Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 36

Daily Devotion for Lent

Tuesday, March 31, 2015, Day 36

Mark 14:26-42 (NRSV)

The tension builds in today's Gospel reading as Peter is told he will deny Jesus.

He denies the denial!

Any of us would likely do the same.  However, it is kind of ironic that in the next scene when Jesus is distressed, Peter keeps falling asleep.  Those who have fallen asleep in church before might sympathize with him.

How is sleep a metaphor in today's passage?
When it is quiet and still and when we have been under a lot of stress, it is easy to fall asleep because our bodies require rest.  I usually think, "Well, if they knew that he was about to be arrested, surely they would have been nervous enough to stay awake!" So maybe they weren't aware of the imminent danger.  But maybe because Jesus had been in charge for so long - over demons, over illness - even over the winds and the waves - they trusted that he would be able to handle any situation.

Was their trust of the Lord what allowed them to fall asleep?

It may be that they didn't realize that their rabbi needed their support.  After all, he fed the 5,000!  Why would he need their help?

But he did.

His human anguish at impending suffering and the lack of understanding by the disciples both point to our own lack of compassion for the suffering of the world.  We often choose not to see because to see would be overwhelming.

When we see starving children come across our television screens, we likely just turn the channel.

And so we fall asleep.

Didn't Jesus just tell us to keep awake at the end of chapter 13?

Today's passage points to the reality of stress and agony in people's lives.  Maybe I need to take better notice of those around me.  Maybe I could ask more questions.  What does it mean to really pray for someone else - with someone else?


O Creator and Mighty God,
   you have promised strength for the weak,
   rest for the laborers, light for the way,
   grace for the trials, help from above,
   unfailing sympathy, undying love.
O Creator and Mighty God,
   help us to continue in your promise.  Amen.

Prayer is a traditional Pakistan prayer.

Picture by Qwentl (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, March 30, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 35

Daily Devotion for Lent

Monday, March 30, 2015, Day 35

Mark 14:12-25 (NRSV)

"The Man with the Jar of Water"
by James Tissot
We have in today's passage a sense of advanced preparation unknown to the disciples that is very similar to when Jesus enters Jerusalem in Mark 11.  Jesus is shown to be in charge of the situation - even when he shows that he is not blindsided by the betrayal of Judas.

Such a painful experience is perhaps lessened by the foreknowledge but maybe it just makes it worse.

When Jesus announces the betrayal without naming the future offender, all of them begin to doubt themselves and to profess their innocence.

The fact that he states it will be one with whom he is eating may also allude to the fact that each of them will desert Jesus when he is arrested.

The intensity of this reading reminds us that we could easily be asking the rhetorical question, "Surely, it is not I, Lord?"

As we all share in the guilt of being less than we are called to be, we are also reminded that Jesus then broke bread with all of them.  Even knowing of the coming betrayal, Jesus allows Judas to choose his own fate.

We decide through our actions whether or not we will be a part of the community of faith.

Sometimes we do things that may cause others to question our loyalty.  The church is meant to be a place that showcases the forgiveness we have in God.  Our job is to help others experience this just as we have.


O God, by whom we are guided in judgment,
and who raises up for us light in the darkness:
Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties,
the grace to ask what you would have us to do;
that your spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices,
and in your straight path we may not stumble;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer.

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

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Daily Devotion for Palm/Passion Sunday 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent

Palm/Passion Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mark 14:1-11 (NRSV)

If you haven't been keeping up with this Lenten blog, you might find this a strange text for Palm or Passion Sunday.  We've been reading the entire Gospel of Mark through Lent and now come to this passage which may fit better than a first glance allows.

We see the danger that Jesus is in from without and within.

Etruscan perfume vase shaped like a female head,
on which is inscripted the word “suthina” (“for the tomb”)
 in retrograde Etruscan script. Bronze, early 2nd century BC.
In between, we find that Jesus is anointed for burial which is a rather bleak outlook as they are preparing for the Passover Feast.  In Mark (and Matthew), this takes place at the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany.  Once again, we have Jesus visiting a home that would be seen by Jewish society as unclean.  It would not be a home where you would think to look for a Messiah!

When Jesus states that we will always have the poor with us, some unfortunately feel that this is a good justification for ignoring those in need.

Of course, ignoring the poor is an interpretive choice that glosses over far more of the teachings and actions of Jesus than we should be comfortable with.  It is likely that Jesus is quoting from Deuteronomy 15:11 which moves us toward action:

Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”

Three hundred denarii was extravagant as one denarius was what a normal laborer would make in a day's work.  We see the devotion of this unknown woman who understands what is coming better than the disciples.

As we enter Holy Week, we look toward the cross.  We, too, are preparing Jesus for burial.  We do so knowing "the rest of the story" as Paul Harvey would say.  We are not confused over the importance which Jesus draws.  And we also see the irony in the statement, "you always have the poor with you... but you will not always have me."

The resurrection declares that we do have Jesus with us - right alongside the poor.  We have seen his identification with the poor.  How do we anoint him today?

Prayer by Mother Teresa of Calcutta:

Who is Jesus to me? Jesus is the Word made Flesh. Jesus is the Bread of Life. Jesus is the Victim offered for our sins on the Cross. Jesus is the Sacrifice at Holy Mass for the sins of the world and mine. Jesus is the Word - to be spoken. Jesus is the Truth - to be told. Jesus is the Way - to be walked. Jesus is the Light - to be lit. Jesus is the Life - to be loved. Jesus is the Joy - to be shared. Jesus is the Sacrifice - to be given. Jesus is the Bread of Life - to be eaten. Jesus is the Hungry - to be fed. Jesus is the Thirsty - to be satiated. Jesus is the Naked - to be clothed. Jesus is the Homeless - to be taken in. Jesus is the Sick - to be healed. Jesus is the Lonely - to be loved. Jesus is the Unwanted - to be wanted. Jesus is the Leper - to wash his wounds. Jesus is the Beggar - to give him a smile. Jesus is the Drunkard - to listen to him. Jesus is the Little One - to embrace him. Jesus is the Dumb - to speak to him. Jesus is the Crippled - to walk with him. Jesus is the Drug Addict - to befriend him. Jesus is the Prostitute - to remove from danger and befriend her. Jesus is the Prisoner - to be visited. Jesus is the Old - to be served.
To me Jesus is my God, Jesus is my Spouse, Jesus is my Life, Jesus is my only Love, Jesus is my All in All, Jesus is my Everything.

