Palm/Passion Sunday, Mar. 25

Read Mark 11:1-11

From Heather M. Simpson

Uniontown, PA Central Christian Church

What a grand day of celebration!  Here our teacher and healer from Galilee is, for one moment in his journey, hailed by the crowds around Jerusalem as the coming king promised to them.  He is known as Messiah, and the shouts, the sights of palm branches and cloaks being thrown into the streets to line his path, the uproar of “Hosannah! Hosannah! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!” Is heard loud and clear. This is to be a defining moment, if not for Jesus, for those who have struggled so long under the rule of Rome. The people are expressing joyously their hopes!

We see this excitement building in our churches also.  Although purple is the color that transforms worship spaces for Lent, we also hold back on the “Alleluias” that are shouted out on Easter; yet you can sense something is coming.  Something great! Maybe not a remembered ancient kingdom, but a promise yet unfulfilled is building hope within God’s people.  Our Messiah will be seen and known and acclaimed very soon among us, as the one who conquers death and brings new life.

We who know the story realize that there’s much to be experienced between these great days of joy and proclamation.  Plots and betrayals, denials, and desertion are yet to be faced by the one who is held up high by the cheering crowds this morning.  We find ourselves quietly walking with him out of the Temple and into the depth of Holy Week. We come down from this spectacular moment and deal with the story of our salvation in its most intense moments.  So we thank God this day for a blessed moment to take in the glory of the triumphal entry, and to breathe in the hope for the promises yet unfilled that is building within us as his followers.

 

God, help us to be swept into the glorious moments you offer us,

that we may be refreshed and strengthened for the struggles ahead,

confident that beyond it all is the ultimate joy

of resurrection and life eternal. Amen.

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Saturday, Mar. 24

Read Philippians 2.5-11

From Robert Robinson

Philadelphia, PA

Let this beautiful hymn to the Christ who emptied himself take you into the heart of this Lenten season.  Read it again and again.  Every word will lead you to bend your knee and exalt this Christ. Christ could have stayed aloof, could have considered the human condition degraded and mean.  Perhaps we were to be pitied but joined, sharing in our all too human condition?  Certainly not. But that is precisely what Christ did, sharing even the most profound limit of the human condition, the death we all fear, worse still, a humiliating death on the cross.   It is beyond our comprehension. Christ gave up so much, equality with God, and accepted so much, a terrible death on our behalf.  Even with Paul’s beautiful words ringing in our ears, we cannot fully grasp what Christ so graciously did.  But we can respond. We can find our own true humility, bending our knee to this glorious Christ in our midst.  We can confess this broken yet exalted man as our savior. And we can rejoice in our true humanity.  Broken as we recognize we are during Lent, Christ did not judge it beneath him to become one of us.  Christ lives as one among us.

 

We lift up your name above all other names, precious Christ.

You emptied yourself to become one of us.

May we aspire to be worthy of your living among us.  Amen

Friday, Mar. 23

Read Psalm 31.9-16

From Marsha Brown Woodard

St. David’s, PA Palmer Theological Seminary

This Psalm is a cry for help, the psalmist cried out, God I need you! I have tried everything else and everyone else and nothing has worked in fact God it is getting worse. God I need you. If we are honest like the psalmist we have had seasons in our lives where we too cried out God I need you. As I read I was reminded of an African American Spiritual that shares this sentiment, “It’s me It’s me It’s me O Lord standing in the need of prayer Not my father nor my mother but it’s me O Lord, standing in the need of prayer”

God the world is to big and the problems to great, but because you created me, God I am turning to you. I like the shift in the text because for me it is as if the psalmist is saying  even though my problems are overwhelming me God you have the last word because my times my life are in your hands

Lent reminds us that even in times of distress we can have hope because we are never alone and the psalmist is right, our times are in God’s hands.

 

Help, Lord!  Help us to trust you enough to receive the day

 and all of its challenges as a gift from your hands. Amen.

