Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6 Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43 John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher) . . . Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
John 20:1-18

At first she thought he was the gardener.

So it was on that first Easter morning: The ugliness of death had been swept away and Mary Magdalene was the first to understand.

Jesus had gone to the Cross not to satisfy a bloodthirsty God, but to descend with us into the worst moments of pain a human could suffer and take that pain upon himself. And he did so to show us how to live without fear and bring us to hope and wholeness.

Beginning with Mary Magdalene, those who first experienced the Risen Christ began to understand the real meaning of Jesus’ life -- and the real meaning of their own lives. They continued to write the story of the Risen Christ in the way they lived afterwards.

This story is also our story. We continue to write the story of the Risen Christ by how we live our lives.

This way of life is not just about the afterlife that we cannot yet see. This is also about how we live right now, here, today and tomorrow. Salvation does not wait until the next life. Salvation comes right now.

May this Easter bring you many blessings; may you live in the hope of the salvation that is yours forever.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

The Rev. James Richardson

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday

Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16Job 14:1-14 or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-241 Peter 4:1-8Matthew 27:57-66 or John 19:38-42


In the fullness of time,
God spoke the Word
into a woman.

The Word came to know
her blood,
her warmth,
her voice.
She held him nine months
and brought him forth
for the revealing of hearts
and the piercing of her soul.

When he was rejected, scorned, killed,
the earth received him
into her arms.

The Word came to know
her stone,
her cold,
her silence.
She held him three days
and breathed him forth
for the redeeming of the world
and the tearing of the veil.

Knowing woman, knowing earth,
the Word speaks truth
with tenderness: Love one another.

The Rev. Dr. Ann Bagley Willms

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

Psalm 22 Isaiah 52:13-53:12Hebrews 10:16-25 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9John 18:1-19:42

Everybody has a story to tell. But, more profoundly, every body tells a story. Even before a person begins to develop a story about who they are, their body has already begun to bear their story. From birth -- the moment their body is distinct from their mother’s body -- a person carries in and on their body the story of their inheritance. And not long after birth, that body begins learning language by which their story is expanded beyond the body and brought into the broader matrix of stories. The flesh becomes word.

However, in Jesus Christ, the Word became flesh. For the story of Jesus Christ is not just the embodied story of the son of Mary, but also the eternal Story of the Son of God, through whom and for whom the Father speaks the story of all Creation (Colossians 1:16). Therefore, the story of the invisible, triune God is revealed in the embodied story of Jesus of Nazareth -- the Gospel. But in the gospel texts that story changes as it approaches the cross. He whose words bring life is muted (Isaiah 53:7; Mark 14:61). As the passion story unfolds, the narrative overtakes Jesus and constricts around his body and its pain.

The Word is nailed to the flesh irrevocably. The point of the crucifixion was the silencing of the story through the obliteration of the body. The goal was not simply death, but the complete eradication of the body (which made crucifixion one of Rome’s three Supreme Penalties). The powers and principalities of this world destroy the body and extinguish the story of Jesus of Nazareth, co-opting the cry of dereliction (Mark 15:34) into their story of violence and domination. With a loud cry (Mark 15:37), the Word is exhausted; the peaceable story, silenced.

The Rev. Nik Forti

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday

Psalm 116:1, 10-17 Exodus 12:1-141 Corinthians 11:23-26John 13:1-17, 31b-35

“Why is this night different from all other nights?” The youngest child at a Passover Seder asks this question early in the Jewish annual ritual commanded in Exodus 12 that commemorates God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt.

Christians might well ask the same question of Maundy Thursday. In the accounts of the first three gospels, on this same Passover night Jesus shares his last supper with disciples using language and gestures that echo the Passover ritual while transforming it into what we recognize today as the sacrament of Holy Communion.

John 13, however, presents a dramatically different scene. Although the text does not say that the “supper” mentioned was the Passover meal, Christians through the ages have interpreted it that way. Instead of doing anything with bread and wine on “this night,” Jesus performs a ritualistic action that the lowliest of servants, a slave, carries out upon people’s arrival at a house: he washes his disciples’ feet.

Then, Jesus tells his disciples that they are to follow his example and wash each other’s feet—like him, they and we are to become servants. Just as the Passover brought a liberated people of God into being, Jesus’ feetwashing brings God’s people as a servant people into being.

Why is this night different from all other nights? Perhaps it is the night when Jesus calls us to a life of discipleship that follows not only the way of the cross articulated in the Eucharist, but also the way of the servant epitomized in the taking up of the basin and towel, leading us to be the liberated people of God, too. “O Lord, I am your servant . . . ,” the Psalmist declares, “You have loosed my bonds.”

The Rev. Heather Warren

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wednesday of Holy Week

Psalm 70Isaiah 50:4-9aHebrews 12:1-3John 13:21-32

Today, the betrayal of Judas is revealed, therefore foreshadowing the crucifixion of Jesus.

In the reading from John, Jesus does not accuse Judas; instead, he discreetly speaks to him: “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Jesus understood how this disciple would respond to the authorities seeking Jesus. Yet, I believe that even after this confrontation, Judas could have refused to betray his Master.

I want to think that I would not betray my friends, much less my teacher or my God. Yet I know that even Peter, the Rock, will deny Christ three times.

  • In what ways do I betray myself, others, and my faith in my daily life?

  • How do I deny the power of God in my life?

  • What must I do to live in harmony with my better self and in intimacy with God?

The Psalmist helps me to begin to tackle these issues by asking God “not to tarry” but to hasten to help and deliver me.

Isaiah affirms the ways God can help me to live a godly life through listening to God and helping others through my understanding.

Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews, urges Christians to see how Jesus can help in these endeavors: “let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross . . . and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Dear God, help me to reflect on my need for Christ as my guide to persevere in understanding myself and others, to resist the temptations to betray myself and others, and to face with joy the life I have.

Kay Slaughter

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday of Holy Week

Psalm 71:1-14Isaiah 49:1-71 Corinthians 1:18-31John 12:20-36

As I read the Scripture passages assigned for today, John 12:24 is the verse that drew me back to it again and again:
Unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain: but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.
New Jerusalem Bible
This reminded me of an anthem which a college classmate of mine, Natalie Sleeth, had composed.


In the bulb there is a flower; In the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise; Butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter, There’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, Something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, Seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, Bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; What it holds, a mystery.
Unrevealed until its season, Something God alone can see. 
In our end is our beginning; In our time, infinity.
In our doubt there is believing; In our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection; At the last, a victory.
Unrevealed until its season; Something God alone can see.

