Category Archives: Lent

BSPC Devotional 2016 Monday, February 15 – Saturday February 20

THEME: Sacrifice – Scripture: Mark 8:31-38
Then Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’ He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

 

Monday, February 15
“Lent is the opportunity to change what we ought to change but have not…Lent is about becoming, doing and changing whatever it is that is blocking the fullness of life in us right now…Lent is a summons to live anew…Lent is the time to let life in again, to rebuild the worlds we’ve allowed to go sterile, to ‘fast and weep and mourn’ for the goods we’ve foregone. If our own lives are not to die from lack of nourishment, we must sacrifice the pride or the sloth or the listlessness that blocks us from beginning again. Then, as Joel (2:12-18) promises, God will have pity on us and pour into our hearts the life we know down deep that we are lacking.”
–Joan Chittister

Help me, O God, to sacrifice all the things that block me from beginning again–all the things that keep me from experiencing new life.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 16
“But what I believe, and what my moderately left–and right– wing Christian brothers and sisters believe, is that Jesus preached a gospel of radical sacrifice, of giving away everything we possibly can–our time, our money, our prayers–to the have-nots, the same old/same old suffering people of this world, widows and whole nations.”
–Anne Lamott

O God, help me to live into a life of “radical sacrifice” for you.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 17
“Many people profess Jesus but bring him into their own worldview instead of being converted to Jesus’ worldview of the kingdom of God. Discipleship is the ongoing, focused process of being moved from believer to follower, from donation to sacrifice, from moralistic principles to lifestyles of self-denial, from the pursuit of success to true significance. Disciples learn to drop everything they have into the hands of Jesus to be directed by God’s purpose.”
–Mike Slaughter

Lord, melt me, mold me, fill me, use me; make me into a disciple of your Son the Christ. Amen.

Thursday, February 18
“Jesus crossed lines and broke rules for the sake of God’s love, and he willingly suffered the consequences. The cry, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ is the pained cry of a lonely man with natural, human doubts. Mark’s gospel strips away the triumph of certainty, and leaves us with a savior who sought the love of God from where he was, just as he was.”
–Jane Shaw, A Practical Christianity: Meditations for the Season of Lent

Oh God, Jesus sacrificed himself for me. Help me to sacrifice myself for others.  Amen.

Friday, February 19
“Fasting, perhaps as much as anything else, helps us to go into our ‘inner room’, the space within ourselves. Fasting helps us shut the door of our inner selves to the outside attractions which crowd in and dissipate our prayer time and energies. Fasting is the act of temporarily giving up something that is very important to us in order that we may use the time normally given to that thing for prayer and to reflect upon the pain of the temporary sacrifice to better understand the mystery and meaning of Christ’s passion and sacrifice for us.”
–Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck: A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants

O God, give me the courage and will to fast this Lent. May I better understand the mystery and meaning of Christ’s sacrifice for us.  Amen.

Saturday, February 20
The rising of the sun had made everything look so different-all the colours and shadows were changed-that for a moment they didn’t see the important thing. Then they did. The Stone Table was broken in two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end; and there was no Aslan.“Oh, oh, oh!” cried the two girls rushing back to the Table.
“Oh, it’s too bad,” sobbed Lucy, “they might have left the body alone.”
“Who’s done it?” cried Susan. “What does it mean? Is it more magic?”
“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”
–C.S. Lewis, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”

God of the Past, Present and Future, help us to remember you are present both in good times and in troubled times.  Amen.

Invitation to Holy Week

At the end of the worship service this past Sunday, I shared the following invitation to Holy Week.

This is holy week.  THIS IS IT.  the most important week in the Christian year.  Easter has a context and that context is to be found in the services held on Thursday and Friday.  These are some of the most engaging worship experiences we have all year.

The Maundy Thursday service will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the sanctuary and will focus on the last meal that Jesus shared with the disciples.  The service will include communion, the choir will sing several anthems and will move from light into darkness.  Childcare will be provided but keep in mind that this service is appropriate for children. There is a reason this is many Broadstreeters favorite service of the year – it is powerful and deep.

