Lenten Devotions Archives » Page 6 of 26 | Devotions | Goshen College

April 2, 2014

By Angeliky Santos, a senior history and youth ministry double major from Goshen
SCRIPTURE: Romans 8:6-11 (NRSV)

The speed and business of everyday life can lead any Christian to forget who they are to be in the world and in relationship with God. As part of the body of Christ, we are to remind ourselves daily of what is our ultimate goal, and what should be the main task of our everyday life—which is to commit our lives in following Christ. In Romans 8:6-11, Apostle Paul reminds us that the supernatural presence of the living God enters our lives once we accept Jesus Christ in our hearts as our Savior and Lord. The Holy Spirit within us is the same supernatural presence that resurrected Christ from the dead—the same rushing mighty wind that filled the place where the apostles were gathered, placed burning tongues above their heads, and allowed them to speak in tongues. It is the same presence that lives within us.

The supernatural power brings us nourishment, healing and power to overcome sin and evil in the world. We will encounter hardships in our lives, but we know that the Holy Spirit within us will strengthen us, so that we will stand firm and face what is to come in the future with courage. If we are standing upon the rock and remember that the Holy Spirit of God is inside of us, nothing can shake our ground, because our hearts will be focused on God. Therefore, if you feel weak, discouraged and spiritually emptied, remember that the Spirit of the Living God is inside of you! The supernatural power of the Almighty is in you! Declare it, believe it, and you will see the Holy Spirit working in miraculous ways within your life.

SCRIPTURE: Romans 8:6-11 (NRSV)

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

April 1, 2014

By Paul Keim, professor of Bible and religion
SCRIPTURE: Ezekiel 37:1-14 (NRSV)

“Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones, now hear the word of the Lord.” It is one of the most powerful and enduring of all biblical images. The prophet Ezekiel is plucked from his station among the exiles in Babylon and taken up by the power of God on a visionary journey. Through his poetic description we see the piles of bones covering the valley floor. We hear the rattling as they reconnect and become reconstituted bodies. Then Ezekiel prophesies to the breath in the wind and the bones come alive.

Our imaginations are held captive to this image and we dwell upon it. But the interpretation of the vision follows, and should not be neglected. These bones are the house of Israel, those living in exile, mumbling to themselves that their bones are dried up, their hope is burned out, life as they knew it – over. Once a people, now No People. Survivors whose fate seems death-like. They might as well be lying in their graves.

But, like the reconnected and revivified bones, they too may come to breathe again, to believe again, to live again. Plucked from their tombs of despair, these exilic zombies receive God’s breathy resuscitation. They are no longer grist for the boneyard but living signs that God is with them, has never abandoned them.

All of us will die someday. But while we live, we should live as living, breathing beings, with all the rights, privileges and obligations pertaining thereto.

SCRIPTURE: Ezekiel 37:1-14 (NRSV)

The Valley of Dry Bones

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”
March 31, 2014

By Taylor Ermoian, a junior social work major from Hays, Kan.
THIS WEEK’S THEME: The Spirit is life

The spirit is life! The spirit that led Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days, the spirit that raised Lazarus to life, the spirit that called the lame man to take up his mat and walk, the very same spirit that leads me in my humble approach to resemble anything pertaining to the word of God. The spirit that bears fruit and bursts with light. That heals, restores and flourishes. The spirit that is sewn in my being, the source of joy, pouring life in my veins. That instills in me movement, purpose, peace and wholeness. That moves through the rivers, stretches down through the roots and soars through the winds. This spirit is overflowing with life and it is with you.

This spirit I speak of, the spirit that moved through Jesus, has not come to take life, but to give it. This spirit resides in the joys of life’s goodness, in the depths of our pain, and at the core of our fulfillment.

My time on earth has allowed me to become more aware of how life-giving God’s spirit truly is. I too, learn everyday of how God’s spirit can be seen and encountered through all things. As we open our beings we see that God is in all. Brothers and sisters, this Lenten season, let us all become more aware of the vastness and wonder of God’s spirit, reveling in God’s life-emitting presence. May God fill us with wonder and meaning as we venture on this journey of living in the moment and choosing to live in the spirit that breathes life! Let us be transformed.


March 28, 2014

By Liz Core, a senior communication major from Pella, Iowa
SCRIPTURE: John 9:1-41 (NRSV)

Last night, an hour or so before the sun went down, I went for a walk in the woods across the red bridge on the Mill Race canal.

I hadn’t planned to venture outdoors due to the few inches of March snow that had recently covered the ground. Resentful of the cold temperatures and absence of fresh spring air and new buds, I had been avoiding nature like a sworn enemy.

But I sat in my room with books and notepads and digital devices spread over my lap and strewn around my feet on the floor. Even though books are usually life-giving for me, I felt drained and fearful and empty because all these materials were supposed to be helping me get a job, find a life and develop a plan for post-graduation. Desperately, I was striving to see my own way through life by planning every detail in advance.

It’s so tempting to try to control, to try to grasp the life-binoculars and stand on our tip-toes to see over everyone else, straining our eyes and ourselves to see our own way through life.