Betty Kerner

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday of Holy Week

Psalm 36:5-11Isaiah 42:1-9Hebrews 9:11-15John 12:1-11

How infinite is our God, who created the universe not ex nihilo but out of himself. Therefore, God is in all creation including each of us. To respond to this “Divine Indwelling” we must search for the meaning of who we are, and God’s call to us; then respond in gratitude. God chose to come into our world by taking on the mantle of our humanity, with all its frailties and brokenness, inviting us to “take refuge in the shadow of his wings.” Through the gift of Jesus, God invites us to look deep within ourselves and to realize our unity, not only with all of humanity, but in all of creation with God as its center. It is in this circle of unity that we will find wholeness, not in our separateness. Through his sacrifice, Jesus invites us to share in his humanity, through his resurrection he invites us to share in his divinity. How radiant is our God, in whose light we see light!

Each year we approach Holy Week seeking new insights into the momentous events that occurred then. The passage describing Mary anointing the feet of Jesus is, to me, one of the most enigmatic. Why did she choose nard (spikenard), an herbal ointment used in palliative care, the embalming process, and to help ease the transition from life into death. Emotionally, it was reserved for deep-seated grief. Mary seemed to have had prophetic and/or intuitive vision. Jesus certainly knew his death was imminent and perhaps he had shared this knowledge with her? Many scholars believe that this was Mary Magdalene, “watchtower of the flock,” apostle to the apostles. It may well have been so.

As we enter into Holy Week and the glory of Easter, may we fully realize the grace of God’s whole and infinite gift to us!

Nancy E. Brockman

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday

Psalm 31:9-16Isaiah 50:4-9aPhilippians 2:5-11Matthew 26:14-27:66 or Matthew 27:11-54

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness, and being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:5-8

The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from the insult and spitting.
Isaiah 50:5-6

By meeting the world’s violence with non-violent dissent, and its hatred with love so strong that he could pray for forgiveness for those who had betrayed him to his death, Christ challenges our entire understanding of conflict and its resolution. Those who incite violence and hatred expect to be met with either fear or anger; a retreat, or a return of their own violence, an eye for an eye, or at least angry curses. Anger begets anger, hatred begets hatred, and violence merely continues the endless cycle of violence, the passing of earthly power from one ruler to another.

The non-violent response described in today’s readings undermines that cycle, rejecting human structures of power and conflict. In this way, Christ’s sacrifice is not merely redemptive, but instructive. Doing what is expected, what is easy, what feels natural, may solve our problems for a day, for a year, but human power structures, human hierarchies, human approaches to conflict resolution, will not ultimately bring us closer to God. Only by rejecting those societal expectations can we truly learn to love one another more fully, to draw ever closer to the mind of God, and to usher in God’s kingdom on earth.

Beth Molmen

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Psalm 137Jeremiah 31:27-34Romans 11:25-36 John 11:28-44 or John 12:37-50

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. No words can describe the pathos of this Psalm; it is simply heart-rending. The desperation of a people wrenched from their home and forced to make mirth in the wake of catastrophe. We share their desperate grief. Our world is filled up with catastrophe. Life is splintered. The shadows threaten to strangle our bright hope for this Earth, our fragile home. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

Jesus wept, too. For one brief moment in the Gospel of John the cosmic Word-made-Flesh behaves like a child of our broken humanity rather than a scion of the bronzed race of the gods. He does not weep because Lazarus is lost, but because the great sadness of Mary penetrates the divinity of Christ and calls forth the tears of Jesus’ mortality. Jesus wept. But that is not the end of the story. The grief turns to astonished delight as Jesus calls forth Lazarus from out of the depths, alive again. Jesus commands those watching to unbind Lazarus from his death shroud and set him free.

Jesus weeps today, too, with and for our world. We may weep for our world—for our remembered Zion—but our weeping must turn to astonished delight, because Jesus has called this world back from the dead. To all who follow the Way of Jesus, he bids us unbind this world from its death shroud and set it free. And the new law of God, written on our hearts calls us to unbind this resurrected world, to pray for it, to live in it justly, to love in it mercifully—and in so doing, God will truly be our God, and we will be a people fit for God.

Andrew Guffey

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Psalm 22Jeremiah 29:1, 4-13Romans 11:13-24John 11:1-27 or John 12:1-10

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.”

The Psalmist cries out to God in this fashion for 21 verses. He feels completely abandoned by God. My guess is that all of us have felt this way at one time or another and that God has left us alone to do “the heavy lifting.”

In my work as a Volunteer Chaplain at UVa Medical Center, I encounter these cries every time I do an on-call rotation. I encounter suffering at all levels: physical, emotional, and spiritual. The suffering is intense, and at times I have felt completely helpless to assist people in alleviating their pain. I have wanted to cry out the words that the Psalmist wrote, and add to them, “and why have you forsaken these people in this hospital?” In my own questioning, I discovered an amazing phenomenon: families and patients help each other. In the family lounges, surgical waiting areas, many families know other families by name. They know who is having surgery, and they know who is struggling, and they cry when they hear someone didn’t make it. And they celebrate when someone goes home. I realized they are ministering to each other. WE are ministering to each other. And in that observation, I know God really IS here.

The Psalmist cries out for 21 verses, but for the next 10 he praises God for delivering him from his own darkness. A very wise priest said to me many years ago: “God is in the brokenness.” I have to believe that. Life just doesn’t make sense otherwise.

Bonny Bronson

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Psalm 131Jeremiah 26:1-16Romans 11:1-12John 10:19-42

The other morning, I looked down at my hairbrush and saw a copious amount of grey hair in the bristles. As I was about to drift into melancholy mid-life reflections about growing old, I looked at the brush more closely and realized the grey strands were, in fact, blond American Girl doll hair.

Motherhood is a lesson in humility. But as much as I like to joke around about some of the more mundane aspects of my day, I’ve been doing this long enough to have reached a certain level of peace with the arrangement. In my case, it’s about whether I place crafting a well-researched report that will be published and taken seriously by many people on equal parity with making a pair of fairy wings which will be taken seriously by one five-year old girl. For a long time, I would have said no.

But not today, and in fact, not for a while. I chose this path and have received countless blessings because of it. Does time go slowly? Some days. It’s easy to take an ordinary day for granted, especially when it’s repetitive. You can find yourself counting the hours until bedtime. But to its extreme, that can turn into an exercise of wishing your life away, wishing their childhood away.

Today, I was the lucky audience for an impromptu dance performance by my two younger children. They leapt, they skipped, they pranced . . . they filled my heart. I watched with that heart in my eyes, hoping that the stars will always remain in theirs.

O Master grant that I may never seek,
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Excerpt from Prayer of St. Francis

Rowena Zimmermann

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Psalm 119:145-176Jeremiah 25:30-38Romans 10:14-21John 10:1-18

I’m walking the half mile in the dark. It’s 3 a.m., cold and still. Knowing the way, I walk, looking up at the constellations, Red Venus, and my favorite, Cassiopeia. The little lights to guide us by night, and the moon. By the time I reach the chapel, it doesn’t seem dark anymore, but within, darkness engulfs me again.

