Sign of Humility, Symbol of Service

Thursday, April 17 (Maundy Thursday)

4-17By Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. …I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.

—John 13:14–15, 34

Community of Christ publishes a great series of bulletin covers for Sunday services. Each cover has a picture and a scripture reflection that follows the Revised Common Lectionary. However, for Maundy Thursday, worship planners need to create their own bulletin, or go to a Christian bookstore, which is what I did one year.

I met the clerk’s blank stare when I asked for Maundy Thursday bulletin covers. “We have only Sunday bulletins.” I tried to explain, but again, “We don’t have Monday or Thursday bulletins, only Sundays!”

I thought I was in the twilight zone. Thinking the clerk must be new, I looked around on my own, in vain, while the clerk watched with unmasked amusement and pity. So I thanked her and left.

What is Maundy Thursday? The Thursday part is easy, but Maundy? It comes from the Latin “mandatum” or mandate. A mandate is something we must do, a commandment.

The observance and symbolic reenactment of washing feet at the Lord’s Supper helps us remember Christ’s “new commandment.” We do as he has done. He took on the role of servant to his disciples and washed their feet. He showed them a sign of humility and a symbol of his message of service—a way to show “love for one another.”

Good hosts in the Jewish world provide guests the opportunity to wash before a meal. After traveling dusty roads to celebrate the Passover meal, this was a welcome respite. Jesus goes one step further and does the washing himself. Jesus, Lord and Teacher of this gathering, has done the opposite of what we might expect from hosts in high positions. We would not expect a president, prime minister, or head of state to attend to the personal needs of guests at a formal dinner. However, that is exactly what Christ does. He gives us an example of how to express love. He gives us a mandate, a new commandment to love one another as he loves us.

If your congregation has not planned a Maundy Thursday service for tonight, you might attend the service of another congregation or church. Plan to have a service next year—or next week—or have a Maundy Monday. Why not? The message of service and love is for every day.

Prayer for Peace
Servant Lord, you have stooped to ask of us the love of our poor hearts. We respond.

Spiritual Practice: Spiritual Hunger
Jesus discerned hungers of body and spirit, and he fed them through a physical, verbal, spiritual ministry of presence. In a time of listening prayer ask God to help you discern physical needs of people in your congregation, community, and global family. Invite the Spirit to move you to one hospitable act that “feeds” someone’s hunger today.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will take on the role of servant to show my love for another.

Seeing with New Eyes

Wednesday, April 16

4-16By Nancy Hylton of Seattle, Washington, USA

You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! …he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.

—Psalm 22:23–24

While flying 40,000 feet over the North Atlantic Ocean, I cannot help staring at the sea of clouds below and watching the sun come up along the horizon. It layers the sky in shades from orange to yellow and then blue. I have made the flight many times, but this perspective always startles me. The perspective brought to life by being so high sheds a new and different light.

I once watched a lightning storm from up here. It was the middle of the night over west Texas. I could not take my eyes off the sight for a long time. It was God’s laser light show magnified a thousand times! The clouds lit up in ever-changing patterns and colors, and everything was black between flashes.

It reminds me of our limited view of creation. We find our energy sapped by that perspective, which darkens with the clutter of the mundane. We fail to recognize the bigger picture—what matters most. Often in Seattle, the sun hides behind the clouds. We know the sun is still there, and we expectantly wait for it to rise each morning.

The week is here when we remember that Christ faced a darkness of his own. However, he had faith in the new life of the rising sun.

We cannot always see with a perspective from 40,000 feet, a space station, or even the moon when looking at this fragile home we inhabit. As we focus our mission on God’s peaceable kingdom, we seek to see with new eyes. In times of light and during our dark days, we have the light to know God does not hide God’s face from us.

Prayer for Peace
God who rises with healing wings, grant our souls a season of clear shining after rain. The theme of your salvation, may we find ever new. While in you we confide, we cannot but rejoice.

