It’s Sunday. It’s a day we set aside to worship God and listen to His Word. As I listened to Rev. Steve Hundley deliver his sermon today, I did my usual. I recorded on my bulletin what my ears took in poetically.
Here are my notes:
People flocked to Jesus. He began to preach from a boat. He had to distance from the crowd So he drifted out a bit to float.
Distanced from the multitudes, Jesus told the Parable of the Seed. The Seed is the Word of God, Spoken to the people in need.
Jesus warned that the Word Often falls on deaf ear. He explained that not all seeds Grow in all who hear.
But those who allow the seed to grow, Spend time to allow the seed to sink in, Let it bury itself in their hearts, Can bear fruit and juice they drink in.
The seed of the Word is like A Smoothie blended into thought and deed. Let the Word transform you And grow to the Faith we all need.
But we may carry a ball & chain of doubt That keeps us from letting go Of the seeds that need to be planted In Good Soil so they can grow,
Don’t hoard the Seeds of plenty That God has blessed in you. Sow them, grow them, harvest And blend them to a Smoothie. Do!
Every seed carries in its bosom the future. Trust God to make the seeds grow. Be the sower who trusts the Maker To find Good Soil wherever you go.
The Parable of the Sower
Matthew 13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13:18“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
Have a Super Sunday, Dear WordPress friends, Bee well Bee safe See ya tomorrow Love, JanBeek
We had a wonderful outdoor church service today. God blessed us with the most perfect weather imaginable!
Rev. Steve Hundley delivered a great sermon titled “”Peter Pride and Dana Defeated.” He assured us the names were not gender specific! If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I take sermon notes in poetry as I listen.
I changed the title to “The story of Our Freedom.”
The story of our freedom Is written on the Statue of Liberty. We believe in that freedom, but It can make captives of you and me.
We can be captivated by Our need to be totally free. Our need to be gregarious Causes us to share with you our glee.
We strive (like Peter Pride) to be At the top – – – the Number One. But sometimes Peter Pride’s goals Get in the way of following God’s Son.
We resist the role of Dana Defeated, Who is a critic of her own. She usually feels unworthy And tries so hard she’s tired to the bone.
Jesus says to give Him your burdens. He’ll put His yoke upon you And help you carry your troubles. Let Him take a pound or two.
Peter Pride sees life through self-effort. He keeps religion in its place. He knows Jesus has a point, But you gotta work to stay in the race.
Peter doesn’t believe burdens are light. He sees Dana Defeated as sad. She walks humbly and asks for help, But seldom looks contented or glad.
Peter found the glory of being on top Often is overshadowed by loss. Way up there, it’s sometimes lonely; No one to help carry our cross.
Jesus said, “Come to Me, I’ll give you rest.” He’s talking to Dana and Peter, both. Life should not be a journey to death. Instead, accept Jesus’ helpful yokes.
Jesus will provide the yoke for us. He’ll join with us and help us carry Our burdens of pride or defeat. Let Him lift you – and be merry!
Have a Wonderful Sunday, my friends. See ya tomorrow. Love ya, JanBeek
These lilacs connect To the vine of existence In the vine is life
Apart from the vine, Obviously these flowers die. We are just like that!
“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5 (NIV)
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
This morning I thought I had lost my WordPress posts. I thought I’d lost YOU!
Words of comfort came – Rushed in to reassure me: We are connected!
My history is here… Eight years of important posts Help keep us in touch.
Apart from you – Pop! The balloon of my WordPress Loses all its air!
When I posted this Blog from my iPhone today Only Youtube showed.
It’s an important Message about connection From Ronald Reagan.
Whether you are from the USA or not; whether you are Republican or Democrat or Independent, You should watch this. It was recorded in a different era, at a time when it was not seen as divisive to evoke God’s name in the White House. The Bible was not used as a prop. It was quoted as a means of encouraging us to reach out in love… Reach out and JUST LOVE ONE ANOTHER!
Please stay connected! Apart from you, my blog is nothing. Apart from God, I am nothing!
