Lenten Devotions Archives » Page 5 of 26 | Devotions | Goshen College

April 16, 2014

By Rose Shetler, director of annual giving and operations manager
SCRIPTURE: Jeremiah 31:1-6 (NRSV)

Does life sometimes feel like a wilderness, devoid of joy and comfort? What are the things that hold you in captivity? And where is God when life hurts?

In today’s passage, the prophet Jeremiah is speaking to the people of Judah who were taken captive by the Babylonians. He brings the weary exiles the words of the Lord. The words offer assurance that they are the people of God who has not forsaken them, but who is with them and loves them with an everlasting love. The words are ripe with expectant promise that the captives will be restored to their homeland and will once again enjoy the work of their hands and the fruit of their labors. And yes, the words leap with songs of joyful celebration and noisy merrymaking! For the day will come when those in captivity will hear the call to go up to Zion, to the Lord their God, and live in peace and freedom.

Not only have the captives survived the sword and been promised restoration, but the grace in the Babylonian wilderness is this: it is the assurance, comfort, promise and joy that God loves them and is with them, even here, even now, even in this captivity.

I’ve known the wilderness times. I’ve been captive to fear and discouragement, hopelessness and doubt. My natural desire is to get through, get out, get away as quickly as possible from the wilderness in which I’m held captive. But sometimes in my haste, I miss the grace of the wilderness times. I forget that God loves me with an everlasting love, that God is with me there – especially there. As sure as the promise that God will restore me is the assurance that God loves me even when life hurts. Perhaps it is this realization that is a greater grace than the speed at which I move on to freedom.

Indeed today, this is the grace to be found in your wilderness too. May it be so.

SCRIPTURE: Jeremiah 31:1-6 (NRSV)

The Joyful Return of the Exiles

At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.
Thus says the Lord:
The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
O virgin Israel!
Again you shall take your tambourines,
and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.
Again you shall plant vineyards
on the mountains of Samaria;
the planters shall plant,
and shall enjoy the fruit.
For there shall be a day when sentinels will call
in the hill country of Ephraim:
‘Come, let us go up to Zion,
to the Lord our God.’
April 15, 2014

By Bill Born, VP of student life and dean of students
SCRIPTURE: Acts 10:34-43 (NRSV)

God shows no partiality, no favoritism. What a powerful statement.

These nine verses in Acts proclaim God’s “good news,” God’s “salvation” to all. In just a few verses Peter proclaims Jesus as Lord of all, as God’s anointed who died on a cross and was raised from the dead. It wasn’t enough for select witnesses to personally see the resurrected Jesus, but God commanded them to testify and preach to all, as the prophets many years earlier testified of this Lord.

God’s grace across history had come full circle, an ever-widening circle, from Jews and Gentiles alike. What does that mean for us today?

As was the case then, God’s grace is not only for us to claim as our own. It’s for us to proclaim to others.

How am I doing on that front, on the front of proclaiming God’s grace to others? Am I selective in terms of whom I proclaim to? Do I consider my understanding of God’s grace unique, better informed? Do I proclaim it with certain expectations, with select “strings attached?”

I can imagine it was difficult for those select witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection to openly share God’s love without some sense of privilege, recipients of a special dispensation. And yet, we read ahead of this passage of the angels coming to Cornelius, a centurion in the Italian regiment, a righteous and God-fearing man who God acknowledges for his prayers and gifts to the poor. And following, we read of the Holy Spirit being poured out on the Gentiles just as it was poured out on Peter and his fellow Apostles. God’s grace is God’s to dispense, and it is for all.

Many years ago I was introduced to the phrase “circles of influence.” It was in the context of institutional marketing as a part of my work here at Goshen College. Allow me to offer a bit more depth to the phrase. As a follower of Jesus and recipient of God’s grace, I need to be aware of, and intentional in broadening my circles of influence, circles beyond my comfort zone. Circles extending up, down, to the left and to the right. And may it be in those circles that God chooses to use me to proclaim and extend God’s grace, freely.

SCRIPTURE: Acts 10:34-43 (NRSV)

Gentiles Hear the Good News
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.’


