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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

Wednesday Words, March 6, 2019

From Lasting Hope Devotional 

Psalm 51:1-2

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
in your great compassion
blot out my offenses.
Wash me through and thrfouh
from my wickedness,
and cleanse me from my sin.

To ponder:

God does not wish to regard our sins and punish us as we daily deserve but to deal graciously with us, to forgive according to God's own promise, and thus to grant us a joyful and cheerful conscience so that we may stand before God in prayer. . . But such a confident and joyful heart can never come except when one knows that ones' sins are forgiven.   - Martin Luther, The Large Catechism

We begin with grace:

Psalm 51 is traditionally known as King David's resposne after the prophet Nathan revealed to him the harm he had done to Bathesheba and her husband, Uriah.  Like David, we often do not recognize an action as sin until someone shows us another perspective on it. Then we realize we were not just "blowing of steam"  harmlessly: a friend was frightened by our outburst.  We did not simply borrow that money: we took it without permission and have no idea how we will pay it back.  That constant comparison of ourselves to a colleague who seems to have it all has turned into something toxic for both of us.  Behavior we might once have glossed over is dangerous and powerful.  It has the potential to shred loving connections with God and our neighbor. 

When we realize such things, Psalm 51 gives us words to speak about them.  In the first verse, we speak of God's grace three ways: as mercy, steadfast love, and great compassion.  When we know God to be gracious, we have the courage to go forward.  We can tell the truth and ask forgiveness.

Prayer:
Most merciful God,  help us to trust in your compassion and steafast love.  Free us from sin and raise us to new life.  Amen

Lasting Hope Devotions for Lent 2019
copyright 2018 Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis




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