Lent Devotionals 2019
John 10:10 Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”
No better time than Easter to celebrate this passage. Imagine spreading the good word throughout the land all the days of your life and then being mercilessly crucified. His word of faith, hope and love were inconsistent with the desires of those in power, so they decided to put an end to His life.
Jesus, of course, got in the last word; he played the card that trumped the strong, mean-spirited power of the aristocracy. He arose from the tomb on Easter Sunday. The power of the ruling class was nothing compared to His power.
There can be no greater gesture than to give up one’s life so that others may live. Jesus did not die for us so that we could live a life on “cruise control.” He did not die for us to live a risk-averse life never challenging ourselves physically, mentally or emotionally. His sacrifice was not done so we could lay around on the couch, standing on the sidelines or simply remaining as one of life’s bystanders.
His death and resurrection are a reminder to us that success is not final and failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts. He begs us to pursue our dreams, climb the mountains, cross the seas, help the elderly, care for the needy and be generous to the less fortunate. Live life to the fullest by listening to others and lending a helping hand so others can overcome their day-to-day obstacles of life. Live life to the fullest; leave no stone unturned; leave no gas in our tank at the end of the day. Rest every night exhausted by the efforts of the day and excited about what a new day offers.
By bringing a smile to the face of another we become the rainbow in their otherwise cloudy day. In those moments we discover that life’s real joys come from living every day to the fullest. Every Easter morning, Jesus reminds us “Never give up, nothing is impossible. Clear away the boulder! Nothing is going to stop me now.” Hallelujah. Happy Easter.
President, Dr. Maurice Scherrens and Dr. Sandy Scherrens
April 19, 2019
Good Friday. All exchanges welcome.
When Jesus [on the cross] knew that all was now finished, he said, (in order to fulfill scripture), “I am thirsty.” When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “it is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 28, 30. NRSV
I remember as a young boy travelling with my mother on many occasions to the huge multistoried department store downtown in the city where we lived. There we would mostly “window shop” as they used to call it. That means to browse the aisles for what is on display without making a purchase. This is akin to looking at the merchandise in the store windows and imagining the item at home or on one’s body without actually-spending any money on buying the item. Window shopping is free. Imagination is endless and it costs nothing to utilize.
However, from time to time we would actually-buy something at the store, most often on sale, and take it home only to find out it wasn’t really what we wanted, didn’t fit the décor of a room or just wasn’t right. So, we would save up these items and when we had the time and the inclination we would trek back to the store and wait in the very long and very slow exchange/return line to get our money back or get a charge-back on that new-fangled thing called a credit card. I will never forget the exchange line at the store. There were always fifteen or twenty people in that line, of all shapes and sizes, loud and quiet, tall and short, male and female, people of all kinds. The one thing I remember most is that every person in that exchange line appeared to be anxious, frustrated, angry, impatient and short-tempered while they waited for their turn and then when they finished returning the item they brought back to the store they would turn and head out to do more shopping or go home, but they never seemed quite satisfied with the whole return/exchange event. This whole process seemed to me to be a singularly unhappy event for all. We were disappointed with the purchase and the return gave us no joy.
Today, beloved of the Lord, is Good Friday. Good Friday is exchange and return day, and it is a once in a lifetime event. On this day we celebrate the life of our Lord Jesus Christ returned to the Father in heaven as complete payment for our sins. Good Friday is the day when our Lord Jesus exchanged His righteousness for our sins. Today is the day that the Lord has acted, and we shall rejoice and be glad in it. Death has been overcome. Sin has no power to control our destiny. Jesus declared upon the cross that Good Friday, “It is finished.” No more payments necessary. No returns accepted. The window is closed, and the line done away with. Today Grace abounds from heaven where the One who sits upon the Throne and the One who sits at His right hand have declared that we, you and me and many still to come, are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, firstborn of the dead.
We are saved by grace. We are forgiven our human inclination towards self-centeredness and sin. We are loved equally and eternally, and we are sanctified by the power of God’s Holy Spirit as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death…we have seen the light and we have received acceptance into the promised land. This is one exchange that is absolute joy with absolute satisfaction. Thank God for Good Friday. Thank God for Christ Jesus. Thank God – Easter is but a few days away. Our sins are forgiven – our spirits made free. Amen.
Dearest Lord Jesus, receive our prayers of gratefulness and joy for all your saving action and grace to save us and make us free. Be with us now and empower us to be modern examples of your love, your grace and your eternal promise in the way we live and the way we talk and the lives we share. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.
Pastor Ernie Worman
April 18, 2019
Newberry College Lenten devotion
Maundy Thursday, 18 April 2019
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:23b-26 New International Version (NIV)
Good morning, Newberry. Today is Maundy Thursday. The word, Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum, like a mandate, which means “commandment.” When Jesus, at the Last Supper said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” we consider it a command.
In churches across the world, tonight marks a ceremony of foot washing, Holy Communion, and then the silent “stripping of the altar,” ending the service in preparation for Good Friday. Also, in some churches, tonight marks the celebration of first communion for the young people who have just completed their instruction.
I have been blessed to get to help with first communion instruction for our three grandkids, the oldest one more than three years ago, the second over a year ago and the third grandchild’s first communion instruction is still ongoing. We study lessons from the Bible about all the ways God loves us, cares for us, and feeds us. For our family, the first lesson is drawing a family tree and talking about God’s family and the last lesson is the baking of communion bread to be used in church for their first communion.
For our third and next lesson with the youngest one, I found a Lego-like Lego-compatible “Last Supper” set with Jesus and the Twelve Disciples and a table and bread and wine glasses for everyone. We will be playing with that for another lesson on what Jesus said and did at the actual Last Supper before Good Friday. I am so looking forward to this. But the most wonderful part of first communion instruction with kids is that they were and still are all so very - very EXCITED to get to partake in the Lord’s Supper of repentance and forgiveness. Today, on Maundy Thursday, please gather your friends and loved ones close and share the Lord’s Supper together. Please partake in Holy Communion each and every time it is offered to you. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” And then He died on the cross for our sins. He died to conquer death! You be excited about it, too!
