Children’s Musical and Hymn Sing
Scriptures: Mark 2:1-12, Mark 12: 28-34
Some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Mark 2: 3-12
Jesus makes it clear that the greatest commandments are to love God and to love neighbor. On these two commandments hang all the laws and the prophets. In other words, these are the commandments that we turn to when we aren’t sure what decision to make, when we get confused about the right thing to do, or how to treat others. The greatest commandments help guide our everyday life and dictate our relationships with each other. This week as you face daily struggles and questions, turn to the greatest commandment that help bring our lives into focus.
Prayer: God, help us remember that the most important thing in life is to love you and to love our neighbors.
This passage is at the center of prayers that the Israelites recited daily called the Shema, which reminded the Israelites that there was one God and we are called to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. This is where the first part of the greatest commandment comes from and remains at the center of our faith. Loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind means that we cannot compartmentalize our faith, but that loving God must be a part of every aspect of our lives. How can we love God with all our heart, soul, and mind this week?
Prayer: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Amen.
One of the most important Levitical laws was that we love our neighbor as ourself! This was at the very foundation of what it meant to be in covenant with God. If we love God, then we must love our neighbor, this was nonnegotiable. This is unfortunately easier said than done–while it is easy to say we love our neighbor, it is much harder to put it into practice! This week, we are challenged step out of our comfort zones to talk to our neighbors this week.
Prayer: God, we pray for our neighbors today as we remember that you called us to love our neighbors.
In this miracle story, the true heroes are the friends who were willing to carry the paralyzed man to see Jesus. Who are the friends in your life that would be willing to carry you when you are in need? They are to be cherished! As we give thanks for the friends in our lives, we are also challenged to think about what kind of friends we are. Are we willing to carry our friends to Jesus so they can be healed?
Prayer: God we give thanks for the friends in our lives that are willing to carry us in times of need.
Often we take our friends for granted, making time for them only when it is convenient for us. In this passage, Jesus models for us what true friendship looks like: that we are to lay our lives down for the sake of our friends. In fact, Jesus loved us so much that he no longer called us slaves, but friends! True friendship is based on love, and Jesus’ command is for us to love each other, as Christ has loved us. How can we base our friendships on the model that Jesus gives to us?
Prayer: What a friend we have in Jesus, who claimed us as his friends.
What does it mean for Jesus to tell us to become like children? This isn’t an exhortation to find a time machine or to seek a fountain of youth. Instead, Jesus is challenging what “greatness” looks like in heaven. Greatness isn’t about power or status, instead it is about humility and faithfulness, virtues that we often shed as we grow older. But Jesus calls us to be like children! We are called to see with the fullness of the eyes of children, and to love with the purity of children’s hearts.
Prayer: God, let us be like children and receive your gifts with openness, honesty and unbridled joy!
Sermon Series: Amazing Grace
Sermon: Love that Transforms
Scriptures: Ezekiel 36: 22-28, Hebrews 6:1-3, 9-12
A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36: 26-28
God’s grace is liberating. It frees us from the things that trap and enslave us. But, as Paul reminds us in his letter to the Galatians, we are to use our freedom not to indulge ourselves and do whatever we want, but to love one another. And in fact, that freedom in Jesus Christ means that we are free to love our neighbors! How can you use your freedom to love your neighbor this week?
Prayer: God, as you freely offered us love, let us love one another. Amen
Living in the Spirit means that our actions and our lives are transformed and we will bear fruit of the Spirit. God calls us to live lives full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are the fruit that set us apart as God’s people, and makes us alive in God’s spirit. What fruit do you bear? Do you live by the ways of this world or by the fruits of the Spirit?
Prayer: Let us put aside the ways of this world to bear fruits of the Spirit. Amen.
During the time of exile, God makes this new covenant with the Israelites. He says this: “I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (v.33) As God made this covenant with the Israelites, we are also invited to be part of that covenant. God writes this new covenant on our hearts and invites us to live into that covenant.
Prayer: Let us live every day as covenant people, as people who are claimed by you.
When we continue to grow in faith, “good works” become a lifestyle, not an obligation. This is because good works, which are both personal and social, are the tangible expression of God’s love in our lives. When we are filled with God’s spirit in our lives, we understand that we are called to a holy life, which fills us with love for God and our neighbors. What good works is God calling you to this week?
