Dear people of God,
There is a phrase in scripture, “He turned his face toward Jerusalem,” that for
me has always been the summation of Lent. Jesus, while open to the surprising
leadings of the Holy Spirit, was also a very intentional person. He could have let the
winds of the moment or even political exigency or personal security influence him not
to go to Jerusalem. Jerusalem, in his day was both the seat of religious and political
power and oppression, and it was the poetic and prophetic vision of the fulfillment of
the reign of God among us. Jesus chose to move toward both.
For centuries, the Church has asked its people to be intentional during the
season of Lent. It has encouraged us to deepen our study, stretch in works of
compassion, focus with more devotion in worship, and identify the joys as well as
sorrows of the life we share with Christ.
This Lent we invite you to share by way of this devotional guide. It is offered
by your fellow members as a companion in study, prayer and reflection. You will see
that it moves us through some of the major stories and themes of scripture. We begin
on Ash Wednesday with the story of creation and conclude just before Easter in the
book of Revelation. We intentionally omitted Sundays. Having dipped your spiritual
toe in one day’s reading, you might want to take the plunge and read the entire story or
biblical book. You might want to immerse yourself in prayer as a result of its leading.
Our prayer is that God’s Spirit will guide and bless you as you use this devotional.
Thank you to the many authors who contributed to this work of love. May we
arrive at Easter a people strengthened in faith, renewed in hope, and grateful for God’s
Yours in Christ,
Timothy J. Mulder, Rector
Ash Wednesday, February 13 Genesis 1:2-4
The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep,
while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:2-4
One of the saddest things I am sometimes asked to do is to stand with a family at the
grave of one they have loved. A funeral director has called saying someone has died.
The family was not affiliated with any church but would like a minister to “say a few
words.” When I meet with them, I ask if anyone would like to say something at the
graveside? “No.” “Are there any passages of scripture you would like read? “You
choose. We wouldn’t know what to say. You just say a few words.” I do, because I do
not want anyone to stand alone, either in life or in death. My heart breaks. I have met
countless similar families now, who have had no need for God during their life, but do
not want to stand at an empty grave and have nothing to say. Something in them has
asked for someone to re-present, make present, God for them. They have a longing for
more than a void.
The book of Genesis begins with an image of a world without form or definition, a
great emptiness. There are no emotions or relationships; no beauty or even sorrow, no
discoveries or challenges, no anything. It is as though a world with nothing to say
once said to God, “You just say a few words.” And God did. With God’s breath
(Spirit in Hebrew), God blew life into creation. Creativity, imagination, intellect,
emotion, definition, borders, shades, colors, smells, sounds, tastes, all that make life
and makes it full result from our realization that a formless void is no way to live. God
gives our lives purpose and meaning. Life is a blessed trust, a holy adventure, a sacred
stewardship. How we spend our days means that we do not stand silent at an empty
grave. Instead we can rejoice at the empty grave, “Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord
is risen indeed.” And because of that, so are we. Not just “a few words,” but words
that give life.
Magnificent Creator, who have poured into us the gift of life. Help us treasure and share it, for in so
doing we praise you. Amen.
Thursday, February 14 Genesis 3
The Lord God drove out the man; and at the east of the Garden of Eden he placed the cherubim,
and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:24
What a horrific ending! After having made and placed them to tend and care for a
beautiful lush fertile garden of delight, God forcibly drove man and woman, the
crowning act of God’s creation, out of the garden and set up guards to block their
return. And what was the misguided misdeed? The term sin is not used, nor is an
apple ever mentioned. Was it disobedience, rebellion, sex, failure to make the right
choice, pride, overstepping boundaries, trying to become like the gods, failure to
accept one’s humanity, becoming attached to objects, substances, and relationships
other than God? Theologians have wrestled over these and other possibilities, which
prevent us from loving and serving God.
But, oh, the consequences! There is estrangement between God, man, woman and
earth. Even the sexual relationship, the embodiment of the intimate connection God
made between man and woman, becomes fraught with shame and cover up. Enmity
develops between humankind, the snake, and other animals. Women are destined to
experience pain in childbirth and be subject to their husbands rather than equal
partners. Men are condemned to endless toil and frustration in their efforts to produce
food and support themselves. There is no hope of immortality. Life is difficult and
then we die. God’s commission and charge to care for the earth and its creatures
becomes license to exercise power wantonly, abuse one another, rape nature, and
pollute the earth.
Fortunately the story does not end here. In Jewish eschatology history will complete
itself and culminate in humankind’s return to the Garden of Eden. Indeed, God so
loved the world he became incarnate in Christ Jesus to reminds us that life eternal
does not necessarily refer to never-ending life but to a quality of life present here and
now as we follow God’s commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
soul and mind and Love your neighbor as yourself.” I continue to experience God
when I am loved and cared for by others. This is how we work together to create
God’s kingdom here on earth.
Lord God, full of forgiveness and grace. Help us to love you and one another and to bring about
your kingdom here on earth. Amen
Friday, February 15 Genesis 4: 1-16
CAIN & ABEL
The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not
look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Genesis 4:4-5
Cain and Abel choose different vocations, Abel decided to herd livestock and Cain
decided to tend a garden. When it came time to give an offering to the Lord they each
offered their personal treasure. What happened next is not very well motivated by the
text. Perhaps to the ancient Hebrew reader there was a clear reason why Abel’s
livestock was more favorable to the Lord then Cain’s cornucopia. Cain’s reaction is a
little easier to understand than God’s choice of favor, at least his initial reaction.
Life is not fair. At least that is how Cain must have felt. How much time do we spend
thinking the same thing? Of course we want life to be fair. Maybe that means that life
should be a perfect meritocracy, judiciously giving rewards and favor to the most
deserving at each turn. But on what terms is that to be defined. Do we really want a
perfect meritocracy? Do we want to give up our advantages, reset our place? No, we
want to maintain our accumulation of awards, keep our advantages. It would be easier
for Abel to speak about the inherent fairness of the offering system than poor Cain and
his unfortunate offering choice.
How then do we react when we feel that life is not being fair? We probably can’t help
getting a little bit mad at times but we can avoid acting on the anger in the way Cain
did. Did Jesus have much to say about life being fair? Maybe, but he did so in terms
on a scale which is hard for us to really grasp. If we are worried about the fairness of
the corner office allocation, we are probably not factoring in the plight of the meek in
Maybe what we need to know is that we could give away much more than is
comfortable, give up much more, and offer up much more and still have spiritual riches
which defy our concept of fairness.
Dear Lord, who provides all things, help us to have a generous spirit which avoids all jealousy and
Saturday, February 16 Genesis 6-7:5
Lord Jesus, think on me, and purge away my sin;
from harmful passions set me free, and make me pure within.
Lord Jesus, think on me, with care and woe oppressed;
let me thy loving servant be, and taste thy promised rest.
Lord Jesus, think on me, nor let me go astray;
through darkness and perplexity point thou the heavenly way.
Lord Jesus, think on me, that, when the flood is passed,
I may the eternal brightness see, and share thy joy at last.
Words: Synesius of Cyrene, ~375-414
Music: Southwell, from Daman’s Psalter, 1579
Monday, February 18 Genesis 8:20-9:17
AFTER THE FLOOD
God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living
creature that is with you, for all and future ge