by Greg Brown
Scripture: Mark 4:35-41
This scripture is about Jesus calming the storm at sea. It is probably more about recognizing the mystery of God’s presence in our lives when things seem so out of control for us.
Over the last couple of years, my dear 87 year old mother has begun to develop short term memory loss. If I think about her future too much, it scares the daylights out of me. Working in the hospice field, almost daily I see the toll that dementia takes on loved ones and on all who surround them.
Right now, my mother is able to live independently. One of my brothers, who lives just a mile or so away, checks on her daily. She still drives (during the daytime only) and won’t go out if there is even a hint of snow. My other brother and I are developing a schedule to visit and be with her every month or so. We call her daily. She seems to really take great comfort when one of her sons is with her. I don’t know when the time will come when I’ll be too tired and drained from “struggling to bail the swamped boat out,” but I trust the Lord will be there.
It’s going to be a journey for me. But, knowing that my earthly two brothers are sharing the journey, with God providing an umbrella over us, it will be ok.
Prayer: Lord, be with us as we approach this glorious Easter season of hope. Let that hope rest with each of us in ways we need and in ways you know we need to manage our struggles. In thy holy name, amen.
by James John Bemberg
Scripture: Mark 4: 21-34
As a small child, I was fascinated with my grandmother’s extensive porcelain bird collection. Each bird accurately depicted the fine details of its real life partner whether in a brightly colored finish like the flashy red-orange of the male cardinal or the matte finish of the female.
I identified with the female: unassuming, timid, “hiding my lamp.” My strict mother and grandmother raised me and I was “hushed” more often than not. I had no friends. My parents were called by the kindergarten teacher for a conference to discuss my lack of social skills.
God intervened and started sowing some “friend” seeds when I joined Cub Scouts. This was short-lived since we lived on the “wrong side of the tracks” and we were friends only on Scout days. I wanted so much to be like the male cardinal so I excelled in school with all A’s.
Confirmation classes started and I heard for the first time about “not hiding your light under the bowl or bed.” I also heard, “A man scatters seed on the ground…the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.”
The day of Confirmation graduation came and my parents gave me a pair of cufflinks that contained two mustard seeds. It all became clear: “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
My life had come full circle. I knew then as I do now, why I had/have such an affinity for birds. The drab becomes shiny, the timid becomes strong and God gives us faith to withstand all that happens to inherit His Kingdom.
Prayer: I know God keeps His eyes upon the sparrow just as He keeps His eyes upon me. Amen.
by Steve Fazenbaker
Scripture: Mark 4:1-20
In the first church we joined after graduating from college, Kathy and I were asked to teach the senior high Sunday School class. We were very excited to be asked. We chose a study on the parables of Jesus. The first week was on the Parable of the Sower. The year was 1989; the music group Tears for Fears had just released a single called, “Sowing the Seeds of Love”-and I hummed it all week long as we prepared to teach that first Sunday School class.
To say that the class didn’t go as I imagined would be an understatement. The very last thing those kids wanted to do that morning was talk to a couple of people they’d never met before about the parables of Jesus. Kathy and I went into that first class expecting to encounter a group of students hungry to study the Bible. What were we thinking? The first thing we needed to do was get to know one another. Over time, we developed meaningful relationships with those wonderful students.
After reading this parable, it might be tempting to identify people as “paths” or “rocks” or “weeds.” But the parable is called “The Parable of the Sower.” It’s not about the seeds or the different kinds of ground. It’s about the faithfulness of the Sower to keep “sowing the seeds of love.” Sometimes love is not recognized, much less received; sometimes the demands of love are too much. But the lesson is to keep sowing. “Anything is possible when you’re sowing the seeds of love.”
