Wesley’s Lenten Devotional

During Lent members of the Wesley community will be offering reflections and prayers centered on some of the lectionary readings for each week.  Please visit often as part of your journey with us through Lent.

* * *

Easter Sunday!

John 20: 1-18

20Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.15Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew,* ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Each time I revisit a passage I always try to focus on a particular element or person. It is in this way that I try to come away with something different. For me the Bible isn’t some “static” text. It is dynamic; providing deeper and deeper insights to the reader depending on where his or her heart is, or what sort of guidance he or she is in need of.

This time I found myself drawn to the actions of Mary Magdalene.

Mary stays behind at the entrance of the empty tomb even after the two disciples left. Grief. She knows not of the resurrection, at least not yet.

The only thing she is focused on is recovering Jesus’ remains.

See peers into the tomb.

She is looking for Jesus, but she doesn’t know what she should be looking for.

Judging by her unimaginable grief she is looking for a

dead, decaying, broken body

and not the loving, breathing, miracle working, forgiving Jesus who is very much alive.

She doesn’t immediately recognize Jesus. In fact when she first sees the risen LORD she mistakes him for the gardener. She even asks him what he has done with Jesus’ body.

Poor Mary.

Though she is looking for Jesus she doesn’t recognize him when he is standing right in front of her talking to her.

Oddly enough, I take enormous comfort from this.

Jesus is patient with her as he is with all of us who actively seek. He calls her by name like he does with all of us…


I can hardly imagine the what the moment of realization must have been like for Mary. The very thing she was looking for is standing right in front of her and is more wonderful and glorious than anything she could ever have hoped for.

Sometimes we don’t know what we are looking for when we look for God. That’s because God is often in the things we least expect. But he is patient… Hallelujah!

No matter what, beyond a shadow of a doubt, God will find a way to reach out to us. When he does connect with us it will be in away far greater, more powerful, and more wonderful than anything we can possibly imagine.

Dear God,

Thank you for reaching out to all of us. Especially in ways we least expect. As we celebrate life and the resurrection on this Easter Sunday be with us as we discover all the little ways you are in our lives. It truly is something beautiful.



– Aaron Stiles

Luke 24: 1-12

1On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8Then they remembered his words.

9When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Two great religious figures of our time, Sister Joan Chittister and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams were talking together about the spiritual life.   She asked him what interested him the most and, after a pause, he replied, “I find myself coming back again and again to the meaning of ‘alleluia’” (quoted in The Christian Century, 4/6/10, p. 8).

Alleluia.  Praise be to God.  One Christian tradition omits “alleluia” during the whole season of Lent, festively reinstating it again on Easter.  Today is a day for praises to God.  But if we embody the Easter proclamation, then everyday becomes a day for praises to God.

Death no longer has the final word.  Not the big D death at the end of each of our lives, and also not all the little deaths along the way.  Bankruptcy, divorce, being turned down at your favorite grad school, struggles with addiction, struggles in relationships.  None of that has the last word.  In all of that God is calling us to life and life abundant.  Right here and now in the middle of this messy, scary life.

The angels ask the women at the tomb why they are looking for the living among the dead (v. 5).  It’s the question still ringing in the air all these years later.  Praise God, there is another way!  Praise be to God for standing in each moment of our lives, ready to show us which way to life.  Alleluia!  It’s worth coming back to again and again.

God of love, praise be to you!  Thank you for this day when I am reminded that you bring life to the deserts and the desolate places in my life and the life of all the world.  Even though I know the Easter story, I am sometimes just as surprised and fearful as the disciples were at the edge of the empty tomb, at the edge of a new way of living.  Alleluia!  Keep me coming back to you, Lord of Life.  Amen.

– Deborah Lewis

Acts 10: 34-43

34Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree,40but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

We are witnesses, witnesses of everything he did in Jerusalem, witnesses of the life, death, the resurrection, and the forgiveness that followed. Yet we are also witnesses of everything he’s done in OUR lives

Christ our lord is risen today! ALLELUIA!

He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one. So go out and preach the good news, be a witness of the Lord!  Be a witness of his shepherding guidance and his peace.  Be a witnesses of the incredible JOY you find in his presence. And most importantly, on this sunny, gorgeous Easter morning, be a witness of his LOVE.

Oh Lord, thank you for your love which you have revealed to us through your son, who is risen this day. He lives, and therefore we can face tomorrow. Thank you for family and for friends who have become our family. This day may we rejoice and be witnesses to your love and your gift, our risen Lord. Amen.

ps. Don’t you wish Christians had picked up on these ideas about tolerance (vv. 34-35) a couple centuries ago?!

– Maggie Graham

Holy Saturday

Psalm 42-43

[b] As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.

5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and 6 my God.
My [c] soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

8 By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.

9 I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”

10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

11 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Psalm 43

1[d] Vindicate me, O God,
and plead my cause against an ungodly nation;
rescue me from deceitful and wicked men.

2 You are God my stronghold.
Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?

3 Send forth your light and your truth,
let them guide me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.

4 Then will I go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the harp,
O God, my God.

5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Even though Psalm 42 was written many years before Jesus lived, I imagine that his followers on the day he died and the day after also felt like tears were their only food.  They too were overwhelmed by the people around them mocking “Where is your God?”  It must have been a very deep darkness that they felt.

