DAILY DEVOTIONS

Lent 2021

Starting Ash Wednesday, February 17, we will be sharing  writings from different clergy members on the theme of “Suffer and Grow Strong.”  You will be encouraged to let go – to let of habits that limit or hinder your spiritual growth and wellbeing. You will be invited to immerse yourself into the practice of the faith – to go deeper and farther in living faithfully as believers. You will be challenged to take on new habits – practices that are life giving and transforming on your faith journey. You will be inspired to grow – to grow strong and thrive as an overcomers and followers of Jesus Christ.

Daily Lenten Prayer 4-4-2021
    We raise our Hallelujahs because the Suffering Servant is victorious. We raise our Hallelujahs because the Crucified is now the Risen Lord. We celebrate this day because you entered the arena for all humanity. You suffered to the point of death. But now you are raised to glory!
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    Daily Lenten Prayer 4-3-2021
      Without knowing how the end would have been, I can imagine some had probably thought it was the end for Jesus. Some may have likened him to a "flash in the pan" cult leader – one who came on the scene with some flair, stirred up the crowd with empty words, did a little magic, and then was no more. He promised a lot, but could not fulfill what he had promised, they may have said. A few people got excited because of his teachings, and some even said they were healed, but that was the extent of it. Yesterday he was on a cross. And today he is in a tomb. He could not even save his own life?
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      Daily Lenten Prayer 4-2-2021
        Today is Good Friday! The journey of Lent has led to the cross. The entry into Jerusalem was just the precursor for what was to happen. We knew it when we started at Ash Wednesday. We knew it when we got to Palm Sunday and heard again the narrative of Jesus’ welcome into the city by the crowds. We knew it as we read the retelling of the Last Supper. We knew it, for we have read and heard the story many times to know what will happen.
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        Daily Lenten Prayer 4-1-2021
          Entering into Jerusalem, Jesus is welcomed with shouts of praise by the crowd. They shout “Hosanna,” and some even place their cloaks on the path before him. But is he truly welcomed there? Is he welcomed into the place that is considered the seat of power, and is he really welcomed by those who control the power?
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          Daily Lenten Prayer 3-31-2021
            Jesus is on a mission. He journeys into Jerusalem. He knows what awaits him, yet he goes still. He willingly enters the arena, and squares off with the system of this world. What are the things we know we should do but would prefer not to do? Sometimes even those things that we would prefer not to do still must be done, and they can only be done in the arena of life where the battle rages. Yes, sometimes there are risks involved, and at times the consequences are frightening, but they must be done.
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            Daily Lenten Prayer 3-30-2021
              In the arena of life there is an ongoing battle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world, and we all participate in this ongoing battle. And whether or not we are aware of it, our everyday choices and actions determine which of the kingdoms we participate in, and to which we give our allegiance. Each day when we rise we enter into life’s arena, and we side with one, or with the other – the Kingdom of God, or the kingdom of this world. 
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              Daily Lenten Prayer 3-29-2021
                As we enter into Holy Week, we will see Jesus as the ultimate risk-taker – although in his case the consequence was guaranteed. Here he is, as told in Mark’s Gospel, riding into Jerusalem. The people celebrate his arrival, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” They even spread their cloaks on the ground, and wave palm branches in the air, paying homage to him. But Jesus knows what awaits him in Jerusalem!
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                Daily Lenten Prayer 3-28-2021
                  Loving and All-Wise God, you created us, and you know our very nature, and the intent of our heart. Nothing about us is hidden for you, or is unknown to you. You know our bent to sinning, and our inclination to do evil. Yet, in your infinite and boundless love, you were willing to enter the arena of humanity in the form of your son, Jesus Christ, to show your love for all the world.
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                  Daily Lenten Prayer 3-27-2021
                    It seems we Americans are busier than ever. When we get busy, we often find ourselves shifting into autopilot. At that point, we’re often “going through the motions” without reallyfocusing on the deeper implications of our day-to-day decisions. Our minds are usually occupied in one of two places: internal focus or external focus. It’s a state of mind and the ideal state of mind fluctuates between the two – whatever the current situation demands. The key is understanding a healthy balance between the two.
