2016 Lent Devotional

February 12, 2016 - First Friday of Lent

Dust and Ashes

February 19, 2016 - Second Friday of Lent

Strength in Weakness

February 13, 2016 - First Saturday of Lent

God of Hope

February 14, 2016 - First Sunday of Lent

Journey into the Wilderness

February 15, 2016 - First Monday of Lent

Simplicity of Silence

February 16, 2016 - First Tuesday of Lent

Not Another Word!

February 20, 2016 - Second Saturday of Lent

The Gift of Knowing and Believing

February 21, 2016 - Second Sunday of Lent

Fasting??!?

February 22, 2016 - Second Monday of Lent

To Jerusalem

February 23, 2016 - Second Tuesday of Lent

Sacrificial Love

February 24, 2016 - Third Wednesday of Lent

Day Laborers & Grace

February 17, 2016 - Second Wednesday of Lent

Pray Like This - Matthew 6:9-13

February 18, 2016 - Second Thursday of Lent

Journey from Christmas to Lent

February 25, 2016 - Third Thursday of Lent

Unsatisfied Curiosity

Introduction 

February 10, 2016 - Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

February 11, 2016 - First Thursday of Lent

O Felix Culpa

Table of Contents

 

February 26, 2016 - Third Friday of Lent

Waiting for the Sun

February 27, 2016 - Third Saturday of Lent

A Heart Big Enough

February 28, 2016 - Third Sunday of Lent

I am Third

February 29, 2016 - Third Monday of Lent

Generous Living

March 1, 2016 - Third Tuesday of Lent

Evidence of God's Love

March 2, 2016 - Fourth Wednesday of Lent

In the Kingdom - Now!

March 3, 2016 - Fourth Thursday of Lent

Life Isn't Fair

March 4, 2016 - Fourth Friday of Lent

Serving Well

March 5, 2016 - Fourth Saturday of Lent

Laps of Luxury

March 6, 2016 - Fourth Sunday of Lent

Someone Has to Pay

March 7, 2016 - Fourth Monday of Lent

A Lesson from My Grandma

March 8, 2016 - Fourth Tuesday of Lent

Momentary Affliction

March 9, 2016 - Fifth Wednesday of Lent

Watch Out!

March 10, 2016 - Fifth Thursday of Lent

Fullness and Light

March 11, 2016 - Fifth Friday of Lent

The Drama of Good Friday

March 12, 2016 - Fifth Saturday of Lent

Another Time Change?

March 21, 2016 - Monday of Holy Week

The First Christian

March 22, 2016 - Tuesday of Holy Week

Spring Cleaning and Spirit Cleaning

March 23, 2016 - Wednesday of Holy Week

Seder

March 24, 2016 - Maundy Thursday

Somber or Joyful?

