Monday: Psalm 30, 32, 33, Deuteronomy 14, Luke 8.1-21

from Jessica Patton

My absolute favorite verses in all of today’s readings are Psalm 32.1-2: “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

Did you catch that? The one who is blessed is not the one who is sinless and somehow manages to be perfect on their own. The one who is blessed is the one who rightly sees just how bad their sin really is, confesses it, and receives God’s forgiveness. I think the part where it says “in whose spirit there is no deceit” could be taken to mean that the one who is blessed clearly see the ways in which they have fallen short. They’re not deceiving themselves about the dreadfulness of their sin or attempting to minimize the size or the severity of their transgression.

The Deuteronomy passage is a great reminder of how impossible it was for people to fulfill the law on their own: eat this, don’t eat that, do this every year, do this every three years, don’t forget these people, and on and on with all the things required to meet God’s standards. Even the Luke passage shows how difficult it is for us, who are not under the law, to be right with God. One of the requirements to be children of God, according to Jesus, is that we must “hear the word of God and do it.”

But that’s why those first two verses of Psalm 32 fill me with so much joy. There is absolutely no hope for me to be righteous on my own. When I am honest with myself and God, it is abundantly clear that my transgressions are manifold and severe. Yet the Lord hears our cries when we come to Him with confession and repentance, and He stands ready to forgive. And He doesn’t just forgive begrudgingly, either - He blesses us, teaches us, counsels us, watches over us, and surrounds us with His love. Thanks be to God!

I am absolutely thrilled it is finally spring, and am enjoying spending as much time as possible outside.

Monday: Psalm 8, 11, 15, 16, Deuteronomy 7, Luke 5.1-16

from Heather Kaufmann

“If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ you shall not be afraid of them, but you shall remember what the Lord your God didto Pharaoh and to all Egypt, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the Lord your God brought you out.” – Deuteronomy 7:17-19

The Israelites are told countless times in the Old Testament to “remember what the Lord your God did.” It strikes me that fear and remembering should be juxtaposed here: “you shall not be afraid… but you shall remember.” Flipping this phrase on its head, you could just as easily say that the Israelites were afraid because they did notremember. And here they are being challenged to remember, that they might no longer be afraid.

What would it look like to live out of a remembrance of all that the Lord has done for us? How would that then alter our fears and anxieties?

 When I am afraid, I am fixated on all the potential negative outcomes of my future. I am thinking of all the things I can do to manage those outcomes. And I am anxious that things will still not turn out that way in the end. This passage challenges me to take a step back and to remember all the Lord has already done in my life, and to carry those things with me in my present reality. From that sure footing, I can more easily face the future with an assurance that the Lord is a provider – that he is present and at work and worthy of our trust. 

Heather is ready for these Spring days to get warm enough so she can start hammocking again.

Monday: Psalm 140, 143, Numbers 25, Luke 1.57-80

from Lexi Carver

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.

Reading this passage in Luke, where Zecharias speaks again, I found myself drawn to the ideas of silence and sound.

There is a gap of several hundred years between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament (often named by Christians as a period where God has been silent - or where, at least, we don't have records of God bringing prophetic messages to the Jewish people). One of the first stories of the New Testament is about a man moving from muteness to speech; and when Zecharias' mouth is opened, the first words he speaks are praising God for something powerful that God is about to do.

What are we to make of this? To me, Luke's clever depiction of Zecharias' muteness mirrors this empty period in our Scriptures. Whether this was a literal 400-year period of silence or whether this is being used as a literary tool, I don't know. But I noticed anew that this period of silence - God's muteness, if you will - is first broken by a promise: God is visiting. God is rescuing. God is defending and protecting. God is sending a baby to prepare and lay the path for the Rescuer who is going to save his people.

I'm immensely encouraged by the idea of a huge promise breaking a period of muteness - a period of nothingness, where life has gone on with us wondering where God is and why we aren't hearing from him. During times in my life where God's voice seemed visibly absent, I have been frustrated, angry, heartbroken, and confused. I have wondered if the long silence means God no longer cares; or has stopped paying attention; or has gotten stuck in traffic, missed our appointment, and gone home without me. When these silences in my life have lifted, I have found myself relieved and glad at their completion; yet I often look back and realize that the silence was not actually empty of God's hand and work, even if my longing for his voice in my ear went unfulfilled.

The fact that this muteness is depicted in the Bible as lasting several generations (hundreds of years) does not exactly please me, but it does remind me of that last part. It helps me to have a longer view of the larger story that we are all part of; to remember that sometimes, God's voice is waiting just on the other side of a long silence.