Metanoia: February 17, 2018

Isaiah 58:9b–14
Luke 5:27–32
Psalm 86:1–11

“Bow down your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and in misery.” – Psalm 86

Blame it on having listened to a lot of Bob Marley and the Wailers, but I can seldom read a psalm without imagining how it would work as a reggae lyric. After all, having lived in Kingston’s notorious Trenchtown neighborhood, Marley and his fellow reggae artists certainly knew what it meant to be poor and in misery — and they certainly weren’t above cribbing from the Old Testament to describe what that felt like.

Taken together, our devotional passages from the Old Testament could easily make up a musical “call and response”. In our psalm reading, we call upon the Lord “all the day long” to “gladden the soul of your servant” — and we do so, secure in the faith that, “among the gods, there is none like you, O Lord, nor anything like your works.” And so, we beseech the Lord to, “Teach me your way…and I will walk in your truth.”

And just what is God’s truth, our song might consider? The answer to that musical question comes from the prophet Isaiah, who would probably have been a Rastafarian had he grown up in Jamaica. As it turns out, walking in God’s truth requires more than God’s mercy. It means that we first “remove the yoke from among you…the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil” (I can so hear Bob Marley singing that). The psalm further instructs us to “knit our hearts to God,” while Isaiah tells us that to do so will require us to, “offer food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted.” With God there’s always a catch, isn’t there?

As our Gospel reading reminds us, however, we have the perfect model for how to achieve this state of grace — one who “came to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.” All we must do is follow Him, and, as Bob Marley might well have sung, “you shall be like a watered garden.”

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth your right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
-Michael Boss

Metanoia: February 16, 2018

Isaiah 58:1–9a
Matthew 9:10–17
Psalm 51:1–10

“Hey Jesus, why do you do things differently?”

Jesus gets the question from both the Pharisees and John’s disciples in today’s reading. Jesus ignores the expectations of society when it comes to how he acts, and with whom he hangs out. He seems to defy convention when that convention leads away from God. He irritated people.

Recently, I went out for lunch with a friend, enjoying the meal and saving some to eat later. Heading home, I ran some errands. As I walked out of a grocery store, I saw a woman with a sign that said simply “HOMELESS.” People were ignoring her. Though I’d never done something like it before, I stopped to talk with her; “What do you need?”

“I need a place to live. And some food.”

I didn’t have a place for her to live. But after more conversation, I gave her the food I had. I went on my way. Somehow, that conversation was a gift to me, an experience of doing something differently, of communicating with someone I wouldn’t normally hang out with. I hope that the food and the conversation were gifts to her too.

Too often, I either don’t see or am afraid to encounter, those folks different from me. Jesus calls us to see with new eyes, to defy societal expectations, and to meet each other as we are. I think we are called to follow in his footsteps, to defy convention when that convention leads away from God. Some days, that irritates people and they ask “Hey, why do you do things differently?”

Lord, thank you for the reminder to engage those who are different from us. Enrich our faith through those encounters and form us into the people you want us to be. Amen.
-Rob McPeak

Metanoia: February 15, 2018

Deuteronomy 30:15–20
Luke 9:18–25
Psalm 1

My friend Laura is a Coptic priest’s wife, also known as a tasoni. (The word literally means “my sister” in the Coptic language, and I can definitely say that she is a sister to me in many ways.) In one post on her blog, Coptic Dad and Mom, she spoke about how her family would read Deuteronomy 28 before they would study other parts of the Bible. The first 14 verses are light and cheerful… and then it goes into all the curses that would be upon the Israelites if they did not serve the Lord rightly in the Promised Land. Some of these curses involved being transported back to Egypt (the Copts are the Orthodox Christians from Egypt and Sudan) as slaves. (For those who are interested, this post is here.)

In our passage from Deuteronomy 30 today, Moses summarizes that chapter and calls “heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses”. He calls on Israel to “choose life”, that is, to make choices that are life-giving and honor the Lord. If their choices do not honor the Lord, there will be suffering, and that is indeed what ends up happening every time they turn away from the Lord. (Judges is a great book to read to see this in action.) Our psalm backs this up in talking about how those who delight in the Lord prosper in everything they do.

Today, let us seek to choose life and make decisions that are life-giving and that honor God in all that we do.

Lord, help us to delight in your laws, that we might prosper in all we do, reflecting You in our words and actions. Amen.
-Jen McCabe

Metanoia: February 14, 2018 (Ash Wednesday)

Joel 2:1-2,12-17
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6,16-21
Psalm 103:8-14

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts …

Every day is a new day.

Each year Lent arrives, and I find myself wondering what I can do differently. In my youth, I would often forgo cookies, chocolates, or some other insignificant indulgence, and at the end of forty days, I would wonder what I had accomplished for myself, let alone for the reign of God. Sadly, the truth was “Not much.”

I then began to look at Lent not so much as a season for giving something up but taking something on. Maybe a bit more Bible reading, more time in prayer or meditation, or helping as a volunteer. As before, I would reach the end of forty days and wonder what I had accomplished for the reign of God, and as before the truth was “Not much.”

Now, I felt good that I had done something, and that WAS something to be celebrated. But then it dawned on me that the real purpose of Lent is about renewing our commitment to God, who never slacks in her commitment to us. That’s an amazing grace!

Since then, I have begun a process of finding areas in my life God wants to work on. Such a process does not end with Lent but begins. So, it begins again.

Every day is a new day. Thanks be to God!

Gracious God, you claim us as your own in Baptism. We don’t always live up to the billing. Help me find what needs fixing; ignore my yelps and do your best work in me that I may reflect your glory this day and always. Thank you; Amen.
-Keith Axberg

Metanoia: On Repentance

In the Orthodox Church, they start Lent not with Ash Wednesday, but instead Forgiveness Vespers on the Sunday before the start of the Great Lent. The faithful ask forgiveness from one another and make a metania before the wronged person, which is described as a mini prostration in which one “one bends from the waist, reaches toward the floor with the right hand open and facing outward, and touches the ground.” (Source: Orthodox Wiki). The person making the metania says “Forgive me a sinner” and the other person responds with “God forgives. Forgive me.” (The author Frederica Mathewes-Green has a beautiful essay on this. You can read it here.)

As I pondered what the title of this booklet should be, I kept coming back to the Greek word metanoia, which means “repentance”. The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary defines repentance as “a complete change of orientation involving a judgment upon the past and a deliberate redirection for the future.” Lent is a time for focusing on our lives and turning away from sin and things that are not life-giving. We give up vices, take on reading or prayers, and try to reorient our lives toward Jesus.

I pray that the reflections in this devotional booklet might help you in your efforts to reorient your life and that they help you to draw close to Jesus during this season in the church year. Each day, we have laid out the lectionary readings, given you a reflection on one or more of the readings, and ended with a prayer.

Blessings to you all for a holy and meaningful Lent!
-Jen McCabe