Please pray with me.
Lord God, thank you for sending your son Jesus to teach us how to love one another. Thank you for sending your son Jesus to die a terrible death on the cross for us to save us from our sins. Thank you for sending Jesus to show us how to share in the Lord’s Supper, in Holy Communion to receive Your forgiving Grace. Amen.
April 17, 2019
Pastor Ernie Worman/PEW
Good morning Newberry. It is Wednesday in Holy Week, the middle of the week. Some call it hump day meaning the week is at its official mid-point and from here it is all downhill to the weekend and relaxation. It’s all about the middle today.
My scripture for today is the Beatitudes from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Appropriate perhaps for a devotion with the theme, “stuck in the middle with you.” Let me explain.
Matthew Chapter five is a well-known scripture that has nine very familiar blessings. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” or, “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.” And so it goes for the nine blessings Jesus shares with his listeners. If you were to look up the Beatitudes you would see that three of the nine blessings include a reward in the present tense…theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The other six blessings offer reward in the future tense, ”...for they will inherit,” “...for they shall see God,” “...for they will receive mercy,” “...for they will be called the children of God,” “...for they will be filled.” Do you see it? The children of God are in the middle, one foot in heaven and one foot on earth. We are people of the ‘tween. We are in-between heaven and earth and by the cross of Christ and faith in His resurrection promise the Lord has bridged the two, heaven and earth. I keep hearing in my head the refrain from an old rock song by Stealers Wheel, “I’m stuck in the middle with you.”
Actually- we really aren’t so much stuck as we are on a journey together “through the valley of the shadow of death,” Psalm 23:4. Life has its: ups and downs, joys and sorrows, pains and pleasures, dark times and sunshine, and loneliness and fellowship. Life is seasonal from birth to old age and so much of it in the middle times. When is middle age by the way? That is a relative question, isn’t it. My point is this, in the Beatitudes, the three blessings in the present tense all conclude the same, ”...the poor in spirit,” “...those who are persecuted for being righteous,” and, “those who are reviled and mistreated for Jesus sake,” “…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” on earth. For those who mourn, who are Christlike and kind, pure in heart, who are merciful and who hunger for righteousness, those who seek to be peacemakers, they will receive even greater than they hope.
Lent is the time to remind ourselves that in Christ, we are blessed to be people of the middle, one foot on heaven as we struggle in faith to be people of righteousness and Truth, and one foot on earth as we struggle to live lives that seek to model for ourselves and others, Christ’s love and grace, qualities of mercy, compassion for others, peacemaking, and purity of spirit. Together we are better. Lent is the time that reminds us that Easter is neither a day nor a concept, it is a promise fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is like the thief without hope on the cross next to Jesus who asks to be remembered by Jesus when he comes into his kingdom, and is given on the cross, forgiveness and hope in Jesus’s words, “today you will be with me in paradise.” We are half-way there and yet all the way there at the same time. We are people of the middle.
Gracious Lord Jesus, remember us in your kingdom today, and fill us with your spirit to go about your work here on earth. We rejoice in your love, live in your grace and share your faith in us with all for whom we meet and pray. Amen.
April 16, 2019
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12-15, ESV
I have a confession. I’m still listening to Christmas music. YES, I know it’s April. I’m not saying it’s the only thing I listen to but it’s still in my rotation. If you hit shuffle on my phone, you’ll hear an “O, Holy Night” or a “Little town of Bethlehem”. As a Christian, I’m well aware that we’re in the season of Lent and I should put it away for another 7 months. It’s past epiphany and it’s time to prepare for the death and resurrection of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know!
What good Lenten songs are there? What Lenten songs do you sing to your roommates, neighbors, coworkers, mother or dog because it’s stuck in your head or you just love the chorus? I’m going to guess none. I’m not saying good Lenten songs don’t exist. The songs are poignant, powerful, and chocked full of important life lessons from the story of Easter but they’re not really fun. Alas, we save the Lenten fun and happy for Easter. The A (Alle…) or H (Halle…) word we can’t say at all during Lent is found in super fun, crazy awesome, ridiculously catchy tunes. Is everyone ready to sing ”Jesus Christ is Risen today” dooon’t say the-e ne-ext word? (sung in the tune) If this worked out as I intended, you just heard my mother sing that first line for you all of our favorite Easter anthem.
Advent songs are sung by Dean Martin, John Legend, Martina McBride, Elvis, The Beatles. They’re catchy and tell of the preparation for a baby. Who doesn’t love a baby? He’s little. He’s vulnerable. He’s giggly. Oh wait. He’s GOD. He came in this form for a reason. We were all babies once. This is palpable. We can understand this. What we have a harder time understanding is how an adult man who is tested and tempted, can resist it all and then sacrifice himself in a very painful and gruesome death to save everyone. God showing himself to us in the form of a cute and cuddling babe is fun and happy just like those Christmas songs. We like thinking about that. The hard part is recognizing that he’s not just the Talladega Nights Jesus “Eight Pound, Six Ounce, Newborn Baby Jesus, don't even know a word yet, just a little infant, so cuddly, but still omnipotent.” (Do you remember that movie?) He lived a life filled with trials and temptations and turmoil and in his 30s was able to fulfill God’s promise to us and save us from death.
Being a person of faith isn’t just celebrating Christmas once a year, it must also be overcoming our temptations just as Jesus did in those 40 days and living the promise of Easter in our daily lives. Loving baby Jesus is easy. Loving the people who tell us to take the high road, to do the right thing, to sacrifice our interests for others, that’s hard. There’s a reason that singing songs like “Jesus Christ has risen today” with the A or H word feels so good on Easter Sunday. It’s because we put in the work. We will overcome the temptation to say it throughout Lent. He has faith in us. Only a week left, team, we can do it!
Dear Lord Jesus,
Just as you grew in love and life to realize and achieve your heavenly purpose, we pray to be able to use our talents to help our communities. Help us overcome the trials that we endure and focus on your divine promise. Amen.
Ms. Elizabeth Sherman
April 15, 2019
Pastor Ernie Worman/PEW
“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 NRSV.
