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LOVE IN 4D A Lenten Journey of Devotion
March 4 - April 21, 2019
Love in 4D What is it? Love from the inside out that transforms our seeing, hearing, speaking, and doing toward knowing the fullness of God’s love and exhibi=ng it. Our rela=onships with God and others are to be “rooted and grounded in love.” Our growing up to have trust in the mysterious love of God (faith) over a life=me is the depth of faith that develops from the inside out. CommiFng ourselves to becoming reliable, self-giving people who love one another and others as a result of trus=ng God is the transforma=onal, discipleship walk we take with Jesus and others through the church and other means that help us remember and celebrate God’s goodness and faithfulness to restore peace and wholeness to our lives. During this season of Lent, make more room in your life for beKer love of God, others and yourself from the heart. Arrive at Easter with Love in 4D Ephesians 3:16-19 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be ﬁlled with all the fullness of God.
Knowing the Love God Desires March 4-6
Week 1’s Daily Prayer Starter and Reﬂec>on Ques>ons Each Day this week, as you read your devotion, think on these questions and use the following prayer starter.
Prayer- Lord, teach me to love like you love. To Think About: 1.How is my love like God’s self-giving, reliable love? How is it different? 2.Moment by moment, what small changes can I make toward growing in my love for God and others? 3.At the end of the day, can I let God’s love forgive my failures for my rising repentant to a new day of better loving God and others?
LOVE DOES! Try one of the following activities — perhaps a diﬀerent one each day, or the same one all week! Do LOVE as a way of loving God and loving neighbor! Don’t text for an entire day. Be intentional and make voice contact with everyone. Do a chore around your home, church, school, work you would normally not. Do yard work for your family or neighbors for free. Write a prayer for someone and share it with them
Monday, March 4 Isaiah 58:1-12 Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practised righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgements, they delight to draw near to God. ‘Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?’ Look, you serve your own interest on your fastday, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
God loves us. In return, the prophet Isaiah is trying to get us to consider the love God desires for Godself and for the world God loves. On Sundays we gather and we sing and we pray. We take a fast from our usual lives and turn our attention to God. And, while this is good, Isaiah reminds us that the love and worship God desires is a seamless love that moves through loving God to loving neighbors and strangers as we are going in life. A friend told me about a volunteer he had met. The woman he described genuinely disliked the people she was serving, complaining about them to my friend. My first response to him was, “Well, maybe she shouldn’t be serving.” I’m not sure that was right. In retrospect, I know that it is only over time, in the presence of those who love like God loves and those who need God’s compassion and our compassion, that we are ever positioned for the Spirit to transform our love to become like God’s reliable self-giving love inside and outside of the sanctuary, inside and outside of our hearts. I wish I would have said, “Stay close to her. Let your love change her. Let her see and know God’s love in you.” Jeanne Anderson
Shrove Tuesday, March 5 Psalm 51 To the leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgement. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt-offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
In this passage, David acknowledges his sin before God and asks for mercy. David’s sins at that time were pretty despicable – luring a woman into adultery and arranging a cover-up murder. We have all messed up and sinned before God. I can recall a time from my teenage years – when I foolishly picked a fistfight with a fellow classmate. Perhaps my guilt was being felt most through the throbbing pain of a broken arm resulting from that brawl, but there was also a sense of guilt from knowing I was not obedient in peacefully loving my friends. There have been many times in my life that I have acted in ways less humbly than I know God would desire. In these pride-shattering moments of guilt, if we cry out to God with a repenting heart, he will forgive us by His holy, steadfast love. We don’t deserve God’s mercy, but it’s just so abundant we can’t begin to fathom. Sometimes we have to be broken before we can realize just how much God loves us. God’s steadfast love is thence an example of how I need to love others. I would not know how to show mercy to others if God had not shown me mercy and forgiveness when I sin. As an engineer, my interactions with the world are typically based in facts, figures and logical algorithms. I don’t have a natural understanding of most feelings. Empathetic responses – like mercy – are alien to me. For my wife, on the other hand, mercy comes so naturally that I don’t think she knows how to be unforgiving. I’ve learned from her that my simplistic, analytical approach to living life can be thrown completely off track by a human factor (or, maybe a God factor) that science and nature cannot predict or explain. What I mean by that is how conflicts and dissention are sometimes best resolved by appealing to others out of love rather than by responding with what the world says is rationally deserved. David’s actions with Bathshea, as well as my personal confessions, were shameful, but the evidence shows how a response of love and mercy can lead to a changed heart. Brad Conner
Ash Wednesday, March 6 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, ‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’ See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 Concerning Almsgiving
‘Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. ‘So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Concerning Prayer
‘And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Concerning Fasting
‘And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Concerning Treasures
‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and
In 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul begs us to be “reconciled to God.” The meaning of “reconcile” is to reestablish a close relationship. Today is Ash Wednesday. It is a day to be set aside to reflect on who we are in the presence of the all creating God who loved each of us in making us part of his creation. Trying to come closer to God is challenging because we are constantly bombarded by the worldly notion that we are the centers of our own universes. Of course this is the complete opposite of how we need to reconnect with God. We are fortunate that God sent us his son to provide a living example of living fully in the presence of God. Jesus is our guide. In Matthew 6 Jesus says “be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it….when you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it, quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes helps you out.” (The Message) So as we begin this Lenten season, if we can commit ourselves to come before God in complete humility, as a child to a loving parent, we can experience the power of reconciliation with God. Wes Pryce
Friendship with God is a Choice Thursday, March 7 Deuteronomy 26:1-11 When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, ‘Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.’ When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labour on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.’
You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house. Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.’ Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling-place, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot. Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honour them. With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.
In the 91st chapter the Psalmist declares that “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty”. This verse creates such a powerful and calming image. God’s Love has the power to overcome all evil. His perfect Love rises above the daily challenges and frustration of our earthly life. We can so easily be broken down and quickly alter our sight from God’s love and towards the frustrations of the earth. Reminding ourselves that God’s love is everlasting and eternal despite our daily shortcomings is such a calming thought. As we attempt to mirror God’s love towards our community it is comforting to know that God’s love endures despite the fact that we know we will err again and again in our attempt at a human interpretation of that love. We must trust that the Lord is our refuge and fortress even facing what can often feel like insurmountable challenges. At our lowest points and greatest struggles, God’s love endures and this lesson above all else should be taken out into our world as we love all around us. A constant reminder is that just like his Love does for us regardless of circumstance, so then should we pour our love out into others. Ben Stewart
Friday, March 8 Romans 10:8b-13, But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Luke 4:1-13 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.” ’ Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” ’ Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you”, and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’ When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Have you ever been hungry? Not just appetitehunger, but the kind of hunger that depletes the body to the point of starvation? Most of us have never experienced it, but Jesus did. After fasting for forty days out there in the wilderness, his first temptation was to turn stones into bread, food not just for himself, but for a hungry world. It must have been a struggle because food doesn’t just nourish the body. It delights the senses, and nurtures relationships as well. For me, cooking and feeding people feels useful and creative and gives me joy. It’s a tangible expression of love, and I’ve found baking communion bread helps me wrap my head around the fact that God loves us and reshapes us in his image. Flour, water, salt, and yeast don’t amount to much on their own. Mix them up and they make a sticky glop. But, when worked and kneaded, that glop gets stronger and becomes a satiny smooth, elastic dough. It sits, eventually rising up, doubling in size; only to be punched down back to where it started. But you know what? Shape it into loaves, put it in the pan, and that dough just rises right back up. Then as it bakes, that yeasty aroma fills the room, and the sticky glob is transformed into something beautiful and new that can satisfy hunger and delight the senses. Baking that bread is an act of love and worship for me. But so often, when we pass the communion plate we pinch off a tiny crumb; and I’m tempted to stand up and say, “Would you please take a big hunk? I made it because I love you. It’s really good and there’s plenty.” And that’s when I get a glimpse of glory. God sent his son to prepare a banquet of love for us. It’s a feast, and there’s more than enough to go around. Susan Graham
Saturday, March 9 Reflecting on Love Does! Spend some time today reflecting on how you have loved God and others this week. Did you try any of the suggested activities? How did those work out? Did you do other things to demonstrate your love for God and others? Think about ways you may want to be more intentional “Doing Love”! Write a prayer here, asking God to help you in this.
