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March 5, 2013

By Jodi H. Beyeler, assistant director of communications and marketing
SCRIPTURE: Joshua 5:9-12 (NRSV)

Changes coming upon us
It keeps moving, moving around us
Got to keep dancing knowing
He loves us
Got to keep joy in our hearts
– song lyrics from “Changes” by Jim Croegaert (listen to the whole song here)

The winds of change are indeed swirling around us on every level. You can notice it in your own decreased energy. You can feel it after a telephone call from a friend who just lost her job. You can hear it in the news from Wall Street and the White House. You can wonder about it as flowers begin to bloom and robins appear in January in Northern Indiana.

The fear of change can overwhelm us, paralyze us and keep us from living. But that is not our only option.

Changes on this journey to the Promised Land – even when the rules change and nothing is predictable anymore – also mean that everything is about to become new. Life is about to emerge from death. That is God’s promise.

Even as change sweeps over us, can we be ashamed no more? Can we give up what is holding us back or holding us down? Can we move towards the Good News of Jesus Christ? Can we keep joy in our hearts?

SCRIPTURE: Joshua 5:9-12 (NRSV)
The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.’ And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.
While the Israelites were encamped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.
March 4, 2013

By Luke Gascho, executive director of Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College
THIS WEEK’S THEME: God Will Remove Our Disgrace

Today I turned a bowl from two pieces of discarded wood. While I was doing this project on the turning lathe, I thought about this Lenten theme and realized what I was doing paralleled messages found in the Scriptures for this week!

I started with two chunks of wood that had been deemed “worthless.” The piece of black walnut was considered too small to be of any use in a large shop. The cherry was from a log that loggers had left behind since it didn’t have any value to be sawn into boards. One could say that the wood had been “disgraced” – or kept from a grace-filled purpose. But I could see great value in both pieces. I smoothed the two chunks, glued them together and was ready to start a new creation.

As I began to turn the wood, I imagined the bowl that would emerge. With sharp tools, I shaped what had once been undervalued into a pleasing design. I appreciated how the two different kinds of wood had been “reconciled with each other,” as their colors complemented each other. The bond between them had become strong physically and visually. The newly created bowl reclaimed and preserved beauty in wood that been discarded.

Consider these questions as you reflect on my woodturning story and read the passages for this fourth week of Lent:

  • What experiences in our lives are like the “before and after” aspects of the two pieces of wood?
  • How do the actions of the wood turner represent the ways we can be reconcilers in our daily encounters?
  • What are the renewing and recreating events that you can celebrate in your life?
  • What are ways you can turn “disgraced” relationships into “grace-filled” new creations?
March 1, 2013

By Liz Core, a senior communication major from Pella, Iowa
SCRIPTURE: Luke 13:1-9 (NRSV)

The word “repentance” is daunting.

This probably has something to do with the not-too-uncommon depiction of a lofty God furrowing his brows down on a Sodom-esque community, commanding “Repent, sinners!” in a booming tone.

The broader Christian tradition has also had its own unfortunate history of preachers and people shouting from pulpits or street corners: “Repent, for thou art lowly!”

This constant reminder of our sinfulness can do only harm. And, as I have learned from my own past feelings of self-loathing because I believed sermons that told me God does not accept me, I am not sure if dwelling in disgust for ourselves is holy at all. Not one bit.

Though, this is not to say that repentance is unimportant. After all, the theme of repentance occurs numerous times in Scripture. Even Christ reminded a crowd that “Unless you repent, you will all perish” in Luke 13:5.

Again, this is scary.

But, real repentance is not a threat. It is an invitation to allow more of God’s goodness into ourselves by giving up the fight to hide our sinfulness. Repentance allows God to dig through our bulky, embarrassing baggage that we’ve been hiding or avoiding. This is a step towards more growth, so that we may thrive. And, this is far from a command to cower before an angry throne.

After all, we all know that we are sinners already. But it is when we are ready to admit this and move on, through repentance, that we grow and bear the fruit. And this kind of repentance is not scary. It is lovely.

SCRIPTURE: Luke 13:1-9 (NRSV)
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’
Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” ’
February 28, 2013

By Heather Goertzen, resident director
SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 (NRSV)

Most of my life I have known the protection of the Cloud. I have poignant stories to tell about seas parting for both myself and those I love. I have lived in various communities who drink from (and draw me back to) the Rock who is Christ. Sometimes – even usually – it’s easy to feel caught up in the current of these “in-groups,” all chosen and royal, you “Children of the Most High God” you.