Caralyn of BeautyBeyondBones (do you follow her here on WordPress?) wrote to me today and said,
“We are all part of His family, and I pray we all realize that and start to act accordingly, with love for our fellow brother and sisters!”
AMEN, Caralyn. Amen, my dear brothers and sisters. I love you all. Please stay connected.
Listening to God Is a daily endeavor It takes intention His Words are clever
God speaks through Jesus Jesus, His Holy Son And He speaks through the Spirit The Holy Spirit, that’s the One!
Listening to God Takes a willing heart It takes a willing spirit Here’s the way to start:
Bee-ware… and aware!
“The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.”
Does the Lord “waken your ear” each morning to listen? Every morning my friend, Lisa, who lives across the continent from me – over on the east coast – sends me a picture of where she is and assures me that she has me in prayers. Her pictures show me a scene so different from my own.
Each One Has Their Own Way
In our different environments, each of us is listening and praying. Each of us in our own way. We are open to God’s word – and open to whatever message He has for our day. We share special prayers for one another. It is a beautiful way to start each day.
Do you have a special friend who helps you to Bee more open, teachable, and attentive?
Do you have a system for Beeing more expectant and responsive?
If so, I’d love to have you share with me ways you are open to hearing God speak to you each day.
Through His Word and through music, God speaks to me most clearly. How about you? Which of those ten “Bees” are most helpful to you when you want to tune in to God’s voice?
Have a Fabulous Friday, my friends. Bee well! See ya later. JanBeek
A friend sent this to me in an e-mail today. I found it to be quite thought-provoking. Decided to share it with you. (Author unknown)
The Latin root of the word “quarantine” is “forty”. So what does the Bible say about 40? The flood lasted 40 days. 40 years Moses fled Egypt. 40 days Moses stayed on Mount Sinai to receive the Commandments. Exodus lasted 40 years. Jesus fasted for 40 days. Lent is 40 days. 40 days for a woman to rest after giving birth. 40 weeks to delivery
40 Represents Change
A group of theologians thinks the number 40 represents “change”. It is the time of preparing a person, or people, to make a fundamental change. Something will happen after these 40 days. Just believe and pray.
Please know that during this “quarantine” rivers are cleaning up, vegetation is growing, the air is becoming cleaner because of less pollution, there is less theft and murder, healing is happening, and most importantly, people are turning to Christ. The Earth is at rest for the first time in many years and hearts are truly transforming.
Ask Guidance for Change
So, during this time, enjoy it with your loved ones and return to the family altar together. Family prayer is a great blessing. Through prayer you will see the changes God can work in you and in your home. Christ promises us that everything works together for the good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes: Romans 8:28!
Remember we are in the year 2020, and 20 + 20 = 40.
Also, 2020 is the year of the United States Census. Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, was born during a census.
Lastly, 2020 is perfect vision. May our sight focus on the Lord and living according to His perfect vision for us knowing He holds us in the palm of His hand.
May these days of “quarantine” bring spiritual liberation to our souls, our nation, and our world. The best is yet to come. Trust in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!✨
When will you have been quarantined for 40 days? Today was my 32nd day.
Have a Terrific Tuesday, my friends. I send my love and best wishes for your health. See ya later.
Thanks to Pastor Steve Hundley and our music minister, Fran McNiell, for the prayers, stories, and sermon, and the music for today’s worship service.
THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
April 19, 2020
Risen Christ, the brightness of God’s glory and exact image of God’s Person, who death could not conquer nor tomb imprison, as You have shared our frailty in human flesh, help us to share Your immortality in the Spirit. Let no shadow of the grave terrify us and no fear of darkness turn our hearts from You. Reveal Yourself to us this day and all our days, as the First and the Last, the living One, our immortal Savior and Lord. Amen.
Prayer of Confession:
We confess, O God, that we have not lived the past weeks in the faith of Easter. We have been like the disciples, who saw life in terms of the suffering of the cross more than in the joy of resurrection. Forgive our hopelessness in the face of our world’s response to the COVID 19 pandemic, these past few weeks, and help us to trust more fully that You are the Lord of our future. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon:
As God raised Jesus from the dead, so God will lift us all from the graves of broken dreams. God makes us whole again and send us forth to witness to His name.
