Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Seven

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1 Peter 3:8-18a, The Living Bible

And now this word to all of you: You should be like one big happy family, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t snap back at those who say unkind things about you. Instead, pray for God’s help for them, for we are to be kind to others, and God will bless us for it.

If you want a happy, good life, keep control of your tongue, and guard your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Try to live in peace even if you must run after it to catch and hold it! For the Lord is watching his children, listening to their prayers; but the Lord’s face is hard against those who do evil.

Usually no one will hurt you for wanting to do good. But even if they should, you are to be envied, for God will reward you for it. Quietly trust yourself to Christ your Lord, and if anybody asks why you believe as you do, be ready to tell him, and do it in a gentle and respectful way.

Do what is right; then if men speak against you, calling you evil names, they will become ashamed of themselves for falsely accusing you when you have only done what is good. Remember, if God wants you to suffer, it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing wrong!

Christ also suffered. He died once for the sins of all us guilty sinners although he himself was innocent of any sin at any time, that he might bring us safely home to God. But though his body died, his spirit lived on . . .

 

‘One big happy family,’ eh?
Do I even know one of those?
Well, yes, at times.
Still, families are notoriously
dysfunctional.

But this?
‘Quietly trust yourself’
to Christ your Lord?’

Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Only that one’s
about as rare as
a functional family,
I fear.

And yet,
I do believe,
that is the way
forward,
through,
toward.

Help me to learn these things:
quietness,
trust,
gentleness,
respectfulness.

And give me courage
to listen for the questions,
and then answer well.

 

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Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Six

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Ephesians 2:1-10, The Message

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

 

Oh, how I love this!
We don’t do it,
we don’t have to do it,
even though we try hard to do it,
and mess it up thoroughly
when we do.

It’s not about us,
all on our own,
lonesome selves.
It’s about partnership,
it’s about grace,
it’s about living
in the middle of both
those truths.

WE

are

partners in grace.

Astounding!

 

Please consider subscribing to this series by subscribing to the blog — the box is in the right sidebar. That way, these daily devotionals will show up in  your inbox each day of Lent, right up until Easter.

Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Five, First Sunday in Lent

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1 Peter 3:18-22, The Message

That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God.

He went and proclaimed God’s salvation to earlier generations who ended up in the prison of judgment because they wouldn’t listen. You know, even though God waited patiently all the days that Noah built his ship, only a few were saved then, eight to be exact—saved from the water by the water. The waters of baptism do that for you, not by washing away dirt from your skin but by presenting you through Jesus’ resurrection before God with a clear conscience.

Jesus has the last word on everything and everyone, from angels to armies. He’s standing right alongside God, and what he says goes.

Here’s a powerful word:
baptism.
No, I’m not a Baptist,

but I am a big believer in
baptism.
For any age, stage, situation.

It is a picture for me,
a powerful,
tactile,
incarnational
picture.

When the babe is doused,
or the youth immersed,
or the old man sprinkled,
we are offering our
own bodies
to the story-telling
we do.

We tell our story with our bodies,
you see.
We eat and drink,
and we get wet.
We celebrate Truth
with all of who we are.
There is a dying,
and there is a rising.
There is darkness,
and there is light.
Thus, we keep
the story going;
we tell it in our way,
in our time,
in ourselves.

 

Please consider subscribing to this series by subscribing to the blog — the box is in the right sidebar. That way, these daily devotionals will show up in your inbox each day of Lent, right up until Easter.

Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Four

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Ephesians 2:1-10, The Message

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

 

Oh, how I love this!
We don’t do it,
we don’t have to do it,
even though we try hard to do it,
and mess it up thoroughly
when we do.

It’s not about us,
all on our own,
lonesome selves.
It’s about partnership,
it’s about grace,
it’s about living
in the middle of both
those truths.

WE

are 

partners in grace.

Astounding!

 

Please consider subscribing to this series by subscribing to the blog — the box is in the right sidebar. That way, these daily devotionals will show up in  your inbox each day of Lent, right up until Easter.

Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Three

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2 Timothy 4:1-5, The Message

I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple.

You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.

Just keep it simple,
you say.
It doesn’t get much more simple
than the story we celebrate,
does it?

That’s why it’s best to hear it
from the lips of children.
Because children get simple.
And too often,
we do not.

Lord, keep it simple
in me, okay?

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Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Two

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Psalm 25:1-10, The Living Bible

To you, O Lord, I pray.
Don’t fail me, Lord, for I am trusting you.
Don’t let my enemies succeed.
Don’t give them victory over me.

None of those who have faith in God will ever be disgraced for trusting him. But all who harm the innocent shall be defeated.

Show me the path where I should go, O Lord;
point out the right road for me to walk.

Lead me; teach me; for you are the God who gives me salvation.
I have no hope except in you.

Overlook my youthful sins, O Lord!
Look at me instead through eyes of mercy and forgiveness,
through eyes of everlasting love and kindness.

The Lord is good and glad to teach the proper path to all who go astray;
he will teach the ways that are right and best to those who humbly turn to him.
And when we obey him, every path he guides us on is fragrant with his loving-kindness and his truth.

 

It really is all about the path,
isn’t it?

Finding it,
choosing it,
following it
staying on it,
trusting it.
Thank you for showing
the way,
and inviting me
into it.
Thank you for being
the way,

and for leading
the way,
for providing
the way,
and paving
the way,
and loving me
in the way that you do.

 

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Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day One

This year, I am repeating a series I wrote three years ago — the last time the liturgical calendar brought us to Year B. This is a different kind of reflection than my usual photo/scripture/prose/prayer of the last few seasons. This one was more free-form. I find that appropriate for where I am in life just now — standing, somewhat unsteadily, in the aftermath of a horrendous community trauma. I’ll re-edit, add new photos here and there, but basically, these meditations will be the same ones I wrote then. And somehow, that feels wise and good at this moment in time. We begin here . . .

