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Reaching Out To Others

Read: Acts 11:1-18. 

This story is about one of the most important developments in the early church. Followers of Jesus now included Gentiles as well as Jews. There were objections from the early church believers in Judea (vv. 1-3). Peter’s response was that it was not his doing, but God’s. Peter was sent to the home of Cornelius (Acts 10) through a vision and an invitation from Gentiles. Interestingly, the real objection was not Peter’s preaching, but his fellowship and eating with Gentiles. Establishing relationships, having fellowship, and being a guest in another’s home are all hallmarks of the expanding mission field of outreach in the church, both then and now. The Gentiles end up having a similar response to the preached word by receiving the Holy Spirit as Jewish believers did in Acts 2. The believers in Judea hear all this and are silenced in a way that must have led to a repentance that turned to praise of God for what has now happened. Is there a difference in what you do and say when you are host and when you are a guest? What are those differences? Where might God be leading you to fellowship with others? 

Pray: Loving God, help me and all who claim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord be empowered by the Holy Spirit to share the Easter faith and reach out to others with love. Amen. 

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Psalm of Trust: Psalm 23

Read: Psalm 23.
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is the Good Shepherd Sunday. Some part of John 10 and Psalm 23 are always part of these lectionary texts. The passages connect the resurrection life celebrated throughout the Easter season with God’s providential care that provides security in the midst of tough times and a promised future of peace. Psalm 23 is a psalm of trust in the midst of crisis. However, the crisis here is not clearly identified. There are allusions to the forty years of exodus wanderings. The theme of needing nothing in verse one is paralleled in Nehemiah 9:21 where for forty years the people “lacked nothing,” the same Hebrew word translated as “shall not want” in Psalm 23:1. While difficult times—the darkest valley—beset all people, including all of God’s people, faith in Christ still allows one to see and experience beauty and peace. The term “follow” in verse six also means “pursue.” Here it is contrasted with its usual Old Testament association of being pursued by an enemy. Even more, in this psalm we are pursued by the love and protection of our Good Shepherd. When you read Psalm 23, what words stood out for you? How do those words relate to what you are now experiencing in your life?
Pray: Good Shepherd, give me eyes to see and a heart to believe that you have set green pastures and still waters before me and that your goodness and mercy pursue me always. Amen.

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May 5

Read: Acts 9:1-20.
Few of us have the experience of Saul who would become the Apostle Paul. On the road to Damascus a flash of light blinds him and he hears Jesus speaking. But even for Saul, his dramatic experience does not stand alone. Ananias soon greets Saul as “Brother” in the home of Judas (not Iscariot) and speaks Jesus’ message to Saul. Saul’s experience is confirmed by the voice and message of others. He receives the Holy Spirit and is baptized in the same faith as all other Christians. Saul is guided on his way and soon is proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God. In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks of himself as the “Good Shepherd”(10:11). In John 21, Jesus now extends that shepherding ministry to Peter. Peter had denied his discipleship in John 18:15-27. Now his discipleship is reclaimed as he follows Jesus’ lead to serve as another good and loving shepherd. The Christian faith is like that: cared for and shepherded by people like Judas, Ananias, Peter, Paul, and countless other followers of Jesus. How have you shepherded others? How have others shepherded you?


Pray: Nurturing God, thank you for caring for us through others. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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April 28

Read: John 20:19-31. 

In the Gospel of John, Jesus performs a number of signs, beginning with the wedding at Cana (2:1-11). These signs point beyond themselves in order that people may have a relationship to Jesus, believe in him, and have “life in his name” (v. 31). Jesus sends out his followers just as he was sent by his heavenly Father, and he sends them out to extend God’s peace and forgiveness empowered by the Holy Spirit (vv. 21-23). The mission of Jesus’ followers, the mission of the church, is to be sent out as those who believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, and, thereby, live a life that goes out into the world to offer peace and forgiveness. Followers are sent out through a surprising power; it is the power of the resurrected Jesus who still bears the wounds of the crucifixion as seen by Thomas and the other disciples. Christian followers trust that the crucified and risen Lord has the power to forgive, the source of true peace on earth. How do you experience peace and forgiveness as a follower of Jesus? How are you sent out to extend this same power of peace and forgiveness to others?  

Pray: Dear Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus, give us the faith to believe and to be sent out with your power to forgive and to bring peace to others. Amen. 

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April 21: Speaking About Faith

Read: John 20:1-18. 

Mary Magdalene makes a confession of faith: “I have seen the Lord.” All Easter Sunday texts have a common theme that emphasizes telling about our faith. In Psalm 118 it is in the form of praise to God. In 1 Corinthians 15 it is Paul affirming the message that Christ rose from the dead and we have the promise of Christ destroying death, the last enemy. In Acts 10 it is Peter speaking the faith in the home of Cornelius, a new gentile believer. Peter states that the message has already spread throughout Judea, a message that announces that Jesus Christ “is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead” (v. 42). Finally in John 20, Mary, Peter, and the beloved disciple [John] all have a unique way of responding to the news of Jesus’ resurrection. However followers of Jesus respond, it is to speak the faith out loud that Jesus has been raised from the dead and will ascend to “my God and your God” (v. 17). How do you speak the faith out loud? Is it through a conversation with friends, by using a table grace, by offering a blessing? What works for you? How might you speak your faith to another today? 

Pray: Dear Lord Jesus, you who rose from the dead and have promised to destroy death, give us a living faith to gladly speak our faith out loud with confidence. Amen. 

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April 14: Power of the Cross

Read: Luke 23:1-49. 

The crucifixion of Jesus tells us a lot about our human tendencies and about our God who defeats human frailty with forgiveness. The crowds praise Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem then within a week say, “Crucify him” (v.21). Peter promises to be faithful to Jesus but denies him three times. The people give false witness about Jesus to make him look bad in front of Pilate (v. 2). The leaders, the crowd, and the soldiers mock Jesus, but their words bear the truth of who he really is. Two criminals are killed along with Jesus. One ridicules Jesus while the other seeks his tender care (vv. 40-43). Sinful self-centeredness blinds us to Jesus and his saving grace. In Christ, God is willing to enter our world and participate in vulnerability, injustices, suffering, and death. It shows the way of Jesus’ cross as the way of true peace, true life, and true hope. How does the church today reflect the way of the cross and the power of God? 

Pray: Merciful Lord and Savior, you who endured our lies, our fears, and our sin, we praise you for enduring it all from the cross to bring your hope and salvation to us all. Amen. 

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April 7: Take Time

Read: John 12:1-8. 

A wise adage says, “Take time to smell the roses.” Life is to be experienced and enjoyed. Sometimes in the midst of our daily schedules and pressures, we forget to slow down and experience the joy of life in God’s presence. Mary didn’t. In fact, at great cost and with grand gestures she does the unthinkable. She used expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. She broke the norm in her day of contact between men and women but not the norm of faith and love. The room was filled with a wonderful aroma. In the Gospel of John, Mary is the first person to act out her devotion to Jesus. As Jesus approaches Jerusalem and his impending death, there is a preciousness about life and God’s saving work that Mary captures, a preciousness we are all called to capture and experience with deep reverence. It identifies a sensation that fills an entire room with the fragrance of the good news of Jesus Christ. How do you slow down to enjoy the beauty of God’s presence and saving work in your life? 

Pray: Lord Jesus, you who gave everything to love us and save us from our sins, help us to pause, give thanks, and experience the joy of life in your presence. Amen. 

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