Familiar darkness and a welcome warmth. One light emerges, the perpetual candle. As my aging eyes adjust to the interior space, the great Shepherd’s staff appears. It is on the right in the chapel, affixed to the first stall, where the monks pray. Wooden, smoothly carved, tall, with a graceful crook.

Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Slowy, noiselessly, the monks file in for the night office, these men who live by the longest continuous form of the government the world has ever known, the Rule of St Benedict. Lord, Open Thou My Lips, and My Mouth . . . baaaa!

The lost sheep, the Shepherd, seeking always to gather, to rescue. . . . The Shepherd lies at the mouth of the sheepfold at night, his staff and rod in his hand to ward off the marauder. The fold often made of rocks, just to keep them all together. The lost sheep by day, found bleating piteously somewhere, and tired, draped around the shoulders of the Good Shepherd.

My favorite image of my Lord Christ. Not the one that comes into view now, the one we Protestants may recoil from, the crucifix. Our dying human Lord hanging piteously upon the Cross. Drop, drop slow tears for the reality of all that is sordid and hideous in our helpless condition prior to your searching and finding us. Who is the lost sheep you know?

The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want. I pray for the world, this day before the rest of the world is even aware that Christ is praying with us. The Good Shepherd lays down his Life for the sheep.

I walk back, out into the dark night to wander the half mile lost in the grandeur of humility, becoming the stars.

Margaret Lee

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Psalm 121Jeremiah 25:8-17Romans 10:1-13John 9:18-41

Before I signed up to do a reflection, I was thumbing through the assigned readings for each day looking for something “easy” because I haven’t done this before. Then I realized nothing about this was going to be easy because I am still discerning meaning in almost any Bible passage I read. But I came across Psalm 121 and it was at least familiar from my childhood when I was made to participate in my parents’ ritual of daily daytime prayer. That’s how I recall it, but in actuality I know there was a time when I could “opt-out.” I think I often chose to participate though, mostly because it was familiar and there is something about that which is familiar that is comforting.

When reading these lessons, I went in order and the Jeremiah passage illustrates my assertion that none of this is easy. How do we make sense of a God who says “I will utterly destroy them, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting reproach”? (I’ll have to take that one to the Bible study group.) But it is followed by two more passages, one where we are reminded that God is our salvation and another where we see Jesus as healer. These are images that are more familiar, more comfortable.

As we journey through Lent, and in our daily journeys with God, may we have the courage to explore things that aren’t easy and challenge ourselves in ways that aren’t always comfortable. And in so doing, may we come more in touch with that which is familiar: the promise of God’s love.

Erika Viccellio

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Psalm 31Jeremiah 24:1-10Romans 9:19-33John 9:1-17

Romans 9:19-21

Did He not form me of soil and water,
Shape me on the ever-spinning wheel,
And then deck me with designs,
Temper me in His fires,
And breathe on me cool air?

Are there not vessels more comely,
More holy, more exalted than I?
Are some filled with lovely wines
Or honey-bursting pears,
While some know vinegar and gall?

Will I, with a fatal flaw in my glaze,
Shatter into a thousand shards
When life’s tempers cast me down,
Or will He hold me high, treasured,
A work of art ennobled by all?

Only the Potter knows his own purpose;
So I hold His spirit in all of my uses.
Be I beggar’s bowl or cup to a king,
Whether weakened or hardened, or fractured with sin,
I am always His own and restored in His care.

Stuart Dopp

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Psalm 130Ezekiel 37:1-14Romans 8:6-11John 11:1-45

The psalmist cries out to the Lord;
I cry out.

The psalmist hopes and waits;
I hope and wait.

The psalmist knows the Lord is steadfast;
Today I pray to know the Lord.

Jonathan Schnyer

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Psalm 102Jeremiah 23:9-15Romans 9:1-18John 6:60-71

Jeremiah writes “concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me, all my bones shake” (23:9). Jeremiah is extremely upset because of immorality in the land, ungodliness, wickedness, and the prophets’ evil course. Sometimes I feel like Jeremiah when I dwell on the social and economic injustices in the world, violent actions among us, wars in many lands and the very few prophets among us who address these issues in the way that Jesus has taught us. So many of us do not listen, believe, nor heed the prophets of today bringing the message of God. How can we identify the “true” prophets? Are they the ones who speak “the truth” as we understand it even though most do not accept or agree with their pronouncements? For me, true prophets speak on issues of justice, equality, and peace and their teachings are congruent with those of Jesus.

God set watchmen on our walls
To warn against oncoming dangers;
If we do not heed their calls
We’ll fall into the hands of strangers.
Those enemies of God who want
To maim, kill and destroy us all:
God sent His watchmen to the front
To warn us so we will not fall.
If they should not sound the alarm
stain our prophets’ hands;
They are to warn God’s whole realm
When it’s attacked by evil bands.
Please listen for their bugle sound_
Take heed when they admonish; call;
Make sure you are not sleeping found
When they cry warnings from the wall
Belinda van Rensburg
Glen Peterson

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Psalm 107:1-32Jeremiah 23:1-8Romans 8:28-39John 6:52-59

I believe all four readings for this day reveal a theme of hunger for God which will ultimately be satisfied.

Psalms reminds us that in our humanness we will experience discontent, injustice and trials of rebellion against our loving creator. When we acknowledge our dependence and repent we can be assured of a love relationship with God that blesses and satisfies our deepest yearnings.

The prophet Jeremiah condemns the leaders of the times and reveals God’s promise to send a favored one to His scattered chosen people to gather them once again under a reign of righteousness, mercy and justice.

John’s verses follow the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Now Jesus explains the intimate relationship between His father and Himself which accounts for the mystery of Jesus’ spirit-filled life. We too can access a spirit-filled life now and for all eternity. Jesus calls himself the Bread of Life, the source of everything that nourishes, everything that is life-giving, in body, soul and spirit. When we develop a willing relationship with Jesus, we assimilate Him into our lives, like food into our bodies. He lives in us. We are united, as He is with His father. These verses also point to the mystical body where all who believe are united in Christ. How this recognition reflects our sense of inner-being and communion with one another!

I used to hate making decisions because even my best ones rarely seemed to work out according to my plans. In Romans we are assured that God works out His plans in us and we can rest in the satisfaction and security of knowing that He is in the midst of everything. Now I make decisions with certainty, knowing God is mindful of me, and His love will see me through.

Rosie Jarman

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Psalm 69Jeremiah 22:13-23Romans 8:12-27John 6:41-51

Save me, O God . . . I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. . . . More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; many are those who would destroy me, my enemies who accuse me falsely. . .
Psalm 69
I have always feared drowning more than almost any other mortal danger. I was born, raised and lived most of my life on or near the ocean. I have trained and learned everything I could about surviving in the water, but for me, drowning is the stuff of nightmares. I am sure that my fear is exaggerated, but for me it is very real.

