Category Archives: FUPC

He Is Risen

Jeremiah 31:1-6

1At that time, says the LORD, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.
2   Thus says the LORD:
The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
3        the LORD appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
4   Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
O virgin Israel!
Again you shall take your tambourines,
and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.
5   Again you shall plant vineyards
on the mountains of Samaria;
the planters shall plant,
and shall enjoy the fruit.
6   For there shall be a day when sentinels will call
in the hill country of Ephraim:
“Come, let us go up to Zion,
to the LORD our God.”

With Christ, we find grace in the wilderness. The wilderness may be of our own making — a tough Lenten discipline, perhaps, or a set of consequences of choices we now regret. It may be a wilderness of the spirit that has been with us for too long. Or the wilderness may be a challenge that has come up in our lives, a difficult time that God has allowed to happen.

Easter is a time of celebration. A time to take up our tambourines and go forth in the dance of merrymakers.

We can celebrate the end of a challenging discipline. We can find the strength in Christ’s resurrection to give up the personal wilderness of the spirit that we have been carrying with us. But we can also celebrate in the midst of a challenge that will continue.

Christ is risen.

As believers in Christ, we have the sure and certain hope that we inherit this new life from Christ. This lets us celebrate, regardless of our circumstances.

He is risen indeed.

God So Loved the World

In 1887, Sir John Stainer composed an oratorio entitled The Crucifixion: A Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer. He intended this work to be within the scope of most parish churches and is written for two soloists, choir, and organ. The twenty movements include five congregational hymns as well as the famous God So Loved the World. This is the only movement that is without accompaniment and is also often sung by itself outside the scope of the oratorio. The text of this anthem is John 3:16-17.

 

 

Today, remembering God’s sacrifice for us, let us meditate on these words: “For God so loved the world that He gave us His Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

A Table Before Me

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Psalm 23:5)

The last part of Psalm 23 is less familiar, in which the psalmist praises God for granting him a place in God’s house and for treating him royally. But what does it mean to have a table in the presence of enemies?

One does not eat easily when enemies abound; one must be wary. But it is also a sign of power and authority to have a table prepared. Who sits at this table? Do our enemies, then, sit at the table with us?

Yes. If we truly follow Christ, then we will break bread freely even with those who would plot our demise—as Jesus broke bread freely with Judas. We will share the intimacy of a meal even with those who hate us, and in so doing we shall have no more enemies. God’s mercy is more powerful than any hatred man has yet conceived, and God’s grace is neverending—the overflowing cup.  If we surrender our battles to God, then surely God will preserve us against our enemies—not by waging cruel war against them, for God does not need to take sides in our petty human conflicts—but by preparing a table set for friend and foe alike and bidding us dine with our enemies, who are all likewise made in God’s image.

Let us sit down, then, in the presence of our enemies, and bid them join us in the feast!

Angela Cox

Good News and Bad News

Saturday! After a relaxing swim and a good breakfast I looked at our local paper’s front page. I was faced with four titles:

  • “Guard was eyed to round up illegals”
  • “Pakistan victims remembered”
  • “Training add-on snags campus add-on gun bill”
  • “Project aims to cut wrong-way driving”

I chose the last article. Its subtitle was, “State’s $3.1 Million awarded for work to improve markings on off-ramp.” That sounded like good news to me and everyone in the state. We all have our own opinions of what “good news” is.

How to cope with the bad news?

Circle 1 studied Hebrews last week, so I opened my Bible and found what I thought I remembered.

“Therefore lift up your drooping hands & strengthen your weak knees, and make straight the paths for your feet, so what is lame may not be out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with all men and for holiness without which no one will see the Lord”.
Hebrews 12:12-14

May we be clear and tender hearted in our thinking and speaking, and kind hearted in our actions and words.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us be your earthly example. Amen

Pam Andersen

Giving Up

 

Lent is the season to remember the sacrifice of Christ. For forty days, we purposely consider what distracts from our worship of His sacrifice. We consider what is important in our daily lives and chose to sacrifice that thing, whether it be food, drink, or entertainment, and every time we crave that thing, we think of Christ’s sacrifice for us. But what happens when that thing that distracts us from God is ourselves?

