Agape: Credits and Acknowledgements

Agape: The 2020 Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

I freely admit that the devotionals I put together are a labor of love, but they are also a team effort.

The picture at the top of each devotion on here was taken by Josh Applegate, a photographer from northern Colorado. I found it on the website Unsplash, which provides pictures that photographers have uploaded for others to use.

My deepest thanks to my writing team: Ashley Sweeney, Barb Cheyney, Bob Johnson, Bonnie Schuh, Cathey Frederick, Kathy Fleck (Sister Katherine, OSB), Keith Axberg, Lara Cole, Marilyn Allen, Mary Ann Taylor, Michael Boss, Fr. Paul Moore, Sandy McDougall, Tom Worrell, and Vicki Wesen.

All Scripture passages used are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) unless otherwise specified.

Blessings to you and happy Easter!
-Jen McCabe

Agape: April 12, 2020

Agape: The 2020 Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”-1 Corinthians 13:13

We introduced this Lenten Meditation series naming some of the anxiety that is floating in our world, and what the Church has to offer—agape love that comes not from within the world but beyond it, a love so profound that it gives itself for the good of the world.
We have just relived the story about that love, how Jesus suffered, was crucified and died for us, that we might live. Today, on Easter Sunday, we celebrate the power of that love to overcome all the anxiety in the world and come out on top. But it’s more than just winning a boxing match with evil. The resurrection is the great vindication of love, proof that love does have the final word, no matter what the world around us might be telling us. The hope of the Christian is precisely this. We know that God is healing and restoring the world, even bit by bit, in spite of all the setbacks and losses, and that we, you and I, have tasted of that healing and restoration and are now sharing in the work.

That work is internal. St. Paul said, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, make your requests known to God, and the peace of God that passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7.) The risen Christ offers us peace that passes all understanding, peace rooted in his resurrection, something that lets us stand apart from the anxious situations in the world that would otherwise drag us down into despair.

That work is external. When Jesus cleanses the temple (Matt 21, Mark 11 and John 2,) he was not just incensed at the irreverence of the situation. The temple authorities charged the temple tax in Jewish coin, and pilgrims from around the Roman Empire had to change their foreign currencies into the acceptable currency. Money changers regularly gouged exchange rates unfairly. He was fighting to heal and restore the temple as a house of prayer for all nations so that God’s peaceful kingdom might reign on the earth. The resurrection gives us a place to stand in the midst of the anxious injustices of the world, pointing the way to God’s peaceful kingdom.

God of all peace, we live in an anxious and divided world: Grant us to so live the power of your Son’s resurrection, that we might bring your peaceful kingdom to bear on the healing and transformation of the world, through whom, with you and the Holy Spirit you live and reign in peace and glory, we pray. Amen.
-Fr. Paul Moore

Agape: April 11, 2020 (Holy Saturday)

Agape: The 2020 Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” -1 Corinthians 13:12

Yesterday, I mentioned my trip out to Washington fourteen years ago to say good-bye to my grandfather. After a teary good-bye with my grandfather that afternoon, my mother drove me to Everett to drop me at the train station before continuing down to Seattle for her flight back to California. I pulled myself together, figuring that I would be on the train in my own roomette within two hours and could have the next eighteen hours to work through my sadness before I reached Montana, where my now former husband Jon and I were living at the time. Luck was not on my side, however, because a construction crane fell across the tracks in Seattle, delaying the train by seven hours. Five hours into that seven-hour delay, my ability to retain my composure was shot completely from being tired, hungry, and grieving having to say good-bye to one of the most important people in my life. I called my former father-in-law in tears, and he listened and prayed silently while I sobbed for forty-five minutes. I was sobbing so hard that I was unable to talk and had to write something on a piece of paper to show the security guards who were alarmed at how hard I was crying. Eventually, my train arrived from Seattle, and my porter led me to my roomette where my bed was turned down and food was waiting for me. After eating something, I collapsed on the bed, exhausted from crying.

I like to think that my experience that night gives me some insight into what the disciples were experiencing today on Holy Saturday. Their beloved teacher, who many of them expected would kick the Romans out of Palestine as a proper Messiah would do, had been put to death the day before in a grotesque manner meant to serve as an example to anyone who thought of threatening Rome’s power. Most of them had fled the garden of Gethsemane, and Peter had denied knowing Jesus to keep from meeting a similar fate. Presumably, they were all locked together in the Upper Room, trying to make sense of what was going on.

