Pastor’s Blog

Easter – The women came to the tomb in anticipation of experiencing death.  There were no expectations of anything good, why would they think as such?  In the limited thinking confined to this earth, death has the final word.    When they discovered an empty tomb and were told that Jesus was alive; it would take some time to get their heads around that.  But as they let the good news find a place in their soul, they could let go of old ways of thinking and embrace a whole new outlook on everything.  Yes, there is plenty of evil in the world which seeks to destroy, but God has triumphed over the evil in returning His Son to life.  It is a new day and a new thinking is now available, that in God there is hope despite what we are experiencing.  We live in hope and expectation of God’s miraculous power undoing evil and raising all that has died to new life.  How long will it take you to get your head around that truth; more importantly, how long will it take to get your heart around it?  Alleluia!  He is alive.  

Holy Saturday– the day between a most awful day and a most glorious day.  Thus, this day becomes a day of waiting on the Lord with anticipation of what tomorrow will bring.  This is a great truth of our relationship with God.  While we live, we are constantly facing death experiences in life and they are rarely pleasant.  Something we hold dear, a season of life, a job, our health, a marriage, comes to an end.  Or we lose someone, they move away or they pass on.  These are some of the death experiences of life which bring great sadness.  But we know tomorrow is Easter in which new life occurs and things will be better than what they were.  So, too, is the power of God when we must pass through a death experience.  Tomorrow will bring new life and it will be better than what it was before if we will let go of the past.  So today we wait with anticipation of God’s intervention to raise up new life.  As certain as tomorrow is Easter, is as certain as that great truth.    

Good Friday – Last night ended with Jesus being deserted by everyone.  The evening ended with Him being left alone to face what would transpire today.  He went before the Sanhedrin alone to listen to all their false accusations against Him.  He stood before Pilate alone and experienced Pilate’s indifference to His plight.  He was stood before the crowd alone and listened to them scream for His crucifixion.  He hung on the whipping post alone to feel the hostility of the soldiers who just watched someone who had killed one of their friends set free.  He dragged His cross up the hill to Calvary alone though He did experience help from Simon of Cyrene and the sympathy of a few women.  He was nailed to the cross and suspended to die alone though there was a person on each side of Him experiencing the same.  Death was working its way through His body and there was no one to help.  In the Garden of Eden, God said it is not good that man live alone.  It made things all the worse that Jesus had to live this day alone.  Though sometimes we may be called to solitude to experience God in a special way like Jesus did in the wilderness, yet even there in His loneliness the Devil took opportunity to try to distract Him from what He was all about.  Today, the Devil was making one last effort in His loneliness to separate Jesus from God.  “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?”  It almost worked.  Be on guard in a time of loneliness, it can be the Devil’s playground with your soul.  As He did in the wilderness, Jesus was using scripture, specifically Psalm 22, to reinforce His faith.  May you find in scripture the companionship of the Holy Spirit to defeat the demons of loneliness.    

Maundy Thursday – After a meaningful experience in observing the Passover, Jesus would resort to one of His favorite places to pray, the Garden of Gethsemane.  As the Passover would remind Him again of the awesome power of God, He desired to spend time in contemplation of the wonders and powers of His Heavenly Father.  But, on this night it would be different.  On this night, He would give Himself over to the sinfulness of humanity and allow it to have its day with Him.  What was to happen was beyond any human ability to withstand.  Thus, on this night, He goes to the garden to spend time with God, to be reminded that it is for this reason that He came, and to draw upon divine strength to face all that was about to happen.  He needed this time on this night to keep His focus.  When we face difficult circumstances in life, it is easy to lose focus.  That is a crossroad within our soul.  The issue is what shall get our attention?  The difficulty of the task or the purpose for which we are doing the task?  Jesus faced this crossroad by drawing near to His Heavenly Father to keep the purpose of His coming ever foremost in His heart and soul. 

Wednesday of Holy Week – On this day, Judas’ betrayal is the focus from Matthew 26:14-25.  Betrayal is a grievous pain inflicted upon another.  One opens one’s heart to allow someone in.  It is an act of trust.  It makes one vulnerable for an open heart has no defense.  If the person who is trusted violates that trust, the one who trusted is deeply wounded and scarred for a lifetime.  The physical body was created to heal when wounded, but spiritual wounds may never heal.  Jesus loved Judas no less than any of the others.  Judas’ betrayal hurt Jesus more than the scourging and being nailed to the cross.  We, who hold the body to be of greater value than the soul, may have a hard time believing that.  Jesus, who held the soul to be of greater value than the body, understands fully the violation of His heart by the betrayal of Judas.  Violating someone’s trust is a very serious sin.  There is a little Judas in all of us.   