March 13, 2016 - Fifth Sunday of Lent

Time Change

March 14, 2016 - Fifth Monday of Lent

Keeping Things Simple

March 15, 2016 - Fifth Tuesday of Lent

Too Much Stuff

March 16, 2016 - Sixth Wednesday of Lent

Enjoy the Beauty

March 25, 2016 - Good Friday

Sedition

March 17, 2016 - Sixth Thursday of Lent

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

March 18, 2016 - Sixth Friday of Lent

Simplicity of Mind

March 19, 2016 - Sixth Saturday of Lent

Lesson in Simplicity

March 26, 2016 - Holy Saturday

Crown of Thorns

March 27, 2016 - Easter Sunday

At the Graveside

March 20, 2016 - Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday

Passion Fruit

From Your Editors: It is our pleasure once again to offer you this collection of writings from your friends across the nation. The NACCC thrives on our intentional fellowship, and our contributors have done their best to bring you thoughtful expressions of the Lenten season. May your personal devotions be blessed as you use this booklet, and may your bond with other Congregationalists be deepened as we seek God’s presence daily. We offer our deepest appreciation to all of you who have been faithfully writing and submitting devotional works for this series. Please consider contributing to future editions of our Devotionals by writing one or more. Guidelines and deadlines for Advent 2016 and Lent 2017 can be found at the back of this booklet. We look forward to hearing from you! May this season of Lent bring you all of God’s blessings. Your co-editors, Terry Bobzien Helen Cunningham Carol Taylor
From Your Editors  It is our pleasure once again to offer you this collection of writings from your friends across the nat...
February 10, 2016 Ash Wednesday Ash Wednesday Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27 When I was a middle school student, I suffered every Ash Wednesday from a mild case of “Ashen Envy.” Some of my classmates attended churches that observed an Ash Wednesday tradition different from mine. They wore a dull ashen cross on their forehead. It was a reminder they had a rich Ash Wednesday tradition that was missing in my church. It was a mysterious mark that lasted for part of a day before it faded into memory. Over the next few weeks, these same children often refused dessert at the school cafeteria. I recall thinking how much I would like to have something to show the world that I, too, had faith. If only I could wear a mark of belief or live out a bit of self-denial to proclaim my love for Christ. I felt I had nothing to so boldly display my faith to the world. It took more than my tender years as an envious child to realize that our actions speak louder than ashen crosses or a starved sweet tooth. My faith in, and my belief in Jesus Christ as Savior, was best proclaimed in how I lived out the Great Commandment to love one another. My case of “Ashen Envy” dissolved and my days of denominational discontent and petty envy are also long gone. Yet, the Season of Lent remains a time to ponder how Christ is seen through our daily trudge. A kind word, a caring act, or a compassionate embrace speak louder than outward and visible symbols. Ashen crosses fade, but Christ’s love endures for far more than a season. PRAYER: Loving God, may the words from my mouth, the meditations of my heart, and my love for others always reflect your grace, Amen. Jerrold Jones First Congregational Church Greenville, MI Daclamrev1@gmail.com
February 10, 2016  Ash Wednesday Ash Wednesday  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this  to loo...
February 11, 2016 First Thursday of Lent O Felix Culpa You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. Psalm 30:11 As an evangelical, I try to keep our church’s worship fairly light on liturgy. But there are some elements of traditional Lenten worship that are very evocative, even a means of grace. Lent begins on the day known as Ash Wednesday; ashes probably a symbol of mourning for our sins. Job records his misery, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes,” (Job 42:6). It is appropriate to mourn our sins, not just during Lent, but any time they come into our consciousness. But it is also appropriate to remember what Lent is looking forward to. In the Roman Catholic tradition, Lent ends with the Easter Vigil, the night before Easter Sunday. Part of the liturgy for that Vigil is what one Catholic priest has called “this strange outburst:” “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” Ever since I first heard those odd words, my reaction has been a lot like that priest’s. Can we really be grateful for Adam’s sin? Maybe not exactly, but we can surely be grateful for God’s eternal plan, which could not be sidetracked by Adam’s sin or by anyone else’s. God’s plan always includes His provision of salvation for us through His wonderful Son. Isaiah writes, “To comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness,” (Isaiah 61:2-3.) PRAYER: Father God, we thank You for comforting us who mourn, granting beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, inspiring us to praise You rather than to despair. We pray in the power of Jesus’ name, Amen. Rev. Dr. Robert Hellam Church of the Oaks Del Rey Oaks, CA
February 11, 2016  First Thursday of Lent O Felix Culpa  You have turned for me my mourning into dancing  you have loosed ...
February 12, 2016 First Friday of Lent Dust and Ashes Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes…” Genesis 18:27 A number of years ago while serving on a volunteer fire department, a call came in around four a.m. My department was asked to assist a neighboring department in extinguishing a blaze that was adjacent to a gas station. Once the flames were extinguished, it was my task to check the third floor for remaining flames. I climbed up the ladder and inspected the situation through a window. Finding more flames, increased the water pressure on my firehose to finish the job. Then it happened; a loud roar! I wasn’t sure what it was, but I was sure it wasn’t good. A small antenna on the roof of the building had fallen over. It punctured the roof and allowed oxygen to enter the building, causing an explosion. I was knocked to the ground by falling brick. Other firefighters worked feverishly to find me in the rubble. When finally rescued, I was covered in brick dust and ashes. Laying on the ground, I began to ponder my situation. I incurred numerous non-life threatening injuries; a few broken bones and burns. The injuries kept me from work for weeks; time to ponder God’s graciousness, and my unworthiness. Things I once treasured, were not as valuable to me, as now, I appreciated the simple things. I neglected to pray that morning; however, our Heavenly Father heard my earlier pleas for protection and came to my aid that day. Photos revealed the ashes that enveloped me. I was reminded of the solemnness of Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season. I realize my mortality and truly appreciate the great price for my redemption. PRAYER: Father, you are so faithful and we are so undeserving of your mercy. Guide us into a closer walk with you. Help us to deny ourselves and set our priorities to honor Your Holy Name, Amen. Eric Hickman Tipton Community Congregational Church Tipton, MI ehickman@yahoo.com
February 12, 2016  First Friday of Lent Dust and Ashes  Then Abraham spoke up again   Now that I have been so bold as to s...
February 13, 2016 First Saturday of Lent God of Hope When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways; God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. Jonah 3:10 A couple of months ago, I sat in church like every Sunday with the Bible open on my lap. I stared out the window at the sunshine as my husband stood in the pulpit reading the scripture from the book of Jonah. Tears began filling my eyes. God whispered, “I am the God of hope.” I quickly glanced out each window at the beautiful trees. I wanted to run and beg each person to help me save every beautiful piece of earth by turning from our evil ways. I wanted to yell from the rooftops, “Together we can save the earth!” These days I look at Earth with appreciation and a great belief of place in our future. It will take a recycling of bad to good but I believe we can do it. After all, we have the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to guide us. PRAYER: Dear God, please show us your path, your plan, and help us to always know your spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Thy will be done, Amen. Mary McAliley Center Congregational Church Atlanta, GA MaryMcAliley@aol.com
February 13, 2016  First Saturday of Lent God of Hope  When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways  G...
February 14, 2016 First Sunday of Lent Journey Into the Wilderness Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness… Matthew 4:1a While in Peru, I met a fellow traveler. He told me of his hiking the infamous Inca Trail to the ruins of Machu Picchu with two friends in the late 70’s. This was long before GPS existed to search out the best route to a desired destination, so they depended on their survival skills and the stars for navigation. They spent six grueling weeks hiking the rugged terrain of the Andes Mountains with nothing more than a hand drawn map sketched on the back of a cocktail napkin; so much trust in something so vulnerable and susceptible to the elements. He described their skepticism as they watched their train disappear from sight. With the napkin in hand, they set out on their journey. By nightfall, they had reached the first set of ruins marked on the napkin. Under the vast expanse of stars, they slept with a peaceful sense of excited joy. Their story reminded me of the One who would take his own 40-day journey into the wilderness. He would leave the familiarity of home and travel across treacherous lands. And I’m sure there was skepticism and fear among his family as he disappeared out of sight. They had no idea what would be waiting for him. Would he encounter wild animals, poisonous snakes, bandits, starvation? “Life is a journey, not a destination” (Emerson). But what is the worth of a journey if the final destination is never reached? Treacherous trails, perils, and inclement weather did not keep the hikers from reaching the breathtaking beauty of Machu Picchu. Without the selfless life-journey of Jesus on this earth, we could not know and experience the life-giving breath of our Lord and Savior. Lent is a time to remember in whom we have put our faith. PRAYER: Lord, as we take steps towards our final destination, may we never lose sight of who it is who is bring us along our journey by his love. Rev. Ian Macdonald First Congregational Church Greenville, MI
February 14, 2016  First Sunday of Lent Journey Into the Wilderness  Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness ...
February 15, 2016 First Monday of Lent Simplicity of Silence …Now there was a great wind…and after the wind an earthquake…and after the earthquake a fire…and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. I Kings 19:11b-12 Elijah was on the run for his life. He did not have many choices. He had helped prove the universal interest and presence of the God who called him, and this failed to win him friends; he was along. When we are cut off from community, when we are lacking resources, when we are involuntarily placed in a wilderness because of loss, brokenness, or persecution, it is human instinct to want to feel something. We want some tangible confirmation that we are not out here alone, aimlessly waiting. But God came to Elijah through another means; silence. It was out of the silence that God communicated. As author Thomas Keating writes, “Keep in mind that God’s first language is silence” (Open Mind, Open Heart, New York: Continuum, 1996). We want so desperately to experience God in the ways that are convenient for us. Sometimes God obliges. But Lent challenges us to not be so focused on having God conform to our desired mode of communication, but to encounter God in a much simpler way; to practice silence and contemplative listening. Carl McColman writes in Befriending Silence, “In other words, the goal of contemplation - to rest in God, whether felt or unfelt, in wordless silence, involves the totality of our being at a level deeper than mere conscious awareness.” I would rather be content saying, “I just don’t feel it” than be guilty of being told, “You just didn’t listen.” This Lent, I want to simplify my expectations and actually hear God. PRAYER: O God, who wants us to hear, it is not about how we want to encounter you. This Lent, we seek instead to be so simple, silent, and still that you can actually be heard, Amen. Rev. Dr. Charles A. Packer, Chaplain-Director Congregational Society of Classical Retreat Guides Pine Hill Congregational Church West Bloomfield, MI drcapacker@gmail.com
