Archive for March, 2016

Lenten Devotional – Holy Saturday: March 26

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

Scripture: John 19:32-42

The Easter Vigil is probably my most favorite liturgy of the Christian year. It’s filled with story and mystery and song. I was baptized at the Easter Vigil in 2001.

The passage from John begins to tell the story of what happened after Jesus’ crucifixion. Joseph of Arimethea takes the body, lays it in a nearby tomb, and his body was prepared. Isn’t that what our time in Lent is, a time of preparation? How amazing it is that not only our hearts are prepared, but our bodies, too!

Going from shadow to light is a wonderful metaphor for the Christian journey. I think what I like the most is how the slow fade from complete darkness to glorious epiphany takes place slowly. In the gray areas we are able to contemplate our humanity, our mortality, and how our story intersects with God’s story.

As we prepare to be Easter people, let us not forget that many live in those gray areas. Some of our companions on the journey aren’t able – because of doubt (or certainty), because of injustice, because the victory of Resurrection can’t be tied up in a neat bow one Sunday each spring – some of our companions aren’t able to celebrate. It is these holy moments – between death and resurrection – that the Church must find a witness of companionship and grace.

Prayer:

God of the in-betweens,

In between life and death,

In between faith and doubt,

In between the now and the not yet,

Be with us, even in the great mystery.

Amen.

Parting Questions:

When have you been in the gray? Did you move from darkness to light?

Have you forced others into the light, instead of witnessing through companionship and grace?

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Chett Pritchett, Executive Director, Methodist Federation for Social Action

Lenten Devotional: Friday, March 25 – Good Friday

Friday, March 25th, 2016

Scripture: Isaiah 53: 1-5

In the passage we are presented with today, Isaiah writes of the Servant of God who comes to save us. We reject this servant, however, devaluing them and alienating them from us, refusing to see worth in them. Yet this servant heals us through his own suffering, and is our salvation. God saves us even as we reject and work against God’s own agents. For Christians, this image of the suffering servant is plainly seen in Jesus, who was rejected and murdered by those around him. In the modern day we look at the example and teachings of Christ, to love one another unconditionally, to give of ourselves to others, to forgive those who wrong us, and we ignore and reject these commands. We explain away the call of Christ that we find too uncomfortable or inconvenient, and set about undermining the image of our Lord even as we proclaim our worship of him.

Prayer:

Let us give thanks for the great mercy of our God! Even as we who are sinners actively resist and reject the love of God and the teachings of Christ, God’s mercy lays upon us nonetheless. Rejoice, for our God is patient, loving, and merciful, and will save us even from ourselves. Amen.

Parting Question:

What are the ways in which we reject the servants of God in our lives? How do we work against our own means of salvation?

 

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Garth Stevens-Jennings

Lenten Devotional: Thursday, March 24

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Scripture:  John 13: 12-16

The gospel of John is unique in several ways from the other gospels.  Since John had been with Jesus as a teenager, he wrote the gospel of John as a mature old man after being released from the Isle of Patmos.  As John had seen the risen Christ seated at the right hand of God, he could look back on his experiences with Christ in a new light.

The setting of this scripture is in the Upper Room.  There, Jesus demonstrated to the disciples exactly what kind of Lord and Teacher that he was as he washed their feet.  The acts performed in the Upper Room was the way that Jesus revealed to them how they were to live after he went to heaven.  The washing of the disciple’s feet is symbolic of God washing away our sin.  As the spirit is clean, so must the feet, which are the dirtiest part of the body, be clean and therefore washed frequently.  Therefore, as the Son of God, Jesus humbled himself to wash the dirtiest part of his servant’s bodies.  He was setting the example of humility that we are to extend to one another today.

In today's world as we read this scripture, we are reminded of how Jesus' humility is to be an example of how we must live.  We must humble ourselves and wash one another's feet symbolically by treating all as equals in the sight of God.  If Jesus can break down class and social barriers to wash his disciples feet so can we. It is often easy to get caught up in the social systems of today but as Jesus dismantled the systems of his day so should we as those who call themselves Christian.

Prayer

Creator God, thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus Christ, to show us that humility is the way to live as humble children of God.  Amen

Parting Question:

What systems are you a part of and have you, like Jesus, humbled yourself to see those who your system marginalizes?

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Joseph Pope Cobb III

 

 

Lenten Devotional: Wednesday, March 23

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Scripture: Luke 22:7-20

One of the motifs in the passage on the Lord’s Supper is eating. Jesus gathers his disciples together so that they may eat together the communal meal of Passover. Eating in the time of the New Testament was a communal action. People did not eat alone, they ate with their family, friends, and community. Passover was a special community meal because it celebrated the people’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt by God's hand. Jesus, during the Passover meal, instituted another. He took the bread and the cup of wine, blessed them, and asked that his disciples partake. The meal foreshadowed Christ’s act of divine deliverance for all people and, at the same time, embodied the Kingdom of God as it was enacted in a meal between friends and enemies. During the meal, Christ claimed that he would neither eat nor drink from the cup until the Kingdom of God had come. After Christ’s betrayal, trial, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, Christ appears to his disciples and once again shared a meal. In Luke, he eats fish while in John he eats breakfast with his disciples. The Kingdom had erupted into reality and was celebrated with a meal. Today we continue this communal meal in the Eucharist, eating the bread and drinking the fruit of the vine. Through our participation, we continue to live into Christ’s act of deliverance and the Kingdom in which he reigns.

Prayer:

Lord, we thank you for times of fellowship and meals with others. We are thankful for the bread that fills and sustains us and drink that quenches our thirst. Give us the strength to be in solidarity with those who do not have the food and water that they need, so that their needs are filled.  Fill us with your spirit so that we may participate and live in you Kingdom now so that all may feast at your heavenly banquet as brothers and sisters. In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, through the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Parting Question:

What meals in your life have embodied the peace and fellowship of the Kingdom?

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Matt Knonenberg, Intern, Methodist Federation for Social Action

Anonymous: #HandsOffMyBC

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

I chose to go on birth control because I didn't want to get pregnant and I wanted to have sex. Because I am a clergy woman in The United Methodist Church, and I'm single, that information could get me brought up on charges, and I could lose my ordination. 

Luckily, we don't have an insurance plan that requires the church to sign off on the prescriptions that my doctor writes. Luckily, I can access birth control through the health insurance plan that my church pays for. 

However, because I value my job, I have to remain anonymous in writing this. It strikes me as ridiculous in 2016 that this is necessary, but being a person who is sexually active while single is against the rules. I'm very grateful that the church doesn't extend its reach into my prescriptions, and that I don't have to justify my prescriptions to my Bishop. 

I don't think it is any of his business. I hope the US government agrees. 

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Anonymous

Kathryn Johnson: #HandsOffMyBC

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

My name is Kathryn Johnson and I am an ordained United Methodist clergywoman. Having grown up in a Methodist parsonage I cannot recall a time when I was not involved in the life and ministry of the church as a youth, layperson, seminary student, missionary, local pastor and national faith-based justice advocate.

At each decision point in my life, I have sought to discern God’s will and to love and serve both God and neighbor. Among the countess life decisions I’ve made, one stands out as the most grace-filled and Spirit-led. This was my decision to become a mom and form a family through adopting a child. From the moment I made that decision I was filled with a peace, a certainty and a joy that I can only describe as God-given.

Access to comprehensive sexuality education, affordable reproductive health care and effective birth d control enabled me to form a family when I was ready to love a child with abandon and to provide fully for her emotional and material needs.

As my daughter grows into adulthood I want her to have the same rights I have had to care for her physical, reproductive, emotional and spiritual health.  The health insurance I received from the United Methodist Church covered the various forms of birth control that met my needs at different times in my life and enabled me to form a family when I was ready. This included birth control pills and a diaphragm. Unless and until we have universal health care in the United States, I pray that any employer-provided health insurance my daughter receives will do nothing less. 

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Rev. Kathryn J. Johnson

Elder in the New England Annual Conference

Serving in an extension ministry in Washington, DC

Irene DeMaris: #HandsOffMyBC

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

My name is Irene DeMaris and I’ve been on birth control since I turned 16, not because I was sexuality active, but because for some girls and women, birth control helps regulate and alleviate pain during our monthly cycles. Almost 15 years later, my IUD continues to do that for me, providing countless hours of relief so I can study better, stay at work, and be a happier human being. Birth control isn’t just about being sexually active.

Access to birth control is a human right. The separation of Church and state should protect employees from being held to their employers’ religious beliefs. I say this as a woman – a woman who is religious and completing her Master of Divinity degree. I have the right to choose when and if I want children; my employer – religious or otherwise – should have no say over that. I do my best to not impose my religious beliefs on others, and I expect the same from other religious people.

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Irene DeMaris is a certified candidate for ordained ministry as a deacon, student at the School of Theology & Ministry at Seattle University, the Creative Liberation Convener at Valley & Mountain Fellowship, and an intern for the Methodist Federation for Social Action.  

Laura Rossbert: #HandsOffMyBC

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016
My family and I work for women to have access to the birth control that is right for them. As two pastors, we had to wait until we could financially support a child and be ready to support our child in this world – and various forms of birth control allowed us to do that. We also currently both work in non-profits that work with people experiencing poverty. We know that access to birth control and responsible family planning is absolutely critical for the flourishing of all of God's children.
 
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Revs. Laura and Brian Rossbert are United Methodist Clergypeople serving in non-profits working to create a better world in Denver. Laura is also the Minister of Justice at Christ Church, UMC.

Lenten Devotional: Tuesday, March 22

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Scripture: Exodus 12:1-14

While the Passover will not be celebrated for a few more weeks by our Jewish friends, Christians often reflect on its powerful story to explore Maundy Thursday and Jesus’ last meal with his close friends and family. The parallels of the Passover story and the last few days of Jesus’ life help us to discover how we can best remember and honor our roots as God’s people. During times of suffering, fear, lost hope, or despair, Christians refer to parts of the Hebrew Bible like the Exodus story, the Psalms, and Lamentations to find scripture that really connects to our heart’s deepest voices of grief. This Passover story calling the oppressed people to mark their homes with a sign of God’s protection allows us to reflect on God’s presence with us through dark times where we might feel totally overwhelmed by hopelessness. By recognizing the plights of Jewish history we act in solidarity while remaining careful to not label Jewish traditions as our own.

Despite what the average Christian might think, how modern Jewish people celebrate the Seder meal today is not how Jesus would have in his time. It is possible for Christians to reflect on the meaning behind the Seder meal while honoring the tradition of celebrating liberation. We are always a part of the suffering simply by being the people of God together. God does not abandon us during times of oppression or even during times of heightened fear, shouting candidates, and attacks on innocent people.

Prayer

Emmanuel, God with us, we hear that you will never abandon us. You have carried our grief and our sorrows. But it is not always easy. We turn to our traditions, our histories, and our prayers during dark times. Be with us as we mourn and search for hope in our world. Help us to see the light and to be shown the way. Work through us as we are called to action to stand up for the oppressed and marginalized. Your mercy and grace endure forever and are in all things. Amen.

Parting Question

The United Methodist Book of Worship states, "United Methodists are encouraged to celebrate the Seder as invited guests in a Jewish home or in consultation with representatives of the Jewish community, thus respecting the integrity of what is a Jewish tradition and continuing the worthy practice of Jews and Christians sharing at table together. Celebrating the modern meal without a Jewish family as host is an affront to Jewish tradition and sometimes creates misunderstanding about the meaning of the Lord's Supper.” How can we honor the holiday of Passover while remaining respectful to the Jewish community?

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Emily Pickens-Jones

Lenten Devotional: Monday, March 21

Monday, March 21st, 2016

Scripture: Psalm 89: 2-29

These words from Psalm 89 have been a struggle for me.  I have poured over them for days, praying them, letting them sit on my heart.  The Psalm is a testament to the faithfulness of God.  During the season of Lent, we think about the things that we want to give up”.  This year, I challenged myself, and the students that I am in ministry with what it looks like to be more devoted and intentional in our relationship with God.  To earnestly seek God, and to admit when we have not always followed through like we had hoped.  This season of Lent has not been easy for our campus community, but I have seen the faithfulness and hope of God in ways that I have not experienced before.  I have watched as students, faculty and staff have come together to mourn and to journey with one another.  Verses 13 – 18 in particular can sum up the beauty that I have seen.  

As we prepare our hearts and minds for Easter Sunday, we are faced with the truth that it was not a pretty journey.  Yet there is hope.  God, who so delicately took time to craft every hair on your head, is the same God who painted the mountains in blues and purples.  God, who cries and mourns with us over the destruction of nations and lands is the same God who rejoices with us when we celebrate new life and opportunities in all of their forms.  We have spent the past forty days finding ourselves disturbed by the movement of God in our lives and in the world around us and that is okay – do you know what that means?  When we are disturbed, when we are challenged, it is when we grow the most!  It is how God plants seed of truth and love. We are an Easter people.  We are a people who rejoice and who give thanks to God, because we are a people who have also known pain.  We are a people who can say “To God be the Glory!” Because God is with us every step of the way through our wilderness.

We may be saying “Goodbye” to this Lenten pilgrimage, but we are saying “Welcome” to the next step.  We are taking the next step into praising God and giving thanks.  We are giving our all because God is the one who is our strength, our hope, our source of everlasting love.

Prayer:

Creator God, we are so thankful for your holy disturbances.  We praise you for the ways in which you move in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  We thank you for the hope that you have given us for all of eternity.  For moments of unrest, for challenges, we praise you. As we enter this Easter-season, remind us of who you are, and who you are calling us to be. Amen.

Parting Question:

How have you been challenged during this Lenten season?  Where have you seen the movement of God?  How have you been challenged and what has that taught you about the Divine?

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Emma Johnston, Student, Wesley Theological Seminary

 

 

 

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