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Lent Devotions

Readings and scriptures will be posted daily here. The photos with the daily devotion correspond with the Photo-a-Day challenge.

March 21: MERCY


Scripture: Matthew 20:29-34

We’ve probably all had those moments when we were little and our caregivers toted us around to special events or even important meetings, and we were instructed to simply be seen but not heard. Maybe you even tugged on your guardian’s jacket and shared something you shouldn’t have, and your comments were quickly dismissed by the adult figure, noting your presence and perspective were unimportant or insignificant. You may also remember a “hush!” or “shh!” because they were “talking about important adult matters.”

That’s not too far off from today’s scripture, where Matthew details Jesus passing through Jericho, while two blind men are pining for his attention. One would assume these men lived in the community but were most likely outcasts due to their disability or lower class. Rather than encourage them to speak to Jesus, the crowds told the men to be quiet and let Jesus continue on. The crowd could have just as easily invited the men to be with Jesus, but they considered their matters to be of more importance than the two blind men.

Unlike some of our childhood experiences, Jesus invited the men in. He was moved by their earnest desire to gain their sight in both faith and community with him. He was not pushed away by their need or cry for help, but instead, he was drawn in. 

How often do we put our needs before those who are most vulnerable? How often do we think “Those folks demanding justice, or to be seen, or to heard—why are they always speaking out? Why are they always protesting?” We could easily consider their cries as disruptive or unimportant. Or we could stop and listen and hear their cries for an advocate to make their voice louder. And have their need met with action. 

Prayer: Christ of boundless compassion, teach us and guide us to hear the cries for justice and to respond with a ready heart and actions of peace. Amen.

Written by Jackie Lorens Harris, Director, Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center

 

March 20: SERVE

Scripture: Matthew 20:24-28

It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant. -Matthew 20:26

One consistent truism with the concept of servant-leadership is that it’s rarely glamorous. True servant-leaders don’t seek praise for the praise itself, but strive for excellence in all things, because it was what they were called to do.

I love my current job. As a published author, often people ask me whether I’m going to publish another book. The honest answer I give is that I do not know. And, frankly, I don’t know if I care. I’m called today to write here for Clergy Stuff, a dinky little church worship resource provider, handle customer’s emails, build websites and manage marketing and advertising. For sure, it’s plenty to keep me busy. Sometimes, it uses my creative skills. Often, it requires I fulfill certain busy-work to just get the stuff DONE. And post-production editing? Well, I suppose I’ll always hate that!

The point with any vocation is asking yourself whether or not you are called to be in that particular place at that particular time. For me, it’s here. I will serve in the best capacity I can and I will make a difference, regardless of the notoriety or perceived glamor of a certain position.

And, perhaps, I have God’s word to thank for that, because if you leave me to my own volition, for sure I would like to be the famous author who had a movie made out of his book.

For now, and tomorrow, I’m satisfied with servanthood and becoming a leader through that.

How about you? How can you best live in your identity as a servant-leader?

by Daniel D. Maurer, Clergy Stuff

March 19: PRIVILEGE

Scripture: Matthew 20:20-23

Jesus is now approaching Jerusalem. The disciples seem to know something is different about this trip to the Holy City. There is a certain level of intensity present among them. Jesus has been challenging them to quit focusing on rewards and privilege (Matthew 19:30; 20:16). Despite the teachings of Jesus, James and John decided to register a bold request. In Matthew’s account, their mother joins them in the ask. What do they want? To rule alongside Jesus in his new Kingdom.

Many scholars believe the best reading of the Gospels indicate that Zebedee’s wife was Salome, the sister of Mary. This would make James and John first cousins to Jesus. Thus, the context of this request was familial. Surely if Jesus was about to establish the Kingdom of Israel, his cousins would rule alongside Him. Peter had already been rebuked by Jesus at this point, so these two sons remained as members of the inner circle.

Jesus challenged them to consider their request. He was about to enter Jerusalem to die. There would be two people on either side of Him—on crosses! But, these two men were determined they could take on the same cup as Jesus. Of course, they did not know what was about to happen!  

Jesus used this request to teach his followers a valuable lesson that we continue to need today.  Following Jesus is not about rewards and position. We are not on this journey to feather our own nest or secure our rewards. We are not to be jockeying for first place in line. Jesus is challenging us to serve him with a full and sincere heart. We are to follow his example. He came to serve. We should be willing to serve him and others without worrying about our personal gain.

Today, ask God to help you serve with a sincere and pure heart.

March 18: SUFFERING

Scripture: Matthew 20:17-19

On the journey to Jerusalem Jesus predicts that his death will take place there. It will include betrayal and condemnation by the religious leaders of his people. Those who should be welcoming him as the promised Messiah will instead sentence him to suffering and death, handing him over to mocking, flogging, and crucifixion by the Romans.

Then Jesus also predicted that he would rise again! But it seems that after hearing the predictions about Jesus’ suffering and death, the disciples somehow tuned out. It’s as if they missed hearing the promise that “on the third day” he would be “raised to life!” When the time came and Jesus died on a cross, the disciples were a despondent group of followers wondering what had happened. They scattered in fear, leaving the burial and preparations to others. (See Matthew 26:5627:45-28:10.) There was no expectation of Jesus’ coming to life again! 

Are we any different? We hear dire economic warnings or a doctor’s frightening diagnosis, and we forget Jesus’ words: “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). We experience ridicule or rejection and forget that God’s Word warns that we may be called to share in Christ’s sufferings (John 15:18-20Romans 8:17). Facing them, let’s remember Jesus was raised to life. We serve a risen Savior!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for the assurance that you are with us, whatever we face. Give us peace of mind that you are in control of your world. We pray, confident of your care. Amen.

March 17: Grace

Scripture: Matthew 20:1-16

Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first, and the first will be last. -Matthew 20:15-16

Jesus’ parable ruffles feathers, both for the followers of his day, but also for us today. For people who work hard for their paycheck, it seems unfair that those who do not work as hard get the same payment as those who do. If you are standing in the shoes of the earliest worker, this kind of indignation at the injustice is understandable. But what if you are standing in the shoes of the worker who came late? Through no fault of their own, the workers in the story were unable to find work until the landowner came for them late in the day. They worked hard for the time they were there. Is it not a wonderful gift to receive a day’s wage for a partial day’s work? The interesting thing about this story is that no one was paid less than a fair wage. Everyone was paid at least what they worked; some even more. But no one was left short. Isn’t this a gift of a loving and generous God? That no one is left short?

And what if we stand in the shoes of the landowner? God would be proud if we were as generous with abundant blessings as this landowner was. What if our housekeeper was paid the same as our lawyer? Do they not both work hard? Would they not both be grateful for their pay?

We are currently living in a world where people are not getting paid the same. The problem is, however, that some are being paid less than the day’s wage referred to in this story. Some are being paid far less than the amount needed to survive. There’s a theory among some that those paid the most are working the hardest. But if that were so, the billionaires would be exhausted, and the dishwashers would be rested and relaxed. Unlike in the parable, the current disparity in the wages is not lifting up all the workers. It is lifting up some of the workers at the expense of others. What might your community do to lift up all workers (and those unable to work) so that everyone receives enough to live on?

by Daniel D. Maurer, Clergy Stuff

Read March 10-16 Devotions 
Read March 6-9 Devotions