Sunday, March 27
Every Sunday’s A Little Easter by Linda Winchell
Every Sunday to me is Easter,
Don’t need it to roll around but once a year to see,
For I look forward to Christ’s Resurrection,
And what He gave on a cross at Calvary.
Don’t need to see the cross before me,
Or see the stone that was rolled aside.
For Christ lives within each of us,
If only we’d only allow Jesus to come inside.
To warm our hearts… to quench our thirst,
To bring us joy that no man could ever do.
To be all that He is and will ever be,
To shine His glorious love through and through!
So put on your best bib and tucker this Sunday,
And every Sunday thereafter and on,
For little Easter’s come each Sunday,
For all of God’s children everlasting to feast upon.
Saturday, March 26
Rev. Erica Lea
wiping tears on her sleeve.
I wonder if Mary busied her hands
In shock after Friday’s violence.
I wonder if Mary considered the what ifs,
Replaying 33 years of ups and downs.
I wonder if Mary’s mind returned to
The gardens of Eden, Annunciation, Gethsemane.
I wonder if Mary’s faith was intact,
Or if she felt God’s silence.
I wonder if God was silent.
Friday, March 25 – Good Friday
When I find myself lost, struggling to keep up and do what I know must come next, I try to remember that even the heroes among us went through these trials, and God was there for them. Read and reflect on these words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I was ready to give up. With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me, I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward. In this state of exhaustion, when my courage had all but gone, I decided to take my problem to God. With my head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud.
The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory. ‘I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.’
At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced God before. It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying: ‘Stand up for justice, stand up for truth; and God will be at your side forever.’ Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything.”
Thursday, March 24 – Maundy Thursday
When faced with the cross,
Christ washed feet.
An act of love
Imploring the world, not to stop turning,
But to be loved, to love.
Tell me, what else should he have done with that last night?
Daddy lay at death’s door
And Mama washed feet.
She changed sheets,
Every single day,
measured out meds,
Washed and turned him, to love.
Tell me, what else should she have done witnessing his crossing those last weeks?
Feet-washing does not stop a crucifixion;
Sheet-changing does not open up lungs.
And yet, knowing this full well, they wash anyway.
Death may take the prize, but it tucks tail knowing
It will always be outmatched against such love.
Wednesday, March 23
Rev. Edgar Palacios
“La voz que clama en el desierto” es la voz de los sin voz que gimen su desgracia, que lloran su desolación, y miran con ojos de esperanza en medio de la desesperanza. El mundo no se ha hecho con la arquitectura de Dios. El mundo actual es la antítesis del reino de Dios. Lo que él creó para todos ahora es para unos pocos. Si él hizo con Moisés una sociedad libre e igualitaria, ahora las tribus del mundo han creado una sociedad abismalmente desigual y con cadenas. Él quiso que viéramos al mundo como una familia, para juntos encontrar por el diálogo y la negociación la solución a los problemas, pero ahora cada pueblo mira hasta donde llegan sus bombas y sus disparos, no para contribuir a resolver problemas sino para aumentar la pobreza y la miseria de los pueblos más vulnerables, al imponerles condiciones para explotar sus riquezas naturales y sus recursos humanos.
Dios quiso que la recreación fuera gozar del fruto del trabajo, y con amor gozar de las relaciones familiares, pero ahora, la recreación para niños, jóvenes y adultos es el espectáculo de asesinatos, de violencia y abusos contra personas y pueblos. Lo que se aplaude es el mayor y más cruel y descarado sadismo. Parecería que se rinde ante el poder, se besa la muerte y se acaricia la injusticia. Se vive al revés, en el absurdo, en la locura “ilustrada”.
Aun así, en el mundo hay esperanza. La luz de la verdad y la justicia ganarán terreno a las sombras del dolor y sufrimiento. Para los visionarios, para los utópicos, para los que sueñan en un mejor presente, el mensaje del Señor es, “no te rindas”, “sigue adelante”. De la suma de lo simple y singular se llega a lo complejo y plural. Comencemos dice el Señor. “Comparte tu pan con el hambriento”, “a los pobres errantes alberga en tu casa”, “cubre al desnudo”. “Entonces, nacerá tu luz como el alba y tu sanidad se dejará ver en seguida; tu justicia irá delante de ti y la gloria de Jehová será tu retaguardia. Isaías 58: 7-8.
En esta Cuaresma permanente, piensa y comprométete por ser tú y tus hermanos y hermanas, piensa y comprométete por tu transformación interna e integral, comprométete por el mundo de Dios, comprométete por un futuro que se realice en el presente. Sé un rebelde o una rebelde de Dios, por un mundo diferente. Ama y ama mucho.
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness” is the voice of the voiceless groaning their misfortune, who mourn their desolation, and look with eyes of hope amid despair. The world has not been done with the architecture of God. Today’s world is the antithesis of the kingdom of God. What he created for all is now for a few. If he did with Moses a free and equal society, now the tribes of the world have created an abysmally unequal and shackled society. He wanted us to see the world as a family, that together we find through dialogue and negotiation solution to the problems, but now more people look to how far their bombs and gunfire get, not to contribute to solve problems but to increase poverty and misery of the most vulnerable people, by imposing conditions to exploit their natural wealth and human resources.
God intended that recreation to be enjoying the fruit of labor, and enjoying family relationships with love, but now, recreation for children, youth and adults is the spectacle of murders, violence and abuse against persons and peoples. We applaud the largest and most cruel and shameless sadism. It would seem that we surrender to power, death kisses and caresses injustice. One lives upside down, into the absurd, in the “enlightened” madness.
Still, there is hope in the world. The light of truth and justice will gain ground to the shadows of pain and suffering. For the visionary, for the utopian, for those who dream of a better present, the Lord’s message is, “do not give up”, “go ahead”. From the sum of the simple and singular it comes the complex and plural. Let’s start said the Lord. “Share your bread with the hungry”, “host the homeless in your house”, “covered the naked.” “Then your light will break out like the dawn and your healing shall spring up quickly; Your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Isaiah 58: 7-8.
In this permanent Lent, think and commit for you and for your brothers and sisters, think and commit for your internal and integral transformation, commit to the world of God, commit for a future that takes place in the present. Be a rebel or a rebellious for God, for a different world. Love and love a lot.
Tuesday, March 22
God and I have always been on a first name basis. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t understand, deep down, that he loves me and values me. Oh, I’m shaken my fist, and stamped my little foot, and quarreled with him. Typically he just sits back with a bemused look and lets me get it out of my system, but we’ve remained friends.
That seems like a rather simple, arrogant way to summarize a cosmic relationship. But as Oliver Wendell Holmes is credited with saying, “I would not give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” In other words, God and I have been through a lot together (complexity) to get to our current (simple) relationship, and I would give my life for it.
As for arrogance, let’s be clear that “Soli Deo Gloria” – to God alone be the glory. I know our relationship is the product of his grace and salvation. He has spent years knocking off my rough edges in the tumbler of life, and continues every day. I’ve tried to do my part (remember Bible reading, prayer and Bible Study?) but he’s done most of the heavy hauling.
What would you give to have a better relationship with God, especially if you knew he was doing most of the work desperately wanted you to succeed, and could make that relationship eternal? It’s not a bad deal.
Best of all, it’s a deal capped by Easter. I still get bunnies, eggs and coconut-covered lamb cake, but I get a lot more these days. I have a favorite quote and no idea where it came from – “We are an Easter people.” Whatever the fight, whatever the odds, however dark the day, we have already won, because “we are an Easter people.” The victory was sealed 2,000 years ago after Jesus himself went through his time in the wilderness, preparing and testing and growing. Lent is the opportunity to follow in his steps all the way to an empty tomb on Easter Sunday.
God, thank you for the victory, and to you be the glory. Thank you for being our friend and companion on the Way. Make us ever mindful of you and obedient to your will. Amen.
Monday, March 21
Rev. Elijah Zehyoue
One of my favorite lines in rap was a quote from Psalm 23 “even though I walk through the valley of shadow of death”. I didn’t quite grasp the full meaning of this quote or even that part of Psalm 23 until my time in Chicago. I was serving with a particular ministry in the city that tried to meet the needs of the homeless on the South side. Each night they would go out to give away food, water, socks, and medical care to the needy. After being with them for a few weeks I got into a rhythm and thought that this job like any could be mundane and boring despite the intense promises early on.
But on one night while going into that part of the city the bus driver told me that most of the 330 murders in Chicago that year happened in these neighborhoods. That very next morning I had to preach to a group of students from that neighborhood and try to tell them something hopeful about their lives. But what could I say? They lived in a literal valley of the shadow of death where each one of them knew someone under the age of 18 who was killed. They each told me stories of how they no longer were frightened by death because so many of their peers, older brothers, and cousins had gone before them in death. They told me they thought it was impressive that I lived to be 25 and hope to do the same, but wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t.
