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Lenten Meditations

2013 St. Mary’s Lenten Meditations

Lenten Guide Summary and Thanks
Introduction by The Reverend Michael Giansiracusa
Lenten Meditations:
Writer                                                  Date                              
Emi Lievano.................................... February 13
Lonnie Hovey.................................. February 14
The Rev. Dwight M. Lundgren........... February 15
Joseph Schick................................. February 16
AmritPal Hatton............................... February 17
Grant Williams................................. February 18
Catherine Selin................................. February 19
Kathy Meermans.............................. February 20
Sue Davis....................................... February 21
Ann D’Antonio................................. February 22
The Reverend Dr. Joseph Schaller.... February 23
The J2A Youth Group....................... February 24
Sandra Taylor.................................. February 25
Dianne Williams............................... February 26
The Miani Family.............................. February 27
R.G. Solmssen................................ February 28
Nikki Casulli........................................ March 1
Lonnie Hovey..................................... March 2
Rite 13 Sunday School Class.............. March 3
Ian Richmond..................................... March 4
Susanna Evans................................... March 5
Martha Chovanes................................ March 6
Frances May....................................... March 7
Jim Moore.......................................... March 8
Bishop Edward Lee............................. March 9
Aaron Ross....................................... March 10
Rosemary Herrick.............................. March 11
Mary Ellen Bowden............................ March 12
Bill Powell......................................... March 13
John Krick......................................... March 14
Anne & Rick Wright............................ March 15
Georgette Phillips.............................. March 16
Emma Lewis...................................... March 17
Larry DiPaul....................................... March 18
Liz Henry........................................... March 19
Marie Lewis....................................... March 20
Betsy Useem..................................... March 21
Phyllis Lane....................................... March 22
Barclay Fleming................................. March 23
Quinn Hovey...................................... March 24
Tony Thompson................................. March 25
Sam Thomas..................................... March 26
Lonnie Hovey..................................... March 27
Sandra Taylor.................................... March 28
John Grecia....................................... March 29
John Krick......................................... March 30
The Rev. Jill LaRoche Wikel................ March 31
Lenten Meditations Summary & Thanks
          The Lenten Meditations are developed to share personal reflections prepared by members of the St. Mary’s parish based on daily scripture readings during the Lenten season.  Please take time to look at each of the readings, which inspired the daily entry in order to reflect upon what each author has written and use this as your personal guide through Lent.  We hope everyone who reads and prays with these meditations during Lent will gain a depth to their faith, as well as learn something about our parish members during the process.  Thanks also to everyone who helped craft these meditation. 

To All Those Who Helped Create The Lenten Meditations:
          Thank you to everyone who helped to create this booklet.  It has become a key element to St. Mary’s community for a personal Lenten worship experience.  I hope that this year’s collection deepens each person’s prayerful walk through Lent.  It has been my honor to work on this project with all of the contributors.  Thank you also to my family for their help and support.
Lonnie Hovey 
by The Reverend Michael Giansiracusa
Lent 2013

Dear Sisters and Brothers, Friends and Neighbors of St. Mary’s:

There is a network that runs the tagline for their programming, “Story Matters Here”.
I think it is a perfect slogan and pitch line for contemporary Christianity.  For far too long, Christianity has told its story: a child born as the savior, who dies for our sins and rose again to be God in heaven.  In that mysterious story, the people’s story was often left out.  Adherence to the truth of Christian doctrine replaced the real connection that the story of Jesus has with our story.

Yes, Jesus was born and died and rose from the dead, but he also lived a life dedicated to lifting the spirit of the downtrodden, of awakening the hearts of the wealthy to new awareness of dependency and to the unlimited and powerful possibilities of a God-centered community for transforming swords into ploughshares.

These Lenten reflections offer a chance for us to rethink, reflect and renew on the meaning of the life, mission, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our times.  Religion, at its best, is not some set of static rules and regulations to adhere to, but a walk with others in uncertain times all the while knowing the joyful conclusion of the story.  Story and stories matter here!

I am proud to walk humbly with all of you on this journey and thank the contributors for their willingness to share their seeds of inspiration and hope.  There is no Easter without Good Friday, and there is no Good Friday without putting ourselves in the often-dangerous world of hurting humanity.  My prayer is that this little booklet will help all of us get closer to God.  Heartfelt thanks to Lonnie Hovey and everyone that contributed to the editing, publication and distribution of these daily devotions.

Lenten Peace,
Fr. Mike
Date:  February 13, 2013, Ash Wednesday
1st Reading:  Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 (Inspired today’s devotion) or Isaiah 58:1-12
2nd Reading:  2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 (Inspired today’s devotion)
In the first reading, Joel calls us to repentance and fasting.
In the second reading, Paul gives us a summary of what it is to be a minister of the New Testament.
In the third reading, Jesus is teaching us to humble ourselves when we give to charity, and when we pray and fast.
Starting on Ash Wednesday, we are called to quiet our souls and reflect on the season that is leading us to Easter.
This is a time to center ourselves and think about ways to make us more Christ-like. WWJD--what would Jesus do, comes to mind.
Some people may choose to make a sacrifice by giving up something indulgent, but I challenge you to choose to do something positive to
help someone or improve your relationship with a family member, a friend, or neighbor.
By Emi Lievano

Dear Jesus, give us your strength and show us your love as we attempt to improve our treasured relationship with ourselves and with others. In this we pray, Amen.
Date:  February 14, 2013, Thursday, St. Valentine’s Day
1st Reading:  Deuteronomy 7:6-11 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Titus 1:1-16
Gospel:  John 1:29-34
The first reading is very appropriate for this day of St. Valentine’s.  It describes how God loved the Israelites and selected them for his love as the chosen people not because they were many, for they weren’t, but because he was keeping the oath that he swore to their ancestors to redeem them from the hand of Pharaoh and slavery.  It goes on to say that God will maintain a covenant of loyalty to those who love him and keep his commandments, “to a thousand generations.”

That phrase “to a thousand generations” is curious.  What does it mean?  Technically, it means 20,000 years.  More than just a long time, I think it was the author’s way of stressing that God’s love would last forever, which is an old school way of saying “To Infinity and beyond.”

That reminds me that there are a lot of phrases that folks use to express their never ending or undying love for one another.  There’s “I love you forever,” or “I love you for eternity.”  I’ve heard kids say to a parent “I love you to the moon and back” and “to infinity plus one,” and even “I love you 99 past Pluto,” which was a saying in my wife’s household growing up.  There also “I love you more than the moon and the stars.”  All of these demonstrate that love can and does endure for a really long time, especially God’s love “to a thousand generations.” 
By Lonnie Hovey

Heavenly Father, You gave us your commandments to follow and you gave us your only son as well as giving us your covenant of loyalty and love.  Keep us mindful of these and more importantly help us to love one another as you love us “to a thousand generations.”  Amen.
Date:  February 15, 2013, Friday
1st Reading:  Deuteronomy 7:12-16
2nd Reading:  Titus 2:1-15
Gospel:  John 1:35-42 (Inspired today’s devotion)
This story at the beginning of the Gospel of John occurs in the blink of an eye almost as the prelude to a drama for which it is only the assembling of the cast of characters, the gathering of the apostolic band.

As brief as the account is, I am left wondering, deeply wishing I knew what had transpired in the brief time that Jesus met with the two disciples of John (Andrew plus one).  Their meeting begins with the respectful address “Rabboni/Teacher” and ends with Andrew’s swift search for his brother Simon to announce:  “We’ve found the Anointed One!”  It feels to me more like a confession from Andrew that he was the one who had been found by Jesus.  Like his brother Simon, Andrew has received a new identity if not a new name (or nick name).

