Archive E-Devotions

Weekly E-Devotions Archives

 

Welcome to the E-Devotions Archive Page.  Here you will find our past e-devotions that were emailed to our current subscribers. NOTE: At this time we will only be keeping up to 10 weeks worth of e-devotions.

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Weekly e-Devotion: August 11 Edition

Matthew 14:22-33

The Gospel Lesson for Sunday
August 13 2017

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.25And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake.26But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

    Jesus and his disciples have just had a miraculous meal with 5,000 of their “closest friends.” He was bone-tired and, having just heard of the death of his friend and precursor John, he was grief-stricken as well. So, following this miracle meal, He sent the disciples to sea, dismissed the crowd, and retreated to a mountain spot to pray.
    Soon, the disciples were caught up in a bad storm and the fishermen among them would be the first to exclaim that this is not the kind of water they wanted to be near, let alone in!  Jesus and his disciples had been in this “distressed-at-sea” situation before (see Matthew 8:23-27). Jesus would have known in the depths of his being that this storm was going to happen. So He had a reason- probably several reasons- for giving them the ‘opportunity’ of facing this storm.  But remember… He sent them into danger, and he went into prayer, no doubt for their safety during the tumult.
    So, Jesus let them be buffeted about for most of the night. Finally, they perceived someone apparently walking effortlessly on the water!  The disciples could not have had a wink of sleep trying to fight the wind, so of course they had exhausted, sleep-deprived thoughts like, “It’s a ghost!”  But as the figure drew closer, they saw that it might actually be Jesus!  Peter, impetuous man that he was, decided to find out for sure; “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  And so Jesus bid him. Peter, never taking his eyes off Jesus, climbed out of the boat and took a few tentative steps.  Everything was just fine until he sort of “came to” and took a look around at what he was actually doing—how wildly improbable it was—and began to sink like a stone. 
    I remember a sermon from many years ago, only because of its clever tag line: “What are you doing ‘under the circumstances?’ ”  Christians are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37) and the circumstances of our lives should take a back seat to the reality of our relationship with God in Christ Jesus. Even as it appears that Peter was asking God to prove himself, God was giving Peter the same chance. As long as we live our lives focused on Christ, we will be amazed at the stormy seas we too will tread. When we take our eyes off our Savior and Lord, that’s when we begin to sink “under the circumstances” and lose our spiritual and temporal footing.  
    In both stories featuring Jesus, the disciples, wobbly boats and bad storms, it is notable that Jesus ended up in the boat with them.  He doesn’t calm our storms and walk away; he calms our storms and comes even closer to his friends. His very incarnation is his way of getting into our boats and helping us row our way to shore! Jesus was actually inviting Peter (and each of us) out into the swirling uncertainties and knock-you-over tidal waves of life so that, whether we begin to sink or are able to swim, God will keep us afloat and, in that process, we will finally know who Jesus is with and for us. When we reach our own limitations, that is when God bids us walk with Him. That ‘walk’ will almost certainly include deep, troubled waters as well as placid seas. To each of us for all our lives, Jesus says, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”


If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .

The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: July 28 Edition

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

The Gospel Lesson for Sunday
July 30 2017

31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” 33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. 47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

   Mustard seeds…miniscule little seeds from which bushes appearing as trees can sometimes reach ten feet (or so I have read).  Most of us know about small beginnings, but at the same time, we have been schooled in the predictable results.  Imagine when Jesus first spoke these words concerning the mustard seed.  Scholars say those hearing it were ones who had already committed themselves to following Jesus.  Being “first generation” followers, they had yet to see very much harvest.  I can imagine them perhaps having a few disconcerting moments pondering whether they might have accidentally hitched their wagon to yet another charismatic traveling evangelist… one who might be “pulling their legs” about this kingdom of heaven thing. They had no reference points from which to measure kingdom growth.
    Many times, as I observe what goes on in our culture, I cannot believe Christianity has made the impact it set out to make. (If you doubt as I sometimes do, a great antidote is John Ortberg’s book, Who Is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus, which chronicles the unlikely and pervasive global influence of this “small beginning!”). But just as yeast permeates the whole loaf of bread, so the Holy Spirit is abroad in the land, in ways both seen and unseen, drawing God’s own toward God’s self.  The time of uncertainty between the planting of the seed and the appearance of the tree is the in-between time of our earthly existence.
    The parables of the Pearl of Great Price and The Hidden Treasure provide two more ways to approach this earthly ambiguity.  For the person who found the treasure hidden in a field didn’t really appear to be looking for it!  He (or she) was like someone who casually filled out the Publisher’s Clearing House entry forms and, having completely forgotten about it, is met at the door a few months later with balloons and a super-sized replica of a check worth an unimaginable amount of money!
    However, the one who found the pearl of great price was, in fact, a diligent seeker.  When this pearl was found, its ultimate value was recognized and all good stewardship was put in place for its protection and care.  With both the one who fortuitously falls into his inheritance and the one who tries everything until he finally finds it, the Spirit seems to work in a hidden way as the kingdom grows.
    This passage is constructed as though Jesus was pitching one parable after another, trying to make sure that if the disciples didn’t get the picture from one, they would from another. He ends this series of scatter- gun parables with the question, “Have you understood all this?” They had more nerve than I when they answered, “Yes!” (v. 51)
    Just as Jesus instructed his disciples, therefore, to use what they have learned for the good of others, we should always also be bringing from the storehouse of our faith, the treasures we have sought and found, both new and old, to share with each other and the world. Ours is not to yearn for the ten-foot tree so much as it is to plant, nourish and tend the seed from which it will grow. And all that is hidden will be revealed…in God’s good time.


If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .

The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: July 14 Edition

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

The Gospel Lesson for Sunday
July 16 2017

13That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake.2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow.4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!”
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

   One of several surprises I had when I moved to the desert Southwest was the color of the soil.  Having grown up with the rich, black soil of Iowa, I was unprepared for our dusty, beige caliche-ridden soil that always seems to triumph over any non-weed plant that attempts an appearance!
    Jesus not only delivered this parable, but in an unusual move, explained it as well, thus emphasizing the importance that his hearers prepare the soil of their hearts for his message.  Soil is easier to analyze than the human heart.  Not even a DNA test will unearth all the soils we embody. The sadness in this story is how much soil remains unprepared, untilled and neglected, thus sloughing off the seeds of new life.
   
Unlike modern farming, with GPS-powered mechanisms to deliver seeds precisely where they need to land, Jesus’ sower flung a profligacy of seeds in hope that more will take root than be caught by the wind and sent to places where growth is impossible. 
   
We live such frantically busy lives that the seeds snatched up by the birds of our neglect are fairly easy to imagine.  Most of us reserve very little time for meditation, contemplation, biblical study and prayer, so it is safe to assume that any “still, small voice” seeking our ears has little chance of being discerned above the din of voice mail, streaming video, twitter storms, and talk radio. No one can successfully treat Scripture as though it were a divine news crawl at the bottom of a screen or a particularly lilting sound-byte from above. Paul assures his readers in 1 Corinthians 2:14 that Scripture is not immediately understood but must be spiritually discerned.  If the seeds hardly reach the ground before we are off to the next thing, there can be no grounding in God.
   
There are those who immediately hear comfort and joy in the message of Christ and happily embrace the good news…until the good news becomes the serious news, the difficult news or the impossible news or, these days, perhaps the alternative news!  Then, it’s back to the search for good news that stays upbeat and demands of us nothing particularly difficult or painful. The stirring of a powerful preacher will fade if the hearer is only beguiled by words instead of convicted by truth.
   
The image of soil actually choking the word reminds me again of caliche. Jesus speaks of this as the soil covered over and packed down with the weight of our “stuff,” the cares of our world, the “pursuit of happiness” – as Americans have defined it—all conspiring to make the good news only some news competing with lots of other news and nothing that would stop us in our tracks.
   
Finally, Jesus described the good soil where the seeds are nurtured so that a harvest of faith and righteousness results.  And the harvests vary in size, which is great comfort to those of us whose fields are small.  Before we can sow, we must allow God’s seed to die and rise anew within us. Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it will only be a seed. (John 12:24) Seeds allowed to germinate within our hearts will break open and become the fruit of righteous lives. When we turn the soil of our hearts, what emerges?  Do we find the hard caliche of sin, the asphalt of worldly ambitions, empty seed pods dried to dust from utter neglect?  Or do we find tender growth nourished in love and faith?  Time for a soils test?

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .

The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: June 30 Edition

Romans 6:12-23
The 2nd Reading for Sunday
July 2 2017

12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.    

    Independence Day!  A day dominated by fireworks, parades, patriotic sound-bytes, a few remarks on how fortunate we are not to be enslaved to repressive regimes, and a nod to our forebears who broke away from political and religious bondage to form “a more perfect union.” This is the day freedom is top of mind! In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation provided another level of freedom in our land. We are struggling to find good ways to repair our immigration system so that we can continue to enjoin the world to “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”   
    This is the perfect day to ask ourselves, “What have we done with our freedom?” All earthly gatherings of people need laws and rules in order that the social contract—that trade-off of certain “freedoms” so that we can live peacefully together—is not broken apart. These days, we find ourselves trying to mend a fraying social order, even as the right and the left of both church and state (!) relentlessly play tug-o-war with the fabric of our laws and values.
   
Paul understood this need for law because he understood fallen human nature. We got into this dilemma near ‘day one’ when we decided we could frolic in the Garden without answering to anyone about anything! St. Paul was plagued with his process of “becoming” as he wrote in Romans 7:14-15, “For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
   
How, then, do we experience being “dead to sin” as Paul says we now are through our participation in the death and resurrection of Christ? Partly by practicing the reality of who we wish to become (in this case, who we really are, by God’s grace). With the Holy Spirit residing within us, we have all we need to shed our old life of sin and put on a new life of obedience to God. 
   
Our salvation from sin and death does not mean that we can freely live our lives however we want. Paul warns more than once. “All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful, but not all things build up.” (1 Corinthians 10:23; see also 1 Corinthians 6:12). Our salvation means our allegiance, loyalty, commitment, priorities and love have been transferred from death to life!
   
The word “obedient” in this passage comes from two Greek words, one meaning “under” and one meaning “to hear,” understanding that obedience is hearing and placing ourselves under authority.  For us, that authority is Christ who is God.  But there remain many other seductive voices, many words and many calls for obedience.  Some of these lead us closer to God; other siren songs call us to obey voices that can mask or distort what God says to us.
   
Paul concludes this passage with a summary verse that juxtaposes the “wages of sin” with the “free gift of grace.” Bob Dylan sang, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody” and we cannot serve two masters. Joshua’s departing words to the Israelites (Joshua 24:15) remain words for us: “Choose this day whom you will serve!” St. Augustine once said, “Love God and do as you please.” If we love our Lord, we will be prone to do as he pleases.  And that is where we find true freedom.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .

The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: June 16 Edition

Genesis 18:1-15

An Alternate Reading for Sunday
June 18 2017

18The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. 2He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. 3He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. 4Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” 6And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” 7Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.8Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate. 9 They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 11Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh;” for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

    There have been so many situations in my life that have called for patience, but I don’t know of any that rise to the level of the 24 years Abraham and Sarah waited for the fulfillment of God’s promise to give them a son (and - down the line - nations and kings!). Wisdom says that what we become while we wait for something may be just as important as the thing we await. But I’m guessing that, as Abraham and Sarah waited for this particular fulfillment, they probably rotated through the five stages of grief more than once.
    Some churches who join us in following the Common Lectionary will be reading this Genesis passage on Sunday. Because I am several years into my AARP eligibility, I was immediately struck by this story of what might be called “Sharing God’s Last Laugh!” I have been told that as we grow older, we begin to lose our sense of humor. There is some truth to that as things that were funny in our youth might now call forth something closer to wistfulness than laughter. On the other hand, with age comes an added lens to see the absurdity and the humor in so much of what those lacking the perspective of longevity still take so very seriously.
    So, hearing this visiting stranger reiterate the promise of a son within the year, Sarah is transported out of her usual cycle of grief and right into the world of bittersweet humor! “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure (18:12)?” Seriously? Now that it is apparently too late, grace arrives? Have any of us ever asked that question, either through laughter or through tears? God’s loving response, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” is also our question. The way we respond displays whether we really believe God will act in our lives.
    Pastor Ben Patterson has written, “When Sarah laughs, she is laughing the laugh of a cynic ... She is laughing the laugh of despair that will not see anything but the ultimate incongruity of her life. Her long waiting has sapped her of her humor. Take surprise away from your sense of the incongruous, and all that remains is a bitter chuckle. That is why God’s response to Sarah has such force. When he says to her, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” he is inviting her to have a really good laugh and let surprise back into her life. He invites us to do the same. It is only when our sense of the incongruity of our lives meets God’s great surprise of grace and promise that we are enabled to live our lives with the hilarity he intended. There’s a version of pop psychology whose slogan is ‘I’m OK, You’re OK.’ With the gospel, it is different: It is ‘I’m Not OK, You’re Not OK, But It’s OK!’”
    When Sarah finally realized that God wasn’t kidding, then she could really laugh! The harsh laughter of bitterness became the lilting laughter of grace and faith and surprise. To add irony to the story, these laughing old saints named their child Isaac which, in Hebrew means, “he laughs.” And so Sarah brings us all (God included) into the tent with her saying, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me (21:6),” and we all can have a great big belly laugh at the surprising and wondrous love of God!

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: June 2 Edition

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

The 2nd Reading for Sunday
June 4 2017

3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

    The feast of Pentecost is the day we celebrate the manifestation of the Church in the world through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all believers. God’s Spirit not only empowers our ability to love and serve each other, but to proclaim by word and deed God’s grace and mercy to the entire world (verse 3).  St. Paul “coined” the term ‘Body of Christ’ and he employed the image to quell the dissension over leadership and identity in their ranks in the Corinthian church. The Holy Spirit is the one who creates one body out of all of us. As St. Augustine put it, “What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church.”
    What has happened to the Church in the ages since believers shared all things in common and there was no one needy among us?  Without the empowerment and guidance of the Holy Spirit and our willingness to be empowered and guided, the work God intends us to perform has no chance. Verse 7 provides a key to understanding the essence of the Church. The gifts, talents and opportunities the Lord provides each of us are not for our gratification, comfort or advancement (although that may happen) but for “the common good.” Political definitions and priorities for the common good are on a two-to-four-year cycle of priority but, if the Church flounders on biblical ethics and our moral compass, the common good suffers and the Body itself grows feeble and muted.  
    Christians participate first in a baptism of water, but at Pentecost we remember that we will grow up in the faith through various baptisms of fire!  Those flaming tongues were not only “foreign” languages; they were also the fires of purification and renewal.  It is the peace “that passes all understanding” that gives us the courage to face those profound challenges and deep hurts that come our way. Both our triumphs and our sorrows can only be mediated and moderated by the Spirit of God operating in our lives.
    The institutional church’s greatest challenge is to channel the work and power of the Holy Spirit for the common good in such a way that the Spirit is not quenched or its vessels shattered in the process.  Without teaching about and cultivating discernment so as to recognize the blowing winds of the Spirit, this isn’t even possible.  Thus the world has seen too many ruined churches and crushed followers as the bureaucracy of one church group or another appropriated and sought to control the work of the Spirit. Perhaps the watchword for today’s institution is the same as it was in Paul’s day as he counseled the Body in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21), “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good.”
    Every gathering of God’s people contains within it the gifts necessary to do the work to which God calls it (either gifts actively in use or yet to be awakened). As Jesus began his ministry, his Pentecostal words echoed the prophet Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18).”  “Veni, Creator Spiritus” has been the heart-cry of believers throughout the centuries.  May we together experience God’s creator Spirit on this Pentecost Sunday, and, for the rest of our days, be God’s co-creators in ways God has entrusted only to you and me…for the common good and the health of our souls.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: May 19 Edition

John 14:15-21

The Gospel lesson for Sunday
May 21 2017

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

    “If you loved me…” How many times and for how many reasons has this exact sentence - or something like it - been thrown at you as yet another way you are asked to prove that you love someone? “If you love me, you would__(fill in the blank).” “If you love me, you never would have__(fill in the blank).” Who knew that even Jesus made this comment! “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (In John 21:17, speaking with Peter, it was “Do you love me?” “Feed my lambs.”) Between our weaponized, “If you loved me” and the Lord’s, there is a fundamental difference in intent. We want proof of love for our ego’s sake. Jesus wants to know that we aren’t just playing games with his salvation but, instead, are passing it on to those others he came to save.
    It is well known that the English language has a paucity of synonyms for ‘love.’ Sanskrit is said to have 96 words for it; Persian 80; Greek 3, but English only 1. And, oh, what burdens of meaning that one word has to bear! We can love a bean burrito and, in the same breath, we can proclaim our love for our children. The only way to differentiate among all our various ‘loves’ is by our actions, isn’t it?
    And so it is that Jesus tells us exactly how he will know of our love. And just as important for our fragile earthly selves, we can gauge our love for God by this same index. What have we done for God lately? If our love has grown cold or complacent, we should be able to read by our actions, decisions and intentions just what our spiritual temperature is. Do we need to fan the Pentecostal flames? Apparently, the way we begin to do that is precisely by keeping God’s commandments. Jesus says here that, as we do that, he will provide the Holy Spirit to abide with us forever. As the saying goes, “If you don’t feel near to God, ask yourself who moved?”
    Verses 15 and 16 are nothing less than a dance of love. With intent toward finding and loving God, we begin to act in Godly ways. God, in turn, blesses and strengthens us with the Holy Spirit who empowers us toward more Godly acts. And so the dance deepens as the spirals widen, bringing more and more of the world into God’s loving embrace. They will know we are Christians by our love and we will know we are Christians because God will make himself known to us as we love others.
    If we are keeping God’s commandments, we are always focused on love. Jesus summed up all the commandments in Mark 12:30-31: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
    Twentieth-century Jesuit priest, Pedro Arrupe wrote a poem that helps me take my spiritual temperature! Perhaps you will find it helpful as well as we each continue to participate in all that Love is and does.

