The angel said to them, Do not be afraid. See!

I bring you of great

good news for all people
joy which is

Luke 2:10 NLV

Lenten Devotional 2013

Lent and Easter Worship Services
Lent and Easter Offerings will support Southwood’s Global Mission work in Honduras and Tanzania. Over 75 people will be serving with Southwood at these mission sites during 2013.

Ash Wednesday Worship
• Wednesday, February 13 • 5:15 and 6:45 p.m. • Services with Holy Communion • Lenten Meal served 5:00–7:00 p.m.

Lent Worship
• Wednesdays, February 20 & 27 and March 6, 13 & 20 • 6:30 p.m. • Service with Holy Communion • Lenten Meal served 5:00–6:30 p.m.

Holy Week Worship
• Maundy Thursday • March 28 • 6:30 p.m. • Good Friday • March 29 • 6:30 p.m. • Easter Services • March 31 7:30, 8:30, 9:45 and 11:00 a.m.

Sunday Services at 8:30, 9:45 & 11:00 a.m. 402.423.5511 • southwoodlutheran.org info@southwoodlutheran.org Mailing Address: p.o. box 22767 • Lincoln, ne 68542 Physical Address: 9300 South 40th Street • Lincoln, ne 68516

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Southwood Lutheran Church—Lincoln, Nebraska

Dear Friends, Welcome to the season of Lent and Southwood’s 4th annual Lenten Devotional booklet. I know it seems like we just said goodbye to the last gasps of the Christmas season, but now we turn to this season of Lent and prepare our hearts for a different celebration. The good news is we’re beginning with Christmas. This year our Lenten Devotional readings will take us through the entire book of Luke. From Jesus’ birth and baptism, to his parables, to the Last Supper, the cross and most importantly—the Resurrection. As I read the book of Luke, the message I continually hear is how Jesus is bringing all people into a relationship with God. He’s not interested in just a “chosen” group or the religious elite knowing about God, he wants everybody to hear and to know the Gospel message. From the very beginning of the story we hear the angels proclaim: “Do not be afraid. See! I bring you good news of great joy which is for all people.” In this devotional booklet are daily readings from scripture along with reflections on the text. As Lent begins, please commit yourself to these daily readings. You will grow in new ways as you take time each day immersing yourself in scripture and devotion to God. You might take an “extra step” too and challenge yourself to read the entire book of Luke during the next five weeks. On page 31 is a checklist for you, if you take on that challenge. Thank you to Michelle DeRusha who, for the fourth year, has written these devotionals for you. She shared the work this year with her husband, Brad Johnson, and we are so grateful to both of them. The work offered in writing over forty devotionals is certainly a gift to our congregation. Special thanks also to Deb Paden who graciously shares her artistic skills with us again this year. We are blessed. May you be inspired this season by God’s word and a Savior who came for all people, including you! Many Blessings,

Good News for All People—Lenten Devotional 2013

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Ash Wednesday, February 13

Read: Joel 2:12-17

That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts, come with fasting, weeping and mourning. (v. 12) ”

So often we put off our relationship with God. Distracted by our endless everyday responsibilities, we tell ourselves we’ll connect with God later, tomorrow, when we have more time to commit to Him. But too often the time doesn’t magically present itself; our busyness pushes God into the corners of our lives. As we enter these six weeks of Lent, a time of repentance and renewal, listen to God’s words in these verses: “Turn to me now, while there is still time.” The time is now, not tomorrow, not next week or next month. Make a commitment to dedicate these Lenten weeks to God. It doesn’t have to be complicated or even time-consuming. A simple commitment of a few minutes each day in which to allow your heart to return to the Lord. Lord, as I begin this Lenten study, please give me the focus and fortitude I need to commit my heart to you in a new way. Amen.

Thursday, February 14

Read: Luke 1:1-4

Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I have also decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught. (v. 3)

A lot of us spent time when we were young in Sunday School or a youth Bible study, hearing the Old and New Testament stories and memorizing prayers and commandments. We were taught that what we heard was fact, and we believed it largely because our teachers and religious leaders told us so. Here, in the opening passages of the Gospel of Luke, Luke tells us that he will take a different approach, digging into eye witness accounts of Jesus’ life in a systematic, logical way, so that we may learn it and understand it for ourselves, not because we memorized it by rote, but because we know it is true in our hearts. Lord, thank you for allowing me this opportunity to study Luke’s thorough account of Your Son’s life. Breathe new insights and understanding into these ancient words, so that I may grow to know and love You more deeply than ever. Amen.

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Southwood Lutheran Church—Lincoln, Nebraska

Friday, February 15

Read: Luke 1:5-56

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years. (v. 18 niv©2011) … “How will this be, Mary asked the angel, “since I am a ” ” virgin?” (v. 34 niv©2011)

It’s interesting to compare the descriptions of the annunciations—the occasions in which both Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, and Mary, mother of Jesus, were both visited by an angel bringing news of the impending births. In both cases Zechariah and Mary reacted to the arrival of the angel similarly—both were startled and fearful, and both were reassured by the angel. But note the subtle difference between Zechariah’s and Mary’s reactions to the news. While Zechariah challenged the angel to provide proof—“How can I be sure of this?”—Mary didn’t doubt the certainty of the actual event, she simply questioned the logistics of it. Sometimes we are Zechariah on our own faith journeys, questioning God, skeptical that He will come through for us, insisting that He give us proof. But God desires a Mary-like faith—confident of God’s goodness and His power. Lord, I know sometimes I challenge You to offer proof of Your existence, proof that You will fulfill Your promises. Please nurture a Mary-like faith in my heart. I want to believe and know that nothing is impossible for you. Amen.