A Children’s Message for Adults, too!
Steve’s message for the children today tells of a boy carrying two buckets… not just one, and not on a sandy beach like this one… read on and see how his buckets and path differed from this!
(a true story)
When I was a boy, my mother would often send me down the road to Clyde’s cabin to help him with his laundry. Clyde lived in a log cabin he had built in the early nineteen-hundreds. His cabin had no running water, only a well out back. There was a creek out front less than a quarter mile from his front door.
Clyde had an old roller washing machine, a tub and an old scrub board. It was my job to carry water from the creek to the cabin in two old milk pails. I would fill the pails in the creek and make my way back to the cabin, pouring what water that didn’t spill or leak out of the buckets into the large tub. Filling each bucket to the rim each trip, I would arrive with less than half a bucket of water. At that rate, it would take me practically all day to supply enough water for Clyde’s washing and rinsing.
Complaining about the amount of water that I was spilling over the top of the buckets, not to mention the water lost from holes in his dilapidated buckets, Clyde instructed me to place a small block of wood in the buckets. He explained that the blocks of wood floating in the buckets would help water from splashing out the tops. Though it helped a little, I continued to leak water from the holes the buckets.
On one trip from the creek to the cabin with water leaking down my legs and into my shoes, I had had about enough. “Clyde,” I moaned, “When are you going to throw away these sorry buckets and buy new ones? These dented old rust buckets are full of holes.” Clyde just smiled his toothless grin and said, “Why boy, those are my special buckets. I could never get rid of them.” “But these sorry things are full of holes,” I whined. “And, it takes me twice the effort and double the trips back and forth from the creek, to fill your tubs.”
“Boy, take a look along that path leading down to the creek,” Clyde said. “Do you see all those beautiful wildflowers, lining the path?Every time you made the hard trip from the creek to the cabin, spilling water along the way, you were unknowingly watering God’s beautiful flowers for us to enjoy.”
Jesus’ followers found the path towards Easter to be really difficult. Peter denied knowing Jesus, not once, but three times, though he vowed never to do so. After that, he was so upset that he no longer considered himself worthy of being a disciple. Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to watch her son suffer and die on the cross. Mary Magdalene was not only upset by Jesus’ death, but was horrified to think that someone had stolen His body when she found the stone rolled away.
I am sure that God could have found an easier path for them to follow than the way of the cross. But, without the pain of the cross, there can be no Easter joy. Without God coming into the world in the person of Jesus Christ and paying the price for our failures on the cross, we would not see, know, or enjoy the beauty of His love for us.
Prayer for Illumination:
God of life, whose Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and draws us to Christ, send Your Spirit now to give us deeper insight, encouragement, faith and hope, through the proclamation of the Easter gospel. Amen.
An Easter Message: “Through Locked Doors”
For centuries Christians celebrated Jesus’ resurrection the week following Easter with parties and picnics. The week culminated with “Bright Sunday” or “Holy Humor Sunday”, a day of joy and laughter. Churchgoers and pastors would play jokes on each other, tell silly jokes, and would sing and dance. The custom was rooted in the notion of early Christian theologians like St. Augustine, St. Gregory of Nysa, and St. John Chrysostom that God had played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead. Early theologians called it “the Easter Laugh”. Later, it became known as “the Gospel as Divine Comedy.”
However, the thought of the resurrection as God’s practical joke on the devil and death is not something we tend to think about the Sunday following Easter. Over the years, the tradition of “Bright Sunday” or “Holy Humor Sunday” has been lost. That tradition has been replaced with what we have come to know as “Low Sunday.” Compared to the highest feast day in the church year – Easter Sunday- the Sunday following is considered the lowest. Why is that?
I don’t know. Maybe the excitement of Easter Sunday fades so quickly because the church, over the years, has lost its hope in the power of the resurrection. Maybe. Or, perhaps it is because the stories of Easter and the resurrection have become so familiar to us that we have lost sight of the irony of life overcoming death, especially given the high death toll we are experiencing during this recent pandemic. Well, maybe.
