Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 3:6-18
Morning Psalms: Psalms 72
New Testament: Romans 1:28-2:11
Gospel: John 5:1-18
Evening Psalms: Psalms 119:73-96

DEVOTIONAL


“Jesus said to him, ’Rise, take up your bed and walk.’
And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed,
and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.  The Jews therefore
said to him who was cured, ‘It is the Sabbath; it is not
lawful for you to carry your bed.’”
(John 5:8-10)

As I often do in January, I find myself reflecting on the things I’d like to improve in the coming year. But I’m not calling them resolutions, as those have a tendency to fade rather quickly. I’m striving for permanent change. One thing I want to do in 2013 is to laugh more, help others laugh more, and find some humor in whatever challenges I may face.  Sometimes it’s hard to find a reason to laugh, even harder to find joy, but I will do my best to look for it. 

Now the Bible is not exactly a place one goes to find humor. Yet, I laughed when I read today’s gospel from John 5:1-18. Jesus cures a man who has been crippled for 38 years. He tells him to take up his bed and walk.  So, he’s walking for the first time in 38 years and some Jews come upon the man and say, “Hey, what are doing carrying that bed? It’s the Sabbath!” Their reaction is so ridiculous, it’s comical. 

I think about the times in my own life when I’ve failed to appreciate the wondrous and the miraculous because I’ve been too caught up in the trivial stuff. To be receptive to the wonder, to the glory and the miracles around me, I need to be ready and aware.   I need to pursue the laughter, be there in the present, and tap into the joy that is one of God’s greatest gifts to us.

MB


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 2:1-13
Morning Psalms: Psalms 61, 62
New Testament: Romans 1:16-25
Gospel: John 4:43-54
Evening Psalms: Psalms 68

DEVOTIONAL


“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
(Jeremiah 2:13)

When Felton and I were students at Virginia Tech, we did a lot of hiking. One of our favorite hikes was around Mountain Lake. A couple of years ago, Felton and I went to Mountain Lake and were surprised to see that the water level had dropped, so it was just a pond. We found out, rather than being a typical lake that is fed by springs of water, it is fed by rain and could not sustain itself during the recent draughts. When it became barren, it exposed its secrets, including the body of a man who drowned in the lake in 1921.

I have had times in my life when I am like Mountain Lake -- not being fed by “the spring of living water”. Those are times when I am not reading the Bible or belong to a Bible study, or not going to church, or going but not being fully present. I let myself be distracted by activities and “to do” lists. Like Mountain Lake, my soul begins to drain and become parched. Other times, when I read the Bible and am fully present at worship and Bible studies, I feel more balanced and resilient.

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.”
(Psalms 62:5)

Help me to focus on You and be fully present in You. Help me to be fully present in my actions, and may they glorify You.

SJ


Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday, February 25, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 1:11-19
Morning Psalms: Psalms 56, 57, 58
New Testament: Romans 1:1-15
Gospel: John 4:27-42
Evening Psalms: Psalms 64, 65 

DEVOTIONAL


“Get up and prepare for action, go out and tell them
everything I tell you to say. Do not be afraid of them,
or I will make you look foolish in front of them.”
(Jeremiah 1:17)

I hate football. I know it’s an American tradition, but I’ve never understood its entertainment value, and the rules confused me growing up. One year, my dad was waiting for the Super Bowl kickoff, but there was a spider in the bathroom I shared with my little sister. We were terrified of the spider and refused to go into our bathroom. We begged out dad to kill it for us, and he promised he’d do it after the kickoff, but eventually he caved, killed the spider, and missed the kickoff.

The truth is, I’m still not excited about football, but I’ll watch it with my family every Sunday anyway. I think that maybe Jeremiah’s attitude towards being a prophet paralleled my attitude towards football. Being chosen to be a prophet would be confusing, and he might not have been excited about it. Maybe Jeremiah had his own spiders to contend with, fears he faced or other challenges in his life. I think once he overcame his fears, got up, and prepared for action (as I do with a bowl of chili each time I sit on the couch to watch football with my family), he discovered that it wasn’t actually all that bad. Even though the things God was calling him to do seemed as scary as spiders were to me and my sister, or as confusing as football rules, they turned out fine in the end because he wasn’t doing them alone. While I still don’t really understand football, I’m not afraid to kill my own spiders anymore.