Saturday, February 16

Read: Luke 1:57-80

“And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. (vs. 76-77) ”

We tend to think of John the Baptist as special, holy, set apart and distinguished from the rest of us as one of God’s holy prophets. Truthfully, though, we can read these words, spoken by Zechariah and inspired by the Holy Spirit, as words meant for us as well. As Christians, we common, ordinary humans are chosen by God as His holy people. Our job, like John the Baptist’s, is to spread His Good News, to prepare a path for others who might not know Jesus, to help them find Him amid the chaos of this world. This prophecy is meant as much for you as it was intended for John the Baptist. You, too, are a prophet of the Most High. The question is: how are you preparing the way for the Lord? Lord, forgive me for forgetting that I, too, am one of Your holy and chosen people. I know You have a specific role for me in helping to lead others to You. Please help me see clearly how I can fulfill that role here in Your kingdom on Earth. Amen.
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Sunday, February 17

Read: Luke 2

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about!” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. (vs. 15-20)

The truth is, there is no one right way to worship and celebrate God. Take these verses, for instance, in which we see two very different approaches to worship. When the shepherds heard the news about the birth of the Savior, they actively rejoiced, hurrying to the village to crowd into the manger. After witnessing Jesus, they left immediately to begin spreading the word, eager to tell everyone about this Good News. The shepherds were men of action, putting their faith and worship into motion—traveling, visiting and then verbally glorifying and praising God everywhere they went, even as they returned to their flocks. Now look at Mary. While the shepherds and other visitors crowded around her and the baby, praising, rejoicing and exclaiming over the astonishing news, Mary sat quietly amid the bustle, contemplating the amazing turn of events. The text reads that she “kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” The New International translation of these verses reads that Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Mary quietly treasured the birth of her son, the Savior. She didn’t sing Hallelujah or exclaim Amen or even pray audibly, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t rejoice over the birth of the Savior—she simply expressed her joy and thanksgiving differently than the shepherds. The very different ways Mary and the shepherds worshipped Jesus reminds us that praise and prayer come in many forms—boisterous and joyful, quiet and contemplative and every variation in between. Dear God, please know that no matter how I choose to express my worship, I praise You with every ounce of my being. Amen.
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Monday, February 18

Read: Luke 3:1-22

“Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham. That means nothing, ’ for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. (v. 8) ”

As Lutherans we believe that we are saved by the grace of God alone. But this doesn’t mean we don’t need to continually repent of our sins and return again and again to God. Nor does it mean that we are allowed to skate through our short life here on Earth without contributing to the betterment of God’s people. John the Baptist didn’t mince his words in this speech to the ancient Israelites who came to the Jordan River, expecting to be baptized. “Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown in the fire,” he told them bluntly. And his answer to the crowd’s question, “What should we do?” is intended as much for us as it was for them: Give to the poor. Share your food with the hungry. Don’t cheat others. Don’t make false accusations. Be content with what you have. Lord, sometimes I rely too much on Your gift of grace. I get lazy, assuming I can skate through life on grace. Thank you for reminding me that I have work to do in Your kingdom on Earth. Please give me the insight to see and the strength to accomplish Your specific will for me. Amen.

Tuesday, February 19

Read: Luke 3:23-38

Jesus was known as the son of Joseph (v. 23) … Adam was the son of God. (v. 38)

Most of us probably skip, or at least skim through the genealogy sections of the Old and New Testaments. Unless we’re expecting a baby and are searching for a unique name with Biblical origins, we don’t see much value in a long, boring list of ancient names, right? What we forget, though, is that these lists of names often provide interesting insights into our faith. Luke’s list here in Chapter Three, for instance, traces Jesus’ ancestry not only back to Abraham, the father of the Israelites, but to Adam himself, the original son of God and the very first man. Luke’s point is to illustrate that Jesus is Savior not just to the Jews, but to the entire world. And just as Luke’s list of names traces Jesus’ ancestry, it traces our own, too. We are indeed the sons and daughters of Adam and the sons and daughters of Christ. Lord, I often tend to think of myself as the spiritual child of Christ, but not necessarily his actual child, by birth. Thank you for this global perspective on my very own lineage today and for helping me to connect my own ancestry with Jesus Himself. Amen.

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Wednesday, February 20

Read: Luke 4:1-13

Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing at all that time and became very hungry. (vs. 1-2)

When we think of the Holy Spirit, we often picture a quiet, restful presence that brings peace and respite into our hectic lives. And while that is certainly an accurate portrayal of the Holy Spirit, it’s important to note that the Spirit often prompts us boldly, in unexpected and sometimes even challenging ways. In this instance, for example, we notice that the text says that Jesus “was led by the Spirit”—led into the wilderness, toward temptation by the devil himself. The fact is, sometimes the Holy Spirit intentionally leads us into uncomfortable, difficult circumstances, places we would rather not be. Sometimes God intentionally tests us, in order to strengthen our faith and our trust in Him. Sometimes God allows us to go hungry, so that, empty and vulnerable, we will allow ourselves to be filled by Him again. Dear God, give me strength and hope to withstand temptation and the desolation of the wilderness. Help me follow You, wherever You may lead. Amen.

Thursday, February 21

Read: Luke 4:14-41

“Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian. When they heard this, the people in the syna” gogue were furious. (vs 25-28)

We don’t like to think of ourselves as the angry Jews in this story, bitter and resentful that God bestowed His love on foreigners, “the others,” whom they deemed undeserving of that love. But think again. Maybe you’ve determined another person too flawed or too sinful to deserve God’s love. Perhaps you’ve judged another person as wrong or unworthy. Maybe you, too, have decided that certain groups of people are not eligible to be chosen and accepted by God. The fact is, God chooses whom He wants to choose, based not on the qualifications we determine but on His own perfectly right criteria. We don’t choose for God; the decision is His alone. Lord, I know I am guilty of sometimes assuming that I am more worthy of being chosen and loved by You than my neighbor. Please broaden my understanding of Your all-encompassing love and accept that the power to choose is Yours alone. Amen.
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Friday, February 22

Read: Luke 4:42-5:39

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish. “Master, Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night ” ” and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again. And this time their ” nets were so full of fish they began to tear! (vs. 4-6)

Sometimes we must follow God’s prompting in our lives simply out of trust and obedience. In this story, Simon Peter doubts that he will catch even a single fish. After all, he’s just returned empty-handed from an entire night at sea. You can hear the doubt and frustration in his voice—“If you say so,” he says to God, pushing his boat from shore and begrudgingly heading back out to sea. The key, though, is that Simon Peter obeys the Lord, in spite of his doubt. He may have been thinking, “This is ridiculous, this is a complete waste of time,” but yet, when he hears God’s command, when he hears His prompt, Simon listens and obeys. The next time you doubt God’s calling in your own life, remember Simon Peter: listen and obey, even in the midst of your skepticism. Lord, sometimes I doubt You, I doubt Your calling in my life; I refuse to obey You when I can’t see a clear outcome. Help me trust You in these times of uncertainty. Help me obey You in complete trust. Amen.

