Saturday, February 28, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent Day 10

Daily Devotion for Lent

Saturday, February 28, 2015, Day 10

Mark 4:10-34 (NRSV)

It's so easy to blame the birds on the path
for my own lack of attentiveness.
As we see the parable of The Sower explained, we would like to be counted among the good soil where the fruit bears thirty, sixty and one-hundred fold.

I would dare-say that sometimes, I am a hundred-fold Christian.  I have my days, after all.

But I would also confess that sometimes I'm the path.  The Word seems to go in one ear and out the other.

At other times I'm rocky ground.  I fall away from faithfulness at the sign of trouble.

Then there are times that I'm choked by thorns.  Materialism strikes me just like it does you.

I'm rather good at excusing myself, though.

My thought is that our faithfulness sometimes springs forth as quite a surprise - just like The Parable of the Growing Seed.  If we are open to God working through us more of the time, we might just find that we bear fruit more and more often.  After all, who doesn't want to be good soil?

Prayer from Brendan O'Malley:

As once you walked in the garden, Lord,
in the calm of the evening,
so this evening you come seeking us.
If we are tempted to flee form your presence,
change our fear to confidence.
Confessing our sin, 
without blaming others;
we place our hope
in your mercy and forgiveness,
through Jesus, your Son, our Lord.

Prayer from A Celtic Primer compiled by Brendan O'Malley

Photo by By Ryan Cheng from Hong Kong (20081213_0192  Uploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, February 27, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015 Day 9

Daily Devotion for Lent

Friday, February 27, 2015, Day 9

Mark 4:1-9 (NRSV)

We really prepare the soil for sowing today.  This
work really makes a contrast for the random nature
of the sowing in the parable.
I like the indiscriminate faith of the sower.  The sower does not identify which is good ground and which is poor ground.  If you were sowing seed, you would not waste any on the path.  You would avoid rocky or thorny soil.

A sower of any competence would be picky about where to plant the seed.

This allows us to realize that this metaphorical language is speaking about something else.

We aren't to apply God's grace like we would a finite resource.

My son David was telling me the other day that he did better on his video game when he prayed for a good result.  I replied, "I don't know if that's the kind of thing you should be praying for, David.  You don't want to waste your prayers on video games."

He responded, "We have unlimited prayers, Dad."

At this point, he was more like the sower and I was more like the person that tries to place limitations on the spiritual depth of our lives.

Often in life, we may approach the various types of "soil" (people) with reservations. What if you thought to yourself, "I'm not ever going to run out of seeds.  Why not?"

Prayer from the hymn, "God, How Can We Comprehend?' by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette:

Lord, your loving knows no bounds;
You have conquered death for all.
May we hear beyond our towns
To our distant neighbors' call.
Spirit, may our love increase;
May we reach to all your earth,
'Till each person lives in peace;
'Till your world sees each one's worth.

Prayer, (c) 1999 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette from Gifts of Love: New Hymns for Today's Worship

Photo by Michael Trolove [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015 Day 8

Daily Devotion for Lent

Thursday, February 26, 2015, Day 8

Mark 3:19b-35 (NRSV)

Welcome to one of the most anxiety-inducing passages in all of scripture!

Within these verses, Jesus describes blasphemy of the Holy Spirit as the unforgivable sin.  As a pastor, I have counseled with many people who were concerned that they may have somehow committed this atrocity.

It leads to the question, "How does one commit blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?"  We ask this for research purposes only - we would like to avoid doing this since there is no forgiveness to be had if we stumble into it.

Note that this comes as a response to religious authorities accusing Jesus of blasphemy.

As we consider what it means to accept forgiveness, we believe that we receive it through the Holy Spirit.  If we are not in accordance with the Holy Spirit, it may be impossible for us to receive forgiveness.  So if one is worried about offending God in this manner, it is likely that you are not hardening your heart to the Holy Spirit.

Some would say that this doesn't appropriately address the idea of "eternal sin" and they would be correct.  However, it is interesting to note that the death sentence of Jesus in Mark is for blasphemy.

As Paul reminds us in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (NRSV)

It seems that death and sin are no longer eternal for those in Christ.

This may be the point of the passage.

