On the Beach

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Devotional for Friday, May 15

There are stories in the Bible so powerful that I find it daunting to try to expand or elaborate on them in any way. To do so is like standing before a beautiful painting and breaking the holy silence in the gallery by saying, “Note how the lines merge at this point.”

In this Easter season, I want to share with you such a text. It is, by the way, my favorite part of the Bible, the story I turn to for comfort. For me, it captures everything being revealed about God from Genesis to Revelation in one simple story.

As a reader, do me a favor. I know we often read blogs as part of our hurried lives, our eyes racing over the words while our emails and texts beep for attention. Don’t do that today.

Please, either slow down or come back when you have more time, and carefully read John 21:1-19. Click on the word “John” in the previous sentence, and you’ll have the story before you. You also can click on this YouTube link and see a video depiction of the story. (You may get a commercial first.)

There are characters in pain in this story; remember, the disciples knew Jesus was alive, but they also knew they had hidden when Jesus needed them most. Facing the resurrected Jesus was a difficult and even frightening act for them, particularly for Peter, who had denied knowing Jesus three times.

And yes, I feel like I’m already over-explaining it.

—————–

Now that you’ve read or viewed the story, I want to share with you a few of the thoughts I have had about it over the years.

Even when faced with miraculous evidence of God’s presence, the best of us, when confronted with our sinful weaknesses, may want to turn back to what we used to be.

Because of the resurrection, we are a people of abundance. We simply have to see and accept that abundance.

The resurrected Jesus meets us where we are, with love, grace and forgiveness, even if the sin is abandonment and betrayal. I wonder, had Judas lived, how would Jesus have offered him forgiveness?

And of course, as we are restored by Jesus, there is a mission—perhaps a difficult one—but a mission that gives us purpose beyond our former lives.

Because of Jesus, we know we worship a God of love, a God who asks only that we return to him by accepting the free gift of forgiveness and salvation and then respond accordingly.

Lord, meet us where we are with your grace, and may we once again be astonished by the love you offer. Amen.

Death on a Cross

Devotional for Good Friday (April 10)

John 18-19 (New Living Translation)


Posted above is a link to the story of Jesus Christ’s arrest, trial, beating and death. A video depiction of that story also is above for you to watch.

Today is a day for remembering. It is a somber and sad day. Even when we are able to be together in the sanctuary, we depart in silence. We should, after all, be shocked at what Jesus Christ was willing to undergo for us.

Good Friday is about the ultimate action, Jesus Christ’s work on the cross. As Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before his arrest, he sought relief from the terrible work that had to be done. But once that work was underway, “He never said a mumblin’ word.” The negro spiritual declares Jesus’ prophetic words could not be construed as complaint or reluctance.

Today calls for a simple response from Christians. Give thanks for the work that has been done. We reap immeasurable benefits from the ultimate action story.

In this story, Christ gathers us in his arms, yanking us from death’s tight grip and delivering us to eternal life. As you lift up Good Friday prayers, thank Jesus by walking by his side as he stumbles toward the cross. As he hangs on the cross, some who had followed him ultimately run, and some stay for the burial. Remain with him to the bitter end.

We will join together online tonight at 7 o’clock (note the time—our prayer gatherings were an hour earlier). We will hear the stages of the story, and respond accordingly. More details about that service will follow.

As dark as the story may get, remember, good action has eternal consequences.

To join tonight’s online service:

From your computer, tablet or smartphone:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/607049869

You can also dial in using your phone:
United States: (646) 749-3122
Access Code: 607-049-869

A Time to …

Devotional for Thursday, March 19

Hear these words from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, verses 1 through 8:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

 

Or maybe you prefer to hear it from the Byrds:



“A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing” particularly leaps out.  Remember the bigger message: time passes, and the times do change.

Praise God for joining us in time and space through Jesus Christ, saving us from sin for all eternity and sustaining us through the Holy Spirit in whatever time we find ourselves.

Lord, as we move through our day today, may your Spirit lead us so we turn others’ lives toward what is better. Amen.