—adapted from Sometimes a Light Surprises, text by William Cowper

Spiritual Practice: God’s Healing Light
Today’s intercessory prayer comes from the Quaker tradition. Become still, and turn your attention to God. Prayerfully identify a person who is in need of healing, blessing, or guidance. Close your eyes and imagine God’s presence surrounding the person. See or sense the person held in God’s light. Continue holding the person in the light and release the person into whatever blessing is needed from God. Words are not necessary. Trust the Spirit to see and penetrate more deeply than human awareness. Thank God and close with “amen.”

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will stretch myself for a new perspective.

The Stubborn Sheep

Tuesday, April 15

4-15aBy Nancy Hylton of Seattle, Washington, USA

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.

—John 10: 14–17

Because the Sunday-morning speaker was ill and could not preach, the presider shared spontaneously. She had been pondering what we could learn from Jesus during that week before Good Friday and Easter. She related her experiences as the child of a sheepherder.

She shared about the meaning of “sheepfold,” the high walls meant to protect the sheep from predators in the night. Her father had a special call that all the sheep knew. Because sheep are followers, when he called them to the fold, they would follow him.

At least, most of them would follow. Often a stubborn little sheep would be eating grass and not feel like going. So he was left behind. Because he was alone, the stubborn sheep soon would begin “crying” for the shepherd.

What a genuine metaphor our Lord used! How often I have been like that stubborn sheep! At times I found myself deciding there were better things to do than answer the shepherd’s call to guidance and safety, to purpose and mission.

The message was powerful! I often think of myself trying hard not to be that stubborn sheep! I remember the sacrifice of the Good Shepherd and I listen for his voice.

Prayer for Peace
Tender Shepherd, be patient with us when we think we don’t need you. Call us again and remind us whose we are. Remind us of Christ’s mission of peace and of our part in the community fold.

Spiritual Practice: Voices of God
What is the voice of God saying to us? Do we hear the whispers of God’s longing for shalom, God’s dream of beauty and wholeness for all creation? Do we hear the “voice” of God calling to us in faces and eyes, in the sounds of suffering and joy, in scripture and sacred word, in tears and laughter, in silence and noise?

Spend a few moments reflecting on when and how God’s voice has spoken to you. When did you first feel called to follow Christ in the pursuit of peace and justice? How does that call to shalom continue to come to you through the many “voices” of God?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will listen for your voice and follow.

And the Best Season Is…

Monday, April 14

4-14By Louita Clothier of Lamoni, Iowa, USA

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep.… How precious is your steadfast love, O God! …For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

—Psalm 36:5–7, 9

The change of seasons blesses me. As I write, summer strides out with fullness. This year’s extra rain produced a lusher and greener spring than I can remember. As I walk on our area recreational trail, the foliage embraces me. It surrounds me like a tunnel of love—nature’s love.

I love summer in the Midwestern USA! In addition, I love spring, autumn, and, yes, even winter! Each season performs its own magic, gives its own unique gifts.

I have seen more springs emerge from winter’s ice than I want to admit, but buds on the trees thrill me every year. The autumn countryside offers a visual feast for me, with the golden maples and scarlet sumac accompanying football games and bonfires. The wind sculpts glistening, pristine snowfalls into wave-like peaks and valleys.

As the seasons of nature come and go, so in life do we have times of joy and times of sadness. We know that though life’s episodes change, the Lord loves us with a steadfast and constant love. God’s promises endure, even when we struggle with the changing seasons of life.

Prayer for Peace
As the plow breaks clods of earth so dormant seeds may spring up, Lord, soften the hardness in me, so tender shoots may grow and bear fruit in their season.

—Peggy Michael

Spiritual Practice: Caring for God’s Sacred Creation
Choose a way to notice, give thanks, and care for God’s sacred creation. Prayerfully consider one of the following practices or create your own. Walk in nature with a spirit of gratitude. Look and listen for God in all creation. Write or pray a psalm of praise for the Earth’s beauty or a prayer of healing and blessing for its wounds.

Learn about and engage in an act of Earth-keeping such as recycling, simple living, or fasting from over-consumption of resources. Notice the diversity of the planet’s creatures and be gentle to plants, animals, trees, and people! Fall in love with the vast, intricate wonder of God’s creation and give thanks.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will take in the beauty of creation and put it back unharmed.