It is often hard to come to terms with the fact that God allows, even plans, times for our hearts to be downcast.  In the psalmist’s mourning though, he draws closer to God, praising Him and putting his hope in Him, making an example for us to do too.

Dear God, help us to appreciate the desolate part of the Easter story, the two dark days that we cannot really comprehend.  Thank you Father.  And Lord, I pray that in the difficult times in our lives as well as the good, that our souls would thirst for you the way that the deer pants over the streams of water.”  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lacey Williams
Romans 6:3-11

3Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

5If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

8Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

When someone suggests that I read just a small section of Scripture, I find myself looking before and after to figure out the context of the selection.  Immediately before this text, Paul strongly rejects the idea that we should continue to live with sin.  Verses 3-11 explain what it means for us to be baptized into Christ.  A good Wesleyan theologian could probably rift on sanctifying grace for pages here.

This text is bookended by the application of the conclusion Paul draws about the Christian life.  Namely, he’s saying in 12-14 that we ought not let sin be in our lives.  I’ll admit it, I’m not there yet.  Not sure if I will ever be, so this is prayer…

Lord God, thank your for your grace.  First, thank you for the grace present in all of Creation we see around us.  Second, thank you for your saving grace through the Cross.  Lastly, thank you for the grace that is the daily work of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us, remove our sins, and bring us closer.  — Amen

Jimbo Hughes

Other scriptures for the day:

1 Samuel 4:1b-11

Good Friday

John  18:1 – 19:42

1When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.

2Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

4Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”

5“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

7Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”
And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

8“I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” 9This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”[a]

10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

11Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Jesus Taken to Annas

12Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people.

Peter’s First Denial

15Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in.

17“You are not one of his disciples, are you?” the girl at the door asked Peter.
He replied, “I am not.”

18It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.

The High Priest Questions Jesus

19Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.

20“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”

22When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.

23“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” 24Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest.[b]

Peter’s Second and Third Denials

25As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?”
He denied it, saying, “I am not.”

26One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?” 27Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.

Jesus Before Pilate

28Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

30“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

31Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” the Jews objected. 32This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled.

33Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38“What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

40They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.

John 19

Jesus Sentenced to be Crucified

1Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face.

4Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” 5When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

6As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”
But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

7The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

8When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

11Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

12From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

13When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour.
“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

15But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

16Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

The Crucifixion

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

19Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read:|sc JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

22Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

23When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

24“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”
This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said,
“They divided my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing.”[c] So this is what the soldiers did.

25Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” 27and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” >From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

The Death of Jesus

28Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

31Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”[d] 37and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”[e]

The Burial of Jesus

38Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.[f] 40Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

I have read this passage many times, and though it is full of suffering and sadness, I’ve always found great comfort in it.  I find it incredible that God loves us so deeply that he became human through Jesus, even to the point of sharing pain and death with us.  Part of the comfort I draw from this passage stems from the fact that I know the whole story, beyond Friday.  Not only did Jesus die on a cross for our sins, but he rose again.

While I like to experience Good Friday with Easter Sunday in mind, this is not how the first Good Friday was experienced by Jesus’ disciples and followers.  This is important for us to remember when we are confronted with pain and suffering in our own lives.  Sometimes it is difficult to see how we are going to overcome certain obstacles, but we can draw comfort from the fact that there isn’t a single place we can go that Jesus hasn’t already been, even death.  Throughout the difficult situations in our lives we must remember even though it’s Friday, Sunday is coming.

Dear God,  Thank you for coming to earth through Jesus, so that our sins may be forgiven.  Help us to remember to turn to you at all times because there is no situation we could ever imagine where you are not ready to meet us.  Amen

Helen Ross

Psalm 22

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?

2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent.

3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel. [a]

4 In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.

5 They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by men and despised by the people.

7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads:

8 “He trusts in the LORD;
let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”

9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you
even at my mother’s breast.

10 From birth I was cast upon you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

13 Roaring lions tearing their prey
open their mouths wide against me.

14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted away within me.

15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me [b] in the dust of death.

16 Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced [c] my hands and my feet.

17 I can count all my bones;
people stare and gloat over me.

18 They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing.

19 But you, O LORD, be not far off;
O my Strength, come quickly to help me.

20 Deliver my life from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.

21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save [d] me from the horns of the wild oxen.

22 I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the congregation I will praise you.

23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

24 For he has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you [e] will I fulfill my vows.

26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
they who seek the LORD will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,

28 for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.

30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.

31 They will proclaim his righteousness
to a people yet unborn—
for he has done it.
Mark 15:34
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Sometimes, even the best plans seem to go awry and everything falls apart. In a matter of moments what we have been working on seems meaningless and we realize our vision for the future will never be realized. Whether it is a last minute project, not getting into a competitive program, or diagnosis of a serious illness these moments are tough. After the crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples were left without a plan. They were scattered, scared, and uncertain. They probably began to question their plan in the first place. Even in the most uncertain, life-altering circumstance, however, God still had a plan. God’s ultimate plan was far more awesome and life-altering than anything the disciples had previously experienced. Psalm 22 and its quotation in Mark remind us that even in the most terrible moments of human history, we can continue to trust in God. When our plans and goals seem to falter, we can look back and realize that if God’s plan can conquer death it can certainly handle anything life throws at us.