April 14, 2014

By David Zehr, a sophomore history and interdisciplinary major from Elkhart, Ind.
THIS WEEK’S THEME: Go and tell


I rewrote this devotion twice because I just couldn’t seem to get to the heart of what I thought about it. I have a lot of issues with the ethic, which I see around me concerning how to “tell” people what we think. Opinions are rampant, avenues for message dissemination are plentiful, and the emphasis on the value of face-to-face conversation seems to be as invisible as sunshine has been this past winter. Why meet over a meal when signing a letter takes so much less time?

When I look deeper at this theme of “Go and tell,” it becomes apparent to me that it is more than simply a call to speak. It is an invitation to community and relationship. Around me I hear the cacophonous chorus of the entire world all talking at once and no one stopping to listen. This Lenten theme is not meant for us to add to the senseless drivel. Rather, to “Go and tell” is a call to intentionally orient our lives around that which truly matters.

One way to do this is to analyze how we act. I’ve appreciated the faith community I’ve grown up in for “stepping to their own beat,” instead of just taking cues from the outside world. As many around us seem to be more concerned with what they themselves are saying than what those around them are saying, I’m left with this observation: When we learn to listen to those we care for, we tell far more to them than if we are simply speaking. Perhaps faithfully stepping to our own collective beat in this day and age will require less focus on what we are saying or not saying, and more focus on whether we are listening or not listening.

April 11, 2014

By Ammon Allen-Doucot, a sophomore Bible and Religion major from Hartford, Conn.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 27:11-54 (NRSV)

Generally speaking, Matthew 27 is a particularly upsetting part of the Bible. Granted, we all know the story, we all know that Jesus does come
back, but 27 is just intensely painful, which made me wonder how I could connect such a painful story to the overarching theme of “blessed.”

What I have come to realize is that this passage, more than anything else, is about the power of integrity and peace. When Jesus gives up his spirit, the rocks crack, the sky darkens and the dead are raised. This is a tremendous exposition of power.

Yet, we see Jesus walk willingly to it, he does not resist when he is before Pilate, when the crowds call for his blood, when the soldiers mock him and when the criminals mock him. This treatment is in extreme contrast with Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem just days ago. The fact is, Jesus had just as much power riding in on a donkey and being welcomed as he did on the walk to Golgotha.

The significance of this passage is that it highlights that Jesus’ concern was not for himself and not effected by what happened around him, it was for the duty he had to God and therefore to humanity. We are blessed by Matthew 27, in that our God knows suffering, knows pain and knows compassion. The deity we aspire to follow does not turn to violence, instead we are called to walk a path where we can be mocked and harassed and hurt, and to do so bravely.

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 27:11-54 (NRSV)

Pilate Questions Jesus

Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus said, ‘You say so.’ But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?’ But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Barabbas or Jesus?

Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.’ Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas.’ Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ Then he asked, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’

Pilate Hands Jesus over to Be Crucified

So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’ Then the people as a whole answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him. Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.’

Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, “I am God’s Son.” ’ The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

The Death of Jesus

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘This man is calling for Elijah.’ At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.’ Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’

April 10, 2014

By Adela Hufford, business process analyst
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 (NRSV)

Parenting has taught me just as much about my relationship with God as it has about my relationship with my son, Garrett. I feel sadness and pain when I see him struggle with making wise choices and ultimately choosing something other than what I wanted for him. I am struck with the notion, “Is this how God feels about me when I make unwise choices?” But I also feel an incredible surge of euphoria when Garrett offers me genuine thankfulness or praise about something I have done. And again I think, “Does God’s heart swell when I offer up a thankful heart?”

The Psalmist provides prayer in the form of thanksgiving and praise, recognizing God’s mercy and restoration in our lives by jubilantly sharing “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!” both at the beginning and the end of the Psalm. My desire to create a similar attitude of thankfulness in Garrett calls on me to identify with him the many blessings we’ve been given and to demonstrate a thankful heart. We often pray at bedtime: “God, thank you for our house. Thank you for a bed to sleep in. Thank you for plenty of food to eat and clothes to wear. Amen.”

I am challenged though, to help Garrett, and ultimately help myself, acknowledge that our prayers of thanksgiving and praise can and should seep in to our everyday lives and not be limited by our routines, but become routine. Despite our circumstances, there is much to be thankful for and God deserves that pause whenever we are presented with a blessing.

