LENT
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Week of Ash Wednesday, February 14

Joel 2:1-2,12-17

Blow the trumpet in Zion;
    sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
    for the day of the LORD is coming, it is near--
a day of darkness and gloom,
    a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness spread upon the mountains
    a great and powerful army comes;
their like has never been from of old,
    nor will be again after them     in ages to come.

Yet even now, says the LORD,
    return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
    rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the LORD, your God,
    for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
    and relents from punishing.
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
    and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
    for the LORD, your God?

Blow the trumpet in Zion;
    sanctify a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
    gather the people.
Sanctify the congregation;
    assemble the aged;
gather the children,
    even infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
    and the bride her canopy.

Between the vestibule and the altar
    let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep.
Let them say, "Spare your people, O LORD,
    and do not make your heritage a mockery,
    a byword among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples,
    `Where is their God?'"

or

Isaiah 58:1-12

Shout out, do not hold back!
    Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion,
    to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet day after day they seek me
    and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
    and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments,
    they delight to draw near to God.
"Why do we fast, but you do not see?
    Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?"
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
    and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
    and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
    will not make your voice heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
    a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
    and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
    a day acceptable to the LORD?

Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of injustice,
    to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
    and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
    and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
    the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
    you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you,
    the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you continually,
    and satisfy your needs in parched places,
    and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
    you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
    the restorer of streets to live in.

Psalm 103 or 103:8-14

Benedic, anima mea

  1. Bless the LORD, O my soul, *
    and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.
  2. Bless the LORD, O my soul, *
    and forget not all his benefits.
  3. He forgives all your sins *
    and heals all your infirmities;
  4. He redeems your life from the grave *
    and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;
  5. He satisfies you with good things, *
    and your youth is renewed like an eagle's.
  6. The LORD executes righteousness *
    and judgment for all who are oppressed.
  7. He made his ways known to Moses *
    and his works to the children of Israel.]
  8. The LORD is full of compassion and mercy, *
    slow to anger and of great kindness.
  9. He will not always accuse us, *
    nor will he keep his anger for ever.
  10. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, *
    nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.
  11. For as the heavens are high above the earth, *
    so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.
  12. As far as the east is from the west, *
    so far has he removed our sins from us.
  13. As a father cares for his children, *
    so does the LORD care for those who fear him.
  14. For he himself knows whereof we are made; *
    he remembers that we are but dust.
  15. [Our days are like the grass; *
    we flourish like a flower of the field;
  16. When the wind goes over it, it is gone, *
    and its place shall know it no more.
  17. But the merciful goodness of the LORD endures for ever on those who fear him, *
    and his righteousness on children's children;
  18. On those who keep his covenant *
    and remember his commandments and do them.
  19. The LORD has set his throne in heaven, *
    and his kingship has dominion over all.
  20. Bless the LORD, you angels of his,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding, *
    and hearken to the voice of his word.
  21. Bless the LORD, all you his hosts, *
    you ministers of his who do his will.
  22. Bless the LORD, all you works of his,
    in all places of his dominion; *
    bless the LORD, O my soul.]

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,

"At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you."

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see-- we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Matthew 6:1-6,16-21

Jesus said, "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

"So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

"And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

"And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Feb14

Wednesday

An Invitation for Spiritual Engagement During Lent

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Feb15

Thursday

Always we begin again.

Always We Begin AgainSomeone gave me this little book years ago, and as Lent approaches, its title strikes me as just the thing to ponder during Lent 2018. I’m not sure if I got it right last Lent, or any of the previous fifty-something ones before that, but here it is in a book by John McQuiston II:

It is for us
to train our hearts
to live in grace,
to sacrifice our self-centered desires,
to find the peace without want
without seeking it for ourselves,
and when we fail,
to begin again each day.

There is both comfort and opportunity in the repetition of the church seasons, and here we are again at Lent, an opportunity to slow down, consider what is of ultimate value, and recommit, with God’s help, to living a life that reflects that value, to reestablish my covenant with God, to—as Mary Oliver writes in her poem "Sometimes”:

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

All Saints' Playground at Twilight
Vinings at Twilight

To pay attention and really see the Realm of God simmering beneath the surface, draw near, turn aside (repent) and believe it’s actually there. What better time than Lent? "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Mark 1:15

Venture into the desert and listen for the life. "Been through the desert on a horse with no name; it felt good to be out of the rain. In the desert you can remember your name, ‘cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain…”. Hint: Your name is beloved.

Gretchen R. Chateau
Co-Curator

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Feb16

Friday

Photo for Meditation

Things were looking iffy for my October 2008 trip to Italy with friends. The economy was crashing and we couldn’t find a hotel in Sienna—our hub for 10 days of photography—for under $300 a night. The dollar was taking a beating overseas; our 401k’s had become 201k’s; the wellbeing of our country hung on the audacity of hope.

How Jim found this place, I’ll never know. But we ended up in the birthplace of Saint Catherine of Sienna, one of the two patron saints of Europe (Saint Francis being the other). It was located next to the abbey of the order that she founded and in the shadow of the Basilica San Dominica, where her remains were entombed. The novitiates of the order served as maids for the hotel and made us our breakfast.

I cried our first night there, listening to the nuns sing vespers. Every morning I awoke to the Matins bells of the basilica and the constant cooing of doves.

The memory of that trip carries me through many dark times.

