Thursday, March 31, 2016

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – When You Go

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) or on the Cove Presbyterian Church Podbean page. 

If you find this devotion meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal. And no contribution is too small.


Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but they doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. When you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

When You Go

According to the Gospel of Matthew, in his last conversation with his disciples, Jesus gives one command, not two. But that fact often gets confused in most English translations. You see, it generally reads, “Go, therefore, and make disciples.” But that’s not how is reads in the Greek. In the ancient Greek, “go” is not a command, rather it’s written in a form that generally refers to time, “when you go.” And even though that may appear to be a minor difference, I think it’s pretty important. I mean, Jesus didn’t feel the need to tell his followers to go back down the mountain or to go about their daily living. Instead, he knew that’s exactly what they’d be doing. And he didn’t want them to go to a particular place and to baptize and teach particular people. Rather, he commanded them to make disciples wherever they happened to be. In fact, this should become part of their daily living, to look for ways to bring men and women into the Christian community and to help them understand what Christ had called them to do and how God had created them to live. In other words, Jesus wanted to them bear his witness as they moved through life.

And I think that’s also his command to us. Although there’s nothing wrong with going to a certain place to accomplish our mission, each and every day we encounter plenty of people who could be disciples. Therefore, we should probably focus on recognizing the opportunities we already have and working on how we might most effectively share the good news, wherever we happen to go.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for March 31, 2016

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for March 31, 2016: Today our passages are Deuteronomy 16:1–17:20; Luke 9:7-27; Psalm 72:1-20; and Proverbs 12:8-9 . The readings are from  The Messag...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Happenings Around the Presbytery - March 30, 2016



Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery
907 National Road
Wheeling, WV  26003
304-232-3490

Office Hours: Monday through Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
In an emergency after office hours: Call 740-359-1813


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PLEASE CONTINUE TO KEEP IN YOUR PRAYERS:
Marie Luckhardt
Bob Offerdahl
Ed & Dorothy Mooney
Leura Nancy Macon
Joe Hendricks
Kenn Sickle
Nancy Mountz
David Brocklehurst
Bob & Sue Shearer
Ed Rudiger
Lt. Aaron Mistic, USAF
All our service men & women
R. H. “Mac” McCuen
Ronald Wolf
Karen Edwards