Lent provides an opportunity to explore discipleship.  Discipleship is not a matter of agreeing with Jesus as “Rabboni/Teacher”; it is a living into an identity freed from self-centeredness and fear (“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”) and serving a new web of relations and possibilities. (“We have found the Chosen One.”)

Perhaps for each of us there is a Lenten promise in this brief story, even if we have already spent years “going” to church.  If we will set aside a few hours, a half a day in Jesus’ presence hearing and wrestling with the question he poses his visitors; “What are you looking for?”, we may find ourselves enrolled, recruited, yes, chosen for a newer life.  As Bilbo Baggins says at the outset of The Hobbit, “I’m off on an adventure.”
By The Reverend Dwight M. Lundgren

Gracious God, eternal love known through Jesus Christ, grace us to seek you until we live knowing we have been found.  Then may we find one another anew, brother, sister, neighbor, stranger encompassed by a hospitality that honors your own.  Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Date:  February 16, 2013, Saturday
1st Reading:  Deuteronomy 7:17-26
2nd Reading:  Titus 3:1-15
Gospel:  John 1:43-51 (Inspired today’s devotion)
In the Gospel reading, Jesus is in Galilee and his followers are growing.  Andrew, Peter, and Philip are all from Bethsaida in Galilee.  Philip is now telling Nathanael who Jesus is and that he’s come from Nazareth, also in Galilee.  Nathanael initially cannot believe that Nazareth could be the home for a future Messiah.  Nathanael ultimately accepts Jesus saying, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!  You are the King of Israel!”  

It is easy to relate to the initial disbelief of Nathanael.  Isn’t it easy to say that greatness can only come from the right background.  It’s not hard to imagine saying that God couldn’t possibly act through a person with those limitations or from that particular place and background.  

Nathanael could have asked how anything good could come from St. Mary’s Ardmore?  The truth is much better.  People, no matter what their backgrounds and imperfections, are charged by God through Jesus’ teachings to minister to the world.  We don’t necessarily come from the ‘right place,’ but we are the right people.  And other people don’t necessarily come from the ‘right place,’ but they are the right people.
By Joseph Schick

Dear Lord, thank you for making us your ministers.  Help us to realize that it is not we, but you who have chosen us and given us our work.
Date:  February 17, 2013, 1st Sunday in Lent
1st Reading:  Deuteronomy 26:(1-4) 5-11
2nd Reading:  Romans 10:(5-8A) 8b-13
Gospel:  Luke 4:1-13 (Inspired today’s devotion)
It might be easier to be tempted to do something wrong, but it is better in the long run to do the right thing.  We should not test the Lord.  If you ask the Lord for something and don't get it don't have a fit.  Jesus was tempted in Luke and he resisted.  We need to have faith in the Lord and not just follow the laws.  If you have faith following the laws will come more easily.  We cannot know who will go to heaven.  "The word is in your heart and in your mouth."  you must have faith in The words you preach.
By AmritPal Hatton

Dear Lord show us how to worship and bless us with your holy spirit.  May everyone have faith in the Lord to have a better life.
Date:  February 18, 2013, 1st Monday in Lent, President’s Day
1st Reading:  Deuteronomy 8:11-20
2nd Reading:  Hebrews 2:11-18
Gospel:  John 2:1-12 (Inspired today’s devotion)
The first part of the Gospel of John seems to be a collection of stories about the importance of witnessing and discernment in Christian community.  It begins with the story of John the Baptist who bore witness to God’s Light, and then proceeds with other stories about how the various disciples came to believe in Jesus.

In today’s reading Jesus turns water into wine.  The story starts with a wine shortage at a wedding and Jesus’s mother suggests that Jesus address the situation.  Jesus resists, saying his time had not come.  Regardless, Jesus instructs the servants to pour water into huge vats.  The host is given a sample from the vats and comments on the high quality of the wine, but only the servants know that the water has been turned into wine.  This was the first of the miracles that caused the disciples to believe in Jesus.

In this story Jesus’s own mother seems to recognize the power in her son and challenges him to act.  Jesus, despite his apparent doubts, performs a miracle using several unknowing participants, including servants who pour the water and a host who validates the outcome.  Only the servants understand that the water has become wine.  Since only the servants knew, they must have told the disciples and caused the disciples to believe.

I see this as a story about Christian community.
By Grant Williams

Dear God, help us be willing participants in your Christian community. Let us discern and encourage like Mary, act courageously despite doubts like Jesus, obey and witness like the servants, and believe like the Disciples. Help us to share these gifts even when we cannot see your plan. Help us to have faith as our gifts are brewed together into your Christian stew, your recipe for humanity.
Date:  February 19, 2013, 1st Tuesday in Lent
1st Reading:  Deuteronomy 9:4-12 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Hebrews 3:1-11 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  John 2:13-22 (Inspired today’s devotion)
The three attributes I see underscored in the readings for today are entitlement, resentment and greed.  The sense of entitlement in those who took possession of the land when Jesus drove out the wicked, resentment by those driven into the wilderness, and greed for the profit seekers within the temple walls.

During the course of the week, I will contemplate these three things:
Entitlement – What privileges do I take for granted?  Which am I willing to forego?
Resentment – Stop playing the blame game and strive to heed God’s call.
Greed – Give freely and build up riches in heaven. 

By Catherine Selin

Dear Lord, who has given me life and breath, may I live each day with humble intention and a grateful heart.  Amen.
Date:  February 20, 2013, 1st Wednesday in Lent
1st Reading:  Deuteronomy9:13-21
2nd Reading:  Hebrews 3:12-19
Gospel:  John 2:23-3:15 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Jesus had been in Jerusalem for Passover and “many believed in his name because they saw the signs he was doing.”  Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews came to Jesus at night (so not to be seen with him?), and acknowledged that no one could do these “signs without the presence of God.”

But Jesus did not congratulate Nicodemus for his belief.  He told him that believing in signs wasn’t enough.   No one could see the Kingdom of God without “being born from above.” Nicodemus couldn’t understand how that could happen.  Jesus replied, “Do not be astonished that I said to you, you must be born from above.  The wind blows where it chooses and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the spirit.”

For me the familiar comparison of the spirit to the wind conjures up a balmy gentle breeze that can soothe even the most troubled soul.  Yet here Jesus isn’t comforting Nicodemus.  He tells him that if he really wants to see the Kingdom he will have to live like the kind of wind whose direction makes no sense to human understanding.  Are we willing to let go of our own sense of control over our lives and be born again to the uncertainties of life in the spirit?  Jesus is insistent that this is the only way we can see the Kingdom of God.
By Kathy Meermans

Dear God, I ask you today for the courage to accept the uncertainties of new birth in the spirit and the strength, through your grace, to embrace this life wherever it may take me.  Amen.
Date:  February 21, 2013, 1st Thursday in Lent
1st Reading:  Deuteronomy 9:23-10:5 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Hebrews 4:1-10 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  John 3:16-21 (Inspired today’s devotion)
In Deuteronomy there is forgiveness and God’s laws.  God gave the people a second chance and recreated the Ten Commandments in spite of their previously “…neither trusting him nor obeying him.”  These laws represented social values of how to behave as no punishment was mentioned.

In John we now have the judgment of the people.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  This is straight forward…those who believe in God shall have eternal life.  Those who don’t, and prefer a life of darkness and evil, do not.

In Hebrews God demands faithfulness.  The promise of eternal life remains for faithful Christians to inherit.  Just as God rested on the seventh day, so too “…those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his.”  Thus, Christians can “rest” in heaven but those who disobey God’s laws cannot enter or have eternal rest.