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

Everything!

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: May 5 Edition

Acts 2:42-47
The First Reading for Sunday
May 7 2017

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

    Several months ago, I decided to have my DNA tested. I was fairly certain of the results although there were a few family tales that I wanted either validated or put to rest. It was fascinating to read about the many places on the globe that have gone into the creation of me! When I ‘return to dust,’ it will be international dust, to say the least!
    There is something about this passage from Acts that reminds me of genealogy because here we have a snapshot of the earliest community of Christians gathered around the leadership of the apostles. It was a heady time indeed! And this is what our early ‘family’ looked like:

  • They were devoted to the apostles’ teaching.
  • Their joy was to fellowship with each other.
  • They refused to neglect gathering together to break bread and to pray.

    And here is what happened because of these commitments:

  • Many wonders and signs occurred among them
  • They sat so lightly to their possessions in the face of ‘so great a salvation’ that no one in the community was left in need
  • Their praise of God and full hearts for all people attracted a daily influx of new members to their community.

    This is the church of our dreams, right? The church where everyone is “all in,” doing God’s work in God’s world, loving and serving one another and rejoicing as each and every day more people are attracted to Christ because of his presence and power manifested in his people.
    What this snapshot leaves out is also part of the church. There were a number of instances referenced elsewhere about embezzlement (Ananias and Sapphira), Paul’s endless admonishments to church communities regarding their conflicts and confusions, racial biases, bad leaders. In other words, while all the glory of following God was happening, the reality of our fallen-ness was happening right alongside it… the sheep grazing with the goats, the wheat growing up around the chaff, the sometimes maddening jumble of hearts learning together how to live out the newness so graciously poured out upon “them” (i.e., “us”).
    Rather than being the counter-cultural phenomenon it was at its beginning, today we find much of that sense of community has been lost as we live individually in a buffet-style world. We pick and choose what aspects of community appeal to us. Sadly, we also have our favorite approaches to the words of Jesus, letting us live more comfortably than God may actually require. And that has become our great loss because what this passage of Acts is describing is the work of the Spirit among believers. To the degree that we avoid or deflect the urgings of the Spirit of God, to that degree we miss out on the activity and the joy of living in the Spirit of God, the will of God, and the community of God. Living in a bubble of like-mindedness stifles growth and suffocates joy.
    In this short passage we are given a glimpse of what an encounter with the risen Christ can do to ordinary expectations of human community. As John reminds us (10:10), Jesus came that that we might have abundant life. And God promises us that he will never give up on his bride, his church (Philippians 1:6). How will embracing this Reality change us today? How will we channel the winds of God’s Spirit for the “goodwill of all the people?”

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: April 21 Edition

John 20:19-31

Gospel Lesson for Sunday
April 23 2017

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin*), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

    It would not be hard to dub Thomas the “Disciple of the Digital Age” for he certainly reflects the need for certainty that we need when faced with an internet of infinite “authorities.”  Whether it’s an authorization by Snopes.com that what we are reading online is not a fabrication, or a forensic conclusion that a bizarre photograph was not “photo-shopped,” we live in an era of necessary skepticism.  By the same token, we also live in a very credulous age where we are willing to believe anything that tantalizes or reinforces our favorite opinions.
    By that measure, Thomas is a realist who is longing (as we all are longing) for something we can see and feel, and hear and touch—something or someone who will make us new!  As a child once put it, “I want a God with skin on.” He is the object lesson that reminds us that we always run the risk of not recognizing Jesus until we reach out our hands in love and compassion to those around us. He is the truth of the old saying, “God has no grandchildren.” Someone else’s faith will never satisfy my soul.
    Many of us had Mother Teresa of Calcutta on our spiritual radar screens for decades. She served even non-Catholics and non-Christians as an exemplar of a holy life and one which must have been filled with great certainty…or so we thought. How else could she have done the rugged work with the poor and dying that she did for so many years? And yet, not very long after she died, we began to learn that Mother Teresa was a consummate doubter! She is known as a Christian saint who doubted, but persevered, whose dark night of the soul was not a complete blackout but a backdrop to the faith that she maintained and lived out. She is a contemporary example of how a Christian can doubt in the midst of a commitment to living a faithful life.
    Doubt is actually a boon companion to faith.  Mindless faith is what cult leaders promote and what Nazism required. Being unable or unwilling to doubt, question, evaluate and hesitate makes everyone a possible candidate for any seductive group or charlatan that crosses our paths! Without doubt in our repertoire, we all become fundamentalists, trapped in a certainty no longer grounded in the whole truth, losing track of God whose ways are not our ways and, most assuredly, surpass our understanding.
    Sixteenth-century mystic, St. John of the Cross, is famous for adding the phrase “dark night of the soul” to our spiritual lexicon.  Ironically, this darkness, as John and so many others have understood it, is a special signifier of God’s presence. In that merciful darkness, what we thought we knew of God is gone and in that abject absence, we come before God, finally empty of our beliefs and assumptions and ready for the real God to speak to our real selves.
    John did not share Thomas’ journey from skeptic to worshipper that we might have more facts, but that we, too, might believe. And to believe is to see and experience reality in a brand new way. This story is the climax of John’s entire book, his final anecdote (out of so many more he said he could have added) in an effort to bring all who are willing to the same declaration as Thomas: “My Lord and My God!”

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: April 7 Edition

Philippians 2:5-11
2nd Reading for Sunday
April 9 2017

5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And, being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

   Jesus’ entire earthly sojourn, humanly speaking, amounted to a career path that spiraled from great expectations to apparent utter failure.  The Jewish community expected their “messiah” to be a temporal savior.  Even today, we sometimes wonder why God didn’t just do in his first arrival what he promises to do in the second…sweep in and mop up the remnants of evil and create a new heaven and a new earth for his whole creation to enjoy forever.
    Jesus spent a lot of effort trying to disabuse his followers about the sort of king and ruler he was going to become.  As he rode into Jerusalem on that donkey, it is hard not to see this as an ironic send-up of the triumphant arrival of royalty. 
    The reading this week from Philippians offers us a description of what Jesus did, which is at the core of what Jesus wants each of us to do.  And it is all about humility; fundamental self-forgetfulness. That donkey ride is a great symbol of “kenosis,” a theological term for the “self-emptying” that Jesus chose to do in order to be with us bodily as a man and yet as our God.  He could have entered the world stage as a great and glorious king (which he plans yet to do, in fact). But we would have missed the main point of this arrival.  He wasn’t in town to rescue anyone from Roman rule, but from the rule of Satan and all the powers of darkness.
    But in order to do it the way God wanted it done, Jesus humbled himself (in effect, put completely out of mind for a while who he was), took the form of a servant and became perfectly obedient even unto death in order to undo death!  This is our model even today.  Scripture reinforces this for us more than once (see, for instance, Matthew 23:12 or Luke 14:11): whoever humbles him (her) self will be exalted. 
    The original imago Dei has been perverted by the “fun-house mirror” of self-preoccupation into an image of ourselves “as like a god.” The enduring theme of so much of what Jesus shared with the world while he walked among us was that the first eventually would be last. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard.”
    Our original attempt to grasp divinity resulted in abject slavery. We abjured humility and adopted a stance of arrogance and so fell from having open, teachable spirits to a hardened “I am the captain of my fate” stance that has no room for grace, truth or a change of mind. Jesus arrived to restore the friendship with God we so foolishly threw away in our attempt to be God rather than to be with God.
    Jesus is asking us to empty ourselves of our futile attempts at self-fulfillment so that he can fill us to overflowing with his grace and truth. He cannot fill us up with him if we are full of ourselves. Jesus is asking us to use his power to empower others. Jesus is asking us to take another look at some of those people who, in worldly terms, have “come in last.”  When we find them, we might be very surprised to find Jesus already there waiting for us to join the festivities! In our heart of hearts, we have known all along we would find him among the last and the least because isn’t that where he found us?
    If we are to imitate Jesus, we know our career path—it is strewn with palm fronds—and we need to hold each other close as we follow him all the way to Easter.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: March 24 Edition

John 9:1-41

Gospel Lesson for Sunday
Mar 26 2017

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which means Sent).” Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”12They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” 13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.14Now it was a Sabbath Day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” 18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight19and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.”25He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshipped him. 39Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see’ your sin remains.”

   Victimhood. A game the whole family can play! To listen to the voices of our culture today, nobody is really responsible for their own situations.  It is our parents’ fault, or, perhaps the President’s, our boss’ or our neighbor’s.  Never ours! “The devil made me do it.” “I was tricked.” “This is not my fault.” Without a consciousness of our own sin, we can only believe that we are the victims of someone else’s. When we see the “other” among us (in this case, a blind man; but, these days, a person who is homeless, gay, an immigrant, or whatever we most fear), we tend to categorize these other ones as societal or political phenomena—groups of people who need to get their act together—not as individual children of God through whom his grace is meant to flow. We enjoy our free will, but in our fallen-ness, we are ever ready to question how others use theirs! Truth be told, we are all outliers and rebels from the perfection God desires and we will be to a greater or lesser extent until we see God face to face.
    Read what Jesus says about everyone’s misfortunes in John 9:3: “He was born blind (feel free to substitute your own troubling condition here) so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” Wow!  It’s not “all about us” after all.  It is all about God who loves us completely and does not inflict pain as punishment! As my favorite devotional writer, Oswald Chambers, noted, “We shall find that the spheres God brings us into are not meant to teach us something but to make us something.” Anyone who says following Jesus will take away our earthly troubles hasn’t deeply pondered this tale (or their own life)!
    It is very disturbing, yet very familiar, that this blind man was ever-present in the community as a beggar and yet no one “knew” him. He had become part of the backdrop of daily life and since he had been born “that way” there was no need to get involved in his plight. Can we honestly say we have never participated in that same social dimness of vision? Since we faithful ones are now light bearers (see Ephesians 5:8), we must choose to shine Christ’s light of grace and love into the lives around us or hide our light and cast shadows of judgment and gloom.
    As Lent draws us ever closer to a celebration of the resurrection, I would like to ponder, as pastor Suzanne Guthrie does, how to pay better attention

“…so that the whole of my life might incrementally draw me toward the kind of heightened sense that would recognize Jesus with bodily eyes or without. And looking forward to the stories after Easter, perhaps, like his friends after the resurrection, I might learn to recognize him in more obscure forms.”

    No one can see Jesus through our eyes, but they just might be drawn to him by seeing how we live our lives. Jesus told us in Matthew 5:16, “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” The childlike, straightforward witness of this man born blind says it all: “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” Amazing Grace indeed!

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: March 10 Edition

John 3:1-17

Gospel Lesson for Sunday
Mar 12 2017

3Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

   Nicodemus came to Jesus in the dead of night, that in-between time when we often have our sleepless struggles with ourselves and with God. Nicodemus was a practical, logical man, a man on his way up and with authority to make things happen.  He came to Jesus asking a lot of “how” questions because that’s the way he was wired.  In the church of my youth, his questions would have been answered in formulaic terms…trying to fit cosmic questions into a one-size-fits-all response.  Jesus was keenly aware that Nicodemus’ questions had answers that were not quantifiable…answers about meaning, not achievement; faith not formula; identity not titles.
    Nicodemus asked questions that he (and we) hoped would be answered with clear achievable steps. Nicodemus thought he was going to have a theological discussion and instead was faced with incomprehensibles! Jesus responded with heavenly words only received as much by the spirit as by the mind and lived out by grace and faith sometimes with uncertain steps on unfamiliar terrain. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” God initiates our life; we do not give birth to ourselves no matter how many “makeovers” we have attempted.
    We “veteran” Christians might be lured into thinking we know all there is to know about Jesus, about God.  We’ve heard John 3:16 perhaps for decades, memorized it; maybe we have it needle-pointed and framed on a wall.  As with Nicodemus, God still asks us to set aside what we think we know and listen again to what he wants to tell us.  Romans 8:13 warns us that to live “according to the flesh” is certain death, but to live according to the spirit is life indeed. Luther was right, of course, that John 3:16 is the “gospel in a nutshell.” “For God so loved the world” not “for God was so angry with the world.” We begin not so much as sinners who are lost but as children who have been found.
    Dysfunctional families spend an enormous amount of time manipulating each other, setting up quid pro quos. “If you do ‘x,’ I will do ‘y.’ God, on the other hand, simply saw that we were broken and powerless and dying and sent his Son to fix it.  We cannot manipulate it, make it look like something it isn’t, or define the terms of God’s acceptance.  God has already saved us. Our response to God is not to manage our salvation but to bear God’s message of love for each one of us. Instead of setting boundaries based on our fallen perceptions, we need to remember John 3:17: “…God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world.” If we don’t accept his love, we judge ourselves and remain spiritually orphaned and homeless. In the face of this glorious love how can we not pay forward this great salvation?
    Being born from above is to be made part of a family for whom dysfunction is not the defining adjective! Being born from above means getting to do life differently, based on unbounded love rather than puny anxieties.  Who would not leap at a second chance to be not just a better person, but a brand new one? Re-boots and do-overs belong to our most gracious heavenly father and are God’s great gifts to us. If you got to begin again, what would your “new birth” look like? Seek and you will find out!

