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March 20

All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient. Exodus 24:7

Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. Matthew 12:50

Obeying the rules, that certainly sounds simple. The people of Israel respond to Moses by telling him that they have listened to the rules, they will follow everything that God has told them to do, and they will be obedient. Wonder how long that lasted?  Moses did have to make two trips to bring them the 10 commandments since they weren’t very obedient the first time.  No one is able to follow the rules all the time; we manage to break one or more of them each day.

Jesus of course summarizes all the laws into one: you shall love the Lord your God with all your mind and soul and heart, AND the second part, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  This is God’s will for us, that we love one another including all the people that God created and that Christ came and died to save.  We who believe and follow the rules, and try to achieve God’s will as best we can are invited to be part of the family of God. Beyond a family joined by flesh and blood, by genetic testing to see if we are related, we can all be part of this family due to God’s grace and invitation.

Jesus says all we need do is follow God’s will to be His brother, sister, mother. This verse follows a few that say his family was outside wanting to talk with Him. Paraphrasing a comment made on Matthew 12:50, Jesus’ mother and brothers (sisters too?) stood outside waiting to speak with Him, when they too should have been inside listening to Him.  Listening to what He had to say about being part of God’s family’ a family defined by love. Jesus is not dishonoring or disowning his family, He is just enlarging it and offering it to all. Can we follow all the rules, and do God’s will every day? Not without some help and a lot of forgiveness.  Lucky for us that is what God has in His plans for us. Through the grace of God, we are forgiven when we sin, when we break the rules. We pledge once again to get it right, we don’t, we repent and once again He forgives us. Plus, after Jesus ascended to heaven the Holy Spirit was sent to be our comforter and helper. We begin each day anew, trying our human best to be obedient and follow the Way.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your word and the good direction of your commandments. Forgive us when we fail to listen to your voice and disobey. Help us remain centered in your will and open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. God, help us to be obedient to your law of love. Remind us that you have chosen us as members of your own family as we follow the way of Jesus. Amen.

Chris Gabel

March 18

Woe to those who make unjust deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed. Isaiah 10:1-2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

How often we forget that we come into this world with nothing and that we leave this world with nothing. We are impressed with  the wealth and success gained in this earthly life and strive to be with the ones who appear to have it all together, or to be that person in others’ eyes.

God doesn’t see any of us through the eyes of earthly wealth and success. To pursue his plan for us and to lead by example, he chose his disciples; he chose Paul; he chose the woman at the well; he chose you; he chose me. We cannot know what God has in store for us, but we know he wants us to focus on him and our future in his heavenly kingdom. He never checked with any of his children to discern whether or not they had earthly wealth and success. he just wants their hearts and minds to be focused on him and his plan for them. 

Throughout history there has always been suffering and injustice, and there always will be. I am always amazed at the human strength gained through faith in God’s undying presence that emerges from such times. People hid and saved thousands during WWII, knowing that the rescuers were facing death if they were caught. There are medical personnel who take leaves to use their healing skills in third world countries. There are the people who serve the poor by obtaining  food, clothing, medicine, etc. and helping them to use these gifts. I cannot name all of the ways people serve in selfless ways to follow what they know God wants them to do.

There is you; there is me. There are our prayers. God wants each of us to focus on what is good and acceptable and perfect. He will show us the way if we are willing to follow.

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Lead each one of us in the way we should go. Forgive us when we are impressed with the successes and wealth of this world. Bring us back to follow your way and to concentrate on the riches of your heavenly kingdom. help us to listen to your voice and to be the example that we need to be to others. Amen

Florence Smallfield

March 12

They will look on me, the one they have pierced. Zechariah 12:10

Pilate said, “Behold, you King!” So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” John 1:14-15

Christianity is a religion of grace. We sing about grace, we write poems about grace, we name our churches and our children after grace.

But for all that, grace is not well understood and often not really believed. We use the word a great deal but rarely think about what it means. It’s probably true that most of us think infrequently about God’s grace. For every discussion we have about grace, we have a dozen about the church budget or the church programs or more likely, whether or not we’ll live to see the Vikings win the Super Bowl. If you ask us, we certainly believe in grace, but outside of the worship services, the word is rarely on our lips.

Grace teaches us that God does for others what we would never do for them. We would save the not-so-bad, but the really bad guys, maybe not. Grace is a gift that costs everything to the giver and nothing to the receiver. It is given to those who don’t deserve it, barely recognize it, and hardly appreciate it. It is given to us!

Merciful Lord and Savior, thank you for never rejecting us, even when we rejected you by our actions and neglect. In your merciful name, we remember especially those who are weary and those who have grown cynical. May we be ready as your faithful servants to bring them a fresh sign of your grace today. Amen.


Susan Hanson

March 7

“Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!”  1 Kings 8:27

“Although you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.”  1 Peter 1:8

I love my church.  I feel at home there, worshiping and talking with wonderful, caring people.  We are blessed with a talented group of artists and decorators (Bartimaeus Project) who spend hours, adding meaningful visual art to our worship. It is especially beautiful at Christmas and Easter with an array of poinsettias and evergreens, and spring flowers. 

Reading Scripture, Jesus did not spend much of his time teaching and healing within the temple.  Jesus taught by the sea, on the hillsides and plains.  Compassion led him into the everyday streets.

Jesus said [“I am with you always, even to the ends of the earth.”]  Matthew 28:20.  Jesus is not contained within a church building, however beautiful.  Though unseen, he is in my house while I am doing seemingly menial tasks.  He is with me out and about, doing ordinary errands.  He is with me planting flowers, riding my bike, sitting at my computer (right now!).  So much to do outside a building, he calls us to love and follow him, and to go out to the sick and lonely, anyone with any need of a friendly word or helping hand.  The promise is for everyone:  Jesus with me – Jesus with all.

We give thanks for the freedom to go to church to worship and praise.  May your Spirit open our eyes to see you in the everyday, and open our hearts to reflect your light to all.  Amen

Verla Olson

March 6

Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love. Psalm 31:16 

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Luke 1:46-48

Two verses from those who consider themselves “servants” of their Lord. In Psalms, David is in distress, once again looking to God to save him from his problems and his enemies. Mary seems to be reacting to a much happier situation, one where she is with Elizabeth who has just told her that she will be blessed as God has entrusted her with His son. She sings the song we call the “Magnificat” in her gratitude. She might have been a little worried too, since she was very young, unmarried and now pregnant.

So what does it mean to be a servant? How are David, a king of Israel, and Mary, a lowly peasant both thinking of themselves as servants? In both cases it would seem it has something to do with what God has done for them, and also what He has done for us. In the Psalm God is described as having steadfast love; no matter what the enemies of David might try to do, God is there for Him, saving Him.

Mary in her song praises God for lifting up the less powerful, and bringing down the powerful. She sings of a God whose saving work begins right here on earth, not only in some far off heaven. Her Son, God’s Son, will fill the hungry with food and hope. Beyond comforting the lowly, Mary’s Lord will lift them up where they too can be regarded with honor. From a commentary by Judith Jones, “Mary’s song magnifies the Savior who loves the whole world with a love that makes creation whole. God’s saving judgment is for all of us, bringing us down from the pride that fills us with ourselves until we can’t see either God or neighbor, bringing us up from the shame that distorts our worldview and convinces us that no one – not even God – could love.

As we enter the season of Lent we stop and take time to contemplate our lives, our sins and what Jesus did for us. Some choose to “give something up for Lent.” This might be a good idea, give up the extra desserts, or soda pop, social media or snacking. We could also add something during this season, perhaps volunteering to help those in need; we could try actually being a servant. Then as Mary and David did, we can praise the Lord and rejoice in His saving love and grace.

Loving and steadfast God, today we remember that from dust we came, and to dust we shall return. On this day and every day, help us look to you and embrace every day as precious. Lift us up out of our lowliness and shine your face upon us. We pray that our spirits will rest in you, and that our lives will magnify your grace. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Chris Gabel

March 5

Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will help you. Proverbs 20:22

See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. 1 Thessalonians 5:15

Interesting timing…………………………………..

