February 28

Jeremiah 18:1–11,18–20
Matthew 20:17–28
Psalm 31:9–16

The potter in Jeremiah set out to make a well planned and executed vessel from clay on his potter’s wheel. The vessel that he created, however, was not the one he had so carefully planned for. He stopped his work, remolded the clay and started all over again to make a different vessel from the one he had planned on.

How often does this happen to us? Carefully made plans have a way of coming undone or even falling to pieces.

In 2012, I made a carefully planned move to Texas. After selling everything I owned; car, house, furniture, etc. I loaded up my few remaining possessions and drove to Waco. After only four months there, it became quite clear to me that this plan to live in Texas was not to be. The sale of my home fell through, I fell and dislocated a shoulder, I could not find employment, and nothing was working out as I had planned. God certainly knew what was best for me and I was very happy to return to my home in Washington and to start all over again.

I praise and thank you, Lord, for caring for me and directing me to the right path and place for my life. Amen.
-Sister Katherine

February 27

Isaiah 1:2-4, 16-20
Matthew 23:1-12
Psalm 50:7-15, 22-24

“Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless. ‘Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out.’ This is God’s message.” -Isaiah 1:16b-1:18 (Peterson)

“But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father – the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.” Matthew 23.8-10 (NRSV)

“For you have one teacher, and you are all students.” We are all in this together. God is our teacher. On the face of it, that’s simple and straightforward. But our world tends to tell us another story: we should be tough and independent and work things out for ourselves and make up our own minds. But God has a different take on this.

In Isaiah, we’re told to argue it out – with God! How? In Matthew Jesus tells us how: work, talk, and pray with our fellow students. But there’s more. Is this too hard if no one present is the expert? Jesus says otherwise: “For when two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20) And there’s our teacher, our expert, our guide. When we argue it out with God in community, God is on our side, speaking to us through Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, through each other. We students can hear God when we listen to each other with Jesus present. God is with us.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened. -Ephesians 1:18 (NIV)
-Tom Worrell

February 26

Daniel 9:3–10
Luke 6:27–38
Psalm 79:1–9

Late in my career, the principal of the school where I worked wrongly accused me of undermining his authority. Although I maintained my innocence, the superintendent and board of directors gave me a “choice”: sign an affidavit of my guilt or leave the position. I would not live a lie, and so was forced to leave a job that I was passionate about.

It was a very dark time of my life. I had been blindsided with the accusation and sank into a deep depression. I found myself angry and betrayed. It was as if my integrity—my very personhood—had been attacked. A counselor diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder and ordered therapy.
Even though I had been taught since childhood that we are called to forgive even those who have not asked for forgiveness, I could not forgive the man who brought this false charge against me and changed the trajectory of my life. Every year, I looked deep into my heart for the power to forgive and came up short. I resigned myself to the fact that I might not be able to forgive in this lifetime.

Then, one morning, more than eight years later, I woke up with a new perspective. It was as if the burden of the last eight years was gone, dissolved on its own in its own time. I was free of the weight that had plagued me for so many years. Unconsciously, I had forgiven.

In Luke’s passage, we read Jesus’ admonishment to love our enemies, do good to them, bless them. Jesus instructs us to turn the other cheek, give our shirt to one who has stolen our coat, swell the coffers of beggars. He asks us to do unto others as we would hope others would do unto us. And He urges us to forgive.

Help us to forgive, Lord, as you have forgiven us. Amen.
-Ashley Sweeney

February 25

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Romans 4:13-25
Mark 8:31-38
Psalm 22:22-30

These passages in Genesis spell out the covenant which God has made with those by faith and grace who truly believe and humbly serve Him. It tells of Abraham and Sarah and their advanced age, but through their righteousness, God gave them a son and a nation.

It seems to me we have a duty, no matter how long it takes, to stand up and have the truth be told. The news this week has been full of the stories of the US Women’s Gymnastics team and the horrors they have suffered for years. For years and years, no one was willing to listen to them. But finally, they have been able to stand together and call for the righteousness they have deserved for so long. Just as Sarah and Abraham begat a nation, those brave women will see the necessary changes come forth from their actions, countless generations will profit, and the nation will listen and remember.

