THE 2007 DAILY DEVOTIONAL GUIDE FOR LENT
Day #1, February 21: Ash Wednesday
Day #2, February 22: Jane Fairman
Day #3, February 23: Ginny Rhodes
Day #4, February 24: Peter Fenney
Day #5, February 26: Laura Thompson
Day #6, February 27: Jim Fidler
Day #7, February 28: The Rev. Mel Lindberg
Day #8, March 1: Suzanne Walters
Day #9, March 2: Diane Dunphy
Day #10, March 3: Renee Schrader
Day #11, March 5: Bob Lancashire
Day #12, March 6: Vicki Givler
Day #13, March 7: Dale Jacobs
Day #14, March 8: Lorin Beaber
Day #15, March 9: Miriam Keating
Day #16, March 10: Mark Votaw
Day #17, March 12: Garry Leed
Day #18, March 13: Elaine Fidler
Day #19, March 14: Cindy Ferry
Day #20, March 15: Helen Heller
Day #21, March 16: Juanita Bathol
Day #22, March 17: Steve Ross
Day #23, March 19: Betty Tracy
Day #24, March 20: Mary Gsellman
Day #25, March 21: Todd Elsass
Day #26, March 22: Beth Heller
Day #27, March 23: Carol Rossbach
Day #28, March 24: Sue Heyard
Day #29, March 26: Brian Milek
Day #30, March 27: Joyce Gibeaut
Day #31, March 28: Evelyn Moore
Day #32, March 29: Dave Palumbo
Day #33, March 30: Brian Kay
Day #34, March 31: Debbie Fox
Day #35, April 2: Mabel Kolarik
Day #36, April 3: Ruth Elsass
Day #37, April 4: Charlie Danner
Day #38, April 5: Mabel Snyder
Day #39, April 6: Jayne Schrader
Day #40, April: Pastor Sherwindt
Day #1, February 21: Ash Wednesday Return to the Lord
SCRIPTURE READING (Joel 2:12-13)
“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.
MEDITATION: When we gathered for worship on Ash Wednesday I shared one of the powerful faith stories we've been blessed to enjoy here at Zion. It is the story of Blair Woodside. Blair is a longtime member of Zion, and a well-known figure in North Canton, having worked at the Hoover Company during the glory years, and long before. Blair is now eighty-six, and has been the primary care-giver for his wife Marge, who suffered a head and neck injury in their home fourteen-and-a-half years ago, right around the time of their celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary, and has been paralyzed from the neck down ever since. Blair is the reason that Marge shattered the odds and has been with us for these many years.
I was surprised this past week to find Blair in the hospital. He survived a scare himself, but was in pretty good humor when I saw him. From out of the blue, he discovered that he was bleeding internally. As can often happen when that occurs, by the time you get to the hospital, one's blood pressure has begun to drop and it's hard to find a vein to start the blood transfusion. Buzzers go off, lights flash, medical personnel scurry around. It's quite a panic. So, Blair thought that this might be it. His son was right there, and, since Blair has always been a rock in times of crisis, he thought that it might be time to share his last words in order to prepare those he loved for his passing. He searched and searched, but could not think of a thing to say! He was racking his brain for something profound to be remembered by, and this man who always had the right word for the right occasion went to the cupboard and found it bare! Nothing came to mind.
He just laughed, both because nothing came to mind and because he was amused by what mattered most to him when death seemed imminent. Oh, don't misunderstand. Blair's chuckling at himself wasn't intended to mask the gravity of facing death, and it certainly wasn't the first time death came close. These last fourteen-and-a-half years have been filled with daily reminders that death could be hiding in the corner, just out of sight, behind the door, waiting for any opportunity to strike. It hasn't made Blair fearful, but resolute - resolute in action, resolute in faith, resolute in prayer. Not
a day passes without acknowledging his gratitude to God for the many extra moments his family has had with Marge, with a deep humility for the care he's been allowed to share and the service he's been able to offer.
“Pastor,” he said, “I've lived a blessed life. I'm ready. I look forward to meeting my Savior. I've tried to do the best I can.” Blair has been faithful at Zion for many years, serving in virtually every capacity at one time or another. He surely is ready for whatever may come his way. I must confess that these kinds of conversations are one of the many privileges that come with being a pastor. I know that in public I'm the one who is supposed to proclaim the powerful truth of the gospel; but in private it is nothing short of inspiring seeing how faith has formed the lives of God's saints. The truth is that Blair's is just one of the many powerful stories of faith with which Zion has been blessed. That doesn't make his any less unique and certainly not any less impressive for those of us who have been blessed to see it and to share it. In fact, this Lenten devotional guide is intended to tap the wide range of faith's stories that live and thrive among us. It is my hope that you will find as much joy in reading these daily stories of faith as I have had in assembling them.
PRAYER: Almighty and ever-living God, you love everything you have made and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repentant of our sins, we may obtain from you full pardon and forgiveness, through your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen
DAY #2, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22 JANE FAIRMAN
SCRIPTURE READING (Hebrews 13:16)
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God..
MEDITATION: Using our abilities is a response in faith to God's gift of salvation to us. It reflects a heart and mind committed to the kingdom. It shows a love for God. As part of the body of Christ, we are responsible for helping God's people. Out of the inspirations in my life, three situations stand out in my mind. Each one planted a simple idea in my heart by dedicated individuals, each one working from an impulse of goodness to improve life for others.
My parents were wonderful role models. My first recollections of experiencing good works are as a six-year old. More than once, my brother and I were dragged to a hospital or nursing home waiting room where we had to sit for what seemed hours while my parents visited individuals. There were endless clothing drives, quilting bees, and rummage sales when we were asked to spend our play time being helpful. I remember my mother cooking soup for a sick neighbor or taking meals to needy families.
Next came high school and youth fellowship. Mr. Andrews was a highly motivated leader. We painted fences and walls, raked leaves, mowed grass and ran errands. The people that we helped were amazing in their gratitude and left us with changed lives.
Thirdly, was when my father was diagnosed with cancer in 1980. During the nine months of his illness, the response by caring, generous and kind individuals was more than we could have imagined. It helped me to understand how I could make a difference in others' lives also. God doesn't necessarily expect us to make elaborate plans to serve others. We just need to be alert to the needs of people as we go about our daily lives.
PRAYER: Dear Lord - As we are in Christ, help us to respond to the opportunities for living the gospel in acts of doing good. In your name we pray. Amen
RETURN TO THE LORD YOUR GOD
Day #3, Friday, February 23 Ginny Rhodes
SCRIPTURE READING (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
MEDITATION: Traditionally, Lent is a time of reassessment and introspection, a time of examination and prioritizing. Often the focus is on sacrifice, not giving but giving up, wondering what pleasure or favored food we would forgo during Lent.
As I travel the path of my spiritual journey, I have found that my attention is better placed on the giving, rather than the giving up. To walk in The Way of Christ is to look for opportunities to give. Christ died for us, and even as he did so he considered the needs of the very people who had nailed him to the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” [Luke 23:34] He had the generosity to reassure the thief on the cross beside him that “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” [Luke 23:43]
To live in love as Christ loved us is to live with our minds and our very hearts centered on stewardship, because discipleship and stewardship are entwined. Both of these things call us to care for our church, to nurture it, and to support it. The more I open my heart and my mind to giving, the greater my faith. And as my faith grows, I feel closer and closer to God.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, come to me and open my mind and my heart, I beseech you. Heavenly Father, guide me through this day so that I can delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen.
"RETURN TO THE LORD YOUR GOD
GOD IS GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL
ABOUNDING IN STEADFAST LOVE"
Day #4, Saturday, February 24 Peter Fenney
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 3: 8, 10-11)
John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance: “Bear fruit that befit repentance….” And the multitudes asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Let them who have two coats share with those who have none; and let them who have food do likewise.” Many wondered about John, whether perhaps he were the Christ. John answered, “I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am unworthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people
MEDITATION: Those words can strike a strain of self admonition: “Have I done enough to help the needy, the homeless, the victims, to give to the point that it hurts?” Last June, there was a comment in the New York Times that the documents of the late Dr. Martin Luther King were to be auctioned off with the proceeds going to the King family. The Mayor of Atlanta came to the rescue finding contributors who were moved to save the thousands of Dr. King's personal documents from ending up in the hands of someone “who might eventually sell them off as curiosities.”
Also noted was the fact that preserving, housing, displaying and providing research access for the large amount of paper was another necessary need. The King Center could be used to store the letters, speeches and sermons, except for the fact that the Center had been neglected and was in serious need for revival. If Dr. King could speak, he would certainly tell us to use our treasure to support those in desperate need. Still, saving his legacy for the Civil Rights Movement, and for all of us as well, should be a necessary part of that admonition that Jesus gave his listeners those many years ago.
