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Lent 2010

Wednesday Evening Lenten Series February 24 The Very Rev. Henry Hudson Dean & Rector, Trinity Episcopal, New Orleans March 3 The Rev. Rich Webster Rector, St. Lukeʼs Birmingham March 10 Mary Bea Sullivan Author & Retreat Facilitator, Member Grace Episcopal, Cullman March 17 The Rev. Chris Bryan Retired Sewanee Professor of the New Testament & Interim Priest, Trinity Episcopal, Winchester, TN March 24 Neil White, Author of “Sanctuary of Outcasts” Schedule Dinner Program

5:15 pm 6:15 pm

Nursery is available from 5:15 - 7:15 on. Reservations are required.

Tuesday Noonday Preaching Series February 23 The Rev. Joe Ballard Otey Memorial Parish, Sewanee March 2 The Rev. Lee Shafer Grace Episcopal Church, Anniston March 9 The Rev. Dr. Mark Mueller First Presbyterian Church, Huntsville March 16 The Rev. David Freeman Weatherly Heights Baptist Church March 23 The Rev. Jerrilee Lewallen Retired Episcopal Priest, Sewanee Schedule Preaching Box Lunch

12:05 12:35

Box lunch is $7.00 by reservation only. Call the church office at 533-2455 to reserve a lunch.

Introduction Colossians 3:12-14 Therefore, as God始s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. As we begin another Lent, let us take time to look at Nativity and see for ourselves in each other the way God wants us to be. Every day in this church we can find love, forgiveness, kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience. It shows in all the things we do and how we work together. We all want to give thanks for each other and especially for those who so graciously agreed to write a meditation. It was definitely a gift of their time and love. As we go through this journey of Lent, it is nice to think that we are all reading the same devotional reflections each day. Thank you to the writers, editors and staff involved in publishing this booklet. We are richer for your gifts. We hope that your Lenten Journey will be enriched daily by using your Bible with these meditations. The Church of the Nativity

February 17th Ash Wednesday Luke 18:9-14 Jesus told a parable “to some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else." The parable unfolds with two main characters: a Pharisee and a tax collector who went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee is certainly more popular with the general public of that day. The tax collector was probably not invited into anyone's house for dinner! This parable reminds me of my brother-in-law, Mark, and his character he developed for fun to play jokes on co-workers, friends, and family members. His character is "Jimmy Lee Smith." Mark dons the entire outfit: funky wig, broken glasses, greasy wig, old tshirt, old belt holding up dirty pants - get the picture? Jimmy Lee shows up unannounced and tells people he is from Mountain Home, AR (he wears a Razorback baseball cap). A few sentences into his dialog, which is never the same, makes it clear that Jimmy Lee is a bit lacking in many areas. My brother-in-law says he has learned a lot about his own family members and friends and even about people he only met incognito. Some who are supposedly the big workers in their church and community have been very rude to him. And some whom he expected to shun him were the ones who befriended him at the function he attended. Some refuse to shake hands with him or look him in the eye. "Jimmy Lee" is not a really popular guy when he walks in a wedding or a board meeting. Most of his appearances are at functions where he is very different from the majority. Do you think the tax collector in this parable felt the same way? This parable reminds me that in God's eyes we are all the same. We can all sin, and we can all ask forgiveness. God does not need the "fluff" when we pray. Who are we to look down on anyone else? When we are on our knees, God listens to the simpleminded like "Jimmy Lee" just as much as he listens to the other guy. Gail Brown

Thursday, February 18th Habakkuk 3:1-10 It is easy to see God始s glory in the breaking of the day with a glowing sunrise, the warm spring breeze after a cold hard winter, and all the many natural beauties of the earth. It is easy to see the glory in the wonder of the birth of a child and the wonder of the child going through different stages on the way to becoming an adult. As long as things are beautiful and pleasant, it is easy to see God始s presence. When the pleasant spring breeze intensifies to tornados causing destruction, and the child takes a detour into drug abuse, it is hard to see the glory of God. How could God be in the midst of such tragedies? Why would God let the tornadoes cause the death of innocent people? Why would God let children be led into drug addiction? I don始t know the proper answer to these questions, but I do believe that God is there to help people through these tragedies of life. Life is not easy, but I do believe that God watches over us and helps us through difficult times. Lee Coggins

Friday, February 19th “…be of the same mind in the Lord.” Philippians 4:2 “…so that they may be one, as we are one.” John 17:11 Squabbles are a natural part of life: My sister and I fought frequently; my own daughters continue that tradition today. People have different opinions on clothes, work matters, politics, and just about any other topics where two or more choices/sides exist. Most of this debate is healthy and having choices is generally a good thing. However, these differences of opinion can take a darker tone quickly when either party decides that his or her opinion/position is the only one that counts, stops listening to the other side, and picks up his or her toys and goes home (just look at our current national political climate or listen to the rhetoric on sexuality issues within the church if you need validation of these assertions!). Whenever I hear people engage in destructive behavior on controversial issues, I always replay a conversation in my head that I heard at our first parish retreat in 2005. Our speaker was John Porter from Atlanta, and he had just returned from a mission trip to Haiti. He told us that one of his first questions to the Haitian bishop when he arrived was, “Have you lost many members over the gay ordination issue?” The Haitian bishop was somewhat flabbergasted and said that while they do not really understand (nor necessarily support) the gay issue there, “Why would people leave the church over it? You Americans have too much time on your hands if you are sitting around worrying about that. We are worried about feeding these people, physically and spiritually, and that, my friend, is the business of the church!” That story has stuck with me for several years, and I always reflect on it when I hear inflammatory rhetoric being tossed about. Honest disagreements are part of living, but if we are to be “of the same mind in the Lord” and be one as the Father and Son are one, we must listen openly, respect the opinions of others, and keep ourselves in the game. To do otherwise puts our own agenda ahead of the desires of Christ. -David Collette

