Category: Devotional

Lent Devotional Activity

Lent Devotional Activity

Needed – 3×3 inch +/- scrap of cloth per person

Washable markers

Sharpie markers

Bowl of warm water per table

Dreft, soap, or etc. per table

Dry towels

 

We are born – all different sizes. All different and unique.

(give out the different sizes of white square cloths.)

 

Genesis 1: 26-28; 31

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

 

So God created humankind in God’s image,

in the image of God, God created them;

male and female God created them.

God blessed them,

 

… God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good.

 

We are created – with God’s love written on our hearts.

 

(draw heart on cloth with a Sharpie)

 

Jeremiah 31:31-34

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their spouse, declares the LORD.

 

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach their neighbor and each their sibling, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

 

And when we are baptized – A name is given to us.

 

(write your name on the cloth)

 

Isaiah 43:1-7

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

and when you pass through the rivers,

they will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire,

you will not be burned;

the flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the LORD your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

I give Egypt for your ransom,

Cush and Seba in your stead.

Since you are precious and honored in my sight,

and because I love you,

I will give people in exchange for you,

nations in exchange for your life.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you;

I will bring your children from the east

and gather you from the west.

I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’

and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’

Bring my sons from afar

and my daughters from the ends of the earth—

everyone who is called by my name,

whom I created for my glory,

whom I formed and made.”

 

And then, we live! Life – gets us messy!

 

(Exchange Sharpies for washable markers. Draw on the cloth.)

 

The mess can be too much.

 

Psalm 22:1-

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from my cries of anguish?

My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;

you are the one Israel praises.

In you our ancestors put their trust;

they trusted and you delivered them.

To you they cried out and were saved;

in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a human,

scorned by everyone, despised by the people.

All who see me mock me;

they hurl insults, shaking their heads.

“They trust in the LORD,” everyone says,

“let the LORD rescue them.

Let God deliver them,

since God delights in them.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb;

you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.

From birth I was cast on you;

from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

Do not be far from me,

for trouble is near

and there is no one to help.

Many bulls surround me;

strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

Roaring lions that tear their prey

open their mouths wide against me.

I am poured out like water,

and all my bones are out of joint.

My heart has turned to wax;

it has melted within me.

My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,

and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;

you lay me in the dust of death.

Dogs surround me,

a pack of villains encircles me;

they pierce e my hands and my feet.

All my bones are on display;

people stare and gloat over me.

They divide my clothes among them

and cast lots for my garment.

But you, LORD, do not be far from me.

You are my strength; come quickly to help me.

Deliver me from the sword,

my precious life from the power of the dogs.

Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;

save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

 

When it is too much, remember your baptism. Repent. Believe. And be washed clean.

 

(wash the cloths clean in warm, soapy water in bowls on the tables)

 

Isaiah 1:16-18

“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;

Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.

Cease to do evil,

Learn to do good;

Seek justice,

Rebuke the oppressor;

Defend the fatherless,

Plead for the widow.

“Come now, and let us reason together,”

Says the LORD,

“Though your sins are like scarlet,

They shall be as white as snow;

Though they are red like crimson,

They shall be as wool.”

 

Acts 2: 37-39 When the people heard the Gospel of Jesus, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

 

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

 

But see here – love – cannot be washed away.

 

(Sharpie heart and name remain.)

 

1 Corinthians 13:4-10; 12-13

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

 

Our name: Beloved Child of God – always remains.

John 3:16-17

“For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son, so that everyone who believes in the Son may not perish but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

 

PRAYER

 

Praise! We praise you, creating God! From waters you call forth worlds. From chaos you create order. From darkness you create light. From sinners you create saints.

 

We praise you, abiding God! From our births to our deaths; from our deaths to our new lives – you abide with us. When we are clean and wet and new – and when we are dirty and dry and old – you abide with us. Wherever we go – there you are. We praise you – for abiding!

 

Praise! We praise you for forgiving. In our wandering we do not always remember we are abiding with you. We forget to love ourselves, love our neighbors, love our strangers, and love you. But you forgive and welcome us back again and again.