This is precisely why I need the Church calendar to bring me to the Savior-waiting season of Advent and today, to the self-excavation of Lent. The fasts and feasts make monotony impossible and make way for both gratitude and humility.

So if you think you’re standing – all satiated by the spiritual and tucked into the cozy hug of that cloud – not so quick. Watch your step. In fact, you might already be down. These are the messages of Scripture that startle me from the secure (along with Matt. 21:31 and Rev. 3:17). The plot switches and we, chosen cloud-dwellers, have to take pause. Just being here, at this table, just having the right juice in my chalice may not be enough? Have my hymnsings become more lullaby than worship? Is my service more about me than the Other? What I do when I get up from this table, the places I crawl for comfort, distraction, ego-soothing may reveal more about my gods than I care to let on.

So if you think you are standing…

SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 (NRSV)
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.
Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.’ We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
February 27, 2013

By Michael Sherer, information technology services director
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 63:1-8 (NRSV)

As human beings, we are designed by God with appetites. Our creaturely drives for food, water, sleep and sex keep us alive and sustain the species, but we are obviously far more complex than that. George Otis, Jr.’s “Life Appetites Test” lists 35 possible appetites, and I think he missed a few! Who of us can claim that our own appetites are always in balance and healthy? They compete with and even replace one another. Any dieter knows that eating is often not about hunger. Teens have sex for a raft of reasons that are not sexual. Drugs and alcohol are dangerous in part because their addictive powers can overwhelm other important and socially redeeming appetites.

The season of Lent is an annual reminder that we are by nature not in balance, and that by giving something up we can better focus our attention on God. North American culture has little room for asceticism, and I would argue, little room for God either. We have 35+ appetites ready to take the place of our need for God and a 24/7/365 consumer culture ready to sate them.

In today’s passage, Psalm 63, David speaks to us across time, space and culture about his relationship with God. And he does it in terms of appetites. David thirsts for God. God’s love satisfies him as much as the richest food. He thinks about God all night long in bed (instead of sleeping? while sleeping?). In the process, David frames his relationship with God as a powerful appetite. God’s love is better than life! It’s no accident that this Psalm was written in the desert, a barren place barely able to support life, but with a long tradition of stimulating spiritual reflection. In that place, where hunger and thirst are never far away, David stimulated his appetite for relationship with God. His writing conveys a spiritual capacity that far outstrips my own, and I admire it. I want it. Lent provides me with the opportunity to work at it.

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 63:1-8 (NRSV)
A Psalm of David, when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.
O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
February 26, 2013

By Grace Boehm, a sophomore history major from Merriam, Kan.
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 55:1-9 (NRSV)

“Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?”

This is a question that all of us should ask ourselves each and every day. Why do we do things that do not make us happy or do not fulfill our spiritual needs? Why do we ignore God and indulge in unsatisfactory actions?

The theme for this week is to “seek the Lord and be fruitful.” Seek the Lord while he may found; call on him while he is near. If seeking God in a holistic and loving way provides the spiritual nourishment that our souls need, really, why would we not?

Lent is a season where we are sometimes asked to give something up and seek the sober realization of what it means that Christ gave his life for us. Instead of giving something up for Lent, what I do is make a gratitude list for each day of the season. I write the little things that I fall in love with each day, and the people with whom I am grateful to spend time. My action of recognizing the love in my own heart allows me to understand a part of the love that God has for me. Seek the Lord and be fruitful with love and spirit, and the Lord shall bestow on you the ability to engage in that love and gratitude that praise Him the highest.

So instead of wasting time on fruitless actions that do not satisfy, put your heart into the season and seek God through gratitude.

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 55:1-9 (NRSV)
Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
Seek the Lord while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
February 25, 2013

By DaVonne Harris, resident director and director of student activities
THIS WEEK’S THEME: We Will Seek the Lord and Be Fruitful

I grew up in church. I had the privilege of knowing that I had a Creator; that he loved me and had a plan for my life.

But my spiritual life changed forever when I was 16. My mother, a single parent, had gotten ill to the point that she was sent to a nursing home 45 minutes away. I was left to live with my sister and new baby nephew. I felt like I was wandering through a rugged wilderness. I desperately needed solace. It was then that I told God: “I surrender.” I made a covenant with him that there was nothing that the world could offer to help me in the way that I needed. I gave my heart to him, and I began to experience the fruits of the spirit like never before: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). When I think about all that has transpired in my life, I have no other explanation than God’s intervention. It has been through my surrender to God that my life has blossomed.

