University Baptist Church Lenten Devotional 2015 PREFACE Lent is the season of the Christian Year/Calendar that covers the period of approximately six weeks leading up to Easter Sunday. The traditional purpose of Lent is to prepare believers for the experience of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. During Lent many Christians commit to fasting or giving up some favorite food (such as red meat, alcohol, soft drinks, or coffee) as a way of imitating the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness before beginning his public ministry. Others choose to give up some habit, such as watching TV or playing computer games. Some Christian traditions begin the season of Lent with a special mid-week service (usually in the middle of the day) that includes placing actual ashes upon the forehead of believers – hence the name Ash Wednesday. Ashes are traditionally derived from the burning of last year’s palms used on Palm Sunday. Believers wear the ashes on their foreheads throughout the rest of the day as a visible sign of their start of the Lenten journey. Although we do not adhere to this tradition at University Baptist Church, we do recognize the importance of Lent as a time for spiritual journey. Since 2007 members and friends of UBC have been writing short meditations to help us daily along this path. May this year’s meditations offer each of us the opportunity to experience this journey to the cross in a new and refreshing way! February 18, 2015 By Kerry Cheesman You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Isaiah 58:4-5 Today is Ash Wednesday, the day when many of the world’s Christians begin “giving up” something from their lives for the duration of Lent. So I wonder; if I were to follow this tradition of giving something up for Lent, which of my actions would be most acceptable to God? Certainly the words in Isaiah indicate that fasting is not the answer, although for many during Lent this is the tradition. So what could I choose to give up that might bring wholeness to my life, strength to my family and church, and peace to our world? The choices we each make for our Lenten “fast” should enable us to create wholeness, strength, and peace not only during Lent but throughout the year. Perhaps I can begin moving in this direction: I can be more whole by giving up gossip rather than gum; letting go of negative thoughts rather than simply giving up my desire to dine out; and covering my attitudes with gratitude instead of covering my eyes so as not to see those in true need. Our church might become stronger if I gave up trying to escape from my responsibility to care for others instead of giving up on others; if I gave up criticizing instead of giving up caffeine. Our world might have more peace if I gave up being apathetic by investing in prayerful action for the cause of human rights instead of giving up a Starbuck’s coffee for the sake of paying some overdue bill. I think I’ll try it, even if only for the next forty days. Who knows, I might be surprised to discover the glory that will await me on Easter morning. Then our light will break forth like the dawn, and our healing will quickly appear; then our righteousness will go before us, and the glory of the Lord will be our rear guard. Then we will call, and the Lord will answer; we will cry for help, and God will say: Here am I. Isaiah 58:8-9 February 19, 2015 By Charmagne Hough Read: Psalm 25:1-10, Daniel 9:1-4, 1 John 1:3-10 Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, LORD, are good. Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant. For the sake of your name, LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. Psalm 25:4-11 All have sin and come short of the Glory of God. I’ve always had trouble with the word sin until I realized that sin meant separation from God. Then I realized, of course, we are separated from God because we don’t know him. We don’t try to know him because we are all afraid he is going to punish us, but all he wants to do is love us. And of course there is nowhere we can be separated from God because we are all one, but we keep running instead of turning around and embracing our Father, Mother, Brother in spirit, love, understanding, caring, doing and being – ourselves – children of God. February 20, 2015 By Kay Monjot Trust and obey, for there's no other way/ To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. Several of the passages talk about how one needs to stay faithful and be persistent in proclaiming the message of Jesus. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 actually warns to be vigilant because the time is coming where people will no longer listen to the Word and, instead, follow other ways. What is interesting about this is that the way to be vigilant is not laid out. It says to “proclaim the message”, but it does not say that we have to all become street-corner evangelists in order to carry this out. What are other options? Well, we could proclaim the message by living our lives in a way that reflects the message of God. We can be beacons of light; we can be a living embodiment of the message in ways that are still impactful, but in ways in which we are more comfortable. As “All of the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness” (Psalm 25:10a), choosing to be a life-model instead of an active proclaimer of the Word is a valid choice. I may not be the person debating with others in order to convince them to follow the teachings of Jesus, but that does not mean that I am hiding my light under a bushel, either. We trust and obey the teachings of Jesus in order to find guidance and deliverance from our sins, but we also are obeying the teachings of the Lord by the way in which we live our lives as Christians. February 21, 2015 By Carver Williams Read: Psalm 25: 1-10 focusing on verses 4-7 My father was born in 1901, and probably the way of travel was on horseback or horse drawn buggy. My father took every chance he got to go to the ranch of a friend and go riding and he took me with him. I was not expected to ride. I was to wait for him in the barnyard (I was about age 10). I was minding my own business when I noticed a billy goat. I had gone through the fence before I saw the goat. He came trotting over to me looking like he wanted to use me for butting practice. I was terrified. Unfortunately I was right about his intentions. He came over to me and butted me. I tried to hold him off by grabbing him by the horns but I quickly discovered that he was too strong for me. He was wearing me out. I didn’t know how long we would be “doing this dance”. I didn’t know how long it would be before the goat wore me out completely. Suddenly the good guys came by. One was my father the other was the rancher. My dad picked me up and the rancher took care of the goat. Boy, did I learn a lot! “Never go into a fenced area without being sure there are no billy goats”. We all have billy goats. Not always real ones, but all of us have situations that have been tough for us. We don’t know what to think or what to do. I have learned that this is the time to be quiet inside. It is time to turn our racing mind off and listen, listen to what is going on inside of us. Rediscover the God who loves us and guides us. Usually when I do this I find out that the billy goat is gone. February 22, 2015 By Charmagne Hough Read: Psalm 22:23-31, Genesis 16:7-15, Mark 8: 27-30 Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. Mark 8: 27-30 Wow – why not, for many reasons maybe, but maybe because some people are not ready to hear those words yet, and as it is said, ‘pick and choose your battles wisely’. But why battles – we each have to look at ourselves and ask why do we always see battles wherever we go? Why don’t we see Love/God since we are all children of God? Perhaps we just need to clean our windows and look out and see Lord/Spirit and the wonders of creation. February 23, 2015 By Kerry Taylor As I got ready to do this devotional writing, I conducted an informal poll on how some of my friends and relatives viewed Lent (those who were asked are probably laughing now). I did this because I struggle with the idea of 40 days of sacrifice and your done. I want more – some bigger deeper meaning! So if you face the same sort of dilemma I do, I offer you some different ways to think about Lent. I thank everyone who helped me out with this. I am blessed to have you in my life. Sacrifice for Remembrance Some folks look at the 40 days of sacrifice as remembrance. When you give up that coffee from Starbucks, it serves as a constant reminder (for me at least—being a coffee addict) of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. It helps prepare you for Easter and its joy. The fact that the sacrifice period is 40 days and happens yearly, makes it more special and meaningful—it heightens your focus. Change Yourself for