PRAYER: Prince of Peace - The work of the kingdom takes many forms, that of helping neighbors through sharing food, shelter, and clothing, that of strengthening safety nets to support people when they stumble and fall, and that of creating the institutions that keep hope alive through remembering the history of faithful people living courageously to battle evil in every age. We offer thanks for this history of faithfulness, and pray that we in our age will prove faithful to serving in ways that make our world more like the kingdom of your Son, in whose name we pray. Amen
Day #5, Monday, February 26 Laura Thompson
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 4:1-4)
Jesus was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. He ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone.'”
MEDITATION: Why do I give? I work in Corporate America, a place where giving something for nothing is unheard of. Decisions are made everyday that affect people's lives and futures. The impact on the bottom line is the key determinant of many decisions. Giving my time and leadership to Zion gives me strength and peace of mind to deal with this tumultuous balancing act. It helps me keep the daily struggle to do the right things alive. I believe that if you don't struggle or contemplate decisions, it may become too easy to do the wrong thing.
I give because it makes me feel like I've accomplished something meaningful, much more meaningful than meeting a corporate objective. In order to give, you had to have thought about not giving, at least for a short period of time. I might think about doing something else with my time or money. Then, when of my own free will, I push the temptation aside and focus on God's love and grace towards us, giving becomes fulfilling and easy.
Each night when I thank the Lord for the blessing of my son Christopher, I also ask the Lord to help me be the kind of Christian that my son thinks I am. He thinks I am strong, caring and giving. He sees me as a real person, who struggles everyday to do the right things. I don't always do the right things. However, I hope my son sees me as someone who doesn't stop trying. Giving to Zion is my way of continually trying. Setting this example for my son is one of the best gifts I can give him.
PRAYER: Almighty God - You have blessed us with the joy and care of children. As we bring them up, give us calm strength and patient wisdom, so that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good. Make us teachers and examples of righteousness for our children, and strengthen us in our own faith so that we may share eternally with our children the salvation you have given us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Day #6, Tuesday, February 27 Jim Fidler
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 4:16-19)
Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”.
MEDITATION:This passage reminds us that a purpose of our being is to demonstrate our fellowship with other living creatures and worship of Him who has blessed us with life and eternal life by utilizing the talents given us to help others. For many of us, the decision as to how to best do this is often a gradual one, rather than one of instant revelation. Volunteering and serving in various educational and charitable organizations enables us to grow closer to Him and enables us to realize how we grow emotionally and spiritually by impacting upon the lives of various individuals, some of whom we might otherwise never come in contact with.
We grow through our interaction not only with those who are friendly, but also with those who are hostile. Our actions demonstrate to others that regardless of their social position, God loves and cares for them. In this passage, Jesus is saying we should not retreat from this calling and not be dissuaded by the fact that the populace might not be initially receptive. We should continue these endeavors because the rewards to us are greater than any hardships we endure.
PRAYER: Almighty God - You sent your Son to proclaim your kingdom and to teach with authority about the things that reveal what you desire for us and of us. Open our lives to power of your love and give us eyes to see the needs of people around us who need to feel its presence, in Jesus' name. Amen
Return to the Lord your God
Day #7, Wednesday, February 28 The Rev. Mel Lindberg
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 5:1-11)
One day Jesus was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, who were partners with Simon. Jesus said to the fishermen, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be fishers of men.”
MEDITATION: What is my calling? What is God calling me to do with my life? What can I do to fulfill my calling from God today? Have those questions ever come to your mind? Those were questions like the ones I asked many years ago while I was in college and searching for answers to my deepest questions of my life. Did you know that God calls you into ministry for Jesus Christ? Every Christian is called, but not all Christians have fulfilled their calling.
Back in the summer of 1957 - yes, I know it dates me a bit - I had come home from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, and I was looking for work. I couldn't find any, so I used my GI Bill benefits to attend Youngstown State University Summer School. I took four Psychology courses and loved every one of them. On a warm summer afternoon on my way to my parents' home in Boardman, I stopped in Boardman Park to read, relax and pray. I had been seeking God's direction in my life. I had asked God many times, “Do you want me in ministry?” but never got a clear answer. I even cried about it.
I was sure God would call me like he called Moses, with a burning bush [Exodus 3:1 - 10], or like St. Paul being blinded and knocked down on the ground [Acts 9:1-19]. God has acted that way, but God did not act that way with me. On that lovely, quiet summer day in the park, something seemed different. I sensed Jesus' voice very
clearly saying, “Mel, I have been leading you and calling you for years. Come, follow me, and I will make you fish for the souls of men.” There were no more tears, nor any sense of insecurity. I knew that God was calling me to be a pastor. I looked up in Luke 4:9-11, and found the place where Jesus called common working men to follow him and “fish for the souls of men.” I thought, “Wow! I'm in fantastic company!” I had a year of college to finish, then seminary, and then I served as a full-time pastor from 1961 to 1998, when I retired. It has been challenging, and I have made a lot of mistakes, but it has been a very fulfilling calling. God is still using me, and I am still willing to serve wherever he calls me to go.
God still calls persons to be his people: preachers, healers, teachers, servants, leaders and followers. You are called. Take time during this Lenten period to search out God's calling for you and reaffirm that God has been calling you for a long time, just waiting for the right time for you to yield to his leadership.
PRAYER:Lord - Give us the strength to say Yes when we hear your call, not for our sake, but for the sake of helping others, in Jesus' name. Amen
Return to the Lord your God
Day #8, Thursday, March 1 Suzanne Walters
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 6:22-26)
Jesus lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.
“But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger.
“Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”
MEDITATION: The question has been asked: why do we give - of our time, talents, and treasures - to the Lord? My initial answer is in the form of a question: why wouldn't we? But upon further reflection, I can come up with dozens of reasons why we wouldn't, and the most obvious is that we don't have the time. We're all out of it.
ask for an accounting of what we have done with that life. Giving of our talents still requires time. Giving of our treasures requires the least amount of our time, but we may have a list of dozens of other items that require a great share of our treasures. In our house, we danced around this issue for years, and became quite good in our rationalizing just exactly why we could dedicate only a little of our time and talent to the church. After all, we had other obligations that required our time and attention, and we could only do so much.
About two years ago, right around this time of year, Brian and I had a spiritual experience like no other. Clearly the Holy Spirit had had enough of our rationalizing and decided to grab a hold of us by the scruff of the neck and shake us up a little, or a lot. We had planned a visit to the Smithbergers, whom many of you may recall had been members of Zion for a very short time in the mid-1990's. Robin was the choir director for several months until her husband, Steve, answered the call to enter Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus. He is now the Pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in London, Ohio, and we spent the weekend after Easter there two years ago.
In terms of membership and weekend attendance, their church is smaller than Zion, yet at the time, they had three services on Sunday mornings: an 8:00 a.m. traditional, a 9:15 a.m. contemporary, and a 10:30 a.m. traditional. We had never experienced a contemporary Lutheran service before and were quite looking forward to it. We arrived just as the 8:00 a.m. service was ending and were greeted as soon as we set foot in the door by a couple of members who noticed that we were visitors. We were shown the nursery for Casey and then were taken to the sanctuary. The instrumentalists quickly prepared for the service, and Pastor Steve changed from traditional vestments to the requisite black praise team shirt.
Once the service began and the guitars were leading contemporary sacred praise songs, and people were singing easy melodies, even clapping along in places, my children looked around with stunned smiles on their faces. This was quite a new experience for all of us! But it was the song, I Can Only Imagine, that really grabbed me. With tears streaming down my face, I listened to the lyrics, unable to sing along.
“I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by Your side. I can only imagine what my eyes will see when Your face is before me. I can only imagine. Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you, Jesus, or in awe of You be still? Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine, I can only imagine.”
That was the moment that changed us forever. The ride home from Columbus that Sunday was spent figuring out how to institute a contemporary service at Zion. But, more importantly, that was the moment when Brian and Suzanne Walters committed themselves to the Lord's service at Zion. There was no more worrying about not having enough time - the Spirit would take care of that. There was no more asking ourselves if we could afford the instruments and equipment that would need to be purchased to begin a praise service - things just have a way of working themselves out when we finally say Yes, and mean it. When we truly opened our hearts and minds and hands in service to the Lord, He did not saddle us with a burden, but enriched our lives with the gift of opportunity that we could truly only imagine.
PRAYER: Lord - Thank you for helping us to finally sense Your Spirit's touch and presence in our lives. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to use the gifts and talents that you have blessed us with, and help us to look to You when life's demands try to take over our commitment to Your service. Amen
Return, Give Thanks, Praise God!
Day #9, Friday, March 2 Diane Dunphy
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 6:30-35)
“Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same….. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High….”
MEDITATION: My inspiration to give and to serve comes from one particular verse above: “And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.” In other words, treat others as you would like to be treated. This has always been one of my favorites since I was a child.
