“Even though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” John 11:5-6 

Jesus doesn’t drop everything and rush to be near his sick friend. Let that sink in. He gets the news, he loves that family, and yet he waits two days before heading their way. When he arrives the sisters are upset with him because their brother has died and they thought Jesus would have rushed to keep that from happening. And Jesus is sad too, even though he intends to raise Lazarus from the dead. I know this story is about Jesus’ power and the fulfillment of messianic prophecy. But I’m interested also in Jesus’ slowness. We live in an On Demand world, and Jesus doesn’t work that way. He works in his own time for his own purposes and invites our patience, trust and belief. Can we wait for Jesus?

Looking for last weeks worship? You can find it here!

-Pastor Travis Norton

Lenten Devotional – March 21, 2023

Tuesday, March 21, 2023
How to Inhabit Time by James K.A. Smith
Lenten Devotional by Mike Olsen
Inhabiting Time

I have trouble remembering what various “theological” terms mean.  (Google it!)  For example, “eschatology,” having to do with “end times” – when Christ returns and God’s creation is triumphant.  (I entered “eschatology” in the Windows 10 Thesaurus and it said, “we couldn’t find any similar words.”  Touché.)

Christians have yearned for the End Times for 2,000 years.  In a profound way, that is even what Lent is about – 40 days of counting until the Crucifixion gains a new heaven and a new earth for us.  Yes, but . . ..  As James Smith reminds us in his book How to Inhabit Time, there is not a clock on the wall in heaven going “tick, tick, tick.”  Instead, we – and those saints who came before us and those who may come after us (we “know neither the day nor the hour”) – live on a continuum – from “Let there be light,” to “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20)

Here I think of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity – where gravity “bends” time.  As Smith says, we “inhabit” time: – then, now, and the future (eschatologically speaking – see above!).  Yes, that soccer game is still on for Tuesday; yes, Dad is spiraling deeper into dementia; yes, yes, yes, yes – I need more time! 

The challenge is to set our time to God’s time.  James Smith ends on this note: “If God’s redemption gathers up the broken fragments of our histories into a mosaic of new life, it seems like those histories go with us to heaven too.  Redemption is not an undoing, an effacing, or an erasing but a “gathering up” of our histories, a taking up of what time has wrought.  Like the ships of Tarshish (Isa. 60:9), our habitualities and history sail into an eternal future with a God who makes all things new. Eternity bears the marks of our now.”

For me, this Lent, that thought is comforting.

Take Time to Be Holy
Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus, led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.

Text: William D. Longstaff – 1822-1894
Tune: George C. Stebbins – 1846-1945

Lenten Devotional – March 20, 2023

Monday, March 20, 2023
How to Inhabit Time by James K.A. Smith
Lenten Devotional by Mike Olsen
Living With Liturgical Time

What is Lent, anyway?  Why do we observe it?  Where did it come from?  Whose idea was it?  For that matter, what about Christmas, the Transfiguration, Easter, Pentecost, the Feast of St. Michael (just to slip that in), and Advent?  Why do we follow a “Liturgical Year?”

When it comes to the fluidity of “time,” we Christians don’t just march to a different drummer – we march to the drummer – God – who is “timeless.”  The Liturgical Year, as James K.A. Smith remarks in his book How to Inhabit Time, “rehearses the way time curves and bends around the incarnate Christ like a temporal center of gravity.” 

Lent and fasting date from the earliest centuries of the church.  Lent was “made official” at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. and is still followed across all denominations world-wide. Individually, we not only fast, or “give up” (or as Pastor Travis has suggested – “take up”) something, or enter a time of reflection and devotion, at Lent, we also join all those saints who have gone before us in the “timelessness” of Christ.

Again, quoting James Smith, “When in the Tenebrae service on Good Friday candles are extinguished . . . and the shadows begin to swallow us, we are not just invited to a ‘historical event.’ We are invited to inhabit it in such a way that we are there and then.  When the last light is extinguished . . . we are bereft.”  We are in God’s time, liturgical time – not of this world.  We are there as they crucify our Lord.

