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April 28

“He will bring me out to the light; I shall see his vindication.”  Micah 7:9

“When Jesus was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”  Luke 24:30-31

Last weekend I attended a MN Lions Eye Bank Donor and Family Recognition Program to honor my husband’s late brother.  We learned about various conditions which leave one unable to see clearly, or not at all.  We are fortunate to live at a time when corrective lenses and transplants will help many see God’s creation and much loved faces. 

We have conditions which block our spiritual vision – the clutter of our “to do list”, busyness, or just indifference.  Our vision might be tunneled by real, hard emotions – anger, fear, loss and loneliness.   Like Jesus’ friends we may not see Jesus right next to us.  God sent the Holy Spirit to help us “see”.  By God’s grace, we recognize him in the ordinary of our day. 

Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) couldn’t see, but he did “see” the goodness of Jesus and his power to heal, and he said so.  And then, “Thank you, Jesus”, Bartimaeus could see what others were seeing.  Christ the King is blessed with a talented group of artists called Bartimaeus.  Through visual art – beautiful banners, quilts and paintings; expressive displays and artifacts; a spectacular array of Spring flowers on Easter morning – they help us “see”. 

There is such a thread of vision and new life interwoven throughout Spring.  We see the beauty and miracle of new life all around us.  We too are reborn and transformed.  We celebrate Easter – our redemption.    Our spiritual vision is restored.  We see Jesus alive in the world.  The message of Easter shapes our vision of the earth and needs of others.  Like Jesus’ friends we are motivated to go out and live the Easter message so others too can see.

“Christ, our companion, hope for the journey, bread of compassion, open our eyes. Grant us your vision, set all hearts burning that all creation with you may rise.”  Amen

(Susan Palo Cherwien)

Verla Olson



April 27

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.  I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  Isaiah 43: 18-19.

The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree.  Luke 13:19.

 

One fall, I planted 30 tulip bulbs.  I followed the instructions and then covered the earth with dead   leaves and bricks to keep the squirrels from digging them up. Tulips are my favorite flower and I chose an array of colors.  All winter I looked forward to seeing those plants poke through the earth (I had removed the bricks).  Imagine my disappointment when not one green leaf appeared.  Alas, my tulips did not spring forth.

The Bible tells us a different story about planting.  A man put a mustard seat in the ground and then watched it grow and become a tree.  (It is said that a tree of the mustard family becomes twelve feet tall.)  The tree branches attracted birds who sat among those branches and sang their pretty songs.

Jesus compares the kingdom of God to the growing of that mustard seed.  In the kingdom of God, we are sheltered.  Like the birds in the trees, we are free.  All because God did a new thing.  He sent Jesus Christ into the world. 

Holy God, you knew what the world needed and you did a new thing, like a huge tree, the kingdom of God has branches that spread to the ends of the earth.  Plant your love in us, mighty God and help us to bear seeds of new life.  Amen.

Joan Perlich



April 26

God, you who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again. Psalm 71:20

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. John 14:1

Psalm 71 is apparently is written by David when he was older. The title over it in one Bible is “An Old Man’s Prayer.” In verse 18 he writes: “now that I am old, and my h air is gray, do not abandon me, O God!” David certainly did see a lot of troubles in his life, as well as calamities. Interesting that he writes as though God had sent these problems; David managed to get himself into lots of troubles just fine all on his own. Perhaps the word “see” refers to David realizing each time that he had sinned and needed to repent and try again.

As he reflects on a whole lifetime of this, he knows that God was there with him. He was there to give strength each time there was need, each time the calamities threatened to overwhelm David. Now he is feeling as though he can’t do what he once did and yet he knows he can still tell about God and praise him.  As one commentator writes, God does not cast off his people as they get older and cannot do all the work they did when younger. We still remain in relationship with a God that loves and cares for us, and we can share that with others.

Jesus reassures the disciples that there is no need to sit around worrying even though He has just told them about what will happen as they go into Jerusalem. Jesus reminds them that they do believe in God, and they certainly must have known all the things God has done for David, and all of Israel. Then, they should also believe in Jesus. That is all that is needed. No wondrous works, or striving to be saved; just a simple belief in our Lord and Savior.

