2013 Archives | Devotions | Goshen College

March 31, 2013


By Gwen Gustafson-Zook, minister of worship
SCRIPTURE: Luke 24:1-12 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture.

The first weekend of the semester on an unseasonably warm and sunny January afternoon, I stood in a circle with students at a student leaders retreat. We were engaged in an intense game of “Ninja,” a game involving quick, deliberate movements. When my turn came around I quickly took a big step toward the student on my left. Unfortunately, the deck we were standing on was a bit slippery and I landed on the ground as the classic “pop” from my hamstring immobilized me in pain. I became very dependent on the students around me and on the grace of colleagues in that moment and over the next days and weeks of gradual recovery. The incident slowed me down, making me significantly more aware of pain; pain that we live with daily and pain that is a part of being human; pain that is superficial and pain that burrows to the core of our beings; pain that is physical and pain that is profoundly emotional; pain that we bring on ourselves and pain that is the result of injustice; pain that is personal and pain that ripples far beyond the initial point of trauma to effect the whole of communities, of countries and, indeed, of the world.

The story that we proclaim and are invited to live into each Easter is a story that begins with very deep pain, very profound suffering, cosmic despair. It is a story that calls us, like the women who accompany Jesus through the final days of his suffering, to be present to the anguish, the fear, the pain; to tenderly pour the oil, to bake the bread, to lovingly accompany, to hold one another, to weep and, yes, to prepare the spices and ointment – to do the very hard work of suffering together. But the story doesn’t stop with the pain-filled suffering. The empty tomb, while confounding initially, leaves us all with a glimmer of hope. Could it be that the pain and despair and loss and injustice do NOT have the last word? The good news of Jesus Christ is that our lives (and indeed the lives of all with whom we share this existence), in all their struggle and pain and brokenness and frailty, are framed by this profound, persistent and perplexing hope. Therefore, we carry on, with eyes wide open to signs of life beyond the suffering and pain. Christ has risen! Hope endures! Alleluia!


Thank you for joining us on this journey through Lent. Even as we have been enriched by taking time to reflect on these Scripture passages in light of our lives at Goshen College, we trust that you, too, have found in these reflections sustenance for your journey. Join us again for devotions when the season of Advent begins (unless you unsubscribe, they will automatically come to you when they begin again in late November 2013).

SCRIPTURE: Luke 24:1-12 (NRSV)
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
March 30, 2013

By Ann Hostetler, professor of English
SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 (NRSV)

On this Saturday before Easter we remember that Jesus’s body lay in a tomb, subject to decay. Yet as we prepare for tomorrow, we know that when Jesus’s disciples and friends came to visit him in the tomb, they discovered that the stone had been rolled away. As we say farewell to our loved ones in this world, we may experience the holy moments when the body leaves the soul, as well as the grief of sitting with the body they have left behind. Yet we can also sense through grief the release and joy they must feel in their transition to a new state of being, because the scripture has given us these words: “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”


When I enter your room
for the last time, I see a shell—
broken—your head thrown back,
mouth open—as though something
has hatched and taken flight.

Just this morning I rubbed
your ankles with oil, but now
your legs are stiff to the touch,
purple stains pool under tissue paper skin
as capillary walls give way,

the process of return
beginning. At the hospital entrance,
I met the women weeping—
mother, sister, niece, pastor—
who tell me the story of your last

breath, which I imagine now—
my sister plays
her violin—Cast thy Burden
Upon the Lord—and after days
of uphill breathing your face reflects

a moment of sheer delight—Christ
We Do All Adore Thee. I carry
this story with me like a garment.
Each time I tell it the circle widens
as with the telling of another

story, an empty tomb,
the stone rolled away,
and nothing to fill
the empty space
but language.

SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 (NRSV)
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
March 29, 2013

By Natasha Weisenbeck, a junior public relations major from Clifton, Ill.
SCRIPTURE: Acts 10:34-43 (NRSV)

I have been very anxious these past months as I have tried to figure out what to do with my summer. In addition, the fear of what to do after college began to creep into my skin as I fear being left jobless and worthless, possessing such a hodge-podge resume that nobody would want to hire me.

Too often I forget God wants me. If I want the plans he has for me, I must trust God in my deeds.

Jesus was scared too. In the garden, he asked for his responsibility to be eradicated. Was he afraid of death? A death which God planned to null and void in three days, a fact Jesus told his disciples frequently.

He knew the plan. He still had fear. But that fear was overcome.

Because God was with him. Because God has called us by name. Because he chooses no one based on their background or nation’s history, fear can be overcome.

Because God is with me and I choose to act in his ways, I need not fear.

Because God is with you today, I pray that you put down your anxieties.
I pray you know your worth and your opportunity despite your position.
I pray that you are able to do good with each day of your life.

Because God is with us.

