March 8

Jeremiah 7:23–28
Luke 11:14–23
Psalm 95:6–11

On Thursday, September 1, 1988, I set out from the rectory to carry out my first assignment as the new rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Warrenton, NC.; get the mail. A hot, muggy day I could feel the moisture beading up on the inside of my stiff new plastic clergy collar. As I rounded the corner of the church I could see a woman standing very primly on the top step of the post office. On this already uncomfortably warm day, she was wearing a hat and gloves, both hands holding her silvery pocketbook, her pastel blue suit complimenting her blue-gray hair curling out from under a veil. I smiled at her as I started past her into the lobby. Just then she turned towards me and began her speech. “My dear, I am here to welcome you to Warrenton and to tell you that we are so thankful that that Bishop of yours sent us a woman and not a black.”

How I wished I had the words that Jesus would say. People often told him to his face how deviant he was. “What good can come out of Nazareth?” “He casts out demons by Beelzebub.”

Clearly, the group who had sent this woman, whom I never saw again, labeled the Episcopal Church, the Bishop, members of the black race and women priests deviants.

Labels, stereotypes keep us distant and distrusting. Sometimes that seems to be what part of the larger community tries to teach us to do.

How often do I deny myself the gift and opportunity of knowing someone for their uniqueness because I lack the imagination and the empathy to make that discovery?

Gracious one, may our hearts not be hardened. Help us to listen for your voice. Amen.
-Vicki Wesen

March 7

Deuteronomy 4:1–2,5–9
Matthew 5:17–19
Psalm 78:1–6

As a Lutheran seminary student and then as a pastor’s wife, I used to hear “law and gospel” bandied about frequently. Lutherans are the “original gangstas” of Protestants so us cool kids had to teach the Zwinglians, Calvinists, and Anabaptists how it was done. A friend of mine, an LCMS pastor, even had a tie with clay tablets on it and I joked that he needed to add a tie pin in the shape of a cross to accurately reflect his views on this subject.

Back to the phrase “law and gospel”, it is the basis of our salvation. We couldn’t keep the Law, so Jesus had to come and die for us, which is the Gospel. Many of us would like to think that Christ’s death on the cross vacates our requirement to keep the Law, but it does not. We are still bound by the Ten Commandments, even if we may have relaxed some of the rules in Leviticus.

Today’s passages talk about the wisdom embodied in the Law and I agree. The Ten Commandments give us a basis for how to treat others ethically. The Book of Deuteronomy does an excellent job of rehashing where the Israelites have been to remind of where they are going as they cross into the Promised Land. Israel continually fouled it up and eventually faced exile. What Jesus is saying in the Gospel is that we still are held to that standard, but He came to fulfill its promises of a Messiah. The Law brought death, but the Gospel brings healing to us.

Help us, O Lord, to see the wisdom in your Law, that we might learn to treat others better because of it. Amen.
-Jen McCabe

March 6

Song of the Three Young Men 2–4,11–20a
Matthew 18:21–35
Psalm 25:3–10

These three young men had nothing to give as a sacrifice or offering to God. They were deeply humble, however, and asked God to accept and deliver them from their terrible ordeal. Their faith and love must have been tremendous!

Many times in my life, I have felt a desperate need of help, both physically and emotionally. Crying out to God, falling on bended knee, begging for help; God has always answered. Maybe the help didn’t arrive how or when I wanted but it always came. Looking back, I see the many times deliverance was freely given to me by God, even when I didn’t deserve it.

Dear Lord, You are so mighty, strong and good. You care for me in ways I cannot always understand but You always know what is best. I have no power of my own, it is only through You that I am saved. Amen.
-Sister Katherine

March 5

2 Kings 5:1–15b
Luke 4:23–30
Psalm 42:1–7

My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God… (Psalm 42:2a)

There is way too much depressing news. Some days, the local crimes and environmental disasters and political shenanigans and terrible diseases just get to be too much for me. Again, and again, humanity sorely fails the common good. My soul thirsts for a living God.
Stories from today’s scripture respond to that thirst. Naaman only gets his miraculous cure after he gets over his sense of self-importance and lets go of his expectations. The crowd who want to throw Jesus off the cliff for questioning their special status in the synagogue in Nazareth find themselves powerless to stop his walking away, passing through their midst. Some power is at work in these stories.

I thirst for some power to be visibly at work in our world today! I thirst for some assurance that the vulnerable really are being cared for… that justice is being served… that prophets and prayers matter.

And occasionally, I remember in my daily life to ask explicitly for God to help with a specific detail — an understanding I need, or a healing for which we yearn, or the right person for a ministry. My experience is that when I ask, God DOES stuff. Something unexpected, usually subtle and quiet and tailored to my unique experience, brings clarity.

Something happens that feels in the moment like a clear response to my prayers, and yet is just logical enough, just subtle enough, that I may be imagining any real connection. God drives me crazy.

