communion-lr.jpgMaundy Thursday
(Holy Thursday)
March 20, 2008

Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; I Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35

As we continue our journey to the cross, many things happen today

  • The disciples gather for the last time with Jesus.
  • Jesus institutes Communion
  • Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment.
  • Jesus is betrayed and arrested.
  • Peter denies Jesus in the early hours of Friday morning.

In a way, each one of these are commemorated on this day.  If you read the previous post, communion on this day is a time of remembering — just as the Jewish people remembered how God brought them out of Egypt — we remember how the suffering of Jesus on the cross brings us out of our life of sin.

Paul writes:

 23 For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread 24 and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” 25 In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.” 26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.

Tonight as we partake in communion, we will remember how Jesus saved us by his blood.  And when we remember that we can take comfort in the words of the Psalmist:

 12 What can I offer the Lord
for all he has done for me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and praise the Lord’s name for saving me.
14 I will keep my promises to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.

15 The Lord cares deeply
when his loved ones die.
16 O Lord, I am your servant;
yes, I am your servant, born into your household;
you have freed me from my chains.
17 I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people—
19 in the house of the Lord
in the heart of Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord!

Spend today, as you are able, remembering what Christ has done for you.

Weekly Lectionary Readings

jerusalem-entering-jesus.jpgLiturgy of the Palms
Sixth Sunday in Lent
March 16, 2008

Matthew 21:1-11
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Liturgy of the Passion
Sixth Sunday in Lent
March 16, 2008

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Matthew 26:14-27:66

This Sunday always presents sort of a challenge.  While traditionally Palm Sunday is a celebration Sunday remembering how those gathered around him that morning shouting, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”  For most of the congregation, they will go from the celebration of Palm Sunday to the celebration of Easter Sunday, missing the whole Passion story completely.  One of the things that I have done in recent years is start Palm Sunday traditionally with children and palms.  One year I even led them in as we sang.  As the service progresses we move toward the Passion story.  We will be doing that this year.  I will also be posting a devotional each day during Passion Week.

I believe God has been directing me toward this thought; “What are we here for?”  Why did God put us here?  Toward the Matthew passage during the Liturgy of the Passion, we find Jesus praying in the garden.  He prays, “Father, let this cup pass from me, yet not my will but yours.”  Jesus realized why he was here.  Do we realize why we are here?

This week I was listening to our local Christian radio station.  There was a short inspirational moment and the speaker asked the question, “For what purpose were you born?”  She related that she had a friend who said she was born to be an encourager.  Now, this wasn’t the way she was born.  She worked on it as she stepped out of her comfort zone.  Even thought this wasn’t in her natural gift set, she felt that God had called her to be an encourager.  Is there something that you feel God is calling you toward that you don’t have the skills for?  Something that may be way out of your comfort zone?  God doesn’t always call us to something that is comfortable for us.  I’m living proof of that.  It’s been almost eight years since God called me into a pastoral/preaching ministry.  Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be a preacher.  It’s times like that that I remember that God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.  So, to what is God calling you?  Is it out of your comfort zone?  Go for it!

Weekly Lectionary Readings

mtb28110100901the-vision-of-ezekiel-the-valley-of-dry-bones-posters.jpgFifth Sunday in Lent
March 9, 2008

Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6-11
John 11:1-45

Revival

What does this word mean to you?  I know that in our denominational tradition, it would mean a series of services with an evangelist and song evangelist(s).  Many years ago, they might even be two weeks long.  They were held every spring and fall.  Revival was not only for the believers but for seekers as well.  It was not uncommon for seekers to find Christ at revival and it was not uncommon for believers to deepen their walk with Christ during this time.   It is almost impossible to find a church that will hold a week long revival anymore.  As a pastor, I find it difficult to get people out just for the regular services much less special services.  Perhaps our culture has changed.

As I looked back on the various subjects of this Lenten period, I see a strong theme has emerged and that is the theme of revival.  Two weeks ago, I preached on spiritual hardening of the heart.  Last week it was spiritual blindness.  This week the theme appears to be revival.  These messages have been directed to the believer who is not as passionate as they once were for the things of God.  Each of these verses this week, deal with renewal of the soul and it’s importance in the life of the believer.  Perhaps, it is time for a good old-fashioned revival — a revival of our souls.  I love the passage in Ezekiel where dry bones come to life.  Kerry Livgren, formerly of Kansas, gives us a great word picture of what happens when we are renewed with the Holy Spirit.

