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ASH WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2024

 

ASH WEDNESDAY 

 

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have mad and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, so that we, lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain from you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

 

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the 40 days of Lent, a six-week period (excluding Sundays) where we dedicate ourselves to prayer, fasting, and reflection as we prepare for the great celebration of Easter. Henri Nouwen described Lent as a time to re-focus and to re-enter a place of truth. It is here where we pause and find our true identity.

 

Ash Wednesday is the best way to begin a season which calls us into self-examination as well as self-denial. This is an opportunity for us to enter into a deeper time of reflection about the mystery and goodness of God's love, grace and mercy. This is a time for us to pay closer attention to where God’s heart is grieving, calling us to radical ways of giving to those in need of comfort, spiritual sustenance, and hope.

 

The ancient practice of Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are mortal. It causes us to pause and look at our lives– remembering who created us, remembering what we are made of, remembering where we are going- a time which encourages us to fully immerse ourselves in the Lenten season. Yes, Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent. The ancient practice that reminds us that we are mortal.

 

Elisa Harres+

Feb14
Feb15

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2024

 

Isaiah, Chapter 7

And it came to pass, in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, King of Judah, that Rezin, the King of Aram, and Pekah, the son of Remaliah, King of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it… Then the Lord said unto Isaiah, “Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou and Shear-Jashub, thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, in the highway of the fullers field. And say unto him, ‘Keep calm and be quiet. Fear not, neither let thy heart be faint, because of these two tails of smoking firebrands.”

I’ve chosen the Judaic translation from the original Hebrew (https://mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt1007.htm), hoping to capture more of the prophet’s intent. The author of Isaiah is writing about the time of the two kingdoms (Israel and Judea) and one of the many conflicts between those kingdoms. 

God sends Isaiah and his son to warn King Ahaz of Judea of an imminent attack. He tells him to trust in the Lord, and that within “three score and five years,” the enemies of Judea (Israel and Syria) shall be broken.

The evil Ahaz refuses God’s offer of protection, but God offers a sign that He will protect the Land of Judea and its people anyway.

“Therefore, the Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold a young woman shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel. Curd and honey shall he eat, when he knoweth to refuse the evil and choose the good. Yea, before the child shall know to refuse the evil and refuse the good, the land whose two kings thou hast a horror of shall be forsaken.”

Imanuel, as we know, means “God with us.” In his next chapter, Isaiah describes the beginning of the fulfillment of his prophecy:

Isaiah, 8: 3-4

“And I went unto the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then said the Lord unto me, ‘Call his name, Maher-shalal-hashbaz.’ For before the child shall have knowledge to cry ‘My father’ and ‘My mother,’ the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be carried away before the King of Assyria.”

As we know from the Bible and from history, God delivered on his promise. The Assyrians swept away Judea’s enemies to the north and spared Judea.

Like Ahaz, we find ourselves beset by enemies, within and without. Again and again, we turn to our own resources, rather than the promise of God to protect us. Yet despite our multitude of sins, the Lord is true to us. 

As Christians, we believe that God has sent to all of humanity “our own Immanuel” in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who died on a cross and rose again to give us new life in Him. May the fasting and prayer of Lent give each of us the opportunity to repent, return to God, and discern His will for us in ways that nothing else can.

Lee Woodward

Feb16

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2024

 

Matthew 6:1-4

“Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” 

 

The season of Lent is a time of preparation. We are preparing for Holy Week and the travails awaiting Jesus; but we are also preparing for His glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday. The season of Lent is also a time for reflection. Unlike Jesus’ disciples nearly 2000 years ago, we know what is going to play out in the next 40 days. So we need to use this solemn period to reflect on the great gift that God has given us in the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and how we respond to this perfect gift and perfect sacrifice for our sins.

 

In the passage above from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is asking us “Why do we do good works? Is it to gain earthly recognition?” More than likely when we do good works and someone notices these good works, they will celebrate us and congratulate us. This is not a negative at all unless this recognition consumes us and becomes our motivation and focus. If so, we have received our reward.

 

But if we do our good works as described in chapter 2 of James, then we are modeling our behavior after Jesus. If our faith is strong, good works are demonstrated through that faith; a faith so strong that we are compelled to show our faith through our works. We do this not to curry God’s favor. We are seeking no reward, instead we are seeking to do the will of our Father because of our love for Him. In doing this we truly are not letting our left hand know what our right hand is doing. And if we do our good works because of our love for Jesus then we seek no reward. Thereby we ensure that our reward will be from our Father in heaven.

 

My hope and prayer are that each of us show our faith in Jesus Christ by our works, never letting our left hand know what our right hand is doing, and never seeking earthly recognition.

 

 

In Christ,

John Patton

Feb17

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2024

 

James 1:19

Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak.

 

I have a confession – I am a bad listener. With so much to do every day, I have a lot of inner “noise” swirling around in my mind - and listening – really listening has become challenging for me. 

I have a daily devotion book that I read every Lent. It’s a “word-a-day” book that has you focus on just one word each day (the book is Pauses for Lent – by Trevor Hudson). I share with you the devotion on the word 

LISTEN:

Listening lies at the heart of life with God. But in order to listen to God, we need to learn how to listen to the person next to us. After all, how can we listen to God, whom we cannot see, if we cannot listen to the person we can see?

Lent can be a time when we embark on a spiritual adventure in learning to listen. We can begin this exercise with those closest to us – our family, friends, or colleagues at work. Listening will become a spiritual practice, an everyday habit, a way of life.

Today I ask God for the gift of ears. Throughout the day remember James’ invitation to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Make a conscious effort in every conversation to listen more than you usually do.

And as Amy Stillwell wrote in her devotional last year “practice silence even when you want to speak”.  

 

Eileen Mittleider

Feb18

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2024

 

Deuteronomy 11:11-15

11 But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. 12 It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end. 13 So if you faithfully obey the commands, I am giving you today—to love the Lordyour God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— 14 then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. 15 I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

From one of our Lectio Divina meetings, what stood out to me in my meditation was the word ‘rain’. This scripture leads us to think of rain as a rich and life-giving abundance of God’s grace. In our modern world, we usually consider rain as an inconvenience, and what a bother it is to wear a raincoat and carry an umbrella. In contrast, Israel came out of Egypt and was heading to the promised land, and they were greatly encouraged by the promise of a land that drinks rain from heaven. As slaves in Egypt, they had to use hand and foot pumps to water the crops from the Nile. The land needed water, but it did not come from the rain from heaven. So how could I change my modern view of rain? As I spent a little more time meditating, this is the message I received from God in this scripture.

“So, Amy, stop and be grateful when it rains. Go outside, walk in the rain and enjoy the abundant baptism of creation. Let the living water refresh you and give you peace. Relish the cold wet days that are coming. They are for receiving my love, snuggling, reading, making soup and bread, and finding ways to draw your circle wider. Find beauty in the rain and let the rain remind you of Scotland.”

If you are looking for a spiritual practice to take up during Lent, Listening for God at Home – Lectio Divina, might be the exact thing you need to hear God speak to you directly in the moment through his word. We meet every Sunday evening at 7PM online. Please call or email the church office to sign up.

 

Amy Stillwell

Feb19

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2024

 

I recently listened to an audio book by John Grisham.  The protagonist was a young lawyer on the fast track to partner at a huge firm with a corresponding income. He crossed paths one day with a homeless person and had an epiphany that he should give up this lucrative career to represent the homeless and others who had no voice. 

 

Prior to that, I read The Hole in the Gospel.  The author (after God badgered him long enough) finally gave up his position as CEO for a luxury brands conglomerate to lead an international ministry helping the poor. The point of his book was that we go to church, read the Bible, and say all the right things, but do we really follow Jesus’ example?  Do we really serve the poor and needy? 

 

It appears the Holy Spirit has reached out and provided us with two totally unrelated books here in which the authors provide examples of how to follow Jesus’ teachings.

 

What do the Holy Scriptures say on the subject?

 

Proverbs 22:9

He who is generous will be blessed,

For he gives some of his food to the poor.

 

Deuteronomy 15:11

For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore, I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’

 

Acts 20:35

In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

 

2 Corinthians 9:7

Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

 

At St. Peter & St. Paul, we participate in several ministries and do a good job.  However, can we do better? Can we do more?

 

Lent is a time of self-reflection. This is a time to reflect on our lives and make certain we are on the path Jesus would have us travel.

 

 

Keith Purser

Feb20

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2024

 

“What is that to you?  You follow me.”  John 21:22 

 

After the Resurrection, Jesus indicated to Peter that he would die in the same way that Jesus had died, by crucifixion. Peter immediately turned to John and asked, “Lord, what about this man” And Jesus said to Peter, “What is that to you?  You follow me.”  As we know, John did not die a martyr’s death according to Jesus plan – and not according to Peter’s comparison of Jesus’ plan for Peter. 

 

There are times when we look at others with suspicion, comparison, doubt, and apprehension. Sometimes we just want to be “helpful.” More often than we would like to admit, this behavior is reflected in our relationship with other Christians.  

 

Out of self-righteousness we interject ourselves into the Lord’s business with others.  Yes, we Christians like to compare other Christians by our own rule of righteousness sidelining the Holy Spirit. 

 

From our own spiritual growth of coming closer to Jesus, we sometimes think we know better than the Holy Spirit what another Christian needs to do or to decide. We want to fix Jesus’s “problems” for the other Christian. 

 

By attempting to hijack God’s plan for the other, at what risk do we place others?

 

Tom Creely

“Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” II Corinthians 10:12 ESV After the Resurrection, Jesus indicated to Peter that he would die in the same way that Jesus had died, by crucifixion. Peter immediately turned to John and asked, “Lord, what about this man” And Jesus said to Peter, “What is that to you?  You follow me.”  As we know, John did not die a martyr’s death according to Jesus plan – and not according to Peter’s comparison of Jesus’ plan for Peter. 

“But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.” Galatians 6:4 ESV 

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 ESV 

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body —Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the parts of the body, each one of them as He chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” I Corinthians 12: 13-20 RSV 

 

Have you compared yourself to others? Have you asked yourself, ‘Why don’t I have any talent?’ or made statements like, ‘Look at Mike and Suzie. They are so athletic. I have the grace of a cow. My mom told me so.’ 

I hear comments like that all the time: ‘I’m just no good at that.’ ‘I wish I could sing.’ ‘I wish I could cook…no scratch that. I hate to cook.’ 

