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Welcome to the JCPC Daily Reflections Blog. Reflections are daily devotionals authored by JCPC pastors, staff and members and provide insight, guidance and comfort to help you make it through each day. If you’d like to receive Reflections each day via email,  provide your email address.

Friday, April 29 2022

herefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

-Colossians 3:12


There’s a story that once a man was watching a butterfly struggle to free itself from its cocoon. It managed to make a small hole, but after much effort, it stopped moving. Afraid that the butterfly was dying, the man gently made the hole larger. The butterfly fluttered again, but made no more effort. In his rush to do what seemed kind and compassionate, the man had doomed the butterfly. The struggle a butterfly endures is nature’s way of forcing fluid from the swollen body of a butterfly into its wings to strengthen them and infuse them with nutrients for a new flight. The man’s well-intentioned help was only temporarily helpful. He lacked the patience to exercise the necessary restraint.


The history of work trips as mission into impoverished areas of our own country and the developing world could well be categorized in this way. For centuries, people of faith with good intentions raced to help people on their struggles without first understanding if their help was like someone who frees a bird from a porch or a whale from a beach… or more like a butterfly from its cocoon. The intentionality and reflection is a necessary step in aid work that separates pity from compassion. Educational reformer John Dewey once said, “We don’t learn from experience, we learn by reflecting on experience.“


Scripture teaches us not to simply go and help or rescue people, but to make disciples. Jesus modeled a relationship that takes years. We must always be intentional to go and serve where we can build relationships with communities, hear their struggles, arrive at solutions together, and then do the work. And afterwards, reflect, learn more, and grow. That’s why our adult teams go back to La Lachosa in the DR over and over and why our youth are returning to San Antonio Del Mar. We are intentional to build relationships with the communities, to learn, and to do good work together. And each evening, we reflect on the work and the relationships we form. I hope you can join or support one of these trips. Perhaps you can travel with us, perhaps pray for us, or maybe send prayer cards. And perhaps you’ll learn with us and help us as we all grow through the leading of the spirit and wisdom of intentionality and compassionate care.

Prayer for Today

Lord, make me a patient and attentive partner to those in need, full of compassion and not pity, intentionality and not hubris.


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Wednesday, April 27 2022

ing praises unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks unto him for a remembrance of his holiness. For his wrath endureth but the twinkling of an eye and in his pleasure is life. Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

-Psalm 30:4-5


Alleluia! Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!


Happy Easter! As many of you know, Easter doesn’t end with Easter Sunday, but instead begins on this day. Along with Christmas and Pentecost, Easter is one of the “Big Three” in Christianity, and rightly so. We are an Easter people, and when we worship, we affirm that Christ was raised from the dead. He broke the heavy bonds of death with an act of immeasurable love. So it is only natural that we celebrate Easter longer than just an hour on one Sunday.


In fact, Eastertide includes 7 Sundays. During Eastertide, it is traditional to offer the Paschal greeting of “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” in some form, and we will start our service this coming Sunday with a similar Call to Worship. This is to proclaim the unbelievable power of our Cosmic Christ and to remind us that Easter is not a day but a season of joy and praise to our Holy Sovereign.


It seems fitting to me, then, that Psalm 30 is assigned to this upcoming Sunday in the lectionary. I encourage you to read the entire psalm, but this verse is especially meaningful to me:


Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

Taking metaphorically, we can hold on to this hope in every hardship in our lives, but it also reflects the traditional practice of Lenten penitence (which is a “heavy” time) followed by the joy of Eastertide. Friends, we are living not in the night, but in the morning. No heaviness can weigh us down forever, nor should we let it. Often, we are hurt by others and our pain feels heavy. But sometimes, we hold on to grudges, anger, and vengeance, and refuse to let the joy shine through. Are you holding on to something negative that you need to let go? In Christ, we can find the true source of joy but only if we live into this joy and hope. Let us remember this Easter season to focus our minds on the Source and reflect pure joy and love into this world so quick to hate and retaliate.


