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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Wednesday, Mar. 7

Read Psalm 23

From Heather M. Simpson

Uniontown, PA Central Christian Church

In this psalm, God is not distant, but near, doing what any shepherd is supposed to do – caring for the sheep. Nourishment of food and drink are given; danger is avoided; shelter is found. Even in the most life-threatening situations, God provides. And we walk through all of life, even in the shadows, beside the One who knows the way and leads us through it all to a Table where he is the host.

We are secure in the fold of God because we are not on our own.  We belong to God the Shepherd, and that is a reality of our faith that can transform our lives and our world.  It’s an invitation to live under God’s care and in solidarity with all of God’s children.  To be known by God, and to hear God’s voice and follow – and to realize that God knows us and has come here to lead us.

There’s also movement and stillness in this psalm.  The stillness comes from the blessing of God creating and calling us to be family.  Family, invited to sit together with Christ at the table where he takes the bread and pours the wine. May we keep seeking ways to walk and invite and seek the marvelous assurance in knowing that we “shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

 

Loving Shepherd, be patient with my wanderings

and bring me joyfully into your heavenly fold. Amen.

Advent 2: Dec. 10

Read Isaiah 11:1-10

from Heather Simpson, Uniontown, PA Central Christian Church

On this second Sunday of Advent, we read about the Peaceable Kingdom, in this time where peace can seem so incredibly far off.  And yet, maybe this is the right time and place to see how the hope of peace gets its start, for this tiny shoot becomes a strong branch. We learn that indeed the mighty rises from the small, ultimately changing the entire creation.  Here we are challenged to look with a new lens and see a wonderful scene!  Just imagine a world at such peace – living in such harmony, that even those “natural-born enemies” that we expect in creation, are brought into companionship on God’s holy mountain!  This is the mountain of God’s holiness.  This is the promise, and abundant resting place, where the root of Jesse stands.  A vision of security, born not from a battle, but from a standard for peace!

The strong language and powerful imagery can shake our thinking about how we are to live in the Kingdom of God. Here we are to not just nod, shrug, or smile; nor are we called to move too quickly from this vision that is such a wild exception from what we have been taught about this world.  Instead, we are called to pause, pray, and consider that what we have become accustomed to may not be God’s desire at all.  Maybe it’s not the prophet or other dreamers, but God who has a vivid imagination – of a world where there is no destruction or pain or illness – a world set right, in the shape of God’s dream for all of us.

After all, this world belongs to God and should reflect God’s design. The coming of Messiah is not just to give us a hope for peace; the coming of the Messiah, is a call for us to move toward that vision of the Peaceable Kingdom in our day.   May we have eyes to see and minds to engage in such vision!   May peace be with each of you.

God of Shalom, who dreams a better dream for us than we could ever imagine, help us to prepare room in our lives and our world for the Prince of Peace. Amen.

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 John 3:1-17

In the midst of John’s telling of the coming of the Christ as the light of God, we meet a religious leader coming to Jesus under the cover of darkness, looking to commend Jesus, and to confess – however secretly – that he believes that Jesus is indeed working in the power of God.  He is met with a rather out-of-place remark about seeing beyond the signs Jesus was working to the actual kingdom of God, which can only be seen and known through a new kind of life being born in us.  It is the birth from above that is needed to give entry to the presence of God.  And the key, Jesus says, in coming to that new birth is from water and the Spirit.  Both of these point all who would believe toward the one who is “lifted up,” like the healing serpent on the staff of Moses in the wilderness.

The healing hope for the world, and for the lives of Nicodemus and others who would be disciples (including you and me), is in the person of Jesus Christ, lifted up on the cross.  We are called, even in the shadows of our cautious questions, to look upon him and have life.

Loving God, help us to see, even through the shadows, your presence, and find new life born from holy water. Amen.

Heather Simpson

Central Christian Church, Uniontown, PA

3rd Sunday in Advent, Dec. 11: Read Luke 1:46-55

from Heather Simpson, Central Christian Church, Uniontown, PA:

There’s nothing more exciting, as well as nerve-wracking, than the days leading up to the birth of a child.  The anticipation, the deep mystery, and sacred connection to God’s amazing work.  Here in the midst of it all, each moment seems so different than the last. Imagine the flood of emotions, overwhelming an innocent girl who has been told that the child she was bringing to the world would be the one to set God’s people – her people – free to fulfill their calling in the world!

 

When I hear her outburst of joy, poured out in the home of her cousin, who was carrying the one soon to be known John the Baptist within her womb, I do marvel at what incredible things God was doing, and still does, with the least likely candidates. As Mary’s song of praise declares, the world is turned upside down by the “strength of God’s arm” at work in those who yield themselves to God. What might God do with someone like you or me, when we are willing to say:   “Yes. As you say, Lord, may it be so…even in me?”

 

May our song find God’s tune, during this journey of Advent.  And our outbursts be of joy, and ready response, for all of God’s amazing surprises.

 

Gracious God, center us in your love, wrap us in your joy, and prepare our hearts for the birth of our Savior.  Amen

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