 

We praise you, God of the Book, God of Abraham, God of Isaiah, God known to us in Jesus, God felt in our bones, God of the universe – we praise you for ever tilting the balance of the world towards good.

 

Amen.

Advertisements

Many Gifts; One Spirit

John 2:1-11 l-951-jesus-was-here
1 Cor. 12:1-11

In the shadow of the Apollo Temple sits the Corinthian church. They receive a letter one day from the Apostle Paul. He writes them that they are uninformed. They, who are stellar examples of Roman wisdom. They – who are in the shadow of THE religious place to be and have all the world at their finger tips – They do not know what they’re doing.

Paul explains that the people in the congregation once went to statues and idols who cannot speak, such as the ones in the Apollo Temple… but now they are led to another who CAN speak. Statues and idols cannot testify about a god, but the Holy Spirit of God that is in each believer CAN testify. So whenever someone says, “Jesus is Lord!” you know that person has God within them.

The people likely nodded, yes. This is true. But why bring it up?

So Paul explains his logic… since the Spirit of God is not in a temple or in statues, but it people…

… if John Dough looks different, and talks different, and worships differently… but testifies Jesus is Lord… he has the Holy Spirit in him.

If Jane Dough looks the same as you, speaks the same, and worships in the same place… but spits on Jesus’ name… she doesn’t have the Holy Spirit within her.

The testimony of Christians is not statues. Not crosses. Not churches. But people. We are the Temple of God. We are the body of Jesus. We are the bearers of the Holy Spirit.

People. Among people are where you find God.

The awful thing about that is that people are much harder to get along with than say, tolerating a beautiful temple in the middle of the city… or driving by that quaint church. Seeing a cross is pretty easy. Living the cross is hard. We even say someone is a “Good Christian” to mean they’re a Good Person… but a person living in the footsteps of Jesus is not good… they’re usually causing trouble, rocking the boat, demanding things change, and that the weak should ban together to take the power from the mighty. They’re sitting in protests and signing conscientious objections to war and all the other counter-cultural things that the Spirit leads them to live in to.

Often, they’re at odds with other Christians who have just as solidly held beliefs in other protests, and in going to war.

In Corinth, things were no different. People are people. And people are hard to get along with.

The church in Corinth was much like Saint Michael’s. And like us, they had particular gifts… some things the Spirit leads people to do… that they valued much more than others. We always have music every Sunday. And a sermon. And candle lighters. And a bell. Why don’t we have cookies every Sunday? Or dance? Or puppet shows? We pray every Sunday with words… but when do we pray with our hands? When we do speak in tongues? When do we do art and take long walks in nature?

Now, the church in Corinth began to think that just their way of knowing God was the right way. All the other ways of worshiping, of moving with the Spirit, and knowing the Divine was inferior. “They’re just not wise. We, we’re smart. We’re educated. We’re enlightened. We do it this way.”

Things got even more intense when it came to beliefs and activities. Corinth was fighting over whether or not it was okay to eat meat sacrificed to other gods… because if not… you pretty much had to go vegetarian in the city. They were also fighting about circumcision. And kosher. And just how Jewish or how Pagan a person could be and still be Christian.

Churches with one another and inside themselves are fighting today, too. We’re fighting over whether or not homosexuality is a sin. We’re arguing over how patriotic, or not, a person can be and still be a Christian. We’re debating the role of women in the church. We’re debating the role and place of children in the church. We’re debating what is and in whom and where CHURCH can be found. And we’ve been splitting over baptism for centuries.

Paul steps into the middle of this and says: you’re all different. You’re all different! If he were poetic, he might say: you are each a different wildflower in a field.

But there is only one Spirit in each of you. There is only one sun who shines on you. Because you are all different, you are beautiful. Because you are all different, you are united into community. The differences are gifts!

Our diversity is given to us for the common good.

