Welcome to the April 2008 Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
    You are welcome to use these writings or pass them on. All we ask is that in all things you remember the Author and give Him the glory, and remember this vessel which He has used to bring them to you. Peggy Hoppes


Topics

Revelation

Sacrament

Community

Shepherd

Perseverence

Gate

Eternal Life

Justification

Refuge

Sacrifice

Transformation

Reconciliation

Witness

Vow

Good Works

Community

St. George

New Life

Praise

Joy

Remembrance

Glory


A WORD FOR TODAY


Scripture on this page taken from the American Standard Version of the Holy Bible which belongs to the public domain.







A WORD FOR TODAY, April 2008





April 1, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 6, 2008: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-36

Luke 24:13-36 And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was threescore furlongs from Jerusalem. And they communed with each other of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, while they communed and questioned together, that Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What communications are these that ye have one with another, as ye walk? And they stood still, looking sad. And one of them, named Cleopas, answering said unto him, Dost thou alone sojourn in Jerusalem and not know the things which are come to pass there in these days? And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we hoped that it was he who should redeem Israel. Yea and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things came to pass. Moreover certain women of our company amazed us, having been early at the tomb; and when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. And certain of them that were with us went to the tomb, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. And he said unto them, O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Behooved it not the Christ to suffer these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they were going: and he made as though he would go further. And they constrained him, saying, Abide with us; for it is toward evening, and the day is now far spent. And he went in to abide with them. And it came to pass, when he had sat down with them to meat, he took the bread and blessed; and breaking it he gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Was not our heart burning within us, while he spake to us in the way, while he opened to us the scriptures? And they rose up that very hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they rehearsed the things that happened in the way, and how he was known of them in the breaking of the bread.

My wedding was very simple. We planned it in a matter of days and had only a few guests present. Bruce had recently moved to California and I had been living in New Jersey. We thought about taking a trip to Reno but circumstances made it possible for us to have a church wedding close to our new home. My mom was there, anxious to see me settled in my new life. It was small, but lovely and memorable. After twenty years, however, there are details that I can’t remember—the names of some of our guests, the flavor of the cake, the name of the park where we were married.

I’ve heard it said that brides often have difficulty remembering the details of their big day. There is so much excitement, so many people, so many sights and sounds. As the bride and groom walk through the crowds at the reception, hundreds of people wish them well, but within minutes those well wishes are forgotten. It is not as if they try to forget. As a matter of fact, a bride wants to remember every detail, but there are too many emotions. It is exhausting. It is overwhelming. It is pleasant and joyous and awesome even while it is astounding and grueling. This is why it is so important to keep a record of the day with photos and now videos. For some brides, it is the only way they remember what happened.

Today’s story is one of my favorites, perhaps because we see how truly human the disciples really were. We often think of them as special and extraordinary, but they were just like you and I. We wonder how they did not recognize Jesus, but then we realize that we are sometimes so overwhelmed by our circumstances that we do not see something that is, to others, obvious. Jesus was probably in a form that made him appear different than they remembered and their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. However, they were also distracted by their thoughts and emotions. What had happened? What were they going to do? Who was this Jesus, really?

We don’t always recognize the presence of God in our ordinary circumstances. Jesus said that we would see Him in the faces of those we serve, but how often do we really do so? Do we see Jesus in that neighbor who needs a helping hand or the hungry man at the food bank? Do we see Jesus in the politician that needs our prayers or the teacher that is overwhelmed by her work? Do we recognize Jesus in the person behind the wheel of the car that just cut us off or the friend that has forgotten to answer an email?

The two disciples saw Jesus clearly when He broke the bread with them. I would not like to admit how many times I saw the truth as I was on my knees receiving communion. Too often as I take the bread and wine I realize my own failures during the week, seeing His face in those that I failed to serve. I remember the opportunities I had to share the Good News but was so caught up in my own cares and concerns. But just like those disciples, I also see God’s grace in the breaking of the bread. I remember his forgiveness and receive the strength to go on into another week of trying to live as witnesses in this world.

We also see in this story that God does not always come to us in dramatic and forceful ways. Sometimes He comes to us slowly at first, carefully laying out His story so that when He is fully revealed we will recognize him. Though some Christians have extraordinary experiences of Jesus, like Paul on the road to Damascus, most of us learn about Jesus through Sunday school teachers and our parents. Slowly, but surely, we hear the stories laid out before us until one day we finally see Him and understand. Even then we wonder how we could have not seen, just like the disciples. “Was not our heart burning within us?” we ask. But in the stories of God’s grace we see that we are just like those who were there at the beginning, learning and growing in grace each day.

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April 2, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 6, 2008: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-36

And it came to pass, when he had sat down with them to meat, he took the bread and blessed; and breaking it he gave to them.

Christians in early America faced a difficult situation. There were not very many pastors. Some of them traveled many miles between congregations. This still happens today, with rural parishes often sharing a pastor between two, three and even four churches. It is easier now because the pastor can drive a car to get form one place to the next, but it is still hard for him to be in two places at once. A hundred years ago it was even harder. It was impossible, even by horse, to get to multiple churches in one Sunday, so those early preachers often only made it to each church once every few weeks. The congregations still gathered together weekly for Christian fellowship, led by elders or deacons. They heard the word read, but they only received the sacrament of communion on those Sundays when the pastor could be there.

This developed a pattern for worship that included communion only occasionally in many churches. Even today there are those congregations that insist on monthly or bimonthly communion. They do not understand the common way of worship in the early days of the church or how the practice came to be in our day. All they know is that it has been done this way for so long that it must be right.

