Offertory Prayer

Invitation to the Offering
The offering you made last week empowered ministry within our congregation and in response to the needs of our community. It also helped support the work of ministries beyond the local church that reach people who are in desperate need to feel the touch of love and reconciliation. Through the World Service Fund, a talented group of global communicators, lead by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee, directs messaging that reaches people who have never set foot in one of our churches. Through billboards, digital advertising, video spots, radio and more, they give people outside the church a glimpse of who we are and what matters to us as Christians. This ministry happens thanks to the generous support of United Methodists like you. I invite you once again to give generously as we worship God through the sharing of our gifts, tithes and offerings.

Learn more about the work United Methodist Communications atwww.umcom.org and www.rethinkchurch.org.

April 20, 2014 – Easter Day
God of our deepest joys and Alleluias! We sing our Resurrection songs this morning, not because of a miraculous historical event, but because you continue to bring life out of death and hope out of despair! When you rolled away the stone and let light enter Christ's tomb, you entrusted each of us who follow him to be bearers of light into the dark places of our world – carriers of the inexhaustible hope into lives filled with despair. May the joy of this morning, of the triumph of the Resurrection, empower us in our living out of these tasks, and in our generosity to support others who serve in our name. In the name of the risen Christ, we pray. Amen. (John 20:1-18)

"Copyright General Board of Discipleship. www.GBOD.org Used by permission."

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Genuineness of Faith, a Reflection on 1 Peter 1:3-7

Peter is writing to Christian congregations in what we now call Turkey, as the Common English Bible puts it, "to God's chosen strangers in the world of the diapora."

He reminds them of what they already have--a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He offers them reassurances that God will continue to protect them.

But, as we read these reminders and reassurances, we also realize the reason Peter offered them--They were undergoing suffering because of their faith.

Peter's explanation for the suffering is that it is necessary so that their faith may be found genuine. Suffering helps us get rid of the unnecessary and focus on the important. For example,
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight--indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness (Malachi 3:1-3).

Many Christians during Lent do a kind of purification, choosing to eliminate certain foods or distractions from their lives so that they can focus more on what is really important. I'm wondering whether we have picked those habits back up now that Lent is over or whether we have now become a new kind of Christian.

Peter says to them to rejoice. Their new faith that has come through the period of testing, will be genuine and will result in praise and glory and hone when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Reading these words from Peter (or as my Bible commentaries lead me to believe, someone else for whom the early church put Peter's name on his letters), I'm wondering how applicable they are for me. I know that in some parts of the world that Christians are under attack. But where I live they really aren't. What is it that I have to give up in the world that I live because I am a Christian? Am I suffering because of it?

How genuine is my faith? How much of my life, how many of my decisions are based on example of Jesus Christ?

Can I discern what is important? Can I tell the difference between the gold and what should be refined away?

Daily Prayer, Saturday, April 30, 2011

Morning
Abscribe to the Lord glory and strength.To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever (UMBOW 384).

Invitatory Psalm 67
O God, be gracious to us and bless us
and make your face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations,
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the people praise you!
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.
....

Psalms 26,27,29

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Peter 1:3-7

Lectio Divina
In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith--being more precious than gold that, though perishiable, is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit (Psalm 16:9-10).

Prayer for Today:
O God, through your mercy we have hope. You have protected us and continue to protect us. Keep our faith strong as we face temptations and troubles. Amen.

Evening
Psalms 44, 45

Friday, April 29, 2011

Offertory Prayers for May 2011

Offertory Prayers for May 2011 are available on the UMC General Board of Discipleship webpage.

The Path of Life, a Reflection on Psalm 16

When Peter preached to the crowd in Jerusalem about the resurrection of Jesus, he used the words from Psalm 16 telling how David had trusted God to protect him. Compare Acts 2:25-28 with Psalm 16:8-11.

David (or the psalmist in the voice of David) is praying to God for protection, reminding God (or himself) of the care that God, and only God, is capable of giving, and has been giving.

Peter's congregation needed reassurance.

And we, their descendants, need reassurance. During this week after we have just celebrated the resurrection of Christ, we can read the morning newspaper or watch the TV news and hear about war, crime, storm damage, disease, hunger, and so on and so on. Yes, we still need reassurance.

Psalm 16 provides words that are still relevant to our time:
Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you."
We need protection; we can't do it all by ourselves.

Daily Prayer, Friday, April 29, 2011

Morning

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth. UMBOW390.

Invitatory Psalm 118

Psalms 23, 25

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 16

Lectio Divina
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me (Psalm 16:7).

I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved (Psalm 16:8).

Prayer for Today:
O God, we turn to you for refuge. You have protected us and provided for us. Open our ears to hear your wisdom. Guide us in our daily paths. Keep us mindful of what you have already given us and what we have to share. Amen.


Midday Psalm 119:33-40

Evening
Psalms 30, 31

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Resurrection of the Messiah, a Reflection on Acts 2:14a, 22-32

We have this record of one of the earliest Christian sermons. I'm struck by how it is a model for many contemporary ones. Peter begins by reminding them of something they know from their own lives. He includes a reference to an experience that was very difficult for them. He then moves to scripture and how it illustrates what is happening in our time. Peter then asserts, "This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses." We continue to hear this theme in sermons: Jesus lives. God did it. We know it.

Daily Prayer, Thursday, April 28, 2011

Morning

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

Invitatory Psalm 150
Praise the Lord!
We praise you in your sanctuary;
we praise you in your mighty firmament!
We praise you for your mighty deeds;
we praise you according to your surpassing greatness!
....
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!

Read and reflect on Psalms 19, 20, 21

Daily Lectionary Reading, Acts 2:14a, 27-32

Lectio Divina
For David says concerning him, "I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope" (Acts 2:25-26).

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot (Psalm 16:5).

Prayer for Today:
O Lord, as we read the scripture today, help us to see its impact on us today. King David recognized you, was protected by you, was joyful because of the protection, and told others. Help us to tell our story. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:25-32

Evening
Psalms 22, 28

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Coming to Believe, a Reflection on John 20:29-31

Repeat from last year:
Although he had initial doubts, Thomas believed.

Keep reading. Look at verse 31. John's gospel is written so that we can believe. Thomas and the other first generation Christians saw Jesus and believed. They knew the presence of God through the seeing of Jesus. We later Christians are able to know the presence of God through their witness.

And we are also to be witnesses.

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Morning
Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Invitatory Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth,
Worship the Lord with gladness.
We come into your presence with singing.
We know that you are God, and that you have made us.
We are your people, the sheep of your pasture.
We give thanks to you, for you are good;
your steadfast love endures forever,
and your faithfulness to all generations.

Psalms 12, 13, 17

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 20:29-31

Lectio Divina
Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe" (John 20:29)

As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight (Psalm 16:3)

Prayer for Today:
By your great mercy you have given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. Strengthen in us the power to believe. Instill in us the desire to be your witnesses so that others can come to believe. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:17-24

Evening
Psalm 18

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Need to See for Myself, a Reflection on John 20:24-28

The risen Christ had appeared to Mary, but the disciples had still been to afraid to leave their locked room. Jesus came to where they were. Belief that will overcome fear is not automatic.

The disciples who had seen Jesus believed, but Thomas hadn't been there the day Jesus had shown up. "I need to see for myself. I've got to put my finger on the spot where the nails were," he told them.

A week later, Jesus appeared to Thomas. "Touch me. Do not doubt but believe."

Although it's not clear from the text whether Thomas actually did have to touch Jesus before he could believe what he was seeing, it is clear that Thomas does recognize him. When Jesus tells him not to doubt but to believe, that is what Thomas does. He responds to the presence and words of Jesus by saying, "My Lord and my God!"

Daily Prayer, Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Morning

You have heard my voice and my supplications. I will call on you as long as I live.

