LENTEN DEVOTIONS 2021

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L E N T E N

D E V O T I O N S

2021

A gift of prayer, prose and poems

written by the Luther Memorial community

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Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are taken from The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, © 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission.

THE LENTEN PRAYER OF ST. EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN

Of all Lenten hymns and prayers, one short prayer can be termed the Lenten prayer. Tradition ascribes it to one of the great teachers of spritual life, St. Ephraim the Syrian. Here is its text:

O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of sloth, faintheartedness, lust of power and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to your servant. Yea O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brothers and sisters; for you are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

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Luther Memorial Church Luther Memorial Church

L E N T E N

D E V O T I O N S

2021

A gift of prayer, prose and poems

written by the Luther Memorial community

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Introduction

Pastors Brad Pohlman and John Worzala Dumke

“Bless now, O God, the journey that all your people make, the path through noise and silence, the way of give and take. The trail is found in desert and winds the mountain road, then leads beside still waters, the road where faith is found.”

Hymn #326 “Bless Now, O God, the Journey”

During this season of Lent, we will re-hear the story of Jesus and the name of those who in baptism are called to follow him through the wilderness of this world.

These daily devotions were written by you—friends and members of Luther Memorial. We hope that you find nurture and sustenance by the words of scripture and the prose, poetry and prayers of your fellow sisters and brothers in Christ. It is one of the marks of the journey that we do not, indeed cannot, journey alone. We walk this path together, with the help, care and compassion of those we are bound to in baptism.

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Wednesday, February 17

Our Treasure

Martha Taylor

Psalm 103

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

This Lenten season the entire world faces the fragility of life and mortality—together at the same time—as never before in our lifetimes. Yet, at all times we face death. Lent is the season to think of death and life leading up to death.

In this section of Matthew, we read of the importance of quiet piety and generosity; of not laying up our treasure for ourselves on earth but laying up treasure in heaven. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Treasure in common parlance means money. Indeed, Jesus’ teachings often focus on money. Combining the two sections of the lesson, our true treasure is revealed: our faith and values are reflected in quiet actions of generosity of spirit, yes, part of which is giving money.

Lent is a time of remembering what matters. What are our true treasurers as we face death? It is the time to review our life in Christ in valuing those treasurers: our relationships of family, friends and community; our commitment to justice, forgiveness, equality, and the purity of the earth. In actions not calling attention to ourselves, but in the simple acts of kindness and love. Lent is the season to reflect that we and all humans are fragile and precious. And then storing our treasure in heaven, where our heart is.

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Thursday, February 18

Preparation

Leif Kratzke Nelson

Psalm 1 Luke 9:18-25

Psalm 1 serves many purposes. By itself it is a lovely bit of poetry, but it has a few other functions. It serves as a sort of proverb, a nugget of wisdom, by informing us of what the happy, the blessed, do and warning against wickedness. And lastly, Psalm 1 is an introduction to the psalter; a way of opening this book of prayer and poetry. With all of these many roles, Psalm 1 gives us a clear message. Delight in the law of the Lord, and steer clear of sinful ways. It is not Psalm 1’s job to describe all of these ways—that will come later—but the goal is to set one up to understand the word of God. It is a psalm of preparation.

How fitting, then, is it that we begin the season of Lent with an introduction to the psalms. As we figure out and commit to our Lenten practices, Psalm 1 reminds us always that our practices are all done to the glory of God, not for our own sense of worth. As we read the psalms, the gospels, and the devotions, it is fitting to remember that this is a journey with God, not one we undertake alone.

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Friday, February 19

Prayer for Cleansing and Pardon

Judy Braham

Psalm 51:1-10 Isaiah 58:1-9

Psalm 51:1-10: A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”

Have mercy - our plea to God,

with dark shame, cry out with humility, have mercy we weep,

caught in our muck, asking of God, from God blot out

wash me, cleanse me,

We glimpse our transgressions, then, ultimately, we know,

“against You only God have I sinned”

God desires this Truth, from deep trembling places, we whisper in anguish,

“God teach me wisdom in my inner heart,” God purge me,

God wash me,

listen with opened ears. Hear joy and gladness Create in me a clean heart.

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Saturday, February 20

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Phyllis Pleuss

Psalm 86:1-11 Luke 5:27-32

In this story in Luke 5:27-32 (also found in Mark), Jesus calls Levi (later known as Matthew) who is a tax collector, to follow him. Amazingly, Levi drops what he is doing and immediately follows Jesus. He also invites Jesus to a dinner to which he has invited other tax collectors and “sinners.”

The scribes’ and the Pharisees’ criticism that Jesus associates with sinners betrays their blindness to God’s grace. By assuming that there are identifiable sinners who can be judged, they imply that there must also be non-sinners, who are the preferred group. It follows, then, that they think people have a choice whether to be a sinner or not, and that we have control over which class we belong to—sinner or non-sinner. This leaves God completely out of the picture as we depend completely on ourselves to lead sin-free, well-behaved lives. Anyone who has drawn breath knows this is impossible.

God knows that “we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.” Martin Luther knew it, too. He believed that we are, at the same time, both saint and sinner—Simul justus et peccator. We are “saint” only because God has forgiven us and Jesus has died for us. Even though Levi’s sin of being a tax collector—who could be brutal, unfair, and dishonest—is obvious, we are all caught up in a web of sinfulness. The thoughts and selfish impulses of everyday life are full of evidence of our separation from God and sinful nature. If we recognize this, we know we must depend on God’s loving and forgiving grace to bring us closer to God. We cannot do it on our own.

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Sunday, February 21

Refuge

Sue Bangert

Psalm 91:9-16 Luke 4:1-13

“Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” Psalm 91: 9-11

2020 was overwhelming: a pandemic, lost jobs, racism, hunger, on-line schooling while parents work at home, a nation divided, not being able to hug a parent. How do we keep it all together? How do we safely care for each other in such times? How can we be assured that all will be OK when we come out of this? God offers sanctuary, refuge no matter what we face, even calling upon the angels to guard us.

In these chaotic times, when we are trying our best to manage life, we can look at the small things to see that God is walking beside us, keeping his promise. God is there in the creative technology-supported ways we spend time with family and close friends; with us in prayer group; with us in the quiet walk in the woods, snow softly falling; with us serving students at The Keep Food Pantry. As we wind our way through Lent, and through these times, trust in God our refuge, he is with us always.

