Sunday, April 08 2012
"In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre."
For Jesus’ closest disciples and friends it must have seemed that everything they had believed in and all that they had been living for the last several years was dashed upon the rocks of despair and hopelessness. The very man in whom they had placed all their hopes and dreams had been put to death in an attempt to silence his powerful and unconventional message and ministry. And up to that very moment, it seemed as if the World, with its agents of hate, cruelty, and death had conquered this kind and gentle son of a carpenter
But wait, something was different this morning…something that was to change the World forever. While a handful of powerful men thought they had silenced a heretic and someone who called into question their authority, the fact of the matter was they had unknowingly made the way whereby God’s ultimate plan of salvation might be made known to all of creation.
Jesus, by allowing himself to undergo such pain, hopelessness, and suffering, was able to demonstrate the all-pervading love of God through his own resurrection. But this was not enough. There was, and is, more.
Jesus did not undergo all of this to impress the World of how important he was to God the Father, but instead, so that all people might know how important they are to God and how much He loves them. Jesus did not overcome death and despair for personal glory or fame. He did so to express God’s all-powerful and all-encompassing love for His creation. It was in Jesus’ own resurrection, that God made it abundantly clear that death itself was subject to His will.
On this Easter morning, we are once again reminded that because Jesus overcame pain, suffering and hopelessness, we too can overcome these things with our faith and trust placed in the One whom the Father sent. Jesus has not only conquered death, but He has ultimately replaced it with strength, peace, and hope. Remember, it is in placing our faith in Jesus’ resurrection that we find not only our own resurrection, but where we find God’s all-powerful and all-encompassing love for us.
Dear God, help us to never take for granted all that You have done for us through the life, ministry, and most importantly the resurrection of Your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN.
Saturday, April 07 2012
"And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.” "Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them."
Luke 23: 44 – 24:1
The Rest of the Story
It is Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter. None of the Gospel writers tell us anything about that day. It was the Jewish Sabbath and nothing much was happening.
But can you imagine what that day must have been like for Jesus’ friends and family? The Bible tells us the disciples were in hiding and a few of the women were preparing for their trip to the tomb on Sunday to care for the body. Can you imagine the things they must have thought and felt: the shock, the pain, the grief, the fear, the confusion, the isolation, the despair?
We probably don’t think about it very much because we know the rest of the story.
Many of us have shared that “day between Good Friday and Easter” experience in our own lives. We have known personal loss and grief over the death of someone we love. We may even know the extra level of pain that comes with a death that is sudden, unexpected, and caused by trauma. If you have been through this, you may have some idea what it was like for Jesus’ followers on that day, before they knew the rest of the story. We are connected to them by faith, by experience, and by the promise of Jesus Christ.
Whenever we are in that place of loneliness and pain and despair, it is important to remember that for us – like the disciples in hiding on that Saturday – the story does not end there. There is Easter and with it comes hope and the promise of eternal joy.
Father in heaven, you surrounded your Son with people who loved Him and who grieved for Him before they learned the incredible rest of the story! We ask that You be with us as we prepare to share their joy in the Resurrection tomorrow and that You sustain us in that joy through all the days of our lives.
Friday, April 06 2012
"Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know what they do”
Luke 23 v.34
For me, those are some of the most dramatic words in the Bible. If I’m quiet and think back to watching The Greatest Story Ever Told, Passion of the Christ, or the live Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany, I hear Jesus crying out “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. Jesus asked his Father to forgive his persecutors, even though he was being crucified, nails driven through his palms, people mocking him and vinegar being pressed to his lips.
If Jesus can ask his father to forgive those doing these despicable acts to his ‘only Son’, why is it difficult for us to ask for or give forgiveness…whether it be to God, our family, a friend, or a fellow church member?