Both the disciples and I were accurate descriptions of today’s verse from 1 Corinthians 13. We were so consumed by our grief that we could not see what was actually happening. Our view of our situations was that of seeing “in a mirror dimly … [knowing] only in part.” The disciples would eventually know the whole story. In the last fourteen years, I have learned that love transcends death and that my grandfather is with me daily, even sending me rainbows from heaven when I need assurance that things will be OK.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for people in our lives who sit and hold space with us when we grieve. Help us to remember that death is not the final answer and that our present knowledge is only of part of the picture. Amen.
-Jen McCabe

Agape: April 10, 2020 (Good Friday)

Agape: The 2020 Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.” -1 Corinthians 13:11

Fourteen years ago, I took the train from Montana to Washington to say good-bye to my grandfather Lloyd Cooley. It was a week of spending seven hours per day at Mira Vista with him holding his hands, reading him poetry, singing him his favorite hymns, and it was truly blessed time to have. One of the most meaningful times I had was holding his hands one afternoon while he was trying to nap. I was sitting there reflecting on how the shaking hands I was holding were ones that had piloted jetliners for United Airlines, gently picked the tangles out of my hair as a child, built all manner of things from furniture to a guesthouse on their property in Canada, taught me to peel apples so that the peels formed long graceful strings, and helped me land various fish over the years in Canada while we were out in the boat. Saying good-bye to him for the last time at the end of that week was a tearful affair, and his death several weeks later threatened to completely undo me mentally and emotionally.

Back in Montana, one of our church kids was being confirmed, and she was the stereotypical kid who asked too many questions. I happened to be there with her on Good Friday when it all became “real” for her as we read the seven last “words” of Christ, interspersing each one with three verses of “Jesus in Your Dying Woes”. It is one of my favorite liturgies of the year, and sitting in our small Lutheran church with her when that realization happened is a moment I treasure to this day.

In hindsight, that Good Friday was the moment it all became real for me as well. It was the first time I faced the day as an adult who understood the very significance of why we as Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. If Christ’s death on the cross means that death is not forever, then I have hope that I will eventually see my grandfather again someday.

Ich liebe dich, Opa.

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your son Jesus to die on the Cross for our sins, that death might not be final answer. Sustain us in the hope that we will see those whom we love again someday. Amen.
-Jen McCabe

Agape: April 9, 2020 (Maundy Thursday)

Agape: The 2020 Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

“For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.” -1 Corinthians 13:9-10

When I was dividing up 1 Corinthians 13 for Holy Week, I was more interested in keeping like verses together than I was in picking appropriate ones for each day. This is why I had to smile when I saw the verses for today–they are just so perfect for the occasion.

Jesus has been telling his disciples that he was going to be put to death, and they were too busy squabbling about things like who would sit at his right and left when he came into his kingdom instead of actually listening to him when he told them what his “kingdom” would be like. They know only “in part” because they were only interested in prophecies about that “part”. Little did they know that Jesus’s words were about to come to completion and that “part” they found interesting would soon be 180 degrees from the direction their lives would take. Their time with Jesus changed them in a powerful way. They went from men being concerned about their status in the new political order of things to men who chose to die for the sake of the Gospel.

For now, the disciples are going to have a lovely seder with their rabbi. Bread will be shared, wine will be drunk, and Jesus will tell them more things that make no sense. Complete understanding would not come for several days.

Lord, help me to trust you in those times when your words make no sense. Amen
-Jen McCabe

Agape: April 8, 2020

Agape: The 2020 Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

“Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.” -1 Corinthians 13:8

I found it interesting that in some of the translations of this passage, the word “charity” is used in place of “love.” The implication would seem to be that good acts have a more enduring quality than prophecy, proclamation, or knowledge. I’m not sure that I believe that, but I do believe that while the good that we do has a ripple effect that travels much further than we can imagine, the power of love supersedes all things. This is not to put agape ahead of gnosis, but rather to accept that love is God’s being, and nothing is more enduring than God. Trusting this in our daily lives is for me the definition of “faith.”

Lord, you surround me with your love. Give me the wisdom to discern it, the language to share it, and the faith to trust always in it until I return to you. Amen.
-Michael Boss