We’re farmers. We know what monocropping is. It’s very efficient farming. We plant the same exact type of corn for several hundred acres and kill all the other plants. We know just when to harvest all that, we know what kinds of chemicals to use, we know just the machine for harvest. We know the kind of corn or soy or wheat we’re getting and don’t have to sift it out into different varieties and uses.

The problem with monocropping is that if a new virus springs up and eats THAT crop… the entire crop is gone with no back up.

Think… Irish potato famine. Most people in Ireland ate a potato called the Irish Lumper. A blight got into the crop and it spread like wildfire. Combine this with poverty, poor management, racism, and a host of other issues… and you have 2 million starving refugees and 1 million dead in the matter of 4 years. Monocrops are efficient… but risky. They don’t have a lot of flexibility and resiliency.

Diverse crops – like planting two varieties at once, or the old fashioned 3 sisters of corn, beans, and squash in one hole– are resilient and handle more blights, weather changes, and viruses. However, they’re the hardest to manage. Your garden is a diverse crop. It’s okay if its a bad tomato year – the corn did awesome. However, you had to put way more work into that diverse crop than in a monocrop.

Monocrop churches are efficient. Nothing is unplanned. But they’re fragile. Get a blight in there… a poor preacher. A poor organists. A poor parishioner… and things go badly.

Diverse crop churches are chaotic, but strong. It’s okay if something goes bad, the rest is still good. The next sermon or pastor will be better. The next organists or song will rock. I don’t like this parishioner, but I like all the rest.

Paul tells us to welcome the chaos and diversity. It’s what makes us strong. In the diversity of ideas and opinions and ways of knowing God we support one another for the common good. So if one person has an off day, the whole community isn’t ruined. We support the weak until they’re strong again. And if one person feels moved to protest gay rights because of scripture, and another feels moved to protest homophobia because of scripture, then because of scripture they can sit and talk and understand why the other feels so strongly.

For the common good we’re given DIVERSE gifts. Gifts of wisdom and insight. Gifts of intelligence and education. Gifts of healing faith and gifts of powerful prayers. Gifts of prophecy, and discernment, and yes – speaking in tongues and dancing in aisles and interpreting ancient languages and interpreting current affairs. Gifts of being the naysayer who finds holes in plans. Gifts of being dreamers who see what others cannot. Gifts of being a source of humor. A warm hug giver. The gift of holy tears. Gifts of understanding finances, or understanding poverty, or understanding loneliness. And gifts of Holy joy. Holy love.

The holy gift of presence.

All gifts of the Spirit are given for the common good, allotted in different amounts and given in great diversity, make us the strong vegetable garden that with stands whatever crazy weather we get.

Because we are united in the one Spirit, from our one Lord, of our one God. We’ve got one Gardener care taking for us who knows just what the plan of the garden is.

Our lectionary ties today’s reading from Paul’s letters with Jesus’ very first miracle. And it isn’t raising a person from the dead. It isn’t walking on water. It isn’t bread. It’s wine. Turning water into wine.

What a strange gift of the Spirit!

Can you imagine finding out your gift is making wine? What other weird gifts do we have hiding in our pews?

Jesus has a strange gift, but he knows just what gifts are supposed to be used for: the common good.

And so, that’s how he uses it.

There’s a wedding in the little village of Cana. The groom and bride are supposed to provide wine for as long as people stay and party with them. It’s tradition. Its good luck. Most importantly, its hospitality. Usually guest bring along a little wine or food for the party too. Think of it like a potluck. But, for whatever reason, the wine has run out. The party is going to be over early. The couple are going to start their wedding on a bad foot.

In the course of the world, its very small. An auspicious start to a wedding. So what? No one will die. No lives are ruined.

In the course of the world, most of us are very small. And our gifts are small. What good is a talent for cooking chili? Or a talent for understanding how to program a TV remote?

Jesus is reluctant to share. But Mary encourages him. There’s no silly gifts! ALL gifts are given for the common good of us all!

