Seed Meditation: Lent 5 2021

During the season of Lent, my husband, Pastor Patrick Sipes, will be our guest blogger with a series of tactile meditations exploring Sunday’s Gospel text. He is currently serving as the transitional minister at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Platte, Nebraska, and will be inviting congregation members into these meditations in worship. May God bless you as you explore Scripture through Prayer.

Head Start seeds HAFA Farm by Media Mike Hazard on flickr.com

For this reflection you will need a seed. If you will be doing some gardening this year, and have some seed already, one of your garden seeds would be perfect for this meditation, because your prayer will continue through the summer as that plant grows. If you aren’t planning a garden, really, any seed will work, a dry bean, a kernel of popcorn, a seed that you saved from a piece of fruit that you ate, and if you don’t have any of that, feel free to scavenge in your yard or at a local park for seeds that a tree may have dropped last fall.

We begin with a seed today because in the gospel, Jesus tells us that, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” So as we begin today, take your seed, place it in a cupped hand and gaze upon it. As you reflect upon your seed, consider its smallness, consider how vulnerable it is, consider the care it needs to be brought to a more vigorous state of livelihood. As you reflect on these things, bring into the space of your meditation, the places in your life that feel as if they are seeds, places where you feel small, places where you are vulnerable, places where you could use some more care. Take some time to let these things come to you. As these things and places come to you, ask Jesus for what you need to give the seeds in your life the potential for new growth.

As you continue to reflect on your seed, take your other hand and cover it up, as if planting it in the soil. Reflect on your seed and the potential that it has for growth, imagine it putting roots down, and then reaching for the sky. As your seed begins to grow, bring into the place of your meditation, the places in your life that would allow a seed to grow, where is the soil of your life good for putting down roots that will support and sustain a newly growing thing, where is there light, and space, and openness where things will not get crowded out. Take some time to see where good soil and good spaces are present in your life. As these spaces come to you, talk with Jesus about what might grow in that space.

Now as you reflect on your seed, lift it up and imagine your seed having grown to its fullest and come to bear fruit. What fruit has come of it, how much, and whom did it feed? Bring to the place of your meditation, that fruit you desire to bear in the world, and who you wish that fruit to feed. Take some time to explore the answers to these questions. As you find answers, bring them to Jesus, let him know what you desire to do to bear fruit, and ask him to help you see the way to do so.

As you leave this time of meditation, take your seed with you, return to it as you find it helpful and continue this time of prayer with Jesus as you look deeper into the seeds within you.

Amen

If you would like to explore this text as a family devotion, check out my post for Lent in a Dish 2021 on Family God Time: https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2021/03/18/lent-in-a-dish-2021-week-5-a-seed-dies-to-live/

Light and Darkness Meditation: Lent 4 2021

During the season of Lent, my husband, Pastor Patrick Sipes, will be our guest blogger with a series of tactile meditations exploring Sunday’s Gospel text. He is currently serving as the transitional minister at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Platte, Nebraska, and will be inviting congregation members into these meditations in worship. May God bless you as you explore Scripture through Prayer.

Items needed: a small piece (2-3 inches square) of dark, preferably black paper and a piece of white paper

“If this was Middle Earth” by neilmoralee on flickr.com

Dr. Craig Koester, a professor who taught me a great deal about the book of John, emphasized the contrast between light and darkness that runs throughout the book. It begins early on with John’s proclamation that “in him (Christ) was life and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5 NRSV) This theme of light and dark continues with our Gospel reading today and it is toward these themes that we turn in meditation and prayer today.

As we begin, take a few moments to get comfortable and breathe. Take your dark and light pieces of paper and hold them together in your hands. Feel free to turn them back and forth to experience the contrast between light and dark that they give. Take a few moments to feel this contrast and then settle in on the dark square that you hold.

As you hold this dark colored square before you, I invite you, as you are comfortable doing, to bring into the space of your meditation the places of darkness that you experience in your life. For each of us, these places are different, but what they make us experience are often similar. Our places of darkness leave us scared, our places of darkness leave us feeling abandoned, our places of darkness leave us feeling hopeless. Take some time to sit with your places of darkness.

(Allow some time for reflection)

As you find your places of darkness, acknowledge them, and also acknowledge that you are not alone. You are in a room full of people who know similar feelings to your own, and you are here to worship your God who has also experienced fear, and abandonment, and hopelessness. With your darkness feel and know that he is there with you, and as you feel that presence, turn your squares over to their light side.