Saturday, February 23

Read: Luke 6:1-16

One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles. (vs. 12-13)

In this day and age of rampant social media and multiple ways to make instantaneous connection, we are often overwhelmed with a deluge of opportunities for community, connection and fellowship. We have hundreds of Facebook friends, dozens of emails piled up in our in-box and a social calendar packed with activities. Yet we need to ask ourselves, is this true connection, true communion? Jesus, too, had thousands of followers and admirers and endless opportunities for connection, yet it’s important to note in this passage that he chose just twelve, a small number of his closest confidants in which to nurture a deeper, more meaningful relationship. Do you have an intimate circle of loved ones on whom you can depend and who help you nurture your relationship with God? Or have you spread yourself too thin to make true and meaningful connections? God, sometimes I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of connections I make on a daily basis. Help me discern the people in my life that comprise my inner circle—the ones who fill me up rather than deplete me. The ones through whom and with whom I can better connect with You. Amen.
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Sunday, February 24

Read: Luke 6:17-49

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like ’ who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well-built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete. (vs. 46-49 niv©1984) ”

We often have very good intentions. We’ll come away from Scripture or a sermon convicted, eager to transform our behavior and our lives. Inevitably, though, our good intentions fade away, and before we know it, distracted by our daily life, we’ve resorted to our bad habits and flawed ways once again. So what’s the solution? How can we make our good intentions stick? How can we truly transform, not just in our heads, but in our hearts? The key, Jesus tells us here, is practice. We must take Jesus’ teachings, His words, and make them concrete through practice. Author Mark Buchanan puts it like this in his book The Rest of God: “We need to change our minds, yes, but we also need to change our ways. And for this we require practices to embody and rehearse our change of mind. The physical is a handmaiden to the spiritual, but a necessary one, without practices—without gestures with which to honor fresh ways of perceiving—any change of mind will be superficial, artificial, short-lived. We might attain a genuinely new thought, but without some way of putting it into practice, the thought gets suck in abstractions, lost in forgetting.” The next time you feel convicted by Scripture or a sermon, consider how you might live out that teaching in a practical way. Think about a new routine or a spiritual practice that will cement those words into your everyday, so that they will transform not only your thinking, but your entire life. Lord, please help me transform my good intentions into concrete action. The next time I am convicted by Your Word, show me how I might live out Your teaching in my own life, in my everyday, so that my actions, not just my words, demonstrate my faith. Amen.

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Southwood Lutheran Church—Lincoln, Nebraska

Monday, February 25

Read: Luke 7:1-18

A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man, he said, “I ” tell you, get up. (vs. 12-14) ”

As a widow, this grieving mother held just about the lowest possible position in society. She was, according to ancient Israelite standards, a nobody. And now, with the death of her only son, the widow’s status plummeted even further. Status didn’t matter to Jesus, though. He had compassion for the widow, despite the fact that she was worthless as far as society was concerned. It’s no coincidence that Jesus chose the widow and her only son as the recipient of his miracle. He was making a clear point, both to the ancient Israelites and to us today. Status doesn’t matter. Jesus loves every one of us, especially when we feel the least valuable to anyone else. Dear God, I admit, sometimes I feel worthless and useless. Sometimes I feel like a failure, a nobody. Please help me know in my heart that You value me and love me just as I am. Amen.

Tuesday, February 26

Read: Luke 7:19-35

After John’s disciples left, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people who wear beautiful clothes and live in luxury are found in palaces. Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. (vs. 24-26) ”

Sometimes we make judgments based on appearance. We see someone who looks differently than we do—a homeless man; a mentally ill woman; a person of a different ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation—and we judge that person as “less than.” In these verses Jesus challenges our tendency to judge based on appearance. “What were you expecting John the Baptist to look like?” he asks the crowd. “What do you think a prophet should look like?” he challenges. “Did he look differently than you imagined he would?” Jesus challenges the crowd to re-examine their expectations, and he asks us to do the same. Holiness is present everywhere, in all people, perhaps especially in those whom we least expect to find it. Lord, I know I am guilty of judging based on appearance and pre-conceived notions. But I also know that You are found in the least of these—the poor, the dirty, the sick, the weak. Please open my eyes. Help me see You and love You in every person, especially in the people I am least likely to accept and embrace. Amen.
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Wednesday, February 27

Read: Luke 7:36-50

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love. Then Jesus said to the ” woman, “Your sins are forgiven. (vs. 47-48) ”

No matter how badly you have sinned or how deeply flawed you are, know that there is always hope in Jesus. In these verses Jesus offers us a worst-case scenario: the egregious sinner, the prostitute, the woman who sinned again and again and again. Yet she is the one Jesus chooses to forgive—this woman, the one looked upon so disdainfully by Simon and the other Pharisees. They couldn’t fathom why in the world Jesus would waste his time on such a lost cause, such a vile, worthless woman. What the Pharisees refused to understand, of course, is that for Jesus, there is no lost cause; there is no sin too great to be forgiven. God, I know I don’t deserve to be forgiven. I know I don’t deserve Your limitless, amazing grace. Thank you for this incredible gift. Amen.

Thursday, February 28

Read: Luke 8:1-21

“No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a bowl or hides it under a bed. A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house. (v. 16) ”

Some of us might feel intimidated when we read a verse like this one. We are uncomfortable with the idea of evangelizing; we don’t like the idea of talking about our faith with others. But look closely at the language in this verse: “its light can be seen by all…” Here Jesus tells us that our actions can be just as powerful as our words. The Holy Spirit lives in each one of us, and our job is to allow that Light to shine brightly through our words and our actions, so that others may be inspired and convicted by the power of Jesus Christ. Today, take a moment to think about one small way in which you can let the Light of the Holy Spirit shine onto someone else and then vow to make it happen. Lord, what an amazing gift You have given me: the Holy Spirit, Your very essence, in me. Today, help me bless someone else by shining that Light onto them, so that they, too, will know Your love. Amen.

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Southwood Lutheran Church—Lincoln, Nebraska

Friday, March 1

Read: Luke 8:22-56

The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm. Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” (vs. 24-25)

Do you ever feel absolutely panicked, convinced that despite your desperate prayers, God doesn’t hear you or isn’t listening? Have you ever felt like you were drowning— in grief, in anxiety, in fear, in stress—and wondered where Jesus was amid the tumult of your life? It’s in these moments that we need our faith the most, knowing in our hearts that Jesus is in control, even when it seems like He is sleeping on the job. As a friend of mine likes to say, “God’s got it.” Have faith. Know that He’s got it and is always with you in the here and now. Lord, I know sometimes my faith is weak. I know that when my life seems to spin out of control, I sometimes wonder where You are; I question whether You’re at the helm at all. Lord, strengthen me; give me the confidence to know that You are with me when I doubt. Amen.

