Lenten Devotions 2018
Holy week Devotion
30 March 2018
John 19: 28c-30. [On the cross that day] Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of hyssop plant, and lifted it to his lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Finished is a word we use to express completion. We use this word to express satiation such as, “I couldn’t eat another bite, I am finished.” Just last month, millions around the world tuned their televisions to watch the winter Olympic games where the word, “Finished or Finish” was used to express finality. From the starters gun to the finish line we watched as athletes raced down ski slopes, bobsled runs and other venues and the one thing that kept them in the pursuit were dreams of the finish line.
You and I are linear people, we walk in straight lines, we make lists in columns, and we even park our cars in parallel rows. You and I see life as a straight line, from birth to death. We age chronologically and count the years one at a time. For you and for me life appears to be a race from start to finish. But is it?
Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph and Mary, born in a manger, raised by a carpenter, ordained by God the Creator as His beloved Son and Messiah. Jesus, who the Gospel of John calls, The Word made flesh, who was in the beginning, our beginning, and who ever shall be, eternal and everlasting for whom the word finished simply means mission accomplished, task completed.
Today is Good Friday, the day we hear the story of the death of Jesus Christ who suffered death for our sins and in return offers us his righteousness for a life of eternal joy with him, who is from everlasting to everlasting, God Almighty. You and I know that Easter is in but a few days from now. The earliest disciples thought that this was the finish for Jesus! We know better. Today we mourn, but on Sunday we celebrate. What was it New York Yankees catcher, Yogi Berra used to say, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Today we are told that it is finished, yes indeed, redemption is ours by the cross of Christ! God bless you Newberry.
God be with us in our every thought and every action every day. Make us instruments of your peace, and people of the light. May we with your Spirit share the love of Jesus you so freely give. Amen.
Pastor Ernie Worman
Campus Pastor, Newberry College
1Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. … 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. (NRSV 13:1, 14-15)
Tonight, Christians everywhere will grieve for their savior as we endure and embrace the memory of Maundy Thursday events more than two thousand years ago when our Savior literally loved us to the end as He allowed himself to be arrested, tormented, and ridiculed before being nailed to the cross tomorrow. Communities will hear the passion narrative dramatically read or presented, some will have Seder meals, many will have foot washing, and all will in silence and sadness strip the altar and silently leave their services weighed down with a grief and pain too deep for words.
In this John passage, we experience the depth of His love for His own – the disciples and us. And the only thing He wishes in return is for us to love and serve one another as He has. Not blood sacrifices or prolonged pilgrimages – just to sacrifice our pride for the sake of others and the world around us.
This carpenter’s son, this man from Galilee, this Jesus who loves us enough to fully experience being human in order to defeat death for us and claim us in such a way that nothing can ever come between us and God – He set us an example – not to do superhuman things, but to do human things such as loving, serving and caring that reflect His image to the world.
Precious Son of God, our Brother and our Redeemer – help us to follow your example in our relationship with all of your creation. Amen.
Pastor Joanie Holden, St Timothy Lutheran Church, Crystal River, Florida. Newberry Class of 2011 and Southern Seminary Class of 2015.
Reading: Philippians 2:5-11
Let the same mind be in you that was* in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
What is the biggest show of power that you have seen in your life? Maybe it was a power-play at work; maybe it’s been associated with time spent in the military, or watching politicians at work.
I am guessing that most of us did not associate power with humility. Yet it is precisely through this humility which our God in the person of Jesus Christ has expressed power. Obedience, shameful public execution, servitude – none of these would be considered powerful by our standards.
If I phrased my initial question differently – what is the most powerful thing you have ever seen? – I think our answers would change quite a bit. Maybe you were in the room for the passing of a loved one. Maybe you think of the birth of your child. But in the way we speak about “powerful moments,” rarely are these shows of power in a physical or material way.
For God, the power and might of his reign on earth is demonstrated by the emptying of himself, becoming a servant, and undergoing a humiliating death. Yet through that humble life is the most powerful life – in both senses of the word. God’s power over our ultimate enemy – death – is overcome through this powerful and humble life.
Powerful God, you showed us your love and the depths of your rule through a life that should humble us all. Contemplating your power on earth, guide us to have the mind of Christ that we should not abuse the power we have, and through acts of servitude point to the power of the one who can save us all. AMEN.
Pastor James Henrichs
Summer Memorial Lutheran Church
[Jesus said,] “Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith? Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. --Matthew 6:25-34, Common English Bible
Martin Luther taught us, “Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is your God.” When our heart clings to our stuff, and we come to believe that it is our stuff, our own efforts, and our own work that will save us in the future, we become anxious, and we worry that we will lose what gives us life.
When we think that what we have is all on account of our own doing, pretty soon, we come to think that it all depends on us. Then we become anxious about losing it, anxious about what we will eat and what we will wear and how we will pay the bills and if we will have enough money to retire. Then life becomes something less than a celebration of God's goodness. It becomes a drag. We worry. In today’s reading, Jesus urges us not to worry about anything.
Instead, over and over again scripture calls us to live in joy, to give up our insistence on doing it all ourselves and enjoy God's gifts with gratitude and praise and thanksgiving. You can’t do that if you don’t recognize that what we have is a gift. After all, we were all born into the world naked and helpless. Everything we have, everything we know, every talent, every pleasure, every ability, even life itself has come to us from others. The only way to live then is in thankfulness and humility, wonder and joy, graciousness and generosity.
Ultimately it is not our stuff that gives us life. It is living as a citizen of God’s dominion - serving our neighbor, welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick, sitting with the lonely, being good news for the poor - that defines and comprises our real life.
This Lent, we have a chance once again to turn toward the One who gives us the life that lasts even when all our stuff is gone, the One who offers us the joy that comes from giving up our fixation with ourselves and turning our focus toward God and our neighbor.
Prayer: O most loving God, you want us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing except losing you, and to lay all our cares on you, knowing that you care for us. Protect us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and grant that no clouds in this mortal life may hide from us the light of your immortal love shown to us in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (LBW Prayer 204)
Bishop, ELCA Southeastern Synod.
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
The fanfare is over. Crowds have acclaimed Jesus as the coming king entering Jerusalem. It’s late and Jesus enters the temple and looks around.
At every point in the story in Mark, Jesus does not let anyone make assumptions about who he is, even if that means keeping his entire identity secret. He doesn’t permit spirits to testify to who he is; he tells those he has healed to keep quiet; and he even instructs the disciples not to disclose the transfiguration moment when Moses and Elijah appear with him in glorious radiance. It’s as if Jesus wants zero prejudice about his ministry and what he has come to do. No one but God will dictate his identity.
But we try as hard as we can to dictate Jesus’ identity. We want him to back up our own prejudices against others. We want him to have the same enemies we do. We want him to be just like us. We want him to demonstrate dominance according to us.
But here he stands in the midst of our temples late at night having a look around.
After this moment, the Holy One of God will undercut the temple system. The king of Israel will drive out money exchangers. The Son of God will admonish religious leaders for their deliberate ignoring of doing God’s justice and healing work.
Then the Messiah will die, with all the expectations that people have set upon him.
Each Lent in the church year is really a season of letting Jesus have a look around in our own hearts and souls, our own congregations, our own communities, and in our own world. That’s when Jesus drives out false expectations, self-centered sin, and our deliberate ignorance toward God’s ever-surprising love.