God Loves… Into the Desert
The Temptation of Christ March 11-17
Week 2’s Daily Prayer Starter and Reﬂec>on Ques>ons Each Day this week, as you read your devotion, think on these questions and use the following prayer starter.
Prayer- Lord, let me know myself so I can love you and others more. To Think About: 1.What is God trying to reveal to me? Am I listening? Am I looking? 2.Do I recognize the love of God directed toward me and others and am I fully living into that love? 3.Inevitably I have failed at points along the way to embrace God’s loving guidance. Will I ask forgiveness and seek to walk in God’s selfgiving, reliable love?
Try one of the following activities — perhaps a diﬀerent one each day, or the same one all week! Do LOVE as a way of loving God and loving neighbor! Don’t text for an entire day. Be intentional and make voice contact with everyone. Have a conversation today with someone with whom you wouldn’t normally speak. Send a Volunteer to help someone with a difficult task today. Pray before and after you eat each meal today. Spend ten minutes in silence remembering Jesus’ love. Spend the evening with people you love.
Monday, March 11 Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.’ But the word of the Lord came to him, ‘This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.’ He brought him outside and said, ‘Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness. Then he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.’ But he said, ‘O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’ He said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates. In today’s scripture Abram has a vision that tells him, “God is his shield and great reward”. Like most humans would, he questions that vision by asking why he still has no children? After some discussion God gives Abram a task to help convince him that his word is true and will be done. This task is challenging but, in the end, Abram believes and is rewarded. So, how does Abram’s story help us in today’s busy world? When you are raised in the church one of the first things you are taught is that God loves you. Which begins as early as birth when “Jesus loves you” is being sung as they put you to sleep. That thought is quickly followed by God has a plan for each of us. That plan is revealed by the special talents and gifts he has given each of us to use in our journey through life. All you have to do is pray, listen and wait for God is revealing. That all sounds simple enough, but while you are doing those things, life is happening around you. It is a life that is filled with choices, big decisions and consequences. Add to all that distractions, self-doubt, peer pressure and failures. It’s a wonder we have the courage to get out of bed. We don’t always realize it, but we have been given the tools, a handbook and resource, to get through life. All we have to do is go back to the basics, back to lessons we were taught as children. Our daily lives get busy and full which often times pull us away from the church and maybe even from talking to God. But we have to take the time to stop, slow down, talk and listen. I don’t mean sit with your ear buds in while you catch up on emails. I mean really stop open your mind and heart. If we make the time for that we will discover he is indeed listening and will offer guidance. With this will come a stronger more confident person that when faced with those obstacles now indeed has the shield and is confident it will protect them. The beauty of relating to God and the church as our resource is that no matter how many times we fail or don’t listen they are always there waiting for us to return. Tammy Berfield
Tuesday, March 12 Psalm 27 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh— my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident. One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock. Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! ‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation! If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up. Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence. I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
We all face struggles in life where it seems like there are attacks coming from all sides and we feel unsure about what God’s will for us actually is. Psalm 27 is a reminder that through all our struggles and uncertainties, we have to trust that God knows what is best for us and that he has a grand plan. Even when it seems like we are losing every battle life throws at us, we have to trust that the outcome will bring us closer to knowing God. In verse 4, David asks God that he “may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple”. I don’t know about anyone else, but remembering to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord is one of the last things I typically focus on during difficult times. Human nature takes over and I question whether my circumstances are due to God’s will or my own shortcomings. Refocusing, and praying that I might “seek His face” (v. 8) forces me to trust in the fact that He is the Almighty and will never forsake me. The last two verses of this Psalm are my favorite. In verse 13, David says that he is confident that he will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Regardless of how we are feeling, having enough confidence in God to look for his will being done on earth gives us the power and strength to transform ourselves to love in 4D. The final verse in this Psalm is a reminder that we must wait for the Lord, which can be one of the hardest parts of Christianity to accept. In a world where constantly going and doing are the norm, stepping back to wait and listen for God to reveal himself can be challenging. Addie Stewart
Wednesday, March 13 Philippians 3:17-4:1 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. In this passage of Paul’s letter to the early church at Philippi, Paul is giving direction on how to live in rightness of relationship with God and one another. Taken alone, this passage might present an image of a proud or arrogant man calling others to imitate him. However, taken in context of the previous chapter, we know that Paul is striving to live his own life as an imitation of the life of Christ. In Philippians 2:5, Paul challenges them, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…” So, he is really saying that he, Timothy, and Epaphroditus as leaders in this early church at Philippi, try to model their own lives after the life of Christ and the call is for the church as individuals and in community to follow the model of Christ as Paul and others have. It is not that there is any perfect pattern for living, but a call toward commitment to living in a community of believers who are in the messiness of life together. We must commit ourselves to growing in love for God and one another, even when it is difficult. Each one of us must willingly empty ourselves as Christ did for an authentic journey of discipleship. Living as Christ in community is not escapism, rather it is exactly the opposite. It is commitment to continue, even in the messiness of life together, to live a life like that of Jesus. All too often, someone will say to me, “I left the church because someone hurt my feelings.” or they might say, “I don’t want to be a member of a church, because Christians are all just a bunch of hypocrites.” These statements make me sad, because we all need one another as we are working out our relationships with God and others. The community is never a perfect community. We struggle to understand how faith is lived in the world and in our own community. Paul challenges us to struggle together as the way of right living. Engage our faith in the messiness of life – not just individually, but as a community. Look toward those in your own community – your neighbor, your friend, maybe even someone you do not particularly like – and learn from the way in which they struggle to live faith in community. Patti English
Thursday, March 14 Luke 13:31-35 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox for me, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem.” Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” ’
These verses reveal Jesus’ lack of concern about Herod’s hunting him down. Jesus is too busy doing God's work to care about such things. To me, this is showing me that Jesus was not worried about the what the world, at the time, thought of Him. He wanted to do God's work instead and that is what we should be striving to do as well. I read a few verses before and I noticed that Jesus talked about how we can't just rely on going to church every week and doing "what is right for a Christian" in order to be saved. I particularly like this part because Jesus was saying, even to his own followers, that just because they hung out with Jesus, that doesn't give them a free pass. They have to make sure that they truly believe in God or they will miss out on everything in the next life. As I reflect, I'm not sure if I first think about what God thinks of my actions/ thoughts; instead, I think of what others or what society thinks. These verses help remind me that society shouldn't be my guide. God is and should always be my guide of how to live and interact with others. Alex Lowman
Friday, March 15 Luke 9:28-36 (37-43a) The Transfiguration Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen. Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It throws him into convulsions until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.’ Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.’ While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astounded at the greatness of God.
