Holy Saturday: Burial of Jesus by Josephy of Arimathea Luke 23:50-54

50 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, 51 had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. 54 It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning.

Final Reflection

Why did Joseph ask Pilate for Jesus’ body? The four Gospels supply us with many thoughts, musings and possible answers to that question but, why don’t we enter Joseph’s inner debate as he seeks to answer that question. Joseph is pondering…

“I’m taking a big risk, asking Pilate for the body of Jesus, a convicted criminal. I’m well aware that Jewish law prohibits executed criminals in family tombs, but I own a new, unused tomb in a garden near-by that would not violate any of our laws if used.

This is the Day of Preparation and our rabbinic tradition teaches that a body should not be allowed to remain unburied beyond the day of death. I feel I should hurry to bury Jesus’ body as sundown is near. Perhaps I owe this to him since I was not in agreement with the action taken by the Sanhedrin in condemning Jesus.

For a long time, I have been looking for the Kingdom of God, and Jesus did say he is the dawning of that kingdom. My friends, Jesus’ disciples, certainly believe he is innocent and is sent from God. John the Baptist also called him, the Kingdom of Heaven.”

In the end, Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked to be given the body of Jesus. Mark, in his Gospel, even said he went boldly. Why do you think Joseph asked for Jesus’ body? Could you or I find the courage to do the same?

Daily Prayer:

God of Discernment, guide us as we seek answers to things that trouble us and then help us find courage to take action favorable in your sight. Amen. 

~Marilyn Ward

Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise: Good Friday

Psalm 22:1-2

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.

Luke 23:39-43

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

On this holiest and darkest of days, we can actually find solidarity in these two texts; one from the Old Testament that Jesus himself cries out at his darkest hour. This is a pain that we will never know. Yet, for all of us, it is a lament that we can also cry when we are in our darkest hour. We can cry out the SAME words that Christ did; hoping and trusting that God is still with us in our pain, desolation, suffering and loss.

The HOPE that is foreshadowed in the second text is a gift because it is both a vision and a promise; that Christ promises our future, because he not only promises paradise (freedom from all pain, crying, and desolation) but that he precedes us to that paradise and will greet us there. Further, he will also be with us in between our current suffering and the future, which is a promised arrival in spite of our brokenness.

May you find the courage to pray Psalm 22 in your most honest voice as you also cling honestly to a promise already made for you by the prayers and promises of our Saviour.

Daily Prayer – Suffering God, give me the strength to sit at the base of the cross and seek to comprehend the suffering you made on my behalf so that I, and the world, may have the HOPE you promise us. Amen.

~Rev Jen

Maundy Thursday: Not My Will, But Yours Be Done: Luke 22:41-42

41 Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”

Daily Reflection

Jesus’s actions are really interesting in our reading today. He made a point of having the disciples accompany him to the Mount of Olives to pray. But upon reaching their destination he removes himself from them and then drops to his knees to offer up his prayer. Why bother bringing the disciples if he was going to pray alone? He needed the isolation to have a singular focus on the Father. The distraction of others can sometimes weaken our prayers.

Also, this passage is the only place in the gospels where Jesus lowers himself in supplication to pray. We can find him praying by standing with the disciples, or seated with them at a meal, or seated in a boat, or standing before a crowd, but here before Gethsemane, Jesus lowers himself. Our own prayer life should be so varied. Sometimes we pray with others, sometimes alone. Standing, sitting, riding in a bus; those are all times for prayer. In Jesus’ example here kneeling should be reserved for special times.

We can say that God answers all prayers, but Jesus’ hope or desire in this prayer isn’t answered. The cup of sacrifice was not taken from him.  He’s still on the path to the cross. Jesus submits himself to the will of the Father – physically by lowering his body, and willfully, by offering his will to serve the Father. And it is this portion of the prayer to which God responds; in the next verse he sends an angel to strengthen Jesus for the trials ahead. Our lesson: Jesus was mentally anguished – tormented. He understood the difficult path ahead, but he lowered himself before the Father and prayed, not for himself but to do God’s will.