Saturday, March 2

Read: Luke 9:1-27

When the apostles returned, they told Jesus everything they had done. Then he slipped quietly away with them toward the town of Bethsaida. But the crowds found out where he was going, and they followed him. He welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God, and he healed those who were sick. (vs. 10-11)

A child interrupts you at the computer to ask for help. An elderly parent interrupts your wellplanned day to ask that you run an errand. A colleague interrupts your work to ask for advice. Your spouse interrupts your favorite television program to discuss a concern. The question is: how do you react to these daily interruptions? Do you resent them? Are you aggravated that they’ve upset your well-laid plans? Or do you react like Jesus did when the crowd interrupted His quiet time? Instead of avoiding the crowd or telling them He was too busy, Jesus welcomed the interruption as an opportunity to teach and heal. He approached the interruption not as nuisance, but as a gift, an opportunity to grow and nurture relationships. Dear God, I want to embrace interruptions as Jesus did, not as a burden or an irritation, but as a gift. Please help me see and welcome the myriad interruptions in my day as an opportunity to love, nurture, teach and heal. Amen.

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Sunday, March 3

Read: Luke 9:28-62

John said to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn’t in our group. But Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who ” is not against you is for you. (vs. 49-50) ”

At first glance you might think you can’t relate to these verses at all. Casting out demons? Healing the possessed? For most of us, that’s not part of our daily occupation. Yet look closely at what’s really happening in these verses. The disciples are criticizing someone outside their own close-knit group for healing in Jesus’ name. Because this other person isn’t part of their group, because he is separate and perhaps practicing faith differently from the disciples, he is criticized for overstepping his bounds. Think about it for a moment. Do you ever feel this way about those you consider outside “your group?” Are you ever critical of Christians who practice their faith differently than you do? Have you ever considered another denomination’s worship practices or theology wrong because it differs from yours? Jesus’ point is that we need to consider the big picture when it comes to Christianity and faith. Instead of nitpicking over who has it right and who has it wrong, we need to appreciate, as Jesus said, that whoever is not against us, or Him, is for us and for Him. Consider the verses that precede these, in which Jesus chastised the disciples for arguing over who among them was the most important: “…anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” (9:48) Hierarchy is not important. Jesus does not welcome only a specific group of followers. Anyone is welcome, especially those who are considered less-than. We are all on the same team; none of us is better than the other. In the end, it doesn’t much matter which theology is the purest or the best-aligned with Scripture. Our mission is simply to love God, love our neighbors and spread the Good News. That’s the big picture Jesus had in mind. Lord, I know I can be judgmental of others. I know, based on their theology, that sometimes I consider some people better Christians than others. Help me broaden my perspective to live with the big-picture attitude You expect. Amen.

Monday, March 4

Read: Luke 10:1-24

At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way. (v. 21) ”

Most of us probably don’t particularly like the idea of God intentionally hiding something from us. But the hard truth is that often God requires that we patiently wait for His answer—and sometimes that answer is a long time in coming. God sees into our very hearts. He knows our innermost thoughts, often better than we know ourselves. And He knows when we are too dependent on our own abilities, too bent on control14 Southwood Lutheran Church—Lincoln, Nebraska

ling our own lives as we see fit, rather than yielding to His will. In these circumstances, God might withhold clarity and answers from us, in order that we might grow and mature in our faith and trust in Him. Dear God, help me yield to Your will for me. Help me surrender control in order that I may more fully trust in and obey You. Amen.

Tuesday, March 5

Read: Luke 10:25-37

The man answered, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself. “Right!” Jesus told ” him. “Do this and you will live!” The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (vs. 27-29)

I suspect the man in this story isn’t the only one with a narrow definition of “neighbor.” It’s easy for us to consider the people we like as our neighbors; it’s easy to love our friends and family as ourselves and then justify that love as enough. But what about the people who irritate us, like the surly co-worker or the crabby cashier? Or how about the people we consider beneath us—the raggedy homeless man on the

Good News for All People—Lenten Devotional 2013

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corner of O Street, the imprisoned pedophile, the people whose choices we judge as immoral or wrong? Did Jesus expect us to love them as neighbors, too? The fact is, Jesus’ definition of “neighbor” spans every moral, social and geographic boundary— there is no boundary, no limit to His love, and He expects there to be no limit to ours either. The next time you ask, “Who is my neighbor?” remember that the answer is deceptively simple. It’s everyone. Lord, I know I put limits on my love. Like the man in Jesus’ story, I pick and choose who I deem worthy of being my neighbor. Help me break down those boundaries so that I will love as freely and generously as You do. Amen.

Wednesday, March 6

Read: Luke 10:38-41

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her. (vs. 41-42) ”

So what’s this “one thing worth being concerned about” that Jesus mentions in his lecture to Martha? What exactly has Mary discovered that Martha can’t see through the busyness and obligations crowding her day? He doesn’t specify, but if we look at the preceding verses, the answer is clear. While Martha bustles about in a frenzy, Mary takes the time to sit and listen. It’s that simple: she sits and she listens to Jesus. Most of us make the same mistake Martha makes in this story. But 3,000 years later, the answer is still the same: Jesus wants us to sit and listen to Him. What He tells us—through our moments of quiet contemplation, in worship, while communing with Him in His Word—is worth taking the time to discover. Dear God, so often I am distracted by my responsibilities and obligations. I tell myself I’ll take the time to be with You, but more often than not, I don’t do it. Help me change my ways, Lord, so that like Mary, I will come to understand that the only thing worth being concerned about is You. Amen.

Thursday, March 7

Read: Luke 11

“Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is bad, your body is filled with darkness. Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light. (vs. 34-36) ”

We all have dark corners—experiences or decisions we regret; periods in our past or present filled with pain, anger or sadness. When we obsess over these ugly parts of ourselves and feel guilty about poor choices, that darkness can carry over into every aspect of our life. Instead, Jesus tells us, we should train our eyes, and our minds, on all that is good, while also being wary of the darkness that masquerades as light. Jesus knows that we tend to focus on material things as a source of happiness— wealth, success, popularity—when in reality, these shallow pursuits bring a false light, a temporary joy. Focus on Jesus, the one and only true Light, and your life will radiate with real joy.
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Lord, fill me with Your light. Brighten my dark corners with Your love and grace. And help me focus not on shallow, ephemeral happiness but on You, the source of authentic joy. Amen.