Being accused and punished when innocent must feel like drowning. There is no escape; the misery presses from every side and feels worse than being alone in a crowd. It’s like being crushed in a stampeding mob.

Such is the despair of the Old Testament, which leaves us calling to God for relief, but does not provide us with the denouement -- the story of our redemption. In the New Testament, Jesus offers a breathing tube, a way out of the despair of our undeserved affliction. He tells us that we are baruch -- blessed/lucky/fortunate -- to suffer for righteousness’ sake.

Peter puts it this way: to be punished for our sins is no big deal, but to suffer when innocent and bear it with love and grace_this is truly great and pleasing in God’s sight. And Jesus’ passion and crucifixion is the ultimate example of this.

Thanks be to God for Jesus, who has shown us how to drown without fear.

Jonathan Hine

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Psalm 101Jeremiah 18:1-11Romans 8:1-11John 6:27-40

There was clay,
and the Potter shaped it,
turning it upon the wheel.
Too fast the wheel spun,
and the clay trembled,
stretched out too thin.
Then the Potter's hands reached out,
reshaped the clay,
made it stronger.
Off center, the clay wobbled,
lopsided and confused.
Again the Potter’s hand came,
lifted and straightened the vessel.
When it was finished,
fired and final,
the Potter sent it to the world,
filled with Spirit,
made with love.

Megan Brett

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Psalm 97Jeremiah 17:19-27Romans 7:13-25John 6:16-27

The story of Jesus walking on water (John 6:18-21) provokes many responses. Thomas Jefferson left the story out of his Bible entirely. One scientist posits (do an Internet search for “Jesus walked on water”) that Jesus might really have been walking on a sheet of ice that could have formed in a cove on that cold morning. Some see the story as a parable_not factually true, but showing Jesus as the fully realized spiritual self, untouched by the material realm. Fundamentalists believe that Jesus really performed the supernatural act of walking on the surface of the lake, proving that Jesus had command over all things on heaven and earth.

Certainly, if Jesus had actually defied physical laws, that would be news. But it would not be the Good News of the Gospel. Jesus came to us as Messiah, not as Magician. It seems unlikely that the authors of the Gospels were presenting eyewitness accounts of all that Jesus and the disciples said and did. The Gospels are efforts to illustrate the spiritual experience and understanding of the writers through stories with Jesus as the main figure. The authors sought words to describe the indescribable. As Bishop Spong describes the Gospels, “Above all it was language that could not be literalized being employed to process an experience that could not be denied.”

Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Einstein believed in “miracles,” but he did not intend “miracle” to mean “supernatural.” In this 21st Century it is tempting to explain away_to deny_the Biblical miracle stories. It is so much more uplifting to read them to understand how the Apostles experienced the miracle of Jesus.

Lloyd Snook

Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Psalm 89:1-18Jeremiah 16:10-21Romans 7:1-12John 6:1-15.

The Daily Office gospel for today is the familiar description of Jesus feeding the 5000. The only miracle story besides the Resurrection to appear in all four Gospels, it is well-known even to Church School students. My son Jeremy, age five, commented that “Jesus fed 5000 people with only one lunch pail.” Well, not quite. But while this account is thrilling, and has theological connections to manna in the desert and the Eucharist, I don’t believe it is sacrilegious to wonder what it was like to be there that day. Did food suddenly appear? Or is a naturalistic explanation possible, that due to the presence and message of Jesus, people spontaneously shared what they had. We will never know. Some commentators seem to dance around the question of what happened, and given human nature there were no doubt differing reactions to the day. We do know with certainty, from this passage and many other sources and experiences, that God always desires to provide his people with what they require.

There is another factor which seems important to me. The final verse of the passage, John 6:15 (RSV) reads: “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the hills by himself.” Surely the miraculous signs of his authority are important, but they are not the essence of the gospel story. We are in the season which recalls the journey Jesus took to Jerusalem, without guile or overt displays of power, to fulfill the mission his Father had given him. He did not want to be a king. Rather, He carried the astounding message of saving love to the point of overcoming the powers of sin and death. Thanks be to God.

John Zuck

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Psalm 231 Samuel 16:1-13Ephesians 5:8-14John 9:1-41

In darkness I
seeking a
you, Lord,
reach out your hand
open my
teach me to live as a child of the
lead me
Anna Askounis

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Saturday of the Third Week of Lent

Psalm 87Jeremiah 13:1-11Romans 6:12-23John 8:47-59

Paul struggles as he admonishes the Romans to understand how powerful faith can be. Christ’s message has set aside the slavish following of the Law as a way to God and has instead told us that we must believe to let God into our hearts and our lives. It is a free gift and brings through Jesus Christ the promise of eternal life.

Rattling oak leaves
Battered by wind
The mystery of sound
Scratches my soul.

What do I know
Of God the invisible?
The ground of our being
Is founded on faith.

The believer, the cynic,
Proclaiming their certainty,
Their absolute surety,
Are they both the same?

So why do we place
Him in boxes?
Tie him with ribbon
Or just empty the box?

Your surety frightens
The fearful away
But questions are left
On the wind, in the night.

The whisper, the stillness
The emptiness calls me.
God is as vast
As the star strewn sky.

God is as close
As the kiss of my breath
My heart is made whole
By the storm of his love.
Alice Turner

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday of the Third Week of Lent

Psalm 88Jeremiah 11:1-8, 14-20Romans 6:1-11John 8:33-47

I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, 
because there is no place in you for my word.
John 8:36 (NRSV)

Jesus, master of paradox, teaches that complacent dependence upon even the most indisputable benchmarks of identity, e.g., claiming Abraham as patriarch and God as Father can obscure the deep, abiding reality.

A relationship with Jesus involves holding fast to what is true and life-giving, and letting go of what is not. It may necessitate getting out of one’s very own way, surrendering all that serves neither oneself nor others, so that Christ may dwell most truly, vibrantly, and peacefully within.

Like many others, I came to yoga for its myriad physical benefits but, as Jesus would have it, it has transformed my life more than I ever imagined. The practice helps me become aware of my own obstacles and then get out of the way. The postures, meditation, ethics, and attention to breath help me clear more space for God in and with my whole being physically, intellectually, and spiritually.

This Lent, may we prepare a loving place for God’s Word to dwell, recognizing truth with delight and joy.

Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.
My shoulder is against yours.
You will not find me in stupas, not in Indian shrine rooms, nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals:
not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding around your own
neck, nor in eating nothing but vegetables.
When you really look for me, you will see me instantly –
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.
Kabir, trans. Robert Bly

Emily Williams Guffey

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday of the Third Week of Lent

Psalm 42Jeremiah 10:11-24Romans 5:12-21John 8:21-32

My earliest memories of the beach are of standing with my father at the water’s edge. Holding on to his hand, jumping and squealing, I learned that waves could be great fun, and that the white foam could tickle my toes and delight my spirit. I knew that Daddy would lift me high, above even the biggest breakers, and that I would end up in his arms, or carefully planted back on the sand. The ocean’s roar and the tumultuous movement of sand, shells, and seaweed were exciting. I felt joyful, and I felt safe.