In the liDle book, Listening for the Soul: Pastoral Care and Spiritual Direc8on, Jean Stairs takes the church to task for creaGng processes that facilitate the discernment of candidates for ministry (think calling and ordinaGon process) but neglects to help parishioners with discernment through any process whatsoever. Although the church may not have a formal process for member/ parishioner discernment, Lent is the 8me for discernment, for reﬂecGon, for life review. This is the Gme when ChrisGans the world-over ponder their lives, their acGons, their intenGons, and their pracGces, aDempGng to discern how to live being the people God has called us to be. This kind of reﬂecGon takes Gme, eﬀort, and intenGonality. In today’s passage, we read the story of Jesus healing a child from a demon we might call epilepsy. The story leaves me with more quesGons than answers. Was it really a demon or an ancient way of understanding a medical condiGon? Why couldn’t the disciples heal the boy? Apparently, they had tried. Why did Jesus seemingly lash out at the “faithless and perverse generaGon?” (NRSV). Immediately on the heels of this story, Luke makes it look like Jesus turned around and began talking with his disciples about the betrayal he knew was in his future. Luke says not only that they did not understand, Luke says that Jesus’ meaning was “concealed’ from them. Serious Lenten reﬂecGon and discernment is about understanding what is concealed, concealed from memory, concealed because I don’t want to consider it, concealed because I am not ready to hear it. Very simply, I must consider the possibility that, as hard as I try, I might not be living to the fullest that God has called me. The quesGon I ask myself this day is this: Is there anything I can do right here, right now, to be the love of God to the person in front of me. Kevin Crowder
Saturday, March 16 Reflect on Love Spend some time today reflecting on how you have loved God and others this week. Did you try any of the suggested activities? How did those work out? Did you do other things to demonstrate your love for God and others? Think about ways you may want to be more intentional “Doing Love”! Write a prayer here, asking God to help you in this.
Second Sunday in the Season of Lent — March 17 God Loves… Past All Obstacles
Reliable and Unreliable Love March 18-24 Week 3’s Daily Prayer Starter and Reflection Questions Each Day this week, as you read your devotion, think on these questions and use the following prayer starter.
Prayer- Lord, lead me to understand the value of reliable love. To Think About: 1.In what ways has God shown me perfect, self-giving, reliable love? 2.In what ways have I rejected God’s love in favor of my own choices? 3.Am I willing to confess my own sinfulness and ask God to transform me, that I might better reflect God’s perfect love?
LOVE DOES! Try one of the following activities — perhaps a diﬀerent one each day, or the same one all week! Do LOVE as a way of loving God and loving neighbor! Call someone you have not spoken with in some time.
Pray for your church family.
Do something you have been putting oﬀ or trying to avoid. Go for a walk where you live and pick up trash.
Exercise for at least 30 minutes.
Monday, March 18 Isaiah 55:1-9 Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Reliable Love – the Google definition first presents love as “an intense feeling of deep affection” with synonyms such as tenderness, intimacy, fondness, and endearment. It might present itself as friendliness or kindness toward others. The modifier, reliable, means “to be consistently good in quality or performance; able to be trusted.” I use the word love frequently with abandon to describe my feelings about things and people who bring me some amount of pleasure, such as a chocolate sundae, a good football game, or spending time with my grandchildren. But how reliable is my love? Is it dependent on how gooey the sundae might be, or whether my favorite team is performing well? Do my grandchildren have to be on angelic behavior for me to love them? What about God’s love toward me? Is it dependent on how I present myself? I hope not! Why spend money and time seeking satisfaction and fulfillment of our sensual desires which may disappoint us? This passage of Scripture invites believers to seek an abundant life through God’s love because it is the only reliable source of true love. Life’s challenges from small disappointments to catastrophic illnesses can all be soothed by God’s Reliable Love! He never abandons us to our own devices; He wants to be our Source and Strength! Approach the Lord through prayer and repentance. He wants to restore you with abundance of His Love. It is only then that we have a storehouse of reliable love from which to share compassion and grace to those we encounter each day.
Tuesday, March 19 Psalm 63:1-8 O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name. My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
My friends and family know that sometimes I will burst into song when I hear some word or phrase that reminds me of a song. Recently while driving to the grocery store, that is exactly what happened when my wife Ann was reading the scripture assigned to me for this devotional. Without thinking, I started singing Rich Mullins’ song “Step By Step” as soon as she started the scripture. When she was done reading the first eight verses in Psalm 63, I asked our car to play the song and we listened to the words of the song. Listening to music can evoke strong feelings whether they make you blessed, happy or sad, or can fill you full of love and thanksgiving. Music can motivate and music can provide comfort in times of trouble. Music is such a big part of my life and in my relationship with God; it is a huge part of how I praise and worship our Lord as well as an instrument through which God speaks to me. Thank you God for your steadfast, reliable love through whatever difficulties I face in life. I sing praises to your name! Jim McGlone
Wednesday, March 20 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness. Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.’ We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
The Value of Reliable Love When I was a child, I remember watching the Cecil B. DeMille movie, “The Ten Commandments”. The film has dramatic depictions of the plight of the Hebrews. We learn of their faithful trust in God to send one to deliver them. We see that Moses filled that role, and he led the people of God out of Egypt...out of the hands of the oppressor...and into the wilderness. In brief, we find Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from God on the mountain, while the people remain below….waiting. During the waiting, the people had become disconnected with God. Through a child’s eyes, I remember thinking…”why would those people make a golden calf and worship it? Don’t they remember how God loves them and freed them from their slavery? The scene was one that I’m certain I watched with a wrinkled up nose and squinting eyes. Why are they treating each other so badly...and why are they forgetting about God? In this passage from 1 Corinthians, Paul brings to my mind this scene, where the people of the ancient Hebrews found themselves separated from God, and separated from one another, through their immoral and selfish acts. God loves us and wants to count on us for reliable love...to love God...and to love one another. Moses received The Ten Commandments when he faced God on that mountain. Have you ever noticed that the first 4 commandments talk about our relationship with God? Did you notice that the remaining 6 commandments talk about our relationship with one another? Jesus reminded us in Mark 12:28-31 which commandment is the first of all…“The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Ann McGlone
Thursday, March 21 Luke 13:1-9 Repent or Perish At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’ The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” ’
James J. Tissot, c. 1895: The Vinedresser and the Fig Tree (Booklyn Museum)
