March 2015


Psalm 71:1-12

In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.

In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;

incline your ear to me and save me.

Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me,

for you are my rock and my fortress.

Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,

from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.

For you, O Lord, are my hope,

my trust, O LORD, from my youth.

Upon you I have leaned from my birth;

it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.

My praise is continually of you.

I have been like a portent to many,

but you are my strong refuge.

My mouth is filled with your praise,

and with your glory all day long.

Do not cast me off in the time of old age;

do not forsake me when my strength is spent.

For my enemies speak concerning me,

and those who watch for my life consult together.

They say, “Pursue and seize that person whom God has forsaken,

for there is no one to deliver.”

O God, do not be far from me;

O my God, make haste to help me!

 

From the hymns of Rev. David Chafin

Deputy Regional Minister

 

When all the world forsakes and flees, O Lord, stay nearby.

As we lift to you our pleas, Savior hear our cry.

Let no evil overtake us; Jesus, now do not forsake us.

In your image, Lord, remake us. To your flock stay nearby.

 

Behold with mercy gathered here the lambs of your arms.

Turn not away, but calm our fears, shelter us from harm,

That we may for those in need be the fountain and the seed,

and by our love may gently lead the wond’ring ones home to you.

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 Prayerscapes 2011, by Rev. William Pollack, Pastor

First Christian Church, Princeton

The words of the Prophet should be music in our ears. We are told of the coming Servant who will make the world a better place by bringing justice, light and a newness of life for the people. We should rejoice at this news as we find ourselves in the midst of a world that often reflects the opposite of God’s plan. We also long for a new direction, light for the journey and seek the justice for our lives. Just let us not forget that, while we search, we are called to be the same for those who walk in darkness. This Lenten season, may we be the very things we are seeking to a world that is sought for by our Lord.

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. Amen.

Mark 14:1-11

                It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”

                While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her.

                But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

                Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

 

From Rev. Kevin Snow, Pastor

Central Christian Church, Huntington

and Associate Regional Minister for Youth and Young Adults

Agitation is important in life. An agitator helps our dirty laundry become clean. Agitation keeps a room cool in the summer or warm during the winter. A ceiling fan does this good work, moving stagnant, still air up or down. Agitation keeps us from becoming too comfortable, it prevents our relationships from becoming predictable, and it guards our passions from complacency.

Agitation is also an important part of our faith. Our primary images of Jesus are comforting: savior, redeemer, teacher, healer, friend, etc. However, sometimes Jesus words force us to think differently. Occasionally, Jesus says things I would rather he didn’t. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” or “…from now on do not sin again.” In Matthew, Jesus calls a Canaanite woman a dog. Today’s words are equally difficult: “You always have the poor with you…you will not always have me.”

It is easy to avoid the agitation Holy Week offers. To miss the shouts of “Hosanna!” changing to “Crucify him!” To move from palm waving parades to the triumph of an empty tomb without the pain of crucifixion and the despair of death. A woman anoints Jesus, forcing the group to encounter tough realities and hear difficult words. Are we open to the same?

 

O God, open our hearts and minds to agitation, challenging words,

and uncomfortable circumstances,

that our faith will be deepened, our wisdom expanded,

and our horizons broadened. Amen.

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.

 

From Rev. Darrell Pierce

Clarksburg, WV

This scripture contains a summary of Jesus’ existence from before the beginning of time until after the end of time. Before time, Jesus was with God and equal to God. There could not be a more honored place, could there?

From this high position he voluntarily humbled himself by two great steps downward. He became a human with human problems, weaknesses, and temptations.   Then he voluntarily accepted death on the cross, including the curse God himself had pronounced on one “hung on a tree.” No other person in history has taken upon himself the sins of all people. No person in all of history has so humbled himself or been so humbled.

But when time is no more, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess his Lordship. And so by humbling himself, he enabled God to glorify him even above the place he held before creation.

Lent calls for us to voluntarily and intentionally humble ourselves. We are called to forget honor and glory as we seek the humbleness of Jesus in his incarnation. As Jesus’ example shows us, humbling ourselves enables God to lift us up, perhaps higher than we have ever been before.