My husband and I worked several times at a soup kitchen in Akron. The first time we went to serve in the soup kitchen, I did not know what to expect and was a little nervous. We went with a group from our church and arrived about an hour before the doors opened in order to get things set up. Tables needed to be set, food prepared, and so on. The doors opened and the people started coming in. I looked around at everyone coming to get a hot meal, men and women, young and old, and some with small children. And all I could see were individuals like me. They were no different: they were people, children of God, needing to be fed both physically and emotionally. I was blessed to be there.
There's an old saying, “You only get out of life what you put into it.” The best way to get something out of life is to give back, to share the blessings God has so graciously given to us with all. In so doing, our service to others comes back to us as a blessing.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, please help us to recognize and use the gifts you have given us, to see the face of God in those around us and to be your servants here on earth. In Christ's name we pray. Amen
Return, Give Thanks, Praise God!
Day #10, Saturday, March 3 Renee Schrader
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 8:16-18)
“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light. Take heed then how you hear; for to him who has will more be given, and from him who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”
MEDITATION: I had just graduated college with my degree in Education and was eager to find my first teaching job. As the school year approached with still no job, I realized that subbing would have to be the route I would take for now. I had signed up to be a sub in Cuyahoga Falls not really realizing, at the time, how far away it was or
how unfamiliar I was with that area. I finally got a call from them asking me to come in to get my paper work ready for the school year. The superintendent and I got along really well; I filled out some paper work and went home. The next day I got another call from them asking me to come back to talk about a job opening. Once I got there I was asked if I would like to be a long-term sub until, at least, January. I, of course, said Yes! The only issue was that it was Wednesday and school started on Monday! I was so nervous as I headed into my new school to get ready. I was pretty much told, “Here is your classroom, good luck!” I was overwhelmed to say the least, but began decorating and talking to other teachers about what I needed to do.
I soon found out I would have thirty 3rd graders and began to feel that I was in way over my head. There was still this feeling of excitement at having my own class, but I was also starting to feel completely lost! I spent all day Wednesday and Thursday working on my room. By Friday morning I was mentally exhausted. That's when God decided he needed to step in and remind me that He had it all under control and I just needed to trust in Him. As I was driving to Cuyahoga Falls on Friday, I was worrying about what would happen on Monday. Would I be able to control a class of thirty students, and did I even know what I was doing? That's when I looked up and saw the license plate of the car in from of me: this is what it said, “I'm able 2”.
I was completely dumbfounded! There it was right in front of me though, I'm able 2. I kept repeating it over and over in my head and thanking God for sending me that message. I guess when He wants you to know that He believes in you, it'll be right there! There are so many other ways, that school year that I know God never left me, never let me forget that I'm able 2. So, I give all that I have because of that reason right there: I'M ABLE 2! I'm able to give my time to the church in whatever way anyone needs me. I'm able to give financially, and I'm able to do whatever God has in store for me because He is always with us no matter what.
In closing, remember that childhood song, This Little Light of Mine? Here it is in case you forgot. “This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine. Oh, this little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine, This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine. Let it shine, all the time, let it shine. Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm going to let it shine.
Don't let Satan blow it out! I'm going to let it shine.”
PRAYER: Dear God - Guide us on the path that you have chosen for us. Remind us that we are able to do Your work and that you will be with us through it all. Let our lights shine so that we might glorify You in heaven. In Jesus' name, Amen
Day#11, Monday, March 5 Bob Lancashire
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 6:46-48)
“Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord', and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That person is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built.”
MEDITATION: We were moving through life as a couple living as married singles. I thought giving up the life of racing cars would suffice for my contribution to marriage. I continued on with my love of athletics playing sports and bringing home the income to support our family, which grew from two to six. I thought little about church and how God is there, giving and supporting us. I was always taking those gifts he had bestowed upon me.
The day came when some health problems came upon me and I was bitter with God for these happenings. Then, my loving wife decided one day at church, while I was at work, that we needed to work on our relationship as a married couple. She called a loving woman who answered her prayer for our relationship. We attended a Lutheran Marriage Encounter Weekend, which now we call “Our Weekend”. We found that what God desires for marriage is not a contract but a covenant between us and with God - A Circle of Three. We have found that every weekend we participate is a blessing to us and we gain so much more for us then we give to others.
From this weekend we now believe His Church is the foundation of our lives, and His people are the building blocks. When we give not only monetary but also mentally and physically to support the church, we will find a joy that only God can give. When we reach to help God's people, we are given more in return. This is what I believe the Scripture is telling us. Just as God showed the man how to build a strong foundation for his house, we use His word to be the foundation for our marriage. This faith gives us the strength to face the challenges of today's world.
PRAYER: Lord, as I go, walk before me to lead, beside me to support, behind me to encourage, above me to watch over, and within me to give your peace. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen [This is a prayer shared by one of the pastors, a woman, whom we met at our Lutheran Marriage Encounter Weekends.]
Day #12, Tuesday, March 6 Vicki Givler
SCRIPTURE READING (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)
Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are a variety of service, but the same Lord; and there are a variety of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the gift of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the gift of wisdom, and to another the gift of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the gift of discernment, to another speaking in tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, for one and the same purpose, namely, building up the body of Christ.
MEDITATION: Giving means many different things to different people. It can be monetary, listening, helping, or sharing. One of the ways that I am encouraged to give of myself is by teaching, or being involved with Zion's Sunday School. A few years ago one of the student's parents approached me and told me that her son enjoyed coming to Sunday School. When she asked why, he told her that I made the class interesting and was eager to learn. She felt that she had to let me know the influence I was having on her son, and that made me feel good about giving of myself as a Sunday School teacher.
Over the years I have been encouraged by members of our congregation to give in ways like serving on Church Council, singing in the Senior Choir, or assisting with the leadership roles at worship. So, whether it's as an acolyte in a pinch, as a reader from the lectern, with the wine during communion, robed with the choir, or collecting those offering baskets during Sunday School, I am thankful for the opportunity to serve, and for the encouragement so many people at Zion offer. Mostly, I am thankful to God, for having thought enough of me to send His Son to save me with His love and to send His Spirit to empower me with His gifts.
PRAYER: Lord - You have made us rich with the gifts you give from your store-house of grace. You have given us more than we deserve, more that any might imagine. Open our eyes to the gifts you have given us, and give us the boldness to use our gifts by investing our time, our talents, and our treasure in the cause of your kingdom and the work of the church. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen
Day #13, Wednesday, March 7 Dale Jacobs
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 9:11-17)
Then the crowds followed him; Jesus welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing. Now the day began to wear away; and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away, to go into the villages, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a lonely place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish - unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” There were about five thousand people. He said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in companies, about fifty each.” They did so, and made them all sit down. Taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces.
MEDITATION: Feeding the multitudes - that's my calling in life. I'm a chef, and have prepared meals to feed people all my professional life. I've worked in the best restaurants, retirement home settings, and greasy spoons. I've seen it all, and I can relate to the concern raised by the disciples in wondering how they were going to feed a crowd of five thousand, and with just five loaves and two fish! We had a challenge like that at Zion several years ago. We called it an outreach dinner, the first of its kind here at Zion. We headed into downtown Canton to find folks who needed some assistance, especially with food, and we drove them out here to the church in order to share with them the blessings of a Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Eve, complete with all the trimmings. It was fantastic.
I was up all night here at the church cooking. We had twenty-five turkeys, fifteen hams, candied yams, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy. Sure, we had a great deal more than five loaves and two fish; but when the men and women from downtown Canton began to arrive, we felt overwhelmed by their numbers and understaffed for the task. The kitchen was packed. Food was on the plate and out the door as soon as it was sliced. It was chaotic and rushed. It could have been a huge disaster, but instead it was a miracle we'll never forget. God's grace provided; Jesus' love was present; and we all feasted on great food and wonderful fellowship.
PRAYER: Lord - We've enjoyed many meals here at Zion, with great food and wonderful fellowship. But you have fed us with the Bread of Life, and for that we praise and thank you, in Jesus' name. Amen
Day #14, Thursday, March 8 Lorin Beaber
SCRIPTURE READING (Romans 8:31-35, 37-39)
What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall try to undermine God's elect? It is God who defends us; who is there to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
MEDITATION: My willingness to give my time, talents, and tithes stems from life experiences, realizations from those experiences, and the natural spiritual maturing process. As a teenager I realized that when I gave my conflicts and personal problems to God and simply trusted that he would see me through, He always delivered me. The biblical text that comes to mind is, “If the Lord is for me, who can be against me?” As a young parent, husband, and student, it was nearly impossible to manage everything going on. I thank the Lord that my parents and grandparents helped provide that foundation of trust and faith by bringing me up in the church. For without that foundation, it would have been an even more difficult period of my life.
