Monthly Archives: March 2016

2nd Sunday of Easter, April 3, 2016

Second Sunday of Easter (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Acts 5:27-32, Psalm 150, Revelation 1:4-8, John 20:19-31

Acts 5:27-32

Honoring man and God often places us in a precarious position. The injunction imposed upon the apostles by the Sanhedrin council required a hard decision. Peter regards himself as a Jew, indicating that the early church existed as a fellowship within Judaism. The apostles’ proclamation is grounded upon what they had witnessed (the resurrection of Jesus), and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, who spoke through them.

Revelation 1:4-8

John describes the Christ he knows. The phrase: “…who is and who was and who is to come” portrays Jesus as past, present, and future. In the past, Christ was the faithful witness (a Prophet) and the firstborn from among the dead, a Priest, loving us and freeing us from our sins. In the future, his return will be public; when all will recognize Him as King.

John 20:19-31Thomas-and-Jesus-610x351

Jesus comes through locked doors in his glorified body and brings peace to these fearful men. Two times, Jesus speaks “peace” to them. The first “peace” is based on His sacrifice on the cross that cancelled the barrier of sin that distanced humankind from God. The second “peace” is received because of His presence with them.

Finding Faith

What do we do with seasons of grief, doubt, and uncertainty? When those around us are celebrating an empty tomb but all we can see is the cross, how do we once again find faith?

Notice Jesus’ response to Thomas’ doubt. He appears. The One who defeated death, hell, and the grave doesn’t reveal Himself in a showy splash of splendor. Instead, He comes speaking peace. To his disciple wounded by grief and disbelief, He reveals His own wounds, offering a point of connection and healing.

Jesus, the wounded Healer, gives Himself to us in the same way. This is my body, broken for you. At the Lord’s Table, we too experience a Savior who meets our doubts and hurt, not with condemnation, but with compassion and an encouragement to come closer. In His presence, we find arms stretched out to receive us, enveloping our hurts in His own wounds, absolving and dissolving our doubts and fears. In Him, we are found; faith is resurrected, and Easter is experienced.

Prayer for Second Sunday of Easter – Loving God, as I am reconciled to you through the death and resurrection of Your Son, help me also to be strengthened to show in my life what I profess in my faith; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Sunday (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 65:17-25, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, John 20:1-18

Isaiah 65:17-25

Isaiah called the future age of messianic blessings “the new heavens and the new earth.” This new spiritual era – that would be created by God – begins with Christ (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15) and culminates following the final judgment (2 Pet 3:3-13; Rev 20:11-15). The fruit of these messianic blessings will be: a radical newness, unspeakable joy, longevity, an abundant and totally satisfying life, answers to prayers, and peaceful coexistence.

1 Corinthians 15:19-26

Paul claims that those who deny the Resurrection of Christ are “the most miserable of men.” In other words, they suffer here and now for a faith that is only a fiction. He stresses the “fact” of Christ’s resurrection and that Jesus is the “first fruits” of those who have died… the One who will reverse the wrong that the first Adam brought into this world.

John 20:1-18

The preciseness of John’s description of the empty tomb is to be noted. Those who looked in the tomb observed the burial wrappings lying in the shape of the body, but the body was gone! The napkin (used to cover the face) had been carefully folded, lying by itself. This detail challenges those who would think somebody stole the body of Jesus.

Yet this story not only reveals evidence, it gives us a wonderful picture of how the Resurrected Christ meets us in our sorrow. Jesus spoke Mary’s name. In that moment, she recognized Him.

the-empty-tomb-gyntThe Promise of Easter

Consider for a moment the power of Christ’s words to Mary. “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” In the midst of celebrating an empty tomb, we sometimes miss these words and the promise – the hope – they hold for us.

Easter is more than a celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Easter is a celebration of the life promised to us through Jesus. In Him, we are reconciled to God. His words affirm that Jesus’ Father is our Father – His God, our God. His resurrection is the “first fruits” of the faith to which we hold fast. One day, the bodies of Christians who have died will follow the example of Jesus and emerge from the grave. Like Christ, we will “ascend to our Father,” worshipping Him for eternity with transformed bodies. The promise of Easter allows us to proclaim with joy: Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

Prayer for Easter Sunday – Almighty God, in the death and resurrection

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

Holy Saturday, March 26, 2016

Holy Saturday (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21, Psalm 114, Romans 6:3-11, Luke 24:1-12

Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21

The_Crossing_fo_The_Red_SeaThe miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt – through the Red Sea – is a reminder of God’s desire that we be saved from judgment. The entire Passover event in the history of Israel illustrates the Christian’s salvation through Jesus’ blood. However, there is more to the Christian life than being saved from judgment.

God’s desire for Israel was that they would one day enter Canaan and fully receive their inheritance. So it is with the Christian life. It’s a long journey from Egypt to Canaan. Yet, our full inheritance awaits us.

