Wednesday March 31 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: 2 Samuel 13-15

Key verse: (15:6) Thus Absalom did to every Israelite who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole the hearts of the people of Israel.

Reflection: These chapters in 2 Samuel provide an account of King David’s two sons, Amnon and Absalom who were half-brothers and Tamar, Absalom’s full sister.  Amnon developed lust in his heart for Tamar and devised a plan to lure her to his home to lie with him against her will.  Afterwards he felt hatred for Tamar and sent her away.  Absalom hated his father for not punishing Amnon for this assault on his sister and then took it upon himself to have Amnon killed.  Later he recruited allies including Ahithophel a trusted counselor of King David to try and overthrow his father to become King.  Absalom was an extremely handsome and persuasive man who had no trouble amassing followers to help him carry out his sinful deeds.  He effectively “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” for his own purposes.

In today’s world we are constantly being fed information on television, social media, the Internet, the radio and practically every facet of life.  Authority figures proclaim their truth about whatever subject they champion, from politics, religion, fashion, entertainment to healthy living.  They all speak with conviction and expect us to believe that their way and their truth is the only way and the only truth, and any opposing view is wrong and should be ignored, silenced or eliminated.  We as Christians must always be on guard to avoid deception and having our hearts stolen.  May we keep our lives focused on the only one who is the way the truth and the life, Jesus our Christ. We must view life through the lens of Christ and seek truth and justice in all we do with compassion, generosity and love. 

Prayer: Dear God, as we wait in anticipation of the joy of Easter please fill our hearts with your divine love and peace.  These are trying times and many are suffering and we all need to feel your presence.  Please use us as instruments of your mercy, grace and justice.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Author: Norman Walters, Elder class of 2022

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Tuesday March 30 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: 2 Samuel 9-12

Key verses: (12:8-9) I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.

Reflection: In today’s passage, King David is told a short story from Nathan that proves to be a powerful teaching moment, and one that we can all learn from. The tale highlights two men; one rich with plentiful sheep and cattle, another poor with only a single ewe lamb that he bought and raised with his children. A traveler arrives, and for the customary meal the wealthier man decides to take the poorer man’s ewe lamb instead of cooking one of the many animals he owned himself. After hearing this story, David burns with anger, and says to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” Nathan is quick to highlight the hypocrisy of King David by advising, “You are the man!” as King David had previously taken Uriah the Hittie’s wife to be his own and following that sin, sending Uriah into battle on the front lines, assuring him of his death. What King David failed to realize was the amount of blessings the Lord had bestowed upon him- “His master’s House & Wives- and if this had been too little, He would have given David even more”. 

The powerful underlying message is that The Lord is always willing to grant us MORE. King David failed to see he had enough and wanted more, a common notion that gave me pause when I found myself identifying with David. During Lent, a time of year where self-reflection is encouraged to be more of a priority of daily activities, I am working to acknowledge blessings in my life that the Lord has gifted me with —  I am beyond blessed with a loving family that live nearby and my health that enables me to do things I love like taking long walks with my wife & dog. In closing, I would ask you to reflect on what blessings you have in life that don’t leave you wanting more, and to think about others in your life who may be less fortunate like Uriah. 

Prayer: Faithful God, please continue to guide us with your light, so that we can better understand and appreciate the blessings we currently have in our lives. We ask for contentment within ourselves and for growth in our relationship with you. Amen.

Author: Will MacBain

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Monday March 29 2020

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: 2 Samuel 7: 12-16  

Key Verse: (16) “ ‘Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me, your throne will be established forever.’ ”

Reflection: Have you ever wanted to do something big for God to thank and repay God for all the good done for you? That’s exactly what King David proposed to God.  David wished to build a house for God in gratitude and in appreciation for God’s faithful presence during his many battles against enemies. We know David had a heart for God and he constantly sought ways to please and honor God.   

But God had a bigger plan … as often is the case! David was informed, however, God, would instead build a house for him, a house that would endure forever. God made a promise for the future, a promise to be fulfilled by Christ, a descendant of David’s. David wanted to build a house that was temporal – God promised “a house” (kingdom!) that was everlasting. David would never see the fullness of God’s promise manifest. But David trusted and obeyed.  He had faith that God’s grace was bigger than any plan he could make on his own.  

During Lent, I wonder what plans we are making in gratitude to bless and glorify God?  We wait on the risen Christ, and we strive to live into the hopes and dreams of resurrection in a world that often seems at odds with our beliefs. We seek to understand that God’s abundant love is so much bigger than we can imagine, and that it is a promise for the future that we can’t fully comprehend today. May we have obedience, trust, faith, and a heart like David’s, to honor and praise God today, yet live expectantly for the fulfillment of his future promises.  

