Maple Grove Mennonite Church
Church Office open Monday-Friday 8.00am to 12.00 noon - Telephone 717 935 2513
Sunday School: 9.30am on Sunday mornings. Worship service: 10.30am on Sunday mornings. All are welcome
Pastor: Alan Kauffman
Ministers: All members of Maple Grove
HOLY WEEK DEVOTIONAL
At Maple Grove, we are so fortunate to have so many people who publically share their reflections on God's Word. They do so through preaching, Dwelling in the Word, teaching Sunday School, and in this case, sharing devotional thoughts with us. We are blessed with creative talent and can thank God right now for those who were willing to share their gifts so that we can be blessed on our journey through Holy Week.
Given these unprecedented days we are currently experiencing of being separate from one another, the need to see one another and to hear each other's voice is greater than ever. For so many, the hunger for insight into God's Word is also something we are more keenly aware of. Hopefully, these words, written by people from Maple Grove in 2019 can satisfy some of both over the next days leading us into Easter.
This devotional journey will invite us to hear and reflect on the seven last words of Jesus before his death, which were spoken from the cross; as well as the first spoken words by Jesus on Easter day in John's gospel.
Each day on this eight day journey, you will find the saying of Jesus and the scriptural reference; a devotional to read; reflective questions and/or suggested action; and a prayer. It might be helpful for some to have a notepad to jot some thoughts of your own to create your own eight day journey journal. We would encourage you to use this individually, as couples or for family devotional time.
Our prayer is that you will find this like an old friend walking with you these next few days. We pray it might strengthen your walk with the Crucified and Resurrected Son of God, our Savior. . . Jesus!
Alan Kauffman, on behalf of the Maple Grove Worship Committee
"Woman, why are you weeping?"'
Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there are times to weep. Jesus himself wept. Here, Mary certainly has reasons to weep. Not only was Jesus cruelly and unjustly tortured and crucified; but now Mary believes somebody added salt to the deep wound of grief by stealing his precious, broken body.
Jesus' question, "Woman, why are you weeping?", could sound insensitive. It is not. It's meant to give Mary greater vision and perspective. For NOW, because of Easter's resurrection reality that is ours, Jesus wants us to know that even our weeping has been transformed! 1 Thessalonians 4:13 tell us that our Christian grieving is now permeated with hope! Grief is natural when losing loved ones. But when we have met the resurrected Jesus, grief is forever changed as we know pain and grief and death no longer have the final word.
I don't know how many of you have seen the painting, "First Day in Heaven". If you have not, you need to google it. This could easily be a picture of Mary in the garden when Jesus calls her by name. But it could easily be any of us, when we know the resurrected Jesus has called our name; or that glorious day when we meet Jesus face to face!
Action/Reflection: Think of times when grieving has been part of your life. How was/is that transformed in the light of heaven and the resurrection? Jesus taught his disciples to pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." How might you live in a way that helps bring these two realities of earth and heaven closer together in grieving and in all of life now?
Prayer: Jesus, thank you so very much! With 1,000 tongues to sing and 1,000 lifetimes to do it (for all eternity) THANK YOU!! Your resurrection changes EVERYTHING! Even our weeping. So may the tears from my eyes be filled with hope; may the vision of my eyes be filled with the eternal. Continually fill my eyes with heaven, so I can live like THAT now. Amen!
"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."
Ken & Betty Hartzler
Jesus shows his humanness here in that he responds just as we would when there are no options left. He throws himself completely on God. We do this also when we "reach the end of our rope". For God is the only one who truly loves and cares for us. He is the only one who can give us peace. The question remains: Why do we wait until there are few or no options? Why don't we do this each new day?
Action/Reflection: Many people make it a practice to give up something for Lent. If you did, what did you give up? Lent is not the only time to do this. Do we ever think about giving up more of ourselves to God for Lent? There is nothing better we could possibly give up than to give ourselves to God and to others. What part of your life might there be that you could give just a bit more of yourself away? Pick something today and give it to God. . . each new day.
Prayer: Oh God, I confess that I want to be in control. And there are even times when I can make myself believe that I am in control. Until I reach the end of my rope and only a few thin strings remain. Why do I wait so long? So God, with Jesus today I pray, Into Your hands, I commit my spirit, my life, my all. Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord, to Thee. Take my moments and my days, let them flow in endless praise! Amen!
"It is finished!"
