Lenten Reflections 2019

March 12, 2019

So great is the power of Christ, to wrest light out of darkness, victory out of defeat, life out of death! All the light in this dark world flows out of this hour when the Son of God faced His cross in Gethsemane, and won the victory for us. His victory says to us that God is always there for us when we are in the depths of discouragement, when the way gets hard, when we don’t know which way to turn. When we turn to God, God is there. God’s grace and love meet every test! Let us remember that ALWAYS.

(from today’s Lenten Quiet Hour Message by Norma Klemme.)

March 27, 2019

Luke 23:39-43 (NIV)

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
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“The story of Dismas has been called a ‘gospel within a gospel’ because it condenses the ministry of Jesus into just a few hours. Dismas the good thief represents the converted rebel in all of us as he changes from reviling to revering Jesus. His example encourages us to abandon our own misery and slavery to sin for the mercy and freedom of Christ, no matter what we have done or failed to do.

Jesus the eternal judge nailed to the cross presides over all of humanity. By his death he sees to it that ‘…this world’s prince is driven out’ (John 12:31). He silences the hellish argument that our sins are unforgivable, that there is no hope, no turning back for the likes of us. The voice of Satan the prosecutor is silenced by the verdict of Jesus as he admits a scoundrel into the kingdom at the very last minute.

The account of Dismas also reminds us of the parable in which the laborer came at the end of the day and still earned the same wage as those who entered the field early in the morning. This story of God’s freedom to act as He wills gives all of us hope.” – Ron Zeilinger

April 10, 2019

Thirty Pieces of Silver
    – a Poem

Two thousand years ago, there was a tiny Babe,
Who came into the world, a sacrifice to be made.
A tiny baby, was sent from God, so lowly meek & mild,
to give the evil, sinful world a Savior….. in a Child.

In the fullness of time, He grew to be a man,
when He was nearly 30, His ministry began.
Since the world was formed, this was God’s salvation plan,
to everyone He said, “Ye must be born again”.

Thirty pieces of silver, to betray the Son of Man.
Thirty pieces of silver, to crucify the Lamb.
His clothes were torn from Him, as they stripped Him bare.
The people laughed and spit on Him, as they mocked Him there.

“Crucify Him”, they cried, their voices full of scorn.
His back was ripped to pieces, as flesh from bone was torn.
His beard was pulled from His dear face, the blood dried and smeared,
from a tree the cross was made and the crowd jeered.

A crown of thorns upon His head, His body beaten and bare,
with nails in His hands and feet, that’s how they hung Him there.
Thirty pieces of silver was the price they paid.
Thirty pieces of silver for the sacrifice He made.

In His gentle eyes, the soldiers could see,
only the love of God, as they nailed Him to the tree.
His body hung in agony, while life slipped away,
there was no promise of revenge, for the wrong they did that day.

He said, “Father, forgive them”, as from His wounds He bled.
With a whispered, “It is finished”, the Lamb of God was dead.
The thunder rumbled as lightening ripped the air.
The earth began to tremble and shake foundations there.

But soon the violent shaking gave way to fearful silence.
Little did they know what caused the terrible violence.
God’s Son, God’s only Son, the greatest price had paid.
The Lamb’s blood was shed, the sacrifice was made.

This was God’s perfect plan, the perfect Lamb was slain,
The Lamb of God, the sinless Lamb, on a tree to hang.
With nails in His hands and feet, thorns on His head,
to save a sinful, wicked world, His blood He freely shed.

Thirty pieces of silver, so small a price to pay,
thirty pieces of silver, and in the tomb He lay.
On the third day, the stone was rolled away,
No grave could claim God’s only Son.
On the third day He came up out of that grave,
the victory was won.

by Nell Berry

April 19, 2019 Good Friday

Matthew 16:21-25
From that time on, Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.  Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”  Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men.”  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
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Good Friday is the day we remember the crucifixion of Jesus, but there’s more to it than remembering.  We want to embrace the resurrection, but Jesus calls us to the Cross, too.  There’s no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. There is no resurrection without the Cross. Our job as Christians is to tell the truth to His people: There’s a Good Friday for all of us.

The very idea of Good Friday caused those around him concern. The problem is that both his power and wisdom led him to the Cross, a brutal denial of everything he had done before.  Those who had seen his power wondered why he seemed powerless at his greatest need. Those who saw his intelligence wondered how someone so smart could miscalculate so badly.  Both sides missed what Jesus and his Father had been saying. Not just his words, his very life had been a parable.

What God offers us all is first the Cross. The earliest believers called the Cross “the wisdom of God and power of God”. This is a stumbling block for us to consider: that both his power and wisdom led him to the Cross. Things are always darkest just before they go pitch black. And then, in the blackness of the truth—the truth that our own power or smarts are never enough—we discover that we need to rely solely on the promise of the Father.

Good Friday provides the opportunity to proclaim, “Once you’ve been to the Cross, everything changes.” Stumbling blocks and foolishness turn into power and wisdom. The Cross changes everything. If something’s pursuing you, then perhaps the event that will change everything for you is the Cross.  If nothing is changing, maybe you haven’t been to the Cross.

