The Spirit Calendar
A Weekly Devotional from the Connecticut Conference United Church of Christ
March 27, 2017
This week's author is the Rev. Chuck Ericson, Retired Pastor of the Connecticut Conference. Rev. Ericson has been providing Regional Ministry coverage for the Eastern Region during Rev. Tom Clough's sabbatical.
Scripture: John 11:1-6 (NRSV)
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
The Gospel passage next Sunday is a long one – 45 verses. It is familiar to most people for two reasons: Jesus’ dramatic calling forth of Lazarus from the tomb, as well as verse 35 which is known for containing only two words in many translations: “Jesus wept.”
The opening verses of John 11 are perhaps less familiar, but very worthy of careful reflection. After receiving word from Lazarus’ sisters that their brother was ill, Jesus responds by saying that Lazarus’ illness will “not lead to death,” and “it is for God’s glory.” Jesus then makes the decision to “stay two days longer in the place where he was.”
It may seem curious to some, even callous, that Jesus would not drop everything he was doing to rush to the aid of beloved friends in need. But Jesus had something else in mind. He saw this situation as an opportunity for the glory of God to be revealed if he delayed his response. Indeed, when we read John’s full account of this incident, we discover that God’s glory was revealed in a much more transformative way than if Jesus had intervened two days earlier.
Psalm 130 accompanies this week’s Gospel reading, and in verse 5 the Psalmist writes: “I wait for (Yahweh), my souls waits, and in (Yahweh’s) word I hope.” So, Jesus is not the originator of the belief that waiting has its benefits. Waiting has been at the heart of our faith story for ages, and is incorporated into our liturgical life during seasons such as Advent and Lent.
However, waiting is a challenge for us today. We want everything immediately. We want our desires satisfied, our tasks completed, even our prayers answered… now. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Now.
Where can we fit “waiting” into our lives as God’s people today?
One place would be prayer. It is often our custom to speak the words of a prayer, say Amen, and then move immediately onto something else. What if “Amen” became not an indication of the conclusion of a dialogue with God, but rather an opening for God to respond. In the manner of the Psalmist, we might say Amen, and then: “I wait for (Yahweh), my soul waits, and in (Yahweh’s) word I hope.”
Another place that would benefit from waiting is in our corporate life as God’s people. As congregations, we meet… we deliberate… we plan… we set goals… we make progress reports on our plans. How often, though, do we “wait for (Yahweh)” and find hope in Yahweh’s word?
In the days of the Psalmist, God’s people found hope in God’s word time and again, often after long periods of waiting. God’s glory was revealed hundreds of years later in Bethany, the hometown of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, when Jesus waited two days to make the journey there.
Still today, God’s word of hope, and God’s glory, are ready to be revealed to you and to all who wait.
God of Hope, God of Glory, grant us the will to resist the temptation to rush, to wrap things up, to move on. Instead, please equip us with the wisdom and the presence of mind to wait for You to come to us in our waiting, bringing a word of hope… and an invitation to behold Your glory. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. (pause)
Special Prayer Requests:
- Those students and teachers in Japan who were injured or are missing after an avalanche struck while they were skiing on March 27;
- The grieving or suffering after a nightclub shooting in Cincinnati left one dead and 15 injured on March 26; and
- The grieving or suffering after a shooting in Sanford, FL left 1 dead and 5 injured on March 27;
- The people of Peru where intense rains are causing flooding and mudslides which have left at least 72 dead and many more isolated and homeless, during the week of March 20;
- Rev. Sara Smith, Senior Pastor of United Congregational Church of Bridgeport, who is recovering from an injury;
- The members and staff of United Congregational Church of Bridgeport, who are preparing to move from their building to a new location;
- the families and friends of more than 30 Guatemalan girls who died or were injured in a fire at the Virgin of the Assumption Safe House in San Jose Pinula, Guatemala on Feb. 8.;
- those grieving in Ethiopia after a landslide killed at least 50 people and injured dozens more on Mar. 11;
- the family and friends of Cheryl Polydor, friend of Michael and Diane Ciba, who died on Feb 21;
- Mark Engstrom, member of the CT Conference Board of Directors, and his wife Nina, who are facing health issues;
- the community of Conway, MA, and the United Congregational Church, UCC, Conway after a tornado touched down on Feb. 25 causing significant structural damage;
- the people of New Orleans, after a driver ran into a crowd of parade viewers, injurer over 20 people on Feb. 25;
- he people of South Sudan where nearly 1 million people are facing famine;
- the people of Pakistan where more than 100 people have been killed in militant attacks in the past week;
- Richard "Ned" Bunell, member of First Congregational Church of Canton Center, who was hospitalized for an illness and is now recovering;
- the people of southern Louisiana, after tornadoes struck the area on Feb. 7;
- those residents around Lake Oroville, CA, who were evacuated for safety reasons after authorities found erosion at the Oroville Dam on Feb. 7 causing concerns of partial failure of a spillway;
- John Polglase, husband of the Rev. Betsey Polglase, Pastor of the Columbia Congregational Church UCC, who has chronic pulmonary disease;
- the Rev. Micki Nunn-Miller, who had knee surgery on Jan. 17;
- Debi Mastroni Kenyon, Director of Faith Formation at Monroe Congregational Church, who had surgery on Jan. 18;
- the members and staff of Thompson Congregational Church after a fire severely damage the building on Dec. 29;
- Michael White, former Operations Manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who was diagnosed with colon cancer;
- Juliane Silver, the daughter of the Rev. Jim Silver of Middletown, who is in dire need of a liver transplant. We pray that a donor will come forward giving the gift of life and a portion of their liver to Juliane;
- Chacy Eveland, husband of the Rev. Marcia Eveland, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Ansonia, who has been moved to a full-time facility for care of dementia;
- the thousands of migrants worldwide who flee from violence and persecution in search of safety;
- our ecumenical partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea;
- the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
- the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
- this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism;
- those suffering due to the ongoing financial woes of the nation, be they struggling to meet an unaffordable mortgage, seeking employment, or working to find just resolutions; and
- those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
To be added to the prayer list, please send an email to Drew Page at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
Greenfield Hill Congregational UCC
Alida Ward - CP
David J. Rowe - CP
Marcia W. Carothers - CE
Falls Village Congregational Church
Peter A. Dakers - CP
Sally Greco - CP
First Church of Christ Congregational 1652
Susan J. Murtha - IN
Edward E. Clark - MM
Buckingham Congregational UCC
Sara G. Worcester – DT
First Church of Christ Congregational, Glastonbury
David T. Taylor - SP
Kate VanDerzee-Glidden - AP
Elizabeth Gleich - CE
Gordon S. Bates - OL
The Spirit Calendar:
March 27, 2017