The traces of tears disappear in the desert
Where hot winds blow
The touch of a conscience is lost in the ice and snow
Ghosts of great cities, ruins of empires their spectres arise
No sign of the living beneath these skies

Minutes are passing, they turn into hours
The hours, they drift into days
O, Redeemer, lift us above this maze

Up from the wasteland, like a dream
long forgotten reappearing,
Up from the wasteland
Now redeemed, from a winter bleak and weary

Dry bones collected, connected by sinews
Stand as an army of men
Filled with the Spirit, they enter this world again

Its glorious light, or grey desolation
The lines of the battle are drawn
Jehovah, the rock that we stand upon

Up from the wasteland,
We are drawn, to a glory never ending
Up from the wasteland
by His hand, our iniquity transcending

All our enemies beneath His feet
No height, nor depth, nor life, or death
Can take us away from His love

Perhaps today your spiritual life needs some new life.  Ask God to fill you with his Holy Spirit.  We all need to do it because, unfortunately, we leak.  My prayer is that each follower of Christ, would be renewed daily through the work of the Holy Spirit, to life a life that is pleasing to Christ in all ways.

Weekly Lectionary Reading and Sermon

duccio_iyilestirme.jpgFourth Sunday in Lent
March 2, 2008

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

It seems like this was a crazy week in the life of pastors. Typically I always preach from a manuscript, because I like to post it to my sermon blog, but this week I preached directly from my outline. You’ll be able to see the points of the message in the PowerPoint file below.

spiritual-blindness.ppt

The first couple slides need explanation. I asked the congregation to imagine what it would be like to be born blind. Imagine that they would have never “seen” the world. Things like the Grand Canyon or the Taj Mahal. What if they had never seen famous paintings such as the “Last Supper,” Monet’s “Water Lillies,” or Van Gogh’s “Starry Night?” That’s what it is like to walk around in spiritual blindness, you never see the beauty that is in the world. Then we read John’s account of Jesus healing a blind man in John chapter 9. Jesus makes it very clear that the Pharisees who thought they were very spiritual were completely blind because they did not desire spiritual things.

They we took a look at Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. This letter was written to Christians and Paul warns them of being spiritually blind. I challenged the congregation with the chorus “Let the Beauty of Jesus Be Seen in Me.”

Weekly Lectionary Readings

moses_rock.jpgThird Sunday in Lent
February 24, 2008

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 95

Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

Yes, it’s been almost a week since I have last written anything here.  When Monday morning rolled around I took a look at these passages and started getting ready for a sermon.  I have a rough idea of where I am going with this.  The picture I chose shows Moses getting water from the rock.  This all happened because the people God called him to lead were whining (again!)  God had proved himself over and over and yet these people were now complaining that God was going to let them die in the desert without any water.  We are just like that — God shows us his grace and mercy and forgiveness and then we whine because we don’t get our way.  The past few weeks have been incredibly difficult and yet I sense God’s love, God’s grace, and God’s mercy more than I ever have before.  This is what Paul is talking about in Romans.   3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.  What Paul is getting at comes in the next few verses.  Christ died for us while we were yet sinners (all of us, including me.)  Would we die for someone who deserved to die?  In most cases, no.  But that is what Christ did for us.  So, what is the cure for such self-pity?  The short answer is found in Psalm 95: 

 1 Come, let us sing to the Lord!
      Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
 2 Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
      Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
 3 For the Lord is a great God,
      a great King above all gods.
 4 He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
      and the mightiest mountains.
 5 The sea belongs to him, for he made it.
      His hands formed the dry land, too.

 6 Come, let us worship and bow down.
      Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
    7 for he is our God.
   We are the people he watches over,
      the flock under his care.

