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

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Read Psalm 51.1-17

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
     according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 
 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight,
     so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. 
 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. 

You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
     wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 
 Let me hear joy and gladness;
     the bones that you have crushed rejoice.  
Hide your face from my sins,
      and blot out all my iniquities.  
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
     and put a new and right spirit within me.  
Do not cast me away from your presence,
     and do not take your holy spirit from me.  
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
     and sustain in me a willing spirit.  
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

     and sinners will return to you.

Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation,
      and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.  
O Lord, open my lips,
     and my mouth will declare your praise.  
For you have no delight in sacrifice;
      if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.  
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
      a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

 

From Rev. Dr. Bonnie Thurston,  First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Wheeling

                Appointed for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday liturgies, Psalm 51, the Miserere, frames Lent.  One of seven penitential psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143—each excellent Lenten fare), it is understood  as  King David’s prayer after his confrontation with the prophet Nathan. (2 Samuel 12)  Verses 1-9 confess sin and ask for cleansing.  Verses 10-17 pray for restoration of relationship, reflecting the hard truth that when relationship is broken, only the wounded party can restore it because only the wounded can forgive.

             Lent reminds us what the wounded God has done to restore relationship with us.  The focus of our Lenten journey is Christ’s cross and the empty tomb: God’s restoration of the joy of our salvation.

The Psalm is a prayer. Pray it.
Try to hear a recording of Allegri’s glorious setting of it.

Read Philippians 3:4b-14

       If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more:  circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
       Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.  More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.
        I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
       Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

from Rev. Dr. Bonnie Bowman Thurston, Wheeling, WV:

            What a rich text! Paul gives his impressive resume in vv. 4b-6, then says it is “loss” and “rubbish” (using a much coarser word!) compared to knowing Christ, not knowing about Him, but knowing Him. Verse 9 is Pauline theology in a nutshell that is followed by a bombshell: Paul wants to be like Christ in suffering and death! Who among us prays for suffering and crucifixion? Paul knows they are essential to resurrection, to new life.  “This one thing I do” (v. 13) is a key to Pauline spirituality. Multi-tasking may be o.k. for a computer, but it kills spiritual life. (Remember Martha “busy about many things”?)  Forgetting the past, moving toward the future are central for Paul;  he knows life is always ahead, never in the past. After the sacrifices and suffering of Lenten life comes the glory of Easter.

Lord of Life, in these days of Lent let me know you.
Give me courage to leave the past behind and move toward the life
that is new each morning and the light of Easter’s empty tomb.

Read 1 John 4:7-13

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

from Rev. Dr. Bonnie Bowman Thurston, Wheeling, WV:

In the wider Church 1 John comprises the daily lectionary after Christmas because it reminds us that the initiative in salvation (which the coming of Jesus signals) is God’s. We love because God first loved us. According to John, God’s intention is that our response to that divine gift is to love each other, not with the sticky, sentimental luv of trashy television, but with the love for which Christ’s cross is origin, model and source.

Wouldn’t it be novel (and better exegesis) if we heard this text instead of 1 Corinthians 13 at weddings? It says the Lenten (and marital) “sacrifices pleasing to God” are those we make in Christ-like, self-emptying service (love) to one another. Verse 12 suggests if we don’t feel God’s consolation and presence, it might be because of our unlovely attitudes and actions towards those who are right here.

Loving God, may this Lenten season deepen my gratitude

for the mystery of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

As I meditate on His cross, show me how to love more deeply.

 from Bethany College:

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You are invited to attend the 55th Oreon E. Scott Lectures to be held April 12 – 13, 2010, at Bethany College. This year, our lecturer is Bonnie Thurston.  Registration for the Lectures opens at 8:30 a.m. Monday, April 12, at the Mountainside Conference Center. The day’s events begin at 10 a.m. with a greeting, followed by Ms. Thurston’s first presentation.  At Monday’s Timothy Luncheon, participants will hear from Ann Updegraff Spleth, Vice President for External Relations at Christian Theological Seminary.  During free time provided after the Monday afternoon lecture, you can tour Bethany’s two National Historic Landmarks – the Campbell Mansion and Old Main.  Dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m. in Bethany Memorial Church, followed by a worship service and sermon at the Church. [Tuesday morning’s lecture concludes the event].