Tuesday of Holy Week – On this day, Jesus’ cleansing of the temple is remembered (Luke 19:45,46).  Immediately before these verses, Luke tells of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and the destruction He foresees (and happened 40 years later).  So, He enters the temple and encounters the primary cause for the downfall of Jerusalem. The temple which was supposed to be a place where people could encounter God had become a place where all people met were money hungry leadership.   This weakened the faith among the people which would contribute to the downfall Jesus foresaw.  Major truth here, when the institution that is created to represent God becomes sidetracked with self-serving issues, there is little opportunity for people to encounter God.  When this happens, the institution becomes more of a determent to society for which it had been created to serve.   If it is not leading people to God, then it is leading people away from God, there is no middle ground here.  Any culture that does not encounter God is doomed as Jesus foresaw with Jerusalem and the institution with the responsibility of representing God is much to blame.  Being the church is a major responsibility. 

Monday of Holy Week (the anointing of Jesus) – An unnamed woman is so overwhelmed in her love for Jesus that she seeks a way to express that love.  She takes a jar of expensive ointment and anoints Jesus, an extravagant expression of love in that time.  She gave no thought to the value of the ointment, no thought of how she might use it for herself, nor did she consider what others would think of her.   This was not a calculated act; this was an expression of love.  True expressions of love take no account of ramifications of their act, they go into action and do what they are moved to do for another.  The woman did not know the role this played in what was to come.  She simply let love guide her behavior thus she performed an act with divine implications.  When we act purely out of love for another, we are acting in the name of God.  

Palm Sunday – A growing stage of faith development is to come to the realization that in choosing to follow our Lord Jesus Christ, life will not be easy.  As we look at the life of Jesus through the gospels, He never had it easy.  From the struggles of the incarnation to His Passion that we will witness again this week, working for the glory of God will be challenging in many ways.  Reason is because we are still living in a world in which sin has not been completely removed.  Defeated yes, but not yet destroyed.  Therefore, to choose to follow Jesus will be to experience continual conflicts.  Jesus final words to His disciples in the Upper Room were, “In the world you face persecution.  But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33b)

Saturday of the Fifth Week in Lent– in 930 BCE, with much tribal discord and political unrest, ten tribes of God’s chosen people broke away from the nation and established their own holy city of Shechem.   They selected their own leadership and practice of religion all in the name of God.  They built great walls around their cities and had fine homes within the walls.  The impression was that all was well.  To those tribes, the prophet Amos was sent to deplore the false sense of security the people had in their resources and how corrupt they had become spiritually.  Needless to say, he was not received well.  Critical words spoken in a time of affluence are never received well.  This is a sad scenario that still plays itself out in the Church today.  When any people spend most of their time finding fault with others rather than looking internally at the faults within themselves, there will discord, unrest, and division.  Sin divides and scatters.  Sin drives us from the home that God has built for us in the depths of our hearts and in the Church.  Good News – in the saving mystery of Jesus Christ, God gathers and reunites.  Thanks be to God! 

Friday of the Fifth Week in Lent – The word that dominates Paul’s admonition to the church at Corinth found in II Corinthians 5:16-21 is reconciliation.  It is a word that is frequently used in religious jargon.  We know what it means right?  Or in our frequent use of it, have we lost sight of the depth of the word?  To be reconciled to God means to be restored to God’s favor which was lost in our failure to love God as we were created to do.  But the Lover (God) restored to His favor the Beloved (us).  The way has been opened for us to get back to what we should have been about all our lives, to be in a perfect relationship of love with God.  That becomes fully manifested in all efforts to return to a state of harmony and friendship anyone we have fallen out of relationship with or any two people who have become at odds with one another.  The Church exists today to promote the harmonizing of human relationships.  This is the message of the passage cited above.  But if the Church is to be successful with the message of reconciliation, it must start with itself.  This is not easy as will be witnessed again next Friday.  But it is so very good and right.  It is the essence of God.  

Thursday of the Fifth Week in Lent – My faith had a real growth spurt about 20 years ago.  Like many church leaders, I was reading the latest publications by highly successful ministers whose churches were growing by leaps and bounds.  Then, while attending a presbytery meeting, I picked up some books that contained the writings of very devout people from the past, people like Theresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross, Francis of Assisi.  As I began to read of these people’s lives and some of their writings, I was overwhelmed by their devotion to Jesus Christ.  It made everything I was reading pale in comparison.  These people, much like Patrick of today’s readings, were truly lights to the world.  People were so enlightened by their good works that they turned and gave glory to God.  Richard Foster published a book a couple of decades ago entitled 25 Books Every Christian Should Read.  Within that book are suggested books of some of these great figures in the faith.  Like myself, you may want to meet some of these people from the past.  Foster’s book is in the church library.  

Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Lent – As Jesus made clear when He read the scriptures in His home town of Nazareth, His role is to fulfill God’s intent originally spoken through the prophecy of Isaiah, The Spirit of the Lord is up me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

   Our devotional makes clear, wherever Jesus went, it was these things that were left in His trail.  The disciples would continue this mission and as the Church came into being, its purpose would be the same.  This has been and always will be the plumb line that measures God’s presence and all who are devoted to God.

Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Lent:  Betrayal of trust is devastating in any relationship be it marriage, family, or the community of the believers.  No human being can heal a heart that has been wounded by unfaithfulness, only God can.  The beginning verses of Psalm 40 acknowledge it is God who must pull us from the miry bog into which human sin casts us.  God saves His deeply wounded children because the act of unfaithfulness cuts deepest against everything that is of God.  God is love; love that is buttressed by trust and faithfulness.  This aspect of love must be respected at all costs and when it is not, only God can save us…and God will.       