Prayer: Generous God, you pour your love into our lives without measure. Fill our hearts with your love, and may the love in our hearts overflow into the lives of everyone around us. Amen.
by Cathy Alvarez
Scripture: Psalm 146 (NIV)
Prayer: Dear God, may my heart, soul, and mind be filled with praise for your unfailing grace. Amen.
by Kale Wright
Scripture: “You already have all you need. You already have more access to God than you can handle.” I Corinthians 4:8a (MSG)
Many TV shows, movies, and comedy routines focused on the President of the United States have included a child boasting “My daddy has the nuclear launch codes, so don’t make me mad!” Other times, it’s a sibling or spouse with, “My husband is the leader of the free world, so when I say no mayonnaise, I mean NO MAYONNAISE!” It’s good for a laugh, but inside we think “Yeah, right” because even the President has to consider Congress and approval ratings. Even the mighty Commander-in-Chief has limitations and ramifications. Still, wouldn’t it be great knowing we could walk up to the single most powerful person in the world whenever we want and say, “Dad / Honey / Sis, I need you to …”? An audience with the President would be great, but what if it was every day and what others call “breakfast?”
Paul’s admonishment jumped out at me: “Uhm, HELLO? Don’t you know your Parent is more powerful than the President, can act without ANYONE’S approval, and ALWAYS does what’s best for you?” No Congress. No approval ratings. Forget nuclear codes – my Mom controls LIGHTNING! That’s awesome sauce right there!
Several friends have confided that they’re questioning whether God exists. Sometimes I, too, feel like I call up God and get, “The number you’ve reached, A-B-B-A, is no longer in service…” Is it possible that God’s doing precisely what I need done, but I’m too blinded by what I WANT done to see it? Rather than trying to figure out how to find God, what if I realized I already have “more access than I can handle,” said what I wanted, and trusted it to be done in the way that benefits me most? Perhaps what I fear as absence is really just silence while I grow.
Prayer: Father and Mother God, when I feel like I’m knocking on Heaven’s door and no one is answering, please help me realize I’m knocking from the inside. Amen.
by Jennifer Hansen
Scripture: Mark 8:31-38
Divine things and human things. It seems like it should be easy to separate the two – things are either divine or human, right? As a child I was taught that the spiritual world and the human world were separate and distinct – there is heaven above and earth below. Heaven was for the divine and earth was not – or so I thought. It was not until I was older that I began to understand that God created the world but did not retreat from it. God infuses our world with divine presence everywhere! Human things and divine things are so entangled, at times it becomes hard to see where one stops and the other begins. Knowing that makes it much more complicated.
So how do we distinguish what are the “divine things”? The Lenten season provides us with an opportunity to enter into conversation with God to work on the discernment of what are human things and what are divine things in our own lives. So often we are focused on the distractions and concerns of the human things that we completely miss the presence of God among us, in the mundane of our daily lives and in the world around us. As we move through Lent, we take up the practice of turning toward the things of God and searching for them in the everyday. The challenge is to recognize where the presence of God dwells in the human things and to see the point where the line blurs. If we are intentional in our quest to discern the things that are of God, we can begin to make choices between that which is of God and that which is human. It is this practice that draws us deeper into relationship with God and into life with Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Gracious God, guide my thoughts and give me the vision to see the divine in every day. Amen.
by Michael Prudent
Scripture: Mark 2:23-3:6
As I contemplate this reading, I am struck by words like “anger,” “stubborn,” “distressed,” and, of course, “kill.” Despite words with such negative connotation, for me this passage is so encouraging because Jesus is telling us that we need to use common sense. We need not stick to old ways or customs or even laws if they are hurtful, exclusionary, or illogical. The Sabbath was “made for man,” not the other way around.
How similar to some “modern” rules are those of Jesus’ time. Until the late 1800’s in the U.S., it was okay to enslave and own human beings; until the mid-20th century, it was okay to prevent people of other races from marrying one another; and to this day, it is prohibited for two people of the same gender to enter into a legal marriage in many of the 50 states.
Jesus is challenging us to throw off these ill-fitting, illogical, and exclusionary rules, and to embrace doing what is right simply because it is right. In his “anger” and “distress” he opts to show the Pharisees what is really important. It was okay to heal someone even on the Sabbath because Jesus was doing what was just. He wasn’t withholding his power from the man with the shriveled hand just because it happened to be a day that the religious officials had deemed important or sacred. Jesus made the point that the rigidity of their religious rules was defeating the very purpose for which those rules were created. Jesus wasn’t saying religious devotion, observance, and sacrifice were unimportant, just that by applying them in an oppressive, harsh manner, the Pharisees were colossally missing the point.