Friday, March 8

Read: Luke 12:1-21

Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own. (v. 15) ”

Greed, Jesus tells us, comes in all packages, and we are to guard against every kind—not just money and material wealth, but greed in all its subtle and wily forms. Maybe you’re greedy for power. Or recognition. Or a particular lifestyle. Or time. Or a certain body type. Or the desire to fit in with a certain crowd. You may not have brand-new barns lined up in your backyard, or even a basement or a storage unit full of stuff, but chances are, you struggle with being greedy in some aspect of your life. If you’re unsure where your own personal greed hides, just ask yourself this: what is it in my life that distracts me from pursuing a rich relationship with God? Your answer is likely your greed. God, You know where my greed hides. As I contemplate this, illuminate the problem areas in my life, the places where I am tempted by greed. And then help me turn my attention from that back to You. Amen.

Saturday, March 9

Read: Luke 12:22-59

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. (v. 31) ”

Sometimes we read a verse like this one and we think, “Great! I’m all set…God’s got me covered! He’ll give me everything I need!” The problem, of course, is that our definition of “need” differs greatly from God’s. Much of what we define as “need,” is actually “want”—a bigger house, a new car, a promotion, a raise, a vacation, even our good health. Thus, when we don’t get from God what we think we need, we blame Him for coming up short, or for not answering our prayers. But the reality is that there is only one true need in our lives: the need for God. When we seek God first and foremost, everything else falls away. When we measure our myriad wants against the Kingdom of God, they dim in comparison. God, You know I get distracted by what I consider my needs. And you know I sometimes put what are actually my wants ahead of You. Forgive me. I want to seek You above all else. Amen.
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Sunday, March 10

Read: Luke 13:1-21

One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!” Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God! But the leader in charge of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day. “There are six days of the week for working, he said to the ” crowd. “Come on those days to be healed, not on the Sabbath. But the Lord replied, “You ” hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water? This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for eighteen years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?” This shamed his enemies, but all the people rejoiced at the wonderful things he did. (vs. 10-17)

Have you ever give something up for Lent? Chocolate? Red meat? Giving up those things we love has become a hallmark of the Lenten season. Turning Lent into a diet plan might be fine provided there is some spiritual food in place to sustain you. But when we simply give up the things we enjoy for the sake of giving them up, Lent becomes punishment. It conveys the idea that God simply wants us to suffer for a few weeks to understand how well off we are the rest of the year. Like the Pharisees, who made the Sabbath all law and no spirit, we sometimes seek a legalistic experience of Lent. It’s easier that way. In this passage we see the Pharisees so caught up in their set of rules, so enamored with etiquette, that they are unable to embrace a healing miracle. We also sometimes find that to follow a set of directions or make a set of sacrifices is simpler than seeking guidance through life’s uncertainties. In Lent we seek repentance, the return to God of our deepest selves. While the giving up of things may help us on that journey, it is the adding in that reconnects us to God. By reading and reflecting upon Luke’s gospel, you are adding in, absorbing the spiritual food that will bring clarity and purpose to this reflective season. Lord, help us to use Lent as a time to seek You out with deep purpose. Guide our spirits as we reflect on our weakness and stand in awe of Your strength. Help us, in our giving up and our adding in, to bring our desires into line with Your plan. Amen.
18 Southwood Lutheran Church—Lincoln, Nebraska

Monday, March 11

Read: Luke 13:22-35

Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He replied, “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail. (vs. 23-24) ”

Although we like to think of ourselves as a society of independent thinkers, our actions sometimes argue against that notion. We wait in lines for the most popular gadget; we pack stadiums to blend in with like-minded fans; and we check the latest fashions to make sure we aren’t too far out of step. In short, we often seek conformity. When Jesus tells us to “enter the narrow door,” he is inviting us to be nonconformists. If we live in true peace, the world will be ashamed of its grotesque violence. If we show true compassion, true love and true humility, we will be like nothing this world can offer. Walking through that narrow door will lead to expansive possibilities. Dear Lord, the world claims us every day as its own. Teach me a different way, and lead me through the narrow door, so that I might know another way of being. Amen.

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Tuesday, March 12

Read: Luke 14:1-14

Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet, he said, “don’t ” invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you. (vs. 12-14) ”

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to do a good deed without telling anyone? How often do we do a “selfless” act with the expectation of a thank you? Even if we manage to keep our good deeds a secret, we pat ourselves on the back in recognition of our humility. As sinners, our tendency toward self-promotion is so great that we must train ourselves to do good deeds. When kindness and service become second nature, like breathing, then helping those less fortunate will be a genuinely humbling and spiritually enriching activity. Lord, I sometimes feel pride in those gestures of charity that You would have be second nature to me. Refashion me as a habitual giver so that I may become the humble vehicle of your work in the world. Amen.

Wednesday, March 13

Read: Luke 14:15-35

A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. (vs. 25-26)

How can we live out something so strange and seemingly opposed to the message of love that Jesus normally proclaims? Can he really be telling us to hate? Of course not. Clearly the message is that God comes first, but that still sounds harsh because it seems to suggest that we should reject the ones we love in favor of God. Fortunately, the magic is in the nature of a love without boundaries. If we love God completely, then we love our neighbor completely. When we love our family, friends and even enemies completely, we are enacting the kind of love that makes worldly attachments minor by comparison with the love of God. To reject our families is simply to love God first, to allow Him to act in our hearts so that we may love our families, and all people, as fully as we can. Dear God, teach me to love You above all and, in doing so, to love all people sincerely. Remind me that family titles hold little meaning in the midst of Your all-encompassing love. Amen.
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Thursday, March 14
Read: Luke 15:1-10 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin. In ’ the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents. (vs. 8-10) ”

Think about the time when you were at your lowest, most guilt-ridden point. Now think about the moment after that, when you remembered that your debt was paid and your sins forgiven. It was impossible to imagine, just a moment earlier, that you could have been released from despondency. Perhaps the greatest challenge we face as Christians is despair. We sometimes feel that we are unworthy of grace, and we hide from forgiveness in the mistaken idea that only we know how bad we really are. But here Jesus invites us to experience the joy of a weight lifted—a joy shared by heaven itself. We can always return and be welcome, and that knowledge makes us never want to turn away again. Lord, thank You for the daily reminder that You want me to return to you, especially in the moments of my greatest sin and my greatest despair. Help me to share that grace and forgiveness with others. Amen.