The basis of all Christian faith is submitting ourselves to Christ and the Father– Let God’s will be done.

Daily Prayer

Christ, let your sacrifice inspire us to be like you and fully submit to the will of the Father for our lives. In your name we pray.

~Dan Keoppel

A Future With Hope: Jeremiah 29:11-13

11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,

Daily Reflection

The Lord has plans for us that I was not even aware of; plans to give me HOPE for the future.  Plans to overcome despairs, fears, and anxieties over what the future might bring.  I searched for his wisdom through prayer, for His guidance, and realized He was always there and with me.  I was never alone, and now I know He will be with me forevermore.

Without Hope and a future, I found myself lost in a deep black hole that enveloped me and I could not climb out and see the light again; paralyzing thoughts and images, but very real. I felt completely devastated, consumed and overshadowed by the evil that had surrounded me.  I worried about loved ones, their needs, and selfishly my own needs.  I called on His help over and over again.  When I stopped to really listen, I heard and felt His presence. He made me realize that there is always HOPE and with HOPE, a FUTURE.  All we need to do is look and seek.

Daily Prayer

Dear Lord, I have passed another day, and thank you for your care.  As darkness deepens, help me see the Hope and Future yet to come. Amen.

~Arlene Langdon

New Heaven, New Earth: Rev 21:1-4

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

Daily Reflection

Every time I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I am especially drawn to the stanza “Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on EARTH as it is in heaven”. (I emphasize EARTH).  Contemplating how wonderful and joyous the world will be when the Earth’s new kingdom is at last finalized, may have been this writer’s (John) motivation.  He seems to revel in this new future with Hope, mentioning a new Heaven, a new Jerusalem, and God dwelling right here on Earth with men (not just in Heaven).  Wiping away every tear from their eyes completes the magnificent new future with a Hope.  May it be so!


Since this passage is almost the final chapter of the classical New Testament, it certainly fits my vision of the new Kingdom coming.  Over the last twenty plus centuries we have been getting closer and closer to this Kingdom where the dwelling of God is with men, and “God himself will be with them and be their God”:  this is the epitome of “A Future with Hope”.

Daily Prayer

Our Heavenly Father, please motivate us, guide us, inspire us, and invite us to make your Kingdom come and your will be done here, as it is in Heaven.  Amen

~Doug Langdon

For God So Loved: John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Daily Reflection

As music speaks to the soul, we reflect on one of the most well-known texts in scripture through the words of a well-known anthem.  So Loved The World (Stainer)-Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge

God so loved the world, God so loved the world,

that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoso believeth, believeth in Him

should not perish, should not perish, but have everlasting life.

For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world,

God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world;

But that the world through Him might be saved.

God so loved the world, God so loved the world,

that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoso believeth, believeth in Him

should not perish, should not perish, but have everlasting life,

everlasting life, everlasting, everlasting life.

God so loved the world, God so loved the world, God so loved the world.

Daily Prayer

Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your great love, in the gift of your Son Jesus who came not as a judge but as a Saviour, promising eternal life through our belief in him.    Help us to open our hearts to the joy of your love and let us share that joy with others. Amen.

~Ellen Scardena

God Cares for His Sheep: Isaiah 40:10-11

10See the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Daily Reflection      

Each night when we say grace at dinner my husband and I include our prayers for the people. We begin though in this way:

“Dear God,

We thank you Lord for this food and for all the gifts and blessings that you give us.  We thank you for watching over us, guiding us, and protecting us.”

His recompense is available for us if we have tried to be the best followers of his Word that we can be. We often fail.