You have to admit that someone rising from the grave is a rather fantastic idea in our modern world. For instance, when my son was in middle school, he came home one day after school to discover that our Brittany Spaniel was running around in the backyard with our neighbors’ pet rabbit in its mouth. Chasing the dog, my son finally caught it and wrenched the rabbit from its jaws. He quickly discovered, not only was the rabbit covered with mud and dog slobber, it was also dead as a door nail.
Panicking, he scooped the rabbit up and ran into the house. In the bathroom, he carefully washed the rabbit off, carefully brushed it out, and dried it with his mother’s hairdryer. Stealthily, he crept back into the neighbors’ yard and quickly placed the dead rabbit back into its rabbit pen. Arranging it just right, it was impossible to tell that the rabbit was dead. Sneaking back to the house, my son retired to his room, promising himself not to tell anyone what had really happened.
Arriving home from my office, I was standing in the kitchen when I heard the blood curdling scream coming from my neighbor’s backyard. Running out the house, I ran to the fence to see our neighbor’s wife staring with horror into the rabbit pin. “What on earth has happened?” I called. “THE RABBIT, IT DIED!” she screamed. “It died?” I said inquiringly. Turning to run back into her house, she screamed: “YES, IT DIED THREE DAYS AGO! WE BURIED IT, BUT NOW IT IS BACK! (Now this story may not be true, but you have to admit, be it rabbit or human, rising up from the grave is a fantastic notion in this day and time!)
Can you and I even fathom the shock of the disciples when Jesus appeared to them, passing through locked doors? Sure, they had trudged behind Jesus through the entire Judean countryside. Jesus’ purpose and teachings were hard to understand, even though He spoke of being the Christ—the Messiah—the Holy One of God, who is of the Father.
But, all that must have seemed like a dream (or more like a nightmare) when Jesus was crucified, ending all hope. The death of Jesus had slammed the door on their greatest hopes and dreams. It was over. It had been good while it lasted, but now the door was locked and nothing could bring Him back to life again, or so they thought. They had buried Him three days before, AND NOW, HE WAS BACK!
Of course, the reaction to God’s practical joke on death was varied among Jesus’ followers. While the “beloved disciple” may have believed without evidence except for an empty tomb, Mary Magdalene only believed because the Risen Christ called her by name. The remaining disciples, excluding Thomas, believed only because their Risen Christ appears to them, granting peace to them, and showing them His hands and His side. Yet, for Thomas, neither the word of his fellow disciples, nor the sight of the Risen Lord would be sufficient. For Thomas said, “Unless I place my fingers into the nail holes, and stick my hand in His side, I will not believe.”
It would seem that true FAITH is not the same experience for everyone, not then, not now. Neither is FAITH generated with the same kind and degree of evidence for each individual. For some, FAITH is born and grows as quietly as a child sleeping on grandmother’s lap. For others, FAITH is a lifetime of wrestling with the angel. And, some cannot remember a time in their life when they didn’t believe, while others cannot remember anything else with their lives having been shattered and reshaped by their decision of FAITH.
No matter how FAITH came, or comes, to you and me, it would do us well to remember the words of Jesus who said: (and I paraphrase), “REMEMBER THIS, UNLESS YOU ACCEPT GOD’S KINGDOM IN THE SIMPLICITY OF A CHILD, YOU’LL NEVER GET IT.” And like a child, what better way to celebrate God’s joke on death than with joy, laughter, singing, and dancing? Yet, what a shame it is, when the voice of doubters or the voice of those of us for whom FAITH has become the norm, even commonplace, drown out the true irony and wonder of the resurrection.
When I think of the true joy and wonder of faith, I cannot help but remember a boy named Lonnie, years ago, in my 3rd grade classroom. Lonnie’s parents had died in an automobile accident, so his grandparents were raising him. I remember how we used to tease Lonnie mercilessly, because he would believe anything. We’d say, “The school burned down, so we don’t have to go to school Monday.” “Oh, boy!” he’d say. You see, he’d believe it!