Indeed, Jesus is taking a look around right now to clean house later. Let it be so this Lent.
Let us pray.
Even as we desire to follow in your way of love, Lord Jesus, our hearts are cluttered with bitterness and worry, selfishness and prejudice. Save us, O Christ! Clean house! Make room in our hearts again for the fullness of the love of God and neighbor. Amen.
Pastor Michael Price
Newberry College, Class of 2002
Psalm 19: 14. NIV
“May the words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
This final verse of Psalm 19 is more a prayer than a statement. The writer of Psalm 19 has made his statement in previous verses, and now asks that what he has spoken, and what his heart holds dear, may be acceptable to God Almighty, Rock and Redeemer. Having grown up in the Christian faith, I have only heard this prayer spoken by Pastors just prior to giving their Sunday sermon message for the day. But as I read the Psalm this week it came to me that this may be one of the finest prayers given to us in scripture. It says it all in one short verse. May I be careful in what I say, and cautious in what I carry in my heart, so that you Lord God, may receive my offering of words and hopes with gracious acceptance.
Forgive me if this sounds a bit earthy, but, isn’t that what we are made of scripturally, the earth? When I was younger and often in a group of young men, perhaps playing a sport or discussing a controversial topic, someone would say something unkind, or off-color, or inappropriate, only to have another person say something like; “Hey, do you eat with that mouth?” Or, “Would you kiss your mother with that mouth?” Or even, “Hey, what would your grandmother say if she could hear you?” The point is that words have power. Our words tell others who we are, what we believe, our values and our fears. Words that come from the heart can inflict pain on others, or they can comfort others. Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
I have discovered a new purpose for this Psalm prayer that is greater than simply to be used before the preacher starts his or her sermon message. Perhaps this prayer would serve us all well to be spoken out loud or silently just prior to every time we speak. What if we were all so conscious of our words, and, what we hold dear in our hearts, that we prayed every time we spoke so that God, our Rock and our Redeemer would listen and approve of them? I wonder how much kinder this world might be? Words can hurt or they can console. Words can build up or they can tear down. Words can forgive or they can be resentful. We have a choice in the words we share with others. Words spoke the universe into being, and The Word dwelt among us and brought us salvation. May God bless the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen.
1 Peter 3:18-21 (New Revised Standard Version)
18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
“We are baptized more often than we realize.”
This is a saying that has stuck with me through the years, and the more I think about it, and the more I grow in my faith, the more it rings true. Baptism, after all, is a cleansing of the soul, through which we die and are reborn, changed and claimed by the Lord. In fact, anything we do that involves a change for the better, a birth of a new self, and a closer relationship with God, can be considered a baptism. And it happens to us more than we would think.
Each of us have experienced the fine appreciation that comes through longing, even suffering with anticipation, for something good to arrive or return. This applies to everything from powering through the work day to get to the nice, hot, homecooked meal and relaxation at the end, to waiting months at a time for a loved one to return from active duty, or from prolonged illness. But these events, regardless of how common or how significant they are, often leave us changed for the better. Striving through a work day for that nice, hot meal at the end might not only make us value our daily bread and our fellowship with friends and family even more, it may even leave us better at the task or occupation we are doing. Patiently waiting for a loved one to come home after an extended time of absence not only brings us closer to that person, and makes us relish in every little thing we can do with them again; it also allows us time to see how much that person means to us, and to grow in our faith and forbearance while anticipating their return.
Today’s devotional Scripture essentially defines baptism for us. Baptism is not the removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism is the spiritual by way of the physical. In this way, the season of Lent is a kind of baptism. The forty-day fast, soon coming to an end, is meant to deny ourselves worldly pleasure to allow us to turn our focus to God, to patiently wait for Christ’s resurrection, and to have a fuller appreciation for His sacrifice as we see through comparison all that God’s grace can give us through faith and Scripture. In this way, our former selves continually die, and we are continually reborn with closer relationships with God and with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are baptized more often than we realize.
Heavenly Father: help us to better understand and appreciate you. Help us to see you in every day, every wait, and every trial, and help us to grow closer to you and others through them. Lord, remind us that we continue to be remade as better servants of you and others, and that you are with us every step of the way. In Jesus’ name: Amen.
James “Jay” Salter, Newberry College student
John 12: 20-21
“Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Phillip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request, ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we would like to see Jesus.’”
Sometimes when I read scripture it feels as though I am reading something so foreign to my way of thinking. As I was reading the text for my devotion; I couldn’t get past the first two verses. Some Greeks come to Jerusalem during the festival of Passover with the intention to see Jesus. Imagine if you will the ability to say out loud, “Please Sir, we would like to see Jesus. Could you direct us or make the introduction?” That is what the scripture sounds like in my head. Outsiders travel far and come to the Holy City with the hope of speaking with and seeing Jesus. Really!
Well, in my brain this story might as well begin with the words, “in a galaxy far, far, away…” I mean, after all, I would love to say just once, with meaning and belief that it will happen, “Please Sir, I would like to see Jesus.” Can you imagine? No, actually, I cannot imagine what it might have been like to see and hear and touch Jesus. I know, right, this sounds so sad, but wait…
You and I have something so much greater than these First Century Greek visitors to Jerusalem. They came to see a man whom they had heard about, who had done great wonders and miracles, and why, to see if He was real. They came in wonder. We see in truth.
We are Easter people. We know the story of Jesus and His redemption of humanity on the cross. We are baptized in the water spoken over with the Holy Word of God, and we are by faith, infused by the very Holy Spirit of our Creator. You and I have the power of God to see Jesus in the face of strangers, in the feeding of the hungry and housing of the homeless. We know that God is present in, with, and under the elements of bread and wine at Holy Communion. We know that Jesus has overpowered the finality of death to bring us eternal life. We see Jesus in our brothers and sisters who are working with the poorest among us, and in the poor whom God has given us to serve. We are Easter people. We can say with absolute assurance, Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. We need not travel far to see Jesus and wonder if it is possible. Jesus is present among us every day, in the love we share, the forgiveness we offer to others and the hope we provide to those without hope.
God be present in our hearts, active in our daily efforts and surround us with your Holy Spirit that we might see Jesus in the face of others, and, for others, be the face of Jesus in our love. Amen.
“In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,” Hebrews 5:5a.
CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?
Not so long ago, a television commercial would air and the tag line for this mobile phone company was, “Can you hear me now?” The point to be made was that their cell service was clearer and crisper than their competitors. Do you remember your first cell phone, how often the call dropped or how often you had to ask the listener, “Can you hear me now,” as you moved about the area to find the location with the clearest signal, the place where you might have three or four signal strength bars?
Our scripture for today from the Book of Hebrews reminds us that God is calling to us as He did when He called Jesus to be our great high priest. The Psalms remind us that God is a still small voice that comes to us from within, and one of my favorite worship hymns is titled, Listen, God is calling. I wonder, does God ever shout to us out of frustration, “Can you hear me now?”
You and I live in a world of noise. No matter where we are or what we are doing, this is a world of turbulence, and chaos and noise. In fact, some of us use what they call, “white noise” machines to mask out other noise. Noise to combat noise. And yet, God is calling to us, reminding us that we are his beloved children, and that he has a purpose for our lives. Thankfully, Lent is a season to be reminded that God is calling, are we listening? God is calling, will we answer the call? God is calling, and when we answer that call, say yes to our divine purpose on earth, our lives and the lives of our neighbors and families and communities is better.