Good morning Newberry, it is Holy Week. Holy Week; what a funny term, as if there is one week in the year holier than another. Yes, this week has some pretty special events to be remembered, commemorated and celebrated; Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and interestingly named, “Holy Saturday” and then Easter. Indeed, this is a Holy Week to be sure, but what about all the rest of the weeks? Is the second week of June less important than this week? How about the third week of August, or October? You and I have a way of making special, certain days and then lamenting that all the other days of the year are lacking. We love our “holidays” don’t we?
Did you know that the word holiday comes from the old English and is derived from the words meaning Holy and Day. Originally the words were meant only for religiously affiliated days but in modern times has become holiday, meaning mostly, a day off from work for many.
Did you know that many theologians translate the biblical verse from Psalm 118:24 as this is the day that the Lord has acted, let us rejoice and be glad in it. In fact, all of Psalm 118 is about God’s saving action in the life of the writer, and the writer’s joyous and faith-filled response to God’s action in his or her life. Now that is a Holy Day or a holiday for certain.
So today as we have just begun Holy Week, 2019, as we undertake the spiritual journey that leads us to Easter and all the joy that brings, can we begin to see every day as the day of the Lord’s action in our lives, not just the special ones like Easter. Are we able to witness to God’s saving actions in our lives every day which makes every day a holiday?
I don’t look for miracles in my life to prove God’s love. I give thanks for the friends in my life in whom I see God at work. I thank the Lord for the love of my family, the wonder in the eyes of my grandchildren and in the hopes and dreams of our students, faculty and staff at Newberry College. I praise God for the gift of good neighbors, food on the table and the opportunity to work. God is all around us, we are His children. How about you? What are you grateful for? How is God active in your lives? Remember the words of Psalm 46: 10a., “Be still and know that I am God.” Listen, God is calling. Watch, God is acting. Receive, God’s generous grace.
Bless you all beloved Newberry as we make the journey through this Holy Week, it is but a foretaste of the weeks ahead, holidays all.
Watch over us dear Lord and let us see and experience your activity in and through our lives making every day a Holy and Sacred day in your love. Amen.
April 12, 2019
Pastor Ernie Worman/PEW
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV
Here we are more than half-way through the season of Lent looking forward to the next season of Easter. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, (remember you are dust and to dust you shall return) and ends in Holy Week with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday…seriously mis-understood Holy days. Easter begins with Jesus being raised from the dead. (Alleluia) We associate Lent with ashes and suffering, and mournful hymns, and we associate Easter with brightly colored eggs, chocolate bunnies and tremendously joyful music. Who wouldn’t want to race through Lent to get to Easter as soon as possible? But wait! Lent has a purpose. Lent is preparation for Easter. Lent is the Christian way to bulk up for the event to come.
Body builders and cross-country runners often bulk up on certain foods to prepare their bodies for the big race, or the big match. Before you leave for the annual family vacation don’t you prep the house, do the laundry, clean out the fridge of perishables, catch up on work, maybe even get ahead of the office work and stop the mail so that you can truly enjoy that vacation without worry? You wouldn’t leave home for vacation and leave the door unlocked, the laundry hamper full, and the mail piling up…would you? Without Holy Week there is no Easter. Lent prepares us for Holy Week and Easter.
Lent is the spring cleaning of church seasons.
A time to reflect and a time to pray.
A time to repent and a time to be grateful.
A time to give up and a time to reclaim.
A time to confess and a time to be forgiven.
A time to remember and a time to forget.
A time to prepare and a time to receive.
A time to love and a time to be loved.
Palm Sunday is this weekend coming. Holy week follows. Then it is EASTER! Let’s bulk up Newberry. Pray for one another. Be kind to each other. Model goodness. Rejoice in God’s forgiving love by forgiving others as you are forgiven. Let’s prepare our hearts for the coming season of eternal joy. Lent is a blessing. A season of preparation to prepare us for the eternity of Easter.
Dear Lord of Heaven and Earth, use this Lenten season to prepare us to be renewed in faith, strengthened in spirit and re-created in your eternal love this Easter coming and for all eternity. Amen.
April 11, 2019
Lenten Devotion #2
Hebrews 9:11-14 King James Version (KJV)
11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
When I was young, my family frequently couldn’t afford name-brand items. The “store-brand” or economy products, from groceries to tennis shoes to the other necessities of life, were what furnished much of my childhood. And we got along fine during those years; what we had might not have been fancy, but as my parents frequently noted, it was “good enough.” Still, I would sometimes hear my parents talk about the things they wished they could give my brother and me – after all, they loved us, and they did the best they could.
When Paul writes to the Hebrews, he talks about the offerings they had traditionally made for the remission of sins, for atonement with God. And for generations of Hebrews, the sacrifice of bulls and goats, doves and lambs had been “good enough.”
But unlike my parents’ household budget, God’s grace was and is unlimited. And through His sacrifice on Calvary, He offers us forgiveness, peace, and ultimately unity with him on ways we can’t even imagine. They are all ours for the asking, all by His generosity.
In this Lenten season, we mark that generosity and that sacrifice, and remember that we need not settle for “good enough.” When it comes to the love of God, we can accept no substitutes.
Heavenly Father, thank You for having given us the best, even when we are slow to recognize it. Thank You for giving us better than we can deserve, and for giving us Your love. In the name of Your Son we pray, Amen.
Dr. Warren Moore, Professor of English
April 10, 2019
Joel 2:12-13 King James Version (KJV)
12 Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
One of our era’s catchphrases is “Perception is reality.” If we act a certain way, if we can be perceived a certain way, the theory goes, the world will assume us to be what we portray. It’s a sort of method acting of the soul, a fake-it-til-you-make-it approach to the world. Why bother actually being kind, or gentle, or noble, or wise, when you can reap the social benefits with the mere appearance of those virtues? Kindness, nobility, and wisdom are hard, and often hard earned. But we know how to pretend almost as soon as we are born.
But that approach relies on an audience that suspends disbelief, either intentionally (as when we see a movie or a play) or because we have fooled them. And that becomes a problem when the audience is not – cannot be – fooled.