I truly believe that if everyone did as I said, when I say it, things in my life would go much easier and if they went wrong it would land on my shoulders to accept the blame. However, this means removing everyone else’s agency and no doubt there are those that would ask me to simply do as they wished. Fortunately, there came a time in my life when my ability to control anything was stripped away from me. My youngest son lay in the hospital and I was forced to accept that I could not influence whether he lived or died. To be honest, I was confident that God was not listening to my prayers anyway.

As I lay in the floor, silently screaming, as I received the news that he was on life support, I prayed. I prayed an acceptance of having no favor with God. I prayed that God would listen to any number of the people who had my child in their hearts. If there was but one person who had favor with God who was praying for my child, that their prayers be answered. I accepted that when it comes to God, I had no agency. Not if what I truly wanted was to live a life for God. I had to give up myself. Give up the future I had dreamed of. Give up the things that I wanted. Give up my demands of everyone else’s perfection and obedience. Give up my own selfishness. I accepted that I might have to give up my son.

It was in this moment of giving up that my fear for my son’s life left me. It was in this moment that God began to change me. He did not ask for everything at once, it is a slow and continuous process. A sacrifice that I am joyously willing to obey because of the sacrifice of Christ.

 

Scripture: Psalm 130

130:1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.
130:2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
130:3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
130:4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
130:6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
130:7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, you are the creator of everything that is, has been, and will be. You, who in your knowledge of your creation, knew that we would fail in every way. It is because of your knowledge that you sacrificed in order to save. And because of your sacrifice, I give you my spirit, my will, my body, and my life. May everything I do and say be for the glory of your name. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray.

Elizabeth Scheirschmidt

The Bread of Life

Gospel Reading John 6:27-40

27“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”

 Jesus told the apostles not to work for their daily bread, and the suggestion must have mystified them. They worked for the food that perishes, and so do most of us today. We can feel fairly confident that we’ll get our daily bread if we work for it, but things were less certain in the days of the apostles.

So once they were thinking about food, their minds went to the miracle of manna in the wilderness — the daily food God gave to the people of Israel, keeping them alive when their situation seemed hopeless.

That, the apostles suggested, was a good miracle. Why wasn’t Jesus providing that kind of convincing sign?

They didn’t remember at that moment that the people of Israel weren’t satisfied with manna. They grumbled that they had eaten melons and cucumbers in Egypt. They thought they might have made a mistake in following Moses.

Jesus told the apostles that he was the bread of life. The bread, in fact, of eternal life.

If during Lent you’re giving up some of the foods that you usually love, this is a passage to meditate upon. Maybe you’re not eating meat right now, maybe you’ve stopped enjoying sweets, maybe you’re eating more simply to free up funds for charity. Whatever Lenten discipline you may have taken on, Jesus still offers you the bread of life.

Lord, satisfy me with the bread of life, and help me to keep the will of Him who sent You foremost in my heart.

The Law and the Cross

Today’s readings celebrate the law. Jesus died for our sins, to give us freedom from the law and redemption for our sins, but not to exempt us from God’s law.

Jesus was the fulfillment of the law, not an excuse to step away from it.

Lent gives us the opportunity and the duty to examine the hard things about our relationship with the divine.

Isaac Watts wrote these words in 1707:

  1. When I survey the wondrous cross
    On which the Prince of glory died,
    My richest gain I count but loss,
    And pour contempt on all my pride.
  2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
    Save in the death of Christ my God!
    All the vain things that charm me most,
    I sacrifice them to His blood.
  3. See from His head, His hands, His feet,
    Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
    Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
    Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
  4. Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    That were a present far too small;
    Love so amazing, so divine,
    Demands my soul, my life, my all.

They are still as challenging now as they were then.

Is Lent good for us?

 

An artist friend of mine was troubled by Lent. She didn’t think it was healthy to spend all that time thinking about your faults. But this is not a random guilt-fest. This is a period of forty days (to remind us of Jesus’s forty days in the wilderness) for self-examination, followed by a joyful celebration. I think this particular woman fretted about her shortcomings throughout the year. How much healthier to have a limited time of self-examination set aside!

Nor is it self-loathing. People who make themselves miserable by obsessing about their flaws are generally thinking about how different they are from Jessice Alba or the cool guy in the frat, not how different they are from Jesus. There is no spiritual benefit there.

