Friday, March 27

By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum
Psalm 23
Reflection—v. 23 ‘…and I will dwell in the house of the Lord’

What does it mean to make someplace a home? This past fall my family and I purchased and moved into our first home, but oddly enough, my new residence isn’t the first place that comes to mind when I think of the home I’ve made here for myself and my family. I think of my community and how they have taught me to read the Bible in ways I couldn’t perceive before. I think of how the moment my daughter bursts into the room where we worship and eat together multiple voices shout out reminders about her peanut-allergy and stash nut products away so no harm comes to her. I think of the people with whom I can be angry and disappointed and joyful and silly and my whole beloved-broken self, knowing that there’s no judgment because they’re beloved and broken too and I am not alone. Being in community isn’t always so wistfully blissful, but it does remind me of what God desires for us: home. God desires for us, pursues for us, a place to rest our heads at night that offers shelter and security and the dignity we all deserve. But in addition to the physical shelter that is so essential, God also desires for each of us places of security where we know we can come and be ourselves, embraced for our full humanity, not told to move along, but told to sit and rest awhile because we belong here. The church can be that place—let’s make a home for one another right here.

Prayer Let us dwell with you, O Lord, and lead us into safe spaces where we can be ourselves and know that we are loved.

Thursday, March 26

By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum
John 9:1-41
Reflection—v. 34 ‘You were born entirely in sins… are you trying to teach us?’

Before they drive him out of the synagogue, the leaders balk at the audacity of the beggar-turned-prophet who outwits their persistent questions and offers to elucidate instead. They are trying to reason, question, logic-out, or even theologize what has happened to this once over-looked poor beggar who, along with the man who healed him, no longer fit into their limited paradigm of how God works. As this clever evangelist and a busy-at-work Jesus become progressively disruptive and unignorable, the leaders become increasingly unable (and perhaps unwilling) to accept and perceive the messy beauty of what’s transpired—that God-with-us wasn’t afraid to get down in the dirt and empower this prophet who can plainly speak for himself. The leaders bring up the man’s sinfulness, a convenient reason to discredit his voice and silence his experience. They grasp for any reason not to hear wisdom from a poor man they not-so-secretly wish had stayed in his lane. If one spends any time with our sacred text, it should be unsurprising that God’s voice so often speaks from the margins–from the mouths of the poor, the homeless, the disabled, and the neglected. Yet, do we give credence to these voices, or do we, like the grasping synagogue leaders, question what they could have to teach us? God is still busy out there on those streets. May we be open enough not to miss God’s handiwork in the stories and experiences of others.

Prayer God at work, help us to listen and to be willing to learn, especially from those we don’t expect to have something to teach us.

Tuesday, March 24th

By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum
Ephesians 5:8-14
Reflection—v. 11 ‘expose them’

Listening to the news about our country’s current state of affairs can be a practice in self-inflicted misery—it’s disheartening. Is there no one above corruption? Is there anyone willing to listen with reason and compassion? As I listen, I wind myself up with self-righteousness that quickly turns to resentment and despair. I want people to see what seems too clear to me! I want these crooked politicians and all their broken systems to be exposed! But then there are also these other times, when I myself know there are things I would rather conceal—all the ways that I am selfish, the many instances when I have benefited from privilege, the mistakes I’ve made, the times when I’ve said the wrong or hurtful thing. I don’t want anyone to know these things about me, lest they know that I’m imperfect too. On my healthiest of days, I know in my heart that none of us are perfect. The more willing I am to expose my own short-comings instead of squirreling them away in shame, the better I am able to mature and be transformed by the loving truth that I am complicit and sinful, that I have things to work on, but I am also beloved. Walking into the light, letting yourself be exposed for who you truly are (simultaneously beloved and broken), can be a bit of a painful process, but I believe it leads to wholeness, health, and a loving truthfulness we too often neglect. I pray for our leaders, and all of us who hold power, to be so exposed, that it may bring life, truth, and well-being for us all.

Prayer Healing spirit, descend upon us to bring light and truth and life!

