Woman, Here Is Your Son 

March 31
John 19:25-27
Holy Saturday

25Jesus’ mother stood near his cross. So did his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26Jesus saw his mother there. He also saw the disciple he loved standing nearby. Jesus said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son.” 27He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, the disciple took her into his home.

Daily Reflection

In the Gospel of John, Mary, the mother of Jesus, appears on only two occasions.  The first time is in chapter 2:1-11 at a wedding in Cana where Jesus acts on a broad hint dropped by his mother and turns water into wine. This marks the beginning of his public ministry.

The second time she appears in this Gospel is at the crucifixion, when Jesus’ death is imminent. Her presence on these two occasions marks the beginning and the end of his ministry.

“Dear Woman,” is what Jesus called her each time she is mentioned in this Gospel.  She was dear to Him; she was loved by Him. Can you imagine being called “Dear (your name)” by Jesus? All of us are so dear to Him, so loved by Him, that He gave His life for us.

1 John 1:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” Can you imagine looking in the face of Jesus and calling Him, “Dear Jesus”? Someday….

Daily Prayer

Teach us and challenge us to share our love with others as you have done with us.  Amen.

~Marilyn Ward

It’s Never Too Late

March 30
Luke 23:39-43
Good Friday

39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Daily Reflection

On this holiest of days, we recognize the intense reality of Jesus’ loving innocence and our failed humanness. Matthew and Mark speak of the “two bandits, one on his right and one on his left” and John notes, “There, they crucified him and with him two others, one on either side….” But Luke goes into a deeper story, bringing out his theme once again of highlighting the downtrodden, the forgotten, and reminding his readers that redemption is available for all, even the convicted criminals crucified beside Jesus.

In Luke’s text, it’s rather easy to overlook the first criminal’s words because, after all, he is just reiterating the sentiments of all those we already despise; the leaders and scoffers who saw Jesus as a major threat to their power and status and wanted him erased.  But…it’s also easy to identify with the second criminal because, after all, we love a Hollywood ending where the initially evil person sees the error of their ways and gets a second chance.

As reread this story, I notice how quickly I want to align myself with the second criminal and cheer for Team Jesus. But in the quiet, I suddenly realize, sadly, how much I am also very much like the first criminal. He is, as scholar Alan Culpepper says, “the bitter cynic who taunts the Savior who is just a few feet away.” We may not see ourselves taunting Jesus but we sure test Jesus and ask him to prove his power and love before we acknowledge our own guilt.

Today, I want to see myself more deeply desiring to be like the second criminal; a contrite advocate who defends Jesus, acknowledges my sins and my just punishment before I ask for one more chance. Today is the day that we again make a choice between resistance or submission. Don’t let the cross of love AND forgiveness be for everyone else but you. Amen

Rev. Jen

Do This in Remembrance of Me 

March 29
1 Corinthians 11:24-26
Maundy Thursday

24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  25In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Daily Reflection

On this Maundy Thursday, let me suggest beginning in silence with these powerful and familiar words in front of you and pen and paper handy. Take a few moments to read them over a few times and then ask yourself, “What do these words mean to me? When did I last hear them?” (It might have been Christmas Eve, or the first Sunday in February, or a while ago.) Is there a particular word or phrase that jumps out at you? If so, take a few moments to ponder its meaning. What does this passage tell you about God? About Jesus? About being a part of a Christian community?

In the Lord’s Supper we remember the event that, more than any other, shaped the course of human history and identifies who we are as followers of Christ. In this holy meal we come to belong to Jesus in the most intimate way as we become what we receive and consume: the body of Christ. Here is God’s love and God’s grace at work in us and through us into the world. Here, we are bound together in love to one another and to the Lord. Here is Christ’s presence and sanctuary of love and forgiveness that transfigures our loneliness.

We are participating in the life-giving, forgiving death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. This “new covenant” unites us into a single body, just like the one loaf that is broken and shared among us. We are bound in a new agreement with the living Lord, an agreement which sets us apart as an eternal community. We look into one another’s faces and see joy and pain, worry and anticipation. And together we tell the story that unites us, beyond all our differences of faith and practice: we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Daily Prayer

Lord, help me to recognize my oneness with you and with all who surround me with love.  Amen.