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                    Daily Lenten Prayer 3-26-2021
                      Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
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                      Daily Lenten Prayer 3-25-2021
                        In this week’s scripture reading, God called out as a voice from heaven for all to hear. Some thought it thundered, while others thought an angel had spoken to him. But blessed were those that heard God’s voice and their joy was to have their faith strengthened. It’s been said by many physicians that good hearing is essential to physical and emotional well-being. During this Lenten season, I hope you’ve been able to hear the still small voice of God calling out to you. If you feel you can’t, then pair up with your Bible and hear how God calls out to us each and every day in new and unique ways. There’s a voice calling from heaven, are you listening?
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                        Daily Lenten Prayer 3-24-2021
                          We live in a result-driven society. In academia, professors need to “Publish or Perish.” Salespersons have monthly revenue targets. Executives are often measured by their company’s stock price. Does excessively focusing on the result prevent us from reaching our goals?
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                          Daily Lenten Prayer 3-23-2021
                            The emperor Marcus Aurelius said, "For nothing should be done without an end in view." This comes from a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor, and follower of Stoic philosophy. He wrote 12 books of his “Meditations” in Koine Greek as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement. He seemed to be a proponent of always having an end goal in mind. And end goals aren’t under the sole ownership of the ambitious career-minded individual. They are for everyone from the teenager to the business mogul. Having end goals seems to be a part of life and if breathing is essential to life, then end goals seem to remind us of why we breathe.
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                            Daily Lenten Prayer 3-22-2021
                              With each passing day, it seems more and more difficult to remember a time before COVID-19. But I do recall a time when my wife and I loved to go to outdoor art festivals in the springtime. We especially loved going to the Dogwood Festival in Piedmont Park. The April weather always seemed to be perfect and every flower and tree seemed to be in full bloom. Hundreds of artists and artisans were in attendance and one year I remember hearing artist Steve Penley designed and painted the official poster for the 2011 Dogwood festival. My wife and I made sure to attend the festival with the hopes of seeing him there.
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                              Daily Lenten Prayer 3-21-2021
                                God of all peoples, in your infinite and abounding love you have created us all, and have called each of us your own. You have extended the circle of your divine presence, and have invited everyone to participate in the eternal dance of love with you, Creator, and with each other. No one is excluded, no one is overlooked, no one is ignored - all people, from every ethnicity, language, and nation are welcomed. And you have shown us through the giving of your son, Jesus Christ, how radically you love all of us.
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                                Daily Lenten Prayer 3-20-2021
                                  God never leads us into temptation. God can use those times to teach us and to help us grow stronger, but temptations don’t come from God. We participate in a relationship with the Almighty. It isn’t forced. It can only be received and then we do our part to maintain it, just as in human relationships. As we turn to God day after day, we are given guidance, assurance, peace, and knowledge that God is working in our lives. We can’t help but be joyful.
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                                  Daily Lenten Prayer 3-19-2021
                                    In the Gospel of John, we see the imagery and language of light from the very beginning. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God……The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.” Here in chapter 3, we see this imagery again. “The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light.”
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                                    Daily Lenten Prayer 3-18-2021
                                      Believe – you may not really think about this word much but it’s something we do nearly every moment of every day. We believe that when we get up in the morning and walk to the kitchen, the light will come on when we flip the switch. We believe that when we go to sit down, the chair behind us will hold. We believe that the sun will rise and set. We even profess each week in worship what we believe about God and about Jesus through the Apostle’s Creed.
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                                      Daily Lenten Prayer 3-17-2021
                                        In 1747, Charles Wesley wrote these words, “Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven, to earth come down, fix in us thy humble dwelling, all thy faithful mercies crown. Jesus, thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love thou art. Visit us with thy salvation; enter every trembling heart.” It’s almost as if I can hear these words being sung and echoing from the rafters in the sanctuary here at Peachtree Road.
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                                        Daily Lenten Prayer 3-16-2021
                                          For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. John 3:16
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                                          Daily Lenten Prayer 3-15-2021
                                            The season of Lent is a time of remembrance, repentance, reconciliation, and rest. It is a time to reset our lives and ground ourselves in spiritual disciplines that help draw us closer to God. It is a time for us to refocus ourselves on our mission and purpose which for me is centered in our focus this week, Love – the life-giving, life-changing love of God!
