Tag Archives: Hagerstown

Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018 – ELCA

It all started with such promise – the angel announcing to
Mary that the child she would bear would be called Son of the Most High; the conviction of Mary that this child would be the embodiment of God’s promised justice, that the hungry would be filled with good things and the rich sent away empty; angels announcing his birth; thousands being fed; the sick healed; the dead raised.

And then, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It was over. The world hadn’t changed. Might still made right. How ridiculously naïve to believe that any reversal of the old order could come about. Hope is for the gullible. Looking at this broken man hanging utterly helpless, naked and broken on a cross, the powers and principalities, earthly and spiritual, death and the devil must have said, “You fool.”

This, as St. Paul reminds us, is the wisdom of the world. And the world can present plenty of hard evidence that it is right: children killing children in horrific school shootings, 60 million displaced people – all of this supported by our rebellion against God, our idolatrous claim that we are in control and the world is ours. In the face of this and all of the suffering others cause and we cause others, we, too, might cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

I believe that the beginning of Psalm 22 expresses the anguish of the
psalmist and the anguish of our Lord, but there is more going on here. Citing the first words of a text was, in the tradition of the time, a way of identifying an entire passage. The psalm ends this way: “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. … Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.” This is the wisdom of God. Jesus’ crucifixion is the death of our death. His innocent suffering has reconciled all of creation to God. He has done it. We stake our lives on this.

This year, Easter falls on April 1. We shall have come through the Lenten desert to the Easter garden. We shall say, “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!” And we shall confess this and live this in the face of worldly wisdom that is based on death. Life wins. Love wins. And if the world wants to call us April fools, we are glad to claim that title.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” John 20:1

This is not a ‘stand alone’ verse. It doesn’t tell you anything about Mary or her faith, only that out of duty and love for Jesus she went to finish preparing the body for burial. And she saw “… that the stone had been taken away from the entrance.” You have to look at verse 2, and even that isn’t too helpful.

How does Mary know that Jesus is gone? She didn’t look in the tomb. Yet she runs and tells Peter and John, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb…” Of course there is no hint yet of a resurrection (see verse 9). They must have all fallen into a fearful panic!

Here’s the point: (read on through verse 18 for the full story). Our faith is not based on what we see or don’t see. It is based on the presence of our living Lord who calls us by name. And HE has! HE has known us even before our birth and will never abandon us.

Prayer: Jesus, we pray you whisper our name in our ear and send us the Holy Spirit that we may hear you. Amen.

Pastor Barth

Good Friday, March 30, 2018

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15: 33-34

Jesus was dying on the cross. He had hung there for three hours. A thick darkness came over the land, and this happened when the day should be at its brightest. Was it a thunderstorm? There is no record of lightning or thunder. It wasn’t an eclipse. It was Passover, so it was full moon. A solar eclipse can’t happen then. Was it the last gasp of Satan’s attempt to put out the Light of the World? Was this darkness the Father anger? “You are killing My Son!” In the prologue to his gospel John writes, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.” (John 1:5 TEV)

As the darkness lifted, Jesus grieved that his Father had abandoned him. Jesus had taken all our debt of sin upon himself to the cross. Our Holy Heavenly Father could not look on this terrible amount of sin even in his Son until the debt was completely paid. When Jesus said, “It is finished!” the debt was paid in full with interest.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, you accepted the torture of the cross for us. Thank you for taking our sins upon yourself and paying the ultimate price for OUR debt. Please guide us by your Holy Spirit through this life to eternal life with you. Amen.

Tom Hefelfinger

Maundy Thursday, March 29, 2018

At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.”  And he broke down and wept.  Mark 14:72

The preceding verses in this chapter tell us that the outspoken, enthusiastic, impulsive, and passionate disciple, Peter, told the Lord Jesus that he would never, ever deny him.   Then, while waiting in the courtyard to find out what would happen to Jesus, he did deny knowing Jesus three times and the cock crowed twice.  I couldn’t decide how to go with this scripture, so I looked up (for the thousandth time) meanings for the word “Maundy.”

The consensus is that the word “maundy” is from the Latin word   “mandatum,” which is translated “commandment.”  Mandatum is the first word in Latin of the new commandment that Jesus had given, “That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”   (Wikipedia.org & Biblegateway.com)

Have you ever cried after you have done something wrong, or said something that wasn’t so nice, to someone you love?  Perhaps you didn’t stand up for them because you just didn’t want to be a “part of it” or maybe you were even ashamed of your loved one for some reason.  What kind of “love” is that?  So, why did Peter break down and weep when he realized that he did exactly what Jesus, whom Peter loved, told him he would do?