And what about those Pharisees? So upset were they by “that new guy” espousing a more loving, peaceful way of life that they immediately began to plot his murder, thereby proving Jesus 100% correct. This isn’t all that different from many hard-nosed conservatives today who believe the rules should stay the same just because they’re the rules, just because “It’s always been this way.” If we keep things the same as they have always been, then we’re not using what God has given us, which is the ability to reason and use our common sense.
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for giving us the ability to think and reason. Thank you for sending us Jesus who set the old guard on its ear with his radical notions of love and common sense. Help us to utilize these abilities to chart a course that is based on love, understanding, and mutual respect, and not on strict adherence to arbitrary and capricious “rules.” Amen.
by Sally Foster
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 3:16-23 “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a ‘fool’ so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.”
As I write this, we are beginning a new year when typical resolutions that are made include losing weight and exercising more. Those are on my list! These resolutions certainly apply to this scripture since our body is God’s temple. When I think of it that way, it puts a huge responsibility on all of us to protect and preserve our precious temple. When we abuse it by “over-anything” (such as eating or drinking), we are destroying the very temple God gave us. Now that puts things in better perspective!
Moreover, this scripture talks to us of not allowing the wisdom of the world to supersede our relationship with God because worldly wisdom is not wisdom at all, and God’s way of thinking is more valuable. At the time this scripture was written, the Corinthians were applying worldly wisdom to their leaders and teachers. The text ends with telling us not to fear death since Christ has conquered all fears for us and death is the beginning of our eternal life with Him. What a compelling reason for us to develop a strong relationship with Christ. This indeed is a good resolution for us to make and keep throughout the year. It’s number one on my list this year.
Prayer: Dear God, help us to not be fearful and to grow strong in our relationship with you so that we can be a witness to others for all of the grace you have granted us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
by Robert Giacomini
Scripture: Mark 2: 1-12
This passage of Jesus healing a paralyzed man is important for the dual themes it encompasses. It speaks of the miracle of healing, a gift only available from God, and of the very human compassion of friendship and devotion shown by the paralytic’s friends. As such, it is a powerful statement of Jesus, both as the “Son of God” and the “Son of Man.”
As Christians, this duality gives us a special relationship with God, for in the living Jesus, fully human, we can know that our challenges, our weaknesses and our suffering have been fully shared with our creator. We also can find amazing comfort in a loving and forgiving God. All we must have is faith. Just look at two of the most moving lines in this scripture: “Son, your sins are forgiven you….I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”
While this passage is important for revealing Jesus as one with God through the miracle of healing, it also contains important insights of how we should act in our relationship with others. Like the four friends who carried the paralytic to the roof of the house so that they could avoid the crowds and get him to Jesus, we must recognize the wants of others around us and do all that we can to attend to their needs. As humans, we have this wonderful ability for love and compassion. To be true followers of Jesus, we must listen to this side of our nature and resist the voices that encourage us to turn away from the needs of others and take the easier path.
Prayer: Dear God, give me the faith to understand the wonders of your compassion and the knowledge that your love is all encompassing and without prejudice. Amen.
by Rachael Jordan
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2:1-13
We often like to think that Paul was some crazy, fearless evangelist running around the Mediterranean starting churches. Well, a lot of that is true. However, in our passage for today, we find Paul reminding the church in Corinth of how afraid he really was in approaching them with the gospel of Jesus Christ. He knew the power of the gospel but the thought of being called to proclaim something as HUGE as this reduced him to a trembling mess!
Paul recognized that “we speak God’s wisdom…which God decreed before the ages” and that is no easy task. It’s terrifying! Why? “For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.” (1 Cor. 2:11 NRSV). Paul knew that the Word we are called to proclaim is one that we ourselves don’t even fully understand and yet we are called to proclaim it anyway! We are called to step out in faith, both with the recognition of this great task and also with the greatest humility that we don’t know it all.
During Lent, as we are anticipating and preparing to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are called as a people to proclaim our faith in the God who died so that we may live-even amidst our fears and doubts. How will you proclaim that news?
Prayer: Almighty God, help us to always have faith in your Word and the willingness to embrace your wisdom. For it is you, through your Spirit, who guides us to proclaim your wisdom to the world. We give you thanks. In the name of Jesus the Christ, amen.