Dakota Presbytery
Domasi Presbytery
Malawi food crisis

Please keep us informed of any prayer concerns you may have.
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PRAYER FOR UOVP PASTORS: Select one of these pastors and remember him/her in your prayers this week: Katrina Lewis, Tanta Luckhardt-Hendricks, Mac McCuen, Byron McElroy, Susan McMannis.
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MEDICAL BENEVOLENCE FOUNDATION International Partner Prayer Requests for March: This month we are able to share a praise report along with the prayer requests. Because of our Partner Ministries, people like you, Embangweni was able to purchase a sterilizer for the OR. This simple yet needed piece of equipment enables the staff to better serve the community, rather than having to trek thirty miles to the town of Mzimba to have hospital instruments sterilized. This means a clean and safe environment, and we celebrate with Embangweni and thank God for meeting that need. We also ask that you pray for the two new clinics in Malawi that the Health Department is setting up for those in the rural areas who have a need for health services.
1.      Pray for Msumbe Clinic, which is run by David Gordon Hospital and serves over 15,000 people. Pray that all their financial and human resource needs are met to better serve the community.
2.      Pray for Kavuzi Clinic, which is run by Ekwendeni Hospital and serves an area of over 16,000 people. Pray that they are able to serve the rural region efficiently and effectively.
3.      Continue to pray for all our MBF Partners as we walk out the goal of sustainable health care. Pray we are able to share the vision that God has for these undeveloped countries, and draw the right people to come alongside us.
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PRESBYTERIAN JUSTICE & PEACE Newsletter for March, 2016, “Poverty Alleviation,” can be found on our website. Click on the “Mission” sidebar; click on “Peacemaking;” then click on the newsletter.
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APRIL PRAYER requests can be found on our website under “Spotlight.”
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THE MOST UP TO DATE pulpit supply list, effective 3-29-16, can be found on our website.
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COME AND ENJOY a delicious Spaghetti & Meatball Dinner on Saturday, April 2, from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church; 767 Park Blvd., East Liverpool, OH. Cost $7.00 and take out is available.
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SHADYSIDE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN Church Women’s Fellowship will hold a rummage sale and bake sale on Thursday, April 7th, from 8:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. and on Friday, April 8th, from 8:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall. The church is located at 4100 Central Ave., Shadyside, OH. A vast amount of nice clothing, household, and miscellaneous items will be available.
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“NOT EVERYONE has embraced the social media phase that the world has gravitated to. The Rev. Ed Rudiger is not one of those people. The pastor at Cove Presbyterian Church in Weirton, WV, is very active on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. He feels that these are very effective ways to deliver the Gospel to people besides standing at a pulpit on Sunday mornings.” For the rest of the story, here is a link to our Synod’s website: http://www.syntrinity.org/featured/rev-ed-rudiger-spreading-gospel-around-world/.
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PRESBYTERIANS TODAY Magazine ~ The Complete Guide to Presbyterian Youth Ministry, a comprehensive resource for congregations: This practical resource peers into the changing world of youth ministry—that essential period of faith formation that can make or break future participation in the life of the church. Bringing together some of the denomination’s foremost leaders and innovators, this guide covers a wide array of topics, including leadership, mission trips, parenting, technology, education, the search for identity, and the experiences of immigrant youth. There’s even a section where youth share their aspirations for the church, the world, and their lives.Control+click: Order copies now as a great church resource!
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cid:9CF2F9DF-2F78-4226-9F5C-F02B18578C34@att.net
“6:45 Easter morn. I received a call from our organist; due to a family emergency she would not be able to play the service. We had a short prayer for God's strength and grace, and I began recalibrating how the service would go. Fortunately, two cello students, Laina and Lola Anderson, and Robert Mullen who plays trumpet at Bridgeport High School had already been asked to play--and as it turns out saved the day. Lola and Laina helped accompany Christ is Risen to the tune of Beethoven's Ode to Joy and two rounds Hallelujah and Jesus Have Mercy. As we brought the Easter cross in and at the end of the service, Robert blew an 18thcentury copper coach horn probably once used to herald the arrival of the king or other important dignitaries. What could be more appropriate for announcing the risen King on Easter!! Interesting that my homily on Luke 24:1-12 had to do with things not going as planned but turning out better then hoped for anyway!!” -Ela J. Robertson, Pleasant Valley Presbyterian Church, Blaine

