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Lent Devotions


March 17

Mary Carlson serves as a spiritual director for some of Camp Fowler’s contemplative retreats.

Psalm 51:1-12

David’s prayer for cleansing and pardon reminds me of words from modern day psalmist/songwriter Bruce Cockburn. Here are words from Cockburn’s song “Southland of the Heart,” interspersed with David’s psalm.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me. (v. 3)

When thoughts you’ve tried to leave behind
keep sniping from the dark (B.C.)

Against you, you alone, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight, (v. 4a)

When the fire burns inside you but
you jump from every spark (B.C.)

so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment. (v. 4b)

When your heart’s beset by memories
you wish you’d never made (B.C.)

Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me. (v. 5)

When the sun comes up an enemy
and nothing gives you shade (B.C.)

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me (v. 10)

In the southland of the heart, everyone was always free
Lie down, Take your rest with me (B.C.)

In my work as a spiritual director, I sit with people seeking cleansing and pardon, though they may not use those words. They, like David and Bruce, are looking for healing and wholeness. Their path is our Lenten path; the process of seeing ourselves in all our ugliness and glory, repenting for what separates us from God, allowing ourselves to be pardoned, and returning to right relationship with God. Imagine God inviting you home: Lie down; take your rest with Me.

Prayer: Have mercy on me, O God, blot out my transgressions. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. (verses 1, 12)

The 2015 Lenten reflections were submitted by staff, volunteers, board members, campers, and friends who have spent time at Camp Fowler in New York.

For this year’s Lent devotions, the days follow the Common Lectionary texts. Each author was invited to: 1.Read the passage.
2.Read a couple passages before and after the assigned day.
3.Do something else for the day, keeping the passage in mind.
4.Find a word/phrase/concept that connects with your own experience. Reflect on that.
You are encouraged to do the same.


Lent Devotions


February 19
Jeremy Bork is a volunteer cabin counselor at Camp Fowler and a student at Western Theological Seminary under care of Schenectady Classis.

1 Peter 3:18-22

We have begun a new season in the Christian year. After moving from Advent through Christmas and Epiphany, we find ourselves in Lent. It’s the time of the year when we remember and await the death and resurrection of Jesus. Like the life of a Christian, it is a season of living in the tension: of the already and the not yet, of life and death, of celebration and suffering. Some are living in this tension right now.

“Christ also suffered for sins once for all…in order to bring you to God.” We worship a God who suffers with us while drawing us toward God’s self—who invites us to be in relationship with God and with each other. To be in Christ is to be in union with all those who are in Christ. We are not alone. Lent is an invitation to be drawn closer to God and to one another, and this invitation invokes a response.

We’re all invited to participate in God’s redemption of creation. God has made and is making and will make all things new. Just as Christ was made alive in the spirit, we too are made alive in Christ. Looking to this hope, we live more fully into the present. Lent is a time to look at what the Lord has done and is doing and will do for the whole world.

Prayer: God of tension, when the brokenness and pain of this world seems to overpower joy and life, may we open our hearts, minds, and souls to see that you suffer with us. As you give us life through the Spirit, may we live more fully here and now, looking toward a future where you will wipe every tear from our eyes. Amen.

For this year’s Lent devotions, the days follow the Common Lectionary texts. Each author was invited to: 1.Read the passage.
2.Read a couple passages before and after the assigned day.
3.Do something else for the day, keeping the passage in mind.
4.Find a word/phrase/concept that connects with your own experience. Reflect on that.
You are encouraged to do the same.


Lent Devotions


February 18

Ash Wednesday
Gretchen Schoon Tanis was on summer staff at Camp Fowler and has her doctorate in ministry. She has worked as an adjunct instructor in youth ministry at Western Theological Seminary.

Psalm 51:1-17

With the beginning of Lent and the reading of Psalm 51, I can’t help but think of my favorite scene from the movie The Shawshank Redemption. Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins), who has been wrongly imprisoned for years, finally digs his way to freedom one night during a thunderstorm and emerges in a river outside of the prison walls. He stands up in that river and sheds his prison uniform under the waters of the falling rain.

The scripture passage for today interplays with this scene in my mind. The psalmist says, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” Put another way, our sin is like that of a prison uniform that announces our sin. But the psalmist also cries out to God, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” The waters of baptism, as we die to ourselves and rise with Christ, have the power of that river to shed us of the uniform of guilt, and we are washed clean with the power of that thunderstorm rain.

