Ecclesiological Etchings: 03-31-18

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Scripture: Mark 15:46
Joseph of Arimathea bought a linen cloth, took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the cloth, and laid him in a tomb that had been carved out of rock. He rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.

Thought for the Day: In the previous chapter, a woman poured a jar of expensive perfume over the head of Jesus, and though there were some who did not like what she had done, Jesus responded by explaining how she was anointing his body for burial. It was an act of gratitude and respect, and in many ways, I believe what Joseph of Arimathea did was an act of gratitude and respect. Joseph had no expectation of resurrection, but there was something so special about this man named Jesus that his body could not be left where it would be eaten by birds and dogs. A proper burial was required. There were probably many who thought to themselves at the time, “What’s done is done, and there is no going back. Why spend the resources on someone who is dead.” But don’t you think the life of Jesus alone – apart from his death and resurrection – deserved to be celebrated and honored? Would you have been there with Joseph to show respect to your teacher? I’d like to think I would, but on this Dark Saturday, I pray that, going forward, my life will show gratitude and respect for the greatest life ever lived.

Prayer: Today is a dark and lonely day. O Lord, stay with me as I reflect on the life of one who willingly died for the sake of love. Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 03-30-18

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Guest Writer: Rev. Karl Decker
Scripture: Mark 15:24-37
They crucified Jesus. They divided up his clothes, drawing lots for them to determine who would take what. It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The notice of the formal charge against him was written, “The king of the Jews.” They crucified two outlaws with him, one on his right and one on his left.
 
Thought for the Day: This passage has always intrigued me. I wonder why the soldiers would have divided up Jesus’s clothes…  I did some research and found that although most artistic depictions of the crucifixion show Jesus in a loincloth, persons who were crucified, generally were done so completely naked.  This was one more way to humiliate the person as he was hanging on the cross.  Can you imagine that, our Lord and Savior, a man who committed no sin, nailed to the cross naked, stripped of all he owned?  And then to add insult to this, he was placed between two “outlaws.”  
 
We find the good news in this by reading Luke 23:42-43, And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”  Jesus, in his final hour, close to death, stripped of all his glory, forgives a criminal.
 
Having just finished a weekend of prison ministry, I know what it means for the lowliest criminal to find out there is hope for him, and this also means there is hope for us all!  This is not through anything we do, but simply believing that Christ is Lord of all!  He took on our debt and gave everything he had for all of us.
 
Prayer:  Father God, I give you great thanks for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ. Who even at His lowest, most desperate time, during his darkest hour, showed unconditional love to a prisoner.  Allow me to have the same attitude that even when things are not going well with me, that I might be able to spread the Good News and give others hope.  I ask all these things in Jesus’s Holy Name, Amen!

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 03-29-18

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Guest Writer: Rev. Paula Gembala
Scripture: Mark 14:22-23
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take, this is my body.” He took a cup, gave thanks, and they all drank from it.

Thought for the Day: Each Sunday as I walk to the table to take communion, I find myself imagining the scene. In my minds eye, I picture Jesus sitting in the upper room with his disciples having an ordinary meal. He already knew what was in store for him later that night, but here he sat with his friends. In his typical fashion he begins to teach them using items that were available, this time it was food and drink that had been prepared for them.

He speaks first of the bread, using it as a metaphor for his body that was soon to be broken, and then a cup of wine which he says represents the blood of the new covenant that will soon be poured out for the forgiveness of sin.

He was preparing his disciples for what they were about to witness. This is where things begin to blur for me. I cannot imagine seeing Jesus beaten beyond recognition and later crucified. But I know it had to be, I know that Jesus went through all this for you and for me. Jesus gave up his life for each of us in order for us to be forgiven of all sin, there is not a more ultimate sacrifice.

Prayer: Most gracious and loving God, we are a grateful people for the gift of your son, Jesus Christ. We are not worthy of such a gift, yet you sacrificed it all, for us. We pray Lord, that you walk by our side and help us to teach others of your great love for all people. Let others see your light shining bright through us. This we pray in the precious name of Your son, Jesus. Amen.

There Are Still Spots
At Each Service
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Ecclesiological Etchings: 03-28-18

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Guest Writer: Connie Brandt, Elder
Scripture: Mark 14:12-14
On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, the disciples said to Jesus, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover meal?” He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city. A man carrying a water jar will meet you. Follow him. 1Wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?

Thought for the Day: A New Passover: A Secret Rendezvous: Miracle or Plan?
 