Heaven is a real place.  Some say it is in another dimension only three feet above our level on earth.  Thousands of accounts exist of heavenly visits by people who were in comas or had near-death experiences.  Jesus also mentions heaven so how can you not believe He who walks on water!
By Sue Davis

Dear God, thank you for the promise we have in you for all eternity.  As you have given us clear directions, help us on our path to discern the difference between your plan for us and our own plan till we reach our final destination.  In Jesus name, Amen.
Date:  February 22, 2013, 1st Friday in Lent, Washington’s Birthday
1st Reading:  Deuteronomy 10:12-22 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Hebrews 4:11-16
Gospel:  John 3:22-36
The passage in Deuteronomy, initially directed to the Jews freed from the land of Egypt, is requiring them to fear the Lord their God.  Each of them is expected to walk in God’s ways, to love God and to serve God with all of their heart and soul.  And, God expects the commandments and decrees, created for their own good, to be kept.  They are reminded that this Lord, their God, is the one who created not only the high heavens, but the earth and all that is in it, and gave it to the people to sustain their life.  In the midst of this generous bounty that God has lovingly given, the people are instructed to care for the widow, the orphaned and the stranger, reminding these blessed and chosen people that they once were strangers in a strange land and would well understand the vulnerability a stranger would experience.

In truth it is quite simple and direct, the Lord our God with love created the heavens and all that is in it…the earth and its riches of plant, animal and mineral and finally the human souls to savor these marvels.

Are these words from the Hebrew texts any less applicable in our time?  We the sons and daughters of our Hebrew ancestors who chose to hear and share Jesus’ words…. Are we not now-- in these times of job losses, of homes and businesses assaulted by nature’s fury, of huge disparities in the wealth and wellness of our people and of immigrants searching to have their lives made whole through work-- are we not now likewise instructed to fear the Lord our God and, to take care of our sisters and brothers and all of God’s creation?

Caring is often a very trying exercise.  Nothing is easy about it.  But, it remains the center of Jesus’ teaching.  Act justly towards others and do not engage in violence toward others.
By Ann D’Antonio

Teach us Lord,
To serve you as you deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labor and to seek for any reward,
Save that of knowing that we do your will.

Date:  February 23, 2013, 1st Saturday in Lent
1st Reading: Deuteronomy 11:18-28
2nd Reading:  Hebrews 5:1-10
Gospel:  John 4:1-26 (Inspired today’s devotion)
This passage from John – the woman at the well – is one of the great texts of the Lenten tradition.  At one level, there is a clear message: Jesus is the source of a “living water,” which will quench a thirst that no other source can fulfill.  But there are so many other elements to this story, which are meant to inspire us.  First of all, the fact that Jesus enters into a conversation with a woman from Samaria (a non-Jew) would have been both provocative and transforming for the early followers of Jesus.  It is part of a theme seen especially in John, but throughout the gospels of Jesus’ inclusion of those considered to be “outside” the embrace of God’s covenant, as well as those who would have been considered of lesser status in the social order.  The other part of the story, which I always find moving is the woman’s “thirst” for truth and deliverance from her sin.  Jesus confronts her in a manner which is straightforward, non-shaming and compassionate.  And he gives her a direction for her life.  That’s the point of realizing our sinfulness – not to become mired in guilt, shame or denial – but to find a path forward toward deeper friendship with God and wholeness as God’s children.
By The Reverend Dr. Joseph Schaller

Jesus, we pray that you will find us along our own road, as we seek refreshment, strength, healing, and direction.  Help us to realize again our calling to be your sons and daughters, and to live out of that truth, comforted by the knowledge that it is you who will always grant us what we need and desire.  Amen.
Date:  February 24, 2013, 2nd Sunday in Lent
1st Reading:  Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Philippians 3:17-4:1 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  Luke 13:(22-30) 31-35 (Inspired today’s devotion)
These readings all seem to be about behavior.  The first lesson tells us about the older way or the early traditions of how one was supposed to behave:  Abraham makes sacrifices of animals to thank God.  In Philippians, Paul reminds us of how we must live on earth including how we act towards each other not just ourselves.   Finally in Luke we are reminded that it is very difficult to live a right life and get into heaven: a small door through which only a few will pass. 

Sacrifices or following the motions will not guarantee entry into heaven.  Doing what you are “supposed” to do is not a guarantee of getting into heaven.  Jesus’s way is not easy.
By The J2A Youth Group (Sophia Lindner, Emmi Casulli, Kiana Leland, and William Solmssen)

Dear Lord, help us to follow your path to the Glory of your name.  Amen
Date:  February 25, 2013, 2nd Monday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 1:11-19 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Romans 1:1-15
Gospel:  John 4:27-42
I am watching over my word to perform it…I am with you says the Lord to deliver you. (Jeremiah 1:12,19).

Is God’s Word too good to be true, or is it living and active (Hebrews 4:12)? Can it be both? How we answer determines how we navigate a sudden loss—of health, relationship, or job—and how we arrive at the next port in our faith journey.  One thing is certain; as Alanis Morissette sings, “The only way out is through.”

After a successful yet personally trying year under a new CEO, I lost my job in October.   A bit dazed, I found myself out on the floor with my shocked staff, comforting them and saying, “This was not done to me; it was done for me.”  I don’t know where those words came from, but the more I reached out to others to let them know what happened, the more I was strengthened, assured that the Lord was taking me out of a company I didn’t have the wherewithal to leave on my own.  But where would I go?  If our names are truly inscribed on the palms of the Lord’s hands, I guess I needed to look up, and out, to recognize those hands at work!

Early that same October morning, I had met with a recruiter who called me the week before (on my birthday) about an opportunity that seemed to fit me to a “T.”  As I interviewed with the Chairman, CEO, and members of the executive team, it seemed we had a perfect fit—frankly, it seemed too good to be true.  And then along came Hurricane Sandy disrupting thousands of other lives more consequentially than the candidate selection process in my own.  It was during those waiting weeks; however, that the Holy Spirit went from concept to Companion, and I realized that God is everything His Word says He is, and that He was, indeed, directing my steps.  Claiming His providence, I claimed His promises, and then I claimed the job He prepared for me.  Two weeks before Christmas, I accepted a “too good to be true” job offer.

I now understand why Ephesians 3:18-19 tells us we need supernatural power to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of the love that Christ has for us; without the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we’ll never be convinced that “too good to be true” events are to be expected in our faith journeys.  And, we may never be emboldened to show others God’s indelible signature written across the grace-filled turning points of our lives.
By Sandra Taylor

Holy Spirit, deliver us from our fear of taking you at your Word so that we may walk with confidence and anticipation through rocky terrain, apparent detours, and sudden reversals knowing that, All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness (Psalm 25: 10).

Date:  February 26, 2013, 2nd Tuesday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 2:1-13 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Romans 1:16-25 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  John 4:43-54
(The Lord says)…my people have committed two evils:  they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.  Jeremiah 2:13

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.  Romans 1:22-23

Both of these verses from today’s readings describe the human tendency to try to capture what is desirable and confine it in something that can be seen and manipulated.  They deal with our inclination to choose the concrete over the numinous because of our need to feel secure.  Over and over the Bible relates stories that reveal this aspect of humanity:  the Hebrews create the golden calf when Moses lingers on the mountain; the Israelites insist on a human king; the disciples plan to build shelters during Jesus’ Transfiguration.

We are no different from our spiritual ancestors.  Naturally, we want to feel secure.  We have to ask; however, what we are willing to sacrifice for a sense of security and whether the sacrifice is worth it.

