Baby J has hit a milestone. She now sits up with very little help, or without her arms extended out for balance. And she is quite proud of herself.
Every once and awhile though, she’ll get super excited about this newfound ability and falls face first.
In the Virginia Conference, today (Pentecost Sunday) is a Day of Prayer. Bishop Cho has asked the churches to be in prayer for renewal and revival for the church. I tailored the prayer of confession in today’s traditional services for the occasion:
Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, we have done harm when we should have done good. We have not stayed in love with you. We have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive us. Renew us. Free us to be the church you have called us to be. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, transform us and shape us so that we may make disciples for the transformation of the world.
Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children. (Matthew 5:9, Common English Bible)
There have been a lot of troubling images out of the city of Baltimore. These images of violence fill our TV and computer screens. And let’s be honest, at times, they are a little bit more than we can handle. The tension in our society over justice for all people seems to have collied in the streets of Baltimore this week.
Questions are being raised by many, especially those in the church, as to how we should respond. What does justice look like? What role does the church play in such discussions? Where is God calling us to be a part of this?
My father-in-law was in town a few weeks ago. We took him up to the Blue Ridge Parkway one day to explore the mountains and its trails. Spring has just started and the trees are still barren and dry leaves still litter the ground.
Yet, there were signs of spring.
by Rev. Alan Combs
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These words come at the beginning of Psalm 22. Immediately, the biblical scholar-wannabe in me asks a biblical scholar-wannabe question. How much of Psalm 22 did Jesus mean? Psalm 22 forms two distinct parts. The first eighteen verses or so are full of pain, oppression, and despair. They feel very much like what Jesus might have had in mind while hanging on the cross, blood pouring from his nailed hands and feet, struggling to breathe.
But then Psalm 22 changes at verse twenty-five. “From you comes my praise in the great congregation,” the Psalmist declares. The Psalm shifts to a prayer of deliverance. Yes many “strong bulls of Bashan” (I want to start a band called “Strong Bulls of Bashan) surround the Psalmist (22.12), and yes “I can count all my bones,” (22.17) but at the end of the day “dominion belongs to the Lord,” (22.18) so much so, that “All who go down to the dust shall bow before the Lord, and I shall live for God” (22.28).
by Minoka Gunesekera
Read Exodus 12:1-14
Many times when I go home from seminary I eat with my closest friends and family. It has become almost a ritual. The food and the actions may not be very unique, but when my community gathers for a meal it shows me an example of God’s love and devotion. And those moments of love I hold in my heart when I am away and I feel like I am about to walk into an “impending plague” or a time of trial. Just like the memory of these meals, God’s protection follows us when we feel like we need to be rescued, not because we did anything to deserve it but because that is God’s expression of mercy.
I remember as a child gathering outside of my home church on the front lawn as the church service was beginning. We had our palm branches in hand and were already waving and running around as we waited. Then, at the appropriate time, one of our parents would open the doors to the church and we would proudly march, wave our branches high, and shout “Hosanna!”
It was the only time we could act this way in church. The parade like behavior on Palm Sunday was only reserved for Palm Sunday.
The limitations were removed on Palm Sunday. We did not have to be “just right and proper.”
While church is indeed a sacred place, too often limitations are placed on young people and the young at heart. Too often the limitations frown upon processing through the building making a joyful noise or the excited behavior little bodies show when they come to church. This kind of parade like behavior is not always welcomed. We like things to be “just right and proper.”
by Rev. Tammie Grimm
Read Mark 8:31-38
“Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31)
How do you get ready for a storm? Whether it was Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene or “the blizzard that wasn’t” in January, many of us rush to the store to replenish the bread, milk and eggs so we can ride out whatever Mother Nature sends our way. For those of us here in Hunterdon County, where electricity is easily knocked out in high winds, those with generators get extra gasoline — just in case. In a similar sense, it is time to get ready for the last two weeks of Lent.
Traditionally known as Passiontide, these weeks are like the winds before a gathering storm with their own sense of gloom and inevitability heralding Holy Week. Scriptures like our gospel lesson from Mark turns our attention to the ‘Stations of the Cross.’ Our Lenten journey will culminate within the next two weeks. There is only one possible route to Easter – through Holy Week. How are you getting ready?
by Michelle Hettmann
Read Psalm 118:19-29.
This past fall, I studied abroad in Lugano, Switzerland, and Adigrat, Ethiopia. I was so blessed to have the opportunity to set foot in over 10 countries and experience glimpses of life in communities all over Europe and parts of eastern Africa. Being abroad was a wonderful experience, but also a challenging one. I was away from my friends and family for four months while they were here doing life together. I felt loneliness and sadness in the midst of the adventure. It was the biggest test of my faith and trust in God that I’ve experienced in my life.
While the experience wasn’t always easy, I experienced God in ways that I probably wouldn’t have if I wasn’t in that situation.