Thursday March 31 2016

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Scripture: Matthew 28:16-20

Key verse: (17) “When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted.”

Reflection: It was the first encounter the disciples had with the Risen Christ. Matthew tells us some worshiped him,  but some doubted. Can you blame those who doubted?  Resurrection.  It is beyond our comprehension.  So, no wonder “some doubted” this was the same Jesus, the crucified one, who had been buried.

One scholar claims that this text may be read, “When they saw him, they worshiped him and they doubted.”  I wonder if that is the way it is with us.  We worship God who has encountered us in Jesus the Christ.  Yet, even as we do so, do we also doubt, doubt that one could be raised from the dead, doubt that the Jesus who was crucified is now present and is the savior of the world?  Do we worship and doubt all at the same time?

If that is the way it is with us, we may take heart.  For Jesus comes to those who worship him and to those who doubt him.  It is these worshipers and these doubters that he trusts to be his agents in this world.  To the worshipers and doubters alike he gives the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations. To the worshipers and doubters alike he promises to be with them to the end of the age.

So, do you doubt that Jesus is Lord?  If we are honest we are bound to admit we indeed doubt, doubt a lot.  The opposite of faith is not doubt.  It is apathy — not caring.  If we doubt that means we are wrestling with the gospel truth that “He is risen and rules the world with truth and grace.”

So we worship and doubt.  That is okay with Jesus.  Let it therefore be okay with us this day.

Prayer: Lord, we believe. Help thou our unbelief. Amen.

Author: Pete Peery

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

 

 

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Wednesday March 30 2016

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Scripture: Matthew 28:1-16

Key verses: (5-10) 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Reflection: What if we were not afraid? What if we heard the words of the angel and of Jesus  and lived like we had nothing to fear, because Jesus is risen? It’s not easy to do. I’m not even sure what it looks or feels like to live that way. Even the women who found the empty tomb and got their instructions directly from an angel of God couldn’t do it. They were told, “Do not be afraid,”…but still, “they left the tomb quickly with fear…” Yet not only fear. They also left with “great joy.” And Matthew tells us they ran to tell the disciples.

Perhaps that is what it means to follow the instructions to not be afraid. Maybe all we have to do is hold on to our joy along with our fear. And then keep telling the story we know.  Keep reminding ourselves and others that Jesus is risen and, in so doing, has broken the power of sin and evil and death. We may still be afraid, but we do not lose joy or hope or peace  in the midst of it. And we don’t stop telling the good news: Come and see—he  is not here. Then go and tell!

Prayer: O Lord, may the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwell in me. Walk with me in my fear. Keep my joy in front of me. Open my mouth to tell the story of your grace and mercy and love. In the name of Jesus, the risen Lord, I pray. Amen.

Author: Julie Hester

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Tuesday March 29 2016

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Scripture: Exodus 12:28-39

Key verse: (29) “At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock.”

Reflection: For many years the story of the first Passover troubled me.  As a child I accepted this as one more scary story in scripture that reminded me what could happen if one messed with God. But, as an adult, I have come to understand that this story chronicles a great reversal of fortune  when the powerful Egyptian Empire is brought to it’s knees.  Those with power lose their power making this a story of hope for those who were (and are) oppressed. Pharaoh was the most powerful  man in the world, but he was no match for God’s power.  It’s no wonder that this story is central in the life and faith of Judaism.

Two days ago, we gathered to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.  Jesus had no power by earthly standards and certainly no power compared to the Roman Empire.  And yet, the empire didn’t have the last word.  Jesus’ love could not be destroyed.  The power of God overcame the powers of darkness.  The story of the crucifixion and the resurrection are scary stories, too!  Yet, in these stories we catch a glimpse of the “miracle of transferring power.”  We see a great reversal of power in both.  This reversal  of power continues today as faithful people share the hope of God’s great and sustaining love with those who are powerless.

Prayer: Risen Lord, we are humbled by your power to set people free.  Help us in this Easter season to be instruments of your hope and love.  Remind us that this kind of power, given by you, can change the world. In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Author: Deborah Conner

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

 

Monday March 28 2016

Monday

Scripture: Mark 16:1-8

Key verse: (3) They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’

Reflection: Walking down a lonely city street one night a very obvious looking homeless man walked toward me singing like he was Adele and I was a partially deaf fan sitting at the back of the stadium that he really wanted to ensure heard the concert:

Every little thing is gonna be all right!

Woke up this morning and smiled with the rising sun.

Every. Little. Thing. Is. Gonna. Be. Alright. This is my message to you oo oo…

I loved that Bob Marley song!  But I couldn’t sing it for a very long time after that encounter.  How could someone who was such a glaring example (warning?) of everything not going to be all right sing with such joy and gusto?  Was my street friend being ironic? Was his joyful song really a lament?  Just another existential moment fueled by cognitive dissonance that heightened the tension of our encounter?

Or, maybe like the women today in the Gospel, he had just come from that inexplicably but forever gloriously empty tomb.  Maybe he trusted what I only profess when all the evidence is in and the blessings counted: everything will be alright.  Simplistic theology for this high holy Easter holiday I know.  But the tomb-bound women who were worried with a million worries (who will roll away the stone??) were greeted with the obvious but unexpected news: He has been raised.  He is not here.  (That’s the first Easter sermon with a charge at the end to go and get everyone to Galilee).

