Lent Devotionals 2019
March 18, 2019
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance.”
One of the major themes of the Lenten season is repentance. Repentance for most of us implies a kind of sorrow for our sins, a deep regret for our hurtful words and actions towards others along with asking for God’s forgiveness and a personal intention to do better in the future. Of course, there is nothing wrong with these associations except that they may be too narrow and too preoccupied with an effort on our part to show a proper kind of remorse. For instance, one could worry about what is a proper amount of remorse to show God? How bad do I have to feel in order to convince God that I know I need God’s forgiveness and grace? Whether we realize it or not, we begin to make God’s gift of forgiveness all about our own ability to make ourselves feel bad enough to deserve it, which means we miss the whole point.
Frederick Buechner in his book, Wishful Thinking, gives us a different way of understanding repentance. He writes, “To repent is to come to your senses. It is not so much something you do as something that happens. True repentance spends less time looking at the past and saying, “I’m sorry,” than to the future and saying, “wow.” Here we see that the real significance of repentance is that it reorients us to a new focus on the future that God makes possible. That is why Jesus said so clearly that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance.” In this sense, repenting involves a letting go of the mistakes and brokenness in the past that weighs us down and discovering a gracious invitation from God to live life more fully and authentically in the future. The Lenten season therefore prepares us to see our lives more clearly through the lens of the cross and the joy of Christ’s resurrection gift of forgiveness and new life.
Let us pray.
Dear God, Sometimes we hold onto many things too tightly. Sometimes we let our regrets and disappointments in the past weigh us down so much that they prevent us from experiencing your gifts in the present and the future. Help us this Lenten season to let go and to trust in the new future you offer us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Rev. Dr. Herman Yoos, Bishop of the South Carolina Synod of the ELCA
March 15, 2019
James 1:12 New International Version (NIV)
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
One of my favorite short stories is George Clayton Johnson's "The Prevailing Westerlies," a little-known gem of a story published in an anthology of Johnson's works. In it, Johnson channels the voice of a crewman aboard Christopher Columbus's flagship Santa Maria on the voyage to the New World. Day after day of being at sea, with no land in sight, with food rotting in the holds, had filled many of his crewmates with fear and suspicion. Mutiny was in their eyes. And even though this crewman kept faith with Columbus, he still wondered if they'd all die in a watery waste, having never reached their destination. But one day in the midst of his disquiet, a familiar smell crossed his path...not the smell of the ocean, but a "brief scent of green" too strong to be only an island. The story ends, "That's why I was in the crow's nest that night back in 1492, ready to be the first to sing out 'Land ho!' at the first sign of a sudden light."
Life is so much like that kind of uncertain voyage. We head off into an immense unknown, full of hope that we'll get where we want to go. But as time goes on, days come when the winds aren't favorable at all. Our destination seems uncertain and we wonder if we'll ever find it. Hope deserts us. Sometimes come voices that sound like mutineers, urging us to just give up and do the easy thing. It seems like everything's just going wrong and we can't find anyone who will support us, who sees the point of the journey, who can keep the faith. Why not just give up? But somehow in that darkness, through some kind of grace, we hold on. And every once in a blessed while comes that brief scent of green in the middle of the ocean, a reminder that where we want to go is not so wild a dream after all.
In this season of Lent, as we remember the forty days that Jesus spent on his own spiritual voyage in the wilderness, it's worth remembering that where we want to end up is worth the struggle, worth ignoring the mutineers, worth staying the course for. Someday you'll reach that destination, and you'll look back and remember how it felt when you got that glorious first view of your own new world, the one you found only by keeping the faith.
O Lord, thy sea is so great and our boats are so small. But do not let us stray from the course You have charted for us. Help us resist the temptations and the voices of mutineers, let us not be discouraged in the moments when the winds aren't favorable, and hold us fast when the storms of life toss us about. Keep our courses true, and may the day come when You welcome us into a new home port to abide for all time. In your name we pray. Amen.
Dr. Jodie Peeler
Professor of Communications, Newberry College
March 14, 2019
Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, "Weren't our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?" (Luke 24:31-32 CEB)
There are moments in our lives that we, for whatever reason, cannot see God present in our lives. We can’t feel Jesus’ life within us. We wander unaware of the Holy Spirit’s guidance in each of our days.
This is not uncommon (no matter how many times someone might tell you otherwise). Even the disciples experienced that distance and elusiveness within their own lives at times. Especially when something tragic has happened – even after they were told that Jesus would be present with them always. How easily we forget that promise when turmoil, hurt, and more are going on in our lives.
I remember while in Seminary being stressed beyond belief. So many papers and responsibilities not only within school, but my field work site, and in my family life as well. I (and all my classmates) felt pulled in all directions and we were barely holding it together. During that stressful time, one of the first things that was typically ‘dropped’ from all of our ‘to-do’ lists was attending chapel. We felt that we needed that time; we needed that rest.
We were reminded by a much beloved professor – where is the place that you can hear that you are loved, remembered, and forgiven? Where is the place that you can know – with no shadow of a doubt – that Jesus is present right there? Where is the one place you can turn to because God has promised to be there?
The answer is the same place where Cleopas and the other disciple realized that Jesus was with them; at the table – in the breaking of bread.
Always remember, no matter how crazy life gets (and boy does it sure get crazy at times) Jesus has promised to be with us. As a Lutheran, I believe that Jesus is fully present in, with, and under the bread and wine at communion because Jesus said and promised he would be. When life becomes hectic, I can turn to that meal and remember that Jesus is indeed with me. Always. It doesn’t magically make the stress go away, but it sure does make it easier to go through knowing I’m not alone.
That’s the love and presence of Jesus that I cannot wait to share – because it burns within my heart.
Let us pray…
Lord God, we don’t always see you. We become distracted and distant from you for a variety of reasons. Remind us always that you indeed are here with us. Help us to hold on to your promise of love and forgiveness that is in the meal we share at your table. Hold us in that love always. Amen.
Rev. Matthew Titus
The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Newberry, SC
March 13, 2019
2 Corinthians 13:5-8 (ESV)
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.
Today’s Scripture passage deals with the theological aspects of Lent — a time symbolic of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and in which we, as followers, are encouraged to test and strengthen our faith and be spiritually reborn. In keeping with the Lutheran tradition, questioning and critically evaluating what we hear, what we believe, and why we believe it are key to a better understanding of God. This means exploring and revisiting articles of our personal faiths, counting our blessings, and putting aside presumption to find truth. Tests to our faith are not only trials and tribulations as they come, but they are also our own deliberate efforts to leave our comfort zone, reject complacency, and ask the big questions. Today’s verse tells us to embrace these tests, because anything rightfully in search of truth is no sin, and God is with us every step of the way.
O God, help us to know you better each day, and open our hearts to seek you with humility, curiosity, and thanksgiving. Amen.
Student Body Vice President and graduating senior
March 12, 2019
Trust and Follow
31Then [Jesus] took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. 33After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” 34But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
The disciples are confused again. And it’s no wonder. Jesus has just encountered the rich young man who can’t leave everything and follow Jesus. And Peter observes, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you” (18:18)
And Jesus replies, he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life” (18:19-20)
It sounds like they are on the way, doesn’t it? On the way to victory, to a prominent place in the cabinet of the soon-to-be victorious Messiah. Then Jesus says this: He will be handed over to the Romans, jeered at, made sport of, and spit on. Then, after giving him the third degree, they will kill him. But in three days he will rise, alive. The disciples can’t make heads or tails of what he is talking about, of what God is up to.
I’d be less than honest if I told you that I always get it. I am often mystified by what God is up to in the world. And there is a long list of things I’d like answers to: Big things like the suffering of the innocent. If God wants to bring about a divine reign of peace and justice, why is it taking so long? Small things that are so petty I’d be embarrassed to admit them to you.
Like those disciples, I am often confused about where all this is headed and what my part in it is supposed to be. “God, if you want me to do something here, make it clear and I’ll do my best!”
But notice this: while the disciples were confused, while they just didn’t get it, still, they followed Jesus. They went with him to Jerusalem, and while – as we will see during Holy Week – they didn’t come off as exemplary friends and supporters, while they let him down, betrayed and abandoned him, still, they followed him. And that’s all he asked of them and all he asks of us.