Prayer by Thomas A. Kempis, Germany, 15th Century:

Write your blessed name, O Lord, upon my heart, there to remain so indelibly engraved, that no prosperity, no adversity shall ever move me from your love.  Be to me a strong tower of defense, a comforter in tribulation, a deliverer in distress, a very present help in trouble, and a guide to heaven through the many temptations and dangers of this life. Amen. 

Photo by MarkBuckawicki (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015 Day 7

Daily Devotion for Lent

Wednesday, February 25, 2015, Day 7

The boat allowed him to teach.  The crowds
wanted healing.  Because he taught, we find healing today.
The accomplishments of Jesus as a healer and an exorcist spread throughout the region of Galilee.  He begins to attract people from all over the area and they come seeking healing.

The unclean spirits identify Jesus as the "Son of God" which in that day was another title for the Messiah.  Jewish kings had been popularly referred to as the sons of God although this was seen as the divine right of kings - that they were God's chosen rather than physical descendants of God.  

So for Jesus to be identified as such meant that Herod was not occupying the throne by God's decree but rather by Rome's.  Such talk was seditious and it is no surprise that Jesus would try to keep people from talking about him as the Messiah.

The Messiah would be seen as a revolutionary figure.  These figures all ended up on a cross.  Jesus would too in time but he still had things to do.

When he calls twelve apostles to follow him, this would also be viewed figuratively as the twelve tribes of Israel.  

Now we identify Jesus as our Lord but we rarely think of the term in a political sense as they would have in his day.  What does it mean to ascribe to Jesus the term, "Lord"? Due to our own skill at interpreting the Bible, are there passages we would remake in our own image (thoughts) rather than seeking to aspire to what we are called to do?

Prayer from Swedish Liturgy:

Remember, O Lord, your Church, to deliver it from all evil and to perfect it in your love. Strengthen and preserve it by your Word and Sacraments.  Enlarge its borders, that so your gospel may be preached to all nations; and gather the faithful from all the ends of the earth into the kingdom which you have prepared.  Amen.

Picture by By W. J. Morgan (a book published in 1890) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015 Day 6

Daily Devotion for Lent

Tuesday, February 24, 2015, Day 6

Mark 3:1-6  (NRSV)

The Pharisees would have been considered spiritual leaders and keepers of the Law during first century Judea.  In fact, they were likely at odds with the Herodians - or the supporters of King Herod.

"The Pharisees and the Herodians Conspire
Against Jesus" by James Tissot
The Pharisees did not believe that one should heal on the Sabbath.  Most healers in that day charged for their services and so it became easy to not allow healing because they did not want the exchange of money.

Yet Jesus did not charge the man.  Why would they be so blind to what Jesus was doing?

It would be hard not to acknowledge that he was doing good things - but he was just not doing them in the way that they would like.  This made them bitter - you can see how they are not very spiritual at this point.

Jesus even asks them if it is lawful to save a life or kill on the Sabbath.  They are silent and when he goes against their ruling of how one should obey the Sabbath, they conspire to do the very thing that Jesus asked them about.

You can see the awful irony within these few verses.

This leads me to wonder about my own sense of righteousness.  Am I missing how God is working in people's lives because it is not being done in the way that I would expect?

Prayer by Teresa of Avila, 16th Century, Spain:

Govern all by your wisdom, O Lord, so that my soul may always be serving you as you would will, and not as I may choose.  Do not punish me, I beseech you, by granting that which I wish or ask, if it offends your love, which would always live in me.  Let me die to myself that so I may serve you; let me live for you, who in yourself are the true life. Amen.

Picture by James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, February 23, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015 Day 5

Daily Devotion for Lent

Day 5, Monday, February 23, 2015

Mark 2:21-28 (NRSV)

These verses about repairing patches and putting new wine into old wineskins can be a little tricky if we don't see them metaphorically.

The Lenten question this causes us to ask is how does my faith in Jesus Christ impact my daily living?
Where does your current path lead?

For those raised in the church, the difficulty is that our faith in Christ is not a new patch.  It is not something new being sown into an old life.  We don't reject the old life or old behaviors for a new one because we have been living with this faith for a long time - maybe all our lives.

So for those that have grown in the faith, we must step outside ourselves and take a hard look.