So Jesus goes and asks for the jars of water. And wedding servants… not the bride and groom, not their parents, not the guests… witness Jesus’ very first public miracle. Along with his disciples. Plain water, in jars meant for washing hands and dishes and ritual cleanliness, turns into the sweetest wine.

When the gift is shared, the sweetest delight is spread among the whole community. From God comes abundance! From God comes diversity! From God comes all good things!

The wedding’s party in the community is saved, and people continue to stay together happily.

The disciples begin to believe in Jesus after this. They begin to believe he IS heralding the in-breaking of God into the world in a brand new way. They begin to understand the generosity of God, the hospitality of God, and perhaps even the joy of God.

God rejoices over us!

When we’re sticking by each other, helping one another, using our gifts for one another – the heart of God is joyful!

For among people is where God delights to be.

And God delights to make each of us unique.

Amen!

 

Reflection:

The take home message for the day is every one of us have unique gifts. Turning water into wine is pretty silly. But Jesus knew how to use it for the common good. What silly gifts do you have? How could you use them to bring joy, happiness, and love to others?

A Blue Christmas

Isaiah 9:2 (NRSV)1-candle.jpg
The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
    on them light has shined.
Nat King Cole gave us the lyrics of “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” and “tiny tots with their eyes aglow.” From that same 1940s era is song after song about the “most wonderful time of the year” but, I’ll admit, it’s a “blue Christmas” for me. The pressure to feel happy and joyful makes me a Grinch. I’m sad there are people who are not here who ought to be, and the ghost of Christmases past haunt empty chairs and old photographs. I don’t want celebration songs; give me a few funeral dirges. The hymns “O Come Emmanuel” and “O Holy Night” feel more appropriate than joyful music during this season. These hymns deal with the reality of chains, sin, error, and this “weary world” mourning “in lonely exile.” For me, they invoke the spirit of Christmas that looks for the “thrill of hope.” They bring to mind the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” I feel that darkness. The Great Light of the hope of new life, reunion in heaven, and peace on earth is like a guiding star, like light at the end of a tunnel, like the joy others feel that I may someday feel again in this season. Until then, I live it “if only in my dreams” and watch for the light, like our ancestors did of yore.
— Published in the Towne Crier, December 2018

Good Friday Reflection on Nails

Scripture  Luke 23:32—35 metalholes

Like sharp nails through sheet metal, through hard wood, through tender flesh – the damage pierces my soul. A word. A phrase. A look.

Some gossip.
A deed
Several deeds.
It snowballed. One thing led to another. One mistrust to another hurt. One nail to the next nail.

I hate.

I hate her.

I hate him.

I hate what was done, and what I have become. I hate my powerlessness. I hate being a victim. I hate. I hurt.

I can’t save myself.

How could I ever forgive?

How could Jesus forgive?

How do I pull these rusting nails out of my soul and offer a prayer of forgiveness?

How did Jesus do it?


And a part of me knew what I was doing. A part of me did not.

I drove those nails in.
I spoke those words that won’t come back.
I did those things that cannot be undone.
Time will not reverse for me. Although I keep praying it will.

I wonder – when others see me – do they see the criminal or the penitent?

Do they see what I did, or what I want to do?

Who do they see?

I hate.

I hate me.

I hate the situation.

I hate that God forgives but I sure can’t forgive myself.

And my victims…

Would they ever forgive me? Dare I even ask?

I don’t deserve it. Forgiveness is grace.

Unearned. Unmerited. Grace.


Oh holy God – the nails get removed, but the damage is done.

Teach us to forgive as you forgive.

The damage may or may not heal – but the forgiveness removes the nails to let the hope of healing begin.

And we are a people of hope.

Amen.

Silent Reflection
– Who do you need to forgive?
– Who’s forgiveness do you crave?

 

Spoken at to the Thuston-Baltimore Ministerial Association Good Friday Service, 2018.