ES


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday, February 24, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 1:1-10
Morning Psalms: Psalms 24, 29
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 3:11-23
Gospel: Mark 3:31-4:9
Evening Psalms: Psalms 8, 84

DEVOTIONAL


“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart.”
(Jeremiah 1:5a)

Wow, how striking these few words are! As the 5th of 6 kids, I often thought I was at the bottom of the sibling totem pole. Isn’t it funny, and even a bit sad, how kids see themselves and interpret their importance in the family? Luckily I’ve grown up.

“Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will
is my brother and sister and mother.”
(Mark 3:34-35)

Now, when I think of my greater family, God’s family, I don’t put myself at the bottom of the totem pole. I see the totem pole as horizontal, and we all have the same “rank”. I see all my church friends and their individual gifts, what each brings to the table. I admire those who have gifts that I do not, and I try to be aware and appreciate those who might prefer to share their gifts in secret - those who would rather go unnoticed than receive praise. But we know praise is nice to receive, and when I start to feel, “Hey, didn’t anyone notice?”, I only have to remind myself that God knows, and who else would I rather please?

Because He knew me before he formed me. He knew me, who I would be, with all my faults and foibles, and He formed me anyway. He formed me as He formed His beloved Son, our Savior. Wow!
 
LML


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saturday, February 23, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 11:18-28
Morning Psalms: Psalms 55
New Testament: Hebrews 5:1-10
Gospel: John 4:1-26
Evening Psalms: Psalms 138, 139

DEVOTIONAL


In John 4:1-26, Jesus asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water, and then tells her about the Living Water only He can provide. Although Jesus gets his thirst satisfied, the woman received so much more in return.

I was a chaperone during St. Matt’s mission trip to Nashville. Some of the teenagers were sure of their relationship with God, others questioned His existence. One day, three kids and I descended into downtown Nashville with one goal: to find 4 homeless persons with whom to share our lunch and water. We searched for the “right” place to stop. We questioned a police officer, a homeless salesman, and others about where to share our lunch; each gave a different location. Finally, we turned a corner and saw the church. I could tell just by looking at the kids that we had found THE place we needed to be.

We ate on the church stairs with four homeless people. After the initial awkwardness, the kids and their new friends were telling jokes, enjoying the meal, and talking about the wonders of God. The homeless talked about their troubles with alcohol, drugs, and outwitting the law. Despite their situations, they all expressed how strong their relationship with God was and how He provided in so many ways.

We gave four people food and water. We got back so much more – the unwavering knowledge that God is with us. He led us to the officer and salesman, around one corner then another, until we arrived at the right place. He led us to Dale, to Chief, and to the others. Most important of all, He revealed to one of the teens how God is with him in each and every step. There is no greater gift than faith in God’s presence, but being with someone when they dive into His Living Water is a pretty close second.

EC


Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday, February 22, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 10:12-22
Morning Psalms: Psalms 40, 54
New Testament: Hebrews 4:11-16
Gospel: John 3:22-36
Evening Psalms: Psalms 51

DEVOTIONAL


“To this John replied, ‘A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.’” 
(John 3:27)


The holidays are the time when I think the most of family, friends, and other blessings in my life. But the past few months have been an exceptional time of reflection and thanksgiving for me. For the first time since I was 16, I found myself without a job, and it wasn’t by choice. The uncertainty of what is to come and how to provide for my family is stressful.

Today’s Gospel reading reminded me of the 2008 mission trip to Philadelphia. There I met a godly man who had a soup kitchen and clothing ministry for the homeless and needy. I’ve never forgotten what he told us. He said that God wants to give to others through you. And the more you give to others, the more God will provide to you, so that you can pass it on to those who need it. It was a gift, a wakeup call for my faith. I realized it wasn’t my job that provided for me, it was God who provided the job. I wholeheartedly trust that He will bring me to the perfect opportunity at the right time.

Gifts from the heart are blessings from heaven. I have been very blessed by the gifts of God that have come from friends and family and godly people He sends my way. May God continue to provide an abundance of blessings to you, as He has to me. Amen.