I struggle to imagine how Jesus must have felt coming out of his 40-day long "dark night of the soul” to learn that his spiritual brother and baptizer, John, had been arrested by the authorities.

I’m sure I would have been justifiably angry. Not Jesus—He shocked the hell out of us all by calling it "good news.”

"The time is fulfilled,” He said "and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Today, we still have the audacity to hope, and to love. To love both our brother, was well as our brother’s persecutors (and Lord knows that’s the really hard part).

Believe in the good news.

The good news is love.

Love is all there is.

Michael Boatright

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Week of February 18, 2018

Genesis 9:8-17

God said to Noah and to his sons with him, "As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." God said, "This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth."

Psalm 25:1-9

Ad te, Domine, levavi

  1. To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
    my God, I put my trust in you; *
    let me not be humiliated,
    nor let my enemies triumph over me.
  2. Let none who look to you be put to shame; *
    let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.
  3. Show me your ways, O LORD, *
    and teach me your paths.
  4. Lead me in your truth and teach me, *
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    in you have I trusted all the day long.
  5. Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love, *
    for they are from everlasting.
  6. Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; *
    remember me according to your love
    and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.
  7. Gracious and upright is the LORD; *
    therefore he teaches sinners in his way.
  8. He guides the humble in doing right *
    and teaches his way to the lowly.
  9. All the paths of the LORD are love and faithfulness *
    to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

1 Peter 3:18-22

Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you-- not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Mark 1:9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."

Feb19

Monday

Angels Around Us

Trigger Warning: This video makes reference to suicide and the death penalty.

In this week’s gospel lesson, the Spirit drives Jesus out to the wilderness where angels attend and care for him.

The following video shares Nikki Roberts’ story of being cared for by a voice coming through an air vent. This video was made as a part of the #kellyonmymind campaign to halt the execution of Kelly Gissendaner. Kelly, a convicted murderer, was executed by the state of Georgia in 2015. Nikki’s testimony reminds us that angels can come to us in the strangest of places and perhaps from the least expected persons.

Who are the angels in your life? How might the Spirit be calling you to be an angel in someone’s life?

The Rev. Kim Jackson

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Feb20

Tuesday

Catapults and Connections

CatapultCatapults. Sometimes only powerful catapults break through barriers and help us make connections. Connections. If you want to reach your destination, you have to make the right connections. What connections?

I know next to nothing about automobile repair, but I do know on older cars one could bypass the normal key-in-the-ignition starting of a car and do a thing called “jump start.” Jesus is baptized, God says this is my beloved child, and the Holy Spirit jump starts (catapults?) Jesus into the desert to make all the connections.

Connections like those made in the A Case For Life forum Thursday evening, where Sr. Helen Prejean was catapulted into a connection with a man on death row, and set on fire to write Dead Man Walking and open the conversation about how the death penalty is, as Pope Francis has said, “contrary to the Gospel.”

Connections like those discussed in Adult Formation on Alvin Ailey’s Revelations, with reminders of how art and stories help us make the leap from us/them to we, how art and stories enter the mind, but then rush to the heart, where all the really powerful God work happens.

Maybe that’s why Jesus told stories and didn’t write theological treatises. Stories have a way of catapulting over the barrier of our logical mind and drive us out into the wilderness to make all the connections.

What will be your catapult this Lent?

Gretchen Chateau

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Feb21

Wednesday

Faith in things unseen

Faith is a word that means so much but at the same time is nebulous. Faith many times is a struggle to piece together the affairs of life with a belief in the divine.

It was August 9, 1996, and my life changed forever. My mother and sister died in a car accident a month before my sophomore year of college. I cannot express the amount of pain and suffering that one goes through when you have such a sudden loss. The next year was really a haze. I went to class and slept. I was like an automaton just sleep walking through life.

The one thing I could hold on to that year was faith. My faith in God, my faith that the pain would go away, and my faith that there is always sunshine when you reach the summit after being in the dark valley. My faith in Jesus Christ and his love for all of us made such a bad year feel just a little bit better.

In this week’s scriptures, faith runs throughout. When God told Abraham that he would be a father of many nations even though his wife was barren, Abraham believed in God’s promise. As Paul says, Abraham’s faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness” and “it will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.”

Weeping may tarry for the night,      but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Des Dorsey

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Feb22

Thursday

Ashes to Go?

“What may I pray for you?” Kim asks, and the woman’s eyes fill with tears. Kim, the woman, Simon, and Tim are standing at the North Avenue MARTA station entrance. It’s early morning on Ash Wednesday, and the priests in their cassocks and purple stoles have crossed the street to invite passersby to receive ashes. Lisa Bell-Davis is here with her camera, and I have some handout cards reading, “Ashes to Go” and “You are loved from beginning to end.”

Ashes to Go 1
Ashes to Go 2
Ashes to Go 3

If this seems strange, it’s because it is. It’s a departure from our usual Lenten observances. “God’s frozen people” are not known for proclaiming the good news in the public square. When Simon mentioned our Ashes to Go plan, I was skeptical. After all, the liturgy is not really condensable, is it? How could the clergy offer ashes without a full explanation of the ritual’s purpose? Without that explanation, what’s the point? Won’t this trivialize our traditions?

But we stand at the MARTA station, the “Ashes to Go” sign and clergy placed so as not to be missed. Commuters rush from the station toward Ubers and shuttles, child care, classes or offices. Our neighbors, much like All Saints’ parish, are people of every circumstance, story, sexuality, nationality, income, race, ethnicity, belief, ability, color, age, gender, and occupation.