What behaviors match up with loving God and loving neighbor?

Which ones may need to be discarded?

I love this prayer by Thomas Merton.  It seems like a good conclusion to these thoughts today:

My Lord GOD, I have no idea where I am going.  

I do not see the road ahead of me.  

I cannot know for certain where it will end.  

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.  

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.  I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.  

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. 

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.  Amen.

Prayer from Thomas Merton's Thoughts in Solitude

Photo by By Dcrjsr (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015 - First Sunday in Lent

Daily Devotion for Lent

First Sunday in Lent, February 22, 2015

Mark 2:13-20 (NRSV)

Lenten disciplines often focus on self-denial.
Christians may often get labeled as
Debbie Downers for being known more
for what they're against than what they support.

We give up caffeine or sugar.

We give up television or social media.

We might even seek to fast during Lent on Fridays.

It seems easy to point toward the austere as being spiritual.  But what about celebration?

Can celebration be spiritual?  Can we decide to engage in a Lenten discipline of eating more?

Well, I'm not sure that is much of a discipline for a culture that has too much to eat. Maybe we get this pretty well on our own and so don't need to spiritualize it.  We have to remember that people were not overweight in first century Judea.

But I do think that we forget to include God in our celebrations.  Maybe this is similar to counting our many blessings.

Jesus seemed to enjoy himself with his followers.  Maybe we need to remember that even as we journey with Jesus to the cross, he was not a dour person who tried to suck the fun out of life.

A Celtic Prayer for Joy:

As the hand is made for holding and the eye for seeing,
You have fashioned me for joy.
Share with me the vision that finds that joy everywhere.
In the wild violet’s beauty;
In the lark’s melody;
In the face of a steadfast man;
In a child’s smile;
In a mother’s love;
In the purity of Jesus.

A Maclean, Hebridean Altars, Moray Press, Edinburgh, 1937

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015 Day 4

Daily Devotion for Lent

Day 4, Saturday, February 21, 2015

Mark 2:1-12 (NRSV)

The paralytic had friends that were willing
to risk much for their friend.  How is the
church called to befriend those in need?
Some imagine that the loss and depth of suffering of the cross somehow changed God.  With the cross, God is able to somehow forgive the sins of the world.  I think that today's scripture reading challenges this to the core.

As sin and guilt are closely tied to illness in that day, rather than immediately healing him, Jesus begins by forgiving his sins. The gatekeepers of grace are outraged! This offering of forgiveness declares too much on behalf of God, they say.

And so to prove his point, Jesus then heals the man.

In this day, it would prove that Jesus is acting on God's behalf.  For only God could provide healing and so if Jesus heals him, surely he is acting (and teaching) according to God's will.

Jesus seems to be identifying a characteristic of God in this story.

I hope that we can take note.  I would hate to begrudge the grace of God active in another's life.

Prayer by Kathy Galloway, Iona Community:

God of the spirit of kindness,
in the glory of earth and sea and stars,
in the kaleidoscope of color and shade and
in the patterns of humor and tenderness and touch, 
we celebrate your generosity.

Forgive us when we forget the gift in our every
the care that sustains our every moment,
the grace that can transform every day.

Set us free from the prison of grudging hearts,
mean desires,
resentful spirits.
Give us the courage to act with justice
and generosity,
and draw us into love that does not calculate 
or keep scores.

Prayer from The Pattern of Our Days: Worship in the Celtic Tradition from the Iona Community.

Picture by Arief Rahman Saan (Ezagren) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, February 20, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 3

Daily Devotion for Lent

Day 3, Friday, February 20, 2015

This is a great movie about
Christianity and a leper colony
in relatively modern times.

I think it is difficult in this day and age of modern medicine to take in the power of the words, "Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him" in reference to the leper.

Maybe those that seek to minister to people dying of the Ebola virus today would understand it.

The isolation of leprosy in the first century Middle East was a terrible thing.  

Jesus doesn't take a bow for this healing. Rather, he moves in accordance with the Law of Moses.  He tells the former leper to seek a declaration of cleansing from a priest which would restore him formally to the community.

He skips this step and begins to proclaim about God's miraculous healing.

I wonder about our own reluctance to the discipline of the faith community.

Was this former leper spiritual but not religious?

Prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes:

God of truth,
   you have spoken your Word to us and in us
      but we have not listened to you.
We have not been mindful of your presence,
   or attentive to your voice.
Have mercy on us, forgive us, and heal us.
Speak your Word in us now, and create us anew.
We open ourselves to your Word.

Prayer (c) 2011 Steve Garnaas-Holmes, from Worship & Song Worship Resources.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015 Day 2

Daily Devotion for Lent

Day 2, Thursday, February 19, 2015

Jesus Teaches in the Synagogues
 by James Tissot
Authority is the word that stands out to me in this reading.  Jesus has authority over the unclean spirit.  

He teaches with authority.  

He has authority over the illnesses.

We often pray to this Jesus.  We seek his authority over the illnesses of people whom we love.

But what kind of authority do we delegate to Jesus over our lives?

Are there places where we would like to keep to ourselves?

Places that we would say, "Hands off, Jesus!"

This is the difficulty of discipleship.  Our independent natures often keep us from experiencing the true peace of Christ.

John Wesley's Covenant Prayer is a good one for us to consider following today's reading:

I am no longer my own, but yours.

Put met to what you will, rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed by you or laid aside for you,

exalted for you or brought low for you.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things

to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

you are mine, and I am yours. So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven.


Photo by James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  The original is on display at the Brooklyn Museum.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015 Day 1

Lent 2015 Daily Devotion

Day 1 - Ash Wednesday

This year, we will be reading through the entire Gospel of Mark during the season of Lent and through Easter Sunday.  We won't be taking Sundays off so if you do, you may have to double up on Saturdays or Mondays.

My Bible links will use, will open in another tab and will use the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.  The cool thing about Biblegateway is you can also read other translations quite easily from the link.

Mark is the oldest of the Gospels and it will be good to immerse ourselves in the original story of Jesus as people first heard it.

Blessings on your journey to the cross!

Mark 1:1-15 (NRSV)

Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness by James Tissot
What stirs me in today's reading is how Mark says in verse 12, "And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness."

Both Matthew and Luke (who base their Gospels on Mark) change the language to say that the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness.  I've always been fascinated by this change of wording (John doesn't have this story).  Did Matthew and Luke have a larger understanding of the Trinity and so wanted Jesus to be more on equal footing?  Or did they want to convey that the Spirit is somehow gentler than what Mark's impression gives us?

How does the Holy Spirit "drive" you to do something that may go against your inclinations?

This prayer was the second verse of a hymn written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer during his imprisonment by the Nazis for his resistance to Adolf Hitler.  He was killed shortly before the war ended.

Although You give sometimes a cup so bitter;
    With sorrow filled, up to the highest brim;
We thankfully accept it; God has given,
    And only goodness ever comes from Him.
You always want to fill us with Your gladness;
    This worldly glitter burns our weary eyes;
We want to see the way that You have led us,
    And give our life to You, without disguise.

Photo by James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  The original is on display at the Brooklyn Museum.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Forty Days is Approximately a Tithe of our Year

The Lenten Season is almost upon us.

We will begin with Ash Wednesday whose Gospel reading for the lectionary is always Matthew 6:1-6 and 16-21.  This passage lifts up the idea that we should not be flaunting our devotional practices in front of others so that it will gain us respect as super-Christians.

In fact, it states that we should keep everything between us and God.

I've always thought it to be helpful to share devotional practices with others - more for encouragement than for bragging rights.

So whether you are giving up something such as pop or coffee or if you are adding something like a daily Bible reading or saying the Lord's Prayer at noon each day, I'm happy for you to share what you are doing so that others will be reminded to take up a discipline for their lives.

This year, I hope to not have any writer's block.
We'll be going through the entire Gospel of Mark
during the season of Lent
My main Lenten devotion for the past three years has been a daily journal.  I've used them as devotionals and posted them to this blog site. It is a great way to keep myself honest because if I have enlisted others to read them daily for their Lenten disciplines, I have to make sure they get written and posted!

They usually post around the middle of the night so if you would like to make this your Lenten discipline, you may bookmark  You can follow it through Google plus or a daily link will also be posted to my twitter account @samueltpowers or to our church Facebook page  which if you haven't liked yet, I would encourage you to do so!