Find some time today if only two minutes, pray, listen, and say yes to God. He created us in his image, inspires us with His Holy Spirit, and redeemed us through His Son. Listen, God is calling. Now go, and serve the Lord in love, in humbleness of faith and strength of purpose. You have the power of God’s love.
Almighty and everlasting God, call to us and come to us quickly. Inspire our hearts to serve you with newness of life and the power of faith. Make us instruments of your peace, and beacons of your light in our homes and communities. Amen
Pastor Ernie Campus Pastor, Newberry College
9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. 10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. 12 Praise be to you, LORD; teach me your decrees. 13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. 14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. 15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. 16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (NIV)
Life so often puts us in uncharted territory. Sometimes we have no idea what to do. Advice from other people leaves us at a loss – they can’t grasp what’s boggling us. Should I do this? Should I do that instead? Or is there another option I’m not recognizing? What’s going to be the outcome? Will this come back to haunt me, or will I rest easy knowing I did the best I could? There’s no manual, no quick reference to guide us through these moments, no flowcharts that lead to proper outcomes.
From my earliest days I was taught that God was watching my every move, knew everything I did, and will hold me to account for all I have done. Those warnings often came when I was a child about to be led astray by my sense of mischief. Back then my parents were close at hand to make sure I didn’t stray, but as I went out into the world on my own, I had to figure out how to get along. As it turned out, that sense of “God is watching you” followed me into adulthood, and to this day it governs how I interact with the rest of the world. You might think this means my life is miserable. Instead, it’s a reminder to live by the rules God lays out – tell the truth, love one another, don’t hurt or cheat anyone, be a good neighbor, be genuinely kind to each other. It’s worked out well, and there’s a genuinely good feeling you get from the effort. You tend not to toss and turn at night, plagued by a troubled conscience, nearly as often. It’s like the old saying about the virtues of telling the truth: there’s so much less you have to remember to keep straight.
This world is always changing around us. Sometimes it’s confusing. Sometimes it’s scary, and especially so for a young person who experiences the world and suddenly realizes the truth behind the Breton fisherman’s prayer: “O God, Thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.” But no matter how overwhelmed we feel by the great ocean around us, the simple and faithful advice of the Psalmist will see us through, and keep us on course.
Lord, in these times it is often difficult to remember the path You want us to take. Help us to remember that You always watch us, and that nothing feels so good as the warmth that comes from living as You would have us live. Let us always lead lives of service and gratitude, to love everyone, to walk gently, act with kindness, and serve Your purpose with love and laughter, no matter if we’re nine or ninety-nine. In Your name we pray. Amen.
Jodie Peeler, Professor of Communications
Jeremiah lived through tumultuous times, with wars and siege befalling his country of Judah. His mission was to call his people to obey and trust God. His people lived under the old Mosaic covenant that God had established hundreds of years prior. People were taught to obey God’s laws to be in God’s good favor. Jeremiah prophecized that God would establish a new covenant with His people in which God would open Himself to each one of us and live in our hearts, so that we would know and love Him as our Father, and not just to obey rules.
We are blessed to be under the New Covenant, established through the death of Jesus Christ. We have been given the Holy Spirit to live within us that gives us access to our Holy Father. We no longer must be taught to live by laws alone to attain salvation, as Jesus did that for us. We obey now because we want to, out of our love and respect for our Creator.
Prayer: Dear God, thank You for making access to You and Your Goodness dwell within our hearts, so that we can directly experience You and Your love and peace in our lives. Thank You for fulfilling Your promises to us through Your Son.
Dr. Sarah Bryant Interim Chair, Department of Business Administration
1 O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good:
for his mercy endureth for ever.
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;
3 and gathered them out of the lands,
from the east, and from the west,
from the north, and from the south.
4 They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way;
they found no city to dwell in.
5 Hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted in them.
6 Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them out of their distresses.
7 And he led them forth by the right way,
that they might go to a city of habitation.
8 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness,
and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
9 For he satisfieth the longing soul,
and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.
Daniel Boone is reputed to have said that he had never been lost, but he admitted that he had “once been a mite bewildered for three days.” None of us are Daniel Boones, and even in our era of online maps and GPS, it really isn’t that hard to miss our exit or get turned around. Life moves quickly, and we can lose our bearings.
God knows this, of course. And as Christ, God was even willing to become fully human, to be lost and afraid on a hill near Jerusalem. But God doesn’t want us to be lost or alone. He asks us to call to Him, so that He can lead us “by the right way”, to a place we can live. He still wants to guide us, even if we feel more lost each day. Will we call for him?
Heavenly Father, we know You know how lost we are and how lost we feel. Thank You for being willing to guide us, and for letting us have these weeks to focus on You and Your call, Your direction. In Jesus’s name we pray, amen.
Authored by; Dr. Warren Moore, Professor of English, Newberry College.
Ephesians 2: 9
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. NIV
Faith is a gift from God. Wow, can you even begin to understand that concept? Faith is a gift from God. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” And the, “not by works,” part, well isn’t this verse the cornerstone of the Lutheran Reformation? So here we are just a couple of weeks before Easter and today we get to talk about grace through faith. Let me repeat that, for Bonhoeffer warns us about “cheap grace,” but this is grace through faith. And even though Faith is a gift from God, by faith we are called to do work for the good of the kingdom of God, not for our salvation but for the Glory of God above!
You all know I love to talk about the music in my head and heart. When I think of grace, of course, one of the first songs that comes to mind is, “Amazing Grace.” But recently, another song has been in my ear and heart, “Death was Arrested” by North Point InsideOut. If you have a chance to listen to the whole song, please do. My beloved Ernie has played the video in Wiles Chapel a few times and I know it is easy to find online. It is also playing on Christian Radio stations now. The wonderful lyrics of this song, “Death Was Arrested,” speak of how death was arrested when Jesus redeemed us with His sacrificial death on the cross and then arose from the grave on Easter Day. I love the images the lyrics paint of Grace washing over me, making me new, and endless love pouring down on us...both of these word pictures bring me great peace in my heart and mind. For we all yearn to be loved so much that we are freely forgiven and made new. God through Jesus redeemed us.
And in this season of Lent, as we contemplate the excruciating pain our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ endured on the cross to buy this “Free Grace,” we need to remember and appreciate all the gifts God has given us- including faith in the first place.
Please pray with me.
Thank you for your loving gift of faith and for giving us your Son, Jesus, who through His sacrificial death, bought for us amazing grace and eternal salvation. Please send down your Holy Spirit today to live in us and work through us for the good of our neighbors.
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For GOD so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For GOD did not send his son into the world to condemn world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of GOD’s one and only son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for the fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of GOD.”
~New International Version
I often look back on my coaching days and have many fond memories. The championships, the wins, the joys, and even some of the sorrows flood my brain when reminiscing. I think about the many players who I was blessed to coach and how each of them was special and talented in their own way. However, it was not always easy trying to fit all that talent together. One of the characteristics of an effective coach is the ability take his or her personnel and use it wisely. There are times when things are not working well, and the coach must go to his or her bench to shake things up. Putting the right substitute in the game is sometimes the difference between winning and losing.
