FROM THE PASTORS DESK

Please read the devotion and click on the link at the bottom to access the song, where you will be redirected from this website so you can listen and watch a video of the song's performance.  

I have prepared songs for the coming days.  If there is a hymn that speaks to you, I would welcome suggestions. 

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Wednesday, April 20, 2022 -  Scripture: John 20:11-16; Song: "Risen"
 

For most people who don’t believe in Jesus, Easter has come and gone again.  Life is back to normal for them and lately, if you read the news, normal hasn’t been fun.  Super high gas prices, a war in Ukraine, bad weather all over including tornadoes, Covid-19 still hasn’t gone away, and more.  If that is what life is all about, it’s pretty depressing. 

For Christians though, Easter isn’t over.  The church year has seven Sundays in the Easter season, and the days in between are considered part of the Easter season.  And on top of that, we know that every Sunday is considered a mini-Easter as we come together to celebrate who Jesus is.   

As a Christ follower, you might have come to Easter services affected by the things I listed above.  Or it might have been personal stuff like illness, either for yourself or loved ones, a coming surgery, or financial or family struggles.  If so, you might have been feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders as Mary Magdalene was, in our Scripture for this morning from John 20.  Verse 11 starts by stating that she stood outside the tomb crying because she thought her Lord had died.  Mary Magdalene is part of our song for today’s devotion, a contemporary song called “Risen” by Shawna Edwards.   It’s a beautiful song with a powerful message.  The beginning speaks of Jesus’ body being taken down from the cross and how his friends, including Mary Magdalene, thought all things were lost.  That’s why she was crying. 

But as the song goes on to describe, on the third day as the sun arose on Mary and her tears, as John 20 describes, Mary looked into the tomb and saw two angels in white and they engaged her in conversation with the question, “Why are you crying?”  As she explained that she didn’t know where they had put Jesus’ body, she turned around and saw Jesus there but did not realize it was him.  At least not until verse 15 when Jesus asked why she was crying and who are you looking for?  And Mary thought he was the gardener until he spoke her name and then she recognized him and called him “Rabboni” which means teacher.  Her fears and her tears were gone. 

I am praying that you were encouraged by something similar on Sunday.  If you didn’t or even if you did, today’s song will help you be encouraged by it again.  All these issues that keep us from experiencing the joy of the resurrection have been conquered because as the song says Jesus is risen.  Risen to conquer sin and death, including all the things that are weighing you down.  Risen to set the captives free as the song goes not to say.  Your sin and mine are what weighs us down, but they need not longer. 

Praying that was the message you received at St. Andrew or wherever you worshiped Sunday.  Praying today’s song reinforces that message.  So, listen to “Risen” and take time to read again Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the angels and then her teacher, Jesus, from John 20: 11-16.  May they set you free from whatever is weighing you down today!

RISEN by Shawna Edwards

Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022 -  Scripture: Job 19:25-27; Song: "I Know That My Redeemer Lives"

You might be thinking, Pastor, it’s Sunday, why are you publishing a song devotion today?  Well, just in case you have forgotten, this a special Sunday, a celebration of the first Easter. The day that, maybe more than any other, changed the world.  For when Christ rose from the dead, life changed.  No longer was the world devoid of hope.  There is now a way out of the struggles of life, whether it be illness, or family struggles, or things we have done to ourselves with our rampant sinfulness, or whatever else life burdens you with today. 

Those things have been overcome because, as the title of today’s hymn says, “I Know that My Redeemer Lives.”  Now you might be thinking, we know that Pastor, anyone who lives after the first Easter could have written these words.  And you would have been right if these words were based on Scripture written after Easter.  But if you take the time to research the Scripture, you will find that they are based on the words of Job, written over a thousand years before Christ rose from the dead.  In Job 19:25-27 Job writes: “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes - I, and not another.  How my heart yearns within me!”

And if you take the time to read the book of Job, you will find that Job’s life was not just a bowl of cherries as some would say!  He started out as a rich man, with a great wife, great children, and more possessions than you and I could ever imagine.  And the devil took them all away, to test Job, thinking that Job would not be a God follower anymore.  But God knew better.  He allowed the devil to test Job, and after he had lost everything, he still had faith that “my redeemer lives.” 

So, if life is hard for you right now, whether it is illness, the death of loved ones, family or economic struggles, or anything else the devil would throw at you, it can’t take away the joy of Easter - of knowing that because Jesus lives, you will too.

Listen to the hymn, look for Job’s words scattered throughout and know that all these tough things you are dealing with are temporary.  Because Jesus lives, so will you!  Praying that you will have time to join us this morning at 10 to celebrate that fact!

 
 
Wednesday, April 13, 2022 -  Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:15; Song: "O Sacred Heart Now Wounded"

It’s here, Holy Week that is, and some of you might be thinking: Finally!  For some it seems like Lent went on forever.  Can’t we just get to Easter.  That’s a lot more fun.  Candy, the Easter breakfast, hymns that are more uplifting, and after church dinner with family.  Maybe even dinner without any restrictions, now that all that Covid-19 stuff seems to be dying down.  But we still have a little more work to do before we get to Easter.  If we don’t go to the cross of Good Friday and just jump ahead to Easter, then we won’t really know what Easter is all about.  For Christians, at least, Easter is more than the Easter bunny, good food with family, and maybe a day or two off work.  So, one more somber hymn before Easter. 