As you hold this light colored square before you, see it as the Light of Christ. In contrast to darkness, light allows us to see what is actually around us and thus casts out fear. Light allows us to see who is around us and takes away our sense of abandonment. Light allows us to see new pathways forward and with that comes hope. Take a few moments to sit with the places that you find light in your life.

(Allow some time for reflection)

As you find your places of light, acknowledge them, and also acknowledge that their source is Jesus. It is Jesus who helps us to see when we are afraid, it is Jesus who shines in the lives of people around us, it is Jesus who gives us wisdom to walk new paths in life.

This is the light that we are promised, through Jesus, the light in our darkness, the light no darkness can overcome.

Amen

If you would like to explore this text as a family devotion, check out my post for Lent in a Dish 2021 on Family God Time: https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2021/03/11/lent-in-a-dish-2021-week-4-jesus-is-the-light-of-the-world/

Cleansing the Temple Meditation: Lent 3 2021

During the season of Lent, my husband, Pastor Patrick Sipes, will be our guest blogger with a series of tactile meditations exploring Sunday’s Gospel text. He is currently serving as the transitional minister at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Platte, Nebraska, and will be inviting congregation members into these meditations in worship. May God bless you as you explore Scripture through Prayer.

Items needed: a few strands of yarn

Spindle Whorl and Loom Weights by Giles Watson on flickr.com

As we reflect on Jesus cleansing of the temple this morning, you will need a piece of string or yarn, preferably with several strands to it. As you pray you may feel most comfortable just holding the string in your hands, or if you are more of an active person, feel free to pull the strands of string apart as you reflect, and use them to make a “whip of cords” as Jesus did.

As we begin, we look at the words, “But he was speaking of the temple of his body.” We do this, because as we change the events of the day from an actual to a metaphorical one, it allows us to begin moving from Jesus cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem, to Jesus cleansing the temples of our bodies.

We begin with the cattle and the sheep that Jesus drives out. These animals were in the temple to make offering a sacrifice easier, but as animals go, they were loud, they had a tendency to not smell so good in afternoon sun, they could be dangerous if they were not controlled well enough, and Jesus drove them out. I invite you as you reflect on the whip that you hold, to bring to mind the cattle and sheep that roam in your life. Those parts that are too loud for your liking, those parts that don’t smell so good to you, those parts that can be dangerous if they get out of control and that you work too hard to keep under control. Those parts you’ve tried to shake but just don’t seem able to do…

(Take time to reflect on the sheep and cattle that roam in your temple.)

Hear this, know this, Jesus is here to drive those things out of you. Jesus is here to clean your temple, and to make you clean.

Jesus also turns over the tables of the money changers. These people were there to change foreign money to Hebrew money that was acceptable in the temple, and to turn a tidy profit for themselves as they did so. In our lives, we do not always act fairly either. As you reflect on the whip that you hold, bring to mind those places in your life where you are not fair to others…

(Take time to reflect on those places where you are a money changer that treats others unfairly.)

Hear this, know this, Jesus is here to upset the ways in which you treat others unfairly, to turn over the tables on which you work your injustice, and to bring your temple into right relationship with others. 

Jesus tells those who sell doves, “Get these things out of here.” Doves were meant for the poor, an acceptable substitute sacrifice for those who could not afford something better. In our lives, there are many things that make us feel unworthy of God, or that we feel are unworthy to give to God. In other words, we feel poor in God’s sight and so we bring our doves, our substitute offering that marks us as poor to all who can see. As you reflect on your whip, bring to mind those places in your life that you feel poor in God’s sight, those places where you do not feel worthy, those places where you substitute something less when what you have is something more…

(Take time to reflect on where you feel poor in God’s eyes.)

Hear this, know this, Jesus is here to tell you get those things out of here, Jesus is here to tell you, you are enough, you have great things to give to him, you are richly blessed by the Holy Spirit.

As your temple is swept clean by Jesus, enjoy the openness, enjoy the peacefulness, enjoy the more easy connection you find there with God.

Amen

If you would like to explore this text as a family devotion, check out my post for Lent in a Dish 2021 on Family God Time: https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2021/03/04/lent-in-a-dish-2021-week-3-jesus-and-the-temple-traders/

Cross and Suffering Meditation: Lent 2 2021

During the season of Lent, my husband, Pastor Patrick Sipes, will be our guest blogger with a series of tactile meditations exploring Sunday’s Gospel text. He is currently serving as the transitional minister at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Platte, Nebraska, and will be inviting congregation members into these meditations in worship. May God bless you as you explore Scripture through Prayer.