 

Dear Jesus, help us to be your true disciples by following you in humbleness as we try to follow you in all things. Amen.

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.

 

From Rev. Earl Shaw

Minister of the Word for the Region

In Joan Stott’s writing “The Timeless Psalms”, she describes a bleak picture of the man of whom she writes, claiming him to be in a state of personal lament due to the state of his immediate personal affairs. He appears to be seriously ill or possibly even close to death and he is telling God how he really feels physically, emotionally, and spiritually.   In the midst of his talking with God, he cries out, “Lord, be for me a great rock of safety.” This is a man who has faithfully lived his life in God’s “own circle of unfailing love.” And, as he prayed he cried out “God, Save Me,” through all his angst and despair until, at last, he is able to let go.

The Psalmist’s prayer benefits each of us just as it was to benefit our Lord and Savior as He was led to the cross.   Do we, too, not also try to understand and explain the “Faithfulness of God?” A God whose love is unfaltering, unwavering, unyielding, and unquestioning. A God who reaches out and enters in both at the same time. A God whose love for all creation is second to no other.

The Psalmist’s prayer does not end with him. It is a prayer for all people of all time, regardless of their fears, reservations, age, or ailments to yet be able to cling to God, saying, I Love You, I Trust You, my future is in your hands.

 

O God, release me from my anxieties and bring me into a new-found place free of doubt and worry. “Make Your face shine upon Your servant; Save me for Your mercies sake.” Amen.

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.

 

From Tom Chafin, Pastor

First Christian Church, St. Albans

Although the writer of this moving psalm is not named, most believe David to be its author. If so, he probably wrote it during a strained family relationship with his third son (Absalom) when David was separated from his people, his throne and his wealth. During that time, he endured the oppression of his enemies and rumors that God had forsaken him.

This psalm depicts the struggle we often experience between pessimism and optimism as we vacillate between doubt and faith, despair and hope, looking at our circumstances and then looking at God.

The psalmist still referred to God as his “rock.” God was his solid strength and defense. Even though he felt that he had been forgotten, he knew that such could not possibly be the case. Even as he felt the painful mocking and sarcastic words of his adversaries, he continued to hope in God. He continued to believe that God would change the expression of his face to gladness. The psalmist did not lose hope or faith during his struggles.

We should not forget that God never forsakes nor forgets us even

if life’s circumstances overwhelm us. Remember that God is near, and nothing can separate us from His presence or concern.

 

In life, in death, in life beyond death, you are with us, O God,

and we shall praise you now and always. Amen.

Psalm 118.1-2, 19-29

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

                his steadfast love endures forever!

                Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Open to me the gates of righteousness,

                that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.

This is the gate of the LORD;

                the righteous shall enter through it.

I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.

The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

                This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

This is the day that the LORD has made;

                let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Save us, we beseech you, O LORD!

                O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD.

We bless you from the house of the LORD.

The LORD is God, and he has given us light.

Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;

                you are my God, I will extol you.

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

                for his steadfast love endures forever.

 

From Rev. Judy Bennett

Bridgeport, OH

How wonderfully exciting! So very personal! You are MY God! God of the universe, God of all creation, God of the sun, the moon, the stars, God of the air that I breathe and every breath that I take, God of everything one can imagine: You are mine! And I will give you thanks.

Just reading this Psalm of love and praise makes me smile. If I ponder it long enough, I begin to feel the joy well up within me – true joy – that joy that is so much more than just happiness, that joy that no adverse circumstance or individual can steal from me. And as wise men came bearing gifts to the Christ Child in Bethlehem, what gift can I in my wisdom bring as my tribute of praise to God, now that my Lenten journey with the Christ nears Jerusalem? Is there a sacrifice or a penance that I can personally offer in order to extol my God? No. The greatest gift of thanks that I can give is to live joyfully, knowing that the journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem and beyond is because of love – my God’s love for me – for I am His, and He is mine. Praise God!

 

O God, I sing your praise and give you thanks for your goodness

and the blessings of life, light and love

with which you shower me daily.   Amen.

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