The hymn “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” is based on a poem written by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, someone who understood what I am talking about, someone who took the time to ponder what the cross of Good Friday is all about, who understood exactly what Jesus went through for us.  When I listen to this hymn, it almost wants to make me cry, understanding that someone loves me that much, so much that he would suffer and die for me. 

The first four verses of the hymn do a great job of helping us to understand what Jesus went through for us, the agony of the crown of thorns, the torture of hanging by three nails for hours on a cross, the humiliation of being scorned by the people there, and even worse being rejected, at least for a while, by his own Father.  But today I want to focus on my response and hopefully yours as well. 

Verse 5 of the hymn explains what I mean in words much clearer than anything I could write: “What language can I borrow, to thank you dearest friend.  For this your dying sorrow, Your mercy without end?  Bind me to you forever; Give courage from above; Let not my weakness sever, Your bond of lasting love.”  These words echo clearly what Paul was urging us all to do as Christ followers in our Scripture for today, 2 Corinthians 5:15: “And he (Jesus) died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 

Can you see that skipping Holy Week and jumping directly to the fun and joy of Easter is thinking only about ourselves?  It’s only by experiencing Holy Week and especially the cross of Good Friday that we can begin to live for others and not ourselves.  Jesus died for us, not only that we might go to heaven, but that we live here on the earth, sharing his love with others, that we might share the joy of Easter and forgiveness and eternal life with as many as possible. 

So, I invite you to join us Thursday night and see Jesus betrayed by Judas during our Maundy Thursday service at 7, then to return again on Good Friday at 7 to experience firsthand the love that Jesus has for you and the real reason for our Easter celebration.  The devil would have you get bogged down in the busyness of life or stressed by the life circumstances that trouble you.  Come and experience the peace of Jesus, the only peace that overcomes these things.

Listen to the hymn and I pray, as you do, that you will understand the importance of Good Friday in a new and blessed way!

 
 
Wednesday, April 6, 2022 -  Scripture: Matthew 21:8-9; Song: "All Glory, Laud and Honour"

    Today is the first published devotion for the month of April in the year 2022.  There is much going on.  The students in Portland are finally on Spring break and with all that has been going on at the High School, many think it couldn’t come soon enough.  Just having the word “Spring” in the title of a break is a blessing for many, especially those who don’t care for winter, for this word is a sign that warmer weather is coming. Even if Michigan in early April often messes with us by dropping piles of snow to remind us again, as if we didn’t know, that we don’t control the weather. 

    As Lent is rapidly drawing to a close as well, with this coming Sunday being Palm Sunday, the day we enter Holy Week, with it’s roller coaster ride through the Garden of Gethsemane, and then to the cross of Calvary, and then finally ending the week at the empty tomb with the most powerful message for mankind. The message that Jesus is alive and our sins are forgiven.

    Holy week truly is a rollercoaster ride for the Jews of Jesus’ time.  It starts with Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey which is the subject of this week’s hymn.  It's the hymn that we traditionally start our worship with at St. Andrew on Palm Sunday and will be again this year: “All Glory, Laud and Honor.”  The Jews think that Jesus is coming to town to be their conquering hero, to finally rid them of the hated Romans who have been ruling over them for entirely too long.  They were ready to welcome what they thought would be their new earthly King. As the words of today’s Scripture share from Matthew 21:8-9: “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while other cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’  ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.!’” 

    As the chorus of the hymn says, “even the children sang their praises to the one that they thought would be their earthly King.”  The sad thing is that those same folks who sang Hosanna to welcome Jesus to Jerusalem on Sunday, were the ones who yelled crucify him before Pontius Pilate on Good Friday.  And thankfully for them and for us, they were the same people for whom Jesus died on the cross for later that day and the same Jesus who was raised from the dead for them three days later on Easter Sunday. 

    Before we condemn though, think about this.  Many of us will be in church singing Hosanna of Palm Sunday.  But the question is, where will you be on Maundy Thursday when Jesus was betrayed in the Garden and brought before the chief priest, who had a plan to put him on the cross on Good Friday?  Where will you be on Good Friday as we remember what Jesus did for us on the cross on Good Friday?  Will you be in worship, or will you be off doing something else, only to appear again on Easter to eat the great Easter breakfast prepared by the men and then to sing and hear preached the good news that Jesus is alive?  If we skip the cross of Good Friday and go right to Easter, then we too are part of the group shouting Crucify him!  You too might be looking for Jesus to be your earthly king, providing you with all the things you need to survive like food, a house and home, a great family, and more, but forgetting the reason Jesus really came is to die on the cross for your sins on Good Friday.  Of course, even if you are worshiping with us on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, you know that you still put Jesus on the cross. He dies for all of us who sin and are in need of the forgiveness won on the cross. But to truly appreciate what Jesus has done for you, you need to first go to the cross before coming to the empty tomb. 

    So, enjoy the Palm Sunday hymn with its link below, but also look past to the Hosannas of Palm Sunday, to the cross of Good Friday, and then and only then, will you truly appreciate the Good news of Easter! 

    Looking forward to seeing many of you several times in the next week.  Even if you have not attended worship at St. Andrew before, you are welcome to join us this Sunday at 10 a.m. for our Palm Sunday service and for the following Holy Week services: Maundy Thursday, April 14th at 7 p.m.; Good Friday Tenebrae on April 15th at 7 p.m.; Easter for our festival worship service at 10 a.m.