Monday, March 23rd

By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum
1 Samuel 16:1-13
Reflection—v. 7 ‘do not look at his appearance’

This story is pretty classic disrupt-the-norm-defy-expectations God. Samuel is seeking the next king of Israel, but surprise! it’s not any of Jesse’s older, stronger, more qualified progenies, but the uninvited youngest of the bunch left to babysit the sheep! God’s choice is confoundingly not-obvious, but we’re told it is because God does not see as we appearance-obsessed mortals do. God understands the rich intricacies of a human heart for all its worth and value and judges from within. How odd then, isn’t it, that as followers of this heart-perceiving God who seeks the depths and complexities within human beings, we are so often satisfied with our face-value judgments of one another. Throughout our sacred texts God is choosing to work through, speak through, and lead through the unexpected, the marginalized, and the overlooked. We make all sorts of judgments about who can lead or serve, about whose voice has value, about who is in and who is out. To succeed or lead you must have the proper credentials and enough education. You can’t be too young, but you shouldn’t be too old either. You must dress a certain way and talk a certain way. It helps if you’re a certain gender, race, and sexual orientation too. Yet God continuously subverts our expectations and imagined regulations. Quite often God calls who we may least expect. Let us not be too hung up on appearances to miss when God is up to something new.

Prayer O God, surprise us, and let us be open-hearted enough to perceive the many people you work through every day.

Sunday, March 22nd

By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum
1 Samual 16:1-13
Reflection—v. 2 ‘How can I go? If Saul hears of it…’

I can relate to Samuel’s hesitance after God urges him to seek out the next king of Israel. ‘If Saul finds out I’m looking for his replacement he will literally kill me,’ says Samuel. ‘Just take a cow with you and pretend you’re going to give a sacrifice,’ God says, imploring Samuel to be a little crafty in his work-around the system. God asks Samuel to subvert the powers that be, and while it’s cool to think about being a rebel for the Lord, it wasn’t as easy as blasting a contentious Facebook post. You see, I too like to fancy myself a rebel sometimes, with my turquoise hair and my tattoos, but in truth, deep down inside I like following the rules, getting pats on the head, and well, being liked. Yet try as I might to avoid it, if I position myself with God’s people on the margins, I seem unable to escape uncomfortable conflict. I find myself in situations where I must pushback when I would rather be agreeable. Where I must step in the midst of arguments when I would rather turn away. Where I must hide my intentions to protect the wellbeing of my community when I would rather trust systems and policies. Because the longer I find myself trying to be a faithful follower of our expectation-sabotaging God the more I find myself questioning whether ‘the powers that be’ have the poor’s best interests at heart (spoiler alert: they don’t!). When we’d rather not, may God give us the courage to be crafty power-subverting God-followers like Samuel and answer God’s command to ring in a different kind of kingdom.

Prayer Give us the courage, O God, to subvert the powers that do your children harm.

Saturday, March 21st

By: Joyce Evans & Sandra Hill
Psalm 95
Reflection—v.3 ‘…for the Lord is a great God’

Sandra and Joyce sat in Mercy’s art room discussing their options for housing. They crunched numbers, called some places, and bemoaned the cold rainy weather and their limited options. In the midst of these everyday moments we believe God is present. Changing the topic, Joyce commented on our Bible study from earlier that day, commending another member’s commentary on the scripture in our group discussion of the passage. When asked for her own wisdom she contributed: Joyce: To me, sometimes I think about giving up, but I know I can’t because God’s got my back. Mostly, I know I’m a child of God—I do know. That’s basically it. To know that God chooses me feels good. Even in moments when I think he doesn’t, he does, and it feels good. Sandra: He’s a great God. What’s great about him? Everything. I’m living. I’m not dead. He saved my life one time. I was run over. Someone ran me over and left me for dead, and God was there for me. I’m blessed, and I love God for that. (Sandra pointed to some of her companions) And I’ve got them right there.

Prayer Thank you God, for a love we can see and feel. For all of the ways that we experience your greatness and mercy. Amen.

Friday, March 20th

By: Kevin Harris
Psalm 95
Reflection—v. 2 ‘let us come into his presence…’

God shows us how truly great he is. Our father could have been frustrated with all the groaning and distrust from our ancestors, but God said ‘I will keep my generations for they are mine.’ God claims us as his own. God placed a great spirit inside each of us. This spirit helps us to know God, to worship him, and to experience his grace. We don’t have to bargain with God, but can just be like the beloved child who asks our Lord ‘Where do I go? Who do you need me to see? How do I love?’ We are to wait on the Lord, yes, but God also wants us to ask for what we need, and to seek God’s guidance. That’s the worship that God wants from us. God wants us to desire goodness from above, and to live with purpose, but also to know who we belong to. God our Mother and Father who art in heaven hears our praise and guides us back from pain. To the creator, I will just say ‘yes.’

