Lenten Devotional – Thurs, Mar 4: MEEK

Meek: does this sound like a blessed condition? Matthew’s author used the Greek word praus. It might convey, as Brian Stoffregen writes, the “positive sense of ‘humble’ or ‘gentle’” or it might carry a more negative connotation such “‘humiliated’ … ‘walked on’ … ‘doormats’ … ‘powerless.’” In Hebrew scriptures, these people would be called anawim. The scholar Powell writes that the meek are the “ones who have not been given their share of the earth. They have been denied access to the world’s resources and have not had opportunity to enjoy the creation that God intended for all people.”

In this understanding, the meek include those who, without choice, are dispossessed and disenfranchised. They lack representation and authority. They are unable to hold onto land, resources or struggle to gain access to channels of influence and power.

Additionally, Martha Stortz writes that ‘Biblical meekness is tempered strength, power deliberately held in check.’ According to John Stott, ‘the Greek adjective translated “meek,” means “gentle,” “humble,” “considerate,” “courteous,” and therefore exercising the self-control without which these qualities would be impossible.’

In other words, the meek are people who are gentle and kind, and also exercise self-discipline about when and how they respond to unjust situations. They’re capable of righteous anger, but they restrain themselves unless the issue demands advocacy to be rectified or addressed.

According to some commentators, the meek, as defined by Biblical context, opt for strategies of nonviolence. Examples of such people include Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. If we point to communities that adopt such practices, we might consider the Amish communities for their principles of nonviolence. They may be meek, and yet they are also strong and resilient.

Whether dispossessed or deliberately soft-spoken and courteous, do we often notice or listen to such folks? Christ’s Beatitude is pointing us toward this part of the population and reminding us that these are neighbors with insights to offer and gifts to share. By offering a blessing, Christ confirms their place within the community.

Do you identify as humble or meek? In what way? — Gail

You are meek
A trait few seek
Mistaking it for weak
Lidia Longorio

He never complained. He seemed to have no instinct for the making much of oneself that complaining requires. Wendell Berry

Men sometimes speak as if humility and meekness would rob us of what is noble and bold and manlike. O that all would believe that this is the nobility of the kingdom of heaven, that this is the royal spirit that the King of heaven displayed, that this is Godlike, to humble oneself, to become the servant of all! Andrew Murray

The least known among the virtues and also the most misunderstood is the virtue of humility. Yet, it is the very groundwork of Christianity. Humility is a grace of the soul that cannot be expressed in words and is only known by experience. It is an unspeakable treasure of God, and only can be called the gift of God. “Learn,” He said, not from angels, not from men, not from books; but learn from My presence, light, and action within you, “that I am meek and humble of heart, and you shall find rest to your souls”. ― William Bernard Ullathorne

One of the best exercises in meekness we can perform is when the subject Is in ourselves. We must not fret over our own imperfections. Although reason requires that we must be displeased and sorry whenever we commit a fault we must refrain from bitter, gloomy, spiteful, and emotional displeasure. Many people are greatly at fault in this way. When overcome by anger they become angry at being angry, disturbed at being disturbed and vexed at being vexed. By such means they keep their hearts drenched and steeped in passion. Francis de Sale

Challenge or Question: Have you ever used a nonviolent response to an unjust situation? Was your response to a personal situation or a societal one? What strategy did you use? How did it work? What other strategies might you try?

Lenten Devotional – Sun, Feb 21: BLESSED

Scripture for the FIRST FULL WEEK of LENT from Matthew 5: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Daily Devotion:

Beatitudes describe a state of blessedness. In the original Greek used to write the Gospel of Matthew, the word for blessing is makarios (singular) and makaroioi (plural). It is used outline the Beatitudes offered to us by Christ.

Blessedness doesn’t mean you’re lucky, like you’ve won the lottery. It also doesn’t mean you’ve earned what is offered. In our Christian understanding, blessings are gifts offered to you. They come in the form of grace.

The scholar Jeff Stoffregen offers a history of how people used to understand blessedness. Originally, blessings belonged only to gods: supernatural entities who lived in a ‘state of happiness and contentment … beyond all cares, labors, and even death… in some other world away from the … problems and worries of ordinary people’ Later blessed ones were ‘humans, who, through death, had reached the other world of the gods… beyond the cares and problems and worries of earthly life.’ They were also denoted as saints. Eventually, blessedness referred to ‘elite … wealthy people … whose riches and power put them above the normal cares and problems … struggle and worry and labor in life.’ Finally, blessedness was attributed to people who were righteous, who then ‘received earthly, material things: a good wife, many children, abundant crops, riches, honor, wisdom, beauty, good health. A visible sign of blessedness was to ‘have big and beautiful things.’

