Lenten Devotions 2018

February 20, 2018

By Rev. George C. Hooper, Church of the Good Shepherd (Arcadia), East District

Proverbs 23:4-5

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be wise enough to desist. When your eyes light upon it, it is gone; for suddenly it takes wings to itself, flying like an eagle towards heaven.

On the evening when I was introduced to the SPRC of the congregation I now serve, my predecessor invited me to tour the parsonage. This wise and loving man had served the congregation for two decades, and had raised children in the house my family would now occupy.

“You need to know now about the biggest problem your family will face,” he told me, “and you will have to deal with it right away: your kids will never be able to have all the things their classmates have. It isn’t that you will be poor. It is just that there is no way they – or you — will ever be able to keep up. Don’t kill yourself trying.” I appreciated his honest warning, and I am so happy that we have been able to take his advice (in this and many things!).

Commercialism and acquisitiveness are twin epidemics in our culture. We strive after symbols of success and tire of them just as soon as we acquire them. “What’s next?” is so often our cry, and we burn ourselves out to gain more, more, ever more. After a while it isn’t even so much about the symbols, objects, and possessions as it is about the getting. The words of the proverb remind us that the thing we want most in any given moment, whatever our flitting eyes light upon, is often itself ephemeral, flying off as if on wings of eagles.

The apostle Paul would have us strive, alright, but to eagerly seek after the greater gifts of God, and beyond that to the still more excellent way of love. (1 Corinthians 12:31)

And, the preacher of Ecclesiastes turns the way of the world on its head: “To eat, and drink, and find satisfaction in all one’s toil — this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:13)

Prayer: Creator of the universe and giver of all good gifts, guide us in your way; when we would toil away for that which does not satisfy, remind us of the deep satisfaction found in our daily work; when we would lose ourselves in getting more, help us find ourselves in what we already and always have: your gifts of life, and love, and relationship. Amen.

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Lenten Devotions 2018

February 19, 2018

By Rev. Dr. Paula Ferris, Fullerton First UMC, East District

Proverbs 3.6 (The Message)

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.

Some years ago, I spent six days in May amid the delights of our country’s capital. I’m told that the 4th of July is the best time to be in Washington DC, but Memorial Day was pretty good, too!

All over DC were motorcycle clubs. They filled the Mall with the roar and smell of their engines. Every square inch of parking was crammed with motorcycles of all shapes and sizes, gleaming with pride and care.

Many of the riders had hats or t-shirts identifying themselves as Vietnam and Iraq vets. Mostly, they just looked like bikers: lots of black leather, ponytails, tattoos and faces that had seen a lot of sunshine. I could see they were here for fun, but why so many on Memorial Day?

My hosts explained that this was “Rolling Thunder,” a motorcycle club with chapters all over the United States who support an unusual cause. Rolling Thunder’s mission is MIA/POW (Missing In Action/Prisoner of War) awareness. Memorial Day is their traditional time to make their presence known in our nation’s capital.

The National Mall is full of fascinating museums and buildings (The Library of Congress–WOW!). Every billboard and lamppost advertised Memorial Day concerts and mattress sales. But, it was the bikers who touched me, that spoke with the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus calls us to attend to the least, the last, and the lost. MIAs and POWs are out of sight, off the media radar, and largely forgotten. I was moved to know that somebody (a whole lotta somebodies, by the look of it) was remembering.

Our country has so many invisible, but vulnerable, populations: child sex trafficking, human slavery, foster children who have aged out of the program. How do we care about or care for those whom we seldom see? How do we remember them?

As a follower of Jesus, noticing the invisible and remembering the forgotten is something I am called to do. On that Memorial Day, a motorcycle club helped me do it.

Prayer: God of Remembering, thank you for the many ways your voice comes to me. Keep my ears open. Amen.

Lenten Devotions 2018

February 18, 2018

By Rev. Jose Vindel, Rialto UMC, East District

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Do you know someone who is now facing trouble with police, the IRS, or the government for not knowing what the law says? “Ignorance of the law is not an excuse!” We’ve heard those words repeatedly.

A few weeks ago, I heard a politician say to the family of a loved one being deported, “Our hearts are with you, but the law is not!” And so, the father being deported got on an airplane leaving his wife and his two daughters behind. So sad! No mercy, no compassion. What a painful separation!

When the psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,” he was referring to the Law of Moses. He writes, “I do not forget your law…Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.” (Psalm 119: 109-112)

During this Lenten season, as we think of God’s word as being a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, there are a few thoughts we must consider. We need to go beyond the Law of Moses.

First, Lent reminds us of God’s amazing grace. We belong to a merciful and compassionate God. If we break the law, with true repentance there is forgiveness. How many of us can say, grace is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path? I will love others the same way God loves me; I will be merciful to others because God has been merciful to me.

Second, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” (1 Timothy 3:16-17) How many of us can say, in this broken and confused world and society, the Bible is a lamp to my feet? How many of us are preaching that from the pulpit?

Third, the word is Jesus. “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.” (John 1:14) As we hear so many voices of men and women who may or may not inspire us, how many of us can say, “Jesus, no matter what happens, you and only you, are a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” Do we preach that from the pulpit?

Prayer: Father in heaven, this world is a jungle where we can easily get lost. We need your help. Walk with us each day. Lead the way. Reveal to us your grace. Let your Holy Spirit help us understand the Scripture. Give us wisdom to imitate the Word made flesh, Emmanuel, God with us. Amen.