Invitatory Psalm 84
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
....
O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.


Psalms 9, 10

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 20:24-28

Lectio Divina
So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25).

I say to the Lord, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you" (Psalm 16:2).

Prayer for Today:
O Lord, you have sent many witnesses to tell us of your presence and your works. Yet, we often have harbored doubt. But, our doubt does not bind you. You continue to come to us and to offer us peace. You show us the path of life and forgive our difficulty in seeing that path and the one who is showing it to us. Forgive us. Sustain us. Amen.
Midday Psalm 119:9-16

Evening
Psalms 11, 14, 15, 16

Monday, April 25, 2011

Jesus Comes to Them, a Reflection on John 20:19-23

Mary had told them that she has seen the risen Jesus, but they are afraid anyway.

A sermon was not enough to liberate them from their fears.

Jesus came to them, anyway.

We may still not be willing to start our lives anew. Jesus may come to us, anyway.

They were afraid, but he breathed the Holy Spirit on them and gave them a commission. He intended for them to get out of that locked room.

Daily Prayer, Monday, April 25, 2011

Morning
You show me the path of life (Psalm 16:11a).

Gracious God, in those times that I shutter myself in from fear, open me to your reassurance. Awaken me to your constant presence. Give me courage. Awaken in me the joy that I can receive if I will recognize you. Amen.

Invitatory Psalm 95
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
O Lord, let us come into your presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to you with songs of praise!
....

Psalms 1, 2, 3, 5

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 20:19-23

Lectio Divina
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear...(John 20:19a).

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge (Psalm 16:1).

Intercessory prayer for the first week of the Easter season:
O God, our light, our beauty, our rest:
in the resurrection of your Son you have brought us into your new creation.
Form us into your people, and order our lives in you;
through Christ our Lord. Amen. Alleluia. (UMBOW 399).

Midday Psalm 119:1-8

Evening

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me (Psalm 16:7).
Psalms 6, 7, 8

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Prayer for Easter Morning

Alive Now has this prayer for Easter:

Life-bringing God,
Easter morning erupts
with the mystery of life overcoming death
and the joy of encountering our risen Lord.
You revive the alleluias
and give us reason to sing again.
Help us shed our preconceived notions
and risk living the resurrection.
May this holy miracle
guide how we nurture those who are weaker,
how we live and vote as citizens
and who we claim as neighbors.
Lead us on the Christ-path
where walls are dismantled,
relationships are repaired
and Love is both way and destination.
Lead us on the Christ-path
where the lilies bloom
and the Prince of Peace reigns.
Let us go into the world
looking for hearts that are wrapped in burial shrouds
that we might sing them back to life by your grace.
We pray grateful for this new day
to serve as resurrection people. Amen.

By Cynthia Langston Kirk © 2011 Alive Now. Permission granted to use in corporate worship setting.

Daily Prayer for April 24, 2011, Easter

Morning

Invitatory Psalm 24

Almighty God, through Jesus Christ you overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life. Grant that we, who celebrate the day of our Lord's resurrection, may, by the renewing of your Spirit arise from the death of sin to the life of righteousness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (UMH 320)

Psalms 147, 148, 149

Daily Lectionary Reading, Jeremiah 31:1-6; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Acts 10:34-43; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10

Lectio Divina
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus (John 20:14).

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).


Almighty God, you wonderfully created, yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature. Grant that we may share the divine life of the One who shared our humanity, Jesus Christ our Savor. Amen. (UMBOW 373).

Evening
Psalm 144, 145

Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 114; 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8; Luke 24:13-49

Lectio Divina:
They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32)

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever (Isaiah 25:6-7).

Evening prayer:
O God, at this evening hour, the risen Christ revealed himself to his disciples in the breaking of bread. Feed us with the bread of life and break open our hearts, that we may know him not only in the good news of the scriptures, but risen in the midst of your pilgrim people. Amen. (Revised Common Lectionary Prayers, Fortress Press).

Time to Leave Our Cage, a Reflection on John 20:1-18

Adapted from Easter 2009:
The alternate gospel readings for today differ in the details. I am certainly not going to try to iron over those differences. Rather, today, I'm reflecting on John's message. No earthquake, but two Marys.

Mary Magdalene, one of the women who had stood near the cross (John 20:25) has come before daybreak to the tomb. When she sees that the stone has been rolled away, she runs to tell the disciples. Peter and the other disciple (we assume John) race each other to get there.


John gets there first, looks in, and see the burial wrappings left behind. Peter then goes in and also sees the wrappings and realizes that the cloth that has been on Jesus' head has been rolled up. Then John goes in, and we are told that he saw and believed.

What does he believe? What does belief do for him?

After the disciples left, Mary stayed. As she is weeping, angels come to her--to comfort? She sees Jesus but does not recognize him immediately.

She has a short conversation with him but is able to recognize him only when he speaks her name.

Jesus tells her to go tell. She obeys. She is the first witness to the resurrection.

Yet, as we read in the next verse, the disciples are so afraid that they lock themselves in. What do we believe? What does belief do for us?

Mary finally did recognize Jesus and did do what he told her. Yet, she was not immediately able to convince the disciples.

I remember a story that someone told me years ago. Although I can't remember the source, I want to repeat it anyway:
When the National Zoo in Washington D.c. moved to a spacious new area, the rhinoceros was confused. It now had a wide-open living space, but it had lived in a cage too long. Even though it now had more room, it quickly made a boundary the exact dimensions of its old cage. it wore an oval path in the grass that corresponded to the old iron bars.

The resurrected Christ can appear in our ordinary lives. We may be able to recognize his presence. Or, like the rhinoceros, we may restrict ourselves to our old path. I ask again, what does belief do for us?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Easter Vigil, between Death and Return

The lectionary readings for the Easter Vigil are:
Old Testament Readings and Psalms
Genesis 1:1-2:4a and Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26
Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13 and Psalm 46
Genesis 22:1-18 and Psalm 16
Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 and Exodus 15:1b-13, 17-18
Isaiah 55:1-11 and Isaiah 12:2-6
Baruch 3:9-15, 3:32-4:4 or Proverbs 8:1-8, 19-21; 9:4b-6 and Psalm 19
Ezekiel 36:24-28 and Psalm 42, 43
Ezekiel 37:1-14 and Psalm 143
Zephaniah 3:14-20 and Psalm 98
New Testament Reading and Psalm
Romans 6:3-11 and Psalm 114
Gospel
Matthew 28:1-10

In her poem, Holy Saturday, the Space Between, Christine Valters Paintner expresses how much of our lives rest in the space between loss and hope, how our lives are full of Holy Saturday experiences.


Selected verses and prayers based on those verses from the readings of the vigil:
You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name's sake, lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge (Psalm 31:3-4).

We give thanks to you, O Lord, for you are good, for your steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 136:1).

A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might, it cannot save (Psalm 33:16-17).

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

And by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice (Genesis 22:18).

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:11).

In your steadfast love you led the people whom you have redeemed; you guided them by your strength to your holy abode (Exodus 15:13).

O God, I will trust you, and will not be afraid; for you are my strength and my might; you are my salvation (Isaiah 12:2).

I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land (Psalm 143:6)

Daily prayer for Holy Saturday, April 23, 2011

Morning
Merciful and everliving God, Creator of heaven and earth, the crucified body of your Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy day. Grant that we may await with him the dawning of the third day and rise in newness of life, through Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen (UMBOW 367).

Invitatory Psalm 67

Psalms 141, 146

Daily Lectionary Reading, Job 14:1-14; Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16; 1 Peter 4:1-8; Matthew 27:57-66

Lectio Divina
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).

Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me a strong fortress to save me. You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name's sake lead me and guide me (Psalm 31:2-3).

