by Sylvia Goggin
Scripture: Mark 7: 24-37
This passage in the gospel is eye-opening to me. It lets me see that Jesus, in his state as a man, may have grown weary of His work. That is not to say that he wasn’t busy with the Father’s business, but that on this occasion, He just needed a break.
When the passage begins, He had just been to Gennesaret and healed many in the region. Then his interactions with the people were questioned by the Pharisees, he preached to the multitudes, and He tried to give understanding of His parables to the disciples.
When Jesus got to a home on the border of Tyre and Sidon, He didn’t want anyone to know He was there. I believe all Jesus wanted to do was to be out in the country in the company of His Jewish friends and just “chill out.” But Jesus was seen. The woman with the afflicted daughter asked for healing and so did the friends of the deaf mute, and Jesus, being our loving Savior, healed them all.
As a special education teacher, I know all about wanting to take a break from work and thinking. I even know about longing to heal without the ability and only faith to sustain me. This passage has meaning to me because I deal with the same disabilities that the people who Jesus healed were dealing with. I see the anguish of mothers who can’t get through to their children and I see children who can’t be understood and become more frustrated with each effort. And some days, when things aren’t going well, I want to sit down with a friend and not even think about work; I want to hide out. But that isn’t the way life happens. So each morning I pray that God will get me through another day and that, in my own way, I may be able to add meaning to the lives of those I touch.
And, just as those who saw Jesus’ acts of healing and said, “He hath done all things well,” I hope that one day Our Father may be able to say the same of my small efforts as a teacher.
Prayer: God, grant us strength to do your work and to help those around us. Amen.
by Josh Noblitt
Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-10
“It’s God’s gift from start to finish…We neither make, nor save ourselves. God does both the making and the saving.” (MSG)
I always used to think that Lent was a time that I needed to be somewhat somber and reflect on all of the ways that I needed to “do better” in my spiritual walk as well as in other areas of my life. I would take on some unrealistic hardship for Lent, only to see myself not be able to stick to my commitment and then feel like I had done something wrong. For a while there, it served to remind me more of the distance I felt from God as opposed to enriching my relationship with God in every aspect of my life.
Somewhere along the way, I realized that the goal was to feel closer to God and to seek out new ways to have life more abundantly. The scripture passage today reminds us that God is the one who created us and who saves us. Salvation is a free gift from God. We don’t have to do, say or be anything in order for God to surround us with love, sustenance and redemption. Being reminded of this helps me shift my focus from all of the ways I have fallen short and have done wrong, to focusing more on the infinite ways that God loves me and loves us all. I’ve discovered that when I pay attention to that love and really feel it, I find myself naturally “doing better” and showing more love to everyone I come in contact with. Abundant life is a life overflowing with love of God, self and neighbor.
This Lenten season, may we all look for new ways to recognize God’s love in our lives so that we may experience it to the fullest and share it with those around us.
Prayer: Holy One, Thank you for the infinite love you have for us all. Help us to focus on your love today and everyday, so that we can share that same love with everyone we meet. Amen
by Jill Lee-Barber
Scripture: Psalm 143
Mature spirituality seems to require having a good memory about who God is and how God relates to humanity. It also seems to require a willingness to engage with God in our times of need and to ask for God’s powerful help, even and especially when, in the words of the psalmist, we have a “weak spirit and a mind that is numb.”
I don’t know about you, but at times my life circumstances do leave me with a weak spirit and a mind that feels numb. I am grateful to have had saints in my life who taught me and showed me that God is good and everlasting, and who encouraged me to seek God, as the psalmist did, as a refuge.
To take it another step, this passage reminds me that I need to grow in my willingness to go beyond being sheltered and defended by a good God. I need to move from that sheltered and defended respite to actively asking God each day the following words, used as a prayer from this Psalm:
Prayer: “Show me the way I should go, because I offer my life up to You.” Amen.
by Amanda Lockhart
Scripture: Mark 6:47-56
When someone does the impossible or seems to be perfect, I will often say that they “walk on water.” I rarely use or think about it in a religious context even though it comes from today’s scripture.