Take Time to Be Holy
Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.

Text: William D. Longstaff – 1822-1894
Tune: George C. Stebbins – 1846-1945

Lenten Devotional – March 19, 2023

Sunday, March 19, 2023
How to Inhabit Time by James K.A. Smith
Lenten Devotional by Mike Olsen
Experiencing Spiritual Time

Spoiler Alert!  We have it on good authority that God does not wear an Apple watch.  (2 Peter 3:8, Psalm 90:4) We, of course, do have a “time schedule.” First – we are mortal, “Time and tide wait for no man.”  And then there is soccer practice, the prescription I should have picked up at the pharmacy two days ago, the car needs an oil change, and, and, and.  As the familiar hymn says, “Where cross the crowded paths of life.” (LBW 719)

But as Christians we need to remember that we are created and live in “God’s time.”  James K.A. Smith in his book How to Inhabit Time calls our alternative “spiritual timekeeping.”  God created the heavens and the earth – and us and will carry us to the glorious culmination of his creation.  Smith counsels that, yes, we are “conditioned by time” (quoting St. Augustine), but as written in John 16:13, when the Holy Spirit comes to us, we will be guided into “all truth,” – timeless truth. 

The 40 Days of Lent invites us to step outside of “our time” and into “spiritual time” – God’s time.  Our Apple watch still reminds us we have to get the kids to that soccer game, but . . . .

As that familiar hymn prompts us:
Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.

Text: William D. Longstaff – 1822-1894
Tune: George C. Stebbins – 1846-1945

Lenten Devotional – March 18, 2023

Saturday, March 18, 2023
Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner
Lenten Devotional by Macy Kennedy
Sabbath – Candle Lighting

“There seems to be no surer way to sacralize time or space than lighting a candle, and no quieter quiet than the silence of candlelight.” – Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner

In Jewish tradition, Shabbat (or Sabbath), is welcomed into a home by the lighting of two candles. After the candles are lit, a person would beckon the light toward themselves with their hands. This meditatively draws in the light and stillness of Sabbath. Christian homes are not traditionally candle-filled for the purpose of our faith, but our communal home, the Church, has candles for many parts of liturgy. We light Advent wreaths, the Paschal candle, and candles on our altar. Lauren Winner explains that candlelight helps us see clearly in the darkness. This aligns with the metaphor of Jesus being the light of the world. Jesus is the light in our darkness.

Candle lighting as a practice of Sabbath creates a moment of presence. It sets aside a moment for God, a moment of peace, silence, and stillness. Light in the darkness symbolizes rest in our busy lives. When you light a candle, reflect on “the light of Christ rectifying sin” (Winner). Some candle lighting practices you can try are lighting a candle at the beginning of a meal, on Sunday after church, during devotional time, by your bedside, at the time of sunset, or during prayer. Light your candle with intention, meditating on Christ’s light in the world.

You can try reflecting on these scriptures as you light:
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)

For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness. (Psalm 18:28)

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Cor. 1:6)

Lenten Devotional – March 17, 2023

Friday, March 17, 2023
Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner
Lenten Devotional by Macy Kennedy
Sabbath Defined

“The Sabbath is a basic unit of Christian time, a day the Church tries to devote to reverence of God and rest from toil.” – Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner

God commands the Sabbath in Exodus saying, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” The theme of rest is also seen in the creation story of Genesis when God rests on the seventh day. Sabbath is total cessation from work and world and an orientation toward God. Jewish culture does not allow any work or creation on Sabbath, for when we stop interfering in the world, we acknowledge that it is God’s world. Sabbath is a mark of time, a separation from the rest of the week. We are commanded to keep the Sabbath “holy” which literally means “set apart”, and we should observe Sabbath time as distinct from the rest of the week. We are meant to remember the Sabbath during the week and observe the Sabbath on the Sabbath day – for us Christians, on Sunday. When we honor the Sabbath, we honor God.