The clergy issue smile and say, “Good morning. Would you like to receive ashes?” People who respond smile back or tear up, look embarrassed or fearful, wilt with sadness or buoy up with expectation. Emotions run the gamut. Throughout our hour and a half, there are poignant moments of penance, forgiveness, and healing. Even from a distance, I observe pain, need, and contrition in people’s eyes and body language. When asked what prayer they wish, I overhear a few request healing for themselves or family members, but only the clergy know the needs of the majority.

Before Ashes to Go, I worried about adherence to our tradition and wrestled with intellectual questions about evangelism. Maybe I was like the reluctant visitor watching John the Baptist in the river, thinking, "This is just not done." But My skepticism changed when I saw the announcement of the beloved. What the clergy offered on Ash Wednesday was a visible sign of God's unending love. And that's always a good thing.

Sydney C. Cleland

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Feb23

Friday

My BowlA little over a year ago, I was introduced to pottery classes by a friend and All Saints’ member. Since then I have continued to try my hand at pottery, I have been slowly working my way to larger and larger bowls. Just last month I started a new class, at a new studio. After learning a new technique, I decided this was my moment; I was going to use open studio time and make an amazing bowl.

I spent hours making coils, tentatively attempted to put them in an artistic pattern, and then smoothed them, joining them together as I had been taught in class. I was very proud of having made this bowl, but then as I took it off the mold, at the end of open studio, it fell apart. I felt broken, as if a part of me had broken with the bowl, and I spent the evening, at home, dwelling on what I now saw as “my bowl”.

The next day I went back, reassembled the bowl, added more clay for support, and even cautiously let it dry in the sun. This time, when I remove it from the mold, it doesn’t fall apart; it is “my bowl." As of Saturday, it has continued its journey and has now successfully gone through the kiln, had a small piece fall off, been glazed and is now completed.

One might think, gosh what an interesting story about a pottery bowl, but I have come to realize that for me this bowl, was more than a mere bowl, it is a reflection of my current fears in life. A feeling that I am putting so much of me into life, that I have invested in myself, but that now, I am not becoming who I thought I would be.

Yet, now that the bowl is done, no one can tell that it was broken, that it fell apart. This experience made me realize that it is true, I am my own worst critic, and I see flaws that no one else does.

This year for lent, I am not giving something up, I am building myself up.

“Our hearts seek your help and healing; and so purify us by your discipline that we may grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

Adele Byrnes

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Week of February 26, 2018

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

Psalm 22:22-30

Deus, Deus meus

  1. Praise the LORD, you that fear him; *
    stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel;
    all you of Jacob's line, give glory.
  2. or he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;
    neither does he hide his face from them; *
    but when they cry to him he hears them.
  3. My praise is of him in the great assembly; *
    I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.
  4. The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
    and those who seek the LORD shall praise him: *
    "May your heart live for ever!"
  5. All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, *
    and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.
  6. For kingship belongs to the LORD; *
    he rules over the nations.
  7. To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship; *
    all who go down to the dust fall before him.
  8. My soul shall live for him;
    my descendants shall serve him; *
    they shall be known as the LORD'S for ever.
  9. They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn *
    the saving deeds that he has done.

Romans 4:13-25

For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”) —in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Mark 8:31-38

Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Feb26

Monday

Through grace and by faith alone can we prepare for the miracle of Easter. Abraham and Sarah knew it was too late for them to parent a multitude of nations but by grace, they remained faithful and did. As we are reminded in Romans, “for this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants…hoping against hope…It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.”

Be careful, “for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things,” as we read in Mark. Divine things, how can we begin to fathom? This is much larger than we can grasp, than we can understand, and certainly more than we can get our human reasoning around…have faith, believe and wait…God promised a multitude of nations. Jesus was raised from death for our trespasses and for our justification. This is way beyond our human comprehension. And yet, through grace and by faith we are blessed to be able to quietly wait, to sit in hopeful anticipation and to know that the miracle of Easter is upon us.

Thanks be to God.

Beth Chaplin

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Feb27

Tuesday

Knowledge begins with naming. It’s why we wear nametags at Wednesday Night Supper and the reason hikers carry beat-up copies of Birds of Georgia on the trails at Kennesaw Mountain. I suspect it’s why John Berryman uses more than fifteen names for God in Eleven Addresses to the Lord. How to understand the Omnipotent? Start with the names you know: craftsman of the snowflake, inimitable contriver, shield & fresh fountain, president of the brethren.

This week’s lectionary, too, is rife with names. Saul ministers and writes as Paul, his Roman name. Jesus’s chief disciple, Simon, has already become Peter. And Abram and Sarai, who must have given up hope of a child long ago, become Abraham and Sarah, rechristened to be the father and mother of nations.

To be named by God is no small thing. With it comes covenant and a call to who we will become. In this becoming Christ’s words ring out; if anyone is to follow Him, they must “take up their cross.” If only I understood what He meant. It’s a clear enough directive in the cases of Mother Teresa and Dr. King, and I recognize it in the students of Parkland, Florida. But what action does it call me to today in my oh-so-average life?