Jesus had told him and the others that he loved them and they should love all others as Jesus loved them.  Peter knew what kind of love Jesus had for him.  I think Peter wept because he was so distraught, and, maybe, ashamed because he just didn’t want to be a part of what was happening and he knew that his love for his Lord wasn’t strong enough.  He needed, and all of us need, to work on this commandment, the greatest one, so constantly.   Think of Romans 12:9; “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.” (NRSV) Another very contemporary translation I found is, “Don’t  just pretend that you love others: really love them.” (TLB)  Jesus doesn’t care what color we are, what we look like,  where we are in life, what we wear, or how we talk;  he loves us just the way we are.  We are to be like Jesus.  Let us love one another!

Prayer: Dear Father God, please surround us with your love and grace.  We admit it is very difficult for us to do this so please send your Spirit to dwell within us and help us to love each other, no matter what, as Jesus loves us.  Thank you for hearing our prayer. We pray this in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Bonnie Wine

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Jesus 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: 37-38

As Christians, we have a strong belief in the power of prayer. Our daily life presents us with an assortment of tempting places/situations. Prayer is the tool that we use to help us handle and overcome temptation. How does prayer prepare us to deal with temptation? Prayer has two sides- a practical side and a spiritual side. The practical side of prayer tells us to “keep awake” (meaning watch out and be on guard) for tempting places and situations. We need to be aware that the danger of temptation lurks throughout our everyday activities. The spiritual side of prayer tells us to rely on God through prayer- to strengthen us, to understand our weaknesses, and to help us avoid temptation. God reminds us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” through The Lord’s Prayer. We know God is merciful towards us when we fail and fall into temptation. God knows the weakness of our flesh and provides us with guidance to do better the next time we are confronted and led into temptation.

Prayer: Almighty and merciful God, we thank you for understanding the weakness of our flesh when confronted by temptation. Help us to be on the lookout for temptation. Give us the wisdom to use the power of prayer to help us resist temptation when it appears in our daily life. In your name we pray, Amen.

Linda Tritapoe

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it, he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”  Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it.  He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”  Mark 14: 22-24

“A Tiny piece of bread is all the love you need”  “Come to the table of the Lord,”  Two of my favorite songs I sang with the Praise Band!  Jesus is nearing the end of his time on Earth.  He eats one last meal with his disciples. Jesus serving his disciples is symbolic as he is teaching them they are to serve others.   Jesus has spent the last three years with this group. During this time he has instructed them by serving others you are also serving him and his Father.  Jesus shared many a meal with those considered outcasts.  He never judged them but invited them to his table.  Everyone is welcome to the table.

I had been struggling with a nagging feeling of  something “missing” or just off in my faith journey. I serve on church council, assist with the teaching of confirmation and belong to Lydia’s Circle.  I wasn’t questioning my faith, but felt I needed to be more involved with my church.  I joined the Home Communion Team!  What an awesome & amazing experience this has been for me!  Joe Smith and I have teamed up to serve communion monthly to our home-bound/shut ins.  Thus far, I have been served!  It is truly humbling to share the meal with others.

The Sacrament of the Eucharist is sacred. .  I admit I was very nervous and somewhat apprehensive.  However, serving our members who, for whatever reason, are not able to attend worship is strengthening my faith.  Even though they are not physically present at worship, we are together.  Jesus explained during the Last Supper, we will be together when he is no longer here. Breaking bread was considered a symbol of unity. When our Home Communion Team visits with disciples of St. John’s, we are binding the connection of our church community.  We are expanding the table outside of the church.  I look forward to each visit.  We spend time talking before distribution and afterwards. We are a community of believers.  I believe this is what Jesus was speaking of during this last meal with his disciples.  He was not only telling those present to enjoy the meal, but how to remember him when he was gone.   He gave each a piece of bread, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body, given for you,” and then passed the cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for all people for the forgiveness of sin”.  As we commune at each home visit, I am reminded of Jesus’s love for us.  By doing this basic function of sharing a meal we are keeping his presence alive in our hearts.  We are continuing what he taught his disciples over 2,000 years ago. It is a learning experience I am embracing with an open heart.  The body and blood of our Lord & Savior given to everyone will strengthen and sustain us until we join him in heaven.

Prayer: Dear Lord, as we remember these simple verses, help us to continue Jesus’ request to share this meal with all who believe. Help us never to judge our neighbors and fellow disciples, but only open a space at the table to share this holy meal.   Amen.

Lisa Startzman