March 2014


Read Psalm 89.1-18

I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, forever;

                with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.

I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;

                your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,

                I have sworn to my servant David:

                ‘I will establish your descendants forever,

                                and build your throne for all generations.'”

Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD,

                your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones.

For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD?

Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD,

                a God feared in the council of the holy ones,

                great and awesome above all that are around him?

O LORD God of hosts, who is as mighty as you, O LORD?

                Your faithfulness surrounds you.

                You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.

                You crushed Rahab like a carcass;

                                you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.

                The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours;

                                the world and all that is in it–you have founded them.

                The north and the south–you created them;

                                Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.

                You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand.

                Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;                   

                                steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

Happy are the people who know the festal shout,

                who walk, O LORD, in the light of your countenance;

                they exult in your name all day long, and extol your righteousness.

For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.

For our shield belongs to the LORD, our king to the Holy One of Israel.

 

From Rev. Dr. Larry Grimes, Director of Church Relations, Bethany College

 

It is there like the needle

stuck in the groove of a vinyl record—

should you be of an age and remember such—

there like a song stuck in your head.

 

“Steadfast love, steadfast love,. . . Your faithfulness

Your faithfulness, Your faithfulness”—round and

Round and round and over and over and over again

like the seasons, the moon, the Table.

“Steadfast love, Your faithfulness”. And not just here

In the holy grove of scripture, but in all Creation

 

Over and over and over again these words sound

and resound. Above the raging waters, beyond

infinite sparkle of sky, beyond the heavenly multitude.

And here, now, in the daily round and round and round.

Here, the mighty resolute turn of your steadfast love, your faithfulness.

 

From that foundation, from Your steadfast love, from Your faithfulness

Out spins righteousness and justice with a sound that silences

the babble of the world, making happy the people who walk,

who dance in the light, O Lord, in the light of our countenance.

 

Fill my heart with song and my lips with praise, O God my Savior!

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Read John 9.1-41

                As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

                The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

                They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided.

                So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

                So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.”

25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

                Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

                Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.

                Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

 

Rev. Earl Shaw, Big Run Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Cameron,

and Associate Regional Minister of the Word

Joy and light are dominant in today’s scripture offering. The Gospel narrates the story of a man born blind. Upon seeing him, Jesus made clay with his saliva, spread the clay on his eyes and told him: “Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam. So he went and washed and came back seeing.”

The man born blind represents the person marred by sin who desires to know the truth about himself and his personal destiny, but is prevented from doing so by congenital illness. Only Jesus “the light of the world” can cure him: He is the example that every human being, though spiritually blind from birth, has the possibility of “coming to the light,” namely to a life beyond the life we live.

John’s gospel highlights the unbelief of the Pharisees who refuse to acknowledge the miracle since Jesus worked it on the Sabbath. To them, it was a violation of Moses’ law. Christ himself sums up with the words: “I have come into the world for judgment so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” Christ gives to the one who accepts him the light of faith, the light that transforms the heart. “… I do believe, Lord!” As with the man born blind, may each of us humbly profess our own attachment to Him.

 

Heavenly Father, may your divine grace open our eyes

to obtain the light of Christ for us in our lives.

Read Ephesians 5.8-14

                For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light– for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

 

From Rev. Dr. Gregory Widener, Huntington, WV

One of the big themes of the epistle to the Ephesians is the idea of the Christian life as a “walk.” In other words, the Christian life is not just a set of doctrines or principles, but it is a way of life—lived unto God and manifested in the world. In idolatrous religions, believers were required to bow down to their gods and make sacrifices to idols, but much of life was free from any rule or regulation. No set of scriptures came with most of the ancient gods of early history. Each person lived as they thought best.

But in the Judeo/Christian heritage a body of scriptures informs us of what and how God would have us live in daily life. Furthermore, the way that we live our lives must be exemplary to non-believers. We must live our lives fully aware that we are “sermons in shoes.” We must walk with God and our neighbors every day.

Not only must our faith be as large as life, but we are to walk in God’s light (truth).   Light always defeats darkness. Light always “lights up” darkness so that darkness may be defined simply as the absence of light.   Jesus said “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” We may live our lives confident that wisdom and truth of God has been revealed to us in Jesus of Nazareth, and that God’s truths will ultimately defeat the darkness of the world. There is a favorite chorus of mine in the Chalice Hymnal entitled “We are walking in the light of God.” This Lenten period, let us do so.

