March 2017


Read Psalm 130

In our social media obsession, we keep count of everything:  how many friends on Facebook, how many followers on Twitter, how many connections on LinkedIn.  The psalmist despairs because he/she knows that God keeps account of all our sins. It is this misery that can lead to a sense of isolation from God. However, the psalmist also provides a testimony of trust in the Lord as one who knows that even though he/she might be a sinner, the Lord still hears their cry out of the depth.

It is this type of hope that forms the indissoluble link with the God of the covenant, who not only issues threats and promise, but also offers final salvation to the faithful. Sin is not committed in a vacuum, and essentially impedes our relationship with God. Nevertheless, our Lord’s heart is always willing to reach out in mercy, simply because of who He is, and offer not only forgiveness, but also restoration to life with Him in an eternal Kingdom.

When in the depths of my darkest night, O God, kindle a fire that will assure me of your presence and your saving love.

Donald Snyder

First Christian Church, Beckley, WV

Read Ezekiel 37:1-14

While the story of Ezekiel’s vision in the valley of dry bones gathers up the story of a suffering and nearly-dead community, it may have a personal dimension to offer people like us.  When our resources are dried up beyond any hope, like the totally barren and wind-blown bones of a long-decayed army, the Spirit of God can still bring things together.  There is hope even beyond this present hopelessness, light beyond this day of darkness.  God still brings forth new life where death has reigned; nothing is lost or forgotten!

When we have exhausted our store of endurance, When our strength has failed ere the day is half done, When we reach the end of our hoarded resources, Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men; For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

(Annie J. Flint, Public Domain)

David Chafin

United Christian Church, Coal Center, PA

Consultant to the Regional Minister

Prayerscapes is presented by the Order of Ministry of the Christian Church in WV and the Christian Church in PA.  It is made possible for your free use because of your faithful support of Disciples Mission Fund,  for which we all give thanks.

 

Read Psalm 89

“I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever” is how Psalm 89 begins in one translation that I use daily.  It is also the first line of one my favorite old hymns, one of the very first ones that I learned by heart, because it’s really more of a refrain. For as long as I can remember, and I’ve been a part of choirs since I was a child, singing has always been the purest form of worship for me. I love to sing!  Singing was, and still is, my favorite part of Sunday service, or any service, for that matter.

But what I finally realized about ten or fifteen years ago is that singing is also prayer. And so, when I’m worried and I can’t stop my thoughts from cycling back into negativity, I sing. When I’m bored, anxious, or frustrated, I sing. When I’m sad, lonely, or frightened, I sing. Sometimes singing moves me to tears. That’s okay. Tears are prayers, too, and God hears them all.

Lord, as we make our journey to Easter and through the rest of the year, help us always to sing your praises, and to remember that when we’re not sure we even can, that when we most need to sing them.

Valerie Parsons

Island Christian Church, Wheeling, WV

 Read Hebrews 5:5-10

Dictionary.com defines “Priest” as “a person whose office it is to perform religious rites, and especially to make sacrificial offerings.”  In today’s Scripture lesson, we have Jesus’ priesthood proclaimed and confirmed, not only for himself, but for all whom he represents.  Historically priests were the ones who, on behalf of their societies, offered up sacrifices which were hoped to be pleasing to God, therefore deflecting negative divine actions towards them, or opening up the flow of heavenly blessings upon them.  The concept of sacrifice is key to defining the term “priest.”

In Jesus’ case, the “sacrifice” became no longer a “thing.”  The sacrifice offered up to God became his own life and person – his own physical and spiritual selves.  By doing this, he set the example for each of us who claim the mantle of “Christian” – one who lives in imitation of Christ.  May this Lenten season lead us to ever greater sacrifices to God on behalf of those God loves.

Gracious God, teach us each day to offer ourselves up in sacrificial ways, that your creation may benefit greatly from our gifts.

Richard Howard

Morgantown, WV

Read Psalm 42

Twice, in David’s 42nd Psalm, in v. 3 and again in v. 10, he speaks the words spoken by his oppressors, “Where is Your God?”  Yet, even though the psalmist is in a period of lament and sorrow, he has hope and is not in total despair.  It is as though he is able to transform his thoughts from those of suffering deep pain to those of praise of “my savior, my God” and, somehow, in some way, to have the realization that through a combination of despair and praise, God has brought precious victories again and again to all his children.  And, as the famous preacher, Spurgeon says. “he pulls himself together and regains his composure, preaching to his own soul,” as he talks to himself, reminding himself of the great and wonderful goodness of God.

 

Such is life.  We, too, find ourselves in our own times of personal lament, experiencing the effects of oppression, rejection, and persecution in our lives due to our belief in the living God, Jesus Christ.  Can we not transform ourselves as did David?  Can we not calm and compose ourselves with the reminder that He who rescued our ancestors will rescue us as well?  “Why are you downcast O my soul?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my savior and my God” (v.11)

 

O God, raise me up as I place my trust in you.

Earl Shaw

Big Run Christian Church, Cameron, WV

Associate Regional Minister of the Word

Read John 9:1-41

I once read a story of a woman blind from birth that was asked by a friend, “How do you sing ‘Amazing Grace’?  You know the part: ‘I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.’”

The blind woman answered, “When we get to that verse, I straighten my shoulders, and sing proudly, ‘Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, and I still can’t see!’ But . . . praise God from whom all blessings flow!”

Sometimes those with 20/20 vision lack spiritual sight, and those without physical sight have 20/20 spiritual vision. The Pharisees hold God’s Word in plain view each day, but fail to see God’s Word incarnate, the Light of the World, in Jesus. Betraying two Sabbath rules by kneading his spit into mud and healing a serious but non-life-threatening condition, Jesus’ light trespasses boundaries to heal the one in need. The man’s sight and faith are restored.

Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord, to sense your Son, the True Light, with us and drawing us closer to those in need.

Michael Lehman

Fairhill Manor Christian Church, Washington, PA

Prayerscapes is presented by the Order of Ministry of the Christian Church in WV and the Christian Church in PA.  It is made possible for your free use because of your faithful support of Disciples Mission Fund,  for which we all give thanks.

 

Read Ephesians 5:8-14

“Now you are children of light.”  “Christ will shine in you.”  It sounds like Advent all over again.  Yet this is taking that from the natural world, and using it to illumine spiritual truth.  This comes from Holy Scripture, and extends through the long line of Christian spirituality that looks to creation—or what some have called our “first bible.”

 

How can the natural order of the world illumine our souls, especially when everything in the natural order dies?  Yes, this is one way to look at the world around us.  Yet we travel through this Lenten season with the illumination of Christ and see what is exposed with Resurrection eyes.  Let this change your worldview—the natural order of the world is not life and death, but rather is life-death-resurrection!

 

Skin cells die every moment, but new ones take shape and live on!  The perennials planted last year showcased evidence of death all winter, but now sprout forth with new buds!  I shed many a tear over the loss of life this winter, but with Easter on the horizon I feel a sense of beauty in hearing the words, “Sleeper, awake!  Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

 

Give us eyes to see your light, O Risen One, and the hope to see

that, in you, the death of things will always spring forth in newness of life.

Kenneth Hardway

First Christian Church, Wheeling, WV

Associate Regional Minister for Youth and Young Adults

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