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: February 24 Edition

Matthew 17:1-9

Gospel Lesson for Sunday
Feb 26 2017

1Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.  8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

   It must have been very hard to be impetuous, shoot-from-the-hip Peter. His response to his privileged presence at the “parting of the veil” was to build a shrine to capture the moment as though in amber. In the midst of his carrying on, a voice from a cloud broke through and asked Peter, James and John to be quiet and “just listen, already!”  And, to cap it off, Jesus told them not to say a word about their remarkable encounter until Jesus was resurrected (as though they comprehended that remark!). It cannot have been easy for any of them to be disciples of Jesus even though we sometimes envy them.  After all, they were walking and talking face-to-face with the Jesus we can only summon in our imaginations and our spirits.
    Dear Peter often provides a cautionary tale about our human foibles!  As with any spiritual experience that pushes credulity, we are liable to do just what Peter did. No one can dispute that the church has made a few too many “booths” out of the faith, many times domesticating and containing the sometimes overwhelming movements of the Spirit. We can use even the holiest string of words to garble and blunt the ineffable. When that voice from the cloud told Peter, in essence, “Please just stop it and listen,” those are words for each one of us.
    My “busyness” can be as much about blocking out God’s voice as responding to it. That’s why God sometimes tells me (in a twist on the old saying), “Don’t just do something, stand there!” After I stop running on my hamster wheel, I am able to see more clearly and respond authentically rather than merely react. In his book Out of Solitude, Henri Nouwen wrote, “In solitude we become aware that our worth is not the same as our usefulness.”
    We are right to be cautious about ecstatic spiritual experiences because not all of them end well.  “Test the spirits” (1 John 4:1) in order to receive true spiritual riches, not counterfeits. But by no means should we decide to avoid even the hint of the unexplainable in our spiritual lives or we will miss all those “thin places” as the Celts called them, those translucent junctures where this world and the next come closest to being one. Those are the places where we are most able to see God for who God is and to be transfigured ourselves in the process!
    The moment of transfiguration is an obvious tableau of Jesus as the fulfillment of everything Moses trekked to his mountaintop to receive, including all of God’s glory. With Moses representing the law and Elijah the prophets, Jesus stands with them as the ultimate fulfillment of their missions. And placed where it is in our readings, it is a clear bridge between the light of Epiphany and the dark road of Lent we are about to travel with our Lord.
    The essential things we need from God are not things we read in “How to be a Christian” manuals.  They are provided “by revelation” (Matthew 16:17). So, if we stay in the flatlands and avoid the mountainous treks, we run the risk of missing God’s transfiguring moments, which, for us as for Jesus, are signposts and supports along the Way. After their time of being still and listening, Jesus finished the message to his disciples, then and now: “Get up, don’t be afraid and, now, let’s get moving!” Off the mountaintop with you! Even though he knew he was descending only to arrive at a hill named Golgotha to be lifted even higher, he enjoined his friends and followers to walk with him… down to the valley where his work - and ours - is waiting.  The moments of transfiguration God graces us with are lights for the journey through our valleys. And we will shine like the children of light that we are, trailing clouds of glory as we go.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: February 10 Edition

Matthew 5:21-37

Gospel Lesson for Sunday
Feb 12 2017

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘Whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
27
 ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
31
 It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
33
 Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.*

   If the Israelites thought the Ten Commandments were difficult to obey, what about the uber-obedience of the heart that Jesus requires?  It is not all that difficult to appear righteous, upstanding and obedient, as long as no one can listen to our thoughts or suss out our true intentions, right? I remember Jimmy Carter’s famous (and, to the biblically-challenged, perplexing) comment, “I have committed adultery in my heart many times.” Admitting our fallen and “temptable” state should be a no-brainer, but we know it takes courage and humility to admit to being, in St. Paul’s term, “a mere man.”
    A key thing the Law and Jesus have in common is that they both focus on how we handle relationships, whether with other people, other nations, or with the earth itself.  Eugene Peterson declared his conviction that “… the church will continue to decline on the left and become rabidly rigid and rule-bound on the right, until we realize that the gospel is not about rules…it is about relationship.” As Gandhi reminded us, in a world of “an eye for an eye,” all are eventually blinded.
    From a Christian perspective, we know that no amount of good legislation will accomplish what only the redemptive power of God can work in the human heart.  We look at the Ten Commandments with fear and trembling and then read this passage and throw up our hands as if to say, “Now, I am really in trouble.”  And, of course, yes, we are all in big trouble because without the Holy Spirit operating in our hearts, not only can we not hope to live in this redemptive, restorative way, we won’t even want to try! Jesus came not to abolish the law (Matthew 5:17), but to fulfill it. Its fulfillment is abundant life for all, even for those who may not be seeking God (see Matthew 5:45 or Luke 6:35)! Now that his Spirit has written these laws on our hearts, they can permeate our intentions and our actions in a radical obedience, simply not sustainable without God’s help.
    No one is capable of perfect adherence to the law, but God is concerned with the intention of the heart, even when we sometimes miss the bar. While not committing murder or adultery may make me feel good about myself, I need to know that is a very low bar indeed, especially if in the very next breath I commit a “character assassination” at work!  One day, with true hearts, our “yes” and our “no” will be spoken with no reservations or irony. 
    Matthew 23:27 and its metaphor of the ‘whited sepulchre’ is perhaps the quintessential definition of hypocrisy. That sort of duplicity did not end with the last living scribe or Pharisee!  It continues in some way or another in each of us. In 2006, when the Amish folks in Pennsylvania extended almost immediate forgiveness to the man who shot ten of their children (killing half of them), the entire country was taken aback, as much by the forgiveness as by the atrocious act that called it forth.  How different from the usual cries for vengeance. But they are the first to tell you that they work on this forgiveness each and every day.  They extend it by faith and live courageously into the promise of restoration.  And that is how our hearts are converted.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: January 27 Edition

Matthew 5:1-12

Gospel Lesson for Sunday Jan 29 2017

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

   Micah, Old Testament prophet that he was, still nailed the essence of the gospel: “…do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God.” What have we done with this simple (not easy!) mandate?  We have allowed it to be taken over by political parties and pundits who have become ersatz theologians, instructing the rest of us on how to define justice in the world. Micah has God lamenting our injustices, beseeching an answer from us… “What have I done to you?” What has God done to elicit such fickle behavior from his children?
    We may have to actually become those who mourn, who are powerless, who hunger and thirst and are poor in order to find out exactly what the blessing is that God is offering in Matthew 5:1-12.  It is a bit more obvious to perceive the blessings derived from mercy, purity and peace because we expect to be rewarded with righteousness when we seek and live it. But very few of us actively seek the experiences associated with grief, poverty, persecution or injustice. How then, can Jesus teach his followers that those of us experiencing these sorts of dire circumstances are actually “fortunate”  or “honored” (for those are perhaps more accurate words than “happy” for the Greek word makarios ordinarily translated as “blessed”)? 
    The answer contained within the question is the kingdom of heaven. This is God’s foundational message for all time; his kingdom is the last word; his kingdom is now, not “pie-in-the-sky,” and our citizenship in that kingdom gives us the strength, courage and perspective to persevere and, yes, even to rejoice, in the midst of seeming calamity. These “beatitudes” are actually grand declarations of the hope of the gospel and the guarantee that our hopes have been and will be fulfilled in Christ. This is the gospel that turns everything we expect upside down so that we can actually feel deeply blessed even as we mourn, sense our kinship with Love itself as we seek peace with ourselves and everyone else. Each statement both describes a gospel posture and then the reward that yields in our relationship with God and God’s kingdom.
    Here’s the thing: Jesus did not expect something of us that he didn’t expect of himself; he knew he would be persecuted for righteousness’ sake.  He knew we would be as well if we were faithful. These blessings or declarations of our good fortune were given to us before we had a chance to earn or achieve these states of being. We are not being exhorted to do anything to earn a blessing, but to be something that only God by his grace can empower us to be—and therein lies the blessing.
    Jesus proclaims blessing on everyone, whether we are mourning right now or not…poor or rich, meek or full of ourselves—however we find ourselves in any given moment.  In fact, God probably wants to bless us more than we want that blessing! But once we experience God, we will have a great desire to share God with someone else.  Williams Sloan Coffin once invoked this blessing; may we take it as our own:

May the Lord Bless you and keep you.

May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.

May God give you grace not to sell yourselves short,

Grace to risk something big for something good,

Grace to remember that the world is now too dangerous for anything but truth, and too small for anything but love.

May God take your minds and think through them.

May God take your lips and speak through them.

May God take your hands and work through them.

May God take your hearts and set them on fire. Amen.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: January 13 Edition

John 1:29-42

Gospel Lesson for
Sunday Jan 15 2017

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

   Throughout my career, I have been impressed with how important titles are.  They determine salary, responsibilities…even whether you get a window cube or an office! And we all know that, from the outside at least, titles and perks can sometimes seem inconsistent or undeserved. In this week’s Gospel, John announced Jesus’ title/identity and, later in the reading, Jesus announced a new and symbolic name for Simon… Peter. And yet, John himself eschewed all titles but one…he was a ‘Voice in the wilderness.’  That title would not even get you a desk in any office I can imagine! As a matter of fact, John could not be less 21st century as he proved by his later declaration, “He [Jesus] must increase but I must decrease (3:30).” Explain that part of your resume to your next potential employer! Yet, in Kingdom terms, that is the precise definition of a Christian leader and, in fact, of any of us who have met “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and follows the heavenly mandate to share that fact.
    When Jesus asked two of John’s disciples (who—upon hearing John’s declaration of Jesus’ identity—began to follow Jesus), “What are you looking for?” their response is provocative. They didn’t say, “Well, as a matter of fact, we’re looking for you, if you are the true Messiah.” Nor did they request “eternal life” or tips on “how to be a perfect Jew.’”  Instead, they wanted to know where Jesus was staying. Pretty intimate question, actually, and not the first thing we ordinarily ask a new acquaintance. I think this spirit-inspired question was weighted with a lot more than an inquiry about his local address.  There are few more basic requirements to sustain life than a place to stay… to be.  So, when these folks asked him where he was staying, I think they were asking for an address for themselves, hoping they would find a true home there.  And, of course, Jesus delivered the answer of relationship and intimacy…“Come and see.” What he offers us also, even before we know enough to ask! 
    This is the kind of God we truly want, right?  He did not exact correct doctrinal adherence before they could see where he lived; there was no hint that perhaps they should put on better clothes before their visit.  All he offered was (and still is) an open invitation to come and see. Knowing Jesus, he was hoping that, after they saw, they would stay.
    Ever since humanity was banned from our first home and sent “east of Eden,” we have been wandering in search of a place to be.  We have created all sorts of ersatz abodes…titles, achievements, serial relationships…all in an effort to find our true home. Jesus bade us “Come and see” and, for those of us who did and who stayed, perhaps “come and see” are the only words we need to offer others if our lives reflect the life of Christ. As St. Francis reputedly said, “Preach the gospel always; if necessary, use words.” As the gospel chorus puts it, “They will know we are Christians by our love”…not our titles.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: December 30 Edition

Matthew 2:13-23

Gospel Lesson for
Sunday Jan 1 2017

13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’ 16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
        wailing and loud lamentation,
             Rachel weeping for her children;
   she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.” 

   The saying, “God draws straight with crooked lines” is no more evident than while reading about this journey that began with “the flight into Egypt,” that purposeful season of exile before Jesus got to go home. I don’t think we have much concept of what it would be like to live under any of the five despotic Herods who populated the years of Jesus’ life. And yet, this is the very time God had in mind to bring his salvation into the world.
    Our preparations for Jesus’ birth are usually filled with excitement and anticipation (and a bit of holiday preparation fatigue). What we don’t want to intrude on this season is unpleasantness of any sort.  But Jesus’ entry into the world was filled with it because Jesus was entering into the fallen, death-dealing culture that we still inhabit to this day. What is certain is that with Jesus’ entry onto the world stage, the culture of death has met its match and the lights are being turned on in the kingdom of darkness!
    This season can still be the most difficult season of the year. Many remember those dear to them who have passed away; others realize that they are completely alone during this oh-so-family-oriented holiday time.  It is no wonder the suicide rate peaks even as most of the rest of us are wrapping packages and receiving guests. But this is precisely where Jesus belongs; the holiday season is a season of grief as well as joy, both in his day and in ours. We still have our slaughter of the innocents, whether it happens in Newtown, Connecticut, or Darfur in the Sudan.  And in a very short time after we merrily receive the infant Jesus, we will see him nailed to a cross—the very slaughter a power-mad Herod so desired.
    Theologian Stanley Hauerwas wrote, “Perhaps no event in the gospel more determinatively challenges the sentimental depiction of Christmas than the death of these children. Jesus is born into a world in which children are killed, and continue to be killed, to protect the power of tyrants.” A somber mood during the festivities is perhaps not so out of place after all. Once again, Jesus is our example, carried ‘helplessly’ by his parents through his own treacherous season as a refugee. As we follow the Lord’s sometimes circuitous paths we too can find ourselves on an unexpected road, feeling at times like a foreigner in a very strange land.
    The angel/messenger from God told Joseph to get up and go home for those who sought to kill Jesus were themselves dead (v. 20). The journey home was in sight! For us too, every principality and power that seeks our life has also been rendered just as powerless by the power of Christ. The path we are on with God—the path that is at times so bewildering—is the only way to get to our true home, the one from which our fallen nature has exiled us!
    Every ‘flight into Egypt’ God may ask us to take has a reason and an end. And he guides us every step of the way.  He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). We may face our dreaded version of Herod, but we can join the writer of 1 Chronicles 16:31: Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The Lord is king!”

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: December 16 Edition

Matthew 1:18-25

The Gospel Lesson for
Sunday Dec 18 2016

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him ‘Emmanuel,’ which means, “God is with us.” 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

    The fate of us all turned on—of all things—a dream! An angel appeared to Mary while she was awake, and Joseph had to rely on an angelic dream visit to help him decide the fate of Mary, the child and the world itself!  And then, of course, he had to swallow the “virgin birth” aspect of his situation. I wonder which was harder to digest, the angel or the angel’s news? The first Adam and Jesus (called “the second Adam”) both came into the world through God’s direct intervention.
    The secular world looks upon all of this as a myth and, by myth, they mean fiction.  But the original meaning of the word “myth” is that it is a vehicle to convey deep truth.  It was precisely this view of myth that brought C. S. Lewis to faith in Christ! J. R. R. Tolkien instructed his friend Lewis that the use of myth was perhaps the best, if not the only, way to begin to communicate otherwise inexpressible truth. Lewis later wrote that Christianity was the “true myth” supplanting and completing every other story of our origin and destiny.
    Angelic visitations, whether they occur during sleep or during the day, are foundation-shifting occurrences that not all of us have had the honor of experiencing. But in one way or another, every child of God has had some experience of our faith transporting us out of the way the world appears and into the way the world really is, from God’s point of view.  And that certainly includes wild, improbable happenings like those we encounter throughout scripture!  Our faith is not so easily divided into the every-day rationalist, materialist slog from Monday till Saturday and then sixty minutes of other-worldly super-reality on Sunday morning.
    By one count, there are twenty-one different stories in scripture where a dream is the main vehicle in a story with major consequences!  In fact, Joseph was the recipient of four of the five dreams recounted in Matthew’s gospel regarding Christ’s birth and childhood. 21st century rationalistic sensibilities find this all discountable and easily explained away as projections of our unconscious. Who needs dreams or angelic messages about children if you have the entire internet universe to guide you? To rely on a dream rather than objective fact or observable circumstances is foolish and wrong-headed… or so say those who have not had any encounter with God and God’s ways!
    Imagine going to bed one night convinced of a course of action, only to awaken the next morning after a very troubling-but-convincing dream that radically changed your mind. Joseph chose to adopt a stance of faith and patience as he waited, first for nine months for Jesus to be born and, then, for years after as Jesus grew up and began to live into his mission.  And since Joseph isn’t heard from much after “Christmas” in scripture, we don’t even know for how long he was part of Jesus’ life or if Joseph died too young to really see the fruit of his faith!
    Two parents—each bearing a dream—came together to birth and nurture their dreams and ultimately ours as well!
    Because Joseph believed his dreams, our whole world is being made new. “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him… (v. 24).” What kind of dreams are you having these Advent days? Can you believe them?