Prayer: Help me to grow in my faith by sharing good works with others.
In this passage, we are given the assurance that even if we are facing difficult times, even in our suffering, that as children of God, we are saved in hope. The Spirit helps us in our weakness and there is nothing that separates us from God’s love in Christ Jesus. Where in your life are you struggling? How can we allow God’s spirit to help us in our times of weakness?
Prayer: God, we ask that your Spirit intercedes for us when we have sighs too deep for words.
In arguably one of the hardest commands in the Bible, Jesus tells us to love our enemies and do good for those who hate us. To give to those who ask, turn the other cheek, and to be merciful. What would our lives look like if we followed this command? How would our relationships with our co-workers, neighbors, family, and friends change? This week, remember Jesus’ command that loving others means, specifically, our enemies.
Prayer: God, help us to love our enemies, and pray for those who hate us.
Sermon Series: Amazing Grace
Sermon: Grace That Makes Right
Scriptures: John 3:16-17, Romans 5:1-11
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Too often the images of love we see on TV or in the movies are self-serving, anxious, and jealous. But our scriptures offer a deeper understanding of what true love looks like: grace. This is the crux of our faith: God’s love is revealed and fulfilled through Jesus Christ. This grace looks quite a bit different than the way love is portrayed in our culture and in the movies; it is sacrificial and atones for sin and it compels us to love others in the same way that we are first loved. What are the harmful images of love you have in your life? How do these differ from God’s grace?
Prayer: Guide us to know the difference between true love and false love.
Jesus Christ modeled a radical kind of love: while he was in the form of God, he did not take advantage of his privilege, but instead humbled himself to the point of death. And we are called to have the same mind as Jesus Christ, in humility to regard others as better as ourselves. Today, you are encouraged to have the same mind of Jesus Christ, to love one another with humility and grace.
Prayer: God, let us be like Christ, in humility regarding others as better than ourselves, Amen.
This passage reminds us that we are united with Christ in his death and his resurrection. This means that we are dead to sin and alive in the hope found in Jesus Christ! With Jesus’ death, the power of sin can no longer control us and instead we walk with Jesus through his grace. What are the sinful and painful places in your life that control you? Can you offer them up to God this week and rise with Christ?
Prayer: God, we offer our sin and brokenness to you, so that we can rise with you.
What fresh start do you need this week? Our faith reminds us that in Christ Jesus, we are a new creation, the old has passed away and everything has become new! This is the power of redemption–that there is a second chance even when we don’t think there is a path for us. What do you need to let go of to embrace the new opportunities available through Jesus Christ?
Prayer: Almighty God, help us to let go of hurtful patterns and behaviors and find new life in Jesus Christ.
The Psalmist compares our brokenness and sin to God’s divine goodness. While we are limited and broken, God’s love and mercy is steadfast. While we broke our promises, God always keeps God’s promise. This isn’t to make us feel bad about ourselves, but to help us to be grateful for a God that continues to love and offer us mercy even when we don’t live up to God’s standards. Give thanks to God today for God’s continued faithfulness.
Prayer: How precious is your steadfast love, O God, extend your love to us.
These powerful words of Isaiah prophesied the life and death of Jesus Christ, who offered all of himself. In his great love, Jesus took on our deepest wounds and pains–our diseases, infirmities, and afflictions, so that we could be restored to the land of the living. Jesus was not the Messiah that the people expected, but he was the Messiah we needed. Praise be to God.
Prayer: God, in your pain, we find healing; in your suffering, we find redemption; glory be to God, Amen.
Series: Amazing Grace
Sermon: Grace That Loves First
Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 1:4-8, 1 John 4:7-12, 17-19
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:9-12)
Monday May 1 — Psalm 90
Some versions of the Bible describe the theme of Psalm 90 this way: God’s Eternity and Human Frailty. Even though the Psalm is sometimes used at memorial or funeral services, it is a fitting celebration of God’s nature in the light of the human condition. It says that God is much larger than we can imagine and that God is with us before, during, and after our earthly lives. Reflect on the message of verse 3. What does it mean to you that God offers you an opportunity to “turn back”? Can you imagine the depth of God’s grace and God’s love for you—despite your human frailty?
