A Holy Lent Daily Devotions for the Season by Trinity Parish edited by Cynthia Bright and The Rev. David Henson
A note from the cover artist A Desert Prayer Circle for Lent 2019. Gouache and prayers on paper. By Hali Karla, artist, teacher and Trinity member A contemplative Creative Practice can help shift our awareness, from all that competes for our attention and busies our minds, toward what God wants us to see, tend, release or celebrate in our living experience and relationships. It is a practice in presence and devotion. This painting was made with prayers for this Lent season for us all:
For unity and the guiding path of the Trinity. For the remembrance that we are called to care for all people as beloved and whole, none less worthy than others, and for the Earth that nourishes all of us. For taking time to walk in our personal â€œdesertâ€? of solitude, temptation and transformation, trusting the light and presence of God in our most vulnerable confessions and weakest moments, to show us what we have not been able to see so far, and to guide us with greater clarity toward what it looks and feels like to give and receive His love in our lives and relationships, one step at a time.
Introduction As a priest, Lent is often one of the most hectic times of year. It’s not the sprint that comes with Christmas Eve or with Holy Week and Easter. Rather it’s a sustained, hard run. There are always a few extra plates to keep spinning, between the additional programs and worship services. These are all good and holy, as Lent is a season we do set aside additional time for devotion. But as a priest, while I’m helping to create experiences and opportunities in which others can set aside time for devotion, setting aside time for myself is a different story. That’s why I am so pleased again to have this devotional booklet in my hands. Because it is a Lenten offering from our parish that can’t help but feed the soul. I know it did last year for me and for so many more in our parish, as we distributed more than 200 copies. This booklet in your hands is truly holy ground again, intended to help you observe a holy Lent. It represents the wisdom and experience of lived faith from across all groups in our parish, from our youngest members to our most seasoned. More than 40 people were involved in this devotional, offering reflections for each day from Monday through Saturday. What about Sundays? Well join us in worship, of course, for that day’s readings. Of course, reading through these offerings, it seems I might need to up my preaching game! These devotions follow Year One of the Daily Office lectionary in the Book of Common Prayer. This two-year cycle of readings, beginning on page 934 of the BCP (or in the handy smartphone app eCP), is designed to be used with the Daily Office, services like Morning and Evening Prayer which begin on page 35. Each day typically has a reading from the Old Testament, New Testament, Gospels, and Psalms (some of our devotions refer to more than one of these readings). If you follow this cycle for the full two years, you’ll read pretty much all of the New Testament and a large swath of the Old. Lenten blessings, David+
Thursday, March 7
The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession....Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him. Deuteronomy 7:6, 9 How does it feel to be told that you are holy to the Lord? That you are God's treasured possession? One of the most difficult things for us to acknowledge is the thought that we are precious in God's sight, that we truly are loved, and indeed treasured by our Creator. That our God seeks, yearns, to be in relationship with us, his creation, and proves this by faithfulness and covenant loyalty. God is faithful to his promise, and the fulfillment of this promise is Jesus. So, in the face of this love, this faithfulness and covenant loyalty, what do we do? How do we react? We might choose to reject God's love, his reaching out to us through the Spirit. No, we might say, we know our hearts and see our weakness, the faithlessness, the self-love. Your love, O God, is too great a burden to carry, to live up to. Or we might luxuriate in God's love and revel in being his treasured possession, feeling satisfied that as chosen ones, we are club members of the Most Holy. Or we can respond to this knowledge of God's favor with awe, gratitude, and even action. Living in the knowledge of God's love and faithfulness might mean a new way of viewing and interacting with the rest of God's creation. As holy ones in God's heart, could we not be God's agents of love and action on earth? Might not the knowledge of God's faithfulness fill us with strength and courage "to love and serve the Lord with gladness" by serving others? As we reflect on our faith during Lent, let us also reflect on God's faithfulness, and His calling to be "the light of the world." If the Almighty One sees us as holy people, treasured possessions, think what we are capable of achieving in service of Him. John Hall
How do we reflect God’s abundant love and unstinting faithfulness to our community? Heavenly Father, help us to see ourselves as you see us – treasured and holy – and grant us strength and courage to live our lives in faithfulness to you and your creation. Amen.
Friday, March 8
As he watched Jesus walk by, John exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” John 1: 36 What is it like to stand in the shadow of someone greater than us? John the Baptist knew better than anyone. Born to unlikely elderly parents, John knew his whole life that his vocation was to point out another, his younger cousin in fact, as being greater than himself. I think John’s parents never let him forget that his life’s purpose was about deflecting claims of his authority to the lordship of someone else. His mother Elizabeth probably constantly recalled his unlikely conception. His father no doubt endlessly recounted the months of speechlessness for his own lack of faith. John’s whole life, from birth, was one of remembering, preparing and waiting for that moment when he would turn to two of his disciples, men who revered him and followed him, and say, “Look, the Lamb of God!” That ordinarylooking Jewish man who just walked by, John might have said, the one I baptized yesterday, that’s the Messiah, you should follow him – not me. And of course, they did listen to John and leave him! Andrew turned on his heel, followed Jesus to his lodgings, and then proceeded to get his brother who Jesus immediately recruited and even gave a new name! And from that moment forward, John the Baptist’s place in the story is eclipsed by the rising ministry of Jesus. In Lent our attention is appropriately focused on imitating the life of Christ. We contemplate our failings, our limitations, and our sins that are met with the self-giving love of the Savior in the most brutal sacrifice. Today’s gospel reading, however, offers us a brief glimpse of humility from John the Baptist whose entire life, personal and professional, was pointed at acknowledging who he was not. Lisa Toland Williams
How might we imitate him in our daily conversations? In what moments might we point out the Messiah? In what relationships might we point out Christ to those who need the spiritual guidance of someone they trust? When can we say, I don’t have the solution to your need, but that person – He is. Holy God, teach us the gift of humility that we might live our lives pointing to you and to your love, revealed to us in Christ. Amen.
Saturday, March 9
“Thou shall not be affrighted at them: for the Lord thy God is among you, a mighty God and terrible. And the Lord thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little: thou mayest not consume them at once…” Deuteronomy 7:21-22 God and we, ideally following God’s instructions, have grand plans, dreams of where we are to go and what we wish to accomplish in our world. I believe God gives us goals to work towards, as people of God and as individuals. We must strive for big goals and yet try to figure out how to get there. In re-reading Deuteronomy and thinking of the entire Bible, I am struck again by how this has to be the greatest “self-help” book in history. We today are not different from the people whom God was addressing, reportedly through Moses, millennia ago. At this time in the story of God’s people being led to the Promised Land, more than forty years have already passed in the people’s long journey, and most of the people addressed are a new generation. Here God through Moses is giving people instructions on what to do as they proceed towards the longtime goal. God instructs us to keep faith, not to be afraid, and yet, as I’ve often noticed in Biblical instructions, God says to go “little and little” towards the goal so as not to be overwhelmed by obstacles or temptations along the way. Growing up at Trinity in Asheville, I am proud to report that our congregation under our rector Mr. Tuton and our diocese under Bishop Henry were leaders in the civil rights movement from the 1950s on. We in our EYC (Episcopal Young Churchmen)-youths and leaders- were active in working against segregation laws to bring about integration in our community. Now decades later, home again, I often get frustrated wondering why it seems we are having the same conversations and making little progress more than a half century later. Yet I am encouraged in reading such scripture as this in Deuteronomy. We must have faith as we move towards God’s goals for us, steadily, step by step, “little and little.” And we must strive to pass along the word to future generations to continue onwards—even if perhaps we, like Moses, can only view the Promised Land from our own Mount Pisgah. Liz Colton
To what goal in your spiritual life are you striving? What are those “little and little” steps you are taking? Loving God, give us patience in our faith and boldness in our vision so that each day we move closer to making your plan for creation a reality. Amen.
