Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Into The Light - Lenten Devotionals Introduction

Into the Light: Join the Conversation 
“Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.” (Isa. 58:1)

       Our communities have discovered themselves in the grips of a serious alcohol and other drug problem.  Heroin, alcohol, cocaine, and a host of other drugs are destroying families, homes, children, parents, grandparents, neighborhoods, communities and individuals. Communities are faced daily with death, destruction, hopelessness, disability, criminal behavior and prison.  The people impacted are individuals both far and near to us, our sons and daughters, our neighbors and friends. As the church and followers of Jesus Christ we are called to have a prophetic voice in our communities and speak out with authority and boldness to the tragedies around us, like the prophet “Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet!”

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we can’t allow our neighborhoods to decline around us and watch passively as our sons and daughters perish.  During this time of Lent, we take time to understand our own limitations, mortality, and our tendency to act in ways not in line with God’s way, but we also reveal our hope in repentance, forgiveness, and resurrection.  We invite you to explore the meaning of Lent and how it speaks to the epidemic of AOD abuse and dependency that surrounds our churches and communities.  As the people of God, we are called to share the good news of God’s amazing grace and love.

Alcohol and other drugs are creating a serious health and mental illness crisis, emotional pain, despair and unspeakable sinful behavior.  God does not wish us to be silent. Our call is not to speak harshly, but lovingly of the hope and grace that comes by facing our sin. The prophet Isaiah is telling God’s people that redemption and restoration is possible.

God is telling us just as God once told the Israelites what was needed: help the poor, free those in bondage, give food to the hungry and clothes to the naked. These are acts of true repentance. These are acts of faith that arise only from a heart that has turned around to face God.  As Christ’s church if we engage ourselves in the work God is calling us out to do, we will experience the wonderful things of God in our midst as the prophet tells us, “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.”  (v.8)

Lent provides us the opportunity to discover new avenues of faith and discipleship.  Lent provides a time to explore a deeper understanding of discipleship and how God is calling us to serve and where God is sending us.  This Lenten journey should never be easy, but challenging and joyful.  These Lenten journeys can help us gain a better appreciation of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and the power of the resurrection, which gives us life, not just after death, but life in the here and now.  Eternity starts today.  We hope you will find these devotions helpful in strengthening your faith and discipleship. 

Don’t keep what you read, pray, think and experience a secret (at least not all of it). Please leave your comments on this blog and share your journey through Lent.  Share your thoughts and ideas about the daily selections with others and pray for the future ministry and mission of your church and your life together as the Body of Christ.  Use this time of Lent to give God the opportunity to speak to your heart and life in some unique and surprising ways.

 Suggestions for Using the Devotions

1.  Set aside time each day to read the selection for the day, time to think about it and time to pray.
2.  Give yourself time to sit quietly and simply rest in the presence of God.  Give God the opportunity to speak to your heart.  Listen for God’s still small voice speaking within your prayers. “I keep the LORD always before me;”  (Psalm 16:8)
3.  We most likely know at least five individuals and/or families who have been impacted by alcohol and other drug abuse and dependency.  Write those names on a note card and make a point to pray for these individuals and families daily.  Consider sharing with them a link to this blog in an e-mail message and invite them to attend worship with you.  Pray that God might use you as a witness in their lives. 
4.  Pray for all those you know who are sick, ill, injured, lost or having any problems in their lives.
5.  Keep a prayer journal and record all the people and areas of your prayers.  Make a point to record God’s response to your prayers. 
6.  Pray for the all ruling elders on the Session who have been called to lead your congregation.  Pray that God will empower them as spiritual leaders for your congregation.  Pray that God will give them vision, knowledge and purpose as they do their work for the mission and ministry of the church in the twenty-first century.
7.  And pray for your pastor.  Pray that God will make them better preachers, better teachers, and better pastors to all they meet, giving Glory to God in all that they do. 
Daily Lectionary Readings listed for each devotion are modified selections from the Two-Year Daily Lectionary (Book of Common Worship, Year 1).  The daily lectionary readings are not intended to directly relate to the subject of the devotion for the day.
All scripture quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted. "New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved."


Bios of Lenten Devotional Contributors
Lynn Mance is a Ruling Elder at Delmont Presbyterian Church and a Redstone Presbytery Authorized Preacher.  Her family history includes alcoholism.  She has a heart for those who struggle with addiction and wants to help in this drug epidemic.
Lee McDermott is pastor of the McClellandtown and Grace Chapel Presbyterian Churches in Fayette County.  He has 30+ years of experience in addictions counseling, treatment and prevention.
Sue Washburn is the pastor of Reunion Presbyterian Church in Mount Pleasant, PA and the current moderator of Redstone Presbytery.
Cathy Ritter is a member and Ruling Elder in First Presbyterian Church, Johnstown, PA. She has a heart for the city and is in the trenches, easing the pain of the most vulnerable in our society.
Elizabeth Comer is Director of Clinical and Case Management Services for the Westmoreland Drug and Alcohol Commission.  Elizabeth has worked in the drug and alcohol field since 2006 with prior experience working in mental health, medical social work, and the IDD field.   
Susan Perry is a wife, mother, grandmother, a retired attorney, and currently the Moderator of the Presbytery of West Virginia.
Walter Maynard is a Ruling Elder from the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Greensburg, PA
Rev. Richard “Skip” Noftzger is Executive Presbyter and Stated Clerk of Redstone Presbytery.  Visit Skip’s blog Flowing "Grace and Truth"...in Him....
Donna Havrisko is the pastor of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greensburg, PA.
Alice Tondora is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Johnstown.
Andrea Andi Falcone is a Yoga Teacher, Reiki Master and Thai yoga Bodywork Practitioner, but most importantly, a spiritual warrior saint in recovery. She resides in rural Appalachia, Lost River WV. Her Recovery began with the 12 step programs (AA/NA) then exacerbated with Yoga, to release the "issues from the tissues".