March 31st Lenten Devotional

Flee!

Wayne C Drueck

Mark 13:14-23

“…be ready to run for it when you see the monster of desecration…” (Mark 13:14 MSG)

When I was a kid we vacationed in Northern Wisconsin. There was a water pump in the center of the cabins. After returning from the dump at night to watch the bears my father would point to this shadowy object and cry “It’s a bear!” Every year it scared the bejeebers out of us and every year we fled in terror!

The advice Jesus gives in this passage is “Flee!” “…run for the hills; if you’re working in the yard, don’t go back to the house to get anything; if you’re out in the field, don’t go back to get your coat.” Flee!

Many people see this passage as predicting the end times but that is not entirely true. This passage is a classic example of the “now and not yet” nature of prophecy. The “now” part is that the Romans are gathering to ransack the Temple, the “Desolating sacrilege,” that hearkens back to Daniel. The “not yet” part is that Jesus cryptically hints that this is a harbinger of the end times. It is a dire message. Flee!

Yet, even in the middle of danger, God offers hope: “but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days.” (13: 20, NRSV) God tells us that even in the most frightening of days, it won’t last long. God’s presence and power will cut short the danger, tame the monster, and we will need to flee no more.

God, thank you for taming our monsters and cutting short times of fear with your comforting presence.”

Wayne C. Drueck is a retired UCC pastor, currently serving as Pastoral Liaison, St.
Stephens UCC in Merrill, WI.

©2020 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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March 30th Lenten Devotional

Trust in Trials

Steve Merrin

Mark 13:9-13

It is hard for us North American Christians today to imagine the experience of those early Christians living when the Gospel of Mark was written. They were facing a level of hostility and persecution we just cannot understand. There were times in which there was a very real possibility that a believer might be dragged in front of a court or a mob of angry people to explain what it was they believed. And the dangers and consequences were very real, even at times life and death. In this passage Jesus is telling them that when we face this situation, they should trust that the Holy Spirit would give them the words to say. That God would give them what they needed to remain faithful. Could we trust in God that much?

As daunting as this hypothetical situation may seem, I find the less dramatic situation most of us finds ourselves in to be just as hard of a call. In our lives we face all kinds of problems, setbacks, and burdens that can weigh us down. I think this is a call to us to place our trust in God and trust that the Holy Spirit will give us whatever we need to face whatever we are facing. On this last Monday of Lent before Holy Week: can we trust in God even during our trials? Can You trust in God? Can I trust in God?
Pray: Dear Jesus, we thank you that you suffered for us and in so doing can empathize with us in our everyday trials and tribulations. As we face these difficulties, we pray that you would help us lean on the Holy Spirit that you have given us. We ask this in your name. Amen.
Steve Merrin is the pastor of 1st United Presbyterian Church, PC(U.S.A.) in Bellefontaine, Ohio

©2020 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

March 28th Lenten Devotional

How Long?

Shannon Borgman

Psalm 89:39-48

Great expectations have been shattered. The people of God are left to destruction, left to pain, left to pick up the pieces of what seems to be a broken promise. The Psalmist cries out, “Whereis the love you are famous for? How long will you hide your face?” Exile has become the narrative.

There is deep sorrow in the Psalm and yet there is a glimmer of hope revealed in two simple words. How long? And with these two words from the mouth of the Psalmist a deeper understanding of God’s work is revealed. Though the pain is crushing, at some point it will end.

When the great promises in our life become great disappointments it’s natural to question God’s love. Sometimes the crushing reality of the world is overwhelming, and the love of God seems far away. The question then is how long? How long is it really going to last? How long will the suffering go on? It’s in these times of deep grief that we are meant to do as the Psalmist has.

For God’s love is present in the pain. God’s promise is still there. It’s ok to ask “How long?” For we are meant to bring the grief of unfulfilled promise to God in prayer. We are meant to let the promise rest. We are meant to allow our hearts to be vulnerable and ask “How long?”