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ATTENTION CLERKS OF SESSION: The annual session minutes and church register review meetings for Area I is scheduled for Tuesday, April 12th, at 2:00 p.m. and again 7:00 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 508 Indiana Ave., Chester, WV. It is the responsibility of every clerk to see that his or her Minutes and Register are presented for review each and every year.
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WORLD MISSION INITIATIVE CONFERENCE: April 8-9, 2016, at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. This Mission Conference provides great opportunities for your church to grow in its participation in God’s mission. It will inspire and equip you. Join with hundreds of other mission leaders in our region to share ideas, encouragement, and connections! Alan Hirsch is the founding director of Forge Mission Training Network. Known for his innovative approach to mission, Alan is considered to be a thought-leader and key mission strategist for churches across the Western world. He is author and co-author of a number of books including The Permanent RevolutionThe Forgotten Ways, and ReJesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church. You can learn more and see other books here. Professional mission leaders will be hosting workshops to equip you for God's mission in your neighborhood and beyond. View the list of workshop options by going to the site listed below. You can browse through the mission fair to connect with organizations that are participating in God's mission as we are sent into the world. For more information and to register go to http://www.worldmissioninitiative.org/index.php/initiatives/wmi-conference.
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PRESBYTERIAN OLDER ADULT MINISTRIES NETWORK 2016 Spring Newsletter: The theme of this issue of PNN is, “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.” Grandparents often are the last line of defense when parents cannot raise their children – grandparents step forward out of love and concern, trusting that somehow the challenges involved will get met. This is something done intentional, but not openly talked about, because the circumstances are often embarrassing and emotionally painful. In this issue of PNN you will find several articles written along this theme. Also included in the issue is information and registration for the upcoming POAMN Conference happening October 11-14 in Richmond, Virginia. Download the attached PNN to read more...https://gallery.mailchimp.com/0b4d20c00178b7a4520005536/files/16_Spring_PNN.pdf.
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THE FOLLOWING ITEMS HAVE BEEN PREVIOUSLY RUN:
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COVENANT PRESBYTERIAN Church, 401 18th St., Wellsville, OH, invites you to their 17th Annual Basement Bistro, this Friday, April 1st, and Saturday, April 2ndDinner begins at 6:00 p.m. and entertainment starts at 6:45 p.m. For tickets, call Erin at 330-853-3837. Similar to a variety show, the bistro consists of skits, lip-syncing, live performances, and we just really have a fun time! It's a wonderful fundraiser and everyone leaves with a smile! This year the theme is the 80s, and we will be having a contest. So, everyone should come dressed in their best 80s outfit for a chance to win a prize! For more info, call Melany at 330-532-4670.
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BETHANY COLLEGE, State Route 88, Bethany, WV, has announced that Dr. Amy-Jill Levine will deliver the 61st annual Oreon E. Scott Lectures to be held April 4-5 at Bethany’s Mountainside Conference Center. This year’s lecture series is titled “Jesus, Judaism, and Jewish-Christian Relations.” Registration for the Scott Lectures, $50 per person, begins at 8:30 a.m. April 4, and the first lecture, “Hearing Jesus’ Parables through Jewish Ears,” begins at 10 a.m. The Timothy Luncheon will follow at noon. The second half of Levine’s lecture, “The Bible and the Middle East: A Difficult but Necessary Conversation,” will begin at 1:30 p.m. Dinner, $12 per person, will be served at 6 p.m., followed by a worship service at Bethany Memorial Church with Bethany College President Rev. Dr. Tamara Nichols Rodenberg presiding. A reception will be held after the service at Christman Manor at Pendleton Heights. April 5, Levine will present her final lecture, “Misunderstanding Judaism means Misunderstanding Jesus,” from 9 a.m. to noon. For housing, registration info, or more information on the lectures, contact the Office of Church Relations at 304-829-7723. or mwalden@bethanywv.edu. Register online at www.bethanywv.edu/lecture-registration.
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COLERAIN PRESBYTERIAN Church, 71780 State Route 250, Colerain, OH, invites you to a free concert by the Brothers in Song on Sunday, April 10, at 4:00 p.m. at the church. Brothers in Song is a group of men who love to share their gift of music through good old gospel songs and popular tunes. They are led by Marian Martin, a longtime successful Ohio Valley music director, and together, Marian and the boys share one of their favorite passions--God's gift of music.
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EASTER PAGEANT ON THE HILLSIDE will be held Saturday, April 9, at 6:00 p.m. and again Sunday, April 10, at 6:00 p.m. at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 110 Maine Boulevard, East Liverpool, OH. There is no charge for admission. For more than thirty years now, seventy or more people have portrayed the final days of Jesus life, following Him from the Palm Sunday procession through the Upper Room to the trial, crucifixion and the resurrection. Over the years, it has enriched the spiritual journey of many Christians to see the Passion story recreated and remembered.
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A PLACEMENT FAIR will be held at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary on April 27, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in John Knox Room, Long Hall. The Seminary welcomes all Pastor Nominating Committees, Church Representatives, Agencies and Military Personnel for a placement fair for PTS graduating seniors and recent graduates. To reserve a space, contact the Placement Office at 412-924-1445 or e-mail placement@pts.edu.
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BRIDGES OUT OF POVERTY PROGRAM. On Saturday, April 30, 2016, our Training and Development Committee will sponsor a “Bridges Out of Poverty” workshop from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at First Westminster Presbyterian Church, 235 N. Fourth Street, Steubenville, OH. The cost of $15 will cover materials that you will be able to take home and use in your own ministry. Bridges Out of Poverty is a highly respected approach to new and creative ways to minister to people in poverty in the 21st century. Dawn Livingston from the Epworth Center will be the presenter. For more info, contact the Rev. Erica Harley 608-322-2522. Please RSVP by Wednesday, April 20th, to the Rev. Dr. Steve Cramer 330-921-1115 or to the Presbytery Office 304-232-3490 or e-mail pattyuov@uovpresby.org.
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ATTENTION HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS: Information and an application for the Russell Scholarship can be found on our websitewww.uovpresby.org. Applications must be postmarked by Friday, MAY 27, 2016. If you are dropping them off at the Presbytery Office, they must be brought in by Thursday, May 26th, as the Office is closed Fridays. If you have questions concerning the application, please call Cindy Foster 740-359-2750. Online applications will not be considered.
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PRESBYTERIAN WOMEN’S March issue of The Connecting Link can be found on our website under “Items of Interest.”
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FOR 222nd General Assembly info, Control+click here: http://oga.pcusa.org/section/ga/222nd-general-assembly-2016/.
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PRESBYTERIAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY Newsletter for March, 2016, can be found on our website under “Items of Interest.”
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CONGREGATIONAL MINISTRIES Publishing offers several curricular choices for the summer months, including Feasting on the WordThe Present WordGrowing in Grace & GratitudeAwesome Adventures, and more. Review them all at the PC(USA) Store.
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“THE REV. BILL Webster preaches multiple sermons in a week’s time. That’s not too unusual. What is unique is that one of those services is in Pakistan.” For the rest of the story, here is a link to our Synod’s website: http://www.syntrinity.org/featured/rev-bill-webster-reaching-people-in-martins-ferry-and-pakistan/.
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GET TOGETHER. The Rev. Ruth Ellen Bates and friends would like to have a get-together of organists and keyboard players of our presbytery. Purpose is to have fellowship and to talk “shop” and offer support to each other. Interested? Call 304-737-3130 or e-mailstoryteller1001@comcast.net. Even if we don’t have a huge group, we would still like to get together.
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HAS ANYONE TAKEN ANY PHOTOS at your church events? Special dinner? Special Sunday School or youth event? E-mail one to us for our website slideshow. Include what and where. Photos in landscape view work best.
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OPEN HOUSE MINISTRY is an outreach to those in need in the Wheeling area. We provide dinner, fellowship, and share a movie every Saturday night from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, 1307 Chapline St., Wheeling, WV. You are cordially invited to join us! Volunteers are also always needed. Monetary donations can be sent to the Presbytery, payable to UOVP, with a memo line: Open House Ministry.
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MOTHERS’ DAY PROJECT 2016. Support Healthy Women Healthy Families, a global poverty initiative of Presbyterian World Mission and Presbyterian Women to support health, education and development of women and children around the globe. Contact stephanie.caudill@pcusa.org, or call 800.728.7228 ext. 5279 to preorder cards and promo materials. Control+click here to Learn more.
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THE NEW WILMINGTON MISSION CONFERENCE, July 23-30, 2016, seeks to deepen the missionary spirit in fulfillment of the Great Commission. NWMC meets in scenic New Wilmington, PA, just one hour north of Pittsburgh. We gather on the campus of Westminster College for a week of worship, learning, and service. Annually, more than 30 states and 30 countries are represented at this multigenerational mission conference with scholars and missionaries from around the globe. There is programming for all ages – infant through adult. You can bring the whole family. There are hands on service projects and opportunities for a select group of young adults to participate in a short-term mission scholarship experience. Visit the website www.nwmcmission.org for speakers, schedules, program details, and more information. 724-946-9770. Register by May 1 for the lowest cost. Learn more
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Easter
The stone is rolled away;
Behold the empty tomb!
The Resurrection dawn
Dispels earth’s deepest gloom.
Victorious over death;
He rose to bless mankind
With radiant hope and faith
In glory undefined.
Anew the promise comes
With all the joy it brings;
Across the centuries
The Easter message rings.

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, April 3, 2016 ...

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, April 3, 2016 ...: Below are NRSV translations of the lessons from the Psalms  ( Psalm 118:14-29   or   Psalm 150 ) , the Letters  ( Acts 5:27-32   or   Revel...

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for March 30, 2016

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for March 30, 2016: Today our passages are Deuteronomy 13:1–15:23; Luke 8:40–9:6; Psalm 71:1-24; and Proverbs 12:5-7 . The readings are from  The Mess...

Prayers in the wake of Easter bombing in Lahore, Pakistan


For more information on this attack, go to http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/27/asia/pakistan-lahore-deadly-blast/.

God of heavy cross and empty tomb,
we pray for the people of Lahore, Pakistan.

Help and heal the wounded,
receive the dying into your embrace,
and comfort those who mourn.

Strengthen rescue and relief workers
who protect and provide for others
in the midst of crisis and chaos.

Give leaders the wisdom and determination
to understand the causes of hatred
and prevent it from gaining force.

Put an end to all violence and war,
and restrain the impulse
to use injustice to seek justice.

Continue to pour out your mercy
upon the victims of violence in every place.

Hasten the coming of the day
when all the world will know
that love is more powerful than fear
and life is stronger than death;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly

Heath Rada
Moderator of the 221st General Assembly (2014) 

Tony De La Rosa
Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Mission Agency


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – What’s Coming

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) or on the Cove Presbyterian Church Podbean page. 

If you find this devotion meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal. And no contribution is too small.


1 Corinthians 15:12-28

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ - whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For "God has put all things in subjection under his feet." But when it says, "All things are put in subjection," it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.

What’s Coming

The weather’s starting to change in the northern panhandle of West Virginia. Not only is the air getting warmer, but we’ve gotten some rain instead of snow. Of course, because of this change, the grass is starting to grow. Now, it’s not too bad at the moment. I mean, some of it has just begun to green-up and stretch out. And there’s only a couple of places that look a little ragged; therefore, yesterday I felt free to see a movie just like I’ve done at least a half dozen times over the winter. But I know soon that’ll be coming to an end. You see, by next week, I’ll be getting the lawnmower out of the garage and pushing it around my small yard, because I know exactly what’s coming.

And you know, that also applies to our resurrection; we know what’s coming. And the reason, well, it all comes down to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote, he’s the first fruits of those who’ve died, which means that, since he was raised, we can hope that we will be too. Of course, unlike my lawn, we don’t know when this is going to happen. It may be tomorrow or a million years from tomorrow. What we know is this: when our resurrection comes, God’s kingdom will be on earth as it is in heaven. And in that kingdom, we’ll know perfect peace and joy. You see, thanks to the resurrection, we can believe that this is what’s coming.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for March 29, 2016

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for March 29, 2016: Today our passages are Deuteronomy 11:1–12:32; Luke 8:22-39; Psalm 70:1-5; and Proverbs 12:4 . The readings are from  The Message ...

Sunday's Sermon – Not the End but the Beginning

Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, March 27, the Easter service in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. You can also find a podcast of this sermon on The Cove Podbean page. 

If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

Isaiah 65:17-25:

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord – and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent – its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.

Not the End but the Beginning

Well, here we are, Easter Sunday. And I’ve got to tell you, although the way we celebrate it is pretty similar to the way we celebrate most other holidays, I think Easter is unique in one really important way.

Of course, the similarities are fairly obvious. For example, like other holidays, we wear something a little different on Easter, don’t we; often something new and spring-like. I know, for me, this is the Sunday I break out the seersucker suit. And like other holidays, there are some special treats that we eat today but not during the rest of the year. I mean, give me a break when else is it socially acceptable and politically correct to shove a marshmallow chick into your mouth or to eat the ears off a chocolate rabbit while at the same time digesting all the plastic straw that was stuck to the peeps and the bunnies. Now that’s the same too.

But you know, where Easter sort of diverges from the others is that, for most folks, it represents the end of something and not the beginning. And that’s really not what we’re doing when we celebrate the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving or Christmas and certainly not our birthdays and anniversaries. All those days mark something starting, don’t they? And even holidays that don’t really focus on the beginnings, you know, like Valentine’s Day or Memorial Day or Labor Day, they generally involve something that continues year after year, right? But Easter, well, that’s kind of different, because it sure seems to involve the end of something, namely Jesus’s ministry here on earth. And I’ll tell you, that’s particularly true when you link today with some of the other days associated with this time of year, you know, like Maundy Thursday, when Jesus shared the last supper with his disciples, and Good Friday, when Jesus died on the cross, and everybody’s favorite, Ascension Day, when the resurrected Christ ascended into the clouds. You see, in their own way, they all represent conclusions, the time when one thing ends and we’re forced to move on to something else. And you know, I think that’s kind of the way we see Easter and what it represents. And I’ll tell you, for that reason, this is one day that I think is particularly easy to move past and leave behind. I mean, once the clothes have become a little worn and the peeps a little hard and the chocolate a little stale, Easter can become just a spectacular miracle, one that shows the power of God but not a lot more, because, you see, it’s the end of something really important, but not the beginning.

But you know, if that’s our perspective, I think we’re making a huge mistake. And let me explain. You see, I believe we’ve got solid, biblical reasons to view the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the beginning and not the end. And I’ll tell you, when this is something that we believe, namely that the his resurrection marks the beginning of a process that will involve us down the road, it’s going to effect how we look into the future and live in the present. I’m telling you, this is going to happen, when we view what we celebrate on Easter not as the end, but the beginning.