Hosanna!

Sunday, April 13

4-13By Michele McGrath of Ridgewood, New Jersey, USA

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”

—Matthew 21:10

On January 17, 1994, I felt a huge jolt to the house, and then everything began to roll and sway for a half minute that seemed to last forever. I stood still in the hall and watched a bottle of lotion fall off the counter.

Having lived in Southern California my entire life, earthquakes were nothing new. I recently had moved from the San Fernando Valley, which was the epicenter of this quake. Though I lived 90 miles away, I could tell this earthquake wasn’t like the frequent temblors that simply make you feel off balance and ask yourself, “Is it me, or is something else going on?” Though the effect on my house was not serious, I knew it was serious for someone, somewhere.

As in every natural disaster, people set aside their regular lives to focus on what matters most. Their world was “shaken” in a literal way. When Matthew writes about the Palm Sunday drama that begins Passion Week, he says the whole city shook. Suddenly, the foundations shifted. People’s expectations radically changed.

What events have rocked your world? Did they cause turmoil, or were they transformative? How have they caused you to reflect on what matters most? How does our ritual reenactment today of Jesus’ arrival as Messiah make a visible difference in your life?

Prayer for Peace
Balance of the Earth, center us in you when we are on shaky ground. Help us focus on what matters most, when life feels distorted. Lift our eyes to the horizon, where peace seems possible.

Spiritual Practice: Experience Congregations in Mission
Read and reflect on Doctrine and Covenants 164:9a–d. Re-read the sentence, “If you truly would be Community of Christ, then embody and live the concerns and passion of Christ.” Make a list of the issues you feel mattered most to Christ. Make another list of issues that matter to your congregation. Reflect on the likenesses and differences. How can you help align the lists? Throughout the day, as issues arise, ask yourself, “Would this matter to Christ?”

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will focus on solid, Enduring Principles to keep me steady.

Legacies that Go Far

Saturday, April 12

4-12By Sherri Kirkpatrick of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

“And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”

—Matthew 25:40

Special friends who have passed on continue to minister to people around the world. Our much beloved friend, Ken Fisher, who passed away several years ago, knew and loved every child he ever saw. The children adored him in return! His wife, Isabella, recently gave Ken’s sturdy suitcases to HealthEd Connect to carry supplies to kids in Africa. Ken is still reaching out to kids. His legacy lives.

Some supplies we carry to Africa are special, too! Vivian Tresham, who passed on several years ago, was an accomplished seamstress. She made dozens of baby-weighing seats for me to take to Africa. Growth is an important indicator of the children’s health.

Vivian had cared for her invalid husband for years and had few opportunities to engage in community service. After she settled him for the night, she often would sew into the early hours of the morning, making the baby seats. She called it her lifeline to a world in need.

Her daughter recently found some seats Vivian hadn’t finished. After contacting me to see of our needs, she completed the colorful little seats. Now they are ready to weigh their treasure in Africa. Vivian is still bringing ministry around the world. Her legacy lives, also.

Prayer for Peace
God of the universe, help us use our gifts to minister nearby and far away. If we need to work into the night, keep us alert. If we need to fill a specific need, help us develop the needed skills. If we do not know where to start, lead us in our search to find places we can serve—places we can share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Abolish Poverty, End Suffering
Read and reflect on John 21:15–17 as a meditation. Let your mind be drawn to places where people have no homes. Think of refugees whose homes were destroyed by war or natural disaster. Be aware of the hungry and homeless who wander the streets or live in shelters. Let the images fill your mind. Offer a prayer for those who suffer.

Imagine Christ tending those sheep. Think of ways you might end their suffering as part of your mission. Throughout the day, carry in your mind the voice of Christ saying: “Feed my lambs…tend my sheep…feed my sheep.”

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will plan my legacy. I will make Christ’s mission my mission.