That brings us to today’s passage from the prophet Joel. Joel is speaking to us on behalf of One Who cannot be fooled. While our outer appearance may seem attractive, even admirable, God sees and knows the actor playing the role. Because of that, God is the toughest possible audience. He demands not merely performance, but commitment to the role.
But wonderfully enough, God is also the kindest, most forgiving audience, forgiving enough to come to us and suffer the pains that we have earned by our sins. He doesn’t want us tearing our clothes in flashy, artificial grief – hamming it up like that won’t impress him. But if we stop acting like people of God and instead become people of God, He will be satisfied, and our reality will surpass any mere play of shadows on a stage.
Heavenly father, thank You for Your call to us, for Your refusal to accept falsehood and sham. Thank You for coming to us and showing not how to act, but how to live, even at the cost of death. We pray this in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen
Dr. Warren Moore, Professor of English
April 9, 2019
“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”
~New International Version
My maternal grandfather was one of the most laidback, smoothest guys you could ever meet. He never seemed to let anything bother him. Granddaddy, as we called him, always had a smile on his face and a positive outlook on life. I know there were days when we did not feel his best. I know there were days when things were not going right. However, he was happy to be alive and he made the best out of life.
Paul’s message to us in his letter to the Philippians expressed the same sentiments. When Paul wrote this letter, he was actually in jail. However, he chose to focus on the joy inside of him because of the relationship he built with the people who made up the church of Philippi. Even in the midst of being locked up, Paul was able to find happiness in sorrow. He learned to make the best of the situation. We, too, should have this same mindset. Why? Because GOD has given us the power to do so. However, it only works if we are smart enough to tap into it.
Thank you for the good times and the bad times. We know that nothing we go through will be wasted. Please help us to stay positive in the times when things aren’t going so well. We know you will bring us out as only you can.
In Jesus Name,
Dr. John Lesaine ’07, Assistant Dean for Student Success and Persistence
April 8, 2019
Lenten Devotions 2019
Pastor Ernie Worman
Good morning Newberry, peace be with you. I know that we are wee bit past St. Patrick’s Day, and just a few days into April, but I want to share one of my favorite greetings with you. It goes like this; when one Irish person meets another, he or she might begin their chance meeting with the words, “Top ‘O the morning to you, and the other responds, “and the rest of the day to you.” Isn’t that a pleasant way to say hello? Even better than hello, this Irish greeting is more a blessing than a greeting. Imagine taking the time to make eye contact with someone and offer them a bit of a blessing to begin the conversation or move on if the connection is only a brief encounter of acknowledgement.
Jesus greeted those he met with a word, Shalom, or peace be with you. Peace, not like the world provides, not the absence of conflict or violence, but real peace. God’s peace, which passes all human understanding conveys the free gift of God’s Holy Spirit filled with love and grace that offers forgiveness and hope. Imagine that every time you and I meet, no matter the place or time or reason; we genuinely offer each other a prayer of blessing, “Peace be with you” and the response, “and also with you.” Simply put, whether coming or going, hello or good-bye, we simply offer God’s Shalom to one another. Peace be with you and also with you.
In this season of Lent I was reminded by a pastor whom I have come to call friend and brother, that this is not a season to give up things we love only to be miserable, counting the days until we can start up again, caffeine or chocolate or social media, whatever. This is a season to be grateful for what we have, great or small, grateful for who we are, grateful for whose we are, and grateful for the love of God in Christ Jesus. Lent is a season as my pastor friend reminds us, to do little things for one another with great love as we approach the Easter miracle of God’s eternal grace and never-failing love for you, for me, for us all. Peace be with you Newberry…
Let’s pray, Gracious and loving God, fill us with your peace, call us forward by your Holy Spirit to care for one another, to provide hope to each other, and to do little things for one another with great love. May this season of Lent provide us a renewed joy in Easter to be held in our hearts, modelled in our lives, and shared through our love every day, all day. Amen
April 5, 2019
“WHEN GOD REMEMBERS”
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
They say, “To err is human….” So, I think, is forgetting. Most of us would admit to being forgetful. I know for me that, at any given time, I have a hard time remembering names, dates, sometimes even where I am supposed to be or what I was supposed to get when I walked into the pantry.
But if to forget is human, then “to remember” must be divine. Indeed, the Bible is chock full of references to God’s amazing memory. Over and over the hymns of scripture celebrate God for remembering his steadfast love and faithfulness, his mercy, and most of all his covenant promises across a thousand generations. And where the hymns praise God for remembering, the laments and prayers plead for it. The Bible characters Joseph, Hannah, Samson, and Hezekiah, are just a few of those who implore God “to remember” them in times of urgent need.
The reason for all this pomp and circumstance about divine recall is that God’s memory is not just some “neutral preservation of mental images or ideas.” No, God’s memory has ramification beyond recollection. God’s memory is potent. When God remembers, things happen. If God “remembers our sins no more,” they are gone. Memory banks purged. Servers erased. Sin forgiven. Forgotten. Gone for good. And for goodness’ sake.
Likewise, if God remembers in response to a prayer or the cries of his people or “just because,” something good is going to come to pass. Abraham and Sarah get blessed with descendants numerous as the stars; Joseph gets out of jail; slaves in Egypt follow Moses into freedom; Samson recovers his strength one last time; a barren Hannah gives birth to Samuel; Hezekiah and his people are delivered from sure destruction. The divine memory is a powerful thing.
So when one of the two terrorists dying on a cross alongside the Lord dares to call him by name and begs Jesus to “remember” him, it is unclear whether he understands the long line of pious pray-ers he has just joined OR just how bold his prayer really is. But Jesus does. And Jesus remembers as only God can with a memory not bound by time or space, with a mind that can recall the future as easily as the past (if we mortals can put our minds around that). This Jesus—divinity in the flesh dying on a dogwood—remembers and declares as only God can, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
You see, when your memory is not subject to time and space, but rather time and space is subject to you, you can say things like that. In the mind of God, every day is today. Every memory is made real. And every place where God remembers is paradise.
