Tuesday, April 7
Today’s Reading: Luke 22:1-53
Key verses: 1-4
Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus.
When I was young, I remember going to one of the museums in Buffalo (I cannot remember which one!) where they had a tall clock that as it chimed on the hour, had figures march out to represent the disciples of Jesus. Eleven of the disciples would turn to the center to face Jesus; only Judas Iscariot would turn away as he marched past Jesus. It was a sad reminder of what Judas had done.
Looking at our key verses for today, Jesus and his disciples were in Jerusalem. Luke writes that the Festival of Unleavened Bread, or Passover, was coming soon. Conflict between Jesus and the chief priests and teachers of the law had increased to the point that they were looking to get rid of Jesus. But then in verse 3, we read that Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. The stakes suddenly get a lot higher.
No longer can we presume this is simply a conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. Yes, they were fearful of Jesus’ popularity and his influence on the populace. Yet Luke’s mention of Satan reminds us that there are other forces of evil present. There is a battle going on for control of humanity, more far reaching than we want to imagine. We believe in God and His goodness, but we give less credit than we should to the presence and influence of Satan in the world.
Here was Judas – he was no couch potato as the expression goes, but an active, committed disciple of Christ. Like the other disciples, Jesus sent him out on mission, and like them, he was given the power and authority to drive out demons and cure disease (see Luke 9:1-2). It seems amazing to think that after spending three years with Jesus in the company of the other disciples, that he could even consider betraying Jesus.
Imagine too from the perspective of Jesus – what kind of anguish Jesus must have suffered, being betrayed by Judas, who was one of the Twelve, Jesus’ closest companions. Like a parent who grieves over a child who grows up and turns away from all that his parents taught him, Jesus must have wondered how it was that Judas didn’t understand, couldn’t believe, and traded him away for a few coins. Despite all that Judas witnessed of Jesus’ character, his authority and compassion, and all that Jesus taught, why was it not enough?
Judas was no victim. He made choices that in the end destroyed him. I pray for all of us who are suffering right now in the midst of the coronavirus, that we continue to walk in the ways of our savior. The potential is always there to choose – either for good, or not.
Judas left Jesus. He turned his back on the light of our savior to open the door to a great wrong. Lord, you know the potential that is always there within us to also choose wrong instead of what is right. Forgive my human weakness that is tempted to choose what is easy, what is convenient, what suits me even if it could hurt someone else. I pray for all of us in this difficult time. Hear our prayers, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Monday, April 6
Today’s reading: Luke 21:20-38
37 Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, 38 and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.
The Mount of Olives. As a geographic entity it is a ridge found on the eastern edge of Jerusalem. The Mount of Olives is separated from the old city walls of Jerusalem by a ravine and a brook. Our passage today states that Jesus would spend nights at the Mount of Olives on the last week of his earthly life, but the Mount of Olives is far more significant than that fact alone.
Jesus was good friends with the family of Lazarus, Mary and Martha and visited them on a number of occasions. They lived in Bethany, which was located on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. On the last week of Jesus’ earthly life, the gospels note three significant occasions when Jesus was there.
The first is from the 19th chapter of Luke, where it is written beginning in verse 29 that, “As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.’” This is what we know as the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. A few verses later (verse 37) Luke writes that, “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.”
The second visit Jesus made to the Mount of Olives was to share prophecies about the coming destruction of Jerusalem. (see Matthew 24:3) Jesus answers questions about the signs of his coming and the close of the age. In earlier verses of today’s reading, Jesus warns people to flee from desolation, and the distress of those times.
The last significant earthly visit Jesus made to the Mount of Olives was on the night when he was betrayed. He shared a last meal with his disciples, then went out to the Garden of Gethsemane, which is on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. After his time of prayer, Judas Iscariot came, bringing with him a crowd of soldiers and Pharisees to arrest Jesus.
Jesus made one more visit to the Mount of Olives after his resurrection. It was the last time his disciples would see him in his human form, for it is written in Luke 24:50 that Jesus led them out to the vicinity of Bethany. Remember that Bethany is on the Mount of Olives? Acts 1:12 (also written by Luke) tells us that the disciples returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives after Jesus’ ascension.