______________________

Today, the calendar moves away from the season of Epiphany into one of preparation for the next great feast of the Christian church — Easter. We have arrived at Ash Wednesday, that beautiful beginning of the wilderness season, the season of Lent. 40 days plus 6 Sundays of thinking about how we live before God, looking for ways in which we can be more generous and eliminate clutter, both physically (fasting) and spiritually (carving out more time for silence and reflection).

Each day of Lent, I will choose a scripture lesson from the daily lectionary, find a photo that in some way connects to that passage (at least, for me) and offer a few brief words of reflection, trying to do so in a somewhat poetic form. This is a season that seems to call out for poetry. And brevity.

My own daily practice will be a form of lectio divina — a quiet reading of the text, multiple times, asking for words/phrases that speak to me in that moment . . . a word from the Lord. The reflections, which may often seem like prayers, will flow from the reading and/or the photo.

Will you come along with me, into the wilderness? I do believe that’s the place where God does good, good work in us. 

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Isaiah 58:1-12, The Message

“Shout! A full-throated shout!
Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
    law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

 “Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
a fast day that I, God, would like?

“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

“If you get rid of unfair practices,
    quit blaming victims,
    quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.

 

To all appearances . . .’
Ah, yes . . . appearances.

Why are they so important?

Lord, deliver me from snap judgments,
reactive interactions,
defensiveness.

Give me eyes to see to the heart
of the person in front of me —
beyond what they look like,
beyond what they act like.

That’s how I long to be seen!

That’s how I am seen . . .
by you.

You ask a lot.
But then . . . so do I.
On this journey,
may I
ask less,
receive more,
give more.

Do your work of restoration
in me, through me.

 

 

Please consider subscribing to this series by subscribing to the blog — the box is in the right sidebar. That way, these daily devotionals will show up in  your inbox each day of Lent, right up until Easter.

Journey’s End! Christmas Day

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Luke 1:46b-55, NRSV

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Yesterday’s reading is the more common one for Christmas morning, but this year, we have the Magnificat. And it is so appropriate! This beautiful song/prayer, sung/offered by that young mother-to-be — it’s remarkable on so many levels. She sings of things turned upside-down — and that is exactly what her baby boy came to do, isn’t it? To turn this world around, to make us think and act and live differently, to help us look out for one another and to praise God for his goodness and mercy. May it be so!

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!!

An Advent Journey: Reflections for Weary Travelers — Day Twenty-Five — Fourth Sunday of Advent

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Luke 1:26-38, NRSV

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

This is it, friends. The beautiful story we celebrate every year. Take some time this morning to read it through — to mark down your own favorite phrases, the ones that catch your heart or make you wonder. Then ask God to give you some small shaft of new insight and understanding sbout the miracle that is the incarnation. What a crazy idea! God become human, entering into our messy world, becoming small, small, small. 

Oh, thank you, Jesus, for cramming your magnificence into the size of a zygote, for entering the womb of young Mary, for being born into poverty and exile, for living an itinerant yet richly-layered life, for dying in misery and for rising in glory. Hallelujah, hallelujah!

An Advent Journey: Reflections for Weary Travelers — Day Twenty-Four

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Judges 13:2-24, NRSV

There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. His wife was barren, having borne no children. And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Although you are barren, having borne no children, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, or to eat anything unclean,for you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor is to come on his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth. It is he who shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” Then the woman came and told her husband,“A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like that of an angel of God, most awe-inspiring; I did not ask him where he came from, and he did not tell me his name; but he said to me, ‘You shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth to the day of his death.’”

Then Manoah entreated the Lord, and said, “O Lord, I pray, let the man of God whom you sent come to us again and teach us what we are to do concerning the boy who will be born.” God listened to Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, “The man who came to me the other day has appeared to me.” Manoah got up and followed his wife, and came to the man and said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to this woman?” And he said, “I am.”  Then Manoah said, “Now when your words come true, what is to be the boy’s rule of life; what is he to do?” The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Let the woman give heed to all that I said to her.She may not eat of anything that comes from the vine. She is not to drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. She is to observe everything that I commanded her.”

Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “Allow us to detain you, and prepare a kid for you.” The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat your food; but if you want to prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the Lord.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of theLord.) Then Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your words come true?” But the angel of theLord said to him, “Why do you ask my name? It is too wonderful.”

So Manoah took the kid with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the Lord, to him who works wonders. When the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar while Manoah and his wife looked on; and they fell on their faces to the ground.The angel of the Lord did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. Then Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” But his wife said to him, “If theLord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.”

The woman bore a son, and named him Samson. The boy grew, and the Lord blessed him.

Many years ago, before I ever entered seminary, before I became a pastor, I wrote a series of small, one-act, readers’-theater versions of several OT stories. This was one of my favorites. I mean, just read it! This woman is the hero of the entire drama, and she is never even named. NEVER EVEN NAMED.

For all of history, she remains, “Manoah’s wife.”

And Manoah? What a dunce! She tells him what’s happened to her and his feathers are ruffled. “Why didn’t that man come to ME? I’m the man of the house!” And then he doesn’t believe what she tells him.

So the angel comes again and decides to depart in a particularly dramatic way. FINALLY, Manoah understands that his wife was right all the time. She did have a visit from a messenger of God. SHE, not he.

Seems to me that the messengers of God have a partiality for women during this Advent season. 

Thank you, Lord God, for all the nameless women who have gone before us, who have been faithful, who have seen you, active in their lives. Thank you for their witness, even without being named. And help us, with the increased power and recognition that has been gained over time, help us women of today to be as faithful and true as this one was. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.