Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. Can it really be just one week after Easter? I hope you, like me, are experiencing the Easter afterglow, reflecting on and celebrating that Jesus has risen from the dead! But what was happening with the disciples one week after that glorious Easter day? Jesus had already appeared to them, they knew he had won against death on the cross. Yet, they were in the same locked room where they had been on Easter day. In the scriptures, the focus is now on the disciple Thomas… “Doubting Thomas,” who had said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:24-25) But there is more to the story…
The term “Doubting Thomas” has crept into our vocabulary and we know it well, but I’d like to dispute the labeling of Thomas as the “doubting” one. Thomas hadn’t seen Jesus like the other disciples had. Poor Thomas – now and forever labeled as Thomas the Doubter. Yet, the other disciples… How strong was their faith? They had seen Jesus 7 days before, yet they were still in the room behind the locked door. If Thomas is a doubter, are not the other disciples, as well? They all had an imperfect faith. How about your faith? Is it imperfect, as well? The disciples’ faith was imperfect so ours can be, also.
What else did Jesus say? “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Evidently Jesus did not expect perfect faith. I mean, he did find his disciples in a locked room twice! He told them what he had been telling them for quite a while, they had a job to do. And he didn’t expect them to go out alone. Upon telling them that he was sending them out, Jesus breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.“
Here we must realize that in this act of Jesus sending out the disciples, it is more than that. It is a message to all of us - He is sending out his church. The disciples had Jesus. We have Jesus’ teachings. On those days when our imperfect faith is weak, find what bolsters your faith, your experience with the Holy Spirit. For me it is listening to contemporary Christian music on the local radio station. And I find focus when I journal my prayers and reflections. My faith is also strengthened when I’m in fellowship and experiencing communal worship with others in my faith community. All of these help my imperfect faith. What helps yours?
Now it is time for us to leave our “locked room” and go forth to share the message of Jesus. Even when our faith is imperfect, we can lean on the Holy Spirit and share the love, hope, joy and peace of Jesus.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotional. He is Risen!! What glorious words to hear! What glorious words to say! We’ve traveled the solemn road of Lent and today we bring out the Alleluias! Let’s share our joy with all people. Jesus is Risen! Who will you share with today?
For me, as I was shopping for flowers to contribute to our Flowering of the Cross for the Easter worship service, I shared the joy of Easter in the tender buds and blossoms and the beauty of the Easter lilies with others as we filled our carts. It lifted my spirits to fill my car with so many colors and the sweet smell of the Easter Lilies, tulips, daisies, and pansies. I pray you see, hear and smell the joy of Easter as spring evolves from our winter weather.
I teach English as a second language and have students from many different countries and of different faiths. They are hungry to learn about the United States and our traditions. We discover what we have in common and what is beautiful about our differences, and some of that covers faith traditions. Easter finds many forms in other countries – religious and secular. But one thing we did discover on the religious side – 2022 offers a unique overlap where the holy days of the world's Jews, Christians and Muslims are all happening together. As more than 1 billion Muslims fast for Ramadan, Jews will be commemorating Passover and Christians will be celebrating Easter. The world will be filled with the prayers of so many who believe in God with a steadfast faith.
Our communities are diverse and with an Enduring Principle declaring the Worth of All Persons, we can celebrate with the shared Ramadan, Passover and Easter an invitation to get to know our neighbors. Our religions may be different but our collective faith calls all of us to treat our neighbors with love and respect.
During Easter, as Christians, we celebrate the miracle of Jesus' resurrection. God loves us so much that our Creator of Life gave us Jesus, who lived and died and rose again to give us everlasting life. We have not just words of scriptural counsel, but Jesus’s life which teaches us every day to rise up against the battles of life, embrace those who are different and those who are on the fringes of our communities. Recognize the Worth of All Persons, and be responsible for working together to build a better life for all. Create a fresh world where we all love our neighbors and peace is possible.
