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April 19

Good Friday

God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes.  Genesis 41:52.

One of the criminals who were hanged there said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  Luke 23:42-43.

Is it possible to think of Good Friday as being a daily occurrence for us as Christians?  Surely not if we think we are actually going to witness the actual event of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  But yet, that is what is happening when we see the Good Friday crucifixion as the intersection of the sinfulness of humankind with the love of God.

Good Friday is about death and new life.   The thief on the cross next Jesus saw his own death but also saw the possible promise of new life in Jesus Christ.

Even in the Old Testament in Genesis 41:52 we see Joseph, who lived through hard times and misfortune name a son Ephraim which means “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortune.”

Good Friday connects the present sinfulness with the eternal gift of salvation.  Each day we fall into sin and turn to God for God’s love and forgiveness.

Dear Jesus, today you are here calling us in the midst of challenges and setbacks.   Help us trust you as we encounter such trials.   Fix our hearts to yours on this dark day when you endured pain and suffering on the cross for us.  Thank you for the sacrifice that leads to new life and gratitude.  Amen.

Marv Roloff



April 18

Maundy Thursday

Mortals look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7.

The Lord turned and looked at Peter.  Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.”  And he went out and wept bitterly.  Luke 22:61-62.

It was Thursday – the day before the crucifixion of Jesus.   We call it Maundy Thursday.  Maundy means new commandment.   Jesus had given his disciples a new commandment to love one another just as he loved them.

So many things happened on that last Thursday in the life of Jesus on earth.  He met with his disciples, instituted the Lord’s Supper with bread and wine saying “This is my body” and “This is my blood.”  On this very day he met with his disciples and prayed.   It was the day that Peter promised to always remain with Jesus but only hours later denied his relationship with Jesus.   Peter showed his repentance of his broken promise by weeping bitterly.

How do we see these events and the ones that followed that lead to the crucifixion of Jesus?  Surely we as mortals would admonish Peter and all who attacked and abused Jesus.

1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that the Lord looks on the heart.   God meets the repentant heart with grace.   Christ was there on Maundy Thursday preparing for a death that would offer salvation to all people.

We also have times when our witness to Jesus Christ is tested.   We are thankful for God’s grace that accepts our repentance as we experience these trials in our lives.

Gracious God, we thank you for being a forgiving God.  Give us the strength to not judge others but to love one another as Christ loves us with love and forgiveness.   In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.

Marv Roloff



April 17

One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising.  2 Samuel 23:3-4

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. Matthew 5:14

I Genesis 1:3 God says “Let there be light.” and the dark formless creation has light! Have you ever been where it is totally dark? Even on a moonless night there is a little light. When traveling through West Virginia, on a trip from Morgantown to Cumberland MD, I stopped at a cave exploration attraction. You could look at lots of rocks and minerals on display, see information on the area and then get a tour of the cave. Hmm, a bit claustrophobic but it sounded interesting so in I went along with the rest of the tourists. We walked in, met a wall full of sleeping brown bats. They were cute, at least while sleeping. Then we passed the point beyond which the pre-European people never went.

The guide had us go a bit farther then stop; she told us to close our eyes so when we opened them we could see TD… Ok, we did. Then we opened our eyes and it was totally dark as she had turned off the lights and her flashlight. TD has nothing to do with football; it means “totally dark.” Once the lanterns in the cave were turned off there was absolutely no light. You couldn’t see anything at all. I actually closed my eyes after a while so it didn’t seem so weird.

Then, she turned on just the lantern she was carrying and it lit up the whole area. . She did turn all the wall lights back on as well and we went back outside into real light with the sunshine. One light was enough to conquer the darkness, but all the lights together made it possible to see well and to walk safely.

Jesus speaks to His disciples directly in this verse, and the preceding one about being the “salt of the earth.”  The pronouns used are emphatic: You only are the salt, You only are the light. The disciples needed to know this and do what was needed. If they didn’t, there was no one else to do this and we would not have the New Testament and the Gospel. We are to be part of the city on the hill where people can see we are followers of Jesus by how we live our lives. We need to do this together since while one light does conquer the darkness it takes a lot of lights all together to really illuminate everyone’s lives. 

 ”The Lord is my Light and my Salvation. “ (Psalm 27:1) Jesus gives us the responsibility to be His light to the world.

Jesus, Light of our souls, we are amazed by your justice shining upon us. We are privileged to be your children and part of the city of light set on a hill. This week, we are particularly mindful that you, God of humility and God of true power, are the ruler of our hearts, minds, and souls. Lead us as we follow you in life and in death. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Chris Gabel



April 16

You should not profane my holy name. Leviticus 22:32

Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel. Philippians 1:27

If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.   Catherine Aird

Being a role model is a huge responsibility, easy to mess up. Think about the people you’ve come into contact with this week: how they affected you, how they changed you. Think also about the more generalized role models that influence you; the social stereotypes and cultural icons that shape us simply because we live in this culture. There is no shortage good role models in this society, just an overabundance of bad ones. And so we must be wise. We must understand and own the role-modeling process.  And we must be good players of it.