the Glory of God Another perspective people had about Lent was to twist it a bit and turn it into a habit changing period. Instead of just giving up the coffee for 40 days, maybe it’s time to kick the habit. Or even better, maybe it’s time to go out and make the world a better place by volunteering somewhere. God wants us to be the best we can possibly be. Lent can be a time to focus of what kind of person God would want you to be. The 40 day period can be a kick off to a better more Godly, you. Get Rid of Distractions This response was only given by one person, but it resonated with me the most. Lent and its sacrifices are a way to get rid of the distractions of everyday life and focus on your relationship with God. So when you pick your sacrifice, you pick one that you feel interferes with your relationship with God and those you love. When I give up the coffee, I will take away that line “don’t bother me until I have had my coffee.” After my withdraw period, not only will I give up my excuse to be grouchy in the morning, I will open myself to the opportunity to build a closer relationship with God and those around me. One of these ways of thinking could help make Lent more spiritual time for you. So pick your poison and let Lent bring you closer to God. February 24, 2015 By Kristina R. Gutiérrez Read: Job 5:8-27 Who can understand the book of Job? It contains some of the most comforting passages of Scripture and also some of the most confusing. For me, I can only understand Job by looking at the book as a whole. I am drawn to Job, not because he suffered, but because he suffered like I do. He came before God in his anger, dismay and hurt, and asked, “Why?” As human beings, we tend to be able to reconcile “just” suffering… the kind that is the consequences of our own actions. What is difficult to understand is undeserved suffering. But even in this regard, there is no real correlation between the amount of wrong we commit and the amount of pain we experience. Job refuses to take the role of defeated victim and protests his undeserved suffering. It’s important to note that while he protests (and loudly), he never cursed God. Job also didn’t leave us with a pat answer to the question of “why am I suffering?” In Job 5:8-27, one of Job’s friends, Eliphaz, is attempting to “help” Job, to give him comfort in his suffering. The contrast between Job’s friends’ counsel and his own dialogue with God is striking. They give personal opinions and repeat religious platitudes. Job rages and protests, and when his rage burns out, he sits back and waits for God to speak. Eugene Peterson states, “Real faith cannot be reduced to spiritual bromides and merchandised in success stories. It is refined in the fires and the storms of pain.” (Job: Led by Suffering to the Heart of God, p. 8) In Job’s response to undeserved suffering, he showed real faith. The irony is that those who are committed to following God don’t suffer less, they more often than not, suffer more. However, when these people…us…go through suffering, our lives can be transformed, deepened, in remarkable ways that could never have been anticipated before the suffering. Unfortunately, many of us spend our lives focused on avoiding suffering (which doesn’t work). Perhaps, like Job, we should begin entering the suffering, entering the mystery and looking around for God. We should stop feeling sorry for others, and - Continued February 24, 2015 Continued... ourselves, who are suffering and join them in protest and prayer. “Pity can be nearsighted and condescending; shared suffering can be dignifying and life-changing.” (Peterson, p. 9) Jesus knew this principle when he asked God to take away the suffering of the cross that was to come. This is our hope in the midst of suffering as well, that the God of Job will hear our anger and our prayers, andthat our faith will be deepened and our lives transformed. But if I were you, I would appeal to God;I would lay my cause before him.He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,miracles that cannot be counted. Job 5:8-9 (NIV) February 25, 2015 By Beth Short Read: Psalm 77; Proverbs 30: 1-9; Matthew 4: 1-11; Life comes with hardships, and some people seem to have more than their fair share. Whether it is the disappointment of failed relationships, the pain and fear of illness, the pressure of finding and keeping jobs, or the worries of caring for one’s family, these life challenges can be exhausting, maddening and depleting. Heck, even the frustrations of being on hold and trying to find a single human being to talk to over the phone about changing your internet service package can easily send someone to the moon with frustrations! All throughout time, mankind has faced hardships that can rock one’s very outlook on life. All of the passages in today’s readings discuss the feelings of anger, isolation and despair that can come during life’s dark moments. The Matthew passage discusses Jesus’s temptation by Satan after 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. Turn stones into bread if you truly are the Son of God, Satan said. But Jesus doesn’t buckle and responded that God doesn’t need to be tested. There is something comforting to me to know that God Incarnate faced temptations and hardships just like each one of us, and lived to know the kinds of human pains that can exist in life. I hadn’t really paid much attention to the last verse of the temptation story before: “Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” God is there to attend to us, too. Turning to God in prayer during both the good and bad times is a way to lighten the load of hardships when they arise. God is strong enough to handle our questions and even our anger about life situations. Prayer is like the lifeline that exists on some game shows. Use it! February 26, 2015 By Beth Short Read: Psalm 22: 23-31; Genesis 15: 1-6, 12- 18; Romans 3:21-31 When I was young, I used to get hung up counting my sins and figuring out if I had sinned that day. I figured that leading a sinless life was the goal of every good Sunday School student. And sometimes I could pride myself on having been sinless on a particular day since I didn’t commit any of the biggies that I would track – particularly fighting with my brothers or talking back to my parents. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still generally thumbs down on sin. But I have learned that being the kind of Christian that God wants me to be is much bigger than counting all of my trespasses and failings. I like to think that my more nuanced adult read of the Bible calls me to live a life that is full of the expression of God’s enormous love to all. Living a life where I merely fill in checkmarks about what wrongs I didn’t commit that day – swearing, lying, stealing, etc., -just isn’t enough. But, instead, I should ask if I searched my heart and fully responded to opportunities with generosity and caring, making others feel truly appreciated for their own humanity? Did I give others a chance to see my behavior and wonder what made it special? Did anyone have an opportunity to say, “Whatever it is, I want what she’s got.”? I do think over my day and each night think about whether there might have been different ways to respond to challenges. And I pray for wisdom and guidance for the future. I still commit sins that I regret. But I take comfort in knowing that God isn’t after perfection and his love will be there for me on good days and bad. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” says the passage from Romans. With this comforting knowledge, as well as a faith in the unending blessings and patience of God, I go on and try to live a bigger, bolder life of love rather than restricting myself to a narrow list of dos and don’ts. It can be harder, but is more rewarding. And for me, more akin to following the lessons of Jesus. February 27, 2015 By Elena Maietta Read: Psalm 22:23-31 This portion of Psalm 22 is a song of praise and thanksgiving. It's also a call to action! This excerpt begins by saying, "You...praise him! You...glorify him!" The direction to act on our gratitude is fervent, punctuated. Our voices are compelled to honor our creator. The psalm goes on to show us the many now and future benefits of praising God. When I think on this passage, I'm reminded of the words of Gertrude Stein: "Silent gratitude isn't very much use to anyone." Ultimately, it is right to give thanks and praise. And if we allow ourselves to respond to the gratitude that we feel, then we will know what it is to eat and be satisfied. February 28, 2015 By Dan and Sharon Butry American Baptist Missionaries This blessing was written as the closing for our class at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon. The blessing follows the outline of the training design we used with our students. Blessing for Conflict Transformation