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Bonnie Thurston, a native of West Virginia, currently lives quietly near Wheeling, W.Va. having resigned the William F. Orr
Professorship in New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2002. She earned the B.A. in English (First Honors) from Bethany College, and the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Virginia. She has done post-doctoral work in New Testament at Harvard Divinity School; Eberhard Karls University in Tuebingen, Germany; and the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem. Bonnie has written or edited fifteen theological books and over 100 articles, has contributed to reference works in New
Testament and taught at the university level for 30 years. Her scholarly interests in New Testament include the gospels of Mark and John and the Deutero-Pauline canon and, more generally, the history of Christian Spirituality and prayer. Her church affiliations include the Episcopal Church and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She was ordained in 1984 and has served as copastor,
pastor, or interim of five churches and twice in overseas ministries. She is a spiritual director and retreat speaker. Bonnie is a widow, an avid reader, gardener and cook, enjoys classical music (especially the opera and liturgical music) and loves the West Virginia hills.

A download of the brochure for the event can be found on our homepage, or download directly here (pdf file).  For more information please contact the Office of Church Relations at 304-829-7723 or by e-mail at jpyle@bethanywv.edu.

 

 

The Rev.Dr. Bonnie Thurston is a much-loved scholar, retreat leader, and pastor of this Region.  We were pleased to have received this release from her publisher:

NOTRE DAME, IN, March 16, 2009

Bonnie Thurston, a noted scholar and prolific author who lives near Wheeling, West Virginia, has published a new book titled FOR GOD ALONE: A Primer on Prayer. In this book, she draws on her biblical studies expertise and her extensive knowledge of Christian spirituality to write an engaging and practical introduction to the different traditions and methods of Christian prayer.

FOR GOD ALONE is published by the University of Notre Dame Press. For more information about the book, click here:

 http://undpress.nd.edu/book/P01305

Read Exodus 12:1-14

 

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

             This month shall mark for you the beginning of months;

                        it shall be the first month of the year for you.

             Tell the whole congregation of Israel

                         that on the tenth of this month

                        they are to take a lamb for each family,

                        a lamb for each household.

             If a household is too small for a whole lamb,

                         it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one;

                        the lamb shall be divided in proportion

                        to the number of people who eat of it.

 

             Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male;

                         you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.

             You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month;

                        then the whole assembled congregation of Israel

                         shall slaughter it at twilight.

             They shall take some of the blood

                         and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel

                        of the houses in which they eat it.

           

             They shall eat the lamb that same night;

                         they shall eat it roasted over the fire

                         with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

             Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water,

                        but roasted over the fire,

                        with its head, legs, and inner organs.

             You shall let none of it remain until the morning;

                        anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.

 

            This is how you shall eat it:

                        your loins girded,

                         your sandals on your feet,

                        and your staff in your hand;

                         and you shall eat it hurriedly.

            It is the passover of the LORD.

 

            For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night,

            and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt,

            both human beings and animals;

            on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.

 

            The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live:

                        when I see the blood, I will pass over you,

                         and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

 

            This day shall be a day of remembrance for you.

            You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD;

                         throughout your generations

                        you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

(NRSV)

 

from Rev. Bonnie Thurston, Wheeling, WV

 

            It’s easy to get lost in the richness of the details.  In the profound symbolism Christians borrowed from Judaism, the drama of Exodus 12:1-14,  we can miss the reason for the community meal (v. 3-4, 6), the spotless lamb (v. 5), the blood (v. 7, 13), the unleavened bread and bitter herbs (v. 8),  all to be eaten dressed for travel (v. 11) because this is the feast of liberation.  At great cost to the Egyptians (v. 12), God provided a way out of bondage. At great cost to himself, God still does—in the slaughter of His own firstborn. The Passover images the meaning of Christ’s Passion: from Table to Garden to Cross to Empty Tomb, this is our story of liberation. Tonight we feast because “For freedom Christ has set us free, (Galatians 5:1; 5:13-14.) through body broken, blood spilled. “Do this in remembrance.” “Observe it as a perpetual ordinance.”

 

As we approach your common table, O God,

we find there uncommon things amid the common:

Life and forgiveness, hope and comfort,

a new family and a new mission, bread and wine.

Thanks be to you, O God, for your marvelous gifts!