March 2012


Saturday: March 31                                      

Philippians 2:5-11

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

             who, though he was in the form of God,

            did not regard equality with God

            as something to be exploited,

            but emptied himself,

            taking the form of a slave,

            being born in human likeness.

            And being found in human form,

            he humbled himself and became obedient

            to the point of death– even death on a cross.

            Therefore God also highly exalted him

            and gave him the name that is above every name,

             so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,

            in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

             and every tongue should confess

            that Jesus Christ is Lord,

            to the glory of God the Father.

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            Paul’s joy in his fellowship with the Philippians would be even greater if they would show the unity to which every church is called, and this calls for an attitude of humility.  Oh, dear!  Therein lies a problem.  Sometimes we find this part of the imitation of Jesus more difficult than others. 

            Paul quotes a powerful hymn or creed in celebration of the incarnation, humiliation, and obedience of Jesus – a course that had led him not only to the cross, but ultimately to exaltation in “the highest place.”  The call to the church to follow Jesus’ example would bring solutions to its problems, but they must learn to work it out together, not through mumbling and grumbling.

            Attitude is the key to unity, and Christ is the example for them and for us.  In this change of attitude will ultimately come joy and healing.  As God the Son gave up the “prerogatives of deity” to die as one of us, for our sins, we are called in amazement to do the same.  In following Christ, our loving example, we are given joy and wonderful healing.

May we find in you, O Christ, the way toward unity, the way to joy!

Rev. Norma Jean McClung

Parkersburg, WV

 

Friday: March 30                                                        

Psalm 31:9-16

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;

my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.

For my life is spent with sorrow,

and my years with sighing;

my strength fails because of my misery,

and my bones waste away.

I am the scorn of all my adversaries,

a horror to my neighbors,

an object of dread to my acquaintances;

those who see me in the street flee from me.

I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;

I have become like a broken vessel.

For I hear the whispering of many– terror all around!—

as they scheme together against me,

as they plot to take my life.

But I trust in you, O LORD;

I say, “You are my God.”

My times are in your hand;

deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.

Let your face shine upon your servant;

save me in your steadfast love.

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The Psalm is remembered in another old hymn in these words, which we may carry through this day.  Try praying these lines over and over, until they’re “stuck in your head:”

 

“My times are in thine hand,” I cried,
“Though I draw near the dust;
Thou art the refuge where I hide,
The God in whom I trust.”

                        from Isaac Watts, “Psalm 31, part 1,” CM

Thursday: March 29                                                   

Isaiah 50:4-9a

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher,

 that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.

Morning by morning he wakens—

wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.

The Lord GOD has opened my ear,

and I was not rebellious,

I did not turn backward.

I gave my back to those who struck me,

and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;

I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.

The Lord GOD helps me;

therefore I have not been disgraced;

therefore I have set my face like flint,

and I know that I shall not be put to shame;

he who vindicates me is near.

Who will contend with me?

Let us stand up together.

Who are my adversaries?

Let them confront me.

It is the Lord GOD who helps me;

who will declare me guilty?

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            Each season of Lent, most Christians spend some time in contemplating what Jesus had to go through for us as part of God’s salvation plan.  What is seen in the historical record is not pretty, and today’s prophetic passage is no exception to that rule.  This passage of Isaiah is a messianic passage of scripture in that it clearly portrays for the reader some of the torments that Jesus our Messiah had do go through for us.

            In verses 4 and 5 we find the phrase “The Lord God wakens or opens my ear,” and the Messiah was not rebellious to the will of God.  So then, in verse 6 we find that the Messiah gives his back to smiters and his face to those to those who pulled out the beard.  The Messiah surrenders himself to this barbarous treatment because he follows the will of God.  Jesus has listened to God and followed God’s will even when the road was a difficult one to follow.  A Roman flogging was a thing to be greatly feared.  Scripture does not record how many strokes Jesus received under Pontius Pilate, but we know that Roman “flagellums” often had pieces of bone in the thongs in order to shred the victim’s back, and that floggings prior to crucifixions were often designed to literally half kill the prisoner so that he would not survive as long on the cross.