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 (NRSV)

A Song of Victory

TO give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever!

Let Israel say,
‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.

This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.

I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvellous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God,
and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God, I will extol you.

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures for ever.


April 9, 2014

By Dechen Tuladhar, a sophomore molecular biology/biochemistry major from Kathmandu, Nepal
SCRIPTURE: Phil. 2:5-11 (NRSV)

If you had all the money, all the power and all the fame in the world, how would you live your life? Would you be driving a Lamborghini or a Ferrari? Would you own the latest Louis Vuitton bag? Would you change your closet every time there’s a new fashion trend?

In today’s society, the “I” appears to be more important than “them.” If social systems value “I” more than “them,” how can we, as individuals, value “them” more than “I?” It may seem like a challenging task, but it IS possible with God’s help.

When Jesus came to this earth, he could have had all the riches, luxury and fame, but he didn’t. He could have lived in a palace and ruled as a king, but he didn’t. He could have hired all the servants to clean his house, make his food and do his hair, but he didn’t. Instead, Jesus chose to be born in a dirty, stinky stable, Jesus chose to be raised in a poor carpenter’s home, Jesus chose to be the servant and to serve others. Even though he was ridiculed, rejected, despised and humiliated by his own people, Jesus persisted for our sake, to save us. Jesus willingly humbled himself, and he even went so low that he offered himself to die for our sins. Jesus didn’t die just any death. He died the most horrible, degrading and agonizing death, the crucifixion. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus, the all-powerful and all-knowing God, is also the all-humble God? Even though Jesus has all the reasons to be proud, he was humble.

So often, we get carried away with the “I” phrases: “I am…I want…I need… ME, MYSELF and I,” and we forget about “them.” All the “I” builds is pride, and pride doesn’t lead us anywhere but sin. Humility, on the other hand, will be rewarded, blessed and exalted by God. Humility means forgiving, loving and caring for others, not just yourself. Humility also means letting God take charge of your life, and whatever we can’t do, He will. In order to be honored you must first humble yourself, in order to be loved you must first give love, in order to be forgiven you must first forgive, and in order to be blessed you must first bless.

So, today, will you make it your goal to be served or to be a servant?

SCRIPTURE: Phil. 2:5-11 (NRSV)

Imitating Christ’s Humility

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.
April 8, 2014

By Michael Sherer, ITS director
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 50:4-9a (NRSV)

Confidence. We know it when we feel it. We know it when we see it in others. But where does confidence come from? For the writer of Isaiah 50, his confidence comes from knowing the Lord, from serving the Lord. It’s really an amazing recital, bordering on boastful. Who among us could say anything quite like it? The prophet is confident in his gifts and vocation, confident that he is listening to God, confident that he is following the Lord, steely in the face of persecution and abuse, dauntless in his belief that God will help and sustain him. But the passage goes far deeper than mere confidence. The prophet’s confidence is buttressed and buoyed by the following attributes:

Mission. Confidence without mission is aimless. The prophet’s determination grows out of knowing that God has something important for him to do. Who among us would endure persecution and danger for no particular reason?

Righteousness. The prophet is confident in his righteousness. His persecution is not deserved. On the contrary, he wears it as a badge of honor, evidence of his persistence in the face of opposition and suffering.

Determination. The prophet is a rock. He has ‘set his face like flint.’ You can feel his grit and determination oozing from every line of this passage. He’s going to get the job done or quite literally die trying.

Spiritual sensitivity. According to the prophet, every day God wakens his ear “to listen like one being instructed.” My first impulse when writing this devotion was to focus on the first four attributes. Imagine a world where all of God’s people were suffused with confidence, mission, righteousness and determination. We would be an unstoppable force and so much good would be accomplished! But much damage might also be inflicted by God’s people in the absence of the spiritual sensitivity that comes from listening to God daily, continuously.

God, this Lenten season, like the prophet, we pray that we might be equipped with the confidence, righteousness, determination and mission to do your work in the world. But we also pray for the spiritual sensitivity to do it with the grace, wisdom and compassion that comes from listening to you daily. Amen.

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 50:4-9a (NRSV)

The Servant’s Humiliation and Vindication

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.