In this reading, the disciples were doing what Jesus had told them to do – taking a boat to the other side of the lake. These experienced fishermen struggled to complete this seemingly simple task as we are told they were “straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.” There was no mention of a storm, just this great wind which was an obstacle to them. Even with all of their experience, they were struggling to overcome it. Jesus came out onto the water, walking toward them. He got into the boat with them and “the wind died down.” At this point everything was calm and the traveling across the lake continued.
It is here we learn one of our most valuable lessons: There are times when it does not matter how much training, knowledge, or preparedness we have, we will come up against obstacles in which we will “strain against the oars.” When this happens, we need to check to see who is in our boat. Do we trust God to help us through these tough times? Because it is only with him that the winds will die down and we will be able to overcome the obstacles that we face.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for being a calming presence when life seems to be spiraling out of control. Thank you for knowing my thoughts and concerns even before I speak them, and for being willing to listen as I struggle to put my worries into words. I will continue to put my faith, my trust and my hope in you, and I know you will never abandon me. I am grateful for your faithfulness. Amen.
by Jason Henderson
Scripture: Psalm 126
During Lent we remember Jesus’ ascent into Jerusalem, His sacrifice, and His victory. Psalm 126 is a song of ascents. It is a psalm reminding us of liberation and blessings. The period of captivity is over and life seems like a dream. Joy and laughter have replaced sadness and tears.
How do we handle life’s challenges and trials? God’s first words were, “Let there be light.” This was not a one-time proclamation of creation. God is still bringing light to those in darkness. When the light has returned to our lives, do we focus on the hurt and weakness of the past or are we able to celebrate our present blessings? We should live in this light and joy so that others will say, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
I love to hike. Ascending a mountain can be arduous and tiring but the reward of standing at the peak is worth all of the sweat and struggles. I love the view from the top because it helps me get a different perspective on where I have been and where I am going. I can see the majesty of creation and I feel peace knowing that I am a part of that creation.
Prayer: Loving Creator, you bring light into our lives. May we see that light and share it with others. Bless our tears so that they will one day bring forth sheaths of joy. Jesus has ascended above it all. Help us to follow in the ways that lead to life eternal. Amen.
by Eric Norman
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 8: 1-13 (This passage speaks of the relationship between knowledge and love, and how we might perceive their value and their use.)
Love is a funny thing. Our concept of love seems to morph into different things when we think about it. The concept itself is difficult for us to hold in our minds – it’s slippery, mercurial. What is love? How do we know it exists? We seem to be able to describe love not as it might be given or received, but as the characteristics we can associate with it. For instance, we can describe love as being overwhelming, or perhaps we might say love is pleasing or elusive. Sometimes our awareness of love is strongest when we feel its presence or absence. I’ve often found myself saying things like “I know it when I have it” or “I’m not feeling the love today”.
I’ve been thinking about love a lot lately. I have love for my wife, my friends and (parts of) my family, although the love I have for my friends is very different than the love I feel for my wife. And though they are quite different, I know these feelings are real. I also know I am loved. There is no doubt in my mind that my wife and my friends love me. It’s something I carry with me whether I’m with my wife or my friends – or not.
Interestingly, the dictionary lists love as both a noun and a verb. And though the definitions are very similar, I am convinced that love is active, much more a verb than a noun. In my view, we feel love most when we give it; and the love we feel is amplified by the love we allow ourselves to give.
Prayer: Lord, I pray you grant us each the unending capacity to love. And in this way you create and recreate each of us in your image. Amen.
by Scott Becker
Scripture: Mark 6:1-13
God has charged us with spreading his message of love. He gives us the strength to rebuke evil in his name. By our faith, we bring his message to those who would listen and hear the word of God in order that those of us who didn’t witness, nor know Jesus, have a stronger faith in him. We believe without seeing.
Prayer: Our heavenly father, thank you for giving us power over demons and the ability to heal those in need. By our faith we listen to your word and try to live as an example of your light. Amen.