Monthly Archives: March2018

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Believe

Believe - Lent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

John’s purpose in writing his gospel, as he outlines in the passage below, also encapsulates the ongoing journey for each one of us in our lives. The phrase he uses – “come to believe” – is fluid and dynamic, and so it is for us. Faith is not a rigid attribute that we either do or don’t have, but an evolving relationship with God, who we come to know through the events of Jesus’ life as well as the events of ours.

Then “through believing” we are born into a new life in Jesus’ name. The life that is created as a result of believing in Jesus is guided by his teachings and strengthened by his love. Both because of our trust in Jesus as the Messiah, and as we live out that trust, we come to experience the hope and patience, the comfort and endurance, bestowed by God.

On this day when the Easter good news waits, when the disciples thought all was lost, we are reminded that through believing we can anticipate the joy and triumph of tomorrow, and the ultimate victory of love over death.


God of quiet and waiting, God of love and nurturing, draw me nearer to You today. Be with me and bring me closer, to know You and see Your path for my life. Remind me that it is through believing – through worshipping and praising and praying – that my life grows in hope and peace and with the confidence of Your eternal love. Amen.

John 20:31

These are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful
journey of reflection through Lent.

Gave

Alive - Lent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

John’s description of the end of the crucifixion is a powerful and moving account that keeps Jesus in control throughout, including at the moment of his death. Jesus announces when his life is finishing and then, in an authoritative sign, freely gives up his spirit. This is not a defeated end with a conquered soul; this is Jesus embracing death in order to bring about the victory of Easter Sunday.

This gift is the ultimate sacrifice made for each one of us, undeserved by any of us, but freely and generously granted to us by God. This unexpected redemption, the counterintuitive nature of God’s grace, can be seen throughout the imagery of Good Friday: the bleak ending that became a fresh start for everyone, every day; the death that brought about new life; the despair of the crucifixion that gives us new hope.

It is finished and yet – wonderfully, joyously – it is also just beginning.


Suffering God, in Your sacrifice I am saved; through Your generosity, I am freed. Inspire me to embrace the abundant gift You have shared with me, to espouse a life of worship and service, to live in praise and thanksgiving, in joyful gratitude for all You have given me. In the bleakness of Good Friday, still me to hear Your voice of hope. Amen.

John 19:28-30

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful
journey of reflection through Lent.

Truth

Truth - Lent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

What is truth? Pilate’s question shouts to us across the centuries, as compelling to us now, in an arguably post-truth society, as it was then. For Christians, truth is God’s salvation – the eternal life promised to us by God, and the life that Jesus came to proclaim and to lead the way towards.

On Maundy Thursday we remember the challenges Jesus faced in his trial in front of Pilate and as he was condemned to death. Further rejection and suffering lie ahead. Yet even facing this, Jesus does not waver here in his proclamation of his ministry and authority.

As individuals, our lives are shaped by what we believe and choose to affirm as our own truth. How we live out our beliefs in turn proclaims our truth to those around us. To what extent do our lives reflect the truth that God loves us, unceasingly? Do our actions declare that Jesus died to redeem our lives, so that we might better know and love God through his sacrifice and his ministry? How can our lives be a clearer witness to the truth of Jesus’ love?


Eternal God, strengthen me to live out Your truth. In the face of challenges and times of difficulty and darkness, help me see and share the light of Your love, and with that light to find the path that You would have me follow. Empower me with the deep confidence of Your enduring hope. Amen.

John 18:37-38

Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful
journey of reflection through Lent.

Fruit

Alive - Lent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

The image of Jesus as the vine and us as the branches is a vibrant and dynamic picture of flourishing growth. Imagine a well-established vine, with a strong central trunk, bursting into life with branches spreading out in all directions, leaves and spirals reaching out from each vine as they grow and spread further.

In the same way, our lives can be replenished with a strong centre in Christ. With Christ at the heart of our being, we can draw on God’s love and grace to empower us each day. The fruit of this connection can emerge as the peace that comes from knowing we are loved and God is by our side, and the hope that God sustains and comforts us.

