Back to the beauty of the garden but his time near where Jesus rose from the dead! Shall we recall the wonder of the empty tomb, where the women were told of Jesus that "He is not here, for he is risen"? At first the disciples in Luke 24 answered, "No!" They considered the women's report to be "an idle tale and they did not believe them." (verse 11) But later that night they saw Jesus fro themselves and accepted the fact that something wonderful had happened.
How can we make the story came real for ourselves today? Especially in the midst of chaos and fear. Even without the events unfolding today many of us subscribe to the advice that, " If it seems too good to be true, it probably isn't." How do we get out of our skepticism? Can we truly believe that Jesus lives among us?
