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Wednesday Words, January 20, 2021

Wednesday Words – Flash

January 20, 2021

Pr. Paul Cannon

And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Mark 1:17-18

We used to come back from fishing with Pop Pop, (my paternal grandfather), and invariably someone would ask us how it went.  “Well,” Pop Pop would say, “We did a lot of fishing … but we didn’t do much catching.” Appropriate words for a man who named his fishing boat the Luke 5:5, “Lord, we fished all night but we caught nothing.” (Pop Pop’s translation). 

Genetics aside, I’ve always made a lousy fisherman.  It takes patience and a willingness to endure some quiet days at the water.  You see, I like the catching part much more than I like the fishing part. 

Catching is fun (not that I’ve done much of it).  It happens in a flash.  One minute you’re quietly, almost meditatively, reeling in your line and the next thing you know there’s a strike that jolts you awake in an instant. 

And I think that’s what it can be like when we encounter Christ too.  At least, that’s how it was for his disciples.

This Sunday our star word is flash.  It makes me think of lightning or fireworks or even the flash of a camera.  A flash is that brief, but often stunning display of light that often spurs us to action.  A flash of lightning might make you hurry indoors.  A flash of fireworks might inspire wonder.  A flash of a camera might make you instantaneously blink awkwardly for the photo (just me? …).

The first time the disciples encountered Jesus must have felt a flash of lightning as well.  Simon and Andrew are sitting there in their boats, fishing (unclear if they were catching), and suddenly Jesus comes and calls out to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 

In that brief encounter, they must have felt something that jolted them to action, because the scripture says “Immediately, they left their nets and followed him.”  They didn’t wait to gather their bags and say their goodbyes, they just left.  And they were gone in a flash.

I think that could describe how we encounter Jesus today too.  Like fishing, sometimes it seems like a lot of waiting, but then when Jesus shows up on the shores of our lives, there’s a flash of that brilliant lure and you’re hooked. 

Like the bolt of lightning, encountering the risen Christ jolts us to action – to love and serve our neighbors in need – to go and proclaim the good news, fishing for people. 

Wednesday Words, January 13, 2020

January 13, 2020

Wednesday Words

By Pr. Cathy Daharsh

I used to be really good at remembering people I'd met before. There was a time when I could brag about never forgetting a face. But as time has gone by, and with having facemasks on during the pandemic, it has gotten a bit challenging.  

As many of you know, my first career was an elementary teacher. When I get a chance to visit family in Sheboygan, which has not been for a long time, on occasion I bump into students that I taught in the past. They quickly recognize me. Ha-ha, I guess I have aged well. But it is challenging for me to remember their names because they have grown-up and look different as adults. If I concentrate and listen to how they speak and what they say I can usually come up with their names. 

Of course, the better I know someone, the more able I am to recognize them. And once I've actually worked with someone or gotten to know them through their stories, I easily remember their names - most of the time!

In the Old Testament reading from 1 Samuel, God calls Samuel, a little boy and he has no idea what was happening. When Samuel heard his name called in the middle of the night waking him from sleep, he thought it was his master Eli who was calling him. But it wasn’t and it happens a few more times after Eli tells Samuel that it wasn’t him and sends him back to bed. 

When Samuel ran to Eli a third time with the same story, Eli began to realize that something strange was happening and told Samuel to say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."

It may be that God is speaking to all of us all the time, but that few of us are able to hear God's voice and that those who do hear fail to recognize it as God. God could speak to us through many different means, for instance, through nature, through art, through science, through books, through worship, through the Bible. God could also speak to us through dreams, through insights, through coincidences, through friends.

It is in times such as these that we are in need of hearing and recognizing God in our lives. The more you get to know someone, the easier it is to remember who they are and to recognize them. Once you begin to get to know God and intentionally take time to know God’s story, you'll find that you're increasingly able to identify God. 

Our star word for this week is Radiate. My prayer for you today is that you are able to recognize God’s light radiating in your life to bring you moments of energy, hope, and warmth during your week. Amen.

Wednesday Words, January 6, 2021

January 6, 2021

Wednesday Words 

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. – Genesis 1:5

Happy Epiphany Bethany Lutheran Church!

