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April 3

I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statues and be careful to follow 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 with us 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 the strength and power of the Father’s guidance within us. Forgive me for doubting and shrinking from your call. Hold me close to you as I go out to serve others in this new covenant life. Amen.

Peace,
Susan Hanson



March 30

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind. Exodus 14:21
 
For I am convinced that neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 38-39 
 
In the reading of the Passion Story last Sunday, one particular part caught my attention  – how the disciples fell asleep as Jesus prayed to his Father for his life in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Three times, Jesus came back to find them sleeping, and I imagine he must have been upset, even angry with his faithful followers, probably even hurt, that they couldn’t stay awake while this was happening just a few feet away.
 
We shake our heads and think, poor Jesus. We would have stayed awake for you. We wouldn’t have fled from the scene of your arrest by the soldiers, or denied you like Peter. 
 
It’s so easy to think that we would do that, isn’t it?  Just like it’s easy to tell ourselves that if we had lived in Germany (or Poland, or Austria, etc) during World War II, that we would’ve hidden a Jewish family, or worked for the resistance, or done something to fight back against what was wrong.
 
We are the disciples, not understanding what Jesus is trying to explain to us, no matter how many parables he uses to make his point. We are sleeping peacefully in another part of the garden while he prays, we are the ones who run away and deny him three times, and when the women come back from tending his tomb with the news that his body is gone, but he has appeared to Mary Magdalene, we are hiding and say that we won’t believe it’s really Jesus risen from the dead until we touch his wounds and put our hand in his side.
 
We are the disciples, the ones who, though we have a free weekend, can’t seem to find time to march in the streets for human rights, who are too shy to invite the people in our neighborhoods to come to church with us, who don’t get around to writing letters and making phone calls to our representatives to stand up for what we believe in. We sleep, in this case in our own warm beds, while others sleep on the streets or in overcrowded shelters.
 
And yet, somehow, Jesus still comes looking for us still today, his lost sheep. Today especially, we remember that he died for us, because after all, we are only human, only sinners, all of us, and he loves us. 
 
Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised,
Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,
Pardon for you and for me.
Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home.
Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, oh sinner, come home.*
 
Lord, we can never thank you enough for the ultimate gift of your son on the cross to atone for our sins. Fill our hearts with love and guide our footsteps, so that when we do good for others in your name, we are doing them out of love.
 
Blessed is he who loves and does not therefore desire to be loved;
Blessed is he who fears and does not therefore desire to be feared;
Blessed is he who serves and does not therefore desire to be served;
Blessed is he who behaves well toward others and does not desire that others behave well toward him;
And because these are great things, the foolish do not rise to them. ++
 
 
Lynda Tysdal
 
*hymn, Softly and tenderly, by Will L. Thompson, written 1880
++ Prayer attributed to Giles of Assissi, friend of Francis of Assissi


March 29

Know that all lives are mine. Ezekiel 18:4

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. John 14:2

As I think about my Lenten journey, I wonder how the previous day’s have been any different from the days before Lent started.  I attended Lenten services so I guess I went to worship more.  But did I pray more or did I read the bible more?

I also wonder about the practice of giving something up for Lent. Is it a common practice?  I know a person who gave up peanut butter and M and M’s.  She loves them both but are they appropriate things to give up?  Perhaps so if she did it prayerfully and thoughtfully.

Tomorrow is Good Friday.  How quickly time goes by.  My mind is drawn to the suffering of Jesus as he hung on the cross. Such unimaginable torture he endured.  Even in his mind when he uttered the words, “my God, why have you forsaken me”. To think that he did it for us. But then, we may shout, HE DID IT FOR US.

The story isn’t over.  Jesus obeyed his Father.  And he rose from the grave. And he is preparing a place for us, for we belong to his kingdom. And we rejoice.

Holy God, our minds can hardly grasp what you have done for us.  Increase our faith that we may share this good news with others. With grateful and thankful hearts, may we say what we believe, “he is risen, he is risen indeed”. Amen

Joan Perlich



March 28

You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you. Isaiah 54:14

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. John 14:27 

Peace is something we all long for at some point. Peace has several dictionary definitions. The obvious one is the “absence of war or conflict.” Merriam Webster adds: “a state of tranquility or quiet” and “freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.” Peace is so much more than the absence of war or conflict in our lives. True peace includes peace within ourselves as well as having peace in the world around us.  In Isaiah the people are being told of their glorious future – one that will be free from fear. A few chapters earlier they heard about having “peace like a river.” This peace is abundant and overflowing, there is enough for everyone. 