This Sunday, I'll be starting a Lenten series using the Gospel Lectionary texts as we journey to the cross with Jesus.  The text will be Mark 1;9-15 and the sermon title is "Example".  Blessings on your spiritual journey as we tithe our year to God.

In Christ,


Photo By Rennett Stowe via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Let's Just Stay Here

My first week-long camping experience was during the summer right before I turned 11. It was the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference's church camp for 6th graders held at Camp Egan.  I had been there before on some overnight church retreats but this was the first time I got to stay for five days in a row!

Since I ended up a pastor, you might guess that the worship or the small group Bible study was my highlight of the week but I must confess that this was not the case.  The best part for me was playing in the creek.  I caught crawdads and we even cooked and ate them in our small group setting. I swam in the deep parts of the Barren Fork Creek. It also had a section of about twenty feet in length of shale rock on the bottom.  It was slick with algae and you could go upstream and then slide down as the current pulled you along.  There were also places to jump off the bank into deep water.

Overall, it was a great time.  When I got home, my mom asked me if I had gotten homesick.  This thought had never crossed my mind and I think she was a little disappointed that I hadn't missed my family.  In hindsight as a parent, I answered poorly.

Sometimes retreat requires some effort on our part.  I've always found the
rejuvenation at the mountaintop was worth the effort.
Each year following, I went to camp and sometimes went to two or three church camps during the summer.  I did learn to love the worship and the small group Bible studies even if the creek still held its allure.  Each time I was there, when it was time to go home on Friday, I wished that camp would have lasted longer.  It was a special place that held a sense of the mystery of God for me.

Good spiritual retreat is like this.  It captures us in ways that we can't explain.  It features times when we feel close to God or our Christian peers that we can't seem to replicate in the "real" world.  Yet the pull of that world is real and we must return.

This Sunday, we will celebrate the Transfiguration of Jesus in the church calendar.  This reminds us of when Peter, James and John went with their Lord to the mountaintop. Peter thought they should never leave.  But the pull of the world brought them down even if regretfully.  As we consider the last of the General Rules, "Keep all the ordinances of God", we may find that regular worship, prayer and Bible study are very important for us. But we don't just stay there.  We must let them transform (transfigure?) us so that we may return to the world as a blessing.

In this we also are caught up in the mystery of God even as we take on God's mission for the world.

My hope for you is that you find greater meaning in life through worship and retreat.

My hope is that you let this guide you into someone who does no harm and regularly practices doing good.  In this we find that the General Rules, much like grace, becomes cyclical for our lives.

In Christ,


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Since You're Not Going to Eat That...

A lot of times it is said that if you want to know what a person would like for a gift, simply look at the kind of gifts they give to others.

This makes a lot of sense as we often imagine that everyone would quite naturally like the things that we enjoy.  I mean, who wouldn't?

If it is good enough for me, it is good enough for them, right?

Here's another way of thinking about this:

Have you ever given someone a gift that you really wanted?  Or at least wouldn't mind having?

How many times have you taken home a gift from a Dirty Santa exchange that you bought, wrapped and presented for the party?

What is our motivation for the good we do?  Are we really just in it for numero uno?

I would hope that we could see past ourselves.  Sometimes I think that we do.  But other times, we miss the mark and are feathering our own nest.

This Sunday, we will continue to examine John Wesley's historic General Rules.

We're on rule two:
Doing good.

Okay, this sounds rather easy when you see it in print. We all know that we should do good.  We all know that we should help others.  So why don't we?

Why is it like pulling teeth sometimes?

Maybe its because other people are just as cussed as I am sometimes.

I really like this prayer by Reinhold Neibuhr:

   O God, who has bound us together in this bundle of life, give us grace to understand
   how our lives depend on the industry, the honesty and integrity of our fellow <people>;
   that we may be mindful of their needs, grateful for their faithfulness, and faithful in our 
   responsibilities to them; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I will be using the lectionary Gospel reading this week which is Mark 1:29-39.  I invite you to read it and see where Jesus made a habit of doing good things but still needed some time to refresh.

This Sunday, I hope you'll choose a place for your own refreshment and if you are in Edmond and unaffiliated with a congregation, I hope you'll join us!

In Christ,