April 5, 2015

By Richard R. Aguirre, director of corporate and foundation relations
SCRIPTURE: Mark 16:1-8 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

Have you ever finished watching a movie feeling unsatisfied – even upset – by an unexpected or cliffhanger ending? Today’s scripture, the original conclusion of the Gospel of Mark, can certainly leave one feeling underwhelmed or even frustrated.

We want more because other Gospels tell us that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and then to the disciples, that he issued the Great Commission and ascended to heaven. In other words, we want our Easter Sunday story to have a happy and unambiguous ending – the triumph of good over evil and life over death, with side orders of Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies.

But that’s not what happened on that morning long ago. Instead, as this scripture relates, grief gave way to distress and then shock at the angel’s startling revelation, followed by amazement and fear. The women were too frightened to believe Christ had risen and was on his way to Galilee, the embodiment of the Good News.

So how are we supposed to respond to Mark 16:1-8? I believe we are called to put ourselves into the story and imagine how we would respond to the angel’s message – immediately and with belief or only after we gathered more evidence.

When I was a young newspaper reporter, I often ran out of the newsroom, notepad in hand, when the police scanner sputtered to life and 911 dispatchers directed emergency personnel to respond to reports of fires, car crashes, robberies or shootings. I wanted to see the action first hand and interview witnesses. Sometimes that led to good stories, filled with vivid details, but sometimes the reports were false alarms. As I got older, and more experienced, I usually waited to verify the initial reports by telephone before heading out for the story.

As Christians, we often face a similar dilemma: we don’t always know how and when to respond to circumstances that test our faith – whether to forge ahead or weigh the evidence and act only when we feel ready. Fortunately, faithful believers can help write the story as long as we keep open hearts and minds: Jesus eventually will meet us, whether on the road to Galilee or after we arrive there.

PRAYER:
Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia! Through his life, his teachings, his suffering and his sacrifice, Jesus ushered in an “Upside Down and Inside Out” kingdom and world. May the risen Christ renew your faith, bring you hope and joy through all your days and give you courage to spread the Good News. Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!

THANK YOU AND FAREWELL:
Thank you for reading Goshen College’s online devotionals for the 2015 Lenten season. This year, 16 GC students and 19 employees contributed reflections, stories and prayers and our theme was “Upside Down and Inside Out.” We hope you will join us online for our Advent Devotions, which will begin in late November. Peace and blessings!

SCRIPTURE: Mark 16:1-8 (NRSV)

The Resurrection of Jesus

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

April 4, 2015

By Taylor Ermoian, a senior social work major from Hays, Kansas
SCRIPTURE: John 20:1-18 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

Many questions surface for me as I reflect on this passage. Why did the first disciple not enter the tomb? What did he fear?
Why was Mary Magdalene not surprised by the presence of angels?
Why did Mary stay at the tomb after the disciples had left?

However, despite these curiosities, one question remains most pertinent for me: Why could Mary Magdalene not recognize her beloved’s voice?

Jesus’s voice. The very man whom she was weeping about.

Mary seemed so consumed by her own fears and worries that she had forgotten the timbre of the voice of her most cherished person. Someone’s voice that she thought she knew very well. A voice she could never forget. Yet how quickly we forget.

How have you forgotten God’s voice? In what ways are you no longer able to hear your creator?

Through apathy, laziness, arrogance, stagnancy or the illusion of good deeds, we have all experienced seasons of drought in our ability or even willingness to listen for God’s voice in our lives.

Like with Mary, God not only whispers the spirit into our lives, but when our ears have become so deeply clogged God passionately shouts out our names. “Mary!”

“Taylor! Hear my voice, I am ALWAYS with you. Never forget this”

I invite you to reflect upon these thoughts, in hopes that not only your ears, but also all of your senses will be re-tuned and awakened to a state of desire and awareness of God’s voice.

The voice that speaks through people, the sun, the winds, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, the spirit, silence and screams. The voice that warms, challenges, produces, transforms, forgives, affirms and loves.