As Jesus is preparing for his Journey to Jerusalem and ultimately to the cross, he is approached by a group who were themselves riled up about some fellow-Galileans who had apparently been slaughtered in the temple in Jerusalem. I imagine they thought it would fill Jesus with indignity and anger at Pilate or perhaps all of the systems of injustice who lorded their power over the Jews. But rather than getting on board and being angry, Jesus diffuses the situation by challenging one of their own “systems” of injustice. His followers had already asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2), and they still clung to long-held theological misunderstandings that anyone who suffered must be guilty of offending God for God to impose this suffering upon them. Jesus, still teaching, is trying to communicate that God’s judgement – understood as the experience of God’s wrath apart from God’s mercy – is not the way of God. And he tells them this parable of the fig tree to challenge that misconception. In that day, the absentee landowner entrusting his property and its produce to a steward and returning occasionally to check on things was common practice. In this parable God, the rightful owner returns to check on his “crop” (us)! God could rightfully say we are not producing the fruit we were created to produce, but there is this vinedresser, (Jesus) who intercedes for us. He says to God, please, let me nurture this one a little longer and let me fertilize this one a little longer and let’s see if I cannot help it bear fruit! God, the gracious owner, agrees! All is well and good, but it is still the responsibility of the tree to bear fruit. What about us? Just like most of us have an aversion to manure, we also don’t want to be pliable in the loving, shaping, nurturing hands of our always creating and recreating God. Jesus invites us into relationship! Jesus calls us to love like he loves; to bear fruit of the Spirit; to live in rightness of relationship with God and one another. It is ultimately up to each one of us to decide whether we will allow Jesus to nurture us into fruit-bearing children of God, filled with the loving spirit of God, Godself! In this season of Lent as we contemplate Jesus’ self-giving, loving journey toward the cross, let us consider what Jesus might be trying to nurture in us. In what ways do we need to give up our misguided concept that we can do it all ourselves and allow the Master Vinedresser to lovingly nurture us (even if it sometimes smells like manure) that we may get to Easter more like the self-giving, loving, fruit-bearing people God intends for us to be. Jesus’ warning in this parable that there is only so long that we have the opportunity to be made new, before we are cut down at the roots. Let us choose wisely, as we strive to follow Jesus! Jean English
Friday, March 22 Genesis 3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” ’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.’ The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.’ To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’ And to the man he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it”, cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’
The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all who live. And the Lord God made
garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them. Then the Lord God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever’— therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life. Holding my newborn son for the first time was one of the most joyful and painful experiences of my life. The work of growing and birthing a human was not only physically exhausting but for nine months, I carried with me the anxiety that I hadn’t been enough for him. It was my job to take care of myself so that my child would be cared for, also. Everything I did affected him. This was a heavy weight to carry but when I looked into his face for the very first time and counted ten fingers and ten toes, I felt relief he was perfect. But then, within seconds, that relief turned into angst. He was perfect, yes, but now he was his own. No longer was he safely tucked inside of my body, now he was part of something much larger. He was now exposed to all of the dangers of the world. My choices still impacted him but now his choices were at play, also. Although he was just a baby I knew that baby would grow and become his own person capable of making good and bad choices. I suppose that is how God felt when Creation became living, breathing human beings who had choices to make. Genesis 3 makes it pretty clear that humanity is going to mess up but it also makes it clear that God’s love didn’t end with a few bad choices. God clothed Adam and Eve once they realized they were naked and felt shame. For me, this is an example that God’s reliable love was still evident. Perhaps Adam and Eve needed this experience to fully understand their relationship with God and God’s reliable love. When we come face to face with fear and are forced to deal with our own weakness, we can turn towards God’s reliable love to see light in the darkness. Each day when my children are away from me I choose to trust that God’s reliable love will cover them wherever they go. I also have the choice each day to view my own weakness as a place of common ground for all humanity and to see others, as God sees them, clothed in God’s reliable love. Erin Silver
Saturday, March 23 Reflecting on Love Does! Spend some time today reflecting on how you have loved God and others this week. Did you try any of the suggested activities? How did those work out? Did you do other things to demonstrate your love for God and others? Think about ways you may want to be more intentional “Doing Love”! Write a prayer here,
Third Sunday in the Season of Lent — March 24
God Loves… Over the Fence
Call to Repentance March 25-31 Week 4’s Daily Prayer Starter and Reflection Questions Each day this week, as you read your devotion, think on these questions and use the following Prayer starter.
Week 4’s Daily Prayer Starter Prayer- Lord, turn my heart and my life more and more to you. To Think About: 1. Today, where is God demonstrating self-giving, reliable love? 2. In what ways have I turned away from God and gone out to do my own thing? 3. Am I willing to return to the perfect love of God, knowing that God’s arms are open wide to embrace me, if I will return?
Try one of the following activities — perhaps a diﬀerent one each day, or the same one all week! Do LOVE as a way of loving God and loving neighbor! Slow down and do everything deliberately (drive, walk, talk, eat)
Fast from coﬀee, tea, or soda today.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer today at 9am, Noon, 3pm
Watch or read the news today and pray about what you discover
Fast from technology today (TV, computer, video game, music, phone), anything that isn’t necessary for school or work.
Monday, March 25 Joshua 5:9-12 The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.’ And so that place is called Gilgal to this day. While the Israelites were encamped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.
As the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the promised land, Joshua tells us they marked the occasion in powerful, visible ways—setting twelve stones in place and undergoing circumcision. Egypt was now behind them---they were finally able to live well. Still, it must have been bittersweet that first morning when there was no manna, and they had to figure out how to feed themselves. Their story reminded me of several transitions in my own life. When I was in my 30s, it took months to unpack my mental baggage with a trained professional. In my 50s, it took months of physical therapy to strengthen aging back muscles and eliminate pain. In both instances, as I healed, the time came when each therapist said, “I don’t think you need another appointment. What do you think?” It was scary, but I was also filled with a sense of relief and expectation. The “manna” of therapy had been necessary and sweet. The health professionals had brought me safely to good places, and trusted that I could make it. Just like the Israelites, I never want to go back to the “Egypt” of anxiety and pain. My challenge is to continually remember and abide by the lessons I was taught along the journey. Theresie Houghton
Tuesday, March 26 Psalm 32 Of David. A Maskil. Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’, and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them. You are a hiding-place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you. Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.
