Pastor Charlie Woodward writes a daily devotion for the days of the pandemic, until things are back to “normal,” whenever that may be. This is an opportunity to stay connected, to be together. Each devotion will include a Bible verse, a brief reflection and prayer.  
 
This devotion has undergone a name change to One in the Spirit. Learn more here.
 
Access each day’s devotion below, or sign up here to receive the devotions to your inbox every morning. Choose the “Devotions” distribution list.

Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43–45

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say unto you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
 
 
For today’s devotion, I am using an alternate text. Here is a devotion I came across last week from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation From the Center for Action and Contemplation.
 
 

In the United States few public figures have spoken more plainly and powerfully about Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies than the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This was not an abstract theological question for Dr. King. He wrestled practically and at great cost with how to love his enemies, both through prayer and through nonviolent direct action. This passage is an excerpt from King’s sermon “Loving Your Enemies.”


Read more...

Simple Advice

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18

 

Final Exhortations, Greetings, and Benediction

12 But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; 13 esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. 15 See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
 
 

Sometimes it is the simple advice that is all that we need.

 

The past few weeks, we have been building up to our annual fall stewardship appeal. We have focused on the past, and how Epiphany Lutheran Church has been a foundational place for many faith events – baptisms, weddings, confirmations, funerals and more. We focused on the present and the many, MANY outreach ministries of our congregation, as we live out our mission of loving Jesus by serving others. And finally, we asked the question – “What is YOUR hope for the future of Epiphany Lutheran Church?”
 


Read more...

God Shows No Partiality

Romans 2:1-11

 

The Righteous Judgment of God

2 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.
 
 

Read more...

The Stonecutter

Matthew 25:14-30

 
[Jesus said to the disciples:] 14“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ”
 
 

What are YOU doing with talents God has given you? Here is something I first read in a book of stories by Pastor Bill White.


Read more...

Amazing Grace

2 Timothy 4:6-8

 
As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
 
 

I am using an alternate text once again for today’s devotion.

 

The past couple of weeks I have officiated at three funerals. All faithful saints over 90 years old.

 

Two of these funerals were for a husband and wife who died just 19 days apart. It had only been three months or so before this that their daughter died as well.


Read more...

Widow’s Mite

Mark 12:38-44

 

38As [Jesus] taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

41He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
 

I am using an alternate text today as I reflect and prepare for our annual stewardship appeal. I wrote this first-person narrative for a sermon a few years ago.  

 

The Widow’s Mite

 

My name? Oh, it isn’t important, is it? No one seems to bother – it is as if I don’t even exist. I am a widow. A widow in Jerusalem. That is more than just a title – it is a curse. Of course, there was the curse of losing my husband.

 

Many tell me that death before old age was a calamity, a judgment for sin. And that curse, that judgment is passed on to the wife left behind. Of course it was a calamity when my husband died. But now, NOW I have to live with the disgrace of being a widow every day. Becoming a widow is the fate most feared by women from the day we are married, for we are people with no means of support. We don’t own property. We have no way to earn money – at least no respectable way to earn money. So we live off the goodness of our community and family.


Read more...

God is Limitless

Luke 20:27-38

 

The Question about the Resurrection

27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28 and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30 then the second 31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”

34 Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37 And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”
 
 

I am using an alternate text today as I reflect and prepare for a couple more funerals in the coming week.


Read more...

What Time Is It?

Matthew 24:29-35

 

The Coming of the Son of Man

29 “Immediately after the suffering of those days

the sun will be darkened,

    and the moon will not give its light;

the stars will fall from heaven,

    and the powers of heaven will be shaken.

30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see ‘the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
 
 

What time is it?


Read more...

Love As God Loves

1 Thessalonians 3:6-13

 

Timothy’s Encouraging Report

But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us—just as we long to see you. For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

 

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
 
 

Paul’s letters to the church in Thessalonica focus on a church that is trying to figure out how to continue on as they await Jesus Christ’s return. As we say in worship, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”

 

It is that last statement that the Paul addresses in these letters. There were members of the church who heard the word that Jesus would be coming again, so they quit their jobs and hung out in Mom and Dad’s basement, living off of them. No reason to get a job, support the family, contribute to needs of others. Jesus is coming again, so why bother?


Read more...

How Best to Remember the Past

Psalm 130

 
A song of ascents.
 

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;

    Lord, hear my voice.

Let your ears be attentive

    to my cry for mercy.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,

    Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,

    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,

    and in his word I put my hope.

I wait for the Lord

    more than watchmen wait for the morning,

    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,

    for with the Lord is unfailing love

    and with him is full redemption.

He himself will redeem Israel

    from all their sins.
 
 
Two years ago, at this time, I was blessed to partake in a time of study and fellowship in Wittenberg, Germany. A gathering of Lutheran pastors from around the world were invited to study Martin Luther’s writings and discuss theology and faith. I was one of the members of the twenty that gathered for these two weeks of study.

Read more...