Why is there an imagined pecking order? Why does it even exist? Why is our self-esteem at a low point when we hear of the success or excellence demonstrated by another? Why is there jealousy if we are not top dog? 

In a word - pride. It is the antithesis of Jesus’ teachings. He instructed us to forget about others and focus on our individual walk. He gave us all unique gifts in order to serve Him well. If He hadn’t, then individual needs would not have been met; His plan of spreading the good news to the world would not happen in an unbalanced environment without unique people performing unique jobs to serve all. 

Here, we can examine the gifts: one person may be a good listener, such as an empathetic Stephen Minister who can gently guide a suffering soul; a person of means can donate funds for ministry; a great cook can bring food for the funeral reception ministry; those with small children can bring gently used goods for sale; you know where I’m going with this. We all can be the hands and feet of Christ. 

He created you the way you are, so that you will stand out because you are very special to Him. He has a perfect plan for you, so that only you can serve Him in your own unique way. 

Linda Kepler

Feb21

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2024

 

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”Matthew 18:20

 

What do you love about coming to church? If you are like me, there are a lot of things. The closeness I feel to God in His house of worship while partaking in the Eucharist, the opportunity to worship God through songs and prayers, and the deepening of my faith through the readings and the sermons are all things I love about attending church services. While the large gatherings bring me many benefits, my small groups at church enrich my faith journey just as much, maybe more!

 

According to The Episcopal Church website (www.episcopalchurch.org), “the purpose of an intentional faith-based, small group is to build trusting relationships with God and one another. When we meet each other for conversation, practice, and prayer, we learn how to love. A small group provides space for prayerful support and accountability, as we seek to live the Jesus Way. The goal is to open the door for God to work on us, in us, and through us, in powerful ways in the context of a small, intentional, dedicated group of disciples.” For me, my small groups include my women’s Sunday school class, my Stephen Ministry’s “pledge class” and peer support group, the Cool Girls committee, and now the vestry. With these small groups, I learn more about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. From these small groups, I get friendships, support, encouragement, and strength when I’m going through a hardship. Through these small groups, I have the opportunity to serve God’s people. Because of these small groups, my faith grows and matures.

 

We are so blessed at St. Peter and St. Paul to have so many small group opportunities. Options include educational groups, service groups, worship groups, and social groups. From MUST ministries to greeters, from Foyers to Hope for the Hungry, from hospitality to Brotherhood of St. Andrew, there is a small group for you. 

 

This Lenten season, I encourage you to find a small group to attend. Please look at our website (www.peterandpaul.org) to see the full array of options. We have so many groups that would love to welcome you. It will definitely enrich your religious journey. 

 

Prayer from BCP, pages 832-833

 

Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to You, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly Yours, utterly dedicated to You; and then use us, we pray, as You will, and always to Your glory and the welfare of Your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


 

Kristi Story

FEB22

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2024

 

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13: 31-32

 

Last year my Lenten devotion centered around Sir Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion, and the concept of spiritual inertia. I decided to stick with the theme this year and use Newton’s Third of Motion as my starting point.  Newton’s Third Law of Motion--the Action-Reaction Law--states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Forces always come in pairs: if one object exerts a force on another object, the second object exerts an equal force back on the first object; therefore, you feel the pew beneath you when you sit down for the service.

 

I’ll spare you the equations and high-level math that accompany these physics concepts, because there is a lot more at play than physics when we consider our faith. The relationship between us and God goes well beyond equations and variables. For in matters of divine intervention, our action will NEVER be equal to God’s reaction. All God asks of us is to have a little faith. He takes our faith and responds ten-fold (or more!). The parable of the mustard seed comes to mind here - that the tiniest of seeds blossoms into a giant of a plant that serves to provide shelter and nourishment for others.

 

There are so many examples of this divine intervention in the Bible.  Five loaves of bread and two fishes were all the Disciples could round up.  Add a little faith ... say a little prayer ... and all of sudden there’s enough food to feed a crowd of five thousand … with leftovers! Too many wedding guests, but not enough refreshment? Ask for help … and the wine will flow. Just ask that newly married couple from Cana. How about the Israelites? They needed some assistance fleeing Egypt.  Who needs a boat when God can split an entire body of water in half? And then there is Elijah and the widow.  Not only did the jar of oil not run out ... it stayed full!

 

Have you hit a rough patch? Give it up to God. Things will turn around. Just have a little faith.

 

Leigh Mickalonis

And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.  And they did all eat and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.  And they that had eaten were about five thousand men beside women and children. Matthew 15, Vs. 19 - 21

 

I've always been fascinated by this miracle of the many that Jesus performed.  After a life-enhancing first pilgrimage to the Holy Land last spring - and I could see where this miracle took place - I was even more astounded.  The land is vast, and I tried to envision these masses of people on those hills and valleys that just went on and on.  But He, without hesitation, took this bread and fishes, fed these people and even had leftovers!!  I worry when I'm preparing a meal for my small family that I'll have enough!

 

Jesus was tired and saddened by the death of John the Baptist...he took himself away to be alone and pray. But seeing so many had followed after Him, He had compassion for them and healed their sick. When evening came, his disciples wanted Him to send these throngs of people away for food (as if there were multitudes of grocery stores and restaurants nearby). He said don't send them away..."you feed them."  

 

I'm sure there were a lot of life lessons that day -from the little boy who gave Jesus his lunch of these five loaves and two fishes - to the astonishment of the disciples of actually seeing these people have food, and in abundance - to their realization that God was (and is) in control.  

 

Fast forward to today and the many trials and tribulations we face. How can we endure and carry on when we think it's impossible?  It often starts by an act of trust and sacrifice.  Trust God with your resources that you think are outside the parameters of what you feel is possible. Trust God with what actually is possible if we have faith (remember that little mustard seed?).  With God, there's always enough.

 

Linda Dill

feb23

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2024

 

I had not realized the extent of the changes that had arrived into our midst as cancel culture until my daughter was in her senior year of high school.  She had an extremely diverse friend group.  Treated everyone as she would wish to be treated and was giving and generous even when it wasn’t reciprocated.  Then came the “Silence is violence” crowd of which there were members among her “friends”.  She was actively shunned by these people who went out of their way to make sure others followed suit, lest they suffer the same fate.  It didn’t end at graduation either.  

I watched in amazement trying to be as supportive as I could, while she withdrew into herself, and was guarded in any and all encounters, to assure that she did not express anything someone would take as being counter to their dogma.  To this day she keeps to herself.  That is just sad.

I think about that a lot in these divisive times, as the seeds of division are sown from both sides of so many arguments.  The expectation today is to not only be intolerant of your neighbors, if they do not conform to a specific set of beliefs, but to vigorously act against them, or else. 

It is not one side or the other.  Both demand compliance to their orthodoxy that runs counter to Christian principles, as defined by Jesus and many places throughout scripture.   People on both sides are substituting their own reason for God’s, along with their own judgment.   

I always take time (especially during Lent) to try and be introspective and pull those things out of my closet for my own inspection.  I like to look at Matthew 5 where beginning with the 43rd verse Jesus teaches:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors are doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

So that is pretty clear to me what we should be doing, and how we should be treating people whether they are our friends or not, agree with us or not, hate us or not.  If you stick within your circle and only relate to those who agree with you, what reward will you get?

I miss many things from the Rite 1 service.  One difference comes early in the service which harkens back to Matthew 22 (BCP pg. 324): 

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with
all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great
commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt
love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments
hang all the Law and the Prophets.

Again, it’s pretty clear.  No caveats, exceptions, no carve outs, but as Jesus said (…and expected us to follow) to “48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. A pretty tall order, but we should do our best to try and follow through.

 

Andy Creed

feb24

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2024

 

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”2 Corinthian 5:21 (KJV)

 

Do you constantly beat yourself up over past sins? Are you haunted by your past, and can’t figure out a way to move forward, unencumbered by your sin debt load?  Have you been told multiple times years ago in sermons, week in and week out, that there is an accounting of all past wrongs you have committed in your life?  What has been done in private will be displayed for all to see!  Well, then, welcome to my world.  

As a child, I came from a small church where we were regularly told about hellfire and damnation.  One would think that attraction to heaven is nothing more than aversion therapy.  On one particular Thanksgiving Sunday, the pastor worked himself into another typical weekly froth.  I vividly remember the adults complimenting the pastor on his fantastic sermon, while I was shuddering from all the trauma of what I had just heard.  

Looking back, even though this church never taught anything in the Old Testament (I guess they didn’t think the Old Testament was necessary or applicable), one would assume we were living in Old Testament times.  More than anything, works were stressed.

After I married, my husband and I became members in a different denomination.  I learned about grace.  I had never heard about it, nor fully understood it, until then. What a revelation! What a gift! I cannot describe the feeling; it was as if the scales had fallen from my eyes.  My newfound pastor explained that Jesus suffered punishment for sins of the entire world.  He descended to Hell.  He did that for me.  If I was the only person in existence, he would still do that for me!

By definition, Hell is separation from God.  While on the cross, Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  By this unimaginable depth of love for us, Jesus freely took what we deserve upon himself.  He has freed us from the burden of sin.  

In gratitude for our salvation, we will still perform works for our Lord, but not as a burden, but as a witness that we belong to Him, we are grateful to Him, and we desire to attract others to the faith, thereby growing the Kingdom of God on earth.

So, yes, we will still flub up. But be of good cheer! Ask for forgiveness and move forward.  Stay in touch with your Maker.  He wants a close, loving relationship with you.

 

Linda Kepler 

feb25

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2024

 

“For where two...are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20 

 

A couple years ago, I was on a flight from Providence to Washington, D.C.  I boarded early and was seated next to an emergency exit with one open seat between me and the emergency exit.  With many things on my mind, I did not want anyone sitting next to me. Peace and quiet were needed for reflection.  

A young lady came down the aisle stopping to ask if the seat next to me was open. With a bit of agitation, I had the flashing thought in my mind, “Lady, the plane is still nearly empty with plenty of open seats to choose from.”  Of course, I came to my senses and stated, “The seat is for you., ma’am.” She sat down next to me placing her small bag under the seat, the only bag she had.

Through her mask, she began to engage me in conversation, which I was initially reluctant to accommodate.  She was a simple young Pakistani Indian lady. This lady was a missionary nun returning to her teaching ministry in Haiti.  It was what I call a God event, where he had placed the nun in my path at a moment in time.  Sister Farzana ministered to my soul during the one-hour flight to D.C. We have been friends since.