February 15, 2016  First Monday of Lent Simplicity of Silence     Now there was a great wind   and after the wind an earth...
February 16, 2016 First Tuesday of Lent Not Another Word! …Be still and know that I am God… Psalm 46:10 “Would you please lower your radio volume?” “No! I’m going to enjoy my radio at any volume I choose!” Well, that settled that, but our hearts were not in the least settled. This was the second volume incident with this renting neighbor. It was so tempting to yell out, “Ignorant!” We decided it was wiser to talk with the homeowner if this annoyance occurred again, but we had no assurance that our complaint would be received and understood. We concluded that anger was not worth our effort and that God would want us to discuss this with Him in prayer before discussing it with anyone else; so we prayed and continued our day’s activities. Eventually, the volume was turned down and some guests arrived for their usual Saturday afternoon gatherings. Their voices were not at all intrusive; and it’s nice to hear people laughing and enjoying themselves. On the following afternoon we were surprised and blessed with a knock on our door. Standing there was our homeowner neighbor with a sincere apology for his renter’s behavior. We welcomed him in and shared our acceptance of his apology and our confidence of his wise resolution of the matter. A bit humorous that we are to be silent with no mention of the volume-happy offender. God wanted us to remember to be still, know that He is God, and believe that He has purposes greater than we can know. If we had succumbed to our anger with an accusing rebuttal, we would have forfeited the blessing of nourishing a neighborly relationship. It is wisdom to know that some situations require us to just be quiet, pray, wait, and believe! PRAYER: Lord, Thank You for wisdom that aligns our actions to Your will whereby we glorify our Father in Heaven, Amen. Helen Cunningham CCP (Congregational Christian Partnerships) First Congregational Church Kingston, NH hc6645@gmail.com
February 16, 2016  First Tuesday of Lent Not Another Word      Be still and know that I am God     Psalm 46 10     Would y...
February 17, 2016 Second Wednesday of Lent Pray Like This Matthew 6:9-13 “Our Father who art in heaven,” it’s simple, basic, and contains all we need to enter into communication with God. Prayer is a heart and spirit communication at the most intimate level. Like a loving parent, sometimes God says, “Yes” sometimes “No,” but always for our good. There are some basic assumptions in the Lord’s Prayer; i.e., “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” demands our belief that God exists. Once we affirm our belief, we may address God in our own way; acknowledging that God is a heavenly Parent who knows and cares about us at our deepest level. He is as close as our own mother’s breath. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven;” we acknowledge that only God knows everything. We need to humbly realize and accept that God’s will trumps everything. “Give us this day our daily bread;” our communication with him in prayer offers an opportunity to share our “needs” and not only our “wants.” He want us to trust that we will receive all we need; along with forgiveness. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;” this IS the most vital part of prayer and communion with God. We are forgiven by God AS we forgive others. We must release judgment to God in order to keep us from being closed off from God’s gift of forgiveness for us. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;” a request for his guidance so that we might walk faithfully each day. God will give us light for the path before us; more than enough to know right from wrong. To obey is our choice. “For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever, Amen;” – the closing is our self-affirmation that God is triumphant in all things. Follow where God leads. PRAYER: Thank You for the gift of prayer! Rev. J.R. McAliley & Mary McAliley Center Congregational Church Atlanta, GA jrmcaliley@netscape.net mary.mcaliley@emory.edu
February 17, 2016  Second Wednesday of Lent Pray Like This Matthew 6 9-13     Our Father who art in heaven,    it   s simp...
February 18, 2016 Second Thursday of Lent Journey from Christmas to Lent The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Isaiah 9:2a I leave my Christmas decorations up long after the season is over. Some think I’m lazy. The task of taking down the tree and putting away all those decorations can be overwhelming, but the real reason I leave it up so long is I’m not ready to let go of the light of Christmas. It’s not that I want to hear one more rendition of O Holy Night, or that I need one more Christmas present. It’s that all through the month of December I have felt that the light is coming and that light is going to shine in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. It’s a feeling of hope. Hope that humans have the capacity to put others’ needs before their own. Hope that peace within families and even countries is possible. Hope that when we get lost in the dark, the light of God in Christ will illuminate our path. Then Christmas comes and goes and I feel that hope slipping away. Soon we will be into the coldest, darkest months of the year. Reality sets in, and hope and light get boxed up until next December. One night in February, years ago, our doorbell rang. I told my husband not to answer it because we don’t have neighbors nearby. He answered the door, despite my protesting, and standing there was a woman and her two daughters freezing and crying. “Our car broke down. We’ve walked and walked and were so afraid. Then we saw your lit Christmas tree in the window and thought that God has surely led to a safe place for help.” PRAYER: God, please grant that we may experience the light of God in Christ that lasts through Epiphany to Lent. Rev. Karen Robu Associate Minister Plymouth Congregational Church Wichita, KS krobu@plymouth-church.net
February 18, 2016  Second Thursday of Lent Journey from Christmas to Lent  The people who walked in darkness have seen a g...
February 19, 2016 Second Friday of Lent Strength in Weakness His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. Psalm 147:10-11 I have Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia; a disability similar to multiple sclerosis. My gradually loss of the ability to walk necessitates the use of a cane or walker. Formerly, I used to push a mower around my yard in an hour. I thoroughly enjoy being outside, seeing things grow and blossom. As mobility became more of an issue, God provided me with a zero radius turn lawn mower; a riding mower completely hand controlled. Not being able to use my legs or feet well would not stop me from taking care of my lawn. I felt very fortunate and blessed that God provided me a way to continue the work I enjoy . This spring, our church ran into the problem of no longer having a lawn mower to mow the church yard. I thought, what a great opportunity to share the blessings of God with the church. I now mow the church lawn every week. It is still challenging to trim the church lawn with a push mower, but I’ve learned to lean on it like a walker to keep my balance. Once the trimming is done, I get on the riding mower and whip around to easily finish the job. I am glad and thankful that in spite of my disabilities, I can still do very useful things for our church. PRAYER: Dear Father, please watch over us and help us to see all the things we can do for your kingdom and for your glory with our talents and capabilities. Pahl W. Rice Second Congregational Church of Griswold Jewett City, CT PWR.WRTR@yahoo.com
February 19, 2016  Second Friday of Lent Strength in Weakness  His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his d...
February 20, 2016 Second Saturday of Lent The Gift of Knowing and Believing And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 Recently, we lost our niece to depression and despair of life. We received the below encouragement that focused us on God’s sovereignty in all. There are some Biblical truths of which a believer is absolutely sure. We know, for instance, that God never leaves us, even in the midst of tumultuous storms, although our faith is tested. We believe that an Invisible Hand is always on the world’s tiller and that wherever life may take us, God is always at the wheel. This reassuring knowledge prepares us for everything. We can hear across the raging waters the voice of Jesus saying, “It is I; do not be afraid.” We know too, that God is always wise. We are confident that concerning us, there are no accidents, no mistakes, and that nothing occurs without His knowledge. Any negative circumstance can be turned to good in God’s omnipotent hand. We can say, “If I lose everything, it is better than to keep it if God’s will dictates the loss.” The worst disaster is the wisest and kindest thing that we could face if God ordains it, because we know that all things work together for good regarding His people. This is not merely theology to us, but we know this as a matter of fact. Therefore, we can continue to be absolutely sure that God rules all, He governs wisely, and brings good out of evil for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Our hearts are assured as we learn to meet each trial calmly when it comes, knowing the God Who ordains it and controls it. PRAYER: Send me what You will, my God. There is peace knowing it comes through Your hand, Amen. Helen Cunningham CCP – Congregational Christian Partnerships First Congregational Church Kingston, NH hc6645@gmail.com
February 20, 2016  Second Saturday of Lent The Gift of Knowing and Believing  And we know that in all things God works for...
February 21, 2016 Second Sunday of Lent FASTING??!? Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river, Ahava, that we might deny ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our possessions. Ezra 8:21 I have heard that some people live to eat, and some eat to live. Frankly, both sides of the equation still focus on food. Either food is defined as a desired object to be relished or as a necessary object for survival. That survival aspect makes the call to engage in a fast seem counter-intuitive. Why, we ask ourselves, would I voluntarily go without eating? Yet, I would note that fasting is part of the spiritual disciplines of many around the world, and most important, God expects us to fast from time to time. Let me encourage you to try an experiment. Think of the one food that you would never, ever pass up if it were offered as part of a meal. Think about how it smells. Think about how that very first bite tastes. Relish its deliciousness, and think about how you feel when you have completely consumed that food. With those images firmly implanted in your brain, now start to pray for God to lead you on your own spiritual journey. Could you do it? Or, would your thoughts and words directed to God be sidetracked by thinking about that food? Ezra understood the importance of exercising self-control and discipline as he led the exiled Jews back to Israel, free of distractions. Thus, he had the people stop in their journey and refrain from eating so that their thoughts and desires would be solely centered on God. Practicing the discipline of fasting can help us be more in tune to the presence of God during this season of Lent. PRAYER: Gracious God, help us to remove the distractions of our lives and to focus on you, Amen. Rev. Dr. W. Michael Chittum Executive Director NACCC & Congregational Foundation
February 21, 2016  Second Sunday of Lent FASTING      Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river, Ahava, that we might d...
February 22, 2016 Second Monday of Lent To Jerusalem Now when the time was almost come for Jesus to be received up, He steadfastly and determinedly set His face to go to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51 Lent is a time for us to “set our faces” toward Jerusalem, just as Jesus did, determined to get to the cross on the hillside beyond the gate. We will find no new surprises but we pray that we will find a renewed hope and energy from a fresh encounter with the event that took place there. Focusing on a sinless, holy, and righteous Man hanging in agony on a wooden cross offers even the lowest of wrong doers, including even ourselves, a look at unselfish love and letting that love motivate us to love one another as He first loved us (1John 4:19). Listen as He says “Forgive them,” addressing those at the foot of the cross then and those who come now. Jesus said to the robber hanging on the cross beside Him, “today you will be with Me in Paradise.” The robber humbled himself to know the meaning of these words. We, too, can hear them today when we come to the cross in humility and faith, believing that Jesus is our Savior and our Lord. This promise should motivate and sustain us through the valleys of life until that wonderful promise of eternal life with Him is fulfilled. PRAYER: Dear Lord, please give me the strength of spirit to focus on that “old rugged cross” with the honesty needed to fully understand what is taking place. Help me to leave that cross changed in heart, renewed in hope and energy, and ready for the celebration of the Resurrection, Amen. Rev. Bill Rafuse Rapid River Congregational Church Rapid River, MI wrafuse@charter.net