Holy God, I am so sorry. I repent of my failure to trust you, to know you, to see you. Give me the courage to act boldly, to trust boldly, to love boldly. I thirst for you in my life. Amen.
-Helen McPeak

March 4

Exodus 20:1-17
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
John 2:13-22
Psalm 19

One of my favorite Internet memes is this one:

A completely rational answer to WWJD. :)

Our Lord pulls no punches when it comes to people polluting the Temple, a place that should be dedicated to the worship of the God of Israel, with commerce. In fact, I wonder what Jesus would think of the Christian marketing movement and the amount of schlock that gets bandied about with Bible verses on it. I remember the “Prayer of Jabez” craze that took place in college, based off an obscure verse reference that author Bruce Wilkinson turned into a book. It seemed like plastering “Prayer of Jabez” on something would cause it to sell, especially something as mundane as a mousepad or a scented candle.

Do I think that everything branded as “Christian” is a marketing ploy and should not be sold? Not necessarily, but I do think that we should be mindful of the medium we are using for our message. Psalm 19:14 is a prime example. In it, the psalmist prays simply, “let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” I have heard various priests pray it before they preach, and it seems like a wise prayer. Our words and what we show of our hearts speak more of who our God is than any notepad or tote bag will do.

Help us, Lord, not to let our love of commerce pollute the message you want us to share with the world. Amen.
-Jen McCabe

March 3

Micah 7:14–15,18–20
Luke 15:11–32
Psalm 103:1–4(5–8)9–12

The story of the prodigal son never fails to spark some lively theological conversation between Carol and me. We’re both eldest children…and frankly, while we appreciate the point of the parable (God’s infinite love and mercy, blah, blah, blah), we both harbor some suspicions about God’s parenting. I mean, let’s face it…the eldest child got hosed. Responsible parents just don’t behave that way.

The burden of being the eldest child isn’t just about the added responsibility we carry with regard to our siblings, but also about taking the brunt of our mother’s and father’s “failings” as first-time parents. We are so often plagued with a profound sense of injustice, and I think we carry that with us for a long time.

These days, having watched our children grow and become parents themselves, Carol and I are more inclined to see Luke 15:11-32 through the eyes of the father, rather than those of the eldest child. As a parent, you realize that while you love your children equally, you love them for who they are — which, of course, means differently. As sinners saved by grace, we know that we fall short of the perfect (i.e., unconditional) love of God, as expressed in our Old Testament and psalm readings — but any parent can certainly relate to how God feels about Her children.

If he is to grow in grace, the eldest son needs to realize that celebrating the return of his wayward sibling takes nothing away from him. His father’s love was always a given. When we truly believe in a God as loving as the God of Micah, concepts such as “fairness” seem more like a way of keeping score. And when you are as loved by God as we are, who has time for that?

God’s love isn’t a zero-sum game — so go hug your brother and help yourself to another slice of the fatted calf. There’s plenty to go around.

Grant, most merciful Lord, to your faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve you with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
-Michael Boss

March 2

Genesis 37:3–4,12–28
Matthew 21:33–43
Psalm 105:16–22

One of the first Bible stories I learned was that of Joseph and his coat of many colors. (Today’s portion of the psalm provides an excellent summary of the whole thing.) It was the summer of 1990 and I was at Camp Hammer, a Christian camp in the Santa Cruz mountains, with my friend Emily. Knowing that I did not come from a Christian household, Emily invited me to come to camp with her church for a week and this was the story that we studied with our counselors every morning in between swimming, doing arts and crafts, and playing camp-wide games.

The redeeming message of Joseph’s story is that God works in the worst of circumstances for good. Today’s passage from Genesis has Joseph beaten and sold into slavery by his jealous brothers; but later, Joseph ends up advising Pharaoh on how to handle an impending famine in Egypt. The brothers who sold him into slavery are forgiven and he ends up keeping them and his father Jacob alive as the famine rages in Israel, preserving the line of Abraham from which Jesus comes.

I gave my life to Jesus for the first time that summer and eventually committed fully almost five years later during my freshman year of high school. More than twenty-five years after hearing that story for the first time, God has worked amazing things in my life, bringing me through adversity, a dangerous pregnancy, and into a community and church that loves me and loves my son Daniel. God goes truly work good in some hard circumstances!

God, thank you for working in even the worst moments in our lives and bringing us into better places. Amen.
-Jen McCabe

March 1

Jeremiah 17:5–10
Luke 16:19–31
Psalm 1

“Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-8

“They are like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; everything they do shall prosper.” Psalm 1:3

Both the Jeremiah & Psalms readings talk of trees planted by water, bearing fruit, & not withering. Our lives in God are like those trees. When we are planted by God’s water, our roots grow deeper in Him. Deep roots enable trees (and our lives) to stay green and continue to bear fruit. Those roots spread into areas that we have perhaps not recognized, areas where God wants us to move and prosper. I never imagined the career paths God provided in my life!

Jesus accomplished some of His greatest work through a group of men who were completely unqualified for their calling. I promise He can, and will, do the same through you. I encourage you today, with your spirit growing deeply in God, your eyes trained on Jesus, and your ears attentive to His call, to STOP, DROP, AND RUN…towards His calling! He will provide all you need!

Jesus, I am humbled that You consider me worthy to be used—in ways big and small—to accomplish Your will here on earth. Help me respond without hesitation whenever I perceive Your voice calling me into action. In Your powerful and equipping Name, I pray, Amen.
-Barbara Cheyney

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