Day 391 | Wednesday, 14 April 2021
In the USA we have surpassed 31.3 million cases of COVID-19 resulting in over 562 thousand deaths. Spikes of new cases are appearing throughout the country. Chautauqua County, as of this writing, has not updated the COVID figures from April 9. I did hear on the radio that there were 89 new cases over the weekend with 23 in the Jamestown area.
An Easter Season Beginning
“Something deep inside us calls us, beckons us. We are looking for truth that anchors us in the midst of competing voices. We are searching for life that sparkles with joy and glows with warmth. We are finding our way to Christ, to community, to love. And we are bold to sing a resurrection song.”
An Easter Season Prayer
“Joyful and giving One, we continue to walk the path of resurrection, encountering you on the journey to Pentecost. It is easy to forget the celebration of Easter Day, yet we are an Easter people forever.
In this 50 days of Eastertide, may we daily live the resurrection in our spirits and show the joy of resurrection to all around us. When the joy is elusive, remind us, O God, that your plan for each of us and all of us in Christ's community is larger than our own desires, our own hurts, our own plans. Keep us connected to your energy of love, so that we cannot help but share it with the world.
As we await the day of the Holy Spirit, may you keep us alive in your hope.
We ask it in the name of the Risen One. Amen.”
An Easter Affirmation of Faith:
“We believe in an Easter God, who transforms darkness into light, hatred into tolerance, despair into hope.
We believe God is always working for good, changing every Good Friday nightmare into an Easter dream of new possibilities.
We believe in the risen Christ, who befriends us on our roads of searching and worry; who touches us through song and silence, word and gesture; who calls us by name to enter the dance of life.
We believe in the Spirit, the hidden presence behind every resurrection, who beckons us to leave tomb like safety and trust the gracious invitation to live joyfully.
We believe the Spirit is always renewing the church in making us a people who practice kindness, encourage beauty and work for justice and freedom.
We believe we are in Easter people, a sign that with God all things are possible.”
“Easter is not something to be argued, reasoned out, demonstrated. It is something to be experienced, enjoyed, wondered at.” -Anonymous
Today: Prayers for wisdom and peace for the people of Minneapolis.
Day 390 | Tuesday, 13 April 2021
Today I want to share with you a newer hymn for the Easter season, “Christ Is Alive” written by Brian Wren in 1968. I will follow the lyrics with Wren’s comments about the hymn and then some biographical information. It is good to have some newer hymns to sing along side the powerful older hymns. Reading the words sometimes is more powerful than just singing the words. I hope you appreciate the message of this hymn.
1 “Christ is alive! Let Christians sing. His cross stands empty to the sky.
Let streets and homes with praises ring. His love in death shall never die.”
2 “Christ is alive! No longer bound to distant years in Palestine,
he comes to claim the here and now and conquer every place and time.”
3 “Not decked with gold, remotely high, untouched, unmoved by human pains,
but daily, in the midst of life, our Savior with the father reigns.”
4 “In every insult, rift, and war where color, scorn, or wealth divide,
he suffers still, yet loves the more, with healing hands and aching side.”
5 “Christ is alive! His Spirit burns through this and every future age,
till all creation lives and learns his joy, his justice, love, and praise.”
“Brian A. Wren wrote the text in Hockley, Essex, England, during April of 1968. Wren writes: It was written for Easter Sunday, two weeks after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I could not let Easter go by without speaking of this tragic event which was on all our minds. . . . The hymn tries to see God's love winning over tragedy and suffering in the world. . . . There is tension and tragedy in these words, not just Easter rejoicing.”
“First published in the British supplement New Church Praise (1975), the text was revised by Wren in 1978.”
“"Christ Is Alive" is a joyful celebration of Christ's resurrection (st. 1) and of his personal rule in a human world in which pain, war, and injustice abound (st. 2-4). Christ’s transcendent and immanent reign is empowered by the Holy Spirit and will ultimately bring about a new creation (st. 5).”
“Brian Wren (b. Romford, Essex, England, 1936) is a major British figure in the revival of contemporary hymn writing. He studied French literature at New College and theology at Mansfield College in Oxford, England. Ordained in 1965, he was pastor of the Congregational Church (now United Reformed) in Hockley and Hawkwell, Essex, from 1965 to 1970. He worked for the British Council of Churches and several other organizations involved in fighting poverty and promoting peace and justice. This work resulted in his writing of Education for Justice (1977) and Patriotism and Peace (1983). With a ministry throughout the English-speaking world, Wren now resides in the United States where he is active as a freelance lecturer, preacher, and full-time hymn writer. His hymn texts are published in Faith Looking Forward (1983), Praising a Mystery (1986), Bring Many Names (1989), New Beginnings (1993), and Faith Renewed: 33 Hymns Reissued and Revised (1995), as well as in many modern hymnals. He has also produced What Language Shall I Borrow? (1989), a discussion guide to inclusive language in Christian worship.”