Watch for the Morning

Friday, April 11

4-11By Jeanne Davis of Lamoni, Iowa, USA

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! …I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

—Psalm 130: 1–2, 5–8

Psalms 120–134 are the “ascent psalms.” Historians believe people sang these songs on pilgrimages to Jerusalem. The psalmist cries out with a personal lament, identifying his placement, “Out of the depths…” He is in a dark hole of trouble, hoping God will hear his cry.

This psalm is also one of the seven penitential psalms used for centuries during the Lenten season. It gives voice to our need for repentance and God’s redemption. The psalms offer a way for us to cry out to the Lord.

Psalm 130 suggests images that resonate with personal feelings of despair over soulful struggles. By reading or singing these words, our voices continue the song. We join with millions who cry for help. The emotions revealed here recognize our common plight and tell of faith and hope in a forgiving God. The psalmist isn’t giving up. He isn’t passive. He brings hope, verifying, “there is forgiveness with you,”  and then waiting for what the psalmist knows will come.

“Waiting” for the Lord does not mean to quit or to stop the journey. Waiting fills us with anticipation…“more than those who watch for the morning.”

When my newborn son couldn’t sleep at night he cried for hours. One of the few ways to ease his misery was to hold him close and walk the floor. I would cry with him some nights, and this psalm gave me words to chant, gave me hope as I watched for the morning.

Everything seems worse at night. When the sun rises the new day brings an outlook with new possibilities. It’s as if one has crawled out of the depth of the dark night and ascended into the light. Then the psalmist moves outside his personal lament. He urges Israel to hope in the Lord and again testifies of God’s powerful redeeming grace. He asks people to join his voice and wait, not alone, but together for what we know— God’s great power to redeem.

Prayer for Peace
Stay with us through our dark nights, God, until we feel your light on our faces and in our hearts—until we feel Christ’s peace, which we can share.

Spiritual Practice: Psalm Writing
The psalms are prayers of honesty and trust. The psalmist trusts God’s presence in times of fear and failure, joy and plenty, growth and change. Write a short psalm-prayer expressing to God the truth about your physical, emotional, and spiritual state. What are your deepest feelings, longings, and needs? What prayer of praise, intercession, or petition flows from you as you consider your life and the life of God’s world?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will wait for the morning with one who cries alone.

A Big Pain!

Thursday, April 10

4-10By Cindy L. Korf of North Platte, Nebraska, USA

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

—2 Corinthians 5:17

A small sliver in my finger kept bothering me. At first I ignored it, thinking it would quit hurting. But, whenever my finger touched something, a sharp pain raced through my hand. Still, I thought the sliver would go away, and I did nothing.

As the day passed, the sliver became wedged deeper, causing my finger to throb and hurt even when it wasn’t touching anything. I thought about removing the splinter, but I didn’t want to go through the pain. I still hoped my finger would get better on its own.

The sliver did not go away, and the pain did not get better. I finally asked my husband to remove it with a needle and tweezers. It is astounding how quickly my finger became better, and the pain disappeared.

Life brings many slivers—grudges, jealousies, selfishness, hurtful words spoken and not forgotten. I deceive myself into thinking that by ignoring them, they will go away. But, like the sliver, they can fester and grow more painful. Christ can help us let go of the “slivers,” relieve the pain, and make everything new.

Prayer for Peace
Forgiving God, help us get past our “old” selves and become “new” in Christ. Help us let go of old hurts and thoughtless words. Help us be at peace without these burdens.

Spiritual Practice: An Offering of Ashes
God promises healing for our wounds and losses. Hold (or imagine holding) a pinch of ashes in your hands as you become aware of situations in your life, family, congregation, and world that are broken, lost, or falling apart. Be honest with God about the fear, sadness, or burden you feel. Offer the ashes to God in prayer. Ask God to create beauty, peace, and healing in the places and people who now experience the ashes of despair and grief.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will not let tiny injuries fester into something bigger.

The “Wants” Disorder

Wednesday, April 9

4-9By Zachary Harmon-McLaughlin of Wickliffe, Ohio, USA

“…let them seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.”