 

Gracious One, help us to open ourselves to the light of your love,

that we might share your love with others.

Read Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;

                he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil;

                for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

                you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

                and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

 

From Rev. Richard Howard, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Morgantown

“I shall not want.” Our whole life is about wanting: I want, I shop, I look, and when I have what I have desired, I then want more stuff. If I allow myself to be defined by our consumer culture, then I shall want, I shall always want.

The words in the original Hebrew are perhaps better translated as “I shall lack nothing,” or “I shall lack no good thing.” What do I lack? I could say that I lack an iPhone, a house in a gated community, a fully-funded pension, or… (fill in the blank! We all can do it so easily!).

Perhaps we should understand “What do I lack?” in the sense of “What really matters that I do not have?”   We don’t lack lots of things: we lack just one: intimacy with God. The only thing that can cause us to say, “I shall not want,” or “I lack no good thing,” is God. Nothing else. Just the Lord. The Good Shepherd of the sheep.

As people of faith, God is our satisfaction. God is good enough, for God exceeds whatever we may think we desire. When we embrace this, we shall dwell in the House of the Lord, forever.

 

Help us, O Lord, to acknowledge that the one thing we lack is You.

Read 1 Samuel 16.1-13

                The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.”

                Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

                When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the LORD.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

                Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.”

                Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

 

From Rev. Janice Hill, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Parkersburg

God speaks, Samuel is afraid of Saul, Samuel obeys, elders of city are afraid of Samuel, Samuel looks at outward appearance of Jesse’s sons, God does not! Samuel obeys and God blesses and equips (“…the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward”).

How many times do we need to be reminded, God’s ways are not our ways?   When we are called by God, we should trust God to provide the way. God is faithful!

This passage is worth rereading, often.

 

Holy One, as we discern your will, fill us with confidence knowing you are faithful!

Read John 8.12-20

                Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Then the Pharisees said to him, “You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.”

                Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.”

                Then they said to him, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

 

From Rev. Andrew Wade, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Logan

The first night of the Feast of Tabernacles provided the optimum backdrop for Jesus to make his bold claim of divine status. On this night, when four large candelabras would be lit on the temple mount illuminating the whole city of Jerusalem, Jesus asserts, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The Pharisees challenged his authority to make his claim. Jesus supports his words, declaring that the witness of his Father, as well as his own testimony, fulfills the rule of their own law. If they knew Jesus for who he truly was, then they would also know his Father who sent him. Their denial, their refusal on this night of illumination kept them in the darkness.

Jesus’ claim asks each of us for complete trust. Jesus didn’t provide a map, coordinates for a GPS, or even general direction for where he was heading. He asks his followers to trust in the light, no matter what the journey entails, as the ultimate destination is the promised, abundant life that only Jesus can give.

 

Lord Jesus, be the light of our lives.

You call us, not to certainty, but to trust you as you lead us into life with you.

Read John 7.37-52

                On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

                When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, “This is really the prophet.” Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some asked, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So there was a division in the crowd because of him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

                Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not arrest him?” The police answered, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” Then the Pharisees replied, “Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law–they are accursed.”

                Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” They replied, “Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.”

 

From Rev. Dr. Larry Grimes, Director of Church Relations, Bethany College

 

Doesn’t matter whether you come from Grafton or Glen Dale,

Gassaway, or Galilee—no prophet comes from such places

 

Nevertheless, — Pull your shirt up and check it out

See, from our hearts, believers, flows living waters.

 

Living waters, the kind that swirl around boulders

the kind that rush down the Gauley and the New

 

Living waters that flow from your heart and mine

hearts that pound the pulse of love

 

that speak to our neighbors, friend or enemy,

as no one has ever spoken. Waters they can trust

no smell, no coloration, living waters

 

Flowing from the side of the living Christ

confirming Grafton, Glen Dale, Gassaway and Galilee as

places, unlikely, from which prophets speak and healing comes.

 

Pull up your shirt and check it out!

 

O Lord our God, may we look into the depths of our souls

and give up those old things that keep us away

from the  gospel of living water flowing from our hearts.

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