Prayer by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 20th Century

Picture © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 34

Daily Devotion for Lent

Saturday, March 28, 2015, Day 34

Mark 13:28-37 (NRSV)

The admonition to "Keep awake" is sometimes anxiety-producing for the faith.  I have seen religious attitudes on the Second Coming of Jesus Christ devolve into fear-ridden movements which produce no peace in those participants.

As a little child, I had such a moment when I thought that I had been left behind because of the Rapture.   My faith didn't bring any comfort that morning, I can tell you that!

On the other hand, the realization that we have been asleep while the world moves on can be very sobering.  There are times when we float though our lives and time passes us by in ways that seem surreal.  We look back and wonder what we've accomplished.

I think of the Bob Dylan song, "When You Gonna Wake Up?" where he asks this question repeatedly and then concludes, "when you gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain?"

Lent is turning toward Holy Week.  We have contemplated quite a bit through Mark's Gospel.  How does this contemplation move us to action?

Have we been asleep?

Prayer by Ted Loder:

O God of such truth as sweeps away all lies,
        of such grace as shrivels all excuses,
come now to find us
         for we have lost our selves
            in a shuffle of disguises
               and the rattle of empty words.

Let your Spirit move mercifully
    to recreate us from
       the chaos of our lives.

We have been careless
    of our days,
         our loves,
            our gifts,
               our chances...

Our prayer is to change, O God,
    not out of despair of self
       but for love of you,
          and for the selves we long to become
             before we simply waste away.

Let your mercy move in and through us now...


Prayer by Ted Loder, My Heart In My Mouth.

Picture by By Evil saltine [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, March 27, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 33

Daily Devotion for Lent

Friday, March 27, 2015, Day 33

Mark 13:14-27 (NRSV)

These verses don't sound very reassuring to a North American audience that has it good. In fact, I would rather just skip over them.  They don't make for a very easy devotional topic, thank you very much.

But as we read them in light of the turmoil that was happening when Mark was written or if we consider our Christian brothers or sisters in Africa who are experiencing political upheaval and violent unrest in the midst of food shortages and drought, they may read very differently.

The hope of the coming of the Son of Man is something to hold onto when all else is falling down around us.  We are people of the cross, yes.  But we are also people of the resurrection.

The metaphor of resurrection in the return of Christ to our lives means that this passage has light for every generation.  If we only read it as the second coming in a future age, then all of the Christians who preceded us got nothing out of it because it wasn't for them.

I believe that scripture is for every age and so we must interpret it for today.

How does the return of Christ come to us today?

As Jesus earlier equated welcoming him with welcoming a little child, we might look to our children for hope of Christ among us.

Might we look at our tutoring ministries, such as Whiz Kids, Project Transformation or the new
tutoring program at Sunset Elementary in Edmond that the church here is starting?

Would our attitudes change if we saw our participation as a sharing in the return of the Son of Man?

It certainly might grant us more patience with the children we encounter.

Maybe that's the important take-away for today.


God our Father,
   we pray for our young people growing up in an unstable and confusing world.
Show them that your ways give more meaning to life than the ways of the world, 
   and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals.
Help them to take failure not as a measure of their worth but as a chance for a new start.
Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in your creation;
   through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Photo by U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Walter M. Wayman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Prayer from the Episcopal Church of the United States of America, Book of Common Prayer

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 32

Daily Devotion for Lent

Thursday, March 26, 2015, Day 32

Mark 13:1-13 (NRSV)

As we read today's passage, we are reminded of the terrible destruction of the Temple in 70 CE under the Romans.  This was in retaliation for the Jewish revolt that occurred four years prior.

The historian Josephus wrote in The Wars of the Jews that 1.1 million people were killed during the final siege of Jerusalem (most of them Jews) and that 97,000 were captured and enslaved.

"Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem" by David Roberts

One can only imagine the carnage caused by the wholesale slaughter of people of all ages.  Mark's account of the Gospel at this time would truly reflect the importance of the resurrection in light of the persecution and suffering the people were encountering.

We can see how today's reading was important not only for that day but for times to come.

For instance, we can read the diary of a young Christian woman, Perpetua, who was killed in Carthage around 202 CE.

For Christians today in places like Iraq, ISIS continues to kill people for their beliefs, forcing many to convert or face the sword.

Here's a video from 60 Minutes that may make us read today's scripture with different eyes:

Prayer from Janet Morley:

O God,
you bring hope out of emptiness
energy out of fear
new life out of grief and loss.
As Mary returned to mourn
yet found unspeakable joy,
so comfort all who have lost their homes
through presecution, war, exile,
or deliberate destruction.
Give them security, a place to live,
and neighbors they trust
to be, with them, a new sign of peace to the world.

Prayer by Janet Morley, Christian Aid, 20th Century

"Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by David Roberts [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 31

Daily Devotion for Lent

Wednesday, March 25, 2015, Day 31

Mark 12:35-44 (NRSV)

Jesus has some interesting teaching that refutes the necessity of the Messiah being in the line of David.  Mark's Gospel has not linked Jesus through any genealogy to this famous ancestor.  The lists of lineage come later in Matthew and Luke.  Some scholars believe that this leads us to ascertain that the historical Jesus may not have been of the line of David at all.  The scribes who would record such things are then taken to task.

We see the contrast between those whom polite society would honor (scribes) and one whom would be forgotten (the poor widow).

The Widow's Mite by James Tissot between 1886 and 1894
She is admired for the totality of her gift even if it is only a pittance.

