Easter Sunday

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

Our journey of thoughtful self-reflection on the topic of forgiveness these past six and half weeks now leads us to be able to proclaim today:

Alleluia. Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows set the tone for our journey in her reflection for Ash Wednesday when she invited us to a journey that would lead “to the healing of ourselves and our world that allows resurrection, not evil, to be our defining story.” Trawin Malone then reminded us that the first step of this journey is embracing vulnerability to overcome our natural tendency to protect ourselves. 

Mildred Reyes helped us to realize that an essential aspect of forgiveness is being able to forgive ourselves, and Jake Owensby shared his own story of forgiving his father as a way to teach us that forgiveness is always a choice, one that, when we make it, can free us from our hurt and our self-righteousness. 

With the help of Bill Miller’s fresh interpretation of the story of the Prodigal Son, we reflected on what it means to practice forgiveness in our families. Micah Jackson discussed how when we are hurt we are tempted to withhold our forgiveness, but that when we can make the choice to forgive, it is always good for the soul. 

On Palm Sunday, Vicki Garvey called us to repent the times when we have chosen to stay safely hidden in the crowd and failed to stand up to injustice. Jan Kwiatkowski reminded us that forgiveness is always a process and that sometimes it is a long process, but our willingness to enter into that process is “a good and holy thing.”
Through all that we have read and contemplated, we have grown in our understanding that the work of forgiveness is not easy. It often requires letting go and dying to the ego. The benefits for our souls, though, are innumerable as only when we can forgive can we experience the joy of newly resurrected relationships with ourselves, with others, and with God. 

The last verse of the Green Blade Rises, one of my favorite Easter hymns, beautifully describes the process of forgiveness and the new life it makes possible.

When our hearts are saddened, grieving, or in pain, 
By Your touch You call us back to life again; 
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been: 
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

—John M. C. Crum


It has been an honor to provide this resource to you and to help you walk through Lent to Easter. In the name of the One who has risen from the grave this day, may we all know in our hearts and souls that, “Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.” 


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Holy Saturday

 
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Reflection by The Rev. Jan Kwiatkowski

This morning’s Gospel tells the story of Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus so that Jesus could have a proper burial. He rolled a great stone to close the door of the tomb and left. The two Marys sat outside the tomb and waited. While we know the outcome of Easter Day, Joseph, the two Marys, and all the rest must have been beyond devastated. They could not have known what was ahead. They only knew how the story seemed to end on Good Friday. Little did they know that the story would actually begin again on Easter Sunday. That time in between can be a horrible, hopeless and dark place. It’s tough to practice faithfulness when loss and ambiguity and anxiety are all around.

There are times in our lives and in our relationships where things happen, and there is a loss, ambiguity or anxiety. Maybe it’s a family disagreement over a real or perceived event. Maybe it’s a betrayal by an institution we trusted or company that employed us. Maybe it’s a death where we never got to make peace, or say goodbye. Maybe we did the best we could to restore the relationship, and the other person did not respond. Maybe we did not try and wish we had. 

Not having closure is just hard. Not being able to make sense of things is just hard. Coming to terms with the fact that maybe we should have been the one to reach out and did not is just hard. But, it is all very human. That part of the story seems both closed- and open-ended all at the same time. A rockhas been placed outside the relationship tomb, and we wait outside, longing for an end we do not yet know.
The two Marys were at the tomb on Easter morning. We don’t know if they stayed and waited all night. We don’t know what they did while they waited. I’m guessing they cried, they were quiet, they told the stories over and over, they reviewed their parts in the Jesus story … and then they reached a point outside the tomb where all they could do was wait, and wait on God. I wonder if they knew and trusted that God waited with them?

If there is a situation, relationship, or time in your life that does not have a peaceful end or closure, know that God waits with you. Know that while you cry, and you go over the story, God waits with you. Know that when you are at the point where it all feels like a never-­ending loss, God waits with you. Know that God is faithful in the midst of all the ambiguity, loss and anxiety. Know that what resurrection will look like is not in your hands, but that resurrection will come. 

If you are like me, you are not always good at waiting. I think of Mr. Roger’s song for kids: “Let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting.” That something to do could be prayer for ourselves and the situation or person, acts of service, or could be finding a safe person to talk to about it. It could be one more time of trying to reach out or maybe reaching out for the first time. It could be prayerfully letting go, knowing God will heal in God’s time. Whatever it is you do, God waits with you at the tomb, and the promise of resurrection is as real now as it was over 2,000 years ago.

Making It Personal:In whatever situation you find yourself waiting for some end, what is a kind and gentle thing you could do for yourself while you and God wait together?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Good Friday

 
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Reflection by The Rev. Jan Kwiatkowski

The moment when I plant my feet, hold my arms open wide, and ready myself to catch and lift a grandchild gleefully running toward me yelling, “Nana!” is a moment I’ve experienced many times and a moment I live for. That moment can happen when I have not seen a grandchild for months due to distance. That moment can happen when one of my grandchildren is hurting for some reason, and only Nana can fix it. Open arms and a child running, just as they are, toward love is, I think, a glimpse of what it might be like when we let go and run toward Love, the love of the One who created us.

I love little kids. They are just out there with whatever it is they are feeling or experiencing inthe moment. They seek out those who will love them no matter what. It doesn’t matter if they are full of joy because they just learned to put on their socks. It doesn’t matter if they just smacked a sibling and know they did something wrong. Ultimately, that child will return to their home base of love and seek assurance that they are worthy of love … no matter what.

As we grow into adulthood, life happens, and we seem to lose or close down our innate ability to seek out the reminders that we are fully loved children of God. We think we have to fix all the things that are wrong with us before God, or others,can love us. Maybe we can’t forgive ourselves for being human and making mistakes. And if we can’t forgive and love ourselves, we ask, how could God possibly do so?

That we are much-loved children of God is one of the lessons for us at the cross on Good Friday. Many children of God were at the cross on that Friday. There was the One who was faultless. There were those who were devoted disciples and followers. There were those who could have cared less. There were those who pounded the nails through the flesh and bone of Jesus. There were the arms of God, held wide open to anyone and everyone there. And God’s wide-open arms continue to be open to all of us, right here, right now.

What if dying to self—rather than anything we could actually do—really has more to do with letting go of what our pride, ego, or training tell us we must do to be worthy of God’s love? What if rising to new life is risking running into the arms of God, just as we are, every single day? While certainly there is the final transition from death to resurrection when each of us does die, there are also countless opportunities every single day to die to self, to forgive ourselves for being somehow “less,” and to turn toward the loving arms of God. 


Much like our human feet are planted and arms are held wide open for the children we love, I think God’s feet are always planted, God’s arms are always open wide, and God is always ready to catch and lift every human being seeking the Love only God can give. Trusting this, are we ready and willing to run toward God’s loving embrace? 

Making It Personal:What is the one thing God might say to you while you are being held closely in God’s arms? How would the people around you know that God held you and told you that you are a much-loved child of God, no matter what? 


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Maundy Thursday

 
Living Well Through Lent - Living Compass
 

Reflection by The Rev. Jan Kwiatkowski

Facebook and other social media platforms have such an amazing capacity to keep people connected who otherwise would be disconnected. Whether it’s choosing to share family pictures, cute kitten videos, humor, information or inspiration, or even planning events, social media has tremendous power to connect. I’ve also seen, and maybe you have too, the potential social media has to empower people to objectify, distance, and disconnect. It is evidenced in the immediate aftermath of a disagreement when one person “unfriends” or “blocks” a family member or friend. Whether it’s a momentary reaction or a more permanent choice, blocking or being blocked is a powerful rejection of a relationship and our human capacity to heal and forgive.

In the Maundy Thursday Gospel, we have the familiar and beautifully intimate story of the Last Supper and Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Jesus knew that one of his disciples would betray him to those who would crucify him. Jesus knew that Peter would deny him three times. Jesus knew that those whom he loved most in this world would abandon and hurt him most deeply. And yet, Jesus showed up for the Passover meal. 

Jesus could have made any number of other choices. He could have chosen to “block” himself from his disciples and the hurt that was to come. Jesus instead chose relationship and willingness. He could have unfriended his beloved friends and not shown up to dinner. But he was willing to break bread with the people who would hurt him the most. He, as Master and teacher, was willing to take the servant position and wash the feet of those who would hurt and betray him. Jesus didn’t have to do any of this … except that this is what love looks like. And Jesus was willing to risk the power of love.

We are human. We have been hurt, and we have caused hurt. It is a painful and challenging part of our human experience. While we cannot escape the hurt, we do have a choice about what to do with it. In the story of the washing of the disciples’ feet, Jesus modeled for us a significant first step in loving and forgiving, that of “being willing.”

Forgiveness, especially when we have been deeply hurt by those we love the most, is a process. Sometimes, it can be a long process. And that is okay. In order to fully forgive, we have to fully acknowledge the depth of the hurt, and that can take time. There can be very good, protective, and holy reasons for letting go of the hurt in a slow, reflective process. The important thing is showing up and being willing to engage and work with whatever the process of forgiveness is, in our own lives. The important thing is not actively “blocking” the possibility of forgiveness.

When we have been deeply hurt, sometimes the most honest prayer is: “Help me be willing to show up and work the process of forgiveness that is ahead of me.” A first step in dying to self and rising to newlife can be humbly and humanly acknowledging that we need to ask for help to be willing to do what love requires us to do. Active willingness is a good and holy thing.

Making it Personal: Is there someone or some situation in your life that you hope, one day, to forgive? How might you pray about your hurt and being willing to forgive? Is there a person or situation in your life that you hope, one day, will be willing to forgive you? How might you pray about this today? 


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Wednesday of Holy Week

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

I have always loved this verse from the Letter to the Hebrews, especially the phrase, “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” It reminds me that I am never alone; I am surrounded by others who support and guide me, both living and those whom I love but see no longer. It is a reminder, too, of the importance of the Christian community to our walk of faith.

This passage also asks us to confess and let go of our sins so that we can run the race that is set before us. The wisdom here is twofold. First, it is because we are surrounded by the love and support of others that we are safe to be vulnerable enough to acknowledge our mistakes and wrongdoings, and second, that a regular practice of confession and forgiveness frees up our energy to be more fit to run the race that God has given us to run. Both of these pieces of wisdom are invaluable for our spiritual journey.

Making It Personal: Who is in your “cloud of witnesses,” including both those who are living and those who have passed on? Can you think of a time when you were able to let go of the weight of something you did wrong, and how that freed you up to be better able to run the race that God has given you to run?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Tuesday of Holy Week

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

This passage from 1 Corinthians reminds us that much of the wisdom of the Christian faith can seem foolish in our modern world. What is sometimes associated with weakness in our culture is often just what our Christian faith teaches us to do. We can see how this is the case as we reflect on the theme of Practicing Forgiveness that we have been exploring this Lenten season. 

Often the wisdom of the world inadvertently teaches that to acknowledge wrongdoing and to ask for forgiveness are signs of weakness. An example of this is when we see public figures making, at best, half-hearted apologies when they have been exposed in some wrongdoing. And even then, they often are only apologizing because they feel forced to do so. It appears that they associate asking for forgiveness with being weak. Our Christian faith, though, sees asking for forgiveness as a sign of strength and honest humility.

Making It Personal: How has your understanding of forgiveness changed as a result of your reflecting on it this Lent? Do you see a contrast between Christian teachings about forgiveness and how our culture thinks of it? How does that impact your life?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Monday of Holy Week

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

The two Gospel readings for Palm Sunday create completely different emotional reactions within us when we hear them read. The first reading tells of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as he is greeted with the words, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” The second Gospel tells of the story of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. The readings together take us on quite a dramatic journey. 

In yesterday’s reflection, Vicki Garvey invited us to some authentic soul-searching as she challenged us to think about how we, too, can act like the crowd in the Passion Gospel, refusing to stand up for the injustice that is being done to Jesus. When have we “stayed safely hidden in the crowd” and not taken the risk to speak up when others are being treated unfairly?

We can do this hard work of acknowledging our sin of complacency because we know that our honest confession opens the door to forgiveness, just as it did for Jesus’ followers.

Making It Personal: Can you think of a time recently when you did no speak out or act in the face of injustice? Do you want to ask for forgiveness for this? Is there someone you know who is being treated unfairly that you want to stand up for right now? 


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Palm Sunday

 
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Reflection by Victoria L. Garvey

On the surface, forgiveness is not much in evidence in either Mark’s palm story or his passion narrative; it’s much more at home in the Lucan version. Mark, for instance, has no time for such niceties as Jesus’ plea from the cross, “Father forgive them …” (Luke 23:34). We readers/over-hearers, however, are invited into thoughtful and sometimes disturbing contemplation about forgiveness. Not WWJD?, but who are we really and what would we have done had these events transpired in our neighborhood? 

Generally, the congregation gets to play the part of “the crowd” during the liturgy of the passion these days, a role with which we’re mightily uncomfortable. We’d never have behaved that way. No, not us loyal latter-day disciples! But that first-century “crowd” shows up several times earlier in Jesus’ ministry. On those occasions, they’re always either drawn to him out of interested curiosity or enthusiastically on his side (33 times prior to Gethsemane in chapter 14). Only after Jesus’ arrest does the tide turn, and the “crowd” moves from support to condemnation because they listened to loud voices muttering fake news, because they were afraid to be counted among the risk-takers, because they feared losing hold of their own tenuous grasp of what was deemed acceptable behavior by their contemporaries. 

Over and over, we are reminded that even those closest to Jesus during his ministry are capable of turning way, of betrayal and cowardice. And not just the bit part-ers—the crowd—but also Peter and Judas and the others, including the anonymous disciple who ran away half naked (Mark 14:51-52). For them, we have little sympathy and no prodigal forgiveness. How could they abandon one who’d loved them so freely, taught them so much, invited them to be co-creators with him of a new age in the realm of God?

We embrace our self-righteous non-forgiveness, however, at our peril. I cringe when I think of the times I haven’t had the courage to stand against injustice, when I’ve stayed safely hidden in the crowd, afraid to rally to the support of others who are being unjustly treated or condemned or dismissed as less than worthy. Our pesky Baptismal vows and the life and modeling of Jesus himself, however, call me back, remind me of the need for my own forgiveness and to get on with this Christian life I have promised to live.

After all, as the Book of Acts and 2,000 years of history teach me, those early betrayers were forgiven their folly, finally and energetically emerging as the founders of the Jesus movement, proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth, doing the works of God and forming new disciples. How about us?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Living Well in Thought, Word, and Deed

 
Living Well Through Lent - Living Compass
 

Reflection by Scott Stoner

The Prayer of Confession concludes with the following words, which are helpful as we pause and reflect on our week and our theme: “Confession is good for the soul.” 

For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.


In these words, we see the purpose of confessing our sins and the reason that “confession is good for the soul.” Our humble confession leads to forgiveness, a chance to reset the direction of our lives so that we can delight in God’s will and walk in God’s ways. 

In our Living Compass programs, we talk about how a spiritual compass helps us to check our bearings. Based on what we discover we determine whether we desire to make any changes in the direction we are heading. This Prayer of Confession serves the same purpose; it invites us to honestly and humbly self-reflect so that we can then reset our direction as needed.

Making It Personal: What did you learn this week about how con­fession is good for the soul? Is there a particular thought about this that you want to write down? Is there a conversation you want to have with someone based on what you have learned this week? What might you want to do differently going forward regarding what you have learned about confession and forgiveness this week? 


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Practicing Forgiveness with All Our Strength

 
Living Well Through Lent - Living Compass
 

Reflection by Scott Stoner

The next section of the Prayer of Confession contains these words:

We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.


Confessing that we have not loved “you with our whole heart” is really an invitation to be “all in” when it comes to loving God and our neighbor. Half-hearted loving and living, while not “wrong,” are not how God calls us to live. Irenaeus, a second-century church leader, put it this way: “The glory of God is the human being fully alive.”

 “We are truly sorry and we humbly repent” is easy to understand if we think of its opposite: a time when someone apologized to us but we could tell they didn’t mean it, that they weren’t humbled by what they did and did not own it deep down. A full experience of forgiveness and reconciliation requires true humility and full ownership of the wrong that has been committed.

The root for the word humility is humus, which means ground. When we are brave enough to be honest with God, our neighbor, and with ourselves, we are re-grounding ourselves in truth, which is the first step in the process of forgiveness, repentance, and reconciliation.

Making It Personal: As you read the three lines above, what stands out for you? Does the distinction between half-hearted and whole-hearted living make sense to you? How can you tell when you are saying you are sorry in a way that is honest and humble versus when you are doing it because you think you should?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Practicing Forgiveness with All Our Strength

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

The Prayer of Confession continues with acknowledging that there are two different ways we can sin against God and our neighbor:

… by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.


Yesterday we reflected on an expanded understanding of sin that included thoughts, words, and deeds. The portion of the prayer we are looking at today expands our understanding of sin to include not just things we have done, but things we have left undone. 

When I think of the things I have left undone, I am reminded of the ways I could have helped but didn’t—the phone call or visit I could have made but didn’t, the opportunity I had to stand up against injustice and didn’t. There are almost always good excuses for the things “we have left undone,” but the reality is we can sin against God and our neighbor as much by what we don’t do as what we do. 

Making It Personal: What stands out for you when you read the above line? Can you think of a time when you have regretted something you left undone?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Practicing Forgiveness with All Our Soul

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

Today we will reflect on the first part of the Prayer of Confession:

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed.


When we think of sin, the first thought that comes to mind is likely some type of action that is hurtful or wrong in some way. The beginning of this prayer expands the understanding of sin to include thoughts and words, as well. For example, the sin of racism can be a thought, something we say, and/or something we do that is hurtful to another.

What I find enlightening about thinking that sin can be a thought, word, or deed is that it gives us insight into how sinful actions begin. An action, positive or negative, has its roots in a thought. If I think I have no responsibility to care for my neighbor who is struggling, then my actions or lack of actions will reflect that thought. If, on the other hand, I think I have a moral responsibility to care for my neighbor, then I am much more likely to take action in a way that aligns with that thought. 

Extending this thinking to forgiveness, if I think that a conflict between myself and someone else is one hundred percent the other person’s fault, then my words and actions will reflect that. If, however, I realize that I have played a part in the conflict, then there is a greater chance that I will speak and act in a way that can lead to forgiveness and reconciliation. Given this insight, it makes sense that we confess our thoughts so that we can heal them before they become sinful words or actions. 

Making It Personal: What do you think of the idea that a sin can be a thought, word, or deed? Do you see a connection between how we think and how we speak and act? Can you think of an example from your life of how thoughts, words, and deeds are connected?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Practicing Forgiveness with All Our Heart

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

A common definition of sin is breaking God’s rules and commandments. While not disagreeing with this, I prefer a broader definition, one that defines sin as that which separates us from God and our neighbor, and that which goes against God’s will and intention for us. The Prayer of Confession from the Book of Common Prayer (p. 365) speaks of this broader understanding of sin.

Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. 

For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.


Note that the invitation asks us to confess our sins against both God and our neighbor. This is clearly connected to the two great commandments that Jesus taught us: love God and love our neighbor. We will explore each section of this prayer in greater depth during the rest of the week. Today, let’s take a moment to pray the whole prayer and reflect on its meaning for us.

Making It Personal: How do you define sin? Are you familiar with this Prayer of Confession? If so, what does it mean to you? What thoughts do you have about the opening quote?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Practicing Confession: It’s Good for the Soul

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

In yesterday’s reflection, Micah Jackson began with a story of the transformation of a mother whose son had recently enlisted in the Army. Initially, the mother was so upset that her son wondered if she would ever be able to forgive him for his choice. We learn, though, that the mother did forgive her son and in so doing, offered a gift to him as a sign of her forgiveness and as an offer of reconciliation. 

What helped the mother to change in this story? We don’t find out, but I am certain that the first step in the process was some form of honest self-reflection during which she came to a more expansive perspective, different from her initial reaction. From this expanded perspective she recognized she had hurt her son deeply—we might even say she realized she had sinned against her son—once she was able to take a step back, acknowledge her reaction, and to see that she could choose a different response. 

Our focus for this week will be reflecting on the role of confession in the process of forgiveness through the lens of the Prayer of Confession, from the Book of Common Prayer. This prayer is said every week in Episcopal churches during Sunday worship. 

“Confession is good for the soul,” says the wisdom from an old Scottish proverb. This week we will be reflecting on the practice of this wisdom in our lives.

Making It Personal: Can you think of a time when you changed your response to someone you love because you later realized your initial reaction was hurtful? If yes, how were you able to make that shift?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

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The Fifth Sunday of Lent

 
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Reflection by The Rev. Dr. Rev. Micah Jackson

When the young man told his mother that he intended to join the Army, he thought that she might never forgive him. Grief over the loss of the life path she had imagined for him, and fear for his safety, made her say some things that he hoped she really didn’t mean. Shortly before he left for Basic Training, he received a package from his mother. It contained a book of day hikes in the area around Fort Bragg. He knew that she had forgiven him. She was still sad and scared, of course, but at least she had come to peace with what still felt a little like abandonment and betrayal.

I wonder if that might have been what was going through Mary’s head when she decided to break open her jar of pure nard to anoint the feet of her friend and teacher, Jesus. When others came to understand that Jesus was determined to go to Jerusalem and would allow himself to be crucified, they all reacted selfishly. Those who rebuked him, or denied the truth of what he was saying, or rashly promised that they would accompany him to death if it meant they wouldn’t ever be without him, were all acting out of sadness, anger, or fear. But Mary, alone among those who followed him, though surely also frightened and scared, anointed his body as if on the day of his burial. Overcoming her other emotions, she was able to acknowledge her understanding of his coming death while he was still alive to experience her love. She forgave Jesus for what he was about to do tohis friends, because she understood what he was about to do forhis friends.

So often, when we experience hurt by the actions of another, we withhold our forgiveness because we still want to control the actions of the other person. We think we need them to change their minds, or make it right somehow, or at least to apologize, before we can offer forgiveness. But true forgiveness doesn’t require any of that. Many times, reconciliation is not desirable or possible, and forgiveness doesn’t mean we should continue to accept genuine harm or abuse. But forgiveness does mean releasing our desire for revenge or other kinds of control over the actions or feelings of another. At its best, our forgiveness can even bless the other person as they go, as the fragrance of Mary’s perfume filled the house where Jesus and his disciples shared a meal.


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Living Well in Thought, Word, and Deed

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

If you are like me, you sometimes take for granted that you are fortunate to have shelter—a home, apartment, or some kind of physical dwelling—a place where you get to live and sleep on a daily basis. I’m not always as appreciative as I should be about the fact that I have always been blessed to have such a shelter in my life. I also am aware that I often take for granted another type of shelter in which I live every day, and that is the shelter provided by the love of friends and family. It is this kind of shelter to which the beautiful Irish proverb is referring.

This week we have been reflecting on the ways that we can provide love and shelter within our families. We offer shelter when we practice love, gratitude, patience, and acceptance. We refuse shelter when we withhold these acts of loving kindness toward our family and friends. Many know, all too well, that sometimes within our families we have neither received, nor provided, a loving shelter. This is where forgiveness comes in, the type of forgiveness that the father offered the Prodigal Son. This story is such a compelling story of forgiveness that I think it really should be known not as the parable of the Prodigal Son, but as the parable of the forgiving father. 

The reflections for this week may have stirred up some old hurt because it is not uncommon to have unresolved pain within our families. If this is true for you, know that you are not alone. Be kind to yourself, and if you need the personal or professional support of others, please ask for it. Forgiveness and healing are always possible, even if the opportunity for reconciliation is not. 

Making It Personal: What did you learn this week about forgiveness within families? Is there a particular thought that you want to write down? Is there a conversation you want to have with someone based on what you have learned this week? Is there anything you want to do differently going forward regarding practicing forgiveness with your family? 


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
Living Well Through Lent 2019
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Practicing Forgiveness with All Your Mind

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

This passage uses the image of a forest fire to demonstrate the power that our words have on one another. How accurate it is that the words we speak to one another can provide blessing and nourishment to others, just as a small fire in the wilderness can help cook our food, or provide warmth and comfort on a chilly evening. James also reminds us that the words we speak to one another can just as quickly destroy and harm. And, like a human-caused forest fire, it does not matter if the hurtful words we use are spoken on purpose, or are spoken because we are being careless; they are destructive either way. 

As we continue to reflect on forgiveness within our families, let’s take a moment to reflect on what types of fires we are lighting with our words. Are we lighting fires that cause harm and destruction, or fires that provide nourishment and warmth? Are our words creating a blessing or a curse? 

Bill Miller referred to the familiar saying, “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence,” when he wrote that the Prodigal Son “demanded his inheritance early, just so he could sniff out the greener grass he thought was far from home.” When it comes to family wellness, as the Prodigal Son learned, there is an even truer version of this saying: “The grass is greener where we water it.” If we water the relationships in our lives with kind and generous words, they will grow in ways that are healthy and life-giving. Our words and our blessings are one of the best ways we can water the lives of those closest to us.

Making It Personal: Is there a family member or friend who could use some words of blessing from you right now? What do you think of the idea that “the grass is greener where we water it”? Are any opportunities for forgiveness presenting themselves in your life right now because of harsh words that have been spoken?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
Living Well Through Lent 2019
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Practicing Forgiveness with All Your Strength

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

It may be that we avoid the difficult conversations that can lead to forgiveness because we don’t know how to have them. Maybe we have tried to have the discussions, but they have not gone well. The above saying, a core teaching in our Living Compass Parent Wellness Circle program, provides a shorthand guide for how to have productive conversations.

Say what you mean. When we are seeking healing in a relationship, it is crucial for us to speak the “truth in love.” Avoiding or minimizing what we are feeling may buy peace in the short term, but will block healing in the long run. It is vitally important for both parties to speak their truth, to say what it is they need to say to each other.

Mean what you say. It is essential to be consistent in our words and our actions when we speak to one another. If we say we are going to commit to healing a relationship, then we need to be sure our actions align with that commitment. Reestablishing trust in a relationship requires that our words and actions align. 

Don’t say it mean. When we have been hurt and are feeling vulnerable and defensive, we are more likely to speak in a way that is mean, intended to hurt the other. This will sabotage any attempt we make to forgive and heal. The paradox is that sometimes we think that “saying it mean” will increase our chances of really being heard, when in reality it will have the opposite effect. 

Making It Personal: In general, which of the three recommendations do you find hardest to practice when having difficult conversations: “say what you mean,” “mean what you say,” or, “don’t say it mean”? When you find that you have “said it mean” to someone close to you, are you able to apologize and ask for forgiveness?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
Living Well Through Lent 2019
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Practicing Forgiveness with All Your Soul

 
Living Well Through Lent - Living Compass
 

Reflection by Scott Stoner

This proverb applies to difficult conversations within our families, as well as to planting trees. The best time for any of us to have begun a difficult conversation is several months or several years ago, at the moment when we first became aware of a difficulty that needed to be discussed. The second best time to begin that difficult conversation is today. 

Why do we avoid difficult conversations? There are likely many reasons, but I believe one primary reason is that we experience vulnerability when we have these conversations. But as long as we avoid the hard conversation, we can continue to think that we are right and, while letting our resentments brew, believe that the other person is clearly at fault and is the one who needs to change. Choosing to have a difficult conversation means that we will most likely find out that the other person has a considerably different perspective on the issue and that they believe there are some necessary changes that we need to make. We will also need to listen with an open heart, knowing that we may begin to see things differently. 

Forgiveness requires significant risk and vulnerability from all parties involved. Yet when we are willing to have those difficult conversations, real change, or conversion, can occur. The word “conversion” comes from the same root as the word “conversation,” a good reminder that authentic conversations have the capacity to change or convert all parties involved. 

Making It Personal: Why do you think it is hard for family members to have difficult conversations? What do you think of the link between the words conversionand conversation? Is there a conversation that you want to start now, but perhaps are finding it difficult to do so?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
Living Well Through Lent 2019
Join Group
 

Practicing Forgiveness with All Your Heart

 
Living Well Through Lent - Living Compass
 

Reflection by Scott Stoner

Our families know us better than anyone. All of our quirks and foibles are well-known to those with whom we are most closely connected. It is in our families that our vulnerabilities are most visible, and therein lies both the greatest opportunities and the greatest challenges to practice love and forgiveness. 

If we slightly modify the quote from William Blake, it captures the paradox of family life: it is easier to forgive a stranger than it is to forgive a family member. Why is this? Perhaps because we have much higher expectations of how family members should act and how they should treat us. Our families are also where we bring our deepest emotional needs, and when those needs are not met we can feel hurt and resentful.

When we have experienced hurt within our families, we really only have two choices of how to respond. We can talk it out, or we can act it out. If we don’t talk it out, most likely we will act it out. For example, when two family members choose not to speak to each other, they literally are acting out their hurt rather than talking it out. 

To practice forgiveness within our families, we need to be willing to be vulnerable enough to take the risk to talk things out, even when it seems easier to act it out by avoiding the hard conversations. Ephesians 4:15 says, “But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” The words “we must grow up” speak of the spiritual and emotional maturity it takes if we want to commit to and practice forgiveness within our families. 

Making It Personal: What is your response to the William Blake quote? Do you think this applies to forgiveness within families? What do you think of the idea that when it comes to hurt within our families, we have the choice to either talk it out or act it out?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
Living Well Through Lent 2019
Join Group