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St. Mark Daily Lenten Devotional – March 30, 2015

by Kenneth Baggs

Scripture2 Corinthians 1: 1-7

Nearly twenty years ago, my mother passed following a losing battle with cancer. The year prior to that, my partner of nine years was killed in a car accident. The year following Mom’s death was tough. I went into a depression, although it was not something I was willing to admit to myself at the time. I went to church because I knew that Mom would want me to be there. However, my depression kept me from the joy of church – my friends, the music, God’s word and fellowship. I went through the motions of going to church and to work, but all I really wanted to do was to be home watching movies on TV with my terrier lying beside me. 

About a month before I reached the first anniversary of Mom’ death, I received a flyer in the mail for a grief support group that was forming at a local church. As I read that flyer, I recognized myself as they described the life of a depressed person. I knew I needed to go to that support group, to help me to get out of the fog into which I had fallen. In the group, as I listened to others tell their grief stories and as I shared my grief story, I began to heal. On the anniversary of her death, I opened my house to friends to celebrate her life, and to mostly thank them for being there for me as I went through her illness and death. It took time, but in receiving the comfort of others who had gone through the same suffering as I had, I was able to overcome the depressed state I had entered.

Our scripture today encourages us to share our affliction with others, so that we may receive the comfort of God, but also to bring comfort to others. Sometimes we comfort others by sharing, other times we comfort by listening, and sometimes we bring comfort simply by being there beside them. Don’t be afraid to share your suffering with others, as you never know how God will use it. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to reach out to others, to comfort them as you have comforted me.  Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church

St. Mark Daily Lenten Devotional – March 29, 2015

by Brenna Lakeson

ScriptureIsaiah 50:4-9a

In Biblical scholarship, these verses are often ascribed to a figure called “the suffering servant.”  While this title never actually appears in scripture, it seems to be an accurate label.  “The suffering servant” is representative of God’s relationship to us: past, present, and future.  A “servant,” Biblically speaking, is one called by God, as reflected in ancient Israel, in Christ, and in ourselves.

For the Jews of ancient Israel, the suffering servant was a figure of hope.  After many years in exile from the Promised Land, the suffering servant showed them that their suffering was not in vain. They were living in a strange land, separated from God’s promise for them, but this situation wouldn’t last forever.  The suffering servant proclaimed, “The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.”  Even though they are in exile, they know the story isn’t over.

For Christ, these verses speak to both his humiliation and justification.  “I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard.”  Christ displayed ultimate humility and humiliation.  But, just like the nation of Israel, this wasn’t in vain.  “He who vindicates me is near.  Who will contend with me?  Let us stand up together.  Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me.”  Despite the shame and pain of the crucifixion, God stands against the adversaries.  There’s hope present in our past, present, and future because of the victory of the cross. 

So, on this day of palm waving, celebrate the coming victory with anticipation.  Mourn the coming pain with tears.  Let these words of the suffering servant speak into your pain and speak into your joy.  Let them give you hope of a resurrection past, present, and future.

Prayer: Lord of glory and of dirt, prepare our hearts to journey with you. Today we celebrate your triumphant entry. Hosanna in the highest! Let our hearts exalt you in everything we do. Amen

Saint Mark United Methodist Church

St. Mark Daily Lenten Devotional – March 28, 2015

by Audra Dial

Scripture: “They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days.  But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.” Exodus 10:23

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us, a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.  While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Today’s scripture passages speak to light as the awareness of the presence of God.  As I write this devotional, the sun has finally come out after a week of heavy, grey skies that made it hard to recognize the presence of light.  The sun’s presence has made a marked difference in the attitudes of people I see in my daily life.  What a difference light makes!

So, too, is the case with the internal light we experience as Christians.  When we are filled with His love and grace, we have joy, peace and confidence.  We experience life in a different way and can recognize the bigger picture and not get so upset by life’s everyday struggles.  The passage from 2 Corinthians reminds us to focus on the unseen, as it is eternal.  It can be difficult in the hustle and bustle of everyday life to remember to take time to center ourselves, but when we do, it can enable us to find our internal light and live in a way that reflects our Christian faith.  Just as the sun coming out helps energize and encourage us to think more positively, reflecting on our internal light can provide us with the energy and courage to live in the example of Christ.

Prayer: Dear God, Please help us to see Your light and to live our lives in a way that reflects our inner sunshine from its presence.  Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church

Links of the Week – March 27, 2015

alienegg

* A Beautiful Sunrise Over A Bacon Landscape

* Even In Defeat, Georgia State Was A Winner

* Pope Francis Receives Pizza Delivery – To Pope Mobile

* PostSecret: What Might Have Been

* Man Has Carefully Calculated Timeline For Revealing Negative Personality Traits To New Girlfriend

* Rainy Day Street Art – (I love this so much!)

* Neustetter’s ‘Light Experiences’ Illuminate Night – (So beautiful!!!)

* Emory’s Women’s Swim And Dive Wins NCAA Div-III National Championship – (Six in a row!)

* What Does It Mean To Wear Heels?

* Why Men Are Smarter Than Women – (Provocative, but I agree!)

* NASA’s Opportunity Rover Celebrates Mars Marathon Milestone

* “Raising Ryland”: Parenting A Young Transgender Child – (A wonderful short film from CNN Films…)

* The Transgender Life: What To Know, Say, And Understand

* Capitol Police To Congress: No More Drunken 4th of July Parties – (But our congresspeople CAN’T find the time to read legislation before they vote on it. Wankers.)

* Famous Atheists And Their Beliefs

* Ricky Gervais: Why I’m An Atheist

* Mo’ne Davis Asks College To Give Baseball Player Second Shot – (I want to give him a second shot – in the head. What in the world makes a college-aged man think it’s OK to call an 11-year-old girl (or any female) a slut? Men? What is your major malfunction with women?)

* 10 Stereotypes To Stop Spreading About Women

* Paw Prints On Your Food – (Dawwwwwww!)

* When You Finally Find Out Who’s A Good Boy – ( ❤ ❤ ❤ )

* Bullshit Bill With Bullshit Title Bullshitted About By Bullshitters

* Local Idiot Looking For St. Patrick’s Day Bar That Isn’t “Full Of Idiots” – (Perfect.)

* Microsoft CEO Announces He Can Be Mostly Gay By Q2 2015

* Becoming A Better Man: The Single Greatest Moment Of My Life – (Blog post of the week!
thinkofyou

* The Greatest Lenten Pun EVAH!

* Cadbury Creme Egg Season Is Here Again At Last

* Insult To Injury: America’s Vanishing Worker Protections – (This is what happens when people stop supporting unions. I promise you, this will continue to get worse.)

* 4 Scientifically Proven Ways To Be A Better Spouse

* Lemond – Missing-Ear Kitty Becomes A Furkid – (Adopt a pet today! They love you so much!)

* Alcoholics Anonymous, Mr. Spock And the Lighthouse

* Spaghetti Toes: If Love Was Measured In Weight… – ( ❤ ❤ ❤ )

* Pineapple Coconut Bars

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“Lisa, I apologize to you, I was wrong, I take it all back. Always be yourself. If you want to be sad, honey, be sad. We’ll ride it out with you. And when you get finished feeling sad, we’ll still be there. From now on, let me do the smiling for both of us.”

– Marge, “The Simpsons,” Moaning Lisa

“Which is a funny thing about boyfriends, I’ve noticed. they too often don’t know about you and jump to unwarranted conclusions. That for instance it was love, a mate you were after, when you really just needed someone to talk to.”

– Elizabeth Collison, Some Other Town

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St. Mark Daily Lenten Devotional – March 27, 2015

by Cara Cassell

Scripture2 Corinthians 4:1-12

In this passage from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, we see the passion that God has given Paul and his fellow ministers. Paul writes, “Since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” The way is tough.  