The contrast comes in her devotion versus their hypocrisy - they are even stated as "devouring widows' houses" indicating that she is poor for a reason.

Often when we hear the story of the widow's mite, we hear it in isolation rather than in context with the scribes.

I've enjoyed a nice place to sit in worship before.

I've enjoyed the place of honor at meals.

I hope that I haven't devoured widows' houses.

As we think about this, we examine where pride comes into the equation with our daily walk with God.  Do we ever lift up our own faithfulness in contrast with those who are less faithful?

Do we ever see someone as less than we should because of their lack of attendance or giving?

Do we ever play God?

In the end, King David doesn't have to enter into the equation.  Jesus is the Messiah that frees us from this criticism of others.  Our job is to follow with totality - even giving up the sidelong glances at our neighbors who may not measure up.

Prayer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Simplicity of Trust:

Almighty God,
Nothing is more ruinous for life together
than to mistrust the spontaneity of others
and suspect their motives.
to psychologize and analyze people,
as has become fashionable these days,
is to destroy all trust,
to expose everything decent to public defamation.
It's the revolt of all that is vulgar
against what's free and genuine.
People don't exist to look into the abyss
of each other's hearts - 
nor can they - 
but to encounter and accept each other
just as they are - 
simply, naturally, in courageous trust.

Prayer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Meditation and Prayer.

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


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 30

Daily Devotion for Lent

Tuesday, March 24, 2015, Day 30

Mark 12:13-34 (NRSV)

Which of the commandments in the Bible would be the greatest?

If we went with one of the ten, we would not be in agreement with Jesus.

In fact, Jesus picks the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 which would have been widely known among all Jewish people.  We are to love God with all our being.

Then he pairs it with an obscure passage from Leviticus 19:18.  We are to love our neighbors just as we would love ourselves.

As we see these two things coming together, we remember that Jesus has lifted up those in previous passages that we might otherwise overlook.  We equate welcoming children with welcoming Jesus.

Now we see that loving our neighbor is almost equated with loving God.

If we look to the first story in today's reading, we can see that their trap for Jesus goes south.  They hoped that Jesus would either say "Pay your taxes" which would make all the zealots angry or that he would say, "Don't pay your taxes" which would get him arrested by the Romans.

Instead Jesus asks to see a coin.  When they produce one with the image of the Emperor on it, Jesus announces their complicity with Rome to the world.  If they were truly righteous, they would only carry Jewish money - especially in the vicinity of the Temple (which was why the money changers were set up in the first place).

By the declaration to give to Rome what is Rome's, Jesus is telling them, you might as well pay your taxes to this foreign government because you are already declaring your allegiance.
In the end, isn't what Jesus saying is that
it all belongs to God?

As we see that we are to "Give to God what is God's" we may look to the final passage about sacrifice and burnt offerings in verse 33. Giving to God means loving our neighbors.

This is something the keepers of the Law failed to comprehend.

As I seek to make loving God and loving neighbor the priorities for my life, I also look to this middle passage about the resurrection.  If God is the God of the living, I might do well to consider those whom I would relegate to the back burners of life.  If we have eternity together, I would like for us to be on friendly terms before we arrive.

How are these twin commandments to love God and love the other the greatest in your life?

Prayer by Woody Guthrie:

As I went walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway,
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.

I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
O'er the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,
While all around me a voice was sounding, saying
This land was made for you and me.

In the squares of the city, in the shadow of the steeple
In the relief office, I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry I stood there asking,
--Is this land made for you and me?


"This Land is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie, (c) 1956 and 1958 by Lidlow Music Inc.

Picture from wikimedia commons.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 29

Daily Devotion for Lent

Monday, March 23, 2015, Day 29

Mark 12:1-12 (NRSV)

When Jesus tells this parable to the people around Jerusalem gathering for the Passover, his audience would immediately equate the vineyard with Israel.

Isaiah 5:1b-2 reads:
My beloved had a vineyard
    on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
    and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
    and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes,
    but it yielded wild grapes.
Just in case the reader was not clear on the metaphor, in verse seven, Isaiah states, "For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel".
May we tend to the Vineyard in ways that honor Jesus Christ. 

As we see the parable, we equate the slaves sent to collect from the vineyard as the prophets.  We see that some were indeed killed, the latest being John the Baptist.

When Jesus tells about the son being sent, we immediately interpret this today theologically in terms of Jesus as the Son of God which we know to be part of the Trinity.  However, when he told this parable, the son of God would have been interpreted as the Messiah - the King of Israel from the line of David.  The parable would be seen as revolutionary and it was no surprise that they wanted to arrest him.  If there were Roman soldiers present, it is likely that Jesus would have been arrested sooner.

The caretakers of the Vineyard - the Pharisees as interpreters of the Law and the Herodians as overseers of the priesthood - are cast down in this parable.  This would have been highly offensive to either one because they obviously thought they were doing a decent job in the midst of a bad situation (under foreign occupation).

Jesus didn't agree with them.

For all of the preceding lessons, we are seeing a movement to lift up the downtrodden and help those without a voice.

As we consider this passage for our spiritual lives today, we have to then ask if we as the Church are doing all that we can to reach those in today's society that would be considered on the outside looking in?

I don't want to be seen as the one who abused the messenger of God and I certainly want us to offer the fruit of the vine to all of God's children.

Prayer from Mother Teresa:

Make us worthy, Lord, 
   to serve our fellow people throughout the world
   who live and die in poverty and hunger.  
Give them, through our hands, 
   this day their daily bread, 
   and by our understanding love, 
   give peace and joy.  

Prayer by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 20th Century

Picture, "Picking Grapes in Berat" by d_proffer (Flickr  Uploaded by albinfo) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Daily Devotion for the Fifth Sunday in Lent 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent

Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 22, 2015

Mark 11:27-33 (NRSV)

Authority is important.  How do we formally give authority to people in positions of power?

