...let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.



Bethel UMC


 

Week of March 31–April 6, 2014 – New Life by Lori L. J. Rosenkvist

Ezekiel 37:1–14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6–11; John 11:1–45

Scripture Overview: Ezekiel 37 presents a vision of the dry bones that represent the people of Israel after the invasion of the Babylonians—the people have no life. God calls Ezekiel to see the devastation and to prophesy to the dry bones with the message that they shall live. The psalmist cries out from the very depths expressing both a need and hunger for God and a trust in God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. The story of Lazarus’s death and Jesus’ raising him to life calls forth our own stories and experiences of life and death. It draws us into a conversation that goes deeper than our intellect. It evokes our questions, our fears, our doubts, and our faith. The Romans text offers the good news that the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us. Each of these texts affirms life after death. Death is not the end; death does not have the final word.

Selected Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:

Read Psalm 130. What kind of pain do you need to be experiencing before you cry out for help?

Read Romans 8:6–11. What signs confirm that Christ is in you or that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

 

Week of April 7–13, 2014 – The Palms by Niall McKay

Psalm 118:1–2, 19–29; Isaiah 50:4–9a; Philippians 2:5–11; Matthew 21:1–11

Scripture Overview: These texts raise questions about who truly welcomes Jesus and under what circumstances. Isaiah 50 recalls the hostility that inevitably follows servanthood. A moment of acceptance, even welcome, will not hide from the Servant the fact of the rejection to come. Psalm 118 claims that the city and the victory and the “one who comes” all belong to God. Any victory declared by human beings is bound to vanish as quickly as the day itself. The Philippians hymn asserts Jesus’ own determination to be obedient even to death and God’s consequent exaltation of Jesus above all creation. Even in the Gospel accounts, Jesus’ entry is one of meekness and humility rather than of power and pride.

Selected Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:

Read Psalm 118:1–2, 19–29. In this week, we may recall “the stone that the builders rejected” becoming the chief cornerstone. When in your life has God taken a time of rejection and turned it into a foundational experience?

Read Philippians 2:5–11. This “hymn” states that to know Christ is to know God. The author stresses Jesus’ mindfulness. What earthly traits of Jesus are evident in your daily living?

 

Week of April 14–20, 2014 – Voices of Holy Week by Michael E. Williams

Isaiah 49:1–7; John 12:1–11; Matthew 28:1–10; John 20:1–18

Scripture Overview: It is inappropriate to conclude that God disappears at the cross and only emerges again in the event of Easter. Christian proclamation of the cross begins with the understanding that even in Jesus’ utter abandonment, God was present. The Holy Week/Easter texts bring together the common themes of death’s reality, the powerful intrusion of the delivering God, and the manifold responses to resurrection. Paul argues that the gospel looks to many like nothing more than weakness and folly. The cross symbolizes defeat but is, in reality, the instrument of power and salvation. The psalmist sings of God’s incredible generosity and “steadfast love,” which come in times of opposition and threat: “With you is the fountain of life.” John 20 honestly faces the reality of death. The Exodus passage reminds us that God always stands ready to deliver.

Selected Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
 

Read John 12:1–11. When have you experienced God’s extravagant love and when have you reflected that extravagant love to others?

Read Matthew 28:1–10. The angel seems unsurprised by the women’s fear. When have you missed the good news because of your fear of matters you don’t understand?

 

Week of April 21–27, 2014 – This Jesus God Raised Up by Katherine Willis Pershey

Acts 2:14a, 22–32; Psalm 16; John 20:19–31; 1 Peter 1:3–9

Scripture Overview: Psalm 16 and Acts 2 fit together, since the latter quotes the former. Both celebrate God’s presence in human life and the powerful expression of that presence. In his Pentecost sermon Peter sees a messianic application of the psalm to the resurrection of Jesus. First Peter affirms that resurrection creates community, stressing the faith and love of Christians that arise without the experience of physical contact with Jesus. For later generations, belief and commitment are born out of the witness of others.

Selected Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:

Read Psalm 16. In what way does God provide protection and refuge for you?

Read 1 Peter 1:3–9. How do Peter’s words speak to Christians who do not live with the threat of persecution?

 

Week of April 28–May 4, 2014 – Responding to Love by Jen Unger Kroc

Luke 24:13–35; Acts 2:14a, 36–41; Psalm 116:1–4, 12–19; 1 Peter 1:17–23

Scripture Overview: What is the Easter message, and what are we to do with it? Two dimensions of the responses to God’s act of raising Jesus stand out. First, repeatedly the texts speak of public worship. Second, the texts speak of changed lives. In 1 Peter 1 the Resurrection effects a new birth marked by obedience to the truth and to mutual love. The two responses—public worship and transformed lives—are not separate from each other in the texts. One leads to the other and back again .

Selected Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:

Read Luke 24:13–35. If you had a sudden encounter with the risen Christ, what plans would you change? What would you do instead? What would happen if you were to make those changes right now?

Read 1 Peter 1:17–23. Who do you find difficult to love deeply? How can setting your faith and hope on God help free you for a genuine love?

 

 

 

 




Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

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