~Lorrie Skinner

Anointing at Bethany  

March 28
Matthew 26:6-13

6Now while Jesus was at Bethany… 7a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. 8But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? 9For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” 10But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. 11For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. 13Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

Daily Reflection

This unnamed woman understood, in a way the disciples didn’t. She has been called “the first believer,” “the perfect disciple.” Somehow, she sensed who Jesus was and what he was facing. Instead of anointing him for kingship, which is what most of his followers would have wanted, she anointed him for burial. And it wasn’t just a few drops of oil—“Well, I guess that ought to be enough” —it was a whole jar of “very costly ointment,” an extravagant gift, estimated to be worth anywhere between $250 and $500. She was lifted clear out of her careful calculations into the realm of unbridled love and devotion, self-denial and self-forgetfulness, which is a true mark of the kingdom of God.

Meanwhile, the disciples just didn’t get it. They had what might be called a “market mentality”—“Why this waste?” when there were so many worthy things it could have been spent on. They didn’t understand the spontaneity of love, or its extravagance—what Paul captured so beautifully in that passage in Corinthians: Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” “Love is a spendthrift,” writes Paul Scherer, which leaves all of its calculations and arithmetic at home. And then, the “kicker”—God is love. What this woman did gives us is a hint of what God is always about—loving us extravagantly.

Daily Prayer

Restore in us the image of your love, O God, that the longings of our hearts may be extravagant. Restore in us the image of your love, that our passion for life may be full. Amen.

~Sherm Skinner

Bless Those Who Persecute You  

March 27
Romans 12:14-16

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

Daily Reflection   

To return a positive gesture or comment to a person who has just given a negative gesture or comment to us can be very challenging at times. Different emotions are entered into our mind: rage, anger, and jealousy. As children of God, we should all make an effort to not give in to these emotions, and bless the ones that persecute us.

It is easy to give in to these negative emotions, and slip into this trap. But God wants us to choose love over hate, and joy over fear. It takes mental toughness and will, but with faith in God’s love and trust in ourselves, we can achieve the ability to bless the ones who persecute us.

When we focus on returning love and joy instead of hate and sadness, we are brought together and are united. While we do this, we must stay humble and consistently return love to others, because that is God’s hope for us.

Daily Prayer

Dear Lord,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity and the ability to give and receive love, even when sadness surrounds us. Please give me the strength and will to combat hate with love, and to stay humble in my daily life.  Amen.

~CJ Arena

The Lord’s Prayer

March 26
The Lord’s Prayer

Note: The New Testament was originally written in Greek.

 This version was re-translated from Greek into Aramaic—one of the Semitic languages of the Old Testament—and then translated from Aramaic to English.

O Most Holy of all radiance and vibration!

Soften the ground of our being and carve out a space within us where your Presence can abide.

Fill us with your creativity, so that we may be empowered to bear the fruit of your mission.

Let each of our actions bear fruit in accordance with our desire.

Endow us width the wisdom to produce and share what each being needs to grow and flourish.

Untie the tangled threads of destiny that bind us, as we release others from the entanglement of past mistakes.

Do not let us be seduced by that which would divert us from our true purpose, but illuminate the opportunities of the present moment.

For You are the ground and the fruitful vision, the power and the fulfillment, as all is gathered and made whole once again.

Jesus Have Mercy on Us

March 24
Matthew 20:29-34

29As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” 31The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” 32Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 33“Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” 34Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

Daily Reflection

Mercy is such an old-fashioned word. One hardly ever hears it outside of religious settings, with the exception of the occasional exclamation “Mercy!” Yet, it is such a key concept in comprehending the love that our Father exhibits towards us. The thesaurus lists synonyms for mercy such as “pity” and “compassion,” yet these do not begin to encompass the concept of God’s mercy. There are several Hebrew words that are translated into the English word “mercy,” and one of them means loving-kindness. This is the meaning that I reflect upon when I lift up someone’s name in prayer.

It is sometimes so difficult to know how to petition God on behalf of others who are suffering. One can pray for a miraculous recovery from a disease but what if healing is not in God’s plan? Does that mean that our prayers are unanswered? When faced with this dilemma, I rely on the same prayer as the blind man in the scriptural text, “Dear Lord, have mercy on them.” Consequently, mercy was manifested in practical help, not just simply a consoling message that God was sympathetic to his plight. Mercy is the expression of God’s covenant with his people to offer protection, provision, guidance and his constant presence. It is the sensation of his devoted, tender presence that brings comfort to us in our time of suffering. Pope Francis recently wrote that “we constantly need to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is the wellspring of joy, serenity and peace.”