We usually have installation services that recognize them as deserving of the authority we give.

The consecration of Bishop Asbury in the Methodist Episcopal Church
was not recognized at the time by the Church of England as valid.
Those present, however, did see God's authority given to him.
When I was ordained an elder, Bishop Blake laid his hands upon me along with two elders in our conference that served as my mentors: Dr. Mouzon Biggs, Jr. and Dr. John Rusco.  After my ordination, the churches in our denomination recognized my status and now allow me to Baptize and preside over Holy Communion at my discretion.

In Jesus' day, to be recognized as a Rabbi, there were similar rites of passage that would have been conferred upon him.  Other established rabbis would have transferred their authority to Jesus.

Some have said that this occurs at the baptism of Jesus by John.  John being one rabbi and the second source coming directly from God through a heavenly voice.

So if the Pharisees recognize John's authority, they will be forced to recognize Jesus as a rabbi.  If they don't, they risk the wrath of the crowd and so they remain noncommittal. Jesus seems content to leave them baffled although the reader has the inside information.

So how does this short passage and conversation profit us today?

I believe we have to ask ourselves what kind of authority we are granting Jesus.  As we have seen people following or not following to various degrees throughout Mark's Gospel, we are coming to the point where we find ourselves either committing or not.

When Christians are baptized, we believe that God is calling each of us to some kind of ministry in our lives - whether we decide to become ordained or to serve as lay people. What reservations do you need to set aside in order to live into your own calling from Jesus Christ today?

Prayer by Colbert Cartwright:

God of the faithful in every time,
today you have called us into your church
to be one body in Jesus Christ.
You have bestowed upon us the gifts we need for your service.
Grant that we may willingly take our part;
that we may support one another;
and that we may seek the greatest gift, which is love.
Knead us together in one loaf
with all your people throughout the world,
through your Spirit of unity. Amen.

Prayer by Colbert Cartwright from Chalice Worship.

Picture, "The Ordination of Bishop Asbury" by Thomas Coke Ruckle, painter; A. Gilchrist Campbell, engraver [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 28

Daily Devotion for Lent

Saturday, March 21, 2015, Day 28

Mark 11:12-26 (NRSV)

As we read this particular passage from Mark today, we should especially consider it in light of the Temple's destruction in the year 70 shortly before the Gospel was written.

The fig tree could easily represent the Temple in Jerusalem which should also be "fruitful" but is barren as well.  Jesus cleanses the Temple which should be a haven for all people and yet those seeking to worship find themselves charged more than perhaps these pilgrims could afford.

Ezekiel 47:12 (NRSV) states:

On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.

This is an image of the river flowing from the Temple.  The hunger of the people should be sated spiritually but they go and find it barren.

Then Jesus goes on to share a lesson in faith and moving mountains.

We've all prayed for healing for loved ones who died.  We've done so with strong faith and fervent prayers.  We've done so with dedication and determination.

And so this passage about faith moving mountains sometimes sounds hollow.

I believe that the context is in the rest of the passage when Jesus speaks of forgiveness.
Why try to climb over that mountainous hurt if
it can be removed through forgiveness?

Jesus will seek forgiveness even for those who have wronged him as the suffering servant from Isaiah.  How difficult will this be?

Have you ever had to forgive someone who wronged you?

Has a grudge held against someone ever felt like the weight of a mountain?

Maybe through faith, we can forgive others.  Maybe with God's help, we can throw that mountain into the sea.  When we do this, we bear the fruit that God intends for us.

Prayer based on quotes from Corrie ten Boom:

Glorious God, 
Help me to forgive others as you forgave me.  May I see that forgiveness is an act of the will, and that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.  May I see that forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred.   May it be a power for me that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness. Then I shall be truly free.  In Christ's name, Amen.

Prayer based on quotes by Corrie ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place, whose family died in concentration camps in Germany during WWII after they were found helping Jews to escape.

Picture by By Leon Brooks [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, March 20, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 27

Daily Devotion for Lent

Friday, March 20, 2015, Day 27

Mark 11:1-11 (NRSV)

We have the entry into Jerusalem that is a bit cryptic.

Jesus seems to know about a colt that will be available for him of which the disciples were unaware.  The way it reads today is as if Jesus had some underground network all conspiring to bring Jesus into Jerusalem as the Messiah.  It seems very mysterious and lends a little to the idea that Jesus is really in charge the whole time, even as this seems to be leading to the cross.

The crowds welcome him as he rides upon the colt, recalling the coming of the Messiah from Zechariah 9:9 which reads:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
    triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Some people get caught up in the moment, ready to announce the Messiah.  I've always wondered if some of the same people cheering his entrance were among those incited to cry for his crucifixion when he was charged by Rome.

"He Wept Over It" by Enrique Simonet, 1892 referring to when Jesus wept over
Jerusalem before he enters it in Luke.  I really like this painting.

As we really consider Jesus as Lord, it would be better for us if we could welcome him more often than we crucify him.

John Wesley's Covenant Prayer speaks to this.  It seems odd that we should ask to be empty or to have nothing.  I believe that this means that we don't allow our things to define us and that we shall be God's regardless of circumstance.  Sometimes this is easier said than done.

Prayer from John Wesley:

I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for 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 wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

Picture by Enrique Simonet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 26

Daily Devotion for Lent

Thursday, March 19, 2015, Day 26

Mark 10:32-52 (NRSV)

We're now beginning to turn toward Jerusalem and the tension is beginning to build.

Jesus continues to share with the disciples about his suffering, death and resurrection. They still don't understand and the problem may be cultural.

Sometimes we don't question the road
that we're on until we have a decision to make.
The average understanding of what it was to be the Messiah was not what Jesus was saying at all.  The disciples likely imagined an earthly rule over Jerusalem.

So when James and John ask to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus "in his glory", we sometimes think they are talking about heaven.  It is likely that they were talking about when he takes the throne in Jerusalem.

