Never alone

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the tomb. Look, there was a great earthquake, for an angel from the Lord came down from heaven. Coming to the stone, he rolled it away and sat on it. Now his face was like lightning and his clothes as white as snow. The guards were so terrified of him that they shook with fear and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He isn’t here, because he’s been raised from the dead, just as he said. Come, see the place where they laid him. Now hurry, go and tell his disciples, ‘He’s been raised from the dead. He’s going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ I’ve given the message to you.”

With great fear and excitement, they hurried away from the tomb and ran to tell his disciples. But Jesus met them and greeted them. They came and grabbed his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my brothers that I am going into Galilee. They will see me there.” ~Matthew 28:1-10 (CEB)

At this very moment when you read these words, you and I are in the presence of the living Christ. To remember this truth is to be shaped constantly by the presence of God in Christ in our lives. We often forget this central truth of the Christian faith, and when we do, we are easily overcome by the troubles of the world.

For me, what I write will pass before the eyes of the One about whom I write. As I write, I hope that my ordinary life and ordinary capacity will be energized, directed, and used by the One who gives me life and has called me to this ministry. If I allow myself to think that this ministry and this project are all up to me, I risk feelings, from despair to arrogance. However if I remember that I am not alone, but think, work, and live in the presence of the living Christ, I remain hopeful that even the most simple and ordinary task carried out in that presence and with the assistance of Jesus Christ is sacred, meaningful, and useful.

For you, what you read comes not from the word processor of someone full of years and short of energy or imagination. For these words are now read and heard in the presence of Jesus Christ who is able to use the most simple and ordinary words and events to enlighten, comfort, heal, and direct the seeking heart.

The risen Christ is with us and therefore we need not fear the events of this day or any day that lies in our future. We know that each day will be lived in companionship with the only One who is able to rescue, redeem, save, keep, and companion us through every experience of this life and the next.

This realization does not take away the pain or uncertainty that life holds. But it does give us strength, wisdom, guidance, and most of all, a Companion to travel through each of these experiences with us. East Sunday and every Sunday are gentle yet dramatic reminders that we are not alone never our own. As followers of Jesus, we walk with God in Christ, and that makes the journey rich in meaning, joy, and peace no matter where it leads. Jesus Christ is alive and reads with you mow words that are intended to turn your eyes, heart, and live more fully toward God. ~From A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Ruben P. Job

Almighty God, you who have sent Jesus into the world to suffer, die, and rise again for our sake, help us to experience your transforming resurrection power within our lives and ministry. We offer our prayers in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Happy Easter!

Darkness before dawn

Turn to me, God, and have mercy on me because I’m alone and suffering. My heart’s troubles keep getting bigger— set me free from my distress! Look at my suffering and trouble— forgive all my sins! Look at how many enemies I have and how violently they hate me! Please protect my life! Deliver me! Don’t let me be put to shame because I take refuge in you. ~Psalm 25:16-20 (CEB)

“You’ve heard the saying ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.’ Well, that’s not true, is it? Words can hurt . . . . They make us feel small and exposed. The make us feel shame.

Revenge is bittersweet- after the sweetness wears off, the bitter taste remains in your mouth. In place of revenge, civil rights leaders taught nonviolent ways of confronting people who are putting you down. Your first response to humiliating treatment needs to be claiming your own dignity as a person created in the image of God. This awareness sets you free to respond to injustice in creative rather than violent ways.” ~From “Justice” in Way to Live editd by Dorthy C. Bass and Don C. Richter

Thank You Jesus for coming into the world to show us the way. Thank You for modeling how we are to love others.  May I be an example of Your humility, love and forgiveness. Amen.

Death is not the victor

Some Greeks were among those who had come up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and made a request: “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” Philip told Andrew, and Andrew and Philip told Jesus.

Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Human One l to be glorified. I assure you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their lives will lose them, and those who hate their lives in this world will keep them forever. Whoever serves me must follow me. Wherever I am, there my servant will also be. My Father will honor whoever serves me.

“Now I am deeply troubled. What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this time’? No, for this is the reason I have come to this time. Father, glorify your name! ”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

The crowd standing there heard and said, “It’s thunder.” Others said, “An angel spoke to him.”

Jesus replied, “This voice wasn’t for my benefit but for yours.” ~John 12:20-32 (CEB)

“The final pictures in Matthew’s gospel are not only a bold affirmation of faith in the triumph of the kingdom of God, they are also a daring challenge to the disciples. The only logical response to this Gospel is the Great Commission: ‘Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, for I am with you always, even to the end of time.’

One of the most courageous witnesses for Christ in recent years was Archbishop Oscar Romero, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador, who was killed on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass in a hospital chapel in San Salvador.