Dear God,
Help us to remember that you are with us even during the most trying times. When our plans fail, help us to trust your plan.

Sarah Elder

Other scriptures for the day:

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Hebrews 10:16-25

Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

April 1, 2010 – Maundy Thursday

Luke 22:14 – Luke 23:56

14When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

17After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.” 23They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.

24Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

31“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you[a] as wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

33But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

34Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

35Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.

36He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[b]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

38The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That is enough,” he replied.

Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives

39Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.[c]

45When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46“Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Jesus Arrested

47While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

49When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

51But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

52Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”

Peter Disowns Jesus

54Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”

57But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

58A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”
“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.

59About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”

60Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62And he went outside and wept bitterly.

The Guards Mock Jesus

63The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. 64They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” 65And they said many other insulting things to him.

Jesus Before Pilate and Herod

66At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67“If you are the Christ,[d]” they said, “tell us.”

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

70They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”
He replied, “You are right in saying I am.”

71Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”

Luke 23

1Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. 2And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ,[e] a king.”

3So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.

4Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”

5But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea[f]by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”

6On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. 7When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

8When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. 9He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. 12That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.

13Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”[g]

18With one voice they cried out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” 19(Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)

20Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

22For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”

23But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

The Crucifixion

26As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30Then
” ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
and to the hills, “Cover us!” ‘[h] 31For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

32Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[i] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

35The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”

36The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

38There was a written notice above him, which read:|sc THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[j]

43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus’ Death

44It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

47The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Jesus’ Burial

50Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 53Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. 54It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

55The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

This is probably a very familiar story to most people, but the thing that struck me the most about this passage after re-reading it is the powerful love Jesus had for his disciples and for all people.  Jesus was betrayed by Judas and denied recognition by Peter.  Shouts from large crowds insisted that he be crucified, but yet, he still found the strength while on the cross to forgive them.  Jesus forgave and loved them, even as they were crucifying him.

Jesus also prayed several times that God’s will would be done.  He committed himself to God, and trusted in God’s guidance and strength.  Jesus knew what was approaching for him, and he knew that he could rely on God to uphold him.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for the unconditional love you have shown the world through your son, Jesus Christ. Help us to understand that we can rely on you for our every need, just as Jesus relied on you to strengthen him. Thank you for the radical act of love shown to us by your son, and help us to never forget our source of strength and comfort. Amen

Becca Worley

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

1 I love the lord because he hears and answers my prayers.  2 Because he bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I have breath! … 12 What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me?  13 I will lift up a cup symbolizing his salvation; I will praise the Lord’s name for saving me.  14 I will keep my promises to the Lord in the presence of his people.  15 The Lord’s loved ones are precious to him; it grieves him when they die.  16 O Lord, I am your servant; yes, I am your servant, the son of your handmaid, and you have freed me from my bonds!  17 I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.  18 I will keep my promises to the Lord in the presence of all his people, 19 in the house of the Lord, in the heart of Jerusalem.   Praise the Lord!”

The Lord is great and hears our prayers, but what can we offer him?  This psalm says that we should offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and keep our promises to the Lord.  As we near the end of the Lenten season, we must remain strong and keep our promises as a sacrifice to the Lord, for they are the least we can offer him.  If we are tempted, let us call on the name of the Lord and put our trust in him.

Lord, you are wonderful and worthy of praise.  Please help us remain strong and keep our promises to you.  We are your servants.  Amen

Patrick Ormond

John 13: 1-17, 31b-35

1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.[a] 2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”       Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 9“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 10Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. 12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

31When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. 32If God is glorified in him,[a] God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. 33“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. 34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

In my experiences at the Wesley Foundation recently, this story has come up quite a bit.  On our spring break mission trip, we talked about how significant of an act it was to wash someone’s feet in Jesus’ day.  We talked about how grimey and disgusting their feet would have been, walking around in the dirt (and probably feces) with only sandals on.  Throughout the week, we were challenged to think about what the modern day equivalent of foot washing would be.  At one of our last reflections, Kaitlyn Bixel decided that for her, the modern day equivalent of foot washing would be cleaning someone’s toilet.  Think about it — Jesus shows up at your door, during his last days as a physical being on this earth, and wants to clean your toilet.  What an amazing, humbling (and slightly embarrassing!) act of love and devotion.  In both of these passages, Jesus calls us to show this kind of radical love to one another in His name.  What can we do to express the extent of our love and His love for one another today?

Lord, Thank You for your amazing, radical acts of love.  You humble Yourself at our feet.  You care for every part of our beings.  Help us to show the extent of Your love and our love for one another every day of our lives.  Like you, let us continue to share this love until the very last day of our lives. Amen.

Lauren Gilchrist

Other scriptures for the day:

Exodus 12:1-14

March 28, 2010 – Palm Sunday

Luke 19: 28-40

28After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30“Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ”

32Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

“I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”  This is what Jesus says to the Pharisees when they complain to him about his praise-filled disciples, throwing down their cloaks and shouting out with joy.  The whole of creation longs to give its praise and if we are too proud or busy or conflicted to give ours, rest assured that even the stones will raise up their voices in praise.  Who knew stones had voices?

