Lenten devotion: Who you are

The father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” (Luke 15:22-24)

 

Anyone who has ever lost a child in a shopping mall understands the heart of God.

Sorting through a rack of clothes, you look down, and a cold, hollow chill twists your stomach. Turning one way, then another, she is not there. Feverish, you rush down one aisle and up another. Where did she go? She was here a moment ago. Is she still in the store? Did she run into the mall?

Dark fears race through the mind and a wave of nausea sickens, as you turn wildly about, looking. Until. Until you hear the sing-song of a tiny voice and see the curve of a familiar cheek, or perhaps you hear her tearful lament as she cannot find you, and you fly to enfold her in your arms, a tear of relief in your eye because the lost is found. 

Fear evaporates … for both of you … as you stroke her hair and cradle her close. “Where were you? I didn’t know where you were. You scared me.”

The words are not spoken in anger but in love, joy and relief, and you return to your shopping but shaken, promising yourself you will never turn away again.

Hold this moment. Listen to everything it has to teach. For in this moment, you know who God is; you know the Love you are created to enjoy, the Love to whom you can return every time you feel lost or alone, empty or afraid.

You are a child of a Great Love who longs for your nearness. This Love is your home, a home from which we wander like the prodigal son, creating pain in our hearts and in the heart of God.

Every day should end with a few quiet moments alone with God, reconnecting with your home that you may remember who you are … and rest in the Love who hungers for you.

Pr. David L. Miller

Lenten Devotion: The Cairn

Joshua 4:1-3, 6-7

When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua: “Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe, and command them, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan from the place where the priests’ feet stood, carry them over with you, and lay them down.” […] When your children ask in time to come. ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord.

The Cairn

I have probably heard this passage of scripture read out loud more than any other. Why this one you might ask? For every week for four summers I was a counselor at a Lutheran summer camp in Pennsylvania, Camp Nawakwa. And every week the entire camp gathered to hear Joshua 4 read aloud. We gathered around a pile of rocks at the heart of the camp, a cairn.

The Israelites were finishing their 40 year journey in the wilderness. They crossed the Jordan under the direction of their leader Joshua and were entering the Promised Land. To mark the end of their journey and God’s faithfulness to them on that journey they erected their own cairn, a pile of 12 rocks, one for each of the 12 tribes. Whenever they looked at that cairn they would always remember the journey and the God who brought them on that journey to a new home.

Over my years at camp our cairn grew and grew. It was not a pile of 12 stones, like the Israelites, but a pile made up of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of stones, a stone for every cabin group for every week of camp for every summer. And when we looked at that pile of stones, as we walked by it countless times during the week, as we gathered around it at the end of each week to add our stone to the pile, we remembered too. We remembered the journeys that we have had along the way. We remembered God’s role in our journeys, just like the Israelites did.

What journey is God leading you on? What do you have in your life that you can look upon and when people ask you in time to come what it all means you can say, this is where God has taken me in my life.

Pr. Daniel Joyner Miller

Lenten Devotion: A holy weed

Luke 13:18-19

[Jesus] said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

A holy weed

Mustard is a weed. It is persistent. It spreads. It can be found everywhere. This is true in our day, and it was true in ancient times as well. An ancient Roman writer, lawyer, statesman, general, and naturalist Pliny the Elder, living at the same time as Jesus, had this to say about Mediterranean Black Mustard, the kind Jesus was almost definitely talking about in his parable.

“Mustard, which with its pungent taste and fiery effect is extremely beneficial for the health. […] but on the other hand when it is has been sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once.”

I imagine this is what Jesus has in mind too when he references mustard in his parable. Yes there is a remarkable characteristic of its tiny seeds as they grow from minute to shade giving, but it is also remarkable for its wide ranging growth.

This is how grace works. God’s grace is not stingy. God’s grace grows and grows. A little bit of sun, a little bit of water, a little bit of love and forgiveness and it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it.

This, Jesus says, is what the kingdom of God is like. When spring hits in full force this coming month or two. As you hunch over to pull out the dandelions from patches of verdant green, even as you curse their persistence of these pesky plants, give thanks to God who like the mustard seed shows up again and again and again.

Pr. Daniel Joyner Miller

Lenten Devotion: The Annunciation

Luke 1:26-28

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

The Annunciation

It seems rather odd, but the feast of the Annunciation, the day when the church commemorates the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary, happens in the middle of Lent, yesterday March 25th. The oddness is cleared up when we remember the numbers of days in the year. March 25 is exactly nine months before Christmas, December 25. Does that clear it up a bit?

Yes and no. Sure the timing works, but it still leaves a strange taste in my mouth. Three years ago the feast of the Annunciation struck an even more interesting chord on our church calendar. In the year 2016, the Annunciation, March 25, was the same day as Good Friday. Now that is a juxtaposition. On the same day the church held both the divine immaculate conception of Jesus and his death in its hands.

This has happened twice in the 21st century, 2005 and 2016. And it happened three times in the 20th century, 1910, 1921, and 1932. Now however, we wait until 2157. In the year 1608 the English poet John Donne took the convergence of these dates to reflect on the poignancy, and not the oddness, that this occasion affords us.

“So God by his Church, nearest to him, we know,

And stand firm, if we by her motion go;

His Spirit, as his fiery Pillar doth

Lead, and his Church, as cloud; to one end both.

This Church, by letting these days join, hath shown

Death and conception in mankind is one.”

               “Upon the Annunciation and Passion falling upon one day. 1608″

 

Death and conception in mankind is one. Powerful words for our Lenten journey to the cross of Good Friday and the new birth of our Paschal rejoicing.

Pr. Daniel Joyner Miller