Thursday, April 17, 2014

Devotional 4-17-14

April 17, 2014


 “. . .let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely. . .looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who . . .endured the cross, disregarding its shame. . .Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.”    (Hebrews 12:1-3)

A long hard winter!  A season of discipline we call Lent!  World events, city and state issues, lives impacted by suffering and death all around us!    And now in the middle of Holy Week – we remember that God through Jesus Christ gives purpose and meaning toAnchor all of this we call life.

One of my favorite writers, Sr. Joan Chittister OSB, giving commentary to the Rule of Benedict says, “Holiness is not an excuse to avoid responsibility.  Spirituality is not an escape from life.  Spirituality leavens life.  Spirituality is what stabilizes us in the middle of confusion and gives us energy to go on doing what must be done even when the rest of life taxes and fatigues and separates us from our own resources.”  (Insight for the Ages)

As we observe again the story of Jesus’ last earthly week – the gathering with his disciples in the Upper Room, his arrest, suffering, death, and his resurrection – we are reminded that we experience life and knowing his presence do not grow weary or lose heart.

A friend and colleague of mine reminded me earlier in Lent of a prayer by Thomas Merton, the 20th century Trappist monk and writer:

 “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
 I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for certain
 where it will end.  Nor do I really know myself, and the fact
 that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I
 am actually doing so.
 But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
 And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
 I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
 And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though
 I may know nothing about it.  Therefore I will trust you always though
 I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear,
 for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my
 perils alone.”   (Thoughts in Solitude)

In the middle of this Holy Week, may the writer of Hebrews speak to our souls –
“Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.”  (12:3)

Dr. William H. Wilson (Bill)

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Devotional 4-15-14

FACING DEATH
 
All of us have one thing in common---we all will die.  Some will die young but most of us will live a long life. There comes a time in one's late middle age when we probably think about it more often.  I remember I said, "when I leave this world.." and my older grandson said, "Where are you going?"  I had to backtrack and promise that I would never die. He is older now and I am sure he knows that I cannot keep that promise. Will it be peaceful or will it be painful? Will I know it is happening? or will I be asleep? Will I  be remembered?  Will I be missed?  All of us probably think about these questions.  But none of us really know how the end will be.  Jesus did.

Jesus was a young man when he arrived in Bethany six days before Passover. A banquet was prepared in his honor.  Martha served and Lazarus sat at the table with him.  Mary took a costly perfume to wash Jesus' feet and dried his feet with her hair. But Judas (the one who would betray Jesus) said that the perfume was worth a fortune. It should be sold and the money given to the poor.  He really did for care for the poor that much and was known to help himself to the disciples' funds. But Jesus said for Judas to leave her alone.  She did it in preparation of his burial. He then said that he would not be with them very long.

Jesus rode along on the back of a young donkey, fulfilling the prophesy.  He spoke of his death as a kernel of wheat falling in the furrows of the earth but his death would produce many wheat kernels--a plentiful  harvest of new lives. He could not ask God to save him from what was ahead when it is the very reason why he came. He even spoke of how he would be lifted up on the cross.  He even knew how he would die. He knew on the night before the Passover Day would be his last. Jesus even told Judas to hurry, "Do it now."

Could we face what Jesus knew about his death?  I think not. He was human, he probably was very frightened but he still followed what he was meant to do.  I am sure he hurt to see his mother's face as she watched.  But he fulfilled the prophesy.  Our deaths seem minor compared to the pain and suffering he did for us. He died so that we might live again.

Let us pray:
            Heavenly Father,
            Please help us to remember the gift of your son for all of us.
            Let us never take it for granted.
            Amen
Carol Brown

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Devotional 4-12-14

Take My Mother Home

John 19:26–27

26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Francis Hall Johnson was born in Athens, Georgia, on March 12, 1888, to Alice Sansom Johnson and William Johnson, an African Methodist Episcopal bishop.  Hall showed musical talent at an early age and studied piano. In 1910 he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in music. Hall taught violin, played in orchestras, and founded the Hall Johnson Choir which performed in films such as Lost Horizon, Dumbo, and Cabin in the Sky. In 1951 he composed his Easter cantata, The Son of Man. One of the numbers from that cantata was “Take My Mother Home”, a spiritual made famous by Harry Belafonte on his album Belafonte, recorded by RCA Victor in 1956. To hear it, go to youtube.com.