After a few hours of searching, I looked up from my Google searches. It was 7:08 p.m. and there was cascading gold light reflecting through my curtains and onto my pillows, books and skin. Seven o’clock, and the sun is still out? Even with snow on the ground, I decided to venture outside to experience the spring sunset.

As I walked in the hush of sun-spotted woods, the silence told me to put my life-binoculars down; to be still and stop trying to see and control and know all the colors and shapes and experiences of my future. Real life, I suddenly realized, was going on all around me. The honking ducks paddling along, the crunch of my stumbling feet on the crystalized snow, the bright orange sun reflecting on a rushing, dark spring creek. I put down those life-binoculars and, behold, I wasn’t only seeing life, I was experiencing it.

Those who claim to see are blind.

Those who are born blind will see most clearly.

Jesus smeared mud on a blind man’s eyes and gave him sight so that the works of God would finally be noticed. All of us who claim to see, let’s close our eyes for a second. And when we open them up again, let’s breathe in, quiet ourselves and refuse to see through eyes of worry and fear. Let’s look at the beauty that’s near us and allow God’s quiet and whispering light to guide us into what true sight is.

SCRIPTURE: John 9:1-41 (NRSV)

A Man Born Blind Receives Sight

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

The Pharisees Investigate the Healing

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

Spiritual Blindness

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshipped him. Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”


March 27, 2014

By Katie Dwyer-Zeman, assistant director of residence life and student activities
SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 5:8-14 (NRSV)

I stretch out my arm just far enough to pull down the blind with one finger. As I peek through the slit out the window, I see a familiar sight.

More snow.

It’s morning again and we’ve been dumped on once more. We are cold. We are tired. We are ready for this long and dreary winter to have its final word.

Ephesians chapter 5 is no leisurely walk in the park. Paul opens by urging the church in Ephesus to imitate God, taking special note of our nature as beloved children. He goes on, however, to outline behavior deemed unacceptable for children of God. Fornication, impurity, greed, vulgarity, idolatry, and on and on Paul goes. In the closing half of the chapter, the church in Ephesus is instructed on how to function as members within a Christian household. Readers today grapple fiercely with these words, constantly asking difficult questions about one’s appropriate place in the world, the Church and the home as a beloved child of Christ.

Yet in the midst of these often unsettling words and these long winter days, I sense that we, as followers and light bearers of Jesus Christ, are called to be fascinating. Verses 8-14 lay out our journey in front of us – a journey from darkness into light. And when I ask myself why it is that I am drawn to the light, why it is that I crave it so, I think: I am drawn to the light because it fascinates me far more than the darkness does. I am drawn to the light not because it badgers me into recognizing my transgressions, but because it shows me something much more beautiful and far more whole than these transgressions.

As we trudge through the final days of winter toward the light and hope of springtime, may we continue to be fascinated by the light of Christ and fascinate others with our encounters.

SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 5:8-14 (NRSV)

For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Sleeper, awake!
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”


March 26, 2014

By Jeff Hochstetler, apartments manager

Feeling ambitious one summer, my high school friends and I decided to make sandwiches to feed homeless people in downtown Cleveland. Back then, a lot of the downtown homeless population bided their time at Public Square or were paid minimum wage for overseeing private parking lots during home Indians games.

Our first trip up was fairly uneventful – we quickly handed out our food and left – but it was enough to make us want to do it again. Soon, every Thursday, we were stuffing our backpacks with sandwiches and bottled water to give away.

After several weeks downtown, we started coming across a regular crowd. Over ham and cheese sandwiches we’d talk about life, Cleveland sports’ terrible luck and the weather. July’s intense sun warmed the concrete buildings and city streets, radiating a heat that often lingered past sunset. To keep cool, many found shade on building corners or in cardboard boxes.

One evening I found myself talking to Ray, one of our regular guests. As what often happened, faith came up during our conversation. At the moment, Ray felt like challenging me. Ray asked me if I knew Psalm 23.

“Sure,” I said.

“Well then recite it.”

In the King James Version I had memorized from Sunday school I said, “The Lord is my Shepard; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul…” I stopped. What came next? My mind had gone blank.

Ray sat there dumbfounded, looking at me. “Come on,” he said rolling his hands like waterwheels. “Come on!” Impatiently he picked up where I left off. “He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death: I shall fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and they staff they comfort me…”

Ray continued reciting the Psalm until the end, where he finished with a confident “and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever!” With that, the words of Scripture came alive! Ray’s internalized Psalm was more palpable, more trusting and more hopeful than what I had yet witnessed. And then I realized that angels had hosted me.


The Divine Shepherd

A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
March 25, 2014

By Anya Kreider, a first-year social work and peace, justice and conflict studies major from Akron, Pa.
SCRIPTURE: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 (NRSV)

I have always preferred to identify with the underdogs, whether David, the Broncos or the Green Party. However, that preference may be little more than a wish, particularly in my current context.

I find myself yearning to identify with David, the outcast plucked from obscurity into respect and admiration. However, if I am honest with myself I am likely much more similar to the other expectant sons – prideful, privileged, confident and ultimately mistaken.