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                                            Daily Lenten Prayer 3-14-2021
                                              Sustaining God, you are the source of our strength, and of our life. 
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                                              Daily Lenten Prayer 3-13-2021
                                                Where in your life are you hoping to receive and experience restoration? Where are the opportunities for healing in your life and in your relationships? How can God bind the wounds that you are experiencing? 
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                                                Daily Lenten Prayer 3-12-2021
                                                  In this season of Lent, a season of self-examination and confession, can you identify things in your own life that are leading you away from God’s path for you? What steps can you take to move away from sin and temptation and more fully into the path that God would have you follow?
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                                                  Daily Lenten Prayer 3-11-2021
                                                    “The time is always right,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “to do what is right.” This passage, and that quote, invite a question: What right thing have you been called to do? What is that thing that you know you need to do to be faithful to God? What is God stirring up within you to work on, to either dismantle or to create, in order to make your part of the world look a little more like the one God intends? 
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                                                    Daily Lenten Prayer 3-10-2021
                                                      Anger is not inconsistent with the character of God. In this passage, Jesus shows us that there are some things worth getting angry about.
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                                                      Daily Lenten Prayer 3-9-2021
                                                        Seven words: “Zeal for your house will consume me”. Jesus was zealous for what happened in the temple – the worship of God mattered greatly to him.
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                                                        Daily Lenten Prayer 3-8-2021
                                                          The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”
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                                                          Daily Lenten Prayer 3-7-2021
                                                            Sustaining God, you are the source of our strength, and of our life. You have nurtured us with your love, and have provided for us in your compassion. We have journeyed through life’s rugged terrains, and have been bruised by the way of suffering.
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                                                            Daily Lenten Prayer 3-6-2021
                                                              Do you remember John Rocker, the #1 relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves in the late 1990’s and 2000? He had an excellent arm but boy, his mouth! He got in trouble often over racist and homophobic comments as well as disparaging immigrants.
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                                                              Daily Lenten Prayer 3-5-2021
                                                                Gossiping is defined as casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true. I would add, even if the reports are true, sharing can ruin someone’s life. Some ask me how to know whether to share a secret. From my perspective as clergy, we share only if/when someone is in legitimate danger of physical harm.
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                                                                Daily Lenten Prayer 3-4-2021
                                                                  Volunteering in the front office of the middle school my children attended was an education. We learned who was tardy almost every day. Who was often in the office for disciplinary action. Who consistently forgot their lunch or jacket or homework. Often sheepish students appeared to address their situation.
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                                                                  Daily Lenten Prayer 3-3-2021
                                                                    How is your language? Do you interlace an expletive here and there for emphasis? Is it really effective? Or necessary? My response has usually been that most intelligent people can find a decent way of expressing themselves without resorting to foul language.
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                                                                    Daily Lenten Prayer 3-2-2021
                                                                      Adolf Hitler had a history of creating strife even from a young age. At 34, he led an unsuccessful 1923 coup in Germany after which he spent five years in prison and wrote the first volume of his autobiography. He obviously thought a great deal of himself at that young age. From the beginning, his focus seemed to be the total elimination of the Jewish people, although we know no reason for this obsession. This reminds me of the Old Testament story in the third chapter of the Book of Esther when Haman becomes angry at Mordecai and has the king decree that all Jews are to be annihilated in retaliation. I encourage you to read this amazing account – I won’t spoil the ending.
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                                                                      Daily Lenten Prayer 3-1-2021
                                                                        Before the 2020 election, many of us were beyond fatigued with the rancorous rhetoric. It seemed like folks believed their opinions to be the most important and correct while those with whom they disagreed were waved off as if the opposing perspectives were inconsequential. And it happened both ways.
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                                                                        Daily Lenten Prayer 2-28-2021
                                                                          Loving and Faithful God, it is the second Sunday in Lent, and we have begun journeying with Jesus as he set off for Jerusalem. We know what awaits him there. We choose, however, to continue with him for we remember his words that “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am my servant also will be. My father will honor the one who serves me.” Therefore, we will not lose heart.