Recently in Harrisburg a rally was held to call for an end to gun violence.  A man from a counter-demonstration group had made a sign that read, “I carry a gun, because a cop is too heavy”.  While intending to be witty, this is ultimately a statement of insecurity.  Are we willing to give up on the possibility of human goodness and justice, and depend on weapons for our security?
By Dianne Williams

Living Water, Help us resist the urge to find escape from life’s uncertainties in objects that do not have ultimate power.  Guide us as we wrestle with our issues of insecurity and give us grace to find our security in you.  Amen.
Date:  February 27, 2013, 2nd Wednesday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 3:6-18 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Romans 1:28-2:11 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  John 5:1-18 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Disloyalty.  Both of the first two lessons chastise those nations and peoples who are disloyal to God.  These are very good somber Lenten lessons as they very clearly state what disloyalty includes:  Injustice, wicked behavior, greed, evil behavior, jealousy, murder, fighting, deception, malice, gossip, slander, rudeness, pride, bragging, inventing ways to be evil, disobeying parents, hating God, showing no affection, showing no mercy and approving or tolerating anybody who does any of those things.  It is not difficult to apply that list from thousands of years ago to our behaviors today.  Discouraging, too.

Yet, the same Lenten lessons never fail to provide hope and a foreshadowing of the possibilities to come.  They promise that a shepherd is coming to lead with knowledge and understanding.  God won’t reject them or stay angry if peoples and nations acknowledge their wrong doing.  In fact, there will be glory, honor and peace for everyone who does what is good.  God does not have favorites, so this forgiveness is available to all.

As in good suspense movies, the scene cuts to John’s account of Jesus healing the lame man at the baths.  His actions, on a Sabbath day no less, fuel the anger of the Jewish leaders.  AND Jesus claims to speak for God, his Father.  The drumbeats towards a terrible end begin to sound.
By The Miani Family

Dear Lord, make me ever mindful of my actions, remembering how disloyal they can be to your never failing love and forgiveness.  Amen.
Date:  February 28, 2013, 2nd Thursday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 4:9-10, 19-28 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Romans 2:12-24 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  John 5:19-29 (Inspired today’s devotion)
The reading from Jeremiah is about the difference between human understanding of the meaning of well-being and peace, and God’s understanding.  The passage says that everyone’s understanding of the nature of these things (even the understanding of Kings and Princes) will fail in the face of war, illness and disaster. Humans will think they have been deserted.

The reading from Romans distinguishes between acting justly and preaching about acting justly.  If one acts justly, it does not matter if one understands the law defining justice or even whether one believes in the importance of the law at all.

The reading from John ends with a passage about both belief and actions, and it says that those who believe and who act will be saved.
By R.G. Solmssen

Prayer: (Adapted from Juvenal)
Let us pray for brave hearts
which do not fear death or suffering,
which place a long life last
among the gifts of heaven, and seek useful lives in the present.

Date:  March 1, 2013, 2nd Friday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 5:1-9 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Romans 2:25-3:18 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  John 5:30-47 (Inspired today’s devotion)
In the first reading, God sees that the people of Jerusalem are not living according to God’s will, even though God has given them all they needed to succeed.  They were willingly ignorant of God’s teachings and God would not take their ignorance as an excuse.

The second reading states that all can sin; Jew and Gentile alike, just as all can do good.  However, all good deeds should come from the heart, to be praised by God, not by men.
The third reading has Jesus stating that He is here to do his Father’s work, to please Him, not man, but no one wants to believe who he is.  Man is too consumed with believing in each other and themselves to readily accept Jesus and His Father’s teachings.
A common thread among these readings is about doing good for the world, to praise God, not to live your life to impress neighbors and friends. 
By Nikki Casulli

Dear God, Please give us the strength to recognize our falsehoods and help us see that you are our God and our guide through life.
Date:  March 2, 2013, 2nd Saturday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 5:20-31 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Romans 3:19-31 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  John 7:1-13 (Inspired today’s devotion)
The readings for today are hard to reconcile.  The excerpt from Jeremiah is a diatribe against the chosen people who do not see and hear the works of the Lord, and whose wrongdoings have kept them away from the Lord and whose sins have deprived them of all that is good in the Lord. 
The passage from Romans talks about the law and how the world is accountable to that law and to God, but “apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”
The selection from John describes the story where Jesus’ brothers try to persuade him to leave Galilee and go to Judea for the Festival of the Tabernacles and show himself and his works, but he says his time has not come and he does not join them, but later goes in secret.
As we each go about our daily lives, how often do we recognize and thank God for all that is around us?  No matter how small, we have immeasurable blessings to count.  How often do we acknowledge our faith in Jesus Christ?  We put forth prayer requests all the time, but do we acknowledge the answers to those prayers?  Do we keep our faith a secret or do we share it and all the blessings we gain by that faith? 
Lent give us that time to reflect on these questions and challenges us to act upon them.  Each time you are stopped in traffic, take a moment to thank God for your car and the means to keep it running, for the attentiveness of others around you, for your safety, as well as your many other blessings.  When waiting in a line, take a moment to reflect on the answers to prayers you have received such as getting somewhere on time, having another moment with a loved one, getting over a recent illness, or snagging an unexpected bargain.  The next time someone sneezes and you reflexively say “God bless you,” really mean it and say a prayer for them and for your blessings.
By Lonnie Hovey

Heavenly Father, I am so blessed to have you in my life and to have been given the gift of your son for my sins.  Thank you for all that you have given me and for all that I have to give to others.  Please make me ever so mindful of the needs of others in all that I say and do.  Amen.
Date:  March 3, 2013, 3rd Sunday in Lent
1st Reading:  Exodus 3:1-15 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  1 Corinthians 10:1-13 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  Luke 13:1-9 (Inspired today’s devotion)
In the first reading, God reveals himself to Moses as a burning bush and tells Moses to lead his people out of Egypt.
In the second reading, Paul relates warnings from Israel's history, but the reading ends with the fact that God gives you things that you can handle.  You go through hardships in your life, but they make you stronger.
In the Gospel, Jesus warns that bad things don't necessarily happen only to bad people.
By The Rite 13 Sunday School Class

Dear Lord, Help us to understand what you are trying to tell us through these readings.  Thank you for this day.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Date:  March 4, 2013, 3rd Monday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 7:1-15 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Romans 4:1-12
Gospel:  John 7:14-36
The common thread of these three readings that I see is traditionally referred to as Faith vs. Works.  As Jeremiah says here, coming to the Temple without changing one’s evil ways won’t make you safe just because you showed up there.  Just showing up and counting yourself as safe means it is just another work, another task you do, and that is not enough.  Works are about doing enough, doing the conventional, the proper amount.  Everyone knows what that is, and everyone feels safe.  What is so upsetting to the crowd about Jesus’ healing the man on the Sabbath in the Gospel reading is that it is more than enough.  If that is okay then where would it end?  No one would be safe.
So when am I just fulfilling obligations, and when am I actually doing something righteous?  Often it is hard to know.  One personal rule of thumb is when I lose track of time, stop counting the minutes until it is enough, until it is proper to stop because I know I am done, I am safe.  In Jeremiah’s terms, the saying “Life is what happens during the interruptions” might be “What is counted to you as righteousness is what happens during the interruptions”.  Interruptions of my plans that I just know at the time are far more important.
By Ian Richmond

Lord, help me to be more open to the interruptions, to see them not as time wasted in accomplishing my own plans, but as time spent accomplishing Yours.  Amen.
Date:  March 5, 2013, 3rd Tuesday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 7:21-34 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Romans 4:13-25 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  John 7:37-52 (Inspired today’s devotion)
These three readings are difficult to reconcile.  In the passage from Jeremiah, God is calling for obedience.  “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.”  In the reading from Romans, we are told “It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.”  It is not through obedience that Abraham was rewarded, but through faith.  Finally, according to John, whoever believes in Jesus will receive the Holy Spirit.  Many who heard Jesus believed, but the Pharisees continued to shun Jesus and his followers.

While the message changes with the coming of Christ, there continues to be a common thread.  Trust in God, through faith in God, we will be rewarded.  Adherence to the law is not the goal and should not be a measure of a person’s faith.
By Susanna Evans

Dear God, help me to understand and believe that you are the one true God and that placing my faith and trust in you will bring its own rewards.