I often wonder if an authentic faith can even be discovered within the brick walls of academia or the pew-lined sanctuaries of our churches. Certainly we are not called to own our entitlement in apathetic ignorance. Where do we find a faith marked by sacrificial love and the potential for radical controversy? Are we willing to destroy the foundations on which our privilege is built in order to claim a faith grounded in the knowledge of a stronger love?

Granted, every context, every person, every experience is saturated in perspective, knowledge and value. Nevertheless, I hope we never assume that we are meant to identify with the biblical heroes, but rather are grounded in the complexities of our own realities and that of our neighbors.

SCRIPTURE: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 (NRSV)

Samuel anoints David

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
March 24, 2014

By Brian Sutter, a junior physics and informatics double major from South Bend, Ind.
THIS WEEK’S THEME: I will be standing there

It’s been a rough winter.This winter’s record-setting snowfall and sustained sub-zero temperatures were enough to make even the heartiest of Midwesterners begin to reconsider his or her choice of residence.

Yet, no matter how cold it got, we knew that some day, maybe by July, warmth would return to Northern Indiana. We trusted the Earth to continue its orbit around the sun, and with it, we knew the seasons would continue to change.

The Scripture passages this week call us to trust in God’s work with similar certainty.

This week’s theme is “God’s work might be revealed.”

One of this week’s Scripture passages describes David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, being called in from tending the sheep to be anointed as king of Israel. We are reminded that God’s work may not always be done in a way that we would expect. Nevertheless, God, our shepherd, is actively working through those around us, leading us beside still waters and comforting us in the darkest valleys.

At times, it may feel like signs of God’s work are few and far between. We get wrapped up in our daily routines and our own objectives, becoming blind to the miracles happening around us every day.

Our task in Lent is to pay attention. Watch for signs of God’s work in the world, and bear witness to those encounters with God. As sure as the changing of the seasons, God is at work.

March 21, 2014

By Abby Deaton, a junior communication major from Indianapolis
SCRIPTURE: John 4:5-42 (NRSV)

We can only live a few days without water. In a desert, where water is scarce, there wouldn’t be many options for finding water. You would have to go to the well.

When Jesus went to the well, tired and thirsty from his journey, he ended up meeting a Samaritan woman. Samaritan religion and Judaism were fairly similar, but they disagreed about a few key issues. Yet, those disagreements were big enough that when Jesus and the Samaritan woman met at the well, they both started to feel a little uncomfortable.

Jesus had three options in this situation:

1. He could tell the Samaritan woman to leave. He was a man and she was a woman. In this situation, he probably had the authority to do just that. He could deny this woman his company and access to life-giving water.

2. He could have left the well himself. If he didn’t want to tell her to leave or she refused to go, he could walk away from that well, leaving parched and tired.

3. He could stay. He could stay and talk to her. He could stay and preach to her. He could stay and learn from her. He could stay and create community, create fellowship, create a relationship. He could stay and she could stay and no one would have to leave thirsty.

As Christians, we thirst for the living water that Jesus offered the Samaritan woman. We meet at wells like churches, conventions and schools. When we meet, we often meet people who are different from us. We see our different opinions on key issues and we get uncomfortable. What we need to remember is why we came to the well in the first place: we were thirsty. God has granted us not only the gift of living water, but sharing that experience with a diverse group of people. So when we meet at the well, maybe we should stop thinking, “What should I do?” and start remembering what Jesus did.

SCRIPTURE: John 4:5-42 (NRSV)

The Samaritan woman at the well

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples said to one another, ‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.’

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.’


March 20, 2014

By Luke Gascho, Director, Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center
SCRIPTURE: Romans 5:1-11 (NRSV)

The life arrived in a box delivered to my front door. There was no way the living being could get out by itself, so I gently opened the package. I found what I was looking for – an apple tree! It was carefully wrapped – the trunk supported by a piece of bamboo and its roots in a moist packing of wood shavings. I was delighted to see this new tree that would be part of my life for decades.

I had just been entrusted with insuring that the tree’s life would continue, so I needed to act. The tree was helpless in that box. I could not make it grow, but I could provide the right conditions (justified) so it could have a healthy life. I dug a generous hole for the roots, carefully arranged the roots in the hole, filled the hole with good soil, and added water. I stepped back and admired this small whip of a tree and knew that it had been ‘reconciled’ to its new home.

I have a love for this apple tree – and the many others I have planted. Because of this love, I prune it (suffering); I stretch its branches so they won’t break under the weight of a full crop of fruit (endurance); I pay attention to the unique shape and health of the whole tree (character); and I anticipate the annual harvest of mouthwatering apples (hope). All these processes needed to happen to this life – an apple tree that appeared to be little more than a stick of wood in the box – to experience a generative outcome.

And the tree has its own ways of boasting – or shouting praise – as it produces buds, leaves and an abundance of fruit year after year!

In the same way, Christ is the orchardist of my life by bringing peace with God to me. Christ’s love is proven to me year after year by reconciling what I was with what God knew I could be. In response I commit daily to ‘shout out’ that love to all I meet.

SCRIPTURE: Romans 5:1-11 (NRSV)

God’s Promise Realized through Faith

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.


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