Friday, March 15

Read: Luke 15:11-32

I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant. ” So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. (vs. 18-20)

We often don’t feel worthy of coming before God. Perhaps we assume our sins are too egregious to be forgiven, or we are ashamed and humiliated by our behavior. But God forgives us entirely, no matter what the circumstances, and offers us His grace time and time again. In fact, He sees our repentance from its earliest stages, when it is the merest seed, as we are just beginning to turn back toward home, toward Him. He sees us coming from a long way off, He eagerly meets us wherever we are in the process, and He is willing to guide us with love and compassion the rest of the way. Lord, thank you for Your infinite grace. I need it. You never turn Your face from me, no matter how many times I leave you, no matter how many times I return in repentance. I am so grateful for Your unrelenting love. Amen.
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Saturday, March 16

Read: Luke 16:1-18

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. (v. 10) ”

It truly is the little things that make us who we are. When we give our children the extra hug before school or spend a little extra time helping them with homework, we lay the groundwork for managing the bigger things. When we write little notes or show little acts of love, we prepare ourselves to endure the greater challenges of a relationship. Writing a check to a charity or making a direct deposit each month to our church is wonderful, but if we give, in some capacity, every time we see a need, we train ourselves to be big givers. Likewise, when we put off kindness or charity for another more convenient time, we train ourselves to hold back when it matters most. Dear God, please shape me in Your image as a consistent builder of Your kingdom. Teach me to act with love and compassion in little things, so that I am prepared when greater actions are required of me. Amen.

Sunday, March 17

Read: Luke 16:19-31

“Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment. “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers ’ can read what they wrote. “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is ’ sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God. “But Abra’ ham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.” (vs. 27-31) ’

The story of Lazarus and the rich man is a story of the living, not the dead. The rich man, in hoping to shelter his brothers from his tormented fate, asks for miraculous intervention. Abraham’s response is direct. If they won’t listen to the voice of God in the scripture, why would they listen to the voice of a ghost? We sometimes think that faith would have been easier if we could have been disciples or direct observers of Jesus’ life. How could we witness water turned to wine or a blind man see and not be absolutely convinced that Jesus told the truth? The fact is, the disciples were quick to forget what they had seen; they were quick to abandon Jesus when he was turned over to the Romans. We also have plenty of reasons to turn the other way. The ugliness of the world, the brutalities and the sadness, will always give us reason to doubt and to make excuses for not being who we know we should be. God asks for our faith, not our confirmation of His miracles. That faith is an act of stepping out of our doubt and cynicism. It is an action, an attitude, a choice. We are not asked to wait for a magical feeling to take over our free will and lock us into faithfulness. Instead, we are asked to take a step toward faith every day, even if the world around us appears godless and cold. Walking in that kind of faith, making that choice every day, is its own miracle.
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Lord, please help me renew my faith daily despite my doubts. Give me the courage and commitment to believe even when I think I have no reason to. Bolster me with the miracles of Your word, and give me the peace that comes from finding my faith in You. Amen.

Monday, March 18

Read: Luke 17:1-19

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well. (vs. 15-19 RSV) ”

How often do we pray to God, asking for help, healing, guidance and strength, yet forget to return to Him in thanks when He has answered our prayers? We are so focused on our wants and needs, on satisfying our own desires, we forget to show gratitude and thanks for the One who makes it all possible. Notice the language in these particular verses. The story says that all ten lepers were healed of their physical malady, but the tenth—the Samaritan who returned to praise Jesus—was “made well” by his faith. The phrase “made well” implies a deeper, fuller healing—a transformation of his mind, heart and body. Prayer healed the Samaritan’s body; thanksgiving and praise transformed his whole self. Lord, forgive me for my selfishness. So often when You answer my prayers I fail to praise You and thank You. I thank You now for all the gifts you have bestowed on me, for all the prayers You have answered. And I pray that I will return to You again and again with a thankful heart. Amen.

Tuesday, March 19

Read: Luke 17:20-37

One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you. (vs. 20-21) ”

Since Jesus spoke often about the Kingdom of God coming soon, the Pharisees seem to have wanted Him to commit to a date so that they could scoff at Him when it didn’t arrive. We also live in a time of especially intense apocalyptic talk, and Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees is as relevant for us today. We watch television shows about people preparing for doomsday; Hollywood is obsessed with zombies; and televangelists claim to know when the end will arrive. All that business of preparing for tomorrow leaves us neglecting today. The best way to protect our eternal selves in the present is to build the kingdom, one brick at a time, today. Today, try to act kindly toward others. The kingdom is always in the here and now. Lord, you’ve told me that I will not know the time of Your return. Prepare me with the recognition that You want me to build Your kingdom now through love and compassion toward others. Amen.
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Wednesday, March 20

Read: Luke 18:1-17

“I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. (v. 17) ”

It’s remarkable how much children accept on faith, not out of ignorance, but on the basis of trust. They trust that as parents, grandparents and caregivers, we will watch over them and protect them. They trust that what we tell them is honest and true. They trust that we will forgive them for their wrongs and love them unconditionally. This, Jesus tells us, is how we as believers should receive the Kingdom of God—not in ignorance, but in trust. Unless we give ourselves entirely and wholeheartedly to our Father and Protector, unless we relinquish our fears and insecurities to Him, unless we trust Him with our whole selves, we are not truly His. Dear God, I know I often don’t come to You in complete trust. I question, I fear, I try to control every detail of my life, instead of handing it over entirely to You. Help me, Lord. Help me come to You like a child, trusting in faith. Amen.

Thursday, March 21

Read: Luke 18:18-42

“In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” Those who heard this said, “Then who in the world can be saved?” He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God. (vs. 25-27) ”

We tend to stop in frustration and dismay at the first part of this story, guiltily aware that Jesus’ proclamation applies to us. After all, we are rich; we have more money and more resources than most of the people across the entire globe. What chance is there for us, the richest people on Earth, to enter the Kingdom of God? But it’s the next verse in this conversation that matters most: “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” It’s true—left to our own devices, we flawed humans are ill-equipped to enter the Kingdom of God. But nothing is impossible with God’s infinite grace. Grace makes everything possible. Lord, thank You for Your endless grace. I know that without it, I am nothing. Your grace is everything, and I am humbly grateful for it. Amen.