- Prayer: God of Eternity, thank you for being my dwelling place. Open my heart to experience your love and grace. Amen.
Tuesday May 2 — Joel 2:28-29, Acts 2:14-21
The promise of Joel is fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descends upon the waiting followers of Jesus. Joel promises and Peter affirms that the Spirit is poured out on all flesh. The challenge for followers of Jesus is to be aware of and acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit. The witness of Scripture is that the Holy Spirit is often at work in our lives without our conscious awareness. God wants us to work with, not against the Holy Spirit, so the first step of faith is to “open our eyes.” Think back over the past 24 hours. Were you aware of the Spirit’s presence? Have you seen any signs that God was at work in your life, even though you didn’t know it at the time?
- Prayer: Promise-Keeping God, thank you for pouring out your Spirit. Open my eyes so that I may see your presence in my life. Amen.
Wednesday May 3 — John 6:35-40
The sixth chapter of John has several themes. One theme is that God gives (or draws) people to Jesus and that people need to respond to Jesus. There is a balance between God’s initiative and human freedom. How have you experienced God’s initiative in your life? How have you exercised your human freedom to respond? What is God doing in your life today? How are you responding?
- Prayer: God of Life, I want to see and believe in your Son so that I might have eternal life. Feed me with the Bread of Life today. Amen.
Thursday May 4 — John 6:41-51
Jesus affirms the prevenient grace of God, grace that draws us to Jesus himself. Ultimately, it is God’s grace that makes it possible for us to be Jesus’ followers in the first place. When prevenient grace is at work in our lives, we still must respond with faith, trust, and obedience. But prevenient grace is what makes it possible for us to believe and to receive the gift of eternal life. God does not coerce or force our response. God draws and invites. God nudges and encourages. God respects human freedom. How have you experienced God’s invitation this week?
- Prayer: God of Grace, forgive my insistence that I don’t need your help. Remind me once again that your grace is my only hope. Amen.
Friday May 5 — Mark 4:1-9
Jesus’ parable of the sower describes God’s purposes for the world. The seed of God’s message of salvation through Jesus is spread generously and universally. Even though it is not universally accepted—because of the variety of “soils”—there is a universal opportunity for the seed to bear fruit. Jesus’ parable asks a question with eternal consequences: what kind of soil does God’s message of salvation find in your life? Spend time in quiet reflection considering the four types of soil Jesus describes. Be honest. Which type of soil best describes your life today? The good news is that it is not too late to cultivate the soil of your life and bear good fruit.
- Prayer: God of Seed and Soil, I want to be good soil and bear good fruit. Cultivate my life and implant your Word in my heart today.
Saturday May 6 — Luke 24:13-35
Luke’s account of the Easter story includes an encounter between two disciples and the resurrected Jesus. Luke tells us that Jesus joined them on their journey, but they did not recognize him. He revealed himself to them through his words (his teaching) and the breaking of bread. Is it possible that Luke 24:13-35 is a “parable” that describes your life? Is Jesus walking with you on your life’s journey? Is he trying to reveal himself to you? Are you paying attention?
- Prayer: Merciful God, reveal your Son, Jesus, to me today. Teach me and show me how to be one of his disciples. Amen.
United Methodist Women Sunday
Sermon: Because We Believe, We Practice Faith, Hope, and Love in Action.
Scripture Reading: Romans 5:1-5, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end…. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13)
Monday April 24 — Psalm 118:14-24
The Church’s celebration of God’s victory over the power of sin and death is not limited to a single day (Easter) every year. Not only do we worship on the first day of the week because every Sunday is a “little Easter,” we continually offer praise and thanksgiving for God’s past faithfulness and look forward with anticipation to God’s promised future. As the Bible’s book of worship, the Psalms teach us to praise God: “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord” (Psalm 118:17). As you continue to celebrate Easter, let Psalm 118 help you offer praise and thanksgiving to the God of Life.
- Prayer: Life-Giving God, thank you for the promise of new life. Thank you for unleashing resurrection power into the world so that I can be transformed by your grace. Amen.