Daily Prayer

Lord,

Have mercy on all your beloved children who need your presence.  Amen.

~Roxanne Tavakkol

Trust in the Lord, Rely Not on Your Insight

March 23
Proverbs 3:5-7

5Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. 6In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. 7Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

Daily Reflection

It seems so simple but this life-changing truth is so powerful. It all starts with trust.  We place our trust in many things and many people in our lives. We trust that we always know what is best for us. We trust that our friends will stay true. We trust that our employers will be loyal and value our gifts and contributions to the organization. We place trust in our personal relationships. We place trust in people of power. We trust…until we don’t. Until something happens that betrays that trust or causes us to doubt our decisions.

But trust in the Lord, an eternal, loving, powerful and wise God is a trust that we can count on. He is worthy of our trust—a complete unshakable, deep and abiding trust.  We cannot/should not follow a course of action, a financial decision, a business move, a relationship or a life choice based solely on our own understanding. It must be centered in our trust in God and grounded in that belief.

Placing your complete trust in God gives your life a foundation, a sense of purpose and a roadmap. The way ahead is more apparent and leads you on a path of grace.

“Enjoy the wonderful journey!”

Daily Prayer

Loving God, I place my trust in you and pray that in all things You would continue to keep and to care, to protect and to guide, to support and to strengthen me in every avenue of my life. My complete trust lives and abides in you. Amen.

~Ellen Scardena

Amazing Grace

March 22
2 Corinthians 5:17

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Daily Reflection

God’s grace sees beyond our deepest need. He meets us where we are, talking straight to us in terms that even we can understand. Grace is positive and an unconditional acceptance in spite of the other person. Grace is a demonstration of love that is undeserved, unearned and unrepayable….

Grace is God giving Himself in full acceptance to someone who does not deserve it and can never earn it and will never be able to repay.

“He Looked Beyond My Fault”

By Dottie Rambo

Amazing grace shall always be my song of praise,

for it was grace that bought my liberty.

I do not know just why He came to love me so;

He looked beyond my fault and saw my need.

I shall forever lift mine eyes to Calvary,

to view the Cross where Jesus died for me—

How marvelous the grace that caught my falling soul;

He looked beyond my fault and saw my need.

 

Daily Prayer

Loving Father,

I confess my sins and surrender my soul to You. Guide me in Your truth and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen.

 

~Lisa Hordnes

Do Not Judge, Be Merciful             

March 21
Luke 6:36-37

36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 3 Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Daily Reflection

This is a part of a much broader text describing how we should treat our enemies. However, my interpretation of an enemy doesn’t necessarily mean an army we are at physical war with. I believe they are also terrible acts committed by people we love who have in some horrible way hurt, betrayed or disrespected us. They may have behaved in an offensive manner, caused pain and suffering or committed sinful acts like stealing or lying and have shown a total disregard of other’s feelings. As humans our natural reactions are to become angry and revengeful. But during these most difficult and emotionally charged and challenging times, we need to find God’s love within us—love and remember our role as Christians and disciples of Jesus Christ. We are all God’s children and He bestows his graciousness and mercy on all of us, as well as those underserving. Bing created in God’s image, we must find the inner self-discipline to forgive those undeserving individuals, so we can bestow our graciousness and mercy on them.

But this is truly difficult because all throughout our lives we have learned and been conditioned to judge. We have an opinion on movies, food, cars, clothes, computers, authors, everything and anything. We are conditioned to judge, that’s how we determine right from wrong, good from bad, what we like and what we don’t like. And unfortunately, we can’t help ourselves from judging others. But God does not judge and He does not condemn. God’s measurement of us is not judgement, it’s mercy.

Jesus taught us anyone who passes judgement is a hypocrite. And He told us to remove the log from our own eye, so we can see clearly and help our brother remove the speck from his eye. This is probably the most difficult of all God’s teaching and for a human being to successfully attain. But it’s certainly one we should all strive to accomplish and aspire to achieve.

Daily Prayer

God give me the absolute love to forgive, the ultimate discipline to never judge, the abundance of wisdom to accept all people, and the compassion to bestow graciousness and mercy on everyone, especially those who have sinned against me.

Amen

~Dave Scelba