I have prayed and find that I travel in a circle, always ending at my beginning – with the names of God. So that’s my Lenten discipline. I will speak the names of the Lord, part in prayer for me, part for our world. The Bible overflows with the names of God and wherever there is a need for these names is as good a place as any to take up a cross.

Prince of Peace. Mediator. Comforter. Great Physician. Wonderful Counselor. Rock of Refuge. God of Justice. Bright Morning Star. Bread of Life. Our Helper. Deliverer. Merciful. Amen.

Laura Trott

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Feb28

Wednesday

From being a believer... to becoming a true believer

Dali: Christ of John of the Cross

On Saturday, March 8, 2008, the night we change our clocks ahead for daylight savings time, I was sound asleep when my youngest son who was home on Spring Break from college, bounded into my house at that 2 o’clock hour when we are supposed to change the time and woke me up. He was very emotional and told me that his mother had received a call from the Atlanta police department that my middle child, my first born son, had been fatally wounded and that he was at Grady Hospital.

I tore out of bed and threw on whatever I could find and went with my youngest to Grady to find him. The emergency waiting room was overflowing and there was equally a lot of confusion at the front desk, so when I explained that we had received a call from the Atlanta police department that my son was here, to my bewilderment, they didn’t have a record of him being there. So we left and started walking the street, confused and hoping that there had somehow been a mistake. We soon ran into his mother coming to the emergency room and went with her to the front desk to inquire again.

They once again searched their records and this time they informed us that he was there. They directed us to his room and when we entered, he was lying on a gurney and on life support. He had been shot in the head at close range by his apartment mate and the shot was fatal.

I remember looking at him and starting to cry and I reached out to put my hand on his. At that moment I pleaded with God to allow me to exchange places with him because I was the “old man” who had lived a good long life and he was my young son and was just beginning his.

At that same moment, I realized that was something that I could not do but my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, had done just that for me. He took my place on the cross and gave up His life so that I could be reconciled to His Father and could live again.

As far back as I can remember I have believed that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. But at that moment in time when I held my son’s hand, I did more than believe; I now knew it to be true. For God gave me the comfort of knowing that I would see my son again. God was holding me and family in his loving arms.

My son’s mother and I met the young man who shot our son in the emergency ward that night… and we each forgave him. It took me well over a year to come out of the fog I was in from the loss of my son but God was always there with me on my journey back to the land of the living… and is with me now. He did pull me and all of my remaining family through that horrible night. Without my belief, I don’t know how I could have coped with such a great loss.

Over that foggy period, I would go to my son’s grave every morning before work and cry and learned to recite the Nicene Creed by memory. The words of that Creed sustained me, especially the words“… and His kingdom shall have no end” and “I believe in… resurrection of the body and life everlasting”. Again, I’m a true believer and I know that if I follow the Lord the remaining days of my life that I will see my son again.

Bob Redella

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Mar1

Thursday

Are You There?

Curator’s Note: We have invited a few friends of All Saints’ to offer meditations from an Interfaith perspective. Our hope is that these additional voices from Islam and Judaism will help us grow on our journey in search of God.

image of mom and boy

When I was sixteen years old, my brother Adam was four years old. One day as I stood talking with my mother in her room, we both heard Adam’s voice rise above the din of a home filled with the activity of six children. “Mama!” he called. Adam was not calling in distress, so we attempted to finish our brief conversation. He called again, though. “Mama!” Pause. “Maamaaa!” By the fifth time he called her name, my mother responded, “Yes, baby?” Adam peeked his little shaven head into her room. And with big eyes and a bright smile, replied, “I just wanted to know where you were.” And then he walked away.

As people of faith, we are often much like little Adam. Wherever we are, we want to know that we can call out to Allah (God) and be heard. Moreover, much like echolocation, calling out helps us to place ourselves and know that we are always within Allah’s reach. Indeed, the Holy Quran assures us that “Allah is closer to us than our jugular vein” [50:16]. While we revel in the sublime disciplines of memorizing, chanting, praying, and singing the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah, it is Allah’s name itself that captures the holy wholeness we seek.

As Muslims, every occasion is an opportunity to invite God, to find God, to be found by God or to simply locate ourselves in relation to God, just like Adam with our Mama. The familiar sound of the Islamic call to prayer (the adhan) begins with the repetitive refrain Allahu Akbar or God is the Greatest. Allahu Akbar is a bell ringing out into the cosmos that declares that no person, place, thing, or idea is greater than Allah. Prayer or salat, always begins as a love song that says, “Allah, You are the greatest and I just want to be where you are.”

Saturating our lives and language with God’s name is a custom within Islam that I invite you to integrate into your Lenten practice. Whether beginning a prayer or a work project, you may want to offer a “Bismillah,” that is “in the name of God,” as a dedication of your efforts. When you are not sure how something will transpire, but you are willing to submit to the unknown, saying “Inshallah,” which means “if God is willing,” may be the right invocation for you. When your heart is swelling with thanksgiving and there are not enough words to express overflowing joy, you can shout Al Hamdu-Lillah! (This is the Arabic translation to the Hebrew Hallelujah. You may be able to get away with this one during Lent.) Lastly, when we seek forgiveness and redemption in our brokenness and imperfections, we prostrate ourselves and cry a simple “Subhan Allah.” It is a deep recognition that “Allah alone is worthy to be glorified,” yet we are leaning into Allah's Mama-like mercy, and asking to be drawn close, wherever she is.