Friday, March 22

Read: Luke 19:1-10

There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going past that way. (vs. 2-4)

There has probably been a time in your life when you have striven to be noticed. Perhaps you’ve wanted to be recognized by your boss as you climbed the corporate ladder. Maybe you’ve desired the attention of a particularly popular crowd at school. Perhaps you’ve simply wanted to accomplish big things in your life—to be noticed and recognized for your achievements. What’s interesting about Zacchaeus is that he
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is already famous—as a rich tax collector, he is well-known among the townspeople of Jericho. But Zacchaeus knows that none of that earthly fame matters. He realizes that nothing compares to seeing and being seen by Jesus. God promises that He will seek us out, find us and save us. The truth is, there is no greater fame, no greater recognition, than being sought by God. Lord, sometimes I get distracted by earthly pursuits, seeking the attention and recognition of my colleagues, friends and acquaintances. Help me keep my eyes focused only on You. Earthly fame, achievement and recognition pale in comparison to being sought by You. Amen.

Saturday, March 23

Read: Luke 19:11-28

“But the third servant brought back only the original amount of money and said, ‘Master, I hid your money and kept it safe. I was afraid because you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t yours and harvesting crops you don’t plant. ‘You wicked servant, the king ’ ’ roared. ‘Your own words condemn you. If you knew that I’m a hard man who takes what isn’t mine and harvests crops I didn’t plant, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.” (vs. 20-23) ’

It’s often easy to look at others and clearly see their gifts: the musician, the artist, the doctor, the minister. They have something obvious to offer God; their skills are useful for growing the Kingdom of God on Earth. But what about the rest of us? What about office managers and stay-at-home moms, accountants and engineers? What do we have to offer? The truth is, God gives each one of us gifts, though some might not be as obvious as others. Ask yourself this: what fuels my passion? The answer to that question may very well point to your God-given gifts. The key, of course, is to recognize your gifts and use them for the good of others. Don’t play it safe, Jesus tells us in this parable. Don’t hide your gifts; don’t bury them where they won’t benefit anyone else. Use them to grow the Kingdom of God. Lord, please give me the eyes to recognize the gifts You have bestowed on me. And help me use these gifts to give You glory. Amen.

Sunday, March 24

Read: Luke 19:29-48

When he reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen. “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!” But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!” He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!” (vs. 37-40)

When Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph, he no longer deflects the Pharisees from his true identity. Prior to this moment, he has responded to them with questions of his own or answers so deft that they confuse and frustrate the Pharisees. Now, however, Jesus speaks in direct language that he knows will accelerate the process of his persecution and crucifixion. The authorities want him to either renounce the crowd’s sugGood News for All People—Lenten Devotional 2013 25

gestion that he is the messiah or to acknowledge it and open himself up to a charge of blasphemy. His response goes well beyond the acknowledgment that He is a king. In saying that “the stones would burst into cheers” if the people could not, Jesus shows that His authority transcends that of earthly kings. Nature itself, fallen and broken along with humanity, feels its time of liberation at hand. The statement also offers an ironic foreshadowing of the abandonment and crucifixion of Jesus. The people, who could not contain their enthusiasm when Jesus arrived as a potential political liberator, evaporate when He is arrested and humiliated. When Jesus finally breathes His last on the cross, darkness covers the land. Nature itself mourns. The Gospel of Matthew, in a parallel with the image of stones celebrating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, notes that “the earth shook and the rocks were split” when Jesus dies. Both accounts seem to suggest that nature stands ready to respond to the command of God, to reflect the mood of its creator, while people will only be obedient to their own interests. Lord, as we celebrate the entry of Jesus into human history, remind us to be on guard against a fair-weather faith. Help us to be obedient to your will, celebrating your triumph regardless of the consequences. Amen.

Monday, March 25

Read: Luke 20

Now tell us—is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” He saw through their trickery and said, “Show me a Roman coin. Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s, ” they replied. “Well then, he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God ” what belongs to God. (vs. 22-25) ”

Here the scribes and chief priests try to trick Jesus into committing to being antiRoman or pro-Roman. If the former, he can be handed over to the authorities. If the latter, he will be branded a collaborator by his own people. For Jesus, the Romans are a distraction from the real issues. They are simply the oppressors du jour, and his reply demonstrates how far beyond governments Jesus is. We are incredibly blessed to live in a nation that allows its citizens to follow their consciences in matters of religion. Nations, however, do not last forever, and the United States is no exception. Jesus’ reply is an excellent lesson in perspective. We are invited to see stewardship as a higher calling than citizenship. Lord, please remind us not to place our faith in objects or institutions but to recognize that You, the sovereign and eternal One, are our only true source of security and prosperity. Amen.

Tuesday, March 26

Read: Luke 21

“I tell you the truth, Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. ” For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has. (vs. 3-4) ”

When He compares the widow, who gave only two small coins, with the wealthy people who dropped much larger donations in the collection box, it may seem on
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the surface that Jesus is speaking only about monetary offerings in this story. But the fact is, He is referring to much more. Are you giving God only a tiny part of yourself, a sliver of your time, a sliver of your heart? Or are you offering Him everything you have? Jesus wants you to be the widow, giving everything you have to Him—your heart, mind and soul. Lord, I admit, sometimes I find it hard to give myself entirely over to You. I know it’s a matter of trust—a trust I don’t always have. Help me be the widow; I want to give all that I am and all that I have to You. Amen.

Wednesday, March 27

Read: Luke 22:1-38

Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people. But among you it will be different. Those who are the ’ greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. ” (vs. 24-26)

This moment is remarkable, of course, because Jesus suggests that true greatness comes through service to others. But also remarkable is what prompts Jesus to speak this truth. The apostles are arguing about who will be greatest while they eat the Last Supper. We can forgive them for misunderstanding Jesus’ previous statements that he must suffer and die before he could return to them. But this is Passover, the day when the Jews turn with humble awe to the memory that they were spared God’s punishment. The apostles trivialize the moment and demonstrate just how human they are. In doing so, they confirm the message for us. These deeply flawed, self-interested people are us. They are not religious rock stars. They are people who had to struggle against the same temptations we face. Knowing that they went on to live out Jesus’ words through suffering and serving in those early days of the church gives us hope that we, too, can become servant leaders. Lord, help me look beyond my immediate interest to Your will for my life. Remove my pride and teach me that humble service is my greatest calling. Amen.