In this time of Lent, perhaps you can think of times in this young year that you have already failed to be as good a parent, friend, colleague, spouse, or child as God has tried to teach you to be. Do not distress yourself with imaginings of how you have failed. God loves you.  As John Greenleaf Whittier reminds us in the anthem, “The Silent Sea,” based on his poem, “The Eternal Goodness:”

“I only know I cannot drift beyond His love and care, beyond His love and care.”

Daily Prayer

Christ,

Help us to remember that we are God’s children. Keep us humble, but not so humble that we do not acknowledge that your light is in each of us. As we let that light shine we give others permission to see their own light and to share it, And in so doing God’s manifest presence is brought to all and the divine is everywhere.

Amen

~Lynn Ware

Matthew 26:40

“Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?”

Many of us have every good intention of observing lent daily but it’s easy to get distracted and fall behind in daily reading and meditation, especially this deep into Lent and….when the devotion is served up for us. Today you are invited to write your own Lenten prayer or conversation with God.

A Future With Hope: Jeremiah 29:11-13

11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,

Daily Reflection

There was a time in my life where I was on the bottom.  I cannot even describe how hard and difficult that time was.  Only those who have been there know how it feels. Years of struggle, disappointment, and being bullied allowed the devil to seep into my soul and eat away at whatever was good in my life.  It’s amazing how this can happen and how you can be so blinded by darkness.   My sophomore year in college is when it all came crashing down and I had finally hit my lowest point.  It was at this point that I was fully prepared to end and remove all the pain, suffering and struggling I was enduring. On that fateful day, I went for a walk in a wooded area where I kept repeating over and over in my wounded brain how I would end the pain.  As I walked, I came across a field, which oddly seemed to call to me.  I walked over to it and as I walked into the field, a beam of warm sunlight hit my face.  It was at this exact moment that I realized I had made a terrible mistake, the terrible mistake of wanting to end it all.  I then fell to my knees, sobbing and begging God for forgiveness for what I had done, forgiveness which I did receive.

Years later, reflecting on what had happened, I realized that this bright warm beam of sunlight was God calling to me; that he had plans for me… what they were, I did not know, but I DO HAVE A PURPOSE on this earth. 

I wish I could end this devotional by saying my life has been perfect since that fateful day.  It has not.  But I am now a stronger person.  When the darkness tries to set in, as the devil often tries to do, I now step back and take a moment and remember, that God has plans for me and for us all. 

Daily Prayer – I hope and pray often that all who are suffering find their bright warm sunbeam and listen for the words of God. 

~Natalie Pisarcik

Do Not Fear, I Have Redeemed You: Isaiah 43:1-2

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

Daily Reflection

In this passage, what popped out for me first, is “Do not fear,” a common theme throughout Scripture. God says it; Jesus says it, time and time again.  It must be important to them, and therefore, important for us to hear, to really take to heart.  And then, “I have redeemed you,” rescued you, saved you – for the Israelites, liberated you from captivity. It suggests freedom, salvation, newness.

 “I have called you by name, you are mine.”  One’s name is very important. God refused to give Moses his name, because once you know a person’s name, there’s a sense in which that person belongs to you. “I have called you by name, you are mine.”  You belong to me. That’s us.  God knows our name, knows who we are, and we belong to him.

And then, “I will be with you,”—through floods and fire. Sounds very much like what our world and its people are going through right now; the promise of God’s presence with us—through whatever happens to us. Notice: the promise is “presence”, “being with”, not fixing or changing things.  A friend of ours talked about “moments of shalom,” moments when, days or years later, we look back at an event or an encounter and realize, “Hey, God was there!”  God is always there, a part of everything in our lives, and we don’t realize it, we block it. But every now and then, like a flash of lightening, we recognize that God was there—that’s shalom, wholeness, completeness. That’s the promise: “I will be with you.”

Daily Prayer

So, Lord, help us to be more aware of your presence.  You, who have called us by name, are active in all of creation, and in all of our lives, working toward shalom, peace, wholeness.  May we be a part of this great work with you. Amen.

~Sherm Skinner