Prayer: During this season of Lent may our prayer rise up together: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”

For this year’s Lent devotions, the days follow the Common Lectionary texts. Each author was invited to: 1.Read the passage.
2.Read a couple passages before and after the assigned day.
3.Do something else for the day, keeping the passage in mind.
4.Find a word/phrase/concept that connects with your own experience. Reflect on that.
You are encouraged to do the same.


Lent Devotions: Day 43

Mockery or Mercy

Read: Luke 23:39-43

Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise. (v. 43)

There are two possible reactions to Jesus, and these reactions are personified in the two criminals crucified alongside of him. One mocked him, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” (v. 39) The other criminal simply asked for mercy.

I am aware that I have embodied both responses to Jesus in my life. One of the subtle ways I mock Jesus is to live my life on my own terms, trying to be the best student, Christian, son, and brother I can be. I try to impress God with my efforts. Yet I am painfully aware of how often I fall short of God’s glory. My only recourse is to stop trying to justify myself and ask Jesus to save me.

Neither criminal maintained his innocence in the face of death, and like them we are all sinners that deserve punishment. The scriptures are clear and our experience testifies that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The great news of the gospel is that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

So which do you choose? Mockery or mercy? Jesus suffered and was crucified on our behalf. He offers paradise to those who ask. –Jonathon VanderWall

Prayer: Thank you Lord for sending your Son. Help me to live every day in your salvation.

Lent Devotions: Day 40

Prepare the Way

Day 40
Read: Psalm 118:21-29, Luke 11:1-11

Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. (Psalm 118:27)

Our lives are cluttered, but it’s not fitting to leave our souls a mess for God. His presence calls us to prepare a place suitable for him. Chaotic schedules hinder God’s movement in our lives. If he is always bumping up against piano lessons and late nights at the office and back-to-back social events, we haven’t given him the space he deserves. We need to prepare a place fit for him.

Today, on Palm Sunday, we prepare the way for the Lord. We do not make the way–only God makes the way– but we prepare it. We clear our lives of the debris that has collected, do a thorough cleaning, and make the way fit for a king. We give God space to move and to act in our lives. Like the psalmist, we make these preparations in gratitude for the things God has done, especially for his faithfulness to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, which we rehearse during the coming week.

Our preparations include not only recounting God’s steadfast love and making space for God’s work, but also offering ourselves to him. We take the meager things we have–cloaks and branches–and make them part of our sacrifice to the Lord by spreading them before him. With those things no longer cluttering our lives, we are freer to follow him. –Grace Claus

Prayer: Blessed Lord, we’re preparing the way. Come in, come in.

Lent Devotions: Day 39

Active and Diligent Waiting

Read: 2 Peter 3:11-18

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace. (v. 14)

Waiting is a passive verb. Growing up, being told to “wait patiently” meant that I should stop fidgeting or fussing and sit quietly. How boring! Time slows down in situations like that and it is hard work to wait, especially for kids.

By contrast, waiting on the Lord is an active verb. Like a host waiting for guests to arrive, there is much to be done to get ready. The church in Peter’s day was eagerly anticipating the return of Christ. After years of waiting, Jesus had not yet returned. Some people gave up. They followed false teachers who said that Jesus would never come back, and they fell into sin. Others waited patiently but passively, withdrawing from society and expecting Jesus to come and take them out of this world. In the face of these two options, Peter called the church to active waiting–to live preparing for Christ’s return. Peter asks, “What sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness?” (v. 11)

Lent is a season of waiting and anticipation. We wait for Easter and the resurrection, but we ultimately long for Christ’s return. During Lent we walk diligently down the road of discipleship. We love and worship God, care for our neighbor, and humbly serve in the world God has made. How will you actively wait for Christ today? –Stephen Shaffer

Prayer: Lord, help me to be diligent in waiting for you.

Lent Devotions: Day 37

Read: 2 Peter 2:10b-22

Free to Follow

They promise them freedom, but they themselves
are slaves of corruption. (v. 19)
In college, I attended several dance shows. The freedom the dancers expressed came from countless hours of practice. What popularly is called “dancing”—stepping out and flailing one’s body—is not true dance. Dance requires restraint and structure. The beauty of the dance is not from spontaneous actions but through the ease of movement that is a result of hours of diligent work. Through purposefully training their bodies, true freedom is able to emerge.
Peter is writing to a church surrounded by a culture that adored freedom from restraint. The world had grown “bold and willful” (v.10) in pursuing their desires. Their motto seemed to be: if it could be done, it should be done. This lack of restraint, like a flailing body on the dance floor, led more to injury and pain than liberation. They had become enslaved to their own desires (v. 19). Sound familiar? Peter could have been writing just as easily about our world today.
Instead of unrestrained freedom, Christ grants freedom to follow him. Our Lenten journey is an exercise of just such freedom. This freedom is exercised in restraint—refusing some practices, beginning others. It involves placing ourselves on the path of Christ that we might, by the work of the Spirit, walk in his freedom. —Stephen Shaffer

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the true freedom of life in Christ

Lent Devotions: Day 36

Read: 2 Peter 2:1-10a

He Knows our Trials

The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial. (v. 9)
The Christian life sometimes leads to friction. Walking in step with God can mean walking out of step with the world. This friction can lead to an opportunity to witness, but it may also lead to conflict, scorn and pressure to conform.
Peter’s church was facing intense pressure and trials, but the situation was not beyond God’s control. The ungodliness, false teaching, and wickedness around the church were no threat to God. He had upheld faithful Lot when he was surrounded by Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1-29). He rescued righteous Noah in the ark in a time when “every intention of the thoughts of [the human] heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). God restrains evil, corrects falsehood, and keeps his people from falling into ruin. Even in dark situations, God maintains control and works to bring his people out of darkness and into light. Peter knew what his church would soon face and was convinced that God would continue to rescue his people—as he had always done.
The Lord also knows our trials. The difficulties we face in our life are no threat to God. Not only does he know our struggles, but he also knows how to lead us out of them. God, who rescued us from sin through Jesus Christ, continues to come and rescue his people. —Stephen Shaffer

Prayer: Lord, thank you for coming to rescue us through your son, Jesus Christ.

Lent Devotions: Day 27

Read: Isaiah 53

The Suffering Servant

Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? (v. 1)
The God of Israel gave the prophet Isaiah a vision of a servant who would bring salvation to the world. Isaiah declared that God would delight in this servant and anoint him with his Spirit. This servant would bring justice to the nations and teach the long awaited way of righteousness. He would be a light to the world, giving sight to the blind and freedom to prisoners who sit in darkness.
Isaiah’s vision has an unexpected twist. This servant would bring justice and deliverance for all, but only through great suffering. The servant would prosper and be lifted up, and many nations and kings would fall silent and bow before him. Still, this revolution would not come by way of the servant’s political or military triumph, but by enduring an agonizing death.
God called the nation of Israel to be his holy and perfect servant, but they were unable. Yet at the right time, out of this nation came Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord’s anointed who fulfilled Isaiah’s vision of the suffering servant. God gives himself to us in Jesus, and though this Savior comes in a different way than we had imagined, he is nonetheless everything that we need.
—Garret Szantner

Prayer: Gracious God, we admit we resist the message of your gospel. Give us a humble heart and open mind to receive the Good News of your Son, Jesus Christ.

Lent Devotional: Day 25

Read: Lamentations 5:16-22

Thy Kingdom Come

But you, O Lord, reign forever. (v.19)
In spite of our careful planning, circumstances sweep through our lives that are painful and traumatic. The cancer returns, more aggressive this time; a new regime closes its country’s borders to foreign adoptions; gas prices reach record highs, making that long-anticipated vacation out of reach. In these moments, the winds of adversity whip our gold-painted paper crowns from our heads, and we discover with disorienting clarity that we are anything but in control.
Jeremiah, writing from his pile of ashes in the middle of the desolation of Jerusalem, concludes his Lamentations with this bitter reality: “The crown has fallen from our head” (v.16). Houses are burnt, the temple has been ransacked, the people are exiled and all of the king’s and priests’ attempts to rule have failed abysmally. From the depths of his mourning over Jerusalem, Jeremiah lifts up Israel’s confession: “Woe to us, for we have sinned” (v.16). Despite military displays, political alliances and political pronouncements, God still wears the true crown.
In whose kingdom will you live today? Your kingdom or the kingdom of God? Are you making your plans or listening to God to get in step with him? Let us act with Jeremiah and relinquish our crowns and our efforts to control our lives and the lives of people around us. Let us humbly acknowledge that God wears the true crown: “But you, O Lord, reign forever” (v.19). When God wears the crown, we can rest sure in his kingdom. —Cody Raak

Prayer: Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as in heaven