Leaders "But let justice roll down like rivers and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.." Amos 5:24 Wherever you find yourself, may you have compassion for the clueless and also for those who think they have no voice. May you have the wisdom of the apostles in Acts chapter 6 in all the conflicts you will have in the church. When you need power, may you receive the power of the Holy Spirit and may God guard you against any presence or use of ungodly power. May those who oppose you find you to be a listener and willing to learn from the margins. May you be a person who is known for the love of your enemies. May God reveal your self-limiting beliefs and may you sing songs of hope and transformation. May your wounds and grieving make you an effective healer of the wounds of others. May you have compassion for the traumatized and make safe places for their stories. May you be blessed with the power to do the unexpected, to refuse to be a victim, to love beyond borders. May you teach what you know. May you be a bridge-builder. May rivers of justice flow down through you and me. Amen. March 1, 2015 By Maryann Cheesman 31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” 34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:31-38 I’m reading the book “I Am Malala” by Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. It is a horrific story of a young girl in a country that transformed from a childhood oasis to a living hell. During the same week as I am reading this, I am watching the funerals of children in Jerusalem, killed by suicide bombers. The uneasiness I feel with all the violence in our Holy Land! What is it coming to? Children being kidnapped, raped, and forced to be strapped with explosives, then cast aside like dirt. It is no wonder that our youth, the next generation, have trouble with faith, believing that the Lord has wonderful plans for their future. The stories we see from around the world are horrific! The way the Lord’s precious children are being used makes my soul hurt! I can only imagine how the Lord feels! This book, “I Am Malala”…. I couldn’t finish it – I just hurt too much. But the way this young woman persevered through it all was incredible. Against all odds this young woman made it. Praise God for his hand of love on her and on all of us! March 2, 2015 By Ken Watkins Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered… Psalm 105:4-5 The purpose of Lent is to give us a kind of “desert experience.” The desert was where people of faith went to fully bring who they were into the presence of God, allowing God to quiet their stirring restless hearts and speak to them “a word” of comfort or direction. Listening to God is difficult for such a noisy, connected culture as ours. The Psalmist offers us two imperative verbs in the two verses quoted above – seek and remember. Remembering who God is and what God has done, quiets my noisy life and encourages my timid heart to seek God. Recounting just a few of the wonderful works God has done in my life, I am reminded that the God that I seek is the God who sought me first, the God that loved me unconditionally, the God who worked marvelous things in my life, the God who took me places that I never dreamed I would go, the God who delivered me from circumstances, often of my own making, where I thought that I would always be stuck. This Lent, as I wander through my own little desert moments, may I also remember and celebrate the goodness of God and may these memories encourage my seeking. Since God seeks me while I seek God, this hide and seek game should not last long at all. March 3, 2015 By Kathy Green Read: Genesis 22: 1-19 The scripture for this day talks about sacrifice. God was testing Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his only son. I can’t even imagine the remote possibility of even tossing this idea around in my head. Even those crazy days when both my boys have me at wits end yelling and screaming, wrestling and breaking arms. Thinking how Abraham could seemingly, without question or hesitation, just…..do it. Mind boggling! I think I might switch to thinking of what we do to sacrifice for others. (Since I hope God will not ask me to choose a son.) Offerings for the church, some time, a helping hand, an ear to listen, are a good start. My mind goes to my mother, alone a wonderful person, but to me much more. She wakes everyday to get my boys ready for school, pack lunches, yell 50 times to “GET YOUR SHOES ON”, and take them to school. Weeknights she fixes our dinner where she might hear, “I don’t like this”. She does this for me so I can be at work on time and not have to worry about meals after working all day. She could be traveling, or volunteering, have an adventure watching whales, all things she has done before and enjoys very much. But, she stays here for me and the boys. A sacrifice of love. What is it that you sacrifice? March 4, 2015 By Helen Watkins Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered. Psalm 105:4-5 Seeking the Lord and his strength in times of trials comes easily to me, almost automatically. My pleas for “HELP” or cries of “WHY” pop out of my mouth almost faster than I can think them. Even “Thank You” flows freely. But is seeking God's presence continually even possible? Perhaps I started with an unrealistic expectation – that seeking his presence continually required formal, structured, time consuming prayer. But who could pray continuously and still live their lives? I have come to learn that seeking his presence continually doesn't necessarily mean that I have to make time to isolate myself in a quiet room trying to pray and connect with God. Instead, I can carry an awareness of God's presence with me throughout my day, in the midst of stressful, boring, or joyful tasks, whether or not I succeed at more intentional forms of prayer. I doubt I will ever achieve the level of “continually” seeking God's presence. But I hope to continue making progress in seeking his presence amidst the busyness of my days. The more I am mindful of God's presence throughout my day, the more God is able to influence me and the closer I grow to God. This is true whether I am walking through God's creation, playing with our granddaughters, caring for my mother, discussing theology with my husband, or attending a worship service. My hope is that as long as I am able to seek his presence periodically throughout each day, I will be moving in the right direction........closer to God. . March 5, 2015 By Carol Kautz Read: Psalm 19, Exodus 19:1-9a, 1 Peter 2:4-10 “IF . . .” How many times have you used IF/THEN statements to get results from children, or students, or people at work to obey you? It is a technique as old as civilization: “IF you don’t stay in the cave, then . . .” “IF you don’t pick up your toys right now, then . . .” “IF you aren’t home by eleven tonight, then . . .” “IF you are late to work one more time, then . . .” “IF” statements say this is what I want from you. They can be seen as reminders, expectations, warning, demands, or threats. It depends on the situation, the people involved, the tone of voice used. “IF” statements are the theme of our scriptures today. Each time it is God who issues the “IF.” How do we read God’s words? “By the law of the Lord is His servant warned to do the right thing.” (paraphrase of Psalm 19:7a, 11a) In Exodus God expects Israel, “. . . if you obey my voice and keep my covenant . . .” (Exodus 19:5a) Peter reminds the church, “. . . for those who do not believe . . .” (1 Peter 2:7,8) Lent is a time for us to say to ourselves, “IF I don’t obey God, then . . .” Is that IF a reminder, a warning, a demand, a threat or an expectation? Hmmmmmm! Prayer: To be blameless and innocent of transgression, I pray, O Lord. Amen. March 6, 2015 By Carol Kautz Read: Psalm 19, Exodus 19:9b-15, Acts 7:30-40 “. . . THEN” The IF statements always have a consequence attached – if/ THEN . . .” What is the result of the IF? Consequences can be either negative or positive. “If you don’t stay in the cave, THEN the saber-toothed tiger will eat you.” “If you don’t pick up your toys right now, THEN I’ll take away your Gameboy.” OR “If you are home by eleven tonight, THEN next Saturday you can stay out until midnight.” “If you do start to come to work on time, THEN I will give you better hours.” “If you don’t” or “If you do” which will get the best response? “. . . in keeping (the law of the Lord) there is great rewards” (Psalm 29:11b). The Lord said to Moses, “Be careful not to go up the mountain or to touch the edge of it. Any who touch the mountain shall be put to death.” Stephen recalls how Israel’s rejection of Moses led them to make false gods, “Our ancestors were unwilling to obey (Moses), instead, they pushed him aside . . .” (Acts 7:39). How many times does God have to call us back to obedience to his ways? To