|The burning bush recalls the experience of Moses and symbolizes God's presence and call. It is the chief symbol of the Church of Scotland.|
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Introduction by Pam (Russell) McClelland
For forty years the people of Israel wandered in the desert. For forty days Christ was tempted in the desert. For forty years, the people of our church have worked at building a Christian community. Sometimes it felt like "wandering in the desert" and we as a congregation have faced some difficult times.
Yet, through the cycle of years there has also been renewal. Members have departed, but new members have brought fresh ideas and new insights. There has always been music, even in the darkest days of death and loss. There have always been children, including a bumper crop of beautiful newborns in the last few years--we need a rose garden to keep up! The youth of the church, the junior and senior highs and the occasionally glimpsed college-aged young adults, are a source of pride and wonder to us, the village that tries to help raise them. Then there are the retirees, the men and women who devote so much time and effort to the church. The energy and enthusiasm of all the members and their willingness to share their skills with the rest of the community is only part of our heritage.
The best part of it is the Heritage of our faith. We follow the same path as all those who follow Christ and who seek the truth. The help we give one another in our church is added to that which comes to us from Christ himself. These meditations are a coming together of all the dimensions of our Heritage: we read the Bible verses and seek the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as we write them. But we also share our insights and experiences with each other. For the last two years, reading them has been a kind of spiritual manna. Here then, is the third volume of these meditations. Bon appetite!
(The images of windows used through this document are the proposed stained glass windows to replace the clerestory windows in Heritage Presbyterian Church.)
Ash Wednesday, February 13
Bible Readings: Ps. 51:1-17; Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isa. 58:1-12; 2 Cor. 5:20b-6:10; Mat. 6:1-6, 16-21
Meditation: (Joel 2:1, and II Cor, 6:2b)
Joel, "Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near---"
II Cor, "See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation."
In ancient Israel when people were filled with grief or repentance (or both) they tore their clothes and heaped ashes on their heads. On Ash Wednesday we continue in the same tradition, but in a more restrained way, by having ashes put on our foreheads as a symbol of our repentance.
Lent is one of the traditions of the church, a time of fasting, sacrifice, penitence and forgiveness. It lasts a few more than forty days, pointing to Christ's forty days in the wilderness as a part of his ministry. As Lent comes upon us this year we are celebrating forty years of our church's heritage. The comparison comes to mind of Moses and the tribes wandering forty years in the wilderness before entering the promised land.
Far from wandering about in a wilderness for forty years our church has stood fast doing its best to carry out the will of God in this place in this time. We have read the prophet Joel's words about the nearness of "the day of the Lord", but we have not sat by doing nothing until that day came. Instead we have followed Paul"s admonition, "Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation."
On Ash Wednesday we will remember our heritage. We will confess our sins and take strength in our forgiveness. We will bear ashes on our heads. We will bear the burdens of the world in our hearts. We will give thanks to God for our faith and for Heritage Presbyterian Church.
Prayer: Oh Lord, we pray that our heritage of the past forty years may be strengthened in the coming years. May we, and all those who come after us, be known, in Isaiah's words, as, "repairers of the breech and restorers of the streets to live in." Amen.
Thursday, February 14
Bible Readings: Ps. 147:12-20; Deut. 7:6-11; Titus 2:1-16; John 1:29-34
Meditation: Titus was a faithful follower who was a considerable help to Paul in his ministry in Greece. Paul sent Titus to Corinth to help with the new congregation to start them on the right track to becoming a community of Christian believers.
I read this letter and I felt it speaking to me and my relationship with my Heritage family. Titus is telling the Corinth congregation some of what they needed to feel and know. The letter states:
"You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine, teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers--but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self controlled, and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Encourage the young men to be self controlled, set them a good example, by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us."
I feel that Heritage is my second family and has all the feelings that Titus was trying to teach the church family there in Cornith. We treat others with caring and kindness to our membership that is Heritage. The younger children and youth start to share these same feelings with us and their peers and soon younger members younger than they are. The next generation is secure in the faith and their church. Titus could not know that these feelings of kindness, goodness and faith are eternal and a life long commitment from generation to generation through these many centuries of humankind.
Prayer: Lord help us to keep these feelings of kindness, love and faith with each other in our lives always. Help us to teach others that this is our life and our 'Heritage.' Amen.
Friday, February 15
Bible Readings: Ps. 22 or 148; Deut. 7:12-16, Titus 2:1-15, John 1:43-51
Meditation: Our Heritage: to list all to whom our grateful acknowledgment is due would be a literal impossibility. Our individual family tree would, in most cases, be traceable; but surely our heritage must be expanded outside of our bloodline to our religious heritage.
Our Scriptural heritage not only includes "the seventy" who began translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek in BC 285 in Africa but all the English translators from Wycliffe in 1525 AD to the present as well. To these must certainly be added all the preachers, teachers and writers who have increased our understanding of scriptural words and phrases. Our religious heritage abounds with inspired and inspiring music for instrument and voice.
"Know, recognize and understand therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love and mercy with those who love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations." Deuteronomy 7:9*
"And if you hearken to these precepts and keep and do them, the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love which He swore to your fathers." Deuteronomy 7:12*
"Our fathers trusted in You; they trusted, leaned on, relied on You and were confident, and You delivered them." Psalm 22:4*
In The Presbyterian Hymnal there is an "Index of Scriptural Allusions." Hymn #168 (words written by Christopher Webber) entitled Lord, Why Have You Forsaken Me, is based upon Psalm 22. The second verse says: "Yet You are holy, and the songs of praise of Israel are Your throne; When our ancestors called on You, You saved them, rescued all Your own."
*The Amplified Old Testament, Jondervan Publishing House 1964
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, for my Heritage family, Scripture, Music past and present, I am truly grateful. I pray for wisdom in interpreting my heritage in my daily living. In Jesus' name, Amen.
|Symbol of Creation: "And God said, Let there be light."||Symbol of God's word - the Alpha and Omega|
Saturday, February 16
Lucy Lyons Willis
Bible Readings: Psalm 31; Psalm 43; Deuteronomy 7:17-26; Titus 3:1-15; John 1:43-51
Meditation: "The future is never quite a thing apart from all that has gone before. We bring into the present ingredients and cargoes from the past, and these are with us as we take the unknown road. All that we have learned, felt, and thought, all our experience from birth to now; all the love that nourished us at other times, all the yearnings rooted in our spirits--all these are with us as we move into the unknown way." --Howard Thurman
My earliest recollection of my youth (which my mother finds it hard to believe that I remember) is of being extremely upset as my grandmother was trying to give me a bath in the kitchen sink. I had "graduated" to tub baths at home and at 9 months old I was certainly too grown up for the sink. I vividly remember refusing to sit down and screaming. My mother says that I was "beet red" from head to toe. Fortunately for all concerned she straightened my grandmother out! From the age of around four to nineteen, I spent each summer with my mother's parents in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and luckily the "sink episode" was the only unhappy moment! My memories of my time with my grandparents are engraved in my heart. My grandmother (after whom I am named) taught me to sew, cook and play bridge and when I think back on the patience she had I am awe struck. One memory stands out though. I slept in the "front" bedroom and just down the hall to the right was my grandparents' room. There was a small foyer area outside their bedroom containing only a chest of drawers. As I would lie in bed at night I could hear my grandfather standing at the chest. He would open his Bible and read aloud several verses. Upon completion, he would say "Amen", wind the clock and go to bed. This ritual never faltered and brought to me a feeling of safety and permanence.
With the pleasant and difficult changes in life we all experience, whether they be through our own making or not, "who" we are can never be altered. Our personal heritage extends more than simply the countries from which our parents or grandparents immigrated. Our heritage includes each experience, each memory, each thought, every action that brought us to this moment. I have always thought of families as being comprised of links in a chain. We each form a link which when combined becomes as one. My father's Jewish heritage was linked to my mother's Christian heritage bringing two completely different families together. We each can spread our arms and touch past generations. And, what more comfort could there be than knowing that in the act of spreading our arms we all ultimately touch the hand of God.
"I desire no future that will break the ties of the past." -- George Eliot
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for my family and those who are dear to me. You have blessed me in countless ways through the people you have put in my life--those who have guided, counseled and loved me. Help me through Your guidance and direction to make a strong chain for generations to come. Amen.
Sunday, February 17
Bible Readings: Ps. 32; Gen. 2:15-17 & 3:1-7; Rom. 5:12-19; Matt. 4:1-11
Meditation: (Psalm 32) It is significant that Sundays are not included in the forty days of Lent - as Sundays are considered "mini-Easters" to be celebrated and are not fasting days. And today's text is definitely a joyful song to be celebrated.
As Lent reminds us of the suffering of our Lord as he prepared himself for the ultimate self-sacrifice in order to satisfy our debt before our holy God, Easter reminds us of the reason why Christ had to suffer and die--that God might raise him and all of us up unto himself. It's a reminder that we are forgiven through Jesus Christ.
In emphasizing the joy of forgiveness here, the psalmist, David, is not downplaying the severity or consequences of sin. Quite the contrary, in vv. 3-4, he talks about how miserable he was when he was under the guilt and conviction of sin; but then he learns to confess his sins to God (v. 5). In doing so, he now can truly say, "Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit" (vv. 1-2).
The problem with us is that we very often confess our sins to God but afterwards continue to walk around as if we were still guilty. Or that we keep beating ourselves up for what we had done.