When blind Bartimaeus begins to shout at Jesus calling him "Son of David" many try to silence him, not because he was causing a ruckus but because this was the title for the Messiah and it was treasonous.  Most Judeans didn't want the judgment of Rome falling too near them because as any subjugated people know, it just might splash up on you whether you are innocent or not.

Bartimaeus is blind just as the disciples are blind.  When he regains his sight, he begins to follow Jesus as well.

Culture is something that we don't often question.  It is there in the background, unrealized.

As I first heard about the overt racism at the University of Oklahoma over the SAE fraternity, I begin to wonder, "Is this part of our culture?"

Am I blind to certain racist practices that exist and I just don't see because I'm one of the majority?

When Jesus does finally break through and allow me to see, I wonder if we don't often go back to blindness because it is more comfortable.  Or at least less challenging.

Are there things in our culture that keep us from welcoming Jesus today for who he really is?

Am I willing to move past them?

Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:

Lord we pray this day mindful of the sorry confusion of our world. Look with mercy upon this generation of your children so steeped in misery of their own contriving, so far strayed from your ways and so blinded by passions. We pray for the victims of tyranny, that they may resist oppression with courage. We pray for the wicked and cruel, whose arrogance reveals to us what the sin within our own hearts is like when it has conceived and brought forth its final fruit.

We pray for ourselves who live in peace and quietness, that we may not regard our good fortune as proof of our virtue, or rest content to have our ease at the price of others' sorrow and tribulation.

We pray for all who have some vision of your will, despite the confusions and betrayals of human sin, that they humbly and resolutely plan for and fashion the foundations of a just peace between people, even while they seek to preserve what is fair and just among us against the threat of malignant powers.


Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr, 20th Century

Photo by Richard Croft [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 25

Daily Devotion for Lent

Wednesday, March 18, 2015, Day 25

Mark 10:13-31 (NRSV)

Jesus seems to have it backwards again.

Children over the rich?

In that day, people were seen as rich because they had earned God's favor.

When Jesus declares the difficulty of the rich to enter heaven, this was a head scratcher for sure.  It was more of a given that the rich would naturally enter heaven.

If we look at some of the commandments Jesus lifts up, the man is proud to share that he has kept them all.  However, there is one of the ten that Jesus didn't mention: idolatry.

It is almost as if Jesus is wondering, "Do you really keep all of these?  Let's see if you have any gods before the one true God."  He asks him to give all of his things away and then to come and be a disciple.

He couldn't do it.

We get so attached to our things!

This life and death struggle over treasure is more a part
of our lives than we would like to admit.
I think we imagine that the magnetism of Jesus would have made it nearly impossible to resist following him.  But there were many who were angry at his teaching.  Here's one who holds Jesus in high esteem yet can't follow through.

I think this story in particular makes us nervous because we may wonder, "what if that had been me?  What would I have done?"

What should we do today?

Prayer from Ted Loder:

O Eternal One,
it would be easier for me to pray
   if I were clear
      and of a single mind and pure heart,
   if I could be done hiding from myself
      and from you, even in my prayers.
But I am who I am,
   mixture of motives and excuses,
      blur of memories
         quiver of hopes,
   knot of fear,
      tangle of confusion,
         and restless with love
            for love...
Come, find me, Lord.
Be with me exactly as I am.
Help me find me, Lord.
   Help me accept what I am
      so I can begin to be yours.  Amen.

Prayer by Ted Loder from Guerrillas of Grace

Picture, "Who Shall Be Captain?" by Howard Pyle [Public domain] 1911, via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 24

Daily Devotion for Lent

Tuesday, March 17, 2015, Day 24

Mark 10:1-12 (NRSV)

"Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder."

This is a phrase that I've said at all the weddings where I've officiated.  The phrase is from today's reading with the word "asunder" from the King James Version.

It refers to the finality of the marriage covenant.

As we read this passage, it seems that Jesus is declaring some pretty tough words concerning divorce especially in light of the fact that everyone is related to someone who is divorced.

This 21st century law office reminds us
of when this phrase was closer to reality for all.
Given the fact that we have so many Christians who are divorced, we are either ignoring this text or we are interpreting it for the times.

I'll try to go with the latter.

As we look at this passage, we might remind ourselves of the plight of women in Jesus' day.  The husband was clearly in charge and the wife did not have the same rights and privileges.  In fact, if a woman was divorced, her options were few and not very pleasing.

Similar to the passage on children, the teaching of the unbreakable bonds of marriage would be a gift for women who at the time were counted among the least of these.

Some of the rabbinical leaders of that day would actually thank God in their prayers that they were not made women.  If this is the pervasive philosophy, you can see where the prohibition against divorce would benefit those on the margins.

So if Jesus is once again siding with the voiceless, we might ask ourselves what we might do to help out those who are hurting.

This being said, I would never want to take a flippant attitude toward the marriage covenant, especially where children are concerned.  Divorce is one of the most painful things that a person might experience in this life and I pray that you may never have to go through it.  If you have already or are going through one now, I also ask for God's peace for your life.

All of us, whether single or married, need to build up our integrity and to let our word be our contract.  In this may we find the happiness and joy of the Lord.


Hear our prayers, O Lord, and consider our desires.  Give to us true humility, a meek and quiet spirit, a loving and friendly, a holy and a useful manner of life; bearing the burdens of our neighbors, denying ourselves, and studying to benefit others, and to please you in all things.

Grant us to be righteous in performing promises, loving to our relatives, careful of our charges; to be gentle and easy to be entreated, slow to anger, and readily prepared for every good work.  Amen.

Prayer by Jeremy Taylor, Church of England, 17th Century

Picture by By mandiberg (divorce for men only...) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, March 16, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 23

Daily Devotion for Lent

Monday, March 16, 2015, Day 23

Mark 9:30-50 (NRSV)

Who doesn't like to be recognized for their achievements?

Which of us doesn't want to be known as the best in our chosen field?

It is not surprising that just after Jesus speaks to the disciples about his death and resurrection that they begin to argue about which of them is the top dog.

