Wednesday 9 April

Romans 8:6-11

“I’m not religious but I am spiritual” we might hear people say, or we might even say of ourselves. What might this mean? Perhaps it means that ‘religion’ represents the formal institutional life and structure of the Christian Church, or of one of the other Living Faiths like Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, while to be ‘spiritual’ means to have some deep personal sense of connection with a divine power which seems important or even life-giving. The suggestion is that such a sense of ‘divine power’ does not come through ‘organised religion’. In fact, people may well consider that ‘religion’ and ‘spiritual’ are opposites of each other. Perhaps, today more than previously, people do not want to connect with institutional faiths, and especially with the Church which has

been shamed publicly by the abuses of its powerful leaders against powerless children.

For the apostle Paul, the word ‘religion’ does not exist, but the word ‘spiritual’ does. By this word, Paul means a way of life, empowered by the Spirit of God to be lived in response to God’s love. For Paul, the opposite of ‘spiritual’ is ‘flesh’, where the word ‘flesh’ is used, not as we commonly use it, but to mean ‘a life lived without any thought for God’. In this sense, the whole of one’s life and not just a segment of it, and the whole of one’s time and not just occasional moments, are intended to be ‘spiritual’ – shaped by the Spirit in response to the love of God.


How might you give expression to a ‘spiritual life’ in the context where you live?


Empower our lives, O God, by your Holy Spirit, that in all we do, we might display our love for you. 


Tuesday 8 April

Psalm 130 

It is not uncommon for people to turn to God when they need help, whether or not they have much of an active belief in God. Sometimes it may be a last resort, when nothing or no- one else seems to offer any help.

It may seem that this is what is happening here in this Psalm. Certainly it begins with a loud cry for help from a position of desolation. But the cry of the Psalmist is not a ‘last-resort’ cry for help – it is a ‘first-resort’ cry, and it is uttered from the depths of the Psalmist’s being, confident that God will act to bring about release and relief. The Psalmist has come to know that this God to whom he cries is a God who is passionately in love with him, and that this love will translate into a power to liberate and overcome. This is so, not only for the Psalmist, but for all people …which is why this prayer is now among the psalms, still being prayed by the people of God down through the generations.


Do you make time and space in your prayers to cry out to God from the depths of your experience, in the confidence of liberation? How might this also find expression in the life of a church community? What might we cry out about? 


In the midst of desolation O God, bring liberty; in the midst of life’s shadows, bring light; in the midst of dying and death, bring life and hope. 



Monday 7 April

Ezekiel 37:7-14

The word ‘Ezekiel’ means ‘God strengthens’. Ezekiel was aptly named; he was a prophet of the people of Israel in the period around 600 years before the birth of Jesus, at a time of great tribulation and destruction of the nation. He was among several thousand Jews who were exiled to Babylon just a few years before the catastrophe of the downfall of Jerusalem and its temple in 587; this downfall marked the end of Israel’s nationhood and crushed any remaining sense of being a chosen people of God. It was in this period of exile that Ezekiel received the call to be a prophet to his people. The story in chapter 37 recounts the nature and purpose of Ezekiel’s calling: in the midst of a people utterly drained of any sign of life (skeleton-like), he is to speak a word of prophecy – the promise of new life, a victory over the power of the grave. And so it happened.


Have you ever had an ‘Ezekiel-like’ experience when someone has spoken a word to you which has brought a new strength and unexpected ‘life’? 


O God, we give you thanks that not even death can silence your life-creating word. Help us to know you as one who strengthens us to live, and bring your strength to all who have become like skeletons. 



Sunday 6 April

Ezekiel 37:1-6

The words which are spoken and heard between people are not neutral – the have some form of power – they may inform and illuminate, they may confuse and upset, they can provoke warmth and joy, they can provoke anger and sadness, they can build up and they can drag down, they can give ‘life’ and they can bring ‘death’. In the Old and New Testaments, there is an understanding that the Christian God is a speaking God – one who, through this speaking, brings about the life-giving purposes which God has in mind. (Note for example, that in Genesis 1, God gives life to the world simply through speech: ‘Let there be …’).

The word ‘prophet’ is often understood as referring to someone who is able to predict the future. While that is frequently what a prophet often seems to do, the word itself literally means ‘to speak out’ – and in the context of the prophetic books of the Old Testament, the prophets are those who ‘speak out’ the Word of God, and in doing so, bring about the purposes of God.


One of the main reasons why Christians gather for worship is to hear the speech of God, confident that God keenly desires to speak into our lives and to bring a word which brings new life. This may come in song, in prayer, in proclamation. When and how might this have happened to you?


O God, speak to us the word we need to hear, and so shape us into the people you want us to be. 



Saturday 5 April

Psalm 23:4-6

Such is the assurance which comes from knowing that God is shepherding the people that they can then declare their readiness to journey even through ‘the darkest of all valleys’, comforted and strengthened by ‘the rod and the staff’ of God. For the Christian church, this declaration is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ whose journey took him to the deepest and darkest valley of desolation and death, then to be raised from the dead as the source of hope – the Good Shepherd – for all of us. This same Jesus, crucified and risen, is now the rod and the staff of God, assuring us that not even the worst of hell and death can ultimately consume us.


In what ways have you been (or are you now being) called to enter into ‘the darkest valley’?


Good Shepherd, who will never forsake us, grant to us the assurance and the courage to walk the path which takes us into the valleys of darkness and death. 



Friday 4 April

Another  reflections from the US….


The Strength of God Accompanies Us                               

 Isaiah 50:4-9a

 This text reads like an Old Testament version of Matthew 5:39. Just as Jesus instructs us to turn the other cheek when we are struck, the words of Isaiah tell us to turn our backs to those who lash out against us, give them our cheeks when they pull out our beards (words that particularly stand out to me), and do not hide from insults and spitting. But more importantly, the author is letting us know that God will be with us through all our trials and tribulations.

During the Lenten season, we challenge ourselves to become better. Whether we give up things or take things on, we attempt to better our faith and ourselves. And throughout our own personal trials in this time, God is always with us. God accompanies us on our faith journeys as we struggle to find connections with the Holy in our lives. By embracing God in our journey, we know we cannot be disgraced. With God, we cannot be put to shame. With God, we will always be vindicated. With God, we can stand up to challenges and will not be declared guilty because God has helped us.

The strength of God and the Holy Spirit runs through us now and at all times. As we continue to struggle to get closer to the Divine and to better ourselves, we can have comfort that God is already accompanying us and always pulling us closer. The strength of God is with us now and forever. Amen!

Cameron Highsmith  

SFTS M.Div. Senior 



Thursday 3 April

Ephesians 5:8-14

The language of light and darkness is striking language of contrasts. For the apostle Paul, writing to the Ephesian church community, the impact of the gospel of Jesus Christ is such that it brings into the world the possibility of a new and different lifestyle, so new and so different that it seems like the long-awaited arrival of God’s ‘light’. Everything beforehand seems like darkness. But this ‘enlightened’ life is not automatic, it is a constant calling. And it is not a call to separate oneself from the world of darkness, but a call to a courageous life in the midst of darkness, and a call to ‘expose’ that darkness. Therefore Paul, having declared that the church in Ephesus is a community of ‘enlightened’’ people, calls on that same community to make every effort to live in the way of the light.


What might be the marks of a church community which is living an ‘enlightened life’? What are the areas of darkness that need to be exposed?


Give to us, O Lord, the courage to challenge and expose the darkness of the world, through the power of your Holy Spirit. 

Can People Live on Only Sunlight



Wednesday 2 April

A reflection I received from San Francisco Theological Seminary and one I like a lot.

The Blessing of Tears to Shed                              

 John 11:1-44

 On Ash Wednesday, I wrote about a Franciscan benediction that begins, “May God bless us with discomfort.” The benediction’s third blessing goes like this: “May God bless us with tears to shed.”


May God bless us with tears to shed – with those who mourn,

                so that we might reach out our hand in comfort

                as they journey from pain to joy.”*


When I took the Gospels class at SFTS, Professor Ann Wire encouraged us to imagine the gospel stories as they must have been told orally over the years leading up to the writing down of the gospels. Most scholars, after all, believe that there were at least 40-50 years between the life of Jesus and the writing of the canonical gospels. Someone was telling these stories.

I can imagine folks telling this story of Lazarus. Can’t you? “Do you remember the time that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead?” “Do you remember the time when Martha and Mary sent to Jesus because Lazarus was deathly ill, but Jesus came too late?” “Do you remember what Martha said to Jesus, how she called him Christ?” “Do you remember what Mary said to Jesus, how she called him out for taking his time?” “Do you remember how Jesus raged and wept and cried out?” “Do you remember how he called out into the tomb and how Lazarus walked out – living?” “Do you remember how Jesus had us help unbind Lazarus?” I can imagine them telling this story.

Maybe take a few minutes and tell the story to yourself. What do you remember?

As my imagination takes its own course, I wonder: Would they have told the story if Lazarus had NOT walked out of the tomb? What if the story played out in all its particularity, but it ended with Jesus raging and weeping and crying out at the tomb? What if the story ended there? Would they have told that story?

I think they would.

I think we would.

That story would go like this: “Do you remember the time that Jesus wept with us?”

Do you remember the time that Jesus the Christ wept with us?

For me, that is actually the second most miraculous and healing thing in the whole story.

Maybe even the first.

 * The last line of the blessing reflects a slight adaptation by me. In most sources I’ve found, this third blessing blesses us with tears to shed with those that mourn so that we may “transform their pain to joy.” The blessing as written here leaves time and space and agency with each of us as we mourn.

Rev. Scott Clark 

SFTS Chaplain and Associate Dean of Student Life 



Tuesday 1 April

John 9:1-12

Each of the miracles recorded in John’s gospel is called ‘a sign’. That means, it points beyond itself to a deeper meaning. Here in this story, a man born blind is given sight in order to point to the fact that Jesus is the light of the world – in him, God has come into the midst of the world’s darkness – in all its many and varied forms – and has transformed the darkness into light. Jesus disagrees with his disciples that the man’s blindness is God’s punishment for sinfulness – for Jesus, God is not a harsh punishing God but a light-giving and life-giving God. This is made vividly clear, not only in this story, but in Jesus’ death and resurrection which is the climax of all God’s miracles, the miracle which ‘signifies’ that God has won a victory over all powers of darkness, even death. 


What does it mean to you that, far from being judgmental and punishing, God is determined to be one who brings light and life to you, to your community, to the world?


We give you thanks, O God, that you are a God of life and light. Come to us and renew us; come to our loved ones and renew them; come and renew the whole world. 



Monday 31 March

1 Samuel 16:6-13

In the mind of Jesse and of Samuel, David, as the youngest of the sons of Jesse, is not even considered a candidate for election as king, especially next to his impressive older brothers. But the ways of God are so often at odds with cultural wisdom, human expectations or common sense. Here, the youngest becomes the elected one – the last becomes the first. Snatched from the rural fields of shepherding, and without preparation, David is suddenly anointed to the vocation of being Israel’s king. But he can only take up that daunting role because the one who chooses him also equips him – with the gift of the Spirit which comes ‘mightily’ upon him. Perhaps the calling of all God’s servants has the same character – bestowed on people unexpectedly, and achievable only because of the Spirit of God. 


Perhaps your own call to serve God seems unexpected or foolish? Do you have trust that God will fulfil that call through the Spirit of God?


God, you called David to be king, and you call us to be your servants today, equip and renew us in your service through the might of your Holy Spirit.