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Devotions from Pastor Glen - the week of 4-12-20

4/18/20

1 Corinthians 12:8-11 The Message (MSG) 4-11 God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful: wise counsel (wisdom) clear understanding (knowledge) simple trust (faith) healing the sick miraculous acts proclamation (of the gospel) distinguishing (between good and bad) spirits tongues (speaking in other languages while in prayer or connection to God) interpretation of tongues (Telling what those other languages mean)


Yesterday I spoke about the fruits of the Spirit. Today, my devotion centers on the gifts of the Spirit, which are different. I switched to the “Message” translation of the Bible for today, since it is easier to understand than the NRSV we usually use. In the parentheses are my comments.

The gifts of the Spirit are abilities that the Holy Spirit gives to some Christians. Sometimes these gifts are given without asking for them first, other times, people receive them when they ask. All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the Spirit of God. God decides who gets what, and when.
If you have one of these gifts, mostly you know that you do. Many of these gifts are especially rare among Lutherans (tongues, interpretation of tongues, distinguishing spirits) but they do exist in other denominations and places and certainly existed in the Bible. I once heard a woman pray in Hebrew (which I studied in college and seminary) though she did not understand what she was saying. Most Lutherans relate to God differently than some denomination, that’s why some of these gifts are rare among Lutherans. And as for tongues, many Christians say they have this gift than actually do. Sometimes people pretend they speak in tongues because it makes them feel important. Other gifts are more common among Lutherans: wise counsel (wisdom) clear understanding (knowledge) simple trust (faith) healing the sick (a few people’s prayers for healing seem to be answered more than others’) proclamation (of the gospel) If you have one of these gifts, I encourage you to pray about how to use it for God’s Kingdom. If you don’t have a gift, you can pray to God and ask for it. Sometimes when people pray for these, they get a temporary, one-time gift of that ability. When I have prayed for someone, at times I’ve gotten a clear and immediate sense of how to help that person. That’s how the Spirit can work. Sometimes people are given such a gift permanently, for a lifetime. There’s no guarantee you will get a particular gift, if you ask the Spirit for one, but you never know until you ask. The stronger your relationship with God, the more likely you are to get the special spiritual gift you want, that doesn’t mean you aren’t a good or strong Christian. Many Christians never get the special spiritual gift they might desire.

Holy Spirit, the gifts you give are wonderful. Strengthen my relationship with you. Please give to me any of your gifts so that I might use it to help others. Amen

4/17/20

Galatians 5:22 …the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.


There are nine gifts of the Holy Spirit that Paul mentions in Galatians. In my experience, they all are connected, but most people are especially gifted in one area. Today’s devotion is a challenge: determine which of the fruits above is yours. As you think about each of these gifts, try to think of times when you exhibited that particular gift. Pray about which fruit the Holy Spirit has given you in abundance. The idea is not to be particularly proud or modest about your gift, but simply recognize that gift for what it is. Another way to do this exercise is to ask a person close to you (especially those living with you now during the COVID-19 confinement) what your special gift or gifts is/are. If they are honest, you’ll get an assessment of how you appear to others. If they are willing do the same for them. Was the gift you picked what the one close to you picked? If so, then it is pretty certain that that fruit of the spirit is your particular gift. If not, share your pick with the other person. Discuss. Which of these is the greater gift and why? Once you have determined your particular gift, consider and pray how you could use that gift for God’s Kingdom.

Holy Spirit, you give Christians fruits to help others. Show me what my gift or gifts are, and inspire me to use that gift to bring joy to others. Amen

4/16/20

Jonah 2:2, 9b 2:2“I called to the LORD out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. 9b Deliverance belongs to the LORD!”

Jonah is in a tight spot. He is facing death by “fish-swallowing.” In ancient Judaism, Sheol is a place where the dead wait for judgment, a dark lifeless world of endless waiting.
It may seem with our COVID-19 shelter order that we are in such a place. But our situation is different. We have light and the possibility of more light. Day by day, more light comes into the world and spring draws closer. The sun will shine, the earth will get green and life moves on. And every month that passes, we get closer to a vaccine.
What are we to do with ourselves until then? Focus on the things we can control. Keep your personal areas clean so you are not surrounded by chaos. Pray as Jonah did, so that we all might draw closer to God and understand heavenly things better.
Stories like this one are crucial to our faith, because when we call on God, God delivers us. With fewer distractions now than ever before, why not draw closer to our Creator?

Lord God Almighty, teach us what we should learn now that you have our attention. Help us to focus on you now, so we will remain in your tender care after the feverish pace of life continues, once again, whenever that may be. Amen
4/15/20

Colossians 3:9-10 … you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.