Items needed: a small cross, could be made of wood, ceramic, metal, or even paper. A cross you can trace and hold in your hand.

“Day 19” by redbettyblack on flickr.com

The Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Lent has Jesus instructing us to pick up our cross and follow him. These are some frightening instructions if you delve into them. They ask us to pick something up that will cause us suffering and death, but at the same time as Christians, we believe the death that happens there is also the source of new life and resurrection. However, this is a tall order. We are hardwired as human beings to avoid things that cause us pain be it physical, mental, or emotional. From some painful events in my own life that I refused to watch at the time, I learned that overcoming this aversion to pain and having a basic willingness to actually look at the suffering of others is the starting point of compassion. As a place of beginning to look at suffering, I choose to look at Jesus on the cross. I do so because I believe we find in Jesus all the suffering of the world united. Further, if I can begin to look at his suffering there, I have the strength to look at suffering in other places and the wisdom to see it as Jesus’ suffering as well.

As we begin our reflection today, I invite you to pick up your cross, as Jesus asked you to do, and hold it in your hand. With you finger or your thumb, begin to trace the cross from top to bottom and side to side, top to bottom and side to side. 

On this cross, if we dare to look, we will see Jesus suffering, but what’s more, as he promises us that we are in him and he is in us, his suffering is our suffering, and truly, in him is the suffering of the whole world. To look at a cross is to take the bold step of opening your eyes to seeing all those who suffer in the world.

If you are willing to look at this suffering, I invite you to take some time to look at your cross. As you do so, bring to mind the places where you know suffering to be in this world. It may be in your own body, or other places in your life. It may be in your neighborhood, or your place of work, it may be across town, across the state or across the world. Bring these places of suffering to mind, and then bring them to Jesus and to his cross. Take the time you need to bring to mind the places of suffering that you know of. As you do this, recognize how through the cross suffering is united. Notice that your suffering is the suffering of others, and their suffering is your own, and all of your suffering is united through Christ’s suffering. This can feel overwhelming at first but sit with it for a moment and what will begin to emerge is a deep knowing that what this really means is that through the cross you never suffer alone. Suffering wishes you to feel alone, suffering wishes you to feel disconnected from others and the world around you but through the cross we are never alone.

What’s more, for Christians, the cross is the way to new life, the death it brought Jesus was the way in which he defeated death. As you continue to hold your cross, as you continue to trace it, bring to mind where you are in need of new life. Bring to mind those places that might be feeling a little dead to you, those places that are looking like last year’s flowers dried out and dead through the winter. Take some time in your prayer to bring those things to Jesus. Tell him about them, place them in his hands, let go of them as you see fit, to one you trust such as him. And now the hard part…wait.

Wait and see what happens. But as you do, know that this is part of your prayer as well, that continuous sort of prayer that Paul talks about is embodied in your waiting, and coming full circle, in the suffering your waiting might cause you, know that Jesus is with you.

Amen

If you would like to explore this text as a family devotion, check out my post for Lent in a Dish 2021 on Family God Time: https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2021/02/25/lent-in-a-dish-2021-week-2-following-jesus/

Worship to Go: Lenten Season 2021

Reeds, plate 3 by jeremybrooks on flickr.com

Light Your Candle/Ring Singing Bowl

We begin by creating a holy space.  We light a candle to recognize the light of Christ, present with us during worship.  We ring a singing bowl or bell to give us time to breathe and fully arrive, and to remind us to listen for God’s voice speaking to us during this holy time.

Confession and Forgiveness

Loving Father,
all the fancy words
in the world,
expressed in eloquent prose,
decorated with emotion,
spoken with conviction,
cannot compete with a heartfelt
‘sorry’
when all other words fail.
There are times
when we are all too aware
of our limitations,
conscious of sin,
and the distance it creates between us.
Sometimes ‘sorry’
is all the heart can bear to say aloud.
It is only you
who can read and understand
the language of our hearts,
only you who can translate our ‘sorry’
into the prayer we would have prayed,
if we had the words within us.
Then you forgive,
and having forgiven
surround us in an embrace of love,
drawing us close to your heart,
as it was always meant to be.
Thank you, Loving Father,
that you listen to hearts,
as well as voices
Thank you.  Amen.

written by John Birch, posted on Faith and Worship website. http://www.faithandworship.com/

Gathering Song:  I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say

Prayer of the Day & Readings

Find the Prayer of the Day and Sunday Readings here:  https://www.dailylectio.net

Psalm Song:  Changes Each Week

Gospel:  Changes Each Week

Questions for Discussion

You can use these questions to discuss the Bible story with those in your household, with your study group, or on your own in a journal.

ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions
1.  What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text? What do I have questions about?
2.  What delights or comforts me in this text?  What is my favorite part, and why?
3.  What stories or memories does this text stir up in me?  What does it remind me of?  How does this story connect to the story of my life?
4.  What is God up to in this text?  What is this living Word calling me to do or to be?

Song of the Day:  Changes Each Week

Apostles’ Creed

Prayers of the People:  Prayer of Intercession for Lent  

(inspired by Psalm 145: 14)
The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. 
                                 
God of love
hear the cry of those who yearn for love;
fractured families, broken homes
neglected, unwanted, alone.
God of love hear our prayer

God of justice
hear the cry of those who yearn for justice;
persecuted and oppressed,
exploited, ill-treated, broken.
God of justice hear our prayer

God of peace
hear the cry of those who yearn for peace;
in battle zones and broken states,
frightened, fearful, anxious
God of peace hear our prayer

God of healing
hear the cry of those who yearn for healing;
physical and spiritual
hurting, weakened, depressed
God of healing hear our prayer

God of mercy
Hear the cry of those who yearn for mercy;
convicted, in need of your Grace,
contrite, humble, bowed down,
God of mercy hear our prayer

— written by John Birch, and posted on http://www.faithandworship.com/

The Lord’s Prayer

Offering

This year’s Lenten challenge is to participate in Warm Up America, a non-profit which makes and distributes blankets, scarves, and hats to distribute to anyone in need.  Learn more about this project for knitters and crocheters here:  https://warmupamerica.org/make/box-of-500/

Offering Prayer

God of the wilderness,
We give these offerings in gratitude,
rejoicing in the abundance of your gifts to us.
We give these offerings in faith,
trusting that you will provide for our needs.
We give these offerings in hope,
knowing you can use them to spread your love in this world.
And with these offerings, we give ourselves;
May we live with generous hearts, with open hands. Amen.

~ written by Joanna Harader, and posted on her Spacious Faith blog. http://spaciousfaith.com/

Sending Song:  I Want Jesus to Walk with Me

Blessing/Extinguish Candles

May you know
The peace of God
The love of God
The justice of God
The healing and mercy of God
This day and all days
Amen

— written by John Birch, and posted on http://www.faithandworship.com/

Sending:  God, You Are Calling

Gentle and patient, God, you are calling.
Careful and persistent, God, you are calling.
In grieving and in praise, God, you are calling.
Through dawn and midday, God, you are calling.
Unexpected and planned, God, you are calling.
In a still small voice and in power, God, you are calling.
Spontaneous and prepared, God, you are calling.
Willing or protected, God, you are calling.

Our God is eager to share with us,
wherever we are in our journey.
May we be diligent to listen.
God, you are calling.

Go in peace, called to journey with Christ.
Thanks be to God!

~ written by Joanie Thurman Williams, and posted on Consider Your Call. http://www.consideryourcall.org/sites/default/files/CYC-Media/Toolbox/Materials/Worship-Toolbox.pdf

Postlude:  Reawaken Hymns Lent Playlist

This resource is provided by Rev. Breen Marie Sipes, ELCA.  Feel free to use this resource, but please give credit where credit is due.

Worship to Go: Epiphany Season 2021

Worship for wherever in the world you are, first posted on https://takingworshiphome.weebly.com/worship-to-go.html

“Stars” by wideopencode on flickr.com

Light Your Candle/Ring Singing Bowl

We begin by creating a holy space.  We light a candle to recognize the light of Christ, present with us during worship.  We ring a singing bowl or bell to give us time to breathe and fully arrive, and to remind us to listen for God’s voice speaking to us during this holy time.