Alleluia! Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Prayer for Today

God of Easter Joy, Alleluia! Let us raise our voices together to magnify you, O Lord, for you have turned our heaviness into joy. Let us give thanks to you this holy Eastertide and work to bring your joy into the lives of all we encounter. Help us to live as Easter people to bring hope to those in need and despair.


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Monday, April 25 2022

God’s Power at Work


Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. -Ephesians 3:20-21


Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ! Blessings to you all! I hope and pray that this reflection note finds you well.


Well, as I write this, I realize that by the time you receive it I will have been here three full weeks already! Wow, where did they go, though? I have met many wonderful people so far—both here in the office during the weekdays and many more of you on Sunday mornings and other times. All in all, it has been three of the most special and blessed weeks of my life!


As your interim pastor, I have enjoyed meeting you, getting to know you, and becoming part of your personal and congregational faith journeys. I am attempting to learn as many names as I can. And, I am deeply grateful to all those I’ve had the privilege of sharing a meal and conversation with. Thank you all for your kindness and generosity, and I look forward to getting to know everyone better.


The in-between time since Gray’s retirement and my arrival may have seemed long and possibly awkward after so many years with Gray, but it is behind us! And, most importantly, it has not diminished what God has been doing at JCPC. God is indeed busy around here! Here are some of my observations of what God is up to …


The family of faith here at JCPC is very warm and welcoming, and your sense of caring is genuine and wonderful. The mood of people around the church is positive and upbeat! There’s peppiness in our footsteps and energy in the hallways and pews/chairs. Smiles can be seen on our faces. Laughter can be heard in our gatherings. My friends, the Holy Spirit is moving among us and reinvigorating JCPC for a bright and exciting future!


The church staff is a good, strong, and healthy team. We work well together, we work hard, and we have fun in all that we do. We have meshed very well together, and God has blessed us all with energy and enthusiasm!


Finally, your Session and ministry teams are hard at work planning for various events and activities in the coming months. We are poised to be great servant leaders and accomplish many wonderful things in God’s name during 2022 and beyond!


And, there is more! There is always more that God is doing in our life and ministry together. This is an exciting time for JCPC, knowing God is with us every step of our way forward into a wonderful and blessed future, and I pray you will find ways to be part of all that God is doing in and through our congregation. 


To those of you who have been able to be an active part of this family of faith since my arrival, I thank you. But, to those of you who have not had the opportunity, please accept my invitation to join us. Whether you have been away for a few weeks, months, or years—it doesn’t matter—we welcome you home to JCPC with open arms and hearts full of love!


Until the next time, I remain just another silly preacher, giddy as a schoolboy that God called me to JCPC! ~ Pastor Steven



Session Highlights and Updates

As we emerge from Covid routines and return to a traditional pattern of worship we should still anticipate some changes. And nowhere was change more evident than at our most recent Session meeting last Monday evening.


Newly arrived Interim Senior Pastor Rev. Barnes, (Pastor Steven, as he prefers to be called) led the session in lively discussion of upcoming mission trips, congregational meetings, review of membership rolls, positive financial reports, facility maintenance projects as well as monthly mission team activities. It sounds like it was a long meeting, which it was, but it was filled with spirit and good fellowship. Pastor Steven reminded us that “patience” must go hand in hand with change. Both our staff members and we as congregants will need to be filled with patience during this time. It will be an exciting and Spirit-filled time. Some of the changes and other actions by your session and staff are listed below.