Follow the best you can. Trust that God will bring it all to a good end. Amen
God of mystery, you call us to follow you even in our confusion. Give us grace to trust enough to follow where you lead. We ask this in the name of the one who loves us and gave himself for us, Jesus our Lord. Amen
Rev. Dr. Bishop Julian Gordy
Southeastern Synod, ELCA
March 11, 2019
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him [Genesis 12:1-4]
The next year will bring some significant changes to my life. I have one child who is half way through college and almost ready to be on her own. I have another child who will begin high school next year. And my 50th birthday is just over a year away. Lots of changes. And they feel big. With my kids almost raised, I’m anticipating the next chapter in my life and doing a lot of reflection. Will I have more time for volunteer work? Will my career consume me? Will I finally be able to afford a great vacation? Needless to say, I’ve been doing some serious reflection lately. What really comes next?
In the verses above, there is a promise to Abraham: “I will bless you.” Abram was just a guy from Ur. The Bible doesn’t really tell us, but there doesn’t seem to be anything special about him. He wasn’t tall and handsome like Saul (1 Sam 9:2) and he wasn’t a sharpshooter like David (1 Sam 17:48-49). He wasn’t strong like Samson (Judges 16:6) or cunning like Esther. He was just an ordinary guy living an ordinary life when God told him to leave his home, take his wife and possessions, and move. Just on faith, he was supposed to begin the next chapter in his life. Abraham listened and moved. He trusted that whatever God had in store for him would be provided. And late in life, Abraham’s wife gave birth to Isaac. The Israelite people were formed because of God’s promise to Abraham. Abraham trusted God and God blessed him in multiple ways over the course of his life.
The season of Lent is usually thought of as a time of reflection on one’s sinful life. We may give up something we really like to emulate the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross or we may take on an extra spiritual discipline. During the 40 days of Lent, we reflect on the phrase, “From dust you came and to dust you shall return.” In other words, what does it mean to be human? Big questions.
But, Lent is also a season of hope. Rather than drowning in the muck of life, we are looking ahead to the resurrection – new life in Christ. Like Abraham, we hope that the next chapter is in God’s hands, that there is something wonderful and meaningful in the next phase of our lives. And we trust.
O God, in the waters of baptism you bring us to new birth to live as your children. Strengthen our faith in your promises, that by your Spirit we may lift up your life to all the world through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Christy Wendland
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs
March 8, 2019
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:55-57 New International Version (NIV)
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing...
Psalm 30:11 New King James Version (NKJV)
Here we are another day into our Lenten journey 2019... The forty days of Lent are a period of contemplation and prayer on the life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. I chose this First Corinthians verse because it is one of my favorite to remember in Lent. In another translation it becomes, “O Death, where is your victory?” Indeed, through the sacrificial death of Jesus, we are freed from the power of death into new life with Jesus.
So both this year and last year, one of my favorite Christian songs is “Death Was Arrested” by North Point InsideOut. They sing of our being dead in our sin just like Paul writes in First Corinthians. They sing, “You have made us new, now life begins with You.” Isn’t that a wonderful thought? We speak of being made new through our Baptism into the life and death of Jesus but how often do we really feel like God has made us new? We are a new creation each and every day because every morning we awaken to a new chance to be the best person we have ever been. And we need to be and feel like we are new because in this sad and lonely world, we have a chance to be a new light of Grace and Love. Let me repeat that thought for you, in this sad and lonely world, we have a chance to be a new light of Grace and Love. The world needs Grace and Love so much. You, yes, you and I can shine in this world and be a light in the darkness. North Point InsideOut sings these wonderful words, “Oh, Your Grace so free washes over me. It's your endless Love pouring down on us.“
Jesus has made us new and has washed us free of our sin with His Grace. Thanks be to God! Jesus rose from the dead and that was, “When death was arrested and my life began.” Death is stopped, death is no more, death is arrested. “O Death, where is your victory?” Death has NO victory over us believers just like death had no power over Jesus. And I will repeat that sentence also, death has NO victory over us believers just like death had no power over Jesus. Thanks be to God!
Please pray with me.
Lord God, Thank you for giving us the victory over death through our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for forgiving our sins through your wonderful Grace. Thank you for loving us and allowing us to be and show the light of your love to the world. Amen.