Confession and Forgiveness:  Prayer of Brokenness/Confession

Holy God,
we confess that we do not always love our neighbor.
We confess that we have despised others,
even to the point of hatred.
We confess that we have been hurt by others.
We confess that forgiveness and reconciliation at times
are just impossible for us.
We know that nothing is impossible in You.
We come to You, seeking healing and wholeness for us.
Help us, whenever possible, to live in peace with others,
to seek reconciliation and healing and forgiveness.
For Your Son came and lived among us,
was betrayed and denied,
abused and put to death.
He rose again,
and came with the message of peace to those
who had denied him and abandoned him.
May we walk in his ways. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance of Pardon 

(inspired by Matthew 19:26, Psalm 139, Romans 8:31-39)
For nothing is impossible with God.
There is no place you can go,
no end of the earth you can run,
where God cannot find you.
There is nothing on earth or beyond death
that can separate you from the love of God
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You are forgiven.
You are loved.
You are reconciled to God.
Go and live with the love of God. Amen.

~ written by Rev. Mindi, and posted on Rev-o-lution. http://rev-o-lution.org/

Gathering Song:  Christ Be Our Light

Prayer of the Day & Readings

Find the Prayer of the Day and Sunday Readings here:  https://www.dailylectio.net/

Psalm Song (changes each week)

Gospel (changes each week)

Questions for Discussion

You can use these questions to discuss the Bible story with those in your household, with your study group, or on your own in a journal.

ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions
1.  What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text? What do I have questions about?
2.  What delights or comforts me in this text?  What is my favorite part, and why?
3.  What stories or memories does this text stir up in me?  What does it remind me of?  How does this story connect to the story of my life?
4.  What is God up to in this text?  What is this living Word calling me to do or to be?

Song of the Day  (changes each week)

Apostles’ Creed

Prayers of the People

Holy God, may we hear your voice
In the stillness of night, in clatter of day
You call us, and we respond,
Here I am!
May we follow you
Holy God, May we love as you love.

Holy One, through trials and turbulence
Make us steady, your hands
Holding strong the fragile and weak
Holy God, May we love as you love.

Gracious God, may the fruits of our lives
be food for the hungry, bread
clothing, shelter, fire, water, Word
Holy God, May we love as you love.

God of justice, remove the barriers
Of our lives that keep us from
One another, barriers we construct
Based on skin color, religion, or gender
May we hear, and follow, graciously.
Holy God, May we love as you love.

Loving God, take this day our fears our
Worries, distractions, and all
Turn them into grace and mercy,
And, following the example of Martin Luther King, Jr.
and all your Saints.
Holy God, May we love as you love.  Amen.

— written by Terri, and posted on the RevGalBlogPals blog.  http://revgalblogpals.blogspot.com/

The Lord’s Prayer

Offering

During this season where we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, consider giving the gift of soap for Personal Care Kits and  Baby Care Kits.  You can send boxes of soap to the MN or MD warehouses, or give a gift online here: https://donate.lwr.org/give/190907/#!/donation/checkout

Offering Prayer

Giving God,  
Following the example of the magi,
we offer our gifts to you,
our gold, our worship, and our time in relationship with you.
Use our gifts for the healing of the nations,
in the name of Jesus, Amen.

by Rev. Breen Marie Sipes

Sending Song:  We are Marching in the Light of God

Blessing/Extinguish Candles

May our Epiphany God,
Who appeared by the light of a star,
In the rending of the heavens and the flight of a dove,
In the miracle of water turned to wine,
bless, keep, and call you forth, 
both now and always.  Amen.

by Rev. Breen Marie Sipes

Sending:  God, You Are Calling

Gentle and patient, God, you are calling.
Careful and persistent, God, you are calling.
In grieving and in praise, God, you are calling.
Through dawn and midday, God, you are calling.
Unexpected and planned, God, you are calling.
In a still small voice and in power, God, you are calling.
Spontaneous and prepared, God, you are calling.
Willing or protected, God, you are calling.

Our God is eager to share with us,
wherever we are in our journey.
May we be diligent to listen.
God, you are calling.

Go in peace, called into God’s marvelous Light.
Thanks be to God!

~ written by Joanie Thurman Williams, and posted on Consider Your Call. http://www.consideryourcall.org/sites/default/files/CYC-Media/Toolbox/Materials/Worship-Toolbox.pdf

Postlude:  Baptism Playlist

This resource is provided by Rev. Breen Marie Sipes, ELCA.  Feel free to use this resource, but please give credit where credit is due.  