God’s IF/THEN? Prayer: With what shall I come before you, O Lord? Amen. . March 7, 2015 By Carol Kautz Read: Psalm 19, Exodus 19:16-25, Mark 9:2-8 Choices= Results In the hit Broadway musical “IF/THEN” newly divorced Elizabeth moves to New York City for a fresh start. She meets her friends Kate and Lucas in Madison Square Park. Kate suggests that Elizabeth start using the name “Liz” and seek out new experiences. Lucas suggests that she go back to her college nickname, “Beth,” and start making professional connections in the city. The rest of the play deals with what would happen to Elizabeth depending on what name she chooses. If Liz/then…; if Beth/then… Sometimes our choices result in monumental changes as in the play, sometimes they just mean we do or don’t get to play with the Gameboy. Sometimes we don’t see the consequences until much later – looking back, “Oh, if only” or “Boy am I glad I chose that!” The consequences of God’s “IF/THEN” are always for good, but we often can’t see the results that way. God’s IF/THEN puts boundaries around us so as to keep us safe and well and in relationship with Him and our neighbors and ourselves. “The law of the Lord is perfect, sure, right, clear, pure, true and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:7-9). “The Lord said,‘Set limits around the mountain and keep it holy’” (Exodus 19:23). “Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’” (Mark 9:7) Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my salvation. Amen. March 8, 2015 By Julius Mayo The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; 4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun, 5 which comes like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. 6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat. Psalms 19: 1-6 1 As my family, my friends, and most of the college students I work with on a daily basis will tell you, I am horrible at hiding my emotions. This is particularly true if I am struggling through the allpowerful trifecta of tiredness, stress, and uncertainty. Although my years of educator training have instructed me to put on a brave face, a cheerful smile, and sunny disposition no matter what the situation, those who know me, can always tell when something is not quite right. What usually works for me after realizing that others have noticed what is troubling me, is to take a moment to literally step outside and just look up and then all around me. Like the Bible verse says, in those moments I realize once more that “the heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” We all have a Heavenly parent far more wise, caring, and powerful than we could ever imagine. A Creator who knows our fears and concerns, and is willing to help, if we but ask. After prayer, and a good night sleep, I am able to recognize the divine message of the sun moving across the sky, bringing light into the darkness. It is like God’s Love, constant and glorious in its magnificence. There is no problem-solver, life-healer, soul-revitalizer greater than God, and the more followers of Christ like myself realize that, the more joyous our spiritual journey will be. All praises be the Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit! . March 9, 2015 By Charmagne Hough Read: Psalm 84, 1 Kings 6:1-4, 1 Corinthians 3:10-23 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God. I Corinthians 3:16-23 Are we not all children of God? All one in Spirt/Love/Hope/ Understanding/Caring/Doing/Being? Jesus loves the children of the world. We are God’s children. Care, be, do, share, love – turn around and stop running and embrace your brother, mother, and father in the spirit of love that we all are, for we are all children of God. March 10, 2015 By Natasha Woods Saving all of the good stuff until the end? It is appointed for mortals to die once. Hebrews 9:27 I hate funerals. Yes, for all of the obvious reasons but what I find especially depressing is that the person may have died without knowing their full impact on the lives around them. I wonder why we do not take the time or make the effort to tell the people in our lives how much they mean to us? Why do we save it all until they are not around? I recently discovered that I like retirement receptions! I attended the retirement reception of my advisor from my Master’s degree program. One of her former students traveled all of the way from Germany! It was so great to see all of the lives she had touched. It was awesome to see so many of her former students before and after my time as her student at the reception. When they asked if anyone would like to speak a few words there was of course, that awkward silence. I was the first to come forth and speak up. I was excited to tell her what an impact she had on my life. Do the people in your lives know that you think that they are special? Do they know how much you enjoy those unexpected phone calls? Do they know that you would not be where you are today if it were not for the sacrifices they made? Tell someone today what they mean to you. Don’t save all of the good stuff until the end. Prayer: Lord, we thank you for the sacrifice you made to give us new life. We pray for the courage and opportunity to thank and acknowledge the gifts of the people you have placed in our lives. Amen. . March 11, 2015 By Carver Williams Read: Psalm 84: Focusing on verses 8-12 For several years we took a vacation at the beach in Nags Head, North Carolina. We went with my brother Tom and his wife. We loved body surfing and riding on inflatable rafts. One afternoon while Tom and I were out riding the waves we looked around and noticed the undertow was taking us way down the beach from our wives. Our wives looked worried and were waving for us to come in. We finally got that accomplished by kicking and stroking with all our might. We were not getting to the beach as fast as I wanted. Finally we could see we were making head-way. After we got through the breakers we were happy to reach the beach. Psalms 84:12 was certainly in tune with my thoughts as we were struggling to get to the beach. “O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you. And to that I want to say AMEN. March 12, 2015 By Henri Nouwen 20th Century Priest, Teacher, and Writer Forgiving in the Name of God "This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name... Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.' For if your forgive [humans] when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive [them] their sins, your heavenly Father will not forgive you." Matthew 6: 9, 12, 14-15 (NIV) We are all wounded people. Who wounds us? Often those whom we love and those who love us. When we feel rejected, abandoned, abused, manipulated, or violated, it is mostly by people very close to us: our parents, our friends, our spouses, our lovers, our children, our neighbors, our teachers, our pastors. Those who love us wound us too. That's the tragedy of our lives. This is what makes forgiveness from the heart so difficult. It is precisely our hearts that are wounded. We cry out, "You, who I expected to be there for me, you have abandoned me. How can I ever forgive you for that?" Forgiveness often seems impossible, but nothing is impossible for God. The God who lives within us will give us the grace to go beyond our wounded selves and say, "In the Name of God you are forgiven." Let's pray for that grace. . March 13, 2015 By Kerry Cheesman Marked for a Purpose In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:11-14 I proudly wear a simple wedding ring. Rarely does it leave my finger. It feels comfortable, although in the summertime as my fingers swell it can seem quite snug. It is my mark or seal – one that not only says I am married, but that I am very happily married to the one I love. It is a symbol of the pledge of faithfulness and love that I committed to. In Ephesians chapter 1 (above) we are reminded that as children of God and believers in Christ Jesus, we have been marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit. This mark sets us apart, just as a wedding ring does, into a different group or class of people – ones who strive daily to do God’s will. And it shows the world that, indeed, we belong happily to Jesus Christ. As we continue our journey through Lent let us remember that the Christ in whom we set our hope, and the Christ whose journey to the cross we follow this day is, indeed, the one we happily belong to! March 14, 2015 By Stach Papa Read: Psalm 107: 12-22 This reading speaks to me and touches my heat in many ways. As a youth I was very involved with God, church and living as the Bible says one should. But, as a young adult, I was sick in my sinful way of living. To me, living in God’s will seemed hard and unattainable. Living in sin seemed like more fun and a whole lot easier. In high school I began drinking and then drinking let to drugs. My