April 16th Easter Devotional

Empty Tomb

Catherine Malotky

Luke 24:1-12

When circumstances don’t make sense, what do we do? The women went to Jesus’ tomb, no doubt still reeling from his trial, torture and public death. They could at least make some sense of it by anointing his body after a hasty burial. But then surprise after surprise, each shocking, each unexpected: the tomb open, the stone rolled aside, the body missing, and then the two men suddenly there, in dazzling clothes. No wonder they were terrified!

And yet, when reminded, the women could recall the promise and suddenly things fell into place. Can we blame them for their confusion and terror? Can we blame the apostles who could not believe the fantastical story the women told, an idle tale? In spite of the promise, can we believe it? Jesus, raised from the dead?

When our faith seems powerless because death is too close; when we have lost track of our holiness, the promise that we are made in the image of God; when we can no longer see in our neighbor the face of Jesus; when we despair over the damage done to us or that which we have done to others; then we must stand in the tomb with the women, and later, with Peter.

Today, Easter, we see that he is gone, the linen cloths without the body. Today, we gather at the Eucharist, to taste and see the risen Christ, given and shed for you. Recall the promise. In Jesus, from every death, life will rise again. New life is yours.

 

Rev. Catherine Malotky is an ELCA pastor serving as Director of Development at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN.

©2017 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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April 15th Lenten Devotional

Aftermath and Hope

Julie Holm

Luke 23:50-56

There is something very empty and barren about the day we call Holy Saturday.  All scripture tells us is that the disciples kept the Sabbath.  What would it have been like to be a disciple that day?   You thought Jesus was a great Prophet maybe the Messiah, you thought he could do anything, but now?  It’s all gone.   Unlike us, who are not able to view the events of Holy Week without knowing about the resurrection, they had no idea what God had in mind.

I grew up Roman Catholic and every year went to the Easter Vigil.   One year, as a young woman, I attended one at Catholic University in Washington DC.  At midnight, in the woods, after a quiet day, we walked in the cold and dark, silently grieving, before that moment when light broke the darkness and a bonfire broke the cold.   It was a dramatic moment.

No Gospel includes this moment in the dark, in the night before dawn.   The moment we can’t know or understand, when the time of grieving and terror was suddenly, wondrously, transformed into life and joy and hope.  Every year I try to get to a Vigil, because it feeds me with that moment.   The service relies on symbols of light, of water, of word, and of the table to bring us from our bereft state to the most glorious celebration we have been given by God.

There is probably a vigil in your area, too.  Try it.

Rev. Julie Holm pastors the Brush Valley Fusion of Faith in Rebersburg and Madisonburg, PA:  St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, St. Peter’s Lutheran (ELCA) and Christ United Church of Christ. She is one of the editors of this volume.

©2017 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

April 14th Lenten Devotional

Facing Change

Allison Byerley

Luke 23:32-47

The journey to the cross is complete. I am struck anew by the different responses of the crowd and Jesus. The crowd is silent or mocking, scoffing, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah!” The soldiers join in and cast lots for his clothes. The inscription above him is intended as a mockery. Even one of the thieves joins in, adding, “Save yourself and us!”

Have you ever been in a situation where everyone around you was hostile, laughing at you, mocking you? It makes you cringe and want to be as small as possible. As the derision continues, anger flairs up and burns hot. The fight-or-flight instinct is strong, though for Jesus, neither option is possible.

See how Jesus responds. “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they do.” Jesus continues to show us the way of love, even on the cross. Forgiving those who nailed him there. Forgiving those who mock him. Forgiving those who remain silent. And when the other thief rebukes the one who mocked Jesus and begs to be remembered, Jesus offers mercy and grace – “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Responding with forgiveness and mercy when people intend you grave bodily and mental harm is against human nature, but it is the heart of God’s nature. As Christians (little Christs), we see how we should respond and confess that we often (well, mostly) fall short. Only through the grace of God can we hope to be Christ-like in our response to those who wish us ill. Ask, and you shall receive. Jesus promised.

Rev. Dr. Allison Byerley is the Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Hawkins, TX. She is one of the editors of this volume.

©2017 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

April 13th Lenten Devotional

In This Very Room

Julie Holm

Luke 22:1-27

Ron Harris wrote his well-known hymn in a hotel room at the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans, during a long business trip.   After talking to his wife and children in Los Angeles on the phone, he found himself filled with deep longing to be with his family, and feeling exceptionally lonely.  Out of the dark, and out of nowhere, he reports, the words “in this very room” came to him, along with the ideas.  His loneliness was gone and he felt “powerful and healed.”

For the disciples, it’s backwards.   They don’t yet know what is ahead – the fear, the loneliness, the guilt of abandoning their Lord, their inability to stay awake in Gethsemane is all ahead, and for a short moment all of the twelve sit together at table fellowship, which has been a regular part of Jesus’ ministry.   They must feel warm and collegial, after three long years, together with those closest to them, those they have been doing ministry with, celebrating one of their holy times, a festival of freedom, the Passover.