Monday of the Fifth Week in Lent:  Today’s devotion addresses the time of which St Mark is in, the time of transition.  The time between ministers is not a static time but a time for a church to take a good look at itself.  To deal with the past and bring any issues to rest.  To deal with changes both in the life of the church and in new leaders that are called.  To reexamine its ministry considering changes in the community where it exists.  To have hope for God’s work when a new shepherd is sent to lead the flock.  There is much going on in a time between ministers.  Thus, the term for the minister who serves in that time has changed.  He/she was commonly called an interim minister, but the term often implies that someone is merely filling the gap.  Recently, the term transitional minister was adopted which implies that the church is going somewhere and that minister has been specifically called by God to lead the church to where God wants the church as a new day of ministry is dawning.  No, St Mark is not sitting on its hands waiting for the new minister, it is busy preparing to move into the future to which God has called it.         

Fifth Sunday in Lent – the crossroads of the fifth week in Lent are those that are encountered in the Church, both universal and local.  The verse of the day speaks of what the Church is set aside to be.  The devotional sights the lofty status of the Church in I Peter 2:9, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.  This is what God has made the Church.  But the rest of the verse is critical, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of Him who called You out of darkness into His marvelous light.

  There is a divine purpose for which the Church exists just as there was in the Old Testament for the nation of Israel.  The purpose is the same, so that people will see in God’s chosen people the presence of God and be drawn to God so that the world may believe.  When the Church or churches lose sight of the purpose for which God has brought them into existence, division and struggles occur.  In the struggles, dominant individuals will think it is up to them to correct the problem and steer the individual church in the direction they want it to go (all in the name of God, of course).  I wonder sometimes if it should be left up to God to correct His Church just as God corrected His chosen people in the Old Testament.  Something often forgotten in the story of God’s chosen people in the Old Testament is the presence of the faithful remnant.  This is a small group of people who humbly remain faithful a midst the power plays of the dominant.  It is the faithful remnant that God raises up after God deals with all the ungodliness infecting God’s people.          

Saturday of the Fourth Week in Lent – As this week’s focus has been on vocation, what does it have to say to those who are retired?  The devotional concludes this week with blessed thoughts to the retirees.  There was a couple in the church I served in Michigan who modeled for Marsha and me healthy retirement.  With the freedom of schedule, they picked their spots where they wanted to serve.  They volunteered at the hospital, they joined a banjo club who raised money for charitable causes, they faithfully served the church, they were available to their family.  People that retire often will hear someone say, “enjoy your retirement.”  That couple truly enjoyed their retirement by picking ways to serve others.  As the man said to me once, “the joy of retirement is that I get to choose where I serve.” 

7 Responses to “Pastor’s Blog”

  1. John says:

    When we put ourselves in a position that our reliance on God is all we have, we are no longer distracted. Jesus was obedient to complete reliance!

  2. Angela says:

    I loved the mention of the ultimate crossroad, very comforting as we embark on this time of cleaning out.

  3. Brenda says:

    I am taking breaks in the middle of each day to read my Bible and the Lent Devotional I picked up at St. Mark. I am way, way short of being a biblical scholar, or even well versed as many Christians. I jokingly call myself an apprentice Christian. I was reared in a Christian home, attended church regularly, etc., but it was so much a part of my life, it was more habit than devotion. I haven’t been a “bad” person, but my life was not particularly faith based. I find the more I read and understand, the more I am able to approach crossroads (life) with peace, even when some are difficult. And rather than giving up some food or pleasure (I’m not a terribly over-indulgent person in that area anyway), I am making an attempt to give to at least one person who may need friendship. I have reached out to a beautiful “wounded warrior” female who lost a leg and had some brain damage when her vehicle was struck by an explosive device in Afghanistan. We have been communicating via e-mail, and tomorrow I go to meet her face-to-face for the first time. A friend said “she needs you.” No, I need her. We can never fully appreciate all of our blessings when we are so accustomed to having them. God has a way of reminding us of his grace when we get too comfortable to having it. My suggestion is for anyone who really wants to be blessed is to reach out. Somebody out there needs you.

  4. Brenda says:

    Correction, I don’t go to meet my new friend tomorrow. I go Monday.

  5. Marsha says:

    It’s such a comfort to know I’m a child of God. Whenever there is a baptism (especially of a baby) the words “see what love the Father has for us that we can be called a child of God” always touches my heart.

  6. Marsha says:

    I had some trouble with Wednesday’s reading(3/8) before I read your “blog”. I understood the devotional reading to say “see Christ in everyone”, I can see everyone as an individual who Christ loves equally, but I have a hard time seeing “the love of Christ” in everyone. Your writing clarified the intent to see everyone as a loved part of creation. It’s the difference between “knowing Jesus” and “knowing about Jesus” which you expand upon on Thursday (3/9).

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