February 22, 2016  Second Monday of Lent To Jerusalem  Now when the time was almost come for Jesus to be received up, He s...
February 23, 2016 Second Tuesday of Lent Sacrificial Love …they brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. Luke 2:22b Recently, I had the beautiful pleasure of baptizing our grandson. It took place on a Sunday morning during worship. Like a true family celebration, the church was filled with people that love and support us. After the baptism, I went on to preach about unexpected grace. “Our grandson,” I said “has no idea of the love and grace that is a part of his life; knows nothing about the Living Water. His every need is met by people who love him; his mother and father and his grandparents to name a few. If he is hungry, then he will be fed. If he needs his diaper changed, then it will be changed by any number of us who are delighted to humble ourselves and kneel down and take off his dirty diaper and clean his little body and place a clean diaper on him. We offer him sacrificial love just as Jesus offers sacrificial love to us.” I went on to use his innocent yet blessed life as an example of the grace that comes at baptism in general and infant baptism in particular. You are showered by love in a way that surrounds you and supports you; yet you do not even have a clue what others are doing for you. It is exactly the way grace comes to us. We live our lives without really ever fully comprehending the way that Jesus is actively loving us. Ironically our grandson in his infancy became a perfect illustration of a love that entered the world as an infant, innocent and full of grace. While I hope and pray for the ways he might use his life, I marvel over and give thanks for how Jesus used his life to give us life. The world spins on sacrificial love. PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, for loving us so freely and forever, Amen. Rev. Don Mayberry First Congregational Church South Paris, ME dmayberry1@gmail.com
February 23, 2016  Second Tuesday of Lent Sacrificial Love     they brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.  ...
February 24, 2016 Third Wednesday of Lent Day Laborers & Grace For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. Matthew 20:1-2 I love this parable for the deep, deeper, and really deep message that it presents. I love the simplicity and complexity of the message and the fact that it ties directly to the Lenten journey. You may or may not find a Lenten connection here, but the central theme is Christ’s coming to usher in the Kingdom of God. There is another great theme that rides along with this text for our edification, and it is GRACE! It pains me to know just how many of us feel disdain when the parable unfolds and we find out that the last day-laborers that were hired late in the day received the same wage as those who labored throughout the day from the first hour. Is this parable also speaking directly to our own communities of faith? Does long-standing church membership entitle someone’s voice to carry more power or more authority? Rather, it is all grace that we are numbered among God’s people as his church and his workers. First; we belong to Christ! We are his people. We were called and gathered together to advance his kingdom; which call is equally valid for all who are in Christ. Second; the faith community, the church, belongs to God. He formed each of our faith communities to respond to the needs of the communities. Third; we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be about the business of building up God’s Kingdom. Finally, God called us respond to Him and he equipped us by his Spirit to tell others of his boundless Grace! PRAYER: Heavenly Father, let your kingdom come and let us be helpers to bring it about. Thank you, Amen! Pastor Bob Higle Plymouth Congregational Church Lansing, MI pastor@plymouthlansing.org
February 24, 2016  Third Wednesday of Lent Day Laborers   Grace  For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who...
February 25, 2016 Third Thursday of Lent Unsatisfied Curiosity Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. Galatians 5:16-17 I was searching through my bible when a slip of paper fell out. It was a prayer list from several years before. On the list I saw the names of people and specific worries that have been provided for, but one item stood out. It regarded a church elder who was suffering from cancer. God inspired me to write her a note with Scripture verses for her comfort. She has since died, and I never knew if the Scriptures helped assuage her suffering. I did what God called me to do, I was unable to see if the seed of my efforts ever blossomed as I had intended, but such is life. Prayer is personal and God hears, but my curiosity was left unsatisfied. My desire to know all the outcomes and to control how things happen cannot be my focus. Curiosity and control over things cannot prevent my praying, for God has answered some prayers beyond what I could ever accomplish, praise Him. We don’t have God’s vision or grace but we still need to act on the urges that the Holy Spirit puts on our heart. I could have easily disregarded God’s nudge to write that note, and then I would have avoided this overwhelming curiosity about how my effort affected her, especially since I found out later that she had more in common with me than I previously knew. But God’s will be done, not my own. PRAYER: Heavenly Father, please bring us to succumb to your will rather than to our own. May we live each day, enjoying your presence in times of joy or sadness, because your will is always best, Amen. Gwen Rusmisel United Church of Beloit Beloit, WI Blarya5@yahoo.com
February 25, 2016  Third Thursday of Lent Unsatisfied Curiosity  Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires...
February 26, 2016 Third Friday of Lent Waiting for the Sun Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35 Throughout the Gospels we are taught the lesson of going to a solitary place for prayer. Time and time again, Jesus would go off by himself to pray. He left the crowds and would be alone with God. He shows us the way that we should live and pray both during Lent and beyond the Lenten season. Jesus being in human form knew troubles as we know troubles. He would pray early before the sun arose. He prayed, literally, before the sun light, which of course can be an image of God’s light. Elsewhere, we read that Jesus prayed in the dark moments of his life. When he knew that his betrayer was coming to reveal him to enemies for crucifixion, he prayed that the cup might be taken from him. He was praying in the figurative darkness for the light of God. And we, as well, can only pray that God help us with our journey to him in this dark world. PRAYER: Jesus, you knew prayer to be intimate and private. You knew prayer to be intentional and pure. Teach me to pray as you did. Reverend Steven DeGangi Grace Lower Stone Reformed Church Rockwell, NC Steven.DeGangi@gmail.com
February 26, 2016  Third Friday of Lent Waiting for the Sun  Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got...
February 27, 2016 Third Saturday of Lent A Heart Big Enough For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 Years ago when my son was a college student, he worked as a life guard at a local park for the summer. As he was walking with his sister and her friend through Greek Town in Detroit, someone hit him across the side of his head with a bat. At the hospital, I was informed that my son had a closed head injury. He remained in the hospital for several days. I was told that a social worker would be contacting me, because he would likely be disabled. Also his insurance had been canceled, because he was not attending college during the summer. The details involving this incident were very frustrating, but the bottom line is that he recovered. But the injury caused him to lose hearing in one ear, lose his plan to enter the military, and the monies never came forward from the Victim's Act. When I think how painful and angry I was when this happened to my "good" (yet imperfect) son, I have to wonder how God could possibly love and forgive all of us who put His Son on a cross, how He watched as Jesus was harassed, stripped, beaten, and spit on. I don't have a heart big enough to love and forgive that way, but our God does, even to forgiving me when I choose to ignore the Son who was crucified. PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I’m so humbled by Your love. I'm sorry that I struggle to love like You do. Thank You for never giving up on me. In the name of Jesus, Amen. Rev. Dr. Marilyn Danielson First Congregational Church Portland, MI portlandpastor@yahoo.com
February 27, 2016  Third Saturday of Lent A Heart Big Enough  For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son...
February 28, 2016 Third Sunday of Lent I Am Third …Jesus went about doing good… Acts 10:38 A tradition of our Christian Summer Church Camp we have a sign which says on one side, “I am third;” on the reverse, “Make a difference!” We take notice of campers who exemplify these mottos in their attitude and behavior. “I am third” means that God is first, others are second, and I am third. The “Make a difference!” element reminds all of us that this can be, ought to be, and by our choice throughout each day. The kids get it; and if they can understand, then adults can too. In Acts 10:38, Peter describes Jesus as one who went about doing good. This was clearly not just a Passover season, Pentecost season, or Day of Atonement season thing to do. Jesus blessed people in practical ways and in all seasons; releasing people from spiritual and physical oppression, and limitation. He fed the hungry, ministered to the dying, encouraged the faint of heart and weak of faith. He made and showed the Way, he helped and healed, he condoled and showed compassion, he stooped down and lifted up, he took initiative and welcomed all who came to him. The term “Christian” was first used to insult believers; however, believers proudly own the label as followers of Jesus; Christ-like. Giving alms or doing gracious acts of mercy and compassion as a Christ-like person is what we should be doing, not just during Lent, but in all seasons. Perhaps we can use this Lenten season as “spring training” to become intentionally committed to a particular expression of giving alms; i.e., doing, giving, or showing mercy. PRAYER: Lord God, help us to soften our hearts, open our hands, have thoughtful minds and generous spirits; have Christ-like compassion for those you put in our path. In Christ, Amen. Rev. Jack Brown Olivet Congregational Church Olivet, MI pilgrim_pastor@hotmail.com
February 28, 2016  Third Sunday of Lent I Am Third     Jesus went about doing good     Acts 10 38  A tradition of our Chri...
February 29, 2016 Third Monday of Lent GENEROUS LIVING For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints. 2 Corinthians 8:3-4 The passage from 2 Corinthians, verse 8, describes the call that was made to the churches around the Mediterranean Sea to help the church in Jerusalem. The faithful members of the Christian church in Jerusalem in the first century were suffering and in great need due to persecution and oppression from the military, religious, and governmental authorities. A “One Great Hour of Sharing” ministry was organized to meet the needs of the Christians in Jerusalem. Paul used the example of the churches in Macedonia to encourage the church in Corinth to also be generous in their part of the offering. It was not that the congregations in Macedonia were big, rich, and prosperous. Rather, Paul described them as small, struggling, and persecuted. However, the faithful ones in Macedonia still responded to the call to help others, and in fact, begged to be allowed to help. The Macedonia churches had discovered the difference between generous living that serves from the heart from acts of charity for show. Generous living is focused on the opportunity to relieve the need and suffering of others, with no though for personal gain. However, an act of charity with no concern for people might become a self-centered exercise to demonstrate our own superiority or prestigious social standing. God calls to us to generous living. We, the people of God, are to give of our means, and even beyond. Our generosity ought to be based on God’s generosity to us that in turn, we share with others. PRAYER: Almighty God, we believe you call us to generous living so we may help to meet the needs of the people you put in our lives, Amen. Rev. Dr. W. Michael Chittum Executive Director NACCC & Congregational Foundation
