2017 Lenten Devotional

 

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Berkeley County Cluster, United Methodist Churches

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DEVOTIONS FOR THE SEASON OF LENT Berkeley County Cluster of United Methodist Churches This booklet of devotionals for the Season of Lent 2017 was created by clergy and lay disciples of Jesus Christ in the Berkeley County Cluster of United Methodist Churches LENT 2017 THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

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Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017 "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. if you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So, when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full". -Matthew 6:1-2 Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, which is a 40-day season (not counting Sundays) leading us to the celebration of Easter day. The word "Lent" come from the Anglo-Saxon word 'lencten' which means 'spring'. The Lenten season itself is a time of repentance and preparation for that grad and glorious day in which we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Sometime today, many of us will gather for a time of worship and use the imagery of ashes placed upon our foreheads as a sign of our own mortality and repentance. We we hear the words, "Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe the gospel." Ash Wednesday emphasizes kind of a duel encounter: We confront our own mortality and we confess our sin before God within the community of faith. Through it all, we are also reminded of the love of a redeeming God who gave us the gift of Christ. The use of ashes as a sign of mortality and repentance has a long history in Jewish and Christian worship. The Imposition of Ashes can be a powerful symbol of our own call to repentance and reconciliation. As we begin this journey together in our places of worship, may God's Spirit lead us to a closer relationship with Him and with one another. Prayer: Mighty Lord, we confess that we are lost without you. So often we would go our own way, desiring only our own personal success and public glory. Forgive us, we pray. In our practice of the faith, may our right hand not be so concerned with what the left is doing. Over these days ahead, keep our hearts and focus on the cross of Christ, remembering that our hope rests in his death and resurrection. May our journey through this Lenten season be one of faith as we put our trust in you and follow where you lead. Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen. Rev. Mark C. Mooney Otterbein United Methodist Church

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Thursday, March 2, 2017 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. -Matthew 6:19-20 It is challenging for us to separate the economy of this world from the economy of God. As for this world, we have been taught, encourage, and motivated to secure things, property, goods, and money. It is our tendency to measure the worth of a person by how successful they have been in securing the things of this world. The more money one has, the greater we attribute success. Millionaires and billionaires have special status in our culture. Not so in the economy of God. Value is not measured by what one processes, how much money none has, or the size of one’s investment portfolio. It is at the Sermon on the Mount, that moment when Jesus lays out the ways of the Kingdom of God, that we are taught the distinction of the economy of man and the economy of God. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” because these things are transient—they do not last. Rather, Jesus teaches, concentrate on the things of God. Spiritual blessings last forever. Spiritual blessings are not subject to the whims of the economy. Spiritual blessings are not interested in the stock market. The economy of God is about sharing the blessing of the Gospel with one who has been rejected, or sharing one’s resources with those who have none, or spending time with those who mourn, visiting those who are in prison, giving bread to the hungry and hope to those who feel lost. The Holy Season of Lent is time to focus on the economy of God and to be less attentive to the economy of this world. The economy of God is where a lasting investment can me made. Prayer: Holy God, who has established a Kingdom that last forever, remind us to invest in the works of your Kingdom and not the fragile, transient things of this world. Amen. Rev. Dr. G. Edward Grove Greensburg/Mt.Wesley United Methodist Churches

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Friday, March 3, 2017 “Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love! Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion! Wash me completely clean of my guilt; purify me from my sin!” Psalm 51:1-2 (CEB) Recently I was standing in front of a mirror when I saw a stain that came from a bite of lunch that missed the mark and landed upon one of my favorite shirts that had just been washed. Even though I had to wash the stain away, I could still see the faint remnants of that stain. For my shirt to be clean again, it will take something beyond my abilities. The best that I could do was to hide the stain by wearing a necktie. However, even hidden, the stain still exists. This reminds me of when my thoughts, words, and actions miss the mark of what God desires. The simple word that describes this is “sin”. Sin stains my soul and no matter how hard I attempt to clean myself up, I still can’t rid myself of that stain. Sure, I might be able to hide it from others through fancy words and bold actions, but it still exists. I simply need to rely upon someone stronger than myself to wipe away the stain of my sin. Fortunately, God is so merciful that he is willing to clean me of my sin, if I am willing to trust in his faithful love. Loving God, wash the stain of my sin away so that I may be clean and improve my aim in pleasing you. Amen. Rev. Dr. Ken Walker Trinity United Methodist Church