As I grew, and became an independent pre-teen girl at the Jersey Shore, I chose a more adventurous way of tackling the surf, namely body surfing with my friends. The sea was our playground, where we somersaulted and splashed, and paddled fearlessly out toward the deep. We sized up the waves, deciding whether they were worthy of riding, or just “duds” lapping by.

But the more I rode waves alone, the more aware I became of their frightening power. I can vividly remember the first time a seemingly harmless “dud” caught me, dragged me, threw me, and pelted me with sand and debris. There was this period of time when I was in free fall underwater and could not think or act, breathe or communicate. I felt far away from my life above the water, and from the parents who now watched from chairs on the shore. I was terrified.

However, the loving and protective spirit of my father was still with me. Though I felt neither the joy nor the safety of our days at the water’s edge together, there was courage and a confidence in me that I had received from Daddy. Had I been able to see anything with my mind’s eye at that moment, it would have been Daddy in his orange swim trunks, smiling and giving me a thumbs-up.

I rode it out.

“Thank you, God, for your presence in all our moments. You lift us up and hold us tight. Empower us to share joy with all your children and to keep them safe. Amen.”

Martha Haertig

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

Psalm 119:97-120Jeremiah 8:18-9:6Romans 5:1-11John 8:12-20

In Jeremiah’s reading there is much darkness and despair. I’ve been there recently in my life . . . in that spirit of darkness where little faith resides. I chose today to write for because it is my birthday and what a perfect birthday present . . . the gift of God’s grace . . . the light that Jesus brings to our life! As I age in years, it is not material items I want, but gifts of spirit and relationships. Knowing that I can be accepted and loved because I have faith? That I do not have to work for it? That I can be forgiven and loved despite those times of darkness? The light of Christ allows me to see treasure in my trials . . . to grow in character . . . to not miss opportunities to learn. I only hope that I can emulate and pass on the light of Christ: to give the gift of acceptance and peace to any being in the world.

What I ask for this year is to accept the present of faith. Why is it so easy for us to have faith that we can pay a humongous mortgage over 30 years, to have faith our marriage will last until we die, but to have faith in the light of Christ . . . to save us from spiritual death can be so difficult? You can’t see the money that will pay the mortgage, the love that will hold you through the ups and downs of marriage. Having faith with the conviction of the psalm writer, as ever-present as the Romans passage . . . with the light of Christ above me, below me, beside me, and inside of me . . . is a great gift that I accept. The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you on this day and forever more.

Denni Conner

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

Psalm 78:1-39Jeremiah 7:21-34Romans 4:13-25John 7:37-52


Nestled here among you in God’s country we have a life to live.

Life that is strengthened by those we love the most.
Life that grows wiser with the gifts of joy and the pains of sorrow.

As we look to the north and to the south we find the beauty of the Blue Ridge. To the east, the life giving waters of gently flowing rivers and off to the west the rugged slopes of the Appalachians.

It is here where peace is around.

It is here that love never fades away and the hills roll to the sea. It is here where the blue vista mirrors the sky. It is here where the songbird sings and the mandolin rings. It is here where quiet stillness is felt and stars shine in the darkness.

It is in this sacred space that we have a life to live, a sacred spirit to embrace, and something new to see when we look into the sky.

Darren Ball

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday of the Third Week of Lent

Psalm 80Jeremiah 7:1-15Romans 4:1-12John 7:14-36

During his last visit to Jerusalem, Jesus preached in the Temple. Jesus had taught in many venues but in none more significant than the Temple in Jerusalem, the epicenter of the Jewish faith. In so doing Jesus was following a long tradition. As today’s Old Testament lesson relates, the prophet Jeremiah, while also teaching in the Temple, had centuries earlier condemned the people of Jerusalem for their faithlessness. Indeed, the prophet’s pronouncement of judgment was so much a model of its type that the word jeremiad was later coined to define such excoriations. God’s people had not kept the law, to be sure. Still, if the people would amend their ways and follow the law, then God would dwell with them forever. But if they did not, Jeremiah conveyed God’s assurance that “I will cast you out of my sight.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus does not disagree with Jeremiah. As he notes, “none of you keeps the law.” Not much had changed, in other words. The fact, however, is that no one can keep the law. It is a goal to be pursued but never achieved. Besides, Jesus had not come to reject the law but to fulfill it. The proper response to the demands of the law, Jesus said, is to resolve to do the will of God. Simply put, the primary task is to have faith. If people truly and honestly seek God’s will, then in so doing they will come to know the true doctrine.

As St. Paul points out in today’s reading from his Letter to the Romans, such teaching fulfills rather than breaks with the law. St. Paul recounts that “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” That is, even before Moses had given Israel the law, faith had become the better measure of righteousness. It is faith, not works, which ultimately makes the difference. We might well, therefore, ponder the implications of this historical thread of doctrinal truth as a means of enriching our own Lenten journeys.

David Nelson

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Third Sunday of Lent

Psalm 95Exodus 17:1-7Romans 5:1-11John 4:5-42

Just then his disciples came. 
They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman. . . 
John 4:5-42

Jesus continually spoke with women. His mother, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Suzanna (Luke 8:2-3), Mary and Martha of Bethany (Luke 10:38-41), just to name a few instances. And in this story, He spoke to a Samaritan woman, a thing forbidden by rabbinic custom. Men do not speak to women. Of course, the women were always portrayed in some negative light, except for Mary of Bethany. The fact that the Samaritan woman was at the well at noon suggests an array of negative implications.

In many of the Gospel parables, there is an underlying theme that Jesus spoke against the attitude of entitlement. We are entitled to this land because we conquered you. We are entitled to the best because we are superior. By attrition, we may soon learn, the hard way, how this entitlement thing works if we do not lose the attitude. I am as guilty as everyone, so I am not pointing fingers. Suddenly, I have become aware of it because every time an incident occurs that jabs at my sense of entitlement, a little dagger lands in my heart. Holy Spirit has, once again, hit the mark.

Lord God, righteous and Holy, make us aware, as we go through each day, that Jesus, our Redeemer, redeemed each of us, and let us reach out to ALL of our brothers and sisters in new ways, ways that make us feel uncomfortable at first, but that will give us that true sense of peace, the peace of God that passes all understanding. Let us learn from Jesus, not only by His words, but by His actions. In His Holy Name. Amen

Mary Carolyn Lawson

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday of the Second Week of Lent

Psalm 75Jeremiah 5:20-31Romans 3:19-31John 7:1-13

The lessons today challenge us to walk in harmony with the LORD. Jesus is just coming into his ministry, wary of showing himself in a hostile country. But in the following passage Jesus demonstrates an astute understanding of the “law and the Prophets” yet sets out to reveal a new relationship with GOD.