The image is also strikingly interdependent. Just as a branch cannot live without the vine (John 15:6), neither can a vine thrive without the branches. While Jesus is the central focus of our faith and the church, his human life was a moment in time, and he now lives in us and through us. It is our actions and words that show the world what it is to be Christian, our behaviour that tells others how Christ is shaping our lives.


Abundant God, inspire me to make You the centre of my life, the core from which all else emerges. Awaken within me awareness and gratitude for the blessings I enjoy, living a life centred in Christ. Encourage me to share Your peace and hope with those around me, that they may come to know You better. Amen.

John 15:05a

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.”


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful
journey of reflection through Lent.

Alive

Alive - Lent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

John’s words are simple but powerful: the Word became flesh and lived among us. The magnitude of this occurrence should not be understated. This is God joining the human race, demonstrating that he fully understands our human condition, uniting the eternal love of God with a deep and personal empathy born from experience.

Jesus, the man, would go on to experience a broad range of human sensations: hunger, temptation, rejection, grief, and anger, as well as love, joy, friendship and delight. In Jesus’ life we see God the Son dealing with the same concerns and challenges as we do, facing issues in our world and on our terms. When we pray for help avoiding temptation, God understands what that feels like. When we ask for guidance on our way through life, God can relate to that need.

Moreover, Jesus lived a life full of grace and truth. We can never expect to fully live up to the example of Jesus – he remained divine, even as he was human – but his life remains as a guide for us. Our efforts may always fall far short of Jesus’ divine love, but that is no reason not to try, and indeed every reason to continue striving.


Gracious God, as I walk through the days ahead, help me to recognise the places You walked too, the ways in which You understand my human life. Remind me that You have shared in joy and sadness, fought disappointment and fear, and trusted in the enduring hope created by the love of God. Encourage me to welcome You in my life. Amen.

John 1:14

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful
journey of reflection through Lent.

Resurrection

Resurrection - Lent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

At the beginning of Holy Week, it feels fitting to turn our minds to the triumphant destination that is the resurrection. Certainly the events that lie between then and today are the bleakest in the gospel stories. Suffering and betrayal await in the events of these next days, and yet even as we remember them, we can also anticipate the glory of the victory that awaits on Easter Sunday.

Perhaps that was also true for Jesus; that as he lived through the trials and rejections he could also look forward to the ultimate victory. It is definitely a model and example for us – that although struggle and suffering are part of our lives, we too can look forward to the promise of God: that we are saved through our faith.

Eternal life may feel out of reach, perhaps thankfully, for many of us. But the promise of that salvation and the unearned love it represents, can comfort and reassure us now. God calls us to an abundant life, through belief in Jesus. God wants us to embrace each day secure in his love and guided by Jesus’ teaching that we might live fully.

Jesus is the life! And with that joyous affirmation – for now, as well as at the end of our days – we can live with the assurance of God’s love and support.


All-conquering God, open my soul to hear Your call to life. Sustain me with your perpetual strength, that I can live sure of your love and blessings, tackling the challenges of this world with grace and persistence. Remind me each day of the power of Your resurrection that I may walk in Your eternal hope. Amen.

John 11:25

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful
journey of reflection through Lent.

Salvation

Salvation - Lent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

In the passage below, Jesus is addressing some of his followers on Palm Sunday, shortly after his jubilant entry into Jerusalem. Here Jesus rejects judgment in favour of salvation, and contrasts himself as light against the darkness of the world. It’s a striking juxtaposition: light and salvation compared to darkness and judgment. It’s particularly applicable today when our world appears consumed with judgment, struggling with the consequent darkness that judgment produces.