Some pastors have tried to change this practice, many want to hold on to this tradition for seemingly good reasons. Some believe that it cheapens the sacrament to have it offered too often. They want it to be something special and they are concerned that weekly communion will make it ritualistic and heartless. Yet, for the early church, gathering together for worship meant hearing the word and breaking the bread.

We see this pattern in the Gospel story for this week. Two disciples were walking toward Emmaus on the evening of the Resurrection, considering all that had occurred in the past few days. I am sure they were wondering about the reports of sightings and if it was true that Jesus was alive. They were probably discussing what they would do next when a stranger joined them on the road. We know this stranger was Jesus, but they did not recognize Him. He asked them about their conversation. “What are you talking about?” he asked.

“Dost thou alone sojourn in Jerusalem and not know the things which are come to pass there in these days?” they asked. It seemed impossible that someone might have been in Jerusalem who had not heard about Jesus. So, they told Him the story as they knew and understood it. Their story was laced with sadness and confusion. They had heard He was raised but were uncertain. Jesus answered by opening the scriptures for them, sharing passages and explaining how they related to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. They began to see and understand more clearly, although Jesus was not yet fully revealed to them. They invited Him to stay with them and when He broke the bread they saw Him. “Was not our heart burning within us, while he spake to us in the way, while he opened to us the scriptures?”

Jesus was revealed to the disciples in the sharing of the word and of the bread. They belong together. Jesus not only made the scriptures clear to the disciples, but He gave His flesh for their sake. As we hear the scriptures read and preached, we learn about the Jesus who came to do all this for us. It is in the breaking of bread that we join in the fellowship of His people, receiving His body and blood together with every Christian in all time and space. We are made new every time we receive this gift: forgiven, transformed and purified by His grace so that we can go forth another day to trust God and live in love.

In this story we see how Jesus established the pattern of worship for our lives of faith. He is revealed in word and bread. We experience Christ in body and in spirit. Our faith is founded on both reason and mystery. What does it all mean? Where are we going? What do we do with this faith we have been given? It was not until the bread was broken that the disciples could see Him clearly. Then they knew it was Jesus and they were amazed. Then they were able to go out and share the Good News with others.

Our practices might serve a purpose and might be necessary to continue the work of the church in the world, much like those early pastors and congregations in America. However, it is good for us to consider how the Gospel has freed us from traditions of the past that are no longer appropriate so that we can experience God’s grace fully and freely today.

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April 3, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 13, 2008: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

Acts 2:42-47 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need. And day by day, continuing stedfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved.

We get a lot of wrong numbers on our telephone; there must be something about our number. In the past few weeks I have answered the phone to find a ninety-five year old man looking for his sister, a teenager wanting to talk to a girlfriend, and a construction company getting back with a client. It is no trouble to tell the caller that they have reached a wrong number and it sometimes even leads to a humorous conversation, like the one from the ninety-five year old gentleman. The trouble comes when I get a message on my voicemail from someone who dialed a wrong number.

I could easily let it go; after all, it wasn’t my mistake. But these messages are important so I often try to let them know of their mistake. One time I tried to clear up the mess, I was questioned about whether or not I knew the person and if I could tell them how to get a hold of her. I called to let them know of their mistake and felt that I had been through an inquisition about a person I had never met.

I got a call yesterday from a company about a disability claim for a person that I did not know. I tried to call the company and ended up on a consumer unfriendly voice mail system that gave me no choice that might take me to a person who could help. When I tried to get to a costumer service representative or operator, the voice on the line told me that ‘she’ did not recognize that option and sent me back to the main menu. I finally hung up, frustrated by the lack of a human being who could fix their problem.

We live in a world that is increasingly becoming “people-free.” The grocery store provides “self check-out” lanes so that the consumer can do all the work for themselves. You can take care of almost all your business on the internet, with voice mail, with text messaging. We use email instead of the phone. Gas pumps have pay points, so we do not need to pay a cashier. We don’t even have to go to the post office anymore: we can print our stamps on our own computer and put the envelope in a mailbox. We can watch church on television, order pizza on the Internet and have rented videos automatically arrive in our mailbox.

We need to interact with other people every day, to share our joys and pain. We need hugs and smiles. People need people. In the beginning, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone” so He created woman and at the same time a community. He drew His people together and gave them laws to help them live together. He ordained a pattern for worship that was practiced in community and a social system that made all people important to the whole.

The “people-free” society is even making its way into the church. Besides televangelists, people can attend worship at mega-churches where they are assured a sense of anonymity. Individuals get lost in the crowd, which is just as well for many of the people who attend. On the other extreme, many Christians are choosing to have a solitary life of faith, no longer attending services at the church down the street. They sit in front of their television or go worship in a field. They read and study the scriptures and have a life of prayer, but they miss the life of community that comes from fellowship with other Christians.

In our passage we see that the earliest Christians lived in community and they shared everything. They gathered often to pray, learn and fellowship. They ate together, communed together and worshipped the Lord together. They were bound together with other believers not only by the Spirit, but by a life lived in community.

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April 4, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 13, 2008: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

Psalm 23 Jehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul: He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for ever.

My daughter is interested in theatre and has been part of the theatre department at her high school. They are currently working on a production for the interscholastic competition league in Texas. They are doing very well this season; their show is terrific. I am, of course, a biased mom, but they have definitely been the best school at each of their contests so far. Some of the students have received individual recognition for their performance, including Victoria.

It takes hard work, regular rehearsal and cooperation for a school to put together a successful show. The directors deserve a lot of the credit, they have made excellent decisions and have done everything well, from mentoring the students, to designing the set, to cutting the script in a way that will make sense and fit into the time limitations. They have been support