Thoughts: Leaning through the passenger window of the car’s front seat, the father gives earnest instructions to the driver. He sees a little girl in the driver’s seat, scarcely able to see over the steering wheel, her little feet dangling above the pedals. The father loves his little girl. He yearns for her safety as she begins to drive the car.
Jesus talks all the way through John 15. He and his disciples have finished the Last Supper, and they are walking toward the Garden of Gethsemane. There is so much Jesus wants to tell his disciples, so much he yearns for them to understand.
Discussion: What words do we have for those who are facing trials?
Activity: Give thanks for the rooted vines which strengthen us.
Thoughts: We do not see pictures of Jesus scattering corn for chickens or herding cattle or currying horses. But we have seen many pictures of Jesus surrounded by sheep of all sizes and cradling a lamb in his arms.
Two of the many names we have for Jesus are the Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God. We know the parable of the 99 sheep which are safely in the fold, but the good shepherd goes to search for the one lost sheep. In the Christmas story, shepherds are the only workingmen who are told by angels of Jesus’ birth.
Being a shepherd in Jesus’ time was dangerous. They faced a constant threat of wild animals which attacked the sheep. Shepherds risked their own lives to save their sheep.
Discussion: What characteristics of sheep are admirable?
Activity: Make a list of the different names used for Jesus.
Thoughts: “It does not yet appear what we shall be.” When you are young, everything is possible in the future. Your pimples will disappear. You will pass physics class. You will wander through Scotland, snipping a sprig of heather, sipping tea in Glamis Castle, walking reverently through the library at Abbotsford.
When you are old, you feel as though what you will be has indeed appeared – along with wrinkles and aching knees. Scotland is a wistful dream. You sit by the fire and you reread old books and you listen to old music. You don’t expect to become anyone, anymore.
Yet John says we don’t know what we shall be.
Discussion: What do you want to be?
Activity: “I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
No sudden rending of the veil of clay,
No angel visitant, no opening skies,
But take the dimness of my soul away.”
Do you know the hymn in which this verse appears?
Thoughts: At least once a week, we murmur the familiar words of the lord’s Prayer. Sometimes – with a start – we realize that we are reciting, “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
So, do we? God blessed us with this promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Discussion: What sins doe we find especially hard to forgive?
Activity: Today, forgive someone who has hurt your feelings.
Thoughts: Years ago, sunrise services were not at the civilized hour of 8am. They were literally scheduled for sunrise – like 5:48am, and they were held on an outcropping rock, high above a river.
Huddled together in the chilly dark, we watched as the sky in the east lightened, and ribbons of gold and rose barred the rising sun. We listened to the story of Mary Magdalene, hurrying to Jesus’ sepulcher while it was yet dark.
Mary’s lonely walk in the dark, her loving concern, her tears, her fervent desire to care for Jesus’ lacerated body were all rewarded when the risen Savior appeared to her and spoke her name. “Mary.” In those cold, early sunrise services, we could feel Jesus’ presence. We could hear our own names.
Discussion: If Peter and John had lingered by Jesus’ sepulcher, would he have appeared to them?
Activity: When you are introduced to someone, remember to repeat his/her name in your
Thoughts: Peter is the most vivid disciple. He was bold and talkative (very talkative), and we think of him as a big man, because he has been called The Big Fisherman.
He promised undying devotion to Jesus. “Although all shall be offended, yet not I.”
Jesus shook his head sadly. “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.”
But Peter insisted vehemently, “If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee!”
Discussion: We have all broken promises. What amends can we make?
Activity: This Easter week, fulfill a promise you have made.
Thoughts: The English queen called Bloody Mary reigned from 1553 to 1558. Mary grew up knowing that her father, Henry VIII, had wanted a son. She made a loveless marriage with Spanish King Philip II. She had no children. She persecuted non-Catholics, burning over 300 Protestant leaders at the stake. The English navy lost its claim to Cadiz, England’s last holding in Spain.
Shortly before her death, Mary murmured, “If you open my heart you will find two words written there: Philip and Cadiz.”
In today’s scripture, God announces that He will make a new covenant with Israel. He will write His law in the people’s hearts. “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Discussion: What two words would you say are written on your heart?
Activity: God will be at Troy First United Methodist Church this Sunday. Will you?
Thoughts: If asked what their favorite Bible verse is, many people would reply, “John 3:16,” and they could quote it verbatim.
Fewer of us would know that this beloved and exquisite verse was part of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus.
Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin. Only John records his nocturnal visit to Jesus. Later, when the chief priests tried to arrest Jesus, Nicodemus defended him, asking, “Doth our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he doeth?”
And finally, Nicodemus assisted Joseph of Arimathea in his burial of Jesus. Nicodemus brought 100 pounds of mingled aloe and myrrh to anoint Jesus’ body. He helped Joseh wrap the body in fine linen and place it in Joseph’s garden tomb.
Discussion: Nicodemus held a position of influence. How do we use our influence?
Activity: What symbolic mixture of aloe and myrrh do we have to comfort others?
Thoughts: As Bible scholars remind us, only two of the Ten Commandments are positive:
“Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.”
“Honor thy father and thy mother…”
The remaining eight commandments contain “no” or “not.”
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images.”
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
“Thou shalt not kill.”
“Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
“Thou shalt not steal.”
“Thou shalt not bear false witness…”
“Thou shalt not covet…”
Perhaps it would be presumptuous to suggest another commandment. So remember the simple but powerful reminder that Troy First United Methodist Church members are scattering: “Kindness matters.”
Be kind to one another.
Discussion: Why is it difficult sometimes to be kind?
Activity: When you are driving on a busy street, let someone waiting on a side street proceed in front of you.
Thoughts: When Abram was 99 years old, God appeared to him and said, “I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.”
Several times in the past, God has promised Abram that he will be the father of nations. Yet Abram has only one son, Ishmael (now 13 years old), whose mother is Hagar. Hagar was the maid of Sarai, Abram’s wife.
This time, God promises the newly renamed Abraham and Sarai, likewise renamed Sarah, that a son will be born to them.
Discussion: Why did God keep promising Abraham that he would be the father of nations and make him wait so long for the promise to be fulfilled?
Activity: Remember a promise you have made and not yet fulfilled. Do your best to keep this promise.
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