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Wednesday Words April 10, 2019

Wednesdays Word
From Lasting Hope Devotional 

Psalm 126:3

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed.

To Ponder

Nelson Mandela emerged from prison not spewing words of hatred or revenge. . . He had been harassed for a  long time before his arrest, making impossible  a normal family life.  By the time of his release on Feb. 11, 1990, he had spent all of twenty-seven years in jail.  No one could say that he knew nothing about suffering. . . Everything had been done to break his spirit and to make him hate-filled.  In all this the system mercifully failed dismally.  He emerged a whole person. -- Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness

Inextinguishable Spirit
If you travel to South Africa and visit Robben Island, you will see the prison that held people like Nelson Mandela, people who stood in public opposition to the apartheid system of racial segregation.  You can receive a tour of the remote, sea-surrounded prison from an ex-prisoner who will tell you first hand of the horrors inflicted upon him during an extensive stay on the island.  You will have to reckon with the unfathomable ways that human beings exert power and force over the lives of other humans, all in an attempt to maintain a position of dominance.

The miraculous thing about Nelson Mandela's story is that while he was in prison, while a powerful and dominating force attempted to diminish and extinguish his spirit, something was being cultivated in him.  His spirit would not break.  He maintained a level of wholeness that would not be snuffed out.

God has done great things, indeed!  God frees captives from their bondage  But what is more, God is present in the suffering, cultivating something whole, with a poewr even greater than the powers of domination and fear.  For this we can be glad indeed!

Prayer
God of the cross, you meet us in the place of the crucified, and it is there that you begin to cultivate your resurrection.  Continue to meet this world in its suffering places and make it whoel and glad indeed.  Amen.

Wednesday Words, April 3, 2019

Wednesdays Word
From Lasting Hope Devotional 

Psalm 32:6

Therefore all the faithful
will make their prayers to you
in time of trouble
when the great waters overflow,
they shall not reach them.

To Ponder

The arc of history is longer than human vision.  It bends. We abolished slavery, we granted universal suffrage.  We have done hard things before.  And every time it took a terrible fight between people who could not imagine changing the rules, and those who said, "We already did.  We have made the world news." -- Barbara Kingsolver, "How to Be Hopeful," commencement address

Unyielding hope
We are no strangers to troublesome times and circumstances.  Bad things happen to good people every day, and we are at a loss to explain why these things happen and to reconcile them with our faith and who we believe God to be.  We may question whether our thoughts and prayers are enough to wipe away the tears and mend the brokenness.  

Our hope and faith in God, however, allow us to reframe these troubles and meet the challenges of today.  Just as it is essential to be loved to action, we must continued to pray, knowing that God hears our cries, God knows our troubles, and God is at work.  Our hope is grounded in God's promise to be faithful and never abandon or forsake us.  As we pray together, our hope exposes our faith in Jesus, who sets out to save and change our world, and thereby change our troubles and change us.

Prayer
God, our hope, your ears are always open to hear us in our time of need.  When troubling waters overwhelm us, receive our fears and anxieties and renew our hope in your promise of faithfulness.  Amen.

Wednesday Words, March 27, 2019

Wednesdays Word
From Lasting Hope Devotional 

Psalm 63:4

So will I bless you as long as I live
and lift up my hands in your name.

To Ponder

There was a young couple strolling along half a block ahead of me.  The sun had come up brilliantly after a heavy rain, and the trees were glistening and very wet.  On some impulse, plain exuberance, I suppose, the fellow jumped up and caught hold of a brand, and a storm of luminous water came pouring down on the two of them, and they laughed and took off running, the girl sweeping water off her hair and her dress as if she were a little bit disgusted, but she wasn't.  It was a beautiful thing to see, like something from a myth.  I don't know why I thought of that now, except perhaps because it is easy to believe in such moments that water was made primarily for blessing and only secondarily for grown vegetables or doing the wash.  I wish I had paid more attention to it - Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Lifelong Blessing
Ritual has power. When I train leaders in my congregation to serve as assisting ministers, I tell them that what we do with our boides in worship is as important as the worlds we say with our mouths.  We beckon worshipers toward holy ground.  On our own and with others, our praise and worship of God ought to be enacted bodily, by kneeling; by lifting up our hands, with candles, icons, incense.  As we receive God's grace in tangible ways, so too we praise God in tangible ways.

