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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. 


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. 


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. 


March 31: Wasteful

Read: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32.
If children are present, consider role playing this parable. This is one of the most well known parables in the Bible. It has been described as the parable of the prodigal son. It has also been named the parable of the prodigal father. Prodigal means wasteful. How are the son and the father in this parable wasteful?

The story is preceded by two other parables about the lost being found and an accusation that Jesus “welcomes sinners and eats with them” (v.2). The current parable ends with the father saying “this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found” (v. 32). Jesus tells the story of a selfish, disrespectful, and disobedient son whose life has fallen apart and yet is fully received once again by his father. Who do you relate to most in this parable? The accepting father? The resentful older son? The disobedient younger son? Explain.

Pray: Dear Lord, you who welcome sinners and eat with them, we thank you for accepting us as we are and restoring us with extravagant love. Amen.


March 24: Unless You Repent

Read: Luke 13:1-9.
Jesus was addressing people’s questions about those who had died in tragic accidents. Did these people die because they sinned? Jesus points out that the questioners misunderstand the work of God. The people asking Jesus are in the same situation as those who died tragically. Jesus says, “. . . unless you repent, you will all perish as they did” (Luke 13:3, 5).

Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree to point out the immediate need for repentance. We can easily see the call to repentance as a requirement to be remorseful with a commitment to do better. However, biblical repentance is much more than that. It is a discovery filled with a passionate desire to have what is missing in life, God’s steadfast love (Psalm 63:1-8).

In Isaiah 55 the invitation to the free feast describes this kind of repentance, a change from hunger and poverty to being fully satisfied without want. True repentance brings not only regret but joy, a gladness that does not want to be delayed. How can repentance or being sorry for something done or said bring you joy?

Pray: God of steadfast love, my soul thirsts for you as in a dry land without water. Help me to hear your urgent call to repentance. Help me to be fully satisfied without want. Amen.


March 17: That Fox

In a surprising twist, Pharisees warn Jesus of Herod’s threats on his life. In a very candid moment, Jesus brushes aside the threat of an earthly empire. Jesus’ work is utterly too serious to be concerned with “that fox,” King Herod. Jesus characterizes his work as a hen caring for her brood of chicks while they resist her protection.

The focus of his concern is the deeper needs of people for “the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:35), not the powers of an empire. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “… our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). The threat of earthly powers is not as important as Jesus’ (and our) mission to bring hope and protection to those who remain in darkness. Our texts this week challenge us to trust and believe this (Genesis 15:6; Psalm27; and Philippians 3:20–4:1). The Bible is filled with encouragement to trust God precisely because we can so easily turn away from God.

How do you stand firm in God’s promise and love?

Pray: Almighty God, help us to trust you alone and not to give in to the threats of those who would claim power over us. In the name of Jesus Christ, the one who came to protect us, amen.

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For March 10, 2019 - First Sunday in Lent

Jesus speaks God’s word faithfully

Read: Luke 4:1-13

This story is often called the “Temptation of Jesus.” That description focuses on Jesus’ ability to resist sin. However, the Hebrew word for “tempted” can also be translated as “tested.” This other translation is helpful since the story is more about testing Jesus to see what kind of messiah he plans to be, one who seeks personal power and prestige, or one who is faithful to the God of the Bible. When the focus is on temptation, we can easily miss how we, like the devil, can try to change Jesus into someone who serves our desires for personal importance. Both Jesus and the devil quote Scripture. We can use the Bible and our faith in unfaithful ways. Part of our sinfulness is to make Jesus into someone who serves our desires instead of the one who points us to worship and trust God to take care of our real needs. Think about or discuss how Jesus is our Savior by overcoming evil and idolatry (desire for personal power and glory) and by placing his trust in God.

Pray: Dear God, we thank you that Jesus speaks your word faithfully; help us to listen to your word and trust in you. Amen.

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