Mission Devotional - February 10, 2016

Opening Prayer: Gracious God, today begins a period of inner reflection and examination. The days stretch before me and invite me inward to that silent, holy space that holds your Spirit. This special time beckons me to see my life through Christ's eyes and the truth and reality of your love incarnate. Give me the grace to enter the space of these days with anticipation of our meeting. And, when I open my soul to your presence, let your loving kindness flow over me and seep into the pockets of my heart. I ask this for the sake of your love.

Scripture: Joel 2:12-17

Journal: What do the words of the Scriptures today do in you? What does returning to God mean to you today? What does it mean to you this season? What do you need to leave behind?

Reflection: In Christian tradition, one of the most solemn days of the church year is Ash Wednesday, when believers enter a season of preparation for Easter by confronting their own mortality. That this season lasts forty days is no mistake. Those who follow Jesus are meant to follow him into the wilderness, where they too may be tested.

For me, at least, the peak of the service comes when the priest invites the congregation forward to the altar rail to receive ashes on our foreheads. Those of us who have done it before know that we are being invited to our own funerals. Kneeling shoulder to shoulder at the rail, we wait our turn, hearing the priest say to others what will soon be said to us. "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return," the priest says to me, making the sign of the cross on my forehead.

Because she has just dipped her thumb in the cup of ashes, I get the full dose. Extra ashes fall on the bridge of my nose. I worry for a moment about how silly I will look when I stand up and turn around. Then I get the sudden urge to ask for more, to ask for a whole bowl of ashes on my head. But it is not yet my turn for a whole bowl. For now, all I get is a taste of death, while there is still time to say please and thank you to the Giver of all life.

Popular religion focuses so hard on spiritual success that most of us do not know the first thing about the spiritual fruits of failure. When we fall ill, lose our jobs, wreck our marriages, or alienate our children, most of us are left alone to pick up the pieces. Even those of us who are ministered to by brave friends can find it hard to shake the shame of getting lost in our lives. And yet if someone asked us to pinpoint the times in our lives that changed us for the better, a lot of those times would be wilderness times. (An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor)

Hymn for the Day

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Pete and Ruth Mitchell are church planters in Marseille under the auspices of Mission to the World (MTW) and in collaboration with the Eglise Réformée Evangélique de France (French Reformed Evangelical Church). Pete's role is that of team leader. The Mitchells have recently moved to Toulouse to plant a new church. Pete recently presented plans for the church plant in West Toulouse to the National Evangelism Committee of the French denomination UNEPREF. Pray today for the MTW France team to live out God's grace both individually and corporately: caring for one another, putting other's interests first, and offering genuine forgiveness.

The goals of Kentucky Mountain Mission (KMM) and Youth Haven Bible Camp are two-fold: to reach the children and adults of southeastern Kentucky with the gospel of Jesus Christ and to train/disciple those that receive Christ for Christian leadership in their churches and communities. Pray today for these ministries and their leaders William & Dawn Owen and Andy & Erin Owen.

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, as we enter this season of Lent, give us the courage and the strength to fully face both our sinfulness and our great need of your mercy and grace. May these next days and weeks help us to see the high cost of our sin, and the unfathomable depths of your love. In your name we pray. Amen.