The behaviour of work colleagues, the attitudes of friends, the opinions of strangers online – our day is full of opportunities to judge, and for the most part, we don’t hold back. Whether positive or negative, we train our mindset to critique and seek out fault and failing. Judgments close down possibilities, blocking out the possibility of hope for a different future; judgments keep score, blinding us to the overwhelming power of God’s love, utterly unearned by us.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus received a public judgment, the short-lived adulation of the crowd as he entered Jerusalem. Less than a week later, this judgment of the masses had turned against him and the crowd demanded his execution. As we approach the end of Lent and the passage of Holy Week, where is judgment closing our mind to hope and forgiveness and the possibility of a different tomorrow? Where might we be praising God on the Sunday and shunning him by mid-week?


Merciful God, thank You for not holding my shortcomings against me, but instead counting all that I do wrong as naught. Open my heart to the wondrous possibilities created by hope in Your teachings. Shine Your light into my life that I may not live in the darkness of judgment but see Your path clearly ahead. Amen.

John 12:46-47

“I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.”


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful
journey of reflection through Lent.

Life

Gate - Lent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

In biblical times, a shepherd was all that stood between the sheep and their demise. Sheep were at constant risk from wild animals and thieves, and it was only the determination of the shepherd that would keep them safe, or conversely result in them being left to be attacked. In using this illustration, Jesus is promising to protect us and keep us safe, even if means he lays down his life for us, as Jesus knew he eventually would.

The analogy reminds us that as sheep we have done nothing to distinguish ourselves or earn this sacrifice. It is freely given to each and every member of the flock; undeserved and overwhelming love. How does one even begin to comprehend the startling nature of this act? Yet knowing of this, how might you shape your life in appreciation of this gift, this grace? How can you draw on the radical generosity of God to bring you peace and reassurance?


Loving God, accept my gratitude and thanks for Your overwhelming sacrifice. Sustain in me a sense of worshipful gratefulness, to recognise and appreciate the blessings You provide me. Open my heart to receive Your outrageous love for me, throughout this day and for all the days to come. Amen.

John 10:11

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

 


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful
journey of reflection through Lent.

Gate

Gate - Lent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

Gates are a focal point, guiding our path and providing a clear direction. A gate in a garden, for example, directs you through the garden, creating possibility and encouraging you on. For those listening to Jesus, a gate would have meant the entrance to a sheep pen; at night the sheep come in through the gate for safety, and in the morning they return out through the gate. The gate therefore is not a barrier or a hurdle but a passageway.

Jesus reveals himself as the route to a better life for each of us. With Jesus as the focal point in our lives, he will guide our paths and provide us with direction. As we come and go each day, Jesus will watch over us and lead us to nourishment and abundant life. How can you reinforce the presence of Jesus in your life each day? How might you focus on Jesus’ love to direct you through each day and into the future?


Loving God, sustain me to make You the focus of my time. As each day begins, be the passageway through which I travel and the road to meaning. As each night falls, be the focus of my coming home, the way to peace and protection. Whether at dusk or dawn, keep me safe and encourage me on. Amen.

John 10:7, 9

So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. … I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful
journey of reflection through Lent.

Light

Light - Lent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

Light has immense power to transform our days, from the welcoming light in a window after a long day, the quiet stillness of a glowing sunrise, or the reflective ambience cast by a candle. In all its different ways, light brings us reassurance and hope. Tangibly, it provides relief that nothing is lurking in the shadows, that we can see the road ahead, that the night has an end.

The light that Jesus describes himself as delivers even deeper reassurance. In Jesus we receive the comfort of knowing we are loved, the certainty that Jesus leads where we need to go, and the enduring hope that God provides relief in the midst of trouble. When darkness threatens to engulf you, perhaps obscuring God by your side, how can you strengthen the solace provided by God’s word and God’s light in your life? How might you turn to prayer or worship to open your heart to the light shining from the presence of God?


Loving God, light of our world, in the days when darkness wraps around me, smothering hope and joy, open my eyes and my heart to see Your presence in the world, to know Your comfort in my life and to remember Your eternal hope. Remind me that You, Jesus, walk beside me, shining light over all the darkness, an everlasting beacon of love. Amen.

John 8:12

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful
journey of reflection through Lent.