Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017


“It is true! The Lord has risen…!” 
Luke 24: 35

What is the most powerful force in the universe?  Through hard work, ingenuity, scientific innovation, and technological development, we’ve been able to overcome so many of the forces that surround us, mastering them and making them work for us myself – like gravity, for instance.  We can actually make people fly.  Who would’ve thought?

But the one force we’ve never been able to conquer is death.  So perhaps death is the most powerful force we know, the one that is the most final, and the one that no one myself – no matter how rich, or wealthy, or powerful myself – has ever defeated. 

Except… someone has defeated death:   Jesus!

In celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter, we are celebrating a power so great that it can shatter even the bonds of death.  Quite often, I am asked by those who have lost someone dear to them something like, “Do you really think I’ll see them again?”

I do.

I do because I believe the power that is at work in Easter is the power of God’s love, a love so strong, so fierce, so determined that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 38-39)

As I age, good-byes become more and more poignant.  This Easter, I hope you will join me in looking with assurance to the day when we will never again have to say good-bye to those we love.  Amen.

CRM (4/8/12)


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Saturday, April 15, 2017

READING


Old Testament: Job 19:21-27a
Morning Psalms: Psalms 95, 88
New Testament: Hebrews 4:1-16, Romans 8:1-11
Evening Psalms: Psalms 27

DEVOTIONAL


I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end
he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.
(Job 19: 25-27a)

I was struck by these words for Holy Saturday. They are so familiar to me because I say them each time I preside at a burial service and, honestly, they are my favorite part of that service. They are words of great hope in the face of sudden despair, supportive confidence during a time that could be characterized by deep insecurity.

We all go through difficult times in life, times when relationships are challenging or jobs are lost. Perhaps our children experience tough times and we just can’t seem to help. Maybe it is a health issue that we face, or maybe someone close to us dies. Whatever and whenever the challenge, these words of faith are something we can hold on to. They are a statement of faith that, come what may, all will be well. We can face whatever life brings because we have God. Sometimes that’s all we have to hold on to. And, if we truly think about it, that really is enough.

On this Holy Saturday, when Jesus is dead and the disciples are in despair and fear, on this day when everything the disciples lived and believed was in question, on this day when God seemingly ceased to exist, let us remember these words from Job – who suffered as much as any of us have, or still do – “I know that my Redeemer lives.”
ASCM+ (3/30/13)


Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday, April 14, 2017

Psalms: 95, 22,40:1-14(15-19), 54

 “Jesus answered, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterwards.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you. Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.’John 13:36-38

Good Friday is the darkest day in the Christian Calendar; a singular moment when even Jesus’ closest followers abandon him to face death alone. Peter is labeled as the denier in the reading, but his actions are symbolic of all the disciples, none of whom stood up to defend the Messiah. 
We are all Peter. We all have fallen short of the sight of God.We all have denied God. We fundamentally misunderstand the Easter story when we make Jesus’ death the fault of someone else, someone other than“me.  When the crowds ask for Barabbas, everyone calls for Barabbas. When they chant “crucify him,” the whole of the assembly chants.  No one stood up to speak for Jesus.  No one stood up to speak for God.  We are all complicit here.

The rest of the readings today are messages of hope.  God will not abandon us forever, Jesus will return, and all will once again be right in the world.  But today?  Today we suffer.  We remind ourselves of the suffering of those dark days and of those days when we have felt far from God.  When “he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long.” 

Why? Because we only really understand God’s love, the healing power of God’s grace, in those dark moments. We can only really experience the transformative power of God in our lives when our lives are truly transformed. God is not a God of the status quo.


Here is the Good in Good Friday.  Even at our worst, God was at his best.  Even as we left Jesus to die on the cross, his death became our salvation.  As you meditate on Jesus’ suffering, prepare yourself for his, and your, salvation.

GSM (4/6/12) 


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

READING

Old Testament: Jeremiah 20:7-11
Psalms: Psalms 102
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32
Gospel: John 17:1-26
Evening Psalms: Psalms 142, 143

DEVOTIONAL

Today, the Lord humbles himself to wash our feet. We freely receive His love for our lives. He also commands us to bring the same love to the rest of the world. But how? With skills, time, or money?

A decade ago, I walked out of the movie Hotel Rwanda wondering how the world could allow genocide to happen before our eyes. I sided with the radical theologian William Hamilton in describing the global populace as careless, selfish, and devoid of God, yet urging them to do good works even without the Divine. I said to myself, “We can never let a tragedy like this happen again!” But by the time I got to my car, I realized that it was happening again. The tragedy in Darfur had begun to gain global attention and was bordering on genocide. I was now on the stand receiving the judgment I had given to the rest of the world. Oh boy; it was a gut check. Somehow, the Lord kicked me hard enough to make me pick up the phone, call a friend of mine, and shout, “Ok, enough talking! We’ve got to finally do something.”

I was scared to death to say “Yes” to Jesus’ call and finally take action against the injustices in the Sudan. But as Jesus declares in today’s Gospel, “The glory that you have given me, I have given to them that they may be one even as we are one.” This tells me that none of us are left behind or ill-equipped, that as Christians we have been united with our Lord to recognize and heal the various “deaths of God” in the world.

Two months after that phone call, my friend and I produced the very first Save Darfur Concert in Hollywood. It did not solve any of the issues in Africa, but it was a catalyst that launched us into the global network that is fighting on much bigger stages to end genocides across the globe.

Maundy Thursday reminds me that somehow I am miraculously made one with Christ. I am given hope that, even in my own selfishness and doubt, I have the opportunity to join Jesus’ call to help heal a fallen world. In my call to ministry I must infuse today’s Gospel promise, fight the fears of inadequacy to fulfill God's call within me, and  accept Jesus' words that we, that I, have been given the same God given glory to help unite the world in His love.  Amen.
CA (4/2/113

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

READING

Old Testament: Jeremiah 17:5-10, 14-17
Psalms: Psalms 55
New Testament: Philippians 4:1-13
Gospel: John 12:27-36
Evening Psalms: Psalms 74

DEVOTIONAL

Two years ago, while lying in a hospital bed, Dad wrote on my hand, “You saved me.” That really touched me; but looking back, I really think that he saved me.

He was my teacher. He taught me how to be compassionate, how to persevere, how to be competitive and a true sports fan, how to create something from nothing, and most importantly how to love someone unconditionally.

He was caring. He would always go out of his way to ask people more than just how they were doing; he would dig deeper. “How did you choose your career?” he would prod. He would find out the family history of our cab driver in a 10-minute ride. He did this because he really cared about people and who they were.

He was strong. He taught me to measure strength by how you handle yourself when you are dealt a tough hand. He persevered through all the obstacles that he faced, and he did it all with infectious positivity and a big smile. He had a “never give up” attitude that kept him going and inspired everyone around him.

He was my personal coach. Going to sporting events with my Dad was when we were truly in our element, cheering for our teams. Whether it was watching a Redskins, Nationals, or WVU game, Dad was always by my side yelling into the TV or shouting coaching advice into the living room.

Nothing was better than singing Country Roads in the stadium after a WVU home win. He taught me to be the sports fan I am today, and I am always going to cheer extra loud for him.

He was creative. His birthday cards were one of a kind, and he always knew how to make you laugh, even while delivering a touching and heartfelt message. His Christmas morning scavenger hunts were riddled with punny clues. He taught me to see beauty through photography, getting just the right angle and lighting.

My Dad shaped me into the person I am today. He made me a strong, caring, creative, competitive, and loving daughter, and no one could have done that better than him. He saved me, and he will always be my soldier.

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me
put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
(Philippians 4:9)
EKP (4/1/15)


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

READING


Old Testament: Lamentations 1:17-22
Morning Psalms: Psalms 6, 12
New Testament: 2 Corinthians 1:8-22
Gospel: Mark 11:27-33
Evening Psalms: Psalms 94

DEVOTIONAL


Have you ever felt like giving up on yourself? Like whatever battle you are facing just can’t be won? That’s how I felt a year and a half ago. I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and I saw my future flash before my eyes: Insulin injections, poor circulation, loss of limbs, inability to be insured, etc ... all because I couldn’t seem to get my weight under control. And, I’ve been a paying member of Weight Watchers since July 2002! I felt overwhelmed. Giving up seemed like the easiest route for me to take.

Had God also finally given up on me? I turned to scripture to look for answers. I found one in Psalm 6:

O Lord, rebuke me not in thy anger, nor chasten me in thy wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is sorely troubled. But thou, O Lord—how long?
Turn, O Lord, save my life; deliver me for the sake of thy steadfast love.

This psalm is a song of anguish and answer. No matter what sin I bring to God, if I repent and turn to the Lord, I am assured, in verse nine, that:

The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.

God didn’t give up on me! He heard my cries and forgave me and wanted me to succeed. My weight loss journey has been one of spiritual awakening as I learned to ask God for help each and every day. Praying to lose weight? Not exactly. It’s more like asking God to help me make better choices that honor His creation. And He has answered my prayers: 75-pounds-lost worth of answered prayers.

May the Lord continue to hear my prayers and fill me with His unending love, because in the end, God’s love lasts a lot longer than a chocolate chip cookie. Amen.
MT (4/15/14)


Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

READING



NEW TESTAMENT: PHIL. 3:1-14
OLD TESTAMENT: JER. 12:1-16
GOSPEL: JOHN 12:9-19
PSALMS: 51:1-18(19-20), 69:1-23

DEVOTIONAL


Thirty years ago I spent the summer selling Bibles door-to-door. There were about 50 college students in our group when we started that adventure together. We would work six days a week and then meet together on Sunday. Part of that Sunday gathering was a church service heavily laced with singing. Direct sales is never easy, and being completely on my own in southern Mississippi was a very difficult experience. It was the songs that we sang that uplifted me and gave me comfort through those difficult weeks as I accomplished a task to which I truly felt called.

Several years later, when I was grieving the loss of our first child through a miscarriage, I found that one of the songs that brought me so much comfort that summer was based on Philippians 3:10-11 (one of today's readings). As I read the words in Philippians, I was reminded of God's faithfulness and solace during that summer of selling books. The song came once again to my lips and once again God brought me comfort and peace.

When I look back to those two experiences, I'm convinced that it was the truth of God's word that was touching and ministering to me. Even now when I sing that song and I'm reminded of God's faithfulness and have a renewed hope for the future. I have learned that when I invest in learning God's word, the investment returns a tremendous dividend.

That's my goal for this Lenten season — to invest in God's word.

AKD (4/18/11)