The second part is simply an extension of that. When you trust in the Lord and have faith in how He has led you through your life, you have to feel that all that you have - time, talents, treasures - has been given to you by God. Again, having parents and grandparents who provided great examples in lending their time and talents certainly contributed. And I've tried to show this to my children as well. A community of believers should feel compelled or led to offer what the Lord has given them to do the Lord's work. For no matter how much we give, it is only a fraction of what the Lord has given us.
PRAYER: Dear Lord - We thank you for all that you have given us. We are truly blessed. Open our eyes to the many ways that we can help do your work. Please allow us to give back to you in the best ways that we can, and to be good examples for our generation and for future generations, in Jesus' name. Amen
Day #15, Friday, March 9 Miriam Keating
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 18:15-17)
People were bringing even infants to Jesus that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they discouraged it. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
MEDITATION:During our engagement period my husband and I discussed having a family. We both wanted to have a large family, but it was not to be. Infertility problems, miscarriages, and the death of a premature infant daughter, made us grateful for the two beautiful daughters we were blessed with. But we still regretted the loss of our dream of a larger family.
“When God closes a door, He opens a window.” One Sunday, while attending a Catholic mass with my husband, I saw a notice in the bulletin that Trinity Lutheran Church needed a Nursery Supervisor. I was hired and worked in the nursery for eleven years. The position at Trinity led to other part-time child care jobs. The children I watched became like my own children. I had the blessing of watching them grow and sharing God's love with them.
Like many urban congregations today, Trinity has been having financial problems and has decided to do away with my position and have volunteers man the nursery. Once again, it seemed God had closed the door. But the good people at Zion opened the window by offering me the chance to once again share my love of children by watching your precious ones.
God has turned my small family into a much larger family by giving me the opportunities to take care of His little ones. I have learned that God gives back much more than we give when we give willingly.
PRAYER:Lord - Help all of us to be open to the opportunities that You give us, opportunities to share our time and our talents and to be truly blessed. Amen
[Miriam and Ron have two daughters, Marissa and Ronda. Miriam became our Nursery Supervisor on the evening of Ash Wednesday, when we gathered for worship to begin our Lenten journey. We thank God for her gifts and willingness to serve.]
Day #16, Saturday, March 10 Mark Votaw
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 10:1-9)
After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house!' … And whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you; heal the sick, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'”
MEDITATION: The Little Commission, Christ's warm-up band. Jesus sent seventy folks out ahead of him to get the people ready for when he came to their towns. They were to heal the sick and tell people that the kingdom of God is close at hand.
So why do I give? Why do I look for ways to serve? I serve because I can. There have been times in my life when I had little to give. I was so materially and spiritually challenged that I could hardly take care of myself, never mind care for others. That is not true today. The Lord has blessed me in many ways. He has given me tools to take care of myself, my family, and others as well. One could think of this as a Return on Investment for Christ. He has lent talent and therefore is due a reasonable return on that investment. My mother signs all of her e-mail messages, “Service is the rent we pay for the life we are given”.
Imagine, if you will, Bob, one of the seventy that Jesus sent out. He heard Jesus' message and responded. When the call came, he answered. He could not have had any illusion about reward. In fact, he wasn't even allowed to take his wallet with him. He was not one of the Twelve that hung around with the Big Guy. We don't even know his name. But he answered the call. He gave everything he had to serve Christ's people, getting them ready for him, letting them know that the kingdom is close.
I hear the Lord's call sending me out to serve people, and I am joyful that I can respond. This is part of why I think our mission efforts in New Orleans are so important. Spending a week helping people recover their lives is a tremendous adventure, like third world relief work, without a passport. Making things better is justification in and of itself. Spend that same week walking in peoples' shoes,listening to their stories, experiencing a part of their lives, and that adventure becomes a life-changing experience. The “work” is secondary to caring for people, communi-cating that the kingdom of God is just a bit closer.
We can all be part of Christ's warm-up band. He needs us to beat a drum, gut a house, contribute regularly to the maintenance of his house and his family. Many gifts but one Spirit, to each according to his or her talents: I serve because I can, and because when I do, I feel the Holy Spirit move inside and through me. I become Bob, one of the seventy on the road getting the people ready for Christ.
PRAYER: Lord - Thank you for the manifold gifts you have lavished upon me. Thank you too for the opportunity to share that with others. Help me to listen for that small voice calling in the night. Give me the courage to open myself to the Spirit and answer Christ's call to bring the kingdom just a little bit closer, in Jesus' name. Amen
Day #17, Monday, March 12 Garry Leed
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 10:25-28)
A lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied, “How do you read it?” He answered: “Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
MEDITATION: During the season of Lent, the theme is sacrifice. If the Golden Rule dictates that we are to love and help others as we care for ourselves, then the story of the Cross proclaims the Diamond Rule: we are to do so without expecting anything in return. At times this is easy: we are inspired, and we see our contributions as an opportunity to really make a difference in another's life. God's grace becomes the great feeling we have when reflecting upon how we have been true servants. Our actions seem to be what the church is all about, or from a larger perspective, part of the rhythm of life. But during Lent, we are reminded that loving and helping others
can be extremely difficult, because it can involve sacrifices on our own part, which we convince ourselves are either impossible or that we simply cannot or will not make. The Lenten attitude is a confidence that we are doing our best to help someone in need despite those sacrifices.
The natural temptation is to want compensation for our service to others, be it in the form of praise, a belief that we have received God's blessing, or a boost in our reputation, if not our own pride and self-image. This is apparent in the parable that follows in the above text, where Jesus contrasts the reactions of the Samaritan with those of the priest and the Levite. Sacrifice is not just about self-denial, “giving up something for Lent”. It is not about altruism, appearing to be a faithful servant and feeling satisfied or self-righteous when it has cost us virtually nothing in completing our daily agendas or accomplishing our personal plans. The Cross is a symbol for doing unconditionally what we only want to do with an “if” attached.
Even our most selfless acts made with the very best of intentions seem to be fruitless when the results of those actions turn sour or go awry. That's why Lent is the opportune time for our faith to grow and develop, a time to realize that our spiritual maturity can be determined by our ability to face disappointment. Sacrifice as depicted in the story of Jesus' crucifixion is caring for another in need, day after day, year after year, and expecting absolutely nothing in return. The spirit of Lent is our certain knowledge that when that loved one is no longer with us, we would make all those sacrifices all over again … in a heartbeat.
Day #18, Tuesday, March 13 Elaine Fidler
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 10:25-37)
But the lawyer was not satisfied, and asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So, too, a Levite. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he had compassion on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.” “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to
the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
MEDITATION: My mother worked in a large department store in downtown Cleveland for 26 years. One evening, she was scheduled to work in her department until 9:00 p.m. with one other employee - a young woman with what was perceived to be a surly, unapproachable personality. This was the first time that my mother was scheduled to work with her and had been told that other employees had shunned this particular woman and some had even refused to work with her.
During the first part of the shift, the young woman responded to my mother's attempts at conversation with curt replies and a sullen demeanor. My mother then went on a fifteen minute break and purchased two small boxes of chocolates in the candy department. When she returned to her department, she handed one of the boxes of chocolates to the young woman, saying “I saw these, got a box for myself and thought that you might like one, too.” Tears filled the woman's eyes as she accepted the candy. “No one ever gave me anything before!” she sobbed. After that, she never forgot my mother's simple act of kindness and she always had a smile for my mom.
I have cherished the lesson I learned from my mom when she came home from work that night and told this story. It taught me that being kind toward those who might not even appear to be seeking kindness is easier than we sometimes think and can return rewards that we never thought possible. I lost my mom unexpectedly on the night of December 23, 2003, and although I still miss her, during her long and productive life, she taught me that being kind to people, even those toward whom kindness may be difficult, can bring unimagined rewards. I enjoy helping others no matter what the situation is and I try to reach out to those most in need. I like to think that I am a “Good Samaritan”, even when it is sometimes difficult.
PRAYER: Dear Lord - Use our lives to touch the world with your love. Stir us, by your Spirit, to be neighbor to those in need, serving them with willing hearts. Amen
Day #19, Wednesday, March 14 Cindy Ferry
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 11:9-10)
“Ask and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and those who seek will find, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
MEDITATION:With all the abundant gifts we have been given by our Heavenly Father, how can we not feel compelled to give back. I feel that God has blessed me in so many ways that I must try to assist in the work of the church whenever I can. It's my responsibility to help care for the Lord's house and to support the various outreach programs that assist our neighbors in need. It brings me great joy to know that my church is assisting those who have fallen on hard times, here at home through the Food Pantry & Clothing Closet, in New Orleans with Operation Blessing, and across the globe through our collections for Lutheran World Relief. It's great to be among those who help to answer prayers, helping to provide for those who ask, being here for those who seek, and answering the door for those who knock. After all the Lord has done for you can you deny him your time, talent and resources?
