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From the Bishop
    Latest update: March 20, 2017


Lent III Meditation:
St. John 4:5-42

This Gospel passage is the longest recorded conversation between Jesus and someone else in the New Testament. He initiates it by saying to a Samaritan woman at a well: “Give me a drink.” 

He draws her into a conversation about the “living water” that gives eternal life and then invites her to go and bring her husband to the well. When Jesus reveals that he knows she has had five husbands and is living with a man who is not her husband, she concludes that he must be a prophet and questions him about the different worship practices between Samaritans and Jews. When she speaks of the Messiah who is to come, Jesus tells her: “I who speak to you am he.”

Hearing this, she returns to her village and tells others: “Come see a man who told me all that I ever did.  Can this be the Christ?” Many of them went out to the well to see Jesus for themselves, and though we have no record of what Jesus said to them, they come to believe that he is “the Savior of the world.”

There are two short lessons for us in this encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well. First, the good news that Jesus is the promised Messiah must be shared with others. And second, discovery that Jesus alone gives the living water of eternal life comes from personal experience, rather than what others say about him. “We have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”  (St. John 4:42)


Lent II Meditation:
St. John 3:1-17

It was an amazing thing that Nicodemus should come seeking to talk with Jesus that night. He was a powerful, wealthy, strictly religious man, who knew all the right people and had all the right connections – an aristocrat from one of the best families in Jerusalem. He came to Jesus under the cover of darkness – a homeless, poor prophet who had made his living as a village carpenter until just recently, but who now was causing such controversy and animosity in Israel that some who were friends of Nicodemus were seeking to put Jesus to death.  The man who has everything finds that the man who has nothing, in fact, has the words of eternal life.

In the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, we have one of the most significant encounters in the entire New Testament, and here we find two of the most important teachings of the Christian Faith.

First, there is the teaching about the new birth that is required in order to enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells Nicodemus about the spiritual mystery of holy baptism, which is to be born of water and the Spirit. “You must be born again.” Just as we enter into this world by being born out of the womb of our mother, so we cannot enter into the Kingdom of God unless by a spiritual rebirth at the font of Holy Baptism. It is a gift of grace, received by faith, and not something we merit or deserve.

Second, there is John 3:16, the verse that many of us learned and memorized from childhood: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This is the Gospel in a nutshell, or as Martin Luther called it, “the Gospel in miniature.” It is the marvelous good news that God loves us, loves us so much that he sent Jesus into the world to die for us and to redeem us from sin and death on the cross. St. Augustine of Hippo said about this verse: “God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love.”

Rejoice and be glad then. Give thanks to God that we have been born again of water and the Spirit, because God loves us and has made us his beloved sons and daughters by adoption and grace.

Lent I Meditation:
Led by the Spirit – tempted by the Devil

This describes the experience of Jesus during his forty days in the wilderness, and it is our experience as well. We may feel more tempted than led! But the more aware we become of the Spirit at work in our daily lives, the more conscious we become of temptation. The purpose of Lent is to increase our willingness to be led by the Holy Spirit and to strengthen our resistance to the deceits of Satan.

As the Collect for the First Sunday in Lent reminds us, we are assaulted daily by many temptations – from the world, the flesh, and the Devil. And like Jesus, who was tempted in every way as we are, we can either resist or yield to them.

Here are three temptations that every Christian struggles with: 

*the temptation to make our peace with the world and all its ways, by being dominated by secularism, hedonism, and materialism. It’s the temptation to follow the crowd, to go with the flow, and to compromise Christian values and principles.

*the temptation to a kind of meanness of spirit and intolerance of others, by being short-tempered, impatient, and critical of everything and everyone. It’s the temptation to judgmentalism and angry frustration with other people.

*the temptation to despair and a kind of hopelessness, by giving up on people and situations beyond our control. It’s the temptation to cynicism and a lack of faith that leads to depression and spiritual death.

Whatever your particular temptations this Lent, follow the example of Jesus, who was led by the Spirit and resisted the Devil. Pray to be strengthened and empowered by God’s grace to live a Christ-like life. Don’t settle for mediocrity and complacency in the things of God. Aspire to live in the light and love of Jesus Christ.

Ash Wednesday

We’ve come to the end of the Epiphany Season, and Lent is now upon us.

By the longstanding custom of many centuries, Ash Wednesday is the day for each of us to adopt a Lenten Rule of Life, a specific discipline that we will try to live by for the next six weeks. It is meant to help us keep a devout and holy Lent. Traditionally it involves giving up certain things and taking on certain things in order to strengthen our spiritual will power and to bring us closer to God and to His will for our lives. Many people give up things like sweets, caffeine, or alcohol, and take on things like participation in weekly devotion like Stations of the Cross or attendance at a weekday mass or Bible study.

Each year I like to return to a favorite formula that I try to recall and put into practice each day.  It is attributed to Presiding Bishop Arthur Lichtenberger (who served in the early 1960s), and I commend it to you for your daily devotions.

Fast from criticism, and feast on praise;
Fast from self-pity, and feast on joy;
Fast from ill-temper, and feast on peace.
Fast from resentment, and feast on contentment;
Fast from jealousy, and feast on love;
Fast from pride, and feast on humility;
Fast from selfishness, and feast on service;
Fast from fear, and feast on faith.

In addition, try praying this short verse several times a day: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:11)