Lenten Devotions Archives » Page 6 of 23 | Devotions | Goshen College

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.’
March 19, 2013

By Mara Weaver, a senior history major from Bloomington, Ill.
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 (NRSV)

“Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good. God’s steadfast love endures forever.” These words, the first two verses of Psalm 118, were the last thing I saw when I went to sleep and the first thing I saw when I woke up as a child. They quietly, patiently, hung on the wall at the foot of my bed in the form of a simple cross-stitch my grandma had given me.

In addition to the pure utility of this passage — being the only Bible verse I had memorized when I was in elementary school — this verse has also been a holy reminder to me for all these years. God is good, and we should not forget that. If nothing else, we must trust that God is good.

However, as I have grown, left my home and that small wall hanging, the lens through which I see God has also grown. Now, not only do I trust that God is good, but I know why I believe that.

The Psalm says, “The stone the builders rejected
 has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this,
 and it is marvelous in our eyes.” And how marvelous it is! Not only did God choose the rejected people of Israel in the Old Testament, but again and again God used that which was scoffed at by society to do the holiest of work — Mary, a woman both young and poor, wicked rulers, lowly shepherds, children, lepers and Jesus, who was himself a homeless, wandering, outspoken, dirty radical.

In this season of Lent, in the midst of all of the pain and suffering in our world, I give thanks to the Lord that our God acts in unexpected ways. Just as Jesus was shunned by the masses yet rose again and lives as our Cornerstone, I pray that those on the margins will be received by their oppressors as the cornerstone and help us all to rise again with a new love, new life and new understanding of what it means to do God’s work and live into God’s Beloved Community.

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 (NRSV)
O 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.
March 18, 2013

By Launa Rohrer, associate dean of students
THIS WEEK’S THEME: The Blessed One Comes in the Name of the Lord

During midterm break recently, I had the opportunity to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity alongside students and fellow college employees. Some of us cut and installed trim work, others hung doors. Another group installed counter tops and towel rods. All of us had a good day; but the construction wasn’t the best part.

The highlight of the day was when we met Mr. Jake, the grandfather of the homeowner. He came to personally thank each of us for our work. At 75, he told us how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren he had and deeply enjoyed. Construction Manager Aaron Lehman then invited us to join in prayer for Mr. Jake in anticipation of his open-heart surgery the next day. As we gathered in a circle, Mr. Jake asked if he could “hold on to” us. We laid hands on him; we prayed for the surgeons, peace of mind and ultimately for Jake’s healing. He joined us in offering a heartfelt “in Jesus’ name” to close our time together.

This week’s theme is “The Blessed One Comes in the Name of the Lord.” Who is blessed among us? As I reflected on this theme, Mr. Jake came to mind as one who showed me first-hand how to ‘come in the name of the Lord.’ Mr. Jake had much to be worried about, but he drew strength by asking for God’s presence “in Jesus name” — coming in the name of the Lord. Mr. Jake modeled gracious acceptance and gratitude; he allowed us to join him in his moment of vulnerability. We were all blessed as we reached across all our perceived differences to join as human beings needing each other.

The passages this week describe the humility Jesus modeled by assuming life as a human being and his entry into Jerusalem. The passages range in the intensity of human emotion, in victory and defeat. Regardless of where this week takes you, may you be blessed as you come in the name of the Lord: fully human, needing one another.

March 15, 2013

By Hillary Harder, a junior music and Spanish double major from Wichita, Kan.
SCRIPTURE: John 12:1-8 (NRSV)

Extravagance. This can be found everywhere in Western culture, from the billions of dollars spent on producing a blockbuster movie to the heaping platters of food served in restaurants to the amount of time and energy the average person spends in stores or on the Internet looking to purchase more stuff. I know I’m guilty of taking advantage of all of these things. We’re surrounded by consumption; everywhere we look there are more opportunities to spend money and time. And yet, too often we aren’t extravagant when it comes to giving to God.

In this story from the Gospel of John, we encounter Mary, a woman whose generosity knows no bounds when it comes to honoring Jesus, her friend and Lord, the man who raised her brother from the dead. Although the perfume Mary buys could have earned a year’s wages for a laborer, she pours it out freely over Jesus’ feet. This was outrageous in the eyes of the others in the house. How could this woman foolishly squander expensive perfume on a dirty, travel-weary pair of feet? And yet, Mary knew without a doubt that honoring the presence of Jesus with a burst of extravagance had far more integrity than putting her money into the hypocritical system Judas suggested.

What if we too could practice this kind of extravagance – one that makes no sense in the midst of cultural norms? Sure, every day we participate in a system of consumption, but we too could be like Mary. Unlike her story in the Gospel of John, the flesh-and-bone Jesus may not be standing before us: God’s presence could appear in giving money to a homeless person who asks for it, or stopping by to spontaneously visit a lonely friend, or writing a check for a non-profit that may be bigger than we think is wise. These too are examples of a different kind of extravagance, one that I believe brings us closer to God.

SCRIPTURE: John 12:1-8 (NRSV)
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’
March 14, 2013

By Jeff Hochstetler, apartments manager
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 3:4b-14 (NRSV)

Standing at an intersection of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, last summer, I finally saw some German-speaking colony Mennonites. Plainly dressed, many of these Mennonites had come into town to shop and gather supplies to take back to their colony. I had been living in Bolivia for a couple of weeks with an urban, Spanish-speaking Mennonite family. Most of the German-speaking Mennonites lived in rural areas. In contrast, Spanish-speaking Mennonite churches are largely urban. Rarely did the two-different Mennonite groups relate to each other.

Eager to meet some other fellow Mennonites, I was curious about them. Yet as I walked in the market toward some of the German-speakers, I found that none made eye contact with me. I tried to greet another Mennonite next to me, but was met with silence. Bolivian colony Mennonites have had good reason in the past to be wary of outsiders. Still, the cold greeting I received from many that day sharply contrasted with the warm welcome I had received from my host family.

In today’s Scripture, Paul boasts about his righteous heritage. In a twist of irony, Paul’s “boast” clearly becomes a confession – an honest assessment of owning up to past wrongs as a persecutor of the church. Moreover, he writes that past things that he once counted for status he no longer counts as privilege. While Paul acknowledges his mistakes, he does not dwell on them. Instead, Paul seems intent to focus on the transformative power of Christ to adopt us in faith.

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 3:4b-14 (NRSV)
even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
March 13, 2013

By Becky Snider, a sophomore music major from Broadway, Va.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord.
Restore our energy.
Restore our motivation.
Restore our vision for the future.

At this point in the semester, I think most college students would agree that they need some restoration. You start the semester excited for new classes and new opportunities, but after two months that motivation starts to slip away. It takes more effort to get out of bed in the morning. It takes more effort to write the reflection that your professor assigned as homework. It takes more effort to go over your notes one more time before you go to bed. The carrot dangling ahead that keeps you going is spring break. It doesn’t matter whether your plans for break are to go to the beach with your friends, to go home and be with your family, or to stay on campus; the idea of no classes, no assignments and no real commitments pushes you through.

Okay, so probably the majority of you reading this aren’t college students, but everyone needs breaks. It could be that your work schedule doesn’t allow for you to take off for long stretches of time or you’re a parent and you can’t put your children’s needs on pause while you go on a vacation. But that’s when God comes into the picture. “Restore our fortunes, O Lord,” the psalmist pleads.

In those times when you’re burnt out and it seems like there’s no way to revive your desire to keep moving forward, may God restore you.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
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