"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.

Who or What Derails Your Efforts?

The author of the letter to the Galatians (attributed to St. Paul) has some harsh words for those who have gotten in the way of those he addresses in the letter in their pursuit of obeying the truth.

Verse 12 would make a pretty nasty tweet in our day, wouldn’t it?

Who or what derails your efforts in seeking the truth of God’s love and forgiveness? Is it doubt? Is it troubles that arise that just don’t seem fair? Is it the friend or family member who mocks you for trying to run the race well? What might it be?

And while you might want to fire off a “verse 12” text or email their way, will that solve the problem?

How much of that is our doing, or undoing?

I know that sometimes I need to be reminded again of who I am and whose I am.

I stood before the congregation for a meet and greet session – this was some 25 years ago. With those gathered, I had an opportunity to share some about my family, my upbringing, my education, my wife and children, and some of the things I had done in my ministry to date.

About 40 minutes into the event, a woman of the congregation raised her hand to ask a question. She said, “Do you believe Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior?”

I wanted to answer, “What does it look like? Why else would I be here? Why else would I give up weekends with family to be in church every Sunday by 7 a.m.? Haven’t you been listening?”

Galatians 5:7-12

 

You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth? Such persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. 10 I am confident about you in the Lord that you will not think otherwise. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty. 11 But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!
 
 
 

But I realized I was the one doing the confusing. I had totally missed the point and ignored the truth that needed to be shared. This woman was helping me get back on track, centered and focused. What she asked should not have needed to be asked. It should have been the first words out of my mouth.

I swallowed my pride, and humbly responded, “Yes, I DO believe Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. And that is why I do what I do. That is why I am here.”

I invite you to take a break from running in your faith journey. Stop. Consider where you are. Have you gotten off track?

Before we blame someone else and send a “verse 12” stink bomb, let’s start by looking in the mirror first.

Remember who you are. Remember whose you are.

 

Let us pray:

Almighty God, give me the courage to pause and ponder where I am today. Give me ears to hear and a heart to believe your Good News of Great Joy – I belong to you, and you love me. For you are the one who saves me. You are my Lord and my God. Get me back on track. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


God’s Steadfast Love

Tony Campolo is an American sociologist, pastor, author and public speaker. He spoke at the ELCA Youth Gatherings in 1991 and 1994. He shared this story in Dallas at the 1991 gathering:

Tony was flying from Denver to Colorado Springs, a short flight of less than half an hour, but it seemed like eternity.

It began nicely enough, waiting to board the plane and watching a noisy, happy little girl bouncing around, clapping her hands, and chanting, “I’m gonna see Daddy! I’m gonna see Daddy!” His smile began to sag, though. Campolo said that after the first ten minutes, what was once cute began to become irritating and obnoxious. But then they boarded the plane.

Campolo took his seat and to his dismay, the noisy little girl was sitting right across the aisle, continuing to clap her hands and announce to all in a singsong fashion that she was going to see her daddy.

Being a short flight, the flight attendant offered only cookies and drinks, and the little girl took a cookie and a Coke, then another and another. He was amazed how such a little girl could consume so many sweets on that short flight. As the plane approached Colorado Springs, it went through a thunderstorm, which made for a bouncy, rough ride.

We all know that cookies do not smell bad, nor does Coca Cola smell bad. Therefore, it figures that if you mix cookies and Coca Cola in a sweet little girl with a fluffy dress, patent leather shoes and pigtails, what comes out should not smell bad. Such was not the case this time. It wasn’t long before the little girl threw up – it was all over the little girl and all over her mother. Remember those days? But the little girl didn’t miss a beat – she kept on singing her song. “I’m gonna see Daddy!”

Psalm 89:1-4  

 

I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever;

    with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.

I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;

    your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,

    I have sworn to my servant David:

‘I will establish your descendants forever,

    and build your throne for all generations.’”
 
 

“When the airplane finally touched down, I couldn’t wait to get down the aisle and away from the whole smelly mess. As I walked up the connecting corridor and into the airport, I saw a man standing at the end of the walkway, dressed in a white flannel suit, eagerly looking for someone. I just knew who he was, and I lingered behind because I wanted to see the encounter between this elegantly dressed father and the little, smelly girl.

“What happened next really took me by surprise. The little girl came running up to her father and he got down on one knee and swept her into his arms. She was covered with yuck and she smelled very bad, but it didn’t make any difference to him. He had his little girl and that was all that mattered.” 

(Tony Campolo, “A Father’s Blind Love,” in Stories That Feed Your Soul, Gospel Light, 2010)

 

God’s steadfast love. Even when we are a mess, God still loves us.

 

Give thanks to God for God’s unconditional love.

 

Let us pray:

Almighty God, you are love, and all you do is out of love for those you created IN love TO love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.