What does injustice look like? Maybe it is the brutality and pain inflicted by people against other people. Pain that wounds the body, pain that wounds the spirit. Finally we can’t take it any longer, we throw up our hands in desperation, and let heaven know exactly how we are feeling. We vent our pain in ways that are not helpful or that maybe even cause us more pain. We are heart broken, and we look for an answer from God. We are crying from our hearts about the rampant injustice and brutally inflicted pain that characterizes so much of the world today.

What does justice look like? Maybe it means putting righteousness into practice – rolling out God’s design and intent for creation. God’s 3-D action to his plan. After all, it is what propelled the Son of God to become human and come to earth.

Picking up broken pieces, hope to harried lives, peace to ravaged hearts, new opportunity to disadvantaged people, a future to those trapped in dead-end living……………God will not remain silent forever.

Injustice and brutality will not be allowed to swallow up and destroy creation entirely. He plants a vision in the heart of humanity – a vision that speaks of the end, and does not lie. A vision that we are all called to wait for. A vision that will surely come.

It’s a vision that we are called to hang on to in faith. Hard as that is…………..

God is alive.

God is real.

God is in his holy temple.

Believe that.

Wait for that.

How hard is it, Lord, for me to turn the other cheek when I feel offended or victimized. Yet, your words remind me to be forgiving of my enemies and to seek what is good for them. Grant me the strength and courage to forgive those who do me wrong, and help me to be loving toward all my neighbors. Amen.


Susan Hanson

February 28

All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field…. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:6-8.1

Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away.  Matthew 24:35.

Joy Rupp is a well-known spiritual guide and writer.  In her book, The Cup of Our Life, she uses the cup as a symbol of an inner journey. On page two of the book she writes, “In the cup I see life with its fullness, emptiness, brokenness, flaws and blessings.”

Just as we hold firmly to our cups as we drink from them, God holds us and our imperfect lives in his hands. He knows that we are chipped and even broken sometimes.  He knows when we are full and when we are empty and sad. Life is not always good to us and we are not always good to ourselves or others. Our cups may be full with suffering. Our cups can also be filled with compassion, wisdom, and blessings.

I have a china cup from my mother’s cup collection.  It is shiny and beautiful, no flaws or imperfections.  But it doesn’t get used.  It sits on the shelf in all its loveliness.  We must not be like that cup.  Our lives/cups need to be used over and over as we go about being stewards of God’s love.

No matter our condition, God knows what we need.  Maybe a good cleaning, maybe just holding us close to his heart. 

“This cup holds grief and balm in equal measure, light, darkness.  Who drinks from it must change.”  May Sarton.

Most holy God, you hold us tightly and tenderly.  We need you to fill us, empty us, wash us, use us.  Thank you for loving us in all our imperfectness.  We want only to be used for your glory.  Amen

Joan Perlich

February 27

(God says) I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak. Ezekiel 34:16 

What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? Matthew 18:12

Ah, all those lovely sheep grazing on the hillside. Happily munching away on the good green grass and the forage the shepherd provides, they haven’t a worry in the world. Their shepherd makes sure they have good water to drink, a safe place to eat and sleep, and of course, lots of other sheep just like them to play with. There is that annoying sheepdog, but she is only there to protect them from danger and move them to new grazing areas (and yes, to the shearing pen) under the shepherd’s direction.

But, a sheep has gone missing, one has gone astray! Sheep do not like being alone; when we do herding trials with those hard working sheepdogs there are 3 or 5 sheep in a group. If one gets separated it usually panics and tries to get back with the others. So, why would a sheep go astray? Perhaps it thought the grass was better in another area, perhaps it was busy looking at something when the flock moved on, and perhaps the sheepdog was not paying attention to it as it watched over the others with the shepherd.  Or maybe something else.