During this past Christmas, I was in the hospital for nine days in isolation and couldn’t have visitors. While many of you were attending Christmas Eve service at our church, I was undergoing a lengthy medical test. To take my mind off the pain, I prayed to God, asking for forgiveness for feeling sorry for myself, for asking the question “why me…why do I have to be away from family, friends and church during such a meaningful and inspirational time?”. I didn’t receive an answer for “why me?” but I did feel more peaceful knowing God forgave me for blaming him and questioning him about my circumstances. How do I know God forgave me? The Bible tells me so!
As we journey through the darkness of Good Friday and prepare for Christ’s resurrection, I invite you to join me, reflecting on people we need to forgive and those whom we need to ask forgiveness. It is not an easy task. But, I believe joy and peace can only come through a forgiving heart.
This Easter season can be more meaningful by making forgiveness a key component. Before ‘sun rise’ on Easter morn give someone a call, stop by their house or send a message letting them know “I forgive”.
Thank you for being a forgiving God. Give me courage to forgive people in my life whom I need to forgive. I know it won’t be easy, but I also know with you by my side, I can forgive.
Thursday, April 05 2012
"Jesus prays for himself, he prays for his disciples, and he prays for future believers"
Following the Last Supper the scriptures tell us that the disciples and Jesus sang a song and then went to the Garden to pray. Only in John's gospel do we read that Jesus prayed again, while still at the table.
Although this prayer is not the "official" Lord's Prayer, I believe Jesus gives us a wonderful example of a devotional prayer. It has become one of my favorite passages of scripture and the guideline I use in my Sabbath Time. Jesus begins by praying for himself. By praying for himself first, Jesus gave me permission to do the same. What I have discovered is that in order for me to be able to care for, and minister to others, I need to pray for direction, guidance and strength for myself.
Jesus continues his prayer by praying for his disciples which includes us today. Jesus prayed to God to protect his Disciples, and equip them to carry on his work once he would no longer be with them. It is vital for all of us to pray for and encourage each other so that together we can continue to build God's Kingdom here on earth.
Finally, Jesus prayed for future believers, those who would believe in Him through the message of his disciples - including us. Jesus wanted everyone to know God, as Jesus knew God, in order that the love God had for Jesus may be in them as well.
Today is Maundy Thursday. Maundy Thursday Worship service takes us through the events surrounding the last supper and the other events that evening in the Garden.
This service is so moving for me, because, more than any other time, I really focus on the pain of Jesus. Not the pain of the crucifixion, but the pain of washing the feet of the one who would deny him....the pain of disappointment in the disciples who couldn't stay awake and pray with him....and then the ultimate pain of betrayal when one of his disciples identified him to the soldiers by kissing him on his cheek.
Lord, we read the events of the night you were betrayed and we wonder how many times we have caused you pain by our actions. Forgive us as we strive to serve You with a greater commitment to follow Your example in our lives. Amen.
Wednesday, April 04 2012
"Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord."
The theme of this scripture reading is "hope in midst of affliction". The key verse in the passage is "Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail, they are new every morning: Great is your faithfulness!
This reminds me of a great old hymn "Great is your Faithfulness! " How great is your faithfulness? Do you include the Lord in your times of trial and tribulations?
I had a great friend in Milo Miller. He would often come to our house on Friday evenings for Bible study and fellowship. One of the questions often raised was "why do bad things happen to good people?" He would often answer, that in times of affliction, that is when Jesus is closest to you. One of his famous catch-phrases was "keep on keeping on". I think that is what God calls us to do when we are in the midst of turmoil.
I had a very hard time upon Milo's passing. I never really knew how sick he really was. After his funeral, I came home and opened my Bible and read a card that he wrote to me. In it was his catch phrase "keep on keeping on". During this Lenten time we all need to "keep on keeping on" and remember the great sacrifice the Lord did for us.
Instead of the prayer, I leave you with a few words of "Great is your faithfulness"
Great is your faithfulness,
Great is your faithfulness,
Morning by morning, new mercies I see
all that I have your hand hath provided,
Great is your faithfulness Lord unto thee.
Tuesday, April 03 2012
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. "
In 1990 after tragic events in my life and nowhere to turn, I chose to seek the Lord.
That devastating year was when one of my dearest friends, Darlene, was murdered in March. Reverend Adams gave the eulogy at South Side. In August, my father had a massive heart attack and died. Since we did not have a church, my family ask Reverend Adams to officiate my father's service. Then in November, my niece Sydney became ill and was within hours of dying.
At Columbus Children's Hospital, we were told Sydney probably wouldn't live to see three. Their Chaplin performed a small ceremony to baptize Ken (my brother) and Sydney. I remember praying. "Help me Lord, I don't understand. I love her so very much. Please don't let her die. Oh God, what can I do?" I called all my friends, family, and people from South Side to ask for prayers. I vowed then to commit my life and service to the Lord.
The power of intercessory prayers!
My Sydney is now 22 years old and has a beautiful baby boy. Those years were very painful, but without them I might never be where I am today.
Most gracious Father, Every day we have the power to "seek" and to "find" comfort and wisdom in you. Our prayers may not always be answered, but I do know there's a heavenly Father who listens.
It is through persistent prayer and faith that we can truly be blessed "For nothing is impossible with God." (Luke 1:37) . Thank you Lord for bringing me to this wonderful family at South Side Christian Church and for all the many blessing you have given me.
Monday, April 02 2012
"For I was hungered, and you gave me to eat. I was thirsty, and ye gave me to drink. I was a stranger and you took me in; naked and ye clothed me.....
I grew up with a catalog of sacred songs and Bible verses. Among these was the song " Help somebody today, somebody along life's way. Though it be little, a neighborly deed, help somebody today..".
Reading Jesus' words, from Matthew's pen, calls forth memories of feeding strangers who came to my grandmother's door during the Great Depression era. We didn't have all that much. Hardly anyone did during that time but we always shared what we had - cornbread and beans or macaroni soup which was nothing more than macaroni cooked in milk with a little butter and salt and pepper. If we were lucky, we had potatoes with the jackets on and a good homemade noodle soup. And there was always clean hay in the barn for a warm night's sleep for those needing it.
An American poet, Edwin Markham, wrote a poem about this scripture called" How the Great Guest Came". He tells about a cobbler named Conrad, who was excited because he had been promised a visit from the Lord. After cleaning his house, Conrad set his table with milk and honey, and a wheaten bread and sat down to wait for his Lord. Meantime, a beggar came to his door, soaked from a pouring rain. Conrad brought the man in side and gave him a new pair of shoes for his sore feet. After the beggar was gone, a tired old woman carrying a heavy load of sticks on her back, came to his door. The cobbler fed her with his wheaten bread, tied up her heavy load, and sent her on her way. Finally, a lost and crying child came by. Conrad dried the child's tears and gave him the last of his milk before carrying the child home to his mother's arms. Returning home, the weary cobbler said to his Lord, "Why is it, Lord, that your feet delay; have you forgotten that this was the day?" Out of the silence a soft Voice replied, "Lift up your heart, for I have kept my word. Three times I came to your friendly door; three times my shadow was on your floor. I was the beggar with bruised feet. I was the woman you gave to eat. I was the child on the homeless street."
Any day now, a stranger may come knocking at your door. Will you let Him in?
Sunday, April 01 2012
"Praise be to the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
It feels like every time we turn around, someone we know is facing a hardship; ourselves included. Stresses such as loss of jobs, loss of loved ones, personal sadness, and other things that are happening in today's world can seem overwhelming. "Why do bad things happen to good people?" is a question asked over and over. While we do not have an answer, we can find solace and peace if we pray and trust in God.
I pray constantly that people can see God in my words and actions and sometimes I have been able to say or do the right thing at just the right time to make someone else feel better; I believe that there is no coincidence. God works through us and calls us to share His love with those around us.
Many times I have asked for prayers from my South Side family and I pray for others. To know that someone is lifting me up in their prayers gives me great comfort, and to be able to do that for someone else is such a privilege.
Dear Heavenly Father: Thank You for holding us in Your hands every day.