Unlike the majesty of the usual triumphal processions of great rulers during Jesus’ time, his own entry into Jerusalem was a humble affair.  The crowd of disciples threw down their coats for Jesus to ride across, but these weren’t expensive or impressive garments.  The pathway they made for Jesus probably looked more like the Goodwill pile than a red carpet.  Jesus rode across these on a borrowed donkey, not a sleek warhorse.  It was not a perfect scene of opulence and majesty.  But it was a perfect scene of praise.

It seems that sometimes we hold back because we want our offerings to be perfect.  We want to sing the heart-rending cantata rather than offering whatever croaky, pitchy tones we possess.  May we learn today from the disciples and from the stones at our feet to shout out in praise and thanksgiving to God.

You give us voices and hearts made for praise.  Remind us of this today, God.  Teach us to sing out even when we are afraid we don’t know the song.  Compel us to turn our whole lives into songs of praise to you.  Amen.

The Rev. Deborah Lewis

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

2 Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”

19 Open for me the gates of righteousness;
I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.

20 This is the gate of the LORD
through which the righteous may enter.

21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation.

22 The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone;

23 the LORD has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.

24 This is the day the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

25 O LORD, save us;
O LORD, grant us success.

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
From the house of the LORD we bless you. [a]

27 The LORD is God,
and he has made his light shine upon us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up [b] to the horns of the altar.

28 You are my God, and I will give you thanks;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.

29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

I have learned on my job as church secretary that every moment can be suffused with holiness and revelation, and I am honored to be of service to this congregation, however humbly. Yesterday I was thrilled to receive a FedEx shipment of palm leaves from UMCOR, part of the “eco-palms” project that we announced in Parish News. This UMCOR endeavor supports sustainable forests and fair-trade practices to benefit small farmers in Mexico and Guatemala. Renita and Carolyn Newsome made us aware of the project, and Elizabeth put in the order. I did nothing but receive the shipment, read the instructions, unpack and refrigerate the leaves (“laying them flat in a cool dry place”), and e-mail Nancy Horn, our flower coordinator, and Elizabeth that the shipment had arrived. My work is now done. But, in the words of the psalmist, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in [my] eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (118:23-24) This was a Tuesday at around 10 AM as I sat surrounded by telephone, laptop, fax, and copier, the tools of my service. “Oh, Lord, we beseech you, give us success!” (118:25b) I hope—in fact, I know—that He has given me success, and I would like to thank my family, friends, and colleagues for acknowledging this, so that I am ever mindful of it.

Prayer: “Dear Lord, may all work that is undertaken in the name of love be blessed, may you allow us to walk a straight path undistracted by worldly definitions of success, and may you guide us in daily life to make every moment and endeavor a holy one.”

Bill Rowland, Administrative Assistant

Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church

Psalm 31:9-16

9Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in trouble; my eyes are tired from so much crying; I am completely worn out.  10I am exhausted by sorrow, and weeping has shortened my life.  I am weak from all my troubles; even my bones are wasting away.  11All my enemies, and especially my neighbors, treat me with contempt.  Those who know me are afraid of me; when they see me in the street, they run away.  12Everyone has forgotten me, as though I were dead; I am like something thrown away.  13I hear many enemies whispering; terror is all around me.  They are making plans against me, plotting to kill me.  14But my trust is in you, O Lord; you are my God.  15I am always in your care; save me from my enemies, for those who persecute me.  16Look on your servant with kindness; save me in your constant love.

By this point in the Lenten season, you’ve probably faced a time when you were tempted to break your Lenten vow.  During this time, your mind starts racing through all the reasons why God wouldn’t care if you took just one bite of that chocolate cake, or decided to skip reading the Bible just one night since you’d had such a rough day.  I feel like this Psalms passage seems to sum up these moments the best.  At times it feels exhausting to keep with our Lenten promises and it may even seem that others are judging you because of your conscious decision to abstain from a certain activity or add something extra into your already-busy schedule just so you can become closer to God.  At other times, you may feel like you’re on this journey alone and without anyone to help keep you accountable, or maybe even are trying to add to your temptation.

Unfortunately, the times when we feel backed into a corner, with no escape route and no way to fight our way out, are the times when we are most likely to forget about the secret passage or the super hero who could lead us out those situations.  Fortunately, the Psalms are there to remind us of the one who can “save [us] from [our] enemies” and the one whom we can trust in.  Next time you are faced with a situation in which you just feel like giving in, remember this passage and know that God will be there to “save you in [His] constant love.”

To add a second perspective on this passage, I think it would be beneficial too take into consideration the application of this Psalm to the final weeks of Jesus’ life.  Imagine how worn out you would be after trying to prepare and build God’s kingdom on earth, knowing the entire time that everyone would turn on you and you would have to die for those who persecuted you.  The planning, the plotting, and the betrayal are all mentioned in this particular Psalm, but then, the end of the passage begins to provide insight as to how Jesus was able to manage all of these emotions and struggles and follow through with the plan.  Think of it this way:  at least you get to pick what you do for Lent.  Jesus was not given a choice, but he was able to remain faithful.  And maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with a little thing called trusting the Lord and resting in his strength.

