February 2015


Romans 4:13-25

                For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”) –in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

                Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.”

                Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

 

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

Bethany College

Listen to ourselves Christians—

We’ve gone to court for Moses:

Ten Commandments in the Court House!

Charlton Heston in Technicolor and Cinemascope

We have done duty as adherents, as advocates, of the law.

We have brought the wrath.

 

But what have we done for Abraham?

Where is the story of the promise and the faithfulness?

—God’s promise, God’s faithfulness—

Where is grace playing in 3-D and surround-sound?

When did we march to carve “steadfast love and mercy” in stone

And set them in the Square

A proclamation of life to the dead?

 

When do we shout against cynicism and despair?

Against barrenness, against darkness, against the shadow of death?

—When do we hope against hope and proclaim

the truth, the fact, of those things which do not exist:

a child in Sarah’s barren womb; Jesus raised from the tomb,

our bodies raised incorruptible, the Kingdom come on earth,

the God come down from heaven, the Light that is not overcome?

 

Now children of promise, children of faithfulness—even now!

 

Ever-faithful One, free us from our fears

and lead us to your future. Amen.

Psalm 22:23-31

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, Pastor

First Christian Church, Moundsville

Our scripture passage falls between the first part of Psalm 22, one of the psalms of suffering, and the famous 23rd Psalm, a psalm of the Shepherd’s care.  This second part of Psalm 22 gives praise to the Lord and gives assurances that He will keep His promises, one of which is to care for the needy.

So from a Lenten time and Messianic perspective, we have the suffering and death of the sinless One, the praise and worship of the One who overcomes death and suffering, followed in the 23rd Psalm by the way in which the One, the Great Shepherd, cares for His sheep.                 Passion Week can be such a roller coaster of emotions for us.  At Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services, we weep and are sorrowful for what Our Lord endured before and on the cross—even though we know it was part of the salvation plan for us, part of the way the Shepherd demonstrated His love for His sheep.  But then, on Easter Sunday, we rejoice, worship, and praise Him for conquering sin and death, and because He did, we can!  We praise Him because He cares for us, and continues to watch over us!

 

Lord, we praise you, we worship you,

and we thank you for your shepherding care.  Amen.

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-17

                Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him.

 

From Rev. X. Rae Browning, Pastor

First Christian Church, Cumberland, MD

The gist of this text is the hope for a future. This we learn in these words of God to Abraham, telling him to place himself in the care of God the Almighty.

First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Cumberland – often imagined as a declining, powerless congregation on the verge of ending – stands to become one which will be serving our Lord through the future. Great concern has hovered over the heads of leaders past and present for what might become of our congregation. We may not have fallen prostrate laughing as Abraham had, struggling to believe the promise of a son and future for generations to come, but holding to our faith as they did, we are creating a Legacy of love and missional outreach that will be perpetuated through the Christian Church Foundation. Cumberland is becoming a “forever church” — not a building, but a fellowship of faithfulness that will outlive our people.

God is faithful, and will guide us in this life and for generations to come. Yes our numbers are small, but our hearts are big, and we continue to grow in faith every day if we listen and hear, believe and act as Abraham and Sarah did when they were enlisted to receive the covenant and believe in the promises of God. For us, this all comes about through the example of the Living Christ, who continues to walk this earth through all who hold true to faith and serve God by caring for all God’s children.

When things may look bleak, go to the Word and listen to God speaking. God is Almighty, and mighty things he has done and is doing still.

Help us, O God, to trust in you

as we look from an amazing past

toward a promised glorious future in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Psalm 32

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity,

                and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

While I kept silence, my body wasted away

                through my groaning all day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;

                my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity;

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”

                and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you;

                at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.

You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble;

                you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;

                I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,

                whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,

                else it will not stay near you.

Many are the torments of the wicked,

                but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous,

                and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

 

From Rev. Donald Snyder, Pastor

First Christian Church (Beckley)

Unlike many of the quite personal poems found in the Psalter, Psalm 32 does not provide the setting in which David uttered it. Nevertheless, three themes become apparent as the king’s words unfold. Sin is real. No matter how much humanity desires to ignore sin or overlook its power, David makes it quite clear that our transgressions are before us. Moreover, God is the only one who can remove this dividing barrier of sin, and the human components of this process are repentance and confession.