And then on Friday at 6:30 p.m., we will remember the passion of our Lord Jesus with a service in the courtyard.  Music leadership will be provided by Jim Hildreth on piano and Valorie Hildreth on flute.  Brad Binau will offer a reflection on the meaning of the cross.  It promises to be a beautiful and meaningful service.  Brittany will be offering a good Friday edition of worship plus.  Children are encouraged to attend.

Easter SundayOn Sunday, come and celebrate the resurrection at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. – choir, brass and flowers galore!  The two services are identical.  Invite your friends and neighbors.  It is a day when many visitors will come through our doors.  I challenge all of us to make any and all newcomers and folks we haven’t seen in a while feel welcome.  Scoot to the middle of the pew so that they will have an easier time finding a seat.  Learn their names.  Help parents of young children find the nursery.

It promises to be quite a week: Betrayal, arrest, trial, sentencing, crucifixion, death….  It promises to be quite a week but, God willing, it will end with resurrection.  This isn’t a week for business as usual – pay attention, stay awake.  Above all, walk as close to Jesus as you are able, follow him as closely as you can bear.  This week, stick close to Jesus.

I look forward to seeing you all during Holy Week at some combination of Thursday, Friday and Sunday!

-Amy

Seeing the Cross During Lent

As we begin the third week of Lent, we continue to ask “where do you see the cross?” Your responses have been lovely. We have seen actual crosses found in unlikely places, like this one sent in by Jenni Betz of a cross she and her husband Andy photographed; “Andy took this photo when we were in Wales, several years ago. We keep it on our desktop and look at it often.”
The cross has been seen in architecture we see every day but possibly take for granted. Like these photos of a door and window pane sent in by Martha Campbell and Shirley Beltz.

But seeing the cross is not always so clear cut. Sometimes the beauty of nature has us stopping to see the cross. Shirley Beltz sent in this photo of her amaryllis in the window against the back drop of the snow. It’s now in bloom, but for a moment, it was a symbol of Lent.

Bill Leety saw a cross made of fallen trees at Highbanks Metro Park during a winter hike. He says, “Actually what first caught the eye was the star of the down tree stump.”

As this Lenten season continues, open your eyes to see the many unintentional displays of the cross that are present in our daily lives.

After you take a photo, print or email it to Nicole Denman. For all the photos that have been submitted, check out our Facebook Album.

-Amy, Ann, and Brittany

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Our worship service will be tonight at 7:00 p.m. with ashes and communion.

For Presbyterians, the idea of getting ashes is still relatively new, but it has become a meaningful experience for many of us. We like this video from Busted Halo, that explains Lent and Ash Wednesday in just two minutes.

During Lent, we take time to tell God that we are sorry for all the ways in which we disappoint God and our selves, and God offers us grace, forgiveness and a new beginning. On Ash Wednesday, we think about mortality, and that one day, we will die. Ashes on our forehead in the shape of a cross remind us that we are dust and to dust we shall return.  The cross reminds us that we belong to God.
This Lent, we are asking you “where do you see the cross?”  For the next forty days, we ask you to take photos of the cross you see in everyday life.  Do you see it in a windowpane, in the branches of a tree, in the shadows of trees on the snow, in a building, or in a loaf of bread? Open your eyes to see the many unintentional displays of the cross that are present in our daily lives.

After you take a photo, print or email it to Nicole Denman at ndenman@bspc.org. Photos will be displayed in various ways throughout Lent. Pray before engaging in this spiritual practice. Set aside 15 minutes to take photos of the crosses you see, or for a daily discipline, consider taking and submitting one photo of a cross each day during Lent. Great for all ages!

-Amy, Ann, and Brittany

Week 5: Where is God when our prayers are not answered?

“It was a shiny red bike you saw in the store- ‘God, give me this bike and I won’t ask for more!’ Under the covers you prayed through the night, but when morning came there was no bike in sight.” (Does God Hear My Prayer? by August Gold)

We have all prayed for our own “red bike” at some time or another, and to be perfectly honest, why not?  Prayers on our hearts are important and allow us to be vulnerable and bold when relating to God.  However, it is incredibly frustrating to discover that prayer doesn’t work like the genie in the lamp… you have three prayers to be answered any way you desire.  Not likely.  Prayer is the deeply spiritual language of a relationship with God.  The Psalms are filled with prayers of lament and anger while also including prayers of praise and yearning for God.  The Gospels show Jesus praying for others, sneaking off to pray, and pleading in prayer with God in his deepest times of trial.