February 29, 2016  Third Monday of Lent GENEROUS LIVING  For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their m...
March 1, 2016 Third Tuesday of Lent Evidence of God’s Love Now Thomas (also known as Didymus) one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. John 20:24 It's interesting that Thomas was absent. It seems characteristic of him to be somewhat aloof. We don't read of him talking to people, consoling anyone, or being in the inner circle. It doesn't seem like he is one of the major players as a disciple. He strikes me as a “no nonsense” kind of man. Perhaps that's why Jesus chose him. Only twice, do we read of Thomas speaking, but when he speaks, it is significant. The first time is when Jesus tells the disciples he has to go to Jerusalem, and they knew that He was going to walk into trouble. The others object, but Thomas declares that he is ready to walk beside Jesus, no matter what lies ahead. More words from Thomas are uttered when he saw the nail prints in Jesus' hands and feet; "My Lord and my God.” That one sentence has probably led many people to Christ. Thomas was not a romantic. He was a TV “Joe Friday" concerning the facts; “Just the facts, Ma'am.” Thomas saw the wounds and believed. People see our authenticity when they see our love in action. PRAYER: Lord God, how great is your marvelous plan of Redemption! You have chosen us to be part of this amazing forever plan. It is exciting to realize that we are honored to have been chosen by you. Though we are imperfect, still You have called us into the service of the King. May we recognize Your working in our lives and bow down with thankfulness for such an honor. May we too, be determined to walk anywhere with You, Amen. Rev. Dr. Marilyn Danielson First Congregational Church Portland, MI portlandpastor@yahoo.com
March 1, 2016  Third Tuesday of Lent Evidence of God   s Love  Now Thomas  also known as Didymus  one of the Twelve, was n...
March 2, 2016 Fourth Wednesday of Lent In the Kingdom – Now! Jesus began to speak to them in parables. A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. Mark 12:1 There is good news contained in the above Scripture for all who are oppressed and live under the burden and yoke of people in power, position, and privilege. The verse above introduces the adventure of the coming kingdom. God, through the Old Covenant, placed land and resources in the hands of his chosen people. The promise of the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood, is offered all people, in all lands, of every nationality. The journey through Lent is about the New Covenant that enables us to care for the land and its resources, as well as for all the people dwelling on it. We are to work together for the good of one another, fulfilling our part in God’s plan for God’s peace, justice, and compassion for all people, lands, and natural resources. Failure arises when we become divisive, causing schisms, ignoring God’s will for us to work together in his kingdom. The center of our tradition is, “Jesus is Lord,” personal appearance and cultural differences excluded. God is inclusive; no favoritism! The original essence of Congregationalism works best when we embrace our calling to share God’s message of mercy, grace, peace, and justice. So, are we willing to see and become part of the adventure God has in store for us? Are we willing to look to our right and look to our left and welcome those who choose to believe and belong? Who are we? Who are we called to be? Who are we becoming? The adventure calls each of us to Christian behavior. Will we answer? PRAYER: Creator God, help us to be more like your Son; enjoy and express the fruit of the vineyard you have sown deep within each of us. In Jesus name we pray, Amen. Pastor Bob Higle Plymouth Congregational Church Lansing, MI pastor@plymouthlansing.org
March 2, 2016  Fourth Wednesday of Lent In the Kingdom     Now   Jesus began to speak to them in parables. A man planted a...
March 3, 2016 Fourth Thursday of Lent Life Isn't Fair For by grace you have been saved through faith...it is the gift of God, it is not from works so no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 When I was in youth ministry, we would play a game called "Earn Your Way to Heaven.” In this game, so many points were needed for entry into those Heavenly Gates. We'd start out strong, i.e., points for doing homework, points for attending youth group, and so on. But when I detected a certain smugness and "slam dunk" attitude amongst the kids, I'd change the game. Points were deducted for gossip, for making fun of someone else, for not listening to parents, for not offering a kind word or helping hand, etc. Heaven now seemed inaccessible. The game changed again. I offered everyone all the points they needed to get to Heaven. Some objected and said I couldn't do that, "it wasn't fair," but I explained that it was my game and I certainly could. This was my segue-way into a conversation about Grace; how none of us can earn our way to Heaven no matter how much we try and that we all rely equally on the Grace of God The phrase, "Life isn't fair," is usually offered as a complaint, but my response is "thank goodness.” I certainly would not like to "get all I have coming to me.” I am grateful that our God is not a scorekeeper. PRAYER: Gracious God, as your grace is extended to us, may we be gracious to others. Help us to put aside our score sheets. During this season of Lent, may we be mindful of the importance of Grace, Amen. Barbara Erlendson Third Congregational Church Middletown, CT barbaraerlendson@gmail.com
March 3, 2016  Fourth Thursday of Lent Life Isn t Fair  For by grace you have been saved through faith...it is the gift of...
March 4, 2016 Fourth Friday of Lent Serving Well For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. Luke 22:27 ESV The chorus of a recent pop song is, “Don't believe me? Just watch!” People often talk about beliefs, but their actions may not bear up their words! Church folk are sometimes thought of as hypocrites for this very reason. There's a story about a driver stopped by the police. The officer said, “I saw your many bumper stickers, 'Honk if you love Jesus' 'Follow me to the best church in town', and so on. But when you got cut off, you blasted the horn, cussed and gestured, so naturally I assumed you stole this car!” We say we love God and love others, and we really want to! But helping others can be tiring and messy! Some people in some churches convey they value the building more than outreach. They want to “recline at the table” instead of serving in the community. Jesus reminds us to serve by doing so Himself! We who follow Jesus bear the most effective witness by acting out our faith. We can share our faith in words by telling our stories. A story can be very effective! If we share a story and invite others to participate in our work to help others, we make a much bigger impact for the Lord than by our words alone. Let's invite a friend or neighbor to help out next time we serve at the homeless shelter or food pantry. That is how we can say, “Don't believe me? Just watch!” and help others see Christ at work in the world. Prayer: Gracious God, help us to serve others well so that we are effective witnesses to those whom we serve and for those around who see how we live & serve. In Jesus' Name, Amen. Carol P. Taylor Growth Ministry Council United Church of Beloit Beloit, WI jazzytay@gmail.com
March 4, 2016  Fourth Friday of Lent Serving Well  For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves  Is...
March 5, 2016 Fourth Saturday of Lent Laps of Luxury He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly. Luke 1:52 One of our cats, Josephine, claims me as "her human." While sitting at the kitchen, table she always leaps onto my lap to purr and vibrate. (As I type this, she is presently on my laptop in the kitchen.) Most often I welcome Josephine. But sometimes when I am momentarily diverted or preoccupied, I gently put her down. She stays put for a minute, but then, up she comes again! And her purring, vibrating body re-engages, and I’m compelled to stroke and pet her again. Talk about gentle purr-suasion! God welcomes us into his loving arms with strokes of love. Through God's Anointed One, Jesus, that loving, welcoming touch reaches to all people. Jesus's mother, Mary, foretells Jesus's universal reach and touch in her song of praise, The "Magnificat," recorded in Luke 1:46-55. Her son shall "lift up the lowly" (verse 52) in love and grace, even as God has also lifted up Mary for great things (verses 48-49). Some months later, at the birth of her own Son, Mary shall lift up the Holy Infant into her arms and into her lap. The One who is lifted up into Mary’s lap is the One who is lifted up on the Cross, and when resurrected, is now the one who shall lift others up, even us, onto the lap and into the bosom of God. We join with Mary in singing, "Our souls magnify the Lord!" PRAYER: Receive us into your loving, gracious, comforting arms, O God, even as we receive Christ again into our hearts. Amen. Rev. Dr. Larry Allen Sansoucie North Church Cincinnati, OH LASansoucie@aol.com
March 5, 2016  Fourth Saturday of Lent Laps of Luxury  He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up ...
March 6, 2016 Fourth Sunday of Advent Someone Has to Pay But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” Mark 15:14b “Accidents are mistakes made by reckless people and they need to be held accountable.” That is the message of an ad on cable Television promoting a law firm. I understand that grace is not our first language, but really? Sadly, that’s not just the theme of an advertising campaign for a law firm; it is the voice of the world that wants our blood for our blunders. Such is the environment that we all live in, and it is contagious. We have learned to think people need to be held accountable, no matter what. The word “forgiveness” is like another culture altogether. When people blink at us, we want them pummeled; “They deserve it!” The whole concept is exhausting emotionally and socially, and worse yet, it bankrupts us spiritually. If you make a mistake in this life, then someone might hold you accountable forever and ever. But that is contrary to the way of Jesus. If you do something that causes you to be convicted and sent to jail, then even after you are out of jail, you are marked for life. You cannot vote in elections, often cannot receive food assistance, or live in public housing. You made a mistake and you are done forever. You are on your own in this world; no food or shelter for you. Is that what it means to set the captives free? The world may want our blood for our blunders, but thankfully, Jesus has a different plan. His words according to the gospel of Matthew, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” What we have right there folks, is “The Good News” stripped down to its most basic self. I must say that the cup of forgiveness is a welcome relief in a world of continual condemnation; a world that is dying of spiritual thirst. PRAYER: Thanks be to Jesus for so great a gift. Rev. Don Mayberry First Congregational Church South Paris, ME dmayberry1@gmail.com
March 6, 2016  Fourth Sunday of Advent Someone Has to Pay  But they shouted all the louder,    Crucify him      Mark 15 14...
