"Pastor Charlie Woodward", "Charlie Woodward"Pastor Charlie Woodward writes a daily devotion for the pandemic days until things are back to “normal,” whenever that may be. As the title states, we are in the wilderness alone, but we are still together. We may feel isolated and on our own. But we are in this together. I want to make sure we have an opportunity to stay connected. Each devotion will include a Bible verse, a brief reflection and prayer.  

Find a link to each day’s devotion below, or sign up here to receive the devotions to your inbox every morning. Choose the Devotions distribution list.

This is an opportunity for us to be present with each other in the days to come. You can be present by sharing your comments, insights, prayers and pictures in response to what Pastor Charlie shares in the coming days. For we are in this together. And where two or three are gathered in God’s name, God is present, too.

Bad News. Good News.

Jeremiah 28:10-17

10 Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, and broke it. 11 And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, “Thus says the Lord: This is how I will break the yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years.” At this, the prophet Jeremiah went his way.

12 Sometime after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13 Go, tell Hananiah, Thus says the Lord: You have broken wooden bars only to forge iron bars in place of them! 14 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put an iron yoke on the neck of all these nations so that they may serve King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and they shall indeed serve him; I have even given him the wild animals. 15 And the prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you made this people trust in a lie. 16 Therefore thus says the Lord: I am going to send you off the face of the earth. Within this year you will be dead, because you have spoken rebellion against the Lord.”

17 In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died.
 

My daughter shared with me that our 4 1/2 year-old granddaughter, Natalie, began a day looking longingly out the window to her friend’s house next door during quarantine in March. She wished she could go play with her friend but knew she couldn’t. She said, “I can’t wait until the world stops doing everything with the news.”

More than three months later, those words still ring true, don’t they? I imagine we all agree that we can’t wait until the world stops doing everything with the news.

You may have seen the YouTube offerings of John Krasinski called “SGN – Some Good News.” Krasinski is best known for his role in the TV show “The Office.” He started the weekly offering of SGN when the pandemic came about, offering some good news in the midst of all the bad news. The show went viral.

It reminds me of a song from the musical, “The Wiz,” called “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News!”

We want GOOD NEWS, not bad.

Hananiah offered some encouraging words to God’s people in exile, that the end of their captivity would soon come to an end.

Jeremiah received a different message from God and shared the not-so-good news with the people – Hananiah’s words are hopeful, but not helpful, not true.

Did you notice that there is no Hananiah book in the Bible?

The news is not always pleasant.

The message of Jeremiah is one of disaster and uncertainty… He delivered this message in hopes of bringing people back to the waiting arms of God. The people’s refusal led to divine judgment. By accomplishing the promised judgment, God’s word revealed the power to reveal another promise: to restore the people. The God who judges is the only one who can save. (Lutheran Study Bible – Introduction to Jeremiah)
 

In our relationship with God, it’s the truth we need to hear – good and bad, right?

  • The news that we are sinners in need of a savior.
  • The news that we are in bondage and cannot free ourselves.
  • The news that I cannot save myself, no matter how hard I try.
  • And, the news that God so loved that God gave his only Son – the one who comes to save us.

 

At a Maundy Thursday service at a small church, the congregation gathered in the sanctuary (Remember those days?). A visitor joined in that night with the 20 or so others for worship. Seeing the group was small, the pastor decided to invite them all forward for the communion liturgy. They gathered around the altar, and heard the words again, “…In the night in which he was betrayed…”

Then, the pastor instructed those gathered to share the meal with their neighbor. She offered the bread to the first person and said, “The body of Christ, broken for you.” Then the cup, “The blood of Christ, shed for you.” The pastor told those gathered to share the same words as the elements were passed from one to another.

The visitor, afraid of embarrassing himself in front of these strangers, kept repeating the words over and over to himself, willing himself not to forget, “The body of Christ…the blood of Christ…” He was doing alright until the woman next to him offered him communion. She said, “Take it. It’s for sinners.”

Bad news – we are sinners.

Good news – Jesus saves. 
 

Let us Pray: 

Dear God, we pray for good news. We know you never abandon us even when there’s bad news. No matter the news, may we never forget the good news of great joy – in your Son we have a Savior. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.



Humility

Psalm 131 

Song of Quiet Trust

 

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,

    my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things

    too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

    like a weaned child with its mother;

    my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord

    from this time on and forevermore.
 

Old Lutheran, www.oldlutheran.com, is a great resource for Lutheran shirts and gifts. You can find anything Lutheran there, including a Martin Luther bobblehead doll!

One of the shirts on the site used to have the statement “Proud Lutheran, but not too proud!”

Humility, keeping your head down, remembering God is God and you and I are not.

This psalm is one of the ascent psalms, sung while coming up the mountain to the Temple in Jerusalem. The worshipers were encouraged to come into God’s presence with humility and appreciation.

To encourage this right mindset, the steps that led up to the entrance of the Temple were made uneven on purpose. To climb the steps, you need to keep your head down, with your eyes “not raised too high.” 
 

In Bethlehem, just a few short miles from Jerusalem, the Church of the Nativity, built over the spot believed to be the birthplace of Jesus, is entered through the Door of Humility. One must bow down as he or she enters the church structure.

As we begin worship, we often begin with confession and forgiveness. We go through the Lutheran calisthenics of standing as we begin, then kneeling to confess our sins. It is an opportunity for us to bow down and remember that God is God, and you and I are not.

In The Message, Eugene Peterson translates Psalm 131 in this way:

God, I’m not trying to rule the roost,

    I don’t want to be king of the mountain.

I haven’t meddled where I have no business

    or fantasized grandiose plans.

I’ve kept my feet on the ground,

    I’ve cultivated a quiet heart.

Like a baby content in its mother’s arms,

    my soul is a baby content.

Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope.

    Hope now; hope always!

May we bow down, and let God be the one to lift us up with words of forgiveness and hope.

By the way, I am writing a book. I hope you’ll buy a copy – Great Humility and How I Achieved it!

…just kidding! 

Let us Pray: 

Dear God, I lift up my eyes, but my head is bent low. Help me to maintain a posture of humility, and not get too full of myself. You are God. I am not. My hope is in you – hope now, and hope always. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.