Thursday, Mar. 22

Read Psalm 42

From Nikki Mazza-Fredley

Monongahela, PA First Christian Church

During Lent, life that surrounds us appears to be quiet and can foster feelings of being alone.  When we look at that next to the Passion story, it can often make us question why?  Why God do these lowest of low times happen when we love you so?  When we are in distress, or when life seems too difficult to carry on, this is when this passage speaks to us the most.  It is not uncommon to wonder where support is when we feel like we are carrying the load alone; however, our Lord commands steadfast love and always surrounds us even when our doubts and fears hide that reality.  Our God has not forgotten us and most assuredly is our rock.  May this Lenten season encourage us to move beyond our fears to wholeness and trust.

 

Dear Lord, thank you for not giving up on us when we want to question and doubt your presence.  Fill us with the confidence

to know that no matter what the storm,

you will always be our protection and shelter.  Amen.

Wednesday, Mar. 21

Read Psalm 118.1-2, 19-29

From Michael Lehman

Washington, PA Fairhill Manor Christian Church

Seasons. Spring arrives with possibility; nature bursts with life. Trees and ground thaw and add layers; we thaw and shed layers. Days are longer and warmer; hope stirs.

Then summer arrives, compelling us into creation’s beauty and bounty. Our gardens yield the freshest meals. Long and warm days bring lazy contentment and peace.

Then fall arrives, showing us “the beauty of letting go of dead things” (Maya Angelou). As trees shed their coats, we don ours and huddle closer together. It is cold and days are short, yet there is comfort.

Finally, winter arrives; creation keeps Sabbath. The ground hardens, little grows, save for the sun’s light that lengthens with each day. Winter leads into spring’s newness, and the frozen ground opens its tombs and life comes bursting forth again.

Seasons change, but Psalm 118 declares that God’s love does not. It remains—steadfast, consistent, always there. Can those adjectives be said of our gratitude, in turn?  “O give thanks to the Lord, for [the Lord] is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever!” Let the church say it ceaselessly!

 

Thank you, God, for your forever-love in Christ Jesus.

We are forever grateful. Amen.

Tuesday, Mar. 20

Read John 9.1-17

From Cletus Hull

Lower Burrell, PA Trinity United Christian Church

John 9 deals with the lifelong question of suffering. The disciples asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Two thousand years later, we struggle with a meaningful thought that can relieve our question on suffering. Years ago, I was speaking with a person who said their suffering remained because of one mistake they made in life. I know that I am to deeply listen to a person’s heart, but after they shared their story I immediately mentioned that they do not need to live in this outlook. Though I do not totally understand their situation, I felt that I could not allow them to leave my presence knowing that I seemingly agreed with their thoughts to beat up their personage.

I loved what Jesus said, “This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” We can become caught up in an attitude that destroys our self-esteem. We may appear like the religious leaders who are more interested in the mud, rather than the miracle. Is that our attitude—that we are more interested in the mud than the miracle? I believe we know the answer to that question.

 

Thank you, Lord, that the miracle you bestow upon us in Christ

is greater than any mud we have incurred.

Monday, Mar. 19

Read Isaiah 50.4-9a

From Tammey Aichner

Williamsport, PA First Church of Christ

During a snowstorm, a woman stumbled in to my store.  Normally, I would be too busy to share a conversation, but this particular night did not have many others out.  10 years ago she lost her 2 year old grandson tragically at Christmastime.  She assumed that her church family would support her and surround her with love in this time of grief and sorrow.  How wrong she was.  According to them, her faith was weak if she was sad.  Her siblings kept their distance, in case the tragedy was “contagious” and it would infect their comfortable life.  Instinctively I couldn’t believe the family of God would do this.  And as I was praying for the right words to say, I wondered how many times I reacted the same way to another.  Oh, maybe not intentionally, but have I ever walked away from someone in need because it was the easier path?  Have I ever ignored someone in pain because I didn’t have all the answers?  When we look inward, it hurts.  But when we do, we can grow.  We can be that shoulder to cry on, we can, with raw emotion, acknowledge that we don’t have the answer.  And in so doing, we can point them to the One that does, the One that is already traveling that road with them.  The One who has been there and can say, “I know what it is like to be beat and mocked.  I know the hurt when loved ones turn their back on you.”

 

Loving God, when you place hurting people in our path, grant us the courage to stay and share Your love.  In Jesus precious name. Amen.