4th Sunday of Lent

Psalm 23 (NLT)

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

A Thought

When I reflect on Psalm 23, I think of David watching his sheep, feeling peaceful and content and writing the words, “The Lord is my shepherd…” I imagine him sitting, content, and reflecting on the goodness of God. The setting of the writing of Psalm 23 that I imagine couldn’t be further from David’s reality. David didn’t write this Psalm while he was shepherding sheep. He wasn’t content and he certainly wasn’t peaceful.

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A Change in Plans

Matthew 1:19-24 (NLT)

 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.

A Thought

Joseph made a decision. He put a plan into place. He was about to take action, and it made perfect sense to him. It was a culturally appropriate and even-handed approach to this awkward situation, yet still honored this young woman who found herself in a difficult position.

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Introducing Joseph

Matthew 1:18-21, 24 (NLT)

Joseph, to whom she (Mary) was engaged, was a righteous man…

A Thought

If you could have any words written on your tombstone, what would they be? He loved his kids? He was rich? He was kind? He was a selfish SOB? He lit up a room the moment he walked in? Or, taking a line from the old joke about the hypochondriac, “I told you I was sick”?

For me, Joseph’s grand introduction would work just fine, “He was a righteous man”? Yes. That will do quite well.

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Because You Believe

Luke 1:39-45 (NLT)

A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

A Thought

There must have been something special about this family. After all, Mary and Elizabeth were relatives in some fashion. By many accounts, they were believed to be cousins. Whatever the connection, they were obviously close enough to share a common experience in this moment.  Elizabeth would soon give birth to the Elijah of his age; one who would herald the coming of the King, and Mary would soon give birth to Jesus, the long awaited Messiah.

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Great Expectations

Luke 1:31-33 (NLT)

You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!

A Thought

The bar is set pretty high for this kid, isn’t it? Most of us hope for children with all their fingers and toes. We have dreams for our children that usually include college, good jobs, beautiful families, and happiness. In a few short words, Gabriel sets out a plan that is beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.

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Favored One

Luke 1:28-30 (NLT)

Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!

A Thought

Only three people in the entire Bible are noted to have found “favor with God”.

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A Minor with a Major Role

Luke 1:26-28 (NLT)

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee,  to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.  Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

A Thought

The question has never been answered fully. Scholars and theologians throughout the ages have debated without resolution: What was so special about Mary?

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A Season of Peace

Psalm 95:6-7 (NLT)

Come, let us worship and bow down.
    Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
    for he is our God.
We are the people he watches over,
    the flock under his care.


While I’ve known many people who raise sheep, I’ve known only one true shepherd in my lifetime.

Ed Laughlin was the gardener and master-craftsman to a rich toothpaste creator. One of Ed’s duties was to care for the herd of sheep on the estate. As he caringly crafted a wonderland of woodland beauty on this massive property, he also fell in love with the sheep who were under his care.

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