Saturday, February 20th John 17: 20-26 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” In this passage, Jesus prays to the Father that both his disciples and all future believers might be one with each other and with Jesus and the Father. In this prayer for “oneness,” Jesus is asking for our unity, not our uniformity. I rediscovered this during several of our Education for Ministry sessions as my classmates from various denominations and I attempted to create a creed of religious beliefs on which we could all agree. Although we were all Christians, I found it torturous! I could empathize with the Council of Nicea and all of the other councils that worked for years to gain agreement. Our creative, individual, human relationships with the Father and the Son are unique. Surely our loving, divine Father does not expect all Christians to have doctrine finality. And, surely He would not approve of sectarian superiority Although we may not be uniform in all of our beliefs, we can be united in our love for God and the Son. Jesus wants us to know that He was sent to reveal the truth about God. He wants us to know that God loves us. He wants us to love one another as He loves us. -Pat Goodson

Monday, February 22nd Mark 1: 4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. I recently served on a Kairos Prison Ministry team. As you might imagine, Kairos places an emphasis on forgiveness during the weekend. One of the inmates came to me and wanted to talk about how he got to where he was (You do a lot of listening during a Kairos weekend). But, what was heaviest on his heart was his inability to forgive himself for what he had done. I offered these thoughts to him, and I offer them to you (and to me) to consider. I have a solution for the forgiveness problem! We need to invent a time machine so we can go back to the point at which we committed the act or made the decision and just un-do it. The court system would be unnecessary! Unfortunately, we don't have a time machine. We can't go back and un-do stuff. We have to go forward. Forward is all we have. That is the way God set the whole thing up. So we have to develop some way to forgive ourselves and each other. We have to move on down the road and not stay stuck where we are. Forgiveness is unloading the burden and setting it on the ground and walking away from it. Without forgiveness the burden stays on our shoulders. With forgiveness there is freedom to heal. Forgiveness is a decision of faith to allow Christ to act in us. Thanks be to God. Richard Hamner

Tuesday, February 23rd 1 Corinthians 1:20-21 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation to save those who believe. Reading these lines, I picture Paul staring out over the Aegean towards Corinth from his desk at Ephesus as he ponders how to craft a “pep talk” to his dysfunctional flock there. The church in Corinth was convoluted in the mid-first century, even as we are today. But their problems were a bit more basic than ours. They were beset by questions of loyalty, education, status, etc., and seemingly ready to split apart. Here we are, confronted with many of the same problems plus a plethora of seemingly unsolvable global issues… and the same message comes through loud and clear even today. Simple faith will carry the day… you donʼt need to be an eloquent speaker, a learned theologian, or a friend of the powerful… faith is the key that opens the door. The more we try to come up with fancy solutions, the further we seem to get away from solving the problem. If we simply believe… and then let that belief become the basis for our actions… the closer we come to God. So in the first century CE our friend Paul seemingly comes up with the slogan that has become almost a byword today…. Keep it simple…. stupid. Ralph Shuey

Wednesday, February 24th Genesis 37:25-36 The story in Genesis is a familiar one about Joseph and his brothers. It brings to mind a childhood incident. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, my parents took me and my younger brother, David, to the circus in Birmingham. We were having a great time going to the various tents and looking at all the animals. Then it was time to go to the big tent for the main show. When we approached the entrance to the big tent, many people were squeezing through a small opening to get inside. We four merged into the crushing crowd and squeezed into the big tent. When we got inside, there was a big problem - - no David. He was lost. We looked around in the immediate area - - he was not there. So we started looking all over the Fairgrounds for him. It seemed like hours passed. We kept looking and looking and looking, never giving up. Finally, we spotted him and were so relieved. We held onto him thereafter. We had not given up, and our search was fruitful. When I was a young adult, I drifted way off the beaten path. I was lost from Jesus. But in similar manner to our search for David, Jesus kept looking and looking for me. He never gave up. Years went by. He kept searching and calling for me. Finally, in 1974, He found me. And just like our family's experience with David, when Jesus found me, He held onto me. His search was fruitful. Are you and I searching for the lost? Gaines Watts