Father God, look on us with kindness and save us in that constant love that only you can provide.  Help us to remember that you are there to help us even in those times when we feel the furthest from you or are being tempted the most.  Guide us the rest of the way through our Lenten journeys and help us to experience the rest that can only come from fully trusting in you.  Amen.

Annie Bailey

Other scripture for the day:

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Philippians 2:5-11

Other scriptures for the beginning of the week:

Monday: Genesis 34:1-31

Tuesday: Judges 19:22-30

Wednesday: 2 Samuel 13:1-22

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Isaiah 43:16-21

16 This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters,

17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together,  and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.  20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls,        because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself  that they may proclaim my praise.

This passage begins with Isaiah reminding the Jews of the crossing of the Red Sea – the great escape from slavery in Egypt.  After this escape, the Jews spent forty years wondering the desert in search of the Promised Land.  God did not forget about his people.  He provided manna for the desert wanderers and Isaiah promises that God will provide for us in the same way.  God gave Jesus the strength to survive forty days in the desert and He will do the same for us.  As you continue your Lenten journey, remember that God will give you everything you need.

– Nina Ruhter

Dear God,

You have shown through your prophets and Jesus that you will provide all that I need.  Despite these stories, it can be hard for me to give up certain things or attempt to do something new for you this Lent.  Please allow me to feel your support.  Amen.

Other scriptures for the day:

Psalm 126

Philippians 3:4b-14

John 12: 1-8

Other scriptures for the week:

Monday: Exodus 40:1-15

Tuesday: Judges 9:7-15

Wednesday: Luke 18:31-34

Thursday: Habakkuk 3:2-15

Friday: 1 John 2:18-28

Saturday: Psalm 20

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Psalm 53

1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.  2 God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3 Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.  4 Will the evildoers never learn— those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on God? 5 There they were, overwhelmed with dread, where there was nothing to dread. God scattered the bones of those who attacked you; you put them to shame, for God despised them. 6 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

God, by way of the psalmist, is begging His people to remember their sins.  We are all sinners.  “There is not one who does good,” he reminds us.  We sin because we do not fear the Lord.  Many deny God outright.  The worst retribution is spoken to those whom the Lord deems as the worst of those sinners: the persecutors.  However, he speaks hope to his people whom are being persecuted.  Deliverance will come. Be glad in the salvation that comes in Jesus.

God’s people fail to resist temptation again and again. He is exasperated with the evil in the world, as I’m sure many of us have been.  At times, we feel as though nothing good can come of this world, that everything and everyone in it is corrupt, at during those times, it is hard to find hope. But God reminds us that there is.  Jesus is the one who was able to resist all temptation.  He lived- and died- a perfect life. Because of his death, we may all be saved.  And through his example, and the power given to us by God, we are able now to resist temptation.  So take heart.  Fear the Lord, rely on His strength, and ultimately, trust in the salvation of Jesus. Help each other to do the same, especially during this time of Lent when we remember the temptations of evil.  And remember, because of the gift of Jesus, good can and will be done by God’s people in this world.

– Amber Warren

God, forgive us of our sins. Forgive us of the countless times we can forgotten you and given into temptation. Lord, give us the strength to resist, for without You, we are weak.  Thank You for the example that Jesus set. Help us to live our lives modeled after Your Son. Thank You for the gift of salvation provided by the death of Your Perfect Son, and the hope that is given to us. Help us to trust in Jesus, and help us to be the good in this world, so that others may see Your hope. Thank you for all blessings, both past and present and those to come. Amen.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Luke 9:10-17 10When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, 11but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. 12Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” 13He replied, “You give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” 14(About five thousand men were there.) But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15The disciples did so, and everybody sat down. 16Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. 17They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

Most of us are probably very familiar with this story, but reading the first part of chapter 9 is helpful in understanding the whole lesson here. Jesus had given the Twelve the power to “drive out all demons and to cure diseases” and sent them out to work miracles all day. ALL DAY.  What’s more, Jesus tells them they have to do it empty-handed.  They aren’t even allowed to pack a lunch.  So when they return, they have accomplished much, but they are tired and hungry. Jesus tries to lead them off to eat and relax in privacy.  However, word has spread that there are a dozen miracle-workers in Bethsaida, and the apostles have in no way helped everyone who needs helping, so they are followed by a crowd of a respectable size (5000 men and who knows how many women and children).

Jesus, while probably tired himself, welcomes the crowd. When suppertime rolls around he instructs the apostles to feed everyone present. They find a tiny bit of food. And what I find funny is that the apostles, who have been out all day working magnificent miracles empty-handed, still can’t fathom how they can feed the crowd.

In this story Jesus shows us, once again, that if we scrap together everything we have and set it before him, he can take our meager gifts and use them to work miracles with our hands.

– Kaitlyn Bixel

Jesus, you are all glory and power forever.  Thank you that you provide us with more than we would ever need, and please help us to understand that, in your name and by your power, we can do all things.  But unless we love you and return all we have to you, we will waste our gifts. With love and in your name, amen.

Other scriptures for the week:

Thursday: 2 Kings 4:1-7

Friday: Revelatoin 19:1-9

Saturday, March 13, 2010
Psalm 39
1 I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.” 2But when I was silent and still,not even saying anything good, my anguish increased. 3My heart grew hot within me,and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: 4“Show me, O Lord, my life’s endand the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. 5You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. 6Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. 7“But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. 8Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools. 9I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this. 10Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand. 11You rebuke and discipline men for their sin; you consume their wealth like a moth— each man is but a breath. 12“Hear my prayer, O Lord, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were. 13Look away from me, that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more.”