Day 389 | Monday, 12 April 2021
I gave you a wrong scripture reference yesterday morning. It should have been 1 John 1:1-2:1. You may want to go back a read the correct reference.
I hope you enjoyed the beautiful weekend which was a blessing to all of us. So many of the flowering trees and shrubs have popped open. The forsythia has been so bright and beautiful. The flowering Bradford pear tress here at the Woodlands are just about to pop open to full bloom. The peepers are in full chorus in the evening. What a wonderful time is spring.
I am reminded of the song “Pass It On” by Kurt Kaiser, 1969. I am especially reminded of the second stanza: “What a wondrous time is spring, when all the trees are budding; the birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming. That’s how it is with God’s love once you’ve experienced it; you want to sing, it’s fresh like spring, you want to pass it on.”
This year spring is even more refreshing because we can be around one another and even carefully begin exchanging hugs and handshakes. Some are even making plans to travel to visit relatives for the first time in over a year.
Even with all this joy, there is still the need to be cautious and vigilant. The variants of the COVID-19 virus are making themselves known all over the world. Some areas are experiencing more and worse cases than earlier in the fight with the virus. It is important for us to keep praying for those struggling with the virus and for those doing all they can to keep people alive.
As we think about where we have journeyed over the past year to bring us to this spring, and as we think about what we are facing ahead of us, let us remember that God’s love has been a steady rudder during it all. “That’s how it is with God’s love, once you have experienced it.” It is fresh like spring. It is a love that we are willing and eager to pass along to others.
God of love, your love has been a constant resource for us in our daily lives. We are so grateful for your love. As we continue to reflect on Easter, we remember the greatest example of your love in the Risen Christ. Help us pass on your love to those who have particular needs and to those who continue to lead us through the journey of an unprecedented pandemic. God of grace, thank you for this beautiful season in our lives. Hear our prayers. Amen
Today: Doctors, nurses and support staff who continue to be stretched beyond their comfort zones due to COVID.
Day 388, Sunday April 11, 2021
The assigned Scripture readings for this the second Sunday of Easter are Acts 4:32-35, Psalm 133, John 1:1-2:2, John 20:19-31.
Let’s look at John 20:19-31 from the Message – again, read it from other translations.
19 Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, "Peace to you."
20 Then he showed them his hands and side.
21 Jesus repeated his greeting: "Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you."
22 Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. "Receive the Holy Spirit," he said.
23 "If you forgive someone's sins, they're gone for good. If you don't forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?"
24 But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 The other disciples told him, "We saw the Master." But he said, "Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won't believe it."
26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, "Peace to you."
27 Then he focused his attention on Thomas. "Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don't be unbelieving. Believe."
28 Thomas said, "My Master! My God!"
29 Jesus said, "So, you believe because you've seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing."
30 Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book.
31 These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.
According to John, he places this encounter with Jesus on the first Easter night. Jesus here encounters as well as commissions other disciples. He pronounces peace to help comfort the disciples and reassure them that it is he. He commissions the disciples, gives them the promised Spirit, and authorizes them to forgive sins.
This is also the section where we experience the “doubting Thomas.” Let me share this commentary on “Holiness of Heart and Life – Doubt”. “The apostle Thomas is often referred to as ‘doubting Thomas.” A more significant title would be ‘absent Thomas.’ If Thomas had been present on the earlier occasion when Jesus appeared to the disciples, he would never have made his original statement of vigorous denial. We don’t know why Thomas was absent previously; he may have had good and justified reasons. But whatever the reason, it was his absence that caused him to suffer a long week of emotional and spiritual struggle. The best and surest place to maintain faith is in the company of fellow believers.” CEB Wesley Study Bible p 1366
Day 387 | Saturday, 10 April 2021
As the Easter season continues, I offer the following for the season.
“The sound of the trumpet still lingers, the smell of lilies hovers in the air, the candy is not quite gone, it still is Easter. Though the fanfare has died down, it still is Easter. In the ordinary and routine, it still is Easter. The pulse of hope, the signs of new life, the spirit of peace, the uncontainable joy, the urge to sing - it still is Easter.”