O Lord, our protector, thank you that when we are troubled and trembling you are our rock. God of hope, help us in our hopelessness. As we remember the events that led us to Easter day, help us not to forget what it all means for each of us. Revive our spirits to serve you in greater ways and to place our faith and trust in you. Amen.  

Chris Gabel



April 25

My dwelling place shall be with; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Ezekiel 37:27

And I saw the holy city; the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among the mortals.” Revelation 21:2-3

Home sweet home is always there deep inside the heart of every living individual. There is a difference between a house and a home. Home is not about the bricks and wood used in the buildings. A home is full of life; it can be a cottage, a tent, a palace, a bungalow, or an RV. Just because you own a bungalow which has no occupants except for spiders and termites, you won’t call it a home. On the other hand, if live in your car, or tent or RV, you just might call that home. A home in England is different from a home in India, and a home in Africa is different from one in Russia. Even in your own neighborhood, homes are different.

Minnesota is my home; it is also home to many people of different nationalities and cultures. It is a place where you can feel safe, where you have the freedom to pursue all your goals, and where the people and communities are made up of a diverse range of different cultures and backgrounds. Is it any wonder that so many people around the world would also want to call the United States and Minnesota their home?

Many people such as asylum seekers and immigrants are all examples of individuals and families who seek a new and better life. We take it for granted that we actually have a place where we can fulfill our basic needs, as well as be surrounded by family and friends. Where we have the freedom to pursue those dreams and work towards a better life. Those who seek asylum, immigrants who travel the seas, are looking for a refuge, a place of safety – a new residence they can call home, come here to a place where they don’t have to wonder whether they will see their family and friends the next day, or wonder what dangers are lurking behind the next corner. A safe place to call home.

And…….we are not alone; God is telling us that wherever He is, that is our home. In the RV in Arizona, in the tent in India, in the small cottage in England, in our living rooms, where ever we are, all we have to do is ask God to be there, and He will be t here for us and for always.

“Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. ”John Howard Payne (1791-1852)   

Thank you, Emmanuel, for your steadfast tenderness toward me, toward us, your wayward and faithless people. Your deep mercy will create us anew, person by person, until all the world proclaims your kingdom come as your will is accomplished. Forgive me for doubting you. Dwell in my earthen heart this day. Amen.

Susan Hanson



April 24

May those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!” Psalm 40:16

Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. Luke 19:5-6

God is greater than any one of us can possibly imagine. He provides grace, love, forgiveness, and salvation for each of us who believes. He welcomes all into his fold. Imagine Zacchaeus. He was a rich tax collector despised by most in Jericho. Yet, Jesus saw short Zacchaeus up in a tree and said that he must stay at Zacchaeus’s home. Many in the village were not happy as Zacchaeus was much disliked for his work and for making certain that he was well paid.

Each of us can remember singing about Zacchaeus during our Sunday school days. We knew that Zaccheus was a tax collector liked by few; however, we also all understood that it was quite a boost to Zacchaeus’s standing in the community to have Jesus want to come to his home. It was one of the important times that we were taught the all-encompassing love of Jesus for all people.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. I watched a documentary on the work done by Waitstill and Martha Sharp during World War II. Waitstill was a minister in the Unitarian church in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Martha was a noted social worker. Martha and Waitstill Sharp helped hundreds of people escape from Nazi persecution. Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Israel, honored the Sharps as Righteous Among the Nations in 2006. The Sharps were asked to sacrifice so much, leave their young children, and go to Europe to save hundreds, mostly Jewish children. They stepped up to do all they could to help those in desperate need. Did they choose which person was most deserving of being rescued? No. They gathered every person who was in danger and did all they could to save them from torture and certain death at the hands of the Nazis.

Just so, Jesus gathers all, no matter their color, ethnic background, status, wealth, etc., and brings them into the safety of his loving arms. He lived the example that many such as the Sharps have followed. Blessed are we who are made aware of the example Jesus has given us.

Dear Lord and Savior,

Thank you for the grace, love, forgiveness, and salvation provided through your only Son. If we feel that we are incapable of serving, you come to each of us, just as you did to Zacchaeus, and call us by name. Thank you for knowing us and being in our homes and hearts. Please keep our hearts open to receive you and to help others. Amen.