Your Session-

  • Acted on the worship team’s request to shift a Communion date to June 12th from June 5th.
  • Acted to change the membership category on families we know have moved away during the past few years.
  • Acted on a combined worship team and educational team request to approve a Sunday morning schedule change for the summer called “Summer Celebration,” which includes a schedule of a single 10:00 a.m. worship to be held in the Chapel and to be preceded by a 9:30 a.m. coffee and sweets fellowship. This will begin on Memorial Day Weekend and continue throughout the summer. Adult and youth Sunday School will be paused during the summer.
  • Were informed of staff’s desire to begin “Passing the Peace” and singing of a third hymn during worship.
  • Recognized Billie Bothwell’s fantastic coordination of providing meals to families in need over the past year.
  • Received a financial report showing strong improvement with families graciously sharing their gifts.
  • Pastor Steven shared that the Presbyterian Disaster Relief fund is a conduit for Ukraine relief.
  • Received a presentation from Jeff Arnold on this fall’s reintroduction of our Planned Giving Program which was sidelined during Covid.
  • Requested that worship team return to scheduling our Fine Arts Academy musician instructors for Sunday worship services.
  • Our youth elder, Niko Furtado shared that our youth group will be holding combined fellowship and volunteer activities with the Pleasant Hill Presbyterian youth group in anticipation of the two groups sharing a house during their Montreat trip this summer.
  • Property team shared that the retaining wall renovation has begun with tree removal and demolition of the old wall will begin soon.
  • Pastor Steven closed the meeting with prayer asking God to bless our ministries, protect us, and be with those we love and especially be with those in need of care both on our prayer list and those known only to God.


Yours in Christ,

Dr. Rick Zellmer

Clerk JCPC Session

Prayer for Today

Now, as we look ahead, may we be comforted by these prayerful words from Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.


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Friday, April 22 2022

in is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.

-Proverbs 10:19


For I will forgive their wickedness    and will remember their sins no more.

-Hebrews 8:12


A professor of mine in seminary suggested that a good practice for believers and pastors was to write an email or letter in response to people and events which illicit a strong emotional response. He suggested that most of the time, upon reading and reflection and a good night’s sleep, we would likely choose not to share them at all. I can confirm, as can many of my friends, this is true. I’ve often employed this strategy when it comes to responding to issues that come up with the boys and school in particular. I’m likely on good terms with the teachers and administrators at so many schools more because what I never say than what I have said.


It would be easy to share this wisdom as a personal suggestion of how to employ a restraint measure personally in our own lives. But anyone who has ever taken a safety course from driving to job training to protective services or self defense will tell you that good training is not just about how you can and should conduct yourself, but how to respond to others, often those who are not trained or poorly trained. It’s not enough for us to practice restraining our own words or actions, but to be aware others might not. There is no greater grace we can offer, nor witness to our own faith, than to treat the rash or unthoughtful words and actions of someone else as an e-mail or letter we can toss in the rubbish bin.


The book of Hebrews assures us that God chooses to forget our sins. What a promise and example. This week, I saw a Tweet from a writer sharing the harshest response from his editor he’d ever received. One whole paragraph had a slash through it. Imagine saying something rash and hurtful and receiving a knowing look and the words from that editor, "You obviously needed to get that out of your system. We will never speak of it again." Imagine that moment between a parent and teenager. Imagine a spouse or family member immediately regretting their words and being reassured it will be ignored or intentionally erased and never brought up again. Imagine a friend or a coworker doing something foolish in the heat of the moment and we have a chance to say it will not alter or destroy the love we choose to offer and the grace we commit to offering permanently and without cost. We are called to exactly that kind of discipleship. Try it. Commit to it. God promises it is transformative.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to guide my words and actions by thoughtfulness and restraint and my reactions by grace and intentional forgetful compassion and mercy.

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Wednesday, April 20 2022

Santa’s Workshop –

A Metaphor


I have a book entitled “Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus” Here’s an excerpt from Page 17, “What makes a workshop wonderful is not walls and ceilings, but what happens inside those walls and under those ceilings... it’s not how a workshop stands, but what it stands for that make it special.”