I remember one of the more memorable scenes in the film, "Brother Sun, Sister Moon," where St. Francis finds he must confront one of the brothers who has sinned. He finds the fallen brother huddled in the rain, weeping and repeating the prayer, "God forgive me, a sinner...God forgive me, a sinner...." He's a perfect picture of misery. As St. Francis approaches him, I found myself thinking, "Yes, you certainly are a sinner. Look how you've disappointed your brothers and God! You deserve whatever harsh words St. Francis gives you." But then St. Francis looks down on him with tender compassion and says simply, "I think God heard you the first time." The brother is stunned. His sorrow quickly changes from momentary disbelief to immeasurable joy. He clearly recognizes God's grace to him as a sinner. The scene closes with a great sense of gladness and freedom.
On this the First Sunday in Lent, let us learn to rejoice in the fact that Christians are not perfect, just forgiven!
Prayer: Thank you, gracious God, for your unconditional and everlasting love and mercy to us. Help us remember during this Lenten season how Jesus suffered and died for our sins, so that we may rejoice in the fact that we are forgiven and are able to lead a life of grace and gratitude. In his name we pray. Amen.
Monday, February 18
Bible Readings: Ps. 119:73-80 or 121; Deut. 8:1-20; Heb. 2:11-18; John 2:1-12
Meditation: (Psalm 122) There have been troublesome times recently, in my life, such as two years ago when my mother and I were both very ill. I relied on the Lord, since He watches over all of us. I also relied upon the support and prayers that helped me out of my time of crisis. It is with that Godly and goodly heritage that I was able to survive and become healthy again. It was through the support of friends and relatives, since we are all relatives of God, which carried me through. As Psalm 121 says "The Lord will keep you from all harm--he will watch over your life, the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore."
It is with those same feelings and spirit that the Lord watches over everything that we do both as a community of believers and as individuals. The Lord is our protector and guardian. He is not going to let us slip. We love ourselves for the lord. Let us not forget that as we continue to grow both spiritually and physically, both as a church and as individuals.
Prayer: Go with us Lord and lead the way through this and every coming day. You are our sun by day and our lamp by night. You are the Maker of heaven and earth. In this we pray, Amen.
Tuesday, February 19
Bible Readings: Ps. 34 or 25; Deut. 9:1-3 & 4-12; Heb. 3:1-11; John 2:13-22
Meditation: Psalm 34 is an exultant and joyful acknowledgment of the Power of God in our lives. There is no greater thought, no more enduring source of optimism, than trusting in the unwaivering love of the omnipotent and ever present God--a God for all time and all places, a God who established all time and all places, a God for whom no boundaries of time and place exist, a God who shapes the universe beyond our ability to comprehend and yet at the same time is attentive to the least among us. We should turn often to this thought to orient our lives, shape our decisions, provide refuge, and restore the purpose and enthusiasm in our lives. We owe God our service, our love, our prayers for help, our praise, and our celebration of his power. We owe him our thanks for the marvelous gift of Jesus Christ through whose birth, life, death and resurrection God's inconceivable power and will were, and are, communicated to us in human form understandable to all.
Prayer: "Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." Hebrews 13:20-21.
|Tablets of the Ten Commandments, a symbol of redemption.||Recalls the story of Noah; the end of the great flood and God's covenant with man.|
Wednesday, February 20
Bible Readings: Ps. 147:1-11 or 27; Deut. 9:13-21; Heb. 3:12-19; John 2:23-3:15
Meditation: (Psalms) Our first Bible reading for today is from the book of Psalms, a truly remarkable book that reflects a large number of daily experiences of the People of Israel many, many years ago. "Prayer for Deliverance," "Lament of one in Anguish," "The Lord is my Shepherd," "God's Bounty," "Prayer of an Old Man," are but a few examples of the many titles of individual psalms. The last three (146-148) are Psalms that praise the Lord "...in his sanctuary... in the assembly of the faithful... for he is gracious... songs of praise are proper." Reread these Psalms now as your meditation of praise to God.
During this Fortieth Anniversary Year for Heritage PC, Bible readings have multiple meanings for us. Not only do we rediscover the foundations of our religion: i.e., Moses interceding before God whose anger with the people of Israel was so great that he wanted to destroy them (Deut 9); the superiority of Christ over Moses and the pre-eminence of Christianity over Judaism (Heb); Christ's prescription for eternal life (John 3); and, of course, the timeless messages of triumphs, tribulations and praise in the Psalms. We also recognize as a part of our anniversary observance the importance of our historic biblical past, the love of God, the saving grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the spiritual interpretations of John Calvin and John Knox, and more recently, the foresight and contributions of those who started HPC. We have a rich and timeless heritage, which provides a basis for a blessed future for service to God and mankind.
Prayer: Oh Lord God, we praise you for sending to us your son, our savior, Jesus Christ. We thank you for the matchless heritage of Christian thought, word, and deed contained in our Holy Bible. You have blessed us with men and women throughout history who have passed on to us a strong foundation for the Church. Help us to build on past accomplishments as we attempt to fulfill your will. In the name of Christ, Amen.
Thursday, February 21
Bible Readings: Ps.27 or 126; Deut. 9:23-10:5; Heb. 4:1-10; John 3:16-21
Meditation: (1 John 3:16-21)
"The Lord is my light and my salvation; I will fear no one. The Lord protects me from all danger; I will never be afraid."
As we prepare for Easter through our Lenten Meditations, we cannot help but remember the terrorist attacks of 9-11-01. How meaningful are the words in Psalms, "The Lord protects me from all danger." As Christians we must hold onto this promise and praise and thank God for His protection. We must seek God's light that was given to us by his Son, Jesus Christ. It was through Jesus' death and resurrection that we are saved from our sins and will have eternal life.
John 3:16-21 is God's ultimate promise to us. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior." God urges us not to live in the darkness. He wants us to trust in Him and receive His gifts and promises.
Prayer: Dear Lord, in this time of Lent, help us to "seek the light." Amen.
Friday, February 22
Bible Readings: Ps. 22 or 105; Deut. 10:12-22; Heb. 4:11-16; John 3:22-36
Meditation: (Psalm 22) I am sure at times each of us has made a plea for deliverance from suffering and hostility. We lift up our hearts to God and ask for help in times of illness, disappointment and grief. Sometimes we forget that each of us experiences the same tribulations. All people share problems of varying degrees. On this date, the birth date of George Washington, we recall that we worship on the very land that was once a farm of Mount Vernon. Washington also experienced problems in his life although history tends to down-play these facets of a life that we have been taught to use as an example. At sixteen years of age, all the formal education he was to receive was behind him, he fell in love with his good friend and neighbor's wife Sally Cary Fairfax. He was a gangly, awkward young man who towered over most people of that time. He had very little money, frightened most of the young ladies due to his height and lack of social graces and really had not much to offer anyone. He became a surveyor; and while his status, income and prestige greatly increased, he never overcame his love for Sally Fairfax. George Washington was a man among men, a man of great physical strength, great personal courage and qualities of Colonial leadership that we must accept as Divine direction but he, too, had human frailties. We thank God for the life of George Washington and his actions that led our nation through its fledgling period.
Prayer: Dear Lord, we thank you for your presence among us and your help in guiding us through difficult times beset by problems, temptations and questions of life. We continually seek your help and ask for your blessing on each of us and on our Nation. Amen.
Saturday, February 23
Bible Readings: Ps. 43 or 143; Deut. 11:18-28; Heb. 5:1-10; John 4:1-26
Meditation: The events of September 11th have weighed heavily on me. While neither my husband nor I were in the Pentagon that morning, either of us could easily have been there. I spent two anxious days attempting to find a friend who did turn up safely. Our son and many of his friends did not know who they would find at home that evening.
How could the perpetrators hate others so much simply because we believe that all individuals have the right to certain freedoms, articulated so well by Franklin Roosevelt--Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Hunger, Freedom from Fear. What charismatic powers do they possess that has enabled them to enlist so many others? Why do he and his followers kill or brutalize even other Muslims who do not follow his personal rules to the letter? Then I realized he is only a bully using brute force to inflict his will on others. If his ideas were so perfect, he would not have to use enforcers to achieve his perfect state. The reason he wants to kill us, is that he is afraid of the freedoms we cherish and believe others should have. He is afraid, that given a choice, others may not follow him.
We have a responsibility to stand up for what is just. How we do so, is different for each of us. The men and women who are members of the profession of arms have been asked to lay down their lives if necessary to stop this oppressor. As a parent or teacher or citizen, I must not just talk the good talk, but go forth to serve others using whatever talents I have. I must treat all others with dignity. Every Godly action I take to eliminate injustices in this world, reduces the oppressors' deceitful powers.
Prayer: Hear my prayer, O Lord, that I may follow in your footsteps -- living my life in a manner that glorifies what you have taught us. Let my actions honor you. Let me praise you in actions and words. Let my enemies recognize that you, not they, are my judge. It is you I will obey. It is in you that we all find refuge. Amen.
|The Herald Angel symbolizes the Annunciation of Mary and the singing of "Choirs of Angels."||The Star of Bethlehem or Nativity Star announcing the birth of Jesus Christ.|
Sunday, February 24
Bible Readings: Ps. 121; Gen 12:1-4a; Rom. 4:1-5 & 13-17; John 3:1-17
Meditation: Today's readings are about "faith" and "love." Two of the verses are very familiar to all of us: "I will lift up my eyes to the hills; from whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord who made heaven and earth" (Ps 121:1-2) and "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). These passages assure us that we have a God that is deserving of our faith and He loves us and honors our faith. The example we are given is Abram (Abraham), who, at the age of 75 left his native country and "went forth as the Lord had spoken to him" (Gen 12:1-4). And Abraham was made "The father of many nations" through the righteousness of his faith (Rom. 4:13-17).
