March 23

Jeremiah 20:7–13
John 10:31–42
Psalm 18:1–7

O Lord my stronghold, my crag, and my haven.

As boaters, we have traveled many times up and down the Georgia Strait between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia. There is always a patch of water just North of Lund, BC where it seems that it is very rough due to the currents and winds converging in this area. There is a fueling station with a couple of docks with a small motel in Lund. Once you pass this place going south, you won’t find another safe haven for several miles but turning back is not an alternative. The first time we stayed there, the waters were so rough it was harrowing just getting into the dock and getting tied down. During the night the fuel dock sunk in the night.

In the early 1980’s, my first husband had been sick and then had knee surgery, which was a big event in the early 1980’s and then was unemployed, all in a small town in Quebec, Canada. Life was getting unbearable and I cried out to the Lord. There was not a “haven” in sight. God touched the hearts of a couple I had met at university. They made the 475-mile journey to visit us. They evaluated the situation and literally created a job for my husband at their small company, boarded him in their home for several months until I was able to move and join them in Waterloo, Ontario. I was able to rent an apartment, find myself a job and we were able to start a new life. God had provided that “haven” in the storm of life.

Thank you, Lord, that You are always there when we need to find a safe haven in the storms of life. Amen.
-Marilyn Allen

March 22

Genesis 17:1–8
John 8:51–59
Psalm 105:4–11

I have had the “pleasure” of walking alongside friends who have struggled with infertility. Some eventually chose to adopt children from abroad who needed homes, while others did rounds upon rounds of Clomid and/or IVF before they were able to conceive a child. It is a horrible struggle to watch and I am always so overjoyed when they step off the plane with their child in the case of adoption, or when their child is finally born following a carefully supervised pregnancy. These kids literally are the answers to prayer.

In our reading from Genesis, the Lord does the literally impossible task of bringing about a biological heir from Abraham and Sarah who were old and considered to be infertile. (Don’t worry, I am not forgetting Ishmael, the product of Abraham and Hagar, and the sad story of Sarah’s jealousy leading Hagar to be sent away into the desert.) The Lord had promised that Abraham’s descendants would be “exceedingly numerous”, and that promise has endured.

That promise is so central to the faith traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that Abraham has a place in all three faiths, and the story is referenced multiple times in both the Old and New Testaments. The message is not only that God can do things that we consider impossible, but also that God keeps promises. What an amazing thing upon which we can base our hope!

Thank you, Lord, for keeping your promise to Abraham and showing us that You will keep Your promises to us. Amen.
-Jen McCabe

March 21

Daniel 3:14–20,24–28
John 8:31–42
Canticle [2] or 13

Today, as we read verses from the third chapter of Daniel, I am transported back to Sunday school when I was in the 5th grade. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the picture of four men surrounded by fire that headed the chapter which told the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I marveled at the strength of their faith and had lots of questions about how God helped them survive.

Years later, when my sons were about the same age, we learned the song written by Hugh Mitchell and sung by the Bill Gaither Trio.

Three good men lived very long ago,
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
To an idol they would never bow
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Into a fiery furnace they were therefore cast
Nebuchadnezzar thought they’d never last
But God was there He’d never let them go
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

I didn’t become an Episcopalian until I was in college, so the wonderful praise message of Canticle 13, Song of the Three Young Men, was new to me at that time and has become one of my favorite canticles. What a fitting response to being saved from that fiery furnace!

Stories and music have been and continue to be an important part of my faith formation. So, what do we do with these readings and how do we apply them to our daily lives? In the 8th chapter of John, Jesus tells the Jews who had believed in him that, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Dear God, help me to remain faithful to your word, to study and try to understand, and to praise you both with my words and my actions. Amen.
-Cathey Frederick

March 20

Numbers 21:4–9
John 8:21–30
Psalm 102:15–22

But the people became impatient on the way. (Numbers 21:4b)

So, how are you doing?

Here we are, some five weeks into Lent. All this reading and praying and discipline and reflection – it can be hard to maintain. What kind of journey is this? Can’t we just go back to the pancakes?!

Forty days of Lent (not including Sundays, which are always days of resurrection!) can get to be a bit much. People can become impatient.

How’re you doing?

The Israelites got a little bit daft. They forgot where they had been. “Why did you bring us out of slavery to die here?” “There’s no food or water. We hate this miserable food.” (Well, which is it, no food or miserable food? Logically, it can’t be both.) And what’s with the snakes?! It’s all getting kinda bizarre.

Even Jesus seems to be out of himself. “Where I am going, you cannot come” sure sounds different than just a few chapters later where he says “…I go and prepare a place for you…. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Whatsup widdat?!

Holy Week starts on Sunday – Palm Sunday. Change is in sight. Continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers!

Your discipline and prayer are gifts to God and to yourself. Hang in there. Keep it up. (And if you’ve not got anything to keep up, don’t worry, start where you are, here today. You’re not behind.) God will use what you give: the time, the study, the meditation, the intention. God will reach right into that exhausting, bizarre stuff of life and bless you in ways you can’t begin to imagine. How’re you doing?

Holy One, walk with me. Let me know if I am doing this right. It gets dreary. I want to serve you. Amen.
-Helen McPeak

March 19 (St. Joseph)

2 Samuel 7:4,8-16
Romans 4:13-18
Luke 2:41-52
Psalm 89:1-29 or 89:1-4, 26-29

Have you ever lost a child? I am somewhat chagrined to admit (or confess) that I have. Barb and I went to see the WSU Cougars play a football game in Pullman. At that time our son David was about 3 years old. During the game, he and I had to take care of some personal (but necessary) business. He took care of his and I told him to wait a moment while I finished mine. When I turned back around, he was gone. Vanished! I zipped out of the lavatory and looked high and low for him, but he was nowhere to be seen. I went back to our seat to tell Barb I had lost our only begotten son – our beloved – when what to my wondering eyes did appear, but him sitting with her; I’d had nothing to fear!

He had not listened to my instructions, but he knew where he was and where he was going, so after he’d “gone” he went (so to speak). Knowing Mary and Joseph had lost Jesus gives me comfort knowing I wasn’t the first, and surely won’t be the last. Jesus knew where he was and where he was going. Joseph and Mary had to learn to trust him, as do we all.

Gracious God, you have made us guardians of your creation. We often mess it up. We often lose our way, and yet you are always there to bring us home, to clean up those messes we are unable or unwilling to face. Please watch over us and continue to guide and direct us so that we (and all those you love) may always find the way home into your loving embrace. Amen.
-Keith Axberg

March 18

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33
Psalm 51:1-13
or Psalm 119:9-16

I love the John Lennon song, “Imagine.” You might think that as a Christian I would take umbrage at John’s attitude toward religion, but I totally get it. A lot of bad stuff has been done in the name of faith — and Christianity has more than just the blood of the lamb on its hands. But rather than imagine a world with “no religion, too”, I’d rather imagine what the world would be like if we would no longer “say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me.” That would truly be the “healing and restoration of the world” that our vision statement challenges us to participate in.

Our Old Testament readings give us a choice between Psalms 51 and 119. Reading both offers a marked contrast in how one goes about “knowing the Lord.” While Psalm 51 is a commendable exercise in groveling self-deprecation (we could all use some humility, if not humiliation). Psalm 119 is the song of one who truly has God’s law “written in their heart” — and it offers us a clear take on the difference between us and Jesus — the difference between beseeching the Lord’s forgiveness, and what the reading in Hebrews refers to as “reverent submission.”

As the Son of Man — in “the days of his flesh” — Jesus certainly cried to the Lord with all the imagined fervor of Psalm 51. But, although like the rest of us sinners he would have preferred that the cup pass from his lips, “he learned obedience through what he suffered”… and was made perfect. That kind of reverent submission is not easily imagined, let alone emulated. It’s much easier to imagine there are no countries.