Wilderness Meditation: Lent 1 2021

During the season of Lent, my husband, Pastor Patrick Sipes, will be our guest blogger with a series of tactile meditations exploring Sunday’s Gospel text. He is currently serving as the transitional minister at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Platte, Nebraska, and will be inviting congregation members into these meditations in worship. May God bless you as you explore Scripture through Prayer.

Items needed: a bowl or dish and some decorative sand.

The following meditation is offered knowing full well that many of you have differing life circumstances. I encourage you to pray with it to the best of your ability in the moment you are praying with it. If you are an adult praying with children and find yourself wishing to spend more time on a certain section resist that temptation for the moment and  let the little child lead. Your goal in these moments is to meet them where they are at, let them play with the sand, let them answer a few questions and then move on. As for you, this does not mean your needs and your desires aren’t important, they are. If you have a desire to spend more time with this prayer, listen to that desire and then find time to come back to it by yourself of with a more mature partner at a later time. When you do, approach it with the intention of spending the time you desire. Find some music you like if that helps, pour yourself a relaxing beverage, and take all the time you can to pour yourself as deeply as you want, as long as you want and as often as you want into this time with Jesus.

As the season of Lent begins, we begin with a Gospel reading that tells us that Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness. A place where St. Mark rather succinctly tells us that Jesus was tempted, that he lived with wild beasts surrounding him, and that the angels waited on him. My invitation for you is to enter the wilderness with Jesus and through this time of prayer and meditation, spend some time becoming aware of what is in your particular wilderness.

Take your bowl of sand and use it as a means of journeying into the wilderness with Jesus. You may find it helpful just to put your hands or fingers on the sand and feel it.  You might like picking the sand up and as you squeeze it or simply open your hand let it fall back into your bowl. You might use your sand to draw pictures which you can erase with a swipe of your hand or leave there to come back to later.  Or you might think of a different way of using your sand altogether, however you choose to use it, use it in a way that takes you into the wilderness with Jesus.

As you enter the wilderness with Jesus, begin to look for what is tempting you in your life at this moment. Our temptations often arise around those things we are unsatisfied with, or that we believe we deserve. We find them lurking in places where we think we can or where we would like to get away with something. We find temptation in things that are forbidden, or risky, or off limits because it feels exciting to us. With Jesus as your guide, take some time to explore where you are tempted. As you find a place where temptation dwells, spend some time looking more deeply into that temptation to see what motivation lies there. Talk about your temptation with Jesus, ask him what he might do to resist it, or reframe it so that something more in keeping with who you are may be what draws you in. Spend the time that you need looking at your temptations and when you are done continue exploring the wilderness with Jesus.

As you continue to explore the wilderness. Notice the wild beasts that surround you, notice those things or people in your life that seem to wish you harm, recognize what in your life is “eating you up.” Bring these concerns to Jesus. Talk with him about them, see what he has to offer about living with these wild beasts, or protecting yourself from them, or recognizing them as something harmless that you are just afraid of. Spend as much time as you need examining the wild beasts of your wilderness and when you are done, move on with Jesus.

The wilderness is an inhospitable place, but we are told while Jesus was there, the angels waited on him. As you are in the wilderness with Jesus, take time to recognize what angels are waiting on you. Who is supporting you in your life? Who is providing what you need? Who is offering you help when you need it? These are angels. Take some time to share with Jesus who the angels are that are waiting on you, name them, name specifically what they do, and give thanks to Jesus for them.  Spend the time that you need to find the angels in your life, and as you are ready, bring this time of prayer to a close. Let go of any sand you are holding, brush it off of your fingers, clear any pictures you have drawn, or leave them if that feels more appropriate, and as you leave the sand in your bowl until the next time, we close with the word Amen, Yes, it shall be so.

Amen

If you would like to explore this text as a family devotion, check out my post for Lent in a Dish 2021 on Family God Time: https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2021/02/15/lent-in-a-dish-2021-week-1-wilderness/

Lent 2021 Resources for Personal Devotion

Lent is often a season when we take intentional time to work on our relationship with God.  There are many resources available for personal devotions, but, with so many choices, how do you know which is the right one for you?  This post highlights some of the resources that I have used through the years, along with fresh new resources from trusted sources.  I pray that this list will help you to find faithful devotions which can accompany you through these forty days.