Romans 6:3-11

Paul’s message of grace had encouraged a question: If grace is so powerful, would it not be conceivable that a man might remain in sin and still experience the delivering power of grace? Paul emphatically denounces this possibility. He points us to Christ, encouraging us to identify with the Lord Jesus in His death.

Through baptism we are buried together with Jesus. Through his resurrection, we are raised from the dead through the glory of the Father. Our identity prior to our death with Christ is not the same because of his resurrection. The resurrection means a new manner of life.

Luke 24:1-12

At the end of the Sabbath, the women who had lingered at the cross and witnessed the burial of Jesus were the first at the tomb. Their concern was how they would open the tomb. When they arrived, they were perplexed, not only that the tomb was open, but that the body of Jesus was not there! In their confusion and grief, two strangers (angels) reminded them of what Jesus had earlier told them: “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee …”

Expect the Unexpected

No wonder kids love Easter. It’s full of eggs made of chocolate and beans made from jelly! Easter takes the conventional and turns it into a sweet surprise. Jesus does the same in our own lives.

The women arrived at the tomb expecting death and a decaying body – one that had once embodied their fondest beliefs. Their best hope was to simply cover up the stench of disillusionment with the perfume of spices and herbs. Instead, they were met with the unexpected. The tomb was empty – nothing more than a symbol of transformation. Their hopes were resurrected – transformed into a promise more powerful than they could have imagined.

Easter offers us the ability to expect the unexpected. It’s the essence of hope found in the ancient words of Christian faith: Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

Prayer for Holy Saturday – Almighty and everliving God, I rejoice in your victory over death, hell, and the grave and in the glory of your resurrection which enables me to live in this life and the life to come; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

Good Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Psalm 22, Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9, John 18:1-19:42

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

The prophet sees the Servant (Jesus) as being rejected and despised, yet he would be the recipient of “the arm of the Lord” (a phrase used to designate those special interpositions in human affairs where God delivers his people and punishes his foes).

Though Jesus experienced great grief and was wounded and crushed … it was his punishment that brings about our peace and state of well-being. Through Christ’s obedience, God sees Messiah’s suffering as the redemption of sinners and triumph over death.

Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

As our high priest, Jesus has “passed through the heavens” into the presence of God. He is there not only as the Son of God, but also as the Son of man. In his perfect (complete) humanity he is familiar with our needs, cares, temptations, and problems… because he was also tempted with these things (yet, without succumbing to those temptations). He knows all about sin, without having sinned. His familiarity with sin came when he took our sin upon himself on the cross.

John 18:1-19:4

John’s account of the betrayal of Jesus emphasizes the poise of Jesus. He was ready to be taken, making needless the treachery of Judas or the attempted display of loyalty by Peter. Jesus was fully aware of what was happening (“…knowing all that was to happen to him” – v.4). Nothing takes him by surprise. Yet despite his full awareness, this passage reminds us of his determined attitude to be faithful to the purpose of God. What amazing love!

11alviseA Cross of Love

Imagine the scene… The God of the universe has allowed himself to be nailed to a cross. His own creation has conspired against him. The pain is unspeakable… death is near… the sin of the world and all time is bearing down, causing him to cry out in agony. Yet what is his response?

He looks down on his mother and his beloved disciple and sees their need. His mother’s arms are now empty and her heart full of sorrow. She needs comfort and care. His disciple is in shocked disbelief, his faith in disarray. He needs purpose. At the foot of the cross, Jesus creates a new family where needs are met and hope is sustained.

You and I find ourselves there, too. At the foot of the cross, we join a family made of every tribe and nation, united in common need and hope. At the feet of Jesus, we find ourselves… we find a family… we find a Savior.

Prayer for Good Friday – Merciful God, I stand with my brothers and sisters at the foot of your cross, worshipping your Son, overwhelmed by the gift of your love; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

Maundy Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maundy Thursday (Year C) 

Scripture Readings*: Exodus 12:1-4 (5-10), 11-14, Psalm 116:1, 10-17, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Exodus 12:1—14

The narrative of the deliverance of Israel from bondage of Egypt reveals an amazing act of God. Not only does it show his great power, it demonstrates his great love. Israel was not only delivered… God adopted Israel. Because of this, a divine consecration became necessary.

The Passover event is symbolic, revealing that the outward severance from the land of Egypt is to also be accompanied by an inward severance from everything God considers sinful.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

In this passage, Paul instructs the Corinthians how they should remember the Lord’s death. Order must replace disorder that had become all too familiar among the Corinthians. He stresses that his instruction had come from the Lord.

The bread comes first, signifying the incarnation of Christ, then the wine; representing the end of the old covenant and the establishment of the new. When we partake of the Eucharist (Holy Communion), we are to actively call to mind Christ’s sufferings and death… and we are to celebrate the new covenant that provides an effective remission of sins.

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Jesus’ posture, bending to wash the feet of his disciples, was a demonstration of his humility and servant-heart. And, it was a lesson in humility. This image is full of implications for his disciples – and us.

