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Monday in the Third Week of Lent

The story of Naaman, the commander of the Syrian king’s army seeking a cure for his leprosy, is about a well-off man looking for a solution to his biggest problem, not a new religion. He comes from a society that treats lepers as regular members of society—unlike the Jews, who segregate them in the belief that leprosy occurs because the individual transgressed God’s law.

Like any good adventure story, Naaman begins a journey seeking advice from a sage. He is eventually sent to the house of Elisha the prophet. At first he dismisses the advice relayed by Elisha’s messenger, to wash in the Jordan River. It seems too easy, and his pride is hurt that with his august position the prophet himself did not come outside to meet him and to call on the God of Israel to instantly cure him with great fanfare.

How many times have we been given advice (exercise daily, eat vegetables, completely unplug from technology) so deceptively simple that we find it easier to dismiss than to take seriously? For how could God’s message from us come in the form of a mere news article or a neighbor’s comment? Aren’t we special enough for the clouds to part and a booming voice to ring out, or at least something a little striking? And wouldn’t God expect us to do something extraordinary, not something mundane like washing in a river?

Of course, the simple baptismal act leads to the disappearance of leprosy and religious conversion as well for Naaman, who declares he will now only sacrifice to God. But if Naaman had not listened to his servant, who counseled that he should humble himself and do this small thing, the life change could not have happened.

Sometimes, we need a small reminder, as Naaman’s servant so rightly points out, that we have to follow through on all things: God expects us to do both the ordinary and the extraordinary.

Kathryn Pharr

Appointed readings for today: 2 Kings 5:1-15b, Psalm 42:1-7, Luke 4:23-30

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The Third Sunday in Lent

For me, a recent blizzard-induced travel delay seemed like the perfect Lenten analogy and ultimately provided a wonderful meditation about the season and God’s promise.

Like many other Washingtonians, winter storm Jonas derailed my best-laid plans, leaving me frustrated, uncertain and anxious. After attending a friend’s weekend wedding in Charleston, SC, I was supposed to have flown back to DC Sunday evening and then to Orlando for business the following morning. Eventually, both flights were cancelled and I was left in Charleston for an extra two-and-a-half days. I felt annoyed and worried the Tuesday flight could be cancelled, and that I was imposing upon my hosts.

After resigning myself to the circumstances, I set out to make the best of it all: I was in Charleston, after all! Monday afternoon, as I was walking on the beach into the warm, stunning sunshine I considered the Washington cold and its debilitating snow. If Lent is like a dark, even deadly, storm that wrecks everything, Easter and Jesus’ resurrection is the sunny alternative—and both are bigger and better than we can imagine. Our challenge is to remember to trust God for that outcome, every time, and especially when we can’t see through the dark.

Emorie Broemel

Appointed readings for today: Exodus 3:1-15, Psalm 63:1-8, Luke 13:1-9

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Saturday in the Second Week of Lent

Unfinished Business
Some years ago, a friend was gravely injured in a freak accident. She was taken to the hospital where she died the next day, without ever regaining consciousness. I later heard that her devastated partner, arriving at the hospital, said simply, “There is nothing unfinished between us.”

These words have stayed with me, weighed on me, ever since. How many of us can say that there is “nothing unfinished” in any arena of our lives? I know that my days often seem filled with unfinished business, calls to make, emails to answer, the to-do list with all its loose ends. It is even possible that we finish the least of all with those closest to us, because they are always there, because we are sure of their trust and love.

Today I am meditating on the need to take care of unfinished business, to mend a quarrel, clear up a misunderstanding, make amends for a wrong. It is never too soon and never too late.

Livy More

Appointed readings for today: Micah 7:14-15, 18-20, Psalm 103, Luke 15:11-32

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Friday in the Second Week of Lent

Reflections on the Challenges and Joys of Daily Prayer
“Lord, teach us to pray.”
Luke 11:1

If you are reading this article then you and I share a common bond: a heartfelt desire to come close to God through prayer. The first disciples saw Jesus praying and became aware of a deep yearning to pray as he did. I imagine that they saw a man who was totally at one with God; a man filled with peace and the quiet confidence of holy communion. The disciples were undoubtedly already people of prayer, and yet when they witnessed the depth of Jesus’ prayers, they realized they had only touched the surface of the enormous riches awaiting anyone who opens his/her heart to a life of prayer.

Like the disciples, we are aware of our need to go deeper in our prayer lives—deeper than simply reciting the prayers from our Prayer Book on Sundays. We yearn for an intimate relationship with God. We seek to strengthen our confidence in God’s presence with us always. We want to be certain of God’s love that heals and restores and gives new life. We want to live in hope. But following up on this desire can be challenging and even frustrating. What do we say when we are alone with God? How do we react to silence? How can we quiet all of those thoughts and emotions within us, to truly listen to the “still calm voice” deep within us? How can we give ourselves permission to take the time to pray?