This link will take you to a song called “I Wanna Be Where You Are,” recorded by the Jackson 5. Perhaps it will be good traveling music as you sojourn this Lenten season.

Assalamu Alaikum (Peace be with Ya’ll)

La Trina Jackson

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Mar2

Friday

What’s In There?

What's in there?

Daddy would say, “Look, put your fingers up like this,” and he would make a rectangle with his thumbs and index fingers. “Look through there. What’s in there? What colors do you see? What shapes do you see?” We might roll our childish eyes and think, “Here we go again with the rectangle.” But, he would insist and that very simple exercise would reveal colors I hadn’t noticed, shapes I wouldn’t have considered in a very small space. And, if there is so much in an approximately 2” x 4” space, what is contained in Creation for an artist to notice and convey to those moving too fast to bother with such inane rectangles? Try it. Name the shapes and colors. Describe what you see, not what you think you know is there. Describe in painstaking detail, as if you were reading very dense prose and you wanted to make sure you understood the first paragraph before moving on to the next. Just now I tried it and everything within the rectangle was some variation of white. But, there were long vertical rectangles, numerous horizontal rectangles, with the rectangles below in the shadow of those above. Did you know all of that was going on in your hallway? My next one? Colored paper clips, multi-colored permanent markers, a few envelopes stuffed with paid bills—so much of my life contained in those items: a new and wonderful friend, a job for which I am grateful even if it does make me crazy sometimes, a love of intense color such that picking up the markers and writing or drawing is a pleasure just for the color of it, but also to cherish the memory of my artist father.

Something as simple as this can be a profound Lenten discipline, a sort of lectio divina of the right now. First, recite what you see within the rectangle, colors, shapes, items. Which of those things stands out the most for you? Recite what you see again. What stands out the most? Why? What does it make you think about? Who made that thing? What color is it? Before you made the rectangle, would you have said it was that color? That shape?

Gretchen Chateau

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Week of March 4, 2018

Exodus 20:1-17

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Psalm 19

Caeli enarrant

  1. The heavens declare the glory of God, *
    and the firmament shows his handiwork.
  2. One day tells its tale to another, *
    and one night imparts knowledge to another.
  3. Although they have no words or language, *
    and their voices are not heard,
  4. Their sound has gone out into all lands, *
    and their message to the ends of the world.
  5. In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun; *
    it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
    it rejoices like a champion to run its course.
  6. It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens
    and runs about to the end of it again; *
    nothing is hidden from its burning heat.
  7. The law of the LORD is perfect
    and revives the soul; *
    the testimony of the LORD is sure
    and gives wisdom to the innocent.
  8. The statutes of the LORD are just
    and rejoice the heart; *
    the commandment of the LORD is clear
    and gives light to the eyes.
  9. The fear of the LORD is clean
    and endures for ever; *
    the judgments of the LORD are true
    and righteous altogether.
  10. More to be desired are they than gold,
    more than much fine gold, *
    sweeter far than honey,
    than honey in the comb.
  11. By them also is your servant enlightened, *
    and in keeping them there is great reward.
  12. Who can tell how often he offends? *
    cleanse me from my secret faults.
  13. Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
    let them not get dominion over me; *
    then shall I be whole and sound,
    and innocent of a great offense.
  14. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my
    heart be acceptable in your sight, *
    O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Mar5

Monday

Psalm 19 - a psalm of David

Caeli enarrant = the heavens declare

  1. The heavens declare the glory of God, *
    and the firmament shows his/her handiwork.
  2. One day tells its tale to another, *
    and one night imparts knowledge to another.
  3. Although they have no words or language, *
    and their voices are not heard,
  4. Their sound has gone out into all lands, *
    and their message to the ends of the world.

King David, master musician, wrote poetry and lyrical music that defies Time.

Write some music, kill a giant.

We are mightier than we ever know with these heavens within and without.

A musician myself, I love to play with sound in various aspects. This psalm grabbed me with its mention of words/no words, vibrations that emanate out in to the universe. East Indians teach Nada Yoga, the inner hum, the OM, that exists within us all. We carry this always, whether sitting in our living rooms, or shouting from the streets. Heard/not heard. Always present.

David’s reign - 1000 BCE.
Ancient, sacred text.
My quest ~ create fresh sound by which to hear David’s message.

Spoken/sung or not spoken/unsung ~ we are mightier than we think.
Prayers floating to heaven.
The heavens declare it - in Time - yesterday, today, into the future.

What am I/are you declaring?

Listen here:

Psalm 19:1-4


Mar6

Tuesday

Exodus 20:1-17

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

As I watch the incredibly brave children of Florida board a bus heading to their state capital hoping to do the work that their adults are too weak to do, I am thinking about the different idols we have created at our children’s expense.

I haven’t seen any gilded calves lately, but there seems to be an awful lot of things we care about that keep us from having relationships with God, his creation, one another, and our children.

What does an idol look like in the 21st century? Does it look like a political party, Facebook, a bottle of wine, a certain body image, or instant gratification? Do we idolize wealth and power or feeling smug and righteous? Maybe our idol is so small it can fit in our pocket, like a cell phone or a wad of cash. Or perhaps it’s something as big as an AR-15.

This lent, I pray that we can see the various idols that we are worshiping. I ask for God to give us the strength to let them go.