“They are giving away free ice cream down at Mr. Kern’s grocery store.” “FREE ICE CREAM?” he’d squeal and off he’d go running. “Lonnie, did you know that that Elvis is coming to our school?” “HE IS REALLY? WHOOPEE!” Yep, that boy would believe anything!
One day, Lonnie showed up at our little country church and came to our Sunday School class. Our teacher, old Miss King, told Lonnie that: “God loves you and cares for You. And God will come to you in Jesus Christ who has risen from the dead.” And do you know, THAT KID BELIEVED IT! HE ACTUALLY BELIEVED IT!
Do you believe it? Do we really believe it? And, if we do, then where is our laughter? Where is the singing and dancing? Where is our uncontrollable joy? Hmmm.
Lord of the cross and the Empty Tomb, we worship You. Though the pandemic rages on, You give us reason to hope. We thank You that we are not alone even as the news of more Corona Virus cases and deaths dominate the headlines. Though we are well-acquainted with death, dying and grief, we praise You that death has been vanquished and its spell broken. And though our lives are still embroiled in sin, failure and inadequacy, thank You, O God, for giving our lives meaning, purpose and direction.
We confess that the more days we stay at home, the more likely it is that we may forget Your power and fall into despair. Yet, today we remember and hope comes back. Though the darkness of the night brought doubt and disarray, in the light of this new day we bow our heads in worship. Like Thomas, we desire to see the nail prints and touch the wound in Your side, but Your presence is enough, and we cry out, saying: “My Lord, and my God!”
Walk among us, Lord, and touch our troubled lives. Give hope to the hopeless, strength to the faltering, love to the lonely, compassion and courage to those on the front line of this pandemic. We pray for health, hope, and help for those who have lost their incomes and/or health insurance in the midst of this ongoing lock down. Let the radiance of Your resurrected presence shine upon them and us as it shone upon Your first disciples and make new persons of us all, as it did of them.
Transform us from frightened, hesitant, uncommitted followers into people of fire and steel who know what we believe and who will follow You no matter what the future holds. Live in and through us. Walk among us and teach us to walk with You. For You alone have the words of eternal life, and You alone can call us into discipleship. Lord of the cross and empty tomb, we praise You! Bring healing and hope to our hurting world, for Your name’s sake, saying together, as One Church, One Body …”Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts (trespasses), as we forgive our debtors (those who trespass against us). And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”
Go into the world: dance, laugh, sing, and create.
Go into the world: risk, explore, discover, and love.
Go into the world: believe, hope, struggle, and remember.
Please go to her post to read the story and become acquainted with Donna. Here is her poem:
TRIED YOUR BEST
At the end of my life
when I stand before the Lord,
I just want to hear Him say,
“You tried your best.”
“You may not have always succeeded
and yes, there were times
when you failed;
but you never let Me down for
you tried your best.”
“The gifts that I gave you,
you did try to use.
You may not have always used them,
indeed many times you did fail,
but it is okay
I love you,
You tried your best.”
“You listened for my voice.
You did your best to obey.
The words that I spoke,
they pierced your heart and you
tried your best
to let them change you those days.”
“You were not perfect,
I did not create you to be.
I knew that apple
would be picked off the tree.
I know you are not perfect,
that is okay with me.”
I provided my Son to take all that away.
All I ever wanted from you my dear child
is to know that you wanted to
try your best.”
“Tried your best
to do the right things,
tried your best
to be the best you could be.”
“In all your relationships, I never did frown,
I saw you my child, you were
trying your best.”
At the end of my life when I stand before the Lord,
more than all else, with such love in His eyes,
I want to hear Him say,
“MY child, you
TRIED YOUR BEST.”
Starts with Mind-Set
Part of trying to do and DOING your best is mind-set. It’s where all the effort begins… in your head and in your heart. If you’ve followed my blog very long at all, you know I begin each day in my “Angel Room.” It’s my favorite room in the house.