Barbara Brown Taylor, the Butman Professor of Religion at Piedmont College in northeast Georgia, an Episcopal priest, and the author of twelve books, including the New York Times bestseller An Altar in the World, explores God’s silence.  God’s silence reveals tension between sovereignty and obfuscation (it’ll be defined in the video).

Watch and listen as Barbara Brown Taylor wrestles with the mystery and unknown in a prayer life with God.

Despite our earnest and honest prayers, God may not show up in a way that is pleasing to us.  It may feel like God is silent. Or you may get that new “red bike” you prayed so hard and longed for and want to tell everyone about God working in your prayer life.  All of these experiences are part of the mystery of a life with God.

Closing Prayer:
Fr. Richard Rohr’s prayer comes from Psalm 46:10 of Hebrew Scriptures: “Be still and know that I am God.” Use this prayer to try and draw yourself into a contemplative frame of mind.  Follow the instructions below and use the video to guide your prayer OR simply follow the instructions of contemplative prayer.

Instructions:
1) Find a quiet place, gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Prepare to pray the Psalm in 5 consecutively diminishing sentences.
2) Either aloud or quietly to yourself, say the words, “Be still and know that I am God.”
3) After a couple deep breaths, pray, “Be still and know that I am.”
4) After a couple deep breaths, pray “Be still and know.”
5) After a couple deep breaths, pray, “Be still.”
6) After a couple deep breaths, pray, “Be.”
7) When ready, pray, “Amen.”

Question for Discussion:
Where is God when our prayers are not answered?

-Brittany Porch

Week 3: Where is God when terrible things happen in the world?

Auschwitz. Bosnia. The World Trade Center on 9/11. Hurricane Katrina. Superstorm Sandy.  Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Cancer. A sudden death. The list does not end there.  Whether natural or man made, tragedy strikes our world.  We do not have to experience a significant global event directly to feel the impact on our lives and wonder Where is God?  

    

When we are hurt by life, by death, by illness or injury, by rejection or disappointment is there any comfort to be found? Where do we see God when terrible things happen in the world?

As people of faith, we affirm that God is the creator of all things and brought forth good to all things on the earth. Yet, in the experiences of our lives when things do not  go the way we would want them to go,  those events cause us to reflect, if not, question, where is God? When we are faced with a terrible diagnosis, or the sudden death of a loved one, or when we are victims of a terrible disaster, we question,  How could a God who loves us allow terrible things to happen?

After a terminal diagnosis of his young son, Rabbi Harold S. Kushner writes in his book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People,

“Is there an answer to the question of why bad things happen to good people?…The response would be…to forgive the world for not being perfect, to forgive God for not making a better world, to reach out to the people around us, and to go on living despite it all…no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it has happened.”

The question is about suffering.  Its stubborn inevitability prompts our deepest doubts about life as well as a profound search for meaning.  Suffering causes people of faith to return to the promises of God and the assurance that God is present even through tragedy.

Even through the most difficult moments of our lives, God’s presence surrounds us and offers comfort. God is the first to shed a tear with us when we cry.  We belong to God.  The words of Paul resound; “nothing in death, nor life….nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 8: 38).

This short videoclip caught our attention this week:

Questions for discussion:
For you, where is God when terrible things happen?
Where have you found comfort?

-Emily Corzine

Week 2: Where is God in that which is every day, routine and ordinary?

I have always found it easy to feel close to God when I am away from home, whether on a mission trip, walking on a beach, or far above the clouds in an airplane.  The trickier part of a life of faith is feeling connected to God in the middle of everyday life.  This is an important part of our life of faith because we spend the vast majority of our lives in the routine of day in day out living.

Cindy Rigby will be our preacher and teacher this weekend.  She is W. C. Brown Professor of Theology at Austin Presbyterian Seminary.  Here are some words of hers on this topic.