As I scroll through Facebook lately, I have noticed several friends trying to find their one word for the new year. I even saw an explanation about it. It said, “Scrap that long list of goals you won’t remember a few weeks from now anyway. Choose just one word. One word you can focus on every day, all year long. One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live. It will take intentionality and commitment, but if you let it, your one word will shape not only your year, but also you. It will become that compass that directs your decisions and guides your steps.”

I think it’s a great idea. It’s a simple way to center ourselves in the midst of chaos and give us something to move toward. We have made a list of star words for our church to focus on during the next six weeks in worship. Words that reflect and remind us of Christ among us in the midst our order and disruptions. We hear both in the readings this week. As the year gets going, we feel these opposite pulls. Some of us need more order. Covid has made our lives feel formless, without routines. Others of us need to make more room for God’s disruptive grace. Even as we hear John the Baptizer bring his holy chaos, we also hear God beginning the creation with order. 

God’s creation balances light and dark, with no judgment on either. Neither is better or worse than the other. Each needs the other, as they exist as parts of our creation. We think of light as better than darkness, especially in these winter days when we crave light. We forget that dark is the place of rest, of birth, of the sprouting of the seed, and we often want to rush through the darkness to the light. 

As we walk together in these dark days of winter, may we seek to see God’s work in the darkness as we gaze our eyes starward to deepen our faith and center ourselves in Christ. To discover that place, that one word, we are being called to explore and embrace in this new year. 

May this year be a year of new connections, renewal, and hope! Amen. 

Wednesday Words, December 30, 2020

December 30, 2020
Those Who Dream Sanctified Art Devotional
Hannah Garrity
Reflection on Matthew 2:1-12 and Accompanying Artwork

"Another Road " Hannah Garrity | A Sanctified Art LLC | sanctifiedart.org

This image is a meditation on the gift boxes spiraling out from the center of the Star of Bethlehem. The top of the central square opens as Mary receives the gifts of the three Wise Men. Multiple paths surround the star, portraying the wise decision of the Magi to return home a different way to resist the fear-ridden power of King Herod. 

“When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him.” The power of fear is palpable; it is easy for a leader to share and to use to his advantage. In this story we are reminded of the wisdom that has been gifted to us by God through Jesus’ ministry—the wisdom to avoid imbibing and stoking fear. Knowing this wisdom to be true, and knowing Herod to be a leader who leads fearfully and by fearmongering, I wonder how often we humans can fall into this pattern. 

We know the story well. The Magi’s decision buys time for Mary and Joseph to make a move that will eventually save the life of God incarnate. They choose to leave the country as refugees, to escape the oppression that Herod’s fear imposes on their child. 

Can we combat the fear within ourselves—to see beyond it to the love and hope that are also held in every moment? With each decision, we first choose our lens. Can we make it our intention to see the world through love, not through fear? 

Breathe deeply as you gaze upon the image. Imagine placing yourself in this scene. What do you see? How do you feel? Get quiet and still, offering a silent or spoken prayer to God.

Wednesday Words, December 16, 2020

Dec. 16, 2020
Those Who Dream
Devotion from Sanctified Art
Dr. Marcia Riggs
Commentary on Luke 1:26-45

"A Dream Confirmed" Lisle Gwynn Garrity | A Sanctified Art LLC | sanctifiedart.org

“The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God’” (v.30). There are three possible responses to fear: fight, flight, or freeze. Mary is, perhaps, frozen by the appearance of the angel Gabriel, whose greeting and message leave her perplexed and pondering. But she is not paralyzed by fear; instead, she is suspended in time as the angel foretells her destiny: to bear the Son of God. Mary is also told that she is not alone because her cousin Elizabeth is miraculously pregnant after years of being barren. Fully awakened by the angel’s declaration, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (v.37), Mary accepts her destiny saying, “Here am I, the servant of the LORD; let it be with me according to your word” (v.38a).

Why does Mary accept her destiny? Mary and Elizabeth are mutually confirming witnesses that God stands with those who are marginalized. They know that they are not alone; they have each other, and know that God deems them worthy. Today we often talk about the need for solidarity. In 2017 the Women’s March on Washington and simultaneous marches around the globe demonstrated publicly women’s solidarity is necessary in the quest to fulfill the dream of equality for everyone.