Monday, March 11
Remember that it is God who gives you the ability to produce wealth. Deuteronomy 8:18 In the book of Deuteronomy we find Moses and the Israelites camped beside the Jordan River near the Dead Sea. Their forty years of wandering in the desert is about to end as they prepare to cross the Jordan River and enter the land of Canaan, the “Promised Land.” Moses, however, cannot cross into the “Promised Land” with the others owing to an earlier disobedience to God. Because he will no longer be able to guide the Israelites, he gave them very strict instructions, along with a summary of the law so that they and Joshua, their new guide, would continue to find favor with the Lord. Moses reminded the Israelites of their covenant with God. He stressed the importance of observing God’s laws and remaining faithful. In this passage Moses famously tells the Israelites that they “do not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Later, he says to them that when they prosper in this Promised Land of Canaan, when their “herds and flocks grow large and (their) silver and gold have multiplied,” they must beware of becoming prideful and thinking “my power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” Then Moses says, “Remember that it is God who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” How often do we today, particularly in our nation of great abundance, forget to thank the Lord for our many blessings? Do we only call on God in time of our need, but neglect to think of Him daily as the source of our comforts and abundance and to give Him “humble and hearty thanks”? Do we pray or go to church on Sundays only when we want something from God, to pray just for the things that we desire? If so, Moses warned, we may be falsehearted and “will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord God.” Keeping faith with God’s laws along with daily prayers of thanksgiving and praise can be moments of genuine comfort in the company of the Lord. Such conversations can also give us renewed perspective, hope and joy. And, the discipline of taking “time out” to reflect and talk with God can also be a source of comfort, strength renewed perspective, and hope. Erich Cluxton
In your own life, what gets in the way of taking time to pray and give thanks to God? How can you be mindful of that this Lenten season? Lord, teach us to pray, and in that, teach us we need you to sustain our spirits just as our bodies need bread. Amen.
Tuesday, March 12
Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. Hebrews 2:18 Whenever we have to face the worst in life we ask, “Why”? There was once a little girl that lived on a farm in the country. She and her family had to travel to the city to go to school. This particular little girl was always anxious about life, which led to her being bullied at school. The kids would laugh at her when she asked about the universe, which they thought was silly, but living in the country she could observe the night sky without any light pollution. The night skies were so dark that she knew that the brightest star had to be God. He was always watching over her at night. During the day she always would thank the sun for its beautiful warmth. She knew God was watching over her during the day too. See it doesn’t matter where you are. God is always with you. She knew that the bullies had never experienced God as she had. She knew that she was being tested, but all this just made her stronger. Byron Ellen Shaw
Think about a time when your own life might have led you to asking ,“Why”? How did God’s light shine in the midst of that night? Loving God, thank you for always being present to us, our guiding light when the circumstances of life make the world seem dim. Amen.
Wednesday, March 13
"Nicodemus came to Jesus by night ..." John 3:2 Reflecting on the death of Helen, I can see that Jesus was walking with me, not against me. While most might doubt the death of an infant and ask why has God forsaken me, the church showed up—not in the physical way like most might think but in the spiritual sense. It was in these moments of dark doubt that the isolating experience of grieving gave me strength. In years of quiet reflection, I could hear and feel the spiritual presence of Jesus grieving alongside me and offering safety. His presence led me to trust as he guided me towards hope and healing. Without hope, we might live in the dark forest forever. By turning toward grief and loss, I was able to walk through the puddles with Jesus by my side. The church supported my journey with metaphors, traditions and hymns which helped me stand tall and upright. Just as "Nicodemus came to Jesus by night," Jesus came to our daughter’s birth, death and baptism, standing with us weeping, sharing in our sorrow and suffering. It was in those dark hours after her death that angels wrapped our children and our family with reflections that our loss was also his loss in that children are gifts from God. Helen had a purpose, and now her gift would need to shift into a memory of God’s love. In faith, with trust and hope, our family stood in the midst of feeling empty, isolated and confused, never doubting that God was holding her in heaven and weeping. Trusting my faith allowed me to grieve, openly cry and walk with vulnerability actively. Today we exhale, honor the loss and celebrate the victory that Heaven reigns. Katherine Hyde-Hensley
Think about a time when you came to Jesus by night, whether in the night of grief, suffering or doubt. What was it like to see Jesus there with you? Ever-present God, be presentwith us in our darkest nights, present with us. Comfort us with the knowledge that there is nowhere you are not, no suffering you have not felt, no tear you have not shed. Amen.
Thursday, March 14
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. John 3:19 What might God be telling me through this Gospel? In every darkness there is Light and in every Light there is some darkness. I know why a lot of people were evil. Their hearts were almost full of darkness, but still there were little specks of light in their body. Those specks can come together and find God because, when Jesus, the ultimate Light, was born all people were covered with his love. Love is the word that everyone says once in a while. The Light of Jesus shined bright through the world and made evil weaker. When evil tries to make a person its servant, God is with you and God's love is stronger. Collin McCormick (age 8)
How does it feel to know that the light of Godâ€™s love is stronger than whatever sin or darkness youâ€™ve experienced? Almighty God, teach us to trust in the strength of your love and grace, even if we feel overwhelmed by the difficulties and evil of this world. Amen.
Friday, March 15
“Circumcise then the foreskin of your heart and do not be stubborn any longer. ….For God is not partial and takes no bribe, executes justice for the orphan and the widow and loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.” Deuteronomy 10: 16-18 These images ring out at a time of great disruption in our current national life. We are inundated with the latest distress or tweet or divisiveness happening around us. Some days I feel I am drowning in too much information. It is far too easy to close my heart and eyes; to throw up my hands and say, “What can I do? It’s all too big.” It is just then the God of gods breaks through my defenses and calls me to “circumcise the foreskin of my heart,” and to release my stubbornness. This is to say I am to remove any veil or covering of my heart that hinders my sensitivity to the voice of the Holy One. My stiff-necked resistance shuts out the God “who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.” When I am able to uncover my heart and soften my neck, an inner sensitivity and openness to God develops, and I am more able to let go of self-reliance, selfassertion and self-interest. With an open heart and open mind I listen for God’s guidance for how I can reflect God’s impartiality, justice and love of strangers. As Fr. Columba Stewart, Benedictine monk, advised “Do what you can do, not what you want to do.” Emily Wilmer
In this Lenten time, what thoughts or feelings hinder you from listening more deeply to the living God? How does the current cycle of disruption in our national life overwhelm you or shut down your ability to love the stranger? What needs do you have that mirror the orphan and widow, the strangers in need of food and clothing? Loving God, reveal to me when, where, and with whom I am partial so that I might repent and better reflect your impartiality. Amen.