These incredible students ripped at my heart and yet they reminded me and should remind us that God’s promises of lifting valleys needs to be shared with all the corners of the world that we live in and even needs to be shared with the valleys of the world that scare us. These kids should not face death with such regularity that it is common place. These kids needs the valley of the shadow of death lifted for them.
But they are not alone, for the valleys and mountains threaten us too; mountains of despair, valleys of vices, hills of bills, grounds of dysfunction, homes of affairs, and roads that lead to evil. Our God is promising that all of those valleys will be lifted up and the mountains that threaten us will be flattened, the rough places will be made plain and the uneven ground level.
Sunday, March 20 Palm Sunday
Coming to the City Nearest You by Carol Penner
Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you. Jesus comes to the gate, to the synagogue, to houses prepared for wedding parties, to the pools where people wait to be healed, to the temple where lambs are sold, to gardens, beautiful in the moonlight. He comes to the governor’s palace.
Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you, to new subdivisions and trailer parks, to penthouses and basement apartments, to the factory, the hospital and the Cineplex, to the big box outlet centre and to churches, with the same old same old message, unchanged from the beginning of time.
Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you with his Good News and… Hope erupts! Joy springs forth! The very stones cry out, “Hosanna in the highest, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The crowds jostle and push, they can’t get close enough! People running alongside flinging down their coats before him! Jesus, the parade marshal, waving, smiling. The paparazzi elbow for room, looking for that perfect picture for the headline, “The Man Who Would Be King”.
Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you and gets the red carpet treatment. Children waving real palm branches from the florist, silk palm branches from Wal-mart, palms made from green construction paper. Hosannas ringing in churches, chapels, cathedrals, in monasteries, basilicas and tent-meetings. King Jesus, honored in a thousand hymns in Canada, Cameroon, Calcutta and Canberra. We LOVE this great big powerful capital K King Jesus coming in glory and splendor and majesty and awe and power and might.
Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you. Kingly, he takes a towel and washes feet. With majesty, he serves bread and wine. With honour, he prays all night. With power, he puts on chains. Jesus, King of all creation, appears in state in the eyes of the prisoner, the AIDS orphan, the crack addict, asking for one cup of cold water, one coat shared with someone who has none, one heart, yours, and a second mile. Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you. Can you see him?
Saturday, March 19
Rev. Edgar Palacios
Es sorprendente que siendo el ser humano imagen de Dios, que llevando a Dios consigo mismo, en el amor, la verdad y la libertad para hacer y vivir la justicia, este ser humano se aleje de Dios, siguiendo su propio camino, su propio interés. Camino e interés que llevan a la muerte y a la destrucción. Si tan solo el ser humano fuera receptivo a la “voz que clama en el desierto”, podría conocer a Dios. El Dios vivo de Moisés y Jesús, es conocido en la práctica, en los hechos, no en las teorías, ideologías, filosofías o teologías. Lo teórico puede ayudar a razonar a Dios, pero a Dios solo se le puede conocer, en la práctica del amor y de la justicia al pobre, al necesitado, y a las víctimas. Ahora bien, mejor que recitar el Credo y decir, “Creo en Dios Padre todopoderoso”, es vivir a Dios. Así, vivir a Dios es amar la vida, la naturaleza, al prójimo, a la comunidad. Vivir a Dios es ser un apasionado del amor.
Las barreras de separación no las pone Dios en su relación con los seres humanos. Las barreras las ponemos nosotros. Somos nosotros los que nos separamos de Dios. Isaías 56: 6 dice: “Todos nosotros nos descarriamos como ovejas, cada cual se apartó por su camino”. Y San Juan 3:19 expresa: “Y esta es la condenación: la luz vino al mundo, pero los hombres amaron más las tinieblas que la luz, porque sus obras eran malas”. En general, la Escritura enseña que Dios ama a los seres humanos pero que estos se han rebelado contra él. Situación que ha traído como consecuencia el mundo de violencia y destrucción en que nos encontramos.
De Dios nos separa el egoísmo, el orgullo, la frialdad, la indiferencia, la injusticia, la vida de pecado, la idolatría, el poder, el amor al dinero, y cosas semejantes a estas. Si creamos barreras de separación por la vida errada que se lleva, es posible romper esas barreras, y tener conexión con Dios. El Emmanuel, Dios con nosotros, es también el Dios en nosotros y el Dios por nosotros. En este tiempo de Cuaresma, podemos renunciar a todo lo que nos separa de Dios, y ser agradecidos y bendecidos de que Emmanuel dijo: “Y yo estoy con vosotros todos los días, hasta el fin del mundo”. Mt 28:20.
It is surprising that human beings move away from God, following their own way, their own interest, path and interest that lead to death and destruction; even when they are image of God, having God within themselves, in love, truth and freedom to live and justice. If only humans were receptive to the “voice crying in the wilderness” they might know God. The living God of Moses and Jesus, is known in practice, in facts, not theories, ideologies, philosophies or theologies. Theoretical reasoning can help God, but God can be known only in the practice of love and justice to the poor, the needy and the victims. However, event better than reciting the Creed and say, “I believe in God the Father Almighty”, is living God. So, live in God is to love life, nature, neighbor, community. Living God is to be a passionate of love.
The barriers of separation in his relationship with humans are not put by God. The barriers are put by ourselves. We who separate ourselves from God. Isaiah 56: 6 says, “All of us, like sheep, have turned everyone to our own way”. And St. John 3:19 says: “And this is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” Overall, the Scripture teaches that God loves humans but these have rebelled against him. This situation has resulted in the world of violence and destruction in which we live.
God separates us from selfishness, pride, coldness, indifference, injustice, the life of sin, idolatry, the power, the love of money, and such like. If we create barriers separating ourselves from the wrong life, it is possible to break those barriers, and have connection with God. Emmanuel, God with us, is also the God in us and God for us. In this Lenten season, we can give up everything that separates us from God and be thankful and blessed that Emmanuel said, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world”. Mt 28:20.
Friday, March 18
Beauty in the Wilderness
Thursday, March 17
About now you’re thinking that we’ve gone from considering Lent as doom and gloom to Lent as regrouping to Lent as plain hard work! So where’s the payoff? We’re an instant society that now measures time in nanoseconds, so it had better be quick!
Bad news: God works in eternity, so his timetable often differs from ours. Good news: God works in eternity, so his change can be permanent.
Transforming yourself, becoming a better Christian, doesn’t have to be like yo-yo dieting. It’s not up one day and down the next – those are mood swings, and they will continue. Even saints have good days and bad days. But deeper than that is the kind of life promised in Galatians 5:22, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I long ago adopted this as my life verse, and then began to struggle with it. I saw it as a set of goals I had to reach. I thought through my own means, through my own will I had to meet these standards or I had failed as a Christian. Only after some years did I read the verse differently and realize these are not impossible standards to which God holds us. That would only have been replacing The Law with a New Law.
Finally I reread the verse and understood these are the fruits of the Spirit, not goals to be grasped. If we are transformed through the Spirit this rewarding life is the result. This is the payoff! And instead of exhausting ourselves trying to match up to God, we improve our relationship with God and these are his gifts.
This is why Lent is worth the hard work of preparation, self-examination, discipline, learning and growing. These are God’s blessings.
God, thank you for caring so much about us, and for making the Christian walk so worthwhile. We are grateful for each and every blessing. Amen.
Wednesday, March 16
Rev. Erica Lea
The spring equinox will come this Sunday, March 20. How serendipitous that a time of perfect balance in Creation falls during the time of Lenten searching. Ironically, the Desert Fathers and Mothers who deliberately sought the wilderness for spiritual connection and awakening, were considered by some fully off balance and even insane.
Related to the equinox, our Persian friends will celebrate Nowruz, Persian New Year. This is the time of year for renewal, searching, digging, branching out, looking inward, looking outward- together.
“Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate, just as the trees, if they have not stood before the winter’s storms cannot bear fruit, so it is with us.” -Amma Theodora
Tuesday, March 15
39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd told Jesus, “Teacher, tell your disciples to be quiet.” 40He replied, “I tell you, if they were quiet, the stones would cry out!” -Luke 19:39-40
Shirin Neshat is a contemporary, Iranian-born visual artist whose recent exhibits chronical gender and power through the Iranian Revolution, Green Movement and Arab Spring.
