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A Devotion for Easter Monday: A New Day

brown wooden cross against wall

“Behold, I am making all things new!” Revelation 21:1-5
 
During my final year of seminary, I saw a pile of old boards outside of the gymnasium. When I looked closer, I noticed they were floor boards. Original hardwood from the seminary gymnasium- I was ecstatic! I had a piece of history in my hands as I scooped them up and brought them home. I thought about what I should do with these boards, and I decided, since my wife was pregnant, to make a bassinet for our newest child. I gave those boards a new purpose, and I was pretty proud of myself.
 
On this first day after Easter, we take time to reflect on how God is making all things new. God is taking your life and making it new. God is taking all the ingredients of the world and repurposing them, refashioning them for eternity. Everything has changed once Jesus rises from the grave. As John writes, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4). All those things that used to hold you captive? Those chains have been destroyed. All those commitments that made you feel tied down? Redeemed by God. All those illnesses, wounds, injuries, and woes? Healed and restored in Jesus. “Behold, I am making ALL THINGS new!”
 
That bassinet sits in storage now, even though I made it new. It is now an old, dusty piece of furniture still destined for decay. It still wears out, but what God has planned? This “all things new” has already begun, almost 2,000 years ago on this first Monday after Easter. And on that last day, every storage shed, every grave, every life that feels like it’s been left on the shelf will be taken out and made new. For good. The wood of the cross has been repurposed. The master carpenter is making all things new.
 Prayer: Dear God, we hear your words. Help us to believe them for ourselves, that truly you are making all things new. We want to experience your new life now, and we trust you to make us eternally new, by the same power that rose Jesus from the grave. It’s in his name that we pray; Amen.

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A Devotion for Easter Sunday: Resurrection Day

brown rock formation during daytime
 
Jesus Can Walk Through Any Door

“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them “Peace be with you.” [John 20:19]

Do you still leave your front door unlocked? I’m sure you remember a time- or remember some stories from older relatives, “Back in my day, you never had to lock your door!” That’s not the case anymore. We lock and check, and then re-check before we go to bed. We drive back home to make sure we put down the garage door. We have a lot to protect, so we need to keep our doors locked.

It’s good to take necessary steps to protect your family and possessions, but we can take the same mindset with our hearts. We have to protect ourselves from hurt and harm (we generally learn this after we opened the door of our heart to someone who trampled it). We work hard to make sure we don’t get hurt. 

Wasn’t that exactly where the disciples found themselves on Easter Sunday, after they heard from the women that Jesus rose? They were still behind locked doors, protecting themselves from the same fate that befell Jesus. But no locked doors can keep us from God. Jesus can walk through any door. However well you are protecting your heart, or trying to keep God from seeing the pain or darkness or sadness or sin, Jesus can and will make his way through it. And he will say, “Peace be with you.”

Oh, and why would we want to protect ourselves from Jesus’ work? He rose from the dead! Sunday marks the resurrection, and each first day of the week- every Sunday- stands as a doorpost into eternity. Let today be the sure and certain hope for you, that Jesus has a resurrection in store for you, too. Christ is risen, he is risen indeed, Alleluia! 

Prayer: Lord, God, we thank You for Your plan to work peace in our lives through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Help us to live always in light of eternity- that You have unlocked the door of heaven through Your Son. We love You! Amen!

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A Devotion for the Saturday of Holy Week: Tomb Day

white cross on green field at daytime

The next day…the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that imposter said, while he was still alive, after three days I will rise. Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day.” Matthew 27:62-64.

 
The day is called Holy Saturday, and perhaps more than anything else, at least based upon the first Holy Saturday, it is a day of being afraid. In Matthew 27, we see a group of people who were afraid on that first Holy Saturday. The Pharisees gathered before Pilate demanding that a guard be placed at the tomb of Jesus. They remembered that Jesus had said He would rise from the dead. And while they didn’t necessarily believe that resurrection would happen, they were afraid that someone might come and steal the body and say that it had. They were afraid at what might happen next.
 
The disciples certainly would have been afraid on this day. Jesus had died, and everything they knew or hoped or trusted seemed to have been turned upside down. They were afraid for themselves. While we are not told exactly what the disciples were up to, we could safely assume that the disciples would have been doing on Saturday what they were doing on Sunday when the first news of Jesus’ resurrection came. They were probably huddled together behind locked doors. They would have been wondering whether the next people through those doors might be soldiers, intent on doing to them what had just been done to Jesus. They would have been afraid at what might happen next.
We shake our heads at those disciples. They should have listened to Jesus. They should have believed that He would rise. They should not have been afraid. So I wonder then, what’s our excuse? We live in a time of fear, fear of what might happen next. And yet, are we not certain that Jesus rose from the dead? How much worse it would have been for those disciples in that they truly were unsure of Jesus’ coming resurrection. We’re not. We know it happened and we know, from the resurrection, that Jesus is victorious, and thus, so are we. The words that Jesus spoke each time He appeared to his followers after He rose are so precious for us today. Do not be afraid!
 
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are confident of your resurrection. Because of your victory, may we be assured by you in times of fear. Amen

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A Devotion for the Friday of Holy Week: Death Day

Jesus Christ on cross painting

34And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”  Luke 23:34-37

As I’ve spent more time in my house these past couple weeks, the TV and radio has been on much more often. Every so often I hear a commercial that says, “If you just buy this product you’ll feel better about yourself.” Or a speaker on a show says, “Just follow these easy steps to feel fulfilled in life.” There’s so much around us today that says, “Just focus on yourself. Do whatever is the best for you.” We’re surrounded by these messages of if you do this then everything will be better for you.

Isn’t this also what Jesus faced on the cross with those who watched and yelled at him? As the people watched, they mocked Jesus and challenged him by saying if you really are the Son of God, then just save yourself. Save yourself. That’s all that the onlookers focused on as Jesus hung on the cross. At that moment they could only think of Jesus being like themselves, self-centered. They could only focus on the idea that if Jesus had the power to save himself, he would! However, contrary to their thoughts Jesus does not save himself and dies on that cross.

After all of the physical pain and torture he went through that day along with now being nailed on a cross for all to see, Jesus had to listen to insults and lies being thrown at him. What’s incredible is even in this moment Jesus was not thinking about himself. While people were telling him to save himself, Jesus called to God saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Instead of calling on the Father asking for Him to take him off the cross he instead intercedes for all of the people and asks not for wrath or judgement on them, but rather forgiveness. 

While he hung there in pain, suffering from all of his wounds, Jesus didn’t think of himself but rather he thought of us. All the people who stood before him mocking him, all of us living right now. He was focused on you and what had to happen so he could save you. By Jesus refusing to save himself from the cross he gave salvation to you. As we spend today reflecting on the death of Christ, remember all that he went through and how much he cares for you. He loves us so much that he was willing to die so we could be saved.

Heavenly Father, thank you for all that you have given us. Thank you for the salvation we have been given through the sacrifice of your son Jesus Christ. Help us to focus on others and what we can do for them, just as Jesus focused on others even as he died. Be with us and strengthen us as we continue on in our lives, reminding us of what Christ has done for us and through whom we have been saved. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 


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A Devotion for the Thursday of Holy Week: Meal Day

gray footed cup beside baguette bread

“And when the hour came, Jesus reclined at table, and the apostles with Him.  And He said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’”  Luke 22:14-16

Our families are sure getting a lot of ‘together time’ with this quarantine and all.  The governor and the president are asking us to stay home where we’ll be safe – and there really isn’t anywhere to go, anyhow.  Not even to eat.  So, we eat at home.  This is, perhaps, most we’ve eaten at home in a long time.  You realize, of course, that this isn’t so bad.

Eating at home with our families can truly be a blessing for us.  Hopefully, the food is going to be better and healthier for us than all that fast food we’ve grown so accustomed to.  Sitting around a meal together as a family we can eat, talk and reminisce.  Mealtime can be a time for us to share.  

Sitting around a meal together as a family was really important to God’s people of the Old Testament.  There was a special meal every year they would gather around.  At that meal they would eat, talk, reminisce and share.  The meal they gathered around was called, of course, the Passover.   The Passover meal was a time for them to think back and to talk about something wonderful God had done for them in the past.  And it was a time for them to look forward to and talk about something He would be doing for them in their future.

During the Passover meal they ate some special food.  Bread, wine, bitter herbs and spices, lamb,  a hard-boiled egg, among other things.  Each of these items gave them something to remember, something to talk about.  And what they talked about was how the Angel of Death ‘passed over’ their homes sparing their first-born sons.  They talked about how this act of God won them their freedom from slavery under the Egyptians.   

As they gathered together each year for this special meal, they not only talked about what God had done for them in the past, but also about what God would be doing for them in their future.  The sacrifice of the lamb for the Passover meal would serve to remind them of the sacrifice that God the Father would be making for them – the sacrifice of His son on the cross.  

The Passover celebration was a wonderful family time.  Much of this celebration would take place in the home with the family eating, talking, reminiscing and sharing together.  They thought of the past blessings of God and what He would be doing for them in their future.

That first Maundy Thursday, so many years ago, Jesus gathered with His family of disciples to celebrate the Passover meal.  They no doubt thought of the past blessings from God.  And then Jesus spoke of the future blessings from God that were now imminent. The very next day Christ would be sacrificed on the cross for those disciples and for all of mankind.  Jesus changed the Passover meal into something we, as Christians, are now more familiar with.  He changed the Passover meal into the meal of Holy Communion.  While the Passover looked back at their freedom from slavery and looked forward to the sacrifice of Jesus yet to come – Communion looks back at the sacrifice of Jesus that has now happened and looks forward to His return at the end of time.  This is a very special meal that is usually celebrated in church, together in our congregational families.  Celebrating communion together on Maundy Thursday in church can be especially meaningful.  But not this year.  Unfortunately, we won’t be gathering this year on Maundy Thursday.

A few years back I walked past a synagogue. There was a sign on the front door that read ‘Closed for Passover’.  I thought that rather strange.  The most important Jewish celebration and the synagogue was closed!  You’d think the place would be packed!  But then I realized that much of the Passover is celebrated at home as a family. It’s a Meal Day.  A time to eat, and talk, and reminisce and to share.  

With this quarantine we are unable to gather together in our churches to celebrate the most meaningful meal of Holy Communion.  However, this Maundy Thursday we can gather as families within our homes to enjoy some time together.  We can make it a time to eat, talk, reminisce and to share.  We can remember past blessings from God and speak of blessings yet to come.  

We look back at how God has blessed us in so many wonderful ways including the freedoms we enjoy in this wonderful land of ours, to our friends and families and especially the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ Jesus.  We look forward to the day we will see Jesus either at the end of the world or on the day we die.  And in the meantime, we look forward to the day we can gather together around the Lord’s Table to celebrate the special meal together once again.

One of the items consumed at the Passover meal is a hard-boiled egg.  Its symbolism is significant.  Usually when something is heated, it melts.  But when an egg is heated, it gets hard.  Slavery hardened the Jews into the strong and mighty people they became.  The sacrifices and fears of the troubling times we now endure can do the same for us.  We can be strengthened us as we do without so many things we’ve grown so accustomed to.  We can be blessed as we look to God, remembering what He has done for us in the past, looking forward to what He’ll do for us in the future, and how He is blessing us right here and now. 

We pray:

Dear Heavenly Father,

We thank and praise You for the blessings of this special meal day.  Although we are unable to gather together to enjoy blessings of Holy Communion on this Maundy Thursday, You are blessing us with time to consider Your blessings to us past, present and future.  

We thank You for the blessings of the past.  Just as You blessed Your people of the Old Testament with freedom from slavery, You have blessed us with freedom from the slavery of our sins.  

We thank You for the blessings of the future that we look ahead to.  With Christ as our Savior we have the blessings of eternal life to look forward to.  We can live our lives free from fear knowing that we will spend an eternity with You in heaven.  

We thank You, Father, for blessings You shower upon us right here and now.  You bless us with Your Holy Word and our baptisms that assure us of Your love and forgiveness.  We look forward to once again enjoying the Sacrament of Holy Communion when we will be able to gather together in our congregations.

In Jesus’ name we pray,

Amen.    


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