God is the author of role-modeling. In the first place, God created each of us with the capacity and desire to learn. While we each have our own unique style and pace of learning, all of us have had plenty of turns as participants in the role modeling process. It’s one of the best ways to learn: keep your eye on someone more experienced than you. Child watches parent; student watches teacher; rookie watches veteran, and so the culture and wisdom of the ages is passed on.

If the greatest goal of our lives is to become like Jesus we must find those who are serving him well and imitate them as they imitate Christ. They are seldom found among the high profile, wealthy, influential individuals often held up as “role models.” True spiritual role models will usually be found among the low profile, humble, selfless servants who go about their business of following Christ whether anyone is watching or not.

When we think of role models, we think of those who we look up to, admire, and respect. We think of those that set an example for us to follow. We think of those that portray values and virtues that should be imitated.

Father, this is easier said than done. The very congregation that unites heroically against outside adversaries then divides bitterly over something like the flowers in the sanctuary. We’re only worthy of your gospel because we need it to live. Help our lives to be consistent with your grace so that we’re a lively part of your blessing to others. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



April 15

Will you not revive us again, so that your people may rejoice in you?   Psalm 85:6

You now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.  John 16:22.

Monday of Holy Week

Things can change within a day.   Yesterday in our worship we celebrated the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  It was the day of Palm Sunday.  

But today things begin to change in the life of Jesus.  The enemies of Jesus are getting organized to stop the efforts of Jesus.  Jesus surely must have been very aware of the movement.

On this Monday of Holy Week we can put these thoughts into focus.  It’s the last week in Lent, a time of self-reflection and repentance as we move into the last days of the life of Jesus on earth.  Our self-reflection and repentance now turns to the suffering and pain that Jesus endured for us in that last week of his earthly life.

In Psalm 8:6 the psalmist cries to God to revive the people with favor so the people can rejoice.  Verse 7 follows with the words “Show us your steadfast love O Lord, and grant us your salvation.”

The salvation for all people came through the life and death of Jesus as is seen in John 16:22 when Jesus describes his own death as the pain of childbirth, yet the end result is that of joy.

Even as we see the change from the glorious march on Palm Sunday to the cruelty placed on Jesus in the days that followed, we can also get a glimpse of the eternal joy of salvation that each one of us has.  The steadfast love of God is with us now and forever in that eternal joy.

Good and Gracious God, revive us in faith.   Keep us strong with our hearts filled with the eternal joy of salvation made possible by the life and death of our Savior, Jesus  Christ.  Amen.

Marv Roloff



April 12

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Proverbs 15:1

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  Matthew 5:9

People get in our way, slow us down.  People with opinions and beliefs different from our own are wrong, just plain stupid.  People from cultures we don’t try to understand aren’t to be trusted.  And we say so.  The human urge to lash out when someone “crosses” us seems inborn.  We use our tongues (snide remarks), our faces (the glare), our hands to lay on the horn – or “gesture”.  The tendency is as old as history – ancient cultures where vengeance is still expected, to defending one’s honor in a “righteous” duel.  Twitter has become a modern weapon of choice.  Harsh words stir up anger – tit for tat. 

Sticks and stones may break bones, but words also hurt.  Our Lenten theme is “Listen”.  We have been reminded to listen respectfully even when we disagree, and to forgive even when it doesn’t seem logical.  We should hear and consider the experiences and circumstances of others, often different from our own.  Bitterness eats away at and destroys the spirit of the bearer of such grudges. 

We must live as peacemakers if we claim to be children of God.  Paul called us ambassadors for Christ.  Ambassadors for Christ would not respond rudely or bear a grudge.  Martin Luther explains we are to “speak well of [our neighbor] and put the best construction on everything.”  We cannot negotiate world peace but we can make peace in our place in the world – workplace, school, community, home.  Our human nature will not easily navigate the path of peace.  We ask God to help us.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon …..”  Amen                                                                                                                                              (Prayer of St. Francis)

Verla Olson



April 11

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in the way. Psalm 25:8

Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often shall I forgive?  As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, ”not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22

God knows what is best for us when He asks us to forgive. Anger and unforgiveness toward a person or situation may not be destructive to anyone except ourselves. But that is not all, God also commands us to forgive.  As we say in the prayer that Jesus taught us, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” And we read in Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Those are hard words.  How can God ask us, command us, to love those who commit grievous sins against mankind?  If you were a parent of a murdered loved one, could you actually forgive the one who robbed you of your loved one and took away your sense of joy and peace?  And what of the atrocities that took place during the war and still take place in countries beyond our United States?

Answers do not come easily to questions like that.  But God knows that all things are possible with those that love him and want to do his will. One thing is for sure.  We must first want to forgive.

C.S. Lewis writes in his book, THE JOYFUL CHRISTIAN, that he is able to love himself even tho he knows what bad things he does sometimes. So if we truly love our neighbors as ourselves, can we then forgive their sins more easily, knowing that in our common humanity, we are all the same?