This passage is all about waiting. The first two verses are the psalmist saying that he has attempted to keep silent even around those who may have not been watching what they were doing or saying. However, in the third verse he seems to become impatient and breaks his silence. In verses 4-6 he is praying about the frailty of human existence. At one point he states that “each man’s life is but a breath”. Verse 7 is the culmination of the psalmist’s feelings when he states that his hope is in God. As he continues, he asks that God save him and that he had faith in God while others put their faith in worldly possessions.

I believe that the first six verses of this passage are about preparation. The psalmist stresses the frailty of humans in verses 4-6. However, instead of worrying about the future and about death, we should pray that God fills our hearts with his love and spirit that we may live each day to the fullest. Ultimately, we have very little control over our future, but there is no sense in attempting to live in a time that has yet to come.

I believe the second half of this passage is not only about preparation but also maintaining faith in God. So often, we attempt to control our lives on our own schedule. We can get caught up in trying to gain as much wealth and status as possible. However, when these things fail to sustain us, it is imperative that we have faith and trust in God to sustain us and keep us focused on his greater plan.

–  Kemper Steffe
Dear Lord,
We thank you for always sustaining us, even when we fail on Earth. Lord, we understand how precious the gift of life is and we ask that you continue to guide our feet as we attempt to walk with you. Help us to see that you are our hope now and forever.  Amen
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Fourth Sunday of Lent
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

What a wonderful promise as I look out onto my very brown, soggy garden which mirrors some of my own internal sogginess!  We have been made new in Christ, new creatures.
In the preceding verses there is a phrase that is also full of promise:  “the love of Christ controls us.”  We are now not to be part of the same old, same old—the cantankerous, fault-finding, rift-making malcontents.  No, we are now representatives of Christ’s reconciling love.
In a few weeks from today United Methodists from all over the eastern part of the United States will be gathering at Wesley Memorial to hold a day long retreat.  This particular group of United Methodists call themselves members of “The Reconciling Ministry” and they have been gathering for many, many years trying to reach out with the truth of today’s Biblical text.  Unfortunately, our church as a whole has not been able to receive the message.  These Christians of all ages and stations have been ambassadors of this reconciling love but our church has hardened its heart:  homosexuals, it seems, are not heirs to this wonderful promise of reconciliation.  I pray that
stiff necks will be made flexible and hardened hearts will be massaged open to include all of God’s children. I thank God for the ministry of these brave and very committed Christians who refuse to be cast away from either the love of God or the United Methodist Church.
–   Renita Sheesley-Banks,Minister of Music and Christian Education at Wesley Mem UMC
Thank you God, for your love which refuses to be confined to the limits we would impose out of fear, ignorance, and misunderstanding. Stretch us and open us to your unspeakable love as revealed through the life and death of Jesus.  We are ready, O God, to be made new.

Luke 15: 1-3, 11b-32
1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear him. 2But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  3Then Jesus told them this parable: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13″Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.  17″When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  21″The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22″But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25″Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27’Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’  28″The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31” ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ “

This parable is a wonderful story that shows no matter how far away we stray from God, He will always be ready to welcome us back into his arms. The younger son makes the mistake of spending his inheritance on petty things, and in the end realizes that all he has left is his father. When he returns home, his father not only accepts his son’s apology but rejoices in his return, completely forgiving his child’s past errors. In the same way, God is always there to forgive us, even when we have lost everyone and everything else. He is ready to remove our sins and celebrate when we have found Him again. Notice to whom Jesus is preaching to: the tax collectors and sinners, those who have wandered away from God and who need Him the most; and Jesus is glad to bring these people back into God’s family. Lent is the time of year when we remind ourselves of God’s love, and when we try to bring ourselves closer to Him through fasting, prayer, or other disciplines. And no matter how far lost we have become in the past year, since the last season of Lent, God is always ready to welcome us and rejoice.

–   Sebrell Bryant

Lord, Thank You for always being ready to forgive and receive us. Help us remember that no matter how far we stray, we can always turn to You for forgiveness, guidance, and support. Help us walk closer with You during this season of Lent. Amen.

Other scriptures for the day:
Joshua 5:9-12
Psalm 32
Scriptures for the beginning of the week:
Monday: Leviticus 23:26-41
Tuesday: Leviticus 25:1-19
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Third Sunday of Lent
Luke 13: 1-9: The parable of the fig tree
1Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
6Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 7So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
8” ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ “
This parable illustrates God’s patience and mercy for us.  It is clear that the man believed the fig tree was worthless and a waste of space, but the gardener insisted on giving it more time to bear fruit.  Not only did the gardener want to give it more time, but he said he would dig around it and put manure on it.  In the same way, God is patiently waiting on us to bear fruit for him.  He is caring for us, and helping us along in every step of the process.   Lent is the perfect time for us to work on strengthening our relationship with God so that we can bear fruit for him.  By spending time alone with God, we become more aware of how he is working throughout our lives.
Helen Ross

