Lenten Devotions 2018
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.
Friend of Newberry College
Newberry College family member
“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
|Section Heading||Section Content|
|Heading for section||Content for section|
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.