned my head to fix my attention back on the road, a plastic crate flew off the back of some guy’s pick-up and smacked right into our windshield. Coincidence? Maybe. Slap in the face from God? More likely. So allow me “to boast in the Lord” for a moment. Because of God’s grace, I am saved from own foolish behavior and weak thoughts. Because of God’s grace, I am redeemed from my sins. Thank You, Lord.

Lord, remind me when I am boastful and foolish that the strength and wisdom I seek is found in the cross. Amen. - Joseph Casey

Wednesday of Holy Week, March 23, 2016 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of [ b ] the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

Each day we enter a new phase of our journey in Christ. In this passage of scripture, we are reminded to rid ourselves of every sin that holds us back, and run our race focused on Christ. Christ suffered greatly for us and our sins, and He was made perfect through that suffering. Each of us struggles with sin, pain, sadness, loss and hardship. As Christ persevered and endured, so must we. We must not become discouraged and give up. As my Mother "runs" the final leg of her earthly race, I am constantly looking for a glimpse of the wonderful woman she once was. Recently, though unable to communicate, she sat at the bedside of her dying friend and held her hand. What a precious gift of reassurance and reminder of God's loving mercy and grace. It encourages and strengthens me in the race set before me. As Christians, we are observed by those around us, both believers and nonbelievers. What kind of race are we running? It must be one of victory over sin and one that honors and glorifies God. Gracious God, help us to run the race you have set before us with our eyes fixed firmly on you. Amen

- Patsy South

Maundy Thursday, March 24, 2016 After [Jesus] had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. John 13:12-17

Jesus has just surprised the heck out of the disciples by washing their feet. He catches them off guard. What in the world was He about? Usually, the servants would do that job, wouldn’t they? Jesus has even washed the feet of Judas who will betray him. Maybe Jesus is showing the disciples that leadership and servanthood are two sides of the same coin, another paradox that we must contemplate. Even though he is their Teacher and Lord, he sets an example of how his service to them simply must translate into love and service for others in our church communities and inform our witness in the wider world. As we are continually startled and surprised by God’s infinite grace and love, we are called to reflect that love is not an abstraction but the action that brings people into a relationship with Christ and with each other as we serve and are served every day.

God of love and mercy, as Jesus was the servant of all, grant us the strength and will to serve others in our daily lives in the name of Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen. - Ruth Lackstrom

Good Friday, March 25, 2016 Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6

This passage is filled with words of woe---infirmities, disease, afflicted. It seems like lately I've been adding people to my prayer list every day. I'm praying for people who are sick, lonely, living in poverty, suffering from mental illness, heartbroken.... When first reading this passage is seems like it's all bad news. But, then I looked more closely and see the Good News of Jesus Christ right there--"upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises, we are healed." It doesn't say, "by his bruises, we feel a little bit better.� It says we are HEALED. So, this season of Lent when we are focusing on prayer, my prayer will be that we will all come to know and understand the great power of healing that Jesus brings. Jesus died for our sins so that we have new life and can be healed in ways beyond our imagination. Gracious God, Thank you for walking alongside us in our sorrow and pain. Heal us from all diseases— mental or physical. Help us to reach out to others to ease their pain and remind us of the promise that one day we will be free from all disease when we see you face-to-face. Amen. - Sandra Holland

From “Praying in Color”… Creating a calendar is a way to keep a daily discipline during Lent. Choose a word or name for each day, and on the calendar template on the opposite page, write the word in a space, and draw, color, or doodle around it. Let the name or word fill your heart and mind. Each day is different. The words or peoples’ names become a beautiful tapestry. Use the calendar on the opposite page for your drawings, or download and print out a jpg template (that you could enlarge) from the Praying in Color website: http://

Here are some different ways to use the calendar: 1) Read the scripture and reflection for each day, and select a word that jumps out at you. Use that word in the space for the day. 2) Pray for a person each day.

3) Use nouns or adjectives that describe the nature and character of Jesus: savior, redeemer, healer, radical, obedient, forgiving…. To the left is an example of a completed Lenten calendar from 2015.

Prayer list

Prayer list

Lent & Holy Week Schedule 2016 Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper Tuesday, February 9, 6 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall

Ash Wednesday Services Imposition of Ashes and Holy Communion Wednesday, February 10, noon and 7 p.m.

A nursery is available at 7 p.m.

Wednesday Evenings in Lent

“Amen...Pray like Jesus” February 17 and 24 & March 2, 9 and 16 Dinner at 6 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall Holden Evening Prayer and Lenten Dramas at 7 p.m.

A nursery is available.

Holy Week Sunday, March 20—Palm Sunday Worship at 8:30 and 11 a.m. Wednesday, March 23—Service of Healing at 6:30 p.m. Maundy Thursday, March 24—Holy Communion and Stripping of the Chancel, 7 p.m. Good Friday, March 25—Worship at noon and 7 p.m. Saturday, March 26—Easter Vigil, 7 p.m. Easter Sunday, March 27—Festival Service of Holy Communion, 8:30 and 11 a.m. Breakfast and Easter Egg Hunt—9:45 a.m.

Daily devotions for Lent 2016  

Daily devotions for the season of Lent, written by members of St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Columbia SC

Daily devotions for Lent 2016  

Daily devotions for the season of Lent, written by members of St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Columbia SC