Remember that, people of God. For the good news is that this day God is remembering us!
Let us pray: O God of time and space, matter and mind, forgive all the times we forget what you have taught us: forget to love you with our whole heart and forget to care about our neighbors as our selves. And please, in your might and mercy, remember us this day and every day, that your kingdom might come among us and that we might share memories with you always. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Wayne Kannaday, Newberry College Professor of Theology and a 1975 graduate of Newberry College.
April 4, 2019
Did you notice the number of selfies of people posted on Facebook with ashes smeared on their foreheads in the sign of a cross? So much for Jesus’ words, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them.”
It is a pretty common practice among a number of Christians to receive ashes on the forehead as a sign of repentance and a recognition of mortality. When I was a boy attending a Roman Catholic military boarding school, the priest didn’t follow the current practice of adding some olive oil to the ashes, making a paste, and smearing that on our foreheads. Instead, the ashes were dry and were placed on the crown of the head in the form of a cross. It was a lot of ashes.
This made for an interesting atmosphere once my classmates and I returned from chapel to the classroom. Leaning over our schoolwork, dry ashes fell on the papers and books on our desks and were then blown or swept into the air. Being a military school, we all had crew cuts. Running hands across the tops of our heads sent clouds of ashes wafting about the room creating a haze that hung over us.
The addition of oil to ashes to make a paste would have kept that sort of fun from happening. Paste is neater, but it also seems like an invitation to practicing one’s piety before others. Clouds of dry ashes rising from schoolbooks and crewcuts, though humorous at the time, reminds me today that death isn’t neat. Death is a cloud that hangs over us, that pervades our space, that is out of our control.
We are invited to remember that we are dust (not paste) and to dust we shall return. This ought to be taken literally, at least the last half should. Between now and the time we are literal dust, how shall we live? That’s a question posed by Ash Wednesday and the season of lent.
We pray, giving thanks for the gift of life and the opportunities before us to enhance and support life and loving relationships.
The Rev. Dr. Ben Moravitz
Assistant to the Bishop, Southeastern Synod – ELCA
Newberry College Class of 1976
April 3, 2019
Mark 1:35 (NIV)
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Lent famously involves a long wait. Sometimes that wait for the holy days of Easter seems as if it will never end. Those who observe Lent think about the things they’ve given up for those forty days. Like so much else in life, we look so forward to what we’re going to get that we lose sight of what’s all around us. But we lose sight of the opportunity Lent offers us: to slow down and reflect on what’s around us, on what we already have, and the blessings we too often overlook.
Years of teaching a morning class mean I’m in the habit of being up well before dawn. I used to be grumpy about being up so early, but in time I realized it offered me something special. The rest of any given day is bound to be hectic – there’s always some problem that needs to be solved, or a student or a colleague with a problem it seems only I can soothe, or something other issue that demands my attention. Outside of work there’s always one more errand to run. There’s the twinge of apprehension that comes any time you check the headlines. There’s always another bill to pay. There’s this, that and the other you have to schedule or attend. It’s always something. The moments speed past and they’re distressingly fleet. And when you’re a world-class introvert like me, all the hurly-burly means your emotional energy gets used up in a hurry.
That’s why those quiet moments alone, before the rest of the world wakes up, have become so special to me. In those moments I can think about what the rest of the day won’t allow. Those moments let me listen to life, and through the quiet I can listen for the things God wants me to hear before the day begins. Those moments remind me that my life is more blessed than I often let myself believe, that happiness isn’t an impressive-sounding job title or a fancy car or a trip to someplace exotic, but it’s as simple as a comfortable seat, a warm cup of coffee, two cats snuggled next to me, in a house filled with love. It reminds me that my life, no matter how goofy it often seems, really is a good life.
In the quest for the next thing, in the drive to get the day’s checklist complete, it’s so easy to forget that the things that mean the most, the ones that keep you centered, are so often the simplest. And as another Lenten season winds to its conclusion, let’s take the season’s spirit of contemplation with us. The most meaningful things are those closest to us. Let’s think about that more often, and let’s be thankful more often.
Lord, so often we get caught up in tomorrow that we lose sight of the blessings of today and the wonders You have given each of us. Let us never be so caught up in wanting that we forget how blessed we truly are, and let us never forget that the most fulfilling blessings are so often those we think are the simplest. Thank you for the blessings you have given all of us. Let us never take those things, or Your love, for granted. Amen.
– Dr. Jodie Peeler, Professor of Communications
April 2, 2019
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
Matthew 19:13-15 New International Version (NIV)
I recently spent two weeks with our grandchildren, ages 10, 9 and 7. I had forgotten how much love and patience and understanding it takes to nurture children. To be honest, when our daughters were children, if they wanted something assembled, fixed or some person-problem corrected forcibly, they came to me. If they needed a hug, care, understanding and a listener, they went to their dad, my beloved husband, Ernie also known as Pastor Ernie at Newberry College. We had and still have much different parenting styles and skills, and, thanks be to God, they complement each other.
This year, for the Newberry College Lenten Devotions, we were allowed to choose our own Bible verses. This Matthew set of verses seems to be most commonly recited in the King James Version with, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” I chose not to use that version and have to get into the Old English alternative definition of suffer, to allow, but alas, here I am discussing it anyway. I much prefer the, “Let the little children come to me,...” NIV version because when I see the excitement on our grandkid’s faces when they are called up for the Children’s Sermon, I wish I could recapture that excitement in my worship life and practice. In writing this Lenten devotion, I am actively working on rekindling my child-like excitement over the promise of God’s forgiveness and grace.
Do you remember the book, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum? Anyway, the author had 16 points about sharing and playing fair, taking naps, eating milk and cookies, and more. The point is that, with the 16 life lessons we learned in kindergarten, the world would be a kinder and nicer place, maybe even the kingdom of heaven on earth.
When I hear the phrase, ‘kingdom of heaven,’ I used to think just about heaven and the afterlife promised with Jesus in the Second Coming. Today, I can look at the phrase, ‘kingdom of heaven,’ and consider that perhaps it points to heaven and perhaps it also points us to work to make this world more heaven-like. In our child-like excitement over our salvation, couldn’t we work a little harder to share our toys and play fairly for the good of others less fortunate? Couldn’t we provide others just a glimpse of heaven on earth in our actions? “Let the little children come to me,...” -what a great thought! Let us together be like loving little children in our travels through our world today! I am working on this goal. Come join me!
Please pray with me:
Thank you, dear God, for loving us so much you sent us your Son, Jesus to take on our sins for us and through His death on the cross, to wash us clean and make us new creations in this world. Help us make the kingdom of heaven in our world today. Amen.
R. Annie Worman
April 1, 2019
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 King James Version (KJV)
Nothing, “shall be able to separate us from the love of God,” In dark times, I cling to these verses and repeat them again and again. They comfort me as I ponder life and death, gains and losses. I sometimes remind friends that the only thing we get to take with us when we die is love, sweet love. But since we know from Paul’s writings in First Corinthians, Chapter 13, that, “Love never dies,” we can be assured of the fact that love endures. If your worth was measured today in the number of people you love and who love you, would you count yourself rich? Or is it the depth of love that makes us blessed richly? I don’t know the answer.
I do know that our dog, Valerie, loves me and loves Ernie. I have often compared the unconditional love and acceptance from a dog to be an example of God’s love for us here on earth. Dogs love us, sometimes more than we are able to love ourselves. Dogs love us when we are grumpy or sad; they lick our tears away and try to sit on our laps to make us feel better. Dogs greet us, even after prolonged absences, with excitement and a wagging tail, sometimes even a happy bark or a big lick. Valerie likes to greet me with one of her squeaky toys in her mouth for me. There is a very valid reason that there are therapy dogs in this world. Valerie has put her sweet head on my knee as tears fill my eyes while writing this.
Milan Kunera wrote, “Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil... or jealousy... or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring... ...it was peace.” To those of you that have loved a dog and been loved by a dog, can you image that the huge heart and love of God is like the love of a dog? I mean, we humans love and love deeply but in our humanness, there are limits and conditions and limitations that I don’t feel from the adoring gaze of our dog. And so I can image that God’s love is that big and all-encompassing and deep and strong and endless. And the good news today and every day is that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
God loved us so much that He send His son, Jesus to die for us on the cross. He sent us Jesus to tell us that He, Jesus is going to prepare a place with Him and that wherever He, Jesus, is, that is where we will be also. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Even in the dark and sad and lonely times, we can cling to this truth.
Please pray with me: Lord God, send down your love to surround us today. Help us love ourselves and others better. Thank you for your loving gift of your Son, Jesus, to show us your love and give us the gift of grace. Amen.
R. Annie Worman
March 29, 2019
And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.
Revelation 1:5 KJV
Every fall for the past 11 years, my older sister and I have had a sister's week at the beach. We listen to books on CD's while we sew on embroidery or hand quilting projects or applique towels. We get up before sunrise to walk in the predawn beauty on the beach and to watch the dawn over the Atlantic ocean and see if any of the sea turtle nests are hatching that morning. Then we take a nap in the late morning or early afternoon. We cook in the little efficiency room and eat at the little bar table, usually. We walk on the beach in the late afternoon and again after dinner before dark. We do a lot of walking on the beach and occasionally, don our swim suits and inner tubes and venture out into the surf to jump waves and float in the cool salt water. It is very delightful and peaceful. We get along remarkably well for only spending a week or two together each year.
Almost every day, we spend time looking down at the sand for shells or fossilized shark teeth or sand dollars or limpets. I also collect sea glass and sea smoothed quartz rocks to put in the bottom of my glass candle holders. I love sea shell, they remind me of the happy times by the ocean.
Every year, either my sister or I pick up a large olive shell or whelk that looks great but it has a big hole on the back side. My sister rejects these shells for being not perfect. Sometimes I keep them and sometimes I, too, reject them and put them back down. But each time I see one of these damaged shells, I remember that these imperfect shells are an example of God's love for us. I think about how we humans choose to see the flaws and imperfections and damage in ourselves and others, but in God's love, all He sees is the perfect side. So think about that for just a minute. Jesus has, "washed us from our sins in his own blood." Jesus has washed us clean and perfect from our sins in His very own blood. And if we are perfect, then all of his host of believers are perfect, too. Why do we continue to obsess over the imperfections and flaws when we have been washed from them? Can you look at yourself in the mirror and say to yourself that you are a child of God washed clean and made perfect? Can you look at others and see them in the same God-given perfection?
Lent is a time to reflect on the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus our Christ. Jesus died for you and for me. Jesus' blood, "washed us from sins." Praise the Lord!
Please pray with me: Lord God, Thank you for sending your son, Jesus to die on the cross for us that we may be washed free of our sins. Please help us live a joyful life of thankfulness and generosity and love in response to your gift. Amen.
R. Annie Worman
March 28, 2019
Good News in the Old Testament?
1In days to come the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, 2and many nations shall come and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 3He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; 4but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid;
for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. NRSV
Many of us growing up in the church mostly heard the Gospels preached (speaking from my Lutheran growing up experience) and it often felt or seemed like Jesus was God’s plan B, a contingency plan for our salvation since we just never seemed to be able to get it right. But, meandering through the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament) and allowing the Spirit to travel with us; we are led to the Gospel in unexpected moments and places such as this Micah passage: “For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Passages that make our souls dance with joy as we realize that God has always loved us enough to come in person to reveal her true loving and forgiving nature to us; and, to personally give us guidance and direction for peace and mutual respect in this world. God comes to us time and again through the prophets and mixed in with the cultural contexts and influences of the times – we discover God’s truths of love, forgiveness, and mercy shining through in spite of the darkness and fears of the times.
Lent is time set apart for us to rediscover the light of God’s truths amid the darkness of images that continue to swirl around us of disasters, war, abuse, exploitation, hate, prejudice, unfair distribution of resources and opportunities, abundant waste, and the list goes on and on. The World needs the instruction and Word from Jerusalem. As Advent is a time of preparation for the Christ’s return, Lent is a time for us to make the Christ’s presence felt until His return.