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Saturday, March 4, 2017 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not from your presence, nor take your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:10-11 Psalm 51 is one of seven penitential psalms – psalms that show great sorrow for one’s sins. Sin is one thing each of us has in common. Sin is like a disease that affects everyone. Individual “sins” such as lying, hatred, sexual immorality, theft, and so on, are symptoms of the larger disease of Sin. Sins include anything we have thought, said, or done that have hurt us and others. Or maybe there are things we failed to do or say that we should have. Sin makes us less than we are meant to be. Because God cannot abide sin, sinful behavior also harms our relationship with God. Psalm 51 was composed by King David. In the psalm David confessed that he had sinned. He was ashamed because of something he had done. David realized that his sin affected not only him, but also the people around him. He fears that he has distanced himself from God. David didn’t just ask God to forgive his sin; he asked God to change him on the inside. He asked God to create a pure heart within him. David used the same word for “create” in Hebrew that is used in Genesis 1 when God created the world. It’s like David is asking God to remove his old heart and make a new one. He didn’t ask God to tinker with him a little, like a mechanic who tinkers with an automobile to make it run better. David is speaking of major heart surgery. David knows that the problem is deep inside him. He needs to become a new person. We may think that if we do one or two things better, God will be completely happy with us. David realizes that this is not the case. He knows that his heart needs a total cleansing and transformation, and this wasn’t something he could do on his own. We can’t either. We need to be purified, renewed, remade, transformed into new creatures. By allowing God to remold and remake us, we become closer to the people God has made us to be. Rev. John Yost St. Luke’s United Methodist Church

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Sunday, March 5, 2017 We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, -2 Corinthians 6:3-4 The Season of Lent is a particular time of exercising spiritual disciplines that would bring us closer to God, deepen our prayer life, and enable us to have a closer relationship with Jesus. These are all good things, but they are also very private. These exercises and life choices are designed to enhance a deeper, more profound personal relations with God. This is a good thing. However, the Apostle Paul is counseling us to be concerned about others as much as about ourselves. He counsels the early Christian community to live their lives in such a way that others may see the Gospel at work in them, He especially notes that Christians should not create barriers to the growth of others. While this sounds simple enough, it is more challenging that we might think. Most folks agree that we need rules, guidelines, and boundaries. However, do we often use those tools to reject others, forbid others from the basic needs of life, or to protect our selfish interest? Do we use rules, guidelines and policies to create obstacles for others? If our intent is to create obstacles or barriers for the spiritual growth of others, then the words of the Apostle Paul become a judgment upon us. Paul is reminding us that we must bend over backward to include all God’s children. The model of Jesus who accepted children, women, the diseased, those of other religious and political views, and politicians is intended to illustrate what our model of life ought to be. Rev. Dr. G. Edward Grove Greensburg/Mt.Wesley United Methodist Churches

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Monday, March 6, 2017 Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing -Joel 2:12-13 I’m one of the lucky ones. I had a father who while very strict, exhibited compassion and forgiveness. As a child, around seven years of age, I ran away from home. Having packed a few meager things, crackers, a few cans of soda, some peanut butter, I traveled upon the mountain where I could look down on my home. When Dad found the note I left, I watched as he scurried about the village looking for me. However, when darkness began to fall, I decided it was time to go home. I realized that I would be punished when I arrived, however, I was wrong. When I came through the door, Dad hugged me and simply said, “Welcome home son”. That was the last that he ever spoke of the incident. Dad was a living representative in my life of the words of the prophet Joel. I think we all run away from home in some way during our life. Sometime we run from the church, from family, or from God. Joel reminds us that a loving God, who has always been looking for us, simply says “Welcome home!” Rev. Dr. G. Edward Grove Greensburg/Mt.Wesley United Methodist Churches