PFH

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 9:23-10:5
Morning Psalms: Psalms 50, 59, 60
New Testament: Hebrews 4:1-10
Gospel: John 3:16-21
Evening Psalms: Psalms 19, 46

DEVOTIONAL


The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim  the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
(Psalm 19:1-2)

I’ve spent a lot of time in deserts, prairies, and mountains where the air is clear. One of my earliest memories is looking up at the stars. It didn’t make me feel small – it taught me the feelings of awe and wonder. At that age, I learned that God was everywhere, but mostly in Heaven. As a young man, thinking I grasped the concept of infinity, I felt very, very small. I learned that God was “out there,” monitoring my every action and thought. Later, I began to doubt that such a being could exist.

One very clear moonless night I sat at the rim of Bryce Canyon. I had never seen so many stars. I thought, “if there is a God, and if he created all this, there is no way that he cares what I do.” It was tremendously liberating to be freed from the all-seeing Eye. The elsewhere-god ceased to exist, but the stars still had a lot to say.

After many years, they eventually said, “You are the product of nearly 14 billion years of seamlessly connected creativity. The hydrogen atoms in these stars and in your body were formed at the Big Bang; the carbon atoms in your body were formed in ancient supernova explosions. God is not "Out There”, nor were you plopped down from Elsewhere. You emerged from the same heart of the cosmos that produced the infinite sky. You are connected to all this, and you cannot be unconnected.”

I like this new story, of a God present and active in the unbroken emergence from void to light to matter to life to consciousness to... whatever comes next. Finally, a God in which I can believe.

DF


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 9:13-21
Morning Psalms: Psalms 119:49-72
New Testament: Hebrews 3:12-19
Gospel: John 2:23-3:15
Evening Psalms: Psalms 49, 53 

DEVOTIONAL


“This is what happens to those who live for the moment,
who only look out for themselves: Death herds
them like sheep straight to hell….”
(Psalm 49:13-15, The Message)


Yikes! Now that’s a strong message!  

Lately, I feel that a common sentiment folks have is that to make children happy, they (we) need to give them more – of everything -- more clothes, more books, more games, more, more, more of everything! Yet, words like those of Psalm 49 drive home to me that it isn’t “stuff” that our children need. They just need LOVE. (Isn’t there a song that goes something like that?) They especially need to see and learn what “love in action” looks like.

I’ve often wondered about the messages I am sending to my children by my actions. So, last year my husband and I made a small change. We rented a smaller beach house, one farther away from the beach, for our family vacation. Our young son, M2, noticed. We told him that this small change would save us money, and that we could use what we saved to help St. Matthew’s Capital Campaign and to buy groceries for Backpack Buddies. He liked that idea, especially when he later went shopping with me, personally selected cans of tuna and shelf-stable milk, and placed them into the shopping cart.  

It was a small start, but it was the best practical way I could think of to send M2 God’s message – not to only look out for ourselves, but to look out for others through acts of love. I hope to find other opportunities during my Lenten walk to show M2 how even small changes in something we do can make a big difference in the lives of others, like enabling a another child to eat, perhaps even the child that sits next to him on the school bus. Now that sounds like love to me!

MT



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 9:4-12
Morning Psalms: Psalms 45
New Testament: Hebrews 3:1-11
Gospel: John 2:13-22
Evening Psalms: Psalms 47, 48

DEVOTIONAL


“His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your
house will consume me.’”
(John 2:17)
 
God answers our prayers, but in His time, not ours. For years, I prayed that our family would find a church where we could all feel comfortable. It took four moves and buying a new home in VA before we found St. Matthew's. Though we drove by several local Episcopal churches and attended services at others, it only took one Sunday at St. Matt’s 9:15 service to know that we had finally found the house of our new Church Family.

Besides finding “zeal” within this house of God, I also found at St. Matt’s wonderful new friends, an answer to another long term prayer – also answered in God's time. As family members of St. Matt’s, my husband and I wanted to do our share, and so we joined a Mission Trip to Long Beach, MS. I prayed to make women friends on the trip, but I was the only female on our team AND on our work crew; so I was intrigued when one of the crew told us that his wife had sent 14 prayer shawls to hand out. After the trip, via email, I met this man’s wife, and she shared stories about starting her small group, “Knit1, Prayer2”. I wanted a group like that. Now, three years later, with Fr. Rob’s support, I have the most wonderful group of women friends, nearly all from St. Matt's, and all hard-working members of the “Knit2, Prayer2 Ministry” of this house of our Church Family!


