April 2011

Read Matthew 28.1-10

                After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.  And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.  For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.  But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”

                 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”


From Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christ Church (Disciples of Christ)


                There could be no doubt. It was God who caused this resurrection. The women saw with their own eyes as the angel rolled back that stone – too heavy by far for a single man to push. The tomb was already empty. In minutes, as the women rushed to the disciples with the news, Jesus – alive! – appeared to them.

                He is risen!

                Easter joy is knowing that in God, life rules! Even crucifixion and death cannot stop God’s intention to love the world. As the risen Christ appears in our lives, the calling is upon us to spread the word. Life wins – over hatred and cruelty, death and despair – life wins, and we are here to say so. We are here to live so.

                Christ is risen indeed!

You have won the victory, Risen One!
Come now to reign in our hearts, our community, our world!

Read Matthew 27.57-66

                When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus.  He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.  So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

                 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’  Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.”  Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”  So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.


From Rev. Thaddaeus B. Allen, Regional Minister

                Holy Saturday is a mystery for us.  We know what is coming, yet are very, very aware of that which we entered into yesterday.  We are aware – very very aware – that in ways concrete and in ways not-so-concrete, we participate in crying crowds’ calls against our Lord.  We are not innocent bystanders in the sin that exists around us.  For some this day is lonely.  But this is a holy day, in which we find meaning in an honest and reflective day of reverence and devotion to Jesus. 

                 Is it not wonderful that we receive a word from Joseph of Arimathea?  He comes to the world and gives away his space, and places Jesus there instead.  It is a holy example; it is grace.  The participation of this one calls us perhaps to participate in like manner.  Can we give away our space (by this I might suggest our stuff that claims us in not so helpful ways) and make room for Jesus in its place?  Can we make a place for our Lord to dwell with us?  Might we be bold enough to let this one wipe away our loneliness, and can we receive this day as our sign of devotion to the Savior?

In the darkness of this day, O God, bring hope,
as we make new space in our lives for him who gives life.

Read Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
                 and by night, but find no rest.
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
                In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
                 in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm, and not human;
                scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
                they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
“Commit your cause to the LORD; let him deliver—
                 let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”
Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
                you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
                and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
                for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
                 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
                my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
                my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
                                and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
                                you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;
I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
                 they divide my clothes among themselves,
                                and for my clothing they cast lots.
But you, O LORD, do not be far away!
                O my help, come quickly to my aid!
                 Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog!
                 Save me from the mouth of the lion!
                From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
                in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
                                 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
                                All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
                                                stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
                                For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted;
                                he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
                my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
                those who seek him shall praise the LORD.
                                May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD;
                and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.
                                 For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.
To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
                before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
                                and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him;
                future generations will be told about the Lord,
                                 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
                                saying that he has done it.


From Rev. William B. Allen, Regional Minister Emeritus

                I’ve heard it said that Good Friday is the most important day of the church year.  That’s probably defensible, after all it is the day on which God took the dramatic/traumatic steps that save us and give us life.  This life-giving act is undertaken in the context of a life taking.  How strange! 

                The great God of creation, author of life, essence of love (after all, “God is Love!”  – 1 John 4:8) for some reason, a very good one no doubt, secures our life through the death of his beloved Son. 

                We could, and do, reflect on this at length.  Indeed, for lifetimes.  And it’s never easy, but it is very deep and, to some of us, very satisfying, that God loves us this much.  I’ve known folks who were very uncomfortable with the passion of Christ, who have tried to erase it from their spirituality.  I don’t know how that works and I think it must leave them somewhat enfeebled for life and death and the fullness of humanity, and also the fullness of divinity.  In my own reflection God has given us a great gift in the death of Jesus.  Not an easy gift but a very important one.  I am well-armed for the battles of life and death because of this gift.

                God presents us with a great pendulum swing, from life to death, from joy to despair – and back again.  And this all culminates in God’s greatest gift – but we’ll leave that until Sunday.

                Reading Psalm 22, through and through and over and over, we get the drama of the pendulum swing – and I think we comprehend why Jesus recited it on the cross.   Let’s never miss the gift of Good Friday, God’s Friday.

Holy God, your wisdom is greater than our ability to comprehend
and your love is greater than our ability to imagine.
 All we can do in the face of your mystery and power
is to say “Thank you!” and to abide in your love. 
And we pray through our Lord Jesus Christ who loves us to the extreme.

Read 1 Corinthians 11.23-26

                For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.


From Rev. David T. Chafin, Deputy Regional Minister

                Today, we hear Paul repeating a corporate memory from the Church’s tradition—not a cherished sentiment that he had treasured from his past.  For him, Christ’s giving of this meal to us on the eve of his own Passover from death to life meant that God’s people would no longer look back over their shoulders to see God’s hand at work in salvation.  The often-misnamed “Last Supper” would be the first of numberless glad and glorious Eucharists, in which the Church would know Christ’s living presence and look forward to his coming in final victory.