And like I said, I think this is grounded firmly in the Bible. I mean, just listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote to a group of Christians who were beginning to question whether the resurrection of Jesus really had anything to do with them. He wrote, “...Christ has been raised to life! And he makes us certain that others will also be raised to life. Just as we will die because of Adam, we will be raised to life because of Christ. Adam brought death to all of us, and Christ will bring life to all of us. But we must each wait our turn. Christ was the first to be raised to life, and his people will be raised to life when he returns. Then after Christ has destroyed all powers and forces, the end will come, and he will give the kingdom to God the Father.” In other words, according to Paul, even though they may not have known it at the time, something brand new had started when the tomb was found to be empty. It was the beginning of what the Jews called the generally resurrection of the dead, that time when we and all those who’ve gone before us and all those who will follow us, man, when we’ll all rise into new and eternal life. And Jesus was the first, the first one to be raised, but not the last. I’m telling you, according to Paul, we’re going to be next. Man, this is our future. This is our destiny.

And the new world into which we’ll be raised, well, I think we get a pretty good idea about what it’s like by reading passages like the one we just read from Isaiah. Remember, speaking for God, Isaiah wrote, “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating...” You see, all of this will be work of God. And in this new world, this new creation, this new reality, everything we’ve come to expect will be changed. For example, it’s sure going to be changed physically, because time will no longer having meaning. Man, it’ll be swallowed up by eternity. And this new creation will be a place of peace, where “...the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox...; [because,] they shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.” But it’s not just the physical world that will change, we’ll be changed emotionally as well. Again, like Isaiah wrote, “...for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.” You see, this is going to be a place of joy and celebration, something that John of Patmos also saw happening in the future, when he wrote in his Revelation, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Emotionally, we will be changed. But even more than that, spiritually everything will be different. Again, listen to Isaiah: “They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord – and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.” I’m telling you, this is our destinies when God raises us to new life. And this is something we can believe, because Jesus was the first and we’re going to follow.

And you know, if this is something we believe, I mean, if we believe that the resurrection of Jesus marks the beginning of a process that will involve us, it’s got to effect how we see the future and live in the present. For example, it’s got to change the way we look forward, because right now we can envision a future and feel all kinds of hope and anticipation. You see, we can feel genuine hope, because regardless of what’s happening around us, regardless of all the nonsense and injustice we see occurring in world and within our communities and regardless of the problems and pain we may wresting with in our own lives, regardless of all this mess, man, we can dare to hope, because we can believe, we can trust that just like his tomb was empty, one day so will ours. I’m telling you, just like God raised Christ, he’s going to raise us. And that’s why we can have hope as we look into the future. But that’s not all, we can also look forward with all kinds of anticipation, because we know what awaits us on the other side. As Paul wrote, “I will explain a mystery to you. Not every one of us will die, but we will all be changed. It will happen suddenly, quicker than the blink of an eye. At the sound of the last trumpet the dead will be raised. We will all be changed, so that we will never die again. Our dead and decaying bodies will be changed into bodies that won’t die or decay. The bodies we now have are weak and can die. But they will be changed into bodies that are eternal. Then the Scriptures will come true, ‘Death has lost the battle! Where is its victory? Where is its sting?’” Man, this is what God has already prepared for us; therefore, we can feel both hope and anticipation as we look into the future.

But I’ll tell you, it’s not just about the future, when we have this vision, it’s going to change the way we live in the present too. I mean, this has got to give us a renewed sense of confidence. And in my opinion, that’s a pretty valuable commodity now-a-days, because I’ve got to tell you, from where I stand, I don’t see very much that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy about what’s going on within our world and country or even within our communities and families. Good night, when’s the last time you heard a newscast that didn’t mention something about terrorism or violence? And frankly, I don’t think there’s a family in Weirton that hasn’t been touched in some way by drugs or alcohol, by unemployment or divorce. I think we all know, there’s a lot that can bring us down. But in spite of all that, if we believe that we’re living between the resurrection of Jesus and our resurrection, we can also believe that God hasn’t given up on us and left us alone to fen for ourselves. You see, regardless of what we see and hear, we can still be confident, because not only is God with us, but he’s working through us. And since we can already glimpse the future, we can live with focus. I mean, we know the direction we’re heading and because of that, we know what God values. For instance, we know that God values peace, and that God values harmony, and that God values faith. And so, as men and women, we can do what we can to reduce conflict and to increase understanding and communication. And we can help people see that what we have in common is far greater and more important than what separates us. And we can share through what we say but more importantly by what we do that we follow the Prince of Peace and the one who makes all things new. You see, when we trust that we will be raised, we can live with confidence and focus right now.