Ms. R. Annie Worman
March 7, 2019
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Matthew 26:26-29 New International Version (NIV)
These verses from Matthew are, of course, the verses we hear each and every week before we take Holy Communion. They are the words from the “Last Supper,” when Jesus shared the Passover meal in Jerusalem on Maundy Thursday before He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and crucified the next day on Good Friday.
This year for Lenten devotions, my beloved husband, Pastor Ernie asked us to choose our own Bible verses to discuss with you. As it turned out, I had just heard a new-to-me sung version of this text on the radio. It is hauntingly beautiful. Fernando Ortega sings, “In My Father’s Kingdom.” You can find it easily on Youtube. His version is very contemplative to me. And as you might be able to tell from it’s name, the refrain repeats, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until I drink it anew with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” So I chose this text to share with you today.
In these powerful “Last Supper” words, Jesus is trying to prepare His beloved disciples for His imminent death. I don’t think they understood at all at the time. And I don’t think they understood them after Jesus’ death on Good Friday. I think they began to understand these words more completely on Easter and in the days following that when the risen Jesus stood among them and greeted them with, “Shalom.”
Isn’t that the way with many things today in our lives? At the time some major event happens, we are sure it is terrible. But years later, when we look back on that very same event, we can see how it shaped our life into something unexpectedly wonderful.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good...” Genesis 50:20A As we continue on our Lenten journey this year, let’s take the time to contemplate the goodness of God and the GOOD in Good Friday.
Jesus says that we will be with Him in His Father’s Kingdom. Jesus died to make that happen. Believe and contemplate and give thanks.
Please pray with me.
Thank you for your gift of your Son, Jesus the Christ. Thank you for sending Him to us to teach us and lead us and show us your ways. And thank you Jesus, for dying on the cross to take away our sins. Amen
Ms. R. Annie Worman
March 6, 2019
For you are dust, And to dust you shall return. Genesis 3:19 B (RSV)
Here it is Lent 2019 already. Doesn’t it seem like it was just Christmas, New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day? And it is March already!
On Ash Wednesday, we stand or kneel in front of our Pastor at the imposition of Ashes as he or she marks our foreheads with a cross made from an ash-and-olive-oil mixture and repeats, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Did you know that traditionally, the ashes are freshly burned palms and palm crosses from Palm Sunday last year? So on Ash Wednesday we are marked with ashes made from the same palms we waved in worship while we shouted ‘Hosanna’ to mark Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. And what was the reason Jesus was entering Jerusalem? He was on His way to our salvation and sacrifice on the cross.
Those of you that know me or have heard or read any of my other Advent or Lenten devotions may remember that in my head, there is ALWAYS a song playing. It is a major reason when I am not listening to WKDK on the radio I listen to Christian radio. That is so when I wake in the middle of the night, I have a positive song playing in my head. But I digress, the reason I mention that I always have a song playing in my head is that on Ash Wednesday and the whole first week of Lent, I hear Kansas singing, “Dust in the Wind.” And the lines of the song that I seem to hear repeated are the ones that speak of ‘nothing lasts,’ and that money won’t buy us any more time, not even another minute. And of course there is the beautiful refrain:
“Dust in the wind, All we are is dust in the wind. All we are is dust in the wind.”
As much as this song haunts me this first week of Lent, it also comforts me. I believe that God formed Adam and Eve out of dirt and dust and breathed the breath of Life and His Holy Spirit into them. And I know that I will die and my earthly body will return to the earth. I also believe in Heaven and the Second Coming of Jesus in the New Jerusalem when and where there is no such thing as time and no Sun nor Moon because the glory of God is the light everywhere. And I believe that each and every time I take Holy Communion, I get to catch a glimpse of this promised New Heaven and Earth in the eating of the bread and drinking of the wine with the whole community of believers past and present and future everywhere on the earth and in Heaven.
This Lenten season 2019 is another opportunity to reflect on the goodness of God that He sent His only begotten Son to save us. In saving us, he has freed us from the bondage of sin and DEATH. We are free from death.
We are dust and to dust we shall return! Thanks be to God! For we believe that wherever Jesus is, He has gone there to prepare a place for us there, too.
Please pray with me.
Thank you for loving us so much that you sent your son, Jesus the Christ to die for us on the cross. Thank you for your plan of salvation. Thank you for giving us the time today to remember we are your people and that there is a place prepared for us in your kingdom. Amen.
Ms. R. Annie Worman