Lenten Devotion – Day 6 – Always forgiven

Lenten Devotion – Day 6 – Always forgiven

Always forgiven

The first time I read this passage I wondered what it meant. When that happens it helps to look at the same passage in another translation. Here it is again from The Message:

“Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean.
Count yourself lucky—God holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from him.
When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans.
The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up.
Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.”

Suddenly the pressure was gone—my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared.

Looking at the two translations next to each other, I had a much better understanding of what both the ancient psalmist and the modern translator are telling us.

We are all sinners whether in thought, word or deed. At the end of some days, reflecting on everything that occurred, we sometimes think we did a pretty good job of relating to others and dealing with our personal anxieties or concerns. Other days, well, we know how sinful we are.

The beautiful thing is that we know we are always forgiven, and that brings us peace.

Arline Johnson

Prayer:

Lord, bring us again and again to your table where, receiving your body and blood, we receive your forgiveness and leave in peace.

To Ponder: When has offering your sin or weakness in prayer freed you heart?

Lenten Devotion – Day 5 – Replacing the emptiness

Lenten Devotion – Day 5 – Replacing the emptiness

Matthew 4:1-4

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” 

Replacing the emptiness

A seminary professor was standing in front of a room. In his hand, he held an empty pint glass and asked the students, “How do you remove all the air from the glass?” One student raised his hand and suggested sucking the air with your mouth. No, that didn’t work. Another suggested turning it upside down and shaking really hard. That seemed to be more of a joke, but the professor tried it anyway. No, that didn’t work either. The class was stumped.

The professor then pulled a glass pitcher of water from underneath the desk. He proceeded to pour the water into the glass until it was overflowing the sides. “There,” he said, “no more air.” The class groaned.

This Lent there are things that we may try to get rid of in our lives. There are Lenten intentions of all sorts. No chocolate or fast food or social media. Or perhaps you have chosen to take on special act of devotion or charity. Either way it marks a radical change in the way we usually live our lives. And this might seem impossible.

But how do you just get rid of something? Do you suck it out? Do you shake it real hard? It turns out that the easiest thing to do is to try to replace it with something else, like water replacing air.

In our reading from Matthew 4, the devil has ideas for how to replace the emptiness: an easy fix, a cheap thrill, a chance for power and glory. This Lent allow God to rush into your life instead. Let God’s goodness overflow and let your hearts be quenched by the all surpassing love God is.

Pr. Daniel Joyner Miller

Prayer:  

Fill our hearts with your all-surpassing love, O Lord. Chase out all that is not you.

To Ponder:  What do you need to replace in your life?

Lenten Devotion – Day 4 – Let go

Lenten Devotion – Day 4 – Let go

Lent Devotion Week 1 Day 4

Let go

A pastoral colleague posted his Lenten discipline on Facebook this morning: He is giving up Facebook. “See you after Easter,” he wrote. I wonder if he is looking for freedom, clearing space to breathe and notice what is happening within him.

Disordered, misdirected compulsions and habits keep us being ourselves, distracting us from the very things we say are most important to us. You can live under their spell for a lifetime, coming to the end of it all wondering why you never became the person deep down you truly are.

We forget that we are made in the image of the Love Christ is, a Love in which we are intended to bask and share. This Love speaks and acts through us as our anxieties and compulsions are cleared away.

So stop and ask, “What is getting in my way? What keeps me from living freely and loving fully?

Trust the Love in which Christ holds you, the Love that dwells within as your truest self, and begin to let go.

Let go of anxiety and share with the poor.
Let go of your anger. It chains you to the past.
Let go of self-doubt and unworthiness. You are the child of a Great Love.
Let go of the politics of division. It poisons the water in which you also must swim.
Let go of blindness and apathy toward the homeless and refugee. They, too, are images of Christ.
Let go of evil speech and judgment of others. Its toxic to your soul, and you don’t know what battles they are fighting within.
Let go of the need to have your own way. You will find the freedom that surprises you.
Let go of everything that is not mercy, and you will find mercy.

Pr. David L. Miller

Prayer:

Free me from all that keeps me from you that I may know and live the Love you are.

 

To ponder: What is getting in the way of living the life to which Christ calls me?

Lenten Devotion – Day 3 – Ashes of identity

Lenten Devotion – Day 3 – Ashes of identity

Lent Devotion Week 1 Day 3

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
Psalm 51:1

Ashes of identity

A little girl, six or seven, studied my face last Wednesday. What’s on your head? She asked.  “Ashes,” I said. “Why do you have that?” She asked, tilting her head for a better look.

Yes, why did I have that? Why go through this ritual every year?

As a young pastor, I cringed as I marked the foreheads of worshipers with the grim reminder, “Remember that you are dust and to the dust you shall return.” These were my friends, my people, faces I love.

I still recoil, especially when marking the head of a baby or small child, their innocent skin soft and untouched by hardship. They have barely begun to live and already we speak of death. Seems cruel.

But these ashes are not a mere smudge but in the form of the cross of Jesus Christ, expressing the deepest truth of life: All that falls … rises, that which dies comes to new and vibrant life in the warmth of the great love of God, a love that is for all.

Marked with a cross of ash, we know who we are and who God is. We are mortal, and God brings life out of every death we die. We fall prey to our selfishness and egoism, but the arms of the cross embrace us and whisper, “Let it go; you are mine.”

We fail to live out our highest ideals and feel unworthy, and God says, “I will lift you again and again into the fullness of a love that will never let you go.” As Christ was raised from death by the glory of God the Father, this glorious love continues to shape in us the mind of and heart of Christ.

So we wear our ashes without shame or fear, marked by the Everlasting Love who claims us.

Pr. David L. Miller

Prayer:
Remind us, O Lord, that we are not defined by our failures but by your love.

To ponder: What do the ashes mean to you?

Lenten Devotion – Day 2 – At One

Lenten Devotion – Day 2 – At One

Lent Devotion Week 1 Day 2

At One

Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.
(Psalm 51:11-12)

I long for you on these white winter days, O Lord.

I want to feel the warmth of your love welling up from deep within so that I know your presence. So I come here, to this place of prayer, where I speak and hear the sound of my needs echoing on the wall.

I pray my emptiness, my regrets and my fears for those I love, hungry for the joy of simply knowing you. And it happens.

In the middle of a sentence, in a tear that springs to the eye, amid my awareness that I cannot give my heart what is most needed, you come. And in that moment, I know you.

Your heart fills my own, and I know you are pleased to come and fill me with a lightness of being where worry ceases and anxieties evaporate.

There is only you … quieting my heart and letting me know that you long for my presence even more than I need yours.

So come to us on these wintery days, O Lord, lest our souls freeze hard as the chill winds that make us shiver. Teach us to pray our lives, and interrupt us whenever it pleases you.

We don’t mind. Not one bit.

Pr. David L. Miller