It is tough for us to be selfless when the ego demands so much attention.

When Jesus puts a little child among them, it is difficult for us to understand from a first century perspective.  Children were not acknowledged or esteemed as they are today. They had no respect and were considered property until they came of age.

Children had no human rights.

So for Jesus to identify himself with children would be to identify with the least of these. We find a more familiar understanding of the least from Matthew 25:37-40 with the hungry, sick and imprisoned.

To further lift up a revolutionary understanding of children, Jesus concludes that we would endanger ourselves in God's eyes if we were to harm them.  This prioritizes children above adults which would have turned their world upside down.

In the 21st Century United States, this doesn't seem revolutionary at all.  The influence of this scripture has brought our worldview on children in line with the Gospel.

Mark also inserts this obscure story about a man casting out demons in Jesus' name who did not follow them.  Rather than get upset, Jesus indicates that this isn't a problem.

This passage gives us the idea that Christianity should be a religion of generosity toward the other.  What does it mean for us to consider being last or servant to all?

Prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, 13th century:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
St. Francis by Albert Chevallier Tayler (oil on canvas)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Daily Devotion for the Fourth Sunday in Lent 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent

Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 15, 2015

Mark 9:14-29 (NRSV)

I believe!  Help my unbelief!

This cry of a pleading father of an afflicted son is the cry of the human condition.

Just as Jesus points out that all things can be done for the one who believes, it is not that we don't want to believe, but the realities and sometimes the cruelties of this world seem so tangible.

When we are touched with pain and grief, it is all too real.

Service dog for a boy with autism
calms him during 24-hour EEG
We would like to believe in the resurrection but the cross looms large in our memories.

It is likely that our prayer lives have a predetermined outcome that sometimes leaves little room for God to do anything but comply.  If we receive a different answer, we interpret that God didn't hear us.

How do we open ourselves to God's blessing in our lives even if that blessing comes in unexpected ways?

We may be too like the crowd, quick to declare the object of our prayer to be dead (like the boy after the unclean spirit came out).  As Jesus takes him (and us) by the hand, he arises and we see resurrection in this life - not just in the next.

I believe!  Help my unbelief!

Prayer from St. Therese of Liseux:

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise, and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.  Amen.

Prayer by St. Therese of Liseux Prayer from Story of A Soul

Picture by By Zipster969, link to pawsitivityservicedogs.com (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 22

Daily Devotion for Lent

Saturday, March 14, 2015, Day 22

Mark 9:2-13 (NRSV)

The confusion tour for Peter continues with this passage.

Transfiguration by Carl Heinrich Bloch
The transfiguration could be seen as a mystical experience shared by Peter, James and John.  Even this strange encounter (or at least observance) of Moses and Elijah leaves Peter giving the wrong answer.

He was terrified.

I don't blame him.

He just heard talk about denying oneself and taking up the cross.  In first century Judea, this was not so metaphorical as possible.  Who wouldn't want to just stay put?

When we've had such a spiritual encounter, why go back to the real world?

I think we see the weakness of Peter because we can often identify with it.

But Jesus continues to bring him along.  Just like Jesus continues to bring us along.

Life is often confusing.

It is sometimes terrifying.

But in the end, we find the reassurance of the risen Christ and it may be that we find ourselves transfigured.

Prayer of blessing:

May the rains sweep gentle across your fields,
May the sun warm the land,
May every good seed you have planted bear fruit,
And late summer find you standing in fields of plenty.

Prayer (c) John Birch, www.faithandworship.com

Picture by Carl Heinrich Bloch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, March 13, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 21

Daily Devotion for Lent

Friday, March 13, 2015, Day 21

Mark 8:22-9:1 (NRSV)

It is interesting the way that Mark puts the miraculous healing of the blind man right before the declaration by Peter.  Peter comes up with the correct answer but then blows it.

Jesus is evidently not giving the proper narrative for what a messiah will do.
Sometimes we need some help
when we are blind.



How about victory?  Conquest of our enemies?

What about sending the foreigners home?

These last three are the expectations of the Messiah.

Yet the author of this Gospel knows how it will end.  He shares the resurrection with the reader right here.  So we know what will come as well.

But we may often align with Peter.  We rebuke Jesus when we are told that we must die to the self in order to find new life.

This makes us wonder, where might we be blind?

Prayer by Clara H. Scott:

        Open my eyes, that I may see 
glimpses of truth thou hast for me; 
place in my hands the wonderful key 
that shall unclasp and set me free. 
Silently now I wait for thee, 
ready, my God, thy will to see. 
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine! 

Prayer by Clara H. Scott, 19th Century

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 20

Daily Devotion for Lent

Thursday,  March 12, 2015, Day 20

Mark 8:11-21 (NRSV)

In seminary, they spoke about having a theology of scarcity versus having a theology of abundance.

A good example of a theology of scarcity was a country church where the treasurer began to put a little extra back into a secret, rainy day account.  This was unbeknownst to the Finance Committee, the Pastor or the Administrative Council.

When it was finally discovered, the treasurer told the church that she was only looking out for their best interests.

While she may have had good intentions, it communicates that she doesn't really trust the church to do what is right with their money.  It states that she knows better than the collective wisdom of the congregation.  Even if this would have proven to be true in a particular instance, it in effect subverts the authority of the church as a whole to act on behalf of God in the world.

A theology of abundance is more in line with what Jesus is trying to get the disciples to capture for themselves.  Jesus shares with them the miracle of the abundant feast when they thought they only had a little.  In the Kingdom of God, the abundance is present and all will be fed.

Abundance is celebrated in every culture.
It is interesting to see how God speaks to
this in different settings.
This can be difficult to believe.

Can the Pharisees be faulted for asking for a sign?  For proof?

It is quite natural for us.

The difficult thing is that Jesus has already provided many signs.  Just as God has already provided many blessings of abundance in our lives.