Many times Jesus visited that significant place, and yet God doesn’t want us to call that site holy. Instead we are to worship Jesus Christ our savior. You and I miss being together in our church home, without a doubt. But what joy it is that no matter where we are, we may be together in a spiritual sense, joined by our faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ.
We praise you, Lord, for the gift of Jesus our savior, for his teaching and healings, for his prophecies and how in his earthly life he modeled the perfect life of what it means to be human. Even more, we praise you, dear God, that Jesus is our savior. He took upon himself all our sins as he hung on the cross, taking the punishment we justly deserved. I am humbled and sorrowful for my wrongs, and ask for forgiveness, knowing that by grace you include me in your kingdom and call us your sons and daughters. Let us give you all praise, in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Saturday April 4, 2020
Today’s reading: Luke 21:1-19
Key verses: 12-15
12 “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.”
Jesus was talking about the end times and the warnings and predictions of what will happen throughout the world. Now many times in history some of these occurred. Many of us remember, either by direct knowledge or by recounting history, the persecution of the churches, the peoples of God, the government edicts banning religion, and the wanton annihilation of life. These things happened in the not too distant past, in the time of our parents. But it has been going on for centuries. As Ecclesiastes 1:9 says there is nothing new under the sun.
We are currently in a time in our lives where things we knew and took for granted are significantly changing. How are we going to meet these changes? God has given us His Spirit, Power, Love, and a Sound Mind. Not a spirit of fear. It is easy for us to become worried, anxious, and fearful. But with God, all things are possible. His Word brings us comfort. Look at King David; chosen by God but persecuted by his enemies. Some of whom were his own people who were jealous. Reading the Psalms is evident that David had his moments of doubt, anxiety, maybe even depression. Sometimes he felt overwhelmed and wondering when is this all going to end. Those are human feelings and characteristics. But the marvelous thing about David is that while he cried out to God in his distress, he also turned to God and remembered His wonderful, merciful, saving character and that God has never gone back on His promises.
This is the time when our faith in His care, whether it is divine miracles or through the moving of the government to bring assistance and aid, shows who we believe is in control.
Romans 8:28 “All things work together for good to those who love God, to them who are called according to His purpose”. We are those people. God will work for good. He does not work for evil purposes, even in trying times. This is the time when our light will shine that much brighter because of the hope that lies within us.
Lord, I am worried about the state of affairs in the world today. For my health, my safety, my freedoms, my future. The things in this world I’ve put my faith and security in seem to be fading away; even being taken from me. Help me in my distress to see the hope You offer me. Let my heart find it’s security and safety in You. You never leave or forsake us. Hear my call and answer me from Your Holy Heaven, for You alone are my shield from fears and worries. Bring peace to my soul in the midst of turmoil. I place my trust in You. AMEN
Friday April 3, 2020
Today’s reading – Luke 20:20-47
Key verses: 37,38
“37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’[b] 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
Here is a type of question that comes up in the face of denial of God’s authority. For those who do not believe God, believe they can outsmart Him. The Sadducees were a sect that were members of the Sanhedrin and functioned in the office of priests. Their primary beliefs centered on the use of the written law exclusively (they rejected any oral tradition), rejection of spirits, and in the denial of the resurrection of the dead. Hence this “trick” question they posed to Jesus in verses 27-33, and Jesus’ explanation in verses 34-36.
In the account of the burning bush referenced in today’s key verses (found in Exodus 3), God identifies himself to Moses as the God of his father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, using the present tense. This is the time when Moses asked “who shall I say sent me?” The Lord answered “I AM that I AM”.
How does this reflect on God being the God of the living and not the dead. Two considerations to think about. The first: We are alive in Christ. Romans 6:11 states that it is sin that we are dead to, and we are alive in Jesus (“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”) When we were in sin, we were (past tense) dead spiritually. When we got born again, we became alive through Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. We are alive in God. God is alive in us because we now have fellowship with Him
“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:” Ephesians 5:8.
The second consideration is that when we leave this earthly realm, we enter the heavenly realm where we are in the direct presence of God. God isn’t someone who will make this current worldly life easy, happy, content, successful for us. We find those things in His presence. His Grace is sufficient for us in this lifetime, and in the eternal lifetime we will be continually in His presence and grace. And it will be current, for we may be dead in our physical bodies until the resurrection, but we will always be alive with Him.
Oh God, I thank You that You are alive. You bring life to me. I thank You that You gave me life and hope in eternity. To spend eternity in Your presence is my desire.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. (Ps 1:1-3) AMEN
Thursday April 2, 2020
Today’s Reading: Luke 20:1-19
Key verses: 9-19
9 Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time.10 And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty.
11 And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty.12 And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out.13 Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him.
14 But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.15 So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?
16 He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.17 And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?18 Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
19 And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.
This portion of Luke tells the parable of a vineyard, the husbandsman (caretaker of the vineyard), and the vineyard owner. This parable is a thinly veiled account of God (the owner), God’s people Israel (the vineyard), and the leaders and priests (the caretakers). This fact was not overlooked by the chief priests, scribes, and other leaders who then wanted to get rid of Jesus and began their plot against Him. The kings of Israel had killed the prophets because of their warnings to repent and turn back to God. Over and over again, until the time was right and God sent His only Son to bring in the harvest – the souls of the people into relationship with God. And now, they will kill the Son.
This parable, like others, is an example of God’s relationship, interactions, and the consequences with His people. With you and me. The chief priests and other leaders had an investment in their religious system, the way they wanted things to be and the relationships they enjoyed. Holding power and authority over people and using the things God gave them as tools for their own end.
While this parable seems to be pointed directly at the Priests, Pharisees, and Scribes of the day, it could also be relevant in our own lives. Are there times when God has sent messages (thoughts, feelings, advice,) to us and we ignored Him? Did we ever think, “not today, maybe later” or “that isn’t what I want to do.” God is interested in His vineyard – us – His people. He desires us to be strong and fruitful, bearing good fruit and having a bountiful harvest. He gives us things to tend, whether that be people relationships in family or church, whether it is financial, whether it is skills and talents, those are our vineyards and we are the caretakers. How do we, as caretakers, take the interactions God has with us? When we focus on our vineyard, what we are given to do, and we have our heart set on the way God wants us to, then we are successful and to the end we will manage those things God has given us, by His Grace, and by the power of the Holy Spirit through Jesus.? To God’s glory.
God, my Father, I am but a child who needs to learn. Not only to do, but how to do, and with the right purpose. I ask for Your grace to humble myself under Your presence and to learn Your ways. Your servant Isaiah said: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” Speak to my heart, overwhelm me with Your presence. Have mercy on me Oh God and deliver me from the wickedness of my own heart that wants to go my own way. I want my ways to be Your ways. Help me to change. AMEN
Wednesday April 1, 2020
Today’s reading: Luke 19: 28-48
Key verses: 30-38
“30 Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither.
31 And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him.32 And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them. 33 And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? 34 And they said, The Lord hath need of him.
35 And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon. 36 And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way.
37 And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; 38 Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.”
Jesus would ask His disciples to do things that didn’t make a whole lot of sense at first glance. After fishing all night, He said to give it another try. When 5,000 people needed fed, they gave Jesus a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. He said that was enough. This passage, the fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” is another case of being given directions to do something without any explanation.
The disciples probably wouldn’t have remembered that Messianic prophecy. They were poor fisherman, not educated, not studied in the low and the prophets. Yet they had such a committed devotion to Jesus that they just go and do what He told them. At the times they would ask why, it was not because they didn’t want to do it, but because they wanted to understand Him better. But regardless of the answer, of even if Jesus didn’t explain Himself, they still obeyed His instructions. They were able to do this because of the relationship they had with Jesus, they trusted Him. He never harmed them, He never did anything that wasn’t in their best interest.
Isn’t that so true with us as well? Jesus may ask us to do things we don’t understand, or events and circumstances come upon us we don’t comprehend. We ask “Why Me Lord?” or something to that effect and may not get a satisfactory answer, or perhaps no answer at all. Maybe the task is hard or it stretches us emotionally or spiritually. Maybe it is something I don’t feel adequate or competent in. But our trust and relationship with Jesus will satisfy us to the point of being obedient no matter what the request is made. He will never let us down. We may not be secure in this world, but He gives us the peace and hope that we are in eternity.