When Jesus was resurrected, he looked the same, but he was NOT the same. Jesus was more powerful than he had been on earth. He was restored to the power he had had in heaven before his earthly life. He could do anything! He was new. Jesus was able to walk through walls and appear and disappear at will. He persuaded his disciples he was alive by eating a piece of fish.
The miracle of the resurrection is that WE have much more power over our physical bodies, also. Many of the things that drive our lives on earth: hunger, thirst, fatigue, will be gone or their power over us greatly diminished.
If we trust in the power of the resurrection, already these mundane parts of life will have less hold on us. We will be able to strip off the old self, and live life in a new way. The rest of Colossians 3 talks about what that looks like in greater detail, and I encourage you to read it. Because of what Christ did, with His help, we can be clothed in love and more focused on heavenly things, as Jesus is.
Because of the resurrection, if we ask to be re-clothed in a new, better self, we will be. And in heaven, I’m convinced we will be fully renewed as Jesus was.

Jesus Christ, clothe us with virtue, so that we may be renewed and more like you. Amen.
4/14/20

Romans 12:11-12 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.


Are you going “stir-crazy” from COVID-19 yet? “Stir-crazy” is an old expression my mother and grandmother used with us kids on a rainy or snowstormy day. It means getting psychologically unbalanced as a result of confinement. It usually meant for us that we were bundled up in raincoats or overcoats regardless of the weather and sent outside, unless it was actually dangerous. My mother and grandmother knew what we kids didn’t- that sometimes when we kids were restless we didn’t know it, and getting outside was a cure.
Are we restless Christians? What does the resurrection do for us, here and now in the second locked-down day of Eastertide 2020? Well, not much, unless we reach out for that new life that Christ brings. We can feel sorry for ourselves and languish inside, or we can get outside and enjoy the cold but sunny weather we have today.
That helps, but what helps most of all is reaching for help beyond ourselves. Because of what Christ did for us on Good Friday and Easter, we never have to go it alone, even if we are confined alone. Christ is always with us. We can reach out to Christ for patience. For most of us, that is just doing what our pastor and family prayed for us long ago “give him/her patience in suffering” at our confirmation. Patience is what Paul wanted for the Romans long ago, and for us all.

Risen Lord, as you were patient on Good Friday, so give us patience to bear what we must, to help others and keep our loved ones safe. Amen.
4/13/20

John 20:1-2,11-18    Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” According to our gospels, it was to Mary that the risen Christ first appeared. That meant that Mary and Jesus had a special relationship. No doubt on that first Easter, Mary came to the tomb simply because she wanted to be close to her Lord. It’s not unusual for a person who was close to someone to visit their grave often.
But I also think Mary was the first to see Jesus because she went first. The disciples only came later, when she got them. I believe that if we seek out our risen Lord, we will find Him.
Other things are important to note about this story. First, Mary came to the tomb not because she was sure Jesus would rise but simply because she could not stay away. If we do not develop closeness with Jesus Christ, we will see few miracles .
Second, when Jesus first appeared Mary did not recognize him, mainly because she did not really expect him. So it is with us. If we look around at the world and don’t expect him, we may not see Christ, or if we do, we may not recognize Him and His work. But if we expect Christ to be present, we will see him in many wonderful ways.
Third, in this story Christ is living. We do not serve a dead God or an absent one. Jesus Christ is alive and present in this world, now and always. He is Risen!

Dear God, we thank you for raising Jesus from the dead. Help us to stay close to him. Help us to see him in unexpected ways and unexpected faces. Amen.
HAPPY EASTER!

Easter Sunday 4/12/20


John 20:1-2,11-18    Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” According to our gospels, it was to Mary that the risen Christ first appeared. That meant that Mary and Jesus had a special relationship. No doubt on that first Easter, Mary came to the tomb simply because she wanted to be close to her Lord. It’s not unusual for a person who was close to someone to visit their grave often.
But I also think Mary was the first to see Jesus because she went first. The disciples only came later, when she got them. I believe that if we seek out our risen Lord, we will find Him.
Other things are important to note about this story. First, Mary came to the tomb not because she was sure Jesus would rise but simply because she could not stay away. If we do not develop closeness with Jesus Christ, we will see few miracles .
Second, when Jesus first appeared Mary did not recognize him, mainly because she did not really expect him. So it is with us. If we look around at the world and don’t expect him, we may not see Christ, or if we do, we may not recognize Him and His work. But if we expect Christ to be present, we will see him in many wonderful ways.
Third, in this story Christ is living. We do not serve a dead God or an absent one. Jesus Christ is alive and present in this world, now and always. He is Risen!

Dear God, we thank you for raising Jesus from the dead. Help us to stay close to him. Help us to see him in unexpected ways and unexpected faces. Amen.
HAPPY EASTER!
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