Have you ever had a situa6on in which you responded to another person’s ac6ons or words in a way where you quickly regre>ed the response you have spoken or displayed? Unfortunately, I have and more oBen than I care to admit. I try to suppress the guilt or nega6ve feeling for some 6me when genuine acknowledgement or apology to the other person would most likely have been quick and well received. The stubbornness of a mule as illustrated in verse 9. That is what Psalm 32 illustrates to me. When we feel separated from God, it is due to our own feelings of disappointment, anger or perhaps embarrassment. Our own self reliance that keeps us from seeking forgiveness from God, allowing us to experience the “Lord’s unfailing love” surrounding us for puOng our faith in Him. Cas$ng Crowns is one of my favorite musical groups. In their song, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” the writer represents life as we know it day-to-day — at school, at work, and in friendship. “Let the memory of Your mercy bring Your people to their knees No one knows what we're for only against when we judge the wounded What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did, “ This song reminds me to let my heart be led by mercy. Open dialogue with Jesus is the key--not the easy bu>on though. Meaning that while in prayer it is leOng go of my pride and preferences to fully submit and respond to the instruc6ons and teachings referred to in verse 8. Then ac6ng upon those instruc6ons and teachings allows me to be returned to the perfect love of God—I can no longer allow myself to hide behind emo6ons and/or pride which prohibit me from having a close rela6onship with Jesus. Darla Burton
Wednesday, March 27 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Â From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. The passage 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 is in one of Paul's le>ers to the Corinthians. This passage starts out with seeing the world in a completely new way. We are able to do this through the reconcilia6on to God by Christ, who died for our sins. As we accept reconcilia6on from God we are then able to bring reconcilia6on to others in the world around us. This passage makes me think of our current world. It is easy to get bogged down by the earthly/humanly problems going on in our world. However, here we are being oďŹ€ered the chance for the world to become new because of Christ. For me personally, one way my world could become new is opening my heart to others more and judging less. God does not hold our trespasses against us, and we, in turn, should not do that to others. In what ways can your world be made new? When thinking about how my world could become new or seen in a new way, I think about the many ways I turn away from God and hinder his love from shining through. I then turn to reconcilia6on with God to forgive me for my sins and love me through my faults. Each week during Sunday worship we have a "prayer of reconcilia6on.â€? During this 6me I go back through my week and ask God for forgiveness of my sins and re-focus my energy on him. What this passage made me personally think about was, "Why am I only seeking God's forgiveness and reconcilia6on of my sins on Sundays?" Each day I pray is an opportunity to be reconciled and made new so that I can see this "new world" of mine and all the love that God has for me that I can share with others. God is always willing to accept us back into his arms, but are we are always ready and willing to let him? Ashley-Nicole Carmichael
Thursday, March 28 Luke 15:1-3a Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ In Luke chapter 15 Jesus tells three parables to a group of disgruntled Pharisees and scribes because they have judged him as sinful for fellowshipping with ‘the sinners.’ In the story of the lost sheep, the shepherd leaves the whole herd to go out and find the one disobedient sheep that is lost and then celebrates once it is found. Here Jesus is showing how GOD’s love is always there and even when we are lost, or when we have drifted away, he is always there to welcome us back with open arms. Luke 15 also discusses the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the lost son. In the parable of the lost son the younger brother takes his inheritance, travels away from the family, and loses everything. He later returns home to his father, broken, thinking that he isn’t worthy of his father’s forgiveness. Then when he shows up his father throws him a huge party with music and a feast. Jesus is preaching the power of repentance. As I was growing up, I was always challenged to accept and even love everyone. One of the places that I was constantly pushed to be better at loving others was in our youth group. When we went to Kenya, we were introduced to people who were very different than us. The Kenyan Christian Youth with whom we spent a great deal of time, were different than us in that their faith was so strong and they had so many scriptures committed to memory. That challenged me to reflect on my own devotion. We also met Masai Warriors who do not have a faith in Jesus Christ and yet their hospitality toward strangers was an incredible witness in how to care for others. In these encounters, as I reflected on the times I have misjudged or prejudged before I even met people, I felt guilty and very convicted to deepen my relationship with God that God might show me the way to be more compassionate and more open to the diversity of all of God’s Creation. Even when we don’t feel worthy of his mercy or his love, it is always there, and GOD is always waiting to celebrate our return. If I can but listen to these parables of Jesus,’ and recognize that I too, must expect to meet God in every encounter with others, I believe I would be taking steps in the right direction toward our loving God whose arms remain open wide to love every one of us! Kyle Loving
Friday, March 29 Luke 15:11b-32
Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate. ‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’
The Prodigal Son – This has always been a tough parable for me…I wonder why the father doesn’t send a runner to the older brother in the fields…shout the good news and invite him to come quickly and join the feast? All families seem to have the “rebellious” one who defies their upbringing and takes off on some potentially dangerous or foolhardy direction putting burden and worry on the family’s hearts…and doesn’t the entire family grieve and pray for their quick and safe return? So, wouldn’t the older brother, in this parable, have been burdened and worried for his younger brother? Why, then, does he hear the good news late in the day and from a servant? Perhaps as Paul is saying in Ephesians 2:14-18, that the older brother did not have Love in 4D and more telling, the father knew the older brother’s heart. When our family’s “rebellious” one(s) continue in their downward direction, there is temptation to protect ourselves and harden our hearts…using terms like the older brother used “this son of yours” and not “my brother or my nephew or my niece.” Jenny Graham
Saturday, March 30
Reflect on Love Does! Spend some time today reflecting on how you have loved God and others this week. Did you try any of the suggested activities? How did those work out? Did you do other things to demonstrate your love for God and others? Think about ways you may want to be more intentional “Doing Love”! Write a prayer
Fourth Sunday in the Season of Lent — March 31 God Loves… Down the Road!
Healing/Conversion - Turning to God April 1-7 Week 5’s Daily Prayer Starter and Reflection Questions Each day this week, as you read your devotion, think on these questions and use the following pryer starter. Week 5’s Daily Prayer Starter and Reﬂec6on Ques6ons Prayer- Lord, let me see and feel your healing. To Think About: 1.In what areas of my life have I been proud of my own accomplishments without regard for what God might be doing through me? 2.Am I willing to “put on” Christ, that his actions might become my actions; his love my love? 3.How might I give up the failures of my past and be redefined by God’s loving grace all around me?
LOVE DOES! Try one of the following activities — perhaps a diﬀerent one each day, or the same one all week! Do LOVE as a way of loving God and loving neighbor! Have a conversation of do something thoughtful for someone today. Fast from social media today. Instead of buying lunch or dinner give that money as extra offering. Place random encouraging notes around your home or work for others to see. on’t text for an entire day. Be intentional and make voice contact with everyone. Do a chore around your home, church, school, work you would normally not.
Monday, April 1 Isaiah 43:16-21 Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals will honour me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.
We all like to get new things. New shoes. New sweaters. Just new stuff. We also like to get rid of the old stuff. One of the most popular new books tells us how to clean out our closets and our homes. They’ve even made a successful NetFlix series about it. But why can’t we clean up our lives? The prophet tells us in this passage that we should forget the former things, the parts of our lives that disappoint us and that we know disappoint God. We can throw away an old book but we have a hard time giving up our failures. God tells us to see that he is doing a new thing in our lives. We should be excited to see what that new thing is! We need to embrace the newness. Embrace the healing in our brokenness. God has prepared us for this new healing. Let God provide water in the wilderness for us in this Lenten season. David Pierce
Tuesday, April 2 Psalm 126 A Song of Ascents. When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb. May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.
Psalm 126 is one of the songs of ascent traditionally sung during the uphill walk to Jerusalem toward one of the Jewish festivals. It talks about finding joy in the gift of being restored. Restored back to the people we were supposed to be. I am a work in progress and thank God for that. I’ve been a single parent twice and was also in a short term abusive relationship. I was guilty of not always acknowledging it, but God was always with me. Being a member and eventually a deacon at FBC has opened my eyes and my heart to see that God never gives up on me. He continues to work on me, providing healing for my soul, guidance through opportunities to restore me to the person he wants me to be, and joy in the gift of being restored. One of the opportunities He provided was to meet and become friends with Sarah Bush King. In addition to gaining a treasured friend, our friendships opened up the opportunity to volunteer with a group that works with Domestic Abuse Victims. I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart!! The restored are made capable of restoring. Donna Guidry
Wednesday, April 3 Philippians 3:4b-14 even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Pressing towards the Goal Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
As children in Sunday school, we were taught to obey the Ten Commandments and other “rules”. Following the rules would be pleasing to God, keep us out of trouble, and get us to the ultimate goal of heaven. As I have grown older, I have come to realize that while church doctrine is important, it is also important to have a personal relationship with God. My relationship with God grows as the circumstances of my life change. I realize that talking to Him daily and expressing my thoughts, hopes, fears, and thanksgivings is pleasing to Him. Each day is an opportunity for new beginnings. In this realization, I have come to know that God is continuing to make things new in my life and the world. Like Paul, writing to the Philippians, we all have an opportunity to participate in God’s forgiving love. Tammy Snellings
Thursday, April 4 Leviticus 23:22 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the alien: I am the Lord your God.