Date:  March 6, 2013, 3rd Wednesday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 8:18-9:6
2nd Reading:  Romans 5:1-11
Gospel:  John 8:12-20 (Inspired today’s devotion)
This gospel reading is about when Jesus speaks to the people and tells them that he is the light of the world and whoever follows him will never walk in darkness.  The Pharisees challenge him asserting that he cannot be believed, because he is his own witness.  Jesus answers first, that he can testify, because he “know[s] where I came from and where I am going.”  He then points out that the Pharisees judge by human standards.  Then he says, even if the Pharisees’ rules are followed, his testimony is good, because he is not alone.  He is one witness and the other witness is his Father, who sent him.
This reading reminds me that we often try and fit God’s word into our own understanding of the world – the logical ways we think, scientific principles, or just our own understanding (and bias) of the way the world is for us.  Here, Jesus is telling us to put all of those assumptions aside and trust in him- he knows from where he came (the Father) and where he is going (back to the Father) after he dies for our sins. 

Jesus knows whose he is and he asks us to know that He is here for us.  I need to be constantly reminded whose I am – Christ’s and I need to act towards others based upon that belief.
By Martha Chovanes

Lord, help me to remember as I go through my daily life that I am yours and help me take the actions that show that I believe this truth.

Date:  March 7, 2013, 3rd Thursday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 10:11-24 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Romans 5:12-21
Gospel:  John 8: 21-32
Fully recognizing God’s infinite power, be wary of allowing false Gods or idols to distract you.  Be vigilant lest false gods divert your attention and distract you from your quest.
In ancient times idols were often wooden figures emblazoned with silver and gold, what is now called bling.  This dazzled people, so they lost sight of the truth.  In modern times idols have become paper images emblazoned with portraits of long dead presidents, called money.
Then and now, people become distracted by the things of this world and lose sight of and connection with things of God; Forgetting the sacrifices of one man for humankind.  This passage may be taken as an alert warning; a reminder or cautionary tale. 
By Frances May

Holy Father, strengthen our will to resist the blandishments of those who would lead us away from and not toward God.
Date:  March 8, 2013, 3rd Friday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 11:1-8, 14-20
2nd Reading:  Romans 6:1-11 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  John 8:33-47
When I was a child, I often struggled with obedience.  There were times when I didn't listen to my parents or my material grandmother, whom I spent many hours with while my parents worked.  Being a child, there were many times that I needed guidance and direction to stay out of trouble.  Of course, when I strayed and did the wrong thing, my father's belt and/or my grandmother's strap quickly brought me back in line.
I was reminded of my childlike tendency to not follow directions the other day when I learned that a television personality from my childhood, Sally Starr, had passed away at age 90.  Every day when I returned to my grandmother's from elementary school, I turned on the old black and white television set in her living room at 3:30 in the afternoon, and there was Sally Starr wearing her cowgirl clothing, hosting "Popeye Theater." 
In my youthful mind, Sally Starr was more than a television host in the 1960's, showing Popeye cartoons and Three Stooges episodes.  She served as a surrogate parent to me, sharing life lessons about everything from fire prevention and fire safety, to how to get along with other kids and schoolteachers, to obeying my parents.  She warned me not to imitate the antics of the Three Stooges, because if I did, someone might get hurt.  I listened carefully to her guidance, and tried to follow her advice.
I wonder if my life would more clearly reflect God's blueprint for me if I followed His guidance, and avoided situations and places that were harmful for me, just as Sally Starr tried to tell me on her show years ago.
By Jim Moore

Lord, help me to be dead to things that are harmful or sinful to me, and alive to things that bring honor to God.
Date:  March 9, 2013, 3rd Saturday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 13:1-11 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Romans 6:12-23
Gospel:  John 8:47-59 (Inspired today’s devotion)
"But they would not listen."  This is the prophet Jeremiah's lamentation regarding the people of Israel and Judah, our Hebrew spiritual ancestors. He likens them to a drenched and ruined loincloth "who stubbornly follow their own will and have gone after other gods to serve and worship them."  This has a contemporary ring to it, doesn't it?  Unlike a proper and functional loincloth, a clinging apron-like under or outer-garment often referred to as a "garment of dignity," the people of Israel/Judah do not cling to God's holy purposes.  They don't listen; they don't get it.  Don't get what?  Laments the prophet: "... that they might be for God a people, a name, a praise, and a glory."  What God wants for them they ignore or refuse.  Is it any different now?
Jesus faces the same predicament in his exchanges with devout and sincerely religious persons who maintain they know all about God's holy purposes grounded as they are in time and history since their father Abraham.  Jesus radically declares, "Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad."  To the bewildered and increasingly hostile listeners Jesus pushes his claim to the fullest:  "Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am." His use of "I am," the verb of being and the ancient description of God ("I Am who I Am; I will Be who I will Be") is not lost on his audience.  It borders on blasphemy "so they picked up stones to throw at him."  And still today the radical Jesus dares us to hear and see what God is doing through him.  But do we listen, do we get it?
By Bishop Edward Lee

Jesus, the Christ, our friend and companion on the way, you are the Light of the world.  Fill our minds with your truth, our hearts with you love, our lives with your compassion.  Amen.
Date:  March 10, 2013, 4th Sunday in Lent, Daylight Saving Time Begins
1st Reading:  Joshua (4:19-24); 5:9-12
2nd Reading:  2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  Luke 15:11-32
God brought the world back to himself through Christ.  He wants all of us to come back to him and made us right with him.  He did through Christ.  Even if we inappropriately use the gifts of inheritance we will still be welcomed back by our parents and our God.  We will always be God's child and God celebrates that.
By Aaron Ross

Dear Lord, let us be a new Christian each day remembering that we believe in Christ.  As that new person, we have a job of bringing others to Christ, as God's official messengers.  Amen.
Date:  March 11, 2013, 4th Monday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 16:10-21 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Romans 7:1-12 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  John 6:1-15 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Although I tried, I found little similarity among these three passages.  Jeremiah is about sin, punishment and redemption - written about a vindictive and teaching Yahwah who was apparently frustrated by His chosen people.  Romans is about law, sin, understanding and freedom - a passage that deals with understanding the Jewish law and how it did and did not pertain to the new Christians.  John is about providing and teaching - the Fishes and Loaves passage so well known to us as one of Jesus’ miracles of providing plenty where there is little.
All three passages appear to be meant to help us understand what God means to us, wants from us and provides for us.
By Rosemary Herrick

Dear Lord, help us to discern what the best pathways are for us as we walk this earth that You have provided for our home.  Help us all to know that love, of You and of each other, is the guiding principle for all humanity.  Thank you for all the gifts provided to us.  Amen.
Date:  March 12, 2013, 4th Tuesday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 17:19-27 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Romans 7:13-25 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  John 6:16-27 (Inspired today’s devotion)
How to overcome the very human problem of knowing what is right, yet persisting in wrong ways?
Jeremiah 17: 19-23.  Old Testament prophet Jeremiah reminds people of the injunction to keep holy the Sabbath.  (What would he say today?)  He foretells concrete consequences of obeying—or disobeying—this law Jerusalem will prosper if the Sabbath is honored and pilgrims will come from afar to worship in “the house of the Lord.”  If not, Jerusalem will suffer God’s wrath and be burnt to a crisp.  There is probably room in Jeremiah’s prophesies for a spiritual interpretation—the consequences being spiritual wellbeing vs. alienation from God and humans.
Romans 7: 13-25.  As Paul so aptly complains, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”  The problem he says lies in the flesh which has its own laws.  “Who will rescue me from this body of death?“  Jesus Christ is the answer, as Paul explains further in the following passages.
John 6: 16-27.  Soon after the miracles of the loaves and fishes and Jesus’s walking on water, He dispels all confusion between material and spiritual rewards.  He admonishes the crowd eagerly following him to Capernaum not to do so in hopes of more loaves of bread, but for the “food of eternal life,” which He will provide.
By Mary Ellen Bowden

Dear Jesus help me to do “the good I want, not the evil I do not want to do.”
Date:  March 13, 2013, 4th Wednesday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 18:1-11
2nd Reading:  Romans 8:1-11
Gospel:  John 6:27-40 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Let me commend the reading from John for this winter day early in Lent. If you want to get something out of Lent this is your passage.  John wants us to change our outlook on life.  It's difficult to do, but that's a worthy exercise for February.  It's not exactly framing life as "how Jesus would do it".  No, it's more rigorous.  It's asking us to decide "where is the Holy Spirit leading me?"  Get it?  We still have choices.  We are disciples and are not slaves.  Like it or not, we are being guided.  So, how do we get the most out of this generosity from God?
May I suggest three things to do "religiously" until Good Friday.