Tuesday April 25 — 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10
The first of the New Testament’s two letters to the Thessalonian church begins with a statement of thanksgiving to God for the church’s expressions of faith, hope, and love. Even when writers had concerns about their readers’ faith (see 1 Thessalonians 3:10), they found something for which they could be thankful. This is a powerful reminder that when God is at work in our lives and in the world, we offer praise and give thanks. After all, even our ability to profess our faith is a gift from God (see 1 Corinthians 12:3). For what are you most thankful today?
- Prayer: Merciful God, grant me the gift of appreciation. Help me see more clearly the ways you are at work in my life so that I can offer you the thanks and praise you deserve.
Wednesday April 26 — Romans 5:1-5
In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul describes the Good News of the Gospel. That is, when we know ourselves to be saved by grace through faith, we have hope for the future. He says that we can boast not only in our “hope of sharing the glory of God” (Romans 5:2) but also in our suffering, because “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4). This means that whatever happens to us, we can boast about what God is doing in our lives. So what are you boasting about today?
- Prayer: God of Love, thank you for filling me with your Spirit and pouring your love into my heart. Help me to more fully experience the transforming power of your grace. Amen.
Thursday April 27 — Romans 5:6-11
We human beings constantly face the temptation to take more credit than we deserve. We talk more about the power of prayer (and give ourselves credit for praying) than we do about the power of God. We place more emphasis on the strength of our faith than we do on the gift of God’s freely given love and grace. We are tempted to believe that we can earn our salvation. We forget that “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). What helps you resist the temptation to boast in your faith instead of God’s grace? What helps you put your whole trust in God’s grace?
- Prayer: Gracious God, forgive me for believing that I can be good enough to earn your love and salvation. Help me put my whole trust in your grace today. Amen.
Friday April 28 — 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
The beautiful passage about the gift of love contains some of the most familiar words in the entire Bible. It describes the kind of love that we long to experience. But, most importantly, it also describes the kind of love that God offers us. It is the kind of love that is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (see Romans 5:5). The final verse of 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that no matter how much faith or hope we have, the greatest of God’s gifts is love. How much love do you have in your heart today? What can you do to receive more of God’s love?
- Prayer: Loving God, teach me your ways. Open my heart to receive your love so that I might share you love with others. Teach me that if I do not have love, I have nothing.
Saturday April 29 — James 2:14-26
Throughout the New Testament, we learn that we are saved from the power of sin and death not by our good works, but by the grace of God that we receive through faith in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, we too often distort the Gospel message and fall into the trap of believing that God’s grace is cheap grace and does not transform our lives. James reminds us that faith — without the good works that are the result of faith — is not really faith at all. The truth is that God’s grace sets us free to do good works (see Ephesians 2:8-10). What good works have you done this week?
- Prayer: Eternal God, remind me once again of the truth of the Gospel, that I am saved by grace through faith. Remind me also that your grace will lead me to do good works in your name. Amen.
Sermon: The Rest of the Story
Scripture Reading: Acts 10:34-43, Mark 16:1-8
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:5-7)
Monday April 17 — Mark 1:1, 14-20, 35-39
The opening chapter of The Gospel of Mark introduces Jesus, his first disciples, and his ministry. As we enter into the Gospel story, we get the sense of Jesus’ urgency. He is on the move, not staying in any place very long. He has much to do and, as we will discover, not much time to get it done. Jesus’ message, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15), must be shared. He was clear about his mission and his purpose and he passed that purpose on to his disciples. As one of Jesus’ disciples, are you clear about your mission and purpose? How high is your urgency to proclaim the Good News?
- Prayer: God of Love, fill me with your Resurrection power. Give me a sense of urgency to share the Good News of your Kingdom today. Amen.
Tuesday April 18 — Mark 14:26-31
Mark’s account of Jesus’ death and resurrection reveals the contrast between Jesus’ faithfulness and his disciples’ failure. When Jesus predicted that the disciples would fail him, they insisted that they would die with him. Despite the disciples’ best intentions, Jesus was right. They would desert him. But Jesus offered them a second chance. He would meet them in Galilee. The Good News of Easter is that when we fail to live up to our best intentions, Jesus offers us multiple chances to follow him and serve him. What will you do with another chance today?
- Prayer: Gracious God, forgive me for the many ways I fail to live up to your expectations. Give me another chance to follow and serve Jesus. Amen.
Wednesday April 19 — Mark 16:1-8
Most scholars believe that the original version of Mark’s Gospel ends at Mark 16:8 and that the longer endings were added at a later time. For many readers, the shorter version of Mark 16 has an unsatisfactory ending. According to Mark, Jesus fulfilled his promise to meet the disciples in Galilee, but the disciples’ faithfulness and the future of Jesus’ ministry were uncertain. Mark’s point was this: the Gospel of Jesus Christ is still being written in the lives of his disciples. As one of Jesus’ disciples, what kind of Gospel is being written by your life?
- Prayer: Living Christ, thank you for calling me to be one of your disciples. Increase my confidence in your promises. Let your Gospel continue to be written in my life. Amen.
Thursday April 20 — Acts 10:1-16
The Acts of the Apostles describes the life and ministry of the early church, starting with Jesus’ resurrection appearances and ending with Paul’s ministry in Rome. Acts 10 describes how the Holy Spirit transformed Peter’s life so that he could break through the barrier between Jewish-Christians and Gentiles so that he could share the Good News with Cornelius. This is what the Holy Spirit is still doing, transforming our lives so that we can break down human barriers and share the Good News with the world. What is the Holy Spirit doing in your life today? To whom is the Holy Spirit sending you?
- Prayer: Almighty God, grant me the courage I need to break through human barriers to go where you send me and share the Good News in words and actions. Amen.
Friday April 21 — Acts 10:34-43
When the Holy Spirit directs Peter to visit with Cornelius and his family, Peter realizes that “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34) and tells his new friends about Jesus. Peter briefly summarizes Jesus’ ministry, describes Jesus’ death and resurrection, and then announces the Good News: “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43). But this message is not just for Cornelius, it is also for us. Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we are offered forgiveness of our sins. Have you allowed the Good News of Holy Week and Easter to transform your life? Have you received God’s offer of forgiveness through Jesus?
- Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and the forgiveness that you offer through him. Grant me the gift of new life today.
Saturday April 22 — Acts 10:44-48, Acts 11:15-17
When Peter realized that the Holy Spirit “fell upon” Cornelius and his household, he was “astounded” that God would bless Gentiles, people he had previous thought were unworthy of God’s love and grace. It was an eye-opening experience for Peter and convinced him that he could not “hinder God” (Acts 11:17). Can you think of a time when you might have hindered God? How has God opened your eyes to what the Holy Spirit is doing in the world? How might you participate in (and not hinder) what you see God doing in the world around you?
- Prayer: Faithful God, fill me with the Holy Spirit. Open my eyes and ears to see and hear what the Spirit is doing in the world around me. Use me to change the world today. Amen.
Series: Walk Humbly With God
Sermon: For Thine is the Power and the Glory
Scripture Reading: John 12:12-19, John 12:20-33
Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 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. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. (John 12:23-26)
Monday April 10 — John 12:12-19
All four of the New Testament Gospels describe Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, but only John describes the branches waived by the crowd as palm branches. This is a critical part of the story, because, in the time of Jesus, palm branches represented victory. The paradox of the Gospel is that Jesus would secure victory for God’s people, but not in the way that the Palm Sunday crowds anticipated. If we are honest, we are like the crowds, hoping for a different kind of Messiah, looking for a different kind of victory and a different kind of Kingdom. Have you ever prayed for a different kind of salvation than the one God offers through Jesus?
- Prayer: Eternal God, help me to follow Jesus through the events of this Holy Week. Amen.
Tuesday April 11 — John 12:20-36
Instead of a royal crown, Jesus will wear a crown of thorns. Instead of being lifted up and celebrated like the Palm Sunday procession suggests, Jesus will be lifted up onto a cross to die a painful and humiliating death. (This is what the phrase “lifted up” is referring to in John 12:32, 34. See also John 3:14 and John 8:28.) Over time, the scandalous nature of Jesus’ death on a cross has faded. Jesus’ death was a stumbling block to many. How do you feel about Jesus’ death? What does it mean to you?
- Prayer: Lord God, thank you for Jesus and for the invitation to follow him. Give me courage to go where he leads me today. Amen.
Wednesday April 12 — John 12:35-50
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is clear that God’s kingdom is nothing like human kingdoms and that God’s salvation will be accomplished through Jesus’ death and resurrection. This was difficult for Jesus’ first disciples to understand and it is difficult for us. We talk about the life-changing power of God’s love and grace, but struggle to comprehend how God’s grace changes anything in our lives or in the world. Has your experience of God’s grace changed your life? If so, how?
- Prayer: God of Grace, open my heart and mind to experience your love and grace as I follow Jesus this week. Amen.
Thursday April 13 — John 13:1-17, 31-35
Today is Holy Thursday. It is also known as Maundy Thursday. The word Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum, which is the first word in the Latin translation of John 13:34, where Jesus gives the disciples a new mandate to love one another in the same way that he loved them. Jesus’ love for his disciples is embodied in the footwashing and then in his death and this is the kind of love that Jesus’ disciples are expected to embody in their own lives. Consider your own life, how might you follow Jesus’ example more fully and more faithfully in the coming days?
- Prayer: Loving God, forgive me for not following Jesus’ example. Help me to love others the way Jesus loves me. Amen.
Friday April 14 — John 18:36-19:16
Today is Good Friday, the day we commemorate Jesus’ death on the cross. On this day, we discover the true meaning of power. In his account of Jesus’ final hours, John is very intentional about insisting that God is ultimately in charge and that Jesus is the one with all of the power. Even though Pilate has political and military authority, God’s power is unleashed most forcefully in Jesus’ death. On Good Friday, what seems like weakness is actually strength and what seems like humiliation is actually glorification. Spend some time today reflecting on the meaning of Good Friday for your life.
- Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for the sacrifice of Jesus. Forgive my sin. Set me free from the power of sin and death.
Saturday April 15 — John 19:25b-42
The death and burial of Jesus are described in detail as a way of ensuring that readers of the Gospels understand that Jesus physically died. Jesus wasn’t almost dead or pretending to be dead: he was dead and buried. That means that the Good News of Easter is that God has overcome the power of sin and death. God can—and will—raise the dead. We can accept the reality of death, because we believe in the resurrection power of God. How do Good Friday and Easter affect the way you think about death?
- Prayer: Merciful God, prepare me—heart, mind, soul, and strength—to experience the Good News of Easter tomorrow. Amen.
Series: Walk Humbly With God
Sermon: Lead Us Not into Temptation
Scripture Reading: James 1:12-18, Mark 14:32-42
He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:36-38)
Monday April 3 — Psalm 34:1-22
Throughout the Scriptures we read about the gift of God’s salvation. The Israelites experienced salvation when God led them out of slavery in Egypt, through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land. We experience salvation when we are set free from the power of sin and death by God’s grace through faith in Jesus. What we discover as we follow Jesus is that salvation is both present and future. We are saved by God’s grace in this world and the next. Psalm 34 is hymn of praise celebrating God’s salvation. Let the Psalm lead you into your own hymn of praise today.
- Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for your grace. Thank you sending Jesus to set me free from the power of sin and death. Amen.
Tuesday April 4 — Mark 1:12-13, Matthew 4:1-11
In the Bible, the wilderness is a place where faith is tested and God’s people are forced to rely on God. The Gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness demonstrate his faithfulness and his trust in God’s presence and power. Like Jesus, we also face temptations and our willingness to trust God is tested. In the face of temptations, we are forced to rely on God and trust God’s promises. In what ways have you been tempted to place your confidence in something or someone other than God? What helps you resist temptations and trust God alone?
- Prayer: Faithful God, help me resist the temptation to place my trust in something or someone other than you. Amen.
Wednesday April 5 — Matthew 6:12-13, Colossians 1:9-14
When Jesus teaches us to pray for forgiveness of our sins and for deliverance from trials and tribulations, he is teaching us to pray for our salvation. In the economy of God’s Kingdom, forgiveness and salvation go together. They cannot be separated. The opening section of the Letter to the Colossians makes the same connection. God gives us power to endure everything and rescues us from the power of darkness through the forgiveness of our sins. Have you acknowledged your need for God’s grace? Have you accepted the Good News that God loves you and God forgives you? Don’t forget: there is nothing that can separate you from God’s love.
- Prayer: God of Love, today I confess my need for your forgiveness. Thank you for the gift of salvation. Amen.
Thursday April 6 — Luke 11:2-4, James 1:12-18
Many people believe that God tempts us (or tries to trap us.) But James is clear that we are tempted by our own desires, which lead to disobedient and sinful decisions. This is our human condition and is the reason we need God’s grace and God’s salvation. James is clear that God gives good gifts and desires the best for us, so that we will be the first fruits of God’s Kingdom, the new creation that is unfolding in our midst. In what ways is your life bearing the fruit of God’s Kingdom in the world?
- Prayer: Lord God, fill me with the power of your Spirit today. Transform my life so that my life will bear witness to your love. Amen.
Friday April 7 — Mark 14:32-42
In Gethsemane, on the night before his death, Jesus prayed the prayer he taught his disciples. In the face of his desire to find another way, he was able to pray, “not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:36). Or, in other words, “thy will be done.” He then told his disciples to “pray that you may not come into the time of trial” (Mark 14:38). Think about your own situation. What difficult decisions are you making? What kinds of trials are you facing? How might these words of Jesus speak to or about your life today?
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant me courage to follow the example and teaching of Jesus. Let your will be done in my life today.
Saturday April 8 — Mark 15:16-32
Even though Mark’s Gospel does not describe the temptations Jesus faced in the wilderness (see Mark 1:12-13), the Gospel describes many different trials and temptations that Jesus faced as he followed God’s will for his life. In the account of the final 24 hours of Jesus’ life, we discover a variety of temptations, including the temptation to call on God’s power to save himself from dying on the cross. The question for Jesus was: what kind of messiah would he be? The question for us is: what kind of person will we be? Will you be the person God created you to be? Or will you be the person you want to be?
- Prayer: Creator God, lead me not into temptation. Help me to be the person that you created me to be. Amen.
Sermon Series: Walk Humbly With God
Sermon: Forgive Us Our Trespasses
And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.
As God makes a covenant with God’s people, God begins by with this description of God’s divine attributes: God is merciful, gracious, loving, faithful, slow to anger, and forgiving. In this covenant, God promised to always forgive us, to always be gracious and merciful. The question for us today is how will we respond? For what do we need forgiveness today? How can we lift them up to our God, who always offers us forgiveness?
Prayer: Almighty God, no matter what we may face today, help us to trust in your unfailing love, which surpasses our own understanding. Amen.
Too often, we keep “count” of the wrongs committed against us. We hold grudges and refuse to forgive our neighbors. The Psalmist reminds us that if God counted our sins and wrongdoing the same way we did with our neighbors, we would not be able to stand before God. But because God forgives us, we can hope for a new beginning and a better tomorrow. Do you have a grudge against someone? Do you keep track of wrongdoings against you? How can we let go of our grudges?
Prayer: Forgiving God, help us to let go of our grudges and to find hope and redemption in you. Amen.
What would happen if we forgave as God forgave us? The Psalmist paints an image of what restoration can look like–”steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other” (v10). When we are forgiven, we are restored into the life that God intended for us and for each other. What would our relationships look like if we could receive and offer forgiveness? What would a restored relationship look like?
Prayer: God, help us to let go of our anger and to forgo our wrath. Guide us to live into the restored relationships you intended for us. Amen.
In Jesus Christ, we are called to put to death our old ways of life and to be clothed with the attitudes and practices of Christ. This means that we must clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, and forgive each other as Christ forgives us. What old habits need to die in our own lives so that we can bear the attitudes and practices of Christ? What new clothes can we put on to be like Christ?
Prayer: Compassionate and loving God, let us put aside the ways of life that which destroys, and be clothed with the attitudes and practices of Christ. Amen.
Living a new life in Christ means changing our old behaviors. Paul encouraged the church in Ephesus to speak truth to their neighbors and to “not let the sun go down on your anger.” Being the church meant caring for each other, even when it was difficult, and to work hard to be honest with each other. Who do you need to be honest to today?
Prayer: God, help us to speak truth to our neighbors and to let go of our anger, even when it is difficult. Amen.
Being a believer means being honest about our sins and confessing them before God and one another. When we confess our sins, God will forgive us. What confessions do you need to make today? What places of sin and brokenness need healing and forgiveness? You are encouraged to spend some time confessing your sins, knowing that our God is a God of forgiveness and grace.
Prayer: God, we confess that we have sinned against you and one another. Help us to be honest about our sins, and receive your forgiveness. Amen.
Series: Walk Humbly With God
Sermon: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
Scripture Reading: Exodus 16:1-8, John 6:26-35
Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:32-35)
Monday March 20 — Exodus 16:1-8
When the Israelites started their journey through the wilderness, it did not take long for them to start complaining to Moses (see also Exodus 15:24). They did not trust Moses – or God – and claimed that they would have preferred to remain in Egypt. As a result of their complaining, God fed them with bread from heaven. The lesson is not that God responds to our complaints, but that God provides for our needs when we answer God’s call and follow God’s leadership. What new journey is God calling you to begin (or continue) today? What helps you move forward when you want to stay in your comfort zone instead of trusting God?
- Prayer: Faithful God, forgive me when I complain about what I don’t have instead of trusting the promises you have made. Amen.
Tuesday March 21 — Exodus 16:9-21
In the wilderness, the Israelites learned that God would provide what they needed for each day – no more, no less. This tested their willingness to trust God. When the people tried to stockpile the food that God provided, it “became foul” overnight (Exodus 16:20). Like the Israelites, we are often tempted to let fear and doubt override our desire to trust that God is faithful. We hold back, “just in case.” When have you experienced God’s faithfulness? How do those experiences help you trust that God will provide when you ask God for your daily bread?
- Prayer: Generous God, thank you for providing what I need. Help me discern the difference between my needs and my wants. Amen.
Wednesday March 22 — Exodus 16:22-36
Remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy was of primary importance for the Israelites (see Exodus 20:8-11). So, Moses instructed them to trust that God would provide enough manna that they could observe the Sabbath and have enough to eat. Surviving their wilderness journey required both trust and obedience. In the same way, our life journeys also require both trust and obedience. What helps you trust God enough to do what God asks of you?
- Prayer: God of Grace, help me trust you more fully today so that I will live the way you expect me to live. Amen.
Thursday March 23 — John 6:1-15
The story of Jesus feeding the multitude is the only one of Jesus’ miracles that is recorded in all four of the New Testament’s Gospels. John’s account includes a detail not found in the other Gospel: the bread and fish are a young boy’s lunch. Jesus took everything that the boy had, blessed it, and multiplied it so that the multitude had more than enough to eat. This powerful story points to the way God can take everything we have to offer, bless and multiply it so that there is more than enough for everything. The question is: are we willing to trust Jesus with everything we have?
- Prayer: Lord God, give me courage enough to trust you with everything that I have. Use it to bless others. Amen.
Friday March 24 — John 6:15-24
The feeding of the multitude inspired the crowd to take Jesus by force and make him their king. They didn’t understand that Jesus had come to be a different kind of king – a different kind of messiah. One of the reasons that the crowds ultimately rejected Jesus was that he was unwilling to be the kind of messiah-king that they desired, one who would provide military and political leadership. Instead he was a servant, a crucified King. What are your expectations of Jesus? Have you ever been disappointed in Jesus? What will help you trust that he is the Messiah-King that you need, even if he is not the one you want?
- Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for sending Jesus to be the kind of savior I need, not simply the savior I want.
Saturday March 25 — John 6:25-35
In John’s Gospel, miracles are called signs. They point beyond themselves to what God is doing in the world – beyond the boundaries of time and space. God not only answers our prayer for daily bread (to eat), God uses us to answer the prayers of others (for daily bread to eat). God also provides eternal bread of life through Jesus. We are sustained – body, mind, and spirit – through Jesus, who is God’s greatest gift. If we accept the gift of Jesus, we experience the miracle of abundant life with a capital “L”.
- Prayer: God of Life, give me the living bread that is your Son, Jesus. Grant me the gift of Life through him. Amen.