Thus, we need to remember it is by faith and grace that we need to serve and believe in the Lord. He has promised a covenant to us and we need to be ready, no matter how long it takes.
Let us go forth and love and serve our Father and be ready for His covenant in our lives.

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
-Sally Rode

February 24 (St. Matthias)

Acts 1:15-26
Philippians 3:13-21
John 15:1,6-16
Psalm 15

I was a benchwarmer. I would love to say I was a first-string, A-team, top quality athlete, but I wasn’t, and that’s OK. I may not have ever been first in the field for most games, whether football, baseball, or basketball, but I always made it a point to be on time, suited up, and ready to go. I attended practices, put in my best effort, listened to the coaches or team captains, and stayed focused on the matter at hand.

Matthias was a bench-warmer. He met all the qualifications for a disciple. He had been a follower of Jesus (along with the “Big Twelve”) from the time Jesus was baptized until his arrest, trial, death, and resurrection. When the Apostles needed someone to take Judas’ place, they “cast lots” and Matthias “became numbered with the Twelve.”

Outside of this event (told in Acts), we know nothing about Matthias, but that is true of most of us. Most of us will never be known beyond a very small circle of friends, family, and fellow travelers on “the Way” and yet each of us is known by God and invited to share in the ministry of the Twelve. Which is?

Sharing the experience, strength, and hope we have in Christ. We contemplate what we were like, what we are like now, and try to explore what (or Who) has made the difference.

Gracious God, it is a comfortable thing to sit on the sidelines and watch others play the game, and oh so scary when called upon to jump in and actively take part; in reality, there are no benchwarmers in your world. You’ve called us each to take our place amongst the Twelve. Help me to be a Matthias in my own way – to suit up and show up each and every day – ready to work, and ready to play, in Jesus’ Name. OK? Amen.
-Keith Axberg

February 23

Ezekiel 18:21–28
Matthew 5:20–26
Psalm 130

“If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness.” Psalm 130:3-4

Lent is a time for us as Christians to spend time in prayer, reflection and study as we prepare for Holy Week when we commemorate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Our reading today reminds us that we sin and really it is because of Jesus’ sacrifice that we can experience the forgiveness of our sins.

In the confession portion of the service each Sunday, we confess our sins thinking of “what we have done and… what we have left undone… We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.” The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary defines repentance as “a complete change of orientation involving a judgment upon the past and a deliberate redirection for the future.”

This past week, I learned of the passing of the daughter of a couple who used to be great friends years ago but now the relationship is fractured. This has given me the opportunity to think of what I could have done to make a difference. Maybe this horrific loss is an opportunity to start to repair the relationship by reaching out… sending a thoughtful card at this very difficult time…starting the conversation… “a deliberate redirection for the future”.

“By what we have left undone” means that I need to reflect and focus on being in tune with God so that I can hear his prompts to reach out to others. If I am so selfish to be caught up with my own wishes, I will not hear when God prompts me to visit someone, write a card, or give an encouraging word.

Lord, help me to listen for and then follow your gentle prompts. Thank you for your forgiveness when I do not measure up. Amen.
-Marilyn Allen

February 22

Esther 14:1–6,12–14
Matthew 7:7–12
Psalm 138

Queen Esther, seized with deadly anxiety, fled to the Lord. …and she utterly humbled her body… (Esther 14:1,2)

I read Esther with new eyes this year.

We know something of women’s bodies being utterly humbled. This has been the year of #MeToo, used on social media to help demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.

I have heard your own stories of disrespect and abuse. They break my heart.

It seems that we have indeed “turned against (God), and betrayed (God’s) trust, and we turned against one another.”

And we are only a few weeks out now from the overwhelming testimonies of strong young women who were sexually abused by Larry Nassar under the guise of “treatment” in the gymnastics world.