May we listen, hear, and echo God’s voice!

AMEN

SCRIPTURE: John 20:1-18 (NRSV)

The Resurrection of Jesus

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

April 3, 2015

By Bobby Switzer, a senior molecular biology/biochemistry and peace, justice and conflict studies major from Berne, Indiana
SCRIPTURE: Acts 10:34-43 (4) (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

Today the Christian church remembers the agony of Christ’s death on a cross. The one who came to Earth, took on flesh, and brought an ethic of justice and love to the world suffered to the point of death at the hands of those intent on maintaining the status quo and on preventing Christ’s way from spreading. The cross, crown and spear snuffed out the Light of the world, and left those who remained in a despairing, hopeless state. The one who was our leader, who drew us together and provided us with hope, is gone. What does one do when the image of their hope falls to the powers of evil?

I think Acts 10:34-43 gives us one answer: we name, we remember and we do this together. We name where we have found hope before; we name the pain we feel; we name the loss that we experienced; and we name the struggles we continue to face. We remember the one who we lost; we remember the stories of our faith; we remember the acts of faith that Christ did; and we remember the hope we found in the model of Christ. By naming and remembering, we affirm where we have found hope before, and we delve into a space where we might again find hope. For those of us ascribing to the Christian faith, the statement of faith that we find in Acts 10 provides a strong history of hope that can sustain us through moments of greatest loss.

SCRIPTURE: Acts 10:34-43 (NRSV)

Gentiles Hear the Good News

Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’

April 2, 2015

By Hannah Barg, a junior environmental science major from Galena, Illinois
SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (4) (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

In the field of science, we must justify theories, hypotheses and claims with supporting evidence which underlines some understood truth. As a science major, I often extend this kind of philosophy to other areas of my life. It is much easier for me to believe something is true if there is evidence to support my claim. While I recognize that my faith cannot ever be entirely justified or “proved” by physical evidence, having some basis in this makes my faith more understandable and real; it balances the intangible with the tangible.

In his letters to the church in Corinth, Paul made a point to remind the people of the evidence for Jesus’ death and resurrection, mentioning the events that took place and the witnesses who saw the resurrected Jesus. This would have been an important component of the early church’s doctrine, and necessary to ground the beliefs of these new Christians in something real and experienced. Now, many centuries after Christ walked the earth, we still need to be reminded of these truth claims.

Paul’s account is what helps us as Christians today paint the picture of the resurrection in our minds. We see Jesus interacting with each of the witnesses; we are able to imagine what it would have been like to meet the resurrected Jesus, the amazement and excitement of this encounter. As we prepare for our celebration of Easter in a few short days, let us all dwell in the invitation to participate, witness and proclaim Jesus’ resurrection and the power this has in each of our lives.

SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (4) (NRSV)

The Resurrection of Christ

Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe. and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.

April 1, 2015

By Alisa Murray, a senior music education major from Orrville, Ohio
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

As we arrive at Easter this coming week, we anticipate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are encouraged with the words from the psalmist, “The Lord’s love endures forever.” This particularly encourages me, at this time of year with the stress of school work, commitments and other elements of daily life, which seem to pile up and consume time. Even during busy schedules, I have found taking time to spend in the Word and other ways of connecting with God has encouraged and reminded me of the psalmist’s words, “The Lord’s love endures forever.” I am amazed at the simple yet powerful message behind these words.

When my schedule is out of control,
“The Lord’s love endures forever.”
When I spill soup on my laptop,
“The Lord’s love endures forever.”
When I am overwhelmed with school work,
“The Lord’s love endures forever.”
When I found out I need to take two online classes to graduate,
“The Lord’s love endures forever.”
When I found out I am teaching the entire class period and not just 30 minutes,
“The Lord’s love endures forever.”

Psalm 118 according to Alisa

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (NRSV)

A Song of Victory

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever!

Let Israel say,
‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’
The Lord is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.

There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
‘The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.’
I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
The Lord has punished me severely,
but he did not give me over to death.

Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.

This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.

I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvellous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

March 31, 2015

By Angeliky Santos, a senior history and youth ministry major from Goshen
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 25:6-9 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

It is easy to fall into God’s comfortable arms of grace, and carry on with our busy lives.

It is easy to lay our heads on our pillows, and make a quick and mediocre prayer to fulfill our “Christian duty.”

It is easy to ignore God’s omnipresence that is constantly trying to catch our attention, so we may seek Him.

It is easy to focus and submerge into our work, relationships and ourselves, and only think of God on Sundays.

It is extremely easy to think that our relationships with God are fine, and what we do is enough to maintain a status as a “follower of Christ.”

But when hardships in life force us to see a new reality, all of a sudden our world is shaken and held upside down.

It is hard to find comfort and peace amidst our busy lives.

It is hard when we lay our heads on our pillows, only to spend sleepless nights of agony and confusion.

It is hard to ignore thoughts that constantly tell us that we are hopeless.

It is extremely hard to find the strength to extinguish the burning sorrow in our souls.

Frankly, it is easier to view life as purposeless, senseless and worthless.

Yet, when we are facing anguish and affliction, God has promised to wipe away our tears from our faces, remove our disgrace and provide a refuge and salvation. So stand up, hope and believe that God is near.

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 25:6-9 (NRSV)

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
March 30, 2015

By Jodi H. Beyeler, assistant director of communications and marketing
THIS WEEK’S THEME: “On the third day”

DEVOTIONAL:

Maybe we shouldn’t have told my 3-year-old son life’s biggest secret already, but we did: “We are all going to die someday.” Now he regularly talks about death and people dying. And he is so matter of fact about it; there is no fear or anxiety. He asks if he and other people he knows are going to die soon, but I try to reassure him that though we don’t know when we are going to die, most people die when they are old. He doesn’t need reassuring though; I do.

This all can produce a bit of awkwardness when my son tells complete strangers that they are going to die. As his mother, I feel the need to quickly apologize on his behalf. But why am I apologizing for an honest and innocent child who is naming truths from which the rest of us hide, ignore, turn away?

This week, we must face death head on: Jesus’ death. Friday is indeed coming. It reminds us that we too will die one day. It invites us to sit with the question: “How do I want to die?” Can we ask that question, like a child, without fear?

But we also don’t have to stop there. Because, “on the third day…” This week’s Scriptures remind us that death will be swallowed up forever (Isaiah 25:6-9). With God, everything is upside down and inside out. The great mystery of death is that it always brings new life. And ultimately, the question it brings us back to is: “How do I want to live?”

I’m looking forward to Easter this year, to telling my son how Jesus died, but then how God raised him from the dead. It will blow his mind, because it still has my head spinning in awe and wonder.

March 27, 2015

By Michael Sherer, ITS director
SCRIPTURE: Mark 14:1-15:47 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

It’s two days before the Passover and Jesus is at the house of Simon the Leper when a woman enters and anoints his head with costly oil. Some scold the woman, for the oil could have been sold for a significant sum of money and that money could have been used to help the poor. But Jesus defends her and notes that whenever and wherever the Good News is shared, her act of kindness will be told in remembrance of her. Indeed, if we attend church at Easter time, we have heard that story countless times. But how many of us think about that story as the catalyst for Judas’ betrayal of Jesus?

There’s an economy to Mark’s story-telling that we need to pay attention to. In Mark 14:1, the Chief priests are looking for a way to arrest and kill Jesus. In 14:3 we have the anointing of Jesus at Simon’s house and the ensuing conflict over the appropriateness of it, and immediately following verse 14:10 reads “ Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the Chief Priests in order to betray him to them.”

Something about that encounter at Simon’s house was so offensive to Judas that he turned on his master, teacher and Lord. Jesus’ defense of the woman’s wasteful largesse, somehow revealed Jesus as someone so different than who Judas thought he was or wanted him to be, that he became willing to hand Jesus over to the people who wanted to kill him.