God's gifts to us come from his love for us. This link of faith and love is unbreakable and everlasting. "The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever" Hallelujah!
Prayer: Dear Lord, we look to you for help and guidance: you are our keeper and our shepherd. We thank you for your love and the gifts of our life and our salvation. Help us to use our gifts to glorify your name. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Monday, February 25
Bible Readings: Ps. 145 or 119:73-80; Jer. 1:11-19; Rom. 1:1-15; John 4:27-42
Meditation: (Psalm 145) Our family have been members of Heritage Church for the last 26 years. We were church "shopping" just after moving into the area; we came to Heritage Church one Sunday and we haven't left yet. Heritage Church has been an enormous part of our lives in these 26 years. The Psalmist David describes in Psalm 145 the praises he gives to the Lord and the attributes of our Lord. King David writes that the Lord is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, rich in love, good to all, faithful and loving, righteous, and watchful over us. Heritage Church, through these last turbulent 26 years has also been all of these things for our family. Through my surgeries, medical school, Mike's illnesses, weddings, David and Dad's deaths, and all of our everyday joys and sorrows, Heritage Church has been with us to grieve with us, to love with us, to cry with us, and to celebrate with us. This Church has truly been one of the branches of Christ's vine. Our family was blessed to have become part of Christ's Heritage Family and we, with Heritage Church, as we begin this Lenten season, will follow the first verse of Psalm 145 and our mouths will "exalt you my God the King: (and)... praise you name for ever and ever."
Prayer: Dear Lord, we realize that we alone cannot walk through life. We always need Your guiding hand and love. Thank you for providing Heritage Church to our family as an extension of Your love and caring for us. As in the last verse of Psalm 145, we "will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever." Amen.
Tuesday, February 26
Bible Readings: Ps. 34 or 25; Jer. 2:1-13 & 29-32; Rom. 1:16-25; John 4:43-54
Meditation: (John 4:43-54) Many of us live by the phrase, "Seeing is believing." However, when it comes to our faith in God, we are taught to believe in something/someone we cannot plainly see. There are many people in the Bible who were shown proof of God's existence through Jesus' miracles. In the verses from John, Jesus tells the man who begs him to heal his ill son, "Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe."
In the year after my grandfather's passing, I kept telling myself to believe that he is still with us, watching over us from above. I didn't truly believe it in my heart until I sat in the garden created in his memory after a short family service to commemorate the anniversary of his death. As I sat out in the cold, praying and thinking about Papa, all was quiet and still. There was no breeze or even rustling leaves. All of a sudden, a wind chime someone had hung from a tree in the garden started swinging vigorously and filling the air with the sound of chimes.
For me, these chimes were the proof I needed that my grandfather is still watching over me. While this sign gave me comfort, it also made me feel a little ashamed. I should have believed in the gift of eternal life that God gives all who believe in Him. As I sat a little longer in the garden, I vowed to be a stronger believer, not needing any physical proof of God's unending love.
Prayer: God, help us to believe that you are a part of everything, everywhere. Help us to remember the great and small miracles of your creation every day--the unique pattern of each snowflake, the first crocus of spring, the brilliant thunder and lightning of summer, and the changing colors of fall leaves. We thank you for all that you have given us and we know that you are Lord of all that we can see and cannot see. Amen.
Wednesday, February 27
Bible Readings: Ps. 5 or 27; Jer. 3:6-28; Rom. 1:26-2:11; John 5:1-18
Meditation: (Romans 1:26 - 2:11) My first thought as I consider these words is how amazingly relevant and powerful these words are today. I read verses 1:26-32 and feel my adrenaline begin to flow as Paul identifies one sinful scourge after another. In my head I begin to say, "You go Paul, tell it like it is!" The feeling builds to a crescendo with the final verse of chapter one when he says, "Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these things, but also approve of those who practice them." Few things make my blood boil more than to watch the TV or listen on the radio and hear one of our modern day "Personalities" not only committing sinful acts, but also encouraging others to join in. Worse, they quote so called scholars to help work out a perverse morality based on individual whims to justify their actions. The term 'Jihad' comes to mind to wipe away this evil. But then with the first verse of Chapter 2, God, through Paul, says an amazing thing, something that sets us apart as Christians.
He says, you Jim, have no excuse, if you pass judgment you are condemning yourself. Verse 5 continues "... you are storing up wrath for yourself." Paul knows, like no one else, the power and destructiveness of self-righteousness. He was a zealot who led the way persecuting people he felt were violating God's way. The things listed in chapter one truly are sin and deserving of punishment, but judgment is God's province, and we are not to usurp His authority. As verse 4 says, we are not to show contempt for the riches of His kindness,... kindness [that should] lead you toward repentance." I have my own sin, so it is hypocritical for me to judge. One thing I see clearly through Jesus' example is that God does not abide hypocrites.
So what do I do? First, I need to trust the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to convict people of their sin. God sees all. In gentleness, not anger, I need to share the Gospel. There is no joy in seeing someone punished, even justy punished. But great is the joy of someone whose life is turned around. Finally, I need to be deeply concerned with my own sin and how that affects my relation to God and other people.
Prayer: Oh Lord, give me courage to stand up for your righteousness. But protect me from judging those who do not follow Your ways. Help me to see and love people as you do. Amen.
|The 'Christ Symbol' widely used in depictions of Jesus Christ to symbolize his divine nature|
Thursday, February 28
Bible Readings: Ps. 27 or 102; Jer. 4:9-10 & 19-28; Rom. 2:12-24; John 5:19-29
Meditation: Psalm 27 ends with the words, "Wait for the Lord; be strong, take courage, and wait for the Lord." These are timely Lenten words because it's February and we are in the depths of winter waiting for the first growth of Spring and for the Lord who, at Easter, saves us through his sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the dead. At a Christmas eve candlelight service in Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, the Pastor prayed, saying these words, "Heavenly Father, allow the infant Jesus to creep into the winter of our souls." I thought this was an apt description of what Christmas is about. Not only that, but it has meaning for us in the Lenten season as well because if the infant has indeed been allowed to 'creep into the winter of our souls,' then He is always there for us, growing in us and guiding our lives. To me, it's a way of 'connecting' Christmas to Easter and reminding us of the everlasting presence of Jesus in our lives, even in the depths of winter and even when that 'winter' happens at other times of the year.
As we look to how we are saved through Christ's sacrifice on the cross, John 5:24-26 has some wonderful words to ponder. It says, "In very truth, anyone who gives heed to what I say and puts his trust in Him who sent me (God) has hold of eternal life, and does not come up for judgment, but has already passed from death to life." I believe this says that we don't have to wait for Easter to know that we are saved through our faith in God. Easter joyously reaffirms that fact. In reality, we don't have to 'wait for the Lord' because He is here for us now if we will only accept and trust Him.
Prayer: Everlasting Father, God of us all, in the 'winter of our souls,' help us to know that you are always there for us. You sent us the infant Jesus so that we would understand your love for all of your children on earth. You allowed your son, Jesus, to be sacrificed on the cross so that we would understand how through His death we can have life eternal. Yes, we wait for the Lord, but even as we wait, we know that He is always there for us regardless of the season. Increase our trust, increase our faith and open our hearts and minds to a growing understanding of your purpose in our lives, even as we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Friday, March 1
Bible Readings: Ps. 22 or 130; Jer. 5:1-9; Rom. 2:25-3:18; John 5:30-47
Meditation: (Psalm 22)
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me; why so far from delivering me and from my anguished roaring?
I cry by day - You answer not
by night, and have no respite.
Psalm 22: 1-3. From Tanakah, The Holy Scriptures. The Jewish Bible
It has happened to all who pray. Our prayers seem to fall on deaf ears, our words bounce off dead walls, our ears ring with a silence that is deafening. There is only emptiness. And we cry with the Psalmist "Why?" It is by far, one of the loneliest times.
Two most difficult themes thread through the Scriptures for today's reading.
It is the one praying who is at fault. God has not fled, but the praying one has fled from God. And now, in this moment of awful dread, the cry of desolation is not heard, because their God was long ago forsaken by them. Forsake God in the good times--don't expect God in the bad times!
But contrariwise - God truly does not disappear. It is not accidental that the most revered Psalm follows immediately upon this Psalm of forsakeness. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want... They need to be read at the same seating, for Psalm 22 will assert God as God and the human as human. But Psalm 23 will affirm God's love and presence even when our hearts and minds sense only emptiness.
Prayer: The cry of forsakeness comes from the parched mouth of the dying Christ - quickly followed by a commendation and affirmation: "Into your hands I commit my spirit." So be it for each of us. Amen.
Saturday, March 2
Bible Readings: Ps. 43 or 31; Jer. 5:20-31; Rom. 3:19-31; John 7:1-13
Meditation: (Jer. 5:20-31) Jeremiah, the faithful Prophet, was confirmed by God to speak the words placed in his mouth by Yahweh. He declared in the House of Jacob, proclaimed in Judah, a warning of God's displeasure because the people had abandoned the promises of the Covenant with Israel, no longer feared God and reveled in a lifestyle of barbaric pagan practices, idolatry and moral vacuity. They abided not the warning. What Jeremiah foresaw and heard was the sting of God's rod of correctness as the vengeance poured forth. Jerusalem lay in ruins, the Temple destroyed, and 7000 survivors were herded into Babylonian slavery, lamenting the Psalms as they wandered the shores of the Euphrates.