Lynn Wright

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Mar7

Wednesday

Guarding Words and Actions

Photo credit: Poff, Stephen. Guarding Words and Actions, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55024 [retrieved March 6, 2018]. Original source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephenpoff/3530640841/

Psalm 19 teaches us that the heavens tell of the glory of God.

What are you declaring this day?

Are the words that pour from your mouth colorful? Beautiful?

Do they tell of the goodness that you find in loving and being loved by God?

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Mar8

Thursday

Colorful Flowers

As those of you who know me can attest, I love color. Color gives me joy any and everywhere it can be found—in the beauty of God’s creation, in our lovely red-walled sanctuary filled with flowers and sun-sparkled stained glass, on the walls of our house, and on my person.

I was given a book of poems about colors as a child called Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill which sits on my bookshelf to this day. I still find the simple poems beautiful and evocative. I want to share a little bit of one of the poems. Surprisingly, given my propensity for sometimes glaringly bright color schemes, the poem I want to share in part is about black.

WHAT IS BLACK

Black is kind—
It covers up
The run-down street.
The broken cup.

Black is a feeling
Hard to explain
Like suffering but
Without the pain.

Black is beauty
In its deepest form,
The darkest cloud
In a thunderstorm.
Think of what starlight
And lamplight would lack
Diamonds and fireflies
If they couldn’t lean against
Black...

This poem is a useful reminder to me during this Lenten season of reflection to look for and be open to God’s presence—the real color in our lives—in the unexpected, maybe even unlikely places, for He is surely there too.

Janet Todd

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Mar9

Friday

Hearts"Open Up My Heart" – Yolanda Adams

“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts”

What would that look like, to have God’s word written on our hearts?

Perhaps it would be awareness of God’s kindness and love toward us.

So why don’t we open to God, ourselves or others? In a word, fear. As Brene Brown names it, “Fear of vulnerability. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of the pain of disconnection. Fear of criticism and failure. Fear of conflict. Fear of not measuring up.” And the list goes on. The problem is, it hardens our heart and isolation and loneliness follow. So in Lent we examine our hearts for blockage.

May we open to kindness, compassion, attention and presence to another in this holy season.

Rebecca Parker

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Week of March 11, 2018

Numbers 21:4-9

From Mount Hor the Israelites set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

Confitemini Domino

  1. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, *
    and his mercy endures for ever.
  2. Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim *
    that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.
  3. He gathered them out of the lands; *
    from the east and from the west,
    from the north and from the south.
  1. Some were fools and took to rebellious ways; *
    they were afflicted because of their sins.
  2. They abhorred all manner of food *
    and drew near to death's door.
  3. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, *
    and he delivered them from their distress.
  4. He sent forth his word and healed them *
    and saved them from the grave.
  5. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy *
    and the wonders he does for his children.
  6. Let them offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving *
    and tell of his acts with shouts of joy.

Ephesians 2:1-10

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-- by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-- not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

John 3:14-21

Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

Mar12

Monday

Ephesians 2: 1-10

In this week’s lesson, we read in Ephesians 2: 1-10, that we were “by nature children of wrath”. On Ash Wednesday, we saw again young people running from a school building following another mass shooting. Teachers, staff, and kids lay bleeding and dying in front of our eyes from wounds caused by a weapon made for war wielded by a young man barely able to vote. Reading that we are “by nature children of wrath” seems like a very accurate description. Thankfully that is not where our story ends.

Ash Wednesday ShootingPhoto credit: Joel Auerbach

We are not left to this dire and unending cycle of violence and destruction because God loves us so much that “even when we were dead of our trespasses, (God) made us alive through Christ”. We learn that “we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

For us, this good news of indescribable love leaves questions which may be more appropriately considered as a direct challenge. What do we do in the face of children or concert goers running for safety? They are running toward us for help. Our responsibility as followers of the Christ, made alive through Christ, is to run toward them. One distraught mother cried out on television this week for help in the face of her daughter’s death; she cried for “Action”. The events in the world today and specifically this mother’s call for “Action” must call us into the world; we can no longer only sit in our pews with “thoughts and prayers”. “ACTION!” Jesus taught. “ACTION!” the mothers’ cry.

As we walk through Lent toward the Easter that we know will come, how do those of us who affirm that we have been “made alive through Christ” answer this plea?

Nedra Wick & Rebecca Locke

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Mar13

Tuesday

"A Wrinkle In Time"

“A book, too, can be a star, explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”

Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle In TimeAva DuVernay’s adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” is opening this weekend. Likely the movie release was not scheduled intentionally to coincide with the Fourth Sunday in Lent, but it is a happy accident as far as I am concerned. John’s Gospel reading brings us a meditation by Jesus on light and darkness, on the light that has come into the world. He says, “Those who do what is true come to the light.” In L’Engle’s book and DuVernay’s movie, we get Meg Murry becoming the light to fight the darkness. I can’t wait to see it!

Watch the trailer here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4U3TeY2wtM

Lynda Herrig

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Mar14

Wednesday

John 3:16

John 3:16

John 3:16... We’ve seen it on billboards, evangelical posters, roadside altars. It seems part of the Southern landscape, so much so that we don’t really see it, much less think about what it is intended to communicate. It seems trite somehow—a Biblical reference for the unimaginative. If you’re going to quote John, isn’t “In the beginning was the Word...” a far meatier, transcendent phrase that you can really dig into?