Then we hear Jesus’ words to His disciples. He talks about the true peace that is real and present. Not something in the far future, or only in heaven, but right here and now. Jesus says He leaves this peace with them and of course also with us. Even though He is not right here physically the disciples were to remember that this true peace was with them.  Certainly they had a lot to be afraid of. Soon Jesus was killed, and even though He rose again, they were very afraid of what would happen to them. Today is the day in the middle of Holy Week when we are about to remember the events of the Last Supper, the arrest of Jesus and the crucifixion and then the glorious resurrection of Jesus. 

Jesus used the greeting “Peace be with you” when encountering the disciples after His resurrection. With the promised gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) to teach us and guide us and remind us of what Jesus said, they were to experience this peace. How often were their hearts troubled after that? Probably more often than they would have hoped. But, the Holy Spirit was there and is here now to remind us and to give us the true peace that God intended for us to have. Yes, we will fret and worry, sometimes about the smallest and silliest things, but we can be assured that this same Holy Spirit is there for us, to teach and lead us to remember what God did for us in Jesus Christ. 

Prayer for Peace (Peace before us), by David Haas (if you want to hear it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYFnLIs5p4M ) 

Peace before us, peace behind us, peace under our feet.
Peace within us, peace over us, let all around us be peace.

[The other verses: love, light, Christ.] 

God of assurance, thank you for the gift of peace that comes in the midst of trial and terror. Release us from the paralyzing grip of fear. God of the Sabbath, we learn in the story of Holy Week that Jesus paused to rest upon this day in preparation for what would come at the Last Supper and Calvary. May we pause to remember what you have given us. Help us to be at peace, calm our fears and make us instruments of your peace in this world. Amen. 

Chris Gabel



March 27

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes and does not keep silence. Psalm 50:2-3

Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Luke 9:35

God whispers in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. C.S. Lewis

Have you heard God speak to you today? I’m not sure I have either. Maybe a better question is, have I been listening for God? This is a difficult question.

For starters, how does God speak to us? From the Bible, for one.

Well, you say, everybody knows that the Bible is the Word of God – that God “speaks” to us in the Scriptures. “But,” you say, “that’s just too conventional – that’s no fun –I want a personal message to boom down from the clouds with maybe a little lightning and thunder thrown in to impress the neighbors. I upped my tithe this year; it seems like God could turn up the knob on His amplifier just a little bit. I don’t want to strain to listen – I want stereo with hi-fidelity. I wouldn’t mind if I even needed earplugs.” But God doesn’t speak to us like that. And I think we already knew it.

If we pay attention, listen intently, we can hear God in the Bible. It’s not glamorous, but it He is talking to us. Another way that God speaks to us is through answered prayer. If we don’t faithfully and regularly go to God in prayer – how can He speak to us through answered prayer? Yes, God does answer our prayers. Sometimes He says “yes,” sometimes He says “no,” sometimes we have to wait. Probably, more than we like to admit, He answers, but we don’t listen close enough to hear Him. We really do need that amplifier, don’t we? But think about it – what wonderful, soothing “words” God provides when He answers prayer. What would you rather receive – a loud, 30-second sound byte from heaven proclaiming, “I feel your pain” – or the gentle peace that surpasses all understan ding to calm your soul that only God can provide?

God’s voice comes to us more like the voice of our conscience than from some celestial loudspeaker. It may not be loud, and you have to pay attention. Quiet yourself to listen for the still, small, gentle whisper of God. Don’t miss it. God is speaking to you……..just listen.

Lord of heaven and earth, you promise not to keep silence when you gather us, your children, to be near you. You gave us your Son and told us to listen to him. Give us ears to hear and hearts that desire to follow him with words and deeds that serve our neighbors in our world. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



March 26

“Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.”  Psalm 96:2

“When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”  Mark 14:26

“Music is a fair and glorious gift of God.”  (Martin Luther)

The urge to make music is ancient and, I believe, inborn … at least to some.  Indigenous people drummed on hollowed out logs and taut animal skins.  They fashioned wind instruments from wooden tubes. 

Music communicates and conveys emotions and feelings.  Ballads tell stories.  Lullabies prepare us for sleep; reveille calls people to work.  There are love songs, and “lost-love” songs.  We sang war protest songs in the 60’s; we sang our national anthem and the Minnesota Rouser at ball games.  We sing dirges and requiems for the dead; we dance at weddings.  Some wind down with Mozart; others wind up with Metallica.  Music prompts us to tap our toes and clap our hands, but music also calms anxiety and depression, and prompts memory recall. 

“Hymns are prayers we sing.”  David called on the earth to rejoice, the sea to roar, the trees of the forest to sing for joy, but David also composed Psalms to confess sin and ask forgiveness, imploring mercy and praising God’s steadfast love.          

Jesus and his friends sang a hymn, perhaps a Psalm, at supper, and then went out into an awful night.  Hosannas were sung a few swift days before, but this night there was talk of betrayal and abandonment.   Were they bewildered?  Horrified?  They could not have known then, as we do now, that Sunday was coming, when the plaintive strings of Good Friday yield to the trumpets and Alleluias of Easter morning. 

“O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise,

the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of his grace!

Jesus! the name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease,
’tis music in the sinner’s ears, ’tis life and health and peace.”  Amen

(prayer text:  Charles Wesley)

Verla Olson

“[he] who sings prays twice. “



March 23

The commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes. Psalm 19:8
 
The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  John 6:63 
 
It’s kind of funny that the devotion I wrote yesterday was about hearing the word and today’s is about sight, but that’s how the word of God works, it seems to me.  The right words we need to read or hear just seem to show up when we need them. Looking at it from another direction, God  often puts the right person in the right place at the right time and puts the words in their mouth to say just the right words.
 
I have worn eyeglasses for many years (since I was sixteen) to correct my near-sightedness, and over the years I’ve noticed something that I think is interesting. I will usually go into an appointment with the thought that I won’t need to buy new glasses this year. I go through the usual vision tests, and  more often than I would like, the doctor will tell me that there has been enough change in my prescription to make it worth my while to get new glasses. To confirm what he is telling me, he’ll direct me to look at the eye chart and then hold up lenses in front of my eyes to show how much more my vision could be corrected.
 
How can it be that my eyesight changed so much without my noticing a difference? I’ve been told that a person’s vision can change in just small amounts, so gradually that we don’t see the change until the proof is right there in front of you. Or, as one eye doctor put it, it sneaks up on you, like getting older, and everything else about life. There’s even a quote from the great man Benjamin Franklin, “…but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
 
As great as Ben Franklin was, I’d add two more certainties to life, even with all the things that have changed, and continue to change in our world: God’s love, and God’s commandments.
 
God’s love, for us and for the world, are miraculous. Where we look at the world through our human eyes and see people as either friends or enemies, God looks at all of us with love, and with pity at the brokenness of humankind and our failure to work for peace throughout the world.
 
Lord, I pray today for clarity, to see the best in people in my small corner of the world and to love and pray for all humankind as my brothers and sisters. When life seems dark and dreary, you are the light to guide our way to peace. Amen.
 
 
Lynda Tysdal


March 22

The Lord God has opened my ear; and I was not disobedient. Nor did I turn back.  Isaiah 50:5  NASB
 
Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.  John 12:26 
 
Have you ever found your attention drifting off in a meeting at work? I have. For the most part, I am paying attention, and often even write notes when it’s a department meeting where the things that are said will have an affect on how I perform my job. The problem comes when it’s a company wide meeting and they are discussing things like sales reports and loss ratios and things that I don’t have any control over in my job. I’ve discussed it with my coworkers and team leaders and discovered that I’m not the only one making mental grocery lists and thinking about plans for the weekend.
 
Or have you ever had such an exciting story to tell, or special news to share that you find you’re not really listening to what a friend is saying about her day, or something that happened to her at work? Instead, you’re just waiting your turn to talk, while their words go in one ear and out the other?
 
They’re both rude habits, and something I try not to do, but still find myself doing anyway. If someone noticed me daydreaming during a meeting, or not listening closely to a friend’s story, I’d feel even more guilty (and deservedly so!) if they called me out on it, saying, “Are you listening to me?”
 
Several times in the Bible, Jesus ends the telling of a parable by saying “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” I have a memory of hearing that phrase during a reading of the lessons in church when I was young and wondering what was meant by that — don’t we all have ears? It made a little more sense when I read a book a year or two later where a teacher scolded a kid in class for not listening to her instruction, telling him to “use your ears for something besides holding up your glasses!”
 
There’s a difference between just hearing God’s word (whether in church, or in a Bible study, or just reading the Bible to yourself at home) and really listening to the message. One goes in and out of our minds, with maybe a thought of “what beautiful language” or “how true!” When we are truly listening, we take the words into our hearts and minds, and allow the word to change our lives.
 
Thinking of this idea tonight as I write this devotion, I looked up those words from Jesus to find further meaning and found a few writers who suggested that Jesus was referring to people who had the benefit of having heard him speak, or his disciples, or had heard the word of his Father. We are so blessed to have a church home where we hear and freely discuss the word of God. We have pastors and teachers and lay leaders who can help us to understand parts that are hard to understand, or give another viewpoint, and we all have ears to hear.  I think we shouldn’t forget that we also have mouths to speak, to share the word with those who haven’t heard. 
 
One of my favorite hymns is I Love To Tell the Story (LBW 390), which was written by Arabella Katherine Hankey, later set to music by William G. Fisher, and I guess you could write a lot of devotions based on the text of each verse, but it’s verse two of that hymn says what’s in my heart tonight.
 