Prayers for Today:

O God, whose face shines upon us, we offer the prayers we carry deep in our hearts that those who need deliverance may know your steadfast love and salvation....

Merciful God, release us from the time of trial and oppression, that we may witness to the eternal hope of grief becoming joy and life rising from death. Amen.

Eternal God, rock and refuge... we wait for revival and release. Abide with us until we come alive in the sunrise of your glory. Amen.

(from RCL Prayers, Fortress Press).

Evening
Psalms 140, 142, 143

Friday, April 22, 2011

Holy Saturday

Here are two poems by Ann Weems that I will be reading during the Saturday vigil:

No Dances

There are no dances for dark days.
There is no music to bellow the pain.
The best we can do is to remain
still and silent
and try to remember the face of God...

and how to kneel

and how to pray.


Saturday Silence

The shadows shift and fly.
The
whole
long
day
the air trembles,
thick with silence,
until, finally,
the footsteps are heard
and the noise
of the voice of God
is upon us.
The Holy One
is not afraid
to walk
on unholy ground.
The Holy Work is done,
and the world awaits
the dawn of light.

Read these and others in her Kneeling in Jerusalem.

Readings for Good Friday: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18:1-19:42

Here's a repeat from Good Friday, 2009:
Lesson learned

In an essay about Good Friday, Virginia Stem Owens talks about how beautiful the spring trees are in her native Texas. But, one year, she found herself offended by them:
...I was driving to work in College Station on Good Friday through a miasma of dogwood and redbud and not feeling good about it at all. It was a sparkling, resplendent day. Thickets of wild plum thew up their dark arms in dreamy clouds of white. Primroses, tenderly pink and gold, filled up the ditches along the road.
I was not pleased. This was not a penitential landscape. Good Friday is not the time for beauty.
....
I drove along, vaguely offended by the fields of flowers in full cry and the hillsides spangled with Easter white. This is the week, I thought, the Savior of the world dies. This is the day when all that is good and true goes down to suffer death at the hands of the arrogant, those swollen with the pride of power. And what is the world doing? What is the earth, its own life threatened by those same enemies doing? Did it care? Was it grieving? No. It was shouldering aside the clouds and the husks of its dead self in order to break into life....
....
All week I had been reading the penitential Psalms and examining my sins. .... But now it was Good Friday. What did you do after you'd confessed all your sins and cleaned out all your closets? I took one last look around the bare cell of my heart for some forgotten fault, at the same time being careful to avoid the danger of manufacturing contrition for its own sake....
But what else was there to do on Good Friday? Already, on this spring morning, as I was descending the hills toward the river, Jesus was beginning his climb to Golgotha. What else was there to do? For the women who followed him, "Looking on arar off" (Mark 15:40KJV), for those standing beneath the cross, what was there left to do?
Nothing. Quite obviously just nothing....Because Good Friday is the day when you can do nothing. Bewailing and lamenting your manifold sins does not in itself make up for them. Scouring your soul in a frenzy of spring cleaning only sterilizes it; it does not give it life. On Good Friday, finally, we are all mourners and mockers alike.....Good Friday is the day when we can do nothing at all.
....
Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. His blood and his righteousness.
I passed the intersection at carlos with its one blinking, yellow light and crossed the bridge over the pipeling that carries the coal slurry to the plant a few miles further on. From there the road bent northward to cross the river.
As I broke out of the ines and into the fertile bottomand, the spring again assaulted me. The land below, emerging from the tendrils of morning fog, was a tangle of luxuriant fertility.
Clouds of pink and white, effulgent enough to inebriate the soberest soul, lured one's live of vision into the darkest trees. Acres of bluebonnets streaked up the red clay banks of the river. The earth, on this Good Friday, cast forth its life, heedless of the sacrifice that sustained it. Its callous, regardless life, sucked from the source it can never repay, never replenish. Continually drawing on the death of its Savior to live. Just like me.

Read the entire essay and many others in Epiphanies, edited by Eugene Peterson and Emilie Griffin, published by Baker Books.

Daily prayer, Good Friday, April 22, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 118

In this holy time, as we remember the sacrifice of the cross, we offer the prayers of our hearts, that through them we may be transformed to be servants of justice, love, and peace. Make us steadfast witnesses of our Savior's reign, that we may live in the pattern of Christ, who was faithful in all things, even death, and whose darkest hour gives light and hope. Amen. (from RCL Prayers, Fortress Press).

Psalms 131, 132, 133

Daily Lectionary Reading, Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18:1-19:42

Lectio Divina
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:19-22).

Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord (Psalm 22:30).

Prayer for Today:
Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross so that he might draw the whole world to himself. Grant that we, who glory in this death for our salvation, may also glory in his call to take up our cross and follow him (UMBOW 362).

Midday Psalm 119:169-176

Evening
Psalms 137, 138, 139

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday, a Reflection on John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Here's an excerpt from 2009:
Preparation. Sacrifice. Redemption. Memory.
They're preparing to share the Passover meal.

The passage from Exodus reminds of the directions for the first Passover. The Lord had told them that on the night before they were to escape slavery in Egypt, the entire congregation of Israel was to assemble in order to slaughter lambs for a meal. Each household would have a lamb and include neighbors whose household was too small for its own lamb.

And the passage reminds of what is remembered as they continue to gather--their rescue. After the supper, a plague had come through Egypt striking down the first-borns. Only Israel had been saved.

Jesus knows that on this Passover, his hour has come. He knows of his upcoming death and of the betrayal by one close to him.

On this last Passover, with the memory of what happened on the first one and what has happened to his people since, Jesus chooses to wash the feet of his disciples.

Peter considers this unseemly, but Jesus insists, "You'll understand later."

We, the church, are living in the later. I'm wondering which is harder to understand--that I am to allow Jesus to stoop down and perform the work of a lowly servant, or, that Jesus is asking me to emulate him, that I'm expected to stoop down and perform servant work.

Jesus tells them how his disciples will be recognized. They will be the ones who have love for one another.

Daily Prayer, Maundy Thursday, April 21, 2011

Morning

Invitatory Psalm 150

Eternal God, in the sharing of a meal your Son established a new covenant for all people, and in the washing of feet he showed us the dignity of service. Grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit these signs of our life in faith may speak again to our hearts, feed our spirits, and refresh our bodies. Amen. (from RCL Prayers, Fortress Press).

Psalms 125, 126, 127, 128, 129

Daily Lectionary Reading, Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Lectio Divina
I give you a new covenant, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).

Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live (Psalm 116:2).

Prayer for Today:
O God, by the example of your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, you taught us the greatness of true humility, and call us to watch with him in his passion. Give us grace to serve one another in all lowliness, and to enter into the fellowship of his suffering; in his name and for his sake. Amen. UMBOW 349

Midday Psalm 119:161-168

Evening
Psalms 135, 136

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Readings for Wednesday of Holy Week: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 70; Hebrews 12:1-3; John 13:21-32

Here's a repeat from previous year:
Betrayal by one very close

Here we are in Lent, that time set aside on the Christian calendar for reflection and repentance. Today, we read about the last meal that Jesus shared with his closest disciples before his crucifixion. His people, sharing a table, eating together. And one will betray him.

Jesus knows about the upcoming betrayal and knows the identity of the one who is to betray him. The others don't seem to have a clue. Jesus knows and he allows the betrayal to take place.

As you contemplate your own failings and the failings of your fellow Christians, consider the selection from the Epistle to the Hebrews:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 100

Holy God,
who calls your people to sustain the weary
and protect the oppressed.
Uphold us in our concern
and strengthen us,
that we may not only speak our prayers
but also act on behalf of their fulfillment....Amen.

(from RCL Prayers, Fortress Press).

Psalms 120, 121, 122, 123, 124

Daily Lectionary Reading, Isaiah 50:4-9; Psalm 70; Hebrews 12:1-3; John 13:21-32

Lectio Divina
The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens--wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught (Isaiah 50:4).

