Lenten and Advent Devotions

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2013 Lenten Devotions

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March 27- Rev. Carla Aday
Easter Faith
Hebrews 12: 1-3

She had an 8th grade education. But in her 50s, my mother-in-law, Helen, completed a college degree and began teaching at a small Christian school. But the part of the story I didn’t know, until her funeral on Monday, was that her teaching contract was “not renewed” after she allowed the girls at school to read Nancy Drew mysteries and wear pants to class.  

The reason I never knew this was because Helen didn’t make a big deal about it. It didn’t matter to her. What mattered to her was doing what she believed in her heart was right. She learned this from Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross.”  

When I grow weary and am tempted to lose heart, I will remember Helen, and Jesus, and so many others in my life, who love faithfully and live honestly, even when the world rejects and tramples on such an authentic love.

Carla Aday, Senior Associate Minister 


March 26 – Mr. Justin Zeigler
Easter Water
John 12: 24-25
 
This past Sunday the 6th graders (who could make it through the snow) came to church in their nicest outfits to be baptized. They looked perfect, but before the most important part of the service, we took off our fancy outfits and put on plain white robes. Barefoot and plainly dressed they were submerged into the water of God’s love and were raised to live lives centered around the love of God.  

A few days earlier I saw a cleansing of another kind. Some of our youth gave up chances to play on the beach, go on cruises, or sit in front of the TV, take an actual shower, to serve in Nicaragua. There we had a room with a drain and a barrel of water with some buckets for bathing. One night I walked in on the youth all gathered around the barrels and the drain wearing swimsuits washing each other’s hair. I asked what they were doing and they replied “It’s easier when we help one another!”  

Over and over again we are asked to shed all the things that don’t matter and then to continue the walk and bear the fruits of love, grace, and justice. We are constantly being submerged into the waters of God’s love and resurfacing to lives where we know that “it’s easier to help one another.”

Justin Zeigler,
Minister to Youth


 

March 25 – Rev. David Diebold
New Life at Easter
Ephesians 2: 8

I remember the day well. It was well over 30 years ago. We were making plans to attend post-graduate school in the fall and had already given our notice to leave our jobs, vacate our apartment, and move to another state. The letter arrived in the morning mail, informing us that university policy was to not offer financial assistance to first year doctoral students. While we both expected to work while in Michigan, the cost of the degree was very high and working full time would prohibit me from attending school.

That evening, after choir rehearsal, I mentioned the letter to a friend. She was a big supporter of mine and dearly wished we could stay on at the church. At the same time, we had had many long conversations about the need for me to move on with my education.

The next day, the friend called and informed me that several anonymous members of the congregation wanted to help.  With only a phone call to my friend, she would write a check whenever we needed it.  What a gift! I was both humbled and filled with gratitude.

The writer of today’s scripture is speaking to us about another unexpected gift, that of grace.  When we least expect it, regardless of our life situation, the surprising gift comes to us. Like the gift that was presented to me all those years ago. Despite the fact that it was freely given, the feeling of that “new life” sweeps over us and changes us.  We are transformed to do better things…to do the work we feel called to do.

May you not only experience grace in your life, but may you truly experience what it means to be given new life.

Prayer: You are the Giver, O God.  May our eyes be open to your grace, that in the days ahead, we may find ourselves living as a new, resurrection people.  Amen.


 

March 22 – Lara Schopp
Easter Faith
Philippians 2:12-18

My 8-year-old daughter is in tears. Two friends have hurt her feelings. She has stood up for another friend, though it would have been easier to merely stay quiet and acquiesce. She has taken a risk and it has resulted in heartache. She has done the right thing, but in this moment, she doesn’t feel like a shining star.    

I wonder if it was hard, in the days leading to Jesus’ crucifixion, for his friends to stand with him. I wonder if Jesus himself, given a choice, would have preferred silence and indifference over the fear and trembling that must have come with knowing his fate.

Though it was merely a schoolgirl spat, forgotten a short time later, I hope that my daughter remembers what it feels like to stand with a friend when others won’t. I hope she knows that by doing so, she was living into her faith. Easter reminds us that it is not enough to be good; you also must carry out good in this world. It is not enough to merely be obedient; we are called to serve, to seek justice, and to create a world in which all can shine.

Gracious God, give us the courage to pour ourselves out in service of your word. Amen. 

Lara Schopp 
Director of Communications


 

March 21 – Rev. Chuck Murphy
Easter Grace
Philippians 2:1-11 

Shortly after my dad died, I discovered things about him I did not know. A story that remains in my heart is when he served in the Air Force as a navigator. A squadron of planes had become lost. Dad, through his navigation skills, directed his plane to the squadron; then led the planes home, saving the lives of all crew.

Humility is a strength of character that I admire in others. People serve without need for personal recognition. Many give without asking for anything in return so that others may benefit. Like the early Philippians, they remember the humility of the Christ in the gift of his life to serve others. They discover the gift of God within themselves as they seek to care for neighbor.

Farmers, teachers, emergency personnel – all do their tasks to love neighbor with great humility. Because Grace chooses to work through their gifts of service, we are fed, we are taught, and we are protected. Even in times when we wander and lose our way, Grace finds us, and in humility, leads us safely home.

Prayer: May we serve others with the humble heart of the Christ, seeing you as we love neighbor. Amen.


 

March 20 – Lauren Weinhold
Easter Light
John 12: 35-36

American author, James Thurber, is credited with saying, “There are two kinds of light – the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures”.  Mr. Thurber must have had his finger on the pulse of m
odern culture.  We live in an age of bright shiny objects–reality television, email, Facebook “friends,” drive-thru everything, texting and the 24-hour news cycle.

I don’t know about you, but I find myself getting caught up in the glare of social expectations, superficial conversations and empty calories.  My perspectives, my relationships and my faith are often obscured by what today’s scripture describes as the darkness.  Thurber’s sentiments echo those of today’s passage and serve as a reminder that as children of the light, we are called to live out our faith in a way that illumines, not obstructs.  

Prayer: Light of the world, illumine our hearts so that we might walk in your peace, your love and your light.  Amen.   


 

March 19 – Rev. Catherine Stark-Corn
Easter Sunrise

Acts 2:22-28

 

From the second floor of our home through our windows facing east I glimpse the most amazing sunrises. Standing in the quiet of the morning, seeing the sun burst through with deep, radiant colors I find a fresh start, a refreshed purpose, a renewed sense of hope for each day. This time of  church year, with the celebration of the mystery of Easter drawing near, I feel as though I am standing before a sunrise.

Kathleen Long Bostrom compares Peter talking about the resurrection of Jesus Christ “to seeing a sunrise for the first time – not just seeing the sun rise but feeling the sun’s warm, glorious beams break through the chill darkness of night.” 

There is much about our broken world that mimics the darkness of night, and yet as Christians we have the fulfilled promise of the grace and love of God that bursts into life in the resurrection of Christ. We know the light of God’s love fills us as the sun fills the morning sky. At every moment the light is before us – our hearts are glad, our tongues rejoice and we will live in hope.

Prayer: God of all – May we open ourselves to the light of hope that shines eternally in your love for each of us. Amen.


 

March 18 – Dr. R. Glen Miles
Getting Ready for Easter
Luke 24:1-12

Easter is a day beyond belief. Someone once said that the story of the resurrection reminds us of “what it is like to trust and to doubt at the same time, to be inside and outside at the same time, to run from and run toward at the same time…” On Easter Sunday some of us arrive filled with disbelief. Still others are like the disciples who mutter that it’s just an idle tale. Some, like Peter run to the tomb, hoping against hope that the unbelievable news is true.

I can’t prove Easter is true. No one can. If we could we would not need faith. Perhaps what our faith needs is room enough to see, to know and to believe. Henri Nouwen said, “God dwells where we step back to give him room.”

Maybe the best thing we can do to get ready for Easter is make room for God.

Prayer: Loving God, Give me the courage I need to slow down long enough to see you. Amen