What Mary and Elizabeth’s witness teaches us is that solidarity emerges when we share a dream that perplexes us into pondering what God intends for and requires of us. In his posthumous letter, the late Congressman John Lewis speaks about solidarity thus: “Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world, you set aside race, class, age, language, and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.”10 People motivated simply by human compassion become the love that does justice.

Wednesday Words, December 9, 2020

Wednesday Words – Advent Joy

Dec. 9, 2020

Pr. Paul Cannon

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.  Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.

- Psalm 126:1-2

“You’re bad Isaac.” That was Elin’s repeated message to her brother at dinner yesterday. I already forgot the reason for her declaration, but she doesn’t always need one.  When she is in her full-throated terrible two’s mode, just about anything can set her off.  Mom and Dad were tired of it, so we told her “Elin, if you call your brother ‘bad’ again, you don’t get a show tonight.” 

She turned to Isaac, scrunched up her face and said, “Bad!”  If you’re a parent, you have to follow through with your threats, so we told her “No show tonight!” She responded with her favorite new phrase, “You’re not a parent!”  Argh!!! When did our two-year-old turn thirteen? 

The next day – In the quiet early morning, as I was making coffee and getting breakfast going, Elin walked out of her room in her Christmas jammies, spotted me, walked over, I picked her up as she snuggled in.  “You’re the best dad.”  PURE JOY. 

This season, more than many others, is a reminder that true joy is borne out of struggle. 

Advent Joy isn’t the happy-clappy, pretend everything is going GREAT kind of joy.  Advent joy is about acknowledging your struggles and coming through the other side.  Think of the Israelites in our Psalm today.  70 years of forced exile, and when God finally brings them home, their “mouth was filled with laughter and (their) tongues with shouts of joy.” 

That’s real joy.  Advent joy is the joy of Mary, who rejoices when God tells her that she will have a son.  Did you catch that?  She REJOICES when her whole life is turned upside down - when her betrothal to Joseph (thus her future) is thrown into jeopardy.   

Whatever you are going through (and I know many of you are going through a lot), know that there are better days ahead. And when you get there, your joy will be the true joy borne out of struggle. 

Thanks be to God!

Wednesday Words, December 2, 2020

December 2, 2020

Those Who Dream
Devotion from Sanctified Art
Lisle Gwynn Garrity

"Restore Us" Lisle Gwynn Garrity | A Sanctified Art LLC | sanctifiedart.org

Psalm 80:1-7,17-19
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
 you who lead Joseph like a flock!
 You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
 2before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
 Stir up your might,
 and come to save us!
 3Restore us, O God;
 let your face shine, that we may be saved.
 4O Lord GOD of hosts,
 how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
 5You have fed them with the bread of tears,
 and given them tears to drink in full measure.
 6You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
 our enemies laugh among themselves.
 7Restore us, O God of hosts;
 let your face shine, that we may be saved.
 17But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,
 the one whom you made strong for yourself.
 18Then we will never turn back from you;
 give us life, and we will call on your name.
 19Restore us, O LORD God of hosts;
 let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Psalms of lament, such as Psalm 80, give us permission to add our voice to the choruses of faithful outcries throughout the ages. They give us permission to be fully honest—with ourselves and with God. They give us permission to proclaim that God is powerful enough to take it—and to respond to our pleas.

Lamenting, therefore, is an act of robust faith. When we cry out to God, we name the disruption, disorientation, and disorder of our lives. We dismantle the myth that we have everything under control. We awaken to our own pain and the suffering of others. We ask God to wake up God’s power.

In this image, I drew a visual prayer of lament, grieving some of the many hardships we’ve collectively faced in 2020. A healthcare worker masks her son as he prepares to go into a precarious learning environment. A church building announces its closure. A crashing stock market creates a chasm through the composition. An eviction notice and a Zoom meeting loom in the background. An obituary hangs near hands testing a COVID-19 vaccine. Tears fall like rain. 

While drawing this, I kept adding more and more laments. The page filled, and yet I couldn’t fit it all in. As you reflect on this scene, I invite you to consider your own grief. Contemplate what images you would include to compose your own visual prayer of lament. 

God, wake up your power. Restore us. Let your face shine, so that we might be saved. 


In quiet contemplation, color look at the image, reflect on how the imagery illuminates what you find in the scripture and artist’s statement. Conclude with a silent or spoken prayer to God.

Click here for a link to a version of the image you can color.


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