Dear Lord, Where is the love you are so famous for? Where has the promise of your grace gone? I know that you have promised, but all I have is one question? How long will you hide? How long will I suffer? How long will I hurt? Remember me in my pain. Find me in my sorrow. Amen.

Shannon Borgman is involved with Oregon Trail Presbyterian Ministries.

©2020 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

March 27th Lenten Devotional

Hating the Anointed

Julie Holm

Psalm 89:38-45

This is a super difficult portion of the psalm for me. The psalmist is clearly angry, angry with a leader who has in some way failed him or his expectations. And he projects his anger and his own vengeance on God.

Let me be clear that I don’t think God ever participates in hate. Not even in the worst of situations or against the most sinful of people. Everyone is a beloved child of God. But in our meaning-making, we love to project God’s justice.

And we want people to hear our complaint, our cry, our righteous indignation. And for those of us who are oppressed, it may even be important to justice for our situation to be acknowledged, to be understood, to be reconciled.

But let us work on our anger, our hate. Let us choose instead to respond as a parent might to an erring child. Let us include the one we worry about, or the one whose actions we abhor, in our prayers. Because it is their choices, their actions, we abhor, surely, not them as people?

And in this election year, let us resist the constant drumbeat to see our political opponents as enemies, as evil. Because they too, even they, are beloved children of God. And they deserve our prayers, our care, yes, even our love, just as much as those we agree with, that we are in harmony with.

Instead of fasting from food, fast from hate. When someone does something that bothers you, whether it is a family member, a neighbor, or a lawmaker you read about in the  news, respond as if they were a beloved child of someone. Because they are. Of God.

Julie Holm is the pastor of the Brush Valley Fusion of Faith, a charge in the UCC and ELCA located in Rural Central Pennsylvania, and is the editor of this devotional. She is also the artist at Spirit Descending Vestments.

©2020 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

March 26th Lenten Devotional

Deeply Loved

Todd Farnsworth

Psalm 89:19-37

I teach a spiritual practice called: Tapping Prayer. Participants tap on various parts of their upper body while praying and, the outcome is usually an experience of peace around whatever issue the individual is praying. You can read more about tapping prayer at tappingintoprayernow.org.

A tapping prayer begins by identifying an issue that is keeping you from feeling God’s serenity in your life. I might say, “Even though I am feeling afraid of the news in this cycle…” or “Even though I am angry at my friend for what he/she did…” The more specific, the better. That is followed by an affirmation: a simple phrase that brings a cosmic balance to the issue. I often use, “I am deeply loved and completely accepted by God.” When I use tapping prayer with someone who has never tried it, I am surprised by how emotional the newbie becomes when saying those words. Sometimes they cry. Sometimes the words get stuck in their throat.

I wonder if the psalmist was feeling emotional when they spoke these words of affirmation in the midst of their prayer:

“My faithful love will be with him, and through my name his horn/strength
will be exalted.”–Ps 89:24

Have you considered God’s faithful love with you in the midst of your trials
through Lent? Or have you gotten stuck in the muck of your sins and challenges?

As you pray today, try saying, I am deeply loved and completely accepted by God out loud. If it is too difficult, try saying, I can consider that I am deeply loved and completely
accepted by God. Despite the tribulations of Lent, you are deeply loved and completely accepted by God.

Rev. Todd Farnsworth is pastor of the Briarcliff Congregational Church in Briarcliff Manor, NY. When he isn’t teaching tapping prayer he is walking with his wife in the woods or catering to his two cats, Cupcake and Clementine.

 

©2020 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

March 25th News and Notes

Worship Opportunities

In person worship is canceled through April 5th.  We will once again, reevaluate after that.  Until then, we will have short prayer services Tuesday evenings at 7:30 and Thursday afternoons at 1:00 through Zoom.  You can sign in with this link – https://zoom.us/j/159967508 or call  in at 1-301-715-8592, using meeting ID 159 967 508. When it prompts you for a user id, simply hit the pound sign.  We will try worshiping by Zoom this Sunday at 10:00 using the same link.  A video of Sunday worship will be posted shortly after it is completed.