Sabbath is easier said than done. Life is demanding and we have things to do. It might seem impossible to dedicate all of Sunday to only worship and rest, but I encourage you to try. Ways this can be done are making sure any deadlines or chores for the week are finished by Saturday, eat leftovers so you don’t have to cook (unless cooking brings you great joy!), leave dishes for the next day or eat on paper plates for no clean-up. The main point is to dedicate the day to God, family, and things you enjoy. This will make room for rest and renewal mentally, physically, and spiritually. If all of Sunday is too big an ask, try dedicating units of time every day for Sabbath. Set aside 5-30 minutes, meditate, go for a walk, journal, draw, pray, drink a cup of tea, be still, take a nap. Do anything except work. Set apart time to honor God and rest in His grace.

Remember the Sabbath Day, Jan Richardson
Even in the Desert, even in the wilderness, Sabbath comes. May you keep it. Light the candles, say the prayers: Welcome, Sabbath. Welcome, rest. Enter in and be our guest.

Lenten Devotional – March 16, 2023

Thursday, March 16, 2023
Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner
Lenten Devotional by Macy Kennedy
Sabbath in Eating

“The table is where we become present to God and God becomes present to us.” – Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner

Sabbath can be understood in a few ways. Sabbath is a time of rest, a time to be with God, a time without work, a time to enjoy God’s gifts. In the Christian context, our Sabbath day is Sunday, a time during the week to rest and be with God. As we lean into the theme of Sabbath for Lent, I encourage you to create moments of Sabbath time in your daily routine.

Jewish tradition involves eating attentively by keeping kosher. This involves rules of what can and can’t be eaten, where meat is slaughtered, how food is prepared, what dishes are used, etc. Keeping kosher turns the basic need of eating into a spiritual practice. We Christians are not bound to the rules of Jewish dietary law, but God still cares about our dietary choices. Being present with our food is being present with creation. Understanding our food can lead to more gratefulness for God’s good works and paying attention to what we eat will aid in better care for our bodies.

Sabbath in eating involves not only what we eat, but who we eat with. Lauren Winner says, “The table is where we become present to God and God becomes present to us.” God calls us to the table during Communion as a time to receive God and be in community together. The communal relationship seen at the Communion table can be extended to our daily meals. Meals are a time for relaxing and visiting together. When eating, we slowdown from our hectic day and simply enjoy the presence of those gathered around. The table gives us blessings from God’s creation and the gift of rest in community.

Prayer thoughts:
God of abundance, you make yourself known to us in the breaking of bread. You build community around the table and nourish our body with your good creation. Create little sanctuaries at our tables that give rest and renewal.  Amen.

Lenten Devotional – March 15, 2023

Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva Dawn
Lenten Devotional by Michaela Eskew

Marva Dawn’s concludes her book, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, with an emphasis on the bounty that can be enjoyed on the Sabbath. This section of the book is entitled, Feasting. Dawn gives many ways for us to feast on the Sabbath day, to be filled with the nourishment that will take us through the next week. She speaks of music, of art and literature, and of food.

What are the things that feed your soul? What is so beautiful that it takes your breath away or transports you to a different level of thinking and imagining? How do these things, environments, or experiences help you to see your Creator is a new way? How do these things, environments, or experiences help you to see yourself as a part of that creation with belonging and purpose?

One example that Dawn gives in her many examples of feasting is food. She recognizes not just the Lord’s Supper that we take each week, but the special foods that are truly a treat. She recommends making something special on the Sabbath. Maybe it’s making eggs instead of pulling out the cereal box. Maybe it’s adding some hot cocoa to your afternoon rather than a decaf coffee or a tea. Maybe it is treating yourself to a cookie or pastry at coffee hour.

What is a food that you treasure? How can you make that food treasured again? Maybe it doesn’t take much other than pulling out an old recipe card and shopping for ingredients on Saturday. Maybe it takes restraint in not eating it during the rest of the week, to make that treat even more special on Sunday. Maybe it’s sharing that food with someone else, either by inviting them over for a meal or gifting it away.