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: December 2 Edition

Matthew 3:1-12

The Gospel Lesson for
Sunday Dec 4 2016

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2””Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness; Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’ 4Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor;’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

   It is amazing what a mere punctuation mark can do to a sentence.  We are accustomed to hearing Matthew 3:3 as “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘prepare the way of the Lord.’” But if we revise it just a bit, we are offered an enhanced perspective: “The voice of one crying: ‘In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord.’”
    America’s law books contain The Wilderness Act of 1964 which defines “wilderness” in part as a place “…in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, [and] is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” This earth is indeed not our final home (Hebrews 13:14 and 2 Peter 2:11-12). As long as we remain on this parched and fallen landscape called earth, we will be wandering and navigating in and out of wildernesses, geographical, relational and spiritual. And everyone to whom we share the love of Christ will be receiving our words from a wilderness of their own.
    John was the lone billboard in this ancient wilderness, announcing the arrival of the one who would bring at once great judgment and great joy.  To follow him and experience that joy, there must be heartfelt, soul-deep repentance and a metanoia, a turning around on our path to head in an entirely new and divinely-appointed direction. No one can simply say “I’m sorry” and yet continue on in the same dead-ended direction and call that conversion!  But we need help to see our new path. Most wildernesses are uncharted; many don’t appear even on Google Earth, but there is a perfectly calibrated compass for the wildernesses in which we find ourselves… Jesus the Christ.
    The metanoia that John speaks of is a word for us when we get complacent in the faith, when we think that being “sons and daughters of Abraham” will somehow shield us from any wrath to come.  It is a perilous thing to become a pew-warmer in the house of God! As Annie Dillard shares so graphically, “It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.”
    John makes it clear from the beginning that the fruit of our lives is the evidence of our commitment. This passage seems awfully harsh as we approach Jesus’ humble entrance into the world but, to paraphrase Lutheran pastor and teacher David Lose, we dare not end up preparing for Christmas rather than for Christ. Jesus the Christ comes with open arms and a winnowing fork.  Justice tempered with mercy.  We are the ones who decide whether we fall into his arms or onto that fork!
    As we traverse and seek to leave our wildernesses, be encouraged by the fact that Christ walks beside us and, if we reach for his hand and listen to his voice, he will lead us on a safe path out. Someday, every wilderness will be a place of absolute peace as the vision in Isaiah 11:1-10 so lovingly shows us.  In our Advent time filled with shopping, eating, drinking and partying, try to find an empty, wild, perhaps untended place in our hearts where hope for our deliverance can flourish, even as a flower in the desert…or a shoot from the stump of Jesse.   

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: November 18 Edition

Luke 23:33-43
The Gospel Lesson for
Sunday Nov 13 2016

33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine,37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

   I would lay odds that most of those who shy away from Christ or his Church do so because of what C. S. Lewis called “the problem of pain.” All kinds of reasons are offered…science versus “myth,” the inconsistency of Christian witness across denominations (and by individuals), the apparent discrepancies in Scripture and on and on.  But if you dig a bit deeper, there is very often some unaddressed and unrequited pain in life that seems to morph into impenetrable barriers to a relationship with any so-called deity who might conceivably allow such suffering. If we are honest, we’ve had our own spiritual tantrums (not unlike Job’s in Scripture) where we demand that God either explain himself or leave us alone.
    In Luke’s passage for Sunday, Jesus is on the cross, flanked by a criminal on either side of him with mockers and gawkers nearby. An ironic sign has been affixed to the top of Jesus’ cross, “This is the King of the Jews.” The Jews actually saw the fulfillment of scriptural prophecies in Jesus’ arrival on the scene, but he kept deflecting any idea that the temporal king they desired was the king God intended to give them. No wonder they were infuriated and often raged against him.  The most telling line in this passage comes from one of the criminals in verse 39: “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” Isn’t that what each of us really wants?  We may not easily admit that only God can save us from ourselves or our pain, but when he doesn’t do it (at least in our time and our way), we can sure join the jeering throng in a hurry.
    While so many mocked his alleged “kingship,” one of his crucified companions admitted that for him and his friend, “…we are getting what we deserve for our deeds.” He recognized that in Jesus he had met an innocent man. So while human justice was being meted out, divine justice was operating as well.  Jesus inaugurated his kingly reign right from the cross as he granted this sinner (who saw Jesus for the ultimate king he was) a place with him that very day in Paradise! A royal pardon he waits to grant each one who asks.
    It is a daunting thing to consider taking up a cross and yet we each bear one, willingly or not.  It is the cross of our fallen humanity which plays out uniquely for each one of us.  When that criminal in verse 39 asked for salvation, he was asking for a respite from the punishment he had earned.  Jesus had something so much better in mind for him as he does for each of us. This man, with nothing to lose and eternity to gain, was given grace to pierce the veil between “King of the Jews” and “King of Heaven” and received the answer to our plea that God’s kingdom come to us on earth as in heaven.
    We are members of what Peter described in 1 Peter 2:9 as “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.”  With that comes our mandate to proclaim his mighty acts because we have received his great mercy (verses 9-10). Our king demands great things from his followers, but he also rides with us into each of our battles. We are Christ-bearers, carrying his banner into battle to defeat evil and inaugurate his glorious and everlasting kingdom. And as Solomon (Song of Songs 2:4) proclaimed, “His banner over us is love.”

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: November 4 Edition

Luke 6:20-31
The Gospel Lesson for
All Saints Sunday
Nov 6 2016

20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 ‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. 24But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets. 27 ‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

   The Golden Rule. We’ve heard it all our lives as a homespun admonishment about how to act toward others. Luke 6:31: “Do unto others…” Yes, the marching order for the saints of God! Luke’s bare-bones version of “The Beatitudes” is an ironic twist on what our human nature would consider the definition of being blessed! In Matthew, we are blessed if we are poor in spirit. In Luke, we are blessed if we are poor. Period. In Matthew, we are blessed if we hunger and thirst for righteousness. In Luke, we are blessed if we are just plain hungry. We are blessed if people hate us, exclude, revile or defame us because of our faith. And all those who are rich, well-fed, loved and admired now are in great peril… for this may be all they get! And, yes, this is considered Good News!
    God does indeed have what the church has termed “a preferential option for the poor,” a special seeking and serving of those in distress on earth. Whatever we do for the least of those among us, we do directly for Christ (Matthew 25:40). As many missionaries have observed, it is very difficult to talk about the love of God to someone who is starving or shivering or begging for shelter. As we know from the life of Christ, God completely engages with his children even before they realize they are His. So, to be beatified (blessed) is to be one of God’s saints and, to be one of his saints, is to be a blessing for others.
    The old adage “There, but for the grace of God, go I” is what we might murmur as we pass any person, place or thing that we fear could befall us. Yet, all of us are paupers and lost souls until we find our rest and peace within the loving and redeeming arms of God. And once there, God’s Spirit energizes us to go forth and bring others into that same grace-filled fold. If we cannot see ourselves as poor and hungry and naked and afraid, what would motivate us to fall to our knees with grateful hearts? What common ground would we ever be able to find with those we are called to serve? On his deathbed, Luther is supposed to have said, “We are all beggars. That is true.” And yet he also believed we are all priests to each other and the world.
    Theologian Bruce Epperly wrote, “Today, we need the vision of saints. Greed abounds; individualism carries the day; violence is beneath the surface; fears abound, and earth is in the balance as we face the realities of global climate change. We need to claim our humble role as saints, healers of the earth, for our time and place.”
    There have been many saints in my life…people who took time to listen to me or to offer a bit of advice or hang with me through a rough patch. Sainthood isn’t about having certified miracles under your belt. It is about communicating to the world and the person next to you—in thought, word and deed—exactly what you have received from Christ.
    Who are your saints? Who has helped to shape your life? Who is out there redeeming our world? As an old English hymn concludes, “…for the saints are folk like you and like me, and I mean to be one, too.” What kind of saint is God calling you to be

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: October 21 Edition

Luke 18:9-14

The Gospel Lesson for
Sunday Oct 23 2016

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’13But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

    I grew up in the free-church tradition and ‘free’ (sometimes ‘free-wheeling’) is a good descriptor. When I discovered liturgical worship and the set prayers (prayers that had been prayed untold numbers of times through centuries by the faithful around the world), I was overjoyed. They were like old, treasured books that you want to read again and again. My Baptist friends told me these were examples of “vain repetition” but I found nothing vain in either the words or the experience of praying those carefully-crafted words. Unlike the rambling pastoral prayers I endured as a child, these love letters to God are not veiled parish prayer lists, or sanitized newsletters made to feel like prayers instead of announcements!
    I am having a hard time not picturing the super-sized hubris of some political candidates as I read this Pharisee proclaim the many ways he is superior to absolutely everyone else on the planet! Politicians aren’t praying when they proclaim to be in a class by themselves because their frame of reference is no wider than themselves and their constituencies. It is for God to decide if such self-assessments are accurate. Similarly, it seems to me that the Pharisee isn’t praying as much as testifying to his own importance and fully anticipating God’s applause at the end!
    How ironic it is that God prefers the much-loathed tax collector’s humble self-assessment and plea for mercy rather than the recited resume of righteousness offered for all to hear by the puffed-up Pharisee. Frankly, I couldn’t be more relieved that God prefers that approach because it is the only one I have to offer. The version of Scripture called “The Message” nails it with the wording used in Romans 12:16: “Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.”
   
Eventually, we each must make our own confession that we too have stood where the Pharisee stood and proclaimed ourselves better than any number of other people, be they the indigent poor who we feel are draining our economy or the obnoxiously amoral who we believe are destroying society. Each of us from time to time can forget that we are all sinners and, without repentance, we will perish (Luke 13:3). All have sinned. All fall short (Romans 3:23). Nothing pleases our Father in heaven more than when we acquire a realistic view of ourselves and are able to stand before God, not on the basis of our own merits, but because of the saving grace of Jesus Christ who brought us home to our Father.
    Back to well-worn prayers, there is a prayer from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer called “the prayer of humble access” usually prayed prior to the reception of Communion. It is drawn from Matthew 8:8 and Mark 7:28 and begins like this: “We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy…”
   
When we pray, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” we have removed the need for both self-accusation and self-justification. Our lives are “hid with Christ in God” and the burden of self-proclamation is gone! Gone too is the need to compare ourselves to anyone other than Jesus who alone grants us the power to be who we are meant to be.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: October 7 Edition

Luke 17:11-19

The Gospel Lesson for
Sunday Oct 9 2016

11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

   In the endearing way of Luke, this Sunday’s passage showcases that, once again, it is the Samaritan in the story who “gets the message!”
    All ten lepers called Jesus “Master,” which, heretofore, in Luke had been a designation only the disciples had used. When Jesus spoke healing words to them and instructed them to go to the priest for the examination that would lead to their reintegration into society, they all obediently set forth! And it took faith to do it because they were not healed until they were on their way! So, before we write off the nine lepers as among the ungrateful, we should note that they did exactly as Jesus instructed. 
    What separates the tenth leper, the “foreigner,” from his friends is not the healing, for all were healed…at least physically.  It was his deeper appreciation and gratitude for a healing that he realized had transcended the merely physical. Even the original language indicates that this one also experienced spiritual healing and he returned to thank and praise God. Jesus informed him that his faith had made him well, using a word that means “saved.” He had been made very well indeed!
    Many in the recovery community, when feeling out of sorts, drop everything and create a gratitude list. It is primarily a tool of remembering because we get so used to our comforts and privileges that we forget the ‘attitude of gratitude’ that should surround and inform our days. Perhaps the nine who obediently took off for the priest simply felt they had been given their due and now they could get back to their “real life,” not stopping long enough to experience any of the feelings that would ordinarily attend a healing…praise, joy, thankfulness…. If we haven’t felt any of this lately, perhaps it’s time to stop in our tracks and begin our own “thank God” list. Each new day is sheer gift but, so often, we approach it with dread instead of with God, an assumption of entitlement rather than a posture of thankfulness. A short poem by R. S. Thomas expresses this superbly,

“I have seen the sun break through to illuminate a small field for a while, and gone my way and forgotten it but that was the pearl of great price, the one field that had the treasure in it. I realize now that I must give all that I have to possess it. Life is not hurrying on to a receding future, nor hankering after an imagined past. It is turning aside like Moses to the miracle of a lit bush, to a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you.”

    John Milton said, “Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” It would be so much easier to notice all that is gratitude-worthy if we were not so very rushed and over-scheduled, under-rested and over-committed. A slogan from my ‘Youth for Christ’ days (penned by C. T. Studd) went like this, “Life is short; ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” What is done in and for Christ arises from our grateful hearts in response to (as James 1:17 puts it) the Giver of every good gift

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: Sept 23 Edition

Luke 16:19-31

The Gospel Lesson for Sunday
Sept 25 2016

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

   The prosperity gospel has confused people about the crucial difference between doing good and doing well. Being rich is absolutely no barometer of anything beyond, well, being rich. It is not a sign of righteousness; it is not even a sign of superior intelligence. It just is. And it, like everything else, happens to the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45)! The other inevitability that doesn’t change based on net worth is that we all die, rich or poor. And no one takes anything with them beyond the legacy of our lives to present to God.
    As Luke tells it, the poor man has a name (Lazarus) and the rich man does not. In our world, it is evermore the opposite. The ‘great unwashed’ remain nameless because to know their names is to begin the painful, converting process of empathy! And empathy is the mortar that bridges the chasms of class, race, and all the “isms” we use in our impossible search for peace and safety!
    Luke is illustrating here the unbreachable chasm we create by the cumulative acts that form our hearts. This is not easy reading for the soft-hearted among us who would like to think that patterns of selfishness will be forgiven post-mortem with God’s “There, there, now, it’s alright” even without any intention of remorse! The entitled one in this story is clueless even after death as he persists in treating Lazarus like his inferior, requesting from him a drink of water even as he fries in the flames of his own selfishness. The rich man asks for water, but not the water of life; he wants mercy but without paying the price of repentance.
    It isn’t enough to feel bad for the poor or even to think of your guilty conscience as somehow redemptive. The poor are still poor; the hungry are still hungry; the homeless are…and on and on. The chasm that has been fixed between heaven and hell has its origins in the chasms we create on earth to separate us from those we can’t or won’t see as our kith and kin. Even with those who have little or no interest in lending a hand to others, there still remains some degree of concern for immediate family as evidenced by the rich man’s concern for his brothers. But, as the story plays out, it is quite clear that the rich man was “hard of listening” about mercy and justice. Even now that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, too many remain in a self-induced state of stubborn denial.
    Have you ever seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul? Those ancient Egyptian tombs littered with riches, petrified food and amulets are evidence that we can’t take a thing with us into eternity. It will just be each of us, alone before God, but in the background will be a crowd of witnesses—both rich and poor—as testaments to our tender hearts or our self-destructive ‘heart problem.’ 1 Timothy 6:10 warns that an eagerness to be rich (which usually also means an unwillingness to be generous) leads to all sorts of radiating pain; the consequences begin with the wealth-seeker and spread out into the world in a spiral of parsimony and heartlessness.
    We who believe what God says in his Word and in our hearts are children and heirs of that One who owns everything and shares it with abandon. Others will choose to place their hopes on the uncertainty of earthly riches. Who will ultimately be destitute? Moses, the prophets and Jesus have words for us. Will we listen?

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: August 18 Edition

Matthew 15:(10-20)21-28

The Gospel Lesson for Sunday
August 20 2017

10 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” 12Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” 15But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” 16Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding?17Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”
21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon.22Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 28Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

   This passage is a “tale of two hearts.”  In the first set of verses, Jesus again wants his disciples to understand how vain is the attempt to reach God with rules and regulations rather than faith. He employs the very earthy analogy of what goes into and out of our mouths.  What goes in is natural and follows a natural process. No harm there. But what comes forth from each of us is another story entirely!  All that we think, say and do originates in our hearts which, left to our own devices, are “desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).”  
    Jesus here coins the phrase, “the blind leading the blind” to indicate how futile is any journey we take on the wrong road with the wrong leader!  Elsewhere in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus used the image of “whited sepulchres (23:27)” to depict the hypocrisy among the Pharisees and teachers of the law who were acting pious “in public” while maintaining a distant, rebellious heart toward God. When someone accuses the church of containing hypocrites, we should agree wholeheartedly!  For without hypocrites, the church would be an empty, echoing place; but most of us fill the pews and bend the knee precisely to be rid of that hypocrisy; to exchange our “telltale hearts” with the pure heart God offers us.
   
On the heels of this lesson, Jesus travels toward Tyre and Sidon—places he has earlier put into the same category as Sodom and Gomorrah; in short, these are areas that are inferior, trouble-making zip codes with people not central to Jesus’ earthly ministry…yet. Jesus was about to have his own horizons widened as he journeyed along with his Father into another dimension of his earthly ministry.
   