At one point after the 1979 revolution women were apparently prohibited from singing in public and some limits still exist. (See, e.g., http://www.theguardian.com/world/iran-blog/2014/aug/29/women-singing-islamic-republic-iran.) A land without song is wilderness to me. Shirin Neshat’s video art piece, called Turbulant, responds directly to that wilderness – possibly with defiance, but for me, with resilience. The woman soloist responds to the man’s traditional ballad with wild fierce sounds that form an organic song. It is as if Neshat is saying, “what you are requiring simply cannot be done; if the women do not sing, the stones will cry out.”
Turbulant is exhibited in a large dark room with two wall sized screens facing one another (the men on one side and the woman on the other) while playing simultaneously. You can watch Turbulant here.
May God and the stones themselves remind us of our resilience during wilderness times.
Monday, March 14
Rev. Elijah Zehyoue
One of my favorite things to do is take road trips with my family. Growing up we didn’t have much money, but wanted to see this great country. So the best way to do that was to get on the highways of America. If I actually did the calculations I would say it is possible that I have driven 90,000 miles with my family. Each year we would travel great distances to see loved ones in Ohio, to take family vacations to Florida, and for reunions to New Jersey, Maryland, and Boston. We have driven on so many of the highways East of the Mississippi that we started knowing most rest stops and gas stations by their own distinctiveness. The highways of this country have been a part of the bridge that has kept my family close and near during the rough places of our lives.
This passage reminds us that in the same way a highway keeps us physically close and connected, we have been called to ensure that God too can be near to God’s people. Isaiah has demanded that we prepare a way for God to enter our cities, enter our churches, enter our homes, and most importantly enter our hearts. God knows that there is so much difficulty around us. God knows that we can so easily become lost in busyness of our own lives. God also knows that we can so easily become disconnected from one another and from God, our spiritual center. But on this day, we are challenged and asked to prepare the way of the lord and make a highway straight into our lives for our God.
Sunday, March 13
Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver
On a cool October day in the oak-forested hills of Lorestan province in Iran, a lost child was saved in an inconceivable way. The news of it came to me as a parable I keep turning over in my mind, a message from some gentler universe than this one. I carry it like a treasure map while I look for the place where I’ll understand its meaning.
I picture it happening this way: the story begins with a wife and husband, nomads of the Lori tribe near Kayhan, walking home from a morning’s work in their wheat. I imagine them content, moving slowly, the husband teasing his wife as she pulls her shawl across her face, laughing, and then suddenly they’re stopped cold by the sight of the slender figure hurrying toward them – the teenaged girl who was left in charge of the babies. In tears, pulling her gray shawl tightly around her, she’s running to meet the parents coming home on the road, to tell them in frightened pieces of sentences that he’s disappeared, she has already looked everywhere but he’s gone. This girl is the neighbor’s daughter who keeps an eye on all the little ones too small to walk to the field, but now she’s had to admit wretchedly that their boy had strong enough legs to wander off while her attention was turned to – what? Another crying child, a fascinating insect, a thousand things can turn the mind from this to that and the world is lost in a heartbeat.
They wouldn’t believe her at first, no parent is ready for this, and with fully expectant hearts they opened the door flap of their yurt and peered inside, scanning the dim red darkness of rugs on the walls, the empty floor. They looked in his ordinary hiding places, under a pillow, behind the box where the bowls are kept, every time expecting this game to end with a laugh. But no, he was gone. I can feel how their hearts slowly changed as the sediments of this impossible loss precipitated out of ordinary air and turned their insides to stone. And then suddenly moving to the fluttering panic of a trapped bird, they become sure there is still some way out of this cage – here my own heart takes up that tremble as I sit imagining the story. Once my own child disappeared for only minutes that grew into half an hour, then an hour, and my panic took such full possession of my will, I could not properly spell my name to the police. But I could tell them the exact details of my daughter’s eyes, her hair, the clothes she was wearing and what was in her pockets. I lost myself utterly while my mind scattered out carrying nothing but the search image that would locate and seize my child.
And that is how two parents searched in Lorestan. First their own village: turn every box upside-down, turn the neighbors out in a party of panic and reassurances, but as they begin to scatter over the rocky outskirts of the village it grows dark, then cold, then hopeless. He is nowhere. He is somewhere unsurvivable. A bear, someone says, and everyone else says No, not a bear, don’t even say that, are you mad? His mother might hear you. And some people sleep that night but not the mother and father, the smallest boys, or the daughter who lost him, and early before the next light they are out again. Someone is sent to the next village, and larger parties are organized to comb the stony hills. They venture closer to the caves and oak woods of the mountainside.
Another nightfall, another day, and some begin to give up. But not the father or mother, because there is nowhere to go but this, we all have done this, we bang and bang on the door of hope, and don’t anyone dare suggest there’s nobody home. The mother weeps, and the father’s mouth becomes a thin line as he finds several men willing to go all the way up into the mountains. Into the caves. Five kilometers away. In the name of heaven, the baby is only sixteen months old, the mother tells them. He took his first steps in June, a few weeks before Midsummer Day. He can’t have walked that far, everybody knows this, but still they go. Their feet scrape the rocky soil; nobody speaks.
Then the path comes softer under the live oaks. The corky bark of the trees seems kinder than the stones. An omen. These branches seem to hold promise. Lori people used to make bread from the acorns of these oaks, their animals feed on the acorns, these trees sustain every life in these mountains—the wild pigs, the bears. Still, nobody speaks. At the mouth of the next cave they enter—the fourth or the hundredth, nobody will know this detail because forever after it will be the first and last—they hear a voice. Definitely it’s a cry, a child. Cautiously they look into the darkness, and ominously, they smell bear. But the boy is in there, crying, alive. They move into the half-light inside the cave, stand still and wait while the smell gets danker and the texture of the stone walls weaves its details more clearly into their vision. Then they see the animal, not a dark hollow in the cave wall as they first thought but the dark, round shape of a thick-furred, quiescent she-bear lying against the wall. And then they see the child. The bear is curled around him, protecting him from these fierce-smelling intruders in her cave.
I don’t know what happened next. I hope they didn’t kill the bear but instead simply reached for the child, quietly took him up, praised Allah and this strange mother who had worked His will, and swiftly left the cave. I’ve searched for that part of the story—whether they killed the bear. I’ve gone back through news sources from river to tributary to rivulet until I can go no further because I don’t read Arabic or Farsi. This is not a mistake or a hoax; this happened. The baby was found with the bear in her den. He was alive, unscarred and perfectly well after three days—and well fed, smelling of milk. The bear was nursing the child.
What does it mean? How is it possible that a huge, hungry bear would take a pitifully small, delicate human child to her breast rather than rip him into food? But she was a mammal, a mother. She was lactating, so she must have had young of her own somewhere—possibly killed, or dead of disease, so that she was driven by the pure chemistry of maternity to take this small, warm neonate to her belly and hold him there, gently. You could read this story and declare “impossible,” even though many witnesses have sworn it’s true. Or you could read this story and think of how warm lives are drawn to one another in cold places, think of the unconquerable force of a mother’s love, the fact of the DNA code that we share in its great majority with other mammals—you could think of all that and say, Of course the bear nursed the baby. He was crying from hunger, she had milk. Small wonder.
Saturday, March 12
Rev. Edgar Palacios
En el marco de prepararse para la pascua, es importante el ayuno que Dios quiere. Sabemos que el ayuno es una disciplina espiritual. Pero el ayuno que Dios quiere es el ayuno interior. Por eso será importante considerar este ayuno para nuestra Cuaresma, a fin de lograr las condiciones personales, de familia y de iglesia para experimentar el impacto salvífico y de liberación de la resurrección de Jesús.
Isaías 58:1-12 comienza diciendo: “¡Clama a voz en cuello, no te detengas, alza tu voz como una trompeta! ¡Anuncia a mi pueblo su rebelión y a la casa de Jacob su pecado!”. Este texto responde a la pregunta: “¿Por qué ayunamos y no hiciste caso, humillamos nuestras almas y no te diste por entendido?” El pueblo se lamenta de haber ayunado en vano. El Señor le hace ver que las prácticas religiosas carecen de valor ni no van acompañadas por la justicia y el amor al prójimo. El verdadero ayuno no consiste principalmente de actitudes exteriores (v.5), sino en la renuncia a la injusticia y en la sincera dedicación al servicio de los demás. (v.6-7)
Si queremos que nuestra voz sea oída por Dios, debemos dejar las prácticas religiosas exteriores que carecen de un verdadero acercamiento y apertura al prójimo, especialmente los que sufren la mutilación de sus vidas, por la exclusión social a que han sido sometidos. Nuestra Cuaresma puede ser un ayuno interno permanente, ayuno que nos lleve a renunciar a todo lo que nos separa del prójimo: Los prejuicios, el individualismo, el sectarismo, el dogmatismo, complejo de superioridad o inferioridad, posiciones ideológicas o doctrinarias, posición social, el orgullo, la vanidad y el amor al dinero.