Further down on Page 17 we read about a leadership project that was assigned to managers. The project was to design a building that would represent their ideal organization. One manager’s construction was just 6 columns. When asked, “Do you need more time to finish the rest of the building?” The manager said, “No, the six columns are pillars, and they represent values.” She went on to explain that nothing was more important to an organization than the values that support it. What are the value pillars of JCPC ?


We see the Give – Go – Live banners every time we gather to worship in the Great Hall. Those three words encompass a vast spectrum of JCPC values.


JCPC, like many other churches is facing new challenges due to changes within our church, community, and the post-pandemic world. I read that at one time 37% of requests to Santa from children were to bring them a shiny red wagon. Today, plain shiny red wagons are primarily bought to be used as decorations – and are no longer a coveted toy. Santa’s Workshop could still make red wagons, but it wouldn’t be long before Santa’s elves are mostly idle due to an excess inventory of red wagons. Should Santa and the elves be disappointed that red shiny wagons are stockpiled?


Well, I don’t propose that I can speak for Santa, but I suspect that the Workshop has been retooled to manufacture different toys that bring children just as much joy as a shiny red wagon. How can we retool at JCPC?


JCPC is a PCUSA Church in Johns Creek, Georgia, USA in the year 2022. We need to agree on our core value as pillars, so that those values will unite and guide as we seek to know God’s NOW purpose for His church. 


GIVE: as Christians we know that giving is important. As the world changes the nature of the gift may change – no longer a shiny red wagon but the purpose of our giving should never change. Giving of our time, talents, resources, and yes, money sustains the operation, work, and mission of the church. We must give freely with a pure heart, and in so doing we create opportunities for us to show the love of God. Giving enables the church to turn its vision into an active mission.  As a practicality, there are costs that go along with being a visionary missional church. JCPC needs your gift – whatever that may be. Giving is a core value of JCPC and an expression of our love for God. 


 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. -2 Corinthians 8:7


GO: as Christians we know that “faith without works is dead,” and its corollary “we are not saved by works.” When we go and toil together the work becomes less burdensome. One of my favorite phrases; “I’m not just tired, I’m VBS kind of tired.” 

To accomplish our mission we need volunteers, and ready reserve teams upon whom we can call when the task becomes too great for the few. Go, Go, Go is not what is required, but instead for each of us to hear how and where God has called us to go. We must know where we are going, and what resources it will take. We may need to give up our old shiny red wagon ways, and try new ways of going. There is always cost to go! Go and serve - takes people, time, and yes, money. Give and Go are inseparable as we pursue our value driven mission. 


God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. -Hebrews 6:10


LIVE: Our mission is both within the walls of our church AND outside those walls. As our sign says, “You are now entering your mission field.” Whatever and however we give or go, we represent Christ and we are compelled by Him to show others the same mercy He has shown us. Live means we give and go always to the glory of God.  


“'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. '” -Jeremiah 29:11


Give – Go – Live 


Knowing God will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; He will counsel you with my loving eye on you. -Psalm 32:8

Prayer for Today

I admit often I’m so busy asking – I want a shiny red wagon, that I am deaf to hear your voice. Give me ears to listen for your calling. Give me the courage to sing:


Here I am, Lord Is it I, Lord?

I have heard You calling in the night.

I will go, Lord - If You lead me.

I will hold Your people in my heart. 

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Monday, April 18 2022

Are you still upset that I want to reduce the size of your favorite department?” Evelyn’s manager asked. “No.” She tightened her jaw. She was more frustrated that he seemed to be teasing her about it. She’d been trying to help the company by finding ways to draw in different interest groups, but limited space made this nearly impossible. Evelyn fought back tears, but she made the decision to do whatever her manager asked. Maybe she couldn’t bring about the changes she’d hoped, but she could still do her job to the best of her ability.


In the apostle Peter’s first letter, he urged first-century believers in Jesus to submit “to every human authority” (1 Peter 2:13). Maintaining integrity in a tough work situation isn’t easy. But Peter gives us a reason to continue doing good: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God” (v. 12). Additionally, this helps us set a godly example for other believers who are watching.

