April 6th Lenten Devotional

Grace is Greater

Amanda Hecht

Mark 14:10-11

Twelve disciples have been called and left everything. They have stayed by Jesus’s side when times were good and public approval was high, and at times when the crowds began to turn against Jesus. They followed Jesus when there was imminent danger. They have all heard the things that Jesus taught with authority. They have witnessed Jesus’ healing and other miracles. For three years they have followed Jesus. If Judas leaves the fold here, it is not because he has seen or experienced anything less than the other disciples. If he chooses to walk away, it is not because Jesus has loved him any less than he loved the other disciples.

It is a mystery why Judas would betray Jesus when he received so much from Jesus. But we should not overlook the fact that Peter also made a disastrous decision when Jesus was arrested. However Peter was restored to relationship with the resurrected Jesus; while Judas, in despair, took his own life.

As followers of Jesus in our lifetimes, even when we have received much from Jesus, sometimes we make decisions that betray or deny the commitment we once made to follow. The question perhaps isn’t so much why we make these kinds of decisions, but what will we do next? Will we return and seek forgiveness and restoration?

For centuries, Christians have prayed this simple prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Although this prayer admits our sinfulness, it places the emphasis where it belongs – on God’s great mercy. Try repeating this prayer a few times throughout the day. As you pray, allow yourself to believe that God’s grace that is greater than all of your sin.

Amanda Hecht is pastor at Faith Community Church, in Wakaw, SK, Canada. Affiliated with the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada, Faith Community is nestled on the Canadian Prairies.

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

April 3rd Lenten Devotional

God Our Provider

Amelia Houdeck

Psalm 102:23-28

Hands reaching. Hearts hoping. Souls crying out to be saved from the very real oppression and injustice in everyday life. In these times we feel insecure and unsafe and cling to temporal things for momentary relief from our grief. Perhaps we lament, “Why are you allowing this to happen, O God?”, as our Psalmist David intimates (Ps. 102:23-24) Who will set the captive free? Who will reverse the tide of injustice? Who will deliver us from our grief? Where can joy be found? Questions of restoration linger in the echoes of our mind. The psalmist echoes our cries.

In Lent we contemplate the state of our lives and the lives of others. As we feel our hurts and lament God’s seeming absence let us not lose faith and hope that the Christ, who has shared in our every experience, will meet us in the darkest places physically, mentally, and spiritually. God’s faithfulness in Christ allows us to sit in the midst of darkness and not lose hope but cling fast to the faithfulness of One who provides all that we need. God has been faithful before. God will be faithful to provide and restore us to fullness of life again. (Ps. 102: 27-28)

We pray: God of provision and restoration, grant us faith in our questioning and peace in our turmoil. Let us endure with you in this Lenten season clinging fast to the cross in the promise that we too will be resurrected and redeemed with Christ.

Amelia Houdek is pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Spring Valley, WI, a church connecting to God, our neighbor, and the world.

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

April 2nd Lenten Devotional

Promises

Michael Bowe

Psalm 102:12-17

We make a lot of promises to others and many promises are made to us. Sadly, too many promises are broken on both ends of the equation. Unfortunately, promises are easy to make and often easier to break, but generally hard to keep. I often wonder if God feels this way. God has a perfect track record on promise keeping, and I don’t foresee that changing. Throughout Lent, we reflect on God’s sacrifice and yearn to understand God’s promise to resurrect and redeem the world through Christ. Yet, can God resurrect and redeem the mess I make on a daily basis? The Psalmist reminds us that no matter what it is we are going through that “the LORD sits enthroned forever.” The LORD extends compassion and our respected cities will be resurrected, or rebuilt. No matter the destruction, God does not despise our pleas. The Psalmist reminds us that no matter the circumstance, even the cross of Christ, “You will arise and have compassion…” No matter how destructive and destitute our situation is, “the LORD will rebuild…” No matter how bad, “the LORD never despises the prayers and pleas of the destitute.” Now that is a promise I am glad God keeps.

Holy Lord, We need your help, and so does everyone else. You promised to respond and not despise the pleas and prayers of the destitute, so hear our prayer and help us rebuild our Zions. Amen.

Michael Bowe, D.Min. works for a men’s drug and alcohol recovery center in Huntsville, AL

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

April 1st News and Notes

Palm Sunday

This Sunday is Palm Sunday.  I would love to have a virtual processional, but I need your help.  I am asking everyone of all ages to either make a palm leaf or grab some kind of leaf from your home and take a video of you waiving it.  Get creative!  You can text the video to 309-357-0132 or email it to ckdeacon@yahoo.com  Here is sample pattern or you can make your own!

Holy Week

Join us as we journey through Holy Week.  Next week, Monday April 6th – Thursday April 9th, at 7:30, we will have a study based on “Entering the Passion of Jesus” by Amy Jill-Levine.  You can join us through Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/159967508

Stay at Home Order

Maryland, DC, and Virginia have issued stay at home orders enforcable by fines and/or jail time.  If you need to be out on essential business, please let Chris know and he can send you a letter to protect you while out.

Worship Opportunities

Until we are able to worship together, we will worship through Zoom on Sunday mornings at 10:00, 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
    IOnce 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 today 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

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the food pantry this past week.  They were very appreciative!

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April 1st Lenten Devotional

Hear My Prayer, O Lord!

Andrea Allan

Psalm 102:1-11

The writer of this Psalm is clearly in a lot of pain and angst. Today is April Fools Day and it would seem that the Psalmist believes God has made a fool out of them. In not answering their prayers, they believe that God is angry at them, that God has forsaken them when they need God the most.

How many of us have come to God begging this same prayer, crying out in pain, hoping against hope that God has not forgotten us? Hear my prayer, O God! In pain and suffering we cry out. God why have you not heard my prayer? Living a full life means we will be hurting at times. The human experience means feeling all emotions. Even the most faithful follower of God will at some point feel forgotten, begging God to hear their prayer.

Yet, we know that it is not because we are unfaithful that God feels far. God never left the Israelites, God certainly never left Jesus, and God never leaves us alone. At times however, we feel like we are alone. At times we feel like the Psalmist did when they wrote these verses – alone, forgotten, betrayed. Yet, God is always with us.

The season of lent may raise up difficult emotions, but it is also a time when God reminds us, She is there – loving us, holding us, keeping us – even if we can’t feel it right now.

Thank you God that you never leave me. Help me to feel you near as I walk this Lenten journey. Help me to seek out others who may be in pain and let me be your hands and feet offering hope and healing in a hurting world. In Christ I pray, Amen.

Rev. Andrea Allan (she/her) serves in a United Church congregation that is part of a multi-faith centre called The Cedars in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. She lives with her family in Stratford Ontario.

©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 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.

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.