But today is different.   Today God’s love pours out even more as Jesus takes bread and the cup, blesses it, breaks it, shares it with those who will deny him, those who will fall asleep on him, those who will abandon him, even the one who will betray him.   In this room is all the Love in the world.   In this world, in the calm before the storm, is the Reign of God.

In this very room there’s quite enough love for all the world,

And in this very room there’s quite enough joy for all the world,

And there’s quite enough hope and quite enough power

to chase away any gloom,

For Jesus, Lord Jesus … is in this very room.

(“In This Very Room,” Words and music by Ron and Carol Harris, 1979, as printed in Chalice Hymnal,©1995 Chalice Press #295)

 

Rev. Julie Holm pastors the Brush Valley Fusion of Faith in Rebersburg and Madisonburg, PA:  St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, St. Peter’s Lutheran (ELCA) and Christ United Church of Christ. She is one of the editors of this volume.

 

©2017 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

April 12th Lenten Devotional

Practice

Tom O’Brien

Luke 21:29-36

When I was younger, I gave things up for Lent.  Lately I find it more helpful to take on new things instead.  Now, I take on new spiritual practices, trying to focus on my spiritual life.  I seek God’s Kingdom through labyrinth walks, centering prayer, or some other action.  There’s a part of myself that actually believes that Lenten practices will help me find the Kingdom.

Jesus was always telling those around him that the Kingdom of God was near.  He used sermons and poetry and stories to try and explain what he meant.  In the Parable of the Fig Tree, Jesus reminds us of the hope we can find in the changing of the seasons.  The trees around us may still be bare but we know that they’ll sprout leaves soon.  Our world may seem bleak but the Kingdom – the world of peace and justice and equality that our Creator intended for us – is near.  We may not reach it in our lifetimes but, if we follow Jesus’ example, our actions will bring it just a bit closer.

My Lenten practices won’t change the world.  They won’t even change my own life as much as I’d hope.  I can’t let that weigh me down.  If we let ourselves get burdened by doubt and worry, the Kingdom will keep slipping away.  Instead we can focus on the Kingdom, remember that the trees will bloom again, and seek solace in the peace of Christ.

 

Rev. Tom O’Brien is Senior Pastor of Memorial Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Sudbury, MA.

 

©2017 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

April 11th Lenten Devotional

Trouble in the Vineyard

Joe Genau

Luke 20:9-19

It seems there’s always trouble in the vineyard.

This time, there is bloodshed in the vineyard. And if we’ve been listening to Jesus, we’re not surprised. He’s been cleansing the temple and lamenting. He’s been sharing some heavy parables. He’s been causing trouble. And now, he’s giving us a bleak vineyard. Fruit grows, wine is pressed, but it’s blood that stains the ground of this vineyard.

It’d be a hard image to swallow if we didn’t know this story so well in our own vineyard.

Our world is one in which the kind of violence Jesus describes barely registers in our brains anymore. We see: hungry people, vulnerable cast aside, children killed for being the kind of kid who lives in a vineyard.

There is bloodshed in the vineyard. The tenants have turned on the landowner. The tenants have killed prophets. We know this parable. We live this parable.

I wonder, when we look at the troubles in the vineyard, do we ever suspect that God may just stop showing up? What will God do with our brokenness? What will God do with our persistent rejection, and violence, and turning away?

It seems God does not abandon. It seems God won’t be satisfied picking up the pieces we reject and going home to feel sorry for us. God takes our brokenness and makes a new thing. A new promise. A new covenant. And the parts we reject – the violence and bad fruit we choose instead — well, they become the cornerstone.

Rev. Joe Genau is the Pastor of Edgewood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

 

©2017 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

April 10th Lenten Devotional

Peace

Julie King

Luke 19:41-48

 “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!”

The city of Jerusalem is one of the most fought-over bits of geography on the planet. Jews, Christians and Muslims all revere it as one of the most holy places on earth. Throughout its history, the city has been bought, sold, fought over, conquered, resettled, conquered again, rebuilt, conquered again, etc. Which makes the meaning of the name “Jerusalem” as the City of Peace all the more ironic.

Sometimes, when all you do is fight, it’s hard to recognize peace, even when it’s right in front of you.

We live in a world fiercely divided—by politics, economics, education, sports teams, for crying out loud! We fight and bicker and post/repost insulting messages and “unfriend” people who see the world differently than we do. It makes me wonder: can we recognize the things that make for peace?

Luke’s gospel makes clear that Jesus had priorities in his ministry, most significantly ministry to the poor. He also prioritized those who were held captive in some way—physical (the lame, the blind, the sick), political (the imprisoned or condemned), demonic possession, or by sin.

On this day, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, people recognized him and cheered for him. But they didn’t recognize what he stood for, what he prioritized. And Jesus saw that they never would, not until it was too late. Jesus wept for a city of peace that was unjust and unsustainable.

Does Jesus weep for us?

Lord Jesus, help us to bring your peace to the corners of the world where we have influence. Help us make your priorities our priorities, so that in the kingdom of God, we may see true peace. Amen.

Rev. Julie King is pastor of Macon Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church in Brookfield, both in Northern Missouri.

©2017 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.