Faith 5

In an attempt to maintain community and stay connected, I would like to invite you to join in Faith 5.  Those who participate in Faith 5 will be randomly paired with somebody else.   The two of you would touch base twice a week and go through the follwing five steps:
1.  Share Highs and Lows
2.  Read a scripture (you could take turns picking or just flop open the Bible and see what it lands on!)
3.  Share how scripture relates to highs and lows
4.  Share prayer requests
5.  Bless one another/pray for one another
    Once you and your partner are connected, you can negotiate what this looks like for you.  This is a great way to stay connected and grow closer to one another during this time of social distancing.  If you would like to participate, please email ckdeacon@yahoo.com and let me know the best contact phone number.  Partners will be notified next week.

Giving

Several people have asked how they can continue to make their tithes and offerings while we are not meeting in person.  There are several ways.  You can mail a check to the church.  You can give online through paypal https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=KJTC62AUPNWCE&source=url   You can also set up a payment through your banks online bill pay feature.  Paypal charges the church approximately 3%, so please consider either consider giving through one of the other two ways or adding 3% to your offering to offset the fee.

Cure for isolation

Many of our members may feel isolated.  We have had someone step up and offer to try and teach zoom, google hangouts, facetime or other tech programs to better reach out to friends and family.  If you would like help with that, please email me at ckdeacon@yahoo.com and I will set up a time.

Assistance

If any of our members who are “at risk” do not feel safe running errands, we have put together a team to help you out.  Please email me at ckdeacon@yahoo.com and I will put you in touch with them.

Food Pantry

Last week, the Bowie Food Pantry was broken into.  With the economic uncertainty facing our nation right now, there is a bigger need for help then usual.  If you would like to contribute to the Bowie Food Pantry, Janice Sheppard will be at the church on March 30th from 10-11 to collect any donations and deliver them.

Worship Survey

As we navigate these new and uncertain times, we are having to adapt.  This past week was our second Sunday, worshipping digitally with at least more Sundays ahead of us.  As we try new things, feedback is essential.  If you joined us in worship or not, could you take a few moments and fill out the survey through this link.

March 25th Lenten Devotional

Rejoice All Day

Robb McCoy

Psalm 89:15-18

We are spending all week in this Psalm, and for good reason. Psalm 89 is one of the longer Psalms, the last Psalm in Book III of the Psalter, and considered by most to be a lament over the loss of the Davidic Monarchy. This is a Psalm written in exile, when the hope of the people was dashed by the invading Babylonian empire.

Yet it was in the midst of this devastation that the Psalmist writes of ‘hessed,’ the Hebrew word often translated as “Steadfast love.” In this Psalm, it is used six different times. The first 30 verses serve as a reminder of God’s promises to David. There is a turn that is coming. It will move from celebration for what God has done to lament over how the people have failed. But we’re not there yet. Today, God is moving. In today’s reading, we are reminded that true happiness and strength come from God.

Happy are those who celebrate with God! Here, a little over halfway through our Lenten journey, we can be reminded of this truth. Yes, Lent is a time for reflection, repentance, and taking seriously the sin of the world. This passage however, is a reminder that even in the most difficult of times, we can find happiness in giving thanks. Mindset is a powerful thing – it may not cure all anxiety or depression, but celebration surely is good medicine for the wary.

Write down “Rejoice in God’s name all day long.” Put it in your wallet. Put it on a post-it on your computer. Fix it to your refrigerator. Try earnestly today to rejoice in God all day long. Even if you are in the midst of an exile, wondering if God is truly present. Rejoice in God all day long, and see if you are uplifted.

Robb McCoy is the pastor of Two Rivers UMC in Rock Island, Illinois; and a producer of the Pulpit Fiction Podcast.

©2020 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

March 24th Lenten Devotional

A Timely Reminder

Allison Byerley

Psalm 89:5-14

As the fifth Sunday in Lent approaches and, with it, Jesus’ words about the coming end of the age, we hear the psalmist reminding us that all is not lost, that God is faithful and sovereign. All of creation recognizes this and praises for God resound from the heavens, the waves of the seas, the north and south. Righteousness and justice are the foundation and steadfast love and faithfulness go before God.

We need to hear this! Not just because the cross is getting closer but because we live in a world that continues to wait for the fulfillment of the kingdom of God. A world in which righteousness and justice are not the foundations and steadfast love and faithfulness are an aspiration. We need a timely reminder that God is present and at work in the chaos of our lives.

For today, turn off the discordant noise of the world around you. Avoid the news. Don’t look at social media. Proclaim a fast and turn instead to nature to see the glory of the Creator and hear the praises of the skies and the earth. Take a walk, outside if possible, and feel the air on your face. Spring has arrived, so look for glimpses of the new life that is emerging. Ask of the heavens, “Who is as mighty as our God?” Listen for the music of the birds as they answer. Or meditate on a beautiful work of art. Take a look at the painting of creation that begins Genesis in the amazing St. John’s Bible, which is featured here and may be seen in color at https://www.saintjohnsbible.org/Promotions/Explore/.

Prayer: God, remind me that you are here, that your steadfast love and faithfulness are with me always. Amen.

©2020 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

March 23rd Lenten Devotional

The Whole Story

Peter Hamm

Psalm 89:1-4

If you only read these four verses of Psalm 89, you can be forgiven for thinking it’s a “happy-clappy everything-is-awesome-so-God-is-awesome” escape from the harsh realities of life. Only, like so many of the psalms (at least my favorites), it isn’t.

If you sit down and read the whole very long psalm, you get a sense of a history that is not simple, that includes stories of God’s justice and righteousness, of God’s deliverance and provision, yes… but also reminders of those times when God seems far away, when things are not going so great.

Does this paint the psalmist as an escapist who marvels at how good God is and forgets all the bad times? I don’t think so. God is good, sometimes “stuff happens”, the world makes no sense, monsters become people of power, people of power become monsters, sickness, loss… things like that.

God is good anyway. In the midst of all of that, not despite it.

We remember today, Lord, that your goodness and mercy reign, even when we recall the times when it seemed far away, when you seemed far away. We celebrate your love in our lives and world, even, maybe especially, when the memory of difficult times is keenly felt.

Peter Hamm is the pastor (and sometimes worship leader) at Grace United Methodist Church in Norwood, OH.

©2020 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

March 21st Lenten Devotional

Seeking a Sign

Murray Everett Phillips

Psalm 86:16-17

When the stress of life begins to overwhelm, to whom do you turn? For those who believe in rugged individualism, one perhaps views him or herself as an “island” a rock who stands alone. Still others may see a need to lean on other people which is a model of family or community, even if it is not perfect. I often think of situations where there is an unhealthy co-dependency that enables more than supports.

Lest we believe modern life to be hectic and we’ve no where to turn, centuries earlier, King David faced many stressful situations. As a member of his predecessor Saul’s court, he was a victim of extreme jealousy from the king that forced him to run for his life. Later, in his own palace, David had to escape from his son Absalom who sought his life.

In David’s worst moments, he turned to the one source who provides relief. He turned to God. Psalm 86, is a prayer for deliverance from personal enemies. The concluding two verses are David’s closing request for safety, strength, and a sign that God is at work providing help and protection.

Are we open to praying boldly during our time of personal trial? Do we have faith that such prayer will be answered? Maybe we refrain because we have a tinge of guilt that such requests seems selfish and self-serving. However, we follow a Creator who knows us and loves us unconditionally. Therefore, it is acceptable to bring our hopes, fears, and wishes to him in prayer.

Lord, no matter whether my current state is good or bad, give me confidence to always come to you in prayer. Amen.

Murray Phillips is pastor of the North Lincoln Parish (PCUSA) in Whiteside, MO as well as an institution chaplain for the MO Department of Corrections and the U.S. Army Reserves.

©2020 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.