"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.

Keeping Track

There is a tradition we have in our family, and I imagine you do, too. It is the keeping track tradition.

Someone sends me a birthday card. Better send them one back.

We were invited to their house for dinner. Now we have to invite them to ours.

Who treated last time for dinner out?

In accounting, we call this reconciliation. A bank reconciliation is making sure the numbers balance out. How much do we say we have? How much does the bank say we have? Figure out the differences and come to a balance.

We keep track.

Are you keeping track?

Jesus speaks of forgiveness, not as keeping track, but forgiving and letting go of records.

For when God forgives us, as one person said, it’s like God throws our sins into the sea and posts a sign that says “No Fishing!”

We come before God each week in worship and ask God to forgive us of the things we have done and left undone. We place them before God. And we are told that we are forgiven. We are told that God isn’t keeping track.

So why are we?

Luke 17:1-4

 

Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”
 
 

How often do we leave worship and pick up that load that has been forgiven and carry it another week, or month, or…?

A couple of days ago, I told you a story from Tony Campolo, an American sociologist, pastor, author and public speaker. He spoke at the ELCA Youth Gatherings in 1991 and 1994. Here’s another story told by Tony at the ELCA Youth Gathering in Dallas in 1991. As I remember it, Campolo said that his image of heaven is we are taken to a large theater and seated in the front row. On the screen in front of us will be a movie of everything we had done wrong, and the things that we failed to do…

The theater is empty, except for your mother, who is seated next to you.

But here is the good news. Because of Jesus Christ, the tape has been erased (Ask your parents about Richard Nixon’s secretary!).

God has erased the tape.

Sins are forgiven and forgotten.

As we have been forgiven, may we so forgive. I think there’s something in the Lord’s Prayer about this!

God stopped keeping track. May we do the same.

 

Let us pray:

Lord, forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Help us to accept the gift of your forgiveness and live in the good news that we are your beloved. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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.