Saturday, March 16
“Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.” Deuteronomy 11:18 I worked as a child and family therapist for some thirteen years before ever becoming a parent myself. Though self-aware enough never to speak such hubris aloud, many times, in my own head, I pictured my future self as a different kind of parent than those I counseled. Not better, I thought, just different—more informed, and intentional. In the naiveté of my fantasies, every tantrum and skinned knee would present an opportunity for emotional growth and psychosocial development, and I, armed with Band-Aids and a head full of Bowlby and Piaget, would play the conductor, my words and actions directing a symphony of human greatness. What a load of crap! In the midst of the sleepless stupor of those earliest months, or the amygdala-rattling irrationality of toddlerdom, knowledge and intentionality went flying out the window. Instead, I found myself defaulting to a more basic operating system. In the trenches of my own reality, things I’d learned about attachment theory or sensorimotor development were mostly inaccessible and useless, even if I did remember them. I felt so lost! It was a crushing experience for someone who spent years telling others what to do, but in the midst of my despair came a grace of remembering—of things I’d learned way before any about child psychology. The concepts I could access were simple, but foundational. Patience. Gratitude. Humility. Love. Perhaps a bit more humility… In his 2005 commencement address to Kenyon College, the author David Foster Wallace made a compelling case for spiritual worship. “There is no such thing as not worshipping,” he said. “Everybody worships—the only choice we get is what to worship.” In our parenting, our lives, and our faith, we’re never going to get it all right. But neither are we out to sea, for we’ve been handed the truest guidance straight from the source, even if we can’t remember it perfectly, or all of the time. In Deuteronomy, and in Lent, we are reminded to fix this direction into our hearts and minds, to reaffirm our choices about “what to worship.” When the word of God is made an integral part of our daily lives, we’ll never want for true guidance. Michael Pesant
Can you think of a time when you thought you had the answers only to realize you were lost? What helped you find your way again? Generous God, thank you for your patience in our wandering, prideful ways. Guide us gently back to those foundational truths of your love and grace for us. Amen.
Monday, March 18
“Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” John 4:27 Jesus has just finished a life-changing conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria. His disciples had gone into town for food. When they returned, they were taken aback seeing him in conversation with a woman—and a Samaritan woman at that. This just wasn’t done. The disciples were astonished as they watched Jesus modeling the inclusivity of the Kingdom, but their response was itself surprising. They were ordinary people who had chosen to follow this man Jesus and had found themselves in the midst of an incredible journey of transformation. Although astonished, they neither questioned nor confronted him or the woman. They reacted as those who were becoming accustomed to expecting the unexpected in this life of following Jesus. This was just one more astonishing thing in what had become a life of astonishment. The disciples lived with Jesus, traveled with him, participated with him in his ministry. They were by turns astounded, bewildered, uplifted and anxious, as they tried to make sense of this person and his words and works that were shattering every societal, cultural and religious preconception of life as they knew it. Although he daily turned their world upside down, they stayed, they listened and they allowed themselves to be transformed bit by bit, story by story, experience by experience. At every opportunity Jesus showed them the in-breaking of the Kingdom and challenged them to see with new eyes, hear with new ears, perceive with a transformed heart and mind as we walk with Jesus in this very moment, our awakening awareness is a progressive revelation just as it was with the disciples. Susan Edwards
How can you allow the words and actions of Jesus to astonish you this day, to turn your world upside down, to penetrate your heart, to challenge your preconceived notions and complacencies and transform your life today? Loving God, help me to allow the words and actions of Jesus to continually surprise me, challenge me and move me into the transforming power of your Kingdom. Amen.
Tuesday, March 19
Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. John 4:50 Can you imagine what the royal official was going through in this passage—facing the helpless, grief-filled situation of watching his son die? He didn’t send someone else; he came directly to Jesus himself. We don’t know what he believed or didn’t. Jesus didn’t ask. Can you imagine the desperation in his eyes—pleading with Jesus for his son’s healing—as if to say, “Please, you are the only hope left. I have to believe you can heal my boy. Please come.” I can imagine the sincerity and urgency in his plea—in what he did and didn’t say. Jesus sees this, and says simply, “Go; your son will live.” Can you imagine that day of travel, before the official’s servants told him the time that his son’s recovery indeed began? Did doubts creep in? Did his faith waiver, wondering if he’d been sent away on false promise or why Jesus would not come himself? Or did he hold to faith in Jesus’ word because it was all he had left to hold onto? Perhaps this speaks to our own inner struggles with holding both hope and surrender to God’s will. As we figuratively walk back home, in those moments between choosing faith for what we know we must face and finding out if the outcome will be what we asked and prayed for, will we be true to a word of promise received? For the official, this was not a word from any representative of Jesus, but from Jesus himself. When he asked Jesus to come, to bring a sign into his home, he received instead a direct word of promise with a simple command: G o. Go and see. Perhaps sometimes, in the most dire moments, faith is about bringing ourselves straight to Christ to ask for what we think is needed and then trusting his word as we hear it, even if it’s different than we expect. Then we hold that faith as we walk ourselves home to where we feel helpless and face our situation with the promise of God’s presence and will bringing healing to life in his way and timing. Hali Karla
In your prayer life, have you ever felt the command or promise that things will work out, to Go and see, to walk toward and face what feels helpless, and trust God’s love and will to be always present and revealed? How did that experience change you or shape your beliefs and questions? Loving God, teach us to trust in your love through the changes and chances of this life, walking by faith even if the path itself seems dim and uncertain at times. Amen.
Wednesday, March 20
One man was at the pool of Bethesda who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” John 5:5-6 “We have your test results back, and I’m afraid they are consistent with your having .” Fill in the blank with your own diagnosis, and it certainly can bring feelings of sadness, fear, frustration and even dread. As a health care provider working with cancer patients, I find myself saying that most unfortunate phrase on a daily basis. As someone who has also been on the other side of the examination table, I also understand the power and the weight of those words. Now, take a few minutes to imagine how the man in today’s scripture felt. Imagine being sick for 38 years. Imagine the shear desperation this man felt. “I just have to take one more step and I’ll be there. All my problems will go away.” This man is sick and tired of being sick and tired. He has reached such a point of desperation he’s willing to try anything to get better. In fact, he’s so desperate that he spends his time attempting to be the first to get into the pool of Bethesda, in hopes of a miraculous healing; however, his broken and infirm body is too weak, and he is trampled by the stronger strangers hoping for the same miracle. So why is this man trying so desperately to get into the pool? Archaeologists believe that in ancient times, the pool of Bethesda was an Asclepieion, a healing temple. The belief was that an angel of the Lord would come down at certain seasons, get into the pool and stir the water; whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was then healed. So now we know why this man is likely on all fours dragging himself as quickly as he can to get into the pool, but to no avail. In the story, Jesus notices the man’s struggles. I can see him now, crouching down to the man and taking his hand. With a gentle smile, he asks the man, “Do you want to be made well?” The man replies, “More than anything in the world.” And it is done. The man is healed. The man, stunned yet still unsure, takes up his mat. Fast forward to today; we as a people continue to have many ills, whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual. As brothers and sisters in Christ, isn’t it refreshing to know that we do not have to rely upon superstition or magical elixirs? Instead, we know that we can turn to Christ, our only mediator and advocate. Through hope and grace, we know that we can turn to our Savior and ask for help. Wow! What wondrous love is this? Brad Wilson
What prevents you from feeling ‘whole,’ either physically, spiritually, or emotionally? What would it be like to have a conversation with Jesus poolside about it? Holy and most gracious God, we are truly thankful for Christ’s example in caring for and curing the sick. Prepare my heart and use my hands for the work that you have prepared for me. May my life be a testament to your love and a vessel for your healing. Amen.