Jesus, (In the midst of all of Judas’ readiness for betrayal), kept on, in perseverance…faithful, to accomplish all His Father had given Him to do, down to the last detail. Jesus cared to give His twelve a safe, comfortable place to share His Last Supper. Jesus allows the two disciples to participate. He sends them from Bethany, to be an instrumental part of His Passion, even when it is unknown, to them. In Bethany, when the two disciples asked where the Passover meal was to be, later that day, Jesus gave them a roundabout answer. The two go and the others know nothing of the place. They met  a man carrying water, (from a well?) and follow him to the Upper Room. Perhaps Jesus wanted to baffle His traitor, until the timing was perfect in God’s plan. When the time is right, Jesus arrives with the other ten.

Jesus is the Paschal (Passover) lamb. This passage symbolizes the purely voluntary nature of His sacrifice. How He “chose” to be betrayed, to be taken, to suffer and to die. The Lord of all gave Himself up in royal freedom to the death to which nothing dragged Him, but His own love for us. How honored the man must have felt who provided that room. We, as believers, need to respond to the prompting and leading of the Holy Spirit, even when there are “unknowns,” by staying in constant and close fellowship with our God. Our Lord knows all things about us before they come to pass.

There Are Still Seats
At Each Of The Services

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 03-27-18

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Guest Writer: Shirley Cantrell, Elder
Scripture: Mark 14:10-11
Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to give Jesus up to them. When they heard it, they were delighted and promised to give him money. So he started looking for an opportunity to turn him in.

Thought for the Day: As I read this passage, I wondered what on earth led Judas to go to the chief priests to betray this Jesus he had been walking with all this time.  Was it greed – did he want the money?  Or was it anger – because his Lord had not rebuked the woman who poured the expensive oil over his head?  Or was he disillusioned — because he thought that Jesus would be the conqueror over the rulers and he would be there to reap the benefits of glory and wealth?  Or — was he simply overcome with the spirit of the Devil who placed these thoughts in his head?

Perhaps the behavior of this Judas Iscariot has a lesson for me – keep my thoughts and my heart filled with Jesus and the Holy Spirit at all times.  It brings to my mind that the lesson for me in the commandment to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul” is this:  If my heart, mind, and soul are filled with the love of the Lord, there is no room for Satan to move in.  

Clearly, I have choices to make every day.  I could just say “the Devil made me do it” to excuse my behavior and go on about my business if I wanted to.  But would that just allow the Devil to enter into my heart more and more?  (I don’t recall using that particular statement but there were many times that I did say “get thee behind me Satan” when I had to pass that big bowl of M&M’s sitting in the reception lobby at the office where I worked.)

So—every day, and every hour, and every minute, and every second, there are temptations and I need to choose to love God and to love my neighbor with all my heart, mind, and soul, filling my heart, mind, and soul with the love that Jesus has for me to the point where it spills out into the world around me.  

Prayer: Lord, help me fill my heart, mind, and soul with your everlasting, unconditional love so that I can extend that same love to everyone around me. Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 03-26-18

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Prayer for the Week: O Holy God, a week often described with the word Holy is upon us. We find the shadows of darkness quickly encroaching upon us, and we feel the cold winds of betrayal and denial. When so many others scatter between the excitement of the parade and the agony of a man judged and beaten for his commitment to love, keep me focused and moving forward. Though it would be easier to jump over the darkness of this week and pretend that resurrection needs no death, I must follow my Jesus. Keep my feet moving forward; allow my spirit to take in the full emotion of this time; be with me as I witness the death of heaven’s gift. I make these requests in recognition that without you, O Gracious God, I would not make the journey to Golgotha and the cross. May these words honor the one whose name I lift up, Jesus Christ. Amen.

There Are Still Spaces Available

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 03-25-18

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Scripture: Mark 11:11
Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. After he looked around at everything, because it was already late in the evening, he returned to Bethany with the Twelve.

Thought for the Day: Nothing happens! A lot of people have noted how this verse seems almost useless, especially within Mark’s Gospel that has zero fluff. Mark is the most basic and concise of the Gospels, so why include this verse about entering the temple and looking around and then leaving. In fact, it is Mark’s way of demonstrating how Jesus was not the Messiah the people were expecting. His entrance into Jerusalem was supposed to lead to a storming of the temple, followed by the removal of the Roman legions. You can almost imagine the crowds watching with great anticipation, only to find Jesus doing absolutely nothing… or at least nothing like they were expecting. This might just be the summary of the Jesus-life in a single verse. He is never what people expect him to be, and that will continue to be true throughout Holy Week.

Prayer: Let all my expectations of this coming week simply fade away into a contrite watchfulness of your gift, O Lord, who teaches us at every turn. Amen.

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