Our nation—and in fact, the entire world these days—is in the throes of an of illegal immigration debate which in some areas of the world has reached crisis proportions.  At root, this is the recurring dilemma of how we understand family and community, i.e., who is in and who should be out!  The disciples are right there with our notoriously divided hearts in this story.  In fact, Jesus even provides a few responses that give the disciples faint hope that he feels as they do about anyone not of the House of Israel. 
   
But!  This pleading, persistent ‘nobody’ from outside the Jewish fold, this Canaanite woman, of all possible people, comes to Jesus, declaring him the Son of David, bowing down in worship, realizing her complete unworthiness to ask a thing of this Jesus. But ask she does anyway!  Faith seeking mercy! And with her true heart of love and trust laid bare, Jesus responds in kind. How could he not? He praises her great faith and heals her daughter and gives us all a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven.
   
Perhaps her entreaties brought to mind this passage from the prophet Isaiah (56:1,6-8):

“Thus says the LORD: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed. And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant-- these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. Thus says the Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.”

    What human justice might forbid, divine mercy chooses to embrace.  This is nothing else but the infinite grace of God displayed for us and always available to us as our hearts are turned toward Him.  May we ever seek to have God’s heart transplanted in us to transform us. How else can we hope to embrace the foreigner in our midst or even more essentially, within ourselves?

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .

The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: August 4 Edition

Matthew 14:13-21

The Gospel Lesson for Sunday
August 6 2017

13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 177They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

    Jesus had just lost his cousin John, that one who traversed a wilderness eating bugs and wild honey, announcing the advent of salvation.  Beheaded.  No wonder Jesus wanted to get out of town to think, to cry, to pray.  But just like a swarm of paparazzi, the crowds figured out his destination and were waiting for him when he arrived.  Sigh. Many a tired, grieving, troubled minister (clergy and lay), seeing that crowd, would have ducked behind the nearest tree or boulder, no one the wiser, and then cautiously made for home, trailing equal parts guilt and relief along the way. Jesus, having no “fallen” hesitations against receiving strength and power from His Father, saw the crowds and had compassion on them, healing the sick and mingling with those who had made the effort to find him.
    This miracle meal is the only miracle of Jesus that is related in all four gospels—a good clue about its importance. Each telling has its own literary tweaks but, every time, the disciples made this a problem about money. “How can we afford this?” they asked (Mark 6:37; Luke 9:13; John 6:7). In Matthew’s account, they simply stated: "We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish (14:17).”
    The disciples were merely being reasonable, using earthly mathematics, simple ‘supply and demand’ to conclude that they should either send everyone home to eat or direct them to the nearest village deli.  Jesus wanted them to stay with him and he wanted to feed them, both physically and spiritually. Possibly, in his grief, he found comfort in their company and in assuaging the grief of those who suffered illness.
    After this meal, there remained twelve baskets still full of food.  How can we not see this as symbolic of the fact that these (twelve) disciples could give of themselves beyond what they even thought they had to offer and, afterward, find they were still full to overflowing with the grace and gifts of God!  As disciples today, we can count on those same replenished baskets as we give, as Paul beseeches in Romans 12:1, “our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto the Lord, which is our reasonable worship.”Laced throughout every political and geopolitical decision is the fear that the more we give away, the less we will have.  God’s economy of abundance runs precisely in the opposite direction and Jesus’ practice of that assumption of abundance led to his death because of our fear.  Frederick Buechner wrote, “Greed is the mathematical truism that the more you get, the more you have. The opposite of greed—the selfless love of God and neighbor—is based on the truth that the more you give away in love, the more you are.”
    As the story is told, a rabbi arrives in hell to see people trying to eat with utensils so long that they cannot get the food to their mouths and thus are starving.  The rabbi then travels to heaven where he sees those same long spoons, but instead finds everyone eating heartily and enjoying themselves because they are feeding each other across the table.  Whether we carry spoons short or long, we are called to be God’s serving team.  He has set the table and he waits for our loaves and fishes to begin the feast.


If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .

The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: July 21 Edition

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

The Gospel Lesson for Sunday
July 23 2017

24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!”

   The convent I was part of in Wisconsin was located on 32 acres of what had once been a college.  The grounds needed constant tending to abide by the city’s “noxious weeds” ordinance. More than once, I noticed what looked like a very attractive flower or plant only to be told that it was on the weeds list and had to be removed.  I am still not always clear on why something is considered to be a weed, especially when it is so attractive!
    Jesus, the master gardener, told a story about weeds growing up amidst the wheat he planned to harvest, reminiscent of the story of the fall where evil slithered into Eden and planted sin and death in the midst of innocence and life.  And from that point until now, there has been no separating the two. For every seed of regeneration and life that is sown, Satan sneaks in dropping seeds of death and destruction, hoping to choke out with the weeds of his deadly intent the fruit of what God has sown.
   
Last week’s lesson concerned the various kinds of soil (symbolic of the state of our hearts) that co-exist in us as we seek to grow up in Christ.  This week, we see that the gardens of our hearts produce both good fruit and weeds. Even the Master Gardener does not summarily uproot it all from us now because it is all so intertwined in the complexities of our “fallenness” and His image in us. If God uprooted it all now, we would be missing all the lessons to be learned, chiefly compassion for ourselves and others.
   
We know the frustrations of trying to “weed out” the sin within us, only to have a new version spring up the very next day.  We dare not saturate our garden with weed killer unless we want to destroy both the weeds and the flowers! What might be most difficult to accept is that leaving the weeds and the good plants together is something God tells us to do.  God sends rain on the just and the unjust and he will harvest it all when he is ready, not when or how we think it should happen. And we are notoriously bad at discerning what a weed actually is anyway.
   
I think of this parable when I ponder various ways Christians respond to the social ills and conundrums of our day. There is always a segment of the population convinced that with the right social program or the right amount of money (or if everyone in Congress could be replaced) we could finally and forever fix whatever “weed” has choked life from some part of society. If, instead, we were able to employ only the love of God in seeking solutions to social crises, no more could we look at someone and proclaim that he or she was “100% weed,” a blight on the social landscape, a problem to be solved instead of a child of God who is as blighted by sin as we are. Dostoyevsky once said, “To love a person means to see him as God intended him to be.” 
   
Theologian Helmut Thielicke, in his wondrous book The Waiting Father, wrote, “Let him who stands take heed lest he fall; and above all let him not judge when he sees others fall, but reach out for his brother with compassionate hands…the last judgment is full of surprises…but one thing will remain… love.”

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .

The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: July 7 Edition

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

The Gospel Lesson for Sunday
July 9 2017

16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another, 17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon;’ 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”    

   One of the most common challenges of contemporary life is managing stress.  And we aren’t very good at it!  We are too susceptible to the “come-ons” of advertisers who don’t just tout the advantages of their product over their competitor’s, but seek to convince us that our lives will vastly improve if we buy what they are selling. And so we are seduced, which increases our debt, does little or nothing for our insecurities, but inevitably increases our stress. And so the cycle continues. In our efforts to succeed, achieve, thrive and impress, we gradually hand over our freedom to things, to other people, to elusive goals and to unrealistic expectations.  We yoke ourselves to heavy, needless encumbrances, strapping ourselves to things, people and roles we mistakenly believe we require.
    Jesus lamented the excessive burdens and bondage of a political and religious system that, to give but one example, prescribed over 600 regulations regarding working on the Sabbath!  Who among us can keep even one “law” regarding Sabbath observance over the long haul, let alone hundreds of them? Jesus thoroughly rejected these onerous burdens (Matthew 23:4), declaring that, in him, the law and the prophets had been satisfied and thus God freed his people from the impossibility of the law’s demands. A great deal of rabbinic writing used the phrase “yoke of the law.” Jesus knew that Pharisaic Judaism had abandoned the spirit of the law (in other words, the reason for knowing and obeying the law to show our gratitude to God and to please him with our obedience), putting in its place a tremendous and intolerable burden that could never be lifted.
   
Jesus announced his yoke easy and his burden light. In order to be yoked to him, we first have to be unhitched from other competing things, people or goals, lest we allow His best for us to be held hostage to the good we have already found!  He was careful to say, not that there was no burden involved in following him, but that it was a light one.  And it is light because he has already walked and prepared the road for our travels (Psalm 23:3). He carries our burdens along with us and, many times, for us. He has already carried and allowed himself to be yoked to the cross so that now we have the power and will to receive the burdens we carry in his name. 
   
The Sermon on the Mount—that great exposition of how the Spirit of Christ within us internalizes the Law and writes it on our hearts in new and radical ways—could be perceived to be even more burdensome than the Law itself!  On the surface, it might appear that we could more easily keep ten objective commandments than to avoid even the thought of adultery or murder or covetousness.  In Romans 7, we read that Paul knew all too well that the very things he wanted to do, the very things he knew were the right things to do, were the very things he just simply didn’t and couldn’t bring himself to do.  Not without the power of God.
   
Jesus gives us both the will and the way forward; for we do not carry our crosses alone, but in the blessed company of all believers.  “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).” The burdens we bear in love and for Love do not chafe as chains that imprison, but grace us with precious gifts and restful souls.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .

The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: June 23 Edition

Romans 6:1b-11

The 2nd Reading for Sunday
June 25 2017

Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

    I remember hearing Ethel Waters on television soulfully singing her signature gospel song, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” Even before I had paired them to Scripture, those lyrics comforted something deep within my child’s heart. Bullying hadn’t been tagged as a social issue yet, but we certainly had our version of it. Kids can be heartlessly cruel, and mantras like “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me” were recited more to reinforce shaky courage than to taunt those who ridiculed us.  To know that I am more valuable than many sparrows and more loved and protected by God helped me to survive some things young children should not experience.  And God’s abiding love only grows more precious with each passing year. 
    Taking up our cross has been trivialized to account for things like, “putting up with Aunt Dotty” or “repairing my rattletrap car.” The cross Jesus is asking us to carry is as radical as his was and leads to a death as real as his…death that signals a whole new life. Jesus died to sin (Romans 6:10-11). That is the death he is asking of us because that is the way to life in God. This is not Scripture for the faint of heart or for pew-sitters hedging our bets, waiting to see if this is really the best “good news” out there.  We are asked each day to hang on to the cross of Christ which doesn’t leave hands and hearts able to simultaneously grip the things of this world! We have been baptized into the very power we need to take up the cross presented to us. Use this cross as a shield against all that would seek to harm us and employ it to clear the path Satan seeks to litter with obstacles and distractions along the Way.
   
As we carry the cross of death and new life into the ministries to which we are called, we will sooner-than-later-encounter people who operate out of hurt, pain, old wounds and bad attitudes.  Our best posture in these encounters is to be the “non-anxious presence” in the room.  This is only possible if we have been practicing God’s presence and absorbing all the love we can from our relationship with him.  That is what we need and what we need to share with each hurting soul God brings to us. Ephesians 3:16-19 relates Paul’s prayer as we set forth, in Henri Nouwen’s term, as wounded healers: “I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in …[the]  love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
   
Even before Dr. Kevorkian became famous for his offer to assist the suicides of terminally ill people, a movie called “Whose Life Is It, Anyway?” focused audiences on our “right” to die when we decide all is lost. Without God, it makes some sense to consider those kinds of decisions.  Jesus, however, gives us the power to live when all has been lost because our life and all we have given up and given away for him are safe in God’s good hands.  Whose life is it, anyway?  God’s. When we lose that life for God, we find it given back abundantly. So, when we feel discouraged, bullied by the world and trekking along seeking fellow travelers to share our load, the lyrics Ethel Waters sang to us still give comfort to our child-like hearts. “His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.” And you.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .

The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: June 9 Edition

Matthew 28:16-20

The Gospel Lesson for Sunday
June 11 2017

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

    The religious climate during biblical times bears certain similarities to our world today, particularly as we Christians find ourselves working for precision in how we speak of God.  After all, the Islamic and Judaic traditions assert one God. The very words used to describe God have led and still lead to misunderstandings, ‘holy wars,’ and death. Words are dynamic, impactful and convey meaning. Yet, in the end, words are only signposts, metaphors, similes and suggestions about reality.  Since they are crucial vehicles to communicate what we know in our hearts and minds about God and our relationship with God, we need to choose our words carefully and prayerfully.
    The enigma of the Trinity (three-in-one and one-in-three) emphasizes the fact that God is fundamentally “other” and we are limited in our comprehension of God’s essence, not able to fully grasp it until we meet God face-to-face. Meanwhile, Jesus charged his followers to go forth, make disciples and baptize them in this Trinitarian formula signifying a God who is ultimately relational and seeks a relationship with each of us. We are baptized into a community of the redeemed created by a God who is known to us in three inter-related ways…Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, as some term it. Our God is a three-fold community of love, always seeking to welcome home another prodigal!
    I recall many times in my earlier life being preached at about “getting saved” or “avoiding eternal damnation” or any one of a number of coercive, fear-laced responses to the Great Commission.  It would have been better if those evangelizers had silently gone about the work God gives us to do and let that be the attraction to Christ.  As it was, they did little but scare me to death and hand me a skewed view of the Lord.
    The Message contains a most helpful rendering of the passage we call “the Great Commission:” “Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life…” He did not say, “Go out and make sure they all use the same words” or “Go out and make sure they think this [particular] way about who I am” or even “Go out and make sure they join our church.” Rather, Jesus’ mandate is to bring everyone we possibly can bring to the love, mercy and grace of God by the example of our lives using the wisdom of our experiences with God and God’s people.
    Jesus continues to assure us that he is in charge, he has given us what we need to do his will, and his Spirit will be with us through it all (not to “lord it over us” but to companion with us and to guide us). All that’s left for us is to “go forth!” We don’t have to be theologians; we can be caregivers.  We don’t have to be eloquent; we can be simply useful.  Our witness is our life. Then, when they ask, we will be able to give an answer for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15).
    If we are unsure how to share our faith, our best preparation is to love God more than any words about God and to allow that relationship to shine through us. Jesus is the Word spoken to each of us. And that word is Love. And that love, God says, is with us always… as Father, as Son, as Holy Spirit.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: May 26 Edition

John 17:1-11

The Gospel lesson for Sunday
May 28 2017

17After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
6
 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

    Lutherans know something about schisms and splits. How many synods does it take to make up the entirety of Lutheranism? I don’t know either, but it’s a lot! Christians can certainly take to heart the image of Christ as the vine and we as the branches (John 15:5); metastasized branches, in fact! One estimate, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia, is that there are 33,000 Christian denominations in existence.
    My first extended experience of church was as a Baptist; many kinds of Baptist, in fact. My image of that group of folks has been that they split like amoebas! And often, the splits are over very minor issues of theological understanding or perhaps cultural differences! In my journey, I have gone to Catholic masses where, of course, I am not yet welcome at the Eucharistic table (although, you can find congregations where that breach has been mended). So, why are we Christians so very far from being “one body?” Or…are we one body in ways we haven’t fully explored or imagined yet? I believe Scripture and my own experience support the latter!
    Theologian Bruno Barnhardt calls this prayer of Jesus “The consecration of the new temple.” What he means is that we, the fragmented, fractious, frivolous, fearful, faithful people of God are the temple wherein our God resides and presides. While feuding and fussing goes on around us, we sing at the top of our voices, “We Are One Body.” We sing it in hope, in faith, and we sing it as though we could thus bring it into existence. And it is a present, albeit fleeting reality. Don’t we have moments of apprehending this unity as we watch our friends and family and strangers approach the Body and Blood of Christ each week?
    We have become complacent about our many differences and have simply categorized denominational preference as yet another consumer choice. And yet Jesus prays against this laxity. He fervently prays to his and our Father that God guard our unity so that the world might believe that God sent Him (17:21, 23). It is no small matter to give the impression to the world that we are simply a social club, based on like-minded preferences with a religious veneer. Our calling is to do the difficult bridge-building, listening, accommodating and healing necessary—in the power of the Holy Spirit—in order to present to our fragmented, fraught and failing world the love that God has for each one of us. We cannot possibly communicate that Reality with any Spirit-driven power if we are not even of one mind and heart with those Christians most “like” us! As Scott Bader-Saye has written, “The solidarity of the church not only enables our witness, it is our witness.”
    Our world already lives and suffers with constant and ever-changing divisions. Can we, as God’s temple, bring the light of unity and reconciliation into that deranging darkness? Are our lights on? Are our doors of fellowship and acceptance unlocked? We may have to do difficult things to ready our temple; we may have a lot of forgiving and asking for forgiveness. But, if we want to be one as Christ and God the Father are one, that holy work is worth our best efforts! Part of the answer to Jesus’ prayer is illustrated by Acts 4:33-34: “…with great power the apostles gave their testimony…and great grace was upon them all.” When Jesus’ prayer has taken root in us, we can echo Galatians 2:20; “the life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God.” May we be one indeed!