I love to tell the story: how pleasant to repeat
what seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet!
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
the message of salvation from God’s own holy word.
 
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your holy word, and for reminding us that our duty doesn’t stop at just hearing your word, but to listen with our whole hearts, to truly take it in, and then share with others what we have been given, not by having earned it, but by your generous grace and love.  Amen
 
Lynda Tysdal


March 21

By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Genesis 3:19 

As all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. I Corinthians 15:22 

Adam and Eve were created and seem to have had a nice life there in the Garden of Eden. Food was available for the eating, apparently clothing was optional, the weather must have been nice too. They could eat anything except the fruit of one tree. Then temptation appears, Eve is told of the wonderful fruit on that tree that will make her wise, even though they were forbidden to eat it. She tries it, Adam tries it, and their happy life is about to change. They gain knowledge but they also earn shortened lives that will end in death. The ground will yield thorns and weeds and they will have to work hard to grow their food to have enough to eat. They forgot who created them, who gave them what they have, and who gave them this one little rule to follow. Now, they started as dust, and to dust they will return at the end of their lives. 

We heard these words on Ash Wednesday as we began Lent: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” as we remember what part our sin plays in this world. As we near the end of Lent we have had some time to reflect on this, to give ups something we like for Lent, or maybe do something special to remind us of what God has done for us. This could all get very depressing. Who wants to think about turning into dust? 

We need to remember that dust is what our Lord used for Creation, we were formed out of dust at the beginning, how much more can He do with the dust that comes at the end of our lives?  No matter all the temptations in it, this is still the world the God created and called “good.” As Paul tells us, this is why Christ came to us, to overcome this death that we will all experience. This end of life as our bodies go back to dust is not the end of us. We all are able to be made alive in Christ as we believe in His life death and resurrection.  We are now near the end of Lent, time for Palm Sunday processions, hearing the Passion story, the Last Supper and Good Friday. And, then, it is Easter! We commemorate Christ rising from the dead, and His victory over death. We who were to die will now live in Christ. 

Creator, you formed us from dust, out of nothingness and said it was good. Forgive us for so quickly falling away into sin. You have told us that you care for the poor and abandoned. We confess how little our hearts share this concern. Thank you that through your Son, you have graciously allowed us to become clean as you forgive our sins.  Help us realize each day how great a gift it is to be reborn in you. May we see you in the least and the last. Amen 

Chris Gabel



March 20

The earth is full of steadfast love of the Lord. Psalm 33:5

You know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

“The man who treasures his friends is usually solid gold himself.”  Marjorie Holmes

We live in a world in which success is measured by the size of one’s wealth or possessions, by one’s accomplishments or fame, and in terms of one’s IQ, grades or GPA, educational degrees, talent, position or power.

We are often tempted to view success in terms of these temporal realities. We forget that fame, education, wealth, beauty, athletic prowess, talent, and power can easily be lost. We need to remember that there are some things that are of enduring value—such things as compassion, love, generosity, kindness, sympathy, humility, mercy. These virtues not only measure the greatness of a person, but they also reveal who a person really is, what their character traits are. According to our Lord Jesus Christ, those are the treasures that really count.

If you were asked to list the five most important “things” in your life right now, what would they be?

If you lived in a foreign country where a civil war suddenly erupted, what three possessions would you take with you if you had to leave right away?

If your home were on fire, what items would you rescue before running out?

Most people would answer computers, old pictures and letters, cell-phones, and toys, stuff like that.

But these are only material things. They don’t have lasting value. Would you ever give them up or exchange them for something more valuable—something more enduring?

Maybe we should ask these questions:

What three people do you enjoy spending time with?

Name four people who have taught you something worthwhile.

Name five friends who have helped you in a difficult time.

List a few teachers who have aided your journey through school.

Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.

What’s the lesson? The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the credentials, but the ones that care. They are the people in our lives who cherish certain basic values, who cherish us.

Fame, education, wealth, beauty, talent, and positions or power, are easily forgotten. But there are some things that can never be forgotten. Such things as love, generosity, kindness, sympathy, mercy, are of enduring value. They tell who you really are. They include such values as compassion, honesty, meekness, gentleness, thoughtfulness, humility, a forgiving spirit.

They cannot be obtained by wealth or high IQ. They do not come about by plastic surgery, or dressing up in the latest clothing. They are not the results of chance or accident. They do not come about through high GPA, impressive academic degrees, bank account, athletic abilities, positions of power, or any other things that the world uses to measure success. Rather, they are gifts from God. These are the true treasures, treasures from God.

Creator God, you have filled this world with good things that should satisfy your people, yet we too often seek to fill our lives with treasure that does not last. Turn our hearts to Jesus Christ, and fill us with his amazing gifts of grace and mercy. Help us to be generous with his priceless treasure that lasts forever. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson