Sunday, March 6
Lent 1: Jesus’ Temptations in the Wilderness (Luke 4:1-13)
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you,’
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Monday, March 7
“What Grief Teaches Us” by Sonja Selboe
In the days, weeks and years after a great grief, loss or death of someone close to you, it seems to take a minimum of a year to get back to “normal”. The tragedy puts everything in a strange perspective seen mostly through the blurred vision of tears and the aching of a broken heart. A simple smile from a stranger, or a from a baby peering at you over its mother’s shoulder in the checkout line, seems like a healing balm to your saddened soul. You have no interest in picking fights, even regarding the stuff that used to bother you. Life is changed forever. You are changed forever. Often this is the beginning of compassion, patience, even love as the heart is softened through sadness, depression, and grief. If we have never loved deeply or suffered deeply, we are unable to understand spiritual things at any depth. God has to use love and suffering to teach us the lessons that really matter. Gradually, pain releases its grip on our hearts, and joy, like the sun peeking slowly from behind the clouds, begins to brighten life. Thank you, God for the gifts of suffering and love.
(Some of the above material was borrowed from UNIVERSAL CHRIST by Richard Rohr.)
Tuesday, March 8
“Losing and Finding My Mother” by Rachel Pritchett
COVID came and the door slammed tight at Madrona House, where my mother resides on the dementia floor.
Shut off were my frequent in-person visits. Suddenly, there was virtually no way to make meaningful connection. Phone calls were confusing for my mother, at this late stage in her disease. So were the weekly 20-minute window visits, during which she had little idea what was going on. But they were better than nothing.
The separation of thousands of loved ones in nursing homes and their families lasted for many, many months as COVID’s fury tore through one facility after another, including Madrona House. I got into a new rhythm, leaving little brown sacks with magazines, cards, notes, and cans of soda pops at the front door each morning on my way to work. We all prayed for mom and hoped she was doing alright. I struggled daily with whether I should bring her home. I was relieved when the vaccines came through. I then knew she would probably survive this dreaded plague.
In a way, I lost my mother during those worst COVID months.
Of course, we lost her long ago, perhaps 10 years earlier, when her dementia slowly presented itself. Our visits to her in her home changed. She no longer could cook meals, and depended on TV dinners. In addition to those, she toasted bread on stove burners. I worried about fire. She couldn’t make coffee. She couldn’t play the piano, or read, or dress herself. She sat in her lounger, gazed at the view of the Olympic Mountains, and was content until I simply couldn’t allow it to happen any longer.
I placed her in an independent-living facility. That worked for several years until COVID hit and she wandered and was picked up by police. Her next step was living with me, and then the secure unit at Madrona House.
Now that the front door at Madrona House is unlocked, I suppose you could say that I found my mother again. I am one of her caregivers. I spend afternoons with her every other day. We get cleaned up, and curl her hair. We tidy her room, then go on drives and walks. We enjoy cookies and soda pop in front of the gas fireplace and I’m reading “The Egg and I” to her. We go to worship at the Baptist church, just a few steps from Madrona House. We have the same conversations over and over again, so I don’t have to think of something new to say. Life is as good as it can get since I found her.
My mother is 95, so she’ll again slip out of my life and I’ll have lost her. I’ve had many conversations with God, and He knows I am prepared. If my mother understood the state she is in now, she wouldn’t want to be here, I am certain. She was always independent and stood on her own two feet.
Here at the end, it’s right that my mother and I have come together, and I thank God that I found her.
Wednesday, March 9
The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)
Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
Thursday, March 10
“Lost and Found in 2021” by Vicki Browning
The evening of February 18th, 2021, my youngest daughter Susan called me on Face Time along with her 4 year old granddaughter, Leni. They were both working through the giggles. I was soon giggling with them as Leni showed me how she could make crossed eyes. She wanted to tell me about her baby sister who by this time was 3 months old and Leni was sharing with me the latest. She reminded me that the baby was named Penelope Maier but her middle name was Penny. She cracked up laughing as she told me her Grandma Susan called the baby P. Susan wanted to show me her finished kitchen cabinets so she took the phone into the kitchen. Leni got in the laundry basket and was sliding around the floor and wanted Susan to show me how she could slide like she was in the snow. At the end of the call there were the usual “I love you.” And more giggles.
Twelve hours later I got the call saying Susan had died during the night. Time of death was estimated as 1:00 am. The cause was later determined as cardiac arrest. As I look back on my last conversation with her, I think of giggles and laughs and love. How fortunate I am. I have carried that forward as I interact with others. Jesus wept so we know he had sadness and yet what an example he set. Life goes on for me and Susan’s husband and her sons and her sisters. I think I now have more of an appreciation for others. I think about my relationships a little more. I reach out to others a little more. I am grateful for the life I shared with Susan and with her sisters. I am there for them as they mourn the death of their sister. With COVID restrictions we had not spent as much time together but we were always there for each other. Life without Susan is different but I am grateful for the memories. I believe Susan is with her dad and I am at peace.
Friday, March 11
“Amazing Grace” (v. 1) Text by John Newton, 1725-1807
Amazing grace! – how sweet the sound – that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.
Saturday, March 12
“Losing and Finding Community in a Pandemic” by Martha Shonkwiler
A beloved community was LOST in my southern Oregon church starting in March 2020 because of the pandemic. Our lectio divina group, art & spirituality group, volunteering in the parochial first grade, and church services for everyone over the age of 65 were eliminated. By September, wild fires, changing family dynamics, too much yard work and loss of friends led me to decide to move north to Bainbridge Island to live near my kind daughter and her family who had arrived here four months before the pandemic hit.
Desperate for beloved community, I had looked online in August and joyfully FOUND a video of Pastor Paul preaching from the back of a pick up truck in the Bethany Lutheran Church parking lot. Sunday after Sunday, I watched the services. (Thank you, Rachel Pritchett for your video work even in the the rain and cold.) In October 2020, while looking for an apartment I drove into the parking lot as Pastor Paul and Allan Lang were building the outdoor stage. After moving in November, the December Advent labyrinth walk appealed. Then in January 2021, the monthly Zoom Women’s Bible Study group let me meet church members. By April, the Rachel Circle had finally started quilting again for Lutheran World Relief. At last beloved community in-person, and we even share lunch together. Later we filled book bags and baby kits for overseas relief. Alice McCain invited me to join the Zoom Interfaith Council with its rich diversity. The kingdom of God is at hand.
God has certainly graced me with all of you. Summer services on the patio in nature were beautiful, and the choir singing during the autumn and winter in the sanctuary were God incarnate. Using the Holden Evening service during Advent moved my soul as we sang in two part harmony. Thank you for all your strength of community, and especially Pastor Paul who holds us all together.