At Peter’s resistance, Jesus makes the lesson clearer: “If I do not wash you, you have no part (communion) with Me.” Peter was united with Christ through faith, but sin can break our communion with the Lord. Only in allowing Christ to cleanse us can we remain in His fellowship, enjoying His presence and power.

The Law of Love

lastsuppThe term “Maundy Thursday” comes from the Latin Mandatum Novum, meaning “a new mandate.” This new mandate is found in today’s Gospel reading: Love one another as I have loved you. It is the culmination of an evening marked by an intimate meal and an act of humble service as Christ washes his disciple’s feet. It is this meal… this act of service… this new mandate Christ institutes as a model of discipleship – one that continues to transform us today.

Prayer for Maundy Thursday – Almighty God, at your Table I receive your Body and Blood, trusting you to keep me outwardly in my body and inwardly in soul as a witness to your unending love; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

Holy Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Holy Wednesday (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 70, Hebrews 12:1-3, John 13:21-32

Isaiah 50:4-9a

In contrast to Israel’s wayward practice, the Lord Jesus is portrayed as the complete obedient Servant; one who listens to learn, speaks because he has been taught, and resists rebelliousness. This remarkable obedience and humility is presented to God in confidence resulting in a courageous spirit that would sustain Jesus in his sufferings.

Hebrews 12:1-3JesusBoundHands R

The stories of those who have endured hardships (as recalled in chapter 11 of Hebrews) is always an encouragement for us. They become witnesses, who, like spectators in a vast arena, watch us progress in the course of the faith.

We are admonished to run with patient endurance in light of these examples. Yet, the premier example is Jesus… who endured the cross, shame, and hostility. He never lost sight of the joy that was beyond the cross.

John 13:21-32

Jesus does not identify the betrayer by name. He indicated that he was the one to whom He would hand the bread to, after it had been dipped in the dish. Accepting the soggy bread, without accepting the pleading love that went with it, revealed that Judas was steeling his heart to do what he had contracted to do… betray the Lord.

What Do You See?

The Gospel reading – and all of Holy Week – presents a powerful lesson in perspective. Jesus is troubled – not only at His impending death, but by Judas’ rejection of his love and by his disciple’s betrayal. As Judas leaves the Lord’s Table, Jesus knows he is about to be tortured… abandoned… killed. Yet he looks beyond the cross and the grave and sees the ultimate purpose of God. It is this perspective that enables him to speak of God being glorified even in the midst of the gathering darkness.

On the other end of the spectrum is Judas. He has lost the perspective of seeing God glorified. His vision is shortened, focusing only on the immediate felt need of the moment. He leaves the light and fellowship of Jesus’ presence and enters into the darkness of night. It is this loss of perspective that ultimately leads to his destruction.

What do you see? In your own life, what offers the perspective of God’s purpose? When shadows gather and suffering is at hand, remember the nurturing fellowship found at the Lord’s Table.

Prayer for Holy Wednesday – Merciful God, in seasons of suffering give me the perspective of eternity and the joy of your sustaining presence; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

Holy Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Holy Tuesday (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 71:1-14, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, John 12:20-36

Isaiah 49:1-7

From before birth, God had called his “chosen servant” for a specific ministry (Jeremiah. 1:5; Gal. 1:15). God prepared him like “a sharp sword and a polished arrow.” A humble servant is an amazing weapon in the hand of God. God’s Servant explains His ministry as bringing light in darkness and liberty to the captives.

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Mixing the Gospel message with the wisdom of the world had created confusion and division among the Corinthian believers. Paul makes clear: To add anything to Christ or His cross is to diminish Him and His work and rob them of their power.

John 12:20-36

John has directed our attention to the fact that at the birth of Jesus, Gentiles had come from the east. He points out that Gentiles come once again at his death. The Jews wanted to “see a sign.” The Gentiles wanted to “see Jesus.” Though his hour is at hand (his death is near), Jesus sees it as the hour of his glory. He invites “anyone” (v. 26), reminding us that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. Neither Jew nor Gentile has any special advantage.

Troubled Times

Do you feel that you’re the only one? Do you try and hide the fact that there are times when you’re weary… discouraged… troubled? Take heart – you’re in good company! In today’s readings, Isaiah laments, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity…” Even Jesus acknowledges the heaviness of certain spiritual seasons, saying, “Now my soul is troubled.”

Holy Week offers us an example of how to respond to seasons of adversity and suffering. In the midst of his lament, the prophet is quick to say, “…yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.” Jesus mirrors this pattern stating, “And what should I say – ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”

sorrow-1228329_960_720Times of trouble and sorrow offer an opportunity for God’s strength to be revealed in our weakness. In the times we are most vulnerable, God is fully revealed. When our wisdom ends, His begins. What appears to be a cross of shame is revealed as an instrument of salvation. A tomb becomes a source of transformation. Know that in times of trouble, God is especially near, offering peace and wisdom.

Prayer for Holy Tuesday – Holy God, the passion of your Son reveals a cross as the instrument of my redemption and a grave as a gateway to eternal life. Give me grace to see adversity as an opportunity for your power to be fully revealed; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

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