(John 7:1-13) Jesus is in Galilee speaking and teaching the Word of the New Covenant and performing miracles. All miracles, he declares, are not of Him but of the one who sent Him. The Feast of the Tabernacles arrived which legally obligated all males to attend. Jesus who knew the Jews sought to kill him, told those departing "his time has yet not fully come," and stayed in Galilee. This was a commitment of a faithful Son to do the will of his Father. His death on the Cross, the resurrection, the empty sepulcher, would come later as God the Father willed thereby fulfilling the prophecy of the New Covenant.
(Ro. 3:19-31) Paul's letters portray the later years of his life which were principally spent bringing the New Covenant to the Gentiles. He had converted to Christianity and claimed to have somehow seen the Risen Christ. Paul's presence in Rome had been ordered by the authorities. While there, he continued the acceptance of his calling to bring the Good News to the Gentiles as well as the whole world. Believe in God through Jesus Christ, eat of the Bread of Heaven, drink of the Cup of Salvation and everlasting life after death will be yours.
History teaches that Time and Tide changeth all Things. Yet the aphorism speaketh not to Faith's unreconcilable constant that God's love and grace are extant unto all eternity. This is Heritage Church. This is the writer's conviction. Let it grow, but always let it be so. Praise be to God.
Prayer: Oh Lord God, hear our prayer of thanksgiving for all who have served, now serve or will serve to the glory of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Sunday, March 3
Bible Readings: Ps. 95; Exod. 17:1-7, Rom. 5:1-11, John 4:5-42
Meditation: (Psalm 95) The Psalmist begins with a liturgy of God's kingship-passages that are familiar to us. He concludes the psalm by warning the people not to test God. The test he is referring to is in Exodus where the people are complaining to Moses for not having water. God tells Moses to strike a rock to get water. The water was supplied but God told Moses to give this place a particular name because that's where they tested Him. Water is the theme in John where Jesus meets with the Samaritan woman at the well. He tells her that he is the "living water." She goes into the city and the people come out to see for themselves. Thus the hated Samaritans accepted Jesus at the well. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans that Jesus reconciles believers to God--not the other way around. Do we sometimes "test" God? Do we expect God to be reconciled to us? We know the answers to those two questions.
Prayer: Let us seek reconciliation ever more passionately during this Lenten season. May our reconciled lives be a light unto others. Amen.
|The shepherd's crook and crown symbolize Christ as King of the Jews and as the Great Shepherd.||The Lamb of God born to take away the sins of the world. The flag also represents Christ's victory over death.|
Monday, March 4
Bible Readings: Ps.145 or 121; Jer. 7:1-15; Rom. 4:1-12; John 7:13-46
Meditation: (John 4:29) "Come see a man who told me everything I ever did."
Scientists have estimated that the average person blinks some 20,000 times a day! That's a lot! It means we don't see everything. Even if we manage to blink really fast, there's a great deal of time each day when our eyes are closed. Some people like to think (or wish) that God doesn't see everything either. He doesn't have eyes that blink like ours, but perhaps He is simply to busy with other things, or perhaps there are simply too many people in the world. And we may wish that were true so that God wouldn't see all of our sins! God does indeed see everything, including all of our sins. But that's not bad news--it's good news! Because God sees all our sins and knows all our sins, He has forgiven all our sins! If we had some sin that God didn't see, some sin that we could hide from Him, how could we ever be sure that we've been forgiven? But God has seen them all, from the smallest to the largest, and they have all been placed on Christ on the cross and taken away! Now we can be sure and confident of our forgiveness and live free and secure in our Father's love and acceptance. Our world today can be so impersonal. People don't often take the time to learn your name. To often you're just a number, a consumer, or a statistic. And so it's easy to feel that you don't really matter. But compassion is personal. To have compassion on someone is not only to get involved in his or her life, but also to have others involved in your life! That is what we see in Jesus. Jesus especially showed this one day when a woman touched Him. He stopped. Even though there was a great crowd around Him, all the people pushing and jostling and touching Him, her touch was different. She touched Him in faith. She wasn't unimportant to Jesus, and Jesus did not let her get "lost in the crowd!" The same is true for you. You are not simply a number or statistic to God. You are a dearly loved child of your heavenly Father, and you can be sure that your Savior knows your name and your every need. For you He gave His life on a cross that you might have forgiveness of sins. He is compassionate and will always be lovingly involved in your life.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, You know all things and know all my sins. Thank you for Your never-ending compassion for me. Thank You for Your protection today and everyday. Thank You for letting us live where we can worship You at home or church without fear of arrest or torture. Please help those who suffer because of their faith in You. Surround them with the comfort and confidence of Your presence. Strengthen healthy relationships and heal those that are hurting as we spend time with others. Please forgive our sins of thought, word, and deed. We rejoice in Your forgiveness of sins through Jesus, our Savior. Amen.
Tuesday, March 5
Bible Readings: Ps. 25 or 34; Jer. 7:21-34; Rom. 4:13-25; John 7:37-52
Meditation: (Psalms 25) As a child of eight, wearing a pin for perfect Sunday School Attendance, I was asked what I desired to pray for. Without any hesitation, I answered, "Wisdom." A spiritual practice over the years continues to lead towards the realization of that youthful prayer for wisdom.
The search has led to a variety of spiritual experiences. Through the practice of meditation, which serves to calm, to focus the mind, allowing truth and direction to surface, I strive for more compassion, and I attempt to minimize differences and reduce the importance of minor conflicts. These spiritual practices also serve to reduce stress and pain while moving me to deeper levels of understanding.
All of us have experienced that moment when pain and suffering readily get our attention. We ask ourselves what went wrong. At that crucial moment of self-examination , we can begin to open our hearts and develop a true and lasting compassion toward ourselves and all beings or take steps backwards, falling into self-pity and eventual destruction of the soul.
When a need surfaces, it signals a call to change something in our lives. Pain and stress weaken our abilities, defeat growth and are signs that something is amiss. Resisting the pain is defeating. Whereas accepting the pain will not only result in survival but lead to spiritual growth. As we begin to move away from simply seeking our own personal happiness, we can begin to experience truth, wisdom, and great joy of the heart.
Prayer: Lord, God, help us to recognize the mental/spiritual process of opening the heart and the mind. Grant that through His teachings, we learn to knead our minds and hearts skillfully. We are grateful that in time, with patience and perseverance, we will find that our concern for the well-being of others will expand, and our own spiritual development through prayer and meditation will become evident. Help us to grow in wisdom in order to make wiser choices in our lives. Amen. Inspired by "An Open Heart."
Wednesday, March 6
Bible Readings: Ps. 5 or 51; Jer. 8:4-7 & 8:18-9:6; Rom. 5:1-11; John 8:12-20
Meditation: (Ps. 5) Isn't it amazing how God always knows what we are anguishing over and somehow finds a way to help us deal with it? Was it just coincidence that I happened to pick the readings for March 6, readings that speak exactly to my special concern? I think not! Since October of last year I have been deeply upset about our friends' separation and impending divorce. For a long time I was at a complete loss as to how to deal with it, and whether it were possible for me to be a support to each one, for I hold them both dearly in my heart. I especially had difficulty understanding how they could commit hurtful acts towards each other. I kept thinking, if only they had a relationship with God, if only they had accepted Jesus and His commands into their hearts, how wonderfully different their lives could be now. "But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield."
And then it dawned on me--perhaps it is not my role to understand, but to be a compassionate listener. Perhaps God wants me to help them understand that "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." For believers, the sufferings of life are not catastrophic and without purpose, but will produce good results ("we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts" (Rom. 5)). We need not be fearful of change, of being alone, of the future, because "Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12) and will have life to the full.
Prayer: O Lord God, like King David, let me "open my lips and my mouth will declare your praise" so that others who are hurting and suffering will come to know the profound rest and joy and peace that comes from being forgiven and having the hope of eternal life. I pray that as Jesus is a light to me, I can be a light to those who do not know how Good and Gracious and Loving you are. Lord Jesus, You have given us the Way, the Truth and the Life, and we know that You work all things for our good. I pray that my dear friends, and all those who are suffering, will never turn away from You, but always turn to You in Your Word and in prayer for answers. Amen.
Thursday, March 7
Bible Readings: Ps. 147:12-20 or 102; Jer. 10:11-24; Rom. 5:12-21; John 8:21-32
Meditation: (Ps. 102) Hear my prayer, oh Lord, let my cry come to you.
When Dave was traveling extensively, and I had three adorable girls, three years apart, each by Caesarean Section, and being new in the area, I thought God was pouring troubles on me left and right. I thought I knew God really well but all my efforts to straighten out this mess failed. I prayed and I prayed and I prayed for some kindness and strength from Him. Then, I thought of a way to contact Him. First, get down on my knees and surrender totally to Him. Then I cut out construction paper in PINK with the words HELLO GOD, and put it on our front double doors. Maybe He would answer back.
Soon things started to move in the right direction. I was FREE--free to love Him with my whole heart. Since that time I have put scripture and many sayings on the doors with one ending up as a picture in the Alexandria Gazette. Praise God: He knows a clean heart is what He likes.
Prayer: Oh Lord God, help us to wait and totally listen to the love and words you so want us to know to do your special will. Help us to care more about the love of God and the reason Jesus came. Amen.
|The scallop shell dripping water symbolizes baptism and recalls John the Baptist, but specifically symbolizes the baptism of Jesus.||Chi Rho, the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ (XPISTOS), symbolize Christ, the Anointed.|
Friday, March 8
Bill & Sarah Sams
Bible Readings: Ps. 148 or 105; Jer. 11:1-8 & 14-17; Rom. 6:1-11; John 8:33-47
Meditation: (John 8:33-47) In this passage Jesus rebukes Jews prideful of being descendants of Abraham yet who reject Jesus and even seek to kill him. Jesus reveals the root cause of their sin--they had "no place in their heart for his word and no ears to hear God's words" and the result--no love for the Son. I have wondered how that "place in the heart" for the word of God is created, and by whom?