Attend church every Sunday.  It may be difficult, but God and His Community may speak to you and inspire your discipleship.  (By reading this booklet you can see how" into it" is the St. Mary’s congregation.)

Examine your pledge to St. Mary's.  Maybe you want to "up it" significantly to express renewed commitment to God and to the community.  You know that where your money goes your heart follows.

Get involved in the community at St. Mary's and your life will change for the better.  The other disciples here are pretty cool.         
It's as easy as one, two, three.  Amen.  Amen.  Amen.
By Bill Powell

Jesus, help me to want what you want, to align my values with yours in every respect.  I ask for the courage and will to apply myself to the practice of godliness.  Amen.
Date:  March 14, 2013, 4th Thursday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 22:13-23 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Romans 8:12-27 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  John 6:41-51 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Comfort is an attractive addiction.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a new car?  Or a bigger screen TV?  But the lure of earthly comfort is a hollow goal.  “Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar?” 
Lent is a time of year to reflect on how much is too much—in all aspects of our lives…
“Don’t get too comfortable with who you are at any given time—you may miss the opportunity to become who you want to be.” (Jon Bon Jovi)
Two images link the 1st and 2nd readings—the pangs of childbirth.  Childbirth is far from a comfortable process.  Often it hurts like, well perhaps the subject of another Lenten devotion...  There are steps one can take to reduce the pain—medication and preparation, both physical (breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, etc.) and mental (just believing it won’t last forever and won’t be as bad as you fear).  But, when it is over, then there is the reward of new life. 
So it goes-- we suffer now in the hope that we will someday be in a better place.  “For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what we already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
Jesus has a special edge about him.  He frequently likes to shake up the comfort zone of some people in order to make a point.  “How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
It comes down to belief.  “No one has seen the Father except the one who is with God; only he has seen the Father.  Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.”  John makes a similar point later on in his Gospel to “Doubting” Thomas:
          “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
By John Krick

Lord, help me to continue to believe, for you are the only comfort I need.  Help me to continue to grow in your Spirit, knowing the best is yet to come.  Amen.
Date:  March 15, 2013, 4th Friday in Lent

1st Reading:  Jeremiah 23:1-8
2nd Reading:  Romans 8:28-39
Gospel:  John 6:52-59
This past year has seemed to us and our family to be one long Lenten message.  We have been taught the terrible lessons of a battle with cancer, and the emotional toll taken along with the physical diminishment, plus the huge price extracted from both patient and caregivers alike.
We have also learned the humility of accepting the many gifts of support and love as an expression of God's great grace to us.  There were many dark moments during this past year when the prayer shawl knitted by Lisa Whitcomb, blessed by the congregation and given to Rick served to remind us that our hope lay with prayer and the blessed community of love that is St. Mary's.
By Anne & Rick Wright

Take a moment to pray with us again this Lent.  Give thanks as we do for healing.  Give your support to St. Mary’s, and our mission in this world as we have, and look beyond these grey days to the promise of Easter and the Spring that we know will surely come.
Date:  March 16, 2013, 4th Saturday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 23:9-15
2nd Reading:  Romans 9:1-18
Gospel:  John 6:60-71 (Inspired today’s devotion)
To understand this reading more completely it is important to know that it directly follows the telling of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand through the multiplying of bread loafs.  It seems like then, as now, people were skeptical of the possibility of such an occurrence.  Once more, though, our doubting minds are confronted by the words of the Lord.  After acknowledging that it is hard to believe, Jesus challenges us to say “if you think THAT is hard wait until I ask you to believe my return to heaven!”  It’s like making it through a demanding piece of music or a difficult math problem or a hard mountain climb only to find out the more difficult challenge lay ahead, not behind.
But, unlike music, math or mountaineering we have a special assist in challenges of faith.  We are given the power by God to embrace the Spirit that will allow us to believe.  We can’t believe on our own; we need to accept the power of God through the Spirit to allow us to overcome our challenges of faith.  To me this is what makes faith and belief so special.  They are not grown from inner pushing in the same manner we use to overcome difficulties in music, math and mountaineering.  They depend on accepting the help of the Spirit.
By Georgette Phillips

God, I know that I will doubt today.  Please help me to accept the Spirit to believe.
Date:  March 17, 2013, 5th Sunday in Lent, St. Patrick’s Day
1st Reading:  Isaiah 43:16-21
2nd Reading:  Philippians 3:8-14
Gospel:  Luke 20:9-19 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Knowing Christ is more than all things.  I want to be like him.  Can I hold onto Christ and put what is behind me and move toward what is ahead of me in Christ?
By Emma Lewis

Dear Christ, may we accept the builder's stone, which represents treating all equally.  Amen.
Date:  March 18, 2013, 5th Monday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 24:1-10
2nd Reading:  Romans 9:19-33
Gospel:  John 9:1-17 (Inspired today’s devotion)
In this Gospel, Jesus encounters a blind beggar.  Jesus’ disciples see the same blind beggar, but ask Jesus the wrong questions.  Jesus responds that He will call the blind man out of darkness to live as His disciple. 
Lent is a time for us to humbly examine our own blindness – a blindness that refuses to forgive or accept forgiveness; a blindness that tempts us to remain silent, apathetic, or judgmental in the face of injustice or wrong doings; a blindness that fails to see God’s life and dignity in any of God’s people; a blindness that only we know as we look inside ourselves.  What is your blind spot for which you need to repent (re-think)?
Jesus healed the blind beggar on the Sabbath (a violation of religious law) in the pool of Siloam, which means “sent.”  The waters of Baptism cleanse, startle, and welcome us into the community of disciples.  Our Sabbath Eucharist gathers us, and, in the Spirit of Siloam, sends us forth, with eyes wide open to live as servant disciples.  As baptized and nourished believers, where is the Lord sending you?
By Larry DiPaul

God of love, this Lent, give us the courage to recognize our blindness, and the boldness to see and serve according to your will.  Amen.
Date:  March 19, 2013, 5th Tuesday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 25:8-17 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Romans 10:1-13 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  John 9:18-41 (Inspired today’s devotion)
The common theme these three reading share is faith.  In Jeremiah, one reads about the “horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin” that the Lord will bring upon those who have not listened or those who have no faith.  In Romans, it is explained that the way of righteousness is attained not by following the law but through faith.  And finally in John, even though Jesus restored a blind man’s sight, the Jews still did not believe and did not have faith.
These readings describe some of the very unpleasant consequences for those who do not have faith.  Despite this, I found, what I believe are some of the most beautiful words in all scripture in Romans 10 verse 8: “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart”.  I think it is safe to say we all struggle with our faith from time to time.  Life can test our faith to the point where we may feel we don’t know what to do or what to think.  The words I quoted from Romans offer me comfort in my own struggles.  God is the word; he is in our mouth and in our hearts no matter how lost we feel.  God’s love is unlike anything we could imagine and it is ours for the taking!  Our faith gives us strength and is our reminder that God is near, “anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame”.
By Liz Henry