Thursday, February 25th Mark 2:1-12 This passage to me underscores the ties of faith, healing and forgiveness. Jesus forgave the man始s sins (healing his soul) before healing the body. Warren Vann Faith is the main focus of this passage to me. Holistic medicine is based on the premise that a positive attitude and faith in the Lord始s healing powers is essential to recovery from disease, stress or any other crisis. As a member of the Nancy Lacy Chapter of the Daughters of the King, I believe strongly in the power of faith and prayer as a means of healing. Judy Vann

Friday, February 26th 1 Corinthians 3:16-23 What does it mean to be the temple of God? Paul, Cephas, and Apollos represented different factions of the church at Corinth. They each had their followers, and apparently the groups often found themselves in opposition. We, like they, occasionally find ourselves embroiled in disputes that threaten to divide us. Paul's admonition comes in the form of a reminder that they are the temple of God. Not the plural temples of God, mind you, but the singular temple of God. A few pages later in this same letter to the Corinthians Paul reminds the parish what love is: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Our struggles are not unlike those of the early church; we as a community are prone to differ over what we want and believe. These differences might cause us to languish, may even threaten the destruction of the church. Who's right? Who's wrong? Who's wise? Who boasts? This is foolishness in God's sight. Remember that God's temple is sacred, and we are that temple. Suzy Naumann

Saturday, February 27th 1 Corinthians 4:1-7 “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court.” Can you say the same thing? I cannot. I often find myself worrying what others may think of me if I do this or donʼt do that. And what about our judgment of others? “Judge nothing before the appointed time.” Have you, too, been guilty of making quick judgments against others? So today, I ask you to “not go beyond what is written” and to remember that only our Lord has the right to judge. We should all live our lives to his glory and praise, not worrying about the judgment of others but only our Lord. For, “it is the Lord who judges me.” Are you living your life the way the Lord wants you to or the way others think you should? Beth Morring

Monday, March 1st Genesis 41:46-57 There are watershed moments in most people's lives, points where there is such a sharp change in the landscape that things are forever different in the terrain that one must now traverse. One hears intimations of monumental change in the language people use when telling of a pivotal juncture: before she deserted me..., when our town was bombed..., after my son died... There is a finality to the "before/after" feel of such moments, a sense that the texture and character of life itself has changed. Innocence is lost, and there can be no return to normal, for what was normal no longer exists. Some aspect of the future that we'd imagined for ourselves is forever altered. In Genesis we read of Joseph's many adventures and trials. Especially heartrending is the manner in which his brothers betray him. What must he have felt, having been thrown into a pit by his own brothers, sold into slavery, left in prison to die? These would surely constitute watershed moments in a person's life, yet we read in Genesis 41:51-52 that when Joseph names his sons, he calls them Manasseh, "For God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father's house," and Ephraim, "For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction." We know Joseph has not literally forgotten the past; what has happened to him is that he is not nursing a grudge, is not refusing to forgive, is not refusing to move into the future or to acknowledge the value of the present moment. He has "forgotten the past" in that he does not carry his losses as though they are a burden. Because he has been able to make peace with what has been, he can see the gifts that are in the present and embrace their loveliness. This passage comes between the description of the seven years of plenty and the seven years of drought foretold in Pharaoh's dreams. Throughout these years, Joseph was faithful, doing what was there in front of him to do, following God as he thought he should. Even when it seemed darkest, when he was truly in the land of his affliction, Joseph kept the kind of faith that we think of when we hear Hebrews 11:1: the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. And it is in the land where he was most afflicted that he was also most blessed. Let us not give up hope, this story tells us, for we cannot know what the dry fields now underfoot may reap in the future. Laura Brown

Tuesday, March 2nd Mark 3:19-35 Whether it is within a church, within a family or within us, there are always opposing forces and temptations which can divide a house. It can be difficult not to be influenced by these things. In this fast moving, media savvy world, it is easy to lose focus and become confused with our beliefs, thoughts and emotions. Nourish the spirit so the beliefs and convictions in every aspect of our lives will sustain and keep us on the path that is true to ourselves and to God. Then, in whatever form, our “houses” will be whole and withstand the obstacles and temptations in life. As we take this Lenten season to reflect, we should keep in mind that God is a loving God and a forgiving God. We are all Godʼs children and are here to do his will and be good stewards of his words. Holly Hall

Wednesday, March 3rd I Corinthians 5:9-6:8 This reading is a bit of a letter from Paul to the members of the newly formed church in Corinth, giving them some guidelines for keeping themselves and their church spiritually healthy. It's obvious from reading this letter that people and churches have changed very little in the ensuing 2,000 years! Among the many specific taboos that he lists--you know, the ones picked out by extremists that use Paul's words as an excuse to perpetrate violence--is a minor point that gets little notice among the "Thou shalt not, and I'll watch to make sure you don't" crowd. Paul says, "For what have I to do with judging those outside?" I take it to mean that we can hope to have some influence on those around us, but to waste energy railing about the actions of people we don始t know (or understand) is not a prudent use of our time. I would hope that I can keep such judgments of those I don始t know or understand at bay, leaving more time for thankfulness. Dorrie Nutt