Middle of Winter Devotional

Psalm 147:7-11, 14-18 winter-nature-wallpapers-photo-For-Desktop-Wallpaper

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre. God covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills. God gives to the animals their food, and to the young ravens when they cry. God’s delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor is God’s pleasure in the speed of a runner; but the Lord takes pleasure in those who revere God, in those who hope in God’s steadfast love… God fills you with the finest of wheat. God sends out God’s command to the earth; God’s word runs swiftly. God gives snow like wool; God scatters frost like ashes. God hurls down hail like crumbs— who can stand before God’s cold? God sends out God’s word, and melts them; God makes God’s wind blow, and the waters flow.

In the middle of winter, when there is frost scattered like ashes, and snow like a heavy wool blanket; in the awful middle of winter when we have sleet and hail that hurl down upon us like hard bread crumbs and the cold is unbearable… I turn to Psalms such as these. Psalms to point out that even in the middle of winter ravens find food, owls gather to start their nests, and deer dig into the snow to find little bits of preserved grass. Even in the middle of winter, God is present. God is providing. God is loving and caring.

And when the winter passes, it will come with warm breezes God sends. Then the ice will melt, and the snow will flow into creeks and rivers. Then the land will be covered with new green grass and the sprouts of winter wheat. And we will still be in the presence of God. God is always providing. Always loving. Always caring.

I’m still not a fan of winter. I don’t think I ever will be. However, with the Psalms to guide me, I can see how our awesome God is just as present in the cold and the silence as in the joy and new birth of spring.

Let us revere – respect and love – our God who is always with us season to season and year to year. Amen.

 

Published in the Towne Crier, Feb 2018, Fairfield County, Ohio.

Superhero!

Philippians 2:5-7

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

Everyone has superheroes – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman – Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, or Helen Keller. I have always held Mother Teresa as one of my super heroes. One of the great things about superheroes is how they inspire us and give us hope. However, if you’re like me, you tend to place these people on pedestals. They are more amazing than is humanly possible (Clark Kent literally isn’t human.) So when I learn my heroes have faults, I actually take heart and like them more rather than less. It gives me more inspiration and hope because it tells me a person with faults like myself could do these amazing things. For example, Mother Teresa worked tirelessly with the poor of India out of love of Jesus… but she also struggled with faith doubts and questions. Since I sometimes do too, this doesn’t disqualify me from doing amazing work. Indeed,  it was out of her spiritual loneliness that Mother Teresa received strength to work with the loneliest people. Passages about Jesus’ humanity – complaining to his mother at the wedding, crying over Lazarus – inspire me too. We are called to have a mind like Christ. How could that be possible for us if Jesus’ mind wasn’t human? We’re called to live our lives in Jesus’ Way. How could we if that way was beyond what’s humanly possible? Therefore, our Savior came as both fully divine, and fully human. Our God took on human flesh, and knew what it is to be human… and then showed us how to live like superheroes.

 

Published in the Fairfield Towne Crier 4-21-17

What I see…

cygnusTo be published in the Towne Crier, Aug 2016.

Hebrews 11:1-3 NRSV
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

Every fall, I go out and really watch the stars. I lie on my back and watch long enough to see the Cygnus constellation rise and fall; and I get lost in the wonder of the universe. I lie there and think: this sky is made of molecules which I can’t see, but which I breathe. And a single molecule is one-billionth to one ten-billionth of a meter, impossible to see without some kind of magnification. Those molecules break into atoms which break into a nucleus and electrons, down to protons and neutrons, and further still into quarks- the smallest things we can measure right now. When I watch the night sky I see the great huge universe, and what I see is made of far, far more of which I can’t see.

In Hebrews, I don’t think Paul had molecules and atoms in mind when he wrote about a universe made of invisible things. Paul was writing of other invisible things God joins together to make up the universe. Things like the relationships that bind us: one quirky friend to another; and friends join as lovers to make nuclear families and households; and households gather to make atom-like communities; who make the molecules we call churches, and these tiny pieces together make the Body of Christ.

I can’t see or measure the great scale of the universe; nor the Body of Christ. But I am convinced the invisible hand of God is active on all scales big and small.