An Easter Season Invocation
“We are still basking in the glory and joy of Christ's Easter victory, O God. The stone was rolled away! The "stones" which have trapped us - our worries, fears, anxieties, troubles of various sorts - need not threaten us. We pray that your power that raised Christ from the dead will also raise us out of darkness and sorrow. Amen.”
A Prayer of Confession for the Easter Season
Redeeming God, you bring life out of dead ends, and hope in the midst of despair. Forgive us for doubting that you are still at work even in the darkest hour, even in the most painful moments. Forgive us for our hesitant action, our cautious compassion, our two frequent reluctance. Redeeming God, teach us a stillness that leads to acts of kindness and clarity of vision. Shaping us a trust that leads to faithful witness and bold compassion. Form us in your love that loosens our worry and eases our anger. Make us true disciples- filled with love, acting with justice, and living out hope. Amen
An Easter Season Prayer
“Raise us, O God, from the pits that threaten to imprison us. Help us find a way out. Open the doors on our tombs, small and large, and hasten the day when we walk as risen people, able to live fully in your magnificent and sure salvation. Amen.”
An Easter Season Affirmation of Faith
“We believe in God - who brings Easter into our Good Friday worlds, who brings sunshine after rain, hope in the midst of pain and tenderly calls our name.
We believe in Jesus Christ - the risen Savior, not locked in some cold-tomb past, but alive and appearing to the women who followed him, the disciple who fled from him, to Paul, who persecuted him, and to us who seek him today. Christ is risen, and we can know that and experience his presence.
We believe in the Holy Spirit - the invisible presence of God at work in our world bringing reconciliation instead of hatred, creating communities of support in the face of senseless tragedy.
We believe God is at work in the church and in us, creating a center of compassion, a fellowship of forgiveness, a gathering of grace; where joy glistens like dew on spring flowers and love flows like a mighty stream. Alleluia! Amen.”
Today: What has brought you Easter Joy this past week?
Day 386 | Friday, 9 April 2021
57 Have mercy on me, God; have mercy on me because I have taken refuge in you.
I take refuge in the shadow of your wings until destruction passes by.
2 I call out to God Most High—to God, who comes through for me. 3 He sends orders from heaven and saves me, rebukes the one who tramples me. Selah
God sends his loyal love and faithfulness.
4 My life is in the middle of a pack of lions. I lie down among those who devour humans. Their teeth are spears and arrows; their tongues are sharpened swords. 5 Exalt yourself, God, higher than heaven! Let your glory be over all the earth! 6 They laid a net for my feet to bring me down; they dug a pit for me, but they fell into it instead! Selah
7 My heart is unwavering, God— my heart is unwavering. I will sing and make music. 8Wake up, my glory! Wake up, harp and lyre! I will wake the dawn itself! 9 I will give thanks to you, my Lord, among all the peoples; I will make music to you among the nations 10because your faithful love is as high as heaven; your faithfulness reaches the clouds. 11 Exalt yourself, God, higher than heaven! Let your glory be over all the earth!
Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. Psalm 57:1
Today’s reflection comes from Our Daily Bread – “Refuge for the Rejected” by James Banks
“George Whitefield (1714–1770) was one of the most gifted and effective preachers in history, leading thousands to faith in Jesus. But his life wasn’t without controversy. His practice of preaching outdoors (to accommodate large crowds) was sometimes criticized by those who questioned his motives and felt he should speak only within the four walls of a church building. Whitefield’s epitaph sheds light on his response to others’ harsh words: “I am content to wait till the Day of Judgment for the clearing up of my character; and after I am dead, I desire no other epitaph than this, ‘Here lies George Whitefield—what sort of a man he was, the great day will discover.’”
“In the Old Testament, when David faced harsh criticism from others, he too entrusted himself to God. When Saul falsely accused David of leading a rebellion and he was forced to hide from Saul’s approaching army in a cave, David described being “in the midst of lions,” among “men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords” (Psalm 57:4). But even in that difficult place, he turned to God and found comfort in Him: “For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies” (v. 10).”
“When others misunderstand or reject us, God is our “refuge” (v. 1). May He be forever praised for His unfailing and merciful love!”
Reflect & Pray
“How does dwelling on God’s mercy help you when you’re discouraged? How can you demonstrate God’s love to another?”
“Abba Father, I praise You that I can be accepted by You forever because of Your Son. I take refuge in Your perfect love today.”
Today: When was the last time you sought refuge in God’s love?
Day 385 | Thursday, 8 April 2021
I was curious about what I had written one year ago. I looked up the April 8, 2020 writing. It was day 20 and a Wednesday. The Woodlands community would gather at the end of our driveways at noon for a time to pray the Lord’s Prayer. We did so again yesterday for week 55 only since last year, we have been able to gather in one driveway and pray together followed by a time for conversation. One year ago, was move in day for George and Cathy Green. It was also Wednesday of Holy Week, so my writing was one of scriptures around that theme.
What a difference one year has made. Today, we have less stress in that we have received the vaccination to help protect us from the COVID-19 virus which a year ago seemed to be so worrisome and feared because it was such an unknown disease. This year, we are outside more than last year and enjoying the spring season (almost summer like temperatures). It may just be my perception, but it seems to me that the spring flowers are even more beautiful this year because we are more appreciative of the journey we have made over the year.
I would like to share a poem with you, the source is unknown to me.
Each Spring, God Renews His Promise
“Long, long ago
in a land far away,
There came the dawn
of the first Easter Day,
And each year we see
that promise reborn
That God gave the world
on that first Easter Morn. . .
For in each waking flower
and each singing bird,
The promise of Easter
is witnessed and heard,
And Spring is God’s way
of speaking to men (humans)
And renewing the promise
of Easter again,
For death is a season
that man (all) must pass through
And, just like the flowers,
God wakens him (us), too . . .
So why should we grieve
when our loved ones die,
For we’ll meet them again
in a “cloudless sky” -
For Easter is more
than a beautiful story,
It’s the promise of life
and eternal glory.”
Today: Think back to one year ago, where and when have you experienced God in that journey?
Day 384 | Wednesday, 7 April 2021
It has been a while since I have given COVID statistics. In the USA the death total is over 555,530 from the 30.8 million reported cases. As I am writing this page, the county latest update is from April 1, 2021 at which time the total number of cases was 8,261 with 143 active, 483 in isolation and 142 deaths.
“Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” is probably the most popular hymn to be sung on Easter. It was written by Charles Wesley in 1739. As an opening hymn for worship, it really sets the mood for the Easter celebration.
Yesterday I ended my thoughts by asking you what it means to be an Easter person. Today, I want to share the hymn “Easter People, Raise Your Voices” words by William M. James, 1979 and music by Henry T. Smart, 1867.
1. Easter people, raise your voices, sounds of heaven in earth should ring.
Christ has brought us heaven's choices; Heavenly music, let it ring.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Easter people, let us sing.
2. Fear of death can no more stop us from our pressing here below.
For our Lord empowered us to triumph over every foe.
Alleluia! Alleluia! On to victory now we go.
3. Every day to us is Easter, with its resurrection song.
When in trouble move the faster to our God who rights the wrong.
Alleluia! Alleluia! See the power of heavenly throngs.
“Following in the tradition of many pastors who write hymns, William Marceus James (1913-2013) wrote "Easter People, Raise Your Voices" for his congregation at Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church in New York City. “The author of more than fifty hymns, James noted to this writer in 2005 that "I wrote hymns for my congregation whenever I needed one. 'Easter People' is not the greatest hymn I have, but it took better than the others. Most of my hymns have themes around the social gospel." Originally in five stanzas, the hymn first appeared in the United Methodist collection, Songs of Zion (1981), in its present form.
“The first stanza seems to echo Charles Wesley's "Christ, the Lord, is risen today." Wesley states, "earth and heaven in chorus say." James proclaims, "sounds of heaven and earth should ring." The musical metaphor continues with Wesley – "Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply" – and James – "heavenly music, let it ring. . . Easter people, let us sing!" Both acknowledge the cosmic connection between heaven and earth. The Wesleyan connection is unmistakable in James' hymn.
“Both hymns share "victory" language. Wesley, citing I Corinthians 15:55, asks, "Where's thy victory, boasting grave?" James sounds a battle cry at the end of stanza two, "On to victory now we go."
“The triumph of the Resurrection over evil is the theme of "Easter People." In stanza two, the poet reminds us that the "fear of death" cannot stop us from doing all we can to overcome evil "here below." The final stanza insists: "Every day to [Christians] is Easter" because our God is one who "rights the wrong."
“William James' ministry and his 97 years of life reflected his belief in the power of the Resurrection to make a difference in the lives of those whom he served.”
Day 383 | Tuesday, 6 April 2021
“Like a gentle rain, God's love refreshes our lives. Like the springtime song of the birds, God's grace cheers our souls. Like the delicate beauty of daffodils, God's creation delights our eyes. Like the lengthening of days, God's presence brings light into our worrisome darkness. Springtime announces itself, and all creation shouts with joy. We are touched by messages from our loving Creator. And join creation in singing praises.”