All the gestures of Christian worship exist to communicated in an unmistakable way God's promised blessing.  The action of blessing another person or thing does not, of course, make something holy or sacred.  Blessing acknowledges and declares the reality of something or (someone's) sacredness.  The psalmist's act of blessing God makes sense:  God does not need our blessing, but we need to be reminded of God's worthiness and glory.  

Prayer
You bless us with your presence, Lord Jesus.  May all we say and do magnify you and your steadfast love for us.  Amen.

Wednesday Words, March 20, 2019

From Lasting Hope Devotional

Psalm 27:7-8

Hear my voice, O Lord, when I call;
have mercy on me and answer me.
My heart speaks your message --- "Seek my face."
Your face, O Lord, I will seek.

To Ponder

"What giants?" asked Sancho Panza.

"The ones you can see over there," answered his master, "with the huge arms, some of which are nearly two leagues long."

"Now look, your grace," said Sancho, "what you see over there aren't giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone."

"Obviously," replied Don Quijote, "you don't know much about adventures."  ---Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, The History of That Ingenious Gentleman, Don Quijote de la Mancha

Adventure

Seeking God's face can be a disturbing idea, especially when your heart is telling you to do so.  (However, ignoring your heart may be where real danger lies.)  God, who is full of surprises, is the original plot-twister, and dealing with the unknown can be a little unnerving, to say the least. You just never know what's going to happen next.

But what if we thought of faith as an adventure, and seeking God as the quest to end all quests?  Adventures are exciting, thrilling.  They can be scary at times, but that's part of what makes them adventures.  And as Sancho Panza discovered, adventures don't have to make sense or be logical.  Sometimes the greatest adventures are those that happen within the heart and mind.

Lent can be a trying time.  It probes deep into our souls, taking stock of what lies within.  Lent calls us to follow our hearts and see God -- only to find God alongside us the whole time.  Be courageous, O blessed adventurers! Enjoy the journey.

Prayer

God of adventure, grant grace and protection to all who seek your face.  Empower us when obstacles obstruct our ability to see you -- especially when those obstacles are us. Amen.

 

 

 

Wednesday Words, March 13, 2019

From Lasting Hope Devotional

Psalm 91:13

You will tread upon the lion cub and viper; 
you will trample down the lion and the serpent.

To Ponder

God's protective care is not "mine" (just as the gospel is never mine); it comes always as a gift, assuring me that God provides all I need precisely so I may take no thought for the morrow and give myself to the neighbor.--  Frederick J. Gaiser, "It shall not reach you"

Keep going

The psalms often picture danger and enemies as wild animals.  Give the traditional connection between the psalms and the youthful shepherd and poet David, this comparison makes sense.  Imagine being a  youngster left in charge of a flock of sheep.  Their protection is your responsibility.  What worries you most?  Perhaps you are concerned about ravines and wandering sheep, but even more than these, you know the dangers of an attack by predators.  There is almost no defense agains wild animals who can strike with the speed of a snake or the force of a lion.

If you are not a shepherd or a cattle rancher, your worries and fears may have little to do with the attacks of wild animals.  Yet the psalm verse still speaks to the scope of God's care.  As you live out your calling to be a child of God, dangers may threaten to paralyze you.  Don't stop because of them.  Keep going.  God's protection frees us from fear that wourld otherwise stop us in our tracks.  God's care frees us to care for the people and things entrusted to us.

Prayer

Creator God, you have called human beings to care for all that you have made. When dangers surround us, give us the courage and freedom we need to love as you love.  Amen.

Lasting Hope, Devotional for Lent 2019  Augsburg Press

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