Twenty-five years ago, on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, our organization underwent upheaval. I worked for the General Board of Discipleship (now Discipleship Ministries) of The United Methodist Church. That morning our coworker, Donna, went missing. It soon became clear that she had been murdered. Eight days later, on Monday of Holy Week, a beloved retired staff person named Bobby died of natural causes. On Wednesday, a coworker named Verlia died, also of natural causes.
The deaths of three trusted colleagues and friends rocked the organization. The first response of the staff was to meet daily in worship. We affirmed God’s faithfulness and lamented our loss. We prayed for Donna, her family, and those who had been searching for her. During Holy Week, we added the families of Bobby and Verlia to our prayers. We looked for ways to support their families, especially their children. The staff somberly tried to concentrate on work, and conversations were muted. Walking into the building felt like walking into a tomb.
The words of the psalmist resonated: “Restore our fortunes, O LORD.” Corporately we had experienced God’s faithfulness many times in the past but we desperately needed God’s help and faithfulness again—help with our grief and with how to continue in ministry.
Easter brought a new depth of hope in the Resurrection. God met us as we gathered weekly in worship and felt the prayers of so many people outside the organization. Slowly and surely, God gave us the help we needed, and we experienced divine faithfulness anew. I remember the day when, walking through the halls, I heard laughter once more. I knew we had turned a corner, and I offered a prayer of gratitude to the Faithful One.
Eternal God, thank you for your faithfulness in times of need. Be with those who need your help today. Amen.
The Isaiah text portrays the redemptive activity of God that is about to be introduced into Israel’s life. All paradigms lie shattered before the immensity of God’s grace! The joy of Psalm 126 is occasioned by the memory of God’s act of redemption in the past and also by the anticipation that a similar intervention is imminent. Paul’s autobiographical sketch directed to the Philippians confesses the change that has come into his life as a result of “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” The story of Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet must be read in the context of Jesus’ looming passion. Jesus sets Mary’s actions in their proper perspective by linking them to his own death, even as he deflects Judas’s counterfeit compassion.
Read Isaiah 43:16-21. How do you respond to this God who insists on doing new things for the sake of the people?
Read Psalm 126. Pray this psalm three times: (1) pray all the verbs in the past tense in thanksgiving; (2) pray all the verbs in the future tense as a prayer for help; (3) pray verses 1-3 in the past tense, verses 5-6 in the future tense. Which was hardest to pray?
Read Philippians 3:4b-14. What props or credentials do you need to let go of?
Read John 12:1-8. What motivations does your discipleship reflect?
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