With unflinching courage, he applied the message of liberation and justice to the political and social struggles of his homeland. In his last homily on March 23, he acknowledged ‘the risk that is run by our poor station for being the instrument and vehicle of truth and justice,’ but he went on to say that, in the context of the Lenten season, ‘all of this is preparation for our Easter, and Easter is a shout of victory. No one can extinguish that life which Christ revived. Not even death and hatred against him and against his Church will ever be able to overcome it. He is the victor!’” ~From What Will You Do with King Jesus? by James A. Harnish

What does it cost me to “make disciples”? If the answer is nothing maybe I am going about it the wrong way.

Heavenly Father, give me the courage I may need today to step out in faith for You. May I take with me the victory call that Christ has died, Christ has risen and Christ will come again. May the fact that Jesus died for my sins strengthen and bolster me to take this good news to others. Amen.

Death sentence

It was customary during the festival for the governor to release to the crowd one prisoner, whomever they might choose. At that time there was a well-known prisoner named Jesus Barabbas. When the crowd had come together, Pilate asked them, “Whom would you like me to release to you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?”  He knew that the leaders of the people had handed him over because of jealousy.

While he was serving as judge, his wife sent this message to him, “Leave that righteous man alone. I’ve suffered much today in a dream because of him. ”

But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and kill Jesus. The governor said, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”

“Barabbas, they replied.

Pilate said, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

They all said, “Crucify him!”

 But he said, “Why? What wrong has he done?”

They shouted even louder, “Crucify him!”

Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere and that a riot was starting. So he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I’m innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It’s your problem.”

All the people replied, “Let his blood be on us and on our children.” Then he released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus whipped, then handed him over to be crucified. ~Matt. 27:15-26 (CEB)

Is it possible that our world still knows better how to deal with a bandit, a murder, an insurrectionist than it knows to do with the Prince of Peace? There is a sense in which an assassin’s attempt on the pope’s life is less shocking to our world than the pope’s forgiveness of him. Is it possible that we would rather deal with raw power that rides on a stallion than with this one who comes on a donkey with the weapons of love, patience, suffering, and peace? Given the choice isn’t it possible that we would take Barabbas, too? ~From What Will You Do with King Jesus? by James A. Harnish

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen. (Psalm 130:23-24)

Holy Saturday: The Great Silence

We hear so much about Mandy-Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday… but what about Holy Saturday?

United Methodist Worship: Holy Saturday: The Great Silence.

He came in peace

The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him. They shouted,

“Hosanna!

Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessings on the king of Israel!”

Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

Don’t be afraid, Daughter Zion.

Look! Your king is coming,

sitting on a donkey’s colt.

His disciples didn’t understand these things at first. After he was glorified, they remembered that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.

The crowd who had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead were testifying about him. That’s why the crowd came to meet him, because they had heard about this miraculous sign that he had done. Therefore, the Pharisees said to each other, “See! You’ve accomplished nothing! Look! The whole world is following him!” ~John 12:12-19 (CEB)

“The ass was the beast on which kings rode when they came in peace; only in war did they ride upon horses. The entry of Jesus was the claim to be King.

But at the same time it was the claim to be the King of peace. It was upon the ass of peace and not upon the horse of war that Jesus came. He came deliberately refusing the role of the warrior Messiah and claiming to be the Prince of peace. He was appealing for a throne, but the throne was in the hearts of men. In that entry into Jerusalem Jesus, in a dramatic symbolic action which spoke more loudly than any words, was making one last appeal to men, and saying to them: ‘Will you not, even now, even yet, accept me as your Lord and King, and enthrone me within your hearts?’

Jesus entry into Jerusalem was an action of supreme courage; it was an assertion of royalty and an offer of love; it was at one and the same time royalty’s claim and love’s appeal.” ~From Mind of Jesus by William Barclay

We miss the subtle things of life. The still small voice. The Prince of peace. The noises of this world grab at our attention more now than ever. The distractions of this world increase daily. Would we even notice a quiet entrance today?

Lord, Help me to see the small things in life and to hear You whisper my name. May I this day accept You as our Lord and King making a place for you in my heart. Amen.

To sit awhile with me

Jesus left and made his way to the Mount of Olives, as was his custom, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived, he said to them, “Pray that you won’t give in to temptation.” He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed. He said, “Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, not my will but your will must be done.” Then a heavenly angel appeared to him and strengthened him. He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. When he got up from praying, he went to the disciples. He found them asleep, overcome by grief. He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation.” ~Luke 19:39-46 (CEB)

“When Jesus was in his excruciating moment in the Garden of Gethsemane he needed his disciples to be with him while he prayed. He longed for the comfort of their presence and was pained by their inability to provide this for him. Jesus didn’t need Peter to slice off an ear of his enemy. He just needed Peter and the others to be there with him as he faced his enemies).” ~From The Cup of Our Life by Joyce Rupp

Heavenly Father, help me to remember that sometimes others just need our presence. They may not be looking for words of comfort or even affirmations. Sometimes friends may just need someone to be “with them” in the sorry. Help me to see this day how I might “be with” others this day. Amen.

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