Prayer: God of promises, teach me to listen, help me to trust, guide me in understanding. Your plans are eternal, are trustworthy, and are always so much bigger than I can even hope for. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. Amen.

Author: Susan Tome, Elder class of 2023

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Sunday March 28 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: 2 Samuel 1 – 3

Key verses: (1:17-19) David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan. 18 (He ordered that The Song of the Bow be taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.) He said:

19 Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
    How the mighty have fallen!

Reflection: Last March esteemed New Testament scholar N. T. Wright published an article in NewsweekChristianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus.”  His essay encouraged all to recover the lost Biblical tradition of lament instead of offering easy answers that neglected the palpable pain and societal grief at hand.  In a thoughtful way, Wright encourages lament that is both personal and communal.  As individuals who lament, “We become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell.”  As communities who lament, we can name the “frustration, sorrow, loneliness and sheer inability to understand what is happening or why.”

Since reading his article, I’ve been paying attention to lamentation in the public sphere.  Maybe you’ve heard country singer Luke Combs lament through the lyrics of Six Feet Apart or you’ve heard Amanda Gorman’s poetic lament at the Super Bowl.  Lights at the Lincoln Memorial, the Field of Flags on the National Mall, construction paper hearts taped onto doors, and teddy bears peeking out windows are all visual prayers of lament.

Here in 2 Samuel 1:17-19, David laments the deaths of Saul and Jonathan and instructs the people of Judah to learn and take to heart this lament.  Though David had a complicated relationship with Saul, and in moments considered him an enemy, the grief of his heart is real and realized through the ritual of words of mourning and reflection directed toward God.

Despite the public examples from country music to the National Mall, some (like N.T. Wright) might argue lament is a lost art that needs reclaimed.  This is a place where the church can lead by demonstrating the necessity and healing power of public lament.  Like David, we can ask that lament be taught to our children and our communities.

Four movements shape the heart of a lament:  an introductory cry to God, a detailed complaint, a confession of trust, and a renewed claim that God will deliver us.   Before logging on to Zoom for work or to begin your child’s day at school, if you are feeling frazzled or frayed, you might start your day with those four phrases:  cry out, complain, confess, claim. 

David directed his grief toward God and began with a very clear complaint, “How the mighty have fallen.”  May our hearts share that prayer today:  for mighty veterans suffering from PTSD or Moral Injury, for health care workers exhausted and grieved, for teachers asked to resource increasing demands, for communities discouraged by injustice and entrenched racism.

Let us grieve.  Let us complain.  Let us cry out to God.  Let us pray along with David, sing along with Luke, light a candle for the nation to see.

The beauty of lament is the clarity of the underlying assumption: God hears our cries. 

Prayer: We can pray along with the Psalmist and continue the prayer begun in Psalm 5:

Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;

in the morning I lay my requests before you…

(Name requests for your life, the life of the church, the life of the Charlotte community, and larger concerns of nation and world.)
and wait expectantly.

Author: Lisa Nichols Hickman

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Saturday March 27 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: 1 Samuel 28-31

Key verses: (30: 22-25) 22 Then all the corrupt and worthless fellows among the men who had gone with David said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may take his wife and children, and leave.” 23 But David said, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us; he has preserved us and handed over to us the raiding party that attacked us. 24 Who would listen to you in this matter? For the share of the one who goes down into the battle shall be the same as the share of the one who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike.” 25 From that day forward he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel; it continues to the present day.

Reflection: This passage from 1 Samuel seems to be one of teaching. The Lord is teaching us lessons of how to live together, how to treat each other as equals. Furthermore, moving past equality, the passage seems to give a lesson on sharing and the importance of various roles in life. The men who went to battle with David and won, recovered that which had been taken from them, but they wanted even more. Since they were battling on the front line, they thought they should have all the spoils of victory. When they returned from battle, David was teaching them to share with those who stayed behind, not to keep all the goods for themselves. In this passage, David is suggesting that it does not matter if you are on the front line fighting the enemy, or one who stays behind to care for the weak and sick, or the one tending the gardens or even as the passage says watching over the bags. Everyone has a role to play, and all are equal in the eyes of the Lord.

During this time of isolation and staying at home do find yourself comparing your role to others? As the pandemic continues to affect many and take lives, we all have a role to play. While doctors and nurses and essential workers have “frontline” duties, our tasks of waiting, washing hands, and wearing masks are just as important (even if it feels like we are just waiting by the metaphorical baggage). In this season of Lent, consider what role you find yourself playing in life, both in this time of COVID, and your hopes for the years to come. How can you live into the promise that God sees everyone’s job and role as essential and important?