behavior changed for the worse. I was working in bars and night clubs or houses of sin, as I see it now. As each year passed I was closer to death and farther from God. The only time I would pray was when I wanted something. I would pray for something bad or to get out of some kind of trouble. I never wanted anything healthy and that is how I understand verse 18. Psalm 107 Verse 18 “they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.” The night of November 23, 2008 is the night I cried out and asked for God’s help and forgiveness, to guide me because I could not do it alone. That is the day that I will always be thankful for because, God saved me. I praise and thank God everyday. I know that I am not alone and I know how to walk and live in God’s will. November 23, 2008 was the last day that I drank or did drugs. Since that day the Lord has done wonders for me. I am a different man. I love spreading my love and the word of God. I love to reach out to others who are living the life I once was living. I tell them of the things he has done for me and what he can to for them. It is all about surrender. If I would have never surrendered myself to God that day, I would surely be at the gates of death. Thankful today for his wonderful and amazing works and the love he has shown for me. . March 15, 2015 By Julius Mayo But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when were dead through trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—6 and raised up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-6 4 As a college journalism major that never really gave up my interest in global affairs, even I have to reluctantly admit following the news from around the world is, as one of my co-workers described it, “depressing.” From the stories of displaced refugees longing to someday return home, while all the while knowing that the world they once knew will never be the same, to learning of once powerful and influential nations now having to endure brutal austerity measures that are both difficult and humiliating, it is hard to find any joy in the world around us. In this sea of despair, it is easy to see why many turn to extreme and often brutal actions to escape the daily hardships of their life. It is often in the aftermath of such behaviors that the true recognition of the grave harm they have done to others and often to themselves comes to light. For many, this time of reckoning can be far worse than the agonies that led them away from the Divine path in the first place. By the standards of human justice, such anguish would be a fitting punishment for what, at times, might appear to be unspeakable acts. Divine justice is different. As God’s children, we are blessed with the opportunity to be lifted out of the abyss of whatever forms of sin that have pulled us away from the Creator’s Love. Not only does God forgive when we truly repent for our sins, He also lifts us up to be better people and disciples than we could have ever imagined. There is no greater Love than that in the universe. And for that Good News we should be truly grateful! March 16, 2015 By Ian Cheesman Read: Psalm 107: 1-16 The Psalm for today is a thanksgiving for deliverance from troubles. While the psalm only lists a few troubles, we all have troubles in our own lives that God helps to deliver us from. Whether it is financial woes, family issues, work-related, health problems, or something else, God is always working to make changes in our lives. Change is not easy, and often times it is something we resist out of fear of the unknown. Yet without change, life stagnates, we live in a rut, never knowing what could lie around the next bend, the next opportunity to grow, to flourish. While sometimes the change is not an option, it has been done to us, the scariest changes are the ones we bring upon ourselves. But we aren’t solely alone in making these changes, we are in a partnership with God. God has much more experience in making changes than we have (not only in quantity, but in quality as well). Trust in the voice of God to help us make the changes we need to make, just as those in the Psalm trusted in God to help them stop wandering in the desert, to free them from their gloom. March 17, 2015 By Isaac Robinson Read: Numbers 20:1-13 “Faith – It Can Be Difficult” This passage tells the familiar story of when the Israelites had been freed from bondage in Egypt and were traveling in the wilderness. At this point in their journey, the Israelites were complaining to Moses, because of the lack of water. When the story from this passage is told, the focus is usually on the Israelites, but since I was I high school, I have always been drawn to Moses’s role in this story. Moses was one of the people of great faith in the Bible. Moses was even allowed in the presence of God, so that his face glowed. In the transfiguration story of Jesus, it was Moses and Elijah who appeared. Yet in this story, Moses is told to speak to a rock and command it to bring forth water. However, instead, Moses struck the rock twice with his staff. God said that because Moses and Aaron did not have faith enough to command the rock in the presence of the Israelites, to show God’s holiness, he and Aaron would not be allowed to bring the Israelites into the land that was promised. I often wondered why Moses, considering all of the wonders of God that he had seen and all the miracles God had worked through him would not have enough faith to do as the Lord commanded. Then I think of myself, throughout my life I have seen the workings of God a multitude of times. Yet too often, when something I cannot control comes into my life, I find myself very lacking in faith, with not even the smallest fraction of the faith of Moses. I have come to realize that no matter how great or small our faith, it is something that we need to constantly build. Prayer: “God, you have shown me many great works and I have heard from others of great things you have done, yet so often, I lack faith and I let fear and trepidation take your joy from my life. Please help my faith in you to continually grow and let me always remember that you are my rock and salvation.” March 18, 2015 By Patricia Rohrbaugh Read: Psalm 107: 1-16; Isaiah 60: 15-22; John 8: 12-20 Dawn One morning, my brother and I decided to fish Rodman Reservoir in Florida. When we arrived shortly before dawn, the reservoir was eerily quiet. The only noise came as Sam freed the boat from the trailer, eased the truck down the ramp, and the boat slid into the water. As we glided down the channel, a bald eagle made a low pass along one side. Suddenly, the marsh came alive. The moor hens began clucking and pecking. The sun was coming up. A new day began. All three of the Scripture readings for today mention light. In Psalm 107: 10-14, those who rebelled against the words of God sat in gloom and darkness. Starting in Isaiah 60: 19, twice the writer says “. . . the Lord will be your everlasting light.” Jesus proclaimed in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Surely, as the sun rising in the marsh heralds a new day, the light of Jesus ends the darkness for those who follow him and illuminates the way. A new day begins. March 19, 2015 By Oliva Riley 10Create in me a clean heart, O God. and put a new and right spirit within me. 11Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. 12Restore to me the job of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit—Psalm 51:10-12 One my favorite hymns is based on these verses. Create in me a clean heart, oh God and renew a right spirit within me. Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence oh Lord, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me, the joy of Thy Salvation, and renew a right spirit within me. During Lent we are called to look within ourselves to become closer to God. Some people pray, some listen, and some choose to be quiet. I challenge each one of you to find times during this Lenten season to become closer to God. This is not something that you can rush. Take your time as you explore your relationship with God. March 20, 2015 By Oliva Riley Jesus the High Great Priest 14For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.16 Hebrews 4:15-16 Take time and think about what this verse means to you. Let us remember that Jesus is always there to receive our mercy. In time of struggle we can look to him for his grace to meet our needs. Jesus struggled as we believers do. In this Lenten season, may we all take time to understand what these scriptures say to us. March 21, 2015 By Carver Williams Read: Psalms 51; 1-12 I want to focus on Psalm 51, verse 1. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions.” This verse was a key for me. On an early day in June I was returning from Washington, DC to my home in Fly, Ohio. As I got close to Charleston, West Virginia I had a horrifying experience. All of a sudden I could not see anything. Immediately I realized I was in a low hanging cloud. At first I didn’t know what to do. I was on a two lane road, which made it more difficult. If I tried to pull off the road I could easily be on a narrow berm where I could possibly roll over and over and over. I was afraid and stay on the road because someone could rear-end me and several of us could be injured. I was especially concerned about going left of center and having a head-on collision. I didn’t know what to do. Then I felt better. I decided to lean on God’s presence. I had an idea. I opened my door and could see the double yellow line. I kept my eyes on that line and drove very slowly. Suddenly I drove out of the cloud and could see. I wanted to sing at the top of my voice. But, since I am totally tone deaf and don’t know one note from another I decided the best way to thank God was to rejoice in His guidance and be thankful. And that’s what I did. For awhile however, it was a scary experience. I certainly do not want to do that again. March 22, 2015 By Barbara Bullock 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. Psalm 51:10-12 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. Jeremiah 31:33-34 Repentance and forgiveness. Is this not the journey of Lent? During the forty days leading up to Easter, we as spiritual pilgrims are to take a moral inventory of ourselves. It is a time when we are contemplative about our faith and relationship with God. Lent is an inward and personal journey where we explore our inner landscape. For some, it is a time of fasting and service. In some high-liturgy traditions, no “Allelujahs” are voiced. Growing up Lutheran, I remember the great joy of finally singing the songs of Easter and raising my voice in the first allelujahs of the day. The silence of the forty days of lent only made them more meaningful on Easter Sunday. Repentance is an important step in forgiveness. It takes courageous humility to be truly repentant. When we take responsibility for our actions, then we can commit to a new way of being. Repentance does not blame the other for our actions. When we are repentant, we cannot say “it is your fault that I behaved that way!” When we are truly repentant, we acknowledge our freedom to act in ways that can be harmful, even when it was unintended. We are not afraid to say “I’m sorry.” We can genuinely ask as the psalmist does, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me”. Forgiveness does not require forgetting. When we understand the link between repentance and forgiveness, it is Continued… March 22, 2015 Continued... important that we have a memory of what has occurred so that it does not happen again. We have only to look at the atrocities of war to understand why this is important. When God declares “I will remember their sin no more” it is to remove barrier to relationship and a statement of reconciliation. There will be a new covenant where the knowledge of God will be heartfelt.In God’s forgiveness, we experience what it means to have God’s law within us and written on our hearts. The journey of Lent reminds us that from the least of us to the greatest, we are all in need of forgiveness and reconciliation. Take a moment today, and with courageous humility, search your heart for where you act irresponsibly or blame others unjustly. Look at the ways you can take responsibility for your actions and turn it around for the better. Ask for God’s guidance to live more righteously. May you discover God’s healing and steadfast love. March 23, 2015 By Joe Jackson “Lead out those who have ears but are blind, who have ears but are deaf.” Leading or being a leader presents challenges in a biblical, social and business environment. God does not empower all of us to be great leaders as he needs followers as well. Some biblical leaders struggled, others succeed. Sometimes the followers followed, other times they did not. The same goes with our current world. One just needs to cast an eye to our US and World leaders to see a vast difference in leadership ability and quality. “You are my witnesses” declares the Lord. All we say and do as Christians reflects on our beliefs and/ or out lack of beliefs in God’s word and law. Let us all endeavor to rise up to the challenge of bring strong Christian witness, leaders and followers this Lenten season and beyond. March 24, 2015 By Kerry Cheesman 2 Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. 4 They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. Isaiah 44:1-8 3 For What a beautiful message from God to his faithful servant, and to all of us now and forevermore. God sees thirsty land, and pours water on it; dry ground, and pours streams on it. Matthew Henry in his commentary notes that “Water is the emblem of the Holy Spirit; as water refreshes, cleanses, and makes the earth fruitful, so do his influences refresh the soul.” God’s all-gracious care is found both in the history of his people and his creation alike. For both, God’s blessing is his Spirit poured out abundantly. People and creation share alike their thirst for the care of the Creator. Likewise, God looks ahead and sees generations to come, and pours his Spirit freely upon them. As the Spirit blesses our grandchildren and their grandchildren, so the rain blesses dry ground throughout a thirsty land. The reverse is also true: as rain cares for dry ground, so God’s Holy Spirit cares for God’s people. Prayer: God who created all and who cares for all of creation, send your water, your Holy Spirit, upon us this day, that our thirst for You might be quenched and our fruitfulness for the kingdom might be multiplied. Amen. March 25, 2015 By Carol Kautz Read: Psalm 119:16; Haggai 2:1-9, 20-23; John 12:34-50 The Word of the Lord Words are an amazing invention of the human species. The Ethnologue catalog lists 6,909 languages worldwide. It is estimated that nearly half of these languages will be extinct within the next century due to the advance of the major languages of world civilization. Languages are made up of words that have been given meaning by the group that speaks that language. Almost all languages have a word for tree, but not every language has a word for snow! Words are the topic of the scripture readings for today. More precisely it is the word of the Lord that is the focus. Psalm 119 is an amazing composition. The longest of the psalms, each verse of each stanza begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. More amazing is that each verse refers to the word of God with a variety of synonyms - God’s word, commandments, statutes, ordinances, decrees, precepts, or ways. The psalmist says that only in keeping the word of the Lord can a wise person keep their way pure. The prophet Haggai brings the word of the Lord to King Zerubbabel. It is a word of promise and hope to the Jewish returnees from exile as they begin to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. “Take courage all you people . . . my spirit abides among you; do not fear.” Jesus – the Word made flesh – speaks the word of the Father who sent him. “. . . the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life.” The Word is the summation of all the words for keeping ones way pure. The Word makes us courageous to rebuild the temple of God, our life into a new thing. The Word is light so that we can clearly see God. The Word is our salvation, our eternal life. Prayer: Words, words, words, - only one is all we need – Jesus. Amen. March 26, 2015 By Amanda McClafferty A Song of Victory O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, "His steadfast love endures forever." Psalm 118:1-2 In a world of constant change, forever is a word rarely used. What a blessing it is to know that Gods love is forever! Let us take comfort in this and spread Gods love to those who may not feel the warmth of a familiar hug, an encouraging word, or a friendly smile. Amen March 27, 2015 By Henri Nouwen 20th Century Priest, Teacher and Writer Solidarity in Weakness Joy is hidden in compassion. The word compassion literally means "to suffer with." It seems quite unlikely that suffering with another person would bring joy. Yet being with a person in pain, offering simple presence to someone in despair, sharing with a friend times of confusion and uncertainty ... such experiences can bring us deep joy. Not happiness, not excitement, not great satisfaction, but the quiet joy of being there for someone else and living in deep solidarity with our brothers and sisters in this human family. Often this is a solidarity in weakness, in brokenness, in woundedness, but it leads us to the center of joy, which is sharing our humanity with others. March 28, 2015 By Alison Mowery Read: Mark 10:32-34 The passage opens with the resumption and final leg of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. He is