In my sanctuary, I pray, meditate, read devotionals and the Bible, and often write letters and cards to friends. Often the inspiration for my blog comes during my sanctuary time.
It Takes Divine Guidance
Before I leave my sanctuary each morning and walk down the spiral staircase, I ask for Divine Guidance, I pray,
“Lord, take me where you want me to go today. Help me meet who You want me to meet. Tell me what you want me to say. Help me be what You made me to be. Show me what You want me to do. Help me walk in Your Way.”
These days, with the COVID-19 restrictions in place, He doesn’t want me to GO very far from home. The people I meet are usually on ZOOM or MarcoPolo, FaceTime, FaceBook, or here on WordPress. But, I do ask for help with what to say here on my blog, elsewhere on the internet, in phone calls and messages, and on those cards I write.
God helps me live up to WHO He made me to be… and I try my best to follow His lead. That’s all we can do you know: DO OUR BEST!
There are so many great resources out there to help us on our daily walk. Guideposts is one of my go-to sources. I have been reading their Daily Guideposts for at least a decade.
Recently I received a complimentary copy of Strength & Grace, daily devotionals for caregivers. I was tempted to pass it along to a friend who is caring for her recuperating spouse, but then I read a page or two, and I decided it is very pertinent to all of us who are sequestered and taking care of ourselves – and whoever may be living in the house with us.
Today’s message, April 18th, was titled, “Caregiver Foolishness.” It might have just said, “Our Foolishness,” because we all are foolish at times! We all occasionally make “careless mistakes or unwise decisions.” The message went on to explain:
“Foolishness strikes when we are tired and vulnerable, making us feel even worse.” But don’t stop there, we are told, “The opposite of foolishness is wisdom – God’s specialty. We may be fools, but God is always there with us, ready to carry us when we blunder.”
Try Your Best and Believe
So, the good news is: God knows our hearts. God knows our sincere efforts. He shares His wisdom and strength with us.
As long as we rely on God, it’s okay to be foolish at times. After all, we’re mortal. He did not create us to be perfect! Just join the Guideposts prayer team and me:
“God of strength and wisdom, even in my most foolish moments, You are there. I thank You for Your wisdom when I try my best, and for Your grace when my best doesn’t measure up.
I thank You for Your strength when I am weak. Help me always to remember, as Donna Marie wrote in her poem, ‘At the end of my life, when I stand before the Lord, I just want to hear Him say, you tried your best!’
Help me with my mind-set, my adherence to Your divine guidance, and my wise use of the many resources out there to assist my efforts. Help me in my Belief and forgive my doubts.
In Jesus Name, Amen”
Thanks for your visit to JanBeek today. Do your best to have a restful Saturday night and a blessed Sunday.
Our pastor, Steve Hundley, and choir director, Fran McNiell, teamed up to present a wonderful on-line church service for us. It’s not a video. It’s a Word document with links to a couple of majestic Easter hymns performed by The Hereford Cathedral Choir and congregation with orchestral and pipe organ accompaniment.
Resurrected Lord, like Mary Magdalene alone in the garden we, too, find ourselves alone, separated from those we love on this Easter morning. Risen Christ, come to us as You came to her. Let no shadow of the grave terrify us and no fear of darkness turn our hearts from You. Reveal Yourself to us this day and all the days ahead, as the first and the last, the Living One, our Immortal Savior and Lord. Amen.
Celebrate the Empty Tomb
Today we celebrate the empty tomb and our risen Savior. Let us confess our shortcomings and ask our Savior to forgive us. Here is Pastor Steve Hundley’s
Prayer of Confession:
Almighty God, in raising Jesus from the grave, You shattered the power of sin and death. We confess that we remain captive to doubt and fear, as CORVID 19 virus rampages through our world and alters our lives. Forgive us, God of mercy. Help us to trust Your power to heal, to give us life and make us new, that we may know the joy of life abundant given in Jesus Christ, the risen Lord. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: (I Corinthians 15:54-57)
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is Your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayer for Illumination:
God of life, whose Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and draws us to Christ, send Your Spirit now to give us deeper insight, encouragement, faith and hope, through the proclamation of the Easter gospel. Amen.