Beloved Creating God – thank you for fulfilling your promises to the prophets. Now, help us to share those promises with the world. Help us to continue the work your Son began in Jerusalem. Amen.
Pastor Joanie Holden, St. Timothy Lutheran Church, Crystal River, Florida.
2011 Newberry Alumna, 2016 LTSS Alumna.
March 27, 2019
“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising GOD. When all the people saw him walking and praising GOD, the recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what happened to him.”
~New International Version
I can vividly remember when I was a little boy going grocery shopping with my mom. Being a little kid, it was often the highlight of the week. My mom, my sister, and I would set off for the Piggly Wiggly in Manning on Saturday morning for our weekly trip. My sister and I would always get very excited when we went down the cereal aisle. There were so many options that we would beg our mom to buy us a box of cereal because we saw it on TV or we just wanted to get the prize inside of it. However, there were times my mom wasn’t buying it, literally and figuratively. She would say, “I’m not buying any more cereal because you already have two or three boxes of cereal at the house that are almost full. Eat what we have and then I’ll buy you some more.”
There is a similar message here in this scripture from Acts. We see the beginning of the church and a miraculous act performed by Peter and John. The man who they healed asked them for money. They were very honest with the man telling them they did not have money but they had something better for them. You see, Peter and John took an inventory of what they already had. They did not worry about what they did not have but they used what they had. We must be like Peter and John and understand that GOD has given us awesome power. As long as we use it for his glory, we, too, will be able to do awesome things.
Thank you for your faithfulness and for our awesome gifts. Please help us to remember that you have given us what we need to carry your kingdom and work forward.
In Jesus Name,
Dr. John Lesaine ’07, Assistant Dean for Student Success and Persistence
March 26, 2019
One year, I gave up coffee for lent. It was a bust.
I grew up with the practice of giving up something for lent as a spiritual discipline, abstaining from something I like in order to gain the spiritual strength to abstain from sin. At least that’s what I was taught.
I thought that coffee was the one thing I would most not want to give up for lent because it got me going in the morning and because without coffee I could be edgy and impatient. I figured that I could use some work on embracing calm and patience. I expected headaches from caffeine withdrawal and a mighty struggle with self-control.
The first day, I had a little headache. I took a couple of ibuprophen. The coffee pot for the whole office sat in a corner of my office. People came in and out of my office all morning pouring coffee. I had to stop myself a couple of times from pouring myself a cup just out of habit. I expected a struggle with temptation. Instead, I just enjoyed the aroma of coffee and greeting people as they stopped in for a cup.
No headache occurred the second day or thereafter. I had no great struggle with temptation. Despite what everybody says about coffee as a mood stabilizer, I was as calm and patient as I could be without much effort. I was expecting a self-justifying spiritual victory over temptation come Easter morning, and instead, I simply got to enjoy a hot cup of coffee.
Spiritual discipline through religious practices can be a good thing, but I don’t think we should expect too much. Giving up something for Lent can be good for you, but it can’t make us good. That is done for us by God’s grace in spite of ourselves not because we’ve accomplished something great.
Faced with temptation, give us strength, O God. And when we fail, grant us grace and forgiveness. Remind us of what you have done for us.
The Rev. Dr. Ben Moravitz is Assistant to the Bishop, Southeastern Synod–ELCA. He is a 1976 graduate of Newberry College.
March 25, 2019
"The joy of the LORD is your strength." -Nehemiah 8:10
"The joy of the Lord is your strength," says the priest Ezra as the people heard a word from God after decades in exile.
I can't help but think of the season of Lent when I hear this story. I don't immediately think of "joy" when I think of Lent, but Ezra is making me wonder.
This story goes that the people grieved because in the hearing of God's word and law, they knew they were wanting. They didn't measure up. God was so good, and the people had lived in ignorance of this and sometimes in direct defiance of it.
This is when Ezra spoke up and called the people into joy.
Israel had endured a dwindling down and utter destruction of power and sovereignty, massive exile into foreign lands, and now, after all that, they return to rebuild homes and worship spaces. They were starting over, with renewed intention and focus (although it's worth noting that some of their focus and decisions would later be brought into sharp criticism by Jesus). It was like a rebirth of an entire people.
And Ezra is simply reminding people that that was what they are going through right at that moment. It's not the time to grieve and weep, because they as people as well as the things around them are being rebuilt by God. "The joy of the Lord is your strength!" And from that joy, Ezra instructs the people to eat the fat of the land, give generously to those who do not have enough, and let that joy live in them.
Lent is traditionally a time for the church to confess sin, pray, fast, and sacrificially give. Disciplines like these and others are meant to point us toward metanoia, or repentance.
Have you ever considered that repentance might be a joyful thing? I haven't, until these words from the priest Ezra hit me like they recently have. Could confession of sin and the reality of Jesus' cross be God's complete rebirth for us? Can we see Lent and the disciplines of prayer and fasting, of sacrificial giving, of holding off the "Alleluias," the ashes and the minor keys as our being rebirthed by God? Could these exercises actually be joyful ones?
Do not be fooled! They are joyful exercises and disciplines! All these things are expressions of God doing a new thing in you, of releasing you, of setting you free, of rebuilding us, reforming and remaking us and the creation around us. Because Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected, we too walk in newness of life, in Lent and always.
Let the joy of the Lord be your strength!
Let us pray.
For us who have lost joy, Holy God, find us again! Shake loose the colorless, joyless spirit that blinds us to your ever-present rejoicing over us. Through Christ our Savior and ruler, resurrect joy in all of us, in our giving and loving and serving. Make us strong in your joy.
In Jesus' name. Amen.
Rev. Michael Price
Newberry College, Class of 2002
March 22, 2019
Trapped in Sin
Once you were in darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true.
I once encountered a women who strenuously objected to a word in a key sentence from the Lutheran liturgy’s brief order for confession used at the time: “We confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.”