Last weekend I had the joy of participating in a reunion of past and present members of Heritage's youth and young adult ministries, as did many in the congregation. Those ministries served to attract many young people to Christ and even some older ones. From personal experience, those spiritual and biblical songs and discussions, the natural inviting friendships exhibiting Christ's smiling love served to break open the untilled and sometimes hardened earth of young souls and make them receptive to the word of God--and in the end, engendered a love for Jesus. I believe the Holy Spirit was at work creating a "place for the Word." At the closing of that warm reunion I saw father and son, mother and daughters, entire families, even some grandchildren singing joyful praises to our Lord, and was reminded of a verse from today's reading. Psalm 148:12-13: "Young men and women alike, old and young together! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted, his glory is above earth and heaven."
Prayer: (From John 8:43-47) Father in Heaven, if my heart has no place for your Word, please create one. If my ears fail to hear your words, open them. And may I learn what it is to love your son Jesus. Amen.
Saturday, March 9
Bible Readings: Ps.43 or 143; Jer. 13:1-11; Rom. 6:12-23; John 8:47-59
Meditation: Alarming, joyful, anticipated resonation marks the end of my school day at precisely one fifty-seven p.m. at Mt. Vernon High School. My algebra students filter out leaving the day's debris for me to discard. I wander through my classroom, finding a twisted paper clip here, a broken pencil there, gum wrappers in the windowsill. Stuffed behind my cabinet and the wall is a used tissue. Yuck!!! I have a dilemma. Leave it as an eyesore or pick it up? I know the custodians will leave it. Gross.
Jeremiah must have been likewise disgusted pulling out the linen belt the Lord instructed him to stuff into the crevice of the rocks at Peroth. The brand new, white as eggshell belt had been worn around Jeremiah's waist as a symbol of the closeness between God and Judah and then, upon the Lord's instruction, been discarded as Judah had discarded the Lord. The Lord had bound the people, clean and precious, to Him for His glory and renown. But Judah did not listen and followed their own ways. They became as dirty and useless as the tissue wadded up behind the cabinet in my classroom.
I wonder why God's people turned to their own way, leading to such futility, when they had been set aside and placed so close to God's heart? I wonder what is drawing me from fellowship with the God who loves me so much. Could it be pride, stubbornness of heart, complacency or prosperity?
Prayer: Lord, I thank you that through the blood of Jesus Christ, I can come close to your heart, set aside for a holy purpose. Will you show me the things that render me unsuitable for your kingdom? Thank you for not leaving your people in a state of rubbish, but giving us holiness and eternal life through Christ. Amen.
Sunday, March 10
Bible Readings: Ps.23; 1 Sam. 16:1-13; Eph. 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
Meditation: The first bible verse I ever memorized was Psalm 23. I can remember sitting at the dinner table and saying the words as grace. I was proud of my accomplishment. Somehow it made me feel closer to God to have His words tucked in my heart. But I had no understanding of the words. All I had were the words. And at first, they were enough. It took many more years of Bible study to come to understand what David meant. He meant that no matter where he went, God would be there. No matter his path, God would guide him. So long as he had a relationship with Him, he would enter into the God's kingdom. David isn't praising the "easy" life of following God, he knows the path will be filled with dangers, and the very last danger is death. But he knows that God will be his God, and as long as the lines of communication are open, then he will never need anything but God's love. But how do we enter into a conversation, a relationship with God? Samuel is asked to appoint a new king, and he isn't going to follow the traditional route. In Samuel 16, Samuel is afraid of what Saul will do if he doesn't pick him. The bully on the soccer field that wants to be selected for the team first, and will make sure he is. God reassures Samuel that his choice will be blessed by God, and that God will guide his selection. He is asking Samuel to trust Him with a difficult decision. And Samuel does. David is selected king instead of Saul. The conversation between God and Samuel shows that God is willing to guide those who listen. And that if we follow God's will, by actively conversing with Him, we will never walk "through the valley of darkness" alone. What reassurance! We can never make a "bad" decision if we are in conversation with God.
But in Ephesians 5, God reminds us that the conversation is only the beginning. That in addition to the words, we must back up the words with actions. We must try "to learn what is pleasing to the Lord," and we must "not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them." So first we must listen to His words and talk to him about our best course of action, and then we must walk the path. For it is quite an easy thing to have a conversation tucked into bed at night (which is where I often do my praying), and quite another matter altogether to put some action behind my words and actively show the world I am a follower of God and his son, Jesus Christ.
It seems like an awful big task. Talking with God. Walking with God. How can we ever manage it? By watching the ultimate teacher, Jesus. In John chapter 9, Jesus shows us how to talk and walk with the Lord. He isn't afraid of healing the blind man on the Sabbath. And he encourages the blind man to step forward in his own faith. The blind man is kicked out of the faith because he proclaims that Jesus is the Son of God. What a tough decision. (Even the blind man's parents aren't willing to support their own son). But because the blind man was willing to have a conversation with Jesus, and because he was willing to back up his statement with action, he regained his sight! (I wonder what we will gain if we show even an iota of the moxey the blind man demonstrated?)
We all can take comfort that as difficult a time we have talking with God, and showing that he is our Lord and Master, Jesus did it first. We have examples to follow of how to have a conversation, a real relationship with God. It all starts with Psalm 23 and the promise that if we talk and walk with God, and follow Jesus, then "Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."
Prayer: Dear God, I am lost and don't know what to do. Before me are a thousand choices. Where do I go from here? Guide my choices so that they are pleasing to you. Open my ears that I may hear your voice above my own desires. Direct my feet so that I may walk the path you set before me. And thank you for your promise of the heavenly kingdom. With all my heart, I wish to find you there to begin a new conversation, and new walk. Amen.
Monday, March 11
Bible Readings: Ps. 145 or 121; Jer. 16:1-21; Rom. 7:1-12; John 6:1-15
Meditation: God wants us to enjoy life and the beauty of his creation. If events seem to overpower us and we want to ease the pain, God has provided us with a safety valve--humor. It can take many forms. It is one of life's shock absorbers for the many bumps in the road to which we are, have been, or will be exposed at one time or another. Learn to laugh at yourself--not take yourself too seriously. No matter how rich you are, there is always someone richer; no matter how big a house you live in, someone lives in a bigger or more expensive one; no matter how smart or gifted you think you are, there is always someone smarter or more gifted.
Prayer: Dear God we know that your gift of humor is free; please help us use it! Amen.
|The sun and tree represent Christ's ministry in the world -- the Light of God and the spread of God's word. The tree is also a symbol of life itself.|
Tuesday, March 12
Bible Readings: Ps.146 or 91; Jer. 17:19-27; Rom. 7:13-25; John 6:16-27
Meditation: (Psalm 146) "Praise the Lord, O my soul!" The psalmist's words ring so true for me. I chose this date for my Lenten meditation as it is the first birthday of our first grandchild and also the 60th anniversary of my parents' marriage. What a special Bible passage to honor that day! The love of our spouses, parents, children, grandchildren and other dear family members, is one of the most wonderful gifts we have. It is precious, beyond description. Those of us who have been blessed with loving family relationships know just how great that blessing is. We want to protect all whom we love and hold dear. We want to keep them safe from harm. We know, however, that as hard as we try, there is no way we can shield our loved ones from life itself, whether it be pain, or sickness, or heartache, or loss, or failure, or tragedy, or even death. These are all parts of life itself. This psalm reminds us that God alone is our help in time of trouble and that for those of us who believe in him, no matter what troubles we may face in our lifetime, God is with us and will strengthen and support us. Even death will not separate us from the love of God. Praise the Lord, O my soul!
Prayer: Dear Father, You are an awesome God who has given us so many bountiful blessings. High among these blessings are our families and the love we share with them. We thank you that in all times--the happy and the sad, the good and the bad--you are with us and will keep us in your care. Help us to reflect your love as we live our lives each day. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.
Wednesday, March 13
Bible Readings: Ps. 5 or 51; Jer. 18:1-11; Rom. 8:1-11; John 6:27-40
Meditation: I always choose my birthday for my meditation offering. That way I can remember it. However, that means that I have to deal with the scripture that is assigned for the date. So I read them all to find a common thread. Usually there is only a tenuous one as it is again this year. The passage that seemed most appropriate to me with the stress that this country has realized in the past year in both terrorism and the economy is the one in Jeremiah. Here we see the allegory of the potter. "Just like the clay in the potter's hands, so are you in my hand says the Lord". He can remold us from a faulty vessel to one that serves to glorify Him. In this Lenten season as we prepare to celebrate Jesus' resurrection which offers us salvation, let us ask God to remold us as stronger Christians. Of course, we have to do our part as well!
Prayer: Lord, remold us for your glory. Give us the strength to weather these trying times, resting on our faith. Amen.
Thursday, March 14
Bible Readings: Ps. 27 or 126; Jer. 22:13-23; Rom. 8:12-27; John 6:41-51
Meditation: (Rom. 8:12-27) "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God." - Rom 8: 14 (NRSV)
Recently I took my two young children to lunch at a pancake house. After paying our bill at the hostess station, my 6 year old, Eddie, stood staring out the window. Suddenly, he exclaimed, "Mommy! Jesus!" I knew he probably saw the word "Jesus" somewhere outside. I smiled as I glanced up, and, not seeing the word myself, returned to zipping the jacket of my 3 year old, Lydia. When I finished, I realized that a woman standing nearby had rushed excitedly to the window asking, "Where? Where?" At that instant, I spotted the sign for "Jesus Bookstore". I praised Eddie for reading the word "Jesus." The woman then approached me and said, "My friend told me that she saw a man with a beard and a robe walking down this street the other day. I've had some hard times lately, and I wanted to touch his garment."