If we’re in a truly abusive work situation, it may be best to leave if at all possible (1 Corinthians 7:21). But in a safe environment, with the Spirit’s help we can continue to do good in our work remembering “this is commendable before God” (1 Peter 2:20). When we submit to authority, we have an opportunity to give others reason to follow and glorify God.

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father, help me to continue to honor You in my response to those in authority despite the difficult situations I may face. Help me to live each day in a way that glorifies You.

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Friday, April 15 2022

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

-John 21:15-17


Like many of you, I read and watch and listen to countless sources of educational information. I follow several scientists and educators on TikTok. It was one such person who pointed me to a study about relationships. A researcher observed the guests of a bed and breakfast for some years. He observed their behavior and which behaviors seemed to correlate to the longevity of a couple. The highest correlation was couples with a high frequency of accepted “bids” for affection. In other words, when one person in a couple asked for the attention of their partner, and the partner responded by taking notice or affirming them.


What does a bid for attention look like? “Oh look at that beautiful bird!” Some partners ignored the bid entirely. Some looked and nodded. Others stopped what they were doing and affirmed, “Yes indeed! What a beautiful bird!” The couples that did this well were far more likely to remain together and have a strong relationship. As believers, we know two things... firstly, strong relationships with our families are one of the ways we model love for the world. Secondly, our most important relationship is with God. Therefore, practicing this skill with our loved ones can help us grow closer to God. And vice versa.


How often does God make a bid for our attention? Perhaps in the beauty of a bird or a sunset. Maybe in the outstretched hand of someone homeless or a small child in need of attention. It could be in an environmental problem or social injustice that you can fix with your time, your talents, your willingness to do something, or follow a guideline unimportant to you but vital to someone else, or even your vote. And sometimes, it’s an opportunity simply to be civil or kind when no one else is. The most spectacular bid God has ever made for our love was the sacrifice on the cross.


We spend this weekend reflecting on that deep and unconditional love. And we can show our love for God and our family by worshipping God together and telling the story once more. This week, look for “bids” for your love, focus, and attention. It may be a loved one, a stranger, or the Lord. If you return it, you’ll likely find yourself growing in new ways. And I’ll see you on Easter!

Prayer for Today

Lord, thank you for loving me so much. Bid me to see as you see and return the love and attention asked of me. Amen.

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Wednesday, April 13 2022

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”


After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 


Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

-John 13:1-17, 31b-35, NRSV



Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday... "Maundy" comes from the Latin word mandatum, or commandment, reflecting Jesus' words "I give you a new commandment." In this account, first Jesus literally shocked the disciples by washing their feet (consider Peter's reaction), then he explained this is what we are to do for one another, to do to others as he has done to us, to serve one another.  


Foot washing was done by servants, not by those of higher rank. This was an incredible example of love that the disciples had never before witnessed until that moment. Imagine what they were thinking (or listen to Peter speak it!) when their master was willingly doing this mundane (and unpleasant) task... If you have ever watched the Pope at the annual Holy Thursday mass, it is a long standing ritual for the Pope himself to wash the feet of a group of people who are present. I have seen past popes wash the feet of cardinals. Pope Francis (the current Pope) has washed the feet of prisoners and refugees.  


Well, now it's Holy Week. How has your Lenten journey been? It's not too late to join in the processional, though most of us know we are getting into the scary part... the part where we don't understand what Jesus is doing... the part where we, with the disciples, watch in disbelief as he offers himself to the guards, allows himself to be mocked, maimed, and killed... the part where we have to decide if we are going to keep following him to the foot of the cross or run and hide while the scary stuff is going on...


I hope you will worship with us (or anywhere) on Easter, whether it's in-person or online. I encourage you to worship with us also tomorrow on Maundy Thursday. We will receive communion. We will hear the account of the night of Jesus' sacrifice. Continue your Lenten journey with us Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m., and then again on Easter morning as we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord.