Nuestra Cuaresma puede ser un pacto de reconciliación con nosotros mismos y con nuestro prójimo. Separados de nuestro prójimo no hay salvación. Este tiempo de Cuaresma nos invita a cambios profundos en la vida que marquen un antes y un después. Ora y medita para tener un ayuno interno que sea aceptado por el Dios de los pobres.
As part of preparation for Easter, the fasting that God wants is important. We know that fasting is a spiritual discipline. But the fasting God wants is the interior fasting. So it will be important to consider our fasting for Lent, in order to achieve the personal, family and church conditions to experience the impact of the salvation and liberation of the resurrection of Jesus.
Isaiah 58: 1-12 begins, “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.” This text answers the question: “Why have we fasted, and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?” The people regret having fasted in vain. The Lord makes them see that religious practices are worthless if they are not accompanied by justice and love to their neighbor. True fasting is not primarily external attitudes (v.5), but in the renunciation of injustice and sincere dedication to serving others. (V.6-7)
If we want our voice to be heard by God, we should let go the external religious practices that lack a genuine rapprochement and openness to others, especially to those who suffer the mutilation of their lives, by the social exclusion they have undergone. Our Lent can be a permanent internal fasting, fasting that leads us to give up everything that separates us from others: Prejudice, individualism, sectarianism, dogmatism, superiority or inferiority complex, ideological or doctrinal positions, status, pride, vanity and love of money.
Our Lent can be a pact of reconciliation with ourselves and with our neighbor. There is not salvation if we are separated from our neighbors. This Lent season invites us to profound changes in life that mark a before and after. Pray and meditate to have an internal fast that is acceptable to the God of the poor.
Friday, March 11
1Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 7Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” 11Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. -Matthew 4: 1-11
What is the wilderness? At least, what is it we mean today when we refer to the wilderness? In reflecting on this for my devotionals, I was reminded of the well-known Bible passage of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness. In it, the wilderness seems to be a place of vulnerability, a place where our normal protections are broken down, and it would be easier to be tempted.
What times have you been in the wilderness? And in those times, what has tempted you? Do you wish you had responded differently, or were you able to resist? Reflect on those times, and perhaps they can prepare you for the next temptation.
Thursday, March 10
For over thirty years I was a Bible study teacher in classes that went from teens to folks in their nineties. I did this not because I knew so much, but because I had so much to learn. As a Sunday School student, sometimes I’d read the lesson, often I wouldn’t, and probably maxed out at about five minutes to stories that seem all too familiar anyway.
But when I taught, I had to do homework. That involved Bibles, several different translations. Then concordances. Then outlines. Then worksheets. Lots of study. Lots of prayer. I taught Bible Study like I taught my college courses at work. And my students appreciated it and responded to it. Perhaps the best tribute I ever received is that one of those teens in my classes is now a Minister to Senior Adults.
I mention all this because during those decades I always had the same mantra when people asked me how to grow as Christians – read the Bible, pray regularly and go to Bible Study. The Bible is God speaking to us; prayer is us speaking to God (and listening for his response!) and Bible Study is where our ideas can be tested and tried, discussed and debated.
If Lent is our time of preparation, these are the fundamental ways we can prepare. God shapes us in many ways, of course, experience being an additional critical way, but these are the basics. WARNING: these all take time. Your first excuse will be that as a good Christian you’ve gone to church for years and know it all already. You’ve somehow absorbed it from the holy atmosphere of church. My favorite Billy Sunday quote is “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you a car.” My dad, the mechanic, liked that one.
God, give us humility to appreciate our need to learn and grow. Give us patience to study and share with others. Give us persistence above all. Amen.
Wednesday, March 9
Rev. Erica Lea
Tuesday, March 8
Hafiz was a 14th century Persian mystic poet. His poems are spiritual healing balms of compassion. Although a modern translation, the poem below is typical of his “playful genius” and a must have for your spiritual apothecary during wilderness travel.
A Cushion for Your Head by Hafiz
Just sit there right now
Don’t do a thing
For your separation from God,
Is the hardest work
Let me bring you trays of food
That you like to
You can use my soft words
As a cushion
Monday, March 7
Rev. Elijah Zehyoue
I was once talking to a friend who suffered from severe depression. When I asked him to describe some of his very worst days he told me it felt like he was alone in a vast wilderness, with nothing or no one for miles.
Although we all do not suffer like my friend, I would imagine that many of us can relate to that type of Isolation. As an extrovert one of the hardest things for me to do is be alone. My own mild depression was usually triggered by moments where I spent too much time alone and dwelled on all my failings and shortcomings. I would easily get into a rut where I could see and experience nothing good. I felt alone in this wilderness of life.
These words are one of my favorite lines in all of the Bible. Here, God declares that a voice cries out from the wilderness. And there are two ways to read this verse. One way is that it is my voice that is yelling while I am alone. It is the voices of our children who are hurting, our elderly who are dying, the voices of the poor and homeless who shutter in the February cold. And this voice that cries out is a voice that confronts us for the ways we have ignored those in the wilderness.
But another reading of these words is what we called in my high school English class a plot twist. The voice that cries out in the wilderness isn’t alone for the voice of God is crying out in the wilderness too. The voice of God is speaking on behalf of all those who feel alone and forsaken. The voice of god not only speaks from the wilderness, but speaks to the wilderness. The voice of God reminds those in the wilderness that God is there too.
Sunday, March 6
Rev. Elijah Zehyoue
The Bible tells us a story of Jesus going to the top of a mountain with a handful of his disciples. While praying up there, his disciples were amazed to see that they were no longer alone. Jesus was met there by the two Major Prophets Elijah and Moses. All three of them were dazzling in white and a voice came down from heaven declaring that Jesus was God’s son.
This moment seemed like a glorious moment, one so glorious that immediately following it they would want to run and tell everyone that the glory of God has been revealed to them. Yet, despite the true wonder and awe they felt in this moment, when they left the mountain they returned to business as usual. They forgot about seeing the Glory of God face to face and meeting Elijah and Moses until long after Jesus’ death and their own experiences with God.
The disciples are so often like us. They experience the awesome presence of God and the majesty of our creator, yet they return to life as though nothing has happened. This last week of lent, we are encouraged and hopefully compelled to see the Glory of God in Jesus the Christ.
Jesus’ life reminds us that the God we seek is a God found in glory, but not the glory of the things we have pride in, but the ruins of this world. This liturgical season of lent is a journey into a wilderness where we find the glory and presence of God revealed to us. May you still see the Glory of God in all the wilderness of your life and trust that God will never leave nor forsake you.
Saturday, March 5
Rev. Edgar Palacios
El calendario litúrgico cristiano tiene la Navidad, la Crucifixión y la Resurrección como las tres celebraciones más importantes del año. El tiempo antes de la Resurrección se le llama Cuaresma. Y este tiempo es para que los cristianos puedan prepararse para la llegada de la Resurrección. Es un tiempo de arrepentimiento, de conversión a Dios, de profunda reflexión sobre el sentido de la vida, de cambios interiores profundos para alcanzar la paz, el perdón y la reconciliación. La conversión a Dios es condición necesaria para conocerlo, experimentar salvación y ser testigo en el mundo de su amor y misericordia.
En Isaías 40:3 leemos: “Voz que clama en el desierto: ¡Preparad un camino a Jehová….!” Este texto es parte de la sección de Isaías dirigida a los deportados a Babilonia, sección en la que el profeta clama por un cambio de vida en el pueblo para que Dios manifieste su gloria de restaurar a Israel. El profeta poéticamente va a expresar la idea de cambio diciendo: “Preparad un camino a Jehová” y “Que lo torcido se enderece”. Conocer a Dios, relacionarse con El, implica un cambio en el sentido de la vida. No se puede conocer a Dios si no se vive en la dimensión de Dios, en la dimensión del amor y la justicia. Preparar un camino a Jehová es cambiar el corazón, porque Dios camina por los senderos más íntimos de la existencia humana. Él dice, “dame hijo mío tu corazón.” Y con ello está diciendo, vive en comunión conmigo, vive en justicia, rectitud, amor y servicio. El ´punto de partida de la preparación del camino a Jehová es la conversión.