But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay! (Psalm 70:5)

Prayer for Wednesday of Holy Week
Troubled God,
in every generation
you call your people to contend
against the brutality of sin and betrayal.
Keep us steadfast even in our fear and uncertainty,
that we may follow
where Jesus has led the way. Amen.

(RCL Prayers, Fortress Press).
Midday Psalm 119:153-160

Evening
Psalm 130

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Light to the Nations, Reflection on Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14

Repeat from previous year:

How is your evangelism project doing? How has the world changed for the better because you are living your life according to principles that you have learned from God's Word?

Isaiah had been a prophet long enough to have learned disappointment. God did not let him give up. Instead, God expanded his job description: "You've been trying to do too little to too few."

Use Psalm 71 to help you pray in times of disappointment:
In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me.

Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.

Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.

I have been like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge.

My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all day long.

Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent.

For my enemies speak concerning me, and those who watch for my life consult together.

They say, “Pursue and seize that person whom God has forsaken, for there is no one to deliver.”

O God, do not be far from me; O my God, make haste to help me!

Let my accusers be put to shame and consumed; let those who seek to hurt me be covered with scorn and disgrace.

But I will hope continually, and will praise you yet more and more.

Daily Prayer, Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Morning
If any want to become my followers,
let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
For those who want to save their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life
for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, will save it
(UMBOW 343).

Invitatory Psalm 84

Psalms 97, 98, 99, 101

Daily Lectionary Reading
Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 12:20-36

Lectio Divina
Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. (John 20:25-26a)

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).


Prayer for Today:
Holy and compassionate God, your dear Son went not up to joy before he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified. Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it the way of life and peace; through Jesu Christ your Son, our Savior. Amen. UMBOW 347.

Midday Psalm 119:137-152

Evening
Psalms 115, 116, 117

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Light to Nations, Reflection on Isaiah 42:1-9

Repeat from previous year:

Reading for Monday of Holy Week: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 36:5-11; Hebrews 9:11-15; John 12:1-11

As we move through this week that began with the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, we remember Isaiah's words to a people who needed saving, as do all people who need saving.

He described their savior and reminded them what God is like.

God created heaven and earth
and gave life to the people who walked on it.

And Isaiah reminded them that this salvation was not restricted to a small group of persons; rather, these who were to be saved would be a message for the whole world.

We need to continue to remember that God is our source, our provider, and our rescuer. Use as a prayer today this excerpt from Psalms:

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!

Do not let the foot of the arrogant tread on me, or the hand of the wicked drive me away. (36:5-11)

Daily Prayer, Monday, April 18, 2011

Morning
How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 36:7).

Read Covenant in Plain Sight: A Poem for Monday of Holy Week Based on Isaiah 42:1-9, A 21st Century Africana Liturgy Resource by The Rev. Dr. Valerie Bridgeman Davis

• • • •

If any want to become my followers,
let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
For those who want to save their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life
for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
(UMBOW 343).

Invitatory Psalm 95

Psalms 94, 96

Daily Lectionary Reading
Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 36:5-11; Hebrews 9:11-15; John 12:1-11

Lectio Divina
I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness (Isaiah 42:6-7).

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds (Psalm 36:5).

Prayer for Today:
God of strength and mercy, by the suffering and death of your Son, free us from slavery to sin and death and protect us in all our weakness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (UMBOW 346).

Midday Psalm 119:129-136

Evening
Psalms 110, 111, 112, 113, 114

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Jesus Christ is Lord, Reflection on Philippians 2:1-13

From previous year:

Paul encouraged Christians to live in community and to care for one another. How might such a community look now?

Generations of Hope is a nonprofit adoption agency that has designed a community to resemble a nurturing small town, complete with surrogate grandparents. Created out of a shuttered Air Force base, Generations of Hope seeks to rescue children from foster care and place them with adoptive parents who have moved here. About 30 children currently live with parents in 10 homes. The community is also home to 42 older people who have subsidized rent.

Read more about this amazing experiment in the New York Times, September 16, 2008: For Distant Generations in Illinois, Unrelated but Oh So Close


Christ Jesus could have chosen a different kind of life, a different kind of death, but he didn't. He chose to live as one as a Jew in a Roman-occupied land. He accepted a cruel and what would have been considered a shameful death at their hands.

Paul is not preaching any prosperity gospel. Quite the contrary. He himself had given up privileges due him and had accepted a life of threat and pain and imprisonment.

"Don't be ruled by ambition. Look to the interests of each other."

Paul hadn't done it alone, nor is he expecting the Philippians to "God is at work within you. God will give you the ability both to want to do what is right and also to do it."

(With help from Neil Elliott, Liberating Paul)

Daily Prayer, Sunday, April 17, 2011

Morning
Almighty God, you sent your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,
to suffer death on the cross.
Grant that we may share in his obedience to your will
and in the glorious victory of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and ever. Amen.
(UMH 281)

Invitatory Psalm 24
O Lord, the earth is yours and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
....
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in your holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false
....
Who is this King of glory?
the Lord of hosts,
You are the King of glory.


Psalms 90, 92, 93

Daily Lectionary Reading, Philippians 2:5-11

Lectio Divina
He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death--even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:8-9)

My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors (Psalm 31:15).

Prayer for today:
O God, on this day that we remember the warm welcome given to Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, we also praise him and welcome him into our lives. And as we remember what awaited him there in Jerusalem, we give thanks for his willingness to sacrifice himself. Inspire us to give up clinging to worldly status so that we too might be obedient to your will for the needs of our world. Amen.

Evening
Psalms 108, 109

Saturday, April 16, 2011

God's Servant, a Reflection on Isaiah 50:4-9a

Repeat from previous year:

Jesus explained to Peter--who really would have rather heard something else--that being a messiah included rejection and suffering.

Long before their conversation, the prophet Isaiah told what it is like to be God's servant and what God's servant is to be like.

"Every day I listen to God. I pay attention to God not to those who oppose me. My call is to help the weary and to ignore those who oppose me."

Isaiah reminds us that when we accept God's help and prompting, we can together overcome our adversaries.

Daily Prayer, Saturday, April 16, 2011

Morning
Almighty God, you sent your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,
to suffer death on the cross.
Grant that we may share in his obedience to your will
and in the glorious victory of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and ever. Amen.
(UMH 281)

Invitatory Psalm 67

Psalms 81, 82, 85

Daily Lectionary Reading, Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16

Lectio Divina
Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens--wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught (Isaiah 50:4).

Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love (Psalm 31:16).

Prayer for Today:
O Lord, as we pray toward Sunday, we remember the celebration that Jesus met when he entered Jerusalem, and we remember what followed the celebration. We turn to you in our distress, as have so many before us voicing our pain and our grief. And we turn to you as so many have before us voicing our confidence in your care. Deliver us from our enemies. Let your face shine upon us. Save us in your steadfast love. Amen.

Evening
Psalm 107

Friday, April 15, 2011

Crucifixion, a Reflection on Matthew 27:38-69

Crucifixion was cruel and sadistic. Crucifixion was not only physically painful; it was intended to humiliate and degrade. Morna Hooker in Not Ashamed of the Gospel says that
In the Roman Empire it was used primarily to punish slaves: the threat of crucifixion was used to keep slaves subservient, and the threat was no idle one, for the punishment was often carried out. But it was used also to punish traitors (even Roman citizens, who by their treachery lost their rights) and of course rebellious subject people such as the Jews.

As Jesus hung naked on the cross, the two others being crucified with him, taunt him, saying "You who are the Son of God, come down from the cross." The chief priests, scribes, and elders who are watching the painful, humiliating death also mock him saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself." Their words remind us of Satan's temptations in 4:1-11. Morna Hooker reminds us:
As there, so here, Jesus 'proves' himself to be the Son of God by renouncing power, not exercising it.