Overcoming Life’s Greatest Temptation
“Do not worry about anything.” Paul said it. Jesus preached it in His sermon on the Mount message. It is Scripture to be obeyed. But, is it really humanly possible not to worry about anything? It is like telling a lame man to stop dragging his feet, or telling someone with a virus not to cough or sneeze so much. If life were predictable, maybe we could avoid “worrying about anything.” But as this deadly virus and empty pews on this Easter Sunday has reminded us, life is full of the unexpected—the unforeseen life interruptions that can turn our world upside down.
Of course, some unforeseen interruptions can be weathered better than others. When an appliance breaks at the most inopportune time, it is annoying, but we can handle that. Or, when we are late for an appointment and stuck in traffic. I know, I know, this is Montana, but it can happen.
And yet today, the whole world is in lockdown, in this, the mother and father of all unforeseen interruptions, and it has turned our lives upside down, stopping us dead in our tracks. The boss says: “I am sorry but we are going to have to let you go,” leaving you without a job or health insurance. The doctor says: “I’m afraid you’ve tested positive for the virus”; or, the paramedic says: “We did everything we could, but there is nothing more we could have done.” And we wonder: “Why is this happening? Where is God in all of this?”
Even though our faith assures us that God has a plan, it is little comfort as hopes, dreams, plans, and future crumble before us. You see, the greater life’s interruption, the more it bleeds over into the love for whom we care most.
As a pastor, husband and father, I tended to be a bit of a workaholic with more than a healthy dose of guilt. Some years ago, I was so caught up in my ministry that I was neglecting my own family. Concerned that I was not spending enough time with my daughter, Elaine suggested that I plan some quality time with Bethany. Elaine pointed out how much our daughter cherished the time I took her on a road trip to upstate NY. We attended the Eastern Traditional Archery Rendezvous where we camped out and competed with traditional archers from all over the country. My daughter described it as one of the best times of her life.
So, I suggested we take the same trip together. She was beside herself with joy and could hardly contain herself as we began to pack the car for the eleven-hour trip. I too, was so excited about getting away, I inadvertently left the car keys on the kitchen counter as I was telling Elaine “Goodbye”. I ran back into the house, grabbed the keys and headed back out the door. As I was about to climb into the driver’s seat, I looked up and saw Elaine standing at the edge of the porch with a concerned look on her face and the phone in her hand. “What is it,” I called out? “You really need to take this call,” she said.
Taking the phone, I learned that an elder and professor, beloved by her husband, young daughters, our congregation, and her students at the university, had just committed suicide. No one saw it coming. On any given Sunday, her face was the brightest and happiest face in the church choir. She was so bright, bubbly, and attractive, that no one had the faintest idea that she had been fighting a long, but losing, battle with her own inner demon called “depression.”
Stunned, I handed the phone back to Elaine, walked slowly to the car, leaned in and told my daughter that we would have to cancel our trip, for there had been a tragedy in the congregation. I think what was most painful for me was the fact that my thirteen-year-old daughter didn’t cry. She did not protest or fuss. She just got out of the car, walked quietly to the house, passing her mother on the porch, never to mention the trip again.
Yes, life has always been filled with unexpected interruptions that catch us off guard, disrupt our lives, and keep us off balance. What is so insidious about life’s interruptions, whether large or small, is that over time, they have the power to erode our trust and our very relationship with God. For, those places where our faith is stretched so much, we begin to wonder whether we are actually “standing on the solid rock,” or whether it is “just shifting sand.”
Yet, in God’s great love and concern for us, and because of our inability to recognize God’s power over life’s greatest interruptions, God took a body like ours in order that we may witness God’s power more clearly in the life of Jesus. In Christ, God has demonstrated for all the world to see His power over all life’s unexpected interruptions by: feeding the hungry masses, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, making the lame to walk, and even by raising those who had died.
In the person of Jesus Christ, God demonstrated for us that “nothing can separate us from His love for us in Christ: not life’s greatest interruptions; not even death, the greatest interruption of all. And this is why, even in the face of this worldwide pandemic, we make our annual journey back to the empty tomb, remembering God’s all-encompassing power.
