April 17, Friday

NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Pastor Shan Gian who serves as Fenway Site Pastor at Symphony Church in Boston.  He is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Monastic Bell”

Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

chelsea-francis-zhiz6G7ikN4-unsplashAs I am now isolated at home with my family, on a rare occasion during the day, I’ll have a free moment to sit down in my home office and try to do some work (like writing this devotional).  I’ll turn on my computer, open up a document like this and start writing a few words of precious wisdom and then suddenly, out of nowhere, I’ll hear the pounding of footsteps and then “DAAAADDDYYYYYY” as my 4 year old son Tyler screams.  So I’ll then run upstairs and say, “Yes Tyler?” and he’ll say, “Daddy… I didn’t take a nap!”  And I’ll say, “Ok” and then go back to my office, sit down and try to get working again.  If I’m lucky, I’ll get 15 minutes and then I’ll hear footsteps again and another “DAAAADDYYYYYY.”  At these points, all attempts of decency and civility are done with; so, I’ll just scream semi-annoyedly, “WHAT TYLER?!”  This has pretty much been my daily routine and by the way, there’s a 10 month old boy in the house too.  Every day now is a challenge to do work or have alone time or do anything without interruption.

In the monastic movements in the 12th century, there was a rule at monasteries regarding what was called the “monastic bell.”  The rule was that whenever the bell rang, all of the monks were to immediately stop doing whatever they were doing and go to do whatever they were being gathered to do.  The response was strictly to be immediate, even if they were in the middle of deep prayer or were studying the word of God.  And if they were in the middle of writing a sentence, they were to stop immediately and not finish writing that sentence.  So, why was there this insistence on dropping everything immediately at the sound of a bell?  The idea of the monastic bell was to teach the monks that their time was not their own.

As we are in this season of COVID-19, a giant metaphorical monastic bell has gone off all around the world and we’ve all been, in many ways, interrupted by this pandemic; that is, we’ve been forced to stop whatever we were doing. Whether it was our work or relationships or recreation or ministry even, we’ve all been compelled to pause in some way.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Life Together said, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.“  If we believe these words and also the words of Paul when he says “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28), perhaps we all need to recognize that God is working through the big and small interruptions in our lives today.  And one important thing He is trying to teach us is that we are not in control and our lives are not our own.

And as the monastic bell rings constantly throughout my day, with interruptions from my children, and as many of us have faced small and large interruptions to our work, education, family life and ministry and church life, it’s easy for us to grow frustrated, to lament our loss of agency, productivity and time.  But all the more, let us remember that our lives are not our own and there is a good work that God is striving to do within us.

Prayer: Jesus, it is challenging for us, but we thank you for reminders that we are not in control and that our time and our lives are not our own.  We surrender our lives and hearts to you this day.  May your will be done in our lives. AMEN

Bible Reading for Today:  Acts 18


Lunch Break Study

Read Luke 5:17-26: On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. 18 And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. 20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 25 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. 26 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”

Questions to Consider

  1. How do you think you would react and feel if you were in Jesus’ place in this narrative?
  2. How does Jesus respond?  What happens as a result of Jesus’ response?
  3. What good work do you think God wants to do through interruptions in your life?

Notes

  1. Make sure you put yourself in Jesus’ place here.  Imagine that you’re doing a teaching session.  You’re sharing the words and wisdom of God, giving elaborate illustrations and parables, doing all you can to grab the attention of your audience and praying and hoping that the word cuts to their hearts.  And then suddenly, the ROOF starts to shake and dirt and dust are coming down and then there’s a hole in the roof.  Now whatever you have been teaching has been forgotten.  My guess is that all of us would have at least some level of irritation.
  2. We have no indication of annoyance or irritation from Jesus in this passage.  He instead sees this first as a moment to bring forgiveness and healing to this paralytic man and second, he uses this as an opportunity to teach his audience, the Pharisees and teachers of the law.  We don’t know what he was teaching them before this, but I’d guess Jesus thought this was an even better teaching moment.
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

alex-loup-4N5huJDOydQ-unsplashThese days of quarantining and self-isolation have been challenging for many of us.  Our lives have been greatly interrupted.  As you close out this day, take some time to consider what God is trying to teach you in this season.  Even though it may be difficult to recognize and accept, surrender your time and heart to him.

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