While we may not view suffering as the consequence (the fallacy Job’s three friends accepted), confession is more than merely informing God of one’s sin (He already knows our sins); it is also a turning away from these transgressions to God. This genuine transformation (a turning around to God) allows God’s unfailing providential care, as understood within the context of covenant-relationship, will surround the one who directs their way toward the divine will. The great example of Jesus is His willingness to submit to the Father’s will, whether at His baptism or in Gethsemane, as the means by which we are restored to what is lost by sin: life in the presence of God forever.

 

O God, may your transforming Spirit

bring me to a new turning toward your perfect will. Amen.

Romans 5.12-19

                Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned–sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

                But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.

                If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

                Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

 

Guided Meditation from Prayerscapes 2011

by Rev. David Chafin, Deputy Regional Minister

 

You, O God, are the Giver of life. Search my heart.

[Pause to consider the ways in which God has given freely to you.]

 

As I have been gifted by you, help me to grow in gratitude.

[How has your life expressed gratitude for God’s gracious gifts?]

 

Teach me the value of turning away from selfish pursuits,

and of sharing your gifts with others.

[Consider ways in which you can enjoy the freedom from sin

which faith brings to all believers,

and cultivate an awareness of others

and their hungers for freedom, so that you can share with them

the good news of God’s gracious gifts in Jesus Christ.]

 

O God, receive this day which I offer to you in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Psalm 25:1-10

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame;

do not let my enemies exult over me.

Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;

let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth, and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

for you I wait all day long.

Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love,

for they have been from of old.

Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;

according to your steadfast love remember me,

for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!

Good and upright is the LORD;

therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

He leads the humble in what is right,

and teaches the humble his way.

All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,

for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

 

From Prayerscapes 2012, by Rev. Daniel Harry, Pastor

Community Christian Church, Beech Bottom

 

Fuhgeddaboudit!   According to the urban dictionary, this word means, among other things, to “forget about it.” In the season of Lent, Christians try to prepare for the coming of Easter by seeking forgiveness for past sins and resolving to live more righteously.

Psalm 25 is a reminder that the people of God have always tried to do this. The Psalmist is asking God to forget about past sins and transgressions and to be judged according to God’s steadfast love. This is more than forgiveness; it is a complete wiping of any history of the events of the past. Love, as Paul wrote in I Corinthians 13, “keeps no record of wrongs.” This is what we want from God.

The Psalmist also asks, “teach me your paths.” This Lent we should practice God’s love toward others. More than forgiving, we must completely forget past wrongs.

 

Guide us toward your divine forgiveness, O God. Amen.

 

Mark 1:9-15

                In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

                Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

 

From Rev. Richard Howard, Pastor

First Christian Church, Morgantown

Let’s concentrate on the words of verse 15 for this meditation: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” The Rev. David Ewart, UCC minister in Vancouver, Canada, comments on his blog, http://www.holytextures.com, that “believe in the good news” is better translated as “trust into the good news.” It is not an opinion that Jesus seeks from us, but rather a “radical, total, unqualified basing of one’s life on his [i.e., Jesus’] good news.” It is a “discover-the-meaning-by-living-into his good news – even to the point of risking being killed for it.” This “trusting into” isn’t an intellectual exercise. And it can’t happen without repentance.

To repent isn’t a call to feel guilty about your ol’ bad self. Rather, to repent is to seek to be transformed, to realign one’s life with “new principles, new beliefs, new understandings, new insights, new objectives, new goals.” Repentance is given by Mark as the first sign of our transformation because our present lives will not live up to his expectations. New life requires the embracing of a new reality. As we make the Lenten journey, may we “live into the good news” and experience the joy of transformation.

 

O Lord, walk with us on our Lenten journey.

Open our souls to the possibility of transformation,

that your joy may be complete in us. Amen.

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