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: May 12 Edition

John 14:1-14

The Gospel lesson for Sunday
May 14 2017

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going." 5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?"          6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." 8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

    I don’t know about you, but I have been in any number of adult education classes through the years, and there was always something specific that prompted my attendance. It might have been the topic offered, or the presenter, or perhaps a friend was going to participate too. Often, though, it was an interior case of ‘Spirit calling to spirit’, asking me to go deeper and learn more.
    Jesus was the quintessential teacher and yet he had a disciples’ class filled with what sometimes appear to be pretty remedial students. In story after story of their bumbling or misconstruing of Jesus’ meaning, don’t we (a bit smugly) imagine we would have figured things out much quicker? How could they get it so wrong so often? They walked and talked with him every day! At this point in the gospel, Jesus was laser-focused on driving home his main points. The end of his time on earth was growing very near and it was imperative that his first-generation followers know The Way. As he began to reiterate his promises and in turn received a series of “wait a minute, when did you tell us that?” responses, Jesus patiently continued to lay out for them (‘them’ is also us) what God promises and also what God expects.
    In just this short passage, Jesus promised that he had prepared a place for them in his home of many mansions and will come back and take them to himself to dwell with God forever. He assured them that by knowing Jesus, they indeed knew God. And the kicker: “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these” (14:12). But he prefaced that with the promise to do whatever we ask in his name (which assuredly included asking for his help in doing these greater works).
    When I was ten years old, I “accepted Christ as my personal Saviour” in a Southern Baptist church. It was a combination of real faith, wanting to please Mom, a certain amount of “scared straight” (hellfire and damnation sermons were de rigueur in those days), and I loved that church and its community life. But, for a number of years after that, I was a pretty self-assured little Bible thumper. I was not mindlessly rigid or hateful about it, but I was awfully certain about things that were really beyond my ken. I am quite certain that if I had been in the shoes of the disciples and Jesus had told me some of the things he told them, I would have had my own, “wait, what?” moments with the Lord.
    But Jesus never leaves us with our questions; actually, he never leaves us at all. Sometimes we leave him, or our attention to his presence in our lives is drowned out by the daily grind. Let us seek anew to make good faith with God and consider, not only God’s amazing promises to us, but how we can walk in his will and respond to his calling in our lives as he asks each of us, "Will you lay down your life for me?" (13:38). "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me" (14:10). Because Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, becoming rooted and grounded in that Reality is all we really need.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: April 28 Edition

Luke 24:13-35

Gospel Lesson for Sunday
April 30 2017

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

    It’s hard to believe that Cleopas and his companion did not recognize Jesus as they walked the road to Emmaus.  After all, they had probably seen him (or at least heard in great detail about him) at another famous biblical meal…the feeding of the 5,000.  Perhaps they walked along thinking, “This man seems awfully familiar….”  Jesus’ disingenuous ignorance of what had just happened (to him!) caused these disciples to question whether he’d been living under a rock!  As they continued walking back to their daily lives, absorbed in theological speculations, the very reason for their concerns walked beside them. Jesus began carefully to remind them of the prophecies of his life, death and resurrection. The more he said, the more they hungered and so they offered to shelter and feed Jesus so the conversation could continue. Then, when Jesus broke bread with them, their arguments and wonderings ceased and they finally recognized him “in the breaking of the bread.” Their talk about Christ led to an experience of Christ!
    Jesus loved food. He was even accused of being a glutton (Luke 7:34). So many events in scripture revolve around a meal; even the heavenly banquet is a key descriptor of what we can expect in eternity. A few generations ago, people in America lived very close to where and how their food was produced.  Today, it is ‘created’ in mega-farms and mega-factories using chemicals, hormones and preservatives so that we can have whatever we want to eat whenever we want to eat it. I grew up with the adage that I should “eat to live and not live to eat.”  Sadly, gluttony may be one of the most visible ways we display our abundance as the world watches us with ill-disguised disgust and great hunger. Americans are the cautionary tale of those who “are what we eat,” and the diet and fitness industry couldn’t be more pleased!
    Every time we go to worship, we partake of a meal in two courses… the scripture/sermon and the Eucharistic feast of bread and wine.  Jesus asks Peter and every one of us timid, hungry disciples if we love him.  If so, he replies, “Feed my lambs.” But, we cannot feed them if we are starving ourselves. The Book of Common Prayer has one of my favorite lines, blending food and scripture together: “Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” it.  When our hunger and thirst for God is satisfied, we become like Cleopas and all the disciples in our urgency to share this richest of food and drink with those God puts on our path.
    Dos Equis’ “most interesting man in the world” employed a great tag line, “Stay thirsty, my friend.” We do well to stay thirsty and hungry so that God has an opening in our hearts. When we break bread with others, do we know them to be God’s children? If not, perhaps we’re not hungry enough or we have unintentionally turned even the Lord’s Supper into fast food. Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “At the end of our lives, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made or how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in.’ …This is Christ in distressing disguise.” Perhaps when next we offer someone a simple meal or a couple of bucks to go find one, our eyes will be opened and we will see Jesus through any distressing disguise he might adopt!

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: April 14 Edition

Colossians 3:1-4

2nd Reading for Sunday
April 16 2017

1So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

    Mary Magdalene became the first evangelist as she ran at top speed from the empty tomb to announce to the disciples that she had seen the Lord. So began the displacement of Eve’s initiating humanity’s courtship with the evil one. Mary introduced the risen Christ to her fellows, telling them all that he had shared with her about this new, resurrected life.
    Christ’s resurrection is such a well-worn story that we can almost become immune to the dazzling implications it has for the lives of us who claim Christ as Lord. The short passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians appointed to be read this Easter Sunday sums up so succinctly what our resurrected life is to be. And it involves a death to self just as surely as Jesus emptied himself to come among us and die so that we could finally live.
    In Paul’s Colossae, as in our secular society today, we are faced with constant choices and opportunities to discern between what is life-giving or death-dealing. And sometimes it is not that apparent which is which! Eve was seduced by the good which almost destroyed the best… were it not that God loved us more than death itself.
    The Message states it thus,

 1-2 So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.

3-4 Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

    Confession: I love to shop. I love to shop for clothes and all the accessories that attend them. I spent a lot of years wearing “plus sizes” and those shopping trips were not unalloyed fun, for my shopping mates were regret, shame and embarrassment. But here’s the thing! Christ beckons us to shed our filthy, sin-filled rags (of whatever size) and allow him to clothe us in his resurrection light.
    It sounds great, doesn’t it? But it means some very painful, difficult things. It means to take off the shirt of pride, the pants of power, the hat of entitlement, the layers of duplicity and deception, the coat of luxury and privilege in order to put on God’s robe of righteousness. And so, with Luther’s comment that ‘anything coming between me and God is an idol’ nudging me along, I must strip off all of the filthy rags of sin and self (some of my favorite clothes) and stand spiritually naked before God, willing to put on God’s apparel.
    Christ left his death wrappings in the tomb. He is asking us to do the same. Our baptism cleansed us to make us ready for his divine garments, and it is he alone who can empower us to change the fabric of our lives! Let us put on our ‘Easter bonnets.’ We won’t need ever to shop for anything newer or better or more flattering!
    Colossians 3:9-11 sums up our Easter reality:

“You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.”

    Eve was reduced to a covering of fig leaves. Resurrection Day is upon us and we, God’s children, are clothed in glory! Hallelujah!!

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: March 31 Edition

John 11:1-45

Gospel Lesson for Sunday
April 2 2017

1Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “ Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” 17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” 28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus began to weep.36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” 45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

   As years go by, we will find ourselves losing more and more people (family, friends, entertainment icons of our youth, political leaders)… in short, those who have made up our earthly audience and populated the backdrop of our lives. With each loss, there is some diminishment of us. Anglican poet John Donne said that so well in his sonnet:

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. …any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and, therefore, never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

    Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that Lazarus (their brother and Jesus’ beloved friend) was ill.  Jesus delayed his return to Bethany “so that the Son of God [would] be glorified through it (v. 4).” He waited until Lazarus was good and dead before that powerful command, “Lazarus, come out!” Jewish understanding was that the soul left the body after three days, and Lazarus had been in the tomb four days when Jesus arrived. Mary and Martha were surprised and a bit accusatory that Jesus didn’t make more haste. They had faith that if Jesus had been there, Lazarus would not have died.
    Just like us, Mary and Martha had their own ideas about how and when God should act.  Their faith, like ours, was tempered by earthly priorities. Yes, it sometimes seems like God takes his sweet time delivering us from our bodies of death (Romans 7:24) until we understand that his time and his purpose are greater (and better) than our immediate desires. 
    Knowing this story from beginning to end doesn’t prevent us from our own occasional bouts with hopelessness.  We might come to the edge of financial ruin or lose a job we desperately sought. A loved one might not return to full health or return at all.  There are many ways we come to our “fourth day” before God, hopeless and in despair.  The Psalmist echoes our own pain, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord (Psalm 131:1).” The very hardest, yet most necessary, time for us to listen for his voice, his comfort, and his reassurance is during these times when he seems farthest away.
    In John’s telling, this resurrection event became the last straw and the impetus for the final plans to put Jesus to death.  Raising Lazarus was perhaps the most straightforward indication that death would not be the final answer where Jesus was concerned.  Scripture says that many believed, but it doesn’t say all believed.  Each of us knows what it is like to be skeptical in the face of what others say is irrefutably true. Luke 16:31 declares, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
    In each of our daily “dyings and risings” (the small deaths that we undergo in preparation for the main event), what brings us back to life?  It is the voice of Jesus, the same voice that brought Lazarus from his tomb. Jesus’ call to “come out” is how he summons each of us out of our death-dealing ways, our self-defeating patterns and our decisions to be ‘like God’ instead of ‘in God.’ 
    Jesus wept…for Lazarus, for us, for the sins of the world that initiated death. No one weeps at the grave of someone they don’t love. As we approach Easter, we are faced in this Gospel with the evil and cruel irony that Jesus died precisely because he brought real life back to us! He knew even as he called forth Lazarus from a tomb that he would soon enter one himself. This was a drama not simply of one man being returned to life but of the divine exchange of death for life that Jesus was about to undergo for our sakes.
    Lazarus had to die again at some point. I am guessing that, like those who have had a near-death taste of glory, Lazarus did not dread his earthly death because he knew when he opened his eyes again this time he would see and hear the God he loved saying not, “Come out” but “Come here, my beloved; you are unbound and you are home.”

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: March 17 Edition

John 4:5-42

Gospel Lesson for Sunday
Mar 19 2017

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband,’ 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (who is called Christ). When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” 27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?’ or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30They left the city and were on their way to him. 31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest?’ But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” 39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

   Being “evangelistic” about anything is often perceived as being a bit too pushy or enthusiastic; it often devolves into an embarrassing or awkward encounter. But John’s story of the Samaritan woman is a classic story of untainted, agenda-free evangelism.  Simply put, this woman had an authentic experience with Jesus Christ and her heart response was to share it with her fellow Samaritans.  I think what led them to come to Jesus and ask him to stay and talk with them is that she didn’t manipulate the circumstances of their meeting with Christ… or tell them how to conduct themselves… or threaten them with certain doom if they declined her invitation. She merely said, “Come and see a man…” And John reports that many believed because of her testimony.
    Then, after they had their own encounter with Christ, it was no longer because of what this woman said to them that they believed, but because they had heard him themselves.  Instead of judgment in this encounter, Jesus offered them and the Samaritan woman (as he offers each of us) the kind of ultimate intimacy for which we thirst. This might explain, in the woman’s case, the many men in her life and, likewise, our own dead ends at dry wells! Here again is another story of the character of God…that love trumps judgment and love is what draws us to God. Shame, regret, sorrow and disappointment may propel our search, but the love of God is what saves and transforms us and can give meaning to what we have endured. When we see ourselves through his eyes, we can begin not only to ask his forgiveness, but to forgive ourselves. And so the cycle of sharing and receiving God’s good news has continued down to this moment.
    Jean Vanier wrote, “Jesus is revealing that if we drink from the fountain of the love and compassion of God, we become a fountain of love and compassion. If we receive the Spirit of God, we will give the Spirit of God. The life we receive is the life we give.” And each of us has a story about how God ‘told us everything we have ever done’…and we became undone and reborn. The testimony that moves hearts is the testimony of how and by whom we broken ones have been mended and restored.
    Jesus is calling us to take a sip of living water because, when we do, we will be compelled to issue our own invitations and fill a jug for another! And, lest we forget, Jesus himself initiated this conversation because he was thirsty. In other words, he wants us more than we, finally, want him! The next time we read of him thirsting, it will be from the cross where he shed water and blood for you and for me.
    So, leave behind the jar holding all the stagnant water of everything that does not satisfy and go out to share what you know and Who you know and, perhaps, even how you know. What Jesus did for this woman he does for everyone who wills; He shows you all that you have been and all that you are and takes you in his arms and says “I love you.”  If that doesn’t make you drop your old jar, nothing will.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: March 3 Edition

Matthew 4:1-11

Gospel Lesson for Sunday
Mar 5 2017

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ’’ 7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ’’ 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 100Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ’’ 11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. 

   Last week we heard the story of Transfiguration, the glory of God on a mountaintop, shining through the clouds.  This week we see Jesus making decision after decision against fundamental temptations to disobey God as he prepares to set his face toward Jerusalem.  It would be difficult to identify a starker contrast of life’s changes and chances than this trek from the glorious mountaintop to the barren valley, from a grand and illuminating time of worship to the dark struggle for identity and purpose.
    Matthew did not create some starkly obvious caricature of a haloed, fasting holy man facing a horned red monster with a pitchfork tail. The reason these challenges from the evil one are called temptations is precisely because there is just enough of the good mixed in to give them some credence. Satan is called an ‘angel of light’ precisely because temptation begins with apparent good, glamour, and reward. People who smoke (or ‘used to’) weren’t tempted to do it by seeing people in a hospital bed attached to oxygen and coughing up a lung. The lure and the hook were more likely those glamourous movie scenes where the beautiful people lit up in a sexy haze of smoke.
    As theologian Fred Craddock wrote, “Recall the lure to Adam and Eve: ‘You will be like God.’” Could any goal be loftier? So Jesus has before him three excellent offers: Turn stones to bread (in a world of unbelievable hunger, why not?); Leap from the pinnacle of the temple (in a world callous to sermon and lesson, why not a coercive shock into belief?); Enter the political arena (in a world of slavery, war, oppression and disregard for life and rights, why not?). Satan presented good things in an attempt to thwart God’s greatest things!
    There is grace in our temptations when they move us to seek God’s presence in prayer and scripture, asking for protection, healing and salvation. This is where we can most identify with the walk toward maturity in faith that Jesus modeled for us. Hebrews 4:15 is strangely comforting when it reminds us that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are.  Because of that fact, we know that in him we have the power, authority, wisdom and strength to resist evil (and especially those “lesser goods” that trip us up even more often than outright evil). It is mercy and grace we seek in our times of need and those are the things Jesus longs to give us…died to give us, actually.
    Each of the responses Jesus had for these temptations is a call for us to go deeper, to not respond from our fallen sense of self but, instead, from our identity as children of God. It’s a bit like a Christmas list.  We can either make a list of things we want or things we really need.  Usually these lists bear little resemblance to each other and it takes some doing not to focus on the “wants.”
    We enter Lent not as a marathon to be run, but as a time to step aside from the hectic day-to-day and internalize the new life we have been given so we can relate to others with God’s grace, not our egos. Instead of a temporary exercise of ‘giving up’ or ‘taking on,’ Lent is the perfect ‘forty days’ to offer God all of our vulnerable, hurting humanness and watch him bring forth yet more new life as the days lengthen into spring and all manner of resurrection begins!

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: February 17 Edition

Matthew 5:38-48

Gospel Lesson for Sunday
Feb 19 2017

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. 43You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

   Therapists have dined out on Matthew 5:48 since therapy began!  “Be ye perfect” indeed!  What possessed the translators to take a ‘perfectly’ good Greek word (“teleios”) and turn it into something so daunting and off-putting?  I would blame it on the Puritans but they already get a bad rap for so much else that I will give them a pass on this one.  Teleios actually means "brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness, perfect, full-grown, adult, mature."  A word study on the uses of “perfect” in scripture will uncover hope. We will find, as we often say in our own defense, “no one is perfect.” We will also find that God is perfect and we’ll read of the magnificent ways he has bridged that vast gap to bring us into his perfection.
    I already know I’m not perfect and have no earthly hope of getting there. Without being flip, if we see perfection as a Martha Stewart-style home or a runway model figure (or, for the guys, a fabulous six-pack as well as a six-figure income), we are of all people, most miserable. Even if, by some cosmic lottery, we attained everything we imagined would equal perfection, I think we would know in our deepest selves that it still remained just out of reach. If in doubt, look at all the unhappy Hollywood or NFL millionaires.
    Of all the things in this passage that might concern us, why is it the concept of perfection that so often preoccupies us? The story of the rich, young ruler (Matthew19:16-22) is actually instructive on this as, in the wake of the ruler’s sorrowful disappointment that his conscientious adherence to the commandments wasn’t “enough,” Jesus tells his disciples that, yes, it is all impossible…for us. But, not for God! In that story, perfection lies in “selling all” which we can obviously interpret to be about our stuff, but perhaps it’s really about our whole life as we currently understand it. We cannot be filled with God until we are emptied of ourselves.  And in typical ironic fashion, only when we are emptied of the self we have crafted can God restore to us the self he had in mind for us “before the foundation of the world!” 
    I have read articles from sincere believers who write that we are commanded to be perfect, indicate that we can’t do it, and then tell us eight ways we should try anyway.  I say, “enough.” Therapy is expensive.  God has accomplished our perfection. “Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).” I spent a lot of years trying to pour new wine into old wineskins. That is to say, I kept trying to be perfect in my own strength and my own way with my own definition of perfection.  No wonder there was so much breakage and seepage! It wasn’t until I began to finally soak in the very good news that God loves me just as I am that the striving for perfection began to abate.  Even better, I discovered Luke’s take on Jesus’ words in 6:36 where he writes, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” While I was beating myself up for not being perfect, God was being merciful…to me!
    God is not Frank Sinatra crooning to us through the heavens, “Do… Be… Do… Be… Do… Be… Do.” Rather, he asks us to rest in him (Psalm 62) and the perfection he accomplished by his obedient suffering (2 Corinthians 13:5-14 or Hebrews 13:20-21).  God only sees us through his Son who loves us to death and back! Augustine invited congregants to the Lord’s Supper, “Receive who you are. Become what you’ve received.”  Perfect.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: February 3 Edition

Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b – 12)
1st Reading for Sunday
Feb 5 2017

Shout out, do not hold back!  Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. 2 Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God. 3 “Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day, and oppress all your workers. 4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. 5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? 6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them,  and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,  and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. 

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. 12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. 

   When I was a child, there was a periodic thrust within the churches I attended to pray for revival.  It got rather fervent at times and was usually triggered by the apparent decline in morals or respect for Christianity evinced in the culture around us. We were assured that the country was headed for certain disaster if revival didn’t happen very soon.  And so we prayed; some fasted. Sermons were preached, special speakers were engaged and prayer meetings lasted a long, long time.
    Isaiah 58:1 accurately describes what those revival meetings were like!  There was a lot of shouting and many pronouncements about sin, as any revival worth its salt provides.  Tears and repentance did occur. Lives were put back on track. People were anxious to be “right with God” and apparently were excited to attend these services even though they probably made them a bit uncomfortable and unsettled.  Judgment is a bitter and embarrassing pill, after all. 
    American Christianity hasn’t really changed since then; we are still in the midst of the false dichotomy that keeps conservatives and liberals from participating in Christ’s prayer that “we all might be one…” personal piety versus “the social gospel,” the next world versus this one. And didn’t we just see this same jittering divide as the Republicans and Democrats each served up plates of certain doom to each other for most of last year?
    What stopped me in my tracks while reading the Isaiah passage is that all the righteous posturing and the apparently sincere humbling before God is not what God wants to see.  All the “sackcloth and ashes,” the lamentation about the state of godless society doesn’t seem to scan with the Lord.  A righteous fast has very little to do with food, except for the food that we must share with the hungry. You can hear God moaning in verse 3, “Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.” Apparently, the false dichotomy between personal piety and the state of the world falls apart right here!
    In Matthew 5, Jesus calls his followers ‘salt’ and ‘light.’ Psalm 34:8 enjoins us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” If we lose our saltiness or hide our light, of what possible use can we be to God and his kingdom? Isaiah illustrates what a true fast looks like, and it has everything to do with offering food (and we all know what food without salt is like). This is how we model and experience his undeserved and unimaginable love.  This is when his promises of protection and provision are realized as a surety.  And this is when Jesus’ startling words become reality…our righteousness will exceed the scribes and Pharisees and we will know ourselves to be in the kingdom (Matthew 5:20).
    C.S. Lewis’ noted that humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. As we determine to do the next righteous (read “sometimes difficult”) thing, God’s light increases as if on a divine rheostat. This passage from Isaiah cannot be rationalized, temporized or minimized. Gandhi had it exactly right: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Our proper response to this, as to all our baptismal vows, remains, “I will, with God’s help.” Re-read Isaiah 58:10-12 and thank God for the wondrous things that happen to those who feed others the bread of life and shine forth the light of salvation. 

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: January 20 Edition

Matthew 4:12-23

Gospel Lesson for Sunday Jan 22 2017

12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15
 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him.21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. 23 Jesus* went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

   Matthew is determined at every turn to underscore the fact that Jesus’ geographical moves were each a fulfillment of prophecy.  This move to Galilee is no exception and appears to be the direct result of Jesus learning that John has been arrested.  In addition to fulfilling prophecy, it is a prudent move on Jesus’ part as he realized just how serious Herod was about putting out the light that was shining brighter each day (Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:16). In what might be called holy defiance, Jesus landed in Galilee and began to proclaim the exact words of John, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Jesus’ ministry of teaching, preaching and healing was now in full swing.
    I can imagine Jesus walking along the shore, leaving sandal prints in the sand to be washed away with the tide.  It was still dark because Simon (Peter) and Andrew were just casting their nets when Jesus showed up and offered them a “new job.” Jesus’ spirit probably outshone the rising sun as he approached them so it would be no surprise to read that the responses to his offer included such words as “immediately” and “at once.” No returning home to discuss with family, no season of pondering pros and cons…just the immediate response to the great light that had dawned on them. And, as with anyone who spends enough time with someone, the disciples began to take on the attributes of Jesus so that he could tell them (and us), “You are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).”
    For whatever reason, Zebedee stayed in the boat as his sons, James and John, left to begin a brand new journey.  It is intriguing that he didn’t join them and we have no idea why he didn’t. Whatever the reason, Matthew leaves Zebedee in the boat which suddenly, to me, seems like a perilous place to be. And yet, how many times have I chosen to stay in the boat, seasick as I might be, rather than climb out and begin a journey of unknown dangers (and equally unknown joy) with God?
    Discipleship is not something we can understand from the beginning.  It unfolds for each of us in a God-ordained way. If they had known “the end from the beginning,” who knows what they would have chosen. But Jesus’ beckoning must have been exactly what these men had been seeking.  Their immediate response is the essence of repentance, which is not necessarily an emotion of sorrow for sins as it is a decision to change our minds, hearts and life directions.
    Being a fisher of men and women is not on a list of optional spiritual practices; it is the heart and soul of any disciple of Jesus Christ. And each one of us is worthy of that call, regardless of what we are doing when we hear it.  It doesn’t depend on our talents, our good looks, our bank account, our current profession.  It depends on the grace of God and God’s desire that each of us abandons our leaky, self-driven boat and join him on the most amazing journey there is. My prayer is that I will receive each day the strength of will to untangle myself from the things of this world—to “leave my nets”—and experience the exhilaration of simply following the Lord.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: January 6 Edition

Matthew 3:13-17

Gospel Lesson for
Sunday Jan 8 2017

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

   The rite of baptism pre-dates Christianity. It was definitely a part of the Essene tradition, and, according to Jewish scholars, a rite that John would have fully observed. Matthew pitched his gospel to the Jews of his day so perhaps when Jesus told John that he must be baptized by him to fulfill all righteousness, he was referring to how the Jewish community would understand the rite… a rite of penitence, purification and dedication to God and the community. John’s resistance to baptizing Jesus may have come from the same consideration: John’s was a baptism of repentance and cleansing, and a man with nothing to repent and no need for cleansing had no apparent need for baptism. But Jesus came to fulfill all righteousness and this part was crucial.
    The Jewish community understood, as we do, that baptism restored the unclean to the state of a new-born child and was a requirement for entry into the community of the faithful. It was part of the process of sealing identity and bringing each “under the wings of the Shekinah.” And what happened right after Jesus identified with humankind (Philippians 2:5ff) and obeyed all requirements of the Jewish initiation?  The spirit of God descended as on the wings of a dove to pronounce God’s benediction on his son and empower him to begin his ministry of presence and reconciliation among humankind.
    This ritual act (fraught with so much fragmentation of understanding as to cause the creation of new denominations around its practice) is our obedient response to God. We are saying, in essence, “I submit myself to my Lord and, by this act, I accept the washing away of my sinful nature through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. As I rise from these cleansing waters, leaving my sin to dissolve away, I accept God’s Holy Spirit into my heart and life—not for my own pleasure but for my salvation and the salvation of the world.” Even words of commitment and intention such as these aren’t ours; they are given by God as he washes and remakes us into the new creatures that once again have the capacity for relationship with him. Just as Jesus shed his blood for us, Jewish tradition included the shedding of blood as part of their incorporation into the community. Baptism is rich with tradition and truth and marks the pivot point— the faithful act—that opens the baptized to all of God’s grace.  And for Jesus to step first into those renewing waters is another way for us to be assured that he stands with us, he who humbled himself so that we might be lifted up.
    Christ’s baptism was the moment that marked his identity and empowered him for ministry; and so it is for us. Some traditions grant “baptismal names,” but God has given us our baptismal name: “Christian.” No name that we have ever been given (or ever been called) carries this kind of power and authority. The Spirit descends on us as on Jesus and for the same purpose: that we might fulfill his great commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and continue to baptize until all who will are clothed with Christ (see Galatians 3:27). As a baptized child of God, each of us is sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as God’s own forever. If we listen very closely, we can hear a divine whisper in our spirits, calling us by name and telling us just who and whose we are. God is as “well pleased” with you and me in our obedience as he was with his son who made our obedience possible!

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 
602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: December 23 Edition

Colossians 1:26-27

Alternative reading for
Sunday Dec 25 2016

26The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but it is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27To them God has chosen to make known the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ is in you!”

A Christmas Eve Reflection for Young Mothers by Sommar Nelson
   
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Andy Williams says it is because this is the season when people talk of good cheer; visits to loved ones are made; cards are sent; stories are shared, mistletoe kissing commences; many are singing and love is glowing. Yet, it strikes me that we are rejoicing in the birth of a child whose life was created and given… to suffer and be sacrificed. The reality is Jesus was born to die so that we might have abundant life.
    As a young mother during the season of Advent and at Christmas, my thoughts often drift to Mary. She was so young. Life and traditional roles were very much different in her time than they are today. I try to imagine Mary’s life and how difficult it all had to be. The Lord, indeed, blessed Mary so abundantly in choosing her to be the mother of Jesus, but I wonder if that’s how she viewed it each day? Can you imagine going to your parents at such a young age (really at any age!) and explaining to them that an angel appeared to you and said you’d be giving birth to the Messiah? In addition, Mary also had to deal with the judgment and shaming of her community! Just to live through Mary’s advent of Jesus’ coming is hard to comprehend! The strength and courage and massive amounts of faith this very young woman had are difficult to fathom.
    Then Mary was tasked with raising this child – the Son of God! I can’t help but wonder if Jesus threw tantrums or if he was a picky eater? What games did he play? Did he sleep well through the night? Mary and Joseph taught their son about God and religious traditions, even though he entered this earth all knowing. There are days I do not feel worthy of being a mother to my beloved little beings; sometimes I think they deserve better or, at least, more than I am or can offer them. I wonder if Mary felt this way, or was she able to trust that God’s decision to place Jesus in her care was enough to make her not only worthy but capable?
    The trials, tests, acts of love, fear and loss that Mary survived all began with the conception of Jesus. She was given the perfect child. Do you think this made her strive for perfection in herself? Was she as hard on herself for her imperfections as a mother as we tend to be on ourselves?
    Can we imagine entrusting our children so wholly to God that we could live each day knowing that one day his/her life would be given in sacrifice for generations of lives to come, for people we would never know? Mary, did you know? What kind of faith does that take?
    As we complete this exciting season of Advent, along with the anxiety, joy and stress it tends to bring, and enter into Christmas, I hope young moms especially will take time to be gentler on themselves. Parenting is hard work and, while it may not always look the way we might want it to look, we have been given the most amazing gifts… our precious “littles.” God gave them to us because he believes WE are amazing. He essentially is saying to us, “I trust you; you are worthy; trust in me. Love came down and the world was changed. In Christ we have been born to live, to love and to rejoice. Let us walk in that love and give thanks.

If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: December 9 Edition

Matthew 11:2-11

The Gospel Lesson for
Sunday Dec 11 2016

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” 4Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” 7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. 9What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’  11Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

    Poor John, languishing in prison, began to hear amazing tales of Jesus’ activities.  He sent his own disciples abroad in the land to find Jesus and ask him point-blank, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another (v.3)?” All that prophesying John did about the coming of the Lord and even his baptism of Jesus were not enough for him to realize fully with whom he was dealing!  His question probably was one of re-affirmation.  He wanted to make sure that the prophecies were really being fulfilled by this man and not just rumors from the fever-dreams of misplaced hope.
    Jesus responded with words from Isaiah 61 that the blind were seeing, the lame were walking, and all those other miracles were indeed occurring.  What is significantly left out is the affirmation that prisoners were being released.  How was John to fully believe that prophecy when he, a prisoner, was yet to be set free?  And isn’t that the human condition in a nutshell?  We hear the glorious promises of God and we sometimes hear them in the midst of a situation that is anything but promising.  And then we ask, not “Why me, Lord?” but rather “Why not me?” Am I part of these promises and prophecies or am I just an observer yearning to experience what you do for others? I wonder if John had similar musings as he continued in prison… even as others were being set free in all kinds of ways. No one wants to be the one who misses the blessing, right?
    The passage from James (5:7-10) begins with the admonition to “Be patient…until the coming of the Lord” and connects that to the farmer who waits for the rains to come. Rain may come late or come in ruinous ferocity, but it is also the rain that allows the crops eventually to grow. Events that seem like attacks or punishments or random acts of horribleness, can be used by God for our good and eventually for our joy! It’s a matter of Advent hope becoming deeply embedded in us. God teaches not in a disembodied, theoretical way but precisely through those things that make up our earthly experience. We live “between the rains.” When it does rain on us, for good or for ill, there is nourishment and sustenance to be had if we trust that “all things work together for good (Romans 8:28).” This may not make it easy, but it makes it possible to persevere.
    “What did you expect from a prophet? Did you think he would come to you in fine robes giving you easy news?” Jesus asked the crowd. Each of us may still be in a dry wilderness, wandering around learning the same lessons again and again like the Israelites of old.  But the rain will come and with it will be a surprising new shoot of abundant life that only God can deliver and we can receive if we hope in the Lord. As the first part of Isaiah 40:31 promises, “but those who keep waiting for the LORD will renew their strength.”  Jesus asks each of us to prepare a way for him in our hearts and our lives, clear away the debris of sin and get ready because anything can happen!  He will be with us, for he has come, is always with us and will come again in great glory. Be patient.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: November 25 Edition

Matthew 24:36-44

The Gospel Lesson for
Sunday Nov 27 2016

36 ‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

(first published November 29, 2013)

   Yawn much? Numerous sleep studies conducted on us worn-out Americans over the past few years indicate that a great many of us are over-tired.  In addition, our exhaustion is now clearly tied to some serious health conditions.  Ironic how “burning a candle at both ends” give us not more light but the dimness of sleep deprivation and a compromised ability to see the signs of the times!

Both the Romans and Matthew passages for this beginning of Advent caution us to stay awake! As the days grow ever shorter, it is easier to sleep as darkness falls and more difficult to start the day before the light dawns.  But stay awake we must to fight the darkness because the end really is near and it matters tremendously how we live our lives! These passages remind us not to sleep-walk through our earthly sojourn, allowing the everyday to supplant the eternal day. 

Jesus speaks of the advent of his return in Matthew’s passage and it happens in the midst of “everyday life.”  He notes the sudden (although predicted) flood in Noah’s day as God swept in with cleansing and judging waters, washing away those many who assumed this was a day like any other.  He then tells a cautionary tale (one that sends fear into most of our hearts) of a thief breaking into our homes while we sleep.  If we knew in advance when this would happen, we would only stay awake until the danger was gone; then we would sleep on.  God wants us on the watch with him more than just an hour (Matthew 26:40)! We cannot further his cause if we’re dead on our feet.

The word “advent” refers to the coming of some person or event that we await.  And for the next four weeks, we are in a waiting mode for the very son of God to enter the human arena.  It happens every year but, for forgetful humankind, the church year affords a renewing and a reminding of what we all await…our salvation and our eternity with God. But I know from experience that the longer I have to wait for something, the less ready I can actually become.  I get bored, or irritated or angry or cynical or deflated of any hope at all that what I tap my foot waiting for will actually arrive. I am a child of the culture and our multi-tasking, internet-instant society is not into any waiting games!

As Paul told the Romans, so he tells us: “You know what time it is…wake up!” Let us live in anticipation, fully awake, having put on the armor of light (Romans 13:11-12) to fend off the works of darkness. And, as we faithfully wait (if we are very, very still) we might just hear the snapping and swishing of angel wings, the distant fanfare of a thousand trumpets and the still, small voice of God saying, “Here I am.  Love has come. All shall be well.” Hallelujah.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: November 11 Edition

Luke 21:5-19
The Gospel Lesson for
Sunday Nov 13 2016

5 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” 7 They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.” 9 “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.”10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.”
12
 “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

    In the wake of so many so-called “100-year disasters” in recent years, many have begun to add “-pocalypse” to the end of their descriptors (as in “snow-pocalypse”)… as though the most recent event was a signal that nothing could be worse! Even this past political season was interpreted in stark, apocalyptic terms on both sides! This passage from Luke is clearly written in an apocalyptic tone and like those who first heard this message, if I only had today’s hyper-media as reference, I might well conclude that the end of the world was very close indeed. All around us are examples of the unhinging of both eternal and temporal “verities.”
    What gives me pause, however, is this other aspect of the ‘end times,’ the persecutions that will ramp up because we are Christians.  This passage is as much a vivid “heads up” about discipleship as it is a checklist of end-times predictors!  The lives we live, dependent upon God, are the lives through which Jesus will deliver the words we are to use as we “testify” of God’s sustaining grace even during our worst nightmares!  This is sobering news, as I am a typical American Christian, hesitant to be politically “incorrect” or to land on the “wrong” side of a social issue. God is asking from each of us the measure of courage that meets the escalating need for our witness.

All of those scriptural predictions that signaled “the end is near” didn’t happen quite the way they initially read. Yes, the temple collapsed in A.D. 70. An aura of “apocalypse now’’ continued into the apostolic era as St. Paul warned against getting married because the time was so short. All manner of millennial-style end-times prognostications were swirling and some were fulfilled then, while others seem to be pending even unto the present day! But, as theologian William Willimon wrote:

“It is the Christian belief that we have already seen ‘the end,’ that the world has come to a decisive crisis in the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth…At that moment, when he was nailed to a cross, the conflict between life and death, good and evil, God and Caesar was resolved in favor of God’s lordship over existence.”

    Thus, we have been freed to witness in and to the world with faith not fear because we know who holds the future. We have already seen “the end.” It was apt that Jesus said, “Do not be terrified (v. 9)” for we are in the palm of God’s everlasting hand. Luther might have been thinking of this passage when he said that security is the ultimate idol. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 for a vision of real apocalyptic surprise!) If our security is only in earthly ‘temples,’ we will surely faint with fear and despair as they crumble to dust. Jesus has given us peace that the world cannot give (John 14:27). He once wept for Jerusalem because it did not know the “things that make for peace (Luke 19:41-44).” Now we know. So knowing, we must live the words we pray.

“O God of unchangeable power and eternal life, look favorably on your whole church, that wonderful and sacred mystery. By the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation. Let the whole world see and know the things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by Him through whom all things were made, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.” (Book of Common Prayer)

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: October 28 Edition

John 8:31-36
The Gospel Lesson for
Reformation Sunday
Oct 30 2016

31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free?’ ’’ 34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever. 36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”   

    Even though I come from solid Lutheran stock, I didn’t grow up in the Lutheran church. Therefore, the concept of the Reformation was not something that I heard much about, other than in world history class and occasionally at church when there was an alleged reason to denounce something Roman Catholic! It wasn’t until I went to college and began to study church history that the length, breadth and depth of the events and tenets of all things “Reformation” began to open up for me just how complicated Christianity could be!
    In the decades since, both the Roman Catholics and Lutherans have come to a number of accords, agreements and apologies and, while still at variance on a variety of theological nuances, our liturgies since Vatican II have become quite similar!
    So, do we still need to set aside and designate one Sunday every year as “Reformation Sunday?” After all, many worry that modern Christians are so Bible-challenged that adding an additional level of confusion by focusing on events in church history isn’t worth it! And that in itself may be the most compelling reason to commemorate the day! Ignorance of things religious is not bliss and has, in fact, landed us in a morass of collapsed distinctions, muddied theological understandings and a dramatic rise of the popularity of such remarks as, “All truth is relative,” “All roads lead to Rome,” or “It doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere.”
    In 1985, sociologist Robert Bellah wrote a provocative book entitled Habits of the Heart. That book introduced “Sheilaism” into the lexicon of both sociology and popular religion! He interviewed a woman (pseudonymously named Sheila) who described her do-it-yourself religion with these tenets of her faith: “I call it Sheilaism. Just my own little voice. It’s just try to love yourself and be gentle with yourself. You know, I guess, take care of each other. I think God would want us to take care of each other.” She couldn’t remember when she had last been to church but she did retain a belief in God. Religious belief has become so hyper-individualized and private that we can say with some certainty that the people with whom we worship each week have a wide variety of understandings of God and of the Lutheran strand of the Faith!
    Jesus taught much differently about these things. In John 14:6, He said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Now there is a hard saying for these times! The ‘Religion of Sheila’ is comprised of “her own little voice.” Jesus is the Word itself before there was a human soul to speak of him. In today’s gospel, “Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ ”
    Isn’t it worth considering that if, in our commitment to “freedom of religion,” we might be verging on the real possibility of freedom from religion? Even as our wandering, cross-country-commuting selves have lost the moorings of generations-old community, so too it seems that our religious tethers are fraying as well. We cannot serve God and mammon; we cannot simply create our own comfortable religious identity. If we believe in God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, there are boundaries, requirements and commitments that are inherent in our Faith and are what, in fact, set us truly free. Perhaps we can reflect on these things this Reformation Day.

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: October 14 Edition

Luke 18:1-8

The Gospel Lesson for
Sunday Oct 16 2016

1Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’ 6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

  A consistent undercurrent in our society is that the criminal justice system is broken. Some say it has always been so because it is constructed and served by flawed humanity seeking blind justice when we are all peeking through the blinders with bias and animus! This Sunday’s gospel passage would make the perfect example of anyone wanting to indict corruption in the judicial system. Here we see a judge who really doesn’t care about God or the people he has been asked to serve. Perhaps he became a judge for the purposes of prestige, money, influence or ego. But apparently, rendering just verdicts or wise decisions was not what he signed up to do. It would seem odd, except that so many have similar stories to tell even today. But this parable contains a conversion story—the judge’s!
    It is difficult to call this a parable because the meaning is crystal clear and even stated in the passage: “Pray always and never lose heart.” Ironically, that is probably one of the hardest sayings we have from Jesus. When faced with the slog of years and perhaps a lifetime of praying or working for something (whether it be physical or emotional healing, resolution to a complex social justice issue, mending a broken relationship) and the results seem to move ever farther into the distance, how many of us have the spiritual muscles to persevere?
    Jesus even asked his disciples, when some of his early enthusiastic followers lost their nerve and abandoned him if they were also planning to leave him. Fortunately, they remained with Jesus even as they experienced much heartache in the midst of their joy. Regardless of our circumstances, each one of us has had or will have a time when we just don’t know if we can keep up our hope, our prayers…even our faith.
    This encouragement to pray and not lose heart is given to each of us, whether we love to pray or tremble at the prospect. It is for those of us who can’t find the words, but yet have directed our hearts Godward and for those of us who have a prayer list tacked up in every room with a regular time set each day to beseech the Lord. The key to a prayer to which God attends has nothing to do with eloquence, regularity or energy. It has to do with the perseverance that reflects our steady (or sometimes wobbly) faith even in the midst of an uncertain future.
    We are asked to engage with God as God moves throughout the ages to effect His will. Our prayers are a part of that huge tapestry of engagement and faith that we and the Holy Spirit are weaving with our ongoing prayers and entreaties. Perhaps the biggest reason we need to be reminded to persevere in prayer in the face of apparent unjust and unimaginable circumstances is that we are only seeing the backside of the tapestry of our lives. All the frayed and cut threads are showing, but the beautiful pattern is obscured. Our dogged praying will, one glorious day, become the strength that turns the tapestry around for the whole world to see. And what we see will be the Answer to all our prayers.
    Jacob wrestled a blessing from an angel (Genesis 32:26) and the pestering widow made a bad judge do good. So, don’t let go and don’t give up. Your blessing is on its way

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: Sept 30 Edition

Luke 17:5-10

The Gospel Lesson for Sunday
Oct 2 2016

5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table?’ 8Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink?’ 9Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’ ”

   I can almost feel Jesus’ impatience with his disciples when they asked him to increase their faith.  After all, that very request displays some understanding that faith is a gift and not something they could manufacture. “We are saved by grace, through faith, not by works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8).” What the disciples were really asking, I think, is whether what they originally thought was “enough” faith could possibly be equal to the tasks that Jesus had been describing as “the cost of discipleship.” He answered them in true Middle Eastern hyperbole:  You have enough faith right now to throw a mountain into the sea (Mark 11:22-23) or to plant mulberry trees in the ocean!  Things won’t get any easier, and lamenting the amount of faith you have as though it were a commodity is missing the point! 
    We either have faith or we don’t; it isn’t a matter of how much, but about how much it is used!  That is the best way to read the story of the slaves, troublesome as a story about slaves might be. We can see parallels with any dedicated workers. They know their role and their responsibilities and they do their jobs, not expecting additional rewards or commendations for so doing. There is no doubt that, like muscles, we need to exercise our faith by acting on it!  Flabby faith is as detrimental to us as muscles gone to fat. The best “faith exercises” are precisely the challenges facing the disciples which Jesus has spoken of in numerous ways throughout Luke’s gospel.  These are the words that precipitated their anxious plea for more faith:

“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 (Luke 17:1-4).”

    Forgiveness may be the most difficult task we face, and we face it often because we have too many ways, both deliberate and unintentional, of hurting and being hurt. Jesus says not once, but twice, “You must forgive.” Must!  We yearn for faith to believe that a broken relationship can be mended, that a broken people can be rehabilitated by their government, that a festering offense from childhood can be healed in the light and perspective of adult wisdom.
    But when we ask for this faith, what are we really seeking?  Courage?  Certainty of the outcome? A deep sense of God’s presence?  Whatever it is, faith comes to us not as an isolated thing, but as a dawning awareness and growing commitment as we step out into the sometimes daunting work God has given us to do.  Then we can begin to grasp the essence of Hebrews 11:1, the very definition of faith…“…the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is faith and it is a matter of trust in a trustworthy Lord. It is not the size or relative importance of our work, but our faithfulness in doing it that God desires. 
    It is never the wrong season for planting mustard seeds!

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.

Weekly e-Devotion: Sept 16 Edition

Luke 16:1-13

The Gospel Lesson for Sunday
Sept 18 2016

16Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 2So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an account of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ 3Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.4I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ 5So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ 7Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ 8And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.”

   On the surface, this is a confounding story!  It took me some time and some reading to begin to glean much more than confusion from this passage!  But on that day during the Great Recession when Detroit declared bankruptcy, the story—like so many puzzle pieces—fell into place. This is a story not only about a potential financial bankruptcy, but spiritual bankruptcy! The dishonest manager “negotiated down” the amount due his boss and he made friends with those creditors by so doing. Now, if his boss followed through on the whole firing thing, he would have resources and indebted friends to draw upon (v. 9). He had leveled his playing field and given himself a backup plan.  Way to cover your bases!
    This story follows on the heels of the story of the “prodigal son” and shares too many parallels to ignore. In both stories, we have protagonists who squander wealth and violate a trust. They each experience a moment of epiphany and see the error of their ways. Then, both conjure up a scheme to regain favor from those they have violated.  Then the stories turn to Gospel (read: Good News) as those who were betrayed have nothing but praise and forgiveness waiting for these penitents! The father abandons decorum to embrace his wayward son; the rich man commends his maneuvering manager on his shrewdness!  The devil might be in the details, but so is God and God can help anyone re-work the ledger sheets of a misspent life.
    In Matthew 10:16, Jesus enjoins his followers to “be wise as serpents; harmless as doves.” More than once, Scripture offers the insight that the children of light can actually learn useful things from “the children of this age (v. 8).” It is not Jesus’ fond hope that we will learn how to conduct a pyramid scheme, but he is assuring us that ignorance is NOT bliss and worldly wisdom can and should be baptized and used for God’s good pleasure. How we handle worldly goods is of much greater consequence than having them in the first place!
    The entire thrust of Luke’s gospel is about the upturning of tables, expectations and the social order in general. Nothing makes Luke happier than to share a story where the poor get what the rich don’t think they deserve! It is easy to describe (and so dismiss) the poor as people who have bootstraps but refuse to use them…as those who are either lazy or have adopted the identity of victim in order to victimize “taxpayers.” The prophet Amos, however, reveals a form of poverty that we mostly gloss over or rationalize away…the poor as those trampled by the rich (8:4). These folks cannot catch a break no matter what they try to accomplish.  Bootstraps?  They don’t even have boots!
    Nothing and no one belongs ahead of - or instead of - God. We can love God and create holy boundaries against worshipping our stuff, or we can love our stuff and wonder why we’re miserable in the midst of plenty. Wealth makes a very attractive prison guard. The only way out is to share that wealth. While Jesus does not endorse the economic shenanigans he talks about, he does want each of us to realize the relationship between our resources and our responsibilities. Matthew 6:21 tells us that our hearts reside with our treasures.  If you feel far from God, see if your heart is suffocating under a pile of stuff!

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Carole Becker at cbecker@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.319.0959 .
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.