In Greek the word for "it is finished" is "TETELESTAI" which also means "paid in full." These words indicate the greatest thing to ever happen to mankind. With these words Jesus is making a verbal declaration that humanity's debt to God is now paid in full. Because of Jesus' sacrifice and victory over sin we can all have an eternal relationship with God, not only when we get to heaven, but one that can begin now. We will never be able to be thankful enough or worship God enough to pay back this wonderful gift. The best we can do is live a life of worship to Him and devotion to His will. "It is finished" is often described as a mighty shout of victory and indeed as one commentator poetically puts it, "Eternity will be needed to make manifest all that TETELESTAI contains."
Action/Reflection: In other contexts, "It is finished" becomes a declaration of utter defeat or surrender or giving up. But for Jesus, on the cross, it becomes a declaration of victory for Him and us! The devil thought he had finally won, only to discover God, through Jesus, declares the final and forever victory! It is finished; game over! What area of your life are you feeling defeated or wanting to give up? Do you know and believe that God can take what appears to be defeat and transform it into victory? Take time to praise God for His transforming power at work in your life.
Prayer: God, the Bible tells me that you can use all things for good if we love and trust You. Lord, I believe. Help me in those areas where it is hard for me to believe. Help me to praise You in all things. Help me to trust You are even now working for my good and transforming my trash into treasure for You to use. If You can use even the cross of Jesus to bring about victory for me and the world; You can surely use any part of my life to bring praise and glory to/for You. Help me to live a life of worship and devote my life to doing Your will. Amen!
"I am thirsty!"
Jesus said "I am thirsty".
On the face of it this is pretty simple, he wanted a drink. But given he would soon shout "My God, why have you forsaken me?" we can easily compare a literal physical thirst to a spiritual thirst.
Some years ago I was out hiking. It was a warm day and I needed more water than I thought. With four miles to get back to the car I had no water left at all. Thankfully most of those four miles were downhill but by the time I got back to the car I was glad to have parked near a water fountain. It reminded me of Psalm 42, "as the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you" and Psalm 63, "My soul thirsts for you?. In a dry and thirsty land where there is no water".
Our bodies need water. Without it we literally shrivel up and die. In the same way our souls need the living water that only Jesus can offer. What makes living water better is that if we believe in Jesus this living water will flow from us too (John 7:38).
Coming into God's presence refreshes our spirit the same way that a cool drink refreshes our body after we have been hard at work in the sun.
Action/Reflection: Do we thirst for God the way we thirst for water on a hot day? Do we recognize that our need for God is as important to our spirit as our need for water is to our body?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, please help me remember my need for your living water. Please fill me with your love so that water may flow through me to reach others. Amen.
"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"
"And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" )."
This verse shows Jesus in true sacrificial form. Having been arrested, beaten, judged, beaten some more, and then hung on the cross to die, He asks the same question most of us would. Jesus didn't do anything wrong. He didn't sin or do anything to make God hate Him. Nothing can rationally explain Jesus' righteous actions and the unrighteous reactions. But God had to allow for all these things to happen so Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross would be a sufficient atonement for our sins and save us from eternal damnation.
1. How does Jesus crying out to God affect your view of His sacrifice?
2. What does this verse tell you about the feelings Jesus was experiencing on the cross that day?
3. Have there been irrational seasons in your life when it has felt like God has left you? What has God been able to accomplish through those times?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for everything you've done for me. Thank you for loving me enough to die in my place on that cross. Please use me to sacrificially love others in ways that they have no choice but to see You through me. Amen.
"Dear woman, here is your son."
These words that Jesus spoke while on the cross were directed to his mother, Mary. As the oldest of Mary's children, it was Jesus' responsibility to ensure that his mother was taken care of (financially, and in other basic ways) after he died. Jesus was experiencing his most excruciating moments on earth, and yet was still showing his care for his mother. His pain on the cross was ultimately expressing his loving heart for our lost souls, but he still chose some of his last words to be words of compassion for his mother. Jesus was giving Mary a picture of God himself - caring deeply for her basic needs.