On this abnormal Easter morning, we remember how Christ’s own death on the cross interrupted the lives of his disciples and the life of Mary Magdalene. We remember how they must have felt, when all that they had believed in and hoped for, was buried and entombed with the body of Jesus.
We remember Mary Magdalene and how devastated and alone she must have felt, there at the empty tomb. Not only had they killed her Lord, but it seemed someone had even stolen His body, denying her closure. Of course, Jesus warned them that this was to fulfill all scripture, but Mary didn’t understand the scriptures. Peter did not understand the scriptures. None of the disciples understood the scriptures.
Besides, who is “the other disciple” who entered the empty tomb and believed? For that matter, what did he believe? Did he believe that Christ had risen from the dead, or did he simply believe what Mary said was true, that the stone had been rolled away and the body was stolen? After all, John says, “they left there and returned to their homes.” And who is this “unnamed disciple?” Is this simply a reference to John, or is it a reference to you and me, at home on this Easter morning?
Of course we remember that Mary lingered at the empty tomb, frozen in grief. But then, the risen Christ appeared to her, called her by name, proving that not even death can interrupt God’s gift of everlasting life. We remember, in spite of our own loss of life as we have known it, how Mary, overcome by shock and joy, threw her arms around Jesus, clinging to Him as if somehow she might shield Him from life’s greatest interruption once and for all. Still, just being alive is not enough. We remember on this Easter morning that Jesus is alive to do something for all humanity.
We remember on this Easter Sunday that:
Jesus is alive to make us all alive again.
Jesus is alive to make His God, our God; His Father, our Father.
Jesus is alive to raise us up from our own chaos and loss.
Jesus is alive to raise us up from death’s destructive power.
Jesus is alive to raise us up from every unexpected interruption that would threaten to separate us from the love of God.
JESUS IS ALIVE!
YES! We remember that “JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN TODAY!” And that the life, hope, love, and peace He gives can overcome all of life’s greatest interruptions!
YES! DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY! O DEATH, WHERE IS THY VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS THY STING?
Let’s sing of His Victory over death. Let’s lift our voices in praise!
Almighty God, on this triumphant day, we know that the whole host of heaven—angels, seraphs, and cherubim raise their voices singing “Alleluia,” for Christ the Lord is risen today. We want to join them, even though we are confined and suffering and the hands of a hidden and insidious enemy. We want to sing with the pure joy of those who celebrate the life You give in Jesus Christ. Give us freedom this day to lift our voices with all of heaven as we celebrate Christ’s victory over death.
Oh God, on this day some find it difficult to be glad. For them, life has too much pain. The present pandemic will not let them own too much hope. Some are angry in their loneliness. Some are worried about family.
We pray for each other in this unwanted, but necessary, internment. Touch us in our individual need. Free us today to be glad; to rejoice in the promise of newness of life; to let our hope out of its prison. Free us to shout and make joyful Alleluias. You know that we need to celebrate for You have done great things for us in the resurrection of Jesus.
O God, You know that we do not understand all there is to know about the resurrection. You know that we have questions, we have our doubts, we want to believe, we do believe, we wonder about our own belief. But on this day, help us to understand just enough about what faith means, that we are willing to let faith be what it should be; deep conviction without proof, trust without protested guarantees, joy in a promise which does not have to be fulfilled before it can be enjoyed.
Yes, on this day grant us the freedom to rejoice and sing glad Alleluias, for “Thine Is the Glory, Risen, conquering Son; Endless is the victory Thou o’er death hast won!”
As Christ bursts forth from the tomb,
May new life burst forth from us
And show itself in acts of love and healing to our hurting world.
And may that same Christ, who lives forever and is the source of our new life,
Keep your hearts rejoicing and grant you peace this day and always.
Go Now! for you cannot go where God is not. Go with noble purpose, and God will give meaning to Your days. Go in love, for it alone endures. Go in peace, for it is the gift of God to those whose hearts and minds are in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.