Dear God, During this Lenten season please help us to remember the word is near us, in our hearts and in our mouths, to help us in our own lives and to offer hope to those who are in need of your peace. Amen.
Date:  March 20, 2013, 5th Wednesday in Lent, First Day of Spring

1st Reading:  Jeremiah 25:30-38
2nd Reading:  Romans 10:14-21
Gospel:  John 10:1-18 (Inspired today’s devotion)
          A good shepherd leads his sheep.
          He feeds them and protects them.
          He would give his life for them.
          His voice is known to them.
          He leaves the flock to fine just one!
          He is anxious to recover a lost sheep.
          He carries their weight around his neck and shoulders.
          He doesn’t give up until the sheep is found.
          He finds his sheep and rejoices.
          He “came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)
By Marie Lewis

Thank you God for being a good shepherd and never abandoning us!
Date:  March 21, 2013, 5th Thursday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 26:1-16 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Romans 11:1-12 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  John 10:19-42 (Inspired today’s devotion)
A theme of all three readings is how hard it is to know and accept God and, in the case of New Testament readings, how difficult it is for people to accept the divinity of Jesus.  Jeremiah describes how the Israelites have fallen away from God’s teachings and warns of disaster and desolation to come.  Paul laments how too many Jews who have heard Jesus’ message have “a sluggish spirit,” and he argues that the example provided by Gentiles who have accepted Christ might prompt Jews to do likewise.  We see in John’s gospel reading how Jesus tries to win over Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who are hostile to his claim that he is the Son of God.  Jesus has to resort to the argument that his good works (e.g. healing the blind) provide convincing evidence that “the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
Ultimately, it is the power and richness of the Christian “good news” that overcomes doubt and attracts and sustains adherents of the faith.  Paul articulates Christ’s central message:  “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good; love one another.”
By Betsey Useem

Dear Lord of All, Keep us close to you. Help us understand the richness and goodness of your message, and give us the tenacity and strength to live out that message in our lives.
Date:  March 22, 2013, 5th Friday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 29:1, 4-13 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Romans 11:13-24
Gospel:  John 11:1-27 or 12:1-10
My mother's parents had two very different backgrounds.  My grandfather was one of ten born to an Anglican priest on the island of St, Kitts in the British West Indies.  My grandmother was born on a poor farm in Virginia.
When I was around my grandfather and some misconduct on my part would come to his attention, he would sit me down and recite some part of a poem or famous writing that was supposed to encourage me to mend my ways.  These sessions usually took some time.  On the other hand my grandmother's reprimand in a similar situation was short and sweet.  "Phyllis, God don't like ugly."  
My parents separated when my mother was ill, so my brother and I were sent to Bryn Mawr, PA to live with my grandmother.  We missed the lively life of Harlem, NY.  We felt exiled.  My first day on the school bus going to a new school, some kids were ridiculing a girl and laughing at her.  When we were at dinner that night telling about our new day at the new school, I told about the ridiculed girl on the bus.  My grandmother asked, "What did you do Phyllis?  Did you laugh too?  You know, God don't like ugly."  With those words ringing in my ears, I sought out Betty the next day and we became life-long friends.

Jeremiah 29:1 – “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace."
By Phyllis Lane

Lord, please help me guard my tongue and my actions so that my life will find favor in your sight.
Date:  March 23, 2013, 5th Saturday in Lent
1st Reading:  Jeremiah 31:27-34 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Romans 11:25-36 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel: John 11:28-44 or 12:37-50
The Lord will instill a new covenant forgiving man's past transgressions, offer hope for a better life in turn for man's promise to follow the Lord's teachings.
I see a similarity to this theme in the situation depicted in Romans 11:25-36.
By Barclay Fleming

Dear Lord:  May I place my trust and faith in you and your new covenant.
Date:  March 24, 2013, Palm Sunday
1st Reading:  Isaiah 45:21-25 or Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Philippians 2:5-11 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  Luke (22:39-71) 23:1-49 (50-56) (Inspired today’s devotion)
The first reading is from the Old Testament book of Isaiah.  I’m told that Isaiah was a prophet whose mission was to admonish the people to keep them on the right path and to instill them with faith in God and give them courage when they were suffering mortal fear from the threat of the Assyrian Empire. 
Knowing this background makes sense for without it, the reading could come across as a rant from a crazy person who’s saying there is no other God besides me.  I’m sure that when the prophets of old were out on the streets shouting their messages about the word of the Lord, they weren’t taken seriously and they were cut off from society as being weird.  When much of their society was worshiping idols, along comes Isaiah spouting words that there is one God and no other.  I’m sure that the idol manufacturers weren’t a fan of his, but he had an important message for the chosen people of Israel. 
By Quinn Hovey

God, Give me strength to hold on to my beliefs when there is so much put in the way that could lead me away.  Help me to hear you through all the crazy noise that surrounds us.  Amen.
Date:  March 25, 2013, Monday in Holy Week
1st Reading:  Isaiah 42:1-9
2nd Reading:  Hebrews 11:39-12:3 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  John 12:1-11 or Mark 14:3-9
For me, the second reading from Hebrews strikes a chord.
On this spiritual trip we're on, do you ever get tired or fed up?  If we're honest, we all get to the point where we'd like to throw up our arms and say, "This is for the birds. I GIVE UP!!"  I sometimes feel overwhelmed, not knowing which way to turn.  DON"T GIVE UP!!  Slow down, catch your breath, and reflect on Hebrews 12.  Yeah, we are in a race, but not a relay race, or a100 yard dash, to see who crosses the finish line first.
It's a race of endurance.  We will encounter obstacles, and hurdles, and might end up swimming against currents.  But our coach, "JC", is the best!  He's not looking for speed.  He simply wants us to "Hang in There, till we each completed our race.
By Tony Thompson

Dear Coach;
Thanks for giving us all that we need for the race. Help us to make it to the Finish Line.  We Love You Coach "JC." 

Date:  March 26, 2013, Tuesday in Holy Week
1st Reading:  Isaiah 49:1-6
2nd Reading:  1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  John 12:37-38, 42-50 or Mark 11:15-19
God has a plan for everyone!  Do we truly believe it?  How do we know if we are following God's plan or our own plan?  God has after all given us the freedom to choose.  The choice you make, is it according to God's plan?  Relying on our own judgment may sound wise to us but, in Gods eyes, it may not be so.  Hence, how do we make sure we are following God's plan?  The solution for us is to commit ourselves to the almighty God every day, asking him to guide us in our decisions and actions.  Yet, things may not work out the way we would want them to, but it will be the right course.  Reading through 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, reassures us that God's wisdom and power is far beyond the wisest person, and most powerful person found on Earth.
By Sam Thomas

Dear God almighty, I ask You to lead me, guide me, strengthen me, and keep me under Your protective wings.  I ask that Your will be done in my life today and forever.  I commit myself into your hands.  Amen.
Date:  March 27, 2013, Wednesday in Holy Week