Thursday, March 4th Genesis 42: 29-38 Lord, your plan is so perfect! God has set the stage for Joseph to be ultimately reunited with his father and brothers. Joseph has met with his unknowing brothers in Egypt and sent them back to their father Jacob, with one request. Joseph wants Benjamin in Egypt. Iʼve often wondered why Joseph didnʼt reveal his true identity to his brothers upon their first trip to Egypt and save a lot of time being reunited with his family. Itʼs probably because my plan is not Godʼs plan. If Joseph had embraced his brothers at first glance, think of all the life lessons that would have been wasted. God wastes nothing! He uses everything to teach us, and his stories are the perfect ways to reach us. This is a story of faith tested, a fatherʼs faith; a father who has already lost one beloved son. And now he is asked to risk losing another in hopes of saving his entire family from starvation. Jacobʼs decision to let Benjamin go with his brothers had to be Godly based. How many of us would do this with our own sons? After much prayer, Jacob had to take a”leap of faith” when he sent Benjamin on to Egypt. And, in doing so, look what he gained! I used this story often when trying to help pass on some lessons to my sons during their years at home. But in this lesson, I truly remain the student. How many times do I decline doing things asked of me because I think I am unworthy, too afraid, or just plain lazy? Every single time I do, I miss an opportunity to witness Godʼs work. I miss out on being involved with Him. I miss a chance to do something He asks of me. I let Him down. When I do take that “leap of faith,” there is nothing more astounding to me than what He can do with me. Oh, the miracles that He can work! And then, I have the honor of praising His name. Glory to you, Lord! Jane Brocato

Friday, March 5th Mark 4:35-41 When I think of a “furious squall” coming up, turning to the Lord for guidance and help seems to be my natural response. I know in lifeʼs “furious squalls” and adversities, as stressful as they can be, God is my strength, substance, and savior. I have faith and know He will see me through. For me, it is not difficult to remember to have faith and stay in close contact with God during these big and obviously difficult times. What has been so eye-opening to me is to realize that it is the small day-to-day incidents, activities, and events that I have the most trouble remembering my faith. Whether I am looking for a parking space, going into a meeting, or dealing with my family, it is my faith in God and His guidance that are my peace, solace, and joy. Today I pray for guidance, that God will pave the way before me, and that I may enjoy each moment through constant communion with God. Sally Stockton

Saturday, March 6th Mark 5:1-20 This passage about Jesus cleansing the spirit of demons is appropriate for today because there are many demons in the world today that can affect us. We are bombarded daily by newspaper and television reports of the lives of many actors and actresses, as well as the explicit nature of many movies and television programs regarding morals and killing. This philosophy is constantly presented to us, to the point that many people are brainwashed into thinking these activities are normal and this style of life is acceptable. We must constantly be aware that this style of living is not acceptable and is against the teachings of Jesus as well as God始s Ten Commandments. We as Christians must constantly tell our families as well as friends to live in accordance with Christ始s and God始s teachings. I know that during my life God has forgiven me for the many sins that I have committed, because he has healed or stopped the progression of some serious health problems that I have had. Because of this, I have tried to live as Christ wants us to live and tell other people of these experiences. Also, I have tried to do things that will help other people and to live in a positive way. Don Askins

Monday, March 8th Genesis 44:18-34 Even when we are in a time of affliction our patience and trust in God will provide us with the blessings we can never provide for ourselves. When Joseph, son of Jacob, was sold to the Ishmaelites by his step brothers, then taken down to Egypt and subsequently sold again to Potipher, an officer of Pharaoh and Captain of the guard, he remained a patient servant to the Lord during these turbulent times. God blessed Joseph, and the Pharaoh made him the ruler over all the land of Egypt. When Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, he said “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not grieve nor be angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me here ahead of you, to save your lives.” The real blessing, though, came when he could bring his father Jacob, brother Benjamin, step brothers, and all the family to Egypt to survive the famine. He would learn from Jacob that the twelve tribes of Israel would descend from the twelve brothers. When I have had to face trouble in my life, I have been too anxious to solve the problem on my terms and schedule, only to find in retrospect that my solution was not always the wisest choice. As I have grown older, I have learned to be more patient, to listen for Godʼs guidance, and to wait for his answers. Richard Crunkleton

Tuesday, March 9th Genesis 45: 1-15 After all those years Joseph must have feared that his father had died, and he would never see him again. When Joseph found out that his father was still living, he felt the overwhelming joy that causes one to cry. Iʼve experienced looking back on my life and seeing Godʼs hand making it better than I could have. Iʼve been able to see this even when the experiences were most painful at the time. Iʼve felt joy that caused tears of happiness. I understand Josephʼs joy and tears. The brothers of Joseph were dismayed when the learned his identity, for they thought he would have them killed for selling him into slavery. Having “hindsight,” Joseph believed God had caused his being sent to Egypt so that he could save the lineage of his father. Evidently Joseph had already forgiven his brothers. What I donʼt understand is his forgiving his brothers. I have no siblings. Iʼve wanted some for as long as I can remember. I prayed many times for at least one sibling …….. I asked Santa to bring me one. He didnʼt, he brought me a bike. So the following year I wrote Santa to please take my bike back and bring me a sibling. Because I have wanted a sibling so intensely Iʼm not sure I could be as forgiving as Joseph if my siblings had sold me into slavery. Nor do I think I could relieve them of guilt by saying that God did it, not them. Surely Joseph felt anger when his brothers first sold him into slavery. Perhaps, at first, Joseph had tears of anger and fear. I remember Dr. Pat Hamm telling me “tears are Godʼs healing medicine.” Medical science has now proven that tears have therapeutic properties. Perhaps Josephʼs tears healed the wounds that anger caused and the scripture does not tell us about it. Had I been Joseph I would have had to trust “Godʼs healing medicine” and His grace to forgive my unforgiving attitude. Gail Rogers