Also watching were the many women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and have been providing for him.

After Joseph from Arimathea had received permission to take Jesus' body to the tomb, the women kept vigil there. Jesus' accusers also stood watch, in their case, to make sure that nobody tried to steal the body so as to be able to fake resurrection.

Daily Prayer, Friday, April 15, 2011

Morning

Almighty God, you sent your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,
to suffer death on the cross.
Grant that we may share in his obedience to your will
and in the glorious victory of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and ever. Amen.
(UMH 281)

Invitatory Psalm 118

Psalms 76, 80

Daily Lectionary Reading, Matthew 27:38-69

Lectio Divina
Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, ad the mother of the sons of Zebedee. When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him (Matthew 27:55-58).

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, "You are my God" (Psalm 31:14).

Prayer for Today:
O Lord our God, teach us temperance and self-control, that we may live in the Spirit and be mindful of all that Jesus endured and sacrificed for our sakes, and how he was made perfect through sufferings. Help us so to keep the fast that you have chosen, that we may loose the bonds of wickedness, undo the heavy burdens, and let the oppressed go free; through the grace of Christ Jesus our crucified and risen Savior. Amen. (UMBOW 337).

Midday Psalm 119:121-128

Evening
Psalm 106

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Judas, Pilate, Soldiers, a Reflection on Matthew 27:1-37

The Jewish authorities handed Jesus over to the Roman governor, Pilate. Judas, who had betrayed him, realized what was going to happen, was overcome by remorse. He took the money the priests had given him and threw it into the temple, then hangs himself.

The chief priests discuss what to do with this money that seems tainted to them and decide to use it to buy a field to serve as a burial place for foreigners.

Thomas Long, in his excellent commentary, Matthew, points out the contrast between Judas and the religious authorities:
The deepest tragedy about Judas is not that he is guiltier than others. His guilt is shared by all. The saddest truth about Judas is that he took his remorse to the place of death ad not to the place of life. Like all humanity, he had innocent blood on his hands. "What does innocent blood have to do with us? asked the religious authorities, and their answer to their own question is, "Nothing." Judas's answer was, "I have betrayed innocent blood and the stain can never by removed." But what Judas failed to hear was the answer that Jesus himself gave on the very night of his betrayal. "What does innocent blood have to do with us? This innocent blood, he said, is "my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28).

Pilate, as the Roman governor, has the authority to impose the death sentence. He wants Jesus to confess that he deserves to be executed, "Do you claim to be King of the Jews?" Jesus doesn't respond in a way that makes Pilate's verdict easy.

Pilate infers their motive in handing Jesus over to him and tries to extricate himself from the problem by getting the crowds to agree to release Jesus. After all, the crowds had been so enthusiastic about him only a few days earlier. This crowd, however, is ready to see him killed. When Pilate asks them, "Why, what evil has he done?" they shout louder than they had before, "Let him be crucified!"

So Pilate gives in and hands him over to the soldiers. They mock Jesus by dressing him up like a king, putting a robe on him and a crown of thorns, and putting a reed in his hand. They then spit on him and strip him of the costume, put his own clothes back on him, and lead him away to a place called Golgotha.

When they had crucified him, they divide his clothes among themselves. Over his head they put the charge against him, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews."

Daily Prayer, Thursday, April 14, 2011

Morning
Almighty God, you sent your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,
to suffer death on the cross.
Grant that we may share in his obedience to your will
and in the glorious victory of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and ever. Amen.
(UMH 281)

Invitatory Psalm 150

Psalm 73

Daily Lectionary Reading, Matthew 27:1-37

Lectio Divina
So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; se to it yourselves" (Matthew 27:24).

For I hear the whispering of many--terror all around!--as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, "You are my God." (Psalm 31:14)

Prayer for Today:
O merciful God, in compassion for your sinful children you sent your Son Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the world. Grant us grace to feel and to lament our share of the evil that made it necessary for him to suffer and to die for our salvation. Help us by self-denial, prayer, and meditation to prepare our hearts for deeper penitence and a better life. And give us a true longing to be free from sin, through the deliverance won by Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen. (UMBOW 336)

Midday Psalm 119:113-120

Evening
Psalm 105

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

False Testimony, a Reflection on Matthew 26:47-75

One of his supporters used his sword in an attempt to prevent Jesus' arrest. Jesus told him to put his sword away. Thomas Long, in his commentary on Matthew, outlines the three reasons Jesus gives: 1) Violence is stupid because it just escalates into greater destruction; 2) God has other ways of getting the work done; and 3) what is going to happen must happen so that the scriptures be fulfilled.

Jesus then chastises the crowds, "Why do you think you need weapons to arrest me?"

All the disciples deserted him and fled. Long reminds us that Jesus had forecast this: See 19:27; 26:31.

Under arrest, he is taken to the Jewish high priest. Peter follows at a distance. The council tries to find proof that Jesus is deserving of the death penalty. They are even willing to accept false testimony, but weren't able to. They need to protect themselves, their status, and his words and acts have disrupted their security.

The high priest demands that Jesus testifies under oath that he claims to be the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus responds, "You say so. And you are going to see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven."

That is enough admission for the high priest. He doesn't need any more witnesses. The council agrees that Jesus' words are blasphemy and deserving of the death penalty.

Their security has been threatened, and they react by trying to reestablish it. Peter's security is also threatened. When one of the servant-girls recognizes him as a companion to Jesus, Peter denies it--three times, just as Jesus' had foretold.

Peter was not the last follower of Jesus to deny any knowledge of him when circumstances became uncomfortable.

Morning Prayer, Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Morning
Almighty God, you sent your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,
to suffer death on the cross.
Grant that we may share in his obedience to your will
and in the glorious victory of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and ever. Amen.
(UMH 281)

Invitatory Psalm 100

Psalms 71, 72

Daily Lectionary Reading, Matthew 26:47-75

Lectio Divina
Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: "Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75).

I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me. I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel (Psalm 31:11-12).

Prayer for Today:
Merciful God,
your strength and courage pour forth
to sustain the witness of your faithful people.
Awaken in us the humility to serve
wherever creation is broken and in need,
that we may follow in the way of our brother, Jesus,
die as he did to all that separates us from you,
and with him be raised to new life. Amen.

(from RCL Prayers, Fortress Press.)

Midday Psalm 119:105-112

Evening
Psalm 104

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Failure of Discipleship, a Reflection on Matthew 26:14-46

Disciples are the ones closest to the leader, the ones who are with him, hear what he has to say, watch what he does, and see the effects up close. They are the ones he speaks to and the ones who can ask him questions. They can learn how to emulate their leader--

Or not.

One of the people closest to Jesus was Judas. He offered to betray Jesus to the authorities in exchange for money.

Unfortunately, it is not that difficult for us modern-day disciples to visualize giving up some Jesus-wish in exchange for our own financial security. We may not actually try to get rid of up in some dramatic way, but we might just ignore him and his wishes if they interfere with our own comforts.

Even closer to Jesus than Judas was Peter. After denying strongly that he would never ever desert Jesus, he went to sleep when he was supposed to be awake.

Being a disciple is a full-time job, but many of us want to work only part time.

Morning Prayer, Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Morning
Almighty God, you sent your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,
to suffer death on the cross.
Grant that we may share in his obedience to your will
and in the glorious victory of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and ever. Amen.
(UMH 281)

Invitatory Psalm 84

Psalms 65, 66, 70

Daily Lectionary Reading, Matthew 26:14-46

Lectio Divina

Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners (Matthew 26:45).

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away (Psalm 31:9-10).