—1 Peter 3:11–12

Have you ever struggled with the “wants”? Do you know what I mean? The “wants” is a nasty disorder. I come down with a bad case anytime I enter a guitar shop or electronics store. I find myself looking at all these new and great products, while understanding I can’t afford any of them. Now you know what I mean by the “wants” disease.

I think many of us experience a bout or two with the “wants.” Many of us live in a culture where this is normal. The problem for me is when I read about Jesus in the Gospels. I get the idea that more stuff isn’t going to fulfill me. I have to let stuff go. The stuff is not going to give me deep, lasting joy—a joy that will be there regardless. For example:

“As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!’” (Luke 19:41–42). For me, I know a flat-screen television isn’t going to propel my community closer to peace. I know more drums and musical equipment aren’t going to transform my community into a reflection of the kingdom of God. Knowing this, why do I struggle so often with the “wants”?

I am led to this thought: When we are living in true, right community with one another, we have no need for most of our wants. We release our temporary satisfaction and gain a lasting joy. We find ourselves fulfilled by love and grace. A good example of this for Community of Christ occurs at reunions (family camp) and youth camps.

When we go to camp and leave behind most of our possessions, we do fine—better than fine. We thrive. We aren’t concerned with news or TV shows because we have one another.

Discipleship is not about having “more stuff.” It is about deep understanding of living in a way that mirrors God’s peaceable kingdom. We can’t look inside a mall to find the blessings that make for the peace that Jesus talks about. We look to each other. To find the tools that make for peace, we need to begin cultivating our response to our personal calling—our part in Christ’s mission. Our un-needed “stuff” is a small price to pay.

Prayer for Peace
Generous God, help us empty our lives of shallow, temporary, goals. Help us recognize our need to be part of Christ’s mission of peace.

Spiritual Practice: Examining God’s Call to Me and to All
Reflect on God’s call in your life. Begin by prayerfully asking to recall particular moments when you have experienced God’s presence and invitation. How and when has God called you to use your energies and gifts? When have you felt God’s love in your life? How do your gifts and callings connect with the call of your family, friends, and community?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will inventory my needs and wants and prayerfully treat the symptoms of my “wants” disorder.

The Sentimental Value of Sharing

Tuesday, April 8 

4-8By Nanc Closson of Independence, Missouri, USA

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away…But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

—Matthew 25:14–15, 18

During the last several weeks my husband and I have been “letting go” by sorting, tossing, donating, and recycling items from every cranny in our house. We remembered, remarked on, and then removed anything we hadn’t used for a year or more. This entailed opening boxes, including a steamer trunk, that have made moves with us the last 30 plus years.

As a little girl, my mother encouraged me to start a “hope chest” for items I would need for my future marriage. So, I collected things a little girl growing up in the 1960s would like. There was a pink plastic napkin holder shaped like a windmill (everybody needs one of these!), head scarves, and small towels with large blue roses on them (love those blue roses). I had soap shaped like gingerbread men (or should I say gingerbread people?), and cotton pillow cases with lavender trim. I coveted and stored them in my mother’s steamer trunk.

When my husband and I opened the trunk, memories flooded me. Having not opened it in years saddened me. Of course the items were of no real value, other than sentimental. They had done little to raise my “hope” at the time I had collected them. You might say I found my husband despite this collection, rather than because of it.

I thought of the parable of the man whose master gave him money (a talent) that he buried instead of investing—putting it to good use and increasing it to share. I was sad that I had “buried” these items—never shared them with my family—not even my hoped-for husband.

God blesses us with so much, and wants us to share and celebrate our blessings. I realize this is the lesson my mother tried to teach me all along.

Prayer for Peace
Generous God, help us make a good accounting of our blessings and talents. You have taught us that by sharing, our blessings multiply. By sharing peace it comes closer to reality.

Spiritual Practice: Growing a Gracious, Generous Heart
Open your heart to God’s grace and generosity with a “breath prayer.” Let your breathing slow and deepen. Be aware of God’s breath moving in and out of your heart. With each intake of breath, silently name one gift for which you are thankful. With each breath out, name one gift you want to share from the overflow of your heart.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will use the good china from the cupboard. I will get it dirty, sharing with friends.

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