The first step in engaging in a deeper prayer life is to recognize our need to pray just as the disciples did when they saw Jesus pray and turned to Him for help in praying. The second step is to carve out a block of time out of each day to devote exclusively to prayer. I prefer the early morning when I first wake up; others may choose the lunch hour or bedtime. The third step is to quiet our “monkey minds:” our inclination to let our minds wander and swing from thought to thought.

The prayer by John Greenleaf Whittier, which was adapted to music in the hymn, “Dear Lord and Father of mankind forgive our foolish ways,” offers a keen insight into the heart of prayer:

Drop thy still dews of quietness, till all our striving cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess 
the beauty of thy peace.

It is this peace that passes all understanding that I seek in my daily prayers. May the peace of The Lord be with all of us during this prayerful season of Lent.

Bill Hague

Appointed readings for today: Genesis 37:3-4, 12-28, Psalm 105:16-22, Matthew 21:33-43

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Thursday in the Second Week of Lent

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Psalms 1:3-4

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:5-8

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Luke 16:19-31

In reading Jeremiah 17:5-10 and Psalm 1, one might suppose that the theme for today’s readings is trees. Psalm 1 tells us that those who do not follow the advice of the wicked—those whose delight is in the law of the Lord—are like trees that prosper along the banks of a river, gathering up plentiful nutrients from the ground and bearing luscious fruit every season without fail, whereas the wicked are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Similarly, Jeremiah compares those who turn away from God to stunted shrubs in the desert, and says that those who trust in the Lord are like trees growing by a river, with roots reaching into the water, not bothered by drought, staying green and producing fruit all the time (almost the same text!). One could certainly delight in that analogy, and think about the strength, the groundedness, the fruitfulness of the riverside trees.

But I think the real theme is hope—hope for the security, confidence, ability to withstand difficult times, and inner peace that come with trusting in the love of God. The prophet and the psalmist are telling us that without God, we can’t be like the riverside trees, but with God we can. Further along, in verse 13, Jeremiah calls God “the Hope of Israel.”

Luke’s story about the Rich Man and Lazarus ends with father Abraham telling the Rich Man that his brothers have Moses and the prophets and they should listen to them. That goes for us, too: don’t be the chaff that gets thrown to the wind, or a stunted shrub in the desert! Turn to God in every facet of your life. Listen to Moses and the prophets!

Bill Josey

Appointed readings for today: Jeremiah 17:5-10, Psalm 1, Luke 16:19-31

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Wednesday in the Second Week of Lent

The Sovereignty of God
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.
Jeremiah 18:1-4

It is tempting to believe that we have total control over our lives. Our modern society drills that message into our brains from childhood to retirement. But that’s a myth. I’m sure you can think of some events or circumstances you had no control over that affected your life. So who’s in control? You’ve probably seen the catchphrase on the internet and on church signs: “God is in control.”

Jeremiah learned this lesson when God told him to go down to the potter’s house. There were three elements in what he saw: the clay, the potter, and the wheel. Jeremiah knew, as he watched the potter shaping and molding the clay, that he was looking at a metaphor? of himself, and of every man, and of every nation. We are the clay. And looking at the potter, it became clear to Jeremiah that the potter represented God. God was the Great Potter, with absolute power? over the clay to make it what he wanted it to be.

But if the potter is God and we are the clay, what is the wheel? The wheel can be thought of as the turning circumstances of our lives, under the control of the Potter, for it is the potter’s foot that guides the wheel. As our lives are being shaped and molded by the Great Potter, it is the circumstances of life that bring us again and again under the pressure of the molding fingers of the Potter, so that he shapes each of us according to his will. And so we see that God is sovereign over us and has the sovereign right to make each of us what He wants us to be.

During this season of self-examination and repentance, let us ponder the ways in which God is shaping us.

Bill Josey

Appointed readings for today: Jeremiah 18:1-11, 18-20, Psalm 31:9-16, Matthew 20:17-28

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Tuesday in the Second Week of Lent

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Matthew 6:25-34

As is common in the Episcopal Church, I grew up with the tradition on giving up something for Lent. It wasn’t until I joined St. John’s that one Sunday I was introduced, by the Rector, to the concept of giving into an action during the Lenten season. The first year I tried this, I decided to write handwritten letters to whoever was on my mind on the designated writing days. The letters were nothing specific; just that the person was on my mind, and I usually relayed some story from the past. I didn’t realize how impactful my correspondences had been until the recipients responded with joy. And I also hadn’t realized how modern technology had paradoxically made me less connected to friends and family. While this task may seem simple to many, it was very much a struggle, as I find writing quite difficult. Ever since, I’ve embraced Lent as a time to try giving into something outside my comfort zone. (Last year it was attending Maundy Thursday and participating in feet washing—which is challenging for the germaphobe in me but turned out to be a very emotional experience.)

As Jesus encourages us not to worry in today’s Gospel reading, consider using this Lenten season to do something that you find uncomfortable, knowing that by trusting in God all things are possible.

Wande Johnson

Appointed readings for today: Isaiah 1:2-4, 16-20, Psalm 50:7-15, 22-24, Matthew 23:1-12