Thursday, March 21
"You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?” Romans 2:23 In this portion of Paul's letter, he is making the point that righteousness is no longer exclusively reached through compliance with the law, but that we are granted righteousness through Jesus Christ. He goes on to warn those who pride themselves on their knowledge of the law not to disregard it and rely on Jesus’ grace since by that example, "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles." I have raised three children. It was an awesome responsibility to try and teach them to be acceptable members of society. We lay down rules of behavior, but most teaching is by example. Typical scenario: after emphasizing to the small child currently in the household, “We don't use that word because it's not nice,” you go into the kitchen and discover the dog munching down on the last of the roast that was on the counter waiting for the oven to heat. Out comes "that word.” In this case, there will be instant retribution, since the child, although three rooms away and unable to hear "It's time to pick up the toys," has picked up what you just said. They will then announce later to the company at large, "Guess what?! Mommy said #@&!” Or even worse, the child will weave "that word" into their own conversation for weeks. Unfortunately, we don't always witness the results of our occasional misdeeds. We never know what the effects are of our actions when we ignore the law of common courtesy. What is the ripple effect of failing to alternate merge at a lane closure and cutting a person off, who perhaps had an awful day, and who then goes on to cut off others or make other bad decisions in anger? Beverly Congdon
In your business, do you pay some of your subcontractors under the table? Do you publicly humiliate your assistant over an error minutes before leaving for your Bible class? Do you pass along a little cash to help the prospective customer decide who’s bid to except? How might these people react to your example? Will they follow your lead? Heavenly Father, we thank you for the grace and righteousness bestowed on us by your sacrifice. Help us to be aware of the effects of our actions, and when we slip, as imperfect humans will, give us the strength to atone. Amen.
Friday, March 22
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. ... I know that you do not have the love of God within you. John 5:39, 42 The passages for today remind me of one of my grandmother’s favorite quotes – “Pretty is as pretty does.” Although this quote seems superficial when related to Jesus’ words to us, I know that Nana meant that we have to be good on the inside in order to be pretty on the outside. I feel like I see all too often a message in our culture that we don’t need to back up our words with actions. In my professional life, I work with individuals across the country. One of our goals as team members is to exhibit leadership. Many teammates will tell me that they don’t feel like leaders, as they don’t lead teams or run meetings. But what I see in many of them is the ability to “lead by example.” To me, this is what God is calling us to do. In Romans 2:29, we read “But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” When my daughter was six, we drove past a man on the side of the road with a sign that read “Hungry.” She immediately directed my husband Billy and me to turn into the grocery store, where she supervised us buying him lunch and then very meekly took the lunch to him. At her young age, she felt the desire to take action, to try to right the wrong that she saw. All too often, I just drive by, thinking “there but for the grace of God go I.” I believe that Jesus is calling on us to buy the lunch, to help those who struggle and to demonstrate his love for us in our actions toward others. Katherine Ray
How might you use this Lenten period to exhibit this same kind of childlike desire for action, to do something to show Jesus’ love for us to another person? Empowering God, through action and your inspiration, help us to reveal your love for all people in the world, in our communities and in our families. Amen.
Saturday, March 23
“For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.” Romans 3:22b – 25a Paul’s letter to the Romans works through the most important challenge the early church faced, one which, if not resolved, would stop the proclamation of the Good News to the Gentile world in its tracks. What was that challenge? To put on proper footing the relationship between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. The one had long lived under the Judaic law, central to the religious practice of God’s people. It regarded Torah as a requirement for membership in the Way that Jesus first proclaimed and Paul now preached. The other did not live under that law. Rather, it understood itself as having been invited directly into the family of God through faith in Christ Jesus. This difference of perspective no doubt seemed to many to be the widest of gulfs. While the challenge is stated without much difficulty, the resolution requires long, hard work. Paul’s resolution was this: Both the one and the other are sinners. Both rely on grace. Both experience that grace effectively through faith. Both are the same. Over its 2,000 year arc, the Church has come to understand the Torah as an expression of how one people came to live into a covenant relationship with God. But the Torah is not the end. Rather, God through his favor invites all to enter into relationship with him, a community greatly expanded without regard to one’s point of entry, whether observing the ancestral law or making a new beginning from the pagan world surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Ed Bleynat
What lessons does this early struggle hold for us? How do we bridge our own gulfs? The grace of God is at the heart of it, reconciling all. How do we become agents of that reconciliation? Reconciling God, break down the barriers we’ve erected between each other and help us to be agents of your love, grace, and reconciliation in the world. Amen.
Monday, March 25
For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever. Jeremiah 7:5-7 I am always drawn to the Old Testament readings, I am not sure why. I see the beauty of being human in those “lather, rinse, repeat” stories and the prophets shouting the message “listen up”. I can relate. God’s abundant grace is right in front of me and has already been given, yet I am distracted and looking in the other direction. I try to make it more complicated. I fill it with rules, standards, and my own sense of justice. Our readings today find Jeremiah, the reluctant profit, spreading the word that just making an appearance at the house of the Lord won’t cut it. Where are our hearts in all this? The children of Israel still don’t get it. God wants some answers and sooner rather than later. Paul’s message hundreds of years later is the same, God’s grace and acceptance are here for all of us. Saturate yourself in it. You are worthy. There are no entrance fees. You are in. It is not to be earned, it is simply there waiting for us. You are a child of God, just like Abraham. Jesus is always under suspicion because He brings this simple message to a very human world. We have the rules all wrong. All we are called to do is embrace God’s love for all. Wear it. Own it, especially on the Sabbath. Turn up the music and dance the Divine Dance. I don’t know about you, but I am not going to worry that I don’t know all the steps. All that matters is the joy and the love, which is what we have been searching for all along. Rhonda Kilby
For whom do I find it difficult to embrace God’s love? What more is God calling me to do besides ‘making an appearance’? Loving God, liberate me so that I may both find and embrace your love for all, including me. Amen.
Tuesday, March 26
I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. Yet they did not listen to me, or pay attention, but they stiffened their necks. Jeremiah 7:25-26 Sometimes we just do not listen. If you have ever had the task of putting children to bed at a reasonable hour, you know sometimes they just do not listen. Even the most compliant children show their stubbornness and contrariness when asked to get ready for bed. Asking them to brush their teeth becomes a struggle. To put on their pajamas becomes an unreasonable request coupled with the slowness of a snail. We all know a good night’s sleep is important in order for us to have an easier tomorrow, but yet they choose their desires. Finally, when the kids are asleep like little angels, you think, “Are they ever going to learn to listen?” As God observed His chosen people living in Judah during the time of Jeremiah, God saw them preferring not to pay attention to His ways but following their own desires. I can just imagine God thinking, “Here comes that golden calf again. When are they going to listen and obey?” So, God sends Jeremiah to sternly admonish them. God had once again observed the people being unfaithful to the laws of the covenant, but He still shows them patience and love. Jeremiah offers them God’s hope and encouragement by proclaiming ,“Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people.” At Trinity, the children’s Christian Formation Program uses the Godly Play Curriculum. In one of the lessons, the teacher introduces the Ten Commandments. As she reads the tablets, with kindness and understanding, she explains they tell us how to love both God and people. They’re described as the Ten Best Ways to Live. The teacher uses these words: “I know these are all hard. God did not say that these are ‘the ten easy things to do.’ They are the Ten Best Ways to Live, the Ten Commandments. They are hard, perhaps even impossible, but we are supposed to try. They mark the best way—like stones can show the right path.” Nancy Whisenhunt
Think about a time when you had a hard time listening to and obeying one of the commandments, the Ten Best Ways to Live? What made it so hard? What did you want to do instead? Gracious God, help me to listen and be receptive to hear what God is saying in my life this day. Amen.