My plan and God’s plan were divergent. In largely open seating on the plane, the Lord placed Sister Farzana in my path displaying the spontaneous mystery of the Holy Spirit. But rather than “In My Path,” Farzana and I were in His Path.

 

Tom Creely

feb26

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2024

 

Faith – a word we have heard and used several times in our lives.  What does the word mean?  How does one know one has enough faith?  Can one grow one’s faith?  How does one deepen onels faith without going through an event that will measure how deep your faith is?  And what is faith?  Positive thinking?  Our Church affiliation and practice?  A belief in Jesus and that he died for our sins?  Confidence?  Hope?  What happens when one has faith in something, and things do not work out as expected?

 

Webster's Dictionary defines faith as "unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence; unquestioning belief in God, religious tenets."  The Bible gives a short definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1:  "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."  The Bible's emphasis on faith is undeniable.  Faith is mentioned at least 492 times in the Bible, beginning in Genesis and continuing right through Revelation with a variety of meanings and symbolism.

There have been times in my life, maybe like yours, where my faith in God was tested - unexpected death of a loved one, or something happening not within your current or future view of your life.  At those moments I found myself questioning God.  Why did this happen to me?  Where were you God when this happened? We have good company in this space, as we remember Jesus’ comments on the cross – “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

I do not believe God tests our faith to see how much faith we have or if we really have faith.  I do believe life tests our faith.  It is in those moments we are given an opportunity to see how deep our faith is. At times we can be trapped by fear and worries, fully consumed by these situations, and not trusting God to be with us during our roughest times.  This may be symptomatic of not having enough faith.  We hope that God is trustworthy and honors his promises of salvation and eternal life.  An issue with this discussion is God is invisible. We cannot see heaven either. Eternal life is also something we do not see, but our faith in God makes us certain of these things. Again, we count not on scientific, tangible proof but on the absolute reliability of God’s character. Where do we learn about the character of God so we can have faith in him? One obvious answer is the Bible, everything we need to know about God is there, and it is an accurate, in-depth picture of his nature.

My level of faith increases when I really fully surrender my life to God.  When I finally realize that every time I try to control something, it gets very out of control.  If only I had trusted more.  What has kept me from trusting in God more – nothing but myself.  No one can make another not trust in God and no one can make another trust in God.  It is a personal decision and basic belief.  I view deepening faith as excellent preventative maintenance for your life – so you are ready as God can make you for whatever happens?

Learning how to trust, to have full faith in God, to fully surrender – I believe can be done.  Here are some suggested activities to consider.

  • Be engaged with the Bible on a regular basis.  Not only reading, but understanding, discerning how to apply scripture, and then applying scripture.

  • Faith – a word we have heard and used several times in our lives.  What does the word mean?  How does one know one has enough faith?  Can one grow one’s faith?  How does one deepen onels faith without going through an event that will measure how deep your faith is?  And what is faith?  Positive thinking?  Our Church affiliation and practice?  A belief in Jesus and that he died for our sins?  Confidence?  Hope?  What happens when one has faith in something, and things do not work out as expected?

  • Webster's Dictionary defines faith as "unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence; unquestioning belief in God, religious tenets."  The Bible gives a short definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1:  "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."  The Bible's emphasis on faith is undeniable.  Faith is mentioned at least 492 times in the Bible, beginning in Genesis and continuing right through Revelation with a variety of meanings and symbolism.

  • There have been times in my life, maybe like yours, where my faith in God was tested - unexpected death of a loved one, or something happening not within your current or future view of your life.  At those moments I found myself questioning God.  Why did this happen to me?  Where were you God when this happened? We have good company in this space, as we remember Jesus’ comments on the cross – “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

  • I do not believe God tests our faith to see how much faith we have or if we really have faith.  I do believe life tests our faith.  It is in those moments we are given an opportunity to see how deep our faith is. At times we can be trapped by fear and worries, fully consumed by these situations, and not trusting God to be with us during our roughest times.  This may be symptomatic of not having enough faith.  We hope that God is trustworthy and honors his promises of salvation and eternal life.  An issue with this discussion is God is invisible. We cannot see heaven either. Eternal life is also something we do not see, but our faith in God makes us certain of these things. Again, we count not on scientific, tangible proof but on the absolute reliability of God’s character. Where do we learn about the character of God so we can have faith in him? One obvious answer is the Bible, everything we need to know about God is there, and it is an accurate, in-depth picture of his nature.

  • My level of faith increases when I really fully surrender my life to God.  When I finally realize that every time I try to control something, it gets very out of control.  If only I had trusted more.  What has kept me from trusting in God more – nothing but myself.  No one can make another not trust in God and no one can make another trust in God.  It is a personal decision and basic belief.  I view deepening faith as excellent preventative maintenance for your life – so you are ready as God can make you for whatever happens?

  • Learning how to trust, to have full faith in God, to fully surrender – I believe can be done.  Here are some suggested activities to consider.​​

 

Closing prayer – Dear Lord, even your wisest disciples needed strength to fortify their faith.  I pray for the same strength, so that my faith in You may never waver.  Help me increase my faith so that I may share it with others who may need to be closer to You.  Strengthen my faith, so that I may be ready to face any doubts that may block my path.

Tom Martin

Feb27

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2024

 

“God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”* And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 
                                                                                                                                        (Exodus 3:13-14)

Moses grows up in the household of the Egyptian Pharaoh. After growing to adulthood, he ventures out to his people who are enslaved by the Egyptians, and sees an Egyptian overseer beating a Hebrew. Moses intervenes, killing the overseer. When the act becomes known, Moses flees to the desert of Midian. Moses spends many years in exile, taking a wife and tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro. In due time, Pharaoh dies, but the Israelites continue in slavery. God hears their suffering and determines to take them out of bondage.

So, while Moses is tending his flock near mount Horeb, the mountain of God, he comes upon a great sight: A flaming bush that is not consumed by the fire. Moses goes to investigate and God calls to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” Moses replies , “Here am I.” God identifies himself as the God of the patriarchs and then tells Moses that he has been chosen to lead Israel up from slavery. God instructs Moses to go visit Pharaoh and bring Israel out of Egypt.

 

Moses is not confident that he is the right man for the job and asks God several questions and God instructs him. Finally, Moses asks God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”  God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”* And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14) 

God is referred to in many different ways in the Bible: God of Hosts, Lord God Almighty, Ancient of Days, Most High God, to name a few. But when Moses asks God what he is called, God merely says , “I AM.” And that is sufficient. To know that God is – I find that profound and moving and reassuring. I am comforted to know that God is, was and always will be. I don’t need to be constantly fretting the details because I know that God is. It makes me able to, “Be still and know that … (He) is God.” (Psalm 46:10) The Prophet Isaiah says, and I’m paraphrasing, “For He is God, and there is no other; He is God, and there is none like Him.” (46:9)

During this Lenten season, I invite you to contemplate the two most important words ever uttered, “I AM.”

* Or “I am what I am” or “I will be what I will be”

 

Dale E. Dodson

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them? ”God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”  EXODUS 3:13-14


I teach art to an 8-year-old girl.  The first lesson, she had to bring a list of 20 things important in her life.  The list gets the students talking and sharing, and we get comfortable meeting each other.  She then creates a watercolor/pen and ink painting with symbols of the important items. The last thing on her list was God!  We talked about saving the best for last, as she decided to draw the cross as her symbol. I asked her what she wanted to name her symbol, GOD? JESUS?  She thought for a second and then with a big smile said “I KNOW” as she covered her painting from my sight.  When she showed me her Artwork she had written  “I AM.” When I read “I AM,” I was suddenly touched with the emotion of how well these words encompass the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This 8-year-old knows who God is! She reminded me at this Lenten time to remember God’s name, to search out the Great I AM this Lent, and to thank Him for His son.  I hope you seek Him too and are guided to live your life as Moses did, worshipping and sharing  I AM.

Phyllis Caudle

(Editor’s Note:  You know you have to find the Cross and I AM before you move on.)

feb28

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2024

 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18.

 

I have been reflecting on the Lenten Devotion that I wrote last year. It was written almost immediately after my return from a trip to Tanzania, where Tom and I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. My ultimate thoughts last year were that the experience had changed me, I was more at peace, more connected, and had grown in faith. I have had a year to digest and live out that change. Now I am focused on gratitude, just as Paul reminded us in 1 Thessalonians. 

Lent is traditionally a season of reflection, repentance, and self-denial. But Lent also gives us an opportunity to develop a spirit of thankfulness. This theme of gratitude can, also, enhance our Lenten experience.

I am most thankful for St Peter and St Paul in my life. Our parish provides numerous outlets to give back in thanks for all the blessing of our lives. For instance, I have volunteered for service in our Hope for Hungry ministry since it began before the pandemic. During this year we have distributed donated flowers along with food boxes, plus milk, cereal, and chickens to those in need. During one of the first Tuesday distributions, I gave a simple bouquet of flowers to an older lady driving an old car. She began to cry and said no one had ever given her flowers before. I was struck by the comment, and realized how very blessed we are at St Peter and St Paul. And this realization is also evident at our Family Promise ministry. We see many families with children with no place to live. They move from week to week to generous churches who provide space, food, and love in a non-judgmental manner. What a blessing to be able to help those less fortunate, but no less deserving.

I am thankful to share just a small expenditure of my time to give back to those in need. We should thank God for opportunity to serve. During Lent, which is the season of fasting, and the giving up of certain habits, trade your blessings for gratitude. We also can ask for forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings, which continue amid our abundance.

The change that I experienced last year was confirmed during the ongoing months since my eyes were opened. The ministries of the parish provided an avenue to rejoice, pray, and give thanks just as St Paul instructed the Thessalonians. I now have engrained a patient and forgiving mindset. Over the course of my spiritual journey this transformation has been unique. I want to continue during this Lenten season to be of service, to grow disciples of Jesus Christ, and spread gratitude to my neighbors. The days on the mountain in Africa were a blessing and a God-centered experience which I never expected. 

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore. Amen.