I smiled at the woman, we exchanged polite remarks, and the children and I left. Later, I felt sorry that I hadn't spoken to her more. Why had I felt so uncomfortable with her brand of belief? I do believe that I am led by the same Spirit as she, and yet her pure hope left me taken aback.
I am coming to realize that I need to embrace these glimpses of God's spirit, which sometimes turn up in the most unexpected places. I also feel that the more open I become to the faith of my brothers and sisters, the better picture I may get of who God really is.
Tender God, touch us.
Be touched by us;
make us lovers of humanity
compassionate friends of all creation.
Gracious God, hear us into speech;
speak us into acting;
and through us, recreate the world.
- By Carter Heyward
Friday, March 15
Bible Readings: Ps. 22 or 105; Jer. 23:1-8; Rom. 8:28-39; John 6:52-59
Meditation: The attacks on September 11 were so enormous that from then on time seemed to be divided into Before and After. One of my emotional responses was to recognize with gratitude the many blessings that I have in my own life, a common reaction among Americans. But did I also feel that we should not be required to face any other hardships? Sadly, several friends subsequently suffered serious personal injury or loss entirely unrelated to the attacks. One was paralyzed in an accident, another developed a puzzling brain mass which required surgery, another tragically lost her college son in a car accident, and a neighbor child was diagnosed with cancer. These families didn't have time to recover from the attacks on the country before they were forced to deal with their own, more personal, challenges. They must feel like the author of the 22nd Psalm, wracked with suffering. I studied the 22nd Psalm in a Bible study once and saw how inspiring it is. The author begins lamenting his misfortunes but ends praising God and recognizing that all things come from Him. Some people think Jesus was referring to the 22nd Psalm, and its ultimate praise of God, when he cried, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" in Mark 15:33. Sad things will happen. Can we be strong enough to endure them and still praise God for all the good that we have in our lives?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for all you have given us. Help us to still feel grateful even when we are filled with sorrow. Amen.
|The fish was used by early Christians as a symbol of their faith. Derived from the Greek initials for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior," or IXOYE, the Greek word for fish.||The loaf represents the Bread of Life and, together with the fish, recalls the parable of the loaves and fishes.|
Saturday, March 16
Bible Readings: Ps. 149 or 31; Jer. 23:9-15; Rom. 9:1-18; John 6:60-71
Meditation: (Romans 8:1-10) "Life is a journey" in which we all start as passengers in our mother's womb. During this phase of our journey we will start to develop the inherent qualities, mental and physical traits which may help define and determine the course of our future.
The most critical phase of our journey starts at the home to which we are delivered. We hope it will be a Christian family where we will receive the love, guidance and discipline to further develop the qualities we are given. But we must make a request to the Lord, so like Paul, that by the will of God we will have a prosperous journey. We must have faith to light up our road, with Jesus as our Guide. We must win the respect of the people we will serve on our journey and accept the responsibility for all our actions for them.
We will encounter many obstacles and difficulties which we will overcome through our belief that Jesus will be at our side to give us the strength to continue on our mission to serve Him.
We must win the respect and confidence of our Youth, teaching them to believe that Jesus Christ is their Savior and that only through Him they will see Heaven. Our church is four walls with some future; but it is the young people within those four walls that represent its future. Our mission must be to inspire their love of Christ, and make them believe they are very important to God and to the future of our church.
Prayer: Oh Lord, as I continue on my journey through life to serve you, may my stay on earth be like a dream from which I will awaken in death to fulfill your promise of everlasting life with you. Amen.
Sunday, March 17
Bible Readings: Ps. 130; Ezek. 37:1-14; Rom. 8:;6-11; John 11:1-45
Meditation: (Psalm 130) As I read this Psalm, the horrible tragedy of September 11, 2001 comes to mind. How powerful and comforting are the words of this Psalm as they harken the soul to wait on the Lord. During the aftermath of September 11th, I was struck by the personal stories of those whose loved ones had been killed. What must they have gone through, those innocent souls? I am secure in knowing that God was with each one of them in their final minutes and as this beautiful Psalm states, we all have to wait on the Lord and "in his word do I hope."
For those who have lost dear friends and family because of such evil on September 11th and other days which go unnoticed to most, may we as a world, not only a nation, wait on the Lord and trust in our faith. Life doesn't come without sorrow and grief is all too common. We mourn for those we don't know who lost their lives on that day in September; we walk with God into another day and wait for Him "more than they that watch for the morning."
Prayer: May I listen closely to you, dear God, and all you have to tell me. When times are difficult and days are hard to bear, may I stand strong in my faith and wait for you to show me the way. Thank you for giving me a heart of love and may I forever share it with others whose heart needs mending. Amen.
Monday, March 18
Bible Readings: Ps. 145 or 121; Jer. 24:1-10; Rom. 9:19-33; John 9:1-17
Meditation: (Rom. 9:25) "They will be called the children of the living God."
Everyone has a heritage, no matter who we are or where we came from. Although our ethnic or geographical heritage may differ greatly, one thing is certain: we are all children of God, and we need, once in a while, to stop, take a big breath, and be awed by our status. Then we can move on, energized, ready to continue as Christians, members of the family of faith.
When East and West Germany were reunited, the State Church of West Germany discovered that a whole generation of people in East Germany had grown up knowing nothing about the Christian Faith. They knew nothing but communism. That was their heritage. The United German Church has marshaled all resources to remedy this sad and shocking situation, and to reclaim the faith and heritage of Martin Luther's country.
Most of us have a background of parents and grandparents who were Christian. We learned our faith at a young age. Our heritage is meaningful to us and strengthens us in our community of faith.
Prayer: Blessed be the Lord our God, ruler of the universe, who has given us a faith to follow, a church to serve. Help us to be true to our heritage and to move onward in faith and service. Amen.
Tuesday, March 19
Bible Readings: Ps. 146 or 91; Jer. 25:8-17; Rom. 10:1-13; John 9:18-41
Meditation: (John 9:18-41) When I was younger I would pretend I was blind. I didn't use a blindfold; I just acted it out as though I was playing the role of a blind person in some dramatic film or play. I'm not sure why I was so fascinated with the idea of being blind, but I became what I thought was quite good at impersonating someone deprived of sight. Eventually, of course, I realized that my play-acting was politically incorrect; and even though no one knew I was doing it, I still felt incredibly guilty.
Over the years, I've learned a little more about blindness. Something I've found particularly interesting is that when one loses a sense (like sight), one's other senses tend to become hyperdeveloped. Without the crutch of sight, the world is learned through touch, taste, smell and sound. It is a difficult concept to grasp, but the hardship of being without sight can actually create a world full of understanding. Is it any wonder, then, that in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells the Pharisees that as long as they depend upon their sight alone their sin will remain? I don't think that Jesus is talking about a physical sight here, but I do believe his metaphor makes a significant point: more important than any sense is the opening of the mind and the heart. It is only there that one will find true understanding.
Prayer: Heavenly Lord, we pray that you may give us the patience to listen, the curiosity to learn, and the ability to see without passing judgment; that we might better understand our world and You, Lord. In Your name we pray. Amen.
|The composite symbols of a palm leaf, wheat and grapes recall the entry of Christ into Jerusalem and an abundant harvest.||The crown of thorns symbolizes the crucifixion of Christ.|
Wednesday, March 20
Bible Readings: Ps. 147:1-11 or 27; Jer. 25:30-38; Rom. 10:14-21; John 10:1-18
Meditation: (Psalm 27) One day as I was driving along a city street with a friend we observed a much disheveled and seemingly mentally challenged person pushing a grocery cart filled with what appeared to be his only possessions, trudging along, apparently aimless, to who knows where, my friend made a comment frequently made or thought, as one reflects on one's own heritage, "there but for the grace of God I go." This statement or thought implies that a person with such physical, mental, or social deprivations may somehow have had a heritage not blessed with the grace of God. We recognize therefore that our fate and our future is intricately bound with God's graces. Any successes that we have had and any status that we have achieved should only be viewed in the light of the grace from God that we have been privileged to have. But should we view a person beset with apparent human failures with pity or with fear and perhaps some condescension?
We may have been blessed with a high motivation, the support of loving parents, the encouragement of mentors and peers to use our God-given talents and enhance them--a goodly heritage. On the other hand, the less privileged person observed may not have had the heritage of a loving family, the encouragement of friends, the opportunities to develop talents possessed; but instead may have suffered neglect, abandonment, and denial of opportunity. Though we may have had different heritages we are still equals in the grace and love of God. We should always remember that our heritage is not one in which we have been "masters of our fate or captains of our souls." Instead, the heritage for each one of us--believers or non-believers--is summed up in this verse from the hymn Amazing Grace: "Thro' many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; 'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home."
Prayer: Help us to always remember the places where you found us, the time when we found you, the privileges you have granted us, the service to others that is our responsibility, and that we are all equals in thy sight. Amen.
Thursday, March 21
Bible Readings: Ps. 27 or 102; Jer. 26:1-24; Rom. 11:1-12; John 10:19-42
Meditation: (John 10: 37-38) "If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am the Father."
In Maine before winter is truly over, at the cusp between winter and spring, the sugar maple trees release their stored up sap. That's when spigots are pounded into the tree and buckets are hung from the extension to collect the clear liquid. Then comes the task of boiling down the sap into the very essence of the trees gift, the maple syrup. As children we would race outside to pour some new syrup onto the leftover snow for a very sweet treat. [I attribute my insatiable 'sweet tooth' to that period.]
When reading the passage in John about Jesus' statement, "do not believe me, believe the works" I thought how Jesus has boiled down the very essence of his life and work. The sweet product is to believe the results of his work.
A very close friend of mine in Maine is facing a serious and perhaps life-threatening illness. In my recent phone conversation with her, she stated that, with thoughtful prayer, she only hopes that what is left of her life will be lived to the glory of God. She is at peace. Carol Davis is not just 'talking the talk, but walking the walk.' This is the very essence of what Christ was saying in John's gospel.
Prayer: Loving Father, Thank you for sending your son to help lead the way and to give us strength every day. Amen.
Friday, March 22
Bible Readings: Ps. 22 or 105; Jer. 29:1-14; Rom. 11:13-24; John 11:1-27 or 12:1-10
Meditation: (Psalm 105) Today my mother, Bertina Grant, will celebrate her 82nd birthday. She is retired but from her teen years was gifted as a soloist, pianist, organist and choir director. "Maah" taught my brothers, me and many other people how to praise God through instrument and song. One of her choirs, the Song Traders, gave annual concerts and traveled to churches in other cities to sing about God's love for us and his goodness. Her mother, my Grandma Lillian, could not sing but would occasionally testify about God's love and goodness at midweek services in her church. My brothers, cousins and I were often taken to these services, but would be somewhat embarrassed because Grandma would get quite emotional during these testimonies. We'd slouch into our seats until she was finished, after which, and to our surprise, a loud chorus of "AMEN" would come from members of the congregation. It was my grandmother who encouraged my mother to pursue her studies in religious music. Praising God through music is my inheritance from my mother and grandmother, which I joyfully share with my Heritage family.
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the gift of our parents and grandparents, and others who teach us through word and music about your love for us. Thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus, who suffered and died on the cross for our sins and the sins of the world. Amen.
Saturday, March 23
Bible Readings: Ps. 43 or 143; Jer. 31:27-34; Rom. 11:25-36; John 11:28-44 or 12:37-50
Meditation: (John 12:37-50) Of Jesus, John wrote that even after all the miraculous signs, there were many who would not accept who Jesus was because, quoting Isaiah (but referring to God),
"He has blinded their eyes
And deadened their hearts,
So they can neither see with their eyes,
Nor understand with their hearts..."
Sadly, I would ask, would I have faired better? Like the Israelites 2000 years ago, we believe what we are open to believe. We see what we want to see, experience what we expect to find and reject the unexpected. It amazes me how frequently I encounter a new word once I know it, when I never noticed it before. Or pass a place I never saw until I stopped to look.
It is so human to be absorbed in the details of life, in false self-importance, and to be blind and insensitive to the world around us, to each other and to God. How often we call upon the Lord, in the words of the psalmist, to "Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me..." (Ps 43:3); then not wait for an answer, or open our hearts to receive it.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive my disobedience, my blindness and my insensitivity. As I pause this eve of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, open my eyes to the light and my heart to your presence. Increase my awareness of others' needs and of my certain knowledge that you are God and you are with us always. Amen.
|The Cross and Crown symbolize Christ's victory over death through His resurrection.|
Palm Sunday, March 24
Bible Readings: Ps. 118:1-2, 19-29; Isa. 50:4-9a; Phil. 2:5-11; Matt. 26:14-27:66 or Matt. 27:11-54
Meditation: (Matthew 26: 17-27. Seder/The Last Supper) We gather on holidays and special occasions to feast and fellowship as we remember the past and hope for the future. Eating together implies friendship. Presbyterians do it so well. Holy Week is filled with symbolic events and one of them was the Last Supper. On the first day of unleavened bread Jesus told his disciples how to prepare for the Passover. The bible passage says: "they prepared the Passover meal."
Doesn't the thought of twelve men preparing a meal, especially for Passover, trip your imagination? Jewish customs, then and now, call for extensive preparation for this important religious observance. All the dishes and food used during the rest of the year are put away. The house is cleaned and there is the searching for any crumbs of bread that may have eluded the cleaning. Special food is obtained and cooked. Unleavened bread, matzah, is served to remember the haste with which Israel left Egypt. Symbolic foods are prepared for the Passover Seder and placed on a plate: including bitter herbs, spring greens and a roasted boiled egg. Four glasses of wine are served and a large glass is set aside for Elijah. During the meal the Exodus story is narrated and prayers are said for the future.
There is a double orientation: being grateful for God's saving act and anticipating future redemption. When Jesus took the bread and the cup, however, he did not look to the past, but rather focused on the future. He used the bread and wine to explain the meaning of his coming death. As the first Passover marked Israel as the people of God, so now a new people of God was being formed. There is a heritage, but the primary focus now is on the future.
Prayer: Thank you God for the heritage that is ours, but guide and help us as we build for and anticipate the future. Thank you for the church and the opportunities we have for study and fellowship. Help us to focus, as Jesus did, on the future and serve you better by sharing our love with others so that they too may find overwhelming joy in being in your presence. Thy Kingdom come. In Christ's name we pray, Amen.
Monday, March 25
Bible Readings: Ps. 36:5-11; Isa. 42:1-9; Heb. 9:11-15; John 12:1-11
Meditation: (Psalm 36) We read where David, a servant of the Lord, praises God for his mercy and faithfulness. Where would we all be without God's continued loving kindness. David does remind us to not let pride come against us. As members of Heritage Church we all come together knowing we need God's mercy on a daily basis. Do we not feel God's power as we listen to Rev. Teng's message and as we sing the lyrics of our hymns. Hymn #91 in our old "retired" red hymnbook is based on Psalm 36. The title is "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." For those of us who might need to refresh our memory of verse 1, you may enjoy it below. Of course, it was written in 1529 by Martin Luther but it still is very relevant in 2002.
A mighty Fortress Is Our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great;
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Prayer: Oh Lord, we do need thy presence in our lives on a daily basis. Thank you for the wonderful people of God who worship at Heritage Church. Grant us all thy loving mercy as we gain strength from one another. Amen.
Tuesday, March 26
Bible Readings: Ps. 71:1-14; Isa. 49:1-7; 1Cor. 1:18-31; John 12:20-36
Meditation: (Psalm 71) When I read Psalm 71, I was shocked to see that it was labeled in my Bible, "An Old Man's Prayer." How did that writer know I am getting old? (vs. 9) and that my hair is gray? (vs. 18) However, the point is that older folks spend a lot of time looking back at their lives. And during this year when Heritage Church is celebrating its 40th birthday, I have been giving many long thoughts to the wonderful fifteen years of those forty that Marjorie and I spent serving and loving all the good people of the church. I thank God for those many fine memories we now cherish.
When I read the 1st Corinthians passage, another memory emerged--for that was the first scripture I preached about when I was a fledgling ministerial student. I used the King James wording: "The Foolishness of Preaching," for my sermon title; however, the sexton refused to put that title on the bulletin board out in front of the church for all the world to see! But the concept was as clear then as it is today during Holy Week: the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ--which seemed to be foolishness to those not of the faith--means everything to those of us who are.
Prayer: Lord, we are thankful for the many wonderful people of the past who are no longer an active part of our church's ministries, as well as for all the loving folks who are current members. As we approach Easter, we pray for the peace in our troubled world which Christ promised. Amen.
Wednesday, March 27
Bible Readings: Ps.70; Isa. 50:4-9a; Heb. 12:1-3; John 13:21-32
Meditation: (Mark 8:38) "If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of Him when He comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."
Anyone serving in the military knows that a superior's order delivered by messenger is equal to the officer giving the order in person. For the military to function, it is crucial that the commander's words carry equal weight of his physical presence. If this is true with the authority of human words, imagine how much more true it is with the authority of God's word! In this scripture passage from Saint Mark, Jesus issues a strong warning; to be ashamed of His words is the same as being ashamed of Him. Thankfully, the opposite is also true. Hungering for Jesus' Word means hungering for our Lord. Hearing of His death on the cross to pay for our sins, and trusting His word that He physically rose, ascended into heaven, and will gloriously return the Last Day is the same as listening and trusting Him in person. That saving faith, created by the Holy Spirit and made strong daily by His Word, means God will not be ashamed of us when He returns. In that joy and assurance, may we be His emissaries, carrying the message of salvation in Jesus' name.
The start of this New Year causes people not only to look to the future but also to look back on their lives. And for many people--and maybe for you--that means looking back to "the good ole days," the days when everything was better, the days to which we sometimes wish we could return. The children of Israel did that, too, while struggling in the desert. They looked back to their days in Egypt and thought those were "the good ole days!" But time had caused them to forget how miserable those days really were. Thankfully, that's true for us too. Time helps us to forget painful memories from the past, but more than that, the forgiveness we have in Christ enables us to forget the sins and mistakes we have made in past days and years. In the cross of Christ all our sins have been completely atoned for and erased! So as you begin this New Year, do not look back to "the good ole days," but look forward to them! For as you live in Christ and His promises, come what may, you can be sure that those "good" days are still ahead!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, enable me to look forward to Your messages, Your blessings, Your promises, and the eternal life in heaven You have promised through Your son, Jesus. You are the Creator of seasons and years, and by Your hand the sun and moon travel their courses and mark the passing of time. Keep me always under Your constant care and protection, and send Your holy angels to watch over me in all my ways. When I am tempted to doubt Your love for me, strengthen my faith to trust that everything I face this year has been ordained by You and is for my own good. This I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Maundy Thursday, March 28
Bible Readings: Ps. 116:1-2, 12-19; Ex. 12:1-14; 1Cor. 11:23-26; John 13:1-17 & 31b-35
Meditation: March 28, 1997, is a date that I hold very dear to my heart. I can't believe that five years ago today, my mother passed away, as it seems such a short time ago. Time goes so quickly--faster every year. I wanted to share my feelings about my mother, as most of you at Heritage Presbyterian Church unfortunately never met her. I can truly say that it was my mother who was the most influential person in my life. I am who I am today because of all she was and all she did. I am sure it was not planned that way, but God often reveals truths long after the seed is sown. I realized after she was gone that it was the subtle things about her that shaped my life and helped me to embrace all the opportunities that God shows us during our lifetime.