Dear God, Thank you for your patience when we do not follow your way.  Help us to become closer to you this season, so that we may bear fruit for your kingdom.  Amen

Other scriptures for the day:
Isaiah 55:1-9 (Come to the water)
Psalm 63:1-8 (O God, eagerly I seek you)
1 Corinthians 10:1-13 (Israel, baptized in cloud and seas)
Other scriptures for the week:
Monday: Jeremiah 11:1-17 (Judgment against the olive tree)
Tuesday: Ezekiel 17:1-10 (Allegory of the vine)
Wednesday: Luke 13: 18-21 (Parables of the mustard seed, yeast)
Thursday: Numbers 13: 17-27 (The fruit of the promised land)
Friday: Romans 2:1-16 (Divine Judgment)
Wednesday March 3, 2010
Luke 13: 22-31 (The Narrow Door)
22 He went on his way through towns and villages [this is Jesus we’re talking about here], teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And some one said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, `Lord, open to  us.’ He will answer you, `I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, `We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, `I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!’ 28 There you will weep and gnash your teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves thrust out.
29 And men will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
Lent is a great time of year, because the lectionary fills up with all the sort of uncomfortable lessons that Christ teaches, like this one. For instance, you’re probably asking yourself, “self, what is this door he’s talking about? And where does it lead?”  In the verses preceding this process, one of the crowd asks Jesus who will get into the Kingdom of Heaven — so Jesus is telling them that those who will, will go through the narrow door to do so.  And what constitutes a narrow door? You guessed it — Jesus Christ. “I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” (John 10:9).

There are two things that are unsettling in this text: first, the idea that if you don’t get there in time, the door will be shut to you.  And second, the idea that entrance through the narrow door isn’t a given — “many will seek to enter and will not be able.” So we have to strive to get through the door — and that means resisting the temptation to walk the path that leads us away from Christ and his message.  So this week, focus on spiritual discipline (with a lower-case d) — that is, pray, meditate, and read in order to resist the temptation to head off to a more accommodating gateway. These things help us realize the good news — that we don’t struggle alone!  So enlist God’s help, and get right on trucking toward that narrow door.

Joelle (Joey!) Portzer

Lord, help me to always trust in your saving grace, especially when I am tempted and put to the test.  Help me to be faithful to you and give me the courage and strength to resist temptation, especially temptation to compromise or to be indifferent to your word.

Sunday, February 28, 2010 Second Sunday of Lent

Psalm 27

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?  2 When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. 3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.

4 One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD    all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. 5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. 6 Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.

7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. 8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek. 9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. 10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.

11 Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. 12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence. 13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

This psalm speaks to trusting God to deliver us from our enemies and continually praising God for his presence in our lives. Lent is a time to think about the sacrifices Jesus made so that we could be saved from sin and death. Praise seems like a very appropriate next step, but it is sometimes hard to continually remind ourselves of how God is working in our lives to protect us and how much praise is due to him. The psalm continues with requests for God to reveal himself to the psalmist, and to not forsake him. We are called to wait on the Lord and strive to see him in all things. We often talk about giving things up for Lent, but it is also a perfect time to take up a new habit of being aware of how God is involved in our lives and how we can celebrate him.
– Matt Henderson
Dear God,
Please make yourself known to us in our daily lives, and forgive us if we sometimes forget all that you have done for us. Please bring that to our attention, and bring us into your tabernacle where we may be safe and continually praise you. Amen.

Luke 13:31-35
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”  He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.  Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’  Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!  See, your house is left to you.  And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Last summer, when I was in Maine, I went on a nature tour by boat.  We had three eagle sightings, and I was delighted to get some great pictures.  I had not realized how big eagles are.  Sitting in a tree, they’re easy to see because they’re three feet tall!  I, too, have seen the nature shows which show eagles hunting; they’re beautiful in the air, but when they swoop down on their prey, they are devastating.

It’s surprising to me that Jesus didn’t liken himself to an eagle, or some bird more effective at protecting and providing those she shelters beneath her wings.  While able to keep her brood warm and comfortable, a hen is pretty vulnerable and perhaps only offers herself as a filling meal so that a predator might be too full to go after her young.  But a hen would do that; an eagle would not.

As an image of God, what wins out is not a “might is right” ethic but an ethic of love.   On the cross, an empire believes its overwhelming force has triumphed, but on Easter Sunday, we learn that love has triumphed.  And that it always will.         –   Elizabeth Foss, pastor of Wesley Mem UMC

God of Strength and God of Comfort,
You surprise us with the tenacity of your tenderness for us.  Help us to grow under the shelter of your wings that we may move into a hurting world to share your tenderness and affirm all that is life-giving.
In Christ’s name, Amen.