   If only you would listen to his voice today!
 8 The Lord says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah,
      as they did at Massah in the wilderness.
 9 For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience,
      even though they saw everything I did.
 10 For forty years I was angry with them, and I said,
   ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me.
      They refuse to do what I tell them.’
 11 So in my anger I took an oath:
      ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”

The remedy is to give God the praise for what He has done through Christ his son.  We don’t want hard hearts like the children of Israel — My desire is for a soft heart that has compassion and love for others and a heart that is filled with love for my God and Savior

Weekly Lectionary Readings

nicodemus.jpg

Second Sunday of Lent
February 17, 2008

Genesis 12:1-4
Psalm 121
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-17

This week I will again be preaching from these passages.  I am asking the question during Lent, “What would Jesus do?”  I think it is an important question.  But before we get ahead of ourselves, we must first be a committed follower of Christ.  This Sunday I address what it means to be born again.  We think we know what it means and for us here in the Bible Belt we have heard it all our lives.  Imagine how Nicodemus felt or imagine what he thought when he heard those words, born again.  Here’s the link to my sermon: Born Again?  This week’s reading also includes one of my favorite psalms.  I wish I had a digital record of Glad’s arrangement of Psalm 121.  I would share it with you.  Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord alone.  Amen!

Interesting Thought

Seen while driving our students home from Mosaic tonight.  This was posted on the marque of the Stanleytown United Methodist Church.

Lent is Spring Training for Christians

I really like that thought.  So many times with think that the church calendar takes us in a cycle, but so do many other things.  We get excited about baseball season, NASCAR season and all kinds of other seasons.  I like the thought that we take the time before each Easter specifically to train ourselves for living the Christian life.  Atheletes condition their bodies for their seasons, shouldn’t we as Christians condition our bodies and souls for the life we are to live? 

Weekly Lectionary Readings

picture1.jpgFirst Sunday in Lent
February 10, 2008

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Psalm 32

Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

Wednesday, we began the season known as Lent.  I find that this is a great time to focus on Jesus and to focus on the life that He has called us to live.  Over the next five Sundays, that is what we will focus on.  Many years ago, Charles M. Sheldon wrote the book, “In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?”  I read the opening chapter and found that I will have to read the rest of the book.  Perhaps rather than trying to give something up for Lent, I will make it my intention to read this book.  I’m not a big book reader.  Pam reads her share of books for me.  The opening chapters are profound.  Sheldon states the premise for the book early on, “What would happen if Christians lived their lifes as Jesus did?”  That’s my challenge to myself during this season — not just asking the question, WWJD? but instinctively acting as Jesus would.  Yes, it is a great challenge, but we have a great model in Christ.  Tomorrow’s scriptures deal with Jesus’ temptation and how He overcame temptation.  Here’s the opening installment of this year’s focus, “What Would Jesus Do?”

Lent

lentcross.jpgYesterday, we marked the beginning of our preparation for the glorious resurrection at Easter.  This forty days (not including Sundays) is known as Lent.  As I’ve said before, I did not grow up “high church” so I knew little about this or any other part of the church year.  As I taught the students last night, I mentioned that we mark our regular civil calendar by seasons and holidays and so in the church we have a calendar that has various seasons and holidays.  The church calendar and seasons follow the life of Christ.  I know in my own life that is my desire — to follow Christ and be and do as He taught.  Lent allows us to examine our lives to see if we are truly following Christ the way He taught us.  Last night, I started our service with Jesus’ words and they really are words to live by; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your soul AND you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

For several years, our denomination had Forty Days of Prayer and Fasting, which I really thought highly of, especially because of its focus on holiness of heart and life.  That’s where my focus of preaching will be over the next six weeks. 

As I mentioned before, I never participated in Lent before, until I was asked to be part of the community clergy association while in New York.  It was then I realized that this is something that all of us need to do on a regular basis — that is examine our lives and see how we can be more like Jesus and identify with Him. 

For more great Lent resources, check out The Voice

Ash Wednesday Scriptures

ash-cross.pngJoel 2:1-2, 12-17
Psalm 51:1-17

2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

I plan on sharing from Matthew’s gospel tonight.  It speaks volumes on prayer. One of the things that has been made clear to me over the past few years is “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Those are powerful words.  What if we don’t forgive those who have wronged us?  Does that mean that our heavenly Father won’t forgive us?   I also want to take a look at the end of the Matthew passage and ask, “Where is your treasure?”  Is it here on earth, or is it in heaven?  All these are important questions as we discover what it means to be a Christ-follower.  I desire to follow Christ with everything I have.  I pray that is your desire as well.