KG

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 8:11-20
Morning Psalms: Psalms 41, 52
New Testament: Hebrews 2:11-18
Gospel: John 2:1-12
Evening Psalms: Psalms 44

DEVOTIONAL

“Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God…”
(Deuteronomy 8:11)
 
I read a poem once, and it was titled, “What If Jesus Showed up Today.” The entire thing was about what would happen if Jesus showed up at your door step right now. As you read this you’re probably thinking, “Drop everything and have a nice conversation!” Or “Man, I would have to put all these magazines away and bring out the Christian CD’s from the basement.” If you didn’t react in this way, then I apologize; but if you did, then GO ME!

Every now and then, I have to take a moment to think: how many times have I said, “Eh… I’m too busy to help out at church this week…” But if I look at it as an invitation, a reason to visit Jesus at his house, then maybe I should help out. I wonder if Jesus is actually calling me to hang out and to help out, maybe not all the time, but maybe as much as I can. I just have to cancel the unnecessary things that surround my life, well maybe some of them. And if I REALLY am busy, making time to pray is probably a fantastic way to have a conversation with God. Jesus is already all around us, so trying to hide the classic KISS and Bruce Springsteen albums won’t help. But what might is finding Jesus in those things, so when I do pray, I can say “So I saw you in this song today, God.” And I will tell him how --and I bet He’d love to hear!
ZR

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday, February 17, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 8:1-10
Morning Psalms: Psalms 63, 98
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 1:17-31
Gospel: Mark 2:18-22
Evening Psalms: Psalms 103 

DEVOTIONAL

“But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them,
and on that day they will fast.”
(Mark 2:20)

As a Christian, I believe that Christ is always with me. But for Lent, I consider a life without Christ, and so I fast. For forty days I sacrifice something that is important to me. This fast isn’t supposed to be easy. In fact, the more difficult it is, the more I should be relying on God.

I think that is why I always fall short on my fasting. It’s not that it’s too difficult — aren’t all things possible with God? They are, but honestly, I still try to tackle fasting on my own. I don’t put God first; I put my own will power first. I treat fasting during Lent no different than a New Year’s Resolution.

Today is the first Sunday in Lent. Depending on your tradition, it’s actually a day to rest from fasting. I will use it as a day to reflect on my Lenten Fast. How well did I do these past four days? Did I offer my fasting as a sacrifice to God, or was it simply an exercise in my own will power? Have I been asking God to help me honor my fasts? Have I been allowing enough space in my life for God to work?
Dear God, I pray for me and for my fellow Christians. May we always put God’s love and power ahead of our own will power. Rather than worry about having a “successful” Lent, may we, instead, honor our commitments to God.
MT


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

READINGS


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 7:17-26
Morning Psalms: Psalms 30, 32
New Testament: Titus 3:1-15
Gospel: John 1:43-51
Evening Psalms: Psalms 42, 43

DEVOTIONAL


Remind your people…They must always be ready to
do something helpful…They should be
gentle and kind to everyone.” 
(Titus 3:1-3)

For the simple reason that I have been entrusted to lead the Outreach Ministry at St. Matthew’s, these words from Titus really spoke to me. In fact, they hit a personal chord. 

Before I started officially working with Outreach, things were very different. I wanted to do good things. I strongly believed in doing good things. I just never felt the overwhelming call to action. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to do my part. Volunteering is something I’ve always done. I coached my kids; I was a Cub Scout Leader; I served as a Team Mom for Football -- and these were all very good things, especially since I was with my kids. 

Nevertheless, aside from my immediate family, I never had the feeling that I was making a difference in anyone else’s life. Ever since I started working with the Outreach Ministry at St. Matthew’s, however, I have felt a part of a very good thing, and I have seen wonderful good things happen. We (you and I) do impact lives as we reach out to strangers without expecting anything in return. By focusing on the needs of others and their well-being, by not judging lifestyles or situations, we simply help. Finding the time and the energy is not always easy. Yet, I know we must seek new ways for our Outreach at St. Matthew’s to continue helping people as much as we can and as often as we can…even while knowing that, in the end, it is not our good deeds, but God’s mercy that is our salvation. 

