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Wednesday Words, March 21, 2018

John 6:48-50

[Jesus said,] “I am the bread of life.  Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.”

To ponder

Poets tell us what our eyes, blurred with too much gawking, and our ears, dull with too much chatter, miss around and within us.  Poets use words to drag us into the depths of reality itself.  Poetry grabs us by the jugular; far from being cosmetic language, it is intestinal.  -Eugene Peterson, interview for On Being radio show and podcast

Be our bread

For four days we have been meditating upon the sixth chapter of John’s gospel and Jesus has said twice, “I am the bread of life.” The verses are poetic, steeped in metaphor.  But if poetry just sounded pretty, we would adorn the Bible in a glass case and admire it from afar.  Instead, we are caught up in the messiness of metaphor.

When we first hear Jesus is bread, we might think, “Sure that sounds good.”  Then we realize, “No, that’s not true.  People aren’t bread; God isn’t bread.  Bread is flour and yeast, liquid, salt, and sweetener.”

But finally, yes, like bread, we need Jesus.  Our bodies need Jesus.  Without a relationship with God, we wander in the wilderness, grasping form stuff we think gives life but eventually fails.  Loved ones who have cared for us desert us, break our hearts, and die.  The stuff we amass crowds our closets and basements.  We pay rent for extra boxes to store the excess.  Even the food we love only fills us for so long.  The next day, we will be hungry.  Yes, Jesus, you are the bread of life.



God, our life, our bread, open us to the power of poetry in our relationship with you and the world you love.  Amen.

Wednesday Words, March 14, 2018

John 8:28-30

So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Many, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me.  And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.”  As he was saying these things, many believed him.


To ponder
The Bible’s inclusion of so many figures for God is both an invitation and a caution.  The invitation to discovery: discovery of who God is . . . The caution is against assuming that any one image of God. . . adequately describes God.  – Lauren Winner, Wearing God


Lifted Up
Here we have another “I Am” statement from Jesus.  This time Jesus says we will know he is the I Am when he has been “lifted up.”  What does this “lifting up” mean?  All too quickly, we might assume that the moment Jesus is lifted up is the crucifixion.  The cross makes sense here, and we are in the season of Lent, after all.  The cross is central to who Jesus was and is and who we need Jesus to be. 

Yes, Jesus is lifted up at the moment of his crucifixion.  Yet in the Gospel of John, there’s more to the story.  Jesus will also be lifted up at his resurrection and again at his ascension.  In other words, Jesus’ identity is not just about his death, but also about his resurrection and ascension.  In the crucifixion, we realize that Jesus is really one of us.  Flesh and blood.  One who died not just for us, but because he became one of us.  In the resurrection we see that death is not the end.  God upends even death.  In the ascension, we realize that the fullest experience of a relationship with God is a deep and intimate abiding.  All three scenes together give us a fuller picture of who Jesus is.


Dear God, lift up our hearts to see that in your death, your resurrection, and your ascension you draw us deeper into a relationship with you.  Amen.

Wednesday Words, March 7, 2018

John 15:9-11

[Jesus said,} "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.  I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete."

To ponder

Goodbyes can be poignant, sorrowful, sometimes a relief, and now and then, an occasion for joy.  They are always transition moments which, when embraced, can be the door to a new life both for ourselves and for others.  ~ Roger Housden, "Seeing the Good in Goodbyes"


Joy amid impending separation and goodbyes?  How is this possible, especially during Lent? Lent is traditionally a time for somber contemplation, for appropriate restraint and reserve.  Joy seems out of place, even sacrilegious.  To be appropriately penitential, we tend to ignore the reference to joy in John 15, as if experiencing joy in this season of repentance would be displeasing to God.

Yet if we stop to think about it, Jesus is speaking a truth about life.  Memorable moments often are simultaneously filled with both grief and glory.  A graduation, for example, is a goodbye, but also a time of anticipation, excitement, and joy. That morning when your oldest son comes down the stairs and realizes he is finally taller than you prompts both sadness for what's gone and happiness upon seeing his beaming smile.

Farewells can also be events that recall, relive, and reimagine joy.  Yes, Jesus is leaving.  Jesus will die.  But the joy that he and the disciples have experienced up to this point is a joy they will continue to know.  Joy is indeed a promise of discipleship.


God, when we are tempted to see only heartache and suffering, remind us that your joy will carry us through.  Amen.

Wednesday Words, February 28, 2018

John 9:1-4

As (Jesus) walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work."

To ponder

Everybody who loved me wanted me to be innocent--tricked, duped, all unawares. But, of course, that was not the case. All those years ago I wanted to have an adventure, an outrageous experience, and the fact of it being illegal made it all the more exciting...I had long ago accepted that I had to pay consequences. I am capable of making terrible mistakes, and I am also prepared to take responsibility for my actions. ~Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman's Prison

Seeing possibilities

Day and night, black and white: why do we so readily believe that the things of this world are either one or the other? When an incarcerated woman reflects on her past, her crimes, and the meaning of justice and redemption, we do well to pay attention. She may help us to see why the blame game makes things too simple, predictable, and ultimately unfair. 

Jesus knows the complexities of life, and he discerns the possibilities that lie beyond our inclinations to reduce our lives to superficial calculations of cause and effect. Who sinned? We all do, but Jesus' light reveals the power of grace--and its divine intrusion into our systems of blame and punishment. For Jesus, the day represents all the possibilities of God's power to heal and restore us. Beyond black and white, there is room for all people, all colors, and all stories that show the power of God working in our lives. What color is your story today? 


Great redeemer, we pray today for patience and openness to the power of your love. Remind us to love ourselves as well as others. Keep us from letting blame overshadow the light of your gracious presence in our lives. Help us to believe again that all things are possible when we are in your loving embrace. Amen. 

Wednesday Words, February 21, 2018

You are the Way
Devotions for Lent 2018

John 10:9-10
(Jesus said,) "I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." 

To ponder
It is fatal mistake to assume that God's goal for your life is material prosperity or popular success, as the world defines it. The abundant life has nothing to do with material abundance, and faithfulness to God does nor guarantee success in a career or even ministry. Never focus on temporary crowns. ~Rick Warren, "Remember: You're Not Home Yet"

Don't settle for the good life
Everyone chases their own idea of "the good life." A businesswoman strives for a seven-figure income and an executive suite on the 42nd floor. An immigrant family enters this country seeking a new life and an opportunity to have a hopeful future. A young couple struggles to pay off college loans and reach a point where money coming in it greater than money going out. People who are chronically ill long for a breath that comes easy, an end to treatments, or movement without pain. 

These are all notable achievements and wonderful gifts, but they are not the definition of the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. Jesus' gift of abundant life is available to all, no matter your economic status, physical location, or health. Jesus came that we might see God's love and live in a dynamic relationship with God. The abundant life gives us purpose beyond ourselves and the opportunity to use our talents to serve others and touch their lives with God's grace. Jesus calls his followers not to settle for the good life, but to experience the abundant life. 

For the well-being of ourselves and those around us, Lord, prevent us from living anything less than your abundant life. Amen.