They flee with hearts racing and tongues tied but somewhere along the way home one of them started singing “every little thing, is going to be all right.”

The good news is the best news, even and especially in a world as hurting and lost as ours.  He has been raised!  Nothing is ever the same.  Most of all, you.

Prayer: Wondrous worker of wonders, let me this day find the words and the song and the music to share and sing with all I meet:  Christ my Lord is risen. Amen and Amen and Amen.

Author: Derek Macleod

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Friday March 25 2016

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Scripture: John 19:38-42

Key verse: (40) They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.

Reflection: When Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took the body of Jesus and prepared it for burial they were performing an act of tremendous love and devotion for a dead man. They had no idea that in mere days he would be raised from the dead.

As disciples, we follow an embodied Messiah. The truth of the incarnation (God in the flesh) means we honor bodies as part of God’s good creation.  Early Christians did not idealize bodies, or romanticize bodies, or shun bodies, but instead cared for bodies, living and dead, in ways that perplexed those around them.  Our commitment to an embodied Messiah leads Christians into medical mission, and into health and wellness ministry, and into care for the dying and the dead.

Increasingly in our culture we are uncomfortable with the dying and the dead. Perhaps we avoid them because they are a witness to our mortality. We use euphemisms, like “passed away” or “lost,” to avoid talking about death directly. Unlike generations before us, and cultures all around the world, we are strangely sheltered from the reality of death and the presence of the dying and the dead.

On this Good Friday, reflect on the power of following an embodied Lord.  How do we love an embodied Messiah?  How does your belief in incarnation change the way you treat your body and the bodies of those you love?  How can you move forward to offer care instead of avoiding those who are dying?

Prayer: When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.  Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.  Amen.

(verses 1 and 4 from When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, by Isaac Watts)

Author: Millie Snyder

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Thursday March 24 2016

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Scripture:  Mark 14:12-25

Key verses: (24-26) For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Reflection: Fifteen minutes before every meeting a reminder pops up on my computer.  I get a reminder text from my dentist the week of my appointment.  My favorite app is the one that gives you a countdown to big events in your life.  Yes, I could get by without them, but it makes it easier for me to remember in this fast-paced culture.  We live at a time when we are prone to forget something.

On Maundy Thursday we are invited to remember.  We are invited to remember not just an event in history but to remember that this event happens in many times and many places.  Whenever we are at the Lord’s table we form a memory that connects us to the disciples that were at the table with Jesus. It is a communal memory, reminding us of our shared identity in Christ. It is a life-giving memory, reminding us that we were lost but now are found.  It is a transformative memory, reminding us that we are nourished by grace, forgiven in our failures and called to love. Every time we gather at the table, we are invited to remember.

Especially tonight, on this Holy Thursday, we are invited to remember — remember who we are and to whom we belong.

Prayer: God,  I am humbled and inspired by the great love expressed in your son. Guide me in my remembering so that it may transform my living for you.  Amen.

Author: Michelle Thomas-Bush

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Wednesday March 23 2016

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Scripture: Mark 12:1-11

Key verses: (5-6) Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, “They will respect my son.“

Reflection: Jesus had made his grand entry into Jerusalem on Sunday. Then he disrupted the daily business of the Temple by turning over some tables. The religious leaders (think of them as Presbyterian Clergy and Ruling Elders) began to question his authority to do such disorderly things, especially in public, during the lead up to one of the high holy days of the Jewish year. In response Jesus told them a story.

A man planted a vineyard and leased it to some tenants. (The Jewish hearers would have remembered Isaiah 5:1-7 where the people of Israel were the vineyard and God was the planter.) The owner went away leaving the tenants in charge. Eventually the owner sent a slave to collect the owner’s share of the vineyard’s production. The tenants beat up the representative of the owner and gave him nothing. The owner sent another representative who was also beaten and sent away. This happened another time and then again and again. The owner decided to send one more person to the tenants—his beloved son. But the tenants, in a weird, distorted logic, killed the owner’s son thinking that would finally get them what they wanted. “Can you imagine,” Jesus asked his listeners, “what the owner will do to the tenants now?”

It’s easy for us in our time to see the terrible analogy here of the Jewish leaders (as the tenants) rejecting the son (Jesus). We might even gloat a little that we are not like them. Or are we?

How many times has God reached out to us, yet we have rejected him? How many times has the son show up as a disturbing, disruptive, demanding force upsetting our carefully constructed religious life? How many times have we rejected him and his message? Yet God continues to reach out to us, offering in the end God’s precious, beloved Son.

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee!
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;
I crucified thee.

From the hymn: Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended
Author: Johann Heermann (1630); Translator: Robert Seymour Bridges (1897)

Prayer: Prevent us, O God, from denying our complicity in the death of your Son, our savior. Have mercy when we reject you and open our hearts to receive your persistent and steadfast love.  In the name of Jesus, the beloved Son. Amen.

Author: Von Clemans

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].