Thankfully for us, GOD was able to send a substitute to this world to save us. We were losing but he sent someone to save the day. This time of the year is always special for the believer because without the sacrifice of this substitute, we would not be here today. Jesus paid the ultimate price, but we reap the benefits. He gave his life so that we may have life and have it more abundantly. Let us lift him up for all to see so that all may be saved.
We’ve messed up and we have fallen short. However, we know that your love for us is unconditional and your grace is sufficient. Thank you for sending your son to save this world. Please help us to be more like him so that we can provide the light to drive out the darkness.
In Jesus Name,
Dr. John Lesaine ’07, Associate Professor of Sport Professions
There may be no more inspiring and encouraging words spoken than those of Matthew, Chapter 5, verses 3-12. The words are often referred to as the eight beatitudes. The words tell us not to be misled by the unfairness of the moment.
Don’t be discouraged by the examples of daily injustice that seem to go applauded or unaddressed. Fight for justice and inclusivity, but remember “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” There is injustice every day and today the hate and discrimination we seen being waged against other seems deeper and more wide-spread than ever. But we are reminded, “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.”
There are days when we try our best to do the right thing and treat others with a “soft heart,” yet things often just seem to fall apart on us. And we wonder what I am doing? Is chasing after a life of kindness, humility and righteousness of any value? We lose a loved one too early in life, a relationship ends poorly, a sickness causes a child far too great a pain, or we lose our job for doing the right thing. We consider giving up, but then we are reminded: “Blessed are those who are persecuted, because of their righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
There is no scorecard being kept by anyone here on earth that accurately reflects the quality of our life. It may seem like it and we may be concerned that the more deceitful people are prospering the most. But Matthew is saying do not be confused or disheartened. God wants us to live our lives as best we can. NO one has ever lived a perfect life. We can be sure that things don’t always work out with happy endings. Things work out according to God’s plan, and that does not mean we end every day in a river of joy and contentment. Life is not easy.
Matthew tells us to pick ourselves up, keep the faith, and don’t look for immediate gratification or acknowledgement. It most likely ain’t coming. Only the scorecard in heaven is keeping tabs on the love and empathy we are showing others. Only the scorecard in Heaven knows how we are living our life.
These words of encouragement remind us that there is a unique greatness in taking a stand for justice and fairness. There is a greatness in standing up for the oppressed and pushing for a change of love and empathy. The question is do we have enough faith to believe that “Blessed are those who are persecuted and evil things done against you because you believed in Me… for those that do so, rejoice and be glad because your reward is in Heaven.”
Dr. Maurice Scherrens
President, Newberry College.
A Plea for Deliverance and Forgiveness
A Psalm of David.
25 To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. 2 O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me. 3 Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed; Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.
4 Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. 5 Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day.
6 Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your loving kindnesses, For they are from of old. 7 Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; According to Your mercy remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.
8 Good and upright is the Lord; Therefore He teaches sinners in the way. 9 The humble He guides in justice, And the humble He teaches His way. 10 All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
Have you ever been in a difficult trial and you knew that you were in the trial because of your own sin or own mistakes? You knew that you should cry out to God for help, but you were afraid to do so because of your sin or mistake. Or, maybe your problems were not due to deliberate sin, but rather because of immaturity or stupid decisions. Even though I have prayed for guidance and wisdom, I still have done something that resulted in putting myself in a bad situation. What should you do at such times, or what should I do? Psalm 25 teaches us to seek God in the hard times, no matter for what reason we are in those hard times.
Advent often seems to come to us as a teeny tiny pinhole of light surrounded by darkness. The world, with its suffering, its violence, its ruthlessness, at times is so dark, or seems so dark, and the light seems so puny. We want that tiny pinhole of light to be enough, but it’s easy to feel like it won’t be enough to solve our problems. We may fear that the light that God has promised won’t really shine in the darkest corners of our world, or the dark corners of our own individual worlds. And it is only dimly, through that pinhole of light, that we see ourselves, reduced to our shortcomings, and we long for God to look past those faults and really see us.
We too are saved by grace, a reality that we remember and celebrate during the season of Lent. Because we trust that God is gracious, we dare to enter a season of confession and penitence, offering ourselves as a living sacrifice to God and pledging ourselves anew to discern and do God’s will.
Let us pray-
Lord- all of us need you and all of us desire the love and comfort that only you can provide. My prayer is that I slow down, that all of us slow down, and take time and make time to listen, and listen only to you.
Continue to put your people in my path, and use me to do your work. In your glorious name, we pray. Amen
Director of Athletics
Genesis 9:8-17 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)
8 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, 9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; 10 and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. 11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. 12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. 14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: 15 and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. 17 And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.
If you lived in this part of the country a few years ago, you likely remember what we call the “thousand-year flood.” The rain damaged property, driving some people from their homes and making travel difficult. But we knew it wouldn’t last forever, and we did the best we could during and after that monstrous rain. And even during those difficult times, we could find moments of beauty and satisfaction as first responders, neighbors, and even strangers did what they could during the storm and the ensuing recovery.
In our text today, we recall the story of the rainbow, a mark of God’s promise that even though storms would still come, they would not destroy us. Later in the Bible, Jesus comes to us and shows that even death does not mean obliteration. And though we know that we move through storms and suffering, some of which we mark in Lent, we also know that they don’t mean we will be destroyed.
But the rainbow is also a challenge to us. When there are floods, both literal and metaphorical, we should do what we can to bring beauty and reminders of the mercy of God to the people around us. We see rainbows, yes – but we may be rainbows as well.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the rainbow, the reminder that even when life slips beyond our control, You love us and give us futures in you, through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Please grant us the ability to be agents of Your mercy and kindness as well. In Christ’s Name we pray, amen.
Dr. Warren Moore. Professor of English, Newberry College
Matthew 7: 7-12
A Plan for Good
God intends good for you. That is the message announced by our text for this day. Jesus says you can be as confident about receiving God’s favor as a person who knocks on a door with the confidence that a friend is on the other side, ready to open it. You can confidently trust that God is on your side. God intends good for you.
This an easy concept, but people have difficulty accepting and trusting that God intends good for them. They wonder if it’s true because much in life suggests otherwise. To help us understand, Jesus gives us a straightforward analogy. People are not perfect. None of us always does what is good and right. Even so, who among us would give a child who asks for food something poisonous to eat? As Jesus says in our text, “What parents would give their children a poisonous snake when children ask for food?” If we, with all our flaws, often do what is good, how much more then will God, who is completely good, give us what is good!
I often hear people say they wish God would reveal a plan for them. What a strange question to ask! As if we don’t already know God’s plan for us! Can we not trust the good news that in Christ we know God intends good for us? Is that not enough? Is this not what it means to live by faith? Even if we do not know the particulars about God’s care for us or how God is leading us, Jesus taught us that God is in our lives for good. In return, God asks that we share goodness with others, and that part of the plan is up to us to devise. This Lenten season, let’s get to work living out our discipleship.
Almighty God, source of all good things, give us the courage to trust in your Son’s good news about your steadfast love. Help us respond to your call to serve our neighbor even as Christ served us. Amen.