Poetry and the Word:  The Salt Project

The Salt Project has published several Lenten devotions linking poetry to the themes of Lent.  My favorite (which happens to go perfectly with the texts for Lectionary Year B), is a weekly devotional entitled “The Poetry of Lent:  Mary Oliver’s Devotions.”  It costs $10.00 for a personal use license, and is a digital product that you can download to a tablet or computer or print out on paper.

Other items required include your own Bible (or online access to one) and Mary Oliver’s book “Devotions” (or online access to the specific poems cited).  You can find this resource here: https://www.saltproject.org/the-poetry-of-lent/the-poetry-of-lent-a-lenten-companion-to-mary-olivers-devotions-individual

Here is a link to the Salt Project’s other Lenten resources:  https://www.saltproject.org/progressive-christian-blog/2018/1/8/spring-is-coming-lent-customizable-short-films-and-print-resources

also available from the Salt Project:

  • Emily Dickenson and the Poetry of Lent
  • Wendell Berry and the Sabbath Poetry of Lent
  • Practicing Lent

Coloring and the Word:  Illustrated Ministry

Illustrated Ministry is a consistent, trusted resource for all ages.  They are famous for their giant coloring pages, colorful stickers, and children’s bulletins (my family is using these), but did you know that they also publish fabulous devotional resources?  They have published several new resources for this year, and I am suggesting “Where Your Heart Is” for personal devotion.  It is an all-in-one, weekly resource that you download, print out, and color, write on, and doodle through.  It is $10.00 for a personal use license, with a sliding scale for use by congregations. 

Although it has one devotion per week, I believe that there is plenty to work on through the week, so it becomes a bit of a hybrid, big bang for your buck, resource. You can find this resource here: https://store.illustratedministry.com/collections/lent/products/where-your-heart-is-an-illustrated-devotional

Here is a link to Illustrated Ministry’s other Lenten Resources:  https://store.illustratedministry.com/collections/lent?sort_by=created-descending

also available from Illustrated Ministry:

  • Psalms Devotional Guide
  •  An Illustrated Lent (Focus on Giving, Prayer, Fasting, and the Heart)

Spiritual Elders and the Word: The 40 Day Journey

This resource is an extensive collection of books, and you are invited to choose a Spiritual Elder whose work speaks to you.  It is a daily devotional that assumes that you will spend a good chunk of time with it each day.  It is a commitment, but definitely worth it.  In the past, I have explored Kathleen Norris, and this year I am planning to journey with Joan Chittister.  This is a print resource (also available on Kindle for $10.99), and the editors suggest a separate journal and pen or pencil for exploring the journal prompts. 

You can find the link to both the print and Kindle versions here: https://smile.amazon.com/40-day-Journey-Chittister-Beverly-Lanzetta/dp/0806680318/  

Here is a link to the other books in the series:  https://www.augsburgfortress.org/store/search?ss=40+day+journey&c=0

also available:

  • Kathleen Norris
  • Julian of Norwich
  • Maya Angelou
  • Martin Luther
  • Parker Palmer
  • Dietrich Bonhoffer
  • Madeline L’Engle
  • Howard Thurman

I hop you enjoy exploring these resources; drop a comment to let me know which one you are planning to use this Lent!

Sustaining Peace: Dwelling in the Word November 29, 2020

Advent Candles by lapenn on flickr.com

Bible Reading:  John 14:22-31 NRSV

22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to [Jesus], “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.  25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.  This is the Gospel of the Lord.  Praise to You, O Christ.

ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions:

1.  What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text?  What do I have questions about?

2.  What delights or comforts me in this text?  What is my favorite part, and why? 

3.  What stories or memories does this text stir up in me?  How does this story intersect with my life? 

4.  What is God up to in this text?  What is God calling me to do or to be because of this message?

Dwelling in the Word

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you and peace, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Since the very beginning of the pandemic, Patrick has been leading Morning Prayer online three days per week with a small group of regulars.  Each time, we pray, listen to music, and dive deep into study of the Word of God and what it means in our lives.  My favorite part of these times together, however, comes at the very end.  We end by wishing peace to one another, and then someone always says, “Blessings for your day.”  Wishing peace can be a powerful thing, can’t it?  It can bring calm to a storm, healing to relationships, and a firm anchor to which we can tether our lives.  And that is exactly what Jesus is giving to his disciples in our text for today.