            But in all this torture, we find the phrase “The Lord helps me.”  And because of this Godly help, “I have not been confounded and therefore I set my face like flint.”  I have always wondered what it means to “set my face like a flint.”  I suspect that Jesus had to resolutely go up to Jerusalem that last time knowing that he would die there.  I think that he had to be very determined to follow God’s will through to the end. What about us? When things get difficult, do we do what God would have us to do regardless of difficulty?  Can we set our faces like flint and be faithful unto God?

O God, help me to listen to you, and then obey you, come what may.

Rev. Dr. Gregory Widener

First Christian Church, Logan

Wednesday: March 28                                                                    

Psalm 42

As a deer longs for flowing streams,

so my soul longs for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

When shall I come and behold the face of God?

My tears have been my food day and night,

while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:

how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God,

with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my help and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;

therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,

from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts;

all your waves and your billows have gone over me.

By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,

and at night his song is with me,

a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me?

Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?”

As with a deadly wound in my body, my adversaries taunt me,

while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?”

Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

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            I remember joy.

            I remember gathering with those who share my passion for praise!

            I remember all the good that brought out the song in me.

                        Has all of it escaped me?

                        Has the muse died within?

                        Will I never see the gathering at praise again?

            Why do I wallow in this sullen gloom?

            The song is in God. 

            Hope in God.

            And sing.                                             (ed.)

Tuesday: March 27                                                   

Hebrews 5:5-10

            So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”

             In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

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Join all the glorious names of wisdom, love, and power,
that ever mortals knew or angels ever bore;
all are too weak to speak his worth, too weak to set my Savior forth.

 

Great Prophet of my God, my tongue would bless thy name;
by thee the joyful news of our salvation came:
the joyful news of sins forgiv’n, of hell subdued, and peace with heav’n.

 

Be thou my Counselor, my Pattern and my Guide,
and through this desert land still keep me by thy side;
O let my feet ne’er run astray, nor rove, nor seek the crooked way.

 

Jesus, my great High Priest, offered his blood, and died:
my guilty conscience seeks no sacrifice beside;
his powerful blood did once atone, and now it pleads before the throne.

 

My dear almighty Lord, my Conqu’ror and my King,
thy scepter and thy sword, thy reigning grace I sing.
Thine is the pow’r; behold, I sit in willing bonds before thy feet.

                                    Isaac Watts, “Join all the glorious names”6.6.6.6.88

Monday: March 26                                                        

 Luke 1:26-38

            In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

             The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

             Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

             Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

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            The Feast of the Annunciation comes in the midst of our Lenten observance as a sort of shock to our systems.  With all the introspection and reminders of our sinful nature, we are reminded that God breaks into our world in the most unlikely places with the least likely people, bringing grace and favor, tidings of joy with tremendous challenges attached.

            Perhaps this gives us an opportunity to remember with Mary the goodness of God in the midst of what may seem like our “uselessness.”  Imagine that God should use you and me to bring the Christ into our world!  We don’t think we’re properly equipped to do the bidding of the Almighty, and yet for those who yield to God’s movement within us there are world-changing consequences.  May it be so for us in this season.

Who are we, O Lord, that you should visit us with such greetings?

By your grace, let your will be done in your servants for the sake of the world.

 Rev. David Chafin

Deputy Regional Minister

Fifth Sunday in Lent: March 25                                      

John 12:20-33

            Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

             Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

             “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say–‘ Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”

            Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

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            What is the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion? Many Christians would immediately respond that the crucifixion means forgiveness of their sins, and that is certainly true. But when we look at a passage like John 12:20-33, we see that Jesus’ death accomplished more than our personal salvation. The crucifixion signaled the judgment of the world: the corrupt system that is based on big money and big power. The author of Colossians captured both the individual and the corporate dimensions of the crucifixion when he wrote: “Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s Cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.”  (Col 2:14-15, The Message). Through his death, Christ not only made forgiveness possible for us as individuals, but he also vanquished the world system with all its greed and violence and political silliness. That may be hard to believe sometimes, but God promises that it is true.

Thank you God for both the personal

and the corporate meanings of Jesus’ death.

Rev. Scott Thayer,

Bethany Memorial Church and Chaplain of Bethany College

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