March 7, 2016 Fourth Monday of Lent A Lesson from My Grandma Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:2 In such a time as this, simplicity is foreign to our culture. We live in an age where more is better, bigger is greater, and enough is never enough. Self Storage units have become big business. But studies have shown that all of our stuff doesn’t make us happier; in fact, it does just the opposite. Sorting through our stuff can be overwhelming. Just owning one car, one boat, or one house requires precious time. Owning two of any of these items may further complicate our lives and expend even more of that precious time. During the final five years of my Grandma’s life, she gave away most of her personal possessions. Anytime someone came to visit, Grandma would ask if there was something they would like to take with them. By her actions, she was able to let go of her “things,” and in the process, was able to take great joy in watching others use the things she had given to them. When she died, we had very few items to sort through and take care of. It was then that we realized the immensity of her ultimate gift to us; memories of a life well lived and time well spent; a final lesson in simplicity. I am in my fifties now, and I remember my Grandma often and miss her dearly, but I’m trying to live by her beautiful example. I stop to carefully consider items before purchasing them. I read books on my phone instead of filling more shelves or utilize the public library. I hope to someday leave a legacy like my dear Grandma’s; beautiful memories without a lot of stuff attached. PRAYER: Heavenly Father, as we move ever closer to the cross and Resurrection Sunday, help us to contemplate the things that have true value, and may we grow every closer to you in the process. In Jesus’ name, Amen. Chris Murphy Horton Congregational Church Horton, MI
March 7, 2016  Fourth Monday of Lent A Lesson from My Grandma  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  Col...
March 8, 2016 Fourth Tuesday of Lent Momentary Affliction For the light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. 2 Corinthians 4:17 There are ups and downs in life. Sometimes we want our life of faith to be a promise that bad things won't happen! But the bible never guarantees an easy life. We are promised that God is always with us. We may find God's presence in loving friends or family, and people who pray for us. This verse reminds us that the challenges of life are temporary; “momentary” and “light,” not meant to weigh us down! We are being prepared for our eternal life in heaven. This is a promise beyond all comparison! No matter what challenges we may face in life, there is something wonderful awaiting us. In heaven, we will forever be in the presence of God and our Lord, Jesus! In heaven there is no suffering or pain, and no mourning. God will personally wipe every tear from our eyes! What an extraordinary promise this is. We will eternally sing God's praises, and will be reunited with loved ones. As we go through the stuff of life, we hold fast to this promise. We read the Bible and pray and are reminded that our losses and challenges are fleeting compared to our eternal reward. PRAYER: Holy God, we thank you for the Bible which contains promises of eternal life with you. We thank Jesus for our salvation, and ask that we always be reminded that our earthly life is momentary. In Jesus' name, Amen. Carol P. Taylor Growth Ministry Council United Church of Beloit Beloit, WI jazzytay@gmail.com
March 8, 2016  Fourth Tuesday of Lent Momentary Affliction  For the light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an ...
March 9, 2016 Fifth Wednesday of Lent Watch Out! …Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory. Mark 10:37 If ever there was a time when the proverb, “Watch out what you ask for, you just might get it,” was appropriate to a situation, then it was when James and John requested that they be granted the honor of sitting on the right and left of Jesus in his hour of kingdom glory. Their intentions were good perhaps; desiring to be close to Jesus, but perhaps the motives were selfish, based on status rather than service. Regardless of the motive in posing the question, the Zebedee brothers didn't realize what their request entailed. "Can you drink the cup of suffering that I must drink?" Jesus said. They didn't yet know that Jesus' hour of glory was on a cross and that discipleship for them meant carrying a cross to a place of execution; a place of death. Self-sacrifice even unto death, not self-promotion is the rule of the kingdom of God. James and John's request to be on either side of Jesus was not within Jesus' power to give. He said that decision was his Father's to make. James and John were soon to learn that the Father, who glories in exalting the lowly and graciously forgives sinners, granted that high honor to two nameless thieves. PRAYER: In this season of self-reflection and drawing nearer to you, O God, may we learn anew that we must crucify ourselves if we would live for Christ. May our eyes always be open and our hearts rejoice in your infinite and surprising grace. We bow before the depths of your wisdom and marvel at your unsearchable ways. Amen. Pastor Norm Erlendson Third Congregational Church Middletown, CT normerlendson@gmail.com
March 9, 2016  Fifth Wednesday of Lent Watch Out      Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in you...
March 10, 2016 Fifth Thursday of Lent Fullness and Light “In the fullness of time God sent His Son…to redeem us…” Galatians 4:4-5 I have enjoyed Haiku poetry since first being introduced to it in High School. I have composed a few Haiku poems reflecting on the First Advent of Christ and the “advent’ure” that is ours in Christ. (Ed. Note: these gems are repurposed for our Lent Devotional) In aching darkness, cold tense gloomy emptiness, A candle glimmers. Time’s fullness arrives, Broken hearts, captive minds all, Are redeemed, shalomed. Desolate dull dead darkness, Devastation, discouragement, dread, Then sun dawns, Son shines. All was bleak and black, Gloom was illuminated, God turns the Light on. Into my desert, Lonely place, dull dead dreary, He keeps on coming. He comes restoring, Renewing, rejuvenating, Redeeming He comes. PRAYER: Dear God of new beginnings, of Lent and its eventful possibilities. God who makes us new, grant us new vision, fresh hope, new avenues for service, more significant lives, and re-energized spirits to live the abundant life Christ offers us. Help us to venture into “advent’ure” by the Spirit of Christ, Amen. Rev. Jack Brown Olivet Congregational Church Olivet, MI pilgrim_pastor@hotmail.com
March 10, 2016  Fifth Thursday of Lent Fullness and Light     In the fullness of time God sent His Son   to redeem us     ...
March 11, 2016 Fifth Friday of Lent The Drama of Good Friday It was now almost the sixth hour and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, when the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Luke 23:44-46 Good Friday has become “my” day in Holy Week. I revel in the celebration of Palm Sunday which, to my way of thinking, is an exciting day. I am always “walking with Him” on Maunday Thursday, and of course, the celebration of Easter is always a great and new awakening each year. But Good Friday? For 15 years I celebrated this day with a minister friend in a re-enactment of the walk along the Via del Rosa and the Stations of The Cross, which was always a dramatic experience. However, I want to share with you a Good Friday that was filled with drama, God’s drama. I was a member of a small Congregational church in a little town in Michigan. The morning of this particular Good Friday, the weather was very hot for that time of year. We were moving to another house that day so we were aware of the unseasonable warmth. I went to the church to participate in the 1p.m. Service. At exactly 1:05p.m., a storm came through full of sound and fury that lasted until 1:50p.m. Coming out of the church, the rain had stopped and the sun’s rays were coming through the clouds just like we see in many religious paintings of the Christ. Everyone came out awestruck at what had happened to us in that hour. God does have a sense of drama! PRAYER: Dear God, let us be aware of the everyday dramas that you provides to awe our hearts to worship, Amen. Sherry Glab Pilgrim Congregational Church Pomona, CA
March 11, 2016  Fifth Friday of Lent The Drama of Good Friday  It was now almost the sixth hour and there was darkness ove...
March 12, 2016 Fifth Saturday of Lent Another Time Change? Then God said “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Genesis 1:3-5 For me, this Scripture defines the beginning of time, or the measure of events that occur in sequence from past to present to future. We mortals cannot hold, store, change, create, or stop time. Each spring we reset our watches and clocks ahead one hour and call it, “Daylight Savings Time”. Then in the fall, we reset our watches and clocks back to the “correct” time. Some years ago, I recall saying to a coworker that the only thing that need to be done was to change the hours we work. We could work from 7 to 4 instead of from 8 to 5, and we would accomplish the same thing! The response was, “I could never get up an hour earlier every morning. I would be tired all day.” My response: What? We can fool our mind into believing something is true when in reality it is not, and use that faulty logic to justify our actions. Do we delegate certain behavior as being irrelevant in our time in order to justify your actions; i.e., “We live in a different time.” We can never fool God; he sees all actions, good and bad, of everyone in all generations for all time. If we follow the teachings of Jesus and live in humility as he did, then we never need to fool our mind. We can be confident that what we do is justified by our Lord. PRAYER: Gracious Lord, we understand there is a time for everything. Guide us to use our time wisely to serve others and do your will. Amen. Rev. Jerry Turner Arbor Grove Congregational Church Jackson, MI jerryturner4705@gmail.com
March 12, 2016  Fifth Saturday of Lent Another Time Change   Then God said    Let there be light,    and there was light. ...
March 13, 2016 Fifth Sunday of Lent Time Change There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1 Did you remember to set your clock ahead one hour last night? I am not a big fan of the time change; it just throws me out of sorts for up to two weeks. I find myself thinking about what time it “should” be more often than necessary. However, as time goes by I get used to it and just forget about the inconvenience. The time change shakes up our routine, and routines are important. I think most people crave routines and want things to stay the same day after day. The bible teaches us that there is a time for the many things that will happen in our lives. In Ecclesiastes, the author tells us to expect to have time to do all things including planting, uprooting, tearing down, building up, weeping, laughing, mourning, and dancing. Time is an important reality in the human experience. Time change gives us opportunity to thank God for the gift of time. When we consider how many things we can do in a twenty-four hour day, excluding sleeping hours, it’s amazing. God gives us time to work and time to enjoy all the good we can do and all the people we can reach for Christ every day. Work is necessary, play is recommended, and spreading the Word of the Lord is essential. Take time today to be a gift to someone else as you share the love of God. PRAYER: Dear Lord, help me recognize the importance of using the hours of my days wisely. Give me the heart of stewardship to dedicate my time to the improvement of my church, community, and environment. Bless my study of your word so I can better minister to those in their time of need. Dr. Lisa Bircher, Grace Church Columbiana, OH Lisa.Bircher@epschools.k12.oh.us
March 13, 2016  Fifth Sunday of Lent Time Change  There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under he...
March 14, 2016 Fifth Monday of Lent Keeping Things Simple But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?" Luke 12:20 The fool was a rich man who produced more crops than he intended; so much so that he decided to tear down his existing barns to build a larger barn to house all his grain and goods. God decided something else for the man, and his barn and goods proved of no value to him in death. How many times have we set out to do some local mission work by using just the resources we have only to convince ourselves we need more of this, or more of that, or we say, “this work is not supported by our budget;” excusing ourselves from the work. Keeping things simple starts by relying entirely on God and then dedicating each and every good thing we receive for the glory of God. Every generation has been given the mantle of responsibility in caring for “the least of these” using all our gifts. We lose sight of and forget about the inner workings of the Holy Spirit alive and well in ourselves, our congregation, and the communities in which we serve. Sometimes, despite ourselves, we get it right. It is in those moments when we realize we often make things way too complicated. Later on in Luke’s text, Jesus assures his followers, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom... For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:33&34). The solutions are as simple as they sound. Trust in God; faith in Christ; empowered by the Holy Spirit, works for all occasions. PRAYER: Creator God, help us to live in trust, faith, and knowledge that you have called us and will sustain us with your love always. In Christ’s name, Amen! Pastor Bob Higle Plymouth Congregational Church Lansing, MI pastor@plymouthlansing.org
