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Christ is risen!

Before this site goes dormant until next February, I (Jen) wanted to ask you to fill out a survey to give me feedback for next year. (Yes, I am planning things out now. I am in Accounting – things get busy early in the year for me.)

If you would like to participate, the link is here.

Thank you!

April 21 (Easter Sunday)

Read: Luke 24:1-12

There is a Polish saying that goes something like, “Learn a second language, earn a second soul.” Europeans are notoriously multilingual and get the meaning behind this saying instantly. Language is not merely code for our sensory experience, it is a code system for a worldview. As one crosses cultural boundaries, one finds that the expectations for what ought to be and the rules for how things work change. Learning a second language earns you a glimpse into another world. We have been studying about culture and faith all throughout Lent, both in Sunday sermons and on Wednesday evenings. My hope is that it has been an exercise in learning a second cultural language. I hope you have gained a deeper understanding of what it means to be an Anglo and a Hispanic in the US today.

One could say that this passage of Scripture tells the story of the greatest cross-cultural experience of all. Two women, locked in their culture’s prescription for grief and mourning, make their way to the tomb of a loved one. There, their carefully constructed world crashes headlong into another one. The angels’ message gives them a glimpse into that heavenly world where death works by different rules, and mourning is turned into joy. Peter is also locked in his culture’s world that discredits a woman’s testimony, but he goes anyway. He finds that Jesus is not in the tomb where his world says he ought to be. He cannot understand it and he cannot deny it. He has glimpsed another world. What will become even clearer over the next weeks of his life is just how profoundly different that other world is. He will recall that Jesus had been giving them glimpses all along when people were healed of diseases, the lame walked and the blind saw, and the dead were raised.

The most profound difference between our world and the heavenly one lies in the source. Our human cultural worlds are constructed over time by common consensus among a given group of people in a given environment that shifts and changes as that environment changes. The world of heaven is rooted in eternal truth, is true in every environment, and is accessible to every human being. What we are invited into is not just another system, but the System behind all creation. When we venture into that world, relativity is relativized, and we find ourselves standing on bedrock.

So, what is the language of this strange, new world? It is compassion. It is truth. It is beauty. We as a church, sister to a Hispanic congregation and living in an incredibly diverse place, have the fantastic adventure before us of discovering how each of the worlds in the people around us appreciates compassion, truth, and beauty, and sharing with them our own in humble wonder. Yes, we will be perplexed, but we will not be undone—we will be resurrected ourselves.

God of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, how grateful we are that you broke into our world and learned our language, that we might begin to learn yours. Open our hearts to the truth of ourselves, of our world, and of your vision for the world, that we might find grace to rise from our self-constructed worlds to love the world as you have loved us. We address you through Jesus Christ, the great revealer of the Father by the power of the Spirit. Amen.

-Fr. Paul Moore

April 20 (Holy Saturday)

Read: Luke 23:50-56

A godly man went to Pilate and begged for the body of Jesus. He took it down, wrapped it in linen and put it into the tomb. The women who were at the crucifixion accompanied Joseph on this mission to see where the body would be taken. Then, they all went to their homes because the next day was the Sabbath. There they rested according to the commandments.

What if the women hadn’t obeyed the commandment to rest on the Sabbath? What if they had taken their oils and spices to anoint the body that day instead of the next?

“What ifs” are only voids. They never happened and never will. I firmly believe God has a plan for all of us. Jesus rose again as God had planned. He guides us through our lives by what happened in His life. We must hold dearly to the concrete evidence and not to the “what ifs.”

Everything happens for a reason and only God knows why. By faith, we live and follow what He has done. He has shown us how to live, in love and peace. Obey the commandments, the results are Godly!

Father, help us to accept “what is” and not dwell on the “what if.” Amen.

-Sister Katherine

April 19 (Good Friday)

Read: Luke 23:1-49

It was Good Friday 2009. Several days earlier, I had given birth to my son Daniel at 29.5 weeks after developing HELLP Syndrome. The trauma of the emergency c-section to save our lives had left me with PTSD, and I was having horrific postpartum depression as well. Daniel lay down the hall in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and we did not know if he was going to live and if he was going to have any side effects from being born so prematurely.