Prayer for Today:
Life-giver, Pain-bearer, Love-maker,
day by day you sustain the weary with your word
and gently encourage us to place our trust in you.
Awaken us to the suffering of those around us;
save us from hiding in denials or taunts that deepen the hurt;
give us grace to share one another's burdens in humble service. Amen.

(from RCL Prayers, Fortress Press).

Midday Psalm 119:97-104

Evening
Psalms 102, 103

Monday, April 11, 2011

Joyous Welcome, a Reflection on Matthew 21:1-11

What could possibly go wrong now? They're following the directions the prophets had laid out. Matthew describes the entrance in language evoking Zechariah,
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, you king cones to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (9:9)

A very large crowd welcomes them enthusiastically. Were they thinking of the next verses in Zechariah?
He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the warhorse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth (9:10).

He's being welcomed in Jerusalem, the capital city founded by King David. Of course, now it has been centuries since Jerusalem was ruled by Jews. Now, Rome is in charge. And Rome does not want anyone wanting a new king. Rome favored peace, but a peace in which Rome was totally in charge.

Let's not be Rome for a while. Let us instead welcome the new king into our dominion, a king who will command peace to the nations.

Palm or Passion or Both?

We are reading toward the Sunday that carries the rather contradictory descriptors of Palm/Passion. In my childhood, we didn't have many (any?) services during the week. We met for worship only on Sundays. As I remember it, we celebrated Palm Sunday on the week before Easter. So, we went from the celebration of the welcome of Jesus into Jerusalem to the next Sunday of celebrating his resurrection.

We skipped the Passion part. Now, many churches have worship services every Wednesday, and this week add Thursday and Friday. Does anyone other than Catholics have the Vigil on Saturday?

I am choosing to use all the scriptures for palm and passion in my daily lectionary. Revise the schedule as fits into your own congregational emphasis and your needs this year.

Daily Prayer, Monday, April 11, 2011

Morning
Almighty God, you sent your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,
to suffer death on the cross.
Grant that we may share in his obedience to your will
and in the glorious victory of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and ever. Amen.
(UMH 281)

Invitatory Psalm 95

Psalms 57, 61, 64

Daily Lectionary Reading, Matthew 21:1-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Lectio Divina
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?" (Matthew 21:10

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord (Psalm 118:24-26).

Prayer for Today:
Gentle Jesus, parade yourself again on this Palm Sunday. And do not pass by but stay and invade the inward citadels of our souls with your ways. Correct us where we go astray. Assist us with the almost impossible human task of loving the unlovable which includes our enemies. Bring peace to our souls, O Prince of Peace! Make us a part of a great Christian force which brings healing of the human spirit and joy and laughter to our broken world. For those who suffer and mourn, we ask your care. For our divided world we ask for a vision among its leaders to work for peace and reconciliation. (selected from prayer for Palm Sunday in Prayers for the People, Richard Einerson.)

Midday Psalm 119:89-96

Evening
Psalms 87, 88, 91

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Flesh and Spirit, Reflection on Romans 8:6-11

Repeats from earlier year:
God's law was intended to help humans live the kind of life and to have the kind of community that God wanted them to have. God's law outlined for them how to have the right relationship with God. Yet, being humans, they didn't do so well.

God has a new plan: Christ Jesus. "Those of you who cannot comply with the old law are not required to try. God's Son has dealt with sin. Life in the Spirit of Christ serves as compliance."

Eugene Boring and Fred Craddock, in The People's New Testament Commentary, suggest reading Deuteronomy 30 to remind ourselves of the life-giving original function of the law. They are also helpful in pointing out that the word that the NRSV translates as "flesh" refers to human life as a whole, rather than being limited only to our "lower nature," as translated by the NIV.

We English speakers read "You are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit," and think "He's talking about me. He's making promises to me about my life." Well, so he is, but he's talking to the me that is part of us. The Greek pronoun translated as you is in the plural. Paul is talking to the Christian community. "Church, you're not in the flesh. Church, the Spirit of God dwells in you. Curch, God's breath gives you life."

Daily Prayer, Sunday, April 10, 2011

Morning
God of all consolation and compassion,
your Son comforted the grieving sisters, Martha and Mary;
your breath alone brings life
to dry bones and weary souls.
Pour out your Spirit upon us,
that we may face despair and death
with the hope of resurrection
and faith in the One
who called Lazarus forth from the grave. Amen.
(from RCL Prayers, Fortress Press, 86).

Invitatory Psalm 24
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
Who shall stand in your holy place?
....
Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancinet doors!
....

Psalms 52, 53, 54, 56

Daily Lectionary Reading, Romans 8:6-11

Lectio Divina
To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace....If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you (Romans 8:6, 11).

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered (Psalm 130:3-4).

Prayer for today:
O God, your glory is always to have mercy.
Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways,
and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith
to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word,
Jesus Christ your Son,
who with the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(UMBOW 333).

Evening
Psalms 78, 79, 83, 86

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Basis for Hope, a Reflection on Psalm 130

I'm not good at memorizing, but as I read Psalm 130, I think I really ought to try to be.

This psalm begins with a plea to be heard. This plea is immediately followed by the acknowledgment that the one doing the prayer doesn't deserve to be heard.

When I am in pain, and the situation is due to my own fault, how can I expect God to help? Why would God want to step in to that situation? The answer in the psalm is that God forgives.

The psalmist remembers what God is done, and that knowledge enables hope that this trouble also will be overcome, that sins will be forgiven.

Outline of Psalm 130
Despair.
Pleading.
Memory of what God has already done.
Waiting. Hoping.
Preaching.

Daily Prayer, Saturday, April 9, 2011

Morning
God of all consolation and compassion,
your Son comforted the grieving sisters, Martha and Mary;
your breath alone brings life
to dry bones and weary souls.
Pour out your Spirit upon us,
that we may face despair and death
with the hope of resurrection
and faith in the One
who called Lazarus forth from the grave. Amen.
(from RCL Prayers, Fortress Press, 86).

Invitatory Psalm 67
God, be gracious to us and bless us and make your face shine upon us....
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you....

Psalms 50, 51

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 130

Lectio Divina
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord (Psalm 130:1).

Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! (Psalm 130:2)

Prayer for today:
O Lord, when I am in despair, I turn to you. Forgive me for the times that I have forgotten you.
I remember what you have done for me. I ask you now to do more. Forgive me. Repair me. Support me. Amen.

Evening
Psalms 75, 77

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Necessary Element, a Reflection on Ezekiel 37:11-14

Ezekiel was speaking to people in exile. Was their home lost for them forever? Did the losses in their lives prevent them from worshiping God, from being connected to God? Could they still be a people? Does the despair that comes from the pain in our lives keep us from any hope?

The Lord comes to Ezekiel and asks, "Can these bones live?" Ezekiel says, "You know the answer."

The answer that the Lord gives him is in the form of an instruction, "Prophesy to these bones. Tell them what I am going to do."

Ezekiel does speak to the people. And as he does, those scattered bones come together, sinews and flesh and skin cover them. But, no breath.

This state of life works as a metaphor for our own times. A couple of examples: We can use it to despair of our economic difficulties or of the decline in organized religion--or in our particular denomination. We may still look the way we did in the past when things were better, but things aren't the same. We aren't as productive, we fear the future.

When there was no breath in those mortals, the breath of the Lord God came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet.

Daily Prayer, Friday, April 8, 2011

Morning
God of all consolation and compassion,
your Son comforted the grieving sisters, Martha and Mary;
your breath alone brings life
to dry bones and weary souls.
Pour out your Spirit upon us,
that we may face despair and death
with the hope of resurrection
and faith in the One
who called Lazarus forth from the grave. Amen.
(from RCL Prayers, Fortress Press, 86).

Invitatory Psalm 118
O Lord, you are my strength and my power;
you are my salvation.
....
I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
....
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through the
and give thanks to the Lord.
....