accompanied by a band of followers, who are described as both “amazed” and “afraid.” Then again, they have just heard some hard teachings about the difficulty of entering the realm of God when one is rich and has so much to lose. For the third time in the gospel, Jesus tells his closest followers of his upcoming death, but this time, adding graphic details of the humiliation and pain he will endure. The disciples finally grasp where they are headed with Jesus- into the heart of the established religious authority and the political and public fray- a predicament that would likely evoke feelings of fear and amazement. Perhaps the disciples cannot believe their leader’s confidence as they forge onward. The Common English Bible notes that Jesus walks ahead of them, “in the lead,” and the passage ends with the same tone of confidence as found in its opening: they will hand him over, they will condemn him to death, they will mock, spit on, torture and kill him, yet he will rise up. As contemporary Christians, we follow the One whose hope in God’s providence and courage in following the way can lead us into risky confrontations with unjust authorities, equipped with nothing but our faith. In doing so, we may be asked to give up something that we believe contributes to our own comfort, as examples, time, complacency, apathy, control, power, material goods/ money, and safety. University Baptist Church is entering a new phase of “being church,” which in all likelihood will lead us outside the walls of our sanctuary and even our building! There is a fresh and resolute movement afoot that is calling us into a more costly version of discipleship than before. Many of us may be feeling amazed and more than a little afraid. The good news is that wherever we are called to go, whatever we are required to endure, Jesus is already there, in the lead! March 29, 2015 By Frank Benline Read: John 12:13, 16 Everyone loves a parade! Big times were to be had in my hometown of Martins Ferry, OH when there was a parade. And, there was always a parade, Christmas, Homecoming, and Memorial Day each May 30th. (I’m old enough to remember when that holiday had not been changed to a Monday every year.) I think we probably had a Veteran’s Day parade as well, but I’m not sure. As a member of our Jr. High and High School band, I marched in many parades over my 7 years as a drummer. The most memorable, was the 1974 Pro Football Hall of Fame parade and pre-game for the football game the year Lou Groza was inducted. Since he had graduated from our High School, we were invited to participate. It was like we were part of history. Perhaps the people yelling “Hosanna” that day in Jerusalem had an insight in to that feeling. History was being made here and they were a part of it. It seems the disciples were overtaken with awe . . . and confusion. They didn’t get the big picture until after the rest of the week was behind them. In one week, Jesus went from superstar to public enemy number 1. For most of us, it would be even more confusing, but for them, all the pieces of the puzzle began to fit. They were part of history, but maybe not in a way they would have liked. What we do, what we say, how we react to situations, and with whom we interact all make us a part of Christian History. We need to realize that fact TODAY, and not be so slow on the uptake as the disciples, and wait for something tragic to happen and realize the part we had in it. Just as the disciples may not have liked the part they played, denying, and betraying Jesus, let us not wait around and see that somehow, we have become the unwitting players in a drama of deceit, denial, and defamation of Jesus’ name, and the people Jesus loved, which is ALL people. Let’s become active participants in Jesus’ parade, and love others. . . all others, as Jesus showed us, and commanded us to do. March 30, 2015 By Joel Zinn Read: John 12:1-11 This passage, in my opinion, is difficult to interpret for several reasons, not the least of which is the presence of a narrator that clearly would like to disenfranchise Judas Iscariot. Leaving aside questions of authorship of the invective parenthetical remarks, I myself, upon first hearing this passage read in a service during my time as a singer in the Princeton University Chapel Choir, was confused by the message given that Sunday by the Dean of Religious Life. Dean Boden took Jesus' side on the matter of whether or not Martha should have used a heaping portion of "costly" perfume to wash Jesus' feet. It seemed to me that Judas had the right of it: certainly it was theologically more in line with Jesus' teaching to spend whatever money Martha would have spent on perfume to wash Jesus' feet on the poor instead. Didn't Jesus say in one of his parables, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40)? So where is Jesus coming from in reproving Judas? Jesus' response is indeed quite clear: "Leave her alone". I found something unsettling about Jesus' reaction to Judas's seemingly correct theology. What Dean Boden and I finally agreed upon was that Jesus' was actually responding to the motivation behind Judas's criticism of Martha. We concluded that Jesus reprimands Judas not because Judas had wanted the money himself and was bitter about the missed opportunity of pocketing three hundred denarii (nearly a year's pay for a laborer, as hinted by Matthew 20:2), as the narrator tries to convince us, but rather because Judas only had his own righteousness in mind. It is almost as if Judas's primary intention in saying this is to show how theologically correct he is. Surely we have all done a similar thing as Judas. How many times have we spouted off a cocktail party factoid just to win over the affection of those around us -- to make us out to be better than we know we are? Judas, I imagine, is doing much the same: he admires Jesus and wants to show himself to be theologically keen. Continued... March 30, 2015 Continued... I think this interpretation also brings to light another important question that we should keep in mind: when we perform a good deed, what is our true motivation for doing it? Is it because we know it is the right thing to do? Is it to avail ourselves to others? Is it to come across as better than those around us? March 31, 2015 By Alan Newton, Executive Minister ABC Rochester/Genesee Region Read: Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 71:1-14, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, John 12:20-36 “While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. John 12.36 The First Century Christian community believed that Jesus’ death would hasten the end of all things but here we are over 2,000 years later and still carrying his witness forth into the world. I am struck by the phrase “while you have the light” as the implication is that there is a possibility of there being no light. As a Christian today, it is impossible to conceive of losing the light of Christ’s love and yet, I know of many Christians who live as if there is no light. These are the folks in our midst who are the “glass half empty” kind of people. They are those who see the down side and wholly miss out on all the good that God is doing in our world and in our lives each day. According to Gospel writer John, Jesus gave his disciples these final words, departed from them and hid from them. Once again I am puzzled by the words “and hid from them.” It makes me wonder who is hiding from whom. It is quite obvious to me that the great secret today is the one that the church is keeping from people who are hungering for God and for the kind of community Jesus imagined the church to be for people. Jesus’ hope and desire would be that as Christians we believe in the light; that we believe in the power of love. His desire is that we become light and love for others – all others. The question for the church today is “Why do we keep our light and love so hidden?” Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, your love is not hid from us, nor is your light. Help us to be your light and love for those who live and work and move around us. Amen. April 1, 2015 By Patricia Rohrbaugh Running the Race Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1 Sounds like the basis of the theme for a youth convention. In fact, I’m pretty sure in my Baptist Youth Fellowship days I attended a state convention with that theme: THE RACE or RUNNING THE RACE. What a challenge! Now I’ve been racing for more than half a century, and I think I’ve been a poor runner. Have I persevered? I don’t think so. I think if I were actually on a race track, I’d be found napping at different stages. Since the Christian life is compared to a race, then a component of that race would need to be progress. Am I any farther along the race track than I was when I started? Have I lost track of the direction? Am I any more like God than when I started. I suspect there are times I’ve stumbled or lost ground. From the Old Testament, however, I have these assurances – maybe “the cloud of witnesses.” Isaiah 50:7 “The Lord God helps me; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame”; and Psalms 70:5 “But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay.” I still have a race to run. April 2, 2015 By Beth Short Read: Exodus 12: 1-14; Psalm 116: 1-2, 12-19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 21-35 When I was growing up, my family attended a Baptist church in Marion and Maundy Thursday wasn’t an occasion on its calendar of observances. But I was touched at the focus on the Lord’s Supper at the first Maundy Thursday service I attended as a college student at UBC. At that service, all were invited to partake at their own pace which was done by going forward and sitting at a large table, pulling bread from a large loaf, drinking from the small glasses that we usually use, and praying on our own. It was more akin to what we often think about when we envision the actual Last Supper Jesus celebrated with his disciples. Different faiths and different countries often put a different focus on Holy Thursday. In some places, it marks the day when church bells go silent until the celebration of the Easter Resurrection. In some nations, it is an official national holiday along with Good Friday. The United Kingdom has minted special Maundy money or coins that are legal tender and given to those in need and provides focus for offering alms to seniors and the poor. In the Philippines, there is a custom of visiting seven churches and reciting the Stations of the Cross. Sometimes the churches split up the displays for stations amongst themselves and use those displays in community parades on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, further increasing attention on Christ’s journey to the cross. But the term Maundy has interesting historic connections. Some believe the word is rooted in Latin and French to a term meaning to beg, which is what makes the connection to alms giving customary for some. Other roots are in Latin and connected with the rite of Washing of the Feet. That rite is illustrated in the John passage for today where Jesus provides an example for the disciples by washing their feet. Jesus, the Lord, washed their feet and urged them to do it to others, demonstrating the kind of love we are all expected to show for one another. Continued... April 2, 2015 Continued... So on Maundy Thursday, and at every celebration of the Lord’s Supper, it is meaningful to focus on the actual gathering of the disciples around Jesus and their sharing of bread and wine. But don’t forget the rest of the story of that gathering, too. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” April 3, 2015 By Kerry Cheesman Crucify Him! Crucify Him! 5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” 6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” 7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. 15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. 16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. John 19:5-7, 14-16 Mobs are strange organisms, and mob mentality is hard to comprehend. Ordinary people become obsessed – even crazy – because they want to do what everyone else is doing. Most people in a mob had no real reason to be a part of it until they got carried away by the momentum of others. Participation in a mob scene can cause personalities to change, almost never for the positive. We have all seen mobs form and get into trouble in recent months. This past fall mobs formed in the St Louis area, and the momentum spilled over into other cities around the country. New York City was the center of another mob scene, and again there was a huge spill-over effect. And when the OSU football team won the national championship recently, a mob scene formed on High Street (maybe some of you were there). In all of this there was at least some sense of positive reasoning, but also a large proportion of negative. Continued... April 3, 2015 Continued... The mob that chanted for Jesus to be crucified was no different. Ordinary people, many of whom undoubtedly either liked Jesus or knew nothing of him, got swept away in the emotions of the hour and followed the chants of the religious leaders. Ordinary people, lives changed forever, and in this case the world changed forever as well. I wonder how any of us would have acted had we been there that night! And finally (because the mob demanded it) Pilate handed him over to be crucified. April 4, 2015 By Barbara Bullock The Burial of Jesus 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. John 19:40-42 And so it is Saturday, the time of the tomb. It is a time of deep mystery and in modern Christianity, a time of waiting. But in the time of the disciples, the witnesses of Jesus, it was a time of loss and despair. How many of them held any confident hope that he would rise again? They did not know for certain what would happen next. It is clear that the followers of Jesus were afraid, afraid for their lives. It is part of the human experience to have tomb-Saturdays of darkness, fear, and even despair. There are moments in our lives when everything seems to fall apart or be lost. Our confidence is shaken as we find out that people, jobs, and even our health can fail us. As Job writes, “a mortal, born of woman, few of days and full of trouble comes up like a flower and withers, flees like a shadow and does not last.” (Job 14:1-2). Relationships become broken or are lost through death. Employment can be complicated by forces beyond our control. We are “down-sized”, underemployed, or laid-off. Fears for shelter and food become all too real. We find that the phrase “surviving oldage” is an apt description as we struggle with the micro-losses of failing health. Or perhaps we find ourselves or loved-ones in a terrible accident, in the wrong place at the wrong time. We discover an illness which is life-limiting or perhaps even fatal. Indeed, patients and families in the hospital often have their own tomb-Saturdays as they wait anxiously for a diagnosis and treatment plan. Continued... When we look at our human experience of suffering, it is not diffi- April 4, 2015 Continued... cult to understand how the followers of Jesus must have felt the day after his crucifixion. They were grieving, anxious, and fearful. They had entered their own spiritual tomb-Saturday. Their beloved teacher had been tortured and crucified. And yet, the great mystery of faith was occurring in the midst of their darkest hour. At some moment during the tomb-Saturday, Jesus was raised from the dead. It is the pinnacle moment of transcendence. They would not begin to comprehend it until the next day. It happened transcendently, beyond human perception. Therein lies our hope. In the midst of our tomb-Saturdays, God is at work in ways beyond our human comprehension. When it is most bleak, when we feel helpless and lost; God’s steadfast love is present. We may be in the tomb-time now, but Jesus is victor over sin, suffering and even death. Even when we have doubts, even when we can’t see our way to hope, even when we have given up. God’s steadfast love is present and is ours through Jesus the Christ. On this Holy Saturday, take time to listen to the quiet voice of hope within you that cannot be quenched by earthly circumstances. May the ancient story of Jesus in the tomb be a reminder that Easter and eternal hope is coming! April 5, 2015 By Maryann Cheesman A Time to be Reborn Easter became a re-born time for me; it will always be a special day. Having Pastor Tommy baptize me on Easter Sunday was an unforgettable experience. The Lord was guiding me every step of the way, as I was preparing myself to accept being a Baptist and to accept UBC as my new church family. What most of you don’t know is that when I began this process and meeting with Tommy, reading the books he gave me, praying and trying to figure out how to put my Catholicism in the past and preparing myself for a new life as a Baptist, my husband knew nothing of it! He didn’t require it of me, or expect that I accept his theology. I remember how excited he was that morning when I was baptized! Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. 11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 Continued... April 5, 2015 Continued... At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. John 20:1-18 To call myself a child of God is one thing, but to be called a child of God by those who watch my life is another thing altogether. Our savior kneels down and gazes upon the darkest acts of our lives. But rather than recoil in horror, he reaches out in kindness and says “I can clean that if you want”. And from the basin of his grace, he scoops a palm full of mercy and washes away our sins.
© Copyright 2020