Through my seeking, I have gained a greater sense of self-esteem. Through my seeking, I have had the confidence to seek opportunities that have helped me succeed in life. I have sought, and God has responded. He has responded with love, hope and healing. In spite of my life’s difficulties, I have overcome and God has shown himself faithful (Selah).

February 22, 2013

By Sophie Metzger, assistant director of diverse student support
SCRIPTURE: Luke 9:28-36 (NRSV)

Waiting is difficult. I find it especially difficult when I don’t know what I’m waiting for. There have been various points in life that I know something will happen; I’m just not sure what.

The first time I remember this was my senior year of college. The BIG question was: “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” As I have spent “the rest of my life” in higher education, I have heard this question over and over by students, and truthfully, asked this question over and over. In my most recent quest to answer this question I have become more keenly aware of my pattern. Name the problem: find the solution and map it out step by step. Fix my eyes on the prize and “GO!” That’s my pattern.

The universe has a pattern too: throwing curveballs. Sometimes the curveballs are surprising, better than anything I ever imagined, and other times they are stunning and throw me down to the ground.

While Peter, James and John might not have been asking the exact same question or know what their plan was, I can guess they didn’t expect the transfiguration. And the transfiguration seems to be one of those instances that is both surprising and stunning.

As I see it, the call for each of us living in wait for the promise of God to be both surprised and stunned is twofold. First, we are to live in trust and surrender by not trying to hold onto the beautiful surprises too hard and fast. Second, we are to cultivate the knowledge of being loved beyond measure – even in the moments of feeling knocked to the ground and stunned.

It’s Lent again and we remember the great gift of God made-flesh who lived as we are to live – celebrations, sufferings and unknowns.

Let it be done according to your will…

SCRIPTURE: Luke 9:28-36 (NRSV)
Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
February 21, 2013

By Brian O’Leary, a senior Bible and religion major from Seattle, Wash.
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 3:17-4:1 (NRSV)

In the passage for today, Philippians 3:17-4:1, Paul writes to encourage his readers. He encourages them to join in his example regarding his actions. Earlier on in this epistle, Paul mentions his own upcoming death sentence and notes that his imprisonment has actually, “served to advance the Gospel.”

In the same vein of support, Paul seeks to encourage Christians even in the face of denial and the enemies of the cross of Christ. He notes suffering as his example, an example we must all follow. Paul makes no apologies for the difficulty of the path of God, and although Paul’s struggles with imprisonment and death may seem more serious than our own struggles through the season of Lent, they both have their roles to play. Lent may not bring an omen of death for all of us, as it did to Jesus, but whatever our struggles we must not let the enemies of the cross cause us to lose heart.

Though Lent may seem to be a difficult time, we can also recognize that “our citizenship is in heaven.” We are not people whose minds should be, “set on earthly things.” Instead, we “stand firm in the Lord,” and seek hope during Lent.

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 3:17-4:1 (NRSV)
Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
February 20, 2013

By James Townsend, vice president of enrollment management and marketing

When you were growing up, where did you go when you were afraid? Did you hide under your bed or behind the clothes in your closet? Did you feel safer inside or outside your house, in your room or another room?

For many of us the place we would run and hide was into the arms of a family member – often our mother or father. We felt no shame, all we knew is that we were afraid and needed a place to go for love, not judgment. While we may not have realized it at the time, these places and people became a sacred space for us – a place where the noise of the world is muffled, the flashes of lightning were hidden, and the arms and warmth of another human being insulated the coldness of the outside world.

So where is your safe place today? Do you have a sacred place where you feel protected from the dangers of the world? Have you found someone who will hold you and protect you from danger? God, our Creator and Sustainer of life, is right in front of you with arms wide open, calling your name to come as you are, in whatever condition you are in to be loved and cared for. If you’re like me, knowing this causes shouts of praises to God for the unconditional love and blessings and a desire to live a life that honors God to the fullest.

May the text from today’s readings be a reminder of how much you are loved by God no matter where you are today on your journey. Do not be ashamed, but lift your head high for the Lord God loves you dearly!

Of David.
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me
to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
they shall stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident. One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock. Now my head is lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’
Your face, Lord, do I seek.
Do not hide your face from me.
Do not turn your servant away in anger,
you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
If my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will take me up.
Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they are breathing out violence.
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
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