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.
March 24, 2015

By Ruth Hochstetler, Good Library day circulation manager
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 50:4-9a (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

I adjusted my hat to shield my face from the hot Costa Rican sun and wiped my brow with a clean patch of forearm. My gloved hands gripped the shovel handle again. Lunge downward, lift.

The blade had barely scalped the tough grass from the heavy clay soil. The next spadeful was dumped into the five-gallon bucket waiting to be filled and then carried to the construction site next door. The dirt would be pounded into the floor of the structure, preparing it for a layer of concrete. The hours dragged on as my mission trip teammates and I continued to dig.

Finally, the word we longed to hear was flung from the kitchen. “Comida!” We abandoned the tools, tugged off our rubber boots so as not to track mud inside, wriggled our feet into shoes and formed a line behind the food counter. Our weariness was dissolving as we anticipated the Eating, the Sitting, the Resting.

Whether we are physically, emotionally or spiritually weary, sustaining words give hope and relief. The mission trip was two summers ago. More recently, during a time of despondency, I needed prayer from a trusted friend. “You never have to be ashamed of your weaknesses,” she reminded me. I was weary from trying to appear strong, when she was graciously allowing me to fall apart. When we think we are disgraced, the God of rest graces us with help. Once strengthened in that humble place of need, we can go forth proclaiming, “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

We had the privilege of gathering with the Costa Rican church in their new, not-quite-finished building the night before we left them. The worship we offered to God there on plastic chairs with dirt beneath our feet was well worth our labor of service.

Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to Earth as the word made flesh. My needy life is nourished as I hear your word through Holy Scripture and when you speak through your servants. Open my ears to the Holy Spirit today, and teach me how to speak encouragement to any who are longing for a word of comfort and hope.

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 50:4-9a (NRSV)

The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.
March 23, 2015

By Monica Miller, a first-year music major from Greencastle, Pennsylvania
THIS WEEK’S THEME: “Hosanna in the highest heaven”

DEVOTIONAL:

Palm Sunday is approaching. The day the Messiah triumphantly rode into Jerusalem on a colt, the day the masses waved palm branches to usher him in, the day the city rejoiced at his coming. “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” they cried. The last time such infectious rejoicing was recorded was when the angels heralded Jesus’s birth. “Glory to God in the highest!” It was the beginning of something new. And indeed, this was something very new.

One of the first things Jesus did when he arrived in Jerusalem was to overturn the tables in the temple, to refocus the people on the true meaning of worship: an earnest communion with God that transcends circumstances. Jesus could count with his fingers the number of days until his crucifixion, the ultimate expression of love and worship, and he saw a deep need for the people to re-center themselves on God.

A monumental shift was imminent; an unprecedented transformation was about to completely redefine how God would relate to God’s people. God, Jesus, our high priest-king in the order of Melchizedek would lay himself down on the altar instead of our sacrifices. This single act upended the entire Jewish religious system: no more sacrifices, no more high priests, no more mediation between humans and God. Jesus knew exactly what his death and resurrection would entail, and he recognized that if the people weren’t truly communing with God, they wouldn’t have a clue of what had just happened.

Life is unpredictable, and it’s easy for me to forget that in my everyday routine. Not if, but when the next big change broadsides me, will I suddenly realize I’ve drifted from the Center, or will my worship anchor me to the sovereign God?

March 20, 2015

By Rose Shetler, director of annual giving and operations manager
SCRIPTURE: John 12:20-33 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

It’s hard to imagine spring in the midst of winter. When sub-zero temperatures hold the landscape in a frigid grip, and snow falls again and again—often driven by fierce winds—the promise of spring seems remote and unreal. Yet the grains that are buried deep beneath the snow need this dormant time, this death, in order to sprout and reproduce themselves many times over in the warmth of spring.

Jesus uses the metaphor of grain to capture the promise and victory of the resurrection. He was troubled about what must happen to him first. Yet he was obedient, knowing “it is for this reason that I have come to this hour,” and knowing his death and resurrection would glorify God and draw all people to himself. Because of Jesus, we too have victory over sin and death. Thanks be to God!

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, I praise you for giving me life. Help me die to my self-centeredness and understand more fully the mystery of your life within me. As with the wonder of seeds in springtime, help me lose my life to find it and so bear much fruit for your kingdom. Amen

Song:
In the bulb there is a flower
In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree.
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody.
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity.
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

-Natalie Sleeth

SCRIPTURE: John 12:20-33 (NRSV)

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
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