As someone who works with children, I have had successes and failures. Sometimes it is easy to see God’s hand in a situation and sometimes our own hands and heads get in the way. This week I was trying to reach a five-year-old who had her own ideas on how she wanted to behave. Frustration was definitely part of the equation (mostly on my part). Finally, I asked her why she was behaving in a manner that was not normal for her. Was there a problem she wanted to tell me about? She said she was sad because her daddy was going away until summer and she would miss him. I was pretty sure what this meant and how it would affect her. From the beginning of the class, I was not as patient as I would have liked. I did not attempt to discover what was her motivation for the unusual behavior. I moved straight into I am going to fix this with my teacher super powers! Once I realized her reasons for acting out, my heart hurt for her. I also was forced to look at how I might have created a more loving environment for her. Would a hug right away have changed things? God wants us to recognize individuals in need and react as Christ would have reacted by giving what we have. This includes time, love and patience. Marsha Stewart
Friday, April 5 John 12:1-8 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’
This passage showed Mary’s love for Jesus. Mary allowed her love to become extravagant, filling the house with a beautiful fragrance. She let go and let God provide a meaningful tribute to Jesus. We first need to have a relationship with Jesus and fall in love with who he is. Then as we learn His ways, we can focus on what He wants us to do. God’s ways are not our ways. My dad recently told me of a time when he called a person in the church that had been particularly negative with his ministry. He praised them for the work they were doing in the church. They responded with a Valentine card. God’s power can turn people’s hearts to glorify God. I think the best ways to learn God’s ways are to talk to Him and read the stories about how God worked through others lives. When my focus is on what others may think or feel about what I am doing rather than focusing on what my Lord wants me to do, then I fail to live a more hope filled life. The motivation for our actions and interactions with others should come from our love of Jesus. What would your world look like if the people you come in contact with could see Jesus and His love through you? Angie Monroe
Saturday, April 6
Reflect on Love Does! Spend some time today reflecting on how you have loved God and others this week. Did you try any of the suggested activities? How did those work out? Did you do other things to demonstrate your love for God and others? Think about ways you may want to be more intentional “Doing Love”! Write a prayer
Fifth Sunday in the Season of Lent — April 7 God Loves… as we Empty Ourselves
April 8-14 Hoping For and Expecting Reversals
Week 5’s Daily Prayer Starter and Reﬂec6on Ques6ons Prayer- Lord, let me see and feel your healing. To Think About: 1.In what areas of my life have I been proud of my own accomplishments without regard for what God might be doing through me? 2.Am I willing to “put on” Christ, that his actions might become my actions; his love my love? 3.How might I give up the failures of my past and be redefined by God’s loving grace all around me?
LOVE DOES! Try one of the following activities — perhaps a diﬀerent one each day, or the same one all week! Do LOVE as a way of loving God and loving neighbor! Fast from your favorite snack and donate the savings.
Spend at least 30 minutes with someone 10-15 years old or younger than you.
Pray for your school or where you work today.
Ask a church staﬀ member how you can pray for them.
Monday, April 8 Psalm 118:1-2 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever! Let Israel say, ‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’
God’s steadfast love is something I can say that I did not know a lot about when I was younger. However, in my early twenties, I began attending church, Sunday School/Small Groups and reading the Bible regularly. This was when I started to discover the neverending, always present steadfast love of God. A love that comforts and supports in all moments of life. I wish I had known about this steadfast love when I was a freshman in college when I found out my dad had prostate cancer. He assured my sister and me he would be ok and would undergo surgery. Surgery was a success but this journey was not over. Many years later his PSA increased and after many tests he now has a diagnosis of metastatic prostate cancer. I am grateful that I can read and rest on the words found in Psalm 118, “God is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever!”. Even when I feel lost or sad, I have been able to support my family through the years of injections, transfusions and radiation. Although his PSA levels are great now it will be a lifelong journey of resting on the continued practice of faith in Christ and knowing that God is good and His love endures forever. Lindsey Haun
Tuesday, April 9 Psalm 118:19-29 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever.
In ancient quarries, highly trained stonemasons rose the stone used in construction with a well trained, discerning eye. The selection of the cornerstone was vital to the integrity of the entire structure. The stones correct line and strength ensured a sturdy and even building. For these reasons a durable stone was to be selected. Imperfections such as cracks and joint planes allow water to enter which will eventually weaken the stone. Coarse grained stone disintegrates more rapidly than a fine grained stone. Different mineral compounds and inclusions may affect the durability of the stone. The cornerstone must be perfect. We have within us, coarse words and jealousies. We are riddled with seams of vanity and pride. We are alone, we are depressed, we feel rejected and yet “the rejected stone becomes the cornerstone.” God sees and knows our imperfections, those on our sleeves and those inside, the ones we try so hard to hide. His steadfast love never wavers. He strengthens us. He chooses us. I am that weak rock, you are that imperfect stone, we are loved by God. Michael Silver
Wednesday, April 10 Luke 19:28-40 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.” ’ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’ Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’
During the triumphal entry of Jesus, Luke tells us that the people spread their cloaks on the road and the crowd of disciples began to joyfully praise God for all the miracles they had seen. As a result of this Jesus was told to rebuke them. In his heart he knew even if they did keep quiet, his love and compassion would still be heard. This was his purpose on Earth, to show love, kindness, and compassion to all. Jesus prepared his disciples for this time in his life with great detail. Often times they were confused and scared yet faithful and committed to Jesus throughout this difficult time. Those that weren’t as faithful were all a part of God’s plan for us to better understand love through Jesus. If we take the time each day we can see and hear God. Through seeing and hearing his presence in our lives we are able to feel his love. As we feel God’s love in our lives we are to then share that love with all. Just as Jesus showed the disciples that he came to love everyone, so should we. He was selfless and faithful to God even when he knew his life was being turned upside down. He did not give up hope, nor should we. When we find ourselves feeling hopeless, discouraged, and trying to “fix” things on our own we need to turn our focus on God. We need to take the time to remember the daily miracles of God and praise his name. We can overcome our fears knowing God loves us and is always with us just as Jesus did. Chaleé Carmichael
Thursday, April 11 Zechariah 9:9-11 Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the warhorse from Jerusalem; and the battle-bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