Lord God, you ask of us a hard thing. Help us to love and forgive as you have loved and forgiven us. Amen

Joan Perlich



April 10

It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My hands stretched out the heavens and all their host I have commanded. Isaiah 45:12

In Christ all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. Colossians 1:16

What a wonderful world we live in. God created all of it, all of us, all the plants and animals and solid earth and liquid water and the air we breathe. He put everything where it was supposed to be; He provided food and water sufficient for all. In Genesis chapter 1 we read of the creation of the heavens, and the earth, the waters, and everything else. After each day of creation, God looks at what He has created and says “It is good.” Yes, everything God created was and is good.

God speaks about Cyrus in our passage from Isaiah. Prior verses indicate that God has appointed Cyrus to carry out a commission from God and even refers to him as “his anointed.” The Israelites were probably a bit surprised by this, but God lets them know that they should realize who is in charge. The one who made the earth and created us, who commands the hosts of heaven, is the one in charge.

Paul tells the church in Colosse the same thing – Jesus is Lord. He was there for the creation of everything. He has power over all other thrones, or earthly rulers and even the angels in heaven. Apparently some of the people did not keep Christ in the forefront of their religion and were looking for special knowledge, or hierarchies of angels and powers on earth. Paul says, no, Christ is all you need. God’s grace is sufficient for you. Jesus was there before all things, present as the Word at Creation and is still present as our risen and saving Lord.

Dear God, all our universe is created by you! We are in awe of you amazing work. We lift our voices in praise joining with all creation to glorify you. As your children and heirs, there is no thought we can have, no place we can go, and no action we can take that will separate us from you. You are all we ever need. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Chris Gabel



April 3

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders?  Exodus 15:11

We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true – even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. I John 5:20-21

We use the word idol as we talk about our favorite movie star or singer or athlete. Some might spend a lot of money to go to that special concert or to go see the movie over and over again. For basketball fans, the Final Four is here and the price for some tickets is in the thousands of dollars as people resell them. From the way people talk about their idols, we might expect them to use some of the same words we see in Exodus – perhaps these idols are “awesome in splendor?”

Exodus 15:1-18 is a song. Moses and the Israelites sing this song to the Lord who has just gotten them across the waters of the Sea ahead of the pursuing Egyptians. In verse 11 they praise their God above all others; their God has been victorious over all the gods of Egypt and those who worshipped those false gods.  They are so happy and joyful at being saved; they praise the Lord and exclaim that there is no other “god” who could ever be like Him. They had just seen God send an angel to lead them out of Egypt. When they were terrified of the pursuing Egyptians, the angel moved to stand between them and their enemies, the waters of the sea parted for them so they could escape. Then the sea came crashing back and they were safe.  No wonder they sang and praised the one true God who was their Lord and Savior.

The book of I John concludes with the verses we have for today. We can be sure and know that God is with us too, the one true God who is real and so much better than an idol. We too can sing in praise of God, perhaps in a hymn such as the words of the refrain to the song “Awesome God” by Rich Mullins

Our God is an awesome God

He reigns from heaven above

With wisdom, power, and love

Our God is an awesome God

Heavenly King, thank you for showing us your glorious works. You are the one and only God – majestic and mighty – mighty enough to send your Son in humble flesh to save us. All of creation shows your might. Even so, we are tempted to seek other gods and philosophies for answers and understanding. Keep us faithful in your word to guide us in the way, the truth, and the life. Lord, we believe, help our unbelief. Amen

Chris Gabel



April 2

How long O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? Psalm 13:1

 

And even the hairs of your head are all counted. Matthew 10:30

How long? How long? How long? How long! You can hear the frustration and the strain of life in the voice of the one who is asking God, “How long O Lord?”

The words of Psalm 13 come from the heart and life of David. Who is there among us who has not faced the trying times of life?

David had been the hero to which many sang his praises after defeating Goliath. But that was yesterday and David was now fleeing from the jealous attacks of King Saul. He was now on the run from what seemed to him to be the relentless pursuit on his life. The victory that has tasted so sweet was gone as he slipped into a discouraged and defeatist attitude.

Most of us have walked where David walked. Perhaps sickness and death have launched us into despair. Or financial, marital, and family struggles have left us high and dry with no where to turn. Maybe work, the boss, school life have demanded more of our time and energy than we have to give. Whatever it may be, to walk in the valley of despair leaves us discouraged and defeated like David.

If we are not careful our moments, days, months or years of discouragement can move us away from God. David was under the gun as he asks “How long?”

But read further…….

Something happened in David’s life that turned him from crying out unrestrained thoughts of uncertainty to praying “consider me and open my eyes.” Some have suggested that David reread what he had already penned in verse one and two and realized they were filled with self-pity. Feeling sorry for yourself gets you no where!

David for whatever reason began to move back toward God. From the ditches of despair David looks up to recognize that his Lord and God is eternal and supremely all powerful, and always, always there for us.

Lord, even the hairs on my head cannot keep me hidden from you. You can count each one with ease because I am so exposed to you. Thank you for caring for me in all stages of my life and for revealing your truth. Help my prayer life to become more than routine. Help me to hear your voice. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson