Holy Week Scripture and Messages
Pastor Tom's May 3rd Message
This Sunday will be 7 weeks since we have been able to meet as the Ebenezer United Methodist Church family. It has been a very long, very hard time. I did not close our church, and I do not have the authority to reopen it. I pray daily for the day to quickly come when we have met President Trump’s recommendations, and we will begin our journey to normalcy. It is my hope that this has been a time for you to reflect, meditate, and pray, as our prayer list is long.
Some things that have spoken to me this week:
Reading from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that no matter what happens or how bad it seems today, life does go on and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that making a living is not the same as making a life. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.”
Roy Hamby put a message on our sign, “I AM is with us.” Exodus 3 tells the amazing story of the call of Moses by God’s use of a bush that burns but is not destroyed.
Riding in the car and hearing Louie Armstrong singing What a Wonderful World:
I see trees of green, red roses, too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
And then from the book When the World Takes the Wind Out of Your Sails by James Moore, I was reminded of when Moses said “Let’s Go Forward Trusting God”, though caught between Pharaoh and the deep Red Sea, Moses did not give up; he did not quit; he did not throw in the towel – he went forward trusting God. Moses didn’t have all the answers, but he did stay in communication with God; and he trusted God to bring it out right.
Jesus is the Gate and the Shepherd
Scripture readings: John 10:1-10; Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25.
Jesus explains in John, Chapter 10 that he is not only the gate to salvation; he is also the Shepherd of the sheep. We, of course, are the sheep. Sheep are considered to be rather dumb animals. They tend to wander off, fall into deep holes, get lost easily--they are a mess! Remind you of anyone?
We accept Jesus as our Savior (he is the gate); then we follow him (he is the Shepherd). At least, if we are being sensible, we follow him. We all know that we are not always sensible, that is why God had to send his Holy Spirit to embed himself in us as a way to help keep us from straying too far from the fold.
Still, Jesus does not force us to follow or obey. We continue to have a choice, and we must make that choice every day, and many times a day. He will use his rod (punishment or hard times) and his staff (guidance by His Spirit and the Word of God) to move us in the way we should be going; but we can continue to disobey. (See Psalm 23)
We can also suffer because we have accepted Jesus as our Lord. It is better to suffer because of our beliefs, than because of our sins. We will be rewarded or blessed for suffering that happens because of our devotion to our Lord. The suffering that comes because of our sin only causes us pain in the here and now. When you have lost your way, return to Jesus and "follow the Shepherd and Keeper of your souls." (See 1 Peter 2:19-25.)
To keep our souls in tune with God, it is best if we continually learn from the apostles (through God's written Word), and take part in Christian fellowship with meals and prayers. When we praise God together and worship him, we develop "glad and humble hearts...and enjoy the good will of all the people." Our examples of cooperation and service help to point others to Christ, so that they also may be saved. (See Acts 2:40-47.)
I hope and pray that we have all learned a valuable lesson from this pandemic mess--we need to worship regularly; and we need to "gather to together to ask the Lord's blessings."
Peace in God's care to all. --Cindy Sears
Post Easter Message from Tom
Easter morning was a whirlwind of activity. The women had traveled to the tomb to perform the required Jewish rituals of preparation of the body of Jesus for proper burial. Each of the Gospel writers shares a little different viewpoint of the necessary but very sad morning. Matthew begins in Chapter 27: 57 and carries the story through 28: 15. We see Mary Magdalene and the other Mary encounter the angel of the Lord greeting them with instructions for them to go and tell the disciples that he had risen. Suddenly Jesus is with them, “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” The Jewish leaders then spread the story that the disciples of Jesus’ came and stole the body. (NIV)
Mark describes the group of women (3) bringing spices, talking among themselves, encountering a young man dressed in white. They were alarmed. They were instructed to tell the disciples and Peter to go to Galilee. But they were afraid and told no one.
Luke lists three women and says there were others. There are two angels and they give the women more information. They passed the information to the Eleven, Luke calls them apostles. The men lack belief. Peter leaves and goes to the tomb, bending over he finds the linen strips, left wondering what had happened.
The same day two were headed to Emmaus; Jesus appears to the two, has a long conversation with them, reveals himself in the breaking of bread. They left Emmaus and returned to Jerusalem to tell the others what had just happened. While they are talking Jesus appears in their midst. He asked for something to eat and ate in their presence. He then shares with them and tells them to spread the message.
John tells his readers that Mary of Magdala goes to the tomb sees the stone to be moved and runs to tell Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. They run to the tomb. John outruns Peter, looks into the tomb but waits for Peter. Peter sees the burial clothes but did not understand their significance. Mary stood outside the tomb and Jesus appears to her. She fails to recognize him and thinks he is the gardener. He showed his true nature. She is instructed to go to his brothers and tell them that he is “returning to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to my God.” Later in the evening of the same day he appears to the disciples as they are gathered in the upper room. He bestows peace upon them, breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit. Why these different details? Why not one cohesive story that runs seamlessly through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?
1. The story is written by different individuals for different purposes. Each evangelist has an agenda and different group in mind for the Gospel. (Most of the events in Luke and John appeal to me more than Matthew and Mark)
2. Each described the details that he considered important.
3. Eye witness accounts often vary when given by different witnesses.
4. These writings have withstood time and challenge. Other author’s writings have been discredited or fallen by the wayside.
We do not know the exact details or the words spoken by those involved in this drama. Faith leads to accept that Jesus died upon the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead to take his righteous place.
Easter Sunday Message from Tom
Sunday April 12th is Easter. Christians in many parts of the world will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Not all Christians celebrate Easter on the same Sunday. Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate at a slightly different time.
The early church used various dates for Easter. The Day of Preparation fell on 14 Nisan the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John. This was a day of fasting which ended with a Eucharistic meal, which celebrated the resurrection. Since 14 Nisan fell on different days of the week, it conflicted with the Sunday celebration of Easter. It was not until 325 that the Council of Nicaea determined that Easter was the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Today Easter may be as early as March 22nd or as late as April 25th.
The early church used the Greek and Latin terms for Passover as the designation for Easter. Perhaps later the church wished to replace a pagan celebration with Pascha, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Bede the Venerable wrote that Easter was named for a German goddess of spring and fertility by the name of Eostre. Her symbols included eggs and rabbits.
Eggs predate Easter and have a long history as a symbol of new life. Because of fast days during the season of Lent there were a large number of eggs available when the fast was broken. Many people were given eggs during this period. (No they weren’t hard boiled and colored yet.) The priest often played a game like hot potato with the choir boys. They passed an egg around until the clock chimed. The one holding the egg was allowed to keep it. Eggs symbolize joy, celebration and new life. They were easily connected to the One responsible for that new and eternal life.
Many nations have added various traditions to the holiday. The Ukraine is responsible for painting of eggs which later led to dyeing. PAAS the largest producers of Easter egg dye kits is named for Passen, the Dutch word for Easter. Hiding of the eggs is related to the belief that rabbits brought the eggs on Easter morning. Kite flying came from Bermuda when a missionary used a kite with an image of Jesus on it. He cut the string and the kite flew up and away. Easter lilies also are an import from Bermuda.
Another tradition is church attendance. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter have a spike in attendance. Many family celebrations are involved. During the Easter season, people feel a need to be reminded of the activities of God in their behalf.
There are many harmless traditions used in the celebration, but we should not lose sight of the fact that it is about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Let us celebrate all that Christ has given us in his death and resurrection
Holy Saturday & Easter Scriptures
Saturday readings: Job 14:1-14; Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16; 1 Peter 4:1-8; Matthew 27:57-66 or John 19:38-42.
Easter readings: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10.
Holy Friday Message from Tom
Scripture readings for today: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18:1-19:42.
The Friday before Easter, called Holy Friday or Good Friday, is the day that Christians around the world commemorate the death of Jesus the Christ. The Scriptures teach that He came to earth to die for all creation. Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 describe the events that the Servant will suffer for others.
His appearance will be marred beyond human likeness, despised, rejected, a man of sorrows. He took our iniquities upon himself. He was pierced for our transgressions; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him. He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors. (NIV)
John 18:1 – 19:42 describes the arrest, interrogations by various officials, the denial of one who was closest to him (Peter) his sentencing to being crucified, the event, His death. Jesus is then buried in a borrowed tomb.
This passage is one of the most painful in the Bible. He was under terrible pressure, underwent terrible abuse, and died a tortuous form of death for those he loved.
Psalm 22 describes the emotional, physical, and spiritual pain that Jesus felt while hanging on the cross. He quotes verse one saying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Separated from God the Father by the sin of humanity he felt the crush of the burden. God had turned his face away from the pitiable scene, and Jesus felt all that we should feel.
Jesus the Christ died for those he loved, all humanity and creation received the full benefits of his sacrifice.
Holy Thursday Message
Scripture readings for today: Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35
In John's gospel, we learn that we who have been washed by the blood of Christ are forever clean, but we do need to wash our feet. In other words, we need to confess our sins daily, ask for forgiveness, and ask Jesus to guide us away from those sins in the future. Jesus tells us in John 13:34 to love one another. This is a sign that we are his disciples, and a sign to the world, too.
In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, the Apostle Paul tells how Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper on the night he was betrayed. In Exodus 12, we read of the first Passover being started, a foreshadowing of the Lord's sacrifice on the cross to save all those who are willing to come to him for salvation. As the Israelites remembered how God saved them from the Egyptians and death with their annual observance of Passover; we remember our Lord's death until he returns when we participate in the Communion Service. And Jesus will return.
There is a saying that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself." But, as believers in Christ, we have nothing at all to fear, not even death. Keep this in mind when you watch the news. As Psalm116:1-4 says,
"I love the LORD, because he hears me; he listens to my prayers. He listens to me every time I call to him. The danger of death was all around me; the horrors of the grave closed in on me; I was filled with fear and anxiety. Then I called to the LORD, "I beg you, LORD, save me!"
And he did, by sending his Son, Jesus, to take away the sin of the world, and to wash every believer's sins away until they are "as white as snow." Thank you, Lord Jesus!
Wednesday of Holy Week Message
Scripture readings for today: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 70; Hebrews 12:1-3; John 13:21-32.
After Jesus had said this, he was deeply troubled and declared openly, "I am telling you the truth: one of you is going to betray me." (John 13:21)
Terrible things can happen to you in this life. They can cause discouragement and depression. Yet, we who believe in Jesus have access to a Savior Who endured horrible things while He was here on earth as a man while remaining fully God, too. In Isaiah 50:4 we are told that, "The Sovereign LORD has taught me what to say, so that I can strengthen the weary." Reading further in the passage, we realize that this is a reference to Jesus. No matter what the present world hurls at us, we have an advocate seated at the right hand of God. (See Hebrews 12:2)
If you are becoming discouraged because of the coronavirus mess or other problems in your life, but you find it difficult to pray to God for help; read Psalm 70, which is a passionate prayer for help. Then wait expectantly for God to prove once again that He is your Savior and your LORD. "May all who come to God be glad and joyful. May all who are thankful for your salvation always say, 'How great is God!'" (Psalm 70:4) Peace in God's care to all.
Tuesday of Holy Week Message
Scripture readings for today: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 12:20-36.
In the 1 Corinthians reading for today, we are told that Christ's death on the cross is "offensive to the Jews" and "nonsense to the Gentiles." God likes to use the unthinkable as the way to save us from our own foolish wisdom. The world will mock us and laugh at us about our belief in the Savior, who died on a cross, seeming to be utterly defeated by man and Satan. But Easter sunrise is coming! Satan will be horrified to learn that his victory over God will lead to his ultimate defeat; and to the defeat of death one day.
As a grain of wheat must die to bring forth more grains, Jesus died to bring forth more disciples, who would worship God in spirit and in truth. Though Jesus paid the ultimate price for our salvation for free, we must die to our worldly selves, and be born anew. We must learn to hate our life in this world to keep our life for eternity. (see John 12:24-25)
God is our protector. Because He is righteous, He will help and rescue us. How else could even the best among us ever stand before the all righteous and holy God of Creation. That is why He sent His Son, Jesus, to take the punishment for our sins and rebellion against our Creator and God. He is our secure shelter and strong fortress! Praise be to the LORD God and our Savior, Jesus Christ. (see Psalm 71)
Encouragement from Pastor Tom
We are in times far different from those most people have encountered. Many people are experiencing strange feelings of isolation and loneliness. They are unaccustomed to the present situation. They are in need of encouragement.
Webster’s New World Dictionary defines encouragement as giving hope, support, or confidence. We truly are in need of that and more. Christians ought to be doing all they can do to help in general, and seek ways to improve the situation in our community. First, we should be in prayer for society in general and for our community, state, and nation in particular. We should be alert to the prayer needs of those around us, including our families. Sometimes we feel that we should be praying for everyone else and forget about the needs of those closest to us. We are afraid of sounding selfish or not caring about others. God is interested in our thoughts and needs.
Second, we should be reading the Scriptures. In the scriptures we find comfort, support, and consolation which are all forms of encouragement. Jesus provides many words of encouragement, consolation, and support. We find his actions making life better for those he encounters.
Third, be open to our neighbors. When we hear of needs in our community, we should respond to the best of our resources. We can share what God gives us with others.
Fourth, we should do our best to support our church with our time, talents, witness, and treasures. Right now we cannot attend a worship service. We need other ways to worship God.
These activities bring glory to God.
Finally, remember the church is in need of your tithes, gifts, and offerings. Cindy is in the office during her normal work hours, or you may mail your donation to the church, or pastor; or drop it by the parsonage.
Our community members are in our prayers daily. We hope this crisis passes soon. -- Pastor Tom
Monday of Holy Week Message
Scripture Readings for today: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 36:5-11; Hebrews 9:11-15; John 12:1-11.
April 5-11 is called Holy Week on the Christian calendar. This is the week that we contemplate the wonderful, loving, and miraculous thing that God did through his faithfully obedient, self-sacrifcing, only begotten Son to save the people of this world from our sins, our tendency to do evil, rather than good, and to revile God, rather than obey and worship and praise Him as we were designed to do from the beginning.
The scriptures for today are in the column on the far right hand. In the Isaiah passage, we are reminded that God created everything, and He prepared a Savior for us--for we cannot save ourselves. In the Psalm 36 passage we are reminded that God loves us and sustains us. All good things come from Him. He is the source of all life, and He is our protector. In Hebrews 9, we see that the old priestly sacrifices have been finished, because Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for our forever deliverance. No other sacrifice need be done. No other sacrifice works.
And finally, the act of a woman in John 12:1-11, shows how we should each respond to our Lord's gift to us. We should "give of our best to the Master." We owe Jesus more than we could ever repay--and praise be to God, we do not have to pay for it. Our gifts to Him are given because we love Him and want to help bring others to the same knowledge and experience of His love and the salvation that comes only when a person believes on Him.
"How precious, O God, is your constant love! We find protection under the shadow of your wings. We feast on the abundant food you provide; you let us drink from the river of your goodness. You are the source of all life, and because of your light we see the light." --Psalm 36:7-9 GNT
Remember to Smile Even Now
I had to pass along this meme from the internet:
"So the Rapture has taken place and we all missed it. Toilet paper shelves are empty because '...the Roll's been called up yonder.'"
Our trust in God will get us through this--and so will a sense of humor. Peace in God's care.
Palm Sunday Message from Tom
As this is written, it is Palm Sunday, one of the great holy days of the church. Normally the church would be singing songs that celebrate entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We would be reading the Scriptures which describe the excitement of the city as this prophet comes into town. The four Gospels each tell of this event. The crowd on the street waves palm branches and shouts, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! (Mark 11:9, NIV)
But we are not gathered together. We are celebrating alone, isolated because of Covid-19. We want to protect one another from the virus, which has taken so many lives, devastated our financial markets and caused time, money and resources to be shifted to fighting it.
According to Matthew 21:4-5, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. Most of the people in the street that day probably thought a great event was going to take place. They were right. But Jesus was not preparing to establish a kingdom for Israel to rule the world. He was establishing a kingdom to rule the hearts of mankind.
Let this Palm Sunday begin a new day of living the life that Jesus offered and continues to offer to all who would follow him.
You are in my daily prayers, may you grow in the grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.
Redemptive Power of God
Palm Sunday is the day we remember the triumphant ride of Jesus into Jerusalem. People strewed branches and cloaks along his pathway, and proclaimed, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Yet, later that same week, the people would be shouting. “Crucify him!”
Jesus rode in on a humble donkey—a clue that Jesus was not going to be a political conqueror. He went from his triumphant ride to a sham arrest and conviction, to a cruel, torturous death on a cross. Satan and his followers believed that they had triumphed over Jesus, but instead, they had helped pave the way for Jesus to fling open the gates of heaven, so that “Whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Our Lord Jesus is a redeemer. He redeems horrible, hopeless people and situations. I have seen his redemptive power in my life and recently in a bad family situation. Our awesome and loving God will redeem this situation with the coronavirus, too. Believe in Him and your burdens will be light. Read Matthew 21:1-11 and meditate on this scripture today, Palm Sunday.
Peace in God’s Care to all. (Cindy Sears
Dry Bones and Resurrection
The scripture passages for Sunday, March 29th are appropriate for our current situation. They talk of dry bones being reunited with flesh and new life breathed into them in Ezekiel; and Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (in John), because Jesus is the "resurrection and the life." Our God is an awesome God, and even in this pandemic, we have no need to panic or to fear. He is with us; He will sustain us; and He will "resurrect" us to greater devotion and service in His Son's holy name.
May this crisis be a way for each one of us to develop a closer and stronger relationship with God that will lead to greater devotion and service in His church and in our community.