SCRIPTURE: Acts 10:34-43 (NRSV)
Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’
March 28, 2013

By Ammon Allen-Doucot, a sophomore Bible and religion major from Hartford, Conn.
SCRIPTURE: John 13:1-17, 31b-35 (NRSV)

It may be a first-year college student problem, but of late I feel as though I have no free time. There are, of course, classes, which come with no small amount of work. I also have my job in the Campus Center for Young Children and daily practices for track. And then there are those little things that take a surprising amount of time: eating meals, cleaning the room, calls home, showering and that minor thing called sleeping. Upon realizing the time I “lost” to these things, I began to cut them out. First it was the occasional skipped dinner on Mondays, then it was a quick text to Mom: “I’ll call on Sunday, no time now.” As the workload increased, more things were removed. This culminated in the flu I caught the week before spring break. I became more or less incapable of doing anything without help. Help from my teammates at practice, help from my friends finding food and studying whilst having no energy, help from professors when all I wanted to do was sleep for a straight week.

This dependence on others, especially in light of my recent “cut out” incidents, is what I was thinking and praying on before writing this devotional, which is focused around Jesus teaching the disciples about the importance of communal care. I guess an extension on an assignment, or a glass of water and an Ibuprofen aren’t exactly the same as feet washing, but I definitely have a better understanding of the relationship between disciples.

I encourage you to remember to make time for the little things, which when combined create a big thing: community. I am unashamed in my need for my community and the Holy Spirit therein.

SCRIPTURE: John 13:1-17, 31b-35 (NRSV)
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
March 27, 2013

By Grace Parker, a senior English and Bible and religion double major
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 (NRSV)

In our culture that is addicted to fast solutions and technological convenience, God offers something different — a long-term and transparent relationship. All too often, I find myself scanning Facebook statuses or reading friends’ blogs in the hopes of finding some relational connection. However, these mechanisms do not allow for the immediate and two-sided interactions with people who are physically present with me.

God continually invites us into relationship. In today’s Scripture, the psalmist says that he loves and calls on the Lord because God heard his cry and prayers. God listens and we, yearning for authentic relationship, must respond with thanksgiving and humility as we hold up our side of the relationship.

God’s companionship has been a comfort to me as I’ve felt the emotional distance from family and friends created by long-distance and international travel. During my semester abroad in Peru, I initially felt disoriented by my separation from so many people who I normally relied on for support. Turning to God for relationship, through reading the Bible, praising with the church I was working with, and moments of stillness, deepened my awareness of the mutuality expected by God.

As we experience emotional alienation and yearn for true relationship, let us remember the Lord, who hears our voice and answers with love.

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 (NRSV)
I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
What shall I return to the Lord
for all his bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord,
I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his faithful ones.
O Lord, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the child of your serving-maid.
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice
and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!
March 26, 2013

By Jenny Beer, director of counseling

What strikes me most about the 12 plagues inflicted on the Egyptians is God’s unswerving commitment to set the Israelites free. In spite of God’s anger at the Egyptians for their cruel treatment of the Israelites, God gave them chance after chance after chance to respond to his request. Each plague intensified the Egyptians’ misery until at last, in a final act of persuasion, God enacted the Passover, not because he wanted to take the lives of the firstborn sons, but because it was the only way. God demonstrated he was willing to do whatever it would take to free the Israelites from the Egyptians.

Many years later when Jesus was sacrificed as the Passover Lamb, God demonstrated his unswerving commitment to us again, showing he was willing to do whatever it would take to free us from our sin and bring us into a right eternal relationship with him.

Today, God is still prepared to do whatever it takes for you, with the same unswerving love and devotion. Know this – the Israelites weren’t protected from the tyranny of slavery – but they were delivered from it. Many of us know pain – pain that couldn’t be prevented because free will prohibits God from judging us for what we haven’t done yet – but also know the God of the universe is a God of justice and love, and is prepared to do what it takes to deliver you from your pain and suffering into a life of joy.

We remember because it reminds us of an enduring quality of God – that God is devoted to us, and in return wants our worship, our love and our time.

SCRIPTURE: Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14 (NRSV)
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbour in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgements: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.
March 25, 2013

By Annika Miller, a senior elementary education major from Broadway, Va.
THIS WEEK’S THEME: This is the Lord’s Doing!

When I was in junior high, my family took a four-week summer vacation, driving from Pennsylvania to California to visit my aunt and sightsee along the way. Early on in the first week, we heard a family friend preach about “God things.” “God things” start out as situations that aren’t too favorable, but somehow turn around in the end. They can also be an outcome or gift that you didn’t even realize you needed.

My family realized we had already encountered several “God things” and then became more and more aware of them as we looked. One such experience was when we were in danger of being stranded after having engine problems with our van in Wyoming. We were able to make it to a small gas station in the middle of nowhere, which happened to have a full-time mechanic who willingly ran a diagnostic test despite it being near the end of his shift. After replacing a faulty wire for next to nothing, we were on our way, having met a compassionate stranger. God took our bad situation and worked through it.