What might Mary have been thinking as Jesus spoke these words to her? Was her heart in such pain from seeing her son on the cross that she couldn't comprehend what He was saying to her? Were her eyes so filled with tears that she couldn't even see him clearly? As Jesus looked down through heartbroken eyes, was anger raging inside of her over the cruelty of His death? Was she thinking 'I don't want someone else to care for me... I want You!'? Were her emotions torn, her heart breaking in two... knowing this was the reason she had carried Him in her womb; the reason He had walked the earth?but she wasn't ready for this moment. How did her son seemingly get to this point so quickly? Was she wishing she could go back in time to when her son was an infant so she could swaddle him, gaze into his bright eyes, and comfort him back to sleep? Was she replaying moments in his early childhood when she kissed his squishy face and wiped a tear away from his sad eyes? Was there a longing in her heart to look into his young, sparkling eyes and hear him vocalize 'I love you' for the first time, in his unforgettable, sweet, toddler voice? Did she long to go back to when they played together and she saw his eyes dancing with laughter and life? Was she reliving the moments she saw him performing miracles and proving that He was the Son of God?eyes full of hope and promise? How her heart must have ached!
Whatever Mary was thinking and experiencing at that moment, she must have known deep in her soul, that He was showing His love for her beyond her own understanding. She must have still been able to see hope in the eyes of her son. She must have recognized the compassion in his eyes as he made arrangements for her care. She must have felt some comfort in those last words directed to her; a soothing balm to her aching heart. And when she was able to look into John's eyes, her appointed son who would now care for her, she must have been able to see the love of Jesus in his eyes too.
Action/Reflection: How has God continued to care for me when I have been in the painful moments of my life? Is there somebody you know in the midst of pain that you can offer God's compassion and hope to them? Don't put it off. Do it today.
Prayer:God, sometimes we are so engulfed in our own sadness and worry that we fail to see your compassion and care for us. Thank you for taking care of us on the most basic level, just as you cared for Mary. Help us see Your goodness in our lives, and help us share your compassion and hope with others. Amen.
"I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise."
These have to be the most rewarding words of confirmation of a promise kept. A promise of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven; to those who believe and call on the name of Jesus. To those who are not perfect, but are forgiven by admitting their sins and trusting in Jesus; even in times of crucifixion or despair. How faithful and honest is our Lord Jesus, that with some of His last words, He showed love and compassion to a dying criminal. This man did not fear having faith in Jesus during a time of public shaming. Faith to cry out, "Lord, remember me" and faith to see the coming glory. And Jesus answered, "I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise."
That is confirmation enough for me. That the promises offered through salvation are priceless. Keeping faith in others during difficult times or shame is hard; but losing faith in Jesus should not be an option, because He will never give up on us!
Action/Reflection: Think of a time when it was difficult to keep your faith in Jesus. How were you able to get through that time?
Did you lean on others or cry out louder to Jesus? How might you help others who are struggling to keep faith in Jesus? What might you say to them? What promises could you remind them of?
Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for Your honesty, faithfulness, and compassion. Thank you for loving a sinner like me. Please help me to keep a clear mind in times of crucifixion's shame and to not lose sight of the promises that You have made to those who call out in Your name for salvation. Give me the strength to remain faithful when the world around me is crucifying those who believe. For I can only imagine the reward that will be claimed when You say unto me, "I assure you; Today you will be with me in paradise." Amen.
"Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."
The image of Jesus being spat upon, laughed at, beaten and crucified makes us cringe. We grimace in pain at the thought of a crown of thorns pressed upon his sinless brow. Surely we would never participate in such activity... but do we?
Our Lord ascended into Heaven, but left us the Holy Spirit. We have the essence of Jesus in this Spirit. So, when we engage in attacks on fellow believers, family members, those outside the church or those whose life choices are different than ours, aren't we essentially guilty of assaulting Jesus? After all, He tells us to "love one another". If He died for all, shouldn't we treat "all" as He would? I know it's difficult, but the task becomes impossible if we claim that we are, "more knowing, more spiritual, more enlightened" than others. Are we all that? Those who tortured our Lord thought they knew best. They actually thought they were doing God a favor! They allowed their misguided opinions to generate enough rage that they killed him.
Does Jesus look at our behavior and speak these words to His father... "Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."?
Action/Reflection: How accepting am I towards others and their life journey? Do I ever feel I am "more..." than others? What causes me to think this way? Are my opinions keeping me from loving others like I should?
Prayer: Father, none of us are at the same place on our journey with you. Help us to realize that our faith in you is good and we do believe that you lead us and teach us... but you also lead and teach others. Because we are all gifted by you in different ways we will not all be the same - or at the same place; so help us to appreciate each other as equally loved in your sight. Help us to realize that we can hurt you by our actions and words; even though we don't mean to. Forgive us, for we don't always know what we are doing. Amen!
|Gathered to know Jesus, sent to make Jesus known||© 2019-2020 Maple Grove Mennonite Church|