         This section is not usually read during the first Sunday in Advent, but it does go with the Advent theme of peace, and perhaps especially peace in our time.  It comes from a section of John called “The Farewell Discourse,” and is basically Jesus’ final sermon on Maundy Thursday, meant to strengthen the disciples and give them direction after he is gone. 

One of the disciples asks why it is that they, the disciples, get to see Jesus as he really is, and not the whole world.  Jesus answers them by reminding them of the commandment to love.  This mutual love, which the disciples have for Jesus, for one another, and for the world, will result in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  God will abide, make a home, in the disciples.  They will always be with God, and God will always be with them.  The Holy Spirit will teach, remind, and empower them to do God’s work in the world.

         Then, Jesus gives the disciples the gift of peace.  It is more than a standard greeting, or a signature sign off phrase.  It is the peace of Christ, the type of peace which Paul describes in Philippians 4 as “the peace of God, which passes all understanding,” which will “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  It is a deep abiding peace, a peace which, as I said before, provides an anchor to tether to, even amidst the roughest storms of life.

         The disciples don’t realize it yet, but they are really about to go through some times of storm.  Jesus is going to be arrested, tried, and killed as an enemy of state.  They will scatter, and hide, and be faithless.  They will see the miracle of Easter, and still not understand.  The going is about to get incredibly rough.  And these words will sustain them.  These words will get them through.  The abiding peace of God in Christ, dwelling in and among them, will lead them out the other side and give them the courage to found a Christian Community of Care which abides, even to this day.

         So what does this have to do with you and me, with our lives in this time and place?  This gift of peace in Christ is ours to claim as well.  It is the Holy Spirit working in and though us, to bring calm into the storms of our lives, and the lives of those whom God puts in our path.  This gift of peace in Christ has the power to heal our relationships, to help us to put aside combative words, to reach out to one another in love, maybe especially when we cannot do it by our own power or might.  And this peace holds us fast to Christ, so that the waves do not overwhelm us, the sting of death does not overtake us, and we are able to look up, and out, in hope of a brighter tomorrow.

         Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”  Peace be with you, dear sisters and brothers in Christ, now and in every tomorrow.  I promise to hold you, in prayer and in love.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

In Christ, Pastor Breen

Companions on the Journey: Dwelling in the Word November 15, 2020

Walk for Water September 2018

Reading:  Luke 24:13-35 (NRSV)

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiahshould suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.            28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. 

ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions:

1.  What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text?  What do I have questions about? In this text, I am challenged that the eyes of the disciples were kept from recognizing Jesus.  This is not unique among Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances; there is something about Jesus that is different, changed, unrecognizable.  Perhaps it is that they never expected to see him again.  Indeed, in this text, they even have all the information that they need, they even say that the women saw that the tomb was empty, and they do not yet believe.  I think that sometimes our eyes are shut, as well.  We cannot see, or believe, without the help of others who come alongside us.  Who are your companions on your faith journey?

2.  What delights or comforts me in this text?  What is my favorite part, and why?  I really delight in who Jesus is for the disciples in this text.  First, he comes alongside them.  Then, he asks questions, “What are you discussing?” and “What things?” and really listens to their answers.  Next, he opens their minds to understand the scriptures.  He explains to them God’s entire plan of salvation, right down to the moment in which they find themselves, running away from Jerusalem on the Emmaus Road.  Finally, he is revealed at the table, in fellowship, in the breaking of the bread.  Where do you find delight in this text?  What about the risen Jesus is comforting to you?

3.  What stories or memories does this text stir up in me?  How does this story intersect with my life?  As I have walked alongside the Tri-Saints over the past eight years, this story has become a model for pastoral ministry for me.  When I arrived, I was a stranger to you.  It was my job to ask questions, to hear your stories, to learn which roads of life you were walking along.  I have continued to walk alongside you, and have striven to open your minds to the scriptures, to hear your faith stories, and to connect the work of God to your daily work.  And we have gathered, in so many and various ways, to break bread together, to find mutual consolation, and to meet Jesus in the Word and the Sacraments.  We have been companions on the road for a good long season.  What stories would you tell about our past eight years?  What memories will you hold onto?  Let go of? Treasure?

4.  What is God up to in this text?  What is God calling me to do or to be because of this message?  We have arrived at the point in our mutual ministry where it is time for me to travel on down the road.  Through much prayer and discernment, I have discovered that I am being “called to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.”  I pray that God will “give us faith to out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (ELW pg. 317)

In Christ, Pastor Breen