March 14, 2016  Fifth Monday of Lent Keeping Things Simple  But God said to him,    Fool  This night your soul is required...
March 15, 2016 Fifth Tuesday of Lent TOO MUCH STUFF Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. Philippians 4:11-12 Periodically, at home, I look around and announce, “We have too much stuff. We need to simplify and rid ourselves of some of this.” Frequently, this noble proclamation occurs as a move to a new position halfway across the country looms on the horizon. Through the years, Vicki and I have moved a lot. Most of our moves have been completely accomplished on our own. That means we pack the boxes full of our stuff, load the boxes on the truck, unload the boxes from the truck, and then empty the boxes, while trying to find a place for each item in our new living quarters. Having too much stuff is clearly evident then! Frankly, it is not the stuff that is really the problem, but for me, it’s how the stuff affects me. Like in other areas of life, I can let my stuff be the rule of my focus. So, the more stuff I have, the easier it is for things to dominate all areas of my life. St. Paul had the right approach. He understood that, whether or not he had too little or too much, he could still live as a faithful disciple of God. For me, though, having too much stuff can get in my way. Getting rid of some of it might be wisdom for me. Perhaps you need to move some stuff along as well. PRAYER: Forgiving God, we fill our lives with too much; rather let us fill our heart up with you. Help us cling only to you, Amen. Rev. Dr. W. Michael Chittum Executive Director NACCC & Congregational Foundation
March 15, 2016  Fifth Tuesday of Lent TOO MUCH STUFF  Not that I am referring to being in need  for I have learned to be c...
March 16, 2016 Sixth Wednesday of Lent Enjoy the Beauty The light shines in the dark, but the darkness has not understood it. John 1:5 Not too long after my husband, my sister, and I decided to enjoy an evening at Dockweiler Beach (west of Los Angeles International Airport), the three of us found ourselves settled on a nearly empty beachfront just in time for sunset. The sun glowed radiant orange as it hovered over dark waters. We watched a huge ocean liner heading towards it, and then a big sailboat. Just above us, an airplane roared through the fading sky. Another plane came and went, and then another as the sky slowly darkened. We gazed at a distant row of twinkling lights; a queue in the sky of planes waiting to land. Alarmed that the night had come so quickly, I looked west at where the sun had been. It was already gone. For all of us, missing something beautiful to behold can happen too often. On any given day, even with the best intentions, we can so easily forget to enjoy the simple beauty of what God has given to us. But let us, as those who understand it, be mindful always that neither the dull glow of the things of this world, nor the darkness can overcome the radiant beauty of God and His saving grace; the true light: God’s love embodied at the Cross, Jesus the Christ. PRAYER: Father, we love You. Though the darkness surrounds us, let our eyes remained fixed on the light of Your presence, as we prepare our hearts to remember the darkness at the Cross and the light of Resurrection Sunday. In Jesus’ name, Amen. Nina Solomona Congregational Church of the Messiah Los Angeles, CA
March 16, 2016  Sixth Wednesday of Lent Enjoy the Beauty  The light shines in the dark, but the darkness has not understoo...
March 17, 2016 Sixth Thursday of Lent Happy Saint Patrick’s Day Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Romans 8:35 I love to think about a great man like St. Patrick who lived a challenging life and rose to each challenge to make a difference everywhere he went. The son of well-to-do Romans living in England or Scotland in the 4th century, Patrick’s original name was Maewyn. As a boy, he was taken into slavery for six years in Ireland. Patrick eventually escaped slavery in Ireland and finally found his way to France. After ten years of formal religious studies, Patrick was made Bishop and given the name “Patricius,” the Latin name for Patrick. He returned to Ireland to minister to the people. He was primarily interested in converting them to Christianity, but was also interested in their welfare and education. Even though Patrick is revered today as the Patron Saint of Ireland, he was not initially well-received there. He was stoned and held in iron chains at least once. Patrick worked diligently as a missionary, explaining the basic tenets of Christianity. The most notable lesson regarded the Trinity. He taught them the three-inone concept using the single Shamrock leaf with its three parts. I don’t know if they truly understood the deep mystery of the Trinity, but at least they were given knowledge regarding the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Patrick was not only a savior and missionary to Ireland, he evidenced that one person can make a great difference. Thank God for great men in the past like St. Patrick! PRAYER: Dear Lord, help me to be like St. Patrick; bold in my actions, long-suffering and hard-working, patient with others, and able to teach others about the spirit of the Lord. Dr. Lisa Bircher Grace Church Columbiana, OH Lisa.Bircher@epschools.k12.oh.us
March 17, 2016  Sixth Thursday of Lent Happy Saint Patrick   s Day  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ  Shall t...
March 18, 2016 Sixth Friday of Lent Simplicity of Mind Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?…Surely you know! Job 38:4-5 Supposedly, the human creature is not able to access all of the potential in its brain. This fact seems reinforced by God, who asked Job, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?…I will question you, and you shall declare to me” (Job 38:2-3). Uh-oh. The questions refer back to the very origins of creation itself, and more questions follow for nearly another four chapters and cover quite a range of subjects. And of course, Job is unable to answer. The television program Limitless raises the possibility of the mind being chemically-induced to be able to access the full human brain at will. But slowly, the show introduces the possibility that it can also be quite dangerous to have such a wide range of knowledge. We live in an “Information Age” and we do have the capability to have many of our questions answered at the press of a button. But maybe Job, and we, are blessed when we seek simplicity of mind that recognizes the most important information cannot be found on the Internet. Lent is a time to go with Jesus into the wilderness where we can come to know the most critical and necessary details without having access to everything. PRAYER: O God of All Wisdom and Knowledge, we are glad not to know everything, even if we think we sometimes need to have access to so many needless details. We go “off the grid” this Lent, allowing ourselves to be connected only to you, trusting your divine mind to inform us, Amen. Rev. Dr. Charles A. Packer, Chaplain-Director Congregational Society of Classical Retreat Guides Pine Hill Congregational Church West Bloomfield, MI drcapacker@gmail.com
March 18, 2016  Sixth Friday of Lent Simplicity of Mind  Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth    Surely ...
March 19, 2016 Sixth Saturday of Lent Lesson in Simplicity My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy. Psalm 63:5-7 Last summer we had a profoundly explosive burst of non-simplicity. My husband and I saw an elegant and huge coiled vine hanging from a tree in our woods. Pride and covetousness ambushed us and we had to have that unique vine to decorate our living room. Moments later our chain saw was at work to claim our prize. As the vine crashed northward to the ground, I, off balance, crashed southeast to the ground, breaking my right upper arm. Allan gently helped me up and retrieved the chainsaw and the vine before we headed to the hospital. The following weeks were filled with many opportunities to reflect on our habits of choosing our own complicated ways instead of God's simple plans for us. The coiled-python four-inch thick vine, which we call “Monty,” now stands in our living room, a handsome and richly symbolic reminder of the folly of yielding to the serpentine tempter, and abandoning the simplicity of God's daily blessings. PRAYER: Loving God, help us always to cherish the rich feasts you set for us, and to be satisfied and joyful in the shadow of your wings. Help us to choose simplicity now and always. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen. Janet Keyes Robbins Memorial Congregational Church Greenfield, MA janet.e.keyes@gmail.com
March 19, 2016  Sixth Saturday of Lent Lesson in Simplicity  My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast and my mouth praise...
March 20, 2016 Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday Passion Fruit Read Isaiah 53 "Passion Fruit: Fruit of the Good Friday Tree" He died so we could live, truly live. He emptied Himself so we could be filled. He became poor, giving all He had, so we could become enriched. He was wounded so we could be healed. He was hurt so we could be soothed. He stooped down so we could rise up. He died in disgrace so we could be ennobled. He was broken so we could be made whole. He was forsaken so we could be forgiven. He became despised and rejected so we could be embraced and accepted. He was cursed so our shame could be effaced, He was humiliated so we could be elevated. He knew agony so we could experience bliss. He did what He could so we could do what we couldn't. He gave up His divine position so we could find our place. He gave grace so we could receive mercy. He went to the grave so we could rise with Him in His resurrection. He died so we could live, truly live. PRAYER: Dear Father, help us use the benefits and blessings of Christ's offering for Your honor and glory and to bless those we encounter today and each day, Amen. Rev. Jack Brown Olivet Congregational Church Olivet, MI pilgrim_pastor@hotmail.com
March 20, 2016  Palm Sunday Passion Sunday Passion Fruit Read Isaiah 53   Passion Fruit  Fruit of the Good Friday Tree  He...
March 21, 2016 Monday of Holy Week The First Christian …Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” John 18:39b-40 Who would you nominate as the first Christian? Would it be Thomas who said, “My Lord and my God (John 20:28), or maybe Peter who boldly declared to Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Still others might point to Mary Magdalene when she suddenly realized she had seen the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that he would rise from the dead on the third day. Filled with awe, and maybe a bit of panic, she rushed back to Jesus’ followers and declared, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18). Perhaps there is another yet quite unlikely nominee for the first Christian. It is the common criminal, Barabbas. A man who was sentenced to death for his insurrectionist acts against Roman authority. He was released and set free to appease an angry crowd, thus making way for Jesus to fulfill his destiny at Calvary. It is no stretch of imagination to say that Barabbas, though a condemned man with no hope, was liberated from death by Jesus. There is no contest for determining the first Christian, but the circumstances of Barabbas’ escaping his death sentence does present the question of whether or not he received the free gift of God’s forgiveness. The Bible does not reveal Barabbas' heart, but the message he received regarding full redemption, is still promised to everyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, come down from Heaven to redeem sinners. PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, that you know your people and call them by name to be redeemed, Amen. Rev. Dr. Jerrold Jones First Congregational Church Greenville, MI Daclamrev1@gmail.com
March 21, 2016  Monday of Holy Week The First Christian     Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews     The...