“Put eloquent speech in my mouth before the lion, and turn his heart…” (Esther 14:13)

Esther knew the power of her amazing body and its amazing beauty. She understood what she was risking when she shrewdly used every resource at her hand to address her husband king. And she called on God.

With fear and trembling, with skill and clarity, with faith and chutzpah, Esther acted. And she saved the lives of her people.

God knew what God was doing when God chose Incarnation, enfleshment, humanity. God chose a powerful, vulnerable, risky form.

Maybe not so much has changed since Esther’s time and Jesus’ time. The people of God are still called to risk everything to save the people. With fear and trembling, skill and clarity, faith and chutzpah, we are called to act. We are called to risk everything in proclaiming the love of God in Christ Jesus. Wow.

Holy One, Grant me wisdom in discerning your call to me. Make me humble and bold and strong for your work, beautiful and shrewd and wise. I flee to you. Amen.
-Helen McPeak

Interlude: Commenting

Hi y’all!

It’s Jen, the editor and blogger.

I wanted y’all to know that you can comment and discuss what is written here. You just have to enter your name and email address to leave a comment. (Don’t worry about privacy — only I see the email address.) Once I’ve approved your first comment, you can comment as much as you want.

Did someone say something you like? Let them know!

Want to talk more on a subject? Jump on in.

As Helen is fond of saying, “let’s talk.”

February 21

Jonah 3:1–10
Luke 11:29–32
Psalm 51:11–18

In today’s Old Testament reading, the psalmist prays for God to renew and sustain the Holy Spirit’s presence within him. He then promises God to share God’s ways with the wicked and praise God’s name. These pleas are just as relevant today as they were in the psalmist’s time. We all have times when we feel down and less close to God than we have experienced in the past. Perhaps it is a family crisis, job loss, health problem, financial challenge, or just plain feeling down. God hasn’t changed or moved – He is still waiting for us to turn back to Him as the source of our renewal. He wants us to realize that He loves us and has good plans for our lives. Sometimes God’s plans involve things that we haven’t imagined. Whatever His plans, they are good plans and God will supply all that we need to carry them out.

Several times during my nursing career, I found myself in a “down” mood related to my profession. Soon God revealed His plans – it was time for a job change or a return to school. Although I sometimes complained to Him (“God, why?”), He soon revealed His reasons. One time I was commuting from Everett to Seattle when He showed me that it was time to make a change – and He showed me the job posting for a Public Health Nurse position that was to be my new focus in nursing, which not only eliminated the commute but also opened a new world focusing on nursing of children with disabilities.

Lord, remind us that “down” times are the opportunity for You to reveal Your good plans for us. We praise You for Your love and good plans for us. Amen.
-Barbara Cheyney

February 20

Isaiah 55:6–11
Matthew 6:7–15
Psalm 34:15–22

In today’s readings of the Old Testament, The Psalm, and the Gospel from the New Testament, I see a common message: He’s got this!

I am reminded that though we are living in very troubled times and under a divided and prejudiced doctrine of political leadership, God’s justice will prevail. When I am feeling overwhelmed by the cruelty, selfishness, and disrespect I see around me, I sometimes forget to just put it all in God’s hands- where it belongs. He is definitely on a much higher level of the playing field than I am!

The Lord knows what we need even before we ask; He hears our cries and knows the troubles we face. He will keep us safe and lead us down the chosen path. God simply asks us to love one another, to forgive and to pray for others. When I struggle with the ability to forgive such injustice, I can rest assured knowing that He is a just God and has the power to forgive.

Two years ago, I received the devastating news that my recently-divorced husband’s third attempt at suicide was successful. I fell to my knees and cried out to God, “Forgive him, Father! He was so lost in his pain!” I heard God’s answer, “Child, I have taken him home, he is safe and at peace now.” Such a forgiveness was too hard for me, but not for our Father.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come,Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. In your name, I pray. Amen.
-Sherri Greenleaf