"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.

All we are, we owe God

It’s trivia time.

First of all, a story –

I attended THE Central Michigan University as an undergrad (Fire Up, Chips!). Part of the college experience was attending FOR FREE the football games each fall. Our team was pretty good, but the marching band was better. The band’s pregame ritual began with the band marching at a walking pace onto the field to a simple drumbeat. We in the stands helped out by chanting a refrain from “The Wizard of Oz.”

The chant is from a scene in the movie when Dorothy and the gang sneak into the Wicked Witch’s castle by joining in with the soldiers. As they enter, the soldiers chant, “OO – weee – OO, oh-WEEE-oh!” The student section would join in as the procession began.

It wasn’t until years later that I found out what the soldiers were chanting.

So here is the trivia question: what are the soldiers saying?

I will give you the answer in a bit!

In the Gospel lesson above, Jesus gives his disciples some pretty tough marching orders. They are called to fall in line, and they are told the work is not going to be easy.

But it’s worth it. Because we know the rest of the story, that Jesus is the one who saves, who promises us life, hope and forgiveness, the benefits far outweigh the cost.

And here is the good news – when we, as followers of Jesus, fall short or fall out of step, there is the promise that we are always God’s beloved. We belong to God.

So back to the trivia question of the day. What are the soldiers saying?

“All we are, we owe her.”

Bonus trivia – it is known as the March of the Winkies!

While we are not called to join in the March of the Winkies, we ARE called to follow in the march that Jesus leads. We are called to be disciples, followers of Jesus. We do so NOT to earn God’s favor, but rather in response to what God has done for us.

All we are, we owe to God – all that we have and all that we are.

What is the march God is calling for you to join? What instrument do you play?

Join us, for we are marching in the light of God! All we are, we owe God!

 

Let us pray:

Almighty God, you call us to join in the band. Help us to get in step and follow where you lead. All we are, we owe You! In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Matthew 10:5-23 

 

The Mission of the Twelve

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

Coming Persecutions

16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
 


God Wins.

First let me ask if any of you have any questions about the Book of Revelation. Any questions?

(Pause for questions)

Good. Hearing none, I will move on!

Just kidding.

I have led a couple of Bible studies on Revelation over the years, and I’ve found them to be challenging. Two things I share – these are very broad and general, I know:

  1. Context, context, context. For whom is this material being shared? What was their situation, and the political and social structure in that time and place? This is so very important for understanding this book.
  2. In the end, God wins! 

 

God wins.

With those two lenses, I believe there are words of hope we can glean from Revelation, which is a source of many texts for our Lutheran liturgies.

Amidst suffering, there is hope.

Several years ago, my wife and I attended a funeral for our friend’s son, who was murdered on his front lawn in front of his own home. The service was held at a Baptist Church in Columbus, near where we lived. At that funeral one of the ministers shared a story about his time in third grade, when his favorite teacher asked the students to write a paper on what they wanted to be when they grew up. The minister was so excited, because he wanted to impress his teacher, and he wrote the best paper he could. He thought it was an incredible masterpiece. He was confident that he would get an “A” on the composition. He wrote and wrote and wrote. His teacher was going to be amazed.

But when he got the paper back, he was sad to see that instead of the “A” that he expected, he got a “C-.” The teacher wrote on the paper that the information was good, but that he didn’t use any punctuation.

He went on to preach that, over the years, he has learned the importance of punctuation. And he has learned there is a difference between a comma and a period, and that the good news of great joy is that Jesus’ death on the cross is not a period, but a comma.

Death is not the final word. Death is not the last word of the book.

Because of Jesus Christ, the final word is life.

And after that word “life” an exclamation point is appropriate.

Punctuation is important.

Questions are good. God’s answers are even better!

God wins!

Revelation 2:8-10 

 

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life:

 

“I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 
 
 
 
 

Let us pray:

Help us to trust in you for the things we do not know or do not completely understand. Listen to our questions; help us to find the answers only you can give. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.