And I’ll tell you, this will happen when we make the decision to change how we see Easter. I mean, even though it’s culturally, even spiritually easy to see it as the conclusion of his story, we can view the resurrection of Jesus as the first chapter and not the last. You see, we can believe that, just like Christ, we’ll be raised to new life, and when that happens, we’re going to enter a new heaven and a new earth. And that’s important, because when we believe that the resurrection of Jesus marks the start of a process that will involve us, it can change the way we see the future and live in the present. I’m telling you, all that can happen when we decide to see Easter not as the end, but as the beginning.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Sunrise Sermon – And They Remembered

Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, March 27, for a sunrise Easter service in Hopedale United Presbyterian Church, Hopedale, Ohio. You can also find a podcast of this sermon on The Cove Podbean page. 

If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

Luke 24:1-12

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, [the women] went to the tomb, bringing spices which they’d prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. And after they went inside, they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happen while they were at loss concerning this, two men stood beside them in clothes that were dazzling. And because they were frightened, they bent to the ground and [the men] said to them, “Why are you seeking the living among the dead? He is not here, but he was raised. Remember how he told you while he was still in Galilee, when he said that the son of man must be given over into the hands of sinful people and crucified and on the third day rise again.” And they remembered his words.

And after they returned from the tomb, they announced all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. And it was Mary Magdalane and Joanna and Mary the mother of James. And the rest of the women who were with them said to the apostles these things. And these words appeared as an idle tale to them. And they didn’t believe the women. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb, and when he stooped to peep in, he saw the wrappings alone. And he went, wondering within himself at what had happened.

And They Remembered

Well, here we are on Easter Sunday. And I’ll tell you, hasn’t God given a drop-down gorgeous day to remember his resurrection. I mean, how can you be in a negative mood on a day like this? Man, we worship a gracious God, don’t we?

And you know, like almost every other holiday, Easter brings up all kinds of memories. At least it does for me; what about y’all? I mean, right now I can close my eyes and see just the way it was in the mid-sixties back when my parents had young children, like me. You see, at the Rudiger house, Easter meant doing certain things, you know, following traditions. For example, right after we got up, my sister, brother and I got our Easter baskets that always included a big, sort of exotic egg which only my father would eat, a big chocolate bunny that my brother would finish off before dinner and then start on mine, a lot of those marshmallow peeps, always yellow, always chicks (that’s the way God intends), and of course jelly beans. And then we’d put on our Easter clothes, really spiffy stuff that we’d never worn before; therefore, unlike the rest of my wardrobe, there were none of those iron-on patches on the knees. And ladies, I don’t want y’all to get too excited, but I’m sure mom had plastered down my very blond hair with some of dad’s Brilcream, and usually I was wearing a bow tie. My sister had a frilly dress and anklets, with her hair covered with the kind of curls you get when, the night before, you wrap little bits of hair with toilet paper, curl them around and secure them with a bobbie pin. And my little brother, well, he looked pretty good, that is if you could get past the chocolate bunny stains on his jumper.  And so in our Easter best, we’d be herded into the front yard, generally with the flox and candy tuff and dog woods in bloom, and my grandfather and grandmother Rudiger would come by in their Cadillac, you know the one with the big fins, and they’d take our picture with their Polaroid camera. And after all this, we’d pile into the Fairlane and off to church. Now, when I think Easter, that’s what I remember.

And you know, this whole business about remembering, well, that seems pretty appropriate this morning, because in this passage from Luke, isn’t that what those two men in the tomb told the women to do? I mean, they didn’t tell them not to be afraid, and they didn’t say that they should go and tell anybody. Instead, after asking, “Why are you seeking the living among the dead? He is not here, but he was raised,” they said, “Remember [...remember] how he told you while he was still in Galilee, when he said that the son of man must be given over into the hands of sinful people and crucified and on the third day rise again.” Now that’s the only command he gave, just remember. And you know, it’s interesting; that’s exactly what those women did. According to Luke, “...they remembered his words.” And I want you to notice how that remembering changed them. I mean, even though they were never told to do it, once those women started to think about what Jesus had taught and what he had done and maybe what he’d called them to do, what’s the first thing they did? “And after they returned from the tomb, they announced all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.” On their own, they went and told. And although most of the disciples thought their words were nonsense, Peter responded, didn’t he? In fact, like those women, he was so excited that he ran to the tomb just to check it out himself. You see, those women were changed when they remembered.