“TAKE MY MOTHER HOME” by Hall Johnson
I think I heard Him say, when He was struggling up the hill
I think I heard Him say, take my mother home
Then I'll die easy, take my mother home
I'll die so easy, take my mother home.

I think I heard Him say, when they was raffling off His clothes
I think I heard Him say, take my mother home
I think I heard Him cry, when they was nailing in the nails
I think I heard Him cry, take my mother home

I'll die this death on Calvary, ain't gonna die no more
I'll die on Calvary, ain't gonna die no more
Ain't gonna die no more

I think I heard Him say, when He was giving up the ghost
 I think I heard Him say, please, take my mother home
Please, take my mother home

For six decades I have listened to the Easter story as it was read, sung, or projected on film. All forms of the story have molded my understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice for my sake. But the four-year-old inside me who first heard Belafonte’s rendition has always pictured a tortured Mary at the base of the cross watching her son die.  The mother in me aches for Mary.

Jesus, the son of God, was crucified. I can never repay that.  The child of God that I am gets that. Jesus, the son of Mary, was crucified. I can never repay that either.  The mother that I am gets that even more.
Prayer – Heavenly Father, thank you for your son and the sacrifice you both made for me. Thank you also for all those who raised him, followed him, loved him. I owe a debt I can never repay. Amen

Information from New Georgia Encyclopedia

Becky Warren

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Devotional 4-9-14


Luke 23:26 (NIV) “As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.”

Have you ever wondered about Simon, this man from Cyrene, who was pulled from the crowd to carry the cross for Christ’s crucifixion?

Simon had come a long way to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. Cyrene was an ancient Greek colony under Roman rule, located on the northeastern coast of present-day Libya. It was nearly 900 miles from Jerusalem, so it must have been important to Simon to have traveled so far.

Simon most likely had heard of Jesus, and no doubt was curious to find Him as he made his way through the large crowd. He heard talk amongst the people that Jesus was on his way to his own crucifixion. But if this man called Jesus was the promised Messiah, why was He about to be crucified? Simon’s answers would have to wait. He was pulled from the crowd by Roman soldiers, who ordered him to carry Christ’s cross.

We are filled with sorrow and disbelief when we read or see portrayed the suffering Jesus endured. His flogging had been cruelly administered, and He would have had open, bleeding wounds. He had been awake for hours, and most likely had had nothing to eat or drink since The Last Supper with His disciples. And so it’s safe to believe that He walked very slowly and in great pain as Simon carried the cross behind Him.

What would Simon have been thinking? He saw the wounds, he heard the noisy crowd shouting at Jesus, but he also noticed many who were weeping. What had happened to place Jesus here? And how long would Jesus suffer on this heavy cross he’d been told to carry? Unlike us, Simon may not have ever known or heard the complete story.

And it is painful to try to comprehend what Jesus was thinking or feeling during His last hours here on earth. We’ve learned from the apostles that He knew what was to happen to him. And He was deserted and betrayed by the disciples, who were his closest friends. How totally alone He must have felt!

With mixed feelings of sadness, then joy, it is good that we hear this story every year during Lent. We hear of and acknowledge Christ’s supreme sacrifice for us. We are reminded by His suffering that He died for us. We grasp the importance of His forgiveness. And we rejoice in His Resurrection and the assurance of eternal life.

Almighty Father, the time is coming when we will again hear the whole story of Christ’s death and resurrection. May its significance remain in our hearts through the rising of the Son on Easter morning.
Amen
Diane Feaganes

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Monday, April 07, 2014

Devotional 4-7-14

EASTER HOPE

In discussing with a journalist friend of mine what our topic of conversation would be when he joined me on my talk show, we agreed that whatever the "crisis du jour" turned out to be on that day would be our subject. What a sad commentary on our world, each day bringing news of yet another catastrophe; uprisings and rebellions, massacres and invasions abroad, weather related devastation, floods, tornadoes, earth slides, political dissension nationally. Is there an answer? Yes, indeed.

We are a Christian community, what can we do in this sorrowful world? We can't control the weather (which is a good thing, we would never agree on it), We cannot control what happens in other countries although sometimes it seems as though we would like to do so. Can we agree on political compromise, or at least listen to what others have to say? Can we be less judgmental of others?