I used to look for meaning in extraordinary things. In winning unexpectedly. In overcoming obstacles and odds. In crucifixion and resurrection; death and birth; the triumph of the smallest of good over the worst of evil.

But I’m learning, these days, that meaning is found more in the ordinary things. In the ten-minute conversation I have with my husband over morning coffee, when we laugh at something that bothered us the evening before. In the work my son and I are doing on his fourth-grade school project, molding little clay dwellings to the ripple of his happy sweet voice explaining to me how the Jumano Indians boiled water by dropping in piping hot stones first heated in adobe ovens. In the conversation I have with a quiet student right after class; something has “clicked” for her that may or may not reshape her thinking. Who knows…

It is through love for this world and its gifts that meaning can be found. Love for this world broken and extraordinary, ordinary and beautiful.

Questions for Discussion: Where do you see God in your everyday life?  What mundane moments speak to you of God’s presence and grace?

For another perspective on discovering God in the ordinary, watch this video featuring Chris Heuertz.  Chris is an advocate on behalf of women and children victimized by human trafficking.  This work has taken Chris to more than 70 countries working among the most vulnerable of the world’s poor.

-Amy Miracle, Pastor

Week 1: Where is God in temptation?

Welcome to the Lenten blog!  Our hope is that in the next six weeks this will be a place where we can talk about things that really matter in our lives.  Every week we will look at where God is in different aspects of our lives. This week we focus on “Where is God in temptation?”

In your life, how do you experience temptation?  How do you deal with that enticing urge or impulse toward something unwise or wrong?  What persistently tempts you?

In Lent Jesus is “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted…” (Matthew 4:1).  Jesus faced persistent temptations. Power.  Fulfillment.  The freedom to go it alone.

Franciscan friar Richard Rohr reframes the word temptation into the word ‘distraction’ – as in whatever tempts our eye or hand or heart away from God.  We found that a very helpful reframing.  We started to make a list of everything that tempts us away from God.  We soon developed quite a list:

  • The beeping noise my phone makes when I have a new text message
  • Busy-ness
  • A sense of my own self-importance
  • The idea that I will work on my spiritual life when I have more time and energy to spend on it
  • The relentless onslaught of images and sound
  • Going it alone – to think that we don’t need others to get through life
  • Blaming ourselves
  • Chasing after success that has nothing to do with what we actually value
  • Denial of realities

Where is God in all of these temptations and distractions?   Loving us?  The one to whom we pray?  The one who draws us back and centers us?

Every Sunday, when we say the Lord’s prayer we pray, “Lead us not into temptation.. lead us not into distraction.”  The temptations Jesus faced in the wilderness distracted Jesus, and we face those same temptations and more today. Our hope and prayer is that God lead us not into temptation/distraction!

Questions for discussion:
How do you experience temptation/distraction in your life?
What helps you resist or move past temptations and distractions?  Is it serving others?
Is it spending time with family and friends? Is it spending time in prayer and study?
Is it spending more time in nature?

Let us pray as Jesus taught us to pray:

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is a day for us to be honest about the power of sin and to reclaim Christianity’s unique vocabulary addressing our human condition.  Bottom line; even our deepest brokenness is no match for God’s grace.  Paradoxically, acknowledging our helplessness lights the path toward God’s mercy.

Throughout the season of Lent God is in the laundry business; washing, cleansing and recreating our lives.  Over the next six weeks Jesus walks toward Jerusalem.  Let’s go along, too.  From anger to alleluias, from weeping to wonder, the full range of human emotions awaits.

The journey begins on Ash Wednesday when we will gather and receive ashes on our foreheads.  Ashes are a visible reminder that we are created from nothing.  Another way to say that is that all that stands between us and sheer nothingness is God.  Maybe that is the most liberating good news of all.

This year Broad Street’s traditional Ash Wednesday worship service is on March 5 at 7:00 p.m.  It includes the receiving of ashes and the Lord’s Supper.  New this year are opportunities to receive ashes and a blessing in the Courtyard – 7:00-8:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

-Ann Palmerton, Associate Pastor for Care and Discipleship