And I’ll tell you, the exact same thing can happen to us, if we also do what the angel told the women to do. I mean, right now, we can remember some of the things Jesus taught when he was with us. I mean, when we’re down and feel as though in life’s rat race, the rats are winning, we can remember that Jesus said that “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And when we wonder if God has forgotten us and whether divine justice is just a lot of words, we can remember that, according to Jesus, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.” And I’ll tell you, when we feel as though there’s no way we could be loved by God, you know, that we’ve made so many mistakes that we’ll never be good enough, I think we need to remember that when his disciples asked Jesus, “Then who can be saved,” he replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.” ’ll tell you, these are some of the things Jesus taught, things that we need to remember.

But that’s not all; I think we also need to remember what he did. Now I want you to think about this. What are some of the things Jesus showed during his life? Man, he showed power when he stilled the storms and kicked out demons. And he showed courage when he stood toe to toe with the people who pulled the strings and confronted all those religious leaders who used God and his word like a club to beat down the people. But most of all, I believed he showed love. And although that love wasn’t limited to one group, he seemed to make sure that those folks who were ignored and condemned by their society knew that they weren’t alone. Now that’s what he did. And you know, that power and courage and certainly love sort of came together at the cross and the empty tomb. I mean, like I’ve said before, I have a hard time understanding how he could allow himself to be hung on a cross to save the people who drove the nails. And just think about what that empty tomb means? Man, it means that our savior has power over death itself and that he had the courage to face the Devil and beat him at his own game and that he loves you and me so much that he gave us a concrete sign that our futures are secure. You see, because his tomb was empty, we can believe that so will ours. I’ll tell you, that’s what Jesus did, and these things we can remember.

And then we can remember what we’ve been called to do. And although often it’s made really complicated by minister-types like me, it’s really not rocket science or brain surgery. In fact, everything we’ve been called to do can be reduced to one word, and you know what it is: love. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Man, that’s it; I told you it was simple. But just imagine how that simple command can change our lives. I mean, what do you think would happen if every morning we woke up and said to ourselves, “Today I’m going to show what a lot of people just talk about. I’m going to show that I really do love God. And I’m going to show it in what I say and what I do.” What kind of day do you think we’ll have? And then I want you to imagine what would happen if, when we walked into our office or our classroom or even our church, we said to ourselves, “I’m going to show as much love to my neighbor as I’d like to be shown myself.” Man, if we say that and mean it, are we going to spread gossip about our boss or are we going to join in and make fun of that person who nobody in school likes anyway or are we going to grumble in church, of course loud enough so the people around us can hear (what’s the fun of complaining if nobody knows) and are we going to look at certain hymns like my daughter Maggie looks at fruit cocktail (“I don’t like it and so I’m not going to try it.”) and I’ll tell you, are we going to threaten to take our ball and go home because we may do a few things in worship that we don’t not like but that we know really touches another brother or sister in Christ? Are we going to frown and want everything to be our way even though a guy on the other side of the aisle is smiling and feeling at home? Brothers and sisters, are we going to do that kind of thing if we’ve decided to love our neighbor as ourselves? I don’t think so. Instead, I think it’s a better than even chance that not only will we step away from gossip, we may actually give the other guy the benefit of the doubt. And we may even befriend or a the very least treat that person who’s on the fringe with as much respect and kindness that we’d like to be treated. And as to worship, it really excites me to think about the possibilities when we’re so full of love for one another that we’re just as excited and happy about doing or singing something that’s meaningful to our neighbor as we are as when it’s important for us. My gosh, if we did that kind of thing, I think God could use this congregation to change our whole community, maybe even the world. But then, that’s just what God has called us to do, something else we can remember.

You know, Easter is a time for memories. I mean, it’s tailor-made for us to remember life when we were younger. And I sincerely hope that when she’s thirty-nine like me, Maggie remembers what we did as a family. But as this passage reminds us, Easter is more than just a time we remember the sentimental stuff. Just like the men in the tomb commanded the women, right here and now, I think we’re told to remember: to remember what Jesus taught and to remember what Jesus did and to remember what we’re called to do. And I’ll tell you, right along with that, I think we also need to recall what they did, you know, that they remembered and that fact absolutely changed their lives.