En el Nuevo Testamento se retoma Isaías 40:3 aplicando la “voz que clama en el desierto” a Juan el Bautista y en lugar de “preparad el camino de Jehová”, expresa, “preparad el camino del Señor”, aludiendo a Jesucristo. Luego dice, “Bautizaba Juan en el desierto y predicaba el bautismo de arrepentimiento para perdón de pecados.” Mc 1:2-5. Juan preparaba el camino del Señor invitando a sus oyentes al arrepentimiento de sus pecados. El pecado es una vida equivocada, es una vida perdida del camino de rectitud. En sentido bíblico el pecado es errar el blanco. Con el arrepentimiento se deja el camino errado, es decir, la vida de pecado. El arrepentimiento es cambiar de actitud, es volverse o convertirse a Dios, es cambiar la manera de pensar. Arrepentirse es volver al camino recto, es dar en el blanco.
¡Qué mejor manera de iniciar y vivir la Cuaresma que teniendo una actitud de cambio, de arrepentimiento, en la confianza que Dios nos perdona para expresar su Gloria!
The Christian liturgical calendar has Christmas, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection as the three most important celebrations of the year. The time before Easter is called Lent. And this time is for Christians to prepare for the arrival of the Resurrection. It is a time of repentance and conversion to God, of deep reflection on the meaning of life, profound changes to achieve inner peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Conversion to God is a necessary condition to getting to know him, to experience salvation and to be witness of his love and mercy in the world.
Isaiah 40:3 says: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; ….” This text is part of the section of Isaiah addressed to those deported to Babylon, section in which the prophet cries for a change in the life of the people so that God may manifest his glory to restore Israel. The prophet poetically will express the idea of change by saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord” and “The crooked places shall be made straight.” Knowing God, having a relationship with Him involves a change in the meaning of life. You cannot know God if we do not live in the dimension of God, in the dimension of love and justice. Prepare a way for the Lord is to change the heart, because God walks through the most intimate paths of human existence. He says, “Give me thy heart my son.” And with that he is saying, live in communion with me, live in justice, righteousness, love and service. The starting point of preparing the way of the Lord is the conversion.
In the New Testament Isaiah 40:3 is cited by applying the “a voice of one calling in the wilderness” to John the Baptist and instead of “Prepare the way of the Jehovah,” he says, “Prepare the way of the Lord,” referring to Jesus Christ. Then he says, “John baptized in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins” Mark 1: 2-5. John prepared the way of the Lord inviting his listeners to repent of their sins. Sin is a wrong life, is a life lost from the path of righteousness. In the biblical sense sin is missing the target. With repentance the wrong path is abandoned, that is, the life of sin. Repentance is a change of attitude, is to turn to or to convert to God, it is to change the way of thinking. To repent is turn to the right way, is to hit the target.
What better way to start and live Lent than having an attitude of change, repentance, trusting that God forgives us to express his glory!
Friday, March 4
The theme of our Lenten devotionals calls us to prepare the way of the Lord. It is a hard call, one of which I am constantly wondering if I am worthy, wondering if I am enough. But you all give me strength, because I know where I am weak, there is another among us who is strong. Calvary is a great place, with a great legacy, that over these past months I think we have begun to feel heavily on our shoulders. But I have also seen the many unique gifts of this congregation. Embrace them! Do not despair in what you cannot do, but relish and embrace what you can. And if we each in our own way do our part we help lift the load for each other.
4For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. -Romans 12: 3-8
Thursday, March 3
I have always hated Lent. Well, that goes too far. I’ve hated it since I’ve known about it, and that was probably in my mid-thirties. The first Baptist churches I belonged to didn’t celebrate Lent. (Now there’s an oxymoron, “celebrating Lent.”) We went from Advent and Christmas through a long period of just plain preaching to Easter, which was bunnies and eggs and coconut-covered lamb cakes. We knew how to party at church in those days!
Then our son came home from youth group in a new town, new church, and said he was giving up Coke for Lent. This was the equivalent for him of giving up air or water. A very big deal. We had to look at Lent more closely. I looked, and I didn’t like what I saw. Seemed like doom and gloom sprinkled with ashes to me, and not at all the joyfulness I’d always associated with church. I decided I would give up Lent for Lent.
That got harder when I began church work around the turn of the century. As an administrator I had to get the liturgical colors right, and arrange for pancakes and burn withered palm fronds to make ashes, and other joyful things. Nothing to like about any of that. I still resisted the season, and all my Lent filters were up. (Had to go for one obvious pun.)
Through it all, Michael persisted in his sacrificial observance of Lent. French fries, chocolate, video games were all given up in turn. I was starting to think about a family intervention. Then I wondered if I had something to learn.
God, thank you for opening our eyes to new possibilities even when we resist. Thank you for using the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable to stir us from our complacency. Thank you for helping us change when we see no reason to change. Amen.
Wednesday, March 2
Rev. Erica Lea
Mary Magdalene has long been a favorite person in the Bible for me. In some circles she is a feminist icon of Christian faithfulness and discipleship. There are many stories and legends around her life. The Gospels specifically name her at the cross and the tomb. She is one of the most humanly emotional people in the Gospels as she is seen grieving, weeping, clinging on to Jesus. Mary Magdalene gives me courage and inspiration to show how I feel. She did not hold back and she was wonderfully used as a faithful disciple.
John 20 includes her interaction with the resurrected Jesus in the garden. Jesus tell her to give a message to His brothers, presumably the disciples, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God ”. This is faithful, intimate, covenantal language. [think Ruth 1] Mary Magdalene then huffs and puffs back to the disciples to tell them what happened. In order to live into her calling as Apostle to the Apostles, Jesus needed to send her out. She was surely familiar with the literal path, but the metaphorical path was mysterious, a wilderness of sorts. How is God calling you to step out into something unknown?
Tuesday, March 1
Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? – Luke 15:4
Rejoice!!! What better news could there possibly be for one who is lost in the wilderness. You will not be forgotten! You will not be left behind! Cost and efficiency will not deter your being found. There is no expense too great for your recovery. Take that knowing and keep it in your heart. Tell it to yourself every day you are lost. Protect it from lies and doubts. Feast upon it during the cold nights.
But remember this. Not only do we believe the promise as sheep, but we live it out as shepherd, searching tirelessly for those calling out alone in the wilderness. What a promise and what good work.
Monday, February 29
Rev. Elijah Zehyoue
“You have served your term, your penalty is paid”
At some point during Lent, we will hear the story of young man named Shaka Sengor. Shaka, like millions of black and brown Americans spent a significant time of his life behind bars. Shaka tells his story in his book righting my wrongs. As a returning citizen, Shaka is trying to right his wrong and do better for himself in this society. Yet, for millions of people like him, no amount of amends will ever allow people to see formerly convicted persons as citizens with productive contributions to society and humans with valuable lives.
These words from the book Of Isaiah speak to us about what God thinks of Shaka and more importantly what God thinks of you. God declares that you have served your time and your penalty is paid. God is a peculiar God because God doesn’t tell us here how it has happened, only that it has happened. And that, even during this dark season there is something to celebrate. This lent, we follow Shaka, Isaiah, and Jesus down the road that declares nothing will separate us from our everlasting and ever loving God.
Sunday, February 28
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim Because it was grassy and wanted wear, Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
Saturday, February 27
Rev. Edgar Palacios
También el diablo llevó a Jesús a Jerusalén y lo puso sobre el pináculo del Templo y le dijo: –Si eres Hijo de Dios, tírate abajo, pues escrito está: A sus ángeles mandará acerca de ti, y en sus manos te sostendrán, para que no tropieces con tu pie en piedra”. Jesús le dijo: –Escrito está también: “no tentarás al Señor tu Dios”. Mt 4:5-6. Este texto hace referencia al Salmo 91 y es una promesa a los que confían en el Señor, no a quienes le ponen a prueba. Hacer lo que el diablo indicaba sería poner a prueba a Dios. Además Jesús comprendía que tirarse del pináculo del templo para que se cumpliera la promesa, era hacer un show para que su índice de popularidad creciera y creyeran que él era el Hijo de Dios. Pero como en la tentación anterior, para Jesús, ese no era el medio para que se conociera quién era él y para que creyeran a su mensaje. El espectáculo no es el camino, las relaciones humanas, sí. Responder a los caprichos de la tradición o la cultura no es el camino, el servicio y el amor, sí. Tentar a Dios es no creer en sus promesas. Sabiendo que cada promesa tiene su sujeto y sus condiciones.