Wednesday, March 10th 1 Corinthians 8: 1-13 I can relate to this passage. I donʼt “worship” idols, but I do put other things going on in my life above my relationship with God. For instance, I think more about clothes, money, friends, ipods, and what kind of car my parents are going to get me. Sometimes I get so caught up in the material things in my life, obsessed with getting new things, that I forget to take a deep breath and talk to God. I bet we can all say we are guilty of not spending enough time with God, but this year I am going to make an effort and put God before everything. I might fail, but I am going to try anyway. Maggie Clanton 10th grade – Huntsville High School

Thursday, March 11th Mark 6:30-46 After reading this passage one might still find the tale quite incredible and improbable. However, the vivid detail, the different sources that speak of it, and the wider setting of all we know about Jesus, made it easier to suppose this did happen. The struggle for me is what does it mean for us today? 1. Jesus took compassion on them and began to teach them. 2. Jesus said to his disciples, "you give them something to eat." 3. When all ate and were satisfied, there were twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish left. In today's economy, with many families around us turning to the food bank and other social agencies for help, what can we do to continue the overflow of God's love and kingdom? We can give of ourselves, our time or fund to help the less fortunate around us and the greater world. This may very well be a lifetime ministry. - Joseph Ezeibe

Friday, March 12th Genesis 47:19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be slaves to Pharaoh; and give us seed, that we may live, and not die… (Italics added) Thus did the Canaanites become slaves to Pharaoh, that they should be fed and not perish. What would it take to make a slave of you? The infatuated teenager croons that he is a slave to the charms of the one he idolizes. The yuppie complains that she is a slave to the demands of her family and her job. Those metaphors donʼt do justice to the institution, do they? We know of real slavery here in Alabama — the kind where the chattel would be flogged to near death if they tried to flee their masters. If you were hungry enough, would you subjugate yourself to the rule of another? By the grace of God, most of us havenʼt come within miles of that quandary. But letʼs look at another kind of starvation. The kind that haunts you, turning you over and over in your bed at night, gnawing at the edges of your soul, whispering reminders of just how empty is your life. And what if, in that condition of spiritual depravation, you were offered a feast of grace, forgiveness, and hope? You could turn it down, but likely you would gratefully accept the gifts and be willing to submit yourself, to become a slave of a different kind — one who surrenders his life to a higher power. Thatʼs what we do at the altar, do we not? -Bill Goodson

Saturday, March 13th John 9:18-41 Whenever I hear “Amazing Grace”, (#671 in our hymnal) the phrase ʻTwas blind but now I seeʼ, I think of this wonderful story in Johnʼs Gospel. Using the word blind with all its multiple meanings, John, the son Zebedee, creates a vivid scene with the blind manʼs parents. They are in the synagogue with the Pharisees, but the reply I like the most (we all need to observe this carefully) is when the parents reply “Ask him, he is an adult: he will speak for himself.” Since the prevailing Jewish thought, found in the Hebrew Bible, was that the sins of the fathers are visited unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me (Exodus 20: 5b) You start thinking about the modern scientific application of this theory and you come up with DNA and you say Aha! Then you think about all the things you inherited from your forebears! Such a wonderful story! It makes you think! Again. Evie Spearman

Monday, March 15th Genesis 49:1-2 and 28 "And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days. Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father. .... All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; everyone according to his blessing he blessed them." As we all well know, for thousands of years Israel has been the very epicenter of not only Christianity, but of many other religions. For most of us reading this, it seems that rarely more than a few months pass without word of new outbreaks of violence in and around Israel. While I usually watched or read enough of the news to understand in general terms what issues were involved with the latest outbreak, there was always the sense that because it was so far away and did not personally involve me, did it really matter. That recently changed for me. About two years ago, the Tassas始 moved from Israel into the house across the street. Yoram, the father, had a two year assignment at Redstone Arsenal. Galit took care of their sons, Sean, 13, and Raz, 9, and their daughter, Omer, 4. When they arrived, Raz was taking English as a second language. Sadly, we spent the first year of their assignment merely trading hellos while in the yard at the same time. However, once our son was old enough to hold his own with Sean and Raz, we spent many nights in each others' backyards or driveways playing basketball or riding bikes. Before they left, the boys were showing us images on Google Earth of their neighborhood near Tel Aviv. The Tassas始 moved back home on August 2nd. (Omer will have to learn Hebrew with the southern drawl she picked up here.) I haven't missed someone moving away this much since I was 8 years old and my next door neighbor and boyhood hero moved to Dalton, Georgia. I do know this, God blessed my family when He moved the Tassas across the street and He has blessed their tribe. Ward Wilson

Tuesday, March 16th Mark 8: 1-10 Several years ago, I was asked to write a Lenten meditation, and the passage of scripture was the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes with a very small amount of bread and fish. I remember being struck by the disciples始 reaction to Jesus始 request. They could not believe Jesus would be able to feed so many with so little. When I was assigned the same scripture to write about again, I wondered what I might say that I hadn始t already said. Then I realized that I was focusing on a completely different part of the story this time. I kept coming back to Jesus始 words. He was filled with concern for the well-being of all those people. Over the passing of time, and with a good bit more of the ups and downs of life under my belt, my perception has changed. Instead of focusing on the difficulty of things, I am learning to trust that our Lord is concerned for us and will see that our needs are met. With Him, all things are possible. Lynne Evans

Wednesday, March 17th 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 What a wonderful concept. Gifts. The notion that every individual is gifted, through the power of the Holy Spirit, with an ability to actively participate in the creative process - to make our individual contributions to knowledge, healing, or faith proves that each one of us matters. That we can make a difference certainly affirms the Greatness of God and his love of each one of us. Even if we are unsure of our own gifts, the ability to discern the spirit and gifts in others provides us with an opportunity to support, nurture, and encourage them in the expression of their gifts. This ability to see God始s gifts in others, in their personalities and talents, connects us to the awesomeness of it all - so many persons, so many gifts to share. As we share ourselves with one another, as we experience their presence, we are afforded the opportunity to be present to them, through Christ. Jim & Peggy Pierce

Thursday, March 18th Mark 8:35 “Whoever wants to save his own life will lose it but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” In the baptism service, there is a line the celebrant says that I have puzzled over. “Will you promise through witness and prayer to help this child grow into the full stature of Christ?” What does that mean? Isnʼt that a sort of heresy? Isnʼt Christ the ONLY son of God? But with time and my own struggles, I have come to an understanding about losing oneʼs own life, saving the true life and growing into Christ. From the Garden of Eden days, we people have wanted to wrest the tiller from Godʼs hands, go it alone and be the Captain of our own personal ship. We are blind to our TRUE identity as sons of God or daughters of the King, made in his image. Godʼs way is not to wrest the tiller back to Himself but to give us many opportunities to CHOOSE Him as Captain. When we do this with a sincere heart, we are saving our TRUE life as being one with Him and losing our false identity as a lonely SELF floundering on a turbulent sea. If we only knew that it is losing this false SELF and asking God to be Captain of our ship that we will be wakened from our strange dream of SELF in charge and will be handed the keys to Godʼs kingdom where the burdens will, with his help, be light and all things will be seen as new. Mary Johnson

Friday, March 19th 1 Corinthians 13:3 Sometime ago I read an analogy which has stuck with me. I apologize for not citing the author, but I honestly cannot remember. God created flowers to bloom. A flowerʼs bloom cannot be more beautiful for some and less beautiful for others. The flower has no “free will.” Its sole purpose is to bloom. Our creator designed it that way. Follow the analogy to people. God created us in His image. God is love. We are created to love. This is where it gets tricky. Of all Godʼs creation, He gave us “free will.” We are designed to love, but have “free will” to extend it or withhold it. Why did God make us this way? To test us? To make us intentional about our actions and decisions? I donʼt know the answer, but I do know I feel closer to God when I choose love. And when love does not come easy, I pray to be like the flower and just bloom. Thanks be to God! Emily Rodgers

Saturday, March 20th 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 How wonderful our world would be if everyone loved without judgment or prejudice. How we express love shows our heart condition.... God is the only one who knows our heart. The greatest display of love was Christ loving me so much that He was willing to die for my sins. During this holy season, I want to strive daily to have the same sacrificial love in my heart. I feel that when I do, it will show in my actions and treatment of others. By my responding in love vs. judgment God is glorified. These are the times when the love I have for Him in my heart shines through. The day will come when I see Him face to face. That day I will truly be like Him; complete in His love! Kelli Markwalter

Monday, March 22nd Exodus 4:10-20 This verse in Exodus 4 tells the story of Moses returning to Egypt to lead the children of Israel from the bonds of slavery. This story teaches some of the very basic but very important truths about how God accomplishes His work in this sinful world. When I read this verse, my first thought was, “Oh my- this is SO me! Tongue-tied and tangled words – ineloquent speech – I can surely understand how Moses felt!” In fact, I am feeling a little bit like that right now as I am trying to put down my thought about this verse onto paper! A verse that immediately popped into my head was Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. As Moses was terrified to speak to the Egyptians, with Godʼs help he was able to use Aaron as his “mouth” and the staff that God had given him to convince the Pharaoh to free the Israelites. So the next time I am scared, down, afraid, or defeated, I will remember that I have God on my side and that I CAN do ALL things through Him. Betty Hornsby