 

Chuck Matheson

feb29

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2024

 

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12: 3-8

I must admit that I was not feeling inspired to write an entry for the Lenten Devotional. I prayed about it, discussed some ideas with my wife, Lynn, and had decided it wasn’t going to happen. Then, a couple of events provided me with the inspiration I had been waiting for. This morning, as Lynn was leaving to help care for a sick grandchild, she walked past me, turned about, came back and put her hands on my shoulders. She looked me straight in the eyes and calmly said, “I know you can do this”. She turned to leave and that was that. I heard her but I did not quite get the message. So, procrastinating as it were, I returned to cleaning out old boxes and files from our move here 7 years ago. I came across an old portable hard drive I had used to save files from a computer upgrade. I did not think it had any information of use after all this time, but I wanted to be sure and decided to look through it anyway. The files were ten years old and contained mostly information Lynn had collected from her days as an educator, and her time serving on the Vestry at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Fernandina Beach. As I was about to decide to stop looking and just wipe the drive clean, I came across an Excel spreadsheet titled “Romans 12 for Service ministries”. Being a newly elected Vestry person assigned liaison responsibilities for our Service ministries, I became fully attentive and could not wait to open the file. When I opened the file, it simply said “We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is….  . If it is serving, let him serve;”. That was it. Obviously, this was unfinished work. So, why don’t we finish it together? This is an opportunity for each of us to consider the gifts we can bring to form one body in Christ to serve others in need. Your unique gifts really matter and can make a significant difference.

Given the way I received inspiration to write this, I truly believe God spoke to me thru my dear wife, and by guiding me to find the message HE used to inspire me and wanted me to deliver to you.

God Bless. 


Bill Grant

mar1

FRIDAY, MARCH 1, 2024

 

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

 

The above passage promises us that God will set creation free from all we suffer today, and God's people will be redeemed and brought into His presence to live forever - life as it was meant to be. However, to get to read this promise has been a long journey. In my study Bible it takes 2,446 pages to get there. In years, it takes over 2000 from Noah and almost 1000 from the death of King David to get to Jesus' birth. The journey takes many twists and turns but leads to the one truth; Jesus is the Son of God and will return. In the 34th chapter of Ezekiel, God states, "He will rescue His flock, and He will be their God".

So where does this fit into Lent? We all take journeys, driving to school, shopping, work, or vacations. Many of these are mundane and we take them without much thought, just part of life. Starting with Ash Wednesday we begin another journey, as we follow Jesus and his disciples. We see His works, hear His teachings, and watch Him finally turn His face to Jerusalem. We walk that last week from Palm Sunday to Good Friday to Easter morning and the glorious Ascension. All this is necessary so God can proclaim the referenced passage.

As you journey through Lent, I pray to keep in the back of your mind this promise and why God calls us. As the Rev. Tim Keller wrote, "God sees us as we are, loves us as we are, and accepts us as we are. But, by His grace, He does not leave us as we are." Paul wrote, "we walk by faith not sight". My prayer is that your faith-walk through Lent leads you to God's presence.

Russ Burr

mar2

SATURDAY, MARCH 2, 2024

 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8

 

Tom and I have been fortunate to travel several times to Europe over the last year or so.  On those recent trips, we often visit cathedrals and churches.  Each church in a town shares the city’s history and is an integral part of understanding the history of the area.  When we were in Portugal, we encountered churches that have stood on the same sight for more than 1500 years, beginning as a Christian church, then a Muslim mosque, then a Christian church again.  Each building stands atop the previous one, acting as a monument to the religion in power at that time in history.

As we travel, we enjoy learning the history of that particular city.  It is fascinating to understand the politics and economics of the area, and how the local church played a part. The circumstances of the people change over time, and are influenced by these events, but one Truth remains true for all time, as noted in the verse above from Hebrews.

Jesus was with God in the Beginning and remains with Him and the Holy Spirit today.  Jesus is unchanging-our Rock-steady, always loving, always forgiving, always with us.  Jesus Christ loved you before you were hidden in your mother’s womb and will love you for all eternity.  Jesus loved you and me enough to become flesh, to live among us, and to die and take all the sin in the world upon Himself so that we may live with Him forever.  That is the Good News of Easter.

We no longer have to hope that history works in our favor, or that we win the political battle as in days gone by.  That battle was fought and won long ago by our Savior.  Our Savior will be there for us always.  What a blessing it is to have the confidence that Jesus will be there always for us.  Our circumstances may change, political rulers will come and go, but Jesus Christ will be the same, as He was in the beginning and will be now and forever.  Amen.

 

JoAnn Gotschall

mar3

SUNDAY, MARCH 3, 2024

 

Hebrews 10:24-25

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

We have been fortunate to do a lot of travelling lately, a lot of it in Europe, and in all the places we visit, we invariably end up going in to see beautiful churches in the cities we tour. From small churches in small towns in Portugal and Germany to St. Peters Basilica in Rome, all these churches are ornate, filled with priceless paintings, mosaics and beautiful sculptures depicting the life of Christ and his followers.

As we look at all this beauty, we are in awe at all the God-given talent that went into making these churches so beautiful. Looking at the works of art brings the Bible alive in ways that really help supplement the stories and scripture we read.

But then, especially in the churches in smaller towns, we notice the absence of people. We hear so much about the decline in church attendance, not only in Europe but here at home as well. These empty churches, full of precious works of art, are often missing the most important thing…people coming together to worship God. Thankfully, there are still places where the worship of God is on the rise. In many of these cases, I imagine people are gathering in simple buildings or even just outdoors to worship God together. The church building itself, or its priceless works of art are not the main attraction. What’s ultimately important is that we gather, wherever and however, as one body, to worship God and study the Bible.

 

We are the church. By gathering, we spend our time with other Christians, supporting each other, comforting each other, and encouraging each other to love and serve the Lord.

I do love looking at works of art such as Michealangelo’s Pieta, the beautiful marble sculpture of Mary holding Christ’s lifeless body after the crucifixion. And I could stare at all the scenes in the Sistine Chapel for hours. Certainly, God is present in all these works. But give me a church full of people worshipping together and that’s worth more than all the priceless art in the world.

Tom Gotschall

mar4

MONDAY, MARCH 4, 2024

 

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”Philippians 2:3

 

In the 1980s, self-awareness became prominent in the vocabulary in Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence. In my professional graduate studies courses, I have banned the word “self-awareness.” Why? Self-awareness is no longer about being honest with oneself. It is about loving yourself, expressing your exceptionalism, and claiming your greatness. It is about our ego-centric selves – the ethic of egoism.  

Caravaggio’s famous painting “Narcissus” tells the story of the boy falling madly and irrevocably in love with himself: Narcissus stayed beside the stream gazing at his reflection paramour in vain, neglecting even to eat or drink. 

In this secular age, people are suffering from an identity crisis because we are becoming Self Made, the title of Tara Isabella Burton’s book.  It is the valorization of self-made men and women. The more we compare ourselves to ourselves, the more we attempt to make ourselves more acceptable to ourselves. We remake ourselves not in God’s image, but in our own ever elusive image.

Jesus tells us to identify ourselves with the other.  Ministering to others reveals our authentic self in Christ.  We become our authentic selves, which is seeing ourselves through Jesus’s eyes. By loving the other, we find the love of Jesus for us and know the true self through him.


Tom Creely

The Ways of the Kingdom

 

As you read the gospels, it's amazing to see the contrast between the ways of the kingdom and the ways of this world. 

To follow Jesus we must refuse pride, selfishness, and greed. We must refuse to use power and violence as a way of pushing others down. We must surrender our own illusions of self-sufficiency and self-righteousness. 

To follow Jesus requires humility and complete dependence upon Him for everything we need. It requires surrender, laying down our lives, and picking up our cross. 

Following Jesus is a life of service, compassion, and forgiveness. It's a life of generosity where we leverage our gifts for the benefit of others. Following Jesus is primarily about persevering prayer and obedient faith to the ways of Christ. It's a trusting that encompasses all of life.

 

-Brandon Dasinger

mar5

TUESDAY, MARCH 5, 2024

 

Be Where Your Feet Are

 

“I will instruct you and teach you on the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eyes on you.”  Psalm 32:8

 

For most of my adult life I have believed I am an undiagnosed ADD patient.  My mind can wander at any given moment, and I “feel” I am at my best when I have marked things off my to-do list, have a load of laundry going, and tonight’s dinner is in the oven cooking…all going on at the same time!

As a working mom, that means nights and weekends are spent keeping the house organized (because you never know when someone might drop by), making sure the lawn always looks impeccable, and taking care of everything my boys needed while young.  There were days when I did this quite well and there were many other days when I know I was failing, but still plugging away at my goal anyway.  Often times, I would be settling into something with my boys (shooting hoops in the driveway or just listening to their stories from the day’s events at school) and impulsively, also, thinking about what was the NEXT thing I needed to do, in order to mark it off my list.

It was like a constant battle within my head!  Why couldn’t I just focus on the moment at hand with my children?  Everything on my list would eventually get accomplished, but just not as fast as I had originally planned.

As I have aged, and my children have also grown, I have truly come to grips with this issue and focused hard on being in the moment….being where my feet are!  Sure, there is more time in my life now that we are empty nesters, but rest assured, I have to focus hard on this exercise, so that it doesn’t continue to consume me.  I know that God has a plan for me and will instruct me on where to go and what to do.  I just have to listen to Him and respond!

 

Kathryn Fant

mar6

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6, 2024

 

Corinthians 12: 4-6

 

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

Upon my scheduled appointment I was greeted by a beautiful Black lady receptionist. After the initial introductions were made, I noticed she had a star on her necklace. I asked her if it was the Star of David. She confirmed it was. Two days later at my second appointment, I notice that she had a cross on the same necklace. I asked her what that was, and she said it was a cross. Then I asked if she was a Jewish Christian? She said that she was. I told her, “So was my savior.” She and I smiled and became good friends.

She was female and me male, her skin color black and mine white, her age about 30 and mine 80+. But we both have the same Lord.

Tom Duncanson

mar7

THURSDAY, MARCH 7, 2024

 

“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you - you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ Or ‘What shall we drink?’ Or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:25-34 NIV

During a cold snap, I decided to behave like a polar bear and stay inside in my jammies.  As I prepared breakfast, I looked out on my deck to see one of my favorite winter birds; a nuthatch fluffed up in his winter down moving about eating pine seeds.  He was perfectly warm and going about his business doing what birds do.  For some odd reason, this normal bird activity struck me; he’s comfortable, because God’s perfect design made him that way; he wasn’t starving, because God designed the trees to provide food for him.  All he had to do was eat it!