Hay muchas promesas de Dios para nosotros, por lo que debemos saber en qué consisten, para quienes son hechas y cuáles son las condiciones para su realización. Por ejemplo, Dios dice: “Honra a tu padre y a tu madre, para que tus días se alarguen en la tierra que Jehová, tu Dios, te da”. Ex. 20: 12. En este mandamiento que Dios dio al pueblo, la promesa es una larga vida si se honra al padre y la madre. Para que la promesa se cumpla simplemente hay que honrar a los padres. Otra promesa la encontramos en la Carta a los Romanos 8:28 en la que Pablo dice: “Sabemos, que a los que aman a Dios, todas las cosas ayudan a bien”. En esta promesa la condición es amar a Dios. Si se ama a Dios, todas las cosas servirán para el bien. Se tentaría a Dios si se cae en desconfianza o incredulidad a las promesas. Se pone a prueba a Dios cuando no se hace su voluntad y se pide cumplimiento de sus promesas.
En este tiempo de Cuaresma, ¿de cuales promesas de Dios te has apropiado, para vivirlas en sus condiciones y cumplimiento? Vive con fe y confía en el Señor, no lo tientes.
Also the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple and said, If thou be the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone”. “Jesus said, It is written, too: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” Mt 4: 5-6. This text refers to Psalm 91 and a promise to those who trust in the Lord and not to those who put him to the test. Doing what the devil suggested would put God to the test. In addition Jesus understood that throwing himself from the pinnacle of the temple so that the promise be fulfilled, was making so that his popularity grew and people believed that he was the Son of God. But as in the previous temptation, for Jesus, that was not the way to make the people know who he was and for them to believe his message. The show is not the way, human relations are the way. Responding to the vagaries of tradition or culture is not the way, service and love are the way. Tempting God is not believing in his promises. Knowing that every promise has its subject and its conditions.
There are many promises of God for us, so we must know what they are, for whom are made and what the conditions for its implementation are. For example, God says “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Ex. 20: 12. In this commandment that God gave to the people, the promise is a long life if the father and mother are honored. For the promise to be fulfilled we simply have to honor our parents. Another promise is found in the Letter to the Romans 8:28 where Paul says, “We know that that all things work together for good to those who love God.” In this promise the condition is to love God. If you love God, all things serve for good. God would be tempted if it falls into mistrust and disbelief to the promises. You put God to the test when his will is not done and fulfillment of his promises is requested.
In this Lenten season, from which promises of God have you appropriated, to live them in their conditions and compliance? Live with faith and trust in the Lord, do not tempt him.
Friday, February 26
Today, Lord, I pray for strength. Your servants have called to me, shown me the path, the many paths, that I can take to follow you.
And yet though your words tell me not to, I am afraid. I am afraid of leaving the comfort of home. I am afraid of failing in your call, and hurting others in so doing. Mostly, I think I am afraid of change.
Help me find the strength to step off my path and into the wilderness to prepare yours. Help me find the strength to do your work and grow stronger through any failures. Help me find the strength to follow your call.
Thursday, February 25
A few weeks ago on Facebook I posted a cartoon from a friend that showed a thoroughly shaken couple reading a just-received letter. The husband, hand trembling, says to his wife, “Honey, it’s from our church. We’ve been called to active duty.” It had special meaning for me because my father was a captain in the National Guard and my brother and I grew up in a military tradition that saw us at Fort Bragg and other camps for summer “vacation”, got us tank rides and our own miniature uniforms in grade school, and G.I. buzz cuts in hot weather. But behind all that was the possibility, during that Vietnam era, that Daddy could be “called to active duty.”
As I continued to consider what Lent was all about and observe church from the inside as an administrator, I realized there are a lot of bystanders in churches. They enjoy the music, the fellowship, the architecture, and a good short sermon (and no, that’s not an oxymoron) but that’s the extent of their involvement. This is not new or particular to any church. Think of Jesus and feeding the five thousand. Five thousand hungry followers and a dozen disciples prepared to help. Now you think this will be another commercial for committee service, but it’s not.
I was beginning to wonder how prepared I was for active duty. What did I know about my spiritual gifts, if any? What holes existed in my personal theology? What questions did I lack the faith to ask? What issues had been gathering dust on the “too hard” pile?
Maybe Lent was supposed to be like those hot North Carolina/Georgia summers where my dad and his men drilled and marched and drilled some more. Not knowing where they might be sent, or what they might be asked to confront, they wanted to be ready, really ready, for anything. Not a bad idea for a church member.
God, help us use our time to be prepared. Make us worthy for your use. Call on us with confidence because we love you and have worked hard. Amen.
Wednesday, February 24
Rev. Erica Lea
Monastery of Christ in the Desert
Tuesday, February 23
38Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” 39And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” 40And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?” –Matthew 26:38-40
Mathew 26 may show us Jesus’ most heartbroken “wilderness” moment. He appears to be faithfully surrendering to God’s will, but not without searching for comfort, a way out, even just a faithful friend who may not be able to change the circumstances, but could at least witness the painful journey.
In one of my own wilderness moments, I knew there was nothing I or anyone else could do but stand witness. There is something sacred about having a witness in these wilderness moments. During that time, a church member sent me the poem below. I was grateful for her witness and also reminded that though wilderness be what it must, I had “a place in the family of things.” We cannot “fix” wilderness, but we can “keep watch” for one another, be witnesses for one another, and know we have “a place.”
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Monday, February 22
Rev. Elijah Zehyoue
I remember the day my oldest niece, Noelle, was born. It was the same day I had landed back in Chicago from visiting my family in Louisiana. I had another trip planned in several weeks around my sisters due date. As soon as I got off the plane, I got a text that said they were headed to the hospital and my niece was coming. Later that night, Noelle was born.
I hated that I missed being there for her birth my mere hours. A few weeks later when I came back to Louisiana, I was so excited to see my family and meet the first addition to my family in 22 years. I laughed, beamed, radiated, and was full of joy as I got close to holding my niece Noelle. When it was my turn to hold her, my sister reminded me that I was one of only a handful of people that Noelle had ever met and that even though she was only a few days old I should speak tenderly to her because she would still hang on my every word.
I imagine the people of Israel and ourselves, as new born babies in the presence of God. God has spoken tenderly to Jerusalem, Monrovia, San Salvador, and Washington. God knows that we hang on God’s every word. And like my experience with Noelle, God takes special care in all of God’s joy and excitement to greet us and meet us each day, like it is the first time meeting a precious loved one. This is the God who speaks to you throughout today and this is the God who guides you through the wilderness.
Sunday, February 21
22Then Moses led Israel from the Reed Sea and they went to the desert of Shur. They traveled into the desert for three days and did not find water. 23When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water at Marah because it was bitter. (That is why it’s called Marah.) 24Then the people complained against Moses: “What are we to drink?” 25Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree, which he threw into the water, and the water became sweet. -Exodus 15:22-25
Many writers suggest that biblical wilderness is a common metaphor for transformation. It seems surprising to me that in many of the wilderness stories the characters chose, in some form, to enter the wilderness; I would have guessed they were forced or simply lost.
But with every choice, there are risks. For the biblical wilderness experiences, including that of the Israelites, the very identify shift may be the biggest risk, even bigger than the challenges to the physical needs and safety. If we are not slaves, then who are we? If we self-govern, then what does justice look like? If we really are chosen, then how do we respond? These unknowns are huge risks. How brave to step out into the wilderness. No wonder a beaming-faced God provides sweet water and manna in such times.
Saturday, February 20
Rev. Edgar Palacios
En medio del trajín de cada día, del trabajo y el transporte, es necesario liberar unos momentos para reflexionar sobre como llevamos la vida. El ser humano tiene la capacidad para ser consciente de su ser y su quehacer en el mundo. El Dios de Moisés escuchó el clamor del pueblo esclavo y le invitó a vivir en libertad y en justicia social como una actitud de fe. Dios quiere nuestra libertad, quiere una sociedad libre e igualitaria. Pero vivimos en una sociedad desigual y materialista, que impone sobre sus miembros, gustos, estilos de vida y el consumismo. Predomina el significado del “cuanto tienes cuanto vales”, y con esta situación lo que se busca es la acumulación material y la fe del estómago para una vida fácil y cómoda.
El Señor Jesús luego que fue bautizado fue llevado al desierto por el Espíritu, donde ayunó por 40 días. En el contexto de su ayuno en el desierto, fue tentado por Satanás, que significa acusador o el adversario. Estas tentaciones tocaron lo más importante para Jesús, su naturaleza y los medios para realizar su misión. Si pudiésemos preguntarnos qué somos y cuál es nuestra misión en el mundo, comprenderíamos mejor a Jesús, y nos encontraríamos a nosotros mismos. Por lo general vivimos el momento, el día a día. No tenemos un sentido, un para dónde y un para qué. Mucho menos sabemos el cómo. Satanás dijo a Jesús: “Si eres Hijo de Dios, di que estas piedras se conviertan en pan.” A lo que Jesús respondió: –Escrito está: No solo de pan vivirá el hombre, sino de toda palabra que sale de la boca de Dios”. Mt 4:3-4. Demostrar que él era el Hijo de Dios, le traería aceptación por parte del pueblo. En esa calidad y reconocimiento podría comunicar con éxito el mensaje de Dios. Pero Jesús sabía quién era el que le preguntaba y que responder positivamente a su petición era hacer uso de su poder para favorecerse a sí mismo. ¿Era ese el camino para realizar su misión?