— Other scriptures for the day: Genesis 15: 1-12, 17-18 (The covenant with Abram) Philippians 3:17-4:1 (Our citizenship in Heaven)   Scriptures for the beginning of the week: Monday: Exodus 33:1-6 (Abraham’s descendants lament) Tuesday: Numbers 14:10b-24 (Moses intercedes for the people)

Sunday, February 21, 2010–First Sunday of Lent

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
1He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 9If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the LORD, who is my refuge – 10then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 13You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 14“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

I love this passage because of how comforting it is. Too often we get caught up in the chaos of our daily lives and forget to make time for God. This passage reminds us that when we rely on God, he is there for us and will protect us; he has given us guardian angels! All we have to do to receive God’s salvation and protection is love and acknowledge him – verse 14 says “‘Because he loves me,’ says the LORD, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.’” If you have gotten out of the habit of spending some time each day acknowledging God and letting Him know that you love Him, Lent is a perfect time to get back into it, or start for the first time. During this season of preparation for Christ’s death and resurrection, God’s ultimate gift to us, we need to remind ourselves of all God has done for us and remember that we can’t always do everything ourselves – we need to rely on God. He can get us through anything, and all he wants in return is our love!

Emily Gorman

Dear God,
Thank you so much for the love and protection that you give us, even though we don’t deserve it. Help us this Lenten season to show you our love by taking time in our hectic lives to spend with you, and help us to grow closer to you. Help us also to remember that we don’t have to go through everything on our own, but that we can always rely on you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Luke 4:1-13

1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’ 5The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” 8Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ 9The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ 12Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ 13When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

This is a passage many have heard and know the story; even so, there are some important things here to point out, both obvious and hidden.  Before all of this begins it is key to realize that Jesus was prepared for this, he had just been baptized and had the Holy Spirit within him.  With that in mind, first Jesus is taken to the wilderness to be tempted.  He is all alone with no one but God to lean on.  Now while we certainly are not alone at Wesley, lent is a time of spiritual discipline.  We can get encouragement and such from other people, but in the end we are on our own with only God to ask for strength to hold fast to whatever we are giving up/adding.  Second, Jesus is first tempted only after he had fasted for 40 days, when surely he was near his weakest.  It is written that you will never be tempted beyond what you can tolerate; Satan will always be lurking to find you when you are most susceptible to giving in.  Third, the three temptations are put in ascending order of difficulty in Matthew.  However here in Luke the 2nd and 3rd temptations are switched from the version of the story found in Matthew, thus the temptation to worship Satan is 2nd and the temptation to leap from the top of the temple is 3rd.  This puts a special emphasis on the temple and Jerusalem, the place where God’s salvation is given and ultimately rejected by the Jews and thus was then sent to the Gentiles.  Fourth, all of these temptations are all trying to separate Jesus from God and His will.  And lastly, I always found it scary that Satan even uses Scripture to tempt Jesus into doing evil.  This just shows how desperate Satan is for our souls and that he even uses something we use as comfort, guidance, and our knowledge on how to live as Christians as a weapon against us.  So, taking all these things into account during this lent season and all the time for that matter we should: be prepared because Satan comes when we are feeling weak, keep God and His will in mind because without that we have no power to resist any temptations, and be wary of Satan’s cunning and the fact that even the things we think are bringing us closer to the Lord can separate us from Him.

Stephen Sholden
Holy Father,
Whatever we give up to remove distraction or add on to our lives during Lent, may it bring us closer to you.   May you give us the strength that you gave your only son Jesus Christ to resist the temptations we will not doubt have to break our Lenten vows but also throughout the rest of our lives as well.  Grant us wisdom to see through all of the wicked ways that Satin may use to steal our souls away from you Father.  All honor, glory, and praise be unto you, for you are worthy of it all and so much more, Amen

Other scriptures for the day:

Deuteronomy 26: 1-11 (Saved from Egypt)

Romans 10:8b-13 (You will be saved)

Scriptures for week:

Monday: 1 Chronicles 21:1-17 (Satan tempts David)

Tuesday: Zechariah 3:1-10 (Satan tempts Joshua)

Wednesday: Luke 21:34–22:6 (Satan enters Judas)
Thursday: Job 1:1-22 (Satan tempts Job)

Friday: 2 Peter 2:4-21 (Believers who fall into sin)

Saturday: Psalm 17 (Prayer for protection from evil ones)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010—Ash Wednesday

Joel 2: 1-2, 12-17

1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand- 2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come.

12 “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing— grain and drink offerings for the LORD your God. 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber.  17 Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, O LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ ”

“Return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning…Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate…” (parts of v. 12-13)

Growing up I always thought of Lent as just a time when I would give up something I love (usually some type of food) without really understanding the purpose.  I would count down the days until it was Easter so I could indulge in whatever I had given up.  Lent has a much bigger purpose than just depriving us of something we love and I think this scripture does a great job of reminding us of this.

Lent is a time of preparation for not one day but also the week leading up to Easter, Holy Week.  Every year we walk with Jesus during his final week physically on Earth through scriptures and worship to remember all of the sacrifices He made for us.   So while giving up something we love is a great way to remember what God has done for us, Lent is also a time to prepare for the Great Sacrifice and return to God by focusing on daily disciplines.

I encourage everyone to not only focus on sacrifices during Lent but also take on a daily discipline such as prayer, mediation, personal Bible study, or whatever best works for you.

Melissa Holmes

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for this season of Lent.  Thank you for sacrificing your Son for us.  Help us as we make sacrifices and take on ways to grow closer to you during this season.

In Your Son’s precious name, Amen.

Other scriptures for day:

Isaiah 58: 1-12 (The fast that God chooses)

Psalm 51: 1-17 (A plea for mercy)

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 (Now is the day of salvation)

Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21 (The practice of faith)