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
-Michael Boss

March 17 (St. Patrick)

Jeremiah 11:18–20
John 7:37–52
Psalm 7:6–11

“God is my shield and defense; he is the savior of the true in heart.” – Psalm 7:11

When I was writing my Senior Seminar paper in college, my subject was Celtic Christianity with a focus on how the Celtic saints like St. Patrick converted Ireland from paganism. One of the more fun legends I read about centered around his conversion of the pagan king Leoghaire. According to legend, the king sent henchmen to try and kill Patrick who was on his way to Slane to meet with Leoghaire, but the henchmen failed because Patrick passed by them in the form of a deer.

Why does this fit in with the verse I quoted above? Well, the prayer he allegedly prayed while avoiding these henchmen is called the “Breastplate of St. Patrick”, also known as “The Cry of the Deer”. (The full version can be found here.)

I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

-Jen McCabe

Bonus: There is a beautiful hymn based on the prayer which can be found below.

March 16

Wisdom 2:1a,12–24
John 7:1–2,10,25–30
Psalm 34:15–22

John’s passage tells of a chaotic scene where Jesus rebukes people in Jerusalem. Although some pushed for Jesus’ arrest after the public uproar, the Scripture passage says no one touched Jesus, for “His hour had not yet come.”

This passage strikes me to my core. When will my hour come? When will yours? Does this thought empower you or cause you to fear? Do you live a little more or a little less when you think of your mortality?

O God, you have given us the Good News of your abounding love in your Son Jesus Christ: So fill our hearts with thankfulness that we may rejoice to proclaim the good tidings we have received; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
-Ashley Sweeney

March 15

Exodus 32:7–14
John 5:30–47
Psalm 106:6–7,19–23

Israel screwed up.

Moses was up on the mountain speaking with the Lord and receiving the Ten Commandments, which left Israel in the hands of Aaron, and Aaron jumped the gun. The people asked him to make gods for them to worship because Moses was still up on the mountain and they had no idea if he was ever coming down. Aaron lacked a spine and allowed it, so a golden calf was made and the people worshipped it.

Given that the first two commandments Moses received were about not having any gods but the God of Israel and not to bow down to idols, Israel was in deep trouble. The Lord was all ready to consume them and blot them out for this, choosing to make a nation of Moses’s descendants.

Moses does something quite amazing: he tells the Lord off for this and brings up the promise made to Abraham and Isaac and Israel to multiply their descendants like the stars in the sky. The Lord changes course and chooses not to blot out the nation of Israel.

The Exodus passage is a reminder to me of both the folly of making hasty decisions (making the golden calf because they did not know when/if Moses was coming back down) and the folly of making decisions when angry (blotting out the nation). Some of the worst decisions in my life have been ones when I have been forced to decide without ample time to think it over, or when I am angry enough that I jump the gun and make a decision that does not need to be made. There is wisdom to be found in praying things over and discerning a reasonable path forward.

Help us, O Lord, to weigh our choices and to seek your will in what we do, lest we make a decision in haste that is not in our best interest.
-Jen McCabe

March 14

Isaiah 49:8–15
John 5:19–29
Psalm 145:8–19

“And I will turn all my mountains into a road, and my highways shall be raised up.”

When I was a kid, my family went backpacking for vacation. We backpacked all over the mountains in California from Sequoia National Forest to Klamath National Forest. We used to go out for two weeks every summer, logging as many as 100 miles in a single trip.

I discovered early in my life that being out in the splendor of the wilderness feeds my soul and helps me to put things in perspective. Now, I backpack with Douglas and the Boy Scouts from Troop 4100. I look forward to every opportunity to be out in nature, to unplug and unwind.

“You open wide your hand and satisfy the needs of every living creature.”

In our collect for today, we pray to God, who “sustained your ancient people in the wilderness with bread from heaven”. We ask that God “Feed now your pilgrim flock with the food that endures to everlasting life…”. Lent is about pausing to reflect and feeding your soul. How do you feed your soul? Take a hike!

Gracious God, thank you for the grandeur and majesty of creation, and the reminder that we are but a small part of it. Thank you for the generosity with which you shower us daily. Help us to see and appreciate all that we have and make us mindful of the needs of others. Amen.
-Rob McPeak