Mark Wilhelm, Executive Director
Network of ELCA Colleges and Universities
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
“About Judging and Being Judged”
An old Indian proverb teaches us, “Never judge another until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.”
Jesus made the same point long ago in this proverb from Matthew. “Judge not,” he said, “lest you be judged.” Now his point was not that we never need to make decisions about the people we are going to hang out with or hire or elect to hold public office. In that sense, we are judging others all the time, and by the nature of life we need to.
But in doing so we need to put on one another’s shoes. A colleague friend of mine tells the story about teaching at USC. One student would come late into her class, slip into the back row, and would often fall asleep. She perceived him to be a poor student who did not care, and she wrote him off. But one day after class he walked up to the podium and explained to her, “I’m sorry I come late and sometimes fall asleep. You see I am putting myself through college and I work the late shift. I come here straight from work and am often exhausted. I am sorry for my behavior, but I did not want you to take it personally.”
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus tells his daughter Scout that “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Even God refused to judge us until he climbed inside a human’s skin and walked around in it, until he became flesh and dwelled among us.
So we are not to judge each other, certainly not until we have asked and listened and heard and understood the stories and circumstances of our sisters and brothers. That is why we need to walk in each other’s moccasins. So we can relate to one another, understand each other. This is what it means to have compassion – to “feel with” the other, to recognize that each of us is, in the words of Luther, “saint and sinner at the same time.” We fear, we fall; we bear, we bless. We harangue and harm; we help and heal. Ours is not to judge by double standards, for to do so is to live double-dealing, duplicitous lives. Ours are not the feed of the pure and holy, but we may sometimes be blessed to tread in the path the holy one has made for us. WE are not to judge; but sometimes we may show good judgement.
When a judge walks into a courtroom, the Bailiff orders the court to stand, saying “All Rise.” And all in the court do. In due time, we will all be judged, but the good news for us is that when that time comes, the one that will do the judging of us is the same one who did the dying for us. Jesus will act as both judge and advocate. He judges not from a bench but from a cross, and from that cross he pleads our case and asks God to forgive us even when we know not what we do. And even when we do.
And judging by the nature of God’s grace, the time is coming when Jesus, our holy judge and faithful advocate, will also play the role of the blessed Bailiff who, having conquered death itself, will say to us, “ALL RISE.”
Let us pray.
O Holy One, forgive us when we judge one another in duplicitous ways, and deliver us from the headless and harsh judgments of others. Lead us not into judgment but deliver us from evil. And may be wise with our Lord into your kingdom of life and grace and goodness.
Professor of Religion, Dr. Wayne Kannaday
The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens—wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. 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 insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.
Speaking to a group of Lutheran church leaders, Peter L. Steinke once concluded his remarks by saying, “Being right is highly overrated.” The prophet Isaiah seemed certain that the word he received from God and proclaimed was right. Some of Isaiah’s listeners apparently thought that his message was not right. He was beaten. They pulled the hair of his beard. He was insulted and spat upon. Isaiah set his face like flint, which is a pretty hard mineral, the idea being that even if he were struck in the face, he would not be deterred from speaking the word he had received from God.
God had called Isaiah to preach peace, good news, salvation, and the reign of God. Isaiah’s certainty that set his face like flint was not certainty that he was right. His certainty was based in his faith in God who fulfills God’s promises.
Being right is highly overrated because certainty of being right can get in the way of loving relationships. A bright, well informed, thoughtful, wise person I know often ends what sounds like a very certain pronouncement with the words, “But then again, I could be wrong.” This is an invitation to hearing new information or another point of view. This is a mark of humility, of not taking one’s self too seriously.
People outside of the church are increasingly of the opinion that Christians are judgmental, that we are too certain about how others ought to behave. If we are to be certain about something, it ought to be our trust that God is One who saves, who brings peace, who brings relief from suffering, who reconciles, bringing peace to relationships. We ought to be more certain of God’s salvation than we are of our own judgments. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (Isaiah 52:7).
Gracious God, give us courage and strength to proclaim your words of peace, good news, and salvation, words that can sustain the weary. May we be steadfast in our faith in your promises and humble in our judgments.
Reverend Dr. Ben Moravitz, '76
Assistant to the Bishop, ELCA Southeastern Synod.
Matthew 6: 19-21
In this passage, Jesus is instructing us in one of the hardest areas of life that people face. He is telling us not to “let the world be too much with us.” Do not be so concerned with earthly possessions that we focus on accumulation of our things, that we forget what is really important to our true nature, that of our spirit. I have learned to say “Heaven is so much with me!” I then feel lighter and headed more in my life’s true direction, rather than feeling the cares and worries of the world. Love for and generosity to others shows our trust in God that He will take care of our needs, so that we do not have to worry and stress over the cares of this life.
I heard a minister’s wife say that she mentally burned her house down each week. She was saying that she caused herself to let go of allowing things to own her. God knows that we have need of material goods to sustain life, and He generously gives us more than we need. In this passage, Jesus asks us to be careful that life on earth is not so important that we lose sight of our goal of Heaven. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Verse 6:21)
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, we thank you for your lessons contained in the scriptures to help us with our daily life lessons. Your words teach and inspire us to understand the true meaning of life. Please help us to conquer this area of life that we find hard to remember, that of enjoying our worldly gifts from you, without worshiping them more than You.
Dr. Sarah Bryant
Interim Chair, Department of Business Administration
“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18
The best advice I ever got from the internet was from an article summarizing a book which dives into our cultural need to be “busy.” The author of the book, Brigid Schulte, interviews and studies linguists and sociologists and comes to the conclusion that “busyness” has become a cultural badge of honor and a sign of status and importance. We feel the need to be “busy,” or to appear busy. Many of us are busy, but Schulte finds a particular sociologist who has a very simple fix for all the anxiety that builds up in us due to our busy lives.
The advice was simple: stop telling yourself and others how busy you are.
Apparently, the mere fact that we have an internal voice telling us how busy we are and the fact that we freely express this to others have adverse psychological effects on us. It compounds stress and exhaustion, paving the way for bad decision-making, all the while wasting time on brooding on how busy we are.
In much the same way, Jesus is trying to remind anyone who will listen that our attempts to appear valued, important, or special really only get us so far, and may even cause us harm. But to refrain from these things —moreover to actively work away from such self-aggrandizement— may just bring more substantive rewards.
I really don’t care to admit to you all how much my life is run by how I appear to others, because it’s a constant motivation. Nevertheless, the way of Jesus takes us down a different path, a path away from such silly motivations and self-deception. The way of Jesus is not being seen and known by others but being seen and known by God. God, who is faithful and good, brushes aside our busyness and self-promotion and sees through it to the very human beings we really are.
Would you believe me if I told you that even then God loves you?
Let us pray.
Holy and loving God, you see who we are in secret, and you love us still. Turn us away from self-importance and instead turn us toward our neighbors and you. Teach us to serve our neighbors with the same love you gave in Christ, your Son, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Pastor Michael Price
Newberry College, Class of 2002
Matthew 6: 9-13
Pray like this: Our Father who is in heaven, uphold the holiness of your name. Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven. Give us the bread we need for today. Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us. And don’t lead us into temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. (CEB)
The Lord’s Prayer, the time honored and time-tested prayer that our Lord Jesus has shared with us. This is indeed a wonderful prayer that we recite as often as we can. In my congregation we recite the Lord’s Prayer within every service and this prayer usually begins or ends each of our many meetings. I recite this prayer as I go to visits with those I serve. We pray this prayer as we share in the Lord’s meal, as we pray for healing and well-being, as we are present with one another during times of grief and sadness, but also during times of joy and celebration. Within all aspects of the faithful life – this prayer is prayed. A lot.
I do love that so many hold on so dearly to this prayer (even though there is no ‘correct’ Lord’s Prayer just different translations of the prayer Jesus gave to his disciples). I can be with some of my most beloved members that have some of the fiercest cases of dementia – those who have trouble staying in a conversation since their short-term memory is so impaired. Yet, as soon as we get to the portion of our visit where this prayer is recited, they can join right in with no trouble at all.
Something about this prayer has lodged deep into their memories, as the recite these well-loved words, you can begin to see the person you knew for so long and so well. There is comfort for the one who has trouble remembering as they join in – they can and do remember some things – really important things. And there is comfort brought to those who are visiting with them as they see, if only for a fleeting moment, the person they know and love as they used to be.
I love this prayer. I love that we repeat it and recite it so much. It reminds me of God’s promise of presence with us. Our God provides us with those things we need for daily living, in the midst of our life we will screw up, yet our God will continue to forgive us. In the remembrance of that forgiveness of when we have wronged God, we are called to forgive those who have wronged us in some way. All the while we pray that our God will continue to protect us in this life.
There is so much promise and hope in these words. And yes, we repeat them a lot. But, we repeat them because they are good words to hear. These words help us remember not only God’s promise with us, but how we live towards others. These words or so important in our life of faith that they nestle deep in our minds, they ingrain themselves in the fibers of our very being. We repeat, recite, and remember these words because of their promise and comfort. Amen.
Let us pray – O Lord whose name is indeed holy, help me to remember these words. To remember your promise, remember your protection, to remember to live in love towards and with others. May these words rest in my soul and may I recite them again and again, not only to bring comfort to me, but to remind others of their comfort as well. Amen.
Rev. Matthew Titus The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Newberry, SC
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (NIV)
How many times have you heard somebody praying, or making some expression of faith or worship, really making a show of it...and you’ve wondered who the real audience was? Was it truly a message to the Lord, or was it using prayer as a way to say “hey, everybody, look at me!”? Too often in life I have found people who talked a great game about loving the Lord and wanted everybody to know just how devout they were. They were great at doing wheelies with their words, but their actions told a far different story. I learned the hard way to keep my distance from them.
When my parents were attending Greenwood High School back in the day, the school’s motto was “do right because it is right.” You shouldn’t do the right thing because you want credit or because you want to show off. You should do it because it’s the right thing to do. And the same is true with prayer. No matter your intent, you shouldn’t pray to be a showoff. It’s too sacred a thing to use as a device. You should pray because you mean it. And a prayer that takes place in a secluded room, with nobody around but you and God, is about as sacred and meaningful as it gets. It’s an honest way to pray, and a powerful one.
It is true there are times we are called to pray in the presence of others (a church service without prayer would be kind of pointless, wouldn’t it?). But we don’t need an audience to make a prayer valid. After all, how many times have you found yourself sleepless, consumed by crisis, your heart crying out to God in the wee small hours? God, who has incredible hearing anyway, who can hear a prayer before we even pray it and knows what we need before we even know we need anything, can hear us a lot better when we speak in seclusion, connecting with the Almighty through the honesty that lies deep within our hearts and souls, instead of over the shouts of “look at me!” that come from prayer as spectacle.
Dear Lord, please let us always keep in mind that the purpose of prayer is to connect with You. Help us to keep our communications with You always honest and sincere, and our purpose genuine. Please help us use the gift of prayer to make us more faithful and benevolent servants for Your purpose. Amen.
Jodie Peeler, Professor of Communications
Matthew 6: 2 So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. NIV
Today we continue our Lenten journey towards Good Friday and Easter with this rather difficult text. For who among us doesn’t love to be recognized or honored for doing good things? But you see, this text is not really about that. This passage is about doing good things like giving to the needy, not for our own honor but because it is the right thing to do, for the honor and glory of God. I have heard my beloved Ernie often say words to the effect that, ‘If there are two choices, usually the more difficult one is the right thing to do.” Does it seem like that to you, too? It is so much easier to do nothing that to do something. This season of Lent in preparation for Good Friday and Easter is a time for self-reflection and especially self-reflection in looking at our actions as a reflection of God’s love for us and Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3: 16.
Those of you who know me, know that music is always in my head. So just writing John 3:16 takes me into singing that in a well known anthem.... But also today I have another song in my heart and head for this Lenten journey: “I Love To Tell The Story,” by Alan Jackson. The Chorus goes:
“I love to tell the story,
Twill be my theme in glory.
To tell the old, old story
Of Jesus and his love.
For our contemplation today and each and every day during this Lenten season should be about Jesus and His love. To everything, for everything, give God the honor and glory!
Please pray with me.
Thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus. Lord Jesus, thank you for your gift of grace and salvation from the cross. Holy Spirit, please dwell in me today and help me make the right choices that honor God and Jesus instead of just me. Amen
R. Annie Worman
Reading 2: Corinthians 4:5-12
5For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12So death is at work in us, but life in you.
When we were children, I am guessing we all had the “my dad is cooler than your dad” argument with a friend from time to time – or at least I did. We’d talk about what our parents did, their achievements, and both brag about our parents. Or, maybe now those conversations have shifted to being about your children or grandchildren, and how wonderful, special, and talented they are. We love to talk about the people we love, and share the amazing things about them.
What is interesting to me is that those conversations – which are always a little boastful regardless of our intentions – very rarely are about our own achievements. Now, they may reflect the kind of person we are or the kind of relationship we have with the person we are bragging about, but we’re rarely talking about our own deeds.
With this reading in mind, we are encouraged not to proclaim ourselves or our works. Instead of proclaiming ourselves, we are told to proclaim Christ above all else. The gifts we have are not ours but are from God, and it is God who we should proclaim. Talking about and sharing about the people in our lives who we deeply care about isn’t strange to us, but sometimes it seems, sharing our faith is. I think in conversation we’ve all learned when we can pepper in information about our family to other people; I encourage you to listen for those appropriate times to share how wonderful our God is with those around you. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Gracious and loving God, you have mercifully made yourself known to us and among us in Jesus Christ. As we rely on his works, we ask that you help us in word and deed proclaim Christ to our neighbors in a way that points others to the light that has graciously shined on our lives. Amen.
Rev. James Henricks,
Pastor of Summer Memorial Lutheran Church in Newberry, SC.
Lent 2018 Devotion
2 Corinthian 1:3-7 // February 22nd
Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation. (v. 7)
One of the most remarkable things about the Bible to me is how God’s Word can shine through even the most imperfect of biblical characters—almost against their will. Today’s passage is the opening of Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth. Although Paul has been in close relation with this church, the relationship has not been an easy one, and the purpose of the letter is establish Paul’s apostleship. The Corinthians have apparently been listening to other teachers, and Paul is concerned that they are headed toward heresy. More than concerned, he is irritated and angry. Frankly, in more than a few places the letter reads as being more about Paul than about God, skirting a heresy of his own: self-idolatry.
Yet his opening lines convey an affection and commitment that cannot be denied. He acknowledges the Corinthian church’s sufferings and afflictions as well as his own, and he witnesses to the power of divine consolation, shared from one to the other, as a loving response to that suffering. Whatever the conflict, whatever their flaws or his, what binds them is the holy consolation that issues from God but must circulate among one another in order to bear transformative power.
At present I am in a prayer community with a few people I have never met. The young adult ministry in which I am involved connects over a mobile app called Group Me. Although it was established as a means of communication, it has evolved so that it also now serves as a prayer group when a member is in need. Because of odd work schedules and other commitments, there are a few members most of us have not even met in person. But when a call for prayers comes out, whether intercessory or celebratory, we respond. Perhaps less odd for the millennials in the group than for me, I have been surprised and moved by the power of this virtual yet as-real-as-it-gets prayer group.
What’s more, it strikes me that we may be circling back in some ways to the time of the early church, when churches were scattered and relied upon the written word for connection—when God’s consolation was extended among human hearts via the human hand. Across differences, across geographies, across space, God’s grace and mercy flowed… and in turn hope.
Let us pray: O Holy One, you are the ultimate tie that binds. May we console others in their afflictions as you have consoled us and in doing so nurture hope in, with, and among one another, whether we are near or far. Amen.
Dr. Krista E. Hughes
Director, Muller Center & Associate Professor of Religion
“Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O GOD, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, GOD, will not despise.”
~New International Version
I will admit that I am not the best gift giver in the world. Some of my family have told me that my gift-giving skills often lack imagination. It’s not that I don’t like to give gifts or that I am not creative. It’s just my belief that no gift is perfect. The only thing that matters is that each gift comes straight from the heart. My parents instilled this philosophy in me and it is something that I live by.
This is what King David was alluding to in these verses. David went through a lot during his time as king and he did some things that were not pleasing in the sight of GOD. While others were sacrificing material things, David offered to sacrifice himself. He offered to sacrifice his old, broken self in order to become the new creature GOD wanted to make him. GOD’s message to us is still the same. He will take us as we are and clean us up if we let him.
There is none like you. Thank you for looking beyond our faults to see our needs. Your love for us is amazing and grace is sufficient. Help us to spread that message to others.
In Jesus Name,
Dr. John Lesaine ’07, Associate Professor of Sport Professions
Psalm 51:10-14 King James Version (KJV)
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
Okay Newberry Friends and Family, We're about to do some math.
Don't hate me. It's easy math. It's the kind of math you look forward to when you're a kid, like "How many Valentines will I have if everyone in class gives me one?"
I know what you're thinking, "There is no math in the bible!" but there is! 3's and 7's galore. Here we go.
A Clean Heart + Right Spirit + God's Holy Spirit = A Free Spirit
Simple, right? David is a sinner, like us all, and as a King, David has the ability to affect a lot of people negatively and positively. In Psalm 51, David is repenting for many sins, including the bloodshed he has caused sending his brothers into battle while he stays home. In order to be truly free, David asks God for a Clean Heart, a Right Spirit, and God's Holy spirit to abide with him. Let's break down the ingredients in this recipe for Freedom.
1. A Clean Heart. Seems pretty straightforward. We ask every week at church that God forgive us our sins and make us clean again. But here, David doesn't just want to be cleansed. He wants a new heart, created by God, not just cleansed, but created new for David. A fresh, God given heart without any lingering sin or doubt. Only God can truly create something out of nothing. That is a pretty big request of the Almighty Creator who created light and water, and heavens and the earth but God's compassion knows no bounds.
2. A Right Spirit. If it's not a right spirit, it's a wrong spirit. What does he mean here by "right" He means stalwart, steadfast and true, unflinchingly faithful in the presence of hardship, doubt, and temptation. David succumbs to temptation and fear multiple times in the text and he recognizes this and wants to change. We can all relate to that. Wanting to be better, stronger people. Choosing the high road every time. Doing what's right which is often not the easy choice.
3. God's Holy Spirit. In the passage, David asks God not to leave him. He was blessed with the Holy Spirit when he became King and he is afraid and desperate that it may be taken from him because of his transgressions which are great. We know from 1 Samuel that the Spirit of the Lord left Saul, David's predecessor, and he was tormented by it. We are sinful beings and we falter. But the Holy Spirit can embolden us. Remembering that we're not alone can make our time at work and class better, our relationships better, and overall outlook on life better.
So what does it take for David, and for us too, to be free? A clean heart, A right spirit, and God's Holy Spirit. Brownies are ruined if you leave out an ingredient. So too, our freedom isn't true if we are missing any of the attributes : A clean heart, a right spirit, and God's Holy Spirit. Woof! Maybe that math wasn't so simple. It can feel impossible to maintain such righteousness but there is good news. And I believe Lent is about the lead up to our greatest news. God loves us to an unfathomable degree and he is always here to help us be our best selves. He stands by our side and gives us strength when we pray for a right spirit. And when we falter, he cleanses our hearts if we repent in earnest. Best of all, he is everywhere we are, ready to help. The Holy Spirit isn't limited to Banking Hours. You don't need an application or a reservation. It's always available when you need it. Freedom, true freedom, is a work in progress. Everyday. We wake up with a new chance to be the incredible person God created us to be, in his image, a new chance to praise God and ask for his forgiveness for our sins, to make strong decisions, and to share his love and kindness with others.
As you go through this week, I hope you remember this passage as a song of prayer, a Lutheran service hymn if you know it. If you're lucky enough to hear this on the radio, then my mother might just sing it for us now.
Today, the scripture writes our prayer:
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Amen.
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“For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me.”
(verse 3, NRSV)
Growing up Lutheran, I remember every Lent being asked what I was giving up for Lent. And I would usually give up a TV show (Sky King one year – as though anyone besides me remembers that one) or ice cream and one year I gave up climbing trees (easy choice since I had recently taken quite a fall from one of the higher ones in our yard). It doesn’t seem to have ever occurred to anyone that I should try something that could make a lasting change in my life such as – giving up a TV show and reading the Bible during that time slot. Somehow, as kids or adults it does not sound as cool to say I have added more Bible reading to my life as it does to do the martyr path and say I have given up chocolate for forty days.
However, the third verse of Psalm 51, “For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me.”, reminds me of the one thing we are not good at giving up – our sins and guilt! We have a hard time forgiving ourselves or accepting forgiveness from friends, family, co-workers, and especially from God. We often seem to wallow in our guilt and beating ourselves up over our perceived failures, our mistakes, spoken words we wish we could take back, or broken relationships. We seem to love carrying around our bag full of our sins and transgressions. Whether or not we realize it, we are accepting God’s gift of Grace without ever unwrapping it or using it.
So, what would our lives and the world look like if everyone decided to give up their “carry-round baggage” for Lent and filled all that new open space in their lives with joy in relationships, looking for ways to share Jesus’ love with others, and finding ways to bask in the Love of Christ and share that love as they begin each day with a clean slate and empty carry-round bag?
Lent is only five days old, its not too late to add something to your Lenten journey that can make a permanent change in your life – healthy snacks instead of chocolate, porch conversations with friends instead of texting, reading a book instead of googling the short version, joining a Bible study instead of watching TV, or participating in a worship community instead of one round of golf each week. Best yet, fill our carry-round bag with joy and love and the Good News of Christ to share with others instead of toting our oversized carry-round bag stuffed with every sin and transgression we can recall.
Let Us Pray – Loving Savior, thank you for the gift of Grace. Please help us to accept your sacrificial gift and let go of our guilt and fears so that we can be free to live in the light of your love and share that love with the world through helping, giving, and working for a world united in peace and providing for everyone. In Jesus Name we pray – Amen.
Rev. Joan E. Holden, St. Timothy Lutheran Church, Crystal River, Florida. 2011 Newberry graduate and 2015 graduate of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. - Psalm 51:1-2
Lent is a strange 40-day journey in the life of the church kicked off with this peculiar day called Ash Wednesday. People call it a time for self-reflection. Yet, God offers and desires much more than sappy self-reflection. He invites us to go deeper beyond those inwardly focused moments, beyond those self-help books, TED talks, or daily inspirational tweets and/or Facebook posts. God wants much more for us than simply selfish reflection; he wants repentance and authenticity with ourselves and, perhaps more importantly, Himself.
Psalm 51 is a great example of repentance and authentic words that we can use in our prayers and conversations with God. The psalm focuses on God’s unfailing love but also on the sin that is very much alive in people’s lives. Many believe this is the psalm that David, a man of God, wrote after his affair with Bathsheba and murder of her husband on the battlefield (2 Samuel 11). We hear in this psalm the sound of a man who has been convicted by the weight of his sin and is driven to repentance seeking God’s unfailing love to cover his transgressions.
For us, this psalm offers us a glimpse into the Christian truth that repentance - not mere self-reflection - leads us to an authentic relationship with God and others. It is out of this repentance that a lively relationship with God is born. Knowing our faults, our imperfections, and our brokenness, and lifting all these to God is exactly what He desires because it is His unfailing love that blots out our transgressions, imperfections, and shortcomings.
Prayer: Almighty God, guide us beyond simply self-reflection but lead us to true repentance. As we lift up all our burdens, transgressions, and imperfections to you, cover them with your unfailing love. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. . . . I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!
(Isa 5:1, 6-7)
The prophet Isaiah lived at a particularly tumultuous time in Israel’s history. The mighty Assyrians had moved in from the North and were perilously close to the capital city of Jerusalem, raising questions about whether Israel’s king should surrender or fight (Isa 7-9, 36-39). Assyria’s King Sennacherib led an unsuccessful attempt to invade Jerusalem, which gave Israel hope that they would be saved from destruction.
Then, these words from Isaiah. In this extended metaphor about God’s vineyard (Israel and Judah), it is clear that God has planned destruction and it is imminent. Why? Because “[God] expected justice but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry” (Isa 5:7). Like his predecessors, Amos and Micah, Isaiah was concerned about the consequences of the blatant classism of his time. The wealthy abused the poor, kings did nothing, and the poor could not fight back for fear of losing their land or their lives. Justice and righteousness were not evident, even though Amos and Micah had already called for it 50 years earlier. Israel, for all the faith they claimed, had not changed their ways – they did not live their faith; thus, punishment was necessary.
Lent is the great “TIME OUT” of the church year. Not punishment, exactly, but not celebratory, either. It is a time to reflect on our sinful human condition. Many people “punish” themselves by giving up the thing they love the most. Some take on an extra spiritual discipline, like prayer, fasting, or giving. Whichever way you choose, Lent is a break before Easter in which we contemplate not only what makes us human, but also ways in which Jesus connects with the profound pain and joy of being human. In this time out, we can think about what we have done (or not done) to and for our fellow human beings. Have we worked to bring about justice and righteousness? Have we repented and/or asked another person for forgiveness? Have we offered forgiveness? In what ways can we be inviting to others?
Think about the cross of ashes on your forehead, your relationship with Jesus, and during the harshness of the Lenten season, remember Jesus’ promise – “I will be with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
O loving God, to turn away from you is to fall, to turn toward you is to rise, and to stand before you is to abide forever. Grant us, dear God, in all our duties your help; in all our uncertainties your guidance; in all our dangers your protection; and in all our sorrows your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Augustine of Hippo)
Rev. Dr. Christy Wendland, Ph.D.
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs
Associate Professor of Religion
Ash Wednesday, February 14
During the month of February, we hear a lot about love, at least from a Hallmark perspective with the commercialization of Valentine’s Day. But in some ways, I find it fitting that during a month in which there is so much emphasis placed on love that we find ourselves in the church with ashes on our foreheads.
On February 14th, we will gather as a community in Christ around the Holy Meal of bread and wine and confess our sins, known and unknown. We will receive a visible symbol of our own mortality with the ashen cross, as we hear these ancient words spoken, “Remember, O mortal, that you are dust; and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19).
Ash Wednesday is intended to be a bold confrontation with death. This to many in our world is a painful dose of reality; for we live in a culture that wishes to ignore death and dress it up, trying to conceal that which cannot be concealed. As Laurence Stookey stated:
“This harsh medicine of reality is intended to set in motion a reconsideration of the meaning of life and death apart from Christ and in Christ. Ashes, the sign of death, are put on the forehead not in some random pattern but in the shape of a cross. This alters the starkness of the message, which this becomes: You will die. You cannot change that. But you can die in Christ, whose death transforms your own demise. Meanwhile, live in Christ and discover Christ’s new life, which conquers death.”
We hear of the proclamation of God’s great love for us in life and in death, a proclamation that transcends any Valentine card, and is a love that is impossible to fully comprehend or describe. The prophet Joel reminds us, “Return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing” (Joel 2:13).
It is on Ash Wednesday that we not only receive that cross, as a reminder of our own
mortality, but that cross is traced over the cross that was placed on our foreheads long ago in our Baptism. In Baptism, we were marked with the sign of the cross and sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit forever, both in life and in death. Every time we gather for a meal at God’s holy table, we receive the reality of God’s great love letter for us, as we are strengthened and nourished. We are reminded as we gather each time at the table that we gather, in the presence of our enemies, assuring us that we can pass through the darkest valley without fear and find our place at the great resurrection feast in the house of the Lord.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of a forty-day journey, that we call Lent. Lent begins with a call to fasting and repentance as we begin the journey to the baptismal waters of Easter. The sign of the ashes reminds us of our frailty and mortality. What seems like an ending is really an invitation to make each day a new beginning, in which we are washed in God’s mercy and forgiveness. To me, what love is any better than the love God has for each of us? I think none.
As Rachel Held Evans put it: “It’s just death and resurrection, over and over again, day after day, as God reaches down into our deepest graves and with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead wrests us from our pride, our apathy, our fear, our prejudice, our anger, our hurt, and our despair. Most days I don’t know which is harder for me to believe: that God reanimated the brain functions of a man three days dead, or that God can bring back to life all the beautiful things we have killed.”
I look forward to our journey together from ashen crosses to Easter Alleluias.
May God continue to bless us, so that we may be a blessing to others!
Let us pray.
God of love, as we enter this season of Lent, we know you journey with us. Open our eyes to see your more clearly in our neighbor and inspire us to show your love to all the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
The Rev. Kevin L. Strickland, is a 2004 graduate of Newberry College and currently serves as the Assistant to the Presiding Bishop and Executive for Worship for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.