When reading this passage I think of a parents’ unconditional love-- parents coming to help in a humble way when their child is hurting, or in trouble—and the child is waiting, hoping for forgiveness. At 16 years old I can remember a perfect fall evening driving home from my part-time job at Ukrop’s. My car windows were down and I was at cruising speed-- albeit above the speed limit—enjoying the song on the radio and thinking about my weekend plans. The orange sun was setting and, at the last curve in the road before my neighborhood, the strong rays fell right into my eyes. As I yanked on the visor to block the sun I simultaneously pulled at the steering wheel. My car swerved into oncoming traffic, I over corrected and went straight through a fence on the side of the road. Staring at my cherished and now un-drivable car I heard my parents’ words and heavy warnings about the dangers of driving, and how driving is a privilege. I called home and dreaded their arrival to the scene of the accident. As they arrived instead of anger and disappointment they came with care and concern. They stood to the side and had me handle the police report and ticket on my own. When that was done they taught me how to call for a tow-truck, drove me to the ATM to get my money to pay the tow-truck driver, and then taught me how to file an insurance claim. They didn’t have to punish me; they knew I was doing that myself. Instead, they came to my side to help, and showed me unconditional love and forgiveness as they made it a teaching lesson I never forgot. God is our best example of unconditional love and forgiveness. God never lets go and hopes for our good. Stacy Pierce
Friday, April 12 Revelation 7:9-17 After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, singing, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’ Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one that knows.’ Then he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’
Hoping for and Expecting Reversals What an incredible image of this great multitude gathering to worship God! God has promised us eternal life through the death of his Son. And here is a gathering of people from every walk of life, every background, every race, every nation, every socioeconomic status. There is no difference in God’s eyes. We are one people of believers. Can you imagine seeing that many Christian believers gathered in one place? To hear their songs and stories of love and faith, must be beautiful and inspiring. We have all been through times of tribulation, but it is our belief in God that will wash us white as snow. Did you ever have a time when you thought, “How can I possibly get through this?”Or “Why me?” My daughter asked me that question recently, “Why me Mom, why do I have to be sick for the rest of my life?” Maybe there is no easy answer to that question. Sure I could offer the “What does not kill us makes us stronger.” But how does that really help someone? It seems to me to be more of a band-aid approach, covering up the problem but not preventing the injury to reoccur. What if, when we are faced with life’s tribulations, we simply band together with other Christian believers? As a church, or body of Christ, we should gather in our own multitude, fall down before God and worship Him. Sickness, sadness, death, disappointment, and tragedy. They happen to all of us at some point in our lives. While we all have our own times of tribulation, God will help us. He will strengthen us for the fight. The hope we have in Him and His love for us will give us the strength to endure. Allison Herod
Saturday, April 13 Reflect on Love Spend some time today reflecting on how you have loved God and others this week. Did you try any of the suggested activities? How did those work out? Did you do other things to demonstrate your love for God and others? Think about ways you may want to be more intentional “Doing Love”!
Palm Sunday — April 14 God Loves… Through the Cross
April 15-24 Self-Giving Love Each day this week, as you read your devotion, think on these questions and use the following prayer starters Week 6’s Daily Prayer Starter and Reﬂec6on Ques6ons Prayer- Lord, you will reverse our fears and pain; help me look to the future with hope. To Think About: 1.What struggles do I need to give up in order to live a more hope-filled life? 2.In what ways might I share hope with others? 3.With God’s help, what is in my control to change in order to live into the hope offered by Jesus?
LOVE DOES! Try one of the following activities — perhaps a diﬀerent one each day, or the same one all week! Do LOVE as a way of loving God and loving neighbor! Look into the mirror and say three things out loud you like about your self. Make something and share with a friend (meal, card, …)
Purchase an item and place in the blessing box in our church parking lot.
Find a new ministry in the church to volunteer.
Monday, April 15 John 12:1-11 Mary Anoints Jesus Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’ The Plot to Kill Lazarus When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
The story of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet is one of self-giving love. Her honoring of Jesus in this way is extravagant, and considered by some of those present to be wasteful and unnecessary. Jesus’ response tells us that this kind of loving action is never wasted. I’m encouraged by the love shown to our neighbors in Fredericksburg by our own church members, as well as many others through the work of Micah Ministries. Over the years, I’ve heard criticism of this ministry from others in the community, who hold the position that by caring so well for our homeless neighbors, we are actually encouraging them to remain in their current position, and that we are encouraging others who are homeless to come to Fredericksburg because homeless life is so good here. The words of Jesus in this passage affirm for us that showing love is always the right choice, and it is never wasted. This Lenten season, my prayer is that we will all come closer to loving our neighbors as we would want to be loved. Chris Ryder
Tuesday, April 16 John 12:20-36 Some Greeks Wish to See Jesus Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour. Jesus Speaks about His Death ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say —“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 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 it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’ Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’ The Unbelief of the People After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.
Today’s passage tells of some Greeks who by networking through Philip, state their desire to see Jesus. It’s not clear what they were hoping to see. Perhaps they wished to see the man about whom stories were circulating how he had recently raised a man named Lazarus from the dead. Perhaps they wanted to see Jesus in order to believe it. The scriptures offer no clue and aren’t even clear if they ever got to see him at all. The Greeks’ query allowed Jesus to have one of those teachable moments with his disciples, to allow him to reframe the conversation. For three years his disciples have witnessed sight and hearing restored, storms calmed, hunger satisfied, and brokenness transformed into wholeness. For these followers, seeing has become believing. But now in these last days Jesus challenges them to understand that to just see him is no longer enough. They are now to be with him. They are to fully give of themselves, to be willing to follow Jesus whatever that may mean. For Jesus, to follow is not merely to go where he goes, but to be as he is. “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.” Eleven of those twelve disciples will accept the challenge. In doing so they will discover the transforming power of moving from seeing to being. Dennis Sacrey
Wednesday, April 17 John 13:21-22 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.
