Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Devotional 2014

Guilty Until You Prove Yourself…

What?? We know that that is not how the wording goes. What if you were accused of wrongdoing and had to prove yourself innocent? Not the way we know it – that the accuser has to prove that you did it. Could you?

Maybe you’ve seen this engraved on a plaque or etched in a polished rock on someone’s desk:  INTEGRITY is how you act when no one is watching. The fact that you have integrity makes you act in an honest and upright way. It’s not the other way around.

Are you innocent because you haven’t been caught? Are you innocent because no one can prove that you actually did what was said? Of course not. I believe that there is a difference in being innocent and being not guilty. An act planned and executed with malice that goes unchallenged or unpunished does not render a person innocent – simply ‘not caught’. Unfortunately our news and sports stories are filled with those who seemed to be acting on the up and up only to be revealed as having been on a self-serving mission from the beginning. I follow cycling. Without me mentioning any names, you still won’t have trouble coming up with the one who has given this wonderful sport a black eye. The actions of one can taint the whole. If we as Christians SAY we are Christians and set out to do what appears to be the right thing only to be uncovered as acting to serve ourselves – well, we really didn’t have our integrity in check now did we. The actions of one…

Saved is what we are when no one is watching. I don’t know when I was saved; was it on Friday when He hung there alone and said, “It is finished”? What was finished? His mission here on earth? Was death finished? Was my sin finished – forgiven forever? Was it when he lay in the tomb alone? Maybe it goes back before that when, in the garden, with no one watching, he said (paraphrase) “Dad, I really don’t want to do this. But I’ll follow your plan; I’ll not follow mine.” He could easily have run away. Remember no one was awake with him. Once the guards arrived he had to be identified with a kiss. Off into the crowd he could have gone.

I like to read church marquees as I travel. Some are whimsical and fun and make me laugh. Some are judgmental and harsh and make me frown. And then there are some that make me think. Here’s a recent one:

Integrity is what you have when no one sees. Honesty is how it gets presented to the world. Saved is what you are when no one sees. Helping the lowest, the lost, the least is how it gets presented to the world.

My prayer this Easter is that when we are alone we realize and recognize the sacrifice made to set us free and that we go forth into the world doing good things and proclaiming, HE IS RISEN.
Steve Matthews


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Devotional 4-19-14

 “Family Dinner”
Please read   Exodus 12:1-4; 11-14

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like a good meal. Sometimes we joke that one of the symbols of the United Methodist Church is a casserole dish, a nod to the importance of food in our various celebrations throughout the year. We enjoy big dinners at home and in church throughout the year, whether we are celebrating Valentines’ Day or the end of summer at a church picnic.  Do you have any special memories that you associate with food?

This Scripture lesson describes the very first Passover dinner. It was a meal that the Hebrew people were to eat on the last night of their captivity in Egypt. There were particular directions on how the food was to be prepared and how the people were to eat it. They were to be ready to go to the next laces God called then to go. They were going back home. It is the most important feast in the Jewish religion today still. It has been celebrated yearly for millennia.

As Christians, we celebrate the Passover meal every time we have Holy Communion. When Jesus ate the last Supper with his disciples, it was the Passover meal they ate.  So whenever we celebrate Holy Communion we are remembering how God delivered the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. We also remember how Jesus instructed his followers to continue this practice in memory of Him. It reminds us that even though relationships between Jews and Christians may have started rather shakily, we still have a great deal much in common.

I invite you to think of Holy Communion as a family meal. We gather together as people do at any dinner. Some of us are joyful. Some worry. Many are struggling over who knows what-name a problem of contemporary society and someone is dealing with it as we come to the Lord’s Table. But that’s exactly what it is: the Lord’s Table. We are invited to eat the sacred meal with Jesus and those very human disciples who were there that night. Like them, we argue over who is important. Like them, we often promise our unswerving faith in Him. Like them, we betray Him in countless ways every day.  Jesus said to remember Him as they ate that meal in the future. He wants us to remember Him as well.

In our human family, we all need spiritual nurturing. One of the things we can do as we are fed  on this Holy Thursday in the Sacrament of Holy Communion is to remember this is a meal more special than any other family gathering we’ve ever been to. We remember how God was with those early Hebrews as they prepared for freedom and what they didn’t really understand was going to be a long arduous journey to get there. Jesus knew on the night of the Last Supper what was happening, and that God would see him through the hardest journey anyone would ever have to make. On that night, the disciples may not have understood what was really happening to them and to their leader, but as time went on and they experienced forgiveness for their inaction and action that night, they remembered that Jesus’ grace was with them. After the day of Pentecost, when they began going on their separate ministry journeys, they remembered that he would be 

As I said earlier, we all bring something different to the table as we feast together and remember what God has done for His people in the past5. Whatever challenges we face, we too can remember that God has always been with us in the past, caring for us, feeding us and nurturing us in a variety of ways. God will be there in the future as well .

Rev. Dorcas Conrad


Friday, April 18, 2014

Devotional Good Friday 2014

Good Friday

Lectionary Readings:  Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18:1-19:42
“He took the punishment and that made us whole.  Through his bruises we get healed.  We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.  We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.  And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong on him, on him. He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn’t say a word.  Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence.” Isaiah 53: 4-7 The Message translation

I attended the Huntington performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar” a week ago.  The musical was first presented in 1971 and the language and music are very modern.  And although the musical setting is quite different, the message of the lyrics is very similar to the words of Isaiah found in “The Messiah”.  You can feel the heartaches, miseries and sorrow of Jesus’ death on the cross captured in the music of both.  I cannot begin to fathom the courage it would take to willingly die for another, let alone for all of humankind. And on top of willingly submitting to the humiliation without presenting a defense, the crucifixion is cruel and unusual punishment. What was God thinking???  This method would not be a “human” way to solve the sin-issue.

And yet, that is exactly the purpose of the death of Jesus.  Jesus willingly took on ALL our sins, so that we would be cleansed of them.  He made a way THROUGH the valley, so that we could join him in paradise. What an amazing sacrifice. When I ponder the choice that Jesus made to die for MY sins, I am humbled and overwhelmed.  I cannot even get my mind wrapped around the sins of us ALL.  

But, God’s grace is so much greater than my imagination and thinking abilities.  I know God goes before us to lead us to grace. He goes along with us through all the ups and downs of life—we are never alone. He embraces us with so much love that we don’t always believe it is for us. And then God whispers and calls us BY NAME!   YOU ARE MINE! 

And all of this love was poured out on us from the cross—a cruel way to die by anyone’s standards.  He willingly gave his life so that I could be cleansed of my sins. The sins I keep committing in spite of my best and worst efforts. AND he never gives up.  God is relentless in his pursuit of us—his love is that powerful.

“For God so loved the world that he gave us his one and only son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Prayer:  What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul;  What wondrous love is this, O my soul!  What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul, to bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

Chyrl Budd


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)


Monday, April 14, 2014

Devotional 4-15-14

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.
Carol Brown


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

“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


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.
Diane Feaganes