Then I thought about the verse above:  how much more does God love me!  When I look back (why do we have to look back, and not trust now?), I can see a multitude of ways God provided for me….a check came in the mail, just as I needed to pay taxes; four new jobs replaced four jobs Eric lost; Alex’s best friend became like a son to me, after Alex died; God provided a new husband for me after I lost Eric; Jonathan became like a son to us when Tim lost Dallas; God saved my life in the ICU when I was in my twenties; he protected us in auto accidents; I could go on and on.

Eventually, my ticket will be punched, but in the meantime, I can see numerous times God has held me in the palm of his hand.  But we forget this:  He has us in the palm of His hand always - not just in our supposed disasters, but every second of the day.  Let us always be mindful that we are loved and cared for, after all, there wouldn’t be a reason for the Cross of Christ without His divine love.

 

Linda Kepler

mar8

FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 2024

 

We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6 (NIV) 

If you didn’t participate in Trunk or Treat last Fall, you missed out on a lot of fun.  Camie Schade and Jenny Mancini put together a wonderful afternoon for our church and surrounding community. The parade of children was so entertaining with some very elaborate costumes.

At one point, a little girl stopped near our car looking very distressed. I went up to her and asked if she was okay. Tears started to flow as she explained her Mama was lost. I asked the wrong question: “What is your mother’s name?” Copious tears! Seeing our distress, Stephanie Richardson came to our rescue and asked the correct question of the five-year-old. “What is your name?” Then Stephanie’s cheerleader voice called out, “Where is Sophia’s mom?” Very quickly, Sophia and her mom were reunited. 

Stephanie and I both commented later that we believed Sophia was never out of sight of her mother. We believed that Sophia was being taught a lesson. A difficult lesson to be sure, and one we all need to learn.

We often get so wrapped up in what’s happening in our lives, that we forget to not lose sight of the one that loves us unconditionally; the one that watches out for us. Just as Sophia’s mom was, God is always watching out for us. When we realize, much to our distress, that we have wandered away from the path God has designed for us, we panic. Filled with fear and trepidation, we desperately seek God’s loving arms and help. And just like Sophia’s mom, God is always there watching out for us and waiting for us to ask for his presence in our lives.

During Lent, I will try to be even more mindful of God in my life. I give thanks that he loves us so much that he sent Jesus to save us from our sins and that he shouldered the iniquity of us all. 

Anne Wright

mar9

SATURDAY, MARCH 9, 2024

 

So Samuel did what the Lord told him, and he came to Bethlehem. Then the elders of the city came trembling to meet him and said, “Do you come in peace?” And he said, “In peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” He also consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.  When they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is standing before Him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  1 Samuel 16:  4-7

 

This passage is a small portion of the story regarding the anointing of David, and to fully appreciate the passage you must read the entire chapter.  However, I would like to focus on the first and last verses and to reflect on them.  “Samuel did what the Lord told him” (verse 4), and “God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (verse 7).

Incorporating these points into the story of David’s anointing, God instructed Samuel to go to Bethlehem to anoint a new king for Israel, and Samuel did as he was instructed even though he faced danger in doing so.  When Samuel arrived, he thought that Eliab, the eldest son of Jesse and brother of David, was the person that God would anoint.  Instead, God selected David, the youngest son of Jesse and who wasn’t even there because he was tending the sheep.  So, Samuel does as the Lord tells him and goes to Bethlehem, while God looked at the hearts of men and selected David.

Now, when I consider others, I often think that they are so much better equipped than I am to perform God’s service.  This passage tells us that God doesn’t look at someone’s outward appearance or position but the person’s heart, when choosing where He wants us to use His gifts in Service, Worship, Education, Evangelism, Pastoral Care, Stewardship & Finance or Buildings & Grounds.  Therefore, a mighty gift may look great in appearance, but it may be the small, loving gift that someone who is hurting needs.  We all have been given gifts, and if God picks you to share your gifts with the world, then what will be your reply?  I can’t do it, or I will do what the Lord has told me to do and perform it with all my heart in God’s glory.  God gives us the option, but we must decide how we will glorify Him. 

If my devotional last year, I complained that I felt inadequate to perform a ministry that God was leading me to do.  Seriously, I felt really, really inadequate.  Today, I can tell you that it was one of my best decisions to say “yes” because God is doing the heavy lifting and not me.  

 

Our dear Heavenly Father, You are our strength, our life, and our focus.  Open our eyes so we may see and follow Your pathway with cheerful hearts and all in the glory of Your Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

Larry Kelley

mar10

SUNDAY, MARCH 10, 2024

 

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?"They said, "Rabbi" (which means "Teacher"), "where are you staying?" 39 "Come," he replied, "and you will see."So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter[1] ).  John 1:35-42

The Gospel of John introduces us to Andrew, the first disciple of Jesus. Andrew, initially a follower of John the Baptist, is present when John declares Jesus to be the "Lamb of God." Andrew's curiosity and spiritual hunger lead him to Jesus, marking the beginning of a journey that would forever change his life.

Saint Andrew's journey with Christ begins with a simple act: following. Upon hearing John the Baptist's declaration, Andrew does not hesitate. He follows Jesus, full of curiosity and hope. His first encounter with Christ is transformative, prompting him to immediately share the good news with his brother, Simon Peter.  In Andrew's story, we see a profound example of faith in action. He hears the truth, he follows, and then he shares. His life becomes a testament to the power of witness and the ripple effect of true discipleship. 

Learning from Saint Andrew

  • BE A SEEKER: Andrew's journey began with a heart open to truth. In our daily lives, let us be seekers of truth, always ready to hear God's call.

  • FOLLOW WITH COURAGE: When Andrew chose to follow Jesus, he stepped into the unknown. We, too, are called to follow Christ, sometimes into unfamiliar or challenging situations, trusting in His guidance.

  • SHARE THE GOOD NEWS: Andrew’s immediate response to meeting Jesus was to tell others. In our lives, let us never miss an opportunity to share the transformative love of Christ with those around us.

  • LIVE IN HUMILITY: Unlike some of the other disciples, Andrew did not seek a prominent role. His humility reminds us that in God's kingdom, the last shall be first, and the first, last.

  • BE A BRIDGE BUILDER: Andrew brought his brother to Jesus, thereby playing a crucial role in the formation of the early Church. We are called to be bridge-builders in our communities, connecting others to Christ.

 

As we walk with Saint Andrew today, let his life be a guiding light. May we seek Christ as earnestly, follow Him as bravely, and share His love as eagerly. In the simplicity of Andrew's discipleship, we find the depth of true faith.

Closing Prayer

Lord, thank You for the faithful witness of Saint Andrew. Help us to embody his virtues of curiosity, courage, humility, and dedication. May we, like him, be instruments of Your peace and love in the world. Amen.

 

Mike Pearson

mar11

MONDAY, MARCH 11, 2024

 

You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.

You're blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him.

That's right - you don't go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set.

You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it.

Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set;

Then I'd never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel.

 I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways.

 I'm going to do what you tell me to do; don't ever walk off and leave me.

Psalm 119:1-8

                                                                                                                                

I love this psalm. I wish I would adhere to it as much as I love it!

This psalm came to my mind when I read the two emails that Father Tom sent on January 18 - one about the stained glass window celebration and the other about our beloved Mother Elise’s retirement.

Both of these announcements illustrate the power of staying the course and abiding in God’s will.

The stained glass window project - - a 19 year one - - wow!! I remember well, when David and I first began worshiping at SPSP about 16 years ago, looking up at the windows and thinking, I wonder when or if they will all have stained glass. None the less it was nice to see the sun shining straight through the ones that did not.  Kitty Tuttle would host receptions to help fund the remaining ones needed. And then as the two final donations to finish them came in, it was such a blessing; and an illustration of staying the course.

Mother Elisa’s journey with us has been an incredible story of Psalm 119. Fifteen years of dedicated service to the Lord via St. Peter and Paul has been a tremendous blessing. Like most journeys it has not always been easy. There may have been times when she may have questioned her serving God in the right venue. Sometimes it may not have seemed or felt like it.  She, like many of us, may have thought to take things in a different direction.  But the psalmist tells us, “you don’t go off on your own, you walk straight along the road he set” which she has done well.  Like many of you I thank God for that.

We will continue this journey in the days and years ahead knowing that God walks with us.

“I’m going to do what you tell me to do; don’t ever walk off and leave me”.

 

Lisa Doss                 

mar12

TUESDAY, MARCH 12, 2024

 

A Daily “Chill Pill” Worth Taking

 

“Those weekly sales forecasts are due tomorrow!”...“That Zoom call kicks off at 11!”…“Remember to get that parent-teacher conference scheduled!”…“The transmission’s making that noise again!”…“Put on your shoes and get in the car!”

 

Do any of these feel familiar? 😊

 

Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”

 

For those of us old enough to remember, Ferris Bueller once said "Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." And he’s far from wrong. But who’s got time to stop? It seemed like EVERYTHING stopped back in March 2020, but over the past year and change, it feels like the world has rebounded from the pandemic (with a vengeance!) and life is moving once again…at warp speed. 

We’re reminded right at the top of Psalm 46 that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.” And we know this. The key is regular reinforcement of this belief in our lives. But how?

Be Still.

This is, to me, a call to take a moment to pause and reflect. Be still and reconnect with our faith. Be still and find a moment of peace amid the day’s chaos. Be still and be thankful for what we have. Be still and take the time to ask God for guidance and strength. Easy? Not always, no. But it can be vastly fulfilling and a strong reminder that God is always with us. Awhile back, Mtr. Elisa presented members of the St. Peter and St. Paul Vestry with a 15-minute hourglass whose purpose was to remind us of the daily call to Be Still. For me, it's become more than an instrument to simply mark time during reflection; it’s a symbol of the importance of daily reconnection with my faith and thanksgiving for all the blessings God has seen fit to give me.

 

Heavenly Father, I pray that every one of us, each in our own way, can find the time to heed your call, to Be Still, and to know that you are indeed our refuge, our strength, and an ever-present help in times of trouble. Amen.

 

Win Halkyard

mar13

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 13, 2024

 

Matthew 6:20

NIV

20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

NIRV

20 Instead, gather for yourselves riches in heaven. There, moths and rats do not destroy them. There, thieves do not break in and steal them.

NASB

20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;

ETRV

20 Instead, save your treasures in heaven, where they cannot be destroyed by moths or rust and where thieves cannot break in and steal them.