La respuesta de Jesús tiene muchas enseñanzas para nosotros. Primeramente hace uso de las Escrituras para afirmar una verdad que debe ser sujeto a meditación profunda en esta Cuaresma. “No solo de pan vivirá el hombre”. Es decir, el ser humano no es solo lo que se concibe como materia viva. Es materia viva y no puede ser humano sin ella. Sin embargo, el ser humano es más. El ser humano trasciende su materialidad en su entorno y en la historia. El ser humano tiene las dimensiones del arte, de la poesía, del trabajo creativo, de la esperanza, de la utopía y del amor. Para Jesús, el ser humano debe reproducirse pero no quedarse achicado en la dimensión física-sensual. El ser humano es una unidad viva por la integración del su ser físico-psico-social y su ser espiritual. Por eso Jesús dice: “sino de toda palabra que sale de la boca de Dios”. Y la palabra de Dios, su voluntad, no era que el mundo creyera en su salvación por un acto de su poder. La palabra de Dios, su voluntad, fue que se creyera en Jesús, en el proyecto del reinado de Dios, por medio del amor, de la verdad y el servicio.
La Escritura dice: “Donde está tu tesoro ahí está tu corazón”. ¿Qué es lo que más te importa en la vida? ¿Has descubierto tu dimensión espiritual? ¿Te alimentas para vivir de la palabra de Dios? O ¿Eres esclavo de la sociedad de consumo?
Amid the bustle of every day, work and commute, it is necessary to have a few moments to reflect on how we are living. Human beings have the ability to be aware of their being and their works in the world. The God of Moses heard the cry of the enslaved people and invited them to live in freedom and social justice as an attitude of faith. God wants our freedom, wants a free and egalitarian society. But we live in an unequal and materialistic society, it imposes on its members, tastes, lifestyles and consumerism. The meaning of “you are worth how much you have” is predominant, and with this situation material accumulation and the faith of the stomach are searched for an easy and comfortable life.
The Lord Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert after he was baptized, where he fasted for 40 days. In the context of his fasting in the desert, he was tempted by Satan, which means accuser or adversary. These temptations touched what was most important to Jesus, his nature and the means to carry out his mission. If we could ask ourselves what we are and what our mission in the world is, we would understand Jesus better, and we would find ourselves. Usually we live by the moment, the day to day. We do not have a target, a plan for where to go and what for. Much less we know how to do it. Satan said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” And Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” Mt 4: 3-4. Showing that he was the Son of God, would bring acceptance by the people. In that quality and recognition he could successfully communicate the message of God. But Jesus knew who it was who asked and responding positively to his request meant to use his power to favor himself. Was this the way to accomplish his mission?
Jesus’ answer has many lessons for us. First it uses the Scripture to affirm a truth that must be subject to deep meditation on Lent. “Not by bread alone does man live.” That is, the human being is not only what is conceived as living matter. It is living matter and cannot be human without it. However, the human being is more. The human being transcends his/her materiality in his/her environment and history. The human being has the dimensions of art, poetry, creative work, hope, utopia and love. For Jesus, the human being must reproduce him/herself but not to stay shrunk in the physical-sensual dimension. The human being is a living unit by integrating his/her psycho-social-physical being and spiritual being. So Jesus says, “but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” And the word of God, his will was not that the world would believe in salvation by an act of power. The word of God, his will was that we believed in Jesus, in the project of the Kingdom of God, through love, truth and service.
The Scripture says, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart also be.” What matters most to you in life? Have you discovered your spiritual dimension? Do you feed to live from the word of God? Or are you a slave of the consumer society?
Friday, February 19
My father, who passed away a few years ago, once gave a sermon about self-care in the face of grief. You need to find a ritual that helps you mourn, he said. For him, it was long walks and hikes through the woods. He would find a particular local park, usually small and quiet, and just walk. Sometimes he would pray, sometimes he would just let the sounds and sights of nature wash over him, and sometimes he would sit and focus on remembering times with ones he had lost.
Having a pattern, a ritual, was key. And it was something he felt strongly that each of us should have, in our own way. I like to think that he walked through the wilderness to remind himself of the path out of the wilderness. For me, I make myself a good meal and spend time alone to journal. The words help me process, and the fact that I have that ritual helps me feel and work through the loss I have experienced in my life in a way that nothing else really does.
What is your way? When is it that you can feel closest to God, and to yourself, such that you can bring to God the deepest pains and joys in your life? Consider making going to that place, or doing that thing, a ritual, and it will help you stay on (or find) a path through the wilderness.
Thursday, February 18
Like many others, the metaphor of gardening first brought me closer to understanding Lent. I’ve always been a big gardener, as was my grandmother and mother. Each time we bought a house I’d have to rework or create gardens. During our four years in Georgia, we planted over 2,200 shrubs, perennials, bulbs, flowers and trees of all kinds. Even at our first DC apartment I used our concrete patio as my garden spot, with scores of pots, tables and dirt carried in one bag at a time (and painfully carried out again when we moved last month!). It was a beautiful garden (I have pictures) of annuals. Each season at the Lenten time of year I would get catalogs from all over the country from which I could chose seeds, and plant them as my own personal act of faith that winter would end, the plants would sprout and flowers bloom. I began to think of Lent as the “fallow time” of the year.
To me, of course, “fallow time” means the ground is just there recovering from prior use. The couch potato in me responded well to the concept of Lent as a time to do nothing but recover from prior work. Giving up a chosen treat in return for giving up some church work or duties seemed more fair. Oddly, my various ministers of music didn’t see it that way, and choir rehearsals were usually stepped up at this time – something about Easter preparations. More work was being proposed, not less. Ministers didn’t seem to understand the whole Lent concept at all. If Sunday is our break from the week, wasn’t Lent supposed to be our break from Sundays? Since when did Lent involve a step up in preparations?
I began to suspect the entire theological underpinnings of the season. And I don’t like purple as a church color.
God, thank you for prodding us to ponder what we don’t understand and what we don’t like. Thank you for helping us learn that your ways are not our ways, and that is for the best. Thank you for sending the breath of the Holy Spirit to bring change and renewal. Amen.
Wednesday, February 17 Rev. Erica Lea
20Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. 21And Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.’ –Exodus 15:20-21
Miriam is the first women in the Bible to be named a prophet, but she is not the last. Earlier in this chapter of Exodus, “Moses and the Israelites” sing a song praising God for victory over the Egyptians, their oppressors. This song of Miriam is the first time she is specifically named in the Bible. It was not until the Israelites step out of their routine, the usual, that they have freedom. It was not until Miriam took leadership and initiative in the wilderness that she was named. Some scholars believe Miriam’s name is related to an Egyptian word for love, mer, so that her name mean beloved. She takes her experiences as an oppressed person with her and moves forward in liberation. I wonder if Miriam felt free to lead or had opportunities to dance in Egypt. Sometimes going into the wilderness, breaking out of the norm, sets us free to live into who we are. Miriam was beloved and made to lead and dance. What are you made for?
Miriam by Angela Yarber
Tuesday, February 16
1In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” 4John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. –Matthew 3:1-6
How did John know? How did he know Jesus was the one of whom Isaiah spoke? My favorite science teacher once told me, “There is no magic, but some processes are truly magical.” So if it wasn’t magic, then what was it like for wild, counter-cultural John to proclaim such news? I imagine he had doubts, at least in the sense that his “knowing” was not provable.
He must have had to trust that whatever he felt meant something. And then he had to trust that the thing he thought it meant was indeed what it meant. And then he had to summon his courage and say it out loud, which is to say, he had to take what was real to him and make it real in the world.
This makes me think, he didn’t really know. He didn’t know any more than you or I know. But in a way, his courage made it so, which is just as magical, just as holy.
Monday, February 15
Rev. Elijah Zehyoue
Most mornings I struggle to wake up. Everyone who knows me knows that I am not a morning person. I don’t mind the mornings, but I definitely am not excited about them when they come. I prefer the warmth and comfort of my bed. Sometimes when I think about why I don’t care for the mornings, I think it is less about the pleasure of sleep that I am leaving behind or the comfort of my bed. Instead, I think I dread the mornings often because of the world I have to face this day. The bills that need to paid, the tough conversations I must have, the despair I will inevitably face.