Psalms 41, 42, 43, 47

Daily Lectionary Reading, Ezekiel 37:11-14

Lectio Divina
I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act," says the Lord (Ezekiel 37:14).

My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning (Psalm 130:6)

Prayer for today:
O God, take our dry bones, reconnect them, breathe into them, and restore them to life. Amen. (adapted from UMBOW 375).

Midday Psalm 119:78-88

Evening
Psalm 74

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Can these bones live?, a Reflection on Ezekiel 37:1-10

The Lord asked, "Can these bones live?"

I thought about Ezekiel's vision when I read the article ‘Religion’ is Going Extinct; Religion Isn’t by Louis Ruprecht.

A team of mathematicians concluded that religion was becoming as distinct as dinosaurs. But, there's extinct and there's, let's say emergent. Here's how Ruprecht interprets the data:
Now, if we take the language of “extinction” seriously—as we should—as well as the evolutionary theory it seems to presuppose, then a better way to read this data might be to suggest that a number of recognizably religious traditions are undergoing some significant modern mutations, such that the affiliations into which they are turning bear only a partial resemblance to what preceded them. Dinosaurs don’t just go extinct, they became birds—that’s the idea.

Daily Prayer, Thursday, April 7, 2011

Morning
God of all consolation and compassion,
your Son comforted the grieving sisters, Martha and Mary;
your breath alone brings life
to dry bones and weary souls.
Pour out your Spirit upon us,
that we may face despair and death
with the hope of resurrection
and faith in the One
who called Lazarus forth from the grave. Amen.

(from RCL Prayers, Fortress Press, 86).

Invitatory Psalm 150

Psalms 39, 40

Daily Lectionary Reading, Ezekiel 37;1-10

Lectio Divina
I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered the; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breat, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live." (Ezekiel 37:8-9)

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope (Psalm 130:5)

Prayer for today:
O Lord, in times of despair, open our ears to your words. Bring us together. Inspire us with your Spirit. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119: 68-77



Evening
Psalm 69

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Morning
God of all consolation and compassion,
your Son comforted the grieving sisters, Martha and Mary;
your breath alone brings life
to dry bones and weary souls.
Pour out your Spirit upon us,
that we may face despair and death
with the hope of resurrection
and faith in the One
who called Lazarus forth from the grave. Amen.

(from RCL Prayers, Fortress Press, 86).

Invitatory Psalm 100

Psalm 37

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 11:35-45

Lectio Divina
I know you always hear me. I say this for the benefit of the crowd standing here so that they will believe that you sent me (Common English Bible, John 11:42).

O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities (Psalm 130:7-8).

Prayer for today:
Dying, Christ destroyed our death.
Rising, Christ restored our life.
Christ will come again in glory...
Here and now, dear friends, we are God's children.
What we shall be has not yet been revealed;
but we know that when he appears, we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
.....Amen
(from UMH 870)
Midday Psalm 119:57-67

Evening
Psalms 63, 68

Out of the Tomb, a Reflection on John 11:35-45

Excerpts from Written That You May Believe, by Sandra Schneiders:

....death is examined in its origin or cause, its nature as human experiences and spiritual reality, and its finality or purpose. ... The will of his Father, not human volition, controls life and death. Therefore, whatever death means, nature and human intention cannot be regarded as its ultimate causes because what they bring about, that is, physical death, is in some sense not death; and they cannot bring about death at all except according to God's will and design (page 175-76).

... Martha's confession of faith is in no way a response to the sign of the raising of Lazarus. It is a response to the word of Jesus revealing himself as the resurrection and the life. The sign comes after Martha's confession and does not function as a guarantee of her faith but as a crisis for the Jews who have gathered. Martha does not expect the sign (cf.11:38-39) any more than the disciples of any time or place can expect physical death to be overcome by miracle. Her faith like ours, responds not to the signs of the public ministry but to the revealing word of the present Jesus.... (page 106).

And then I read Jan Richardson's post about Lazarus on her blog, The Painted Prayerbook. I have copied an excerpt but hope you will read the rest.

Nobody goes into the tomb to pull Lazarus out; no one crosses into his realm to haul him to this side of living. Lazarus has to choose whether he will loose himself from the hold of the grave: its hold on him, his hold on it.

Only when Lazarus takes a deep and deciding breath, rises, returns back across the boundary between the living and the dead: only then does Jesus say to the crowd, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Not until Lazarus makes his choice does the unwinding of the shroud begin, and the grave clothes fall away.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Believing, a Reflection on John 11:18-34

Her brother Lazarus had died four days before Jesus arrived. Martha said, "If you had been here, he wouldn't have died." But, as she gives him the responsibility for not having already saved her brother, she adds, "But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him."

Jesus tells her that Lazarus will rise again. Martha responds that she already knows about future resurrections. Jesus says to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die."

Then he asks her the question, "Do you believe this?" She responds, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world."

Martha believes based on what Jesus has told her. She already believes although she is speaking at a time when Lazarus is still in the tomb. She is speaking when Jesus' death and resurrection have not yet ocurred.

Martha goes back to the house to tell Mary that Jesus wants to speak to her. When Mary rushes out of the house, the mourners there follow her because they think she is going to the tomb.

When Mary sees Jesus, she also says to him, "If you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the mourners who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved. He asked, "Where have you laid him?"

Charles Cousar, in Texts for Preaching, A Lectionary Commentary based on the NRSV-Year A, says:
He "was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved (11:33, 38). The Greek terms carry the notion of anger and distress. It is more than a statement of Jesus' empathy with grieving friends. He is troubled. He perceives the evidences of death all about and knows that its power is still very much in place. He sees the sharp opposition that cannot tolerate the giving of life, the religious authorities who are threatened by his transforming deeds....

Daily Prayer, Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Morning
God of all consolation and compassion,
your Son comforted the grieving sisters, Martha and Mary;
your breath alone brings life
to dry bones and weary souls.
Pour out your Spirit upon us,
that we may face despair and death
with the hope of resurrection
and faith in the One
who called Lazarus forth from the grave. Amen.

(from RCL Prayers, Fortress Press, 86).

Invitatory Psalm 84

Psalm 36

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 11:18-34

Lectio Divina,
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live" (John 11:25).

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! (Psalm 130:1-2)

Prayer for today:
Jesus our Friend, you wept at the grave of Lazarus, you know all our sorrows. Behold our tears, and bind up the wounds of our hearts. Through the mystery of pain, bring us into closer communion with you and with one another. Raise us from death into life. And grant, in your mercy, that we may come to live, with you and with all whom we love, with you forever. Amen. (adapted from UMBOW 163).



Midday Psalm 119:49-56

Evening
Psalms 11, 14, 15, 16

Monday, April 4, 2011

Delay, a Reflection on John 11:1-17

When their brother got ill, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus. He waited two days before he went to see them.

By the time that John's gospel was first being distributed to the churches, Christians had been concerned about the delay in the return of Christ and the new life that they were looking forward to.

In this passage, Jesus chooses to delay; he is the one who decides when to make his appearance.

But, although he delayed his visit to them, he nevertheless was aware of what was happening to them and was concerned about them.

His delay is helpful in teaching them something. He puts it this way, "I'm doing it in the way that will enable you to believe."

To see this connection between witness to what Jesus can accomplish and the result of that witness, read John 20:30-31, Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah the Son of God, and through believing you may have life in his name.

Daily Prayer, Monday, April 4, 2011

Morning
God of all consolation and compassion,
your Son comforted the grieving sisters, Martha and Mary;
your breath alone brings life
to dry bones and weary souls.
Pour out your Spirit upon us,
that we may face despair and death
with the hope of resurrection
and faith in the One
who called Lazarus forth from the grave. Amen.

(from RCL Prayers, Fortress Press, 86).