Others distort the gospel truth. The ministry itself, the source of their persecution, encourages Paul and the others even as they suffer and perhaps feel temptation to take an easier way. Paul writes that their suffering enables them to carry in their bodies the death of Jesus. In carrying that death, they also carry God’s light.  Their commitment to the God-given ministry gives them “heart,” or courage. For these ministers, the calling to this ministry protects them from crushing despair.  Yes, they suffer. They must accept their imperfect “jars of clay” and know that those humble vessels are sufficient to carry the very light of God. God has made it so. God has called them. They are persecuted, not abandoned, and struck down, not destroyed. In these contrasts, we hear Paul’s gratitude. 

In a few short days, we, too, may feel struck down as we experience Good Friday. In humanity’s darkest hours, we crucified the Savior. The truth of our betrayal nearly crushes us, even as the dawning resurrection restores us. Like Paul, we realize that light comes not from our good works, but instead through the mercy of God. This light frees us to fulfill the calling that God places in our hearts. In whatever place God puts us, we have a purpose to fulfill. Our clay vessels have been formed by God to have strength enough.

Prayer: Thank you, loving God, for staying beside us always. Please help us to heed your calling to allow your light to live in our hearts. Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church

Saint Mark Daily Lenten Devotional – March 26, 2015

by Bob Brown

ScriptureMark 10: 17-31

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

I have heard this passage many times but know for a fact, that I could not sell all of my stuff.  I recently read a sermon on this topic and the author concluded with: If you want to follow Jesus, it’s going to be costly.

But I would offer that there are various forms of possessions. Aside from material possessions, there is the possession of talent – that God-given ability to paint, sing, lead and even preach.  And there is the possession of time, that period set aside after work.

You can use these possessions to benefit and glorify God.  You could volunteer once a month and serve the homeless/under-employed through the Breakfast or Supper Clubs; you could take one week of your vacation time and volunteer for a mission trip to Honduras or the Appalachian Mountains; you could give one Friday evening a month to Lost and Found Youth to assist getting LGBT youth off of the streets; you could become a volunteer to package meals with Project Open Hand.  The possibilities are endless and the rewards are priceless.

As you are sitting reading this, either at your computer or in a comfortable chair, look around and think about what possessions you have that you can “liquidate.”

Prayer: My father, you have given me so much and I admit that I have taken it all for granted.  Forgive me and open my heart and eyes to what I can do in your name for those I come in contact with each day. Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church

 

Saint Mark Daily Lenten Devotional – March 25, 2015

by Cheryl Crook Thompson

ScriptureExodus 7:8-24

This passage starts the tale of the plagues of Egypt. (You’ll want to go back and read it…I’ll wait.)

Challenge number one: God tells Moses, who commands Aaron, to throw down his staff and it will turn into a snake. This was way cool, especially when Aaron’s snake/staff devoured all of the snakes that Pharaoh’s magicians conjured up.

Challenge number two : God tells Moses, who commands Aaron, to wave his staff over the water, and ALL of the waters in Egypt change into blood, even the water in vessels for cooking and drinking. At this point, the whole area is pretty nasty – rotten fish and everything covered in sticky, thick blood.

Pharaoh’s not convinced that he needs to do anything yet. Letting the Israelites go is going to create a major economic impact. And besides, it wasn’t that big of a deal; Pharaoh’s own magicians replicated the water into blood trick (likely on a smaller scale). So, Moses and Aaron are just shysters, right?

But Moses and Aaron continue to work the miracles God sets for them. With each new plague, Pharaoh’s a little closer to letting the Israelites go, but then…(spoiler alert) he changes his mind.

At what point would I have started to doubt God? If I were an Israelite, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to re-pack my bags after the plague of frogs. If I were Moses or Aaron, well, the snake trick was cool, but once we got to the boils, I might have said, God, You know what? Pharaoh is NEVER going to change his mind. Can’t you DO SOMETHING else?”

Sometimes God pushes us to do things we would never do, even if we look silly, or people grumble, or someone continually says “NO”.

Prayer: God, please let us recognize the path and tasks You have set for us. Let us approach them with humility, with courage, and with honor that we were chosen. Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church

 

Saint Mark Daily Lenten Devotional – March 24, 2015

by Robert Givens

ScriptureExodus 5:1-6:1

Most mornings when I read the Bible, if there is a scene or story being told, I like to imagine myself in it and reflect upon it. Which character can I identify with or learn from? Which one is speaking to me? What events in my life parallel those in the text? In the 5th chapter of Exodus, we have a rich story, full of characters and action. It’s told quite vividly and is easy to re-imagine in our mind’s eye. 