PRAYER: Gracious God - We give you thanks for the gifts you have given us - our life, family and friends, our time, talents and possessions. All that we have comes from you. Help us to remember this and to rejoice in your goodness. Walk with us, Lord, and guide us on our spiritual journey, so that we may renew our relationship with you and become better followers of the one who calls us to Come, Follow Me, in Jesus' name. Amen
Day #20, Thursday, March 15 Helen Heller
SCRIPTURE (Luke 12:22-24)
““Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows…. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!”
MEDITATION: When I think of this passage from Luke, I cannot help but hum the tune and remember the words of that wonderful hymn - His Eye Is on the Sparrow:
Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. [verse 1]
'Let not your heart be troubled,' His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. [verse 2]
Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. [verse 3]
Let me tell you a little bit more about this hymn. Civilla Martin, a Canadian by birth, born on August 21, 1869, in Nova Scotia, was a school teacher and music teacher before she met and married Dr. Walter Martin and began traveling with him as a part of his ministry of evangelism. This is what she writes about the inspiration for that hymn: “Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle - true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle's reply was simple: 'His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.' The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn His Eye Is on the Sparrow was the outcome of that experience.”
PRAYER: Father - We still have so much to learn about how much you have given so that we might have the opportunity to know your love. May the love we see in your Son humble us to serve as He served, knowing that we cannot exhaust your supply of love by giving it away. It just grows wider and deeper, in Jesus' name. Amen
Day #21, Friday, March 16 Juanita Bathol
SCRIPTURE READING (Micah 6:6-8)
“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with thousands of rivers of oil?” He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
MEDITATION: What do we have to give? Will our money suffice? Are our possessions the point? What about our time, and our lives? What about the gifts of love, friendship, and prayer? What kind of gifts would please God? All of these!
Think about what Jesus says in Matthew 25: “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'”
Giving from the heart pleases God, whether it be great possessions, or holding a trembling hand of someone hurting. Prayer to God on behalf of others is a loving gift. Giving of self was the example Jesus gave with his own life, and this is the call he
extends to us. We can take comfort in the Good News that He has promised to help us follow His example.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father - Teach us to be givers. Show us what you would have us do and give us the strength and courage to do it. Teach us to be aware of the needs of those around us, in Jesus' name. Amen
Day #22, Saturday, March 17 Steve Ross
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 12:21-26)
Jesus said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing…. Which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?”
MEDITATION: Several years back, I had the unsettling and unforgettable experience of navigating myself and my employees through being acquired by another company. I was a sales manager and I had several sales people who worked for me. It was an awful experience as my coworkers and I speculated on whether we would have jobs following the closing of the deal. In hindsight, I realize how blissfully ignorant I was before the announcement, busily working at my job feeling that I was filling an important and essential role, never thinking that the security and comfort that I had built up over the years could come to an abrupt halt.
The announcement was made in September. I remember it clearly, because at that time I was enthusiastic by the prospect of joining forces with another player in our same markets to form a stronger company. It had been announced that the deal would close in February, which meant that we would go roughly six months before the companies would join. It's funny how the prospect that I might find myself unemployed never crossed my mind until some weeks later.
As rumors and information trickled out of the upper management team orchestrating the buyout, it became clearer that there were synergies expected through the combining of our two companies. This meant that there was overlap between the two companies and people would have to be laid off. More information was released that identified Sales as one of these synergies. With every new piece of information, my coworkers and I would find new justifications for why we shouldn't worry. For example, we speculated that it would take months to work through the details. We speculated on how indispensable we were. We speculated on how it would be impossible for the new company to exist without us.
But, we still worried. I can't speak for everyone on my team, but I lost sleep. I was completely preoccupied with what would happen if I lost my job. I was miserable and so were my family and my coworkers. It qualifies as the most stressful period of my career. Those of you who know me know that things ultimately worked themselves out. In fact, it was these changes that led my family to Ohio, and to Zion. The lesson I learned is that all the worry and anguish I felt was unnecessary. My life is in God's hands and all I needed to do was place more trust in Him.
One of the passages from Luke that comes to mind when I think about this experience is Luke 20:21-25, where Jesus tells us that we should “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” It's a hard line to draw, but I learned that we are not to overly rely on things like coins with Caesar's image on them to provide us security or comfort. And there are things that are God's that we should render to Him by putting our trust in God, following the example set by Jesus. It's hard to say exactly why, but this is why I give of my time, talents and money, because I am rendering to God what is God's.
PRAYER: Loving Lord - You want us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing except losing you, and to lay all our cares on you, knowing that you care for us. Protect us from fears that feed our anxiousness about life, and grant that no clouds in this constantly changing world will hide from us the light of your love, which was shown to us in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Day #23, Monday, March 19 Betty Tracy
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 12:32-34)
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
MEDITATION: For many years I have heard the terms - tithing, pledging, time, talents, giving, caring, sharing, treasures and possessions. Many churches periodically have what they call stewardship or commitment programs. This is to renew and remind the members to check their “attitude of gratitude” to their God for all the blessings He has bestowed on them. Not only do we give monetary gifts, but we are to give of ourselves in service and witness to others.
I would like to share an article with you that I found in my deceased husband's Bible. This was an article that he used twenty-plus years ago as a temple talk for what we in our church called Commitment Sunday. It was entitled Why I Give to God.
“I Give Because I Am a Christian - God made me His child and an heir of eternal life through Jesus, my Savior. I have the promise of salvation and live in His divine love. As a child of God, my life should reflect the love of God. I do this through my witnessing, serving and giving.
“I Give Because I Am a Manager of God's Property - I know the truth of God's Word, that I really own nothing and that God owns everything. I know that I am a short-term manager of God's possessions: my body, my talents, my time, my income, my entire life. I manage it all for God and want to use it to glorify my Maker and Redeemer. He gives me enough to share first fruits for the work of His kingdom.
“I Give Because I Must Share God's Love - I know God's forgiving love. God so loved the world that He gave His Son into death for the sins of all people. I must live so that people know I have a love that is divine … something that will lead them to ask about the hope within me. I bring offerings so that I can send messengers to tell others of the Good News of Christ.
“I Give Because Others Need to Hear the Gospel - One way to carry out the Savior's Commission is by giving mission offerings to reach the unchurched. I help carry on the work of my local congregation by my offerings. I cannot be content with knowing the love and mercy of God myself while others in my community and the world do not know and embrace my Savior. I give to share the Gospel with others.
“I Give Because God Has Called Me to His Work - God has chosen me to be a fruit-bearing Christian. He has fed me with Word and Sacrament to bear abundant fruit. I do not want to limit my giving by just trying to meet a budget or man-made goal, or by giving just a “fair-share” or a “quota.” I want my giving to be a living response of love and gratitude, a response that puts Christ first always. God has given me His grace and strength to express my love in generous offerings.
“I Give Because I Am a Thankful Christian - Because of God's love in my life I want to bring God a generous percentage of all my income and possessions as an offering from a thankful Christian.”
PRAYER: Heavenly Father - We give thanks with grateful hearts that through your Word we have learned it is better to give than to receive. Amen
Day #24, Tuesday, March 20 Mary Gsellman
SCRIPTURE READING (John 9:1-7)
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that God might be glorified through him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
MEDITATION:Zion's Senior Choir has been rehearsing one of the great old hymns, Great Is Thy Faithfulness. You know the words.
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father.
There is no shadow of turning with thee.
Thou changest not, thy compassions will fail not.
As thou hast been, thou forever wilt be. [verse 1]
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. [verse 2]
My thoughts recall a recent teary-eyed phone call that came from my daughter in Florida, just to tell me that her family was safe and their home was spared from the terrible destructive force of tornado-like winds that blew through southern Florida just recently, destroying thousands of homes, and taking some lives, too - and not just people, but also faithful animals, birds in sanctuaries, and the landscape, scarred with signs of ravaging winds. Lyn marveled that the tornado's path was just blocks from her home. “Great is thy faithfulness! Great is they faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed thy hand hath provided. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!”
PRAYER: Father - We still have so much to learn about how much you have given so that we might have the opportunity to know your love. May the love we see in your Son, both in His living and His dying, humble us to serve as He served, knowing that we cannot exhaust your supply of love by giving it away. It just grows wider and deeper, in Jesus' name. Amen
Day #25, Wednesday, March 21 Todd Elsass
SCRIPTURE READING (1 Samuel 3:3-4)
Samuel was lying down within the temple of the Lord.… Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!”