There could be other reasons the sheep is no longer with the flock; maybe there is something different about this sheep. The others in the flock are no longer welcoming it as a part of their flock, they may tease and bully it (ok, this is more true of people than sheep) and so it leaves. In a couple of cartoons I have seen recently as Jesus comes to rescue the lost sheep, the sheep tells Him that “I am not lost; I left because I was not welcome anymore.” Jesus comes for all the sheep. It doesn’t matter if they have been fairly faithful and stayed in the flock following the shepherd’s directions, or if they have totally left the flock due to distractions, temptations or just the pain of not being welcome anymore.

Ezekiel lets us know that God will seek us out when we are lost, will bring us back as we stray, will heal the injured and sick and will give us strength. Just as the good shepherd watching over the flock of sheep, with the help of the sheepdog, protects and brings back the strayed, our Good Shepherd watches over us, with the help of the Holy Spirit that God sent as our Comforter, and brings us back to the fold. To the fold, with all the other sheep, whether we like them or not, we are all God’s creation and all are precious to Him.

Good Shepherd of the sheep, thank you for the comfort and assurance we find as we remain in your fold. When we go astray, we know you will seek us out to bring us back. We pray that those who are lost may turn to you and find peace and strength as you seek them too. Help us to be your hands and feet to reach out to those who need help to find their way to you; give us the courage to seek them out as you would. In the Shepherd’s keeping, Amen. 

Chris Gabel

February 26

I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to obey my ordinances. Ezekiel 36:27 

God has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant. 2 Corinthians 3:6 

“That deep emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.” Albert Einstein 

“Jump and I’ll catch you.” Have you ever heard a parent say that to a child perched on some high place? Can you remember one of your parents saying that to you when you were little? Did you do it? Did you jump? I think that in a sense, that is similar to what God says to us. God reaches out to us in love to make a covenant with us. He begins that process by making promises to us. God promises to be there for us and to love us, unconditionally and always. Hard to believe, that He would love us after some of the stupid things we do. 

But in order to live in that covenant, that promise, we have to dare to live our lives as if we believe God will keep his promise. There is some risk involved in doing that. But unless we take that risk, we can never learn to live in the covenant that God wants to make with us. God says, “Jump and I’ll catch you.” 

Father, thank you  for assuring us that even if our faith is a tiny mustard seed, we have strength and power of the Father’s guidance within us. Forgive me for doubting or shrinking from your call. Hold me close to you as I go out to serve others in this new covenant life. Amen. 


Susan Hanson

February 25

“In those days, at that time,” declares the Lord, “search will be made for Israel’s guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive.”  Jeremiah 50:20

“We even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”  Romans 5:11

As we look forward to warmer sun, longer daylight, Spring and new life, the Christian church is looking ahead to Lent – mid-week worship, reflection on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and redemption through God’s grace – new life!

For some, Lent is a time of personal sacrifice as a sign of solidarity with Jesus’ 40-day journey in the wilderness and ultimate sacrifice.  For the most part these sacrifices – soda, chocolate, alcohol, meat, and so on are finite and intentionally resumed after 40 days.  It’s hard to permanently leave behind bad habits and demeanor, conveniences and cravings that bring us pleasure.   

There will be no sins found … reconciliation is now received.  The “deed” is done.  Personal sacrifice can prompt a mindset and heightened awareness of Jesus’ willingness to live amongst us and to suffer on our behalf, the love of God for humanity.  But forgiveness and reconciliation with God is not earned by our own sacrifices, but by that of Jesus Christ.  God does not require burnt offerings, rivers of oil, or my first born for my transgressions … God gave his first and only. What God does require of us is action … to DO justice, to LOVE kindness, and to WALK humbly with God.  This Lent, rather than resolve to give something up, I might resolve to ADD to each day … deliberate thoughtfulness of others, including giving something for them; more quiet time for prayer; noticing something beautiful in nature; giving thanks for at least five people and five other blessings – each day – and beyond 40 days, a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

Loving God, in our worship this weekend we acknowledged that “we are saved, not by anything we have done, but by God’s mercy poured out on us richly … Through the Spirit living in[us], give [us] faith to trust Jesus, who is Love born for [us].”  Amen

Verla Olson