Posted in 2022 Lent Devotions

Nothing to worry about

“Mirror of the Passion” Lent devotion for March 22, 2022. Photo by Altin Ferreira on Unsplash

Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Luke 23:3)

I always enjoy it when someone comes up to me at the store and starts talking to me like I worked there. Once in a while, in a shirt and tie, I suppose I might look like a manager or something. If I know where something is, I’ll point you in the right direction. If not, I’ll admit, “I’m just shopping. I don’t work here.”

Jesus must have been a sight. He was dressed just like any other disciple. His hands were bound from his arrest. He was soaked in sweat from his agonizing hour of prayer in the garden. They beat him, so he might have a few cuts and bruises, maybe even a swollen eye. You and I would want to know, “What happened to you?”

The elders, chief priests and scribes said, “He’s telling everyone not to give tribute to Caesar. He called himself Christ, the king.” I can picture Pilate looking Jesus over, raising an eyebrow and asking, “So you’re the king of the Jews, huh?” If he was, he wasn’t much of a threat to anyone. Look at him. And he’s not much of a leader. His own people roughed him up and turned him in. Where were his followers? Where was his army? Is this some kind of joke? If this is the extent of the revolt, we’ve got nothing to worry about.

Pharaoh looked at Moses and thought, “I’ve got nothing to worry about.” Goliath looked at David and thought, “I’ve got nothing to worry about.” A bald, blind Samson? Nothing to worry about. They were soon proved wrong.

However, you and I can look to Jesus and say the same thing. “I’ve nothing to worry about.” In a storm? He commands the wind and waves. Terminal illness? He wakes up the dead. Food and clothing? Just look at the birds and the flowers. Don’t know what to say? He’ll cue you. Run out of wine? He’s got the good stuff. Feeling overwhelmed? He says, “Here, take my yoke.”

It’s ironic that Jesus can bring out the same response from those of faith and those who doubt. He’s not a threat. But he is the Savior. He looks like us. But his words are filled with power.

Feeling good about yourself? You think you’ve got nothing to worry about. When all you can do is whisper, “Lord, have mercy,” he lets you know you have nothing to worry about.

So which is it? Is Jesus so insignificant that you have nothing to worry about? Or is he so significant that you have nothing to worry about?

Thanks for being a big deal, Lord. Amen.

Posted in 2021 Advent devotions

Too little

“The Road to Bethlehem” Advent devotion for November 28, 2021

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
   who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
   one who is going to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
   from ancient days. (Micah 2:5)

The 2010 census reported Monowi, Nebraska was home to just one person, giving it the distinction of being the smallest town in the United States. The only person who lives there, Elsie Eiler. As mayor, she issued herself a liquor license for her bar, the Monowi Tavern. Monowi is on the map because it’s so small!

The little town of Bethlehem was even smaller, too little to be mentioned in the list of the clans of Judah who settled in the promised land of Canaan (Joshua 15:20-63). Bethlehem is on the map, though, for it would be the hometown of a ruler for God’s people.

What a ruler this would be! He was promised long ago to the man and the woman exiled from the garden of Eden. He would be known for justice, righteousness and peace. His reign would have no end. This ruler would be the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth would bow to his name, the name of Jesus.

We’ve all felt insignificant. Too short to ride the amusement park rides. Not talented enough to make the team. That handsome young man or gorgeous woman doesn’t even know we’re alive. Passover over for a promotion. Again.

But to God you are important. He knows your name. He hears and answers your prayers. He’s prepared a place for you in eternity. He gave gave up his one and only son for you. You are significant because of who he is and what he has done for you.

Bethlehem Ephrathah is a great reminder of how God likes to use small, unnoticed, humble places and people to do his greatest work in this world. Like he did with Mary, a young woman from Nazareth. Or David, too small to fit in a uniform. How about Paul, who knew he was the least of all God’s saints. And the widow whose offering of two mites was worth so much to Jesus.

We all feel a little “too little” from time to time. And yet from us comes a reason for hope, an effective prayer, a song of praise, and a sacrificial love.

Lord, thank you for the little places and the small ways that you bring your gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation into the world and into my life. Remind me to always base my self worth on you and your love. Amen.

Posted in Ministry, remembering, wedding

A moment I didn’t remember. But they did.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

I got an unexpected Christmas card/thank you note last week, along with a generous gift, from a person I didn’t know. Well, at least it was someone I didn’t think I knew.

Inside the card were some very nice words thanking me for performing their wedding at their home eight years ago, The person went on to explain some of the challenges they had faced, but also enumerated some recent blessings. They thanked me several times for the meaningful words I had spoken that afternoon.

OK, this was weird. I have a pretty good memory, especially with names. But these names just didn’t ring a bell. I brought up my Google calendar from October 10, 2010, and it was all there. It should have been a memorable day. Not only had I gone to their home that Sunday afternoon at 1:30 to do their wedding, but I then went to another home to do another wedding at 3 pm.

I’ve been keeping a daily journal for decades, so I rummaged through a box of old journals and found the one for the fall of 2010. Alas, I hadn’t written much about that day. I had only mentioned doing two weddings that afternoon before teaching confirmation class.

When I sat down to write a thank you note, I reflected at how an event can be both unforgettable and forgettable all at the same time. What was for me an insignificant task on my to-do list was a powerful, life-changing moment for someone else. A moment that had faded for me was even more vivid for them.

I was honest in my note about not remembering much about that day. But I also mentioned how something as insignificant as a baby in a manger is at the same time a vivid life-changing moment for us. So are the very simple words, “I do.”

When you are on the officiant side of a marriage ceremony, it’s easy to lose sight of the gravity of that moment. Because of moments just like the one above, I remind myself to give such moments my best. It may not mean that much to me, but it means the world to the couple taking their vows. If they long remember the commitment they make when they “repeat after me,” then I have done my job well.