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

1st Sunday in Advent, Nov. 27   Read Matthew 24:36-44

from William B. Allen, Regional Minister Emeritus:

We begin the new church year (Year A in the lectionary) with a gospel reading from St. Matthew – this is the year in which we focus on Matthew’s gospel.  Our text is Mt. 24:36-44 which lifts up the major Advent theme of watchfulness, vigilance, being aware of God’s movement in our midst.

 

Matthew quotes Jesus: “About that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  And he refers to those who were caught unawares when Noah’s flood came upon the earth; about workers in the field and women grinding meal who will be surprised by the activity of God.  And finally, Jesus is quoted, “Therefore you must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

 

Advent invites us on an exciting adventure – watching for the activity of God, every day, in everyone we meet, in every circumstance of life.  Have a great journey to Christmas.

 

Teach us watchfulness, O God, as we await the coming of the Savior.  Amen.


We express our gratitude to the ministers of the regions who have offered their devotional thoughts and prayers through this project, which is sustained by your gifts to the Christmas Offering for Regional Ministry.  To contribute to the offering, please visit the following pages:  Supporting the PA Region   or    Supporting the WV Region

Prayerscapes is published by the Christian Church in West Virginia and the Christian Church in Pennsylvania for the not-for-profit distribution of their members and friends in the ecumenical church.  ©2016. All Rights Reserved.

This ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in West Virginia is supported by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund.

Read Luke 23:50-56

from William B. Allen, Regional Minister Emeritus

Holy Saturday offers us a little time – between the poignant drama of Good Friday and the glorious celebration of Easter – to step back and reflect on the meaning of the momentous events by which we are saved.

On this off day between the monumental days of our faith, Luke offers us a succinct and meaning-packed description of Jesus’ burial that allows us to consider our relationship to the central mysteries that shape our lives.

We have a “good and righteous man named Joseph” who stepped forward to claim the body of the Lord.  This had to be a courageous act as it placed him in opposition to the huge majority of the Sanhedrin (the ruling, religious council) of which he was a member but which had overwhelmingly requested the crucifixion of Jesus.  He also had to go before Pilate and ask for the body.  Might this be an invitation to step forth from the crowd and honor our Lord?

The protocols regarding the honoring of the Sabbath and preparing the body were carefully observed.  Might this be an invitation to perform our spiritual life with decency and order (as opposed to haphazardly and carelessly)?

Jesus’ body was placed in a brand new, rock-hewn tomb.  Might this be an invitation to give our very best to Christ? Just some things to consider on this day of reflection.

Lord Jesus, Give us courage to serve and honor you,

to bring to you our best,

to love you with the tenderness of Joseph of Arimathea. Amen

Read John 1:1-18

from Rev. Dr. William B. Allen, Regional Minister Emeritus

Christmas is the sign to us of how much God loves us and how much God wants to be in a vital relationship with us. When we wander, drift or run away from God, God gently – or dramatically – calls us back.

Christmas is one of those dramatic instances where God calls us back. The prologue to John’s gospel takes the Christmas event from being something that happened long ago and far away, with stables and shepherds and kings, and makes it very close at hand. The Word of God, Jesus Christ, bursts on our world with life and light.

The problem arises when we fail to recognize or accept this Word who dwells among us. Then all that life and light and glory become obscure to us. Like when we walk into a crowded room and don’t recognize even dear friends, until we’ve been there a few minutes. Let’s look around and behold the glory God is presenting us in Christ.

This Word of God, Jesus Christ, brightens the darkness of the world we live in – with all its illness, war, sorrow, anger – and brings life, makes us children of God, and imparts to us “grace upon grace.” What a gift! Happy Christmas.

Loving God, awaken us to your Word who lives among us, enlightens our world and gives us grace upon grace.

Sunday: Nov. 30

Mark 13:24-37
“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake–for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

from Rev. Dr. William B. Allen
Regional Minister Emeritus
This passage is part of Jesus’ response to Peter, James, John and Andrew who – after he had predicted the destruction of the temple – had asked him, “[W]hen will this be and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” We are dealing with the end times or the culmination of history as we know it.
These kinds of passages (often called apocalyptic) raise lots of questions and rarely provide satisfactory answers, although they do give rise to lots of discussion – sometimes valuable, sometimes not. What we want to do is glean the core message and not get waylaid by things that leave us puzzled.
The core message here is to stay alert to things that are going on around us. Jesus says, “Beware, keep alert…” “Keep awake.” We want to stay tuned in to the people around us, the events that are happening, and the discoveries that are being made, for the Holy Spirit is in these. We live in an exciting time, bursting with God’s activity. Let’s not miss it just because we have prejudices, and fears. The Advent message calls us to live in confidence and love.
God of love and power, open our hearts and minds to behold your vibrant presence
around us and within us as we await the birth of your Christ
in all its glory and mystery.
Give us faith to step forth into your future. Amen.

 

As you have been blessed by the gift of God in the coming of Christ at Advent, please consider how your giving for the Christmas Offering to support Regional Ministry may bless the whole Church and world.  You may give through your local Disciples congregation, or at www.wvdisciples.org/support.  Congregations of the WV Region’s congregations whose members give online will still receive credit for the gift for Yearbook outreach reporting.

Read Matthew 4.1-11

                Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.  The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”  Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”  Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”  Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”  Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

 

From Rev. Dr. William B. Allen, Regional Minister Emeritus

This is the iconic Lenten narrative: forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil.  It is the experience we attempt to reproduce during our Lenten journey each year.

Who will win, God or the devil?

That’s more or less the critical question the church seeks to answer year after year, day after day.  Who’s going to win?  Good or evil?  Love or hate?  Joy or despair?  Greed or compassion?

Do we look out for ourselves?  Make bread from stones?  Jump from tall buildings to test God?  Acquire power and riches, whatever the cost?

Our Lenten journey invites us, requires us, to choose God and God’s ways over the ways of evil and wisdom of the world. We put ourselves in the care of God, as Jesus modeled, and angels minister to us.

Our prayer and our plan is that during Lent we will draw a little closer, and perhaps much closer to our God who loves and cares for us.

 

Help us, O God, to trust in you and in the way of righteousness

walked by the Savior, as we ready ourselves to answer these thornier questions of Lent.

Christmas Eve: December 24  

Luke 2:1-14

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

 

from William B. Allen, Regional Minister Emeritus

            The story is familiar:  the decree from Augustus, the trip to Bethlehem, the inn, the manger, the shepherds.  We know it, we love it, and we learn from it the ways of our loving God.

But today my thoughts have gone like a laser (in earlier times I would have said an arrow, but today it’s a laser) to vss. 10 and 11.  The angel says, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the City of David a Savior…”

No fear!  Great joy for all people!  A Savior!

This is good news, gospel that we, the church, have been given to share.  Let us not be stingy in knowing and letting the world know this good news of great joy.

 

Loving God, thank you for this good news of new birth. 

Give us words, empower our deeds,

that we may share it with all people.

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