Florence Smallfield



April 21

Daniel was thrown into the den of lions.  The king said to Daniel “May your God whom you faithfully serve deliver you!”  Daniel 6:16 

We are persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed.  2nd Corinthians 4:9

There aren’t a lot of people challenging my faith these days.  I mean sure, there are always going to be atheists or skeptics or the like who question why we would believe in God.  But beyond that, and even with them included there isn’t a lot of likelihood that someone is going to challenge me in such a way that I will be tossed into whatever is the modern day equivalent of a Lion’s den. 

But I do know that there is one person who frequently challenges my faith.  One person who when the going gets tough sometimes forgets that God is in my corner. One person who when the chips seem down has been known to look at the sky and ask “God! Where are you?”

Yes, that one person is me.  Sometimes I am my own worst enemy.  Heck, there are some days I can’t get out of my own way.  And on those difficult days, often times I do wonder where God is.  I wonder why things aren’t easier or why aren’t things going better and so on.

On most days, when life is good we don’t spend time worrying about or wondering if our faith is sound.  No need too right?   However as for those bad days or tough times…brrr…they can be not so fun and we put a lot of energy into dark topics and thoughts that don’t help.

But here’s the thing.   For me to be able to sit here and write this devotion really means that I have survived every down day and event of my life. I have triumphed through the hard times and somehow have found my way through countless situations that felt as if they would never end or there would be no way out.  Yet here I am.   And life is good!

And you know what? During each of the dark lows or the bright highs, I have never been alone. 

So yes, I do feel persecuted some days, but I’ve not been forsaken.  I may feel struck down, but no, never destroyed.   And thinking of it now, I can’t help but wonder if those days maybe would have been easier to take if I had thought to thank God for being with me instead of wondering if he abandoned me.

When I am at my weakest Lord, you are my strength.  Thank you for staying with me through the good times and the challenging times.

Al Rivers



April 20

“Direct your heart to the Lord, and serve him only.”  1 Samuel 7:3

“Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  Philippians 1:27

Parents ask/tell us to do this and that.  Teachers give assignments and have expectations.  Employers delegate jobs and have performance standards.  Family asks “What’s for supper?” and “When do we eat?”  Duties, things we “have” to get done, can clutter our time and lives.  We feel forced into being Martha when our hearts long to be Mary.

Rules and direction help keep order.  They provide safety and fair space.  You have likely heard the expression “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”  Besides his note to the Philippians Paul also wrote to the Colossians (3:17):  “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” And “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”(v 23).   We do not dedicate just an hour on weekends to God’s mission and service.  It is a way of life.   Daily living with Christ brings purpose to all we do.  We want to do our best and live up to honest expectations.  Our rules for daily living reflect God’s commandments that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and our neighbors as ourselves.  Christ beside us and within us at all times – when we brush our teeth, ride the bus, make supper; when we give our employers the value of our wages; when we play fair and considerately; when we ungrudgingly pay taxes so we have safe bridges and services for the disabled; when we greet others, including strangers, with courtesy and respect; when we do justice and love kindness in our communities and homes.  “Whether [we] eat or drink” … we are the Lord’s.

Constant Companion, help me live today well – waking, working, playing, resting.  Help me do my “chores” cheerfully and with gratitude, reminding me that many chores are taking care of blessings.  Keep my eyes and ears open for your messages when distractions would shut you out.  May my thoughts, words and actions be just and kind and worthy of your notice.  Amen

Verla Olson



April 19

Thus shall you say to one another, among yourselves, “What has the Lord answered?” or “What has the Lord spoken?” Jeremiah 23:35

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of god. Colossians 3:1

Easter is here – and then it is gone? I read a Facebook posting sent to a friend. It was sent the day after Easter and wished her a “Happy Belated Easter.” Hmmm – don’t think that Easter is quite like a birthday that we forget and send a card a few days late. While to some it may seem that Easter is a one day event where we show up at church, see beautiful flowers, hear great music and a great message, maybe even shout a Hallelujah, and then go home to a meal with family. Maybe it is celebrated with some eggs, chocolate bunnies and jelly beans and then all is put away for another year?

That is not what Easter is. It is not just a once a year commemoration of what happened 2000 years ago, but rather a celebration of the salvation we receive through Jesus’ live, death and resurrection that continues on throughout the year and our lives. Jesus was born into our world to for this very purpose, amazing as that seems. Long before we were around, there He was creating, living, dying and conquering death for all of us for all time.