Tuesday, March 23rd “Come Holy Spirit and inspire the hearts of your faithful that we shall be created anew” My Cursillo experience showed me how to hold the Holy Trinity close to me as I walk through each and every day. I sit quietly with my hands open heavenward, and I truly feel the Holy Spirit fill my hands and my heart that I may try to be the kind of person God wants me to be. It is hard, but with Godʼs help I will never stop trying. Anne Pollard

Wednesday, March 24th Mark 10:1-9 These passages from Mark bring to mind the guilt and shame one feels having gotten a divorce. Even if you don始t stray from the marriage, but are the partner who gets left behind, there is a definite stigma attached to becoming a divorcee. You feel uncertain and alone, and you wonder how you arrived at this place - when you yourself stayed true to the vows you took. There doesn始t seem to be appropriate scripture for that side of the divorce story. But Jesus始 kindness to the woman at the well seems to convey his understanding and forgiveness to the victim of adultery. The love Jesus showed her can remind all of us to love ourselves when we feel the most unlovable. The beauty will be in having the chance to find someone who will truly love and cherish you and who will uphold their side of the marriage vows. God is all about second chances. Minda Alexander

Thursday, March 25th Mark 10:17-31 So many of us can identify with the man in this story. He just doesn't get that neither all his wealth nor all his good deeds will grant him eternal life. He has no conception that this is possible only through trusting God. Now, try explaining that to the kids....... Blessed or cursed, we live in a society that revolves around material things. It doesn't take long for a child to realize that someone else has something he wants. Trying to teach gratitude and appreciation can become a daunting task for any parent. Dear God, We are grateful and thankful that You sent us Your Son, Jesus Christ. Please help us to continue to appreciate all things You provide in our earthly lives. More importantly, help us to focus on our eternal lives only possible through a relationship with You. As with a camel, we must drop a lot of "baggage" before fitting through an eye of a needle. Betsy and Sparks Ford

Friday, March 26th Mark 10:32-34 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside an told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” The Lenten season is a forty-day journey to the betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Much of the sacrifice and study involves focusing our minds on the pain and suffering that Jesus endured for our sins. In this verse, Mark accounts Jesusʼ second prediction of His death to the disciples. Anger, fear, and anxiety are the emotions that I would have had as I listened to Jesus. I wonder why Jesus told the disciples about His death a second time. Was it to mentally prepare the disciples for the events to come? Was it to remind the disciples of the prophecy? Was it a message of forgiveness for the actions that they were going to take? May Jesus be with us as we try to understand why He had to lose His life so that we could gain eternal life in Him. Daniel Suggs

Saturday, March 27th Mark 10:46-52 ….have mercy on me! Jesus said, “your faith has healed you.” All Bartimaeus had to do was ask and his blindness was healed. As I am writing this, my mother is in the hospital. She has been battling leukemia for the past three years. Through all her suffering she has kept a great spirit and outlook. Her faith and belief in Godʼs mercy has been a constant as she has gone through many treatments and procedures. Her strength and stamina have continued to amaze her doctors, as she has outlived her prognosis. My mother is a real testament to what Godʼs strength can do when we believe. I hope that I can show great faith and belief in Godʼs mercy to my children, as my mother has shown to her children. Let us all have faith and remember that all we need to do is ask! Cindy Kamelchuk

Monday of Holy Week, March 29th Mark 11:12-25 The passages of the divine curse of the barren fig tree and the cleansing of the temple are rich and full of scholarly debated symbolism. I am no biblical scholar, but I have loved the lesson of the money changers since early childhood and still prefer to view the imagery through a childʼs eyes. In simple terms, these verses tell of a humble, loving Lord finally showing us that we are to be in awe of His power, strength and righteousness. He is a force to be reckoned with. Like the fig tree, if I do not bear the fruits of my faith, then I am just as useless to the Lord. Most of Jesusʼ life was spent inspiring our Christian journeys, teaching us to be examples of His love and compassion. We are to give of ourselves like the Samaritan. We are to be quick to turn the other cheek. We are to resist the temptation to cast stones. We are to forgive the trespassers. However, in this situation, mild-mannered Clark Kent has donned the big “S.” My mindʼs eye sees my normally quiet, kind and gentle, minister – grandfather in one of the few moments when he has uncharacteristically raised his voice. Jesus, the teacher/healer, has become the ultimate Superhero and is standing firmly to defend His Fatherʼs house. On rare occasions, we too are called to collect our courage and stand against evil. The true challenge comes in living close enough to the Father to hear and to understand His call. Audrey Clayton

Tuesday of Holy Week, March 30th “I know not what the future has of marvel or surprise, I only know that life and death His mercy underlies.” Upon my retirement in ʼ08 I was dubbed the last of the “frozen chosen.” I consider it a compliment, but as an afterthought, what does it really mean? I grew up in a different culture, one foreign to most of the parishioners today. Thinking of that title, I decided Iʼd melded into a different culture, Iʼd accepted the “new” Prayer Book, now 40; accepted the ordination of women; and remained loyal to the Episcopal Church and to its clergy. The Liturgical Calendar teaches the season after Pentecost as the season of growth, this color is green. For me the season of growth is the observance of a Holy Lent. The color is purple. This is the time that I strain to grow: an opportunity every year to reaffirm my true beliefs, a time of self denial. “Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer; that calls me from a world of care and bids me at my Fatherʼs throne, make all my warts and wishes known. In seasons of distress and grief, my soul has often found relief and oft escaped the tempters snare by thy return sweet hour of prayer.” Prentice White