It is hard for me to trust in things I don’t understand. I guess that’s where faith has to be stronger than reason. Jesus, in these times when there isn’t a lot of reason, I need to have my faith in You. I am frightened by the unknown, but I believe You are my safety and security. I place my faith and trust in You, O God, to deliver me from evil. You are my provider, You are my source of peace, because only in You do I find rest.
Help me rest today, Jesus. I love You. Amen
Luke 19: 1-27
Tuesday March 31, 2020
Today’s Reading: Luke 19: 1-27
Key verses: 1-10
“1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.
4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.
6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. 8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
In the social network of the time, Zacchaeus was pretty far down on the list. A publican.
Publicans were Jews who worked for Rome to collect taxes from other Jews (not unlike a neighbor who might work for the IRS). The difference being that Judea was an occupied country. Rome was the conqueror, the Jews were the conquered. On top of that, there was no oversight of the publicans (tax collectors) to charge the correct amount of tax. They could inflate the tax charges as they wanted as long as Rome got its portion. Therefore publicans were not only viewed as “traitors” working for Rome, they were also viewed as cheats, liars, and extortionists. They made their wealth from cheating their fellow Jews. “Zacchaeus was chief among the publicans and he was rich”. And there was nothing anyone could do about it.
So you can see why everyone thought Zacchaeus was lower than a snake’s belly. Everyone except Jesus. Why was that?
The Scriptures make it clear that there are 2 kingdoms, opposite each other. The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world. The wealth and worth of each one is counted by decidedly different measures. One in money, wealth, and power; the other in humility, kindness, and service. Zacchaeus had all the world had to offer, but he was still lacking. He wanted something more, something better. From all the accounts and reports and talk about town, he knew that this Jesus person had something better to offer. So Zacchaeus sought Jesus out. He wanted to see who He was. When he couldn’t see by ordinary means, Zacchaeus took extraordinary measures, he wasn’t going to be dissuaded. Jesus noticed that and Zacchaeus immediately responded and received Jesus joyfully. While all the others only saw Zacchaeus for his outward characteristics, scoffing at him and accusing him, Jesus saw him as someone who needed and was worthy of salvation, a son of Abraham, regardless of what the world knew him as.
Between the worldly and Godly kingdoms is a door. John 10:9 and 10:7 tells us Jesus is that door “Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep…” But it requires entering in through the door and the key to that entrance is what Zacchaeus realized. Repentance.
“And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.”
Jesus recognized his repentant heart and declared that Salvation had come to Zacchaeus. Worldly stature (or lack thereof) makes no difference to Jesus for Zacchaeus, for you, or for me.
A true and sincere desire to look, know, and want something that Jesus has, to receive Him joyfully when He responds, and unlock the door with words and deeds of repentance. This is what made Zacchaeus stand out from the crowd and have that wonderful encounter with the Lord.
Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
That is exactly what Jesus did back in Jericho for Zacchaeus and that is exactly what He continues to do for us today.
You O Lord are my strength and my salvation. You notice me from afar, whether I’m tall or short, poor or rich, strong or weak. Let my ears be tuned to You so when You call me, I will hear and listen. I invite You into the house of my heart, and I open the door for You to come in.
Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.
2 From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3 For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.
4 I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.
5 For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name.
6 Thou wilt prolong the king’s life: and his years as many generations.
7 He shall abide before God for ever: O prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him.
8 So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows.
What We Believe
We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only son and our savior, who lived among us to teach us and die for us. He rose again to give us the promise of eternal life in him John 3:16. He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is God dwelling in us John 14:15-17. We seek God’s word in the Bible, the foundation of our faith. Our mission as a church is to proclaim the good news of Christ to all. We honor Christ through worship and fellowship, encouraging one another in faith, hope and love 1 Corinthians 13:13, and serving our neighbors with compassion and justice.
We belong to the United Church of Christ. As a congregation we are granted the autonomy to govern our local church, and prayerfully make the best decisions we can on how to live out our calling as believers. Each person has the freedom and responsibility of discerning for themselves how faith in Jesus Christ impacts their daily walk and their worldview. We respect one another’s differences because even though we are diverse, we are still part of Christ’s body.
We look forward to welcoming you some day soon. Peace to you in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
10:00 am Worship Service
10:00 am Children's Adventure Hour
Due to the Coronavirus we regret that worship and all face to face activities have been suspended. Take care of each other and God Bless!