The word of God given to Isaiah offers comfort to all of us who dread the morning, the day, and so many seasons in life. The word of God comes to us ready to comfort us to make it through the dangers and hardships of our day.
Sunday, February 14
Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness
by James Tissot
Saturday, February 13, Rev. Edgar Palacios
En la última tentación de Jesús, según el evangelio de Mateo en el capítulo 4:8-10, el diablo lo llevó “a un monte muy alto y le mostró todos los reinos del mundo y la gloria de ellos, y le dijo: –Todo esto te daré, si postrado me adoras. Entonces Jesús le dijo: –Vete, Satanás, porque escrito está: Al Señor tu Dios adorarás y solo a él servirás“. Después de leer varias veces este texto, puedo distinguir varios personajes: Jesús, quien está siendo probado; Satanás, quien está tentando a Jesús; el contexto literario, el mundo del poder económico, político e ideológico; los destinatarios de Mateo, el pueblo judío para llamarlos a la fe y seguimiento de Jesús. La prueba o tentación consiste en que Satanás ofrece a Jesús, –como si fuera el propietario–, los reinos del mundo y su gloria, siempre y cuando Jesús lo adore, –como si fuera Dios–. Jesús con su respuesta, “Al Señor tu Dios adorarás y solo a él servirás”, deslegitima y relativiza a Satanás. Él no es Dios. Además, realizar la misión por vías político-militares, o por vías económicas o ideológicas, no es el camino de Dios. La idolatría a la que persuadía Satanás a Jesús, no era solo que le adorara, sino que hiciera uso de los medios del poder humano. Y esto es el asunto esencial, que la idolatría no consiste solamente en adorar algo como si fuera Dios, sino que no se puede adorar al ídolo sin tomar su naturaleza y sin vivir la vida que el ídolo representa.
En el presente hay una lucha de dioses. Cada uno quiere que le adoremos. Algunos son adorados aun por quienes confiesan que adoran al Dios de Moisés y Jesús. Los adoran de manera inconsciente, y en ocasiones, de manera consciente, es decir, negando y rebelándose contra Dios y su Hijo Jesucristo. Los dioses falsos como las practicas idolátricas hacen uso de medios sutiles para subyugar a sus seguidores. Ya sea que trabajen en el límite de la sobrevivencia, o en límite de la abundancia. Ya sea que se valgan de ideologías que conforman la conciencia, o de sentimientos de miedo o de la ignorancia. Ya sea que utilicen la religión o el poder de la violencia, siempre deforman, achican y mutilan al ser humano. La idolatría es la forjadora de la inhumanidad y la insensibilidad, de la discriminación racial y migratoria, la partera de la injusticia e inequidad. La idolatría es la que absolutiza el poder del dinero, la que hace un nicho al egoísmo y a la competencia, la que no quiere los cambios o las alternativas. La idolatría es la que empobrece a la humanidad, porque no ve al ser humano como persona con derechos y responsabilidades, sino como cosa.
Adorar al Dios de Jesucristo, es hacer su voluntad, es tener comunión con El en los fines y los medios para la comunicación del evangelio, es servir al reino de Dios, es practicar el amor y vivir la esperanza en la desesperanza.
Te invito a meditar y reflexionar sobre la respuesta de Jesús, “Al Señor tu Dios adorarás y solo a él servirás”. Escudriña tu corazón para ver si hay ídolos que te esclavizan, que te impiden vivir tu libertad en Cristo. Dios quiere que solo a él adoremos y le sirvamos. Jesucristo puede liberarte. “Si el Hijo os liberase, seréis verdaderamente libres”. San Juan.
In the last temptation of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew in chapter 4: 8-10, the devil took him “to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” After reading this text several times, I can distinguish several characters: Jesus, who is being tested; Satan, who is tempting Jesus; the literary context, the world’s economic, political and ideological power; recipients of Matthew, the Jewish people to call to faith and following Jesus. The testing or temptation consists of Satan offering Jesus, –as if he is the owner–, the kingdoms of the world and their glory, as long as Jesus adores him, –as if Satan were a God–. Jesus with his answer, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” discredits and relativizes Satan. He is not God. In addition, performing the mission by political-military, economic or ideological means, is not God’s way. The idolatry to which Satan persuaded Jesus was not just to worship him but to make use of the means of human power. And this is the core issue, that idolatry is not only to worship something as if it is God, but that we cannot worship the idol without taking its nature and without living the life that the idol represents.
At present there is a struggle between gods. Everyone wants us to worship it. Some are worshiped even by those who profess to worship the God of Moses and Jesus. They worship them unconsciously, and sometimes consciously, that is, denying and rebelling against God and His Son Jesus Christ. False gods and idolatrous practices make use of subtle means to subjugate his followers. Whether working at the limit of survival, or in the limit of abundance. Either they are availing themselves of ideologies that make consciousness or of feelings of fear or of ignorance. Whether you use religion or the power of violence, they always deform, they shrink and maim human beings. Idolatry is the forging of inhumanity and insensitivity, racial and immigration discrimination, the midwife of injustice and inequality. Idolatry absolutizes the power of money, which makes a niche to selfishness and competition, which does not want any changes or alternatives. Idolatry is impoverishing humanity, because it does not see the human being as a person with rights and responsibilities, but as a thing.
To worship the God of Jesus Christ, is to do his will, is to have communion with Him in the objectives and the means of communicating the gospel, it is to serve the kingdom of God, it is to practice love and it is to live hope in the midst of despair.
I invite you to meditate and reflect on Jesus’ answer, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” Search your heart to see if there are idols that enslave you, that keep you from living your freedom in Christ. God wants us to worship him alone and serve Him. Jesus can set you free. “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” -Saint John
Friday, February 12, Tim Shaw
In the midst of struggle, I have often overlooked what I have. And so, sometimes, I remind myself to give thanks.
I am thankful for a stable job, for a warm house and home cooked meals, and clean sheets and a place to lay my head.
I am thankful for my friends and family, for an inside joke from a best friend, and for a kind word from a stranger.
I am thankful that I found a church, after years of searching. For hymns and high church, guitar and banjo. For stories over coffee hour (and taquitos, egg rolls, and corn dogs), and even church meetings.
For these simple things I give thanks for they give me comfort, joy, and strength.
Thursday, February 11, Jac Whatley
Erica and Elijah are helping me reconcile with Lent these days. In church planning last fall, Advent and Lent were mentioned in the same breath, and internally many of my old objections started to surface again. Elijah and Erica were eager to plan Lent, and I’d been hoping we might just sweep it under the liturgical rug. Who would miss it, after all? Who has a favorite Lenten hymn? (Okay, Cheryl, put your hand down.) They saw Lent as a great opportunity. Elijah recognized the need for a focus on Black History month. It is one thing to be accepting of the needs of a group, and quite another to be allied with them and truly understand their trials and ongoing struggles. We are an accepting church – can we be an allied church as well? And so we are bringing in very special speakers for this February.
We all recognized that Calvary, with recent losses, scars and bruises, had problems, but Erica saw them as spiritual problems, not primarily procedural, administrative or personnel issues. She saw the need to provide pathways to help members grow spiritually, to identify gifts, interests, and skills. To help them make themselves better Christians. Erica has acted on that, and in Lent will be offering spiritual direction.
Our focus has been less on what you can give up from this season of Lent, but on what you can gain. In the words of the old song from Godspell, how we can “See thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.” In doing so, we think we’re getting closer to what Lent should be about. As for sacrifice, there’s always the offering plate.
God, help us to examine ourselves with the critical eye we often reserve for others. Help us see the areas of needed growth and change. Inspire us with the promise of being transformed through the renewing of our minds. Amen.
Wednesday, February 10 Ash Wednesday, Rev. Erica Lea
From ashes you came… to ashes you will return…
Sobering words for a sobering day. Sometimes quite literally after the revelry of Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday! Ash Wednesday is the annual slap in the face that we each need by way of oily ashes on the forehead.
The liturgical calendar year is made of waxing and waning, feasting and fasting, stopping and going. Lent is all 6 of these things: waxing as we increase spiritual sensitivity, waning as we release something in our lives at least temporarily, feasting on Sundays as is Christian tradition connected to generations of believers, fasting the other 6 days as is Christian Lenten tradition connecting us to diverse groups of Christians around the world, stopping a luxury or preference in order to go deeper into awareness of the truest realities.
Did you catch that? Lent is about connection! With God. With ourselves. With one another. Let us journey through Lent together!
“Remember that Lent and Ash Wednesday are not just about putting away the bad things. It is about creating good things …” -Jacob Winters