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017 “Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and God will say, ‘I’m here.’ If you remove the yoke from among you, the finger-pointing, the wicked speech; if you open your heart to the hungry, and provide abundantly for those who are afflicted, your light will shine in the darkness, and your gloom will be like the noon.” Isaiah 58:9-10 (CEB) I was recently in a darkened movie theatre when I wanted to see what time it was. I pushed the little button to illuminate my watch and that tiny light seemed to light up the entire theatre. A little later, I had the same urge to check the time. This time, however, I covered my watch so that I was the only one who could see its bluish glow. I’ve thought about the times when I have seen someone that is hungry, hurting, lonely, and homeless; but simply ignored them and walked by. It is like covering the light so that I’m the only person that can see it. Yet, there are those times when I respond with mercy and compassion that blesses someone in need. In those times, I have uncovered the light of Jesus Christ so that the world may see the light of Christ. I have found that as I have opened my heart to others, I am also blessed as well. The light that is revealed declares that God is present. Prayer: Holy God, give me the courage to uncover the light of your love to all the world and not just myself. Amen. Rev. Dr. Ken Walker Trinity United Methodist Church

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017 The one whose wrongdoing is forgiven, whose sin is covered over is truly happy! The one the LORD doesn’t consider guilty—in whose spirit there is no dishonesty-that one is truly happy! --Psalm 32:1-2: Common English Translation People always seem to be searching to be happy. Many search in dangerous places like drugs, alcohol, risky adventures or relationships. Many just want to enjoy life simply with family and friends and meaningful work. Is there really anything wrong with wanting to be happy? Our passage today is affirming happiness is real and something to be valued. Ah, but the difficulty is true happiness. When I think of the times I am happy, it usually does not involve expensive things or exciting times. I have been supremely happy just petting my dog, taking a walk in the woods, talking to a good friend, even enjoying a good cup of coffee. During these times, all seems right with the world (whether it is or not!). At these times, there is an unbroken connection with nature, people, even food. Sin disconnects us from God. It’s like the frustrating experience of a poor phone connection – you just can’t hear right. With the broken connection, both are unsatisfied. Just like we can move around on our cell phones to get a better connection, we can adjust ourselves to God, to God’s way of thinking. The more we adjust to God, the clearer the connection becomes. Adjusting to God’s way involves knowing we need forgiveness and knowing God gives that forgiveness. God’s forgiveness heals the disconnect – communication is restored. Prayer: For all those who need to accept they are forgiven by God, so they can move on to true happiness. For all those who need to restore those broken connections with family, friends and God. Dawn Reidy Paynes Chapel United Methodist Church

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Thursday, March 9, 2017 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’ -Genesis 2:15-17 In the span of three verses, the writer of Genesis tells us an enormous amount of what God is expecting of us. First, note that God put us in the Garden to care for it. “Men” are specifically instructed to farm it and care for this Garden God has given us. This is a good passage for farmers who dedicate themselves to caring for the soil and producing food for families. It is instruction for all of us to take care of this world that God has loving created. Next, we note that we can eat of the fruit but there are boundaries. God give a Garden where we “may” do specific things and where there are certain things we “may not” do. There are boundaries in God’s world. There are expectations and prohibitions. We can till the soil and eat of the yield; but we are not to eat of a specific tree. God teaches us what we can and cannot do. That is the nature of all life, there are things we can do and things we ought not. It is God who sets those boundaries. Third, we discover that if we are disobedient, there are consequences— and they are severe. In three short verse, God gives us a structure of life. He has given us a good garden in which to live and work; He has given us produce from the work of our hands; and He has set boundaries for living. Prayer: Remind us O God that you have created the world and you have placed us in it. You have given us opportunity to toil, harvest, and live. Keep us faithful and obedient to your ways. Amen. Rev. Dr. G. Edward Grove Greensburg/Mt.Wesley United Methodist Churches