I invite you to ponder the introductory clause: “For God so loved the world...” The implications of this phrase are profound. To me, it means that God is not just involved in the world, he is caringly, actively involved. God’s love is made manifest in Jesus, but like the Word, that love is outside of time. It reminds us that God’s love is constant and eternal. As we move through the days, that love envelops us whether we are conscious of it or not. We only have to choose to acknowledge and accept it—move from the darkness of our prideful self-sufficiency into the light of that sustaining love. This is hardly trite thinking. The choice is ours to make.

Missy McMorries

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Mar15

Thursday

I can be called a picky eater. OK, OK, I AM a picky eater. I like what I like and I don’t like what I don’t. And above all, I don’t like for my food to touch.

No food touching

Today while I was working on my Lenten meditation on set, my boxed lunch arrived.

Food touching

As I tried to separate the lettuce from the barbeque, and the cheese from the dinner roll, I had to laugh at myself. There I was, complaining about the food I had instead of being grateful that I had food at all, when so many go hungry.

I had planned to write about wandering in the wilderness, but God had other plans: “Let them offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and tell of his acts with shouts of joy.”

In 2012, I almost lost everything, including myself. I often went to bed hungry because I couldn’t afford both a roof over my head and a full belly. I soon lost the will to live. By the grace of God, I didn’t go through with my plan. Through the love of family and friends, I made it home; broken, but alive.

Today I know more joy than I would have believed possible, all by God’s grace through faith.

What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Shannon D. Keith

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Mar16

Friday

For we are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Ephesians 2.10

Our grandchildren used to love to feed ducks stale bread.

Feeding the ducks

A couple of years ago, when a gazillion signs saying “DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES FEED THE DUCKS” sprouted around our neighborhood Duck Pond, I groused. In protest, Flash and I actually quit walking over there because the signs seemed—to a dedicated duck feeder—haughty and anti-duck.

But guess what? It turns out the Duck Pond signs weren’t anti-duck: feeding ducks bread is anti-duck! Here’s a sign I saw a few months ago that went into detail to explain the situation.

Duck Sign

Why did this sign work for me? Because this sign invites me to do good for ducks and the earth and even gave me some duck-feeding options! And I yearn to do good and be good. I think down deep we all do.

You can say I’m naïve all day long but I really believe people want to do good, and that way inside us, we sense somehow that we are, yes, created for good. I think of a woman I met at All Saints’ a quarter of a century ago. She was/is a gifted do-gooder. Very self-aware, very ‘respect the dignity of every human being’, very Not Lady Bountiful. She told me that she had grown up in an awful, emotionally abusive household and that what had kept her sane was ONE person. An early Sunday School teacher sensed what was going on and reached out to her week in and week out for years and years and kept telling her that she was good and kind and smart. (Yes, like Viola Davis did with that little girl in “The Help”).

Flash

This next video takes six minutes—worth every second—Mr. Rogers is explaining to Congress what he does to offer a ‘neighborhood expression of care’. Every day on his show Mr. Rogers told children, “You’ve made this day a special day just by just your being you. There’s no person in the world just like you. And I like you just the way you are.”

Yes, whaddaabout Hitler. Yes, whaddabout horrible hate groups and robbers and rapists and crucifixions and all the terrible things people can do. Yeah, there is all that. But, Dearly Beloved, evil is aberration. We are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

That’s our story and I’m sticking to it because I learned how full of goodness we are from you.

By the way, Flash and I are back at the Duck Pond, and he and the ducks are back to being frenemies.

Being alive in this world is not perfect, but it surely is good. A blessed Lent to you.

Martha Sterne

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Week of March 18, 2018

Jeremiah 31:31-34

The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Psalm 51:1-13

Miserere mei, Deus

  1. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; *
    in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
  2. Wash me through and through from my wickedness *
    and cleanse me from my sin.
  3. For I know my transgressions, *
    and my sin is ever before me.
  4. Against you only have I sinned *
    and done what is evil in your sight.
  5. And so you are justified when you speak *
    and upright in your judgment.
  6. Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, *
    a sinner from my mother's womb.
  7. For behold, you look for truth deep within me, *
    and will make me understand wisdom secretly.
  8. Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *
    wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.
  9. Make me hear of joy and gladness, *
    that the body you have broken may rejoice.
  10. Hide your face from my sins *
    and blot out all my iniquities.
  11. Create in me a clean heart, O God, *
    and renew a right spirit within me.
  12. Cast me not away from your presence *
    and take not your holy Spirit from me.
  13. Give me the joy of your saving help again *
    and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

or

Psalm 119:9-16

In quo corrigit?

  1. How shall a young man cleanse his way? *
    By keeping to your words.
  2. With my whole heart I seek you; *
    let me not stray from your commandments.
  3. I treasure your promise in my heart, *
    that I may not sin against you.
  4. Blessed are you, O LORD; *
    instruct me in your statutes.
  5. With my lips will I recite *
    all the judgments of your mouth.
  6. I have taken greater delight in the way of your decrees *
    than in all manner of riches.
  7. I will meditate on your commandments *
    and give attention to your ways.
  8. My delight is in your statutes; *
    I will not forget your word.

Hebrews 5:5-10

Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,

“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;
as he says also in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.”

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

John 12:20-33

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Mar19

Monday

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

John 12:21

It’s no coincidence that a rock opera almost 50 years old will be aired again on Easter Sunday. “Jesus Christ Superstar” is a story that those of us who follow the Christ know. The central theme: “Who do you say that I am?” resounds and echoes through the ages and not just for Christians.