History has not been kind to Judas. We Christians seem to have a vested interest in casting Judas as the personification of evil, or alternately, the pre-ordained fall guy who has to betray Jesus to fulfill the prophecies. Implicit in those caricatures of Judas is the notion that WE never would have done such a thing. But in the Mark account, Judas seems less like the personification of evil and more like a man blinded by his own righteousness. If there’s a shred of truth in that statement, it should hit very close to home for many of us. It should disturb us. After all, we are good Christians and many of us have worked hard over long periods of time to hone our ethical sensibilities, built our reputations as upright followers of Jesus, and avoided even the appearance of evil. The idea that our desire for righteousness might somehow keep us from following, serving, loving and worshiping Christ, to the point of becoming an enemy of Christ—that should both scare and convict us. It should make us think.

God, we are your imperfect followers. Help us to grow ever more into your likeness, to love as you loved us, to follow you even when it is costly. Help us to see and discern when our desire for righteousness leads us to do things that are more Judas-like than Christ-like. In the Spirit of our risen Lord. Amen.

SCRIPTURE: Mark 14:1-15:47 (NRSV)

It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

Read the rest of today’s scripture

March 26, 2015

By Eliana Neufeld Basinger, a first-year molecular biology/biochemistry major from Findlay, Ohio.
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 2:5-11 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

In the church, we often turn to our hymns to think about who God is and how we should live. That’s exactly what Paul does in the second chapter of Philippians – he quotes a preexisting Aramaic hymn in his letter.

This passage is a beautiful connection between a discourse on the nature of Christ and how we should act as followers of Christ. In this epistle, Paul is writing to the church at Philippi. One of the issues he addresses in this letter is a petty and self-serving conflict within the church. Instead of simply telling the church that they need to shape up, Paul points to Jesus as the model of how they should live and relate to others.

Even though Jesus is “in the form of God,” he does not use that as an excuse to exploit his power, and acts with humility and self-sacrificing love. This is manifest in the incarnation – Jesus is willing to live with us despite our failings and mortality – and Jesus’ death on the cross. Because of Jesus’ humility, he is exalted by God. Jesus demonstrates an upside-down kingdom – one in which “the last will be first, and the first will be last (Matthew 20:16). In this kingdom, humility – not coercion – results in exultation and rejoicing in heaven. Jesus inverts our expectations by confronting the powers of sin and death not with more violence but by submitting even to death.

Paul suggests that since even Jesus – the Son of God – emptied himself so radically, we should also live with one another in love and humility, not acting selfishly, even “having the same love” as Jesus and considering others’ needs and interests before our own. As followers of Jesus, we must be transformed according to the nature of Christ.

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 2:5-11 (NRSV)

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

March 25, 2015

By Jim Histand, vice president for finance
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 31:9-16 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

The Psalmist bemoans the lowliness and reproachful nature of mankind. “My strength fails and my bones waste away; I am repulsive and an object of scorn and dread for others; I am forgotten, a broken vessel; my life is spent with grief; I hear the slander and whispering of many, as they scheme to take away my life.” Wow, this sounds like the ultimate in glass half-empty pessimism! How awful are these words, and how can there be any hope, with these kinds of thoughts?

I’m reminded of reading with my granddaughter about Lowly Worm. Life can be and IS the pits at times for the poor little guy, and of course for us. We all experience depths of struggle, pain, ill health, untimely death of loved ones, etc., at different points in life. It is our reality – and even unfairly more for some of us than others – where, oh where is God in our anguish?

But of course God indeed is always there, a lifter and supporter of Lowly Worm. The underdog’s hero! How can we not overcome, and how can we not believe? God is the creator, the author and shaper of our very lives. Hosanna in the highest, yes, dancing cherubs and dancing/prancing Lowly Worm with the jaunty hat and smile! Our LORD is in our worm-mobile with us! ZOOM!!!

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 31:9-16 (NRSV)

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.

For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.

I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.

I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.

For I hear the whispering of many— terror all around!— as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”

My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.

Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.
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