If we're stubborn and don't have eyes to see or ears to hear, Jesus might just get in his boat and sail away.

Prayer from Kenneth Koeman:

Our Father, forgive us for thinking small thoughts of you and for ignoring your immensity 
    and greatness.
Lord Jesus, forgive us when we forget that you rule the nations and our small lives.
Holy Spirit, we offend you in minimizing your power and squandering your gifts.
We confess that our blindness to your glory, O triune God, has resulted in shallow 
    confession, tepid conviction, and only mild repentance.
Have mercy on us.  
In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Prayer by Kenneth Koeman, © 1993 Faith Alive Christian Resources

Photo by By Starscream (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 19

Daily Devotion for Lent

Wednesday, March 11, 2015, Day 19

Mark 8:1-10 (NRSV)

This is the second time in Mark Jesus feeds the multitudes.  This feast is for 4,000 people while the first was 5,000.  In the second, we have seven baskets left over while in the first there were twelve.

I have always wondered if these were variances on the same miracle.  Luke and John only offer one feeding while Matthew repeats both feedings.

People waiting for bread in Gaza. Hungry descendants of
those fed two millennium ago? 
While John spiritualizes most things (we see Jesus identified as the Bread of Life), we are left wondering in Mark what this really means. We are not the only ones - even the disciples were reported not to understand about the loaves.

If they both came from the same miraculous feeding, why would Mark not report the smaller feeding first, building the greater expectation as the Gospel unfolded?

Of course, the tradition for Mark could have been that they occurred in this order and so there was nothing illustrative to read into it from a literary perspective.

We hear nothing from the crowd.

Did they wonder at this miracle?

Were they expecting it?

Why do we hear nothing about people emerging from the crowd, seeking to follow Jesus?

I then wonder at myself - all the good things I have experienced from God that elicited no real response from me.  Can we become so accustomed to grace that we are no longer hungry?

Prayer from the African American Heritage Hymnal:

Lord, we thank you for all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We thank you for fire
shut up in our bones. Help us to release the anointing of the Holy Spirit
which dwells within us. Let us pour your blessing into the lives of others.
Let us lift up the name of Jesus with power from on high.  Amen.

Picture by By Al Jazeera English (Breadline) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Prayer from Bread for the World.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 18

Daily Devotion for Lent

Tuesday, March 10, 2015, Day 18

Mark 7:31-37 (NRSV)

When the people tell about Jesus making the deaf hear and the mute speak, this is building energy for the declaration of God's chosen among all the Judean people.  This would not be good news for those that were prospering under the current regime.  It would certainly not be good news for those that gained power or wealth by compromising the values of their faith.

As we see this particular passage, it is quite earthy.

The healing is done with saliva.

Jesus puts his fingers in a man's ears.

He speaks an Aramaic word (Ephphatha) which Mark translates for his Greek readers.

This is the only Gospel story with these kinds of details about this particular healing.  We know that John often told different stories or had different sources but maybe Luke and Matthew were uncomfortable with this particular miracle.

It makes me wonder if my own ears are stopped up.  What would it mean for Jesus to put his fingers in my ears?

If I hear Jesus speak the word, Ephphatha, what opens up for me?

Healing can often be uncomfortable.

It may require things of us that are painful such as stretching unused muscles.

Sometimes spirituality comes in messy ways.  Healing
can even occur despite our ordering of the universe.
It may require a change of diet or lifestyle if it is to make any difference.

It sometimes requires an honest accounting of ourselves.

As I think about those for whom Good News would be troubling, I wonder if there are compromises that I've made that keep me from hearing or speaking to the reality of Jesus today.

Earthy is real.  When I think about it, I want my faith to be real.

Prayer for today:

O Great Spirit, whose breath gives life to the world, and whose voice is heard in the soft breeze: we need your strength and wisdom.  Cause us to walk in beauty.  Give us eyes ever to behold the red and purple sunset.  Make us wise so that we may understand what you have taught us.  Help us learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.  Make us always ready to come to you with clean hands and steady eyes, so when life fades, like the fading sunset, our spirits may come to you without shame.  Amen.

Prayer is from a Traditional Native American Prayer

Photo by By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, March 9, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 17

Daily Devotion for Lent

Monday, March 9, 2015, Day 17

Mark 7:24-30 (NRSV)

Even dogs illicit sympathy - although more so in
our culture than in Jesus' day.

Sometimes people get compassion fatigue.  It is not discussed a lot but when you are in the helping profession, there are times when the people with problems seem so relentless that you want to throw up your hands and say, "I can't do it, anymore!"

Basically, people need to take breaks.

Jesus recognized this about himself.  Mark even tells us that he didn't want anyone to know he was there.  He needed to rest.

Then a Gentile woman comes to him, asking for healing for her daughter.

Jesus indicates that she's unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

This isn't easy to see as we can imagine the woman's distress.

It is possible that this passage is showing the "fully human" side of Jesus more than we're really comfortable with.

But it also shows his divinity as well.

Maybe we mirror God when we can check our pride at the door and let others sway us toward compassion.

Maybe this shows us that if Jesus is willing to learn from a "dog", we should likewise see people for more than the superficial.

This begs the question, "Who have you dismissed or written off prematurely?"

Who might surprise you, given the chance?

Prayer for the day:

Good and gracious God, you invite us to recognize and reverence your divine image and likeness in our neighbor.  Enable us to see the reality of racism and free us to challenge and uproot it from our society, our world and ourselves.

This we pray.  Amen.

Prayer by the Sisters of Mercy, www.sistersofmercy.org

Photo by By Tim Dawson (Flickr: Sad Lucy) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Daily Devotion for the Third Sunday in Lent 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent

March 8, 2015, Third Sunday in Lent

Mark 7:1-23 (NRSV)

As Steve Miller once said, "Somebody, get me a
cheeseburger!"  Not kosher, though if you
are eating by Jewish Law.
Christians today are not very concerned about the dietary laws.  They seem rather antiquated and we often look to passages like today's or Peter's vision in Acts to justify why we're going to Red Lobster.

