Lent – Year A

Read Matthew 27:11-54

The witnesses declared “Truly this was God’s Son!”  In fact, the Resurrection called all of humanity and all of creation to make the good confession together.  All that was confessed. Today, with all that we are and have, we too confess and declare: “We believe!”  Today, we are remaking the good confession, and this sets the course for all that we are.

Easter cries, trumpet sounds, organs playing, children marching, flowers blooming, Bread and Wine being shared, and a word of belief bear witness to the truth of God’s Son who is alive in our midst.  Happy Easter to Easter people!

Giver of every perfect gift, we thank you for life and life abundant in our risen Savior Christ Jesus.

Thaddaeus B. Allen

Regional Minister

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Read Psalm 31:9-16

On Holy Saturday, the narrative stops. Everything goes silent. It is the cosmic day of listening, waiting, and unknowing, the great corrective to human hubris. We aren’t as smart as we thought we were. Today, we come face to face with what Isaiah told us: God’s ways are not our ways.

Nor are they the world’s ways. In the world, kings aren’t enthroned on crosses. Charismatic religious teachers don’t end up like this. Today there are no pat answers. Today is for silence, watching, waiting to see what happens next. Western Christians dislike this. We want to get busy and do something. But nothing can, or indeed, now must be done. The Psalmist gets it: “My times are in your hand.” Even today. Even when things are darkest, when we lose everything we loved, believed in, thought we knew. When we don’t know what comes next, especially then, our times are tenderly held in God’s nail scarred hands.

Help us, O God, even in the darkness of death, to know the calm assurance of your abiding care.

Bonnie Thurston

Wheeling, WV

Read Isaiah 50:4-9a

Today we meet the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah.  This is most appropriate for our Good Friday meditation, as the Servant foreshadows the meaning of suffering and obedience which Jesus presents in his passion.

The Servant, like Jesus, is sorely persecuted: “I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.”  But this is not a lament or a complaint as we often hear from those who are abused.  It is a psalm of confidence and assurance.

The Servant is constantly aware of God’s presence and compassion throughout his ordeal. “The Lord God helps me; therefore, I have not been disgraced… I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near.”  This total awareness of God’s abiding care is evidenced by the fact that the Servant is given “the tongue of a teacher [to] sustain the weary with a word.”  His ears are opened “to listen as those who are taught.”

In the midst of distress, the Servant and God are in a remarkable relationship of love.  This psalm is a demonstration of God’s love for and delight in us and an invitation for us to share that love and delight.  Jesus’ giving of himself in the crucifixion is the powerful act that binds us to our God in the best and also the worst of times.

Loving God, open our ears to hear your word, free our tongues to share your love.  Let us know that in the suffering and death of your Son he saves us and binds us to your constant care, whatever our situation.

William B. Allen

Regional Minister Emeritus

Read John 13:1-17, 31b-35

John’s telling of the washing of feet in the Upper Room begins with: ‘Jesus knew that his hour had come’ and ‘the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas…to betray him.’  Yet sitting between these two shocking and terrifying statements is a testimony to Jesus’ love for his disciples.  John wants us to know that Jesus sees this as a final opportunity to express his love for ‘his own.’

Jesus can serve with such compassion – so humbly, so generously – because he loves so much. Such an exemplary last act of love! Jesus describes his action as an ‘example’. It is to become our pattern, our invitation to embrace the unexpected freedom of living for others.

Yet, it is even much more than this.  What Jesus gave was a blessing – a repeatable, relivable blessing. As Jesus said: ‘If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them’ (13:17).  Where will we find the courage to center upon such love and embrace such an extraordinary invitation toward loving and blessing others?

God of Generosity, guide us to be generous with our love, and challenge us to be a blessing to all.  Amen.

Heather Simpson

Central Christian Church, Uniontown, PA

Read: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

We are preparing in most of our churches to enter into a solemn night of remembrance and thanksgiving for the life that has been given to us in the offering of Christ to his people in the upper room.  In doing so, we are taking our places in a tremendous chain of the tradition that cannot be let go of.

Plenty of people have died tragic or untimely deaths, and plenty of memorials have been established to help keep the memory alive in the life of the world.  But in this action of gathering to take, bless, break, and give the bread and the cup of Christ, Paul says we are handing on what the Lord has given to us.  And precious, indeed, is the memorial!  In it, Jesus tells us, we are receiving his body and his blood – the new covenant given for all who would receive it.  And Paul affirms that it is in these actions that we do indeed show forth Christ’s death for all who would see it, and do so looking forward to his coming again – pointing us all toward a feast over which Christ himself will preside, a feast which will have no end.

Every hunger of every human life is filled at this ongoing memorial, which we hand on now to new generations in the Eucharist we celebrate tomorrow and on every occasion when we gather in Christ’s presence.  He is, indeed, there in our midst.  “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore, let us keep the feast…” and keep it always, filled with the memory and sweet fragrance of its first Celebrant.

As we remember and give thanks for your love in Jesus Christ, O God, we offer ourselves anew as his people.  Now fill us with his life.

David Chafin

United Christian Church, Coal Center, PA

Consultant to the Regional Minister

Read Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

During a workshop on prayer, I gave the participants an exercise on thanksgiving.  They were to make a list of everything they were thankful for on one of the worst days of their lives.  After ten minutes I asked the participants to share this experience of offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving.  A woman in the back of the room continued to write as the sharing began.  Finally, with a catch in her throat, she commented on her experience.  “My young adult son died three months ago of cancer.  It was a terrible time for us, but I realize through this exercise how much I had to be thankful for.  A nurse who was so kind.  Friends who stood with us.  My son’s freedom from a body of pain into eternal life.  I wrote three pages and I could still write more!”  She had found the hand of God through her sacrifice of thanksgiving.

St. Ignatius taught that the greatest sin is ingratitude.  Ingratitude shuts down our connection with God.  But when we give a sacrifice of thanksgiving, especially during painful times, God’s love can pour into us and give us what we truly need to become: “more than conquerors.”

Lord Jesus, forgive our sin of ingratitude.

Show us how to give a sacrifice of thanksgiving every day of our lives.

Janet Hellner-Burris

Christian Church of Wilkinsburg, Pittsburgh, PA

Read Exodus 12:1-14

On this blessed day, we in essence are beginning a new life.  The tomb is empty.  Jesus was raised!  Our Scripture lesson reminds us of another beginning of new life, and the preparations that would be needed to begin that new journey.  For the newly-liberated Hebrews in Egypt, a new, exciting, dangerous life journey lay before them – life that would require sacrifice.  In the freedom that God was offering, they would have to risk much, but the rewards would be great“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.”  (I Peter 2:10)

The advent of the Easter season once more offers us new life, and a renewal of the journey.  The 18th Century reformer, John Wesley, called upon his fellow travelers in the Christian faith to journey towards “Christian Perfection”.  At ordination services in the United Methodist Church to this day, ordination candidates are asked the questions, “Are you moving towards perfection?” and “Do you expect to reach it in your lifetime?”  The expected answer in both cases is a resounding “yes!”.  The perfection sought is not to be perfect in all things, but rather to be faithful in the journey to which we are called as Christians, as imitators of Christ.  To be to the world as the resurrected One would be.  May this Easter season find each of you committed to the journey of new life!

Loving God, grant us strength to make the journey,

walk with us along the way, and at its conclusion, receive us into your glory.

Richard Howard

Morgantown, WV

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