It seems to me that in this Easter season we as Christians have the opportunity to show our little part of the world that there is hope, that in the deepest, darkest days of despair after Christ's crucifixion a new day dawned. We cannot avoid the "crises du jour" whether they be personal, national or international, but we can put our hope and trust in our risen Savior. We can share that hope with others by the joy we show after the bleak devastation of Good Friday when comes Easter Sunday and therein lies the hope of the world. HALLELUJAH, CHRIST AROSE! 

Jean Dean

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Friday, April 04, 2014

Devotional 4-4-14

Nearly 2/3 of the way through Lent, we come across Psalm 130, a lament of one of the poets of Israel in distress.  It has a reflective tone that invites the reader to consider the dark places that come to our lives.  At the same time, it invites a tone of hope that in our deepest, darkest moments, God hears our cries and our prayers.  Why would the poet compose this prayer if there were not a profound belief that God is always listening.

Out of the depths we cry to you, O Lord
Lord, hear our common voice
Let your ears, O Lord, be attentive to the voice of our prayers
If you O Lord should take note of our sin, who could remain standing
But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered
We wait for you, Lord; our souls stand watch for you.
In your word is our hope
Our souls wait for you, Lord
more than those who watch for the morning
We call ourselves and one another to find hope in you
 for with you there is steadfast love
In you, Lord, is the great power of our redemption.  We place before you our sin, trusting that you will remove it from us and redeem us all

Ruth Duck has composed a song "Out of the Depths" that captures a modern truth which is that God's loving heart is eternally open to us and that our life within a worshiping community is one in which we find safety with people whom we can trust to hold us together when the depths of pain or sorrow or grief are threatening.  If you want to sing it, the text is modified slightly to fit a familiar tune #623 in the UM hymnal, "Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face".  Let this be today's prayer.


Out of the Depths

Out of the depths, O God, we call to you.
Wounds of the past af-fect the things we do.
Fa-cing our lives, we need your love so much.
Here in our church please heal us by your touch.

Out of the depths of fear, O God, we speak.
Break-ing the si-len-ces the truth we seek.
Safe a-mong friends, our grief and rage we share.
Here in our church please hold us in your care.

God of the lo-ving heart, we praise your name.
Dance through our lives; heal us with Spirit flame.
Your light il-lu-mines each fa-mi-liar face.
Here in our church please meet us with your grace.

Words:  Ruth Duck 1988, mod. jwl 2014
Music:  Penitentia, Edward Dearle, 1874

Rev. Jack Lipphardt

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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Devotional 4-2-14

Psalm 130 from The Message:

Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help!
Listen hard! Open your ears!  Listen to my cries for mercy.
If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings, who would stand a chance?
As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that’s why you’re worshiped.
I pray to God—my life a prayer—and wait for what he’ll say and do.
My life’s on the line before God, my Lord, waiting and watching till morning,
waiting and watching till morning. 
O Israel, wait and watch for God—with God’s arrival comes love, with God’s arrival comes generous redemption.
No doubt about it—he’ll redeem Israel, buy back Israel from captivity to sin.

Preparing for this devotional, I read each of the lectionary texts.  The story of Lazarus is powerful, but this verse seemed to pull me back again and again.  I was reminded of how powerful the grace of God can be in our lives.

There have been times in my life, and yours as well, I imagine, when the burdens of the day felt far too heavy to lift.  I can hardly believe that twenty-three years have passed since I lost my dad.  When that happened, I was so angry, I couldn’t really pray, let alone listen for answers.  As the years passed, my anger thankfully gave way to forgiveness.  Now, when I pray looking to God for help, I do not always find an answer that makes sense.  Many times, the answer we seek is not necessarily the direct answer to our problem, but the opportunity to learn from the situation or problem that we face.  Instead of looking for the direct or “easy” answer, we must have faith and understand that through grace God will show is the way.

As we travel though life today, take time to pray and listen for God.  His methods may not always make sense on the surface, but as we continue to listen, the answers will be revealed through Grace and Love.

Dear Lord, Help us to pray and listen.  Help us to put our angers and imperfections aside so we can listen for the Grace that you so freely share. Help us to pe patient was we watch and listen for you to share your Grace and Love. Amen

Hulse Budd

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