Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Blogging toward Sunday

The Lectionary readings for Sunday include Acts 4:5-12 and John 10:11-18.

The Gospel reading is a very familiar story. How often we have heard Jesus referred to as the "Good Shepherd." It is a name he uses for himself here, saying that he lays down his life for his sheep, for us. What amazing love is this! 

Take some time to read Jesus' words using the practice of lectio divina. In this ancient spiritual practice, the idea is to allow the words to become a part of your heart and soul. In order to allow the Holy Spirit to speak, read the text slowly through the first time. Note what speaks to you in a special way. Then, read the text a second time and ask yourself: Is there something to which I need to pay more attention? Finally, read it once more. Is there some area in your life to which God seems to be speaking directly? If so, note this and offer whatever it is up to the Good Shepherd.

After allowing time and space to receive God's word for you, consider the following questions as you prepare for worship on Sunday:
  1. Herein, how many times does Jesus use some form of the phrase "lay down his/my life"?
  2. What might be the significance of the repeated use of the phrase?
  3. What do you imagine the life of a shepherd to be like?
  4. In this story, who are the hired hands?
  5. What role does the wolf play?
  6. Who are the "other sheep" of whom Jesus speaks?
Truly, Jesus laid down his life for us. It was his choice to do so. As Flannery O'Conner notes so well: "What people don't realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket when, of course, it is the cross." As we journey toward Sunday, give thanks for the sacrifice Jesus made on behalf of all of us, even though on our best days, we are still just sheep in need of a Good Shepherd!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Blogging toward Sunday

The Lectionary readings for Sunday, April 22 include Acts 3:12-19 and Luke 24:36b-48.

We are in the 3rd week of the Easter Season and what lovely days we have been having here in Colonial Heights, VA. The lovely mornings are prime time for porch-sitting. The warm evenings again beckon us to notice the beauty of God's creation. In this season of Easter-time, perhaps one way that we can be more fully aware of resurrection in the life of Jesus is to keep on the look-out for resurrection all around us--in nature as well as in our own lives.

This week as you prepare for Sunday worship, take time to read both texts. You will have a fuller grasp of the passage from Acts if you begin reading at verse 1. Take time to read verses 1-19 one time through. Then, after a moment of reflection, read verses 12-19 again. In light of what is happening in the life of the early church, consider the following: 
  1. How has Peter been changed?
  2. What is the evidence of this change in Peter?
  3. How is God named in this text?
Now, turn to the passage from Luke. Read through Luke 24:36b-48 once. After a moment of silent reflection, read through it again. Then answer the following:
  1. What speaks to you in this reading?
  2. About what would you like to know more?
It's interesting that our Easter gospel reading came from the Gospel of Mark; last Sunday's from the Gospel of John; this week's from the Gospel of Luke. How do the resurrection stories differ? How are they the same? What important perspective does each writer bring to the table?

As I reflect on this week's readings, I am intrigued by the way in which both Acts and Luke speak of the ancestors of the Jewish faith tradition. Surely Jesus' resurrection is a fulfillment of what had been written about in the past. I am interested in the way Peter has been changed from a disciple who denied Jesus to one who is speaking so boldly he is putting himself in danger now. No more hiding behind closed doors again for Peter.

As you journey toward Sunday, may these two questions keep you company: How have you been transformed by Jesus? How are you a witness for Christ in the world?

I look forward to seeing you in worship.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Blogging toward Sunday

The Lectionary readings for Sunday, April 15th include Acts 4:32-35 and John 20:19-31.

Easter Sunday we gathered to hear the good news: Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Next Sunday's reading from the Gospel of John occurs after Mary Magdalene has announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord." It is the evening of the same day and the disciples are hiding behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. Jesus appears in the midst of them saying, "Peace be with you."

Wikimedia Commons Image

A week later, again the disciples are in the house and again Jesus appears, offering Thomas the invitation to touch him so that Thomas may believe. Thereafter, in verses 30-31, the purpose of this gospel is provided: "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 that through believing you may have life in his name."

In preparation for worship on Sunday, take some time to read John 20:19-31. Ask God to open your eyes to see this familiar story in fresh, new ways. Perhaps you might like to have pen and paper handy to write down any new learning you receive. Read it through at least twice, allowing time to ponder the words carefully. 

Then consider the following:
  1. Why are the disciples so fearful, even a week after the resurrection?
  2. Why does Thomas ask not only to see but also to touch Jesus?
  3. "Believing" is a major theme of John's Gospel. How is "believing" highlighted in this reading?
  4. In your opinion, why is it easier for some to believe than others?
  5. In light of what you already know about the disciples following Jesus' resurrection and ascension, how do they express their "belief" in the days to come?
  6. How many times does Jesus offer the same greeting to the disciples?
I hope your journey toward Sunday has been enriched by spending time preparing your heart and mind. As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship. Until then, peace be with you!


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Blogging toward Sunday

The Lectionary Readings for Easter Sunday include Acts 10:34-43 and Mark 16:1-8.

We are in the midst of Holy Week. I hope that you are able to attend one or more of the services we have planned for the week: Maundy Thursday & Tenebrae Service on Thursday at 7:30 p.m., the Celtic Worship Service on Saturday at 5 p.m. (Harpist, Louise Daniel, will be joining us for this service) and, of course, Easter Worship, Sunday morning at 11:00. This Easter is particularly special in the life of our church because during worship we will have a Profession of Faith by our Confirmation candidate, a Reaffirmation of Faith by two adults, the Baptism of their three children, and we will celebrate Communion at the Table of our Lord. It is sure to be a wonderful Resurrection Day!

As you journey toward Sunday, I offer you the following poem written by Joyce Rupp. 

"Awaken Me"

Risen One,
come, meet me
in the garden of my life.

Lure me into elation.
Revive my silent hope.
Coax my dormant dreams.
Raise up my neglected gratitude.
Entice my tired enthusiasm.
Give life to my faltering relationships.
Roll back the stone of my indifference.
Unwrap the deadness in my spiritual life.
Impart heartiness in my work.

Risen One,
send me forth as a disciple of your unwavering love,
a messenger 
of your unlimited joy.

Resurrected One,
may I become
ever more convinced
that your presence lives on,
and on, and on,
and on.

Awaken me!
Awaken me!

Blessings on your Holy Week. I look forward to worshiping with you and celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, this Easter morn.