Our Scriptures this week, Jeremiah 32: 31-34, Hebrews 5:5-10, and John 12:20-33 give us direction: we shall “know (Jesus)” and “follow (Jesus)”; they tell us clearly that Jesus is “the Son.” Why keep asking? Those both simple and extraordinarily complex concepts are impossible for minds to grasp so we continue to request as those in John’s Gospel, “to see Jesus”. At the same time our hearts recognize what our minds cannot.

In “Jesus Christ Superstar” Judas concludes: Jesus is just a man. While he acknowledges Jesus is charismatic, his mind resolves the issue that Jesus is just like everyone else. Judas is unable to see Jesus even as he stands before him. In “Strange Things Mystifying”, Judas challenges Jesus about those to whom he reaches out. Mary Magdalene, Judas says “…doesn’t fit in well with what you teach and say”.. His presumption prevents him from the Way of seeing and knowing. For Judas, as it is too often for us, this is a tragic and deadly flaw.

We walk through Lent with Mary Magdalene’s prayer “to see thee more clearly.” We focus again to ponder the question “Who do you say that I am?” We humble ourselves to say with all of our being: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the resurrection of the Christ that we continue to seek to live into. That evening, in our home we’ll make a joyful noise with a 47-year-old rock opera telling a 2000-year-old story of love and redemption that surpasses all.

“If you’d come today you could have reached a whole nation. Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.”

Nedra Wick and Rebecca Locke

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Mar20

Tuesday

Feast

How do we prepare for the resurrection? When suffering in this world gets worse every day what does it means to bear witness to that and still create room in ourselves for joy? There is little in American media driven culture that encourages us to prepare for joy (if you find joy outside of the newest deodorant or weight loss fad, that is.) Often people who want to do good in the world in the face of suffering and exploitation feel that we can never stop. We can never stop striving, trying, doing, giving. We can never slow down or receive. It wouldn’t be fair. After all, look at all the privilege we have compared to the suffering of others. Isn’t our experience of receiving joy an abandonment of advocacy?

The Gospel proclaims another way. Preparing for (and to receive) the feast and welcoming everyone to the table (including ourselves) is the advocacy we are called to do. It doesn’t mean avoiding the difficult work of staring suffering in the face. It means that when we are afraid to walk into a room that suffering inhabits, we visualize the light of the resurrection in that room, right beside the suffering. The light of resurrection is saying our name in welcome, and if we can hear it and feel that we are deserving, then we can offer it to the other people in the room who are in pain.

Sunday, the All Saints’ Talents Roundtable came out to Norcross to learn more about the work of Refugee Ministries. We were hosted in the home of the extended relatives of the family we welcomed from Afghanistan last September. We were welcomed with open arms and a tremendous feast that they had prepared in our honor.

My preparation for the resurrection isn’t instantaneous. I am still accompanied by anxiety, guilt, privilege, complicity, uncertainty, and striving, but in the middle of those my companions, if I can just crack open the door to let in the light of the resurrection, then I can truly marvel and revel in the glories of the feast.

Louisa Merchant,
Director of Refugee Ministries

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Mar21

Wednesday

Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

John 12:32

My experience in the Episcopal Church is that we are often a motley crew of folks who have made our way back into faith (or over into this way of faith) from other corners of the Church. Many faith stories I hear start with, “I grew up in a fundamentalist/strict/judgmental religious community.” We Saints know about being judged. Yet, we are still seeking God because we have detected her at work in spite of church experiences in our past that might have been less than loving.

John’s Jesus tells us that what lies at the center of creation itself is a new kind of love. The people around him are already judged because they have no idea of what his kind of love looks like. Violence and systems of domination are not what really hold sway in this world any longer, John says, because Jesus has come to put an end to humanity’s addiction to scapegoating and judgment. God does not hate us. We are God’s beloved.

I am grateful to be a part of a church that works hard to check its judgment and find a welcome for all people, regardless of who they are or where they have been on their journey. I hope that the generations we are raising up in the Episcopal Church here (and elsewhere) will have a new narrative about faith that is not about judgment but about the self-giving, self-sacrificing love we see in Jesus. With God’s help, we can be a place that inspires our children’s faith stories to begin with a smile and something like, “My church loved me...”

The Rev. Tim Black

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Mar22

Thursday

The other day, I was having a hard day. An old friend would have said I was “on the struggle bus”. As I was leaving my apartment building, a neighbor across the way was on her phone and I overheard just one sentence of her conversation;

“I love everyone”

I know this wasn’t directed at me, we’ve only met once and she was on the phone with someone, but it struck me. It was what I needed to hear that day. Yet, my neighbor has no idea of the little bit of cheer she gave me that day.

This made me think of all the other small moments that have “made my day” and how they continue to pop up when I need a boost. This made me think about all the times I may have been this cheer in a persons life when they needed it.

Rainbow
Bouquet

Let us embrace these small moments. I see them as God’s being there for me in my times of need, my ability to capture these moments is through my faith, my belief. Seeing a rainbow on a church floor after a long hike or a bouquet of flowers given by children I'd just met. These are the moments that matter, these are the moments that provide me with faith and hope.

Almighty God our heavenly Father, renew in us the gifts of your mercy; increase our faith, strengthen our hope, enlighten our understanding, widen our charity, and make us ready to serve you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Adele Byrne

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