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Friday, March 10, 2017 6 The woman saw that the tree was beautiful with delicious food and that the tree would provide wisdom, so she took some of its fruit and ate it, and also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then they both saw clearly and knew that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together and made garments for \themselves. --Genesis 3:6-7 Common English Bible (CEB) During the season of Lent, we often give up something that is not good for us – something that tempts us to spend time away from our spiritual practices of prayer, fasting and resting in God’s words. As the Genesis scripture tells us, Eve’s taking of the fruit (following through on the temptation) and then sharing it with Adam revealed something they’d rather not know about themselves. Humankind has struggled ever since. Did God mean for us to know everything? Is there a price to finding answers to all life’s difficult questions? Can we ever find our way back to a right relationship with God after yielding to temptations? For me, those answers are no, yes and yes… God wants to be in relationship with us. He knows we’re flawed, so is never surprised when we stray. We’re the one’s who are surprised – we think we’re strong, we think we have solid relationships with God, we think nothing can separate us from Him and our quest to grow closer to Him. But, when we yield to temptation – get caught up in playing one more round of that video game, eating one more yummy cookie, watching one more episode of that show on TV, or whatever it is that has tempted us—we steal time that we could be spending with God in prayer, in Bible Study, in journaling, in fasting, in serving Him. Getting caught up in yielding to temptations reveals to us that we are no better than the average person, and we need to work on getting back into right relationship with God. He’s waiting with open arms and a loving, forgiving heart. Prayer: Gracious and Loving Lord, When we stray, yank us back quickly. Remind us whose we are and the abundant love you have for us. Help us Lord, during this Season of Lent (and beyond), to stay focused on you and grow in your love to serve you all the days of our lives. Amen Sherie Koob, Certified Lay Minister, is a Resource Person for the Western Region of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church. She is a member of Middletown UMC in Frederick County Maryland where she wears many hats. She is also secretary of the BWC United Methodist Women, and was part of the BWC Delegation to the 2016 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. She and her husband, Mike, live in Knoxville, MD.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017 Therefore, just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. - Romans 5:18-19 My oldest brother, Ronnie, was a mischievous fellow. He was quite notorious throughout the community for practical jokes and mischievous behavior. I need to be clear, he was never in trouble with the law, but he did frustrate neighbors and family on numerous occasions. I too was the brunt of many of his escapades, and on more than one occasion reported his teasing behavior to our parents. Yet there was one occasion where he changed roles. I accidentally broke a large limb from a neighbor’s prize ornamental tree that decorated their front yard. It was clear that I was in trouble with the neighbor and with my parents. In what was totally out of character, Ronnie took the blame. When the neighbor reported the damage to his tree to my parent’s Ronnie confessed that he was the culprit. To my shame, I let him take the fall and the consequence. I should point out that he never let me forget it either! The Apostle Paul wants his readers to understand that Jesus took the fall for all of us. He notes that it was Adam who started it all, and we humans fell into an inheritance of sin. Jesus rescued us from the consequence of our sinful nature. He paid the price, he took the fall and he paid the consequence. There is no doubt Ronnie that I owe you! There is also no doubt that we all owe Jesus our love, praise, and obedience for the enormous price he paid for our sins. Prayer: We stand in amazement O God that your Son, Jesus Christ, would pay the price for our sins. Because of his sacrifice, we are free to enter your glory. Praise be to Jesus who died for us. Amen. Rev. Dr. G. Edward Grove Greensburg/Mt. Wesley United Methodist Churches