Prayer for Today

Holy God, draw us close as we reflect on the love and sacrifice of your son. Help us to love one another, to serve one another, as he has done for us. In Jesus' holy name we pray. Amen. 

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Monday, April 11 2022
The Ultimate Sacrifice


From Mark 10:45

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.


I am sure that many of you, like me, are engaged in watching the tragic conflict in Ukraine. This appears to most of us to be an active act of aggression against the Ukraine people by Russia. And as a result, we are seeing a needless cost of lives, on both sides. 


The Ukraine people are in most cases sacrificing their existing lifestyle, and in some cases, their own life for what they believe in, a free and independent country. In this time of Lent, we are once again reminded of the sacrifice that Jesus made to save our lives. While similar, Jesus’ sacrifice was the ultimate one; giving his life to save ours. 


As we head into this most sacred week, let us not forget that Jesus gave his life for us, and let us pray that those who are sacrificing their lives and futures are doing similar things for their countrymen. 

Prayer for Today

God, please help us to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for we sinners. Please help us to live better lives and to give and sacrifice for others. Our prayers go out also to the Ukrainian people and the sacrifices they are making for their country. Amen. 

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Friday, April 08 2022
 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road… saying,

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

-Luke 19:36, 38


Palm Sunday is just around the corner! We celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem only a few days before his trial and execution, a glorious and boisterous moment before the darkest moments of Jesus’ life. In some ways, it almost feels out of place in Lent. We pause for a moment from quiet introspective reflection and sing Jesus into Jerusalem with All Glory, Laud, and Honor, complete with waving palm branches. If you didn’t know any better, you might think that Lent was over and it was back to “happy times”.


But this isn’t the end of Lent. Maundy Thursday is next week, where we remember through word and song the Last Supper, betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of the Son of Man. The worship space is stripped of paraments, cross, and candles to represent the humiliation and barrenness of the tree upon which Christ was murdered.


This is the part of the story that people often shy away from. The crucifixion is really quite gruesome. Nails through hands and feet? No thanks. Surely it was an incredibly traumatic scene to witness. This person the disciples believed to be the long-awaited Messiah was hanging on a Roman cross and put to death without just cause. In some ways, we are guilty of the same treason against God that sentenced Jesus to a painful, agonizing death.


But all is not lost! Easter comes on Sunday. We celebrate Easter because of the fact that Jesus’ death was not the final word. It wasn’t the end. Jesus conquered death and broke the power that death had over all of us. The glorious knowledge that our Cosmic Christ reigns even over death brings us hope in this life and the next.


As we head into Palm Sunday and Holy Week, do not shy away from the disturbing reality of the cross. It is not just a story about someone dying. It was humiliation, suffering, and despair, unlike what any of us will ever likely experience. We have to acknowledge the horror of the crucifixion to truly live in the joy and hope of what Easter promises. Find time in the coming week to survey the wondrous cross and imagine how you would feel if you were there when they crucified our Lord.

Prayer for Today

God of Endless Hope, we are confronted with the brutal murder of your Son, sent to save us and yet condemned to death by our own actions. In a way, Lord, it was I who betrayed you. I am responsible for malicious acts against you and my fellow brothers and sisters. Hear my repentance for all my transgressions and cleanse me so that I may live into the reality of the Easter hope to come. Amen.

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Wednesday, April 06 2022

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

-Psalm 86:15


If I was asked about the most holy moments or those of deep faith significance, I would likely think of my confirmation, my ordination, various installation services, special Christmas Eves and Easters, and baptisms. Without deeper reflection, I would be unlikely to recall moments of everyday grace offered to me, times I withheld my anger at a loved one, or times I had the opportunity to help a stranger in need. And yet, Lent is a time for deeper reflection, and those moments are holy too.