That particular morning, I woke up vomiting and with a mild fever. It put me in an even worse mood, and I was a sobbing mess when I came into the NICU. To make matters worse, Daniel’s neonatologist decided to tell me that the two of us were not supposed to survive the c-section, which was information that I did not need to hear at that moment in time. When I left the NICU, I found out that my obstetrician had already done rounds. I dissolved into sobs again, and the maternity ward clerk paged him to come back to the unit and calm me down. God bless him because he drove back across Great Falls to sit at my bedside and talk me off my figurative ledge.

As he sat on the side of my bed and held my hand, he commented that today was a serious day in Christendom as God’s son was on the Cross, trying to appeal to my faith to calm me down. I was livid and may have commented that God was not the one with a baby down the hall in the NICU. (That week is a bit of a blur due to how sick I was. If I did not say it, I was definitely thinking it.) I was so completely gobsmacked by everything that was going on that I could not formulate the words to pray. It was at least another month before I could come up with the words to tell God how furious I was at what I was being put through with Daniel.

When I was a bit less irony-impaired, I realized that God watched Jesus die that day almost 2000 years earlier. God understood how much horror and anger I was feeling. God was there with me in the midst of my pain, even though I was too inwardly-focused to understand.
We baptized Daniel that day with my mother and my uncle present. Jane, my favorite nurse, was there too. I had been apprehensive about baptizing him because I was afraid that Daniel would die if we did that. My mom was the one to convince me to do it, reminding me that Daniel had overcome so much and that it would be a celebration of how strong he was turning out to be. The picture of my small scarred hand resting on Daniel with my former husband Jon’s hand remains a favorite of mine to this day.

How wonderful it is that we have a God who understands the pain of watching a child fight for their life!

God, thank you for sending your Son to die for me. Thank you for putting yourself in a position of understanding what it is to watch your child suffer. Help me to never forget that I am never alone in my pain. Amen.

-Jen McCabe

April 18 (Maundy Thursday)

Read: Luke 22:7-35

Oh, those (we) disciples! They (We) go right from wondering who among them (us) is going to betray Jesus to arguing who will be greatest among them (us). They (We) just didn’t get it, so Jesus explains again that the concern is not who is greatest, but rather who is the least.

Graham Kendrick, in his song, “The Servant King” summarizes Jesus’ message to disciples then and now:

From heav’n You came, helpless Babe,
Entered our world, Your glory veiled;
Not to be served but to serve,
And give Your life that we might live.

This is our God, the Servant King,
He calls us now to follow Him,
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to the Servant King.

There in the garden of tears,
My heavy load He chose to bear;
His heart with sorrow was torn,
‘Yet not my will but Yours,’ He said.

Come see His hands and His feet,
The scars that speak of sacrifice;
Hands that flung stars into space
To cruel nails surrendered.

So let us learn how to serve,
And in our lives enthrone Him;
Each other’s needs to prefer,
For it is Christ we’re serving.

You can listen to it below.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving us so much that you came into this world to give your life for us. Help us to share your love and serve those in need. Amen.

-Cathey Frederick

April 17 (Spy Wednesday)

Read: Luke 22:1-6

Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 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.

Read the last seven words in that passage and dwell on this question: Who were the chief priests and teachers of the law (aka, “the establishment”) afraid of? Not Jesus…certainly not. As they subsequently proved, and as has always been the case, killing one person is easy enough to do. Killing an idea that motivates many to challenge the prevailing power structure — well, that’s not so easy. In the case of Christianity, we can all judge from history just how well that worked for the Romans — and ponder the divine irony of the seat of the “Roman” Catholic Church being located in the very center of power of the empire that once attempted to suppress it.

Having come of age in the tumultuous ‘60s, I tend to have a problematic relationship with authority figures. If their power devolves from an organizational structure, that’s one thing. You can at least hope for some rational context for how that power is wielded. My issue is with demagogues and populists — those who derive power by exploiting the worst fears and most venal instincts of those around them.

But even if you terrify a population into submission, there is always the possibility it will turn on you. Which is why the chief priests and teachers of the law were fearful. Had they come into their office with a servant’s heart, they would have had nothing to fear from Jesus — the ultimate servant. As it was, they instilled their own paranoia and cynicism on those whose spiritual well-being they were accountable for.

Once again, the Bible has as much to tell us about the times we live in as it does about the times Jesus lived in. As Jesus proved, fear may be a time (dis)honored way to harness the power of the masses, but love is ultimately stronger…and certainly more enduring.

Lord, grant me a servant’s heart that I may lead others to the love of Christ…and may that love leave no room for fear of anything but the absence of God in my life. Amen.