This Holy Bible verse has jumped out at me in recent years.   I have included some thoughts below, other than my own, that I found when preparing this devotional.   Treating Jesus as our true treasure makes perfect sense.   But when I read this verse, I think of what treasure I can take with me to Heaven.   My friends, loved ones, and family come to mind.  Thinking of it this way motivates me to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those with whom I interact.  I think of living eternally with my parents, grandparents, wife, mom-in-law, family, friends, and others.   

We can plant the seed of Jesus in someone and ask the Holy Spirit to do the spiritual work to transform that person’s life.  Once transformed having the reassurance that they/we will live eternally with Jesus and each other.   Perhaps we will not know family and friends in Heaven, but Jesus will know each of us. 

Others thoughts……………………….

Treasure is linked to the heart. What does our heart long for? Does it treasure the things of this world like money, fame, possessions, security, success, power ,and influence? Or is our heart longing for Jesus to be the greatest treasure in our life, both now and for eternity?

We are to treasure the Lord Jesus most of all. When Jesus is our treasure, we will commit our resources—our money, our time, our talents—to His work in this world. 

We are storing up treasures on earth, if the object of our affection is centered on ourselves and what we can accumulate. It can result in our ruin as well as falling away from faith. Yet, if our greatest treasure is Jesus, we will desire to put our time, money, resources ,and talent on pursuits that glorify Him, and we will store up treasures in the kingdom of heaven.

Robert Sorrell

THURSDAY, MARCH 14, 2024

 

We must stop acting like children. We must not let deceitful people trick us by their false teachings, which are like winds that toss us around from place to place. Love should always make us tell the truth. Then we will grow in every way and be more like Christ, the head of the body. Christ holds it together and makes all of its parts work perfectly, as it grows and becomes strong because of love. Ephesians 4:14-16

 

This Lenten season is again a time that I will use to improve on staying focused on Christ in a living relationship with a God who knows me completely. I also was recently struck by a statement from Nicky Gumbel, the Pastor at Brompton Church and author of the Alpha courses: “Do you believe completely in the final and absolute judgement of God? If that is so, why do you spend energy on your or other people’s conduct and how it will be judged – should we not trust in and totally release that judgement to God and get on living our lives to His glory?”

Upon reflection of the year past it was a year filled with life’s extremes. By that I mean I have experienced great human loss through Steve Hadley’s passing in May; needed to work through complex health issues in the family and with other people around me; benefited from an opportunity to reconnect with a good number of my High School classmates at a 50 year reunion in July; have been blessed by amazing family times traveling in Africa in September; grew along with 12 other small group members studying the Bible ….all this while living in a country torn by division, changing values, and no willingness to listen and talk openly.  How then are we to live and what are we to do in a world that is swirling around us, as described above in our lives, filled with secular distractions and immense ranges of emotions, pressures and expectations from those around us? 

I am once again drawn towards Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians in the verses above. I am always struck by how he writes with such clarity on the subject of love. He is a single man chosen by God, who has been totally changed by his encounter with Christ in a dramatic conversion. He is totally dedicated to that one role of serving His Savior in everything he does. It seems to me that he truly implores us to treat our own relationship with Christ the same way – when we are uncertain as to what to do, or what to say, he says to me, express the love of Christ in our lives, conversations, and relationships in our community? 

If we live focused on Christ and treating others around us with His love, Paul tells us that we will perform the roles we are called to, and that the whole community will be the best possible sum of the parts. I pray that we will all encourage each other in this same relationship with a Savior who is love incarnate. Let us continue to become the best example of love to everyone we interact with and leave the outcome and judgment to God. I have personally found through this past year another component of this relationship with God that has lifted me up– learning to give thanks in all things, as we are provided so many reasons for gratitude…. Grace, forgiveness, special people we love, the community of disciples in which we live for support, teaching and encouragement, and the amazing example of Christ, and his Apostle Paul.

My Prayer this lent:

 

Dear Heavenly Father, please teach us in this time of Lent to know how you wish us to step out and declare love and truth through our words, actions and love of you our God. Helps us to show this caring and compassion to our fellow human travelers and neighbors with whom we come in contact each day. Open our hearts, minds, ears and eyes to see others in your image.  Amen
 

Peter Williams

mar14
mar15

FRIDAY, MARCH 15, 2024

 

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9–10 

 

I believe God's grace isn't just "sufficient" but so monumental that the human mind cannot comprehend it. That is great news indeed! But I wonder, are we able to give ourselves grace as well? I know we can, but do we? It's something I certainly struggle with.  

 

This past year, I've been working on the cognitive distortion called "All or Nothing Thinking.” Cognitive distortions are assumptions we make based on minimal evidence or without evaluating the validity of the assumption. This particular distortion refers to thinking in extremes – either you're a success or a failure, for example.  It doesn't account for shades of gray at all. Dealing with chronic illnesses, I've had to reevaluate the expectations that I place on myself. For instance, my heartrate skyrockets when I'm standing still, which makes church services uncomfortable to say the least. My gut reaction, therefore, is that I should not go and watch it online. But thinking through it, I realized there was a grey area I missed. I can give myself some grace and accept where the service allows us to stand as you are able.  It was weird at first, but slowly I am becoming more capable of owning up to what I am capable of and what I am not. 

 

So, I started applying this to other areas of my life: Cleaned the clothes but didn't fold them? Great job! Too tired to drive and think I should cancel an appointment? Take an uber or ask for a ride! Slept all day, but your kids know without a doubt how much you love them? Winning! 

 

We all have things we struggle with in our lives, and no matter how big or small yours may be, I want to encourage you to give yourself grace just as God does so wonderfully and freely. Isn't living this human life hard enough without adding unnecessary expectations and requiring perfection? 

 

 

 

Lindsay Sexton

mar16

SATURDAY, MARCH 16, 2024

 

Why did they consider Him more dangerous than me?

 

The title for this Lent devotion is from the sermon, "Gallery Christians," by Dr. Peter Marshall. In this sermon, Dr. Marshall speculated about other individuals, who were either players in the death of Jesus  or outsiders not directly involved. One of these outsiders was Barabbas, who was set for execution because he had committed murder in an insurrection (Mark 15:6-15). When Pontius Pilate offered to release one prisoner at Passover and gave the crowd the choice between Jesus and Barabbas, the crowd clamored for Barabbas. Dr. Marshall went on to speculate that perhaps Barabbas would have wondered for the rest of his life, why he had been spared and why was Jesus considered more of a threat than him.

Is Jesus dangerous? Is the Christian faith a danger to people? If you mean in a physical sense, Jesus Himself is not a danger to anyone. He calls us to repentance and conversion, to give full allegiance to Him as Lord and Master, but He doesn't force Himself on us. The Christian life is not one of complacency, but one of service.

Now making a decision to follow Jesus will mean a life of prayer and service to others, to make a difference in our families, our church, and our communities as well as the world itself. This life will not be easy. We may face ridicule, and we will encounter people who have had a bad experience with religion, who may have been harmed or threatened by some who profess to be Christians. A more likely outcome is to be an attitude of indifference, i.e., "If these Christians would just stop preaching and leave us alone, everything would be fine." We all know that wars of religion, whether in families or countries, have caused, and continue to cause, death and destruction. When Jesus told the apostles to make disciples of all nations, He didn't tell them to force conversions. Most of us are probably uncomfortable with aggressive forms of evangelization and their messages, which tend to overemphasize sin and warnings of eternal damnation. 

 

Jesus is not dangerous to those who love and follow Him. Our calling as Christians is to persuade others by our lives that He is the Lord and Savior who loves us and who gave His life for us.

 

Alison Mimms

mar17

SUNDAY, MARCH 17, 2024

 

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:7 

 

The morning of May 19, 2023, I was faced with the news of the passing of my niece Lydia’s husband, Cole. Lydia is my sister’s daughter. She is the twin of Anna, and both are big sisters to Sarah Nell.  Lydia and Cole were married about 2½ years, and Lydia was pregnant with their first child and our family’s first great grandchild. I have begged God to help me understand why my niece would have to experience Cole’s death, endure her pregnancy and lifelong grieving as a widow and mother at 32 years old. I pleaded with Mother Elisa to explain how God would let this happen. “We cannot try to understand…” 

Our family has come together in many ways to love and support one another throughout this devasting loss of life. I have watched Lydia and her sisters lean upon the other to provide the greatest of love. And now, Cole’s legacy lives through Carolyn Lou, who was born on September 21st. 

Years ago, Bishop Don recited the poem, “Adrift,” by Mark Nepo. I’ve kept it close throughout the years and its verses that dance in dark and light. 

Through poetry, devotionals, podcasts, sermons, prayer, and little Carolyn Lou, I now see God guarding my heart and mind. I’m thankful, for it is here that I am offered His peace.  

 

“Adrift”

 

Everything is beautiful and I am so sad.

This is how the heart makes a duet of

wonder and grief. The light spraying 

through the lace of the fern is as delicate 

as the fibers of memory forming their web 

around the knot in my throat. The breeze 

makes the birds move from branch to branch

as this ache makes me look for those I’ve lost 

in the next room, in the next song, in the laugh 

of the next stranger. In the very center, under 

it all, what we have that no one can take 

away and all that we’ve lost face each other. 

It is there that I’m adrift, feeling punctured

by a holiness that exists inside everything.

I am so sad and everything is beautiful.

 

 

Lori Cassity

mar18

MONDAY, MARCH 18, 2024

 

And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.”  Luke 9:23-24

 

There are two places in the Gospel of Luke 9:23-24 and 14:27) where Jesus tells his listeners that one of the costs of discipleship is to take up the cross daily and follow him.  In verse 9:24 he goes on to say that “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”  

For most of my life I understood these words for their surface meanings only.  I thought that taking up the cross meant shouldering my burdens and struggling through life under their weight, each day asking Jesus to help me make it through, while bearing them as a reminder of my sinfulness   After digging much deeper into what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to live in that state, it became clear to me what he is telling us in these verses.  To be a disciple, we must indeed pick up the cross daily and carry it.  But shouldering the weight of our humanity is not the end.  After I pick up the cross, I must carry it all the way to the end of the path, and die on it, just as he did.  It is only in dying to this world and to myself that I can rise with Jesus in the glory of Easter.

