March 2013


Mar. 31:  Easter Sunday                                      Read Luke 24:1-12

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”

Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

 

from Thaddaeus B. Allen, Regional Minister

            On this holiest of days, we are privileged, for we get to join our voices with the Church of all times and places in declaring the truth of the gospel.  We are privileged to join with the women who told the eleven, that the one who lives cannot be found among the dead.  And like Peter, we have run to this morning and we are filled with joy!  So stand up and sing, and shout, and clap, and make noise on the horns, and bang gongs for all the world to hear, for Christ is risen!  We, too, share in this life so freely and abundantly given.  This is a moment and day of hope for all.  We all have things that entomb us, and all of us know pain and the power of darkness in our lives.  Easter declares for us again that the tombs of life are rolled open in the Risen Christ.  There is life beyond and ahead and present to us this very day!  So let us join our voices with all the faithful that life wins.  He lives!  May we, too, live fully and abundantly!  God bless you on this holy Easter day.

We sing of your great life and love for all of Creation, Dear God! 

In the Resurrection, you bring forth new life to the dead. 

Send your life and light into each of us this day and every day,

that we might live fully and abundantly for you. 

 

Prayerscapes for Lent is presented by the Order of Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in West Virginia.  ©2013.  All rights reserved.  Duplication and distribution for profit is not permitted.

Mar. 30 – Holy Saturday                                   Read John 19:38-42

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.

Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 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.

 

from David T. Chafin, Deputy Regional Minister

            As John tells it, the story implies that the crucified Jesus was not meant to be permanently buried that terrible Friday evening.  The tomb was at hand and usable, new and clean, but borrowed and not given.  He was laid there, as though for a rest, to get through the Holy Days, and to allow for other more permanent arrangements to be made (if anyone was left among his people to make them).

This is a day to rest our minds from the terrors of Friday and to make way in the silence – even the silence of a tomb that is not our own – for a new reality that death is not the end, that the grave has no victory over us, and that light as Christ brings it cannot be overcome with darkness.  So rest, my friend, in the borrowed quiet of today, and be ready for something very “other” to be yours, even before the early light dawns on the first day of the week.

Rest, my soul, in the peace of God.

Let light perpetual shine upon you.

 

Prayerscapes for Lent is presented by the Order of Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in West Virginia.  ©2013.  All rights reserved.  Duplication and distribution for profit is not permitted.

Mar. 29 – Good Friday                                      Read Luke 23:33-49

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

 

from William B. Allen, Regional Minister Emeritus

            Our passage vibrates with God’s power and love as it recounts the remarkable encounter of God and humanity, the epic clash of good and evil.  Here we find Jesus Christ doing exactly what he came to earth to do – to save us by giving up his life that we might have total and eternal life.  Luke 23:46 is probably the most powerful and crucial moment in human history.  It is the announcement of God’s accomplishment of God’s will. “Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last.”

The two criminals give us insights into our understanding of the moment.  One just didn’t get it.  “Save yourself and us.”  Jesus was saving all creation, but criminal No. 1 didn’t see it – even though it was happening before his very eyes.  Criminal No. 2 perceived the wonderful gift and joined the Savior that very day in Paradise.

Our Lenten journey is our preparation to observe and comprehend God’s great gift in Jesus there at Calvary.

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

 

Prayerscapes for Lent is presented by the Order of Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in West Virginia.  ©2013.  All rights reserved.  Duplication and distribution for profit is not permitted.

Mar. 28 – Maundy Thursday                  Read John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”  Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord–and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.

“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. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

from Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President  

            Theologian Miroslav Wolf has said that the basic question for people of faith is, do I believe that God loves each of us unconditionally. This passage answers that question. God, as shown through Jesus, not only loves us but shows us how to love each other – with servant humility.

When Jesus tied that towel around his waist and knelt at Peter’s feet, he made clear that no one is better than any other in the eyes of God.  Each human being is endowed with dignity and is worthy of respect, regardless of social station or any other humanly-determined ranking system.

Jesus demonstrated on his knees, for all who would follow him, that our love is shown in serving each other, humbly and generously. “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another.” God who loves us unconditionally, calls upon us to do the same.

Dear God, help me this day and every day

to love you by serving my neighbor.

 

Prayerscapes for Lent is presented by the Order of Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in West Virginia.  ©2013.  All rights reserved.  Duplication and distribution for profit is not permitted.

Mar. 27 – Holy Wednesday                       Read Isaiah 52:12 – 53:12

For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard. See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. Just as there were many who were astonished at him–so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals–so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.

Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the LORD shall prosper. Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

 

from Kenneth Hardway, First Christian Church, Wheeling

and Associate Regional Minister for Youth and Young Adults

            Christian tradition takes up Isaiah’s Suffering Servant, and applies it to the mystery of a Suffering God.

Tradition has always affirmed that through the suffering of Christ, and by the will of God, God and humanity were made one—we call it atonement (at-one-ment).  But how, exactly?  And why?  The church leaves that open to centuries of varying interpretation.  Can we understand Christ to be: a sacrificial offering?  a moral exemplar?  the victor over sin through solidarity with us?  The answer is yes, but not fully—there is room for mystery.

God’s choice of being one with us meant God had to suffer—by his wounds we are healed.  Yet, for a God who desires to be made one with us—enough so to endure what Christ endured—I imagine the suffering would have been much greater to God if he had not.  Suffering becomes salvific…holy mystery, indeed!

Transform our infatuation with comfort

 to an embrace of salvation that comes through suffering,

both yours and ours.

 

Prayerscapes for Lent is presented by the Order of Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in West Virginia.  ©2013.  All rights reserved.  Duplication and distribution for profit is not permitted.

Mar. 26 – Holy Tuesday                                       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.

 

            O God who tenderly led your people out

            from prisons of bondage and of exile,

            you have now declared a new thing

            through your Servant who comes empowered with gentleness:

                        that you would take us by the hand,

                        that you would keep us and lead us toward the good,

                        that you would free us from our prisons

                        and manifest in us a light for the world to see.

 

            Now come and save us, Lord.  Free us to follow,

            and to never choose to turn back toward bondage,

            nor to exile ourselves from the lives to which you have called us.

 

            Let us be your servants.  Take your delight in us!

            And let these days of holy mystery

            reveal your glory among us.

Prayerscapes for Lent is presented by the Order of Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in West Virginia.  ©2013.  All rights reserved.  Duplication and distribution for profit is not permitted.

Mar. 25 – Holy Monday                                    Read Psalm 51:1-13

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 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. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

 

from Janice Hill, First Christian Church, Parkersburg

            God’s mercy is based on love and I am so grateful.  It’s obvious I can’t quit sinning – I’m very aware of that.   That fact occupies more of my thinking than I’d like to admit.  Apparently, David felt the same way after being confronted by Nathan.  God can take an arrogant, self-serving, sin-filled heart and clean it up. I am so grateful!   I get weak in the knees thinking about it and I think David might have felt the same way.  David and I make quite a pair; just two old sinners needing salvation.

Clean my heart, please – and help me want to keep it that way. 

Thank you, God, thank you.

 

Prayerscapes for Lent is presented by the Order of Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in West Virginia.  ©2013.  All rights reserved.  Duplication and distribution for profit is not permitted.

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