Wednesday of Holy Week, March 31st 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11 Twelve Step Devotionals Forgiving others is an important part of turning our will over to God. Jesus taught us to pray like this: “Our Father make your name be honored in my mouth…” And he says he would forgive us our sin just as we have to forgive others. Sometimes we might feel unworthy to ask God for anything. You have to have genuine remorse. Sometimes you think others have sent deception, but you have to search your own heart. You have to stand on your belief and search your own heart and ask Jesus for understanding and guidance…to keep him with you throughout the day and nothing can go wrong. For He answers our prayers and to all people He will come through. Our hearts are filled with sin, but He will forgive us all, as we shall learn to forgive others. Lois Ford

Maundy Thursday, April 1st Mark 14:12-25 "Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover"? Knowing the events that are to follow, Jesus and his band of followers take time to prepare for the Passover. It is something familiar that has formed them so decisively. Not to do so would leave a greater void, a heavier emptiness. This time of the year sets the mood, as we read and hear the same texts to the point that we may grow weary of the familiar. There is a time for recalling the familiar. In times of crisis and chaos, the comfort of the familiar, the comfort of our rituals keeps us connected to our identity. It is a time to do our rituals in all spheres of our lives. Especially when those familiar rituals have formed us so decisively. They have ordering, norming power. It is when we form connections with our family, our church, and the communion of saints. It is when the collective unconscious is touched. Reliving the events of Holy Week helps maintain our connection to our Lord. Go and prepare. The Rev'd Mary E. Groff, Deacon

Good Friday, April 2nd Good Friday Meditation Several years ago I was to officiate at a Good Friday Service in the Assisted Living Residence of a Retirement Center. I was their Chaplain. I had invested considerable thought in this service and planned carefully so that it would be meaningful. The residents rarely went to church elsewhere. This was their sole worship opportunity, their only space. The maintenance man and I had built a large cross for the Activity Room. Two professionals were to sing “Were You There?” A classical guitarist was present for meditation music, playing “O Sacred Head sore Wounded” as all gathered in the room. It was quiet, pensive and lovely. Just as the service was to begin, a familiar character rolled her wheelchair into the room. She was known to be rude, demanding and loud. “Whatʼs all this gloomy music? I want something happy!” I thought that if I ignored her she might settle into the mood and be still. That did not happen. Louder she stated: “If this mood doesnʼt CHANGE, I am leaving! I want something happy.” I gently explained to her before the crowd that it was Good Friday, the most solemn day of the year, the day of Jesusʼ death, and that we had gathered to contemplate this great sorrow and love. “Well, I donʼt care! And if we donʼt sing something better than this, I am leaving right now!” Every eye was upon me: residents, families, staff - even a visiting bishop from another state. I responded, “I am very sorry, but perhaps you should go – because we WILL continue with just this tone. We will be watching Jesus walk his Way of the Cross. We will not sing happy tunes today.” She was furious, spun her wheelchair around, and exited the room exclaiming, “You are dreary stubborn people! I wonʼt waste my time with you!” Does the world look on as if we waste our time: stopping this day to watch Jesus pass by as he carries his cross? In our human nature, we all would rather sing that happy song. But do we have the courage today to pause, listen to the sounds of the passion, feel the heartache of the friends and Mother, watch the crowd and that cross, feel our dismay at the fullness of the story? It is a day to BE with Jesus. Will we stay with Him, or twirl around in the rush of our lives, and leave? Mary Anne Akin

Holy Saturday, April 3rd Hebrews 4:1-16 ....a Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter Godʼs rest also cease from their labors as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest…. Today, Holy Saturday, is Sabbath time. Today, we are invited to rest in Godʼs love and promises. And in resting here, find peace. Resist the worldʼs cue to move ahead to Easter with egg hunts and parties. Hold off on these things until after you attend the Easter Vigil tonight or services tomorrow morning. Today, take some time and look back over the past 40 days and claim Godʼs goodness to you through the journey of Lent. We are not asked to judge ourselves and “how well we did” in keeping our Lenten observance, but rather consider Godʼs faithfulness to us, and what God has done for us during these holy days. What new insights have you learned about yourself? What new insights have you learned about your faith and the world and the people God asks you to serve? What have you learned about God and Godʼs love in Christ? Take some time, good friends, to be quiet and reflect. Try to sit quietly for 20 minutes. Light a candle and let Godʼs loving presence enfold you. Words are not even necessary, for God has spoken all that needs to be said. Today, like the first Sabbath when God created, consider that God takes pleasure in you just as God takes pleasure in the good creation. Even if you have a million errands to run today, take some time to enter the Sabbath rest God desires for you. For today we rest and wait. We wait for God to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. God will raise us to new life in Christ because God loves us just that much. Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we might receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. With love for Easter and always, Father Andy Anderson

Lenten Devotions 2010  

Church of the Nativity, Episcopal