April 2009


The Rev.Dr. Bonnie Thurston is a much-loved scholar, retreat leader, and pastor of this Region.  We were pleased to have received this release from her publisher:

NOTRE DAME, IN, March 16, 2009

Bonnie Thurston, a noted scholar and prolific author who lives near Wheeling, West Virginia, has published a new book titled FOR GOD ALONE: A Primer on Prayer. In this book, she draws on her biblical studies expertise and her extensive knowledge of Christian spirituality to write an engaging and practical introduction to the different traditions and methods of Christian prayer.

FOR GOD ALONE is published by the University of Notre Dame Press. For more information about the book, click here:

 http://undpress.nd.edu/book/P01305

Read John 20:1-18

 

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.  So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”  Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb.

 

The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.

 

Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.  Then the disciples returned to their homes.

 

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.  They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

 

She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

 

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

 

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).  Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”

 

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

(NRSV)

 

from Rev. Thaddaeus B. Allen, Regional Minister

 

            Have you ever been so full of life that you simply had no choice but to run? 

            I love watching toddlers get around.  As they grow and learn about their abilities, their bodies, and their surroundings, more often than not they run!  They also seem to be joy-filled as they journey forward in life. 

            To be so full of good news that we run joyfully forward in life is one of the nicest parts of Easter.  Christ is risen, and we run (metaphorically perhaps) into the places and people of our lives.  We cannot help but share and embody the Good News that Jesus Christ is alive, well, and present in us and in the Church. 

            Because of the Resurrection, we have life and we have it abundantly.  We are not wrapped in grave-cloths and entombed.  We are alive.  So live – rejoice – proclaim the Gospel – he lives!  This is the defining truth in our lives and in the world.

 

Life-giving God, with joy we celebrate the fullness

of the mystery of your love and redemption. 

We give thanks for life made new in Jesus Christ. 

Impel us into our world with renewed vigor and joy,

that we may gladly tell—in word, and in deed—the story

of Christ’s resurrection, and of our own!

Alleluia!  Christ is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!

Our Lenten journey has come to a joyous close.

Our Savior is victorious over death,

and through Christ we know forgiveness,

 healing, and life eternal.

While our Lenten journey is over,

our spiritual journey continues.

Read Romans 8:1-11

 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

 

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

 

For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law–indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

 

But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

(NRSV)

 

       from Rev. David Chafin, Deputy Regional Minister

 

            “Death cannot keep his prey…He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!”  The words of the hymn may seem a vague fantasy to the rational minds of many of us, who see the signs of death all around.

            Yet even in this day of grave silence, we see the glimmer of the resurrection just beyond the night’s horizon.  It will not be for nothing that we watch and wait this night.  The promise of the empty tomb will be fulfilled.  Let us trust in the One who gives the promise!

 

You are utterly trustworthy, O God.  You do not leave your

chosen one in the dust.  Help us to be open to your surprising

possibilities as we watch and wait through this long night ahead.

Read John 19:31-37

 

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed.  Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him.

 

But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.  Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.  (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.)

 

These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.”  And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

(NRSV)

 

from Rev. Larry Grimes, Community Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Beech Bottom

 

            “Break a leg,” someone said as the curtain rose and he was shoved to center stage.

            They cheered when he walked into the light. They shouted, like he was the Messiah or something.

            Then it was clear.  His legs would not be broken, but sides would split with mocking laughter. In the midst of all the laughter a scream welled up from his lungs.  His lips said, “Father, why have you forsaken me? “

            Yes, they laughed at his absurd presence—the crown of thorns, the sign nailed above his head. Quite a kingly presence he was. Ha! Ha! Ha!  His lips were dry and his throat too. He felt the sour sponge on his lips. It was enough to let words fly. Last words: “Into your hands I commend my Spirit.”

            Later, when the curtain descended, it was nearly torn in two.

            Someone said, “Well, he certainly didn’t break a leg out there.” But he did break the open the heavens, break loose from the tomb, and break us free to love and live, even as he lived and loved, in this life and in the life to come.

 

In this awful day of memories, we await your assurance, O God.

Help us to find hope beyond death, but also hope within this life,

that we may live and love as Christ has loved,

and give as he has given.

Read Exodus 12:1-14

 

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

             This month shall mark for you the beginning of months;

                        it shall be the first month of the year for you.

             Tell the whole congregation of Israel

                         that on the tenth of this month

                        they are to take a lamb for each family,

                        a lamb for each household.

             If a household is too small for a whole lamb,

                         it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one;

                        the lamb shall be divided in proportion

                        to the number of people who eat of it.

 

             Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male;

                         you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.

             You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month;

                        then the whole assembled congregation of Israel

                         shall slaughter it at twilight.

             They shall take some of the blood

                         and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel

                        of the houses in which they eat it.

           

             They shall eat the lamb that same night;

                         they shall eat it roasted over the fire

                         with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

             Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water,

                        but roasted over the fire,

                        with its head, legs, and inner organs.

             You shall let none of it remain until the morning;

                        anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.

 

            This is how you shall eat it:

                        your loins girded,

                         your sandals on your feet,

                        and your staff in your hand;

                         and you shall eat it hurriedly.

            It is the passover of the LORD.

 

            For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night,

            and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt,

            both human beings and animals;

            on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.

 

            The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live:

                        when I see the blood, I will pass over you,

                         and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

 

            This day shall be a day of remembrance for you.

            You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD;

                         throughout your generations

                        you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

(NRSV)

 

from Rev. Bonnie Thurston, Wheeling, WV

 

            It’s easy to get lost in the richness of the details.  In the profound symbolism Christians borrowed from Judaism, the drama of Exodus 12:1-14,  we can miss the reason for the community meal (v. 3-4, 6), the spotless lamb (v. 5), the blood (v. 7, 13), the unleavened bread and bitter herbs (v. 8),  all to be eaten dressed for travel (v. 11) because this is the feast of liberation.  At great cost to the Egyptians (v. 12), God provided a way out of bondage. At great cost to himself, God still does—in the slaughter of His own firstborn. The Passover images the meaning of Christ’s Passion: from Table to Garden to Cross to Empty Tomb, this is our story of liberation. Tonight we feast because “For freedom Christ has set us free, (Galatians 5:1; 5:13-14.) through body broken, blood spilled. “Do this in remembrance.” “Observe it as a perpetual ordinance.”

 

As we approach your common table, O God,

we find there uncommon things amid the common:

Life and forgiveness, hope and comfort,

a new family and a new mission, bread and wine.

Thanks be to you, O God, for your marvelous gifts!

Read John 13:21-32

 

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”  The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.

 

One of his disciples–the one whom Jesus loved–was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.  So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

 

Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.  After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.”

 

Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.  Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor.   So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

 

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.  If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.”

(NRSV)

 

            How naïve we mortals can be!  Those closest to Jesus seem to not know the treachery at work in this twisted plot.  And as much as we who think we know “the whole story” want to yell to those pictured in this scene the name of the traitor, we might well have been as         flummoxed by the experience as they were, had we been present.

            In John’s telling, Jesus knows the details.  We might secretly chide him for bringing close to his side someone who could commit such a heinous act.  But what value is there in living a life that must always suspect, must always withhold trust, must ever by wary of the “other”? 

            As we place ourselves at this table with Christ, let us question in these coming hours just whose part we will play—for our roles in the story may be many.

 

Help me to see my place at the table with you, Lord.

May I find godly sorrow in my failures,

repentance for my own treachery,

and peace in your loving hand which feeds me still.

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