-Michael Boss

April 16

Read: Luke 21:1-4

The Gospel of Luke, Chapters 19. 20 and 21, finds Jesus in Jerusalem teaching in the temple every day. He is causing quite a ruckus and I imagine the Temple Priests, religious scholars and Sadducees are pulling their hair out trying to find out ways to trip him up and make him look foolish. If we were somehow transported back in time to the space where Jesus was speaking, I would imagine it would be very noisy with people praying, animals bleating or doves cooing and perhaps grand offerings of cash and yet, Jesus notices “an impoverished woman, a widow, putting in two copper coins and says she is giving every penny she had to live on”.

When my son, Bayard was growing up, a Christmas Eve tradition was the reading of The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell. The story is about an unhappy four-year-old angel whose wish is granted, a retrieval of a treasure box under his earthly bed. Now, Jesus is about to be born and all the other angels and residents of heaven have piled up many glorious gifts at the throne of God and our poor little cherub offers the only gift he has, an ugly box filled with earthly items and guess what, God chooses the cherubs “lowly gift and turns it into the shining star of Bethlehem”.

Are you getting a stewardship message here? Well, maybe I was trying to sneak in a few giving thoughts so here goes my last reflection, a line from one of my favorite Christmas hymns, “In the Bleak Midwinter”. “Yet what I can I give him. give him my heart”.

Oh, by the way, every time I read the angel book to my son, I cried and when I read the book for this reflection, I grabbed the tissues.

Lord, we give you our hearts. Transform them for You. Amen.

-Mary Ann Taylor

April 15

Read: Luke 19:45-48

One of my favorite Internet memes is this one:

Jesus cleansing the Temple

I love it because of its snark but also because I like the idea that Jesus is not some meek teacher, but instead an authority. I also love the fact that Jesus is taking on the religious establishment and changing the ideas of what is allowable or appropriate.
In our passage today, Jesus drives out those who are selling from the Temple because in His words:

It is written,‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.
– v. 46 (NRSV)

What should have been a house of prayer where people could worship was instead a place where moneychangers hung out and people sold unblemished animals for sacrifice. People’s donations and sacrifices were being discounted and made out to be inappropriate by the rules of those in control of the Temple.

Do we do this today in our churches? Do we discount the gifts and talents of those who offer them?

Lord, help us to recognize the gifts and talents of those who offer them and help us to not discount them just because they do not look like what we think they should. Amen.

-Jen McCabe

April 14

Read: Luke 19:28-40

In this familiar and powerful passage, the Pharisees taunt Jesus on His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

“Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” the Pharisees scream, after Jesus’s followers shout, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

“I tell you,” Jesus replies, “if my disciples keep quiet, the very stones will cry out.”

Keeping quiet has never been my strong suit. And a penchant for social justice is stamped into my DNA. In 7th grade, when the entire class took a career aptitude test, my friends’ results came back with possible matches for careers as teachers, nurses, lawyers, or bankers. Some friends had multiple suggestions for future career paths. My results came back with one entry only: Peace Corps.

So, when I graduated from college, I served for a year as a VISTA volunteer, the domestic arm of the Peace Corps. That year I lived below the poverty level, slept at a gospel mission, used food stamps, and worked on behalf of abused mothers and their children. It was an eye-opening glimpse into the underbelly of our neighbors’ lives in 20th century America.

Now, more than ever, we Christians must use our voices to rise above the rabble and to be “living stones” fighting for and demanding justice for all people in all places—and also for rights and issues that affect the oppressed (including abused women and their children, homeless families, orphans, widows, un- and under-educated, refugees, and LGBTQ peoples, to name a few).

As we raise our palms high today to celebrate Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, let’s ring out our Hosannas loud and clear.

Dear Lord, help us to risk raising our voices to be living stones, true Jesus people. Amen.

-Ashley Sweeney

April 13

Read: John 12:1-8

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Thy blest Name,
O Savior of mankind!

O Hope of every contrite heart,
O Joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is
None but His loved ones know.

O Jesus! light of all below!
Thou fount of life and fire!
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire.

No other source have we but Thee,
Soul-thirst to satisfy.
Exhaustless spring! the waters free!
All other streams are dry.

Jesus, our only Joy be Thou,
As Thou our Prize wilt be;
Jesus, be Thou our Glory now,
And through eternity.
-Hymnal #642