AB

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013

READINGS


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 7:12-16
Morning Psalms: Psalms 95, 31
New Testament: Titus 2:1-15
Gospel: John 1:35-42
Evening Psalms: Psalms 35

DEVOTIONAL


As a child, I lived with the knowledge that God was always present, that He was a warm, comforting presence whenever I needed. 

However, as I grew older and more “worldly”, I read and experienced intolerance and hypocrisy by an all-too-human church that fell back upon scripture it alone was allowed to interpret.  I also looked around each Sunday morning, and I saw people repeating the same words week after week, like some moral checklist.  The religion that I had grown up in seemed a lifeless example of “Do as I say, not as I do”.  I eventually turned my back on the whole thing, and I started my own quest to form an understanding of life.

That quest led me back to the beginning, to what Jesus taught.  Reading Titus, I’m reminded of what it means to follow Christ, of what it should look like. 

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good.  In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say.” (Titus 2:7-8)

I believe people’s hearts refuse to follow those that speak commandments but do not act in accordance with the message of love and integrity that Jesus taught.  Watching people living out the message that Jesus preached, however, compels others to want to learn more.  “Who are these people who put others first?  What is this that brings such strength and inner peace?” 

I recall that Jesus kept it really simple:  Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.  Living that, and not just saying it, is the most profound and fulfilling life-quest I have found.

TON

 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

READINGS


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 7:6-11
Morning Psalms: Psalms 37:1-18
New Testament: Titus 1:1-16
Gospel: John 1:29-34
Evening Psalms: Psalms 37:19-42

DEVOTIONAL


“To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted
and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact,
both their minds and consciences are corrupted.”
(Titus 1:15)

One of my favorite hymns is “Here I Am Lord”. It reminds me of growing up in Church; and my husband and I intentionally chose it for our wedding. Hearing the lyrics, Here I Am Lord, Is it I Lord? and standing in front of the altar about to embark on the adventure of marriage, I truly felt overcome with emotion.

The scripture readings from today made me think of that song, not because they are filled with flowery romantic language, but because they most certainly are not. The readings today speak of right from wrong, wicked versus evil, pure versus corrupt. After reading the scriptures for today, dejected was the first word that came to mind. I thought of the many times I have been arrogant or quick-tempered, professed to know God, but acted differently. I read that salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; so what does that mean for me when I don’t feel so righteous?

To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; reading this line from Titus is what brought the hymn to mind, and I thought back to the lyric, I will break their hearts of stone/give them hearts for love alone. I know that falling away from God, from righteous behavior, from believing that nothing is good, can be easy.

Lord, when I allow the world, or my own actions, to make me callous may I remember to ask You to help break the stone of my heart, to open my eyes to all that is good and pure, and to go where You lead me.

MM

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

READINGS


Old Testament: Jonah 3:1 - 4:11
Morning Psalms: Psalms 95, 32, 143
New Testament: Hebrews 12:1-14
Gospel: Luke 18:9-14
Evening Psalms: Psalms 102, 130

DEVOTIONAL


Before there was "the cloud" there was a Cloud
Of Witness: faithful women, men of God,
Four thousand years and building, some among
Us still, some passed, forever joined to Christ.

No cloud of ones and zeroes paints the lives
Of those who ran the race so well before us;
Who never let their eyes drift from the prize
And won a wreath that never fades to black.

 There was a man who wore a wreath of scorn,
Who ran a gauntlet first to gain a throne.
Though born the son, the heir, he was not spared
From discipline, from pain, from grisly death.

He bids me now: "Go toe the starting line,
Unload, unplug, unleash the power within
Your wobbly knees, your flabby arms and calves.

You've yet to shed one single drop of blood
In all your feeble striving to be good.

Resolve to stay the course of forty days,
Pray, pray and listen to the cheering crowd
And run to earn your place within the cloud."

MLB

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lent 2013

It's almost time... tomorrow the devotional posts will start flowing.

Each morning at 5 AM EST a new entry will come out.

Each post will have a list of readings at the top.  You can read them in your bible or click on them to read them online and then click back to return to the devotional.  We hope you find reading them as rewarding as the team here at St Matthews found writing them.
 
Peace+
The Devotional Team
DS,MP,MO&JS
and a large cast of contributers