We are all familiar with the story of Jesus’ washing the feet of the disciples. It was after this event that John tells us Jesus was troubled in spirit, and the disciples wondered who would betray him. Was Jesus troubled in spirit because Judas, whom he loved, was going to betray him, or was he troubled in spirit for Judas’ fate? Jesus had the right to be troubled in spirit for himself. He certainly knew what the future held for him, and, yet, he let Judas go because of his self-giving love for us. Years ago, I was asked to write my testimony before going on a mission trip. I’ll never forget how I struggled to express my feelings on paper about Jesus and my relationship with God. Several weeks later while on the mission trip, I was asked to give my testimony publicly. Three weeks earlier it would have terrified me to share my public profession of faith, but something had changed. I had truly developed a personal relationship with Jesus and had started to appreciate just how much he loved me. I pray that I can continue to give up my fear of judgement from others and speak freely about my faith. Otherwise, am I “betraying” Jesus when I don’t share the gift of His love with those who don’t know him? Johnny Jones
Thursday, April 18 — Maundy Thursday John 13:1-17, 31b-35 Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’ After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord —and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. The New Commandment When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
Love one another? How do the words of Jesus to his disciples in the upper room on the last night of his life constitute a new commandment? Doesn’t the Torah call each believer to “love your neighbor as yourself?” How then, is this a new commandment? Oh, wait: Jesus threw us a curve ball. He said to love one another as “I have loved you.” And how is that different? John’s aim as he tells the story of Jesus is to have us “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” so the words and deeds of Jesus must be understood in this context. The fourth gospel has shown us how, as the Incarnate Son of God, Jesus’ life of love expressed fully and completely his relationship with the Father and continuously demonstrated a love that knew no limits. And now Jesus tells his followers to do the same—live a life of limitless love whose expression deepens our relationship with the Father, the Son and each other. This is tough love. This is a new commandment. Mark Houghton
Friday, April 19 — Good Friday John 18:1-19:42 The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ They answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus replied, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he’, they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.’ This was to fulfil the word that he had spoken, ‘I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.’ Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’ Jesus before the High Priest So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people. Peter Denies Jesus Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing round it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself. The High Priest Questions Jesus Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, ‘I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.’ When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’ Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. Peter Denies Jesus Again Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, ‘You are not also one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’ One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’ Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed. Jesus before Pilate Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ They answered, ‘If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.’ The Jews replied, ‘We are not permitted to put anyone to death.’ (This was to fulfil what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.) Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’
Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’ Jesus Sentenced to Death After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, ‘I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ They shouted in reply, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a bandit. Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.’ The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.’ Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, ‘Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’ From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.’ When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’ Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. The Crucifixion of Jesus So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews”, but, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.” ’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’ When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says, ‘They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.’ And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus’ Side Is Pierced Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘None of his bones shall be broken.’ And again another passage of scripture says, ‘They will look on the one whom they have pierced.’ The Burial of Jesus After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. It was the Fall of my Freshman year at the University of Mary Washington when I traded my hard desk seat for the hard bench seat in the gallery of a Fredericksburg City Courtroom. I was there for my longtime friend and teammate’s murder trial. Yes, a murder trial, it's still hard for me to believe today. “Why would you spend your week there? Why would you support him this way?” These are just a few of the questions I can still hear asked today from many friends and their families. The only answer I knew to give was that I am trying to oﬀer a fraction of the selfless love that Christ gave to ALL. It was hard to sit there each day knowing there were consequences - from the loss of several friendships to loss of connection to friends’ families to loss of class instructional time.
A lot happens in our text from Luke today — loss, betrayal, denial that has left each person with a feeling of sadness or loneliness or confusion, just as I had felt after this experience in my life. Good Friday invites us to enter into this story and to consider our own culpability.
None of us would have done what Judas did, would we? Betrayed Jesus.
None of us would have done what Peter did, would we? Promised to follow Jesus to the grave and then denied him because a silly servant girl asked a question?
None of us would have done what Caiaphas did, would we? Made a claim that “it is better for one person to die for the people”?
None of us would have done what Pilate did, would we? Shuttled back and forth between Jesus and his accusers, hoping that the easy answer would present itself?
None of us would have done what the chief priests did, would we? Shouted out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” and followed it by saying, “We have no king but Caesar.”
None of us would have done what Mary did, would we? Stood there at the foot of the cross and watched a son’s life drain away?
Just like our scripture today, God is working in ways those right in the middle of the story cannot see. Twenty years later my friend passed away unexpectedly, and even though we had not spoken in years, his mother called and asked if I would lead his funeral service. It was out of a selfless act of love that I believe led to this opportunity.
My prayer for my life, our lives — is not to be someone betraying Jesus, not denying him, not judging him, not condemning him, not rejecting him, not mocking him, not cursing him, not flogging him, not killing him—but standing there at the foot of the cross with others who love him, and putting our arms around each other for comfort and strength, so that when they ask us later what happened we can say, “I was standing at the foot of the cross …”
God is good, even in the darkness of Good Friday, and God’s steadfast love endures forever.
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Holy Saturday — April 20 Reflect on Love Does! Spend some time today reflecting on how you have loved God and others this week. Did you try any of the suggested activities? How did those work out? Did you do other things to demonstrate your love for God and others? Think about ways you may want to be more intentional “Doing Love”! Write a prayer
Easter Sunday, April 21 Christ the Lord is Risen Today! Alleluia! Acts 10:34-43 Gentiles Hear the Good News Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’
Isaiah 65:17-25 The Glorious New Creation For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord— and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever! Let Israel say, ‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’ The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: ‘The right hand of the Lord does valiantly; the right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.’ I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. The Lord has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death. Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
1 Corinthians 15:19-26 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
John 20:1-18 The Resurrection of Jesus Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her. In John 20, we have Mary Magdalene going early in the morning, to the tomb where Jesus was buried, to anoint the dead body of Jesus with burial spices. But as you know, there was no body to be found that day. Simon Peter and another disciple were with her and upon seeing no body of Jesus; they took off leaving Mary all by herself outside the tomb crying. Suddenly two angels appeared and asked her, what’s wrong. "Why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," Mary replied, "and I don’t know where they have put him." (v. 13). Following this statement, Mary turns and sees a man. And the man says, "Woman why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" And John writes, "Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you’ve carried him away, tell me where you’ve put him and I will get him." Look at Mary’s thoughts about this man to whom she said those words. This man whom she thought was the gardener. "Thinking he was the gardener." For me the obvious question is, why would Mary think Jesus was a gardener? John tells us that a man named Joseph of Arimathea came and took Jesus dead body and along with Nicodemus prepared Jesus’ body for burial and in verses 41-42 we read, "At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there." Joseph and Nicodemus place Jesus’ body in a tomb and this tomb was in a Garden.
So 3 days later when Mary gets up early, while it was still dark, while there was dew on the ground, she makes her way to the Garden where Jesus’ tomb was. In the unexpected events of that resurrection morning, she sees and hears a man with her in the Garden. Her first instinct is to think that the man to whom she spoke was the Gardener. The one who took care of the Garden. The one who weeded, planted and watered the plants in that Garden… But she was wrong… He wasn’t the Gardener… He was Jesus, …her resurrected Lord and Savior. The question I want to pose is why would John include this phrase about Mary, "Thinking he was the gardener." Why would John tell us this? Who cares who Mary thought the man was? And why does it matter that John tells us that she thought Jesus was the gardener in the garden where Jesus’ tomb was? Jewish writers, like John, did things like this quite frequently in their writings. They would write in details – details with seemingly no meaning- …but upon further study, they were meant to help the reader get at the meaning in a text. Let me give you an example: The first time John writes the word love is in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world . . ." When we dig into this text, we discover that the very first time love is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 22 when God tells Abraham to take, “your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love” and offer him as a sacrifice. Is John doing something intentional? I think so. He wants his reader to see a connection between Abraham and his son Isaac… and God and his son Jesus…. When John tells us that Mary mistakes Jesus for a gardener, John’s initial readers would instinctively, automatically think – That’s weird, why would John write that and then they would pause to think – "is John hinting at something?" …Then ask…"Where do we first have the word Garden in the Bible." And the people would say Genesis 2 – the Garden of Eden. And what happens there? …People choose to disobey God – live outside of his way and they end up losing their place in the garden. A death comes upon them. So when John tells us Jesus is buried in a garden tomb (19:41-42). And when John tells us that Mary thought Jesus was a gardener… John wants us to see a connection between the Garden of Eden and Jesus rising from the dead in a garden. There is a new Adam on the scene and he is reversing the curse of death by conquering it . . . in a Garden. And on Easter Sunday all of us nod our heads yes, - Jesus’ resurrection reversed the curse in that first Garden. No longer does death have ultimate victory. Larry Haun
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