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Monday, February 22

God Is Everywhere

Jeffrey Van Fleet

Psalm 19:7-14 Matthew 25:31-46

The Beatitudes are often held up as the most beautiful example of poetic symmetry in Jesus’ words, but this passage’s parallel structures make it equally lyrical to me.

Jesus speaks in the first person about being hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, and a stranger. He expresses his gratitude to those who ministered to his needs and admonishes those who did not. He makes that distinction using the imagery of a shepherd separating his sheep from the goats. Of course, those listening cannot recall any occasion when Jesus himself ever needed their help. The message is not quite so clear until Jesus explains: in aiding anyone who lives in dire circumstances, we are ministering to them just as Jesus would want us to do for him.

All year long, but especially this Lenten season, let us look for ways to feed the hungry and thirsty, to welcome the stranger, to clothe the naked, to care for the sick, and to visit the imprisoned. Opportunities abound. Sadly, we live in a world where we don’t have to search too hard. We know that God is in every person we help. God is everywhere.

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Tuesday, February 23

Not Alone

Emily Tveite

Psalm 34:15-22 Isaiah 55:6-11

It’s surprising to me that the moments in my life when I have felt closest to God have, more often than not, been the ones of deepest difficulty. Facing profound loss, injustice, or obstacle, God has, in my experience, stood nearby, ready to be found in small mercies and caring companions.

That’s not to say that I haven’t cried out in anger or grief, or that God has offered me any kind of supernatural rescue from pain. But in suffering, I have rarely been alone. God has drawn near to me in the quiet presence of friends and family, ready to listen or just sit in silence. God has shown up in meals dropped off in plastic containers and in letters arriving in the mail, which have said, “I am here with you.” God has revealed God’s self in strength, deep in my bones, that I didn’t even know that I possessed, which carried me from day to day.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, says the Lord.” When I have grieved and struggled, my thoughts have often told me that I am alone, that I am not capable, that I cannot go on. But God has drawn near in scripture, in human form, in words and actions, reminding me that I am loved and am never alone.

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Wednesday, February 24

A Story of Surprises

Phyllis Pleuss

Psalm 51:11-18 Jonah 3:1-10

I found three surprises in the story of Jonah.

The first surprise is that God chose Jonah to be God’s messenger in the first place. Jonah was fresh from the belly of the whale, which he had been consigned to when he refused to do God’s will, when God again directed him to go to Nineveh to proclaim God’s condemnation. After he was surprised by actually being successful, he pouted and resented the fact that God actually forgave them. Why on earth would God choose this reluctant, disobedient prophet to do God’s bidding?

The second surprise was that the people of Nineveh actually did repent immediately and wondered if God might have mercy on them, not really sure that God would. Indeed, as a prophet, Jonah only told them that Nineveh would be destroyed—period. He offered no way out or assurance that God might have mercy on them.

The third surprise was that God, the Unchanging, changed his mind. Indeed, God never changes God’s mind when it concerns a covenant or promise God has made. God stays true to God’s word. But when it comes to mercy and forgiveness, God indeed can have a change of heart—and thanks be to God that God does!

So what I learned from this story is that we can never say we’re not good enough or knowledgeable enough or worthy enough to do God’s will or be God’s chosen messenger. If God can use Jonah—God can certainly use us.

Secondly, we should never stay silent because we think it’s useless to speak. What we think are deaf ears are ears that God may open, as God did with the people of Nineveh.

Thirdly, and most importantly, God is a God of grace and mercy. There is no sin and no separation from God that God will not forgive if repentance is sincere. Thanks be to God!

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Thursday, February 25

Ask, Seek, Knock

Bill Braham

Psalm 138 Matthew 7:7-12

Matthew’s “ask, seek, knock” passage is one of the most beloved in the Bible. You see the words framed and hanging in homes all over the world. But the older I get, the more troubling it becomes. The words are unequivocal: you get what you ask for, you find what you seek, and the door will open when you knock. No strings.

Of course, if I pray for the Packers to win on Sunday or to pass the test I didn’t study for, I deserve a smack.

Yet we all know people who love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, praying (and asking us also to pray) that their beloved one—or our own beloved one—would not suffer and die from a terrible disease. But they do suffer. They die. Did our friends not pray often enough, or hard enough? Did we chose the wrong words? The ask, seek, knock passage seems irrelevant at best, and cruel at worst.

The psalms often contain words of despair and anger at God for absence or silence. The writer of Psalm 138 doesn’t seem to have this in mind, but the words may be helpful—at least after pain and grief subsides: God’s steadfast love endures forever. And for all our friends whose prayers were not answered: may God increase your strength of soul.

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Friday, February 26

Psalm of Ascent

Mary Powell

Psalm 130 Ezekiel 18:21-28

Ezekiel 18:26-27 “When the righteous turn away from their

righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life.”

Psalm 130:3-4 & 6 “If you, O Lord, should mark my iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.”

The words of the prophet Ezekiel are harsh for those who turn from good to evil, yet encouraging for those who turn from evil to good. It’s so black and white. What about gray areas, those people who repeatedly turn from good to evil and back to good, like most of us? In the psalm we find more hope. The psalmist is horrified at the thought that God may keep track of our wrongs, and trusts in God’s forgiveness. He waits patiently for redemption, “more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.” Anyone who has woken in the wee hours and can’t get back to sleep knows what that’s like.

But we have an advantage over Ezekiel and the psalmist. We know that Jesus already redeemed us. It is by God’s grace that we are free, and out of gratitude we serve Him by serving our neighbor. Psalm 130 is a psalm of ascents. Last year in a Sunday forum, the Rev. David Susan explained that psalms of ascents were sung or recited by the pilgrims as they walked up to Jerusalem for festivals. There was a sense of hope and expectation. Let us carry on that sense as we travel toward Holy Week during these 40 days of Lent.

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Saturday, February 27

Chain of Love and Understanding

Anne Hunnex

Psalm 119:1-8 Matthew 5:43-48

In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus teaches us to love our enemies. Jesus challenges us to be better than the worst of society, even they love the people who love them back. What a relevant message for our time!