Prayer: Dear Lord, in these current times of despair, please help us fight the enemies of disease, inequality, homelessness, and of hunger. Help us to continue our outreach programs to help fight these battles. In this time of Lent, Lord help us to reflect on our past and move forward in preparation for better times. We trust in you God that you will see us through to the next day. Amen.

Author: David Stroup, Elder Class of 2022

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Friday March 26 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: 1 Samuel 25-27

Key verses: (25:18-19) 18 Then Abigail hurried and took two hundred loaves, two skins of wine, five sheep ready dressed, five measures of parched grain, one hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs. She loaded them on donkeys 19 and said to her young men, “Go on ahead of me; I am coming after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

Reflection: There are many times we need to have someone intercede or we need to be the one to intercede to bring calm and reason to an escalating situation on the verge of “going off the rails”. Said another way, we need someone to “save us from ourselves”.

In this story, David and his men without being asked protected Nabal’s men and sheep. David then sent word to Nabal of his actions expecting gratitude and a big celebration. Nabal, a mean, wicked man would have none of it and rather coarsely rejected the idea. David’s reaction rather than to shake his head and move on was to exact brutal revenge.

Nabal’s wife, Abigail, upon hearing the story acted on her own without telling Nabal. She met David enroute apologizing for her ungrateful husband while bringing the requested items for a celebration; David accepted thanking the Lord for sending her.

Abigail, a wise woman without fanfare injected herself into a pending disaster and through her proactive, positive actions saved two men with big ego’s and their followers from bloodshed and destruction. Where in your life have you been like Nabal, unable to give thanks for a gracious act? Or when have you been like David, where anger overtakes your rational side? And when have you been called to serve as Abigail, acting quickly to promote peace? May we each find ways in which we can bring about peace like Abigail, and give thanks for those who bring peace in our lives when we go “off the rails.”

Prayer: God, each day we face events small and big that call for someone to calmly take positive action without requiring platitudes and recognition. Help us to be that person who recognizes the need and acts as Abigail did.

Author: Greg Smith, Elder class of 2021

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Thursday March 25 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: 1 Samuel 21-24

Key verses: (24:16-17) … Saul lifted up his voice and wept. 17 He said to David, “You are more righteous than I; for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. 

Reflection: I sometimes struggle to read the Old Testament. I can get caught up in some of the unusual details and spectacular stories. It helps me to read what wise teachers have to say about reading scripture. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner encourages us with this insight, “You keep turning the gem, seeing something new each time.” And Rob Bell writes, “We dive into their story, discovering our story in the process.”

As I read these verses in Samuel I kept going back to the part when Saul wept.  Seemingly in response to the mercy and grace David bestowed upon him when he declined to take Saul’s life. Saul was overwhelmed in that moment. He wept. 

When have we received mercy and grace when we least deserved it? When have we offered mercy and grace to another who was undeserving? For me, this is God at work in our story. 

Prayer: Lord, help us to be open to receiving your mercy and grace. Help us to offer this same mercy and grace to others in your name. Amen. 

Author: Mary Howard Shaw, Elder class of 2021

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Wednesday March 24 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: 1 Samuel 18-20

Key verses: (20:13-15) May the Lord be with you, as he has been with my father. 14 If I am still alive, show me the faithful love of the Lord; but if I die, 15 never cut off your faithful love from my house, even if the Lord were to cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” 

Reflection: Today’s passages focus on Saul’s jealousy of and attempts to murder David. While Saul and David are more significant in Biblical history, I find the role of Jonathan, Saul’s son, much more compelling in these chapters. Jonathan initially plays an intercessory role, later aiding David in evading Saul’s wrath and assisting with his escape in a stunning display of loyalty.
What is most compelling to me about Jonathan’s role is his radical dedication to David. Jonathan’s devotion is not predicated by any rational reason and it’s certainly not based on self-interest. His commitment is based on love, the kind of inexplicable love infused with the grace of God that transcends our feeble human constructs.
In this Lenten season, how can we be a Jonathan in the lives of others? Let’s start by re-evaluating our relationships with others. Too many times have I fallen into the trap of viewing my relationships through a transactional lens, essentially, how much am I giving or receiving in this relationship? Jonathan demonstrates how this is a flawed viewpoint. By placing love, not advantages or disadvantages, at the center of how we interact with others, we can begin to live as Christ intends.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for bringing people into our lives who love and care for us without reservation or hesitation. Enable us to radically love others so that we might forever lift up the ever-present love of our Lord Jesus Christ in our world. Amen.

Author: John Schubert, Elder class of 2021

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Tuesday March 23 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: 1 Samuel 15-17

Key verses: (16:7, 17:48-51) But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 

48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, striking down the Philistine and killing him; there was no sword in David’s hand. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine; he grasped his sword, drew it out of its sheath, and killed him; then he cut off his head with it.

