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.

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.

Monday, March 16th

By: Maurice Lattimore
Romans 5:1-11
Reflection–v.8 ‘while we were still sinners Christ died for us’

When I reflect back on this passage, it shows me just how grateful I am for the mercy and grace that was shown to me through our Lord Jesus Christ—which through no merits of my own do I deserve but only through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. And when life throws us curves, just keep fouling them off. The right pitch will come, but when it does, be prepared to run the bases. We may encounter many defeats, but with Christ’s Spirit within us we will not be defeated. Those curveballs are always coming. Eventually, you learn to hit some of them. Keep hope alive! Hope does not disappoint us because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For when we were without strength and still sinners Christ died for us. Amen! We’ve been justified and saved by his life, death, and resurrection. He has reconciled us back to God almighty. Praise God, Hallelujah! Peace and love always! Peace!

Prayer Father God, we thank and love you for your mercy and the grace you have shown us, allowing us to be reconciled back to you through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen, Amen, and Amen!

Sunday, March 15th

By: Bill Smith
Romans 5:1-11
Reflection—v. 1 ‘we are justified by faith’

Paul’s use of justification by faith in this passage is a reminder to us that our salvation is dependent on what Christ has done for us at Calvary. Whether you subscribe to a substitutionary atonement, a scapegoat atonement, or look at Christ’s death as an act of nonviolence, I believe that Christ does for us what we could not do, nor would be able to do, on our own. He put us back in right standing with God—and not because of what we have done or not done. Paul contends that whether we were Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, or female, we all come under the loving embrace of God’s amazing grace and the gift of love that Christ poured out for us on the cross. We then should live as forgivenloved-folks and share the knowledge of this great gift with others.

Prayer Christ Jesus, we thank you for your amazing gift of grace, help us to share the knowledge of this great gift with all we meet!

Friday, March 13th

By: Chad Hyatt
John 3.1-17
Reflection—v. 16 ‘God so loved the world that he gave’

Following Jesus is to be overwhelmed by generous love. God’s love is for all, and God doesn’t love some more than others or others less than some. God loves us all— passionately, profoundly, particularly, and without prejudice (other than God’s own powerful predilection for human well-being.) It’s funny how we read ‘God so loved the world that he gave’ and think it means something other than what it says. The obvious emphasis is love so generous that its ultimate expression is the gift of Godself for us, plain and simple. According to John, that love has been giving since the beginning. All of creation is an expression of that love. God takes our flesh and pitches a tent to make a home with us as an expression of that love. We are not wrong, of course, to see the cross within the loving gift of God’s self for us. But we are misguided to think the cross is just a piece in some cosmic chess match we suppose God is playing. The cross is nothing more and nothing less than what love looks like at full measure, unbowed even in the face of death. We were made by and for that same love. John calls the transformation love begets in us being born again. Other gospels call it taking up the cross. To take up the cross is to love like Jesus, no more and no less. Whether we like it or not, loving human beings means being opposed by the powers that lift some up while crushing others. And regardless of their sometimes benevolent rhetoric, those powers will fight back. The cross just means choosing to love people anyway. Just like our God.

Prayer Your love, O God, flows from your heart as the gift of your self, transforming us into love.

Thursday, March 12th

By: Chad Hyatt
John 3.1-17
Reflection—v. 3 ‘born again’

The encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus is a contrast between conventional and comfortable religious practice and the revolutionary demand of Jesus. Nicodemus ticks all the boxes as a member of the religious ruling elite. He even recognizes where and with whom God is present. But so do the crowds in Jerusalem. And Jesus doesn’t trust them, either. His support is vocal—at least ‘at night’ and in a private meeting. But Jesus calls for radical transformation. He says, in essence, that human beings need to start all over again from scratch. Their perspectives are so at odds it is like Nicodemus and Jesus are speaking different languages. What is at stake between the two is what it means to be faithful. It isn’t enough to see where God seems to be and then do nothing more. To be born anew is to see God mightily at work, yes—but then to join full-on in the work God is doing. Our churches are nearly empty. And we’re scrambling to attract more people back to the faith. But our faith doesn’t stop with filling a pew. Jesus isn’t working Nicodemus for a capital campaign or calling him to deeper doctrinal development. Encountering Jesus in the Gospel of John is to stand face to face with the missional movement of God’s love: Jesus has come from God into the world in order to save the world so that we might be sent out in the same way and for the same thing. Anything less than that, and we might as well start over. Or as Jesus says, it’s time to be born again.

Prayer Jesus, you call us to find you in the fullness of your love for the world; we are born anew.

Wednesday, March 11th

By: Chad Hyatt
Genesis 12:1-4a
Reflection—v. 2 ‘I will make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing’

Our little community isn’t exactly what you might call famous. Our only ‘signage’ is some spray-painted graffiti by a beloved-but-angry member who wanted to describe for us exactly what ‘Mercy’ does in his opinion. But, hey, at least it says Mercy. Most of us will never be what our celebrity culture considers famous, but we can be known for the kind of persons and communities we seek to be. What if our names were used as a blessing? One of our blessings is the way so many of us have come to see our little community as ‘home.’ We’re loud and wild at times, but also kind and tender, too. Even so, we make a home for one another. It isn’t the work of any one of us. Rather, it is the work of all of us. Many of us who find no place of belonging much of any place else, find it here somehow. A flood of recent moments come to mind. I think of my friend, who has been in and out of the hospital a lot of late, who will tell any confused-looking doctor who will listen, ‘This is my family; say whatever you need to in front of them.’ I think of another friend or two, who find themselves occasionally in the care of other institutions, telling the folks in charge about their church and the calls we get to come and visit. I think about the particularity of love, which doesn’t look exactly the same for any one of us and is often very hard to discern, especially when relationships aren’t as healthy as you might hope but care is still necessary. I think about the friends that tell other friends to come and see what’s happening. And then that person remarks, ‘I like y’all’s hospitality.’ That’s the kind of famous all of our communities could be. And that seems like a blessing to me.

Prayer God of blessing, let our fame be found in our loving care for one another.

Tuesday, March 10

by Chad Hyatt
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
Reflection—‘that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all’

The Temptations sang it in the Seventies: ‘Ball of confusion… that’s what the world is today!’ The old folks said we live in a ‘sin-sick world’. But it’s also a ‘grace-drenched’ world, as a professor of mine once observed. Both of these can be true at the same time. But one of these is by far greater, and that one is the grace of God. We live in critical times, yes—as in truth, every generation does in one way or another. But in our despair, we are prone to underestimate the grace of God. For Paul, what God has done in Jesus calls all the world into God’s saving justice. Grace is the generous welcome of God that heals our wounded world upon the rough wood of the cross. Just keeping your head above water when the waves of chaos seem to ever swarm around us is no easy task. How much harder is it for us to faithfully follow Jesus when God’s saving justice calls us to be fully present precisely where the wounds and brokenness of our world— and of ourselves—are laid bare and bloody. It’s hard to share your food with the hungry. It’s hard to welcome the stranger. It’s hard to make peace at the knife-point of violence. But always and in every way, the grace of God is there, and it weaves it’s healing way amid the economic injustice, systemic racism and genderism, and hateful fear that encamp in every dark corner of our culture. God is always present, just as we who follow God are called to be present, even when we feel forsaken. God is at work, just as we are called to work, even when we wonder if our labor is in vain. Grace is enough, especially when we feel we are not. Upon this grace all the promises of God for human well-being and liberation rest. And those promises are guaranteed for every one of us.

Prayer: Grace-full God, let our hearts not be so overwhelmed that we forget your grace is enough.