Christ described the state of blessedness in a new, different way. He turned everyone’s expectations upside down. Blessedness didn’t belong to ancient gods or to saints who had passed beyond death into the land of the gods. Blessedness is not restricted to the elite and powerful classes or the sole province of the righteous. Blessedness belongs to everyone.

Christ teaches that blessings are available, and already part of the lives, of common people. Those who experience the challenges of human life — suffering, poverty, oppression, hunger, illness, sorrow — as well as its joys and delights. Common people like us. Blessedness is offered to you and me. — Rev Gail

Meditations:

Sometimes I need
only to stand
wherever I am
to be blessed.
Mary Oliver

Gratitude lifts our eyes off the things we lack so we might see the blessings we possess. — Max Lucado

What I love about the ministry of Jesus is that he identified the poor as blessed and the rich as needy…and then he went and ministered to them both. This, I think, is the difference between charity and justice. Justice means moving beyond the dichotomy between those who need and those who supply and confronting the frightening and beautiful reality that we desperately need one another. Rachel Held Evans

Challenge or Question: Identify a blessing within your life. One aspect of your life for which you are grateful. Give thanks for it. Say a prayer, write it in a journal, or light a candle to acknowledge this blessing.

Lenten Devotional – Sat, Feb 20: DISCIPLES

In this season, we renew our walk along the Way. We learn again how to follow. To be guided. To become disciples of the Rabbi whose story is connected to our own.

Let this holy time be a journey for you. Choose who will lead you. Walk with you. Be your companion. Teach you. — Rev Gail

Meditations:

God has no superstars … only disciples … willing to be poured out in an endless stream of God’s love. ― Osunsakin Adewale

Jesus says to anyone … First … do the external works, let go of what binds you, give up what is separating you from God’s will! Do not say, I do not have the faith for that. You will not have it so long as … you will not take that first step. Do not say, I have faith, so I do not have to take the first step. You do not have faith, because and so long as you will not take that first step. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Most people in America, when they are exposed to … faith, are not being transformed. They take one step into the door, and the journey ends. They are not being allowed, encouraged, or equipped to love or to think like Christ. Yet in many ways a focus on spiritual formation fits what a new generation is really seeking. Transformation is a process, a journey, not a one-time decision. David Kinnaman

… discipleship is a decision to walk in his ways, steadily and firmly, and then finding that the way integrates all our interests, passions, and gifts, our human needs and eternal aspirations. It is the way of life we were created for. Eugene H. Peterson

Challenge or Question: Who is a teacher or guide at this time in your life? Name one person, each day, who has taught you something. Name one thing you have learned today. Give thanks for the chance to learn.

Lenten Devotional: Fri, Feb 19: MOUNTAIN

We’re surrounded by mountains. Our lives are bounded by peaks and valleys, notches and cliffs. When we look toward the horizon, we read it through the heights and depths of the landscape. Light breaks over it, sinks behind it.

To gain perspective, we can go up those slopes. Or walk down them. The steps along the way also matter, since it’s the journey that shapes us. Yet the destination delivers its own gifts.

Summits promise a chance for respite. They serve as a reminder and opportunity to set ourselves apart with time and distance. To create space to collect and center ourselves. To focus. Or to let go .

Seeking out such places also gives us a sense of proportion. We are in the presence of elements larger than ourselves. More eternal. Without awareness or care for our presence, unchanged by our footsteps on their spines. Yet being there changes us. 

Remember that self-care and spiritual wellbeing include break time. Like Christ choosing to leave behind the crowds and take time to pray on the mountain, we can follow this model. Removing ourselves from daily needs and demands. Putting aside schedules and deadlines. Permitting ourselves the chance to grow quiet, whether it’s during the walk up and down the mountain, or lingering at the top.

We are invited to find a time and place to be in the presence of ourselves. We are especially guided to also keep company with the unlimited and eternal: Godself. — Rev Gail

Meditations:

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn. ― John Muir

If you are faced with a mountain, you have several options.
You can climb it and cross to the other side.
You can go around it.
You can dig under it.
You can fly over it.
You can blow it up.
You can ignore it and pretend it’s not there.
You can turn around and go back the way you came.
Or you can stay on the mountain and make it your home.
Vera Nazarian

Kid, you’ll move mountains. Dr. Seuss

Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing. Barry Finlay

Challenge or Question: What part of your day, and what space, can you set aside as a sacred place and time to grow quiet, focused, and centered, in communion with self and creator? Make it a practice through Lent to honor the same few moments, in a consistent place if possible, to create this set-apart time.

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