Invitatory Psalm 95

Psalm 34

Daily Lectionary Reading, John 11:1-17

Lectio Divina
Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world (John 11:9).

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope (Psalm 130:5)

Prayer for today:
As we face the pain and losses in our lives, we turn to you, asking you to be with us. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:41-48

Evening
Psalms 46, 48, 49

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Live in the Light, a Reflection on Ephesians 5:8-14

Advice to new Christians:

When you lived in the dark, you couldn't see, but, now that the light is on, you can. So, do.

Consider what people do when they think no one can see them. Well, you can see now, and you can be seen.

Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.

This advice can be useful to us old Christians, as well. We should be aware of what the Lord wants us to do and not to do. We should, but do we live as if we did?

Tangent: Light does help us see more and better. In addition, it enables growth. I'm thinking about the flowerpots I have on the windowsill. I see more blooms there than if I had put them somewhere else.

Another tangent: After I had written this post (I usually am about 4 or 5 days ahead), I read this entry entitled Life in the Light in Bishop Ward's blog:

Live as children of light. . . – Ephesians 5:8

In this fourth week of Lent, let us enter into a season of prayer and holy conversation in regard to the resources we share for the ministry of Christ in the Mississippi Conference.

The trustees of the annual conference will ask the 2011 Annual Conference if you desire to enter into a year of discernment regarding the current use of The United Methodist Building in light of an offer from Galloway United Methodist Church to purchase it for urban ministry in downtown Jackson. A decision would be made no earlier than the 2012 Annual Conference.

The trustees share this possibility with you so that we might think prayerfully together, seeking what seems “good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28).

Entering into a year of discernment would provide opportunity for us to 1) assess our need in light of current realities of usage, 2) assess the condition and deferred maintenance of the United Methodist Building, 3) consider alternative alternatives for the future, and 4) develop any plan for the future with concern for minimal financial impact on the conference and local churches.

There is strong commitment to the historical and missional presence in downtown Jackson. John Wesley is our example as we remember his establishment of The Foundry for urban ministry in the city of London. The possibility of using our current facility for urban mission could align our history with our vision, continuing strong Methodist presence and witness in the center of Jackson.

The Irish poet Seamus Heaney wrote of times “when hope and history rhyme.” We will decide together in Annual Conference session if this opportunity resonates in our spirits as wise and worthy of consideration.

With gratitude for your partnership in the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Hope Morgan Ward

Daily Prayer, Sunday, April 3, 2011

Morning
Invitatory Psalm 24

Read and reflect on Psalms 32, 33

Daily Lectionary Reading, Ephesians 5:8-14

Lectio Divina
Everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (Ephesians 5:13-14).

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long (Psalm 23:6).

Prayer for Today:
....
This is the message we have heard from God and proclaim to you, that God is light and in God there is no darkness at all. If we walk in the light, as God is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus the Son cleanses us from all sin.

May almighty God, who caused light to shine out of darkness, shine in our hearts, cleansing us from all our sins, and restoring us to the light of the knowledge of God's glory, in the face of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.
(from UMBOW 476)

Evening
Psalms 44, 45

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lessons to be Learned and Lived, a Reflection on Psalm 23

Harold Kushner wrote a guide to the 23rd Psalm, The Lord Is My Shepherd. In this book, he discusses the psalm verse by verse both in context of the time it was written and how it is applicable to our own lives. For more information, see the Reading Guide.

Kushner reminds us that the psalm doesn't offer us the pious hope that if we are good people that our lives will be easy. Instead, we can expect God's help as we meet the challenges that face us. Another lesson that Kushner finds in the psalm is that although we cannot control what happens to us, we can control how we respond to it.

Daily Prayer, Saturday, April 2, 2011

Morning

Come let us walk in the light of the Lord, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths (Isaiah 2:5, 3c; UMBOW 326).

Invitatory Psalm 67

Read and reflect on Psalms 26, 27, 29

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 23

Lectio Divina

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name's sake (Psalm 23:1-3).

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff--they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows (Psalm 23:4-5).

Prayer for today:
O holy and merciful God
we confess that we have not always taken upon ourselves the yoke of obedience,
nor been willing to seek and to do your perfect will.
We have not loved you
with all our heart and and and soul and strength,
neither have we loved our neighbors as ourselves.
You have called to us in the need of our sisters and brothers,
and we have passed unheeding on our way.
In the pride of our hearts, and our unwillingness to repent,
we have turned away from the cross of Christ.
....
(from UMBOW 476)

Remind us now that you are our shepherd. Lead us back to the right paths.

Evening
Psalms 35:1-3, 9-28; 38

Friday, April 1, 2011

Anointing a New King, a Reflection on 1 Samuel 16:1-13

The Lord has told Samuel to do something, but it's something that would be upsetting to the king, and the king is the one who has the army.

The solution they come up with for this task is deception. Samuel will do what the Lord has told him, go to Bethlehem to anoint a new king, but he's pretending that he is on a different mission, one that would be acceptable to the king.

The Lord has rejected Saul as king over Israel and has told Samuel to anoint a new king, one that the Lord has selected. Apparently, this rift is not a complete secret. When Samuel gets to Bethlehem, the elders of the city meet him and ask him if he's come in peace. They apparently are also weighing the risks in listening to what the Lord wants but suffering the consequences of what the king doesn't.

Samuel is not completely frank with them. He says he has come in peace, and I'm sure that he hopes that he has. He does invite them to come with him so he's not being completely secret about his mission. (Note: Samuel is the one who anointed Saul--the ceremony that made Saul the king (1 Samuel 9:17-10:1). That ceremony had also been done in secret.)

The Lord has told Samuel to choose one of Jesse's sons, saying "I will make know to you what you shall do; you shall anoint the one I point out to you."

When the first son comes by, Samuel thinks that surely he is the one that the Lord wants. But the Lord tells him not to pay attention to his appearance, for while humans can see only what is visible, the Lord can see into the heart." Same with the next son, and the next, and so on through the seventh.

Samuel asks Jesse if he has any others to show him. Jesse says that there is one more, the youngest who is at the moment tending the sheep. Samuel says to send for him to join in their meal.

When David arrives, the Lord says that this is the one. Samuel anoints him in the presence of his brothers. (Apparently the town elders had not accepted his invitation to go to Jesse's house.)

A couple of points: David is tending the sheep. He is a shepherd. (Remember Joseph?)

The one that the Lord has chosen is not the obvious candidate to Samuel or to David's father. Being close to someone or being in charge of something doesn't always give you the wisdom to know what's best.

Another point--consider what a shepherd must be able to do in order to care for the flock. What better preparation for a leader could we ask for?

Daily Prayer, Friday, April 1, 2011

Morning

God of all the ages, in your sight nations rise and fall, and pass through times of peril. When our land is troubled, be near to judge and save. May leaders be led by your wisdom; may they search your will and see it clearly. If we have turned from your way, reverse our ways and help us to repent. Give us your light and your truth, let the guide us; through Jesus Christ, who is lord of this world, and our Savior. Amen. (UMBOW 517).

Invitatory Psalm 118

The Lord is my strength and my power;
the Lord has become my salvation.
....
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord's doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day which the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
....

Psalms 23, 25

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Samuel 16:1-13

Lectio Divina
Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out ad went to Ramah (1 Samuel 16:13).

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows (Psalm 23:5).

Prayer for today:
God of all the ages,
in your sight nations rise and fall, and pass through times of peril.
Now when our land is troubled, be near to judge and save.'May leaders be led by your wisdom;
may they search your will and see it clearly.
If we have turned from your way,
reverse our ways and help us to repent.
Give us your light and your truth, let them guide; us;
through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of this world, and our Savior.

(UMBOW 517)

Midday Psalm 119:33-40

Evening
Psalms 30, 31