As repeated in Paul’s letter to the Romans, it is not obedience to the law but faith in Jesus by which we are saved. Jesus’ self-sacrifice is a redeeming act for his sinful people, not earned by ritualistic blood sacrifice, liturgical correctness or adherence to the law but “to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous because, in his divine forbearance, he had passed over the sins previously committed.”

Yet despite this unearned and undeserved gift we continue to face the choice of living in right relationship with the creation. Jeremiah’s words decry those who “have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear.” We are virtually in the Garden of Eden, yet people “take over the goods of others, [becoming] great and rich, [knowing] no limits in deeds of wickedness,” failing to act with justice or to defend the weak and needy. Our present prophets and priests teach falsely and lead with no shame “and my people love to have it so.” In Jeremiah GOD wonders “shall I not bring retribution on a nation such as this?”

Thankfully, the message of Jesus life and death has answered that, but still Jeremiah’s last words echo: “What will you do when the end comes?”

Pam and Peter Dennison

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday of the Second Week of Lent

Psalm 69Jeremiah 5:1-9Romans 2:25-3:18John 5:30-47

My meditation is based on John 5:30-47.

My understanding of this passage is as follows:

After discussing his relation to the Father in terms of his will and actions being the same as the Father’s, Jesus says that his judgment is that of God and, therefore, is just. In order that his followers may believe him and, therefore, be saved, he offers three ways in which God has given witness to Jesus as His son. He has witnessed to him through the ministry of John the Baptist, through the works accomplished through Jesus, and through the scriptures (if they believed Moses, they would believe Jesus).

Then he criticizes those who do not believe him as basing their judgment on human pride. They do not have the love of God in them.

In this passage, Jesus seems sure of who he is and bases it on his relationship with God. Those who believe in him enter into a relationship with God through their relationship with Jesus. Those who do not have the love of God in them choose to follow one another rather than the glory that comes from God.

During Lent, those of us who are followers of The Way try to spend more time discerning and deepening our relationship with God as experienced through Jesus.

Helen Reynolds

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

Psalm 70Jeremiah 4:9-10, 19-28Romans 2:12-24John 5:19-29

Thus says the Lord . . . the whole earth shall be a desolation. . . .
When courage has failed
Anguish is felt
When we sense the alarm of war
When cities are in ruins
And darkness is known
in destruction and waste
in anger and haste
in fear and loneliness
and grief
in the desolation of
in so many forms

We cry out to God
To make haste to help us
To hasten to us
And not delay

And we hold out somehow
A small flicker of hope

For “Thus says the Lord . . . I will not make a final end. . . .”
“For truly truly I say to you whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life”

Thus where there is darkness let us bring light
Where there is sadness joy
For it is in giving that we receive
And in pardoning that we are pardoned.
Anne Cressin

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

Psalm 72Jeremiah 3:6-18Romans 1:28-2:11John 5:1-18

My kids are able noticers, for good (“a ladybug!”) or ill (“why are you still bald?”). Unencumbered by experience, children see things that have been overlooked by adults (except when cleaning their rooms).

By noticing the noticers, we can try to see the world around us with new eyes, moving away from our prejudices and preconceptions to a vantage point where God’s will is revealed.

Jesus saw a man, disabled for 38 years, who went unnoticed day after day, year after year. Jesus recognized his suffering, and, in spite of its being the Sabbath, healed him.

New eyes lift us out of our quotidian worries and habitual reflexes, allowing us to judge without being judgmental, act without thought of reward, apologize without fear of retribution.

God, give us new eyes to see more clearly the world around us, and strengthen us to better do Your will.

John Frazee

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

Psalm 61Jeremiah 2:1-13Romans 1:16-25John 4:43-54

In today’s Old Testament reading, God is angry because the Israelites have rejected the rich land he brought them to, choosing instead to seek “that which does not profit.” He laments, “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”

Broken cisterns. Where are the broken cisterns in our lives? Have we coped with loss, fear, or conflict by adopting attitudes and behaviors that seem to offer relief—yet, with time, only serve to keep us separate? Some of us have done this by:
  • remaining estranged from family or friends instead of asking God for the words that might begin a conversation;
  • using food or alcohol in a way that interferes with the rest of our lives, unwilling to believe that by releasing those bonds we could soar;
  • staying in a job that draws on none of the talents, skills, or dreams God has given us;
  • relying on material possessions to assure us of our worth, ignoring the riches God holds out in less alluring—but more precious—forms; and
  • enabling a loved one to continue abusing alcohol or drugs instead of learning how good it feels to walk without crutches.
Robert Frost wrote, “The best way out is always through.” It is—but it’s a journey best made without broken cisterns. Put them aside. Step into God’s living waters. Let them carry you.

Barbara Nordin

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday of the Second Week of Lent

Psalm 56Jeremiah 1:11-19Romans 1:1-15John 4:27-42

In God I trust without a fear that I may walk before God in the light of life.
from Psalm 56

It seems to me that we take “the light of life” for granted until we find ourselves surrounded by the dark. How can we trust God and live in the light when all around us we experience fear, violence, illness and loss?

What can sustain us is often a combination of things which shine a small light here and there leading us on. I believe a most important shift comes when we remember to put ourselves in a place to receive the source of love and light. Being in and listening within silence and prayer or attending a worship service supports us in our journey. God’s presence can come to us as we walk in nature, spend time with a child, or risk and reach out to another in need.

Paul says in chapter one of Romans, “I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. . . .” You and I can inspire hope in one another as part of the spiritual community of Saint Paul’s. I am grateful for our worship together and all the opportunities for sharing and growing as we learn to “trust God without a fear” thereby seeing and being the light of life.

Brenda Peterson

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Second Sunday of Lent

Psalm 121Genesis 12:1-4aRomans 4:1-5, 13-17John 3:1-17

I’ve decided to ignore all the other weightier readings for this Sunday and just focus on the psalm which seems meaty enough for Lent. Psalm 121 is the first of the Songs of Ascents and might have been used during a pilgrimage. The singer is looking up at the hills where she presumably is going.

What are these hills? Are they entirely benign as in the refrain from The Sound of Music, “I go to the hills when my heart is lonely,” or are the hills ambiguous, sources of danger, wild animals, shadows, unknown threats? We don’t really know, but in my version of the psalm, the next part is a question, “from where will come my help?”

The singer needs assistance on this journey and she answers her own question, or perhaps it’s a communal response, “my help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” Is she simply bragging here about how powerful her God is, as if my god were bigger and badder than your god?

The rest of the psalm refutes that suggestion. God is not just the creator who made heaven and earth but a shepherd who keeps and looks after his people. God becomes the subject of the psalm, he keeps us, our whole lives, even in our coming and going, through birth, death and all manner of changes, we are kept.