MEDITATION: A friend of mine recounted this story to me the other day. I thought that it had a lot to say about the call that comes from God and our willingness to respond. A women who was using a cane, came to his office to do some business in another department. Upon seeing that she was going to be delayed he went over to her and asked if he could be of service. She smiled and said, “You must have seen that I was going to fall over.” He assisted her to a chair at his desk, and then tended to her needs, just to make sure that she was okay.
When she was finished with her business, he then walked with her up some stairs and out to the door. At the door she turned to him, with tears in her eyes, and said, “God bless you. You don't realize what a blessing that you have been to this old lady today.” She gave him a hug and a kiss on the check, and then slowly walked to her car. It wasn't his business, but he took an interest and showed some concern. We never know when God is going to call us into service.
I am sure that my friend didn't believe that he had done anything differently that day than he might have any other day. But his simple act of kindness touched this woman in a way that only God could. It wasn't the most dazzling display of God's power, but it was a sign of God watching over us. Sometimes that's what people need most, a sign that God cares. And we can be that sign, if we're looking - not for the spotlight, not for the exit, but for opportunities to be the sign that shows someone God cares.
I believe that God wants kindness to be a kind of one-way street, where we extend our kindness to others without expectation of return. For if I quit opening doors for people just because one does not thank me, then I limit God's plans for others through me. God is calling, more often than we think, more often than we hear. If we open our ears, if we would open our eyes, those opportunities would appear, and we could begin to say with Samuel, “Here I am, Lord…. Speak, for Thy servant hears.”
PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father - Help us to hear when you call, and to be receptive to your using us to make your love visible, to our becoming a living witness to the gospel through the acts of kindness you invite us to do for others, in Jesus' name. Amen
Day #26, Thursday, March 22 Beth Heller
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 15:3-6)
Jesus told them this parable: “What persons among us, having a hundred sheep, if we lost one of them, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until we find it? When we have found it, we lay it on our shoulders, rejoicing. When you get home, you call your friends, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.'”
MEDITATION: Recently, actually this past week, a good friend of my children, lost his father to cancer, a heartbreaking experience for anyone, much less a child of thirteen. What an amazing experience it has been to watch the young people of their school rally in support of their good friend. All very close, these children have been classmates in a very small school, where not only do they know all of their classmates very well, but they also know every member of each of their families, and for many years, since most of them were three years old. The loving encouragement that these children have shown to this young man this week, during his most trying of times, has been a gift - a gift of giving, a gift of love, and a wonderful example of what is right in a world where so much is wrong.
In the face of horrible sadness, a heartfelt hug or a squeeze of the hand from a peer can be what gets you through the day. And how comforted my children and their friends felt in being able to give that hug, not even twenty-four hours after this boy's father passed away. You could see the light in his eyes and the love that he felt from each of his wonderful friends, which, I must say, was very humbling to myself and to the other adults who observed these intimate moments, we who get so easily distracted by the day-to-day of living, and lose track of exactly what is special in life, and in death.
It is so clear in observing all of these very young people over the course of the last few days, that it is not important how we give, nor how much, whether it be in sharing our talents, our funds, or our time. It is not important what we say, or if we say anything at all, but that we reach out in comfort and support to “hug” those who may need us, and, in so doing, help to find those who may be lost sheep. It is a gift of love and joy to each of us, when we give to our church, and when we give to each other. Can't you feel it?
PRAYER: Dear Lord - We have felt the embrace of your love through Jesus. Help us to share this love through simple hugs and comforting words, in Jesus' name. Amen
Day #27, Friday, March 23 Carol Rossbach
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 15:11-24)
“There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' He divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine.
When he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.' And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. The father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.'”
MEDITATION: In reflecting on the Prodigal Son, if the father is God, he is forgiving and generous even though the son (us) does not deserve it. The son takes his inheritance before it is time, and squanders it. He only comes back when all his money is gone and he does not expect forgiveness, just maybe pity and some help. But his father greets him and gives him fine clothes and a party, none of which he deserves. His father gives generously and joyously, without thought of whether it is deserved, but out of love. If God is so generous to us, shouldn't we do the same, as much as we are able?
I received my early lessons in giving from my father. When I was just fourteen, I got a summer job, and my father firmly suggested, to my dismay, that it was time for me to begin tithing. He said that any money that is given to God will not be missed, and over the years I have found that to be true. Sure, you might buy some more “things”, but everything we have, God has given us and we need to be good stewards of both our time and our money. In appreciation for what God has given me, I try to always be available with my time and talent, such as it is, whenever I can be of use. In fact, I have told the Lord that when He calls (through whatever means, including phone calls from fellow members on our various committees), I will be there with my Yes. It's made quite a difference in my spiritual life because I feel that God is using my willingness to mold me into a better servant, a better daughter, I should say, who has come home to that part of God's family we call Zion Lutheran Church.
Serving as a member of the Church Council, I have learned the cold, hard facts of just how much it takes to operate the church and cover the costs of our building! Giving is part of one of the pillars of our Membership Covenant, to strengthen our church.
PRAYER: Dear Lord - May I never take for granted all the gifts that you have so generously given me. May I strive to be a good steward of those gifts, giving with a generous heart, in thanks for all that you have given to me, in Jesus' name. Amen
Day #28, Saturday, March 24 Sue Heyard
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 18:9-14):
Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on others: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee that I am not like the other men - extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.' In contrast, the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but bowed his head low, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but they who humble themselves will be exalted.”
MEDITATION: Be Rich in Gratitude! Be Rich in Thankfulness! God Loves a Cheerful - not a boastful - Giver! There are so many ways we can give and serve the Lord. I have a friend that when asked “How are you?” she always answers “I'm Blessed!” How true!
We are all blessed in so many ways. We are so blessed to belong to a church family like the one here at Zion. God has blessed each and every one of us with talents. Serving the Lord can occur in many ways: singing in the choir, being a Sunday School teacher, serving on Chancel Guild, or giving generous monetary donations to name a few. One of the ways I serve is by being on Chancel Guild.
I enjoy preparing our Chancel for services. As I prepare the Communion I always reflect on how we are partaking of our Lord's Body and Blood. When Jesus was here on earth, he used his talents to help people and serve his Father. “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Let us not forget to take time, especially during this Lenten season, to be Thankful and know we are Blessed. God sent his only Son to die for us, that someday we will be exalted and have a place with him and our heavenly family.
PRAYER: Father - We still have so much to learn about how much you have given so that we might have the opportunity to know your love. May the love we see in your Son, both in His living and His dying, humble us to serve as He served, knowing that we cannot exhaust your supply of love by giving it away. It just grows wider and deeper, in Jesus' name. Amen
Day #29, Monday, March 26 Brian Milek
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 18:18-22)
A young ruler asked Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good - except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'” “All of these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
MEDITATION: So here we have this “ruler” who has always followed the commandments, he must have been fair and just. Then Jesus pushes him outside of his “comfort zone” and says to let go of your possessions, give them to the poor, and follow me. What a leap of faith for someone to undertake, I wonder if he ever did what Jesus asked him to do? Is the key to our “salvation” to give our possessions away to “score points” and get enough to get into heaven?
I believe that we are “wired” by God to do good and that when we follow this wiring our reward is far richer than anything that money can buy. The problem is that sin [greed] keeps us in the dark. Now what we consider good may be giving back some of our income [tithing], or our time, or our talents. Regardless, the key is to trust God and step outside of your comfort zone and share what you have.
PRAYER: Teacher - help us to understand that no one is keeping score. Instead, move us with your spirit to share our gifts with your children. In turn, we, too, will not keep score but instead keep faith that our reward is you, in Jesus' name. Amen
Day #30, Tuesday, March 27 Joyce Gibeaut
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 18:24-30)
Jesus said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Peter responded, “Lo, we have left our homes and followed you.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
MEDITATION: When I was a teenager I doubt that I had even read this passage, but knew that I wanted to serve, maybe as a missionary. That didn't happen back then. However, nearing retirement I began to look into some opportunities for service and, lo and behold, I discovered Medical Ministries International, a ministry that provides medical help, while also at the same time taking the Word of God to folks in third world countries. So, I applied.
When they were accepting my application they said, “We have never had a physical therapist before, but we're sure we will be able to use you.” They may have been unsure if they could use me, but God knew they could and they would. An orthopedist was also a member of our group and he found many things for me do. During my second missionary trip I had a chance to do another of the things I had longed to do in His service. I washed feet of little children before we gave them new socks and shoes. Many of them had never had shoes before, and their smiles and excitement were thanks enough for all of us.
Those whom we served thought they were the ones receiving the blessing, but the blessing was ours. We received so much in serving. I will always remember the look on the face of the little girl who got pink sandals. It was priceless, and unforgettable.