At the time, Jesus seems to be making a priority for laws of compassion over laws of holiness.

As we consider our relationship with God and our relationship with our neighbor, Jesus definitely wants the latter to flow from the former.  If we love God, this should translate into how we're treating our neighbor.

As we consider our own disciplines during Lent, I am hopeful that we are thinking about how these are shaping us.  We don't just give up sweets to lose weight.  It should be primarily spiritual in nature or it is only a diet in disguise.

I'm reminded of the old joke:

A priest was walking toward his parish, bundled against the cold when he felt a gun in his back.

"Give me your wallet!"

As the priest opened his coat to get his wallet, the thief observed his clerical collar.

"Oh, no!  Father, I didn't realize it was you.  I'm sorry, please put away your wallet.  I would never steal from the church."

As the priest was shaken up, he offered the would-be criminal a cigar.

"Oh, not for me, Father.  I gave those up for Lent!"

Getting a handle on our behavior and what is driving it is a key focus for us for Lent.  As you review the list of sins in verses 21-22 from today's reading, which one is your trouble spot?

Prayer from Saint Augustine of Hippo:

Look upon us, O Lord,
and let all the darkness of our souls
vanish before the beams of your brightness.
Fill us with holy love,
and open to us the treasures of your wisdom.
All our desire is known unto you,
therefore perfect what you have begun,
and what your Spirit has awakened us to ask in prayer.
We seek your face,
turn your face unto us and show us your glory.
Then shall our longing be satisfied,
and our peace shall be perfect.

Prayer from Saint Augustine of Hippo, Africa, 5th Century

Photo by By Thogru (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 16

Daily Devotion for Lent

Saturday, March 7, 2015, Day 16

Mark 6:45-56 (NRSV)

"The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water"
by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1907.
This is the second and more powerful of the miracles in Mark where Jesus shows mastery over the sea.  In this account, we have him walking on water and then calming the storms.

Mark doesn't tell anything about Peter seeking to join Jesus on the stormy waters.

Instead, we are left with the clue that the disciples' hearts were hardened.

As Jesus begins to expand on his catalog of miracles, wouldn't it make sense for his disciples to grow in their trust of him?

The miracle of the loaves may have reminded them of Elisha or possibly manna from heaven.

The mastery over the sea may have reminded them of the parting of the waters by Moses.

But the Moses references also remind us of another whose heart was hardened and that was Pharaoh.

With the influence of the Enlightenment, the miracles are often broken down, explained or dismissed.  With post-modernism, we might be able to look at them and say, "What would it be like to experience this as an observer?"

How would it have impacted me?

As they landed in Gennesaret on the northwestern shores of the Sea of Galilee, we see the sick being healed as they touch the fringes of his cloak.  The Messiah was thought to have healing in his wings from Malachi 4:2.  The word "wings" could also be translated as corner or fringe and it was thought that one could touch the fringe on the prayer shawl of the Messiah and be healed.

Evidently, the hearts of these people were not hardened.

I wonder what I'm missing today?

Prayer (from an early Scottish unknown author):

Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the shining stars to you,
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you, for ever.

Picture by Henry Ossawa Tanner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, March 6, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 15

Daily Devotion for Lent

Friday, March 6, 2015, Day 15

Mark 6:30-44 (NRSV)

Where do all these people come from that they can just sit and listen to a rabbi all day?

Don't they have jobs?

They really should have had foresight to bring something to eat.  That was really irresponsible of them.

After all, if they won't work or plan ahead, why should we feed them?

If we feed them, we are actually depriving the local economy where they otherwise would have purchased food.

Send them away, Jesus.

After all, am I my brother's keeper?

And who's got time for that, anyway?

And I still hear Jesus saying,

"You give them something to eat."

Today's prayer is in honor of the World Day of Prayer which is the first Friday in March. It was written by Nora Carmi, World Day of Prayer International Committee Middle East representative.

From a hill overlooking Jerusalem, we pray, during this blessed Lenten period, for every person in our country, Palestine, especially the inhabitants of the sacred city, Jerusalem, our brethren and their families in the West Bank, In Gaza, who are living in demolished homes. We pray for the children who are left without schools, the sick who are deprived of hospitals, for all those striving and struggling to support and help their families.

Today we also pray for the refugees and the people of Syria, Iraq and those in Mosul, Lebanon and the whole of the Middle East. Our Lord and Father, fill us with hope, with knowledge and conviction peace, justice and equality to prevail.  Amen.

I've thrown away old moldy bread
without even considering its
abundance in my household.

Photo by By Maestrosync at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 14

Daily Devotion for Lent

Thursday, March 5, 2015, Day 14

Mark 6:1-29 (NRSV)

Herod has come to the point where he is seeing ghosts.

When they ask him who Jesus might be, he thinks that it is John the Baptizer, raised from the dead.  He thinks it is John, coming back to haunt him.

When our sin occupies so much of our thoughts, we really do become slaves to it.

Herod's response about John reminds me of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" where Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking.  She continually rubs at her hands and then blurts out the famous line, "Out damned spot, out I say!"  She also states that "Hell is murky!" as if she is already there.

Close up of a statue of Lady Macbeth wringing her hands.
Her guilt is from the conspired murder as a result of her ambition.  However, it came with a price.

Herod was evidently tricked into his murder but is this any less lawful?

This falls under the advice, "Don't make any promises you can't keep."

While it is easy to dog pile on Herod, what are compromises that we have made for ease of schedule or personal advantage?

Are there things that we do that we slip into without really considering them?

Prayer from St. Augustine of Hippo:

O God our Father, hear me, 
who am trembling in this darkness, 
and stretch forth thy hand unto me; 
hold forth thy light before me; 
recall me from my wanderings; 
and, thou being my guide, 
may I be restored to myself and to thee.  

Prayer from Saint Augustine of Hippo, Africa, 5th Century

Photo from By Immanuel Giel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons