Lent Devotional: Cloud

Midday at New World UMC, Arlington

In the book of Hebrews, there is a reference to something called a “cloud of witnesses.” In chapter 12, it says “So then, with endurance, let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us.” What does that phrase mean to you? A cloud of witnesses is not something we might talk about often, but it is the reason that we are here together.

From the very beginning, people of faith have been sharing their stories with one another. As generation passes on the story to next generation, the lineage of our faith continues. Because people of faith shared the songs, stories, scriptures, and theological ideas with their family, friends and neighbors, we know the same stories today. We have our faith heritage today because people before us passed it to us.

We are each indebted to a heavenly throng of people who endured their own journeys of faith. Personally, I’m grateful for the women and men of faith who made it possible for me to be a clergyperson today. As we, the Body of Christ, endure our current circumstances, may we be encouraged to run our race with faithfulness.

Scripture Reading: “ so then, with endurance, let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfector. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God‘s throne. Think about the one who endured such opposition from sinners so that you won’t be discouraged and you won’t give up.” -Hebrews 12:1-3 CEB

Prayer: Holy God, thank you for the people of faith who came before us (our cloud of witnesses) and shared their stories. May we be encouraged to share our faith with one another. For Your glory we pray, Amen.

Reflection Questions: Who is it in your life that has shared faith with you? How did you learn what you know about God? Who can you share your story with?

Sunset at Iona Abbey, Scotland

Lent Photo Challenge 2020

It’s no secret that one of my favorite spiritual practices is to integrate art and faith – including the art and imagery of photography. Lent, the reflective, somber season of preparation before Easter’s arrival, is a perfect time to pause and be thoughtful.

How is God at work in your daily life? Show us through a photo.

Beginning on Wednesday, you are invited to participate alongside me in a Lenten photo challenge:

lent photo challenge 2020

How it works: Each day is assigned a different word. The words are intentionally open-ended, open to your interpretation. Take a photo that makes you think of the day’s word. You can explain it or not, that’s up to you. You can participate every day, or just when a particular word speaks to you. Just post the photo with the hashtag “NWUMCLent” on your social media of choice so we can find it and share it.

It is my hope and prayer that you will pause, reflect and grow a bit closer to God in the journey.

Bonus: The theme of our Lenten sermon series at New World UMC is “Giving Up.” (I preach on 3/8, 3/15 and 4/12 if you want to show up in real life!) Rev. Leslie Byrd and I will be creating daily devotionals to go with each photo challenge word. I’ll post them here too – so feel free to follow this blog for a daily Lenten devotional to bless your day!

With great love,

Erin

A Blessing for My iPhone

Man using mobile global network connection on social media virtual screen. Digital technology and networking.Bless to me, O God, my iPhone and its many applications;

Bless to me, O God, the texting apps that connect me to my loved ones;

Bless to me, O God, the navigation apps that safely guide me where You lead;

Bless to me, O God, the Find my iPhone app that enables me to secretly check on my teenage son’s safe arrival while still allowing him space to grow;

Bless to me, O God, the Tile app that helps me find my keys when I get so busy I misplace them;

Bless to me, O God, meditation apps that promote mindfulness;

Bless to me, O God, Bible apps that give me access to your word when I need it;

Bless to me, O God, the Google app that enables me to look up unfamiliar terms and gain deeper understanding;

Bless to me, O God, camera apps that allow me to capture and remember the beauty of your creation;

and Bless to me, O God, the Do Not Disturb feature that keeps my phone silent as I rest.

-Rev. Erin Sloan Jackson, written at the North Texas 5 Day Academy of Spiritual Formation 2018

Tree – Thought to get you through the day

“The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.” Acts 5:30 (Common English Bible) 

A wise church member shared this thought with me on Sunday:

“It’s not all the gifts under the tree that matter, it’s the Gift that came on a tree.”

In case you haven’t heard, there are only 12 shopping days left between now and Christmas. Yep, the “doorbuster specials” are long gone and we’re in the “last minute shopping” territory! 

It is so easy to get caught up in the frenzy of last minute shopping, isn’t it? Companies who sell us stuff are counting on this.

But I hope you’ll find time to remember the real reason for the season, the gift that came on a tree, Jesus Christ. It’s not about all the stuff.

Today I challenge you to take a moment to just look, really look, at a tree…or consider the birds of the air. Remember that God is the kind of God who is faithful to provide for all of our needs. We don’t need to be harried,  and rushed. We have all the Gift we need.