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Sunday, March 12, 2017 “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.” Matthew 4:1-2 This is a test of strength not only obedience. For Matthew, Satan is the adversary who is always wanting to draw one away from God. Smooth words, enticing rewards, and offers of power and privilege are offered up. In each case Jesus is not drawn away from allegiance to God. I suggest to you that the challenges faced by Jesus are ours as well. The Satan of this world constantly seeks to woo us away from our allegiance to God as Lord of our life. Smooth words of advertisers, marketers, and political leaders entice us to embrace the values of this world rather than the values of the Kingdom of God. The promise of illicit rewards that inflate bank accounts, portfolios or property are ever present. The gleam of gold often blinds us to that which is right in God’s Kingdom. The thirst for power, authority, or at the very least, status, seeks to drive us into behavior that is opposite the call for humility called for in the Kingdom of God. Of course, obedience is always a challenging question. However, a larger question is do we have the spiritual strength to make a choice for righteous living. Are we anchored deeply in prayer and spiritual disciplines that fortifies our capacity to make the right choices? Are we spiritually strong enough to face challenges designed to separate us from God? The forty-day witness of Jesus in the wilderness should remind us that the forty days of our Lenten Season are designed to challenge us. In the end, will we be able to emerge for our wilderness journey in love with God. Prayer: O Lord, we pray for strength as we journey through the wilderness of this world. Strengthen us that we would not become weary but stay strong in spirit to chose faithfulness and righteousness. Amen. Rev. Dr. G. Edward Grove Greensburg/Mt. Wesley United Methodist Churches

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Monday, March 13, 2017 I will lift up my eyes to the hills --From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made Heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2 (NKJ Version) Of all the Psalms, I never would have picked Psalm 121 as a favorite. However, this all changed in the year 1999. We had two weddings in the family. My nephew, Andrew, married in May and my oldest son, Geoff, married in July. My mother, Louise Siler, turned 87 that year and she planned to attend both. However, this did not happen. She seemed to start feeling "under the weather" in May. Mother never was sick a day in her adult life and never spent a day in the hospital except for giving birth to her children. So, this was unusual. Mother had been the center of our family for my whole life, and we were at a loss. After tests were performed, it appeared that that there were spots seen on the liver. She went to be with the Lord on August 26, 1999. In her final month, she told my sister that she could no longer see the mountains. My sister asked our pastor about this because my mother read the Bible and prayed daily. He researched the Bible and found Psalm 121. This brought my attention to this scripture. I was devastated by my mother's death and somehow reading this Psalm helped. I have struggled with depression for years and my mother was a strong supporter. She told me that to lift others up in prayer, be more active in church, and think of others before myself. I will lift up my eyes unto the hills rings true. It reminds me that the Lord is in control and is my help in all my troubles. He is the maker of Heaven and earth. Let us all remember no matter how hard life gets, the Lord is with us. Amen. Prayer: Lord, make us ever mindful of your undying love for us and your help in all our troubles. Amen. Linda Carter Greensburg United Methodist Church

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Monday, March 14, 2017 I lift my eyes to the hills--- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. -Psalm 121:1-2 I have had many difficult periods in my life. In the stillness of these times I find myself searching for answers in Gods natural world. I have always found that nature holds the key for me. Look at His creation, so wonderful and so perfect. It has always amazed me how everything works with a purpose. I look at the planets that orbit the sun and the beauty of the night sky, and I see God. I see the trees that produce seeds and watch the wind scatter them to produce seedlings. In this way, He provides food for the birds and the animals from these trees and seeds. Years ago when I was a young girl I can remember watching a flock of geese fly in a V formation. Of course, being young, I had no idea why they did this and had to find out why. It turns out that they take turns flying in front, each bird behind the one in front flies slightly above and it creates less wind resistance. This helps them to be able to fly long distances. God made them this way, its innate and its beautiful. The funny thing is, I find in times of struggle when I do not know where to turn or what to do I look up and I see the perfect formation of geese flying and in that moment, I here God saying, “I love you and I am here”. It happens all the time. It appears He may not always be answering my prayers or giving me an explanation, but he is always there. We must realize that God has His own perfect plan. No matter what we are going through He is there, we can lean on Him and He will give us the strength we need to get through. Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for you for being my rock. Help me to always remember that whatever I go through I can always depend on you for the strength I need. Melanie Paulman Mt. Wesley United Methodist Church

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