It is so hard to even imagine having conversations with those who oppose us or even those with differing points of view. It is easy to hate and distance ourselves from those who have different beliefs. But spreading the hate and emphasizing the differences only widens the gulf between people. It is only through

conversation, that seeks to understand instead of arguing, that we can hope to reach some common ground. Simply asking why people believe or feel the way they do can help us see their point of view which can open a whole new dialog.

Instead of giving up something for Lent perhaps we all need to start something. Is there a relationship you can repair? Is there a way to educate yourself about how some group who has opposing views that could help you understand their perspective and see them with compassion instead of as the enemy? Are there people who are struggling and need help? Starting a chain of love and understanding starts with each of us. There is so much work to do to repair the divisions. Lent is a good time to start God’s work.

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Sunday, February 28

Complete Disaster

Caroline Oldershaw

Psalm 121 John 3:1-17

“From where will my help come?” we cry with the psalmist. In the dark months of the ongoing global pandemic it is a plaintive cry heard in the language of almost every heart. “Help me!” pleads the physician as she pushes through the isolation tent, unable to see her patient’s face through the layers of plastic sheets, tubing and masks.

“Help us!” cries the parent feeding his baby, focusing young ones on school work, and preparing for a work presentation on Zoom. “Help them!” implores the business owner who must let go of devoted staff because remaining open is not viable during a pandemic.

The psalmist reassures “The Lord is your keeper.”

We too, are keepers of one another. Early in the pandemic I heard it said that “We are all in the same storm, but we are in very different boats.”

Never has it been clearer to me how much we need God’s protection. At the same time, we each have God-given capacities to help, to keep, to inspire courage as we journey together through the darkness.

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Monday, March 1

Time for Penance

Leif Kratzke Nelson

Psalm 79:1-9 Daniel 9:3-10

When I worked at Bible Camp in the summers of my college years, we would have themed days throughout the week. Often one would be about forgiveness. Everyone had the exact same story about doing something wrong and then asking for forgiveness. The stories were always short and always ended in a nice resolution and wrapped up in less than five minutes. What these quick anecdotes about forgiveness always failed to miss was what is detailed perfectly in Psalm 79 and in Daniel 9: the anguish and longevity of sin and our pleading for forgiveness. In Daniel, the titular hero, the same one who remains righteous, is praying for forgiveness for the generations of sin that he includes himself in. The psalmist, too, begs God to forgive the iniquities of our shared past. It can feel, especially in a time of penance and reflection like Lent, that we are trapped in a never ending cycle of sinning and pleading, especially when we take upon systemic sins that stretch back farther than we are alive. However this is not the end. Not for us, Daniel, or the psalmist. It is important to remember there is time for both penance and forgiveness. And while we may be focused on repentance and the guilt now, God’s promise of mercy is eternal.

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Tuesday, March 2

Serving with Humility

Jeffrey Van Fleet

Psalm 50:7-15, 22-23 Matthew 23:1-12

Matthew 23 has acquired an unofficial “Woes of the Pharisees” subtitle. Jesus reprimands the religious leaders of his time for their ostentatious display of ritual but with nothing substantive underneath their finery to back up their actions.

I’ve always tended to skip right by any such hard-hitting passage in the Old Testament, and I am guilty of giving no more than a cursory glance at them in the New Testament too. Who doesn’t prefer the Loving Jesus over the Scolding Jesus, after all? But sandwiched in among Jesus’ rebukes of the Pharisees are Verses 11 and 12, his true point at the heart of Matthew’s chapter:

“The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

We saw Jesus wash his disciples’ feet before the Last Supper, despite Peter’s protest that he was not worthy to receive such humble service from his master. We saw Jesus sacrifice himself for us in the ultimate act of humility.

No act of service need be done ostentatiously. No act of service need be passed up because we feel we are too good for it. Jesus set that example for us.

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Wednesday, March 3

God’s Promise

Bill Hunnex

Psalm 105:4-11 Genesis 17:1-8

Abraham did not expect to be chosen the father of many nations. He just listened.

God spoke: “I will be your God. You will be my people, walking before me. Be blameless.”

Abraham and Sarah laughed because they were too old to start a family, much less a nation. Then Abraham fell on his face before God. He accepted God’s covenant on faith alone.

God provided: “I will multiply your descendants. I will send mighty and holy leaders, walking before me. Be faithful.”

Moses led the people out of captivity. Samuel guided Abraham’s descendants in God’s ways. David established a nation.

Nevertheless, throughout all generations, the people were restless, rebellious.

The people dared: “We will make our own gods. We will worship our idols.” They followed after their idols, shamelessly.

The people’s idols did not satisfy their desires, fulfill their ambitions, assure prosperity or keep promises. The people cried out: “Where is God? Why has God abandoned us?”

God speaks: “I am your God. There are no other gods. You are my people, walk before me. Be humble.”

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Thursday, March 4

How to Choose

Bonnie Gruber

Psalm 1 Luke 16:19-31

“Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,” sings the psalmist.

But how do we know who is wicked? A Google search on “how to choose” brings up more than 4 BILLION links. We can get advice on choosing a tennis racket, a password, or a partner, a car, a college, or a career. How can we choose who to follow, let alone which of their suggestions to follow?

There’s a new occupation called influencer. Could one of them

help? Most seem to be focused on fashion, makeup, and other products. Fine clothes did not help the rich man in the Lazarus story. We need to look elsewhere.

Back to the psalm’s description of happy people: “…their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, please remind us constantly of your law and how to apply it to our lives. Grant us forgiveness, thankfulness, kindness, and generosity. Amen

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Friday, March 5

Envy

Peter Sherven Psalm 105:16-22 Genesis 37:3-4, 12-28

Sometime back in the 6th century Pope Gregory the Great compiled a list of what has come to be known as “The Seven Deadly Sins.” I suppose he could have just as well come up with a list of twenty or thirty or more, but he narrowed it down and stopped at seven. Near the top of the list is the sin of “Envy.” The Bible (the most honest book about life that any of us will ever read) exposes the sin of envy clear back in the Garden of Eden and illustrates it again here in the reading from Genesis a snippet of the story of Joseph and his brothers.

Joseph, as we know, was the youngest son of Jacob. As the youngest we would expect Joseph to be the last in many things: attention, prestige, inheritance, and so on. And yet he is so obviously his father’s favorite, perhaps because he is the youngest or because he has that “imaginative spirit” for which he became known. It all leads to envy among the brothers, and then to resentment, and eventually to hatred. The brothers consider murdering Joseph but end up selling him into slavery. It becomes as messy as life can sometimes be. The Parson in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales calls envy a “most foul sin.” And so it is. Envy leads to self-pity and discontent. Envy can lead to feelings of anxiety and emptiness, anger and resentment. Envy never does anything good for us.

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Saturday, March 6

Unconditional Love

Jan Moore

Psalm 103:1-4 Luke 15:11-32

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is a familiar story. The rebellious younger son demands his inheritance early and squanders it on a wild lifestyle in a foreign country. He crawls home in poverty to confess his sins to heaven and father. No questions asked, the Dad welcomes him home and showers him with gifts and a big party. When the oldest son returns from working hard in the fields and finds a celebration honoring his brother he feels slighted, hurt, and angry.

Let’s reflect on the parable. By temperament and experience who can you relate to most in the story right now? Perhaps at different times in your life you could relate to all three. What characteristics would you attribute to the father, oldest and youngest sons? If you were the father how would you have handled the situation? What are the takeaway lessons for you? For me there is a similarity between how the father responded to the younger son and how God gives unconditional love to His children. We are blessed that God the Father sent his son Jesus to experience the frailty and suffering of mankind and was crucified on a cross to save us from our sins. Through our confession of sin, repentance, and communion, the Holy Spirit grants us mercy, forgiveness, and unconditional love.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to show kindness, love, compassion, and mercy to others—even those who have hurt us or offended us. Amen.

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Sunday, March 7

Fragments Made Whole

Leah Holloway-Nilsen

Psalm 95 Exodus 17:1-7

The most amazing part of this text to me is that the Israelites are ready to stone Moses, ready to take broken fragments of rock and cause harm and death. Then God shows up in this story as a whole rock, bringing life and newness. Is this not a beautiful reflection of our life with God? Our broken, fragmented selves that we are sometimes so willing to use for harm and death, God makes whole and new in our baptism, in the waters of life. We see once again how God is able to make all things new, make all things whole, and continually transform the world around us. May you find yourself able to trust more deeply this God who takes our fragmented selves, makes them whole, and gives us life.

Prayer: Good and gracious God, you are the source of all life, and all things were created by you. Help us to trust and be amazed by your ability to make our fragments whole. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Monday, March 8

Longing

Kelly Olson

Psalm 42:1-7 2 Kings 5:1-15

Psalm 42:1 “As the deer longs for the water-brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God.”

“Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes…” The opening words of Psalm 42 from a piece by Palestrina are one of my strongest and first memories of being a new member of the Luther Memorial church choir many years ago. I hear this in my head every time I come across this psalm. This was the first time I had been a member of a church choir and experienced the joy of leading musical prayer in worship together. There is a particular kind of suffering felt now by choral musicians in not being able to share this with each other and with our congregation. Sorry, as wonderful as a Zoom choir of individuals gathering in song can be, it’s nothing like sharing in choral prayer together during a gathering of worship.

Despite the happy memories of singing these words, this is a psalm of despair and longing, so it does feel particularly suited to these times. “Where is now thy God?” Another line, powerfully rendered in a quite different choir setting of this psalm by Herbert Howells. It gives me chills every time I hear it. I think we all have felt a fear of losing touch with God more frequently lately, but it is universal to all times. We miss the face of God we see when looking at others. But we can take some comfort in knowing that so many people across the ages have felt similarly, but they eventually get through the hard times. And we know in our heart and soul that God is with us through it all. The thirst of our longing can be quenched.

I encourage you, as I have done, to find and listen to these pieces online and keep in your hearts the memory of the times our choir shared these songs and look forward to the time when we will share

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Tuesday, March 9

The Mathematics of Forgiveness

Paul Haynes

Psalm 25:3-10 Matthew 18:21-35

My mom told me often that she was never able to cook anything without lumps. Mashed potatoes, apple sauce and oatmeal all had lumps.

At the heart of the faith, even for believers there are some lumps. The biggest one for me is Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness. In our creed we say, we believe in the forgiveness of sins. Do we really

believe that or is that a lump we disguise in different ways.

Peter asks a question about the limits of forgiveness. He says, “Lord how many times should we forgive sins?” Jesus said to him, “seven times seventy.”

There is a new math that begins when we understand how much God has given to us of His mercy and grace and how much we liberate ourselves and others when we extend that grace even to those who don’t deserve it. May we always practice forgiveness.

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Wednesday, March 10

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know, for the Bible

Tells Me So…

Robert Alan Steffen Psalm 78:1-6 Matthew 5:17-19

Psalm 78:2 God and His People… “I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: … ”

Footnotes in my Bible reflect the Hebrew Title: “A poem by Asaph”—

whether authored or transcribed. Asaph, commissioned by David as a musician in the Temple, referenced the need to follow the law. Laws made to the people of Israel and commandments to the descendants of Jacob. Law that is to be passed down, generation to generation.

Verse two is quoted in Matthew 13:35. That it might be fulfilled,

Jesus speaks in parables, things that have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. The poem by Asaph continues telling children about the praises of the Lord, His power, and His great deeds.

I am a sinner of the Law. Did I break the passing of the Law to generation to generation? Did I fail to explain how great Thou art? How could I? As a child, in my dark bedroom at night, the little

white fluorescent cross was my friend; I knew He was there. What

happened?

Wait—the parables that Jesus spoke explain the Grace of the New Testament: His birth, His grave, His Resurrection. May the Word passed on through the Law and Gospel help me to learn how to pass this on today.

Dear Lord,

Help my eyes to see, my ears to hear, my mind to understand.

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Thursday, March 11

In the Temple and In the Carpentry

Shop

Jeffrey Van Fleet

Psalm 89:1-29 Luke 2:41-52

Luke offers us the only scriptural glimpse into the three decades between the infant Jesus’ presentation in the temple and the start of his ministry. At age 12, Jesus accompanies his parents to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Mary and Joseph find him in the temple, raptly listening to and questioning the learned authorities of the day. “Did you not know that I must be in my father’s house?” is Jesus’ reply to his exasperated parents.

No doubt 12-year-old Jesus was wise beyond his years. Was Jesus a typical boy? Sure. Search online for the unusual realist painting Christ in the House of His Parents by 19th century British artist John Everett Millais. Young Jesus has cut his hand on a nail in Joseph’s carpentry shop. (Millais previewed the crucifixion with that bit of symbolism.) Mary kisses her son to make it better, as moms do. Could such an event have ever happened? Certainly, although the painting was roundly criticized at the time.

That God became human is the miracle of Christmas, of course. That Jesus walked among us and experienced all that we do sustains us during Lent. He became one of us. He knows us and all our weaknesses. He sacrificed himself for us.

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Friday, March 12

The First Commandment

Judy Braham

Psalm 81:8-14 Mark 12:28-34

Jesus often gets into trouble with what he says to the scribes. When asked which commandment is the first of all, Jesus replies: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Luther’s Small Catechism says this is the First Commandment: You shall have no other gods.

How does one fear, love, and trust God with one’s heart, with one’s soul, with one’s mind, and with all one’s strength? Does that make you uneasy? How does that differ from “You shall have no other gods?

The one in the Small Catechism is law, taken directly from the tablets Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, recorded in Exodus 20. It is a covenant, born of dense smoke. The scribe asking the question knew this. So did Jesus.

Yet what Jesus says is not a binding mandate, it is relational. It is born of a God, a Lord God who is born, who is incarnate, who knows loving God means nothing less than a dense smoke, all-consuming devotion, not a law. It is a baptismal love that leads only to the cross. “After that no one dared to ask Jesus any question.”

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Saturday, March 13

Reflection Leads to Praise

Paul Haynes

Psalm 51:15-19 Hosea 6:1-6

Lent is a really special season of the church year. A season of

self-reflection. The very purpose of self-reflection is different

enough, we all lead such challenging and hectic lives.

Psalm 51, which is a reflection by King David, is a good example

of the Lenten Journey we are on. Lent is a time for honest

reflection. It is not a time for collapsing under the burden of our

own guilt. We come to terms with who we are—frail, broken children of dust.

Finally with David we are brought to the place of praise and worship (verse 15). O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. That is the inward journey that we go through at this season.

If we make this journey with earnestness and honesty and a willingness to submit to Christ, we will arrive at Easter morning

with David in verse 19. Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you.

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Sunday, March 14

You Are So Beautiful

Caroline Oldershaw Psalm 23

1 Samuel 16:1-13

“For the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Beauty in all its meanings and manifestations has long intrigued me. As a high-schooler I had severe cystic acne. It was not until after college that I had access to a high-powered medicine that healed my skin dramatically. As I healed, I read a book on skin care and makeup in which the author said that no makeup in the world can make someone beautiful. That what is important is one’s spirit and vitality. It is the inner spirit and soul that informs the outer appearance.

If that’s true, why does the passage in Samuel 1 about David being anointed king describe how beautiful he was? “Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome.”

David may well have been a good-looking young man. Taken less literally, it could also mean that David’s inner spirit transformed his outer physical self. Taken together, those encountering him may have been struck by a comprehensive beauty that was both spiritual and physical.

God looks through our spirit to take measure of our heart. Let us pray for God’s blessing to look at on one another with the same grace and wisdom.

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Monday, March 15

Healing

Bonnie Gruber

Psalm 30:1-6, 11-12 John 4:43-54

“…You have healed me,” says the psalm. Why? I live an active life while millions of people, many of them young, have died of COVID-19, heart failure, cancer, gunshot wounds, and more. Others live in physical and mental pain.

I feel guilty, enjoying life in good health while others suffer. Should I suppress my joy so others aren’t envious?

No, says the psalm. I have been healed so that my soul may praise God and NOT BE SILENT. So I can be happy, dance and sing. It’s not that I’m any better than anyone else, but for reasons only God knows, God has healed me and protected me from injury and illness.

Maybe that reason is so I, too, can heal. However limited my abilities, I can be a good Samaritan.

Some people may deny that God heals. They credit first

responders, doctors, nurses, therapists, and modern technology. But God created all of them and inspired them to use their abilities to help other people.

Prayer: God, the great healer, thank you for healing injuries and illnesses and for protecting us from new ones. Help us to help others and remind us daily to praise and thank you for life, health, and happiness. Amen

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Tuesday, March 16

Distractions

Dan Ruge

Psalm 46 John 5:1-18

Tony Kushner concluded his epic play “Angels in America” at the Bethesda fountain in Central Park. Kushner (through his characters) explains, “[Statuary angels] commemorate death but they suggest a world without dying. They are made of the heaviest things on earth, stone and iron, they weigh tons but they’re winged, they are engines and instruments of flight,” and, “If anyone who was suffering, in the body or the spirit, walked through the waters of the fountain of Bethesda, they would be healed, washed clean of pain.”

What beautiful imagery! An angel descends, troubles the waters, and provides healing. However, the verse describing this angel (John 5:4) isn’t included in the NRSV translation of the Bible. The Harper Collins Study Bible notes, “Though v. 4 is striking, it is not found in the best manuscripts… and its wording in Greek is unlike the rest of the Gospel of John.”

What does this mean? It means that an apocryphal angel distracted the author of this devotion. Adherence to the law distracted religious leaders during Jesus’s time. It wasn’t an angel. It wasn’t religious orthodoxy. It wasn’t the pool. The sick man never dipped his toe in it! It was Jesus… the Word of God… God’s own self… who healed the sick man.

Let us cast off our distractions. Be still. Return to God… who is still at work healing, breaking bows, shattering spears, and burning shields with fire… who will not only suggest, but create, a world without dying.

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Wednesday, March 17

How Can This Be?

Brad Pohlman

Psalm 45 Luke 1:26-38

In one of his Advent/Christmas sermons Martin Luther spoke about the nature of the incarnation. It’s worth quoting at length. He writes, “Saint Bernard of Clairvaux declared there are here three miracles: that God and human should be joined in this Child; that a mother should remain a virgin; that Mary should have such faith as to believe that this mystery would be accomplished in her. The last is not the least of these three. The virgin birth is a mere trifle for God; that God should become human is a greater miracle; but most amazing of all is that this maiden should credit the announcement that she, rather than some other virgin, had been chosen to be mother of God.

Had she not believed, she could not have conceived. She held fast to the word of the angel because she had become a new creature. Even so must we be transformed and renewed in heart from day-to-day. Otherwise, Christ is born in vain.”

In Baptism Christ has declared us new creatures. In Christ we are in the process of being transformed and renewed. For Christ has not been born in vain; and he shall accomplish all he has set out to do.

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Thursday, March 18

Idolatry

Emily Tveite

Psalm 106:6-7, 19-23 Exodus 32:7-15

To whom do we give credit for the successes we enjoy in life? Today we read a passage from the book of Exodus in which the Israelites, having been delivered from slavery in Egypt, melt down their earrings and other jewelry while Moses is up on Mount Sinai speaking to God, and cast for themselves an idol in the form of a calf. “This is the one who brought you out of Egypt,” they say.

Here, in its crudest form, idolatry is presented as casting an object in the place of God, and offering that object veneration. When we read this story, we may think ourselves much too sophisticated to pursue the kind of idolatry that the Israelites display. Perhaps, rather, if we had just found ourselves delivered from slavery, we would instead have gazed adoringly upon ourselves.

I recently heard for the first time the phrase, “Some people were born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” Overlooking my own privilege is the kind of idolatry that I am most susceptible to. When things go well for me, they are obviously the result of my own talent and hard work. When things go wrong, it’s because of circumstances beyond my control.

As much as anyone, I need to hear the words of the liturgy, week after week, “What shall I render to the Lord, for all God’s benefits to me?” and be turned again to offer God praise and glory.

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Friday, March 19

Where are You From?

Bill Hunnex

Psalm 34:15-22 John 7:25-30

Many years ago I moved from Los Angeles to New York. One time a friend asked my where I was from. I responded, “Los Angeles.” I could tell by the reaction I got that I had missed the point of the question. My friend was asking about my ethnicity. What were my blood lines? OK. Since you asked, DNA says 70% English/Welsh. Both answers, Los Angeles and English, are true but their meanings are quite different.

The people all knew Jesus hailed from Galilee. They could tell by his accent. “But who is he, really?” “Can he the messiah?” Jesus understood their confusion. They knew he was from Nazareth but did not know who sent him. He who sent Jesus is true. The people did not know him. They did not know the truth sending Jesus as his messenger.

What do we think? Where is Jesus from? Is he an itinerant preacher from the first century or our savior sent by God to sustain all life and guide us to a new life? Christian doctrine embraces both meanings.

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Saturday, March 20

Street Preachers

Bill Braham

Psalm 7:6-11 John 7:37-52

If you’ve lived in Madison for 25 years, you may remember the Reverend Simon Sparrow. He was primarily a painter and artist, but he also showed up occasionally on library mall and preached loudly to nobody. People passing by would give him wide berth. I confess I never listened to anything he yelled.

Could it be that Jesus was something like the Reverend Sparrow? John says Jesus “cried out” while standing there. But, unlike the passers-by in library mall, people listened to Jesus. It seems people at that time would give street preachers a chance. They would stop and listen. Where would we be if they didn’t? I never gave the Reverend Sparrow a chance—I judged him without giving him a hearing. But have I really given Jesus a chance? Have I truly given Jesus a hearing? Do rivers of living water flow out of my heart? This idea has been troubling me for weeks.

Maybe the Reverend Sparrow’s preaching has reached this passer-by at last.

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Sunday, March 21

Connect Them Dry Bones

Jeffrey Van Fleet

Psalm 130 Ezekiel 37:1-14

In one of the Old Testament’s best-known stories, God shows the prophet Ezekiel a frightening vision of a Valley of Dry Bones, bleached under the burning Middle Eastern sun. God commands Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, to reconnect them and to restore life to them.

The Ezekiel passage gave rise to James Weldon Johnson’s fun-to-sing 1920s spiritual (and skeletal anatomy lesson), “Dry Bones.” (That’s likely how we know the Bible story so well.) The song has been covered by everybody from the Delta Rhythm Boys to Rosemary Clooney to the Aussie children’s group, The Wiggles. Quoting God’s words to Ezekiel, each stanza of the song

concludes with a resounding “Now, hear the word of the Lord!” For readers of the Hebrew Bible, the bleak valley represented the destruction of Jerusalem and Israel’s exile to Babylon. For Christians, Ezekiel’s prophecy foretells the coming of the one who will reconnect those bones. Without Jesus, we are our mere mortal bodies, that mass of bleached bones. Jesus’ sacrifice for us is the culmination of the Lenten season. He gives us the promise that we will “reconnect” and triumph over death too.

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Monday, March 22

Stay Until Easter

Bill Hunnex

Psalm 23 John 8:1-11

Acting according to law, the scribes and Pharisees indicted the woman caught in adultery and advocated the prescribed penalty, death. They cited the appropriate legal authority. The case was clear based on objective legal arguments. The officials had discussed it and all agreed.

Jesus did not relate to the legal issue. He raised the personal question. He turned their attention inward to their own

conscience. Who among you is not guilty? Who among you is above the law? Jesus just waited, silently. One by one all the accusers quietly left. No group discussion and consensus. No court decision among officials. Just personal struggles by each, individually.

There was only one person left to hear Jesus say he offered no condemnation. Then he encourages her to change her life in response to her new freedom.

Some lessons for us: Don’t throw stones at others; examine yourself; don’t leave until Jesus speaks.

Lent is a time to examine ourselves. God’s message awaits us Easter morning.

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Tuesday, March 23

God Is With Us

Amy Grunewald-Mattison

Psalm 102:15-22 John 8:21-30

The gospel reading and the prayer of the psalmist come from different perspectives but lead toward the same point: God is with us. Being with someone is something we took for granted just over a year ago. But now we’ve lived a year where gathering, even just two or three, has become a threat to our health and the health of others.

In the gospel, Jesus is shoulder to shoulder with people. They are not sure who he is or what he means. Jesus tells them that his being with them brings the whole concept of “holy” as it means “set apart” into question. Jesus tells them he is holy, from above, but here he is on earth, talking with them close enough they can feel his breath on them. Yet he tells them he is about to do something unheard of on earth; he is going to die, but will not remain in the hands of death. For as Jesus is with the people, sharing the air and all of its life and death-giving potential, so God the father is with him.

As we walk through Lent with Jesus and the disciples and all those he encounters along the way, we share the hope of the psalmist. God hears our prayers, in the midst of our separation and fear, weaving together strands of connection until one day, people will gather, shoulder to shoulder, to worship God together.

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Wednesday, March 24

Making Room for God’s Word

Anne Hunnex

Daniel 3:14-20, 24-28 John 8:31-42

At the beginning of this reading, Jesus is talking to the Jews who had ‘believed’ him. This should be a pretty friendly group, yet Jesus goes on to say that they are looking for ways to kill him. If they believed him why would they seek to destroy him? How do we reconcile these two statements? Jesus then goes on to say, “You are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word.”

Believing is one thing, but ‘holding to’ the teachings of Jesus is another thing. Just like the men in this story it might be hard to find room for Jesus’ word and his teaching in our lives. Are there too many other influences in our lives so that the words of Jesus get lost?

It isn’t the hearing or even the believing that will set us free as part of God’s family. If we truly hear and believe, we can’t help but live the Word. Internalizing the teachings of Jesus and acting upon them every day will set us free from the pressures and confines of our world that limit our love for one another. May we all be set free by finding ways to move from hearing, to believing, to living the truth in God’s Word.

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Thursday, March 25

Community

Rebecca Ninke

Psalm 31:9-16 Matthew 20:17-28

Psalm 31 is a cry of distress and a call out for support from God. Many of us have lost friends and loved ones as a result of COVID-19. So many people have had their economic stability upended. The pandemic has been horrible. And yet, even now, there are blessings to be found. One unexpected benefit is that the pandemic has given us a chance to re-order our priorities. Will those changes stick? I hope that our churches can be part of the conversation, reminding the world not to waste the wisdom gleaned from a time of pandemic. Like what? Glad you asked.

We are all connected—whether we like it or not. Someone

exhales in Asia or Italy and their breath in time becomes intermingled with mine. No human walls or borders can separate us; we are one humanity. We are all God’s children. Please, let’s start acting like it.

The simple pleasures in life are the stuff of contentment. Books! Pets! Baking! Gardening! Birds singing! Having enough toilet paper but not so much that you feel like a jerk!

I kind of like my family; hope you do too. It was good to

spend time together. We had an awesome on-going indoor badminton game; turns out, we talk a lot when we’re firing birdies at each other. PS: indoor tennis didn’t work. Sorry about the dent, microwave.

While I don’t wish anyone working retail to be out of a job, not being able to waltz into my favorite shops to spend money

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Keep caring about whether others have enough. Share. Volunteer. Give. My dear neighbor Loan who loves to cook devised a plan with a friend to provide take-out meals once a week in exchange for donations to the local food pantry. They raised hundreds of dollars every week! Help advocate for local, state, and federal safety nets for those living lives filled with anxiety about what the day will bring. If you don’t have to wonder how to feed your children, make sure no one else does either.

Going to worship with other people is awesome! We took it for granted until it was suddenly gone. When the time is right, pack our churches full. Even the front pews. Remembering how it felt to be separated from your worshiping community, help provide worship services in nursing homes and assisted living facilities too once it’s safe to do so.

And finally, be thankful. We’ve taken the work of so many for granted. Teachers, WE LOVE YOU. Please forgive us and take our children back! Be grateful for shelf stockers, farmers, mail carriers, hospital cleaning staff, sanitation workers, restaurant employees… the list goes on and on and circles back to how intertwined we are, how we are made for community, and how we need each other.

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Friday, March 26

Who Does the Father’s Works

Leah Holloway-Nilsen

Psalm 18:1-7 John 10:31-42

“Believe the works” may be a hard pill for us Lutherans to swallow. ‘We are not saved by our good works,’ we cry, ‘Grace alone! Our works do not justify us.’ And yet, these verses remind me of a dear friend who said to me “Christians do not have a monopoly on doing good works.” Is it possible that someone who believes differently than me is doing the work of the Father in this world? I don’t think I need to look very long at the world to say that, yes, someone who believes differently than me can also be doing the works of the Father.

Perhaps, in believing the works of others, regardless of their beliefs, we actually find ourselves freer to love our neighbors. We don’t have to worry about categorizing what is or isn’t the work of God in the world. We can trust that God is working through all of creation, and that we are then freed to see all of creation as beloved by God. Believe the works, yours and theirs, trust God’s Spirit is present in all of it.

Prayer: God of all, your Spirit works and moves in ways that we do not always understand, nor can even imagine. Help us to see all of creation as your beloved. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Saturday, March 27

What Caiaphas Said Is Truth, Whether

He Realized It Or Not

Peter Elling Johnson

Psalm 85:1-7 John 11:45-53

On January the sixth in the year 2020, 400,000 red, white and blue flags marched in an isolated parade, blown by a cold wind, up and down the Mall between the United States Capitol and the Washington Monument, and symbolizing in number those Americans already dead at that time from the cold wind of the latest pandemic.

On the same day, four of six living American presidents in a cold wind placed a wreath in Arlington National Cemetery, the graveyard for even more than 400,000 of the country’s military defenders, in remembrance of their sacrifice.

If all the residents of either New Orleans, Tulsa or Minneapolis died, that would be about the same number of current deaths, or of graves in Arlington National Cemetery.

No plurality of others’ deaths can restore ME after the cold wind of death comes to attack me, the thought of which [at 82] makes me shiver. But unlike the psalmist, I don’t suspect that God, the creator of life, is the creator of my or anyone’s death.

I rejoice in that the God of my salvation will revive me again because Jesus the Christ ONLY has died, that undeserving I and all others might be revived. This I do believe.

St. John testifies that even Caiaphas the Jewish high priest said so.

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Sunday, March 28

Teaching

Bill Hunnex

Psalm 31:9-16 Isaiah 50:4-9

The pandemic has taught us many lessons. Among them is learning to appreciate the value of all types of essential workers, especially those in health care, schools and the food production chain. Today we focus on teachers.

“The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, That I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens –

wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.” Isaiah 50:4 Teaching begins with listening.

Listening to those eager to learn. What are their questions? Listening to those who need new understanding. Where are they confused?

Listening to those worried and alone. Where do they hurt? Listening to the quietest ones is like listening to God. Teaching works when connecting with students.

Teaching is inspiring those asking questions to discover new things. Teaching is guiding those confused and lost toward a new direction. Teaching is sustaining those weary and hurting souls with a caring heart.

Touching a student’s spirit is like touching God. Teaching can be restricted by the world.

Inhibited by barriers such as hunger, violence and pandemics. Inhibited by limited resources such as books, technology and supplies.

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Monday, March 29

Beggars

Franklin Wilson

Psalm 36:5-11 John 12:1-11

“Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” St John 12.7-8

The translation here given as “the poor” derives from a more basic understanding which might be rendered “the beggars.” Since beggars are generally poor, it seems reasonable to assume financial poverty. Here, however, I prefer to read Jesus’ words as “The beggars you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” This proves true especially in Lent, that season expressly given for the contemplation of our own poverty before God juxtaposed with Christ’s crucified riches.

Recall Martin Luther’s dying words: “We are all beggars.” Luther wasn’t pretending that he was financially poor: after all, he was a university professor and, what’s more, he had been given a monastery as a wedding present. The son of relatively prosperous parents, Luther did not lack material possessions even if (according to his wife, Katharine) he was prodigiously generous in giving away money.

“She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the beggars with you, but you do not always have me.” Jesus has us beggars in mind. Whether rich or poor, we are all beggars before God. Jesus Christ, the Crucified Ruler of the universe, pours out all God’s riches for beggars.

Mary anoints Jesus for his burial, so that, anointed in Baptism, we who are beggars might enjoy forgiving love, God’s eternal wealth. No wonder the Psalmist sings, “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”

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Tuesday, March 30

Seeds

Kelly Olson

Psalm 71:1-14 John 12:20-36

John 12:24 “Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

I’ve always enjoyed planting seeds and growing things, so this verse speaks particularly loudly to me. At various times in my life, I’ve grown everything from patio tomatoes to corn and alfalfa for cattle feed. It’s always a joy to see the bounty that can be grown from something as small as a seed. In the days before seed catalogs, if you wanted to grow grain or vegetables, you needed to hold some of the harvest back so that it could be planted the next year. Something has to be sacrificed and then die in order to grow new life.

We’re at the point in our Lenten journey where the darkest days will arrive soon. In the gospel for today, Jesus is telling us he must die and those around him are not understanding. The sacrifice of death must be made in order to obtain more abundant life. There are dark days, but the seed is planted and will soon bring the bountiful joy of resurrection.

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Wednesday, March 31

Both Sides

John Worzala Dumke

Psalm 70 Isaiah 50:4-9

This Holy Wednesday, we have before us two sources of scripture that act like two sides of a coin. The psalmist cries out to God for help and for the humiliation of their enemies. The reading from Isaiah, on the other hand, talks of one who has the help of the Lord, who fears not the tug of the beard or spittle in their face. In one we find a person who is calling upon the Lord to bring shame upon those who have insulted them, while in the other we find one who should be shamed by what they have been subjected to but instead is resolute in their standing before God.

In a way this juxtaposition is appropriate for this day in the middle of Holy Week. The shouts of Hosanna upon Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem still echo in our ears, and yet the solemnity of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are but a breath away. We hold in tension our confession that we like the psalmist are “poor and needy” and pray that God our deliverer “does not delay!” Yet we also find ourselves lifted up in our hearts so that we too could exclaim, “It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?” To both of these, let us just sit, and breathe, and say Amen.

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Thursday, April 1

Passover Seder

Mary Powell

Psalm 116:10-17 Exodus 12:1-14

“This shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.” Exodus 12:14

Have you ever been invited to a Seder? A Seder is the meal eaten at a Jewish Passover celebration. It has a book (Haggadah) with a script that is followed and symbolic foods that remind those in attendance of the story of Passover, a story of passing from slavery to freedom. During the Passover meal the youngest person in attendance asks four questions and they are answered.

1) On all other nights we need not dip even once, on this night why do we do so twice?

A. Dipping is a sign of freedom. Slaves had only dry food to eat. The karpas (vegetable dipped in salt water) represents the hope of spring and the tears of the slaves. The Charoset (a fruit-nut paste) is dipped in horseradish to remind us of the mortar for the bricks and the bitterness of slavery.

2) On all other nights we eat chametz (leavened bread) and matzah (unleavened bread), why do we eat only matzah tonight?

A. The Israelites didn’t have time to let bread rise. 3) On all other nights we eat any kind of vegetables, on this

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4) On all other nights we eat sitting or reclining, on this night why do we all recline?

A. We recline on our cushions like royalty because we are now free.

On Maundy Thursday we observe the Last Supper, a meal where Jesus and his disciples were celebrating Passover, most likely with a Seder meal. Jesus added to the story, instituting the first Eucharist. As we continue observing Holy Week let us remember the long history of salvation that goes back far beyond Jesus and includes the Passover and exodus from Egypt.

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Friday, April 2

Silence

Brad Pohlman

Psalm 22

Isaiah 52:13–53:12

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Words Jesus utters. Words from the Psalms. And to his anguished cry, he receives no verbal response. Between Jesus’ last words on the cross on Good Friday, until the angels say, “why do you seek the living among the dead?” there are no words from God.

The greatest speech in the Bible is the one that isn’t there. Or it’s there but there are no words. What God accomplishes this day, is done in complete silence. No words, just silence. No comforting words for the man of sorrows, the crucified Christ. Jesus is the trampled, forsaken one. Forsaken even from the comforting voice of the Father. When Jesus cries out, there is no verbal response.

But. What God does in silence transforms the universe. When the angels ask the astonished grave visitors, “why do you seek the living among the dead?” we begin to see what God accomplishes in silence. And we begin to comprehend that we are never utterly forsaken by God no matter what. Ever.

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Saturday, April 3

Gateway to Heaven

Bill Hunnex

Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16 1 Peter 4:1-8

The end of all things as we know them is near. Fixing that end date: a sign of our hubris. Walking towards that end: a posture for our lives. Yearning for that end: life’s meaning in focus. Pleasures of the flesh leave us yearning for more.

Gestures shining on our fame fade with sunrise. Measures of our wealth stay here when we pass on. Pressures of our power cannot keep death away. The start of all things new is with us; hopeful.

Not bounded by time, never changing; ageless. Not grounded by space, not fixed in place; spirit. Not achieved by toil, not rewarded; granted. Enter humbly before God’s righteousness.

Enter accepting forgiveness, not deserving. Enter serving the poor, hungry and lonely. Enter through heaven’s gateway of love for all.

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