Recently, a friend of mine watched a movie with her young daughter. The movie realistically portrayed the frustrations between a daughter, mother, and grandmother. It distressed my friend’s daughter to see that conflict. But my friend took that learning moment and explained that sometimes moms and daughters do have feelings like that and have to find healthy ways to express them and work through them together. Her daughter was thoughtful and said it was ok if they argue because, “God holds mommy back from not loving me even though she’s mad.” My friend was careful in her response, saying that being close with God helps her to realize being mad will be temporary but that the love will always be there. A moment of curiosity and concern became a holy moment of learning.


Although Lent is only a few weeks, the deeper reflection is valuable. We are able to see lessons like this and incorporate them into daily living. God can indeed help us freely love and hold back our temporary anger. A closer walk, what we seek in this holy season, helps us be people of deeper love and a more holy daily life through ordinary moments and extraordinary faith. The next time you feel anger rising within you as you argue with a loved one, perhaps you can quietly call on God to help you hold back your temporary feelings for the sake of an important relationship.

Prayer for Today

Lord, hold back my temporary emotions so that I may communicate and love well. Amen.

Posted by: AT 09:45 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, April 04 2022

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 

- II Corinthians 5:17-21



Springtime. It is that time of year that makes us think of new beginnings. We move from cool (and this year rainy) winter to warm days full of sunshine. Life isn't perfect but stopping to think about how blessed we are to celebrate a beautiful spring day sure does help us deal with our daily lives. In every season, there is a reason to rejoice and an opportunity to do good. The challenge for each of us every day is to find something to rejoice about and some good to do—and then do both.


Count your blessings, name them one by one.

Count your blessings, see what God has done.


Springtime brings us our biggest hope when we celebrate Easter. We remember Jesus' death on the cross on Good Friday, then we celebrate His victory over death on Easter. We not only serve a God who creates amazing beauty, but we serve a God who loves us so very much that he sent his son to die on a cross for us and defeat death by rising again. A beautiful spring day reflects the love the Father has for us. The troubles of the world will fade away, but the love of God and his victory will last forever.

Prayer for Today

Father, soften our hearts in places we've lost hope and help us persevere, trusting that signs of springtime and new blessings will appear. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:21 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, April 01 2022

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

-John 13:34-35


This Sunday is Palm Sunday. The following Sunday will be Easter. If you only came to church on Sundays and didn’t read scripture, were new to it, or had never been introduced to the story of Holy Week, you could be forgiven for having the impression that this was the best week of Jesus’ life, rather than the hardest. After all, the story you’d hear on Sunday typically is about his triumphant entry into Jerusalem and a parade full of people welcoming him. And the next week… the story of resurrection and joy. At least once in my years of leading and teaching confirmation class, I’ve had a child who knew the Christmas story and at least some of the Easter one, but not of the crucifixion, let alone his agony, betrayal, arrest, torture, and death.


Some churches choose to split Palm Sunday or emphasize the crucifixion by marking a “Passion Sunday” - an emphasis on his passion or suffering. Still others move Palm Sunday a week earlier to focus on the events of Holy/Maundy Thursday and Good Friday on the Sunday prior to Easter. Our church, and most I have served, mark those Holy Week moments with a service on Thursday. Maundy comes from the Latin word Mandatum - mandate or command. We know that word from two years of quarantine. It comes from the single command Jesus gives his disciples as he washes their feet before the Last Supper… love one another.


This Holy Week, two weeks away yet, we will once again host a Maundy Thursday service. It’s a beautiful way to mark the most important weekend in the life and ministry of God’s only son and orient ourselves for the conclusion of Lent and Easter. If you can attend in person, please do. It can be a deeply meaningful part of your faith journey this Lent. It will be live-streamed and recorded. Join us for worship. Deepen your understanding, see more clearly, and follow more nearly.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to follow your command to love as you first loved us. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:19 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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