Jesus died on the cross out of obedience, not to the Roman or Jewish authorities who sent him there, but to God.  He knew what was coming.  He could have saved his earthly life; it was his choice to make. He made the choice to save us all, by demonstrating what obedience to God really means, and by showing the world that it holds no power over the Holy Spirit.  I know that I am able to make that same choice, to save my life and living a full, complete life in God, by losing it- losing it to a life in the Holy Spirit by taking up the cross and carrying it to Calvary every day.         

     

Darron Kendrick

mar19

TUESDAY, MARCH 19, 2024

 

Our church’s mission is to build Disciples of Christ.  Personally, I am more comfortable being a volunteer for Jesus Christ.

 

Several years ago some of us in Brotherhood of Saint Andrew became involved with the Second Helpings organization which is a food rescue non-profit. Last year they helped put 5 million pounds of food into needy stomachs rather than landfills. Two and a half years ago they started a program to prepare meals for people who have a difficult time acquiring fresh food.  Each Wednesday, volunteers put together 2000 meal kits which provide 8000 meals.  As you read this, the program will have provided 1 million meals.

 

I recently had a mini theological reflection (which should make Rachel Rojas, my EFM mentor, ecstatic).  It occurred to me that with the Second Helping Program, unlike most of our service projects, we never see or touch those we are helping, but we know they exist.  Similarly, we never physically see or touch Christ, but we know He exists and is spiritually guiding us as we help the least of us.

 

As Teresa of Avila stated, we are the hands and feet of Christ.  Maybe you would like to join us some Wednesday.  Just “FOOD” for thought (pun intended).  I know we cannot work our way into heaven, but can’t you see Jesus smiling down on the work we are doing?


Don Loeber

mar20

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20, 2024

 

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in my name receives me. 

-Jesus (Matthew 18:3-5)

 

The scriptures show over and over again that God has a special concern for the poor, the orphan, the outcast, and the widow. 

 

In a world consumed with giving attention to the powerful, maybe it’s time to return our focus to the most vulnerable. Revivals are not typically found in governments, but among the humble and the lowly. Closeness to the Lord is found in repentance and humility and service to the least of these. During this season of Lent, may we renew our commitment to almsgiving, charity, and acts of compassion. 

 

-Brandon Dasinger

mar21

THURSDAY, MARCH 21, 2024

 

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.   Jonah 3:1-5, 10

This reading from the Book of Jonah was our Old Testament lesson on Sunday, January 21. As I was listening and pondering, the idea of using it as the basis for my devotional came into my mind.

 

Two of the most important themes of Lent are repentance and forgiveness. This passage speaks powerfully to me about both of these themes—first, that we must repent of our sin because it is heinous and unacceptable to God. Second, that if we will repent with sincere hearts, God is faithful to forgive and “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

 

Lent calls us to repentance. Lent calls us to return home to God. Lent calls us to prayer. Lent calls us to a spring housecleaning of the mind, heart, and soul. There can be no better time, to do as the people of Nineveh did of old, and “turn from our evil ways.” Perhaps we will not literally put on sackcloth, but we can fast and engage in other spiritual disciplines, which will help us in drawing closer to God in Christ. 

 

Most of all, we can know that God will regard our repentance with love and mercy. We can return to God in the knowledge that, through Christ, we have a powerful advocate pleading for us before the Throne of Grace. We can rest in the knowledge that, like the Prodigal Son, we will be eagerly and lovingly welcomed home. 

 

Thanks be to God!

 

George Chesnut

Director of Music & Organist
January 22, 2024

mar22

FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 2024

 

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they came together.  And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.  ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?’  And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’   Matthew 22:34-40.  

Mother Elisa preached a sermon on this Gospel reading last Fall, her words most clearly reflecting, to me at least, what Christianity is.  Irrespective of dogma, theological theory, social construction, laws, sectarianism - all of it - simply hear Jesus’ response to the Pharisee.  Which commandment is the most important, he asked.  Jesus did not hesitate - Love God first with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself.  Everything, he said, rests on this.  And truly, what else do I need to know?

To love God with all my being, putting his desire to love me above all else, is the way, the truth, and the light.  It is responding to this - giving my life to him, surrendering the world, and living in his being- this is the way to freedom.  As Jesus also says, seek first the Kingdom of God, then everything else falls into place.  Yes, it does.  That is because once I have surrendered to God and taken up discipleship with Jesus, I live a new life, one with clear choices, understanding who and what I am, and where my story will lead me. 

This is Jesus’ legacy to us and the meaning of Christianity.  To live as God created me to live, being the person God created me to be.  I can’t really do that while I am totally in the world; there are too many things that get in the way, too many trails to walk blindly along without a meaning or purpose other than living for the next moment’s diversion.  I can’t be a mere human, broken in a broken world, when Jesus is fully alive in me. 

We are truly God’s children, and so is everyone else.  Love God, love them as God has shown me to love myself.  That is it in a nutshell.

 

Darron Kendrick

mar23

SATURDAY, MARCH 23, 2024

 

The children at the Shriner’s Hospital were asked, “What is Love?”  My favorite answer was, “puppies,” for who would not love puppies?  Now let’s consult the Bible about what love is:  

 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

 

“But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.” Matthew 5:44

 

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15: 12-12

 

Love Poem

Love is patient, love is kind.

 

It does not envy, it does not boast.

It is not proud.  It does not dishonor others.

It is not self-seeking,

It is not easily angered.

It keeps no records of wrongs.

 

Love does not delight in evil

But rejoices in the truth.  

It always protects,

Always trusts,

Always perseveres.

 

I started this talking about children and would like to end with this:  As a Child do you remember singing this:

 

            “Jesus loves me this I know,

            For the Bible tells me so.

            Little ones to Him belong,

            They are weak, but He is strong.

 

            Yes, Jesus loves me,

            Yes, Jesus loves me,

            Yes, Jesus loves me,

            For the Bible tells me so.

 

 

Mike Blalock

mar24

SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 2024

 

Palm Sunday

 

“The Son of Man will come again with divine greatness, and all his angels will come with him. He will sit as king on his great and glorious throne. All the people of the world will be gathered before him. Then he will separate everyone into two groups. It will be like a shepherd separating his sheep from his goats. 

He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to the godly people on his right, ‘Come, my Father has great blessings for you. The kingdom he promised is now yours. It has been prepared for you since the world was made. It is yours because when I was hungry, you gave me food to eat. When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I had no place to stay, you welcomed me into your home. When I was without clothes, you gave me something to wear. When I was sick, you cared for me. When I was in prison, you came to visit me.’ 

Then the godly people will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you with no place to stay and welcome you into our home? When did we see you without clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and care for you?’ 

Then the king will answer, ‘The truth is, anything you did for any of my people here, you also did for me.’

Then the king will say to the evil people on his left, ‘Get away from me. God has already decided that you will be punished. Go into the fire that burns forever—the fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels. You must go away because when I was hungry, you gave me nothing to eat. When I was thirsty, you gave me nothing to drink. When I had no place to stay, you did not welcome me into your home. When I was without clothes, you gave me nothing to wear. When I was sick and in prison, you did not care for me.’

Then those people will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty? When did we see you without a place to stay? Or when did we see you without clothes or sick or in prison? When did we see any of this and not help you?’

The king will answer, ‘The truth is, anything you refused to do for any of my people here, you refused to do for me.’

Then these evil people will go away to be punished forever. But the godly people will go and enjoy eternal life.”   Matthew 25:31-46

 

This passage describes Jesus separating the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He concludes, “Just as you did not do it to the least of these, you did not do it to me.  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

  

One thing you don’t want to do is be a goat in front of Jesus.  You want to be a sheep.  Each December I’ve seen people in Salvation Army aprons with a red kettle, ringing little red bells in front of shopping center stores.  Surely even I can ring that little bell and say “Merry Christmas” and “thank you” even if I’m downright dangerous at cooking breakfast for others at MUST Ministries or The Extension.  Just ask anyone in Brotherhood of St. Andrew about my cooking skills.

  

One Friday this past December, I had teams of two, organized in two-hour shifts between 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM outside a grocery store near our church, to ring those little bells and collect money for the Salvation Army with the intention of our being Jesus’ sheep.  I even had an email from the Salvation Army confirming all the details, and that everything would be waiting for us at the appointed time and place.  They even included a short video on bell ringing.  Evidently, they had worked with people like me before who needed extra training. 

My partner and I arrived a little before 10:00 AM at the designated place, but no red kettle, no nothing.  Not even a little bell.   Repeated phone calls and emails produced nothing except dead silence.  Finally, by 11:15 AM we decided to call it off and notified the other volunteers.

  

Not long afterward I received a telephone call, followed up by an email, from the Salvation Army captain who supervises all the Red Kettle volunteers in Metro Atlanta, advising that he had located our Red Kettle, and that had mistakenly been set up in front of a Walmart at another shopping center.  The email continued, “I am so sorry we could not get this ironed out sooner.  I am personally asking for forgiveness, and I wish we could’ve worked it out.  I would love to be able to meet and personally share my apologies and appreciation for all that you guys have done.” Later that afternoon I got a phone call from the Salvation Army major, who supervises all of Metro Atlanta expressing the same thoughts -- all over a few hours of eight guys and one missing Red Kettle.  

While our goal was to try to be Jesus’ sheep rather than His goats, the top Salvation Army leadership in Metro Atlanta had grabbed Jesus’ wash basin and towel and was doing their best to wash our feet as true servants of the Lord we all seek to serve.

  

Thanks be to God!

Tom Mimms

mar25

MONDAY, MARCH 25, 2024

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

 

One evening last year I settled into my leather chair to watch Buffalo vs Cincinnati on Monday Night Football. It was billed as the game of the year. In the first quarter, Cincinnati completed a pass. The Buffalo defensive back, Damar Hamlin, ran in to make the tackle. What happened next was shocking and horrifying. After making the tackle, Damar got up, adjusted his helmet, took 2 steps, then collapsed on the field.

I’ve watched football all my life, and have seen some pretty horrific injuries. But this was different! Trainers and paramedics rushed onto the field. Damar’s heart had stopped! For 18 long minutes they attempted to revive him with a CPR and an external defibrillator, Afterwards, he was rushed to the hospital. 

By most accounts, Damar Hamlin had died on that field. Then something amazing happened: PRAYER. It started with players on both teams gathering together, dropping to their knees, and praying. The TV announcers urged viewers to pray for Damar. Trending on Twitter were people offering up prayers for Damar. It was as if the entire country was turning to God in prayer for Damar Hamlin. 

