April 2014


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. Thaddaeus B. Allen, Regional Minister


Our Lord, the Risen Christ, greets us and calls us to a posture of joy! The good news is on the scene. He lives and is risen and comes to us abundantly. We have now been given the truth of the matter. Where once death resided, life now looms large. Where fear and pain ruled, rejoicing and hope now claim the primary place in the lives of the faithful.   In the church this morning we let loose in praise, Alleluias are sung, love is exchanged, Easter hymns are offered with beauty, and the testimony of the church is joyously offered in the streets, alleys, hills and hollows of our region. We are Easter people! Because he lives, we live! We have word to share and life abundant to rejoice in. This truly is the day that the Lord has made, and this is the day that has shaped all of creation and all of humanity with life.

 

For love and life dear God, we give great thanks and praise

on this holiest of days.

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. David T. Chafin, Deputy Regional Minister

This day is unlike any other. It sits on one horizon of horror and another of breaking dawn. It is the cusp of both paradise and hell, of torture and sweetest relief. Today is dark and silent. Today is grim with ghastly memories.

Don’t be afraid of it. And do not fear when the silence gives way to rumblings and shrieks and gasps of surprise as the long night ahead passes into morning. Beyond this dull and comfortless sleep lies the awakening of eternity, the joy we can only conceive of with faith-filled imaginations.

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. Wesley Howsare, first Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Moundsville

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This psalm of suffering has also been called a Messianic Psalm because it so clearly points to the anguish Jesus went through on this Good Friday. In chapter 27 of his gospel, Matthew weaves much of this psalm into his passion story. An innocent person, wrongly accused, ridiculed, despised, killed as a criminal. Taunted and mocked, even to where lots were cast for his garments. And forsaken by his Father, the One who could have saved him by sending “ten thousand angels”—if he would have only asked. Dismay and disbelief within his rank of followers who were now scattered and scared. What a dark day that had been foretold and had now occurred.

But, just as this psalm precedes one of the most beautiful and well known verses in the Bible that describes how the Good Shepherd lovingly cares for His flock, so this dreadful day really is the dusk before the dawn. The dawn of the resurrection, God’s blessing upon the redemptive work of His Son on the cross of Calvary. Hope out of hopelessness, and life after death.

 

Father, we both weep and rejoice on this Good Friday.

Thank you for the gift of eternal life through your Son, Jesus the Christ.

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. Darwin Collins, Vice President, Christian Church Foundation

In my present ministry I have the remarkable honor of helping generous Christians plan their estates to make gifts to future generations — their children, grandchildren and the church they so deeply love. For most of them, this is not a chore or a burden, but a great joy! They have the opportunity to take God’s blessings of their lifetime and to share it with those they love for generations to come.

This is surely an act of Christian stewardship, but as well, an act of great faith. By sharing gifts with those you love you are affirming your hope for their future. Including the church among your beneficiaries affirms that God’s love is meant for future generations as well as ours.

In this text for today, the Apostle Paul reminds us that gifting to generations yet to come is keeping the faith with Christ. The Eucharist Table came to Paul as a gift, but he knew the intent of Christ was that it be for all generation to come. By his example, Paul offers this beloved Table as a glorious inheritance for us to share…but also for us to gift to the next generation.

 

At this most blessed Table may we feel your presence, O God.

But may we always know that it is a Table set for the world, present and yet to come.

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 Bowers, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Weirton

It is my prayer that we take this time as a time of reflection. As Christians, we like to go from the glory of Palm Sunday to the glory of Easter and forget there were some terrible days in between. Most of us would like to brush away those terrible days as if they didn’t exist, but they did and do.

The text tells us about Jesus talking about his betrayer, who was Judas. But in reality, it is all of us. We know that Judas sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver, but I’ve found that so often I’ve sold him out for far less: In a lie, so I don’t lose face; bypassing my brother or sister in time of need; looking toward my own good, instead of the Body of Christ; harboring vengeance, when I should be offering forgiveness.

The Good News is coming, but honestly the Good News is already here. Jesus Christ loves and forgives us, even when we fall into the trap for which we criticize others. The dark days of Holy Week are part of the story, but they are not the entire story. Thanks be to God!

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. Kevin M. Snow, Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Huntington,

and Associate Regional Minister for Youth and Young Adults

Paul’s letter to a divided church in Corinth addresses several problems. In the first chapter alone, we are presented with two: One regarding baptism and authority. The other (today’s text) surrounding issues of worldly and divine wisdom. Let us be clear; it is not Paul’s intention for us to abandon or devalue wisdom. We are not required to “leave our brain at the door” when we enter into the spiritual realm. Faith and reason support and enrich one another, and do not contradict one another, as is often suggested. Instead, Paul is writing against the understanding that a singular wisdom alone holds the correct understanding of salvation. We often believe we must think the right way (our way) and practice the correct way (also our way) to experience God’s redemption. Over and above this way of worldly thinking, Paul sets the power of the cross. A power that liberates instead of shackling. A power that offers freedom instead of limitation. A power that makes no rational sense, but overcomes sin and transforms the world counter to what our understanding would expect.

Patient God, through mystery and wonder,

through knowledge and understanding, through experience and shared tradition,

help us experience the power of your death and resurrection,

that we may deepen and transform the world, and ourselves,

in unlimited ways with your grace and peace.

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. Donald Snyder, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Beckley

Yesterday’s shouts of “Hallelujah” will quickly change. Jesus will be challenged by and respond to a series of questions seeking to trip Him. Betrayal will be arranged, denials will be given, and doubts will ensue. Perhaps like at no other time during His ministry, Jesus’ “soul pangs for you, O God.” There are times in life when we feel God has abandoned, forsaken or ignored our plight.   The Psalmist’s prayer is a reminder, though, of our need for the life that only the living God can bestow, revive, and preserve. Yet, our hope in the Lord does not disappoint. In fact, that individual who has been awakened to or uplifted by the desire for God will genuinely fear losing God. Jesus will pray in Gethsemane for deliverance from the cup, and on the cross query about being forsaken, but in the end He will commend His soul to God in the confidence of who the Lord is.

 

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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