Prayer Heavenly Parent, you know what we need. Guide us through our difficult times so that we may know that we are in your presence. Be attentive to our needs, and help us to always remember that we belong to you and that you love us so deeply.

Thursday, March 19th

By: Matthew Hyatt
John 4:5-42
Reflection—v. 9-10 ‘The Samaritan woman said to him…Jesus answered her…’

While I was reading this passage, I was taken by three observations. The first was that we are told that Jews and Samaritans do not associate with each other and yet Jesus reaches out and engages the woman in conversation. This is a clear example of Jesus crossing boundaries and expanding his ministry and guidance to someone for whom it would not traditionally have been offered. Furthermore, the woman engages him back. She reaches right back across those very same boundaries to join Jesus in conversation. The second point is that the woman does not blindly accept what Jesus tells her. At the same time, neither does she reject what he says without at least attempting to understand. She participates in this discussion even while acknowledging that they come from different backgrounds, have differing world-views, and even their own religions. This stuck out to me particularly when I look at the current political climate and the polarization that prevents us from even talking to the other party in a civil manner. The third thing that stood out to me was that the townsfolk were also welcoming and willing to engage and learn from Jesus. They were willing to listen to Jesus first because of the woman’s testimony, but they also came to their own conclusions about Jesus based on their own experience with him. They did not react with fear, mistrust, or revulsion at a foreign outsider who came into their midst and began teaching a new religious doctrine. They chose to give Jesus the benefit of the doubt and see what God had brought them.

Prayer Jesus, lend us your understanding so that we may engage respectfully with everyone.

Wednesday, March 18th

By: Bethany Apelquist
John 4:5-42
Reflection—v. 11 ‘Sir, you have no bucket’

We all have a friend who is the practical thinker, the one who points out all the ways a plan could go wrong, the friend who can look at the resources and assess the best way forward. I imagine this woman sitting at the well with Jesus was that friend. Jesus asks her for some water and she points out the obvious problem that Jesus seems to be overlooking, that he doesn’t have a bucket. But then Jesus surprises her and offers her the unexpected–he offers her water that doesn’t require a bucket, he offers her water that is life itself. It is easy to think that if there is no bucket there is no water, that if we don’t have a picture perfect plan, God can’t work. But what if we opened our hearts to be suprised by God, to be suprised by the ways that God can move, and to be surprised by the gifts that God offers each of us–gifts of grace, gifts of creativity, gifts of mercy, gifts of kindness, and gifts that don’t fit into our small buckets, but rather fill and overflow our hearts and our communities with the unexpected. Maybe then we will feel more free–more free to offer others gifts of love, mercy, and kindness. Maybe then we will be more free to be creative, to try something new, and to believe that just like Jesus offered the woman water that satisfies her soul, Jesus offers water for our souls.

Prayer Thank you God for all the ways you surprise us and the way you remind us of our precious gifts. May we be free to be creative as we share our gifts with others.

Tuesday, March 17th

By: Bethany Apelquist
Romans 5:1-11
Reflection—v.5 ‘hope does not disappoint us’

We can’t expect life to be neat and tidy, in fact life is often rather messy. We know that our stories are complicated and full of a range of experiences–some that are so beautiful but also some that rock our world and leave us feeling lost. We have seasons of life that are full of disappointments. I know that I often look around and it can feel like the whole world is crumbling. I feel the sting of disappointment as I look around and I see violence, I see injustice, I see that many don’t have what they need, and I see the shadow of death everywhere. I bet you see it too. But friends, that is what makes hope a bold and brave choice. It is bold to see the way things are and hope for something better. It is brave to look death in the eye and hope for resurrection. I was recently flipping through a hymnal and saw a song titled ‘Live Into Hope.’ I love the imagery of actively living into hope–the idea that we don’t just idly hope for a better future, but that we actively hope, that we live into hope, and that our hope moves us to action. We hope for justice and we do justice. We hope for peace and we do peace. We live into hope. So this lent may we boldly, and bravely, live into hope, because that kind of hope does not disappoint us.

Prayer Lord, help us to live in hope, a hope that will never disappoint us.