So who am I in this chapter of Exodus? Am I Moses following God’s commandments and then questioning him after the fact? Is my faith in God weak? Maybe I am the Pharaoh! Am I guilty of judging, resenting and punishing people who ask favors of me? Or am I a slave-driver pushing the Israelites? Do I push anyone around in my life? Maybe I have in the past and there is an amends to make. Or am I one of the faceless slaves trapped with seemingly no hope in sight?  What is enslaving me? What are the chains that bind me, that keep me from falling short of my full potential? I can be all or anyone of these people on any given day. 

For me, Lent is a period of time to be introspective, digging deep, leaving no stone unturned. I want to identify the things that are blocking me from the sunlight of the spirit, that are preventing me from being of the best possible service to him and my fellow man. Once these sins or defects are identified, I try to let go of them and turn them over to God asking that he remove them from me.

It’s also important for me to look at what I’m doing right, not just focusing on defects. I want to identify the areas in my life where God is working and I am growing and being an active member of the body of Christ so that I might ask for continued nourishment of these gifts.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I ask that your scripture might reveal in me the things that limit my ability to live a life of love and discipleship in Jesus Christ. I ask that you would show me how to let go of those things and turn them over to you. And I praise you for all the gifts you’ve given me, asking that you might give me opportunities to use them in your service, in the service of Love. Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church

 

Saint Mark Daily Lenten Devotional – March 23, 2015

by Christia Holloway

ScriptureExodus 4:10-31

I’ve always loved Bible stories about people who are not only “flawed” but who are also usually extremely reluctant (to put it mildly) to carry out the tasks that God has assigned them. You would think that Moses, who has literally just seen God’s power with his own eyes a few verses earlier, would be willing to obey God and speak on His behalf, but still he drags his feet. I find that amusing – but also oddly comforting, because if I were Moses, I probably would have felt the same way.

Over and over again God constantly assures the men and women of the Bible (just as He continues to assure us) that yes, you can actually do what I’ve asked of you! In fact, although He never promises their tasks will be easy, God is pretty insistent, reminding them that He is always with them. No wonder God gets angry when Moses continues to whine. (I could easily visualize dramatic sighs and divine eye rolling when I read this passage!)

How reassuring to be reminded that Moses and other Biblical “heroes” doubted their abilities and were just as scared and unsure then as we are about ourselves now. It is even more comforting to remember that God’s patience, presence, and power never waivers. Why is it so hard for us to have faith in ourselves when, despite all of our flaws, God has so much faith in us?

Prayer: God, help us to remember that You are always with us. Thank You for Your unyielding faith in us. Teach us to see ourselves as You see us – full of potential despite our limitations. Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church

 

Saint Mark Daily Lenten Devotional – March 22, 2015

by Mark LaRocca-Pitts

ScriptureJeremiah 31:31-34

“Yet again, I messed it up. Yet again I fell short of doing what was right. Surely one day God will tire of showing me mercy and forgiveness. God must have a limit!”

Such was the case in ancient times when Israel repeatedly disappointed God and fell short in doing what God wanted them to do. It happened so often that God decided to try something radically different – instead of a set of laws arbitrarily imposed from without, God personally instilled within their hearts, in their inmost being, the awareness of what God wanted for them. The Israelites no longer had to measure up to some outwardly imposed one-size-fits-all standard; instead, God uniquely personalized His teaching to speak to each one of them in their innermost being.

And so it is with us – we no longer need to look to others, to outside institutions and rule books, to determine what is right and wrong. Instead, we only need to look deep within our souls. There, in our inmost being, we will find God’s new covenant – the rule of love, which is the love God has for us and for everyone, and the love we have for God and for everyone. This love that God has for us is so great and overflowing that no matter how often we fall short of showing love to God, to our neighbor, or to our self, God will continue to write anew in our hearts His love for us and for everyone.

Prayer: Dear God, teach me to seek out your love in my inmost being in order that I might share that love with everyone. Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church