Daily Lenten Devotional – April 9, 2020

To the Church in Exile, 
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today’s meditation is from Danielle Merseles:  

Good morning to each of you on this holy week. 

Holy Week – It’s a time when we remember Jesus’ walk from the parade to the table to the cross to the tomb. Today we are at the table, where Jesus eats for the last time with his disciples.  

I do know that tonight we won’t gather around the wooden communion table at Bethany, but the words on the side are still true: “In Remembrance of Me.” We eat and drink isolated in our homes, but we have a God who knows the reality of suffering looming.

Kate Bowler (in her daily Instagram story on Lent which I cannot recommend enough) said “The Christian story is that we are all good, we are made out of God’s love, God looks at us and says: that’s very good. But this story is also about how we are capable of great evil. If we don’t acknowledge that, we can’t be honest about what we are seeing and about what we need.” 

What we need in this season is grace, nourishment, redemption, salvation, and permission to feel all of our emotions as we see suffering looming. Today’s Psalm is a reminder that God hears us, sees us, and offers us salvation.

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

1  I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.
2  Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. …
12 What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,
14 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.
16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the LORD.
18 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

In 2005, when I evacuated Hurricane Katrina, the experience of sadness and uncertainty felt similar to today. I remember the first few days were spent in an Atlanta suburban home of a college friend’s parents. It was there we heard about the effects of the storm hitting the city and got news of levees breaking. One announcement after another of bad news. Every time it seemed hard, or my friends and I looked forlorn, my friend’s mom would turn on her stand mixer. The whirling noise and the oven beeping were sounds that signaled a few warm, gooey cookies on white scalloped edge plates given to me. At the time it was comforting when my grief felt big. It was more than a cookie (or dozen cookies, let’s be real here), it was an acknowledgement that I was seen in my sadness.

Today, when my friends and I remember Katrina, we chuckle that this mom didn’t know what else to do with a group of grieving 20 year olds, so she just kept us well fed. When one of us feels sad now, we often say “how about a cookie?” It’s an acknowledgement that our grief is seen and someone offers you some warm reminder of love in the middle of sadness.  

“Every time the sadness comes up, what happens if we let ourselves grieve? If we express ourselves no matter where we are? There is an invitation here: our feelings are an invitation to receive comfort instead of being ashamed of them or rescued out of them. There is a gift of grace inside this space. Let’s allow ourselves to first be present, coming as we are in the midst of the pain and grief and loneliness of this season.” (In this season I have been spending more time listening to things that remind me of God’s truth. My recommendation this week is where you can find this quote: the Presence Project Podcast episode called “How God Ministers to us in our Anxiety” and you can find more gems in this episode and an invitation into the rhythm of some imaginative prayer.)

I don’t know if a holy week has reminded me of the reality of suffering like this one has in my lifetime. Here, on this Thursday, I long for the resurrection on Sunday. I long for our city, country, world to be resurrected from this virus and the impacts it has had on our lives. I long to see suffering cease and people to come together again around tables in churches everywhere again. I long to be sad and be asked “how about a cookie?”

Friends, as we join together tonight for a meal around hundreds of tables across our city, region, and world, may we remember we have a God who sees us, is weeping with us, and offers us grace beyond anything we can imagine.

Jesus, may we remember: This is Christ’s body broken for you, and me too. May we remember to taste and see God’s gifts present with us. May we remember that you are with us. May we remember that our grief has space in this season. May we remember to be gentle with ourselves. May we remember we are loved. Amen.

Peace in Christ, 


PS – one of the other things I have been listening to this season is Christina Tosi’s baking club. Daily for 30 minutes of baking fun! So if you are looking for a non-spiritual resource and want to bake more this season, I’d recommend it!

Danielle Merseles
Associate Pastor of Youth & Young Adults
Bethany Presbyterian Church

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