I prayed to God and asked for something a bit different. I prayed “Lord, an entire nation is finally coming to you. Please show your awesome power and save Damar Hamlin from death.” 

Guess what? Damar made a full recovery. First thing I did was praise God for His Glory. Without being judgmental, I had to wonder how many of those folks praying for Damar’s health – either on the field, watching from home, or on Twitter – turned around and THANKED God for prayers answered. My guess? Not very many.

Lent is the holiest of times when we tend to dedicate ourselves more in prayer than the rest of the year. As the verse says, let us all pray without ceasing. But more than that, let us open our eyes to when God answers our prayers. And when that happens, let’s return to God and say THANK YOU.

 

Stuart Wright 

mar26

TUESDAY, MARCH 26, 2024

13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 33Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 36But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.    Matthew: Chapter 24 - Verses 13, 33-36

Around the start of Advent, the Thursday Morning Men’s Bible study was studying Matthew, and we discussed and read Chapter 24 around the same time the lectionary was offering up verses from Chapter 13 of the Gospel of Mark. Both readings were about the Second Coming of Christ and being ready for his return and the related events, f

The words resonated with me this time like they have not before. I am not sure if it is because in a few months I am getting ready for a milestone elderly birthday, the seminar our Church had over living and dying, or we are starting to lose increasing numbers of family and friends to death. 

While it is unlikely that I will live to see the catastrophic events Jesus describes that foretell his coming, I do need to be ready. And I am not speaking of being ready to die, I am speaking of being ready to grow spiritually and continue to know God and Jesus, so I am ready to take on whatever the rest of my life has instore for me.

That Thursday morning, we talked about those catastrophic events and half joked about disappearing suddenly in a Hollywood rapture scene. But we were ‘dead’ serious when, to a man, we all said we need to be ready to continue to invite Jesus into our lives, to accept his grace and unsolicited love, and, in turn, to repay him for his grace and love by loving him and continuing prayer, study and good works in his name.

 

John Bareham

mar27

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27, 2024

Peacemakers

 

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God. Matthew 5:9

 

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. John 14:27

 

Brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11

 

These biblical passages offer simple yet profound explanations of the interaction of peace which flows in both directions between God and humanity. Peace may be defined as the absence of war, developing harmonious relations, or freedom from quarrels. However, a fuller understanding arises when we consider additional attributes: a state of individual tranquility when we are at peace; or being in a right relationship with God; or obtaining a good relationship with other people.

Daily prayers for peace are a vital discipline, given the armed conflicts that have spread across our globe. And it is equally important that we remember the peacemakers in our prayers, as they need all of the wisdom and support that we can offer to make wise decisions in addressing conflict and chaos. It may be said then that everyone has the potential to be a peacemaker through prayer as well as actions that support peacemakers. 

During each celebration of the Eucharist, we exchange greetings of the Peace of our Lord verbally or by using a signal as part of blessing of others and our unity as Christians. But in that greeting is there not a deeper meaning that that Peace of the Lord is part of being in a right relationship with God? That sense of tranquility and peace can be achieved through that relationship, which influences all that we think, say, and do each day. A prayer for peace follows below:

 

Heavenly father, lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust; lead me from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our heart, our world, and our universe.

 

Jonathon Nadybal 

mar28

THURSDAY, MARCH 28, 2024

 

Maundy Thursday

            I see in my imagination frightened men, gathering in an upper room.  The Master joins them.  I see the flushed faces of the bewildered twelve, arguing even on the stairs.  I note the Master slipping off his outer robes, calling for water and towel, and washing their feet, and I imagine what an Eastern street is like where those feet have walked.

            I hear the grace sung, and I see the meal begin. I sense the strained atmosphere, alive with an unexpressed fear. Then blow follows blow: “One of you will betray Me …. and “I must go away.”  I hear the sandals of Judas shuffle across the floor.  A door opens, and the night wind stirs the curtains and makes the lamp swing on its chain.  Then the door closes.  Judas is gone. It is night indeed.

            Jesus rises and gives bread and wine to each man.  They are significant symbols, for it is “broken” bread and “poured out” wine.”  “These,” He says, “mean my body and my blood.”  Only when bread is broken can it be assimilated.  Only when wine is poured out can wine be received.

            They sing a hymn, their voices breaking, their hearts beating wildly.  Then though it is near midnight, they walk in the moonlight through the silent streets of the city, down past the tomb of Absalom, across the brook Kedron, and up the opposite hillside to that quiet, moonlit garden call Gethesemane.

            Let the thought of that last night of Thine on earth steady me. I am often amazed and troubled, sorrowful and depressed.  But in my case it is often about trifling things. But, O Lord, grant me courage to face each day and grant me that inward peace which comes when the courageous thing is done. Though the heart beats wildly, though the limbs tremble, though the imagination creates terrifying fantasies, and though there is no comfort in the word of man, let me, also, in imagination kneel and then rise up and walk in the way of Thy will, to find that in they will is my inner peace, and that all the pathways of Thy purposes lead safely to the breast of God.

Go to dark Gethesemane, 

Ye that feel the tempter’s power;

Your Redeemer’s conflict see, 

Watch with Him one bitter hour;

Turn not from his griefs away,

Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

 

Bishop Don Wimberly

 

Join the all-night vigil in the North transept after the Eucharist whenever you can during the night.  The Brotherhood of St Andrew will have teams of at least two throughout the night, while we wait and watch with Christ on this most holy night.

mar29

FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 2024

 

Good Friday

And Issac said to his father Abraham, “‘Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ Abraham said, ‘God will provide himself the lamb …, my son ….’ Abraham bound Issac his son, and laid him on the altar …. Then Abraham … took the knife to slay his son.  But the angel called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham! … Do not lay your hand on the lad … for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’”  Genesis 22:7,10-12.

 

            So, you may already be asking, why am I in Genesis on this day of all days?  Why am I not in the Gospel of John, where the Good Friday story is read, or in the Gospel of Matthew with that long story of the Passion that we heard last Sunday. Well, because those stories are heartbreaking. Every year, when I read the Maundy Thursday story at that beautiful service that we have, I am amazed to see Jesus washing their feet and breaking the bread and pouring out the wine for the 12 (and then 11}, and I say to myself “How can he do this, knowing what is about to happen to him?”

            Then the next day I hear and read about the traitor Judas kissing Him; His trial before the Sanhedrin, where He is hit in the face and insulted; the trial before Pontius Pilate, where the people rail against Him and trade Him for a common criminal, Barrabus; His being turned over to the  Praetorian Guard and being whipped near to death (I cannot get that scene in the movie, “The Passion” out of my mind); the stumbling walk with the cross, to the Cross; the horrible, excruciatingly painful Crucifixion; and, always, his last words, “It is finished.” And even though I think those last words mean that He has finished His Father’s work for him here on earth, my thought is always, “Everything is finished. Life of all goodness is over. God has left us. We have killed his son, his only son.  Satan is now in control. There is no hope.”

            But, and you knew there would be a ”but;” there always is with our God.  In The Good Friday service one of the Old Testament readings has this familiar story of Abraham and Issac.  Can I take a little solace from this story on Good Friday?  Well, God didn’t require Abrahm to kill his only son.  Does that mean that he doesn’t require us to do something that painful in order for him to return to our world, even after we killed his only son?  We know after our sin in the garden, that God requires penitence and sacrifice in order to return to him and to our original state in the garden.  Does that mean that he loves us so much and wants back and to be with us so much, and wants us to be with him so much, that he would give us his only son as the sacrifice necessary to restore us to him and restore our life with him?  

But how can that be?  His father Joseph was told that Jesus was born to save his people (us, too) from their (our) sins?  (Matthew 1:21). And we know that God keeps his promises. But now our Savior is gone. If God was merciful to Abraham those centuries ago, will he also be merciful with us?  Is there a little hope there on this most horrible day of all days?  With our God, hope is always present. With him all things are possible. (Philippians 4:13). But on this day a little under 2000 years ago, all those people could do was hope and wait.  And now, at the end of this day, all we can do is hope … and wait … and wait to be able to see His light shine again in our world.  That Hope makes this a Good Friday.

 

All blessings to you,

Billy Harrison

mar30

MARCH 30, 2024

 

HOLY SATURDAY

The Saturday of Holy Week is eerily quiet. Jesus is silent on Saturday. Friday was busy. He was arrested and put on trial. He was crucified and He entered into death. On Sunday, we know He will rise again and conquer sin and death and liberate us from captivity. But on Saturday, Jesus is silent. 

Holy Week discussions tend to skip Saturday. Friday and Sunday get all of the attention, which makes sense. The crucifixion and resurrection are the very center of our faith. But don’t ignore Saturday. Silent Saturdays are part of our story. 

Silent Saturdays--the in-between times where we are not quite at our destination. Silent Saturdays--those moments of confusion and uncertainty...those seasons of waiting and struggle where there is a distance between problems and answers. We do not enjoy silent Saturdays, and yet, they are still holy. Holy Saturdays invite us to be still in the presence of God. They give us an opportunity to "wait on the Lord" and in that waiting we get to experience God's provision and grace in ways we never could otherwise. We pour out our frustrations and concerns to the Lord, knowing that He never leaves us nor forsakes us. And in these seasons, we hold onto hope, knowing that Saturday is not the final day. Sunday is coming and resurrection is real. 

 

-Brandon Dasinger

mar31

MARCH 31, 2024

 

EASTER SUNDAY

But he said to them “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised.” Mark 16:6a

 Dear Friends in Christ,

 Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

 We have all seen the brokenness of this world, and the power of sin and death to wreak havoc on our peace, to bring loss and suffering, and to leave us broken and wounded. But do not be afraid! The God who created us with loving purpose stepped into this broken world to overcome the powers of sin and death and to bring us new life! Jesus died for us to put all that sin and death to death on the cross. Jesus rose again from the dead to bring us new life in him—a life that is stronger than sin and death.

 How will you take the disciplines of Lent and carry them forward into the season of Easter? As you made a habit of prayer and self-examination and repentance, how will you make a habit of daily joy in Jesus? A habit of daily thanksgiving and praise for his greatness and his great love for you? A habit of curiosity and discovery of the new life he opens to you each day? 

Carry forward the spiritual practices of Lent, but in a new voice, redeemed by the love of the risen Lord Jesus.

 The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

 Yours in Christ,

 Tom Pumphrey+

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