Wednesday, March 27
Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:7-8 At first, I found it strange that Paul wrote that it is rare for someone to lay down their life for a righteous person. In my head, I began listing people in my life who I had deemed righteous, many of whom I like to think that I would die for. Then I read the next line, which differentiates between “good” people and “righteous” people. The only truly righteous person to walk the earth is Jesus. Those in my eyes who are seen as righteous are perhaps the “good” people that are mentioned in the passage. Well, this revelation confounded my thinking even more. Who would not die for Jesus? If we were somehow in a scenario where Jesus and I were side by side, and Pontius Pilate asked, “Who shall be sacrificed?” I surely hope that I would fight to die instead. However, many of us will never have to face the physical martyrdom in our lifetimes that Peter and Paul did. Therefore, most of us will never answer the question of if we would die for our Savior. Or will we? When we are called to follow Christ, we are called to choose the kingdom of heaven over the kingdom of the earth. This means that we are to deny ourselves of earthly pleasures. Now let us ask ourselves, would we forfeit our earthly loves, longings and desires for Christ? Can I ever completely turn away from envy, greed, anger and sin? It is indeed, quite rare for one to allow their sinful humanity to die for the Righteous One. While we will never achieve perfection, we must realize that there is more value in our eternity than could ever be found here on earth. Yes, for the time being; wealth, experience and knowledge contribute to my present happiness, but in the end these trivialities will amount to nothing in comparison to my relationship with Christ. We can choose to either live for a world that will return to dust, or for the light of a glorious eternity that awaits us. Abigail Earley (age 18)
What kinds of daily sacrifices do you find difficult to make? Perhaps now is a good moment to revisit your Lenten fast and practices and see how it’s going. Teach us, O God, to trust in things eternal, realizing the vanities and trivialities of this world are dust compared to your saving love. Amen.
Thursday, March 28
When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own but I speak these things as instructed as the Father instructed me. John 8:28 Back when I was a member of the working world, I spent—as most of us do—many years either as someone’s subordinate or someone’s supervisor, and often both at the same time. We all have a boss, right? And as a subordinate I was at times hard-pressed to understand the instructions I received. I often had little concept of my supervisor’s motivation and even less of her challenges or the atmosphere on the executive floor. And as a manager, even though I tried hard, it was sometimes difficult to articulate the rationale behind the tasks I asked people to undertake. In this passage, we see Jesus and the apostles in a similar situation. Here are the clueless followers trying to figure out what is going on and asking Jesus yet again, “Who are you?”. Of course, Jesus has more patience than mere mortals, but you can almost see the eye roll. Indeed, he sighs, mostly to himself I’m sure, wondering why he has to deal with these people who just don’t get it. But then he takes a deep breath, squares his shoulders and remembers his calling and whose vision he has come to impart. “I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me.” Jesus reiterates that he was sent by God, that he speaks the word as God has given it to him, that he does only what is pleasing to God. In what must be a quite extraordinary declaration to the assembled group, he states that God is with him right there. What?!? Almighty God is with this ordinary person? And the light bulb clicks on. And here comes the clincher. By believing in the truth, in what Jesus is saying, you will be free. The burden of sin that you carry will be lifted from you. Is this not the meaning we in this day and age are seeking? We who may never have understood the big picture in our workplace have been gifted with the vision of God’s realm, the truth, and we need only embrace it. Linda Watt
How does God’s ‘“big picture” apply to your life right now, in your family, your church? When you’re bogged down in the stresses and weeds of life, how does keeping that big picture in view help? All-seeing God, help us to see with your eyes, love with your love and act with your will in our hearts. Amen.
Friday, March 29
So you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:11 Today’s message is difficult, as it calls for examining yourself truthfully. I find it easy to fall into self-deception, convincing myself that my less-than-Christ-like behavior isn’t that bad. Well, Paul admonishes me to consider myself dead to sin. Really? Dead? The notion of wanting something dead is anathema to me. I have been a gardener, one who cultivates and encourages growth, my entire life. To want something dead feels wrong. But then I think of my disdain for weeds. I am constantly culling troublesome weeds from my garden. And if you don’t stay on top of them, they simply take over. Maybe it’s the same way with sin. The small sins of daily life are easy to forget. After all, they’re small. When you live life casually turning a blind eye to these sins, however, they take root and spread. With virtuous living, as with gardening, it seems I am encouraged to get out my weed fork. Some undesirable things must be culled. It has been easy for me to become enthralled with behaviors that diminish myself and others. Have these behaviors enslaved me? A slave to sin? Oh goodness, that’s a harsh phrase, but both Paul and Jesus used it with purpose. Minor slights and personal carelessness have harmed my relationships with others and with God. Have these subtle self-deceptions so cluttered my heart that there is no place for the redeeming word of Jesus? I need to root out the thorns in my soul to make room for new growth. Death, sin and slavery are powerful and painful images. And Paul closely paired the concepts of death and baptism. Through the death of Jesus, we are baptized to a new life. Well, only through the death of sin can we consider ourselves alive to God. If I allow the bondage imposed by sin to be destroyed this Lent, if I begin to behave sincerely as though I am a child of God, I stand a greater chance of hearing God’s word with clarity. It is time to plant and nurture, but some weeds must die first. Patrick O’Toole
Have the small sins of daily life become a bondage from which you long to be free? Do you secretly nurture a sinful behavior because you can’t imagine it being dead? Do you want to foster new growth in your soul? Dear Lord, in this time of reflection, renewal and rebirth, give us the determination to clear away the unwanted clutter of sinfulness. Grant us the wisdom to see the benefit of making space in our hearts and souls for your kindness. By doing so, your abundance will fill our lives with beauty. Amen.
Saturday, March 30
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Romans 6:12 Paul’s theme is voluntary obedience to a commitment in our relationship with God, or else becoming enslaved by the consequences of sin. Paul and I are not strangers to sin and understand that people sin when they drop their commitment, ignore the consequences and decide to be disobedient. In fact, from my own experience and talking with others, when sinning, we almost always know exactly what we should do instead. Ah! But defiance reigns as I begin to believe that I know better, that my way will work, that I have no need to consult the Almighty, that I can make my own independent decisions. After all, I know what it is like to be inside of me, and who better can decide what is good for me than me? Furthermore, while sinning, I’m of the mind that God should not interfere and stop being so pesky. After all, I have free will! Paul, stop rolling your eyes. Who better than you stands as an example of selfdetermination, defiance and an attitude of “I know what’s best” – right up to the moment you were knocked blind off your high horse. And now you want me to exercise self-discipline and obedience in commitment to God, to voluntarily use my free will to permanently, submissively, commit to God’s will. I remember a time when I defiantly declared to God that things really ought to go my way for a change, and who should decide what is good for me than I, myself, me?! In that very moment, my mind became instantly cleared of all mental clutter, and there was a hush with only one clear, instantaneous, unmistakable thought in my mind: Scott Hart
You have been making your own independent decisions…and how has that been going? God of all creation, who made empty space into springtime, formed dust into people and turned stones into bread, help me to be obedient in my relationship with you. But please, God, give me a few options. Amen.