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Maundy Thursday, March 28

Read: Luke 22:39-23:25

He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine. Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fer” vently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. (vs. 41-44)

In asking that He be spared a horrific death on the cross, Jesus does not bargain. He does not promise to build a home for orphans or heal as many sick people as He can if God preserves His life. There is no deal-making, only a request. Submission to the Father’s will is built into Jesus’ prayer. That final part, “Thy will be done,” is the most difficult one to say with sincerity, but it is the part that brings peace with our losses, that places our immediate desires into the big picture of God’s plan. Perhaps God can fit our specific desires into His plan. If it is not to be, the knowledge that His plan is eternal perfection will give us patience and peace with whatever life brings. Dear Lord, grant that I can surrender with sincerity to Your will. Give me the peace that comes from knowing that You are in control, and my individual interests are only as important as the service they render to You. Amen.

Good Friday, March 29

Read: Luke 23:26-50

One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong. Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you ” come into your Kingdom. And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in ” paradise. (vs. 39-43) ”

Think about the mind and the soul of the criminal who defends Jesus. He had been nailed to a cross, his body battered but instinctively fighting to live. He hung in humiliation above foreign soldiers who were occupying his homeland. The shame of his crime must have been exceeded only by the fear of what would happen to his family when he died. Finally, he had to listen to another criminal who lamented his own wasted life by mocking the only innocent man among them. Yet somehow, in the midst of terror and chaos, this criminal, who would soon learn that he was also a good man, saw beyond his fear to the grace of the One beside him and defended Him and proclaimed Him. We may not be able to comprehend the relief that washed over this criminal as Jesus promised him life, but in this darkest of days, we also look forward to the relentless mercy and love that will see us through any trial, to the light that this broken world cannot deny. Lord, seek us out in our despair, comfort us in our sorrow, and remind us always that the promise of the cross is extended to people of all circumstances. Amen.
28 Southwood Lutheran Church—Lincoln, Nebraska

Saturday, March 30

Read: Luke 23:50-56

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock. (vs. 50-53)

There is a move in mountain climbing called “the rest step.” When climbers are exhausted and pulling in little oxygen with each breath of rarified air, they will take one step, breathe a few times, and continue. At this pace a hundred feet of elevation can take hours to achieve. Similarly, both Joseph of Arimathea and the women who tend Jesus’ body move forward under the burden of grief and hopelessness, one difficult step at a time. Each of these people is engaged in the ugly work of life. In the face of hopelessness and loss, they simply move forward. In the absence of any clear hope ahead, they trudge. We are guaranteed to suffer in this life. But when we feel the hopelessness that comes with suffering, we might do well to remember Joseph of Arimathea and the women of this text and trudge on until hope arrives. Dear Lord, in my darkest moments give me the strength to move forward, little by little, until the promise of Your mercy can be fulfilled. In the darkest moments of others, let me lighten their loads and share the peace that You offer. Amen.

Easter Sunday, March 31

Read: Luke 24:1-53

But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day. Then they ” remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. (vs. 1-9)

Have you ever experienced the unburdening of an unexpectedly good prognosis? Have you ever found a thing of great value that was lost? Have you ever felt the relief of a relationship reconciled? If so, you may understand some fraction of the shock and disbelief and rising euphoria that the women experienced at the tomb. They have been at the lowest point of despair. As followers of Jesus, they had dedicated their work and mental energy and reputations to a ministry that was now in shambles. Their leader was dead, their comrades were in hiding, and they came to the tomb to perform one final gesture of obedience to their Lord.
Good News for All People—Lenten Devotional 2013 29

Now they stand before men bathed in a supernatural light. The stone is rolled away and the body of Jesus gone. They are reminded of the story He had foretold, and the mist begins to lift. Like the recipients of any incredible news, their first impulse is to run and tell others who will share the joy. They must be stumbling and crying for joy as they run. That is the feeling of Easter: the perpetual second chance, the journey from weight to weightlessness, from despair to joy. Today, as you go out into the crisp air, take a deep, grateful breath and remember that grace has made every burden manageable and temporary. We are a people of empty-tomb euphoria. Let’s let our actions reflect our joy! He is risen; we are redeemed! Dear Lord, thank You for flooding the world with redeeming grace. By Your sacrifice we are made whole and given an example of perfect love to follow. Keep the message and the feeling of Easter joy foremost in our hearts, so that we might follow in Your steps and spread the joy of Your message to others. Amen.

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Southwood Lutheran Church—Lincoln, Nebraska

Daily Reading Schedule for Luke
‰ 2-14 ‰ 2-15 ‰ 2-16 ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ 2-17 2-18 2-19 2-20 2-21 2-22 2-23 2-24 2-25 2-26 2-27 2-28 3-1 3-2 1:1-4 1:5-56 1:57-80 2 3:1-22 3:23-38 4:1-13 4:14-41 4:42-5:39 6:1-16 6:17-49 7:1-18 7:19-35 7:36-50 8:1-21 8:22-56 9:1-27 ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ 3-3 3-4 3-5 3-6 3-7 3-8 3-9 3-10 3-11 3-12 3-13 3-14 3-15 3-16 9:28-62 10:1-24 10:25-37 10:38-41 11 12:1-21 12:22-59 13:1-21 13:22-35 14:1-14 14:15-35 15:1-10 15:11-32 16:1-18 ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ ‰ 3-17 3-18 3-19 3-20 3-21 3-22 3-23 3-24 3-25 3-26 3-27 3-28 3-29 3-30 16:19-31 17:1-19 17:20-37 18:1-17 18:18-42 19:1-10 19:11-28 19:29-48 20 21 22:1-38 22:39-23:25 23:26-50 23:50-56 24:1-53

‰ 3-31

About the Artist:
Deb Paden, artwork contributor for this devotional, has been a member of Southwood for 20 years. She is married to Steve Paden, and has three children and one grandchild. Deb primarily works in watercolor, but has designed, and been part of the painting team on three mural projects at Southwood. She is a docent at the Sheldon Museum of Art, and is a member of the Sheldon Board of Trustees.

About the Authors:
Michelle DeRusha and Brad Johnson, authors of this Lenten devotional, have been members of Southwood since 2001. Brad teaches English at Doane College in Crete, and Michelle works as a writer. They have two boys, Noah and Rowan, and a pet lizard named Frill.
Bible verses (except where noted) come from the New Living Translation © 2007 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

Good News for All People—Lenten Devotional 2013

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Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage Lincoln, NE Permit No. 305

PAID

The angel said to them, Do not be afraid. See! I bring you

p.o. box 22767 • Lincoln, ne 68542 402.423.5511 • southwoodlutheran.org

good news for all people
Luke 2:10 NLV

of great

joy which is

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