So let all of us – all the billions of us – pray unceasingly for the blessing of peace in this world. May we also be resurrected to new eyes that behold our beautiful world and new energy to make a difference.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. Here we are at the beginning of Holy Week. We’ve accompanied Jesus as he went through the wilderness and then as he came back to the people, teaching and preaching about the love of God and doing marvelous things. He said things to the disciples that they didn’t understand. He raised Lazarus from the dead. Stories about Jesus were quickly passing from person to person and the people were ready to welcome this incredible person whom they felt was destined to be their king, their savior. “Hosanna!” That’s the cry we associate with Palm Sunday. “Hosanna. Hosanna to the Son of David!” What a time it must have been as the people gathered along the road, excited to see Jesus coming into their town. Picture the joy! Picture the excitement. Hear the rising sound of the people’s shouts. Would you have been in the crowd, welcoming Jesus and shouting, “Hosanna”?
Hosanna is a strange word. I went to a dictionary to see exactly what it meant. If you look in a Greek dictionary to find what it means, you find that it is not originally a Greek word, after all. The men who wrote the New Testament in Greek did the same thing to a Hebrew word that our English translators did to the Greek word: they just used Greek letters to make the sound of a Hebrew phrase. Our English word "hosanna" comes from a Greek word "hosanna" which comes from a Hebrew phrase hoshiya na. And that Hebrew phrase is found in one solitary place in the whole Old Testament, Psalm 118:25, where it means, "Save, please!" It is a cry to God for help.
We see this word as a shout of hope and exultation. It used to mean, "Save, please!" But gradually, it came to mean, "Salvation! Salvation! Salvation has come!" So "Hosanna!" means, "Hooray for salvation! It's coming! It's here! Salvation! Salvation!"
The word was a cry for help and it is now a cheer of confidence. It was a desperate plea, now it is an expression of profound praise. When our Palm Sunday hymns ring out “Hosanna”, we sing with joy and confidence that indeed Jesus entered Jerusalem that fateful day and began his final journey toward our salvation. We can sing “Hosanna!” with confidence and assurance. Salvation! Salvation is here! Jesus is here! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!
Yes, picture yourself in the Jerusalem crowd, excited to be welcoming Jesus. Then picture yourself today, in a community of Christians, all expressing the same joy.
“Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna, Son of David!”
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotional. We’ve been traveling the Lenten path for 5 weeks now. As we count the 40 days of Lent, did you know that Sundays are not in the count? Only 6 days of each week count toward the 40. So let’s allow ourselves to rest on this 7th day and reflect on Jesus’ journey together as we find it in John 12:1-8…
This week we find Jesus at Mary and Martha’s house. He has traveled many miles in his ministry, and he knows his time on earth is coming to an end. How tired Jesus’ feet must have been when “Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair.”(John 12:3, NLT). The disciples, particularly Judas, objected to Mary’s action noting that the perfume could be sold to raise money for the poor. Jesus defends Mary’s action by pointing out the great kindness it showed, saying, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me” (John 12:8). He appreciates the extreme kindness given to him.
I found myself also questioning Mary’s action, still wondering why this anointing is so important. But as I pondered this, my eyes are opened to realizing the humbleness of the situation. There is a stark contrast between the use of expensive perfume and the feet of a serving, suffering and dying Servant-King. In this action, I feel the compassion and extravagant anointing onf all people, no matter how lowly. We all are given the best gift, the gift of Jesus, God’s own son. Have you ever judged yourself or others as undeserving of this gift?
All are deserving. “For God so loved the world…” he gave us – all of us - his son and the gift of eternal life. There is no one so lowly that the gift is not offered to them. And this gift in no way depends on our worthiness to receive it. God is the ultimate giver.
We are so loved that God gave this gift to us freely. And feeling this love makes us want to respond in love and give to others. What can we give that is worthy? Do we need to raise copious amounts of money, establish far-reaching charities, or find ways to feed all the homeless? These would be wonderful accomplishments, but we can also find small ways to give in return. Small ways are equally important. We can have the feet of a servant. It doesn’t have to be anything grandiose. Small acts are important. Reaching out in small ways is the worthiest of actions. Listen to the song, “Dream Small” by Josh Wilson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOBaLrItEyc
God has given us extravagant love. Seek God’s guidance and be a grateful giver in return.
Mission Prayer: God, where will your Spirit lead today? Help me be fully awake and ready to respond. Grant me courage to risk something new and become a blessing of your love and peace. Amen.
Author: Bonnie Barber