At the time of Jesus’ death, I’m sure it was next to impossible for Jesus’ followers to imagine any good coming out of the situation. Knowing now of the resurrection, however, it’s easy to see Jesus’ death as the beginning of a “God thing” as God worked through the hopeless situation and brought about life-giving good.

March 22, 2013

By Eva Lapp, a sophomore peace, justice and conflict studies major from Goshen, Ind.
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 2:5-11 (NRSV)

Growing up, memorizing Bible passages never made sense to me. My experience at church and school was that I would repeatedly stumble through a passage until the words stayed in my mind and on my tongue just long enough that I could receive a golden sticker or a shining A+. Occasionally I would convince myself that the next time I would really study the passage and become a good Christian who could rattle off any number of memorized verses. But this spiritual discipline never became my “thing.”

Then this past fall I took a required Bible course here at Goshen College and, lo and behold, we had Scripture memorization quizzes. What a joy, I thought sarcastically. After slogging my way through several passages and fulfilling my grade expectation, I came across today’s passage, the Christ Hymn. I went through the same motions: memorize, take the quiz, get an A, forget the passage. But, a few weeks afterwards, I came across the passage again and wrote it in my journal. The next day I looked at it again and tested my memory skills to find that I could recite most of the passage!

The lilting nature of this hymn speaks to my poetic sensibilities. Memorizing this passage was natural and in these days and weeks of Lent I recover this passage each day as a reminder of my faith. It is a reminder of my decision in life to follow Christ and what that entails. It is a reminder that Christ comes in the name of God, that Jesus is God and thus his actions reflect God’s vision for humanity. As I relish each word and savor the gentle prayer-like movement of the verses, I remind myself that….

The blessed one comes in the name of the Lord and thus, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (2:5).

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 2:5-11 (NRSV)
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
March 21, 2013

By Jessica Gotwals, a senior nursing major from Telford, Pa.
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 50:4-9a (NRSV)

Many of the people who are most important to me in my life are teachers by profession: my mother, my siblings, my cousins, my aunts and multiple friends from high school and college. Because of these relationships, I’ve seen the time that goes into lesson planning, the energy that goes into building relationships with students and the hope teachers have for the ones they teach. And since I admire the teachers in my life, it is not surprising to me that I often conceptualize God as a teacher.

There are two main things that I appreciate about today’s passage in Isaiah. First, I love the beginning verses, because they remind me that God is also a teacher, committed to challenging us and making us Christ-like. Verses 4 and 5 say that God has “opened our ears” and helps us to listen “like one being instructed.” Understanding God as a teacher is particularly helpful to me during Lent. Lent is a time to clear the excess from our lives and expose the things that block us from the Divine. There is something about being emptied that leaves us more open to the possibility of learning and gaining the new wisdom God has to offer us. What have you removed from your life this Lenten season? What wisdom have you gained in turn?

The second thing I appreciate about this passage in Isaiah is the striking assurance the author has in his faith. In verses 6-9, he is not fazed by oppression or by the opinions of others. This passage encourages us to be assured that the teachings of the Lord are good. Once we open ourselves to receive God’s teachings, we cannot ignore what we have learned, and our lives are inevitably changed. The convictions we have for our lives as people of faith may not always make us more well-liked, more wealthy or more successful by the world’s standards. However, these things are not our highest priority. God equips us with the Holy Spirit to be more like Christ. And, when we walk in the way of the Lord, we are not ashamed.

During the remainder of the Lenten season, may you be receptive to the teachings of the Divine, and may you be confident that the direction you are going is blessed. May you be made aware of the ways you fall short, but be reassured that you are learning to embody shalom. Praise to the God who teaches us patiently.

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 50:4-9a (NRSV)
The Lord God has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backwards.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.
The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
All of them will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up.
March 20, 2013

By Saralyn Murray, a senior American Sign Language major from Orrville, Ohio
SCRIPTURE: Luke 19:28-40 (NRSV)

In the midst of an Ohio winter, nothing expresses love like a singing valentine. As a high school student I had the privilege of traveling all over the community singing to unsuspecting recipients on that annual holiday. We would walk into different businesses, schools or homes unannounced and sing a love song. We surprised each person and it was so fun to see the reaction on their faces. Then, just as quickly as we arrived, we were gone.

“Flash mobs” are everywhere. In our Scripture today, a common Nazarene named Jesus entered the city riding on a colt, and it took the crowd by surprise. But just as quickly as the parade started, it was over.

Often life seems normal and ordinary, and suddenly love appears out of nowhere. I wonder if the bystanders were left with the warm glow of having witnessed the Messiah.

SCRIPTURE: Luke 19:28-40 (NRSV)
After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.” ’ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
‘Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!’
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’
Page 1 of 41234