Sunday Devotional

Howlands Baptist Church Devotional

Sunday 5 April 2020

 

Dear Friends,

On the 10th February I was at my daughter's house happily eating pancakes

with my grandsons. It was Shrove Tuesday and I was deciding what to give

up for Lent. It was going to be chocolate. Little did I realise then that I, and

the rest of the country, would be giving up much more: the freedom to go

wherever we want; being able to do our normal work; choice in what we

buy and so much more. Normally we see Lent as a time of chosen

abstinence and a way to prepare for Easter. We don't expect to be forced to

give up our normal way of life and be isolated.

 

As we go through Lent we mirror Jesus' time in the wilderness. Jesus chose

to isolate himself and to fast for forty days in order to prepare for his

ministry. It was a gruelling time, nothing like choosing to give up chocolate

for forty days. He was alone, he had no food and he was subject to the

temptations of the Devil. Those thoughts that the Devil put in his head: "He

was hungry - he could ask his Father for food. He could show these humans

a miracle, throw himself off the edge of a cliff and not die. He'd left all the

power he had in heaven, but he could be a powerful ruler here." The

thoughts went through his head, but none of these were God's plan and he

knew it and he refuted these thoughts with words from the scriptures.

 

What thoughts have been going through your head this week? Is the Devil

tempting you to dark reflections? Life is strange, but Jesus knows what it's

like to be on your own, he did it for forty days. Is food occupying too much

of your mind, well it occupied Jesus' mind too, or the Devil wouldn't have

tempted him with the thought of bread. Perhaps you feel powerless, because

we are in a situation beyond our control. Jesus was there too, or the Devil

wouldn't have offered him the power bargain. So, he knows! He

understands our circumstances, the thoughts going through our heads and

he's beside us, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the one who comes

alongside. Even if we are the only person in our home, we're not alone, he's

right there with us:

 

He walked where I walk,

He stood where I stand,

He felt what I feel,

He understands.

He knows my frailty,

Shared my humanity,

Tempted in every way, 

Yet without sin.

God with us, so close to us

God with us, Immanuel!

(Graham Kendrick) 


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jz2TuUOl8kk

So, today is Palm Sunday and next week it will be Easter Day; this coming

week is Holy Week. On Palm Sunday it was all crowds and cheering. By

Good Friday Jesus was alone, being beaten and crucified. How quickly

things change. The disciples must have enjoyed being with Jesus as the

people came out in crowds to hail him. It was good to be in his chosen

group and to see all those people fêting him. How we enjoy coming

together at church; knowing we're with brothers and sisters in Christ who

all know Jesus personally; sharing our worship of him together. How we

never expected that a time would come when we wouldn't be able to do

that.

 

Thursday will be Maundy Thursday, the day of the Last Supper, when

confused disciples wondered why Jesus was washing their feet, why he was

talking about the bread being his body and the wine his blood. Wondering

who among them might betray him? Is it I Lord? Maybe that's where we're

at now. Confusion. Uncertainty. Wondering if we might betray our faith

because we're full of anxiety. At Communion we often read the verses from

Matthew (11:28-30), 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,

and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I

am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my

yoke is easy and my burden is light.' Jesus tells us to come to him, to come

into his presence. To sit down, not with a prayer list, but just to ask him to

be with you and to wait. Christian meditation, fixing your mind on Jesus,

has a long tradition, much older than "mindfulness". Quite often we tell

ourselves that we're too busy, have to much to do, to sit and wait on God, I

am reminded of the title of the book by Bill Hybels Too Busy Not to Pray,

but right now many of us have to wait. With time on our hands, it's the

perfect time to sit and wait on God. The antidote to anxiety is to spend real

time with God. Perhaps on Maundy Thursday you could take some bread

and juice (or whatever you have available, in Bolivia we used Fanta!) and

have your own family or individual Communion, to remember Jesus and

make that time special. You don't need to use particular words, just to

remember that the bread symbolises Christ's body and the drink his blood.

 

Then Friday will be Good Friday. Those disciples (all except John and the

Marys) who enjoyed being together in Jesus' company on Palm Sunday

couldn't face, or were too scared, to be with him as he was crucified. It is

always a day of reflection. A day when we think about Jesus' death and our

own mortality, and how much more so this year.

 

Easter Sunday is for next week and, thank God, we all know what that

means for us, but I need to have something to write about next week, so I'll

finish by reminding us of the Power of the Cross and in particular, ' death is

crushed to death, life is mine to live'. Life is ours to live wherever we find

ourselves, through the power of the cross.

 

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPFv-ywTY-c

 

OH, TO SEE THE DAWN

 

Of the darkest day:

Christ on the road to Calvary.

Tried by sinful men,

Torn and beaten then

Nailed to a cross of wood.

This, the power of the cross:

Christ became sin for us. 

Took the blame, bore the wrath -

We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain

Written on Your face,

Bearing the awesome weight of sin.

Every bitter thought,

Every evil deed

Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

This, the power of the cross...

Now the daylight flees,

Now the ground beneath

Quakes as its maker bows His head.

Curtain torn in two,

 Dead are raised to life;

 'Finished!' the victory cry.

This, the power of the cross...

Oh, to see my name

Written in the wounds,

 For through Your suffering I am free.

 Death is crushed to death,

Life is mine to live,

Won through Your selfless love.

(Final chorus)

This, the power of the cross:

Son of God - slain for us.

What a love! What a cost!

 We stand forgiven at the cross.

 

Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

 

Rev. Kathy Williamson