Reflection: I remember being taught the story of David and Goliath in Sunday School as a child.  The boy David comes out of the crowd to slay the great Goliath with only a slingshot and a stone.  I even remember the pictures in my Children’s Bible, and I do not recall anything in those pictures that illustrated the text’s actual description of what took place.  This “Sunday School Version” glosses over the reality that this takes place within the context of war, and that after David kills Goliath, he cuts off his head and holds the decapitated head of Goliath up for all to see.  It was a strong visual representation of power and might and would have been necessary to illustrate the dominance of Israel.  The people would have clearly believed that the reason David prevailed was because God had looked favorably upon David and the people of Israel.  It is, after all, the victors who write the history; So, of course God was on their side!

We know that David would go on to become Israel’s greatest king.  He, despite his many flaws, was the one who delivered his people from their would-be oppressors and established Israel as a leader among the nations.  How those Israelites living in First Century, Roman occupied, Palestine must have longed for the return of a king like David.  The people longed for a Messiah who would come and do to Rome what David had done to Goliath and Philistines.  One who would ride into battle and end the Roman oppression, allowing Israel to return to greatness.  That was indeed the Messianic hope of the day.

During this season of Lent, as I read this text through the lens of Christ, I cannot help but wonder how our vision of justice and God’s vison of justice differ. If we can put ourselves back in the first century, we want Rome to get what they deserve and look for a Messiah to exact on Rome the justice we feel they deserve.  We may have high hopes that this Jesus, who talked of the Kingdom of God, would force change and end Ceasar’s reign replacing it with God’s.  God’s Kingdom, not Ceasar’s, would now rule.  How disappointing it must have been when this Jesus, the longed-for Messiah, would ride into town, not on a white horse with sword drawn but on a humble donkey.  Can this peasant from Nazareth be the one to embody the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people?  Can anything good indeed come out of Nazareth?  This just cannot be the Davidic Messiah so longed for by God’s own people.

It takes faith to believe that the God of creation, the one that Jesus called Abba, comes to us not in power and might but in meekness and humility.  The understanding of a Messiah in David’s image has been turned upside down. During this Lenten season may we embrace the reality that the Creator God, the Holy One of Israel, chose not to reveal himself in power and might but in the form of a suffering servant.  That God lives, and becomes incarnate, in the unexpected; then and indeed now.  That God, in Christ is with us in our triumphs and defeats, in life and in death. May we live into that reality as God calls us to a life of faith in love of God and neighbor. 

Prayer: Gracious and merciful God.  We give thanks for your sovereign love and grace.  We know that life can be confusing and that we often fail to acknowledge your presence in both the ordinary and the extraordinary of our lives.  It is hard and we so often fall short.  We need a savior oh God.  Open our eyes that we may see you at work in the midst of our daily lives and grant us the wisdom and courage to respond to that grace by loving you and our neighbors. That we may be part of the building up of your kingdom here and now.  In Christ’s Holy name. Amen.

Author: Bill Plyler, Elder class of 2023

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Monday March 22 2021

As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.

Scripture: 1 Samuel 13-14

Reflection: How many of us can look back and see places pride has blinded us in in our own lives?  Regardless of age, experience, social status, etc …, we’re all susceptible to moments of selfish pride and fear that drive us to bad decisions.  In 1 Samuel 13-14, Saul takes misstep after misstep driven by those emotions, like in Chapter 13 when Saul breaks a very specific command he was given in 1 Samuel 10:8 with a very specific 7 day period to wait for Samuel before sacrificing the burnt offering. If only he had waited it would have guaranteed God would be with Saul. Instead, on that 7th day, with the Philistines getting closer, fear permeating the camp, and no Samuel in sight, Saul orders the burnt offering …  and on cue Samuel arrives on time as promised. 

Instead of repentance, Saul doubles down on his mistake with a dose of prideful excuse, saying “I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.” (1 Samuel 13:12)

How often does compulsion end up in foolishness? 

1 Samuel 13:13 – “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said.  “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.” (1 Samuel 13:13)

By grace, Saul and his army were still empowered to win the battle, but Saul missed out on having his kingdom established for all time.  Aren’t we all subject to the repercussions of our own foolishness?  Thankfully through the grace of God through Christ, we are met with more than what our actions deserve. Even as we have the chance to acknowledge our sin, and ask for forgiveness, and turn in our ways, it is always Jesus that comes to us in grace first. We are going to make mistakes, but maybe we ought to be careful our selfish pride doesn’t cause us to dig into our sin, and, instead, ask for forgiveness, for Christ is already there right on time extending God’s grace.

Prayer: Lord, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Please forgive us our pride and fear, and allow us the wisdom and strength to forgive it in others. Amen.

Author: Scott Welchel

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].