PRAYER:Lord God - It is your will that all people might come to know you through the love of your Son, Jesus Christ. Nurture our interest in the gospel, inspire our witness to Christ's love, and empower us to share the Good News of salvation across the nation, around the world, and with our next-door neighbors, too. Amen
Day #31, Wednesday, March 28 Evelyn Moore
SCRIPTURE READING: (Luke 19:1-10)
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector. He sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”
MEDITATION: Zacchaeus was so excited about meeting Jesus and taking him to his home, that he realized what he had been doing as a tax collector and told Jesus he would give half of his wealth to the poor and would pay back anyone he over-taxed four times the amount! In response Jesus told Zacchaeus that salvation had come to his home that very day.
My parents taught us at an early age to learn to give and share with others. My mother did many errands for neighbors and friends and fed strangers many times. I was inspired by my Mother and as I grew older I learned it was more blessed to give than to receive. I don't mean only financially but in many other ways. For example, I have always loved little children, and I enjoyed teaching two-, three- and four-year olds with Mabel Snyder for many years. We taught them a song about Zacchaeus that we have enjoyed remembering for many years since.
It makes us feel good when we can help neighbors and friends by taking them groceries, driving them to doctor appointments, picking up prescriptions for them, or just visiting friends who are sick, and picking up someone and bringing them to church. We feel we are doing what God wants us to do when we are helping others - especially here at Zion when we are working with a great crew on Food Pantry Day, getting food ready for the forty-five to fifty families that we serve. We are so thankful that we have good health and can give and share with others.
We are so blessed and yet sometimes we wish we had more so that we could give and share more, but when we take time and count our blessings, our blessings are far more than we give and share. There is a wonderful refrain from a familiar hymn that we sing at worship. The name of the hymn is Great is Thy Faithfulness, and the refrain goes like this: “Morning by morning new mercies I see, all that I needed Thy hand has provided, great is Thy faithfulness Lord unto me.” This is so true and we should do nothing less than to be faithful to Him.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father - We are so grateful for all blessings that you give us day by day. Be with us and let us take a closer walk with Thee each new day. Amen
Day #32, Thursday, March 29 Dave Palumbo
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 19:1ff):
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector. He sought to see who Jesus was, but could not…. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully.
MEDITATION: No, I am not a tax-collector like Zacchaeus; but I am a CPA, and, as such, I help many individuals and corporations with their tax forms and tax strategies. I joined Zion Lutheran Church a few years ago after attending the Christmas Eve Children's Service, enjoying both the service and the people from Zion that I met afterwards. I had been a member of the Catholic Church growing up, but, like many folks in their twenties and beyond, I drifted away from participation for many years.
I sensed there was a missing part in my life, and it had to do with recognizing and acknowledging the importance of God and the church. When a call to service came to fill in as Church Treasurer, I viewed it as an honor and an opportunity to get involved. There are a lot of hours put in behind the scenes as Zion's Treasurer, much more time than any might imagine, more than even I had imagined when I said Yes; but there is also a feeling of accomplishment that comes with giving, whether the giving is time, service, or money.
I have never regretted one minute of volunteer time spent with Zion or any of the charitable causes we support, whether serving with the Council, washing dishes in the kitchen at a social function, or simply helping others. We all have other things to do in our busy lives, but choosing to give for a worthy cause has never been a bad choice. The only regrets seem to be if only I could have done more. It is also great that the folks at Zion make any volunteer time enjoyable.
Zacchaeus received with joy the friendship Jesus offered with the fellowship they would share in his home that afternoon. A good part of the joy of salvation we celebrate at Zion can be seen in the fellowship we share, and found in the laughter so often heard among people who enjoy being around one another.
PRAYER: Lord - Give us the strength to say Yes when we hear your call, not for our own sake alone, but for the sake of helping others, in Jesus' name. Amen
Day #33, Friday, March 30 Brian Kay
SCRIPTURE READING (Matthew 25:14-30)
Jesus said, “It will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.
Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.' And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.' He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.'
But his master answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant! You ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. Take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.'”
MEDITATION: If someone gave you one-half million dollars what would you do with it? What if it were two and one-half million dollars? Would you say, I don't know but that is the kind of problem I'd like to deal with. Those are apparently the kinds of figures that we are dealing with in the parable of the talents. The Master gave to His servants a sizeable sum of money. The exact amount is immaterial. It is meant to communicate to us that he gave to them a significant trust. The story is complicated, however, because he did not give it to them to spend as they chose. They were made managers of a franchise. He was the owner. And so in Jesus' parable each of us is a manager of a franchise, which is our life. And Jesus will be coming back to.
The focus of this parable is the one-talent man. Those who receive five talents and two talents receive the same reward - they were blessed and experienced great joy. But the one-talent man was called wicked, lazy and worthless. Just thinking, why would Jesus use such strong language in addressing this man? Had His servant run off with the master's wife? Had he stolen the money? Had he lied to the master about what he had done? NO. He had maintained the status quo, and for that he was called these names. He had kept the faith. I believe that faithfulness is productivity in light of our opportunities. It evaluates our circumstances and our abilities and says what we have done with them in light of what we could have done.
I believe that this parable reminds me that Jesus does not reward us for showing up. He rewards productivity. As individuals and members of Zion Lutheran Church, we are responsible to the Lord of the Church for the marvelous gifts for which He has made us stewards. He has intended that our Church grow, that we be committed to Christian ministry. If we are to continue to fulfill the will of God at Zion, it will take determination on our part as leaders in His Church to say that we will permit nothing to stand in our way. Improvements to the restrooms and the sound system are excellent examples of our giving congregation at Zion. Growth is not accidental - it is intentional. Let's invest our talents in the life of the church, and be productive with the gifts God has given us.
Day #34, Saturday, March 31 Debbie Fox
SCRIPTURE READING (Isaiah 6:1-8):
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Then flew one of the seraphim to me, and I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
MEDITATION: Why do I serve the Lord? That is the question that comes to mind after reading this passage. Well, over the years, the answer to that question has changed for me. I know there are many reasons people serve the Lord. One might be, because I was asked. Another could be, because I was called by the Lord. Yet another could be, so I could make a difference. Still another may be simply because I wanted to help someone. While thinking about all of these reasons, my answer to why I serve is all of them.
When thinking about how I serve at Zion and why, I look back and remember how I got started. It was a simple question from another member, “Debbie, would you be willing to help at Vacation Bible School?” I remember feeling fear, wondering whether this would be something I could do. I would be working with children, teaching them the importance of God's love and God's Word, and this was all very scary to me; but I said Yes because I knew that I wanted to try. With the loving support of many at Zion, I found how much I truly loved working with the children and that I could do an okay job. Through the years I learned that this was my call from God, and I have continued to grow in my relationship with God.
God has blessed me with so many wonderful things that I want to do my best to share what I can with Zion. I am grateful to those who asked me to help because it has opened a door that on my own I would have been afraid to open. Now I only hope that I can help others see that saying Yes to serving is easy and fun, and, most of all, rewarding. All you need is to have faith in your talents and share them, and God will guide you on your path of service. All it takes is looking into your heart and opening your mind to the endless possibilities.
The words in one of my favorite hymns say it best: “Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord? I have heard You calling in the night. I will go Lord, if You lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart.” [With One Voice, #752] Serving the Lord at Zion has also opened me up to serving Him in other ways outside of Zion as well. It is amazing that one simple question like Will you help? can lead to so many wonderful and fulfilling opportunities to serve the Lord.
PRAYER:Dear Lord - Thank you for all of the wonderful blessings and gifts you have given US. Help us to be grateful for your love and guidance, and lead us to ask for your help in providing the strength, the courage, and the faith we need to lead a life in your service. Amen
Day #35, Monday, April 2 Mabel Kolarik
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 21:1-4)
Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury; and he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins. And he said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had.”
MEDITATION: Jesus was in the area of the temple known as the court of women. The treasury is in an adjoining area with seven boxes where Jewish males could deposit their temple tax. Six boxes for free-will offerings were also located there. The poor widow, a woman of few resources, quietly enters and places two copper coins in one of the free-will boxes. It was all she had, but she gave it willingly.
Observing her, Jesus admires the woman's generous and sacrificial giving that was beyond convenience or safety. It was all she had on which to live. In contrast, when we consider giving a certain percentage of our income to be a great accomplishment, we resemble those who give 'out of their abundance'.
Having reached retirement age and looking back over the years, you realize a pattern of helps and blessings you have received all along the way, and you begin to wonder if you have really given as much as you could have, or if you have done as much as you were able. Was church attendance and putting an envelope in a plate the best you could do? Our church offers opportunities to do something for someone else as well as yourself with all the programs we offer. It is a great place to be with friends as well as make new ones.
A good point of reference for me is found in the Lutheran Book of Worship, Hymn #410: “We give thee but thine own, whate'er the gift may be. All that we have is thine alone, a trust, O Lord, from thee. May we thy bounties thus as stewards true receive, and gladly, as thou blessest us, to thee our first fruits give.” We realize that all we have is from God, and we should gladly give our first fruits.