A Prayer of Confession for Springtime
“God of new life, we are not blind to the glory of our creation. We are thankful that the frozen ground is thawing and breaking up, yielding the color of grass and fresh flowers. We are delighted to hear the birds singing again, and to see buds forming on the trees.
God of new life, too often we take the created world for granted. We have assumed that these blessings are gifts only to be received, rather than nurtured and cultivated. We have politicized the issue of creation. Global warming, acid rain, the pollution of our air and the condition of our forests are regarded as political, rather than theological issues.
God of new life help us to abandon politics and act as good stewards of the treasures you have entrusted to us and our children. Amen.”
Here is a prayer for the Easter season.
“Alleluia! Everlasting One, we give you our thanks and praise! Christ is risen! We are an Easter people, blessed by your miracle of life after death. All our hope and trust is in your grace, O God. Out of darkness comes light; out of despair comes new promise.
Fill our lives with a joy that is beyond understanding, remove our doubts with a faith that is deep and whole. Heal our spirits with your song of hope. It is good to celebrate our faith and the good gift of life beyond death that is a blessing beyond imagination!
Thanks to you, our God and our Savior! So be it! Amen!”
An Easter Affirmation of Faith
We believe in God-
who brings sunshine after rain and works healing in the midst of pain; who looks into each soul with love, touches each memory with blessing and longs for us to know we are beloved; who splashes the world with springtime color and fills the air with the singing of birds and the roar of the ocean; who meets us at the tomb of our fears and sends us out with hope and joy.
We believe in Jesus-
the risen Christ, the friend of the forgotten, Savior of the world; who loves us without judgment, yet persuades us to change; who joins us as we walk and work with the poor and the oppressed; who befriends us when we feel lonely, surprises us when we feel bored, prods us when we get complacent; who loves all children, dances with the elderly, shows compassion to the dying and blesses the breaking of bread.
We believe in the Holy Spirit-
who weaves us into communities of faith of all ages, nations and races; who is stillness in every silence, the breath in every deep sigh, the love in every tender embrace.
We believe we are called to be an Easter people-
challenging despair with glowing hope, acting peacefully in the midst of painful Good Fridays and living joyfully even in the midst of harsh realities.
We believe in the church-
the hand holding, heartily singing and passionate, caring fellowship of seekers and finders.
This we believe.”
Today: what does it mean to you to be an Easter person?
Day 382 | Monday, 5 April 2021
“Listen to the call of the birds,
Hear them greet the morning,
Singing songs of praise.
Feel the warmth of the sun,
The blessings of a loving God,
The gift of life.
Sense the wonder of springtime,
Everything coming alive
All around us and within us.
God is still creating,
And our voices are lifted in praise.”
I’ve been thinking about spring seasons of my childhood. Remember the phrase “April showers bring May flowers”. And back then, it was true. The spring flowers would come the end of April and early May. Did any of you participate in May Day? I remember creating a paper vase with a handle, picking some daffodils then going to my grandparents and hanging the vase with daffodils on their front doorknob on May day. Then I would go on to some of my elderly neighbors and repeat the process. This year our daffodils blossomed in March along with our hyacinths and crocus. With climate change, it appears that spring is a month earlier than it used to be years ago.
Easter was early this year and I admit that I was happy to see spring flowers in full bloom for Easter. Easter is a time of rebirth and new birth. In our geographical area, we watch the earth come back to life after the winter season. Spring flowers grow and blossom. The lawns begin to green, and trees begin to bud. We watch for the return of certain species of birds and waterfowl. When there is sunshine, we feel that it is warmer than previous months. As with Easter, we rejoice in the rebirth of our world.
Yesterday was Easter. In a way, it was a new birth in that we were able to worship in our houses of worship along with others. Last year all houses of worship were not open on Easter. It has been a long year of adjusting to different lifestyles and different ways of living in a pandemic world. Vaccinations are giving us new life as we look forward especially to being with family members in the near future whom we have not seen for a very long time.
“The earth awakens to new life, O God, and we come forth with hope and new energy. As the flowers break through the soil, we break through our own shells into new life.
Call us into your newness. Renew us with your freshness. Open us to your beauty. Make us be vessels of your beauty for others, we pray. Thanks be to you for the blessing of springtime, for the blessing of all that is new! Amen.”
Today: celebrate renewal!