Lenten Devotions 2018

February 17, 2018

By Rev. Angela Galanis Price, Whittier First UMC, East District

Psalm 100:1,5

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth…For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

It’s difficult to make a joyful noise when life is messy and complicated. People are suffering; discrimination still exists; children are being trafficked; our undocumented brothers and sisters are still not safe. The list goes on and on. When will we experience joy?

I was appointed July 2017 to Whittier First and I spent the first couple of months getting to know the neighborhood. It was one Sunday afternoon when I decided to take a stroll out in Uptown Whittier, just a couple of blocks from the church. Uptown was celebrating the Day of the Dead (Día de Muerto) and the people were all in costume, with classic cars lining street after street. I was mesmerized by the culture and the music.

As I was walking in the late afternoon, a car filled with men with their windows down started “cat-calling.” I overheard some of them say, “Oh look, she’s a cutie. What are we going to do with her? She looked this way, I think she wants it.” My heart started pounding in fear as I looked around to see if there were any others around who could help me. It was just me and the car filled with men. So, I decided to keep walking, with my eyes looking straight ahead and a prayer under my breath. I kept walking until I turned the corner. Then anxiously, I turned around to see if I had walked far enough, and I was relieved that they were not there.

That was the week that Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual harassment and misconduct (and now rape). That was the week that women in the entertainment industry started finding their voice to speak the truth about sexual predators. That was the week that #metoo was trending, that birthed #timesup. That was the week I shared with my congregation the daily struggle that women experience with harassment and power. That was also the week that a young woman found the courage to share with me that she, too, had experienced sexual abuse.

A shout of rejoicing rises up from the core of our beings when we learn that the fight of justice continues to gain ground; we rejoice when we learn that we are not alone and that others stand in solidarity with us. We rejoice when we experience the Spirit giving us courage and when we are reminded that God stands with the oppressed. We rejoice that in every breath, God is still good and God’s love sustains us through the struggle!

Prayer: God of Great Love, thank you that you can say with us #metoo and #timesup. In times of great suffering and trial, give us endurance and patience to hold onto your promise. When we are experiencing the “dark night of the soul,” remind us that you have already overcome both the cross and the grave. Give us an outpouring of your Spirit so that we can continue to fight towards equity and justice! You are faithful and we will remain faithful to your love. We find our joy in you. In Christ we pray, Amen.

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LENTEN DEVOTIONS 2018

February 16, 2018

By Rev. Daesung Chun, East Whittier UMC, East District

Psalm 51:10, 12

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me…Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

The story of David and Bathsheba is a well-known one. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah to cover up his sin. His morals, scruples, and ethics were set aside to satisfy his selfish desire. Each time we read the story it is difficult not to cringe by the brutal and sly act of a covetous man. This was not a sin of impulse. It was calculated, secretly planned, carefully plotted, and clandestinely executed. David put great effort into concealing his sin. No one was supposed to know about this. But when the prophet Nathan revealed David’s sins before him, both adultery and murder, David realized he could not hide anything from the Lord. As I read this story I cannot ignore the thought that David confessed his sins only because he was confronted. Had he not been confronted, would he have confessed of his sins and repented?

I suppose David wrote Psalm 51 sometime after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan and not on the day of the confrontation. After being confronted by the prophet, David must have been consumed by shame and guilt. Although David was told his sins were forgiven (2 Samuel 12:13) David must have continued to carry his guilt. Each time he saw Bathsheba he must have remembered what he had done to Uriah. Guilty feelings die hard. I can imagine the guilt of his sins abased him, and the cowardice of hiding his sins shamed him. I am sure he wished he had never done that. But his wish could not change the past. The only thing that could be changed was his heart and his future. David pleaded for a new heart, a clean heart so that the new heart may lead him to do the righteous things. Like David, we all need a new heart — a clean heart that will lead us to do the righteous and compassionate acts. The heart is what controls our deeds and our attitude is what controls our heart. As we seek to have a new heart, we need to have a new attitude.

Marilyn has been attending the church I currently serve. Unfortunately, she has Parkinson’s disease. She cannot eat anything solid and has some difficulty with her movement. Despite her condition, Marilyn demonstrates a positive attitude and sweet spirit. One day she appeared to be more tired than other days, so I asked her how she was. With a bright smile she said, “Oh there are good days, and …” I expected her to say, “There are good days and bad days” or something similar. But she said, “Oh there are good days and better days. Today is one of those good days.” There is an eminently sweet and positive spirit in her that warms my heart. When a day is difficult, she says, “It is a good day” and accepts the challenges of the day with grace. And when a day is good, she celebrates it with joy and thankfulness.

As we seek for a new heart in this Lenten season, let us choose to have a new attitude. After all, “Some days are good, and other days are better.”

Prayer: O Lord, grant us a new heart to accept the challenges of the day with grace and celebrate the blessings with thankfulness. Grant us wisdom to know that all the experiences in life are your gifts. The challenges bring us close to you; and the blessings your joy. O Lord, we thank you for this day and all that comes with it. Amen.

Lenten Devotions 2018

February 15, 2018

By Rev. Hee Jung Yu, Redlands University UMC, East District

Genesis 1:31

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day…

It was beautifully done.

Beginning with the light to shine in darkness and culminating with humankind, God created: the heavens and the earth and every living thing, brought into being by God’s word and blessing. And it was all good.

The wondrous and life-giving creation story in the beginning of Genesis reveals not only God’s mighty works, but declares them all good. On the sixth day, God looked around at all of God’s creation, at the beauty and the harmony of it all, and saw that it was all very good. From the very beginning, from the moment God began creating our world, God’s word gave life. Even now, God’s word is good.

The first creation account in Genesis reveals to us that God intended fullness and abundance of life for every living being in the cosmos. Each part of creation was good. And, God designed each part to work in harmony with all the other parts. Together, those parts are very good.

In this Lenten season of reflection and repentance, may God’s Spirit encourage and strengthen us to examine our own lives and admit where we fail to embrace God’s vision for us.

May God’s Spirit encourage us to see and affirm the good in others. And, may God’s Spirit show us the good God intends for us and help us to embody and share it every day.

May we always look for the very good that God fashioned from the very beginning.

Prayer: Creator God, restore to us the very goodness of loving and living in harmony with all creation. Amen.