Prayer: Heavenly Father - Give us strong faith and courage such as that of the poor widow, so that we may willingly give generously of our time, talents, and possessions with a spirit of gratitude for all you have first given us. In our Lord's gracious name we pray. Amen
Day # 36, Tuesday, April 3 Ruth Elsass
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 23:28-34)
But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves….” Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
MEDITATION: “Do not weep for me, weep for yourselves.” Yes, when there were four small children and Verle was away working long truck driving hours, I did weep, not knowing for sure if there would be an accident, some unexpected delay, or whatever. Being a busy mom, I didn't learn until much later, through Bible studies and Women of the Church retreats, that Jesus wept, too.
We have many things to weep about. We can take comfort in the good news that because of Jesus it is okay to weep. Jesus makes us feel like those mole-hills that become mountains for us will not overwhelm us because we have His love and forgiveness.
I especially like the last part of this verse above, when Jesus looks at the passersby ridiculing him and says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It wasn't just a general, blanket forgiveness covering all. It was meant for particular sinners, for you, for me. Besides weeping when I think that I should have done or said things differently, it's good to know that even when I'm unsure, I know when talking to God that I am forgiven.
I am so very thankful for many reasons, but mostly because God gives to me, to Verle, and to you, the chance to serve as Jesus taught, to use our talents and our treasures and whatever we can to serve as ambassadors of His love.
PRAYER: God of our lives - Thank you for always being present in our lives. We ask for your guidance wherever we serve. Thank you for your love and forgiveness. We ask in Jesus' name. Amen
Day # 37, Wednesday, April 4 Charlie Danner
SCRIPTURE READING (Luke 24:25-32):
Jesus said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?”
MEDITATION: Luke lets us know that although the disciples had been walking with Jesus, they weren't truly listening to him. There was that time when they were on the mountain with Jesus, when Jesus was transformed before them. Their eyes grew heavy, and they entered the cloud. They saw Jesus' glory, but when they came down from the mountain, they began to argue with one another about who would be the greatest. They resisted his efforts to direct their attention toward the cross. Time and again in their walk with Jesus they just didn't seem to get it.
That's how it starts with these two travelers on the road to Emmaus. They were walking from Jerusalem when they are joined by a third person, whom they do not recognize. Luke tells us they were “kept from recognizing” him. Perhaps their disappointment in finding that Jesus had been killed blinded them, or can it be that God is taking yet one more shot at opening their eyes? “When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”
Speaking of walking, I have to admit that, like the disciples, I am often sleepy, in the clouds, and my eyes are often closed. In my mind though, there is always music, for instance, songs I remember, like past hits: A Walk in the Black Forest, Walk like a Man (by the Four Seasons), Walk like an Egyptian (for the younger set), Walk On By (Dionne Warwick), Walk Right In (the Rooftop Sings), Walk through this World with Me (George Jones), and Fats Domino's Walkin' to New Orleans….
Hey, those last two do have some special meaning to me. I've been to New Orleans. I didn't walk. I flew, when it was in its glory days; but it took eleven of our fellow members, with three additional friends, who had been walking through this world with Jesus to wake me with their walk to New Orleans. Now walking with Jesus to me means joining in that walk, and with others here in our community - the Body of Christ - opening eyes and ears. Hearts are opened too, open to the needs of others, needs being attended to by food pantries, and clothing closets, and benevolence offerings, and disaster relief, with dunk machines on Rally Day and the Men of Zion's Chili Cook Off. I see and hear Jesus through our body walking with us and urging all of us to turn our faith increasingly into responsive action
PRAYER: Just a closer walk with Thee, grant it, Jesus, if you please. I'll be satisfied all along. Just let me walk, as I walk close to Thee. I am weak, but Thou art strong. Jesus, keep me from all wrong. I'll be satisfied as long. Well as I walk, as I walk, let me walk, close to Thee. Amen
Day #38, Thursday, April 5 Mabel Snyder
SCRIPTURE READING (Acts 3:1-8)
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.
MEDITATION:The disciples of Jesus were always ready to help others. In this paragraph Peter and John saw a cripple begging for alms. They told him to look at them and they said that they had no silver or gold but that he should look at them and they would give what they could. So they said to him, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” He took him by the right hand and raised him up and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up he stood and began to walk. And he entered the Temple leaping and praising God.
Peter and John could have passed him by, but they took the time to give him real help. The man was so thankful that he entered the Temple with them. There are times when we feel we have no means to help others, but if we take the time to think about it, we can really give a little help. We come to church and receive great benefits. It helps if we really try to help in any way we can. There were times when I was younger when I used to be in quite a few organizations in the church. Now that I am older I am not able to do as much. Still, I do what I can. I do what God allows and enables me to do.
I try to give according to my income to the church, and to other charities, too. But let's face it, there are always persons calling for donations. We have to say “no” sometimes, or they would take everything we have. That's why giving to the church is such a blessing. We know we're helping, that we're helping with important work, and we're not overwhelmed by it. I feel that God's work is necessary and I try to help by giving regularly. God does provide. I pray God will continue to provide me with His blessings and with good health. I am thankful that I am still in Zion's Senior Choir and active with the Comfort Givers.
PRAYER: Dear Father in Heaven - For Jesus sake I pray that Thou wilt help me to continue to come to church and give me your guidance in all I do. Help all the members of our congregation that they may continue to bless and praise you and give of their money to help our church to flourish. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
Day # 39, Friday, April 6 Jayne Schrader
Scripture Reading (Acts 4:32-35)
Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need. ”
Meditation: I believe that God calls us to use the talents he has given us and he puts us right where we are needed, whether it is serving our Church or in our community. This has happened to me several times in my life. In high school I decided that I would someday like to run an office. I didn't go to college and started a job as a data-entry operator right out of high school. I got married and a few years later we started our family. I was able to not have to work when Renee and Adam were young and sometimes wondered if I went back to work, what I would do.
In 1993 I started volunteering in the office at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Canton. At the time the area Lutheran churches were building a home and I felt that I would not be good at helping to build the home but that my skills were more toward helping out in the daily running of the office. A couple of months later I was offered the job of Office Manager. It took a while but God provided the job that I always wanted, in His time. Over the 14 years that I have been working for Habitat I have seen first hand the difference that can be made by each and every volunteer that gives of their time and donates to help build simple decent housing for God's people in need.
A year and a half ago Habitat opened a ReStore. Building materials, furniture and household items are donated by businesses and individuals and then sold at 70% to 90% of what they would cost new. The proceeds from the sales are used to build Habitat for Humanity homes. Without the generosity of the community, this would not be possible.
It was soon after that I began to work for Habitat that I first heard the quote from St. Francis of Assisi. “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words.” God loves me, blesses me, answers my prayers everyday and sent his Son to die for me; when I hear his call to serve, I eagerly answer it.
Prayer: Almighty and most merciful Lord - We call to mind before you all those whom it would be easy to forget: those who are homeless, the poor, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to serve in ways that bring healing to those who are broken in body, mind, or spirit. Help us to show the way to new life, the kind of life that glows with the light of your love, in Jesus' name. Amen
Day #40, Saturday, April 7 Pastor Sherwindt
SCRIPTURE READING (Acts 5:1-10)
A man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles' feet. Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. After about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” Peter said to her, “Hark, the feet of those that have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and died.
MEDITATION: When I think of stewardship the image that springs immediately to mind is a Steven Spielberg classic, that Oscar-winning film he directed back in 1993, Schindler's List. I think of a scene toward the end of the film, when Oskar Schindler, played by Liam Neeson, is racing back and forth at the train station, his face filled with the horror of desperation as he looks for more Jewish friends to save, wondering whether he could have done more, knowing that he should have done more, if only he had known the consequences of his failure to act more aggressively. He had done a great deal, more than had been expected, more even than might have been asked. But once he knew the value of his dedication and his work, everything else that had previously seemed important paled in comparison.
The scene portrays the frantic panic of desperation, but it's not about the desperation that's pictured. It's about the importance of what he did, of how he served, of the cause he had discovered. That is how I think of Ananias and Sapphira. This is not a story about their dying, although it clearly is a matter of grave importance. Sharing is a life-or-death matter for many who might be saved, or could be helped through the birth of the church as the Body of Christ alive in the world as a sign of God's love, as evidence of Christ's presence.
It is easy, when we are distracted by the many interests calling for our time and attention, to miss focusing on the things that truly matter. Ananias and Sapphira stop us in our tracks. Their story challenges us to listen to the voice of God calling, and to look for ways to make a contribution with our time, our talents, and our treasure in ways that help us serve as a living witness to the promise of God's love, the presence of God's life, which is alive among us and at work through us, in Jesus' name. Amen