Lent is traditionally a time for self-examination, a time to consider how we ought to improve our behavior. But there any many other things to contemplate as well. Many people contemplate the sufferings of Christ, particular teachings of the church, or injustices in the world which we might alleviate.

Here are some passages to contemplate today:

God’s Frequency

 

I remember the day my husband called me and asked if God could use children to answer prayers. I was struck by confusion and curiosity and asked him to explain the situation. He told me that he had been praying and that while he insisted that God did not need to answer him, he was concerned with the issues that were on his mind. Okay, that seemed like a normal prayer. I would not have added the “you do not need to respond” part of the prayer as I have come to expect answers to my questions, but my husband will admit he is new to this whole “prayer thing”. My husband continued to explain that after he had settled into his location to wait for help, a child came up to him. She had been playing on the opposite side of the room around a small corner, but that she seemed determined despite her mother’s insistence to return. The little girl looked and my husband and simply said, “Everything is going to be all right.”

I couldn’t help but smile. “Yes, God can use children to answer prayer.”

“Do you think that is what happened?” My husband was stunned and shocked by the exchange.

“Probably.” I answered.

That was a year or two ago. More recently, my husband asked if he was tuned into the right channel. He was concerned that although he was praying and asking for guidance, he did not feel like he was getting any answers. I should add that I feel like God talks to me often, sometimes in order to make requests that I really do not want to fulfill. I do, much to my annoyance, but for my husband it feels as if he is not tuned into the right frequency.

What does this have to do with Lent? Well, in Jeremiah 7:23 it says, “but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.”

In order to obey God, you must know and accept what he wants for you. My husband feels partially lost because he does not hear God’s commands to him. How was I supposed to explain that learning the difference between God’s voice and my own will took time? How was I supposed to explain that I had spent periods of my life dedicated to reading and studying the bible? And I accept that I will never feel qualified to explain biblical concepts. How do I explain that even now I experience long silences, usually because I am up to something I should not be doing? I paused for a long time and decided to say exactly what I was thinking.

“How can I improve on those things?” He asked.

Sarcastically, I answered, “You just did.”

I explained that the first step toward a relationship to God was to want to have the relationship.

God calls us to be his people. He has made a way for that to be possible. The crucifixion of Christ tore open a veil that had been closed to the majority of the world. It is now our job to seek God and be willing to answer the calls and demands he asks of us through our shared frequency.

Psalm 121
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Elizabeth Schierschmidt

Shame and Grace

Lent is the season to remember the sacrifice of Christ. I cannot help but vividly imagine Jesus hanging on the cross, blood dripping from the wounds of the nails and thorns that pierce his body. I cannot help but imagine the pain he must have suffered. The pain placed on him by my sins. Shame washes over me for the pain I caused as he hung from that cross.

Everyone has those moments in their lives where their behavior offends even their own senses. Moments of shame that they hope will never reach the light of day. I have many and I hold onto them fiercely. I have heard people say that God could not forgive them for their sins. Do I feel this way? Once upon a time, perhaps. But I have come to the realization that God’s grace has blanketed us from before the creation of the world. Jesus was not a backup plan. Jesus was the plan from the very beginning. God knew I would fail. God knew I would feel the shame of my failures. God reminds me that there is nothing I can do that He cannot forgive and forget as long as I place my trust in him.

If I believe this, why do I hold onto my shame so fiercely? I do not hide my shame away from the world. I do not openly portray that shame for the world, either. I am ashamed of the pain I placed upon Jesus. However, by admitting my shame in times of need, I can help others. As in Alcoholics Anonymous where a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for some time sponsors a newly recovering alcoholic, I hope that my own experience of shame can help someone else recover.

I do not hold onto my sins because God cannot forgive me. I hold onto them because I want to remember the pain I placed upon Christ. I want that constant reminder to help me not to repeat those actions. And perhaps, my shame can be used to help someone else. I never want to lose the image of Christ’s sacrifice.

 

Scripture: Psalm 51

2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for your love. Thank you for your goodness and grace. Thank you for your trustworthiness. Forgive me for my sins. Release me from my shame. Help me to use my experiences to help others that they too may come to know you and be enveloped by your love and grace.

Elizabeth Schierschmidt