Easter is indeed about the empty tomb. But first, it’s about the Cross. – Ray Hollenbach

March 20, 2019

“When Jesus seemed to lack the strength to continue on, it was Simon who stepped forward to help carry the cross. Perhaps he was compelled by the Roman soldiers to come forward, but nonetheless it was he who stood next to Jesus to help lighten the load. It was his actions that helped Jesus carry on and fulfill God’s will.

Stewardship sometimes dictates that we step forward to offer help. Stewardship also calls us to accept the help of others. Meaningful and important goals cannot always be reached by using our gifts alone. Jesus did not object to Simon’s help. He needed Simon to help complete the journey.

How many times have we dismissed a Simon because of our pride or arrogance? How many times have we chosen our own interests over the best interests of the body of Christ? We must never forget that we are called into a community that together represents Jesus Christ to the world. It is only by using all our gifts together that God’s will can be done.” – Tracy Earl Welliver

April 3, 2019

Luke 23:27-28 
A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.
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“On the road to Golgotha, Jesus stopped to console the grieving women on the side of the road. Jesus could not ignore their tears of despair. Even in one of his darkest hours, Jesus took time to stop and be present to those in need.

Jesus not only gave the women his time and his presence, he quoted the prophets for them, teaching them about the meaning of what was occurring before their eyes. He never stopped teaching and proclaiming the word of God. He never stopped shepherding his people, even when he was like a lamb being led to the slaughter.

Even when we do not feel like it, we are called to bear witness to the Gospel. Even when we feel spent and battered by the world, we are called to preach the Good News to the world. This is not only because of God’s call on our life, but because even when it seems all hope is lost, with Jesus, love will always prevail.” – Tracy Earl Welliver

April 14, 2019 Palm Sunday

Matthew 21:6-11
The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
    “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
    “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
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“The story of the triumphal entry is one of contrasts, and those contrasts contain applications to believers. It is the story of the King who came as a lowly servant on a donkey, not a prancing steed, not in royal robes, but on the clothes of the poor and humble. Jesus Christ comes not to conquer by force as earthly kings but by love, grace, mercy, and His own sacrifice for His people. His is not a kingdom of armies and splendor but of lowliness and servanthood. He conquers not nations but hearts and minds. His message is one of peace with God, not of temporal peace. If Jesus has made a triumphal entry into our hearts, He reigns there in peace and love. As His followers, we exhibit those same qualities, and the world sees the true King living and reigning in triumph in us.” – S. Michael Houdmann

April 18, 2019 Maundy Thursday

Luke 13:3-6,12-17
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
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“Jesus washing the feet of the disciples occurred in the upper room, during the Last Supper and has significance in three ways. For Jesus, it was the display of His humility and His servanthood. For the disciples, the washing of their feet was in direct contrast to their heart attitudes at that time. For us, washing feet is symbolic of our role in the body of Christ.

When Jesus came to earth the first time, He came not as King and Conqueror, but as the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. He came “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The humility expressed by His act with towel and basin foreshadowed His ultimate act of humility and love on the cross.

Jesus’ attitude of servanthood was in direct contrast to that of the disciples, who had recently been arguing among themselves as to which of them was the greatest. Since there was no servant present to wash their feet, it would never have occurred to them to wash one another’s feet. When the Lord Himself stooped to this lowly task, they were stunned into silence.

When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He told them (and us), “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you”. As His followers, we are to emulate Him, serving one another in lowliness of heart and mind, seeking to build one another up in humility and love. When we seek the preeminence, we displease the Lord who promised that true greatness in His kingdom is attained by those with a servant’s heart. When we have that servant’s heart, the Lord promised, we will be greatly blessed.” – S. Michael Houdmann

April 21, 2019 Easter Sunday

The promise of the Resurrection is a promise of redemption. As Jesus set aside his past life and rose above its trials and tribulations, we too can set aside our past lives and be redeemed. When we recognize those inequities and failings within ourselves, when we accept the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, when we acknowledge the salvation of our Risen Christ, we are made whole again. We become reborn. We are set free. We are redeemed.

This is the miracle and the promise of Easter. Christ was crucified, died, and was buried. Yet Christ rose again, conquering death to save mankind from our sins. For if Christ can conquer death and be reborn, mankind can conquer sin and be reborn in Him. Christ has shown us the way; we have simply to rise up and follow Him.
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Rise Up O Church Of God
(Tune: St. Thomas by Aaron Williams; 
words by Alan Bagnull) 

Rise up, O Church of God!
The world awaits our voice.
Bring forth our Savior’s Word to all,
And let our souls rejoice!

Rise up, O Church of God!
Let mercy be our guide;
Let faith and fellowship abound,
And heav’nly grace abide 

Rise up, O Church of God!
Our lives we dedicate,
To serving Christ with steadfast love,
And e’radicating hate.

Rise up, O Church of God!
We lift our voice in song.,
Follow behind our Risen Christ,
A joyous, faithful throng! Amen.