March 22, 2016 Tuesday of Holy Week Spring Cleaning and Spirit Cleaning Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 I grew up in New Jersey among relatives from the Netherlands. Although I never knew my grandmother on my mother’s side, my mother would speak about her ways. Perhaps it was a tradition only with the Dutch, although I have a feeling it’s not, every spring, my mother would begin the “spring cleaning” rituals. My sister and I helped by removing and washing the china. After cleaning the china cabinet, we would then replace the clean dishes back in their place. This usually occurred during our weeklong Easter break. We would have to tackle our bedrooms next, and clean out the closets and dressers, wash the windows and curtains, and thoroughly dust, polish, and vacuum. We would take our beds apart and air out our pillows, blankets and spreads, and turn the mattresses. All these years later as I undertake my own spring cleaning. I can’t help but think what a good time it is to clean out the cobwebs of my soul and invite the fresh air of the Holy Spirit to energize and invigorate me again. It’s a perfect time to toss out the sins of resentment, envy, greed, and pride that clutter my life. I want to be renewed with a right spirit within. How much better you, too, will feel, if like me, you can go to bed revitalized and restored, knowing the dust bunnies of your life have been cleaned out. I encourage you to do your spring cleaning, whatever that means to you, and remember a cleansing for your soul; entreat the Holy Spirit to come in and refresh you! PRAYER: O God, clean out whatever there is in my life that keeps me from having a pure relationship with you. Renew and refresh me with your Holy Spirit, Amen. Nella Hobson First Congregational Church Pittsfield, NH nella176@gmail.com
March 22, 2016  Tuesday of Holy Week Spring Cleaning and Spirit Cleaning  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a r...
March 23, 2016 Wednesday of Holy Week Seder Editor’s Note: Passover begins this year on April 22. Therefore, Seder would be observed that evening. It is included here to remember Jesus’ celebration of Passover with his disciples. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 Whenever I read these words, or use them as translated years later in the Gospels, I actually think not only of baptisms but of Seder. The first invitation I received to celebrate Seder was when I was serving Newbury Congregational Church. A young Jewish boy was attending our youth group, and his parents invited me to their home for Seder. The second occasion was years later when the Jewish community in Nantucket invited me to their annual Seder held at the Jared Coffin House. The third occasion was when our church asked for a Jewish family to host the Seder meal in Bennett Hall. It all three instances, the celebrants re-enacted the meal as if we were in a home where children and adults were recounting the story of the Seder meal. Like other religious rites, the re-enactment of this story was both educational and emotional. Each part of the meal had historical and religious meaning. The common thread through each one of these Seder meals is the affirmation that the family is the most effective venue for teaching the faith. And, I could not help but wonder, given the changes in the matrices of the family, how often Christian families teach their children the stories of faith at home. PRAYER: Almighty and gracious God, give families the courage to teach the lessons of our faith in the most creative ways they can, Amen. Rev. Dr. Thomas M Richard Interim Minister First Congregational Church Marshfield, MA
March 23, 2016  Wednesday of Holy Week Seder  Editor   s Note  Passover begins this year on April 22. Therefore, Seder wou...
March 24, 2016 Maundy Thursday Somber or Joyful? ...I say to you, you will weep and lament…You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” John 16:20 Some Maundy Thursday services that I have experienced have been somber, dark, and lugubrious. When these three expressions drive such a service, a funeral-like atmosphere is apt to fall on those attending. The sanctuary furnishings might be draped in purple, lights dimmed to the point of blindness, and the music played in a minor key singing slow and quiet. To add to the somber atmosphere, perhaps the message is sad or bitter in tone. And I understand this. Even when I was an unbeliever, I could not read the Bible accounts of Jesus’ passion without tears welling into my eyes. It is appropriate to be sad when we focus on Jesus’ suffering. But at Church of the Oaks, we have found a new way to commemorate, or rather to celebrate, Maundy Thursday. A few years ago, I learned this “new way” from a retired pastor who had served a Jewish Christian for many years. On Maundy Thursday, he introduced us to the Christian seder, slightly adapted from the Jewish Passover dinner. What makes the seder differ from the traditional service is that it is joyful from start to end. What makes it appropriate is that the Last Supper was probably a seder where Jesus gave the New Commandment that we commemorate on Maundy Thursday: “Love one another, as I have loved you.” Every Communion service is a re-enactment of that seder of two millennia ago. In our Christian version of the Maundy Thursday seder, we accentuate Messiah as being Jesus. This would have been evident to early Christians and Jews; i.e., the piercing of the matzoh, reminding us of the piercing of Jesus’ body; and the stripes in the matzoh, reminding us of the stripes made by whip lashes on Jesus’ back. Toward the completion of the seder comes the final cup that Jesus identified as “the new covenant in My blood.” PRAYER: Lord, please help us to have the proper balance of sobriety and joy in our worship and in our daily lives. Help us to worship thoughtfully without taking ourselves and our own activities too seriously. Rev. Dr. Robert Hellam, Church of the Oaks Del Rey Oaks, CA
March 24, 2016  Maundy Thursday Somber or Joyful   ...I say to you, you will weep and lament   You will be sorrowful, but ...
March 25, 2016 Good Friday Sedition Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Luke 23:32-33 A year ago on Good Friday, my sermon focused on the nature of the charge against Jesus. The authors of Matthew, Mark, and John describe those crucified with Jesus as “bandits.” To us, that may sound roughly equivalent to “petty thieves,” just a touch more serious than shoplifters. But, in fact, scholars tell us that banditry was a very serious charge. It did not refer to mere theft; banditry also entailed disruption, disturbance, incitement, insurrection, resistance, and even sedition. I highly recommend the book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, written by scholar, Reza Aslan. Aslan mentions that St. Luke changes the term from “bandits” to “evildoers” (or “criminals,” NRSV). Then Aslan writes, “But try as he might, Luke cannot avoid the most basic fact about his messiah: Jesus was executed by the Roman state for the crime of sedition. Everything else about the last days of Jesus of Nazareth must be interpreted through this singular, stubborn fact.” Aslan’s analysis reminds us that Jesus’ call to “take up your cross” was not a euphemism for putting one’s life on the line in general. The cross had very specific significance, generally reserved for crimes against the state; acts of political agitation. Do we take up our crosses? Do we embrace the role of seditionist? Have we accepted the reality that discipleship is risky and radical and quite often anti-establishment and counter-cultural? On this, the day of the cross, perhaps God is calling us to consider anew the way of the cross―the way of sedition. PRAYER: O God, may we boldly and courageously follow Jesus’ example, challenging authorities, norms, and traditions whenever they hinder loving you and our neighbors. In Jesus’ name, Amen. Rev. Rob Frederickson Ozaukee Congregational Church Grafton, WI rcf474@gmail.com
March 25, 2016  Good Friday Sedition  Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When...
March 26, 2016 Holy Saturday Crown of Thorns And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. John 19:2 There is a legend about a pastor who found a branch of a thorn tree that was all twisted around to look like a crown of thorns. He thought it looked like a symbol for Good Friday, so he cut it off the tree and placed it on the communion table in the chapel. Early on Easter morning, he remembered what he had done and he thought the crown of thorns would not be a very good symbol of Easter. He went into the chapel to remove it before the congregation gathered for worship. When he entered the chapel he found that the thorn branches had blossomed with beautiful roses. The reality of Good Friday is that the Biblical story is not about thorn branches blossoming with roses. Jesus, though crowned with thorns, did die to take away the sins of his people, but he rose from the grave into newness of life, crowned forever in Glory as King of King and Lord of Lords! He has made it possible for us to share in his victory; “I am the resurrection and the life; “he who believes in me shall live, even though he dies.” PRAYER: Thank you Lord, for the blessed reality of redemption and eternal life in Glory with you, Amen Rev. Dr. Lowell W. Linden Minister Emeritus First Congregational Church Redlands, CA lowelllinden@aol.com
March 26, 2016  Holy Saturday Crown of Thorns  And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head ...
March 27, 2016 Easter Sunday At the Graveside But he said to them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. Mark 16:6 Early in my ministry, standing at the grave side, a woman asked me if I was resurrected. I had never heard it stated in such terms. I had always thought of resurrection as a future happening. At the same time I had to reflect that I believe the Holy Spirit is present in those who have accepted the risen Christ. “Yes, I am resurrected,” I said. Resurrection is something that is both present and future. Death does not and will not have the final victory. That is the message of Easter. Jesus Christ was resurrected, and those who put their faith and their trust in Him have the promise of the resurrection both now and in the future. Following his resurrection Jesus said, “Because I live you also shall live.” Eternal life becomes a present reality in our hearts and in our lives. We live each day of our lives no longer as the creatures of time but as the children of eternity. PRAYER: Because of you, dear Jesus, we have passed from death to eternal life, thank you, Amen. Rev. Dr. Lowell W. Linden Minister Emeritus First Congregational Church Redlands, CA lowelllinden@aol.com
March 27, 2016  Easter Sunday At the Graveside  But he said to them,    Don   t be alarmed  You are looking for Jesus of N...
Devotional Entry Format TITLE: SCRIPTURE REFERENCE: Book, chapter, verse(s), translation TOPIC SENTENCE: What is the essence of your entry? What is the Big Idea? What words should the reader carry in mind and heart throughout the day? Does your Big Idea relate to the theme of the season for which it is being written (Lent or Advent)? Does your Big Idea relate to the chosen title for the booklet? MESSAGE: Story or illustration followed by an original idea relating to the Scripture chosen. PRAYER: Write a short prayer related to your theme and will lift people’s hearts. Name of writer: _________________________________________ Title: (Pastor, Rev. Dr. etc.) ________________________________ Church Name and City: ___________________________________ Telephone #s: ______________________ (will not be printed - for follow-up if needed) Email address: ______________________________________ (permission to list: Y/N) Grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors will be corrected by the editors. Send your entry to Terry Bobzien (terrybob@gmail.com) 9510 E. Market Rd. Pittsford, MI 49271 Phone Number: 517-499-5470 If you do not receive a reply via e-mail, call to ensure that your entry was received. Send along or attach, if by email, a recent photo of yourself. Advent 2016: Deadline August 15, 2016. THEME: From Darkness to Light: - Isaiah 9:2. Lent 2017: Deadline October 15, 2016. THEME: What Wondrous Love is This? Things to keep in mind: 1) Because these entries are short, please focus on one main idea. 2) You may choose your own English translation for the lead scripture. 3) Please limit your entry to around 320 words, scripture, title, body, and prayer included. If it needs to be shortened, we will request that you cut it. 4) E-mail addresses of authors are included to enhance communication with brothers and sisters in Christ. If you do not want your e-mail address included, please include a statement to that effect. 5) We reserve the right to adjust language for gender neutrality.
Devotional Entry Format TITLE  SCRIPTURE REFERENCE  Book, chapter, verse s , translation TOPIC SENTENCE  What is the essen...