Monday, April 1
Jesus, aware they meant to come seize him … withdrew again to the hills by himself. John 6:15 Maybe it is the word hills (our mountains?), or maybe it is because I understand when Jesus so desperately needed time to be quiet and by himself after the excitement of providing food for the 5000, a story which immediately precedes this verse. Imagine that overwhelming feeling of being responsible for caring for all those people! Or maybe it is because we know Jesus was aware there were rough times ahead, like his coming crucifixion, but, for whatever reason, the above verse jumped out at me every time I went over the readings assigned for today. A need to be quiet, this craving to be still, to clear one's mind of all faults, troubling or otherwise, is a form of contemplation. Try this: sit in a comfortable spot away from noise, even outdoors—or better still, definitely outdoors! Empty your head and let the joy of thankfulness surround you. Let ideas and distractions flow away like a river. Then relax, and let peace flow in. So many members of our congregation study scriptures and pray daily, but have you tried setting aside time to think of nothing, to just breathe, to totally open one's mind? This will take practice to avoid the inevitable grocery list from crowding in. Soon, however, one can see how rewarding the quiet can be. Listen for the voice of the One who loves you deeply, despite all. When we can put ourselves in a place of peace even amid times of action, frenzy or concerns, we may realize that successes or failures lose some of their power over us. This Lenten season, will we daily plan the special quiet time in our lives? To answer, I submit a quote from the service of holy baptism, "I will, with God’s help“. Grace Pless
When one feels the stress of the unknown, remember the prophet’s words in Exodus: "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." Dear Heavenly Father, may we feel your arms around us as we listen, in quietness, for your guidance in our lives. Amen.
Tuesday, April 2
“But they must obey me and observe the Sabbath as a sacred day. They must not carry any load through the gates of Jerusalem on that day…” Jeremiah 17:27 How can you take a load off? Can the mind really have an influence on the body's natural responses? Can the presence of Christ really calm our natural emotions? These passages had me meditating on my natural responses to a variety of stressful situations, and how a particular spiritual intervention has made a noticeable difference for me over the past thirty years. My top three burdens, or loads, are worry, resentment and chaos management. "Turning it over to God," as it is commonly called, looks like "assigning it to God” (for worry);" asking Christ to be in charge of it” (for resentment); and “putting it on God’s to-do list” (for chaos management). I am always surprised by how long it takes me to remember to do this, given how effective it is! I first have to be aware of the load I am carrying. Then I have to ask myself if I wish to carry it any longer; and then I turn it over. The sense I have is that when I see Christ as being there, my awareness of his being with me intensifies, and my load is lifted. Laurie Hamilton
What load are you carrying? How can Christ be present for you in the midst of your burdens, your worries, and your concerns? God, you promise that your yoke is easy and your burden is light. Help me to let go of those things that weigh me down and hold on to that which lifts me closer to you. Amen.
Wednesday, April 3
But you, as I said, have seen and yet you do not believe. John 6:36 Faith is a tricky thing. There is much that is written in the Bible that we are asked to take at face value, or at least believe in a modern-day interpretation. Sometimes it is difficult to believe in something we can’t see or relate to and that’s understandable. But why do we choose not to “believe” in things that are right in front of our face? Every day I pass a homeless person standing at a popular intersection asking for help in the form of money or food. Because I see them daily, it is no longer a novelty and much easier to excuse myself from helping them. I no longer believe that I need to help them. Instead, I concentrate on my own day, focusing on the problems that are easier to see and can be more easily achieved. I still see the homeless person standing on the corner, but I don’t believe. I know it is not my responsibility to solve the homeless crisis in Asheville. But choosing to ignore the plight of someone who is desperate enough to suffer the humility of begging by the side of the road would not sit well with Jesus. He would expect me to see the homeless person as I would see my neighbor or friend and believe that simple acts of kindness can make a big difference. Our faith will continually be tested in this complicated world, but every day provides an opportunity to see something that is worth believing in. Lang Hornthal
How might we see this world and each other better? What do you find easy to overlook each day because of its familiarity, either internally or in our world? Dear Lord, help me to see you in everything I encounter and to believe that I am called to acknowledge your presence with awe and kindness. Amen.
Thursday, April 4
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” Romans 8:26 As a child prone to perfectionism, I remember learning the Lord’s Prayer and thinking that was the best way to pray, short of being in church with the Book of Common Prayer in front of me for reference. Now that I’m older, especially when I find myself experiencing deep grief, I know that I need a more intimate and personal sort of prayer, the sort that the Spirit helps us all to pray in our weakness. These Spirit-led prayers are often brief, pathos-laden pleas like Dear God, Please help me. Sometimes they are simple sighs, too deep for words, that emerge from my heart when I get on my knees and wait for God to reach out to me in my pain. Lent of 2017 was just such a time for me. After several months of struggle, I learned on the Friday prior to Palm Sunday that my husband of nine years was planning on leaving our marriage. To me, his decision was both precipitous and preventable, and I was left spinning and twirling in a state of spiritual and emotional vertigo as his words circulated like a ticker tape across my brain. That year, during Holy Week at Trinity, I experienced what truly felt like hell in all its dark and dismal incarnations. On Maundy Thursday I arrived at church early and found a spot alone in a side pew where it was almost too dark to read the hymnal, and stayed on my knees throughout the service, praying wordlessly for succor. I left the church alone, feeling the winds of abandonment howl through me, much like I imagine Jesus must have felt when he uttered the words My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? On Good Friday, I returned to church and knelt in a back pew with my friend, Lori, prior to the start of the service, contemplating Jesus’ profound sacrifice on the cross. And then, something strange and wonderful occurred: Scott walked up to Lori and me and asked if we would carry the cross to the altar. We looked at each other in amazement, wondering how he had intuited to ask us to participate in this profoundly moving ritual, on this particular day, in this particular year. We squeezed each other’s hand and nodded in unison. As we followed Scott’s directions, pausing every few steps and listening to the entire church lament along with us, I experienced a moment of spiritual transcendence, understanding anew God’s boundless compassion and His profound gift of suffering with us and for us. Rebecca Merrill
When have you felt abandoned by God? What kept you engaged with faith? What was it like to feel “found” by God in your suffering, suffering alongside you? For prayer, take a few moments to offer up your prayers too deep for words.
Friday, April 5
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood will have eternal life. John 6:56 Today’s assigned passage from the book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:1-8) most likely was written to the leaders of Israel in the time of Zedekiah as a judgment of them to be carried out among the people of Israel, God's people, God's flock. But how does this speak to us in our time? We can quickly point to our governing leaders. We can also point to the leaders of our faith, some ordained, some not. We can see ourselves as the flock. I think that we are also shepherds. We may or may not recognize the sheep that our Lord puts in our flock. It's a bit scary to realize that often my comments can have an effect on someone else. The passage assigned for today from Romans 8:28-39 reassures me that my blunders as a shepherd are already covered by my Lord, even when the immediate consequences appear dire. This passage becomes a strong cord to hold onto in the midst of stormy wind. But to what is that cord attached? The passage from the Gospel of John provides an answer. Years ago I read a book by a man named Michael Esses who was raised as an Orthodox Jew. He said that, as a boy, he and his friends always raced quickly by the churches in his neighborhood in Brooklyn because they believed that the people inside would eat them. The gospel passage for today (John 6:52-59) can lead to that conclusion. Obviously some in Jesus’ day, like some of us who like to read a quick headline and take it at face value, took literally the discourse about Jesus being the bread of life. Nevertheless, for me, a modern day “shepherd,” I read into it a truth: that I need the literal daily substance of my Lord’s spirituality as much as I need bread for daily physical nourishment. Sara Lavelle
When have you felt like a shepherd to others? When did you need shepherding? What did each teach you? Loving God, we thank you for feeding us with the spiritual food of the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation. When we are hungry, remind us to return to your table for sustenance. Amen.
Saturday, April 6
“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” John 6:60-64 As a cradle Episcopalian, the Church has always been a part of my life. However, there have been multiple times throughout my life where my faith has not been strong. Just like the disciples in this passage, I have questioned certain principles and practices and even questioned the entire concept of religion. However, the Church has never given up on me. I have always felt, in the Episcopal Church at least, that I could have doubts and questions without being rejected as a child of God. Like a parent, the Church would always welcome me back no matter how many times I pushed away. I think this is one thing this passage is teaching us. Yes, you must believe in Him and the Spirit in order to receive eternal life. However, Jesus recognized that not everyone was ready to accept this. As He explained, His words are “spirit and life” and will always be there to welcome you back when you are ready. For me, this an immensely comforting thought – to know that despite all my faults, shortcomings, and occasional doubts, the Spirit will give me life when I accept and believe. As Christians, we are called to show the same love and acceptance to those who may be having doubts and to welcome them with open arms when they are ready to accept the spirit and life Jesus promised. Elleveve Donahue
Throughout the Lenten season, how can you not only reflect and reaffirm your Christian beliefs, but also show compassion, love, and support to those who may still have reservations and doubts? Our prayer today comes from Hymn 335, “I am the Bread of Life.” “Unless you eat of the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink of His blood, you shall not have life within you shall not have life within you, you shall not have life within you. I am the resurrection, I am the life. They who believe in me, even if they die, they shall live forever. And I will raise them up, and I will raise them up, and I will raise them up on the last day.”
Monday, April 8
Those who were not my people I will call “my people.” Romans 9:25 Why do we choose to alienate others? What is it about the appearance and beliefs of others that so greatly divides the people of the world? Maybe as humans we naturally gravitate towards those who are most like us. Maybe it’s futile, if not naive, to suggest that humankind isn’t divided in many ways, to suggest that humans are all one and the same. However, in spite of sometimes significant differences, we have a responsibility to accept, love and cherish all of humanity. Consider Romans 9:19-33 when contemplating this obligation: “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people’.” That annoying neighbor might be a pain. The in-laws might be frustrating to say the least. Maybe you just can’t find a middle ground with your coworker or classmate. And maybe you’re still mad about the white Prius that cut you off on the highway. We might not understand why a person thinks the way they do, or condone their actions, but ultimately our obligation is to embrace what we do have in common, humanity. Gray Pearson (age 17)
Who do you consider “your people” and “not your people” in your life? How might you reach out to some who are “not your people” this Lent in the spirit of shared humanity? Welcoming God, you frustrate our differences with your vision of shared beloved community. Inspire us and empower us to embrace each other as you have so embraced us with your own love. Amen.
Tuesday, April 9
“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.” Romans 10:12 In my favorite book series Eragon, the world is populated by many different races and creatures, like dwarves, elves, and urgals. Some of them don't get along too well. So when an evil king with a huge army invades, these different races need to join together but they don't fight well as teams because they're always glaring at each other and fighting among themselves. While they ambushed a city that belonged to the evil king’s empire, they realized they needed to fight together because if they don’t they won’t be strong enough. They needed each other and they needed to eliminate the boundaries that kept them fighting against each other instead of fighting against evil. So this Bible verse relates to this story from my book because in our own world, people who look different or are from different parts of the world are often excluded in certain countries. At my school, I see divisions. Girls and boys don’t usually play together that often. I think these divisions are not good and I think God thinks they’re bad because in this verse it says no matter what religion people are they are still people — no matter what everyone else thinks. Division gives those in power like the evil king in Eragon money, wealth, and more power. The king in the book got lots more land and wealth because he took it from people while everyone was fighting among themselves. True strength lies helping and loving others no matter how they look or where they are from. Brendan Henson (age 11)
In what ways do you see division in your life and our world? What can you do to change it? Dear God, please help those who are separated from others because of how they look or where they are from. Please help those in power make good decisions and not divide people, and please help me to go against division. Amen
Wednesday, April 10
I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:15 Since I was a young girl, I’ve always wanted to be brave. I wanted people to think of me as “utterly fearless.” As you might guess, this desire sometimes got me into sticky situations — just ask my brother! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that being brave is less about taking risks and looking for a fight, and more about being forgiving and willing to make a sacrifice. Sacrifice: the ultimate display of love and the most selfless act. In the season of Lent, I often think about selflessness and sacrifice. For whom, or what, would I be willing to sacrifice myself? “I lay down my life for the sheep,” states Jesus, as though explaining something as simple as lacing up sandals. It’s extraordinary how Jesus says this; not only is the statement itself amazing, but Jesus also says it without ceremony, without conceit, and without pride. To him, sacrifice isn’t an act of bravery to be lauded or boasted about. It’s simply what he needed to do. Even in my daydreams as a child, where I saved people from burning buildings and fought off wolves, I never imagined my bravery being unsung and I certainly didn’t imagine giving up my own life to save another’s. That’s Jesus’ love for us: selfless, humble, and absolute. So, in this season of Lent, I am going to try and remember that it is easier to be brave than to be selfless, how Jesus is the ultimate form of love, and the path into heaven is through Jesus. Rachel Boutler (UNCCH freshman)
How can you be brave today by living with the selfless, forgiving, and loving heart of Jesus? How might courage help you live in this way? Holy God, your Almighty strength is demonstrated chiefly in your loving selflessness and grace. Teach us to trust in that strength and to bravely share with the world this way of life. Amen.
Thursday, April 11
Speak to them all the words that I command you; do not hold back a word. Jeremiah 26:2 As we travel through this thing called life, we are confronted with tough decisions almost daily. Sometimes we are called to stand up and speak out against or for something and we know that it is right to do so. However, it may not be the popular side of the issue that we have been called to stand on, even though we know it is the right side. It is in these times that we must rely on our faith in God and our knowledge of what is right and what is wrong to carry us through the difficult moments. My mother taught me that the truth will always set us free. As Jeremiah was called to deliver a message to the people of Judah, he knew that it would not be received well by most, but he knew that it was truth and the right thing for him to do. His faith in God led him to deliver the message and stay true to the message even when his life was on the line. Ultimately the truth did set him free as the people realized that he was willing to die for the truth. As I have been called to pursue a position of public service with great responsibility, I realize that there are those that will stand on the other side of every issue that I am engaged in. It is my faith in Christ and the examples that He laid before us that will guide me to always seek the truth and speak the truth. Phillip Price
When has your faith and sense of Godâ€™s call asked you to stand up for something others considered unpopular? What did you learn and how was God present in the midst of it? Holy God, you call us into the world as your people. Give us confidence to stand firm and assurance of your everpresent grace whenever your ways inevitably conflict with the ways of the world. Amen
Friday, April 12
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29: 11-13 In a world saturated with things such as social media and cable news, it is easy to find yourself straying from the Lord and his device. Being constantly reminded of your flaws, other’s flaws, and the tragedies that go on in the world not only hurt your relationship with yourself, but also with the Lord. The passage above highlights “God’s Plan,” one of prosperity and not of evil. God envisions for us a flourishing life: one where we need not be attached to worldly possessions, and one where we have found the Lord. However, it is easy to doubt the Lord in one’s journey to Faith. Everyone has encountered doubt in their lives, but that does not stop us from attempting to truly seek the Lord with all of our heart. Every day, we have the opportunity to commit ourselves to God, and we can either take one step towards Him, or one step away from Him. In making this decision, we are choosing to live the life God wants for us—one of welfare. I do not conceive welfare in the colloquial sense. I think that welfare means living a life that is devoted to God through love, joy and faithfulness. Miles Gardner (age 16)
How might you take one step toward God today, toward love, joy, and faithfulness? Holy God, help us to place our trust in you, not in the things and esteem of the world so that we can always walk toward you and your plan for our lives and this world. Amen.
Saturday, April 13
Jesus wept. John 11:35 I was raised in a small Southern Baptist Church where, as a part of our religious education we would memorize Bible verses. The process of memorizing Bible verses and then showing our skills publicly with other youth groups was called Bible Drills. John 11:35 was THE verse all kids hoped to be asked to recite. It was short and simple and you would surely get a point for having memorized the verse without error. Jesus wept. But why? As an adult I have wondered exactly what caused this reaction. Jesus knew that through his Father he would be able to raise Lazarus from the dead. Did he weep because he was sad, disappointed or simply feeling deep empathy for the sadness others felt over the loss of a loved one? When Martha tells Jesus that her brother has been dead for four days I imagine that her eyes must have said, even you cannot change this story—why would you try? But Jesus says to Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” I have often prayed for obstacles and opportunities in my life. Every time an obstacle has hindered my path, with prayerful patience, I have found a new path or often a new understanding of the situation. Something good may happen or maybe the obstacle that seems insurmountable simply helps me keep my world in perspective. Maybe Jesus wept because the obstacle of death, felt by Martha, was large and finite. But no, it was simply an obstacle—an obstacle that, once given to God, became the gift of deliverance and a tangible example of the glory of God. Jennifer Pearson
“What obstacles seem insurmountable in your life and what would it be like to give it to God rather than trying to remove the obstacle yourself?” Compassionate God, you weep with us in our suffering and sorrow. Comfort us with your presence when our obstacles seem overwhelming and endless. Open for us a new way to see and follow you in our midst. Amen
Monday, April 15
“Christ entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:12 The appointed scripture for today’s reflection on Holy Monday include Isaiah 42:1-9, Hebrews 9:11-15 and John 12:1-11. As I read and researched, I found a wonderful and simple poem by Anne Osdieck, written in 2012, which speaks to Hebrews 9:12. As she so eloquently says, Once for all time Christ sealed the covenant with his own blood. He barged straight into the sacred place, with all of us in tow. Who could love us more? We can barely believe this love so astounding and astonishing. How can we even begin to comprehend the realities of heaven and the promise offered? As we leave the vestiges of our Palm Sunday celebration behind, with dried palms withering, we are headed into the pain, torture and death of Holy Week. Isaiah reminds us in chapter 42:1 that Christ is his servant, a light to the nations. A servant imbued with the spirit and truth, one that will bring “justice” to all. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” Isaiah decrees that Christ will make all things right, bringing peace and mercy for all. In this Holy Week, may we know that God is protecting us under the shadow of his wing. Constance Wilson
As you enter into the tension Holy Week, how might you keep the mercy and peace brought by Christ’s sacrifice central in your heart? Christ, in the midst of the busy-ness of this week, help me to be awake especially to the cost of grace and the depth of your sacrificial love for me. Amen
Tuesday, April 16
“You are my servant.” Isaiah 49:3 “The door to happiness opens outward.” — Soren Kierkegaard This simple statement seems counter-intuitive when compared to ideas of inner peace, inner happiness and other aspects of the personal-fulfillment industrialcomplex. However, the deeper I go into my quest for the Divine, my search for relationship with God, the more I find that happiness springs unseen from within me to be sent out into the world around me, and then finally back upon me in the process. Last year I read a book titled The Dream of God, by Verna Dozier. At first look I mistook the title’s meaning to be humanity’s varied dream of God. It turned out to be the opposite. Since the moment of Creation, God has held a dream for humanity. Said dream remains unfulfilled. The reasons are many and plain, and revolve around the call of the second Great Commandment to love our neighbor. Today’s reading from Isaiah 49: 1-7 is part of what has been called the Servant Songs. While the search for the identity of this servant may draw a line to Jesus of Nazareth, the ultimate Suffering Servant, I believe that the Servant of God could be also understood as any faithful individual who goes out into the world to comfort those in need. These words of Isaiah were first spoken to and by Israelites in exile, but they resonate today as much as they did 2600 years ago. Over the past year I have become a member of the congregation of the Church of the Advocate (The Red Door) housed at Trinity. This has become a transformative experience for me and one rooted in patience and relationship. In verse four of today’s reading the speaker says, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity.” If my time at the Red Door had been goal-oriented I could inveigh the same complaint. However, I do not go there to fix or change anyone, except perhaps myself. The purpose is simply to be with the poor, the homeless and the downtrodden. As I find myself in relationship at the Red Door, the happiness is all around and outside of myself. It is then that I can feel the Dream of God present on earth. Chris Kamm
Take a moment today to think about or notice someone in need of comfort, physically, spiritually or emotionally. What keeps you from reaching out in loving service? Servant God, give us the courage to reach out to those in need of comfort, in spite of our own shortcomings and doubts. Amen.
Wednesday, April 17
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 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 As the other two readings for today concerned abuse and betrayal, this passage was the obvious choice for me, with its positive and accessible images. It seems that there is theological controversy about who are the “cloud of witnesses”: specific martyrs, or lots of the dead faithful or even the top rows of the bleachers (maybe doing “the wave”?). The race, however, is pretty self-explanatory. We are to throw off all that weighs us down, like sin, like procrastination, like fear, like self-centeredness, like too much screen time, and get to it. We are to run, not anybody’s race, but the one that is set before us. This race is not described as a competition; the perseverance needed is not to get to the finish but just to run. I assume that the word “run” encompasses “brisk walk”, and even “totter”, as that may be all I can manage sometimes. Erwin Gunnells
What is a favorite saint from the great cloud of witnesses that inspires you in your own race? Are there any particular hurdles looming ahead in your race? Our Heavenly Father, help us to discern the race set for us, and give us strength and heart to run it. May we look for encouragement to your saints, who lovingly surround us, and for hope to Jesus Christ, who endured all and rules in joy. Amen.
Holy Week and Easter at Trinity
Monday and Tuesday in Holy Week - April 15, 16 5:30 pm Holy Eucharist, Redwood Chapel Wednesday in Holy Week - April 17 12:15 pm Holy Eucharist, Redwood Chapel 5:30 pm Holy Eucharist, Redwood Chapel Maundy Thursday - April 18 7:00 pm Holy Eucharist and optional foot-washing Stripping of the Altar, Nave Good Friday - April 19 12:15 pm Good Friday Liturgy with the reading of the Passion Gospel 5:30 pm Good Friday Liturgy with the reading of the Passion Gospel Easter, April 21 6:00 am Sunrise Easter Vigil with quartet from the choir, beginning in the Memorial Garden. Quartet sings music mostly from the Renaissance period. The congregation will sing many of the great hymns of Easter. 7:30 am - 10:45 am Champagne Breakfast in Tuton Hall 8:45 am 9:00 am 10:30 am 10:45 am 11:00 am 5:30 pm
Childrenâ€™s Hour in the Undercroft Full Choral Eucharist with Brass Quartet and Chancel Choir Easter Egg Hunt (Chapel Courtyard) Childrenâ€™s Hour for the 11:00 a.m. service begins (meet in Undercroft) Full Choral Eucharist with Brass Quartet and Chancel Choir No Celtic Eucharist
Join your fellow Trinitarians in this daily Lenten devotional.