I work in a middle school and transitions between classes or to buses are always when bad stuff happens because the students are not under anyone’s direct supervision. God, says the psalmist boldly, won’t abandon us in those dangerous times. We might abandon God or quit the journey but God is still there, forevermore.

Peggy Galloway

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday of the First Week of Lent

Psalm 55Deuteronomy 11:18-28Hebrews 5:1-10John 4:1-26


I resemble everyone
but myself

A. K. Ramunujan

You sit there, content in your hardened oils,
Savoring this moment amongst shifting hills,

A story waiting, lurking in the diptych.
Two nudes, oaken: a he and a she,

Placid cenotaphs under tree’s shade –
Her left arm, glossing its trunk,

Reaches into a leafy sky, grasping;
The man, gaze fixed on her,

Searches for a word beyond the Iris,
Virginal, that, only you, mysterioso,

Can pronounce.

Sean Bugg

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday of the First Week of Lent

Psalm 40Deuteronomy 10:12-22Hebrews 4:11-16John 3:22-36

Immediately after noting that nothing can be hidden from God, but that God is aware of everything, that “everything lies naked and exposed to the eyes of the One with whom we have to reckon,” the writer of Hebrews enjoins the reader to “hold fast to the religion we profess.”

Why? If God knows everything, and we are imperfect, of what use is it to hold fast to a religion—of any kind? Aren’t we doomed, anyway? Well—doesn’t that depend on the religion we profess? And here the writer of Hebrews comes to our aid. In one of my favorite passages from scripture, the author writes (verse 15 of chapter 4):
“For ours is not a high priest unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who, because of his likeness to us, has been tested every way, only without sin.”

When I dishonor my commitments to another, my advocate with God understands he has been tempted to do the same thing. When I put myself first, my advocate understands he has been tempted to do the same thing. When I get things all wrong, my advocate understands he was tempted to do the same thing.

Does it matter? The writer does not say. Does he tell us what we can do? In a sense, he already has: “hold fast to the religion we profess.” And that is?
“Let us therefore boldly approach the throne of our gracious God, where we may receive mercy and in his grace find timely help.”
Again, is any response possible, except “WOW!” or its equivalent? A merciful, gracious, and helpful God! Jesus has totally changed the context for our understanding of God from the jealous, vengeful Jehovah to the loving and understanding father. Do we still need help? Yes. Do we still need mercy? Yes. Are they available to us? Graciously, Yes.

Paul Brockman

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thursday of the First Week in Lent

Psalm 50Deuteronomy 9:23-10:5Hebrews 4:1-10John 3:16-21

The passage from Hebrews is a meditation on the concluding verses of Psalm 95, the familiar “Invitatory” of Morning Prayer (Book of Common Prayer, p. 82). Actually, these verses are usually omitted from Morning Prayer, as they start the day with an allusion to God’s wrath:

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!
Harden not your hearts, as your forebears did in the wilderness,
. . . . . .
They put me to the test, though they had seen my works.
Forty years long I detested that generation and said,
“These people are wayward in their hearts; they do not know my ways.”
So I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter into my rest.”

The author of Hebrews notes that God’s “rest,” that is, God’s reality, justice, and love, is always there like a backdrop to human history, always there to be found to those who listen, those whose hearts are not hardened . We lose faith, we put God to the test, we wander in the wilderness with hard hearts, and God appears as a God of wrath. Yet the door to a relationship with God never closes. God’s “today” is the rest after the six days of creation. It was “today” for those who followed Joshua and again “today” for the author of the psalm, and again today for the writer and the first readers and hearers of Hebrews, and again today for us in Lent 2011. “. . . the promise of entering God’s rest is still open. . . . Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest.” Let us take the time to enter daily and weekly into a sabbath rest, a time of quiet, prayer, and contemplation where we cease our work and “hearken to his voice!”

Vickie Gottlob

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

Psalm 119:49-72Deuteronomy 9:13-21Hebrews 3:12-19John 2:23-3:15

Whenever I read any of the accounts of the exodus from Egypt (or watch The Ten Commandments), I feel rather smug: “Those silly Israelites, they don’t see that God is with them in the wilderness, and so they look to idols for help.” I turn out the light and go to sleep, feeling secure. I then wake up the next morning, read the paper, and discover anew that the world is not so safe; I receive a phone call and hear that a loved one is facing a crisis; I get a reminder of a doctor’s appointment and tension builds as I think of what he might find. I comfort myself that there are buffers, people and institutions, between me and the dangers that abound. Hazards pile up and I seek more safeguards, disregarding how they can fail. These buffers have become my personal golden calf, constructed to help me avoid the wilderness.

The wilderness, however, is far more powerful than any golden calf I can find. The wilderness has the power of God within it. I cannot decide if God places us in the wilderness deliberately, or if, since that is where we are going to be on a fairly regular basis, that is where God waits for us. It is certainly in the wilderness that I find myself turning to God on a daily, even hourly, basis. When life is good, I pray to God and offer thanks, but it is almost perfunctory since I am not in need. And it is in need, in the wilderness of hurt and anger, that I perceive God most.

In some ways, I envy the Israelites that golden calf is hard to deny. My idols are dangerous in that they are not so blatant. The sooner I recognize them, the sooner I encounter God. That is my daily struggle.

Michelle Allen

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Psalm 45Deuteronomy 9:4-12Hebrews 3:1-11John 2:13-22

John’s Gospel is filled with a wide range of stories that are full of theological overlay and were written some years after the other Gospels.

The writer of the Gospel of John takes us in our text today on a visit of Jesus to the temple, usually and rightfully thought of as a place of worship.

We often think of Jesus as a gentle, kind, and even-tempered man who had messages that somehow disturb us, but we seldom see an angry Jesus. Often we can imagine that he was sick in his soul about the wrongdoing and thinking in the world especially among the religious of his day.

The cleansing of the temple is for John not really a matter of getting rid of the marketplace and the moneychangers. It is rather a matter of replacing the whole temple structure as such and not just attacking the marketplace and the moneychangers. For it is now the resurrected Jesus who is the place where God and human beings are now joined.

It is only after Jesus was resurrected that the disciples came to understand what the real meaning of the temple action was. This is what John often does with his stories, combine the present with what is to come.

Margaret and Dan Via

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday of the First Week in Lent

Psalm 41Deuteronomy 8:11-18Hebrews 2:11-18John 2:1-12

The wine gave out, so Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no wine left.’ He answered, ‘That is no concern of mine. My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’
John 2:3-5

Today’s reading recounts one of my favorite miracles: Jesus’ turning water into wine. The setting is a wedding in Cana and, no doubt, much celebrating is taking place. While the wine has run dry certainly a serious problem no one is blind or paralyzed or possessed; no one has leprosy or has died. And thanks to Jesus’ transformation of water to the “best wine,” the festivities will continue.