1st Reading:  Isaiah 50:4-9a (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  Hebrews 9:11-15, 24-28
Gospel:  John 13:1-15 or Luke 22:14-30
I’ve always been intrigued by the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples that is in today’s passage from John.  The disciples have all bathed in preparation for the Passover feast, but in walking to the location of the dinner, they got some dirt and dust on their feet and Jesus wanted to clean their feet to restore everyone to a clean position before God, although not everyone was clean in reference to Judas who would betray him.
What does foot washing symbolize?  In John 13:14, Christ says, "So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet."
It would suggest that we need to learn humility and to do good acts of service or kindness for others.  The act of washing one’s feet is to put yourself below them and prostrate before them, which is to humble one’s self to another.  This was Jesus’ way of demonstrating his humility before others and ultimately to his Father. 
This story relates to others within the gospels where Jesus discusses relationships between masters and servants as well as connecting to his relationship with the Father, where Jesus is always submissive to the Father in everything.  Ultimately, God the Father is the greatest servant where he sustains everything for our behalf.  Jesus implicitly understands all of this, but knows that the disciples will not get it, by saying “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
While it’s not appropriate to go around trying to wash people’s feet, there are many other ways to be humble and put the needs of others before us.  Donating time and canned goods to the Food Pantry.  Assisting in any one of the various ministries of the church.  Volunteering to help out with a new church project.  Spending an evening with our IHN guests.  Visiting those home-bound or unable to attend church and taking them flowers, a meal or the Eucharist.  I urge everyone to commit to something new in order to take the lessons of this Lenten season with you into Eastertide.
By Lonnie Hovey

Father, Help me to put others before myself in all that I do.  Help me discern where you are calling me to serve.  Help me to help others and in return receive the blessings of humility.  Amen.
Date:  March 28, 2013, Maundy Thursday
1st Reading:  Exodus 12:1-14a (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (27-32)
Gospel:  John 13:1-15 or Luke 22:14-30
This day shall be a day of remembrance for you.  You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord.... (Exodus: 12:14).

TGIF is a treasured phrase in the business vernacular.  Several years ago, I did my own spiritual riff on this ubiquitous acronym in order to refresh my prayer time: IFTG: It’s Friday: thank God.  I’d become so adept at “the ask,” i.e., asking for the sale or opportunity from a prospect or client in my work, that I was naturally emboldened to transition “the ask” into my own daily litany of requests to the Lord.  As if I were a patron in the Lord of Hosts Diner, I’d place my detailed order for the day, often becoming impatient at the time it took certain items to come out of the kitchen.  The fact that the Lord did not materialize a supernatural two-by-four to whack some immediate sense into me is yet another example of His extraordinary love for the stubborn, flawed work in progress that I am.
He did; however, help me to recognize that my prayer life needed to become more dimensional.  I had been asking the Lord to show me how to worship Him, and as I opened my Bible for a daily devotion, I “inadvertently” opened it to a page in Deuteronomy, which I read, coming upon this verse: …but it is you who must acknowledge his greatness, his mighty hand and his outstretched arm (Deuteronomy 11: 2).  From that day forward, I have taken time each day to acknowledge the Lord’s excellence, His mighty hand of deliverance and protection, and His outstretched arm of salvation and forgiveness. 
And, every Friday, I try my best to put “the asks” aside, and focus instead on all the blessings He has given me.  The traffic accident on 95 that didn’t occur—but should have—when a dump truck suddenly swerved into my lane and I reflexively moved into the left lane at 70 m.p.h. without even looking to see if a car was there; the breakthrough with a prickly personality at work; the twenty times that week my mouth was miraculously shut and my ears opened.  While we don’t need to sprinkle blood on the lintels of our front doors as the Israelites did, we can, indeed, celebrate our own adaptations of Passover.  And, if you find yourself, like me, lapsing into placing your own diner orders, snap out of it—and remember why Jesus assured us:  Your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:8).
By Sandra Taylor

Lord Jesus, every day let me praise you as you imprint on my heart the words of David:  The Lord lives! Blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation, (Psalm 18: 46).  Amen.
Date:  March 29, 2013, Good Friday
1st Reading:  Isaiah 52:13-53:12 or Genesis 22:1-18 or Wisdom 2:1, 12-24
2nd Reading:  Hebrews 10:1-25 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  John (18:1-40) 19:1-37 (Inspired today’s devotion)
The images and sentiments of Good Friday are rooted incredibly deep within our beings.  With Christ’s ultimate sacrifice (viewed literally or metaphorically) placed as the foundation of our moral compass – may we humbly look outward toward those whose lives are lived in continual sacrifice: the hungry, the outcast, the poor, the destitute - those whose souls bear an incomprehensible weight.  A real-world call to persevere in faith is one that our church community places as the center of its mission.  The food pantry, our long-standing commitment to IHN, as well as every other mission we will undertake - serve as drivers for a church that focuses its energy outward.  The aging view (and sometimes cherished view) of the church as a closed society or “club” is long gone.  Despite stone, wood, and beautiful stained glass, the walls of our faith should be clear glass – meeting our neighbors with love, understanding, and “good deeds.”  A neighbor can be the person next-door or a term viewed on a more global scale.  Good Friday is a call to action.  Christ died for our sins - now what?  The victory over death “occurs” each year – loud trumpets and organs.  How do we take the power of the great sacrifice, the joy of the victory, and translate this into 21st century action, compassion, and truth?
By John Grecia

Dear Lord, grant us the courage to raise our eyes and look outward.  May our faith not have walls, but rather horizontal channels of compassion, love, and understanding.  We ask this continually, mindful of your eternal love and great sacrifice.  Amen.
Date:  March 30, 2013, Holy Saturday
1st Reading:  Job 14:1-14 (Inspired today’s devotion)
2nd Reading:  1 Peter 4:1-8 (Inspired today’s devotion)
Gospel:  Matthew 27:57-66 or John 19:38-42 (Inspired today’s devotion)
The first impulse when we hurt is usually to focus on ourselves—a sort of “woe is me” response.  That’s a little like Job in today’s reading who wonders whether life is worth it.  We live to die (“a man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more.”).  Even a plant has it better than us.  All that hard work...  All that pain and suffering… leading to the critical question: “If someone dies, will they live again?”
The reading from 1 Peter exhorts us to think about suffering in a different way, the way that Jesus did.  Bodily suffering can be difficult, painful and even horrible, in some instances.  But what if, instead of obsessing on our own troubles, we turn our focus outward, to living for the will of God.  Our suffering shouldn’t be about we cannot do (debauchery and carousing is overrated anyway), but what we can.  Isn’t it better to be “done with sin” and “love each other deeply”?
The Gospel reading gives us a sense of the answer to Job’s question.  Joseph of Arimethea is a wealthy man, who, because of his status is able to ask a favor of Pilate.  What he does, he does at great personal risk and out of deep love for Jesus.  He takes possession of Jesus’s body, handling it with utmost care, wrapping it in clean linen with fragrant spices.  And he places it in the burial plot he purchased for himself.
The answer will be clear tomorrow.
By John Krick

Lord, teach me to set aside my suffering.  Turn my energy toward loving others as you loved us.  Encourage me to continue to grow in your Spirit, knowing the best is yet to come.  Amen.
Date:  March 31, 2013, Easter Sunday
1st Reading:  Acts 10:34-43 (Inspired today’s devotion) or Isaiah 51:9-11
2nd Reading:  Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43
Gospel:  Luke 24:1-10
The one verse that caught my heart is Peter’s saying, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts people from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” (Acts 10:34)
God does not show favoritism…what a true, and yet difficult, statement for people of faith to believe!  In some way, we want God to show favorites, just as we ourselves have a favorite uncle or teacher or boss.  Mostly, we want to be God’s favorite – we want God to like and choose us over someone else that we judge as less worthy to be higher on God’s list.
But, the truth of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is that this Easter gift is a gift for all of us, equally.  Jesus wasn’t resurrected only for a few of God’s chosen, favorite children, but brought to new life that every person might have new life.
Through Christ, God is made available to all of God’s children.  Each one of us bears the special mark of being a favored, beloved Child of God, a reality that we proclaim when we do what is right in the eyes of our God.
By The Rev. Jill LaRoche Wikel

God of love, help us to not judge others as less worthy of your favor; guide us to share your unconditional love with all of your children.  In the name of the resurrected Christ, we pray.  Amen.