There are many stories about my mom that I can tell which ended with my trying a little harder and succeeding in ways far beyond my expectations. My mom believed in me and believed that one has to "make it happen" through a strong faith in God plus hard work. I am blessed with all that has happened in my life--through both hard and happy times. I thank the Lord many times every day for all the many blessings and that my mom had faith in me, even when I didn't.
After I joined the military, my mom lived with me for 21 years and actually was my military dependent. This time together gave us the opportunity to be good friends and not just mother and daughter. The last few years, we totally reversed roles, but that was the way it was supposed to be. Then, unfortunately, she suffered a stroke and I had to seek round-the-clock nursing care. We found Oak Meadow Nursing Center where she received excellent care from the registered nurses (that had been her profession and I discovered they take extra care of their own). My mom seemed to be recovering when on March 21, 1997 she suffered a massive stoke, never to gain consciousness. The next seven days were the hardest days of my life as I prayed the Lord would take her quickly. I have never prayed so hard in my whole life, nor cried so many tears. I can only say that it was my faith in God through prayer and reinforced by reading the Bible that carried me through this difficult time. On March 28, 1997, my phone rang at 1:30AM. The nurse on the other end of the line whispered gently that my mom was now in heaven and wouldn't be suffering anymore. I know that my mom is in heaven, but she also is here with me in my heart and mind. I am my mother's child. God bless all mothers--there is nothing like a mother.
Note on the following prayer: I want to share a prayer that I learned from my Fourth Grade Elementary Teacher many moons ago. We began each school day with this prayer, and to this day it is how I begin each day. I wasn't sure of the author until a few years ago; I just knew this prayer prepared me for whatever the new day would hold.
Prayer: (Rebecca J. Weston)
Father we thank Thee for the night
And for the blessed morning light
For rest and food and loving care,
And all that makes the day so fair.
Help us to do the things we should
To be to others kind and good,
In all we do, in all we say,
To grow more loving every day.
|The candle represents Jesus' continuing presence and the Light of God in the world.||The ship has a stylized "Chi Rho' for a mast representing the church of Jesus Christ in the world.|
Good Friday, March 29
Bible Readings: Psalms 22:1-11; Matthew 27:1-54; Mark 15:1-32; Luke 23:1-46; John 13:18-38, 18:1-40, 19:1-30,42; Hebrews 5:7-9;10:1-20
Meditation: God, in the ultimate proclamation of His love for us, mandated that while we were yet sinners His only son was to die to atone for the sins of the world--past, present, and future (Romans 5:8, 3:23, 1 John 2:2). Christ accepted that mandate and was condemned to die a painful, agonizing, humiliating death nailed to a cross, even though Pilate "...found no case against Him." Crucifixion was the manner of death reserved for the lowliest of criminals. In Christ's case it was preceded by a brutal scourging (flogging, beating about the face, thorns piercing His brow). This left Him half dead even before reaching Golgotha, "The Place of the Skull," the site of this horrible deed. Christ's act did not stem from criminal cause; rather, it was a purchase (1 Corinthians 6:20), Acts 20:28); it was an expiation (Romans 8.3, Galatians 1:4); and it was peacemaking (Isaiah 53:5, Colossians 1:20).
So, given the monstrous irony of this tragic event that darkened the world for three hours and caused the temple veil to be rent from top to bottom, how do we come to recognize that fateful day as "Good" Friday? Is it because, in pious retrospect, that tragedy brought about the greatest good there could ever be? Or, are we confessing the Christian hope that not even the tragedy of death can overwhelm God's providence, love, and grace? Both express valid reasoning. Both are rooted in fundamental Biblical truths in the sense of giving, past and present: He gave His life (Luke 23:46); He gave Himself (Galatians 2:20); He gives His spirit (1 John 3:24); He gives His peace (John 14:27); He gave His example (John 13:15); He gives His glory (John 17:22), and He gave His words (John 17:8).
In John 3:16 it is reaffirmed for us in simple, but eloquent, terms, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life." There you have it in the simplest, most straightforward terms, four words that guarantee our salvation and sanctification: "...whosoever believeth in Him..." The cross became the cornerstone of Christian faith, and on this Friday of all Fridays Christ's perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world opened the way for all to enter into the presence of God.
Prayer: Almighty God, I look to Heaven in praise and thankfulness for the abundance of your mighty works and infinite blessings, the greatest of which is the gift of Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. In Him do I believe, trust, and seek forgiveness for my sins. In Him do I place my soul for eternal salvation. Fill my heart with your presence, O God, and show me the way in this holy season and in all my days. In His name I pray. Amen.
Great Vigil of Easter, Saturday, March 30
Bible Readings: Ps. 16; Gen. 22:1-18; Ex. 14:10-31; Isa. 55:1-11; Prov. 8:1-8, 19-21; Ezek. 36:24-28; Rom. 6:3-11; Luke 24:1-12
Meditation: (Psalm 16) In 1996, As I finally came out of the coma to the point that I recognized where I was and what day it was, I realized that I had lost twenty-three days of my life. I found that I was looking forward to getting out of the hospital and getting back to church. I had been told that there were a large number of people in the congregation and in many other congregations who had been praying for me. I had not realized the confidence that the Session had in me as I had been appointed as the first, and to date, the only lay Clerk of Session while I was still in a coma. Now, that's confidence! Psalm 16 starts by asking for protection from God as the psalmist indicates that he takes refuge in God. It continues with the verse quoted on the church banner "I have a goodly heritage." Verse 9 indicates that "...my soul rejoices and my body rests secure." The many friends and acquaintances that I have known over the years of membership and fellowship at Heritage Church were a definite part of my recovery and my return to good health. God has indeed shown me the path of life per Verse 11. My family and I look forward to celebrating this Lenten season with all of you at Heritage.
Prayer: Dear Lord, we realize that you alone are the source of our being. We thank you for the good times we have had, we even thank you for the other times. We have benefited from the tremendous fellowship of our fellow parishioners at Heritage over the years and we realize that you have to power to protect us as we go forward, doing all in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Easter Sunday, March 31
Bible Readings: Ps. 118:1-2, 14-24; Col. 3:1-4; Acts 10:34-43; Jer. 31:1-6; John 20:1-18; Matt. 28:1-10
Meditation: In His Mercy. It was early Sunday morning in Jerusalem as Mary dressed by candlelight. Although it was spring, there was still a chill in the air on this first day of the week. Mary had been weeping since before the crucifixion on Friday, and her burden of grief had increased as she witnessed the pain and sorrow Jesus felt in those last hours. Today, her plan was to visit Jesus' tomb once again.
Since Mary had made this trip on Saturday, she was able to make her way while her thoughts were somewhere else. She had gone to the tomb the day before just to be near Jesus. She had wept and prayed as she rested her hands on the great stone that lay before his sepulcher. As she made her way along the footpaths, her sense of loss weighed heavily on her mind. She had heard the teachings of Jesus, but the crucifixion and His death were so crushing, she could only believe it was the end--the end of the small movement that had been devoted to Jesus as he told them of the mercy of God and the plan He had for believers.
It was daybreak as Mary approached the tomb. To her consternation and horror the stone before the tomb had been rolled away from the entrance! In an instant her anxiety, pain, and fear were increased. She feared that great harm and further evil had been done. But we can imagine how her joy would rebound and soar when soon she learned that no further harm had been done, that Jesus lived! He was resurrected. He had returned as promised. Thus the grand events of this Sunday became a great cause for celebration throughout the ages, eventually designated as Easter.
As we reflect on the scriptures for this meditation, we see the plan for Christianity, and the references state many of the basic Christian beliefs. The Psalmist described Christ's coming when he said, "The Stone which the builders refused is become the headstone of the corner." He advises, "Praise God for His mercy," mercy He designed for our salvation.
First we have the description of Christ from the Old Testament; then we find that the book of Peter outlines the plan as he writes in the New Testament about Jesus of Nazareth while being baptized by John the Baptist, "God anointed Jesus with the Holy Ghost and with power, who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him."
Peter continues that Jesus was crucified and, "Him God raised up on the third day and showed him openly." Thus we are given our promise of everlasting life.
All that is required to take advantage of the mercy of God and the offered salvation is to believe. We are given this guidance in Acts, "To him give all the prophets witness that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins."
Therefore, like Mary, we have much to celebrate and to be thankful for God's mercy on this day as we celebrate Easter. The Psalms could be speaking to this Easter where it is written, "This is the day the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we are thankful for your benevolent mercy. We humbly express our belief as we celebrate all that Easter represents. Amen.
Many thanks to all those who helped prepare this booklet:
Rev. William Teng
Back to: Heritage Presbyterian Church Home Page Updated 8 Feb 2002