As of late, though, Mary’s role in this story has captured my imagination. Rather than a casual observation about the party, her comment is pointed: “They have no wine left.” How could she be so assured that Jesus could and would resolve this problem? Had he been turning water to wine since his childhood, upgrading their meal-time libations? We certainly hear Jesus’ resistance with his retort: “That is no concern of mine.” Despite his negative response, Mary’s directive to the servants assumes that he will act. Her faith and confidence are clear in his abilities to produce the “best wine.”

How fitting for this first “sign” in the Gospel of John to involve wine. This first miracle leads to another miracle. As all the gospels testify, miracle leads to miracle leads to miracle, leading to another fateful celebration. A Passover dinner of wine and bread leads to the cross, then resurrection and then ultimately to our own experience each Sunday at communion.

This miracle, as I see it, is the first domino of many to come. As Jesus’ first and most unswerving disciple, Mary presses the first tile.

Kelli Olson

Sunday, March 13, 2011

First Sunday of Lent

Psalm 32Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7Romans 5:12-19Matthew 4:1-11

I have planted you a garden. All kinds of trees will grow out of the ground. Trees that are pleasing to the eye and good for food. You will take care of this garden. Trust in what I will give you. It is mine to know good and evil. Do not eat of that tree or you will surely die.

Did God really say, “You must not know good and evil?” Why would that be bad for you? Surely if you know good you can do good. And when you see evil you can call it by its name. You will not die, you will judge, just as God does. It is yours to judge.

But God’s judgment is not the judgment of Adam.

Adam’s first judgment was of himself. Adam felt shame in the body that God had lifted from the dust of the ground, whose nostrils had taken in the breath of God. Adam saw what had been made and he did not know it was good. The serpent had lied. He was not like God. His judgment was a trespass.

But the gift is not like the trespass. The trespass of our judgment, of ourselves and of others, can only bring condemnation. If you eat of that tree you will surely die. God’s judgment was delivered in one person. It is the gift of abundant life that is our own and yet also from God’s breath, of righteousness that belongs to each of us and yet comes to us from another’s death, of justification that can neither be deserved nor claimed but only received. God’s judgment is a gift not a trespass. It is the gift of grace.

Gillian Breckenridge

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saturday After Ash Wednesday

Psalm 30Deuteronomy 7:17-26Titus 3:1-15John 1:43-51

Lent, a season marked by fasting and penitence, has always been a conundrum to me. And today's readings only add to my perplexity. Easter marks the Christian like no other. Christmas doesn't. One can relatively easily believe that Jesus was born of Mary in Nazareth over 2,000 years ago. However, it is the unyielding belief in Jesus' death and resurrection that defines a true believer, a "Jesus Christian."  That is what we celebrate at Easter.

Then why not celebrate during Lent, rather than grieve with all its attendant activities of denial and penitence? Why not celebrate the life and teachings of Jesus during that period instead? Paul writes to Titus, "I desire that you insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works: these things are excellent and profitable to everyone.”

We all know some people who view the denial of pleasurable things during Lent (e.g., alcohol, chocolate, etc.) as more of a test of will than a sacrifice made in honor of Jesus' suffering. Or a way to lose weight, or quit smoking. Would it not be more reflective of the life of Jesus, and the great joy at our belief in his resurrection, to ADD something to our lives during Lent rather than to take something away? Would it not be more Jesus-like to ADD extra acts of kindness and other ways to follow the teachings of Jesus as a Lenten activity? Or perhaps giving more time to others during Lent is a sacrifice. In any case, addition has always been more meaningful to me than subtraction during Lent

Diane Wakat

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday After Ash Wednesday

Psalm 95Deuteronomy 7:12-16Titus 1:1-15John 1:35-42

3 For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
Psalm 95

Encounters at the End of the World, a documentary by Werner Herzog, is about Antarctica a place I have never been, nor imagine that I will ever go before I die. The photography is visually stunning and the score includes Tibetan overtone chanting and otherworldly electronic passages. In one scene, a group of scientists lower their bundled bodies prone to the ice. They turn their heads, presenting wool-covered ears to the ice, listening for the clicks and booms of sea lions that travel breathlessly below. They are quiet and still as a prayer.

With similar reverence, we are shown the scientific outposts at the edge of glaciers, penguin rookeries, holes in the ice through which intrepid divers descend to see first-hand the water and land below the frozen ocean. We see the crater of Mt. Erebus, filled with molten lava come up from the depths of the earth.

Beneath the ice that fringes the shore are orange and purple starfish with delicate and deadly legs, poised for dinner. Their prey is a scallop-like mollusk that propels its body through seawater that is colder than the blood of fish.

The people who have been drawn to live and work at the end of the world the mechanics, IceCat drivers, laboratory workers they are like pilgrims, whose travels have brought them to the continent where humans cannot survive without food, shelter, music, companionship, and above all water and warmth. Where scientists track icebergs that are flung into the Southern Ocean, in accordance with the physics of a warming earth and changing global currents, they are witness to the Maker. Making.

6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
7 for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.

Leslie Middleton

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thursday After Ash Wednesday

Psalm 37:1-18Deuteronomy 7:6-11Titus 1:1-16John 1:29-34

We enter the season of soul searching, reflection and repentance. Lent is the period of forty days which imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness before his death and resurrection. We each have been in the wilderness for a time.

Today’s scriptures offer us hope and direction for Lent and for our
lives . . .
Listen . . .
Do not fret . . .
Do good . . .
Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart . . .
Commit your way to the Lord . . .
Trust in Him and he will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn . . .
Be still and wait patiently for Him . . .
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath . . .
The Lord upholds the righteous . . .
The Lord chose YOU . . .
The Lord your God is God . . .
The Lord is faithful . . .

In this season of Lent let us spend time quieting our spirits and reflecting on God’s amazing gift to us.

Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away our sins and the sins of the world.

Amen and Blessings

Susan Cluett

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday


“How’d that guy get in?”
an usher whispers to his partner
“Far end of third row right.”

Could be Jesus sitting there,
for all Sam knows;
but how did the man
get past the door?
Not very neat
pretty scrungy, truth to tell.

Later, while driving home,
Sam wondered what to do in future
about visitors “not of our kind.”
Bits from past sermons flashed
“Could that have been Jesus,
lonely hoping for reception;
maybe wondering (as I have done)
whether sermons actually bear fruit
to educated folks like us.
But, why come here?”

Middle of the night,
“On the other hand, why not here?”
Sam couldn’t sleep,
pondering when,
if ever,
the Lord might be acceptable
in church
his very presence
interrupting service flow.

Maybe at the altar;
time of consecration;
distant from the congregation.
You know, when the pastor says,
“This is my body” and so forth.

Good try at imagining, Sam;
but, no; not up front either,
unless he first stopped
to vest ‘acceptably.’
Never in a pew
with that puzzled look
which might disturb the preacher!
“We’d better get a plan,
just to be sure next time;
otherwise well,
might get out of hand!”

Doug Vest