                It’s easy to get lost in our own hazy memories of our storied past, but on this holy day we can resolve to pull ourselves together as a community—Christ’s body alive in this world—and to make our gathering at the Table something anchored not only in what was, but in what is and what is to be.

Help us, O God of our days and of eternity,
to see you in the present and the fullness of our future
as we receive the bread and wine from your hands.

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.


From Rev. Kevin M. Snow,

Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Huntington,

and Associate Regional Minister for Youth and Young Adults

                Reading the Gospels with a careful eye reminds us that the disciples, as well intentioned as they were, frequently just didn’t “get it.”  In chapter 13 alone, Simon Peter doesn’t understand why Jesus must wash his feet or where Jesus is going, and the disciples don’t comprehend Jesus impending betrayal by Judas.   We are often just as confused as the disciples, although they were closest to Jesus.   We still struggle with the same questions:  What is our calling?  How do we follow Christ more fully?   Where is the Holy Spirit leading in the midst of our own confusion and betrayal?   But the new commandment comes from Christ loud and clear: love.  Love as Christ loved all people.  Unconditionally.  Faithfully.  Eternally.  Passionately.  Without ceasing. 

God of grace and glory,

we give thanks for your abundant love and peace.

As they draw us nearer to you and one another in discipleship,

may we follow Christ’s example,

despite our doubts, insecurities, and shortcomings.

Read I Corinthians 1.18-31

                For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

                Where is the one who is wise?  Where is the scribe?  Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

                 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.  He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”


From Rev. William Flewelling, Proctor, WV

                From the beginning, the followers of Jesus who preached the message of Jesus had the enduring problem of the cross.  In modern times, we find we bother little with the cross.  In the earliest time, though, the cross was THE embarrassment.  It spoke of shame and curse and foolishness.  Yet the fact of the matter remained: Jesus was crucified and his followers did not (even if they could) disguise that fact.  They certainly wouldn’t make it up: instead they set out to show that the cross answered fundamental issues of life and creation under the theme of redemption.

                Paul makes it clear that the cross itself is a scandal to Jews and folly to Greeks.  Here is something so out of place in serious and traditional thought as to be found ridiculous.  Paul notes the cross marks a curse, claims Jesus (who knew no sin) became sin.  He teaches that the subjection of people to other powers, other authorities – understood spiritually, most of all – are ended at the cross.  And here he admits to these proud and wise Corinthian Christians that only insiders – those being saved – realize that the cross is the power of God.  Everyone else finds it foolishness.  And to bother speaking of a cross as do Christians is to those outside, sheer folly.

                Something in this doesn’t match up well.  He is encountering a congregation in which he had invested a year and a half of his ministry.  He knows them to be an exceptional people, a people of great spiritual experience and a divisive sort of pride.  They seem to squabble among themselves and portray a real party spirit, one against another.  Within his presentation there appears a sense that these people are attached to themes of wisdom, their own brand of traditional wisdom.  Into this dissention he remembers the word of the cross; he knows they heard it because he preached it to them!  The word of the cross breaks down the barriers our wisdom puts up; the word of the cross is the power of God – a power all our wise constructs don’t get.  We think the cross folly – a folly wiser than the wisest wisdom we know.

Our God, in your wisdom folly reigns;
the cross of shame is the power of freedom in heart and Spirit. 
Bring into our hearts the humble, guileless joy
that knows your power in Christ Jesus, the Crucified.

Read Isaiah 42.1-9

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
                my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;
                 a bruised reed he will not break,
                and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
                                he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
                until he has established justice in the earth;
                and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
Thus says God, the LORD,           
                who created the heavens and stretched them out,
                who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
                who gives breath to the people upon it                 
                                and spirit to those who walk in it:
I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness,
                I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
                I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations,
                                 to open the eyes that are blind,
                                to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
                                from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the LORD, that is my name;
                my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols.
See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare;
              before they spring forth, I tell you of them.


From Rev. William Pollack, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Princeton

                The words of the Prophet should be music in our ears. We are told of the coming Servant who will make the world a better place by bringing justice, light and a newness of life for the people. We should rejoice at this news as we find ourselves in the midst of a world that often reflects the opposite of God’s plan.  We also long for a new direction, light for the journey and seek the justice for our lives. Just let us not forget that, while we search, we are called to be the same for those who walk in darkness. This Lenten season, may we be the very things we seek to a world that is sought for by our Lord.

O God, may we rejoice in your call to live a servant life in the world.
As you supply us with all we need,
may we offer the same blessings to others whom you send our way.

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