Lent Daily Devotional: Prayer

Thoughts from David Benner and Anne Lamott

“Watch particularly for traces of God in other people. Since humans are that part of creation most directly reflecting the divine image and likeness, it should be here that we most readily sense traces of God. Cultivate the spiritual habit of looking through Spirit-filled eyes at those you encounter and watching for Jesus. Recall that he said that he is there – particularly in those most broken and least likely to be suspected of bearing the Christ within their being. Watching for the presence of God in others will change the way you relate to them as you begin to see yourself surrounded by bearers of our Lord’s presence in the world.”

– David Benner, Opening to God




“We and life are spectacularly flawed and complex. Often we do not get our way, which I hate, hate, hate. But in my saner moments I remember that if we did, usually we would shortchange ourselves. Sometimes circumstances conspire to remind us or even let us glimpse how thin the membrane is between here and there, between birth and the grave, between human and the divine. In wonder at the occasional direct experience of this, we say, Thank you.”

– Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow

Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 2

Reading: Mark 2
Thoughts by Daniel Marolf

In Mark 2, we see a very short story about Jesus calling Levi, a tax collector, to come and follow him. Now tax collectors were pretty much universally hated in Mark’s world. They made their money by collecting taxes for the oppressive Roman government and charging extra off the top for themselves. With this background in mind, let’s consider the story in Mark 2:13-17 through the eyes of Levi. For whatever reason, you, Levi, are a tax collector, and you are hated by everyone you interact with. While sitting at your tax booth, a famous Jewish teacher draws near. You’ve seen Rabbis before and you’re accustomed to them ignoring you, so you pay no special attention. But shockingly, Rabbi Jesus looks right in your direction, and says, “Follow me.” You quickly snap your head around back and forth, positive he isn’t talking to you, but there is no one else it could be. You look into those tender eyes – those eyes looking at you like no one has in a very long time – like a person. You jump up, nearly knocking over your booth, and take your spot at Jesus’ side. You are called, even you.

Historically, Lent has been a time for Christians to set aside the distracting things of this world and prepare their hearts for Easter. Additionally, it has been a time for us to identify our sins, the things holding us back from God, and to repent from them. This Lenten season, may we hear the call of Jesus on our lives, “follow me.” And may we, like Levi, eagerly and joyously leave behind these trivial things and take our proper place at the side of Jesus.

Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 1

Reading: Mark 1
Thoughts by Lamar Williamson, Jr.

It is not hard to answer a ringing telephone.

The compelling urgency of a call is at least part of the undiminished power of the call narrative in Mark 1:16-20. Jesus’ call of his first four disciples had evidently long been treasured in the communal memory of early Christians. The direct and vivid style, the stringing together of clauses with “and,” and the repeated point about leaving all to follow Jesus suggest the use of this story in the earliest preaching of the church.

In Mark, as the very first incident in Jesus’ public ministry, this passage introduces the group which, after Jesus himself, will be the second major concern of the entire story: the disciples. As soon as Jesus announces the Kingdom of God, he calls persons to enter it (“Follow me”) and to invite others to enter it, too (“I will make you fishers of men”). Although Mark lacks the strong church emphasis of Matthew, here too, the kingdom is corporate. Mark offers no solo salvation, no individualist reign or rule of God.

Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 16

Reading: Mark 16
Thoughts by Ginny Smith

The day the women lost their voices and in the same day were given a message to share.

The Sabbath is over and Mary Magdalene, Mary and Salome are walking along with their supplies. They were on a mission; they were going to the tomb where Jesus had been laid to anoint him. They were prepared for what they were going to do, but definitely not prepared for what they found when they go there. The last conversation we are aware of is a discussion about who would roll the stone back for them when they got to the tomb.

Then no more words for these three women. If we had been there, this is what we might have seen. As they walked up, their eyes widened and then they looked puzzled. The stone was already rolled away.

They looked in and their eyebrows raised and they covered their mouths to keep from screaming. Jesus was gone. And someone else was sitting there – a young man in a white robe.

They all looked at each other, then back at the young man in amazement and disbelief. They started backing up ready to turn and leave. Then the young man opens his mouth to speak.

They close their eyes and pop them open again and he is still there. They hold out their hands, palms facing the man as if to say, no, this can’t be happening. He says “Don’t be alarmed.”

They blink and stared open mouthed. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene?” They nodded. “He is risen. He is not here.” Hands to mouth again, shaking their heads in disbelief. “See, here is where they laid him.”

They looked where he pointed. He sees them standing in fear and not knowing what to do. So he tells them. “Go tell the disciples and Peter, that Jesus is going before them to Galilee like he told them.” They are so overwhelmed that they turned from him and ran away.

We know from other gospel writings that they eventually find their voices and tell the disciples what they saw and heard. Here is what I think the women would tell us about their experience that day:

Watch. Look. Be amazed.