April 7, 2014

By Joanna Epp, a junior environmental science major from Newton, Kan.

For many people, Lent is a time of fasting from something. From social media to meat, people choose to “give up” all sorts of things. However, it can also be life-giving to add a positive practice to your life. When I was in high school, my church youth group held a “Lenten Challenge,” with a new idea or practice added each week of Lent. Though I do not remember what each challenge was, there was one that really stuck out – being constantly thankful.

This may sound like a daunting task, but once I stopped to examine my life a little more carefully, I became more and more aware of how many blessings I am constantly surrounded by. Friends, family, the beautiful outdoors, the opportunity to study, a steaming hot cup of coffee in the morning – I’ve realized I can find something to be thankful for at all times. Along with having a greater awareness of the blessings I was surrounded by, I’ve also tried to be more intentional about taking a moment to pause and say a word of thanks. It’s astonishing how much stopping to find something to appreciate and thank God for in a situation can improve my mood!

This week’s theme focuses on how blessed we are. During this Lenten period, I challenge to you be more aware of the incredible amount of blessings you are surrounded by, to stop and reflect, and to give your thanks to the Lord, for He is good!

April 4, 2014

By Paul Stuery, Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center K-12 education coordinator
SCRIPTURE: John 11:1-45 (NRSV)

Sometimes I feel like Martha and say, “But Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Or maybe I say, “But, Lord, I know what the data is and I don’t feel optimistic.” Or “But Lord, they are so overwhelmed, they don’t want to learn and steward your creation.” Or “But Lord, even though there is fear around us constantly, why don’t they take better care of each other?”

“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

Sometimes I struggle with what we’ve done so far with this earth – meaning consuming more than what we give back. I have to have faith in those circumstances to know that humans will gain knowledge, then they will believe in what they know, and then they will want to change their behavior – and not just talk about it.

I cannot just believe Jesus will take care of this earth without my help. But I can, hopefully, with God’s help, help resurrect – to bring back to life – urban and rural areas exploited, neighborhoods forgotten, waterways spoiled, and the respect of all creation.

Daily my Lazarus is restored to life when I see prairies being restored, superfund sites being cleaned up by the Environmental Protection Agency and people growing their own food.

I believe. Thanks be to God.

SCRIPTURE: John 11:1-45 (NRSV)

The Death of Lazarus

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’

Jesus Weeps

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’

The Plot to Kill Jesus

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.


April 3, 2014

By Ann Hostetler, professor of English

“When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is put down the shovel.”

A friend shared this saying a few years ago, and it has stayed with me as a reminder to stop, when I find myself in difficult circumstances, and take stock of the situation. How often we blame others for our troubles. How often we get in our own way when we take matters into our own hands, forgetting to ask for divine guidance.

Sometimes we find ourselves in a pit not of our own making—as Joseph found himself in a pit as a result of his brothers’ jealousy, or religious martyrs found themselves thrust into an oubliette—an underground prison cell shaped like a burial pit, its only opening at the very top, out of the prisoner’s reach. But in Psalm 130 it’s pretty clear that the writer has created his own troubles. The pit of our own making burns deep in the belly with shame. Asking for help makes us vulnerable.

Thus the cry from the depths in this Psalm is also a cry of hope, because the speaker has already reached the turning point, in his state of despair, when he realizes that he can call upon a God who forgives.

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you . . .

No matter how low we sink, once we turn to God for help, we are no longer alone. Instead, the dark places and moments in our lives offer us an opportunity to enter into a conversation with a living God of forgiveness.

The attitude of the Psalmist is one of vigilance. He waits for God more eagerly “than those who watch for the morning,” and he repeats the line for emphasis. Perhaps he waits so earnestly because he needs to feel God’s forgiveness in order to forgive himself.

In the Northern Hemisphere, Lent takes place during late winter, a time of transition and waiting. We have all experienced the depths of winter. Just when we think it’s over, the snow returns. We venture out into spring-like weather one day, only to be thrust back indoors by the chill of the next. But through it all we know, deeply, that spring will eventually arrive, just as we trust in God’s forgiveness to patiently transform our lives.


Waiting for Divine Redemption

A Song of Ascents.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.

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