First Lutheran is offering two meals on Sunday this Lent, a potluck on Palm Sunday and a full breakfast in the Peel House on Easter Sunday. Both are intended to be a great celebration of community and feasting. I hope you come and eat with us and take on a much-underappreciated spiritual discipline: celebration!

Prayer thoughts:
Lord of the Sabbath, remind us of the feast you have set before us. While we wait to experience your heavenly banquet, help us to build small spaces of celebration here on earth. Amen.

Lenten Devotional – March 14, 2023

Tuesday, March 14, 2023
Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva Dawn
Lenten Devotional by Michaela Eskew

The third theme of Marva Dawn’s book, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, is Embracing. In her section on Embracing, she considers what is the true intention of the Sabbath day. Often, we think of Sabbath as the things we can’t do, rather than the things we can do on the Sabbath.

We read in the gospels many times that Jesus breaks the Sabbath; he performs healings and even picks grain. Jesus declares that, “The Sabbath was made for humankind and not humankind for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) We are to live into what the Sabbath offers to us and embrace that time rather than spend the day considering all that we have lost the ability to do.

Sabbath for Christians is Sunday. We spend our time with God and God’s community. Dawn calls us to do this with intentionality. To not come to worship as a burden or task, but to fully embrace the beauty of being in community with God’s people. Seek holy friendships with fellow parishioners, soak in the music and the scriptures, hear a sermon that speaks to walking as a Christian Monday through Saturday, allow that morning to fill you with all that you need to get through the rest of the week.

There is something special about Christian friends. It’s not necessarily that they understand your vocabulary around religious life, it’s something about that self-sacrificial love that you can only find with true Christian friends. They understand grace and mercy for a crying baby in a meeting. They understand prayer as a way to console and connect with a loving God. They understand doubt as a path closer to God rather than an opening for skepticism and dis-belief. They understand loving your neighbor as yourself, as exemplified by the many offers to feed me and my family during times of trial.

Sabbath can be a time to touch base again, touch base with God and God’s community. To embrace a small taste of the paradise that God intends for us, as well as to be embraced by a community that is living in the same broken world as you. 

Prayer thoughts:
Holy God, thank you for church and what it offers us each week. Help us to take full advantage of that time and space and let it fuel us for the other six days. Amen.

Lenten Devotional – March 13, 2023

Monday, March 13, 2023
Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva Dawn
Lenten Devotional by Michaela Eskew

After exploring the many ways that we can cease to live for ourselves and instead live one day a week for God, Marva Dawn continues her book, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, with the theme of Resting. She spends a fair amount of time reviewing the many different types of rest that she recommends: Physical, Emotional, Intellectual, and Spiritual.

She reminds her reader of the story in 1 Kings 18-19, where Elijah challenges the priests of Baal and after running for his life because of the persecution he received afterwards, God grants him food, water, and a nap. This story is a favorite of mine and I encourage reading it sometime this Lent. It shows that God doesn’t expect super-human things from us. God sees Elijah for the human that he is, in need of a space to rest and recuperate, but also Elijah is reminded that God is the one that sustains us and provides the daily bread that we need.

Elijah had some very special time in that cave, with God, but ultimately with himself. Sometimes we need that isolation. However, some of us rest best in the company of others. Dawn highlights the needs for a balance between company and seclusion in sabbath keeping. She writes, “Furthermore, solitude and community work together in paradox. Our times of solitude make our times of community deeper because we have learned more about ourselves to offer to the whole. Reciprocally, our times in community rebuild our sense of self through interaction with others and give us food for our personal reflections. Thus, the rhythm of sabbath times alone and together with others can bring great healing rest to our emotional lives.”

Dawn emphasizes that we need one another to find real rest. This doesn’t just mean using your Sabbath time to reconnect with your family or friends. It means that sometimes you may need others to get the rest you need, leaning on one another to get chores done before the Sabbath or to hold each other accountable for taking the rest you need. Who might you need to lean on to get the rest you need? Who might you be able to assist for them to receive rest this week? Prayer thoughts:
Compassionate God, give us rest this week – true whole-self rest. Amen.

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