Jesus is not in the tomb anymore. He is risen. He fulfills his promises. He has given us a message to share with the world. He truly is the Son of God.

Lent Daily Devotional: Psalm 51

Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Lent Daily Devotionals: Mark 15

Reading: Mark 15
Thoughts by Mother Teresa

How does peace come? Through works of love. Where does it begin? At home. How does it begin? By praying together. For Prayer gives a clean heart and a clean heart can see God. And if you see God in each other, if we have the joy of seeing God in each other, we will love one another. That’s why no color, no religion, no nationality should come between us. For we are all the same children of the same loving hand of God, created for greater things: to love and to be loved. Only we must experience that joy of loving. How do we experience the joy of loving? How do we experience that? By giving until it hurts.

When I was going to Ethiopia, little children came to me. They heard I was going there. And they came. They had come to know from the sisters how much the children are suffering in Ethiopia. And they came and each one gave something, very, very small money. And some, whatever they had, they gave. And a little boy came to me and said “I have nothing, I have no money, I have nothing. But I have this piece of chocolate. And you give that, take that with you and you give it to the children in Ethiopia.” That little child loved with great love, because I think that was the first time that he had a piece of chocolate in his hand. And he gave it. He gave it with joy to be able to share, to remove a little the suffering of someone in far Ethiopia. This is the joy of loving: to give until it hurts. It hurt Jesus to love us, for he died on the cross, to teach us how to love. And this is the way we too must love: until it hurts.

Lent Daily Devotionals: Mark 14

Reading: Mark 14
“Sweet Perfume” by Penelope Goode

Mark 14 tells several stories.

There is the account of Jesus, wracked with sorrow, praying in the garden while His friends are meant to be keeping watch. Three times, they fall short and He finds them sleeping.
Next, the story of Peter, who, having been identified as a disciple after Jesus’ arrest, denies knowing Him. As Jesus prophesied during Passover, this happens not once, but three times.
The most harrowing tale is that of Judas’ betrayal: one of the twelve nearest to Jesus gave Him up for personal gain.

Juxtaposed against these stories, however, is the beautiful act of the woman (known from other Gospel accounts to be Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus) anointing Jesus with sweet perfume, despite protestations of the disciples. It was expensive – an exotic oil from India in a fine alabaster jar, which she broke and poured out over her Lord. She alone, of all the friends around Jesus in this time so near to His death, gives Him something precious without being asked. Seeing a service she could perform, and, seemingly knowing that His time among them was limited, blesses Him with this selfless act.

Father, during this season in which we focus on Jesus’ sacrifice, may we be like this woman, who gave without regard for herself, focused as she was so intently on the One who was giving everything for all of us. May we not sleep or betray, but give to Him that which is precious.

Lent Daily Devotional: Prayer

Christ Has No Body by Teresa of Avila

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 13

Reading: Mark 13
“Good News for All Time” by Jeff Christian

One day, Jesus and a handful of his disciples sat on a hill just outside the city gates of Jerusalem. That hill just happened to be the Mount of Olives, a place where Jesus would pray, and then go to the cross not long thereafter. But Jesus remained true to the mission, the most important reason he came to live among us, a mission stated multiple times in the Gospel of Mark, not the least of which in Mark 13.

This is the hardest chapter in Mark to understand, mainly because it switches to an ancient form of Jewish storytelling called “Apocalyptic.” Simply put, such storytelling concerned itself with big things, eternal things, things that never end no matter what. Alongside all the talk of glory and the Son of Man riding on the clouds… alongside all the warnings to keep alert and to stay awake during dark and confusing times… alongside all of that is the statement of all statements that drives the story in Mark: “And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations.” (Mark 13:10)

The good news.

This is everything to us. Despite all of our confusion and the uncertainty we face every day, we can be sure in Jesus that our work is as clear today as it has ever been. We tell the story of the good news of Jesus Christ. We live that story. We live every day as citizens of the good kingdom of Jesus.

That kingdom will never end.

Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 12

Reading: Mark 12
A Scandalous Invitation by Richard Foster, from Freedom of Simplicity

When Jesus watched the voluntary offerings made in the temple treasure, he was moved by the sacrificial gift of the poor widow. What was it about her giving that touched him so? Jesus’ comment on that simple act was, “For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living” (Mark 12:44).

Her giving had a certain reckless abandon to it. She evidenced an undivided devotion that fulfilled the command to love God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength. In fact, in Mark’s Gospel this story follows closely on the heels of the two great commandments, as if to be a commentary upon them. A simple act, but one that crystallized the Christian witness. Here was a woman free from idolatry to mammon, devoid of greed and avarice. Here was a person in whom extravagant giving exceeded prudent thrift. Here was a widow, helpless and defenseless, who had learned to trust the Father in heaven for her needs day by day, one who sought first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Dare we follow her lead?