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                                                                          Daily Lenten Prayer 2-27-2021
                                                                            God never leads us into temptation. God can use those times to teach us and to help us grow stronger, but temptations don’t come from God. We participate in a relationship with the Almighty. It isn’t forced. It can only be received and then we do our part to maintain it, just as in human relationships. As we turn to God day after day, we are given guidance, assurance, peace and knowledge that God is working in our lives. We can’t help but be joyful.
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                                                                            Daily Lenten Prayer 2-26-2021
                                                                              In those times when we find ourselves being tempted to be someone we are not, to be less than who we were created to be, to follow our selfish desires rather than listen to God’s will for us, we can remember that Jesus was tempted with all of these things too. Through his life, death and resurrection we are offered the same power and strength he was given.
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                                                                              Daily Lenten Prayer 2-25-2021
                                                                                Two things to consider from this conversation between the devil and Jesus. First, Jesus does not give into the temptation to doubt either his identity or the power he has been given by God. If we’re honest, we have all had times of doubt. Doubt comes alongside faith, almost as a natural by-product. To doubt is not a failure, but it is a call to order our minds and to return to God. Doubts may appear from time to time, but we don’t have to let them rule our thinking.
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                                                                                Daily Lenten Prayer 2-24-2021
                                                                                  The devil taunts that he is the ruler of the world and has all authority over it, a lie that Jesus has no problem recognizing. This time the devil attempts to confuse Jesus’ understanding of who God is. The devil also tempts Jesus to worship him, promising that he will fulfill Jesus’ every earthly desire.
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                                                                                  Daily Lenten Prayer 2-23-2021
                                                                                    During his 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus fasted. Fasting is a practice we encounter throughout scripture and is a tradition in both the Jewish and Christian faiths. It is a practice that helps us realize our need for God as we empty ourselves to receive clarity, to mourn and to pray. This would likely not have been Jesus’ first fast, as it was a custom in his faith tradition.
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                                                                                    Daily Lenten Prayer 2-22-2021
                                                                                      Do you find it ironic that just as Jesus receives his baptism and is full of the Holy Spirit, the devil comes to visit him? How many times have you thought about doing something for someone in need and hesitated because you felt foolish, or doubted that you might be of any help to them? Wouldn’t it just be easier to sit back and rest a bit, trusting that eventually, they will be ok without your help? Do you really need to worship this week since you attended last week? “Tomorrow might be a better day to start that practice of Bible study and prayer because today is too busy already.”
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                                                                                      Daily Lenten Prayer 2-21-2021
                                                                                        Life-giving God, in you all things move, exist, and have their being. You are the giver and sustainer of life, and you permeate all creation with your life-giving presence.
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                                                                                        Daily Lenten Prayer 2-20-21
                                                                                          To go on any journey, it is always best to travel light. Too much baggage or any unnecessary weight will become a burden and wear down the traveler. The same is for the spiritual journey.
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                                                                                          Daily Lenten Prayer 2-19-21
                                                                                            In his book “The Road Less Traveled” M. Scott Peck begins with the opening sentence “Life is difficult.” Surely, this is not the opening line most of us, if not all, would want to begin, or caption our life story. But it is the truth, nonetheless, about life in general. As Peck writes, “This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we really see this truth, we transcend it.”
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                                                                                            Daily Lenten Prayer 2-18-21
                                                                                              The imagery you will see accompanying the devotional throughout Lent is that of trees - in different stages, shapes, and forms. We intentionally chose trees, as they are great examples of living things that can endure hardship, yet thrive in spite of the adverse conditions in which they exist. Some trees even grow stronger because of their harsh environment.
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                                                                                              Daily Lenten Prayer 2-17-21
                                                                                                Today begins the season of Lent. This is a period of 40 days in which we are called again to consider deeply our mortality, to journey with Jesus as he sets his face to the cross, and to commit to dying and being reborn.
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                                                                                                Daily Lenten Prayer
                                                                                                  One of the most effective ways to live fully and intentionally into this season is to draw on the spiritual disciplines/practices that have been a part of the Christian tradition for centuries. These practices have help to mold and shape the lives of the saints before us, and of so many great men and women of our time. When rightly engaged, spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, meditation, studying Scripture, simplicity, confession, worship and more will transform our lives, making us better persons and more committed followers of Jesus Christian.
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