As I was driving across Minnesota yesterday (two days after Easter), I played an old CD. I had forgotten there was a message or two among the songs and listened again to one from Mark Lowry, about his pre-school son and an Easter program. The boy was Jesus for the Easter story; all went well, as he came out of the tomb, talked to the crying Marys. But then he went back into the tomb, with his father worrying about an embarrassing scene, and then came running out saying “Ready or not, here I come!”

Isn’t that what Jesus might have said to all of us? Whether you are ready or not, He has risen and only wants us to believe in Him as our Savior. Not in our time, not just for that one fun Easter day, but for each and every day of our lives. We have heard the story, we have sung the songs, enjoyed the flowers, been blessed by the words from the Bible and the sermon, now it is our turn to use our gifts, to use the skills that God has given us. Our hands are His hands, to be used in service for the people of God.

United in your resurrection, Lord, help us be alive to you and to our neighbors. Generous God, you have provided us with many blessings in our lives. As we acknowledge these gifts with thankful hearts, may we hear your call to share what we have received from you. As we give to others, help us also to receive more from your word and teachings that will allow us to better serve you and your Kingdom. Amen.

Chris Gabel



April 18

I will heal their disloyalty; I will love them freely. Hosea 14:4

And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples-for there were many who followed him. Mark 2:15

“Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s rebellion.” Alice Cooper

It’s hard to express some things in words. Whether we’re trying to describe a stunning sunset, or a profound feeling of gratitude, or a gut-wrenching emotion, words often seem to fail us. That’s why we often resort to exaggerating. “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse,” we say, without really thinking we could consume a thousand pounds of food, or without any desire to hurt some poor animal, or without any particular love of horsemeat.

Speaking of love, our words quickly run out of gas. Sometimes when we’re filled with adoration for someone we say we say, “I just love you to death.” Exactly what do we mean? Are we back in the “eating-up” mode? I love you so much I could kill you? I doubt it. Don’t we really mean something like, “I’ll always love you, until the day I die” or perhaps “I love you so much I’d give my life for you” or maybe even “Death itself can’t make me stop loving you”?

Well, God loves you to death. That’s it. God loves you to death. And how can you know this to be true? We know, because Christ died on the cross for all of us.  

Because God loves us, God doesn’t easily let go. He wants us all. That’s why God sent his Son, and that’s why God follows us through our unfaithfulness, our sometimes mean attitude to one another, our self-centeredness, and even our unholy messes.

Healing, loving and loyal Lord! Thank you for inviting me to come back to you. You know all about me and still love me beyond all I desire or imagine. Let me never hide my naked need from you, but return to you again. Heal me and form me into a witness to your forgiving, welcoming love. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



April 14

Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them.” Ecclesiastes 12: 1.

One of the criminals said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Luke 23:42.

There are so many things to remember – our telephone numbers, social security number, birthday, anniversaries, congratulating events, etc.

As we remember we also like to be remembered.  When others remember us it means they care about us or have a message for us.

Good Friday is a day for us to remember.  It is the day to remember the crucifixion of Jesus, not only the horrible, violent death of an innocent person, but to remember the significance of the death.  Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies of suffering and paid for the sins of the world.

Most of us remember some images of the crucifixion.  Perhaps some have actually seen the place where Jesus was crucified.  And we remember the scene of the three crosses with Jesus on the center cross and a criminal on either side.

One of the criminals spoke to Jesus and said “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  It was a very personal prayer and request.   In some miraculous way the criminal saw a Savior for the world who offered something beyond death.  And Jesus responded with the words “Today you will be with me in paradise.”  Jesus thereby gave the assurance that life goes on with continuing fellowship.

Remember me is a personal prayer for each of us as Jesus offers life, peace, forgiveness and hope for as sinners on earth.   By the death of Jesus, salvation is possible for all.

Even the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us there is also a time to remember our Creator who gives us life, an earthly life that will one day end.  As we partake in Holy Communion on this Good Friday receiving the body and blood of Jesus we simply ask “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Prayer: Fill our hearts with gratitude for overcoming death forever.  Amen.

Marv Roloff