She was troubled by the word “bondage.” She was not perfect, she said, but she also did not constantly act in an evil manner. How could she be in bondage to sin if she most typically tried to do “all that is good and right and true,” as the passage from Ephesians quoted above exhorts Christians to do. She thought our confession did not reflect reality. As a Christian, she was redeemed from sin, not in bondage to it. She did not like being liturgically compelled to confess non-existent sins.
She was wrong about sin and about the truth of reality. Like many Christians, she had confused wrongful actions with the complications of life that ensnare almost everything we do—a reality that holds us “in bondage to sin.”
NBC’s TV show, The Good Place, has described this reality well. In The Good Place, a demon named Michael is surprised to learn that it is truly impossible for human beings to always to what is good. He discovers that they cannot because life is too complex. No matter how hard people try, they will end up doing evil and be destined for the bad place. Michael observes, “Life is so complicated, it’s impossible for anyone to be good enough… Just buying a tomato at the grocery store means you are unwittingly supporting toxic pesticides, exploited labor, contributing to global warming. Humans think they’re making one choice when they buy a tomato, but they’re actually making dozens of choices they don’t even know they’re making.”
The complexities of life mean that none of our actions is pure. Even buying a tomato can involve us indirectly with evil. This Lenten season learn anew to acknowledge and confess your bondage to sin, confessing the darkness that always threatens. At the same time, celebrate the light of Christ that dispels the darkness and illumines and points us toward all that is good and right and true. Celebrate that even when we fall short, the light of Christ allows us to find our way anew.
Prayer: God our creator, renew me in Christ this day and throughout my life, calling me from darkness into your glorious light. Amen.
Mark Wilhelm is Executive Director for the Network of Colleges and Universities, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
March 21, 2019
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.”
~New International Version
I am very blessed to be part of a great program known as Call Me MISTER. It is a program that seeks to address the shortage of male teachers from diverse backgrounds in elementary schools across the state of South Carolina. We have a rallying cry in MISTER that says “teamwork makes the dreamwork”. It is our belief that is does take a village to raise a child. Everyone has their role and everyone’s role is important.
We see this message boldly stated in this part of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Life is an interesting thing. We have successes and we have failures. Somedays we are on top of the world and other days it feels like the world is on top of us. However, we are to take care of each other and lift each other up. That is what Paul means when he says we should “carry each other’s burdens”. We can help to lighten each other’s load just like Jesus lightens our load.
Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Please keep us in the palm of your hand so that we might lift each up other and lighten each other’s loads.
In Jesus Name,
Dr. John Lesaine ’07, Assistant Dean for Student Success and Persistence
March 20, 2019
Scripture reading: Zechariah 8: 1-17
Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets…and the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing… (Zechariah 8: 4 & 5, NRSV)
I’ll admit, I don’t read a lot of Zechariah. As one of my study bibles describes it, “…it is the longest and most obscure…” of the minor prophets. It’s a weird book. Full of visions, apocalyptic phrases and imagery, but still has a more ‘peaceful’ outlook of what life will look like after that time than what most people would expect it to go (especially from where it begins).
I was drawn to Zechariah’s portrayal here about what life would look like after this time that the temple is restored and what we, as Christians, might say in the time after Jesus returns. Normally, you read about abundance, wealth, peace between nations, and more. But, Zechariah simply says – people will be in the streets. Young and old in community together.
That’s pretty awesome. What joy it would be to just be witness to that and be at that kind of peace? Yet, even in this chapter of Zechariah this is not just something that happens only because God has returned. The prophet also gives some pretty straightforward advice on how to help bring about this vision of peace.
In verses 16 and 17 Zechariah gives us stuff to do… speak truth, render judgements that are true and make peace, do not devise evil in our hearts, love no false oath.
Seriously – that can’t be too hard right? I’m always amazed that within our scripture – within the Word of God – when told what we must do to enact and engage in peace, it is never some long drawn out list full of hoops and hurdles.
It’s always summed up in one four letter word.
Love. It’s so simple, yet so hard for us to live into.
Let’s start – I can’t wait to see that time where all children and the old might sit, laugh, and play.
Prayer: Lord God, we expect to have long lists, hurdles, and obstacles to overcome to see you at work in this world. But, every time you give us simple instructions that all come forth from love. Help us to love, guide us in love. Amen.
The Rev. Pastor Matthew Titus, Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Newberry SC, and Newberry College alumnus
March 19, 2019
The First Supper
Isaiah 25:6-8a: 6On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. 7And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; 8he will swallow up death forever. (NRSV)
A while back one of our congregation gave me a bookmark that was so wonderful that we got these bookmarks to give to everyone here and everyone who visits. The picture is of Jesus dining with twelve individuals from different nations and is entitled: “What Language Would He Use to Speak to Each of These?” And on the back of the bookmark it states: “Their Own.” The painting is by Hyatt Moore and the diners are Crow of Montana, Berber of North Africa, Masai of Kenya, China, Ecuador, Afghanistan, Jesus, Ethiopia, Tzeltal of Mexico, Canela of Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Salish of British Columbia, and Mongolia.
Every time I read the above passage – I think of the bookmark. And every time I look at the bookmark – I think – The First Supper in the Second Coming! And I get very excited.
During Lent – I invite and encourage everyone to meditate on and appreciate the magnitude of the promise in this Isaiah passage – that the Good News is for everyone – not just the Jewish and Christian peoples who claim this Bible as their own. “All peoples” not only crosses all boundaries – it obliterates them as it promises the feast and freedom from death to “all nations.” The Jerusalem mount witnessed the institution of the Lord’s Supper in His final meal. The Jerusalem mount received His life’s blood as He by dying defeated death for us and prepared the road to the First Supper on His return – the meal God prepares for all people and through Jesus extends the invitation to join the meal in this life that will last forever in the next.
We Pray: Dear Savior, thank you for fighting our battles, winning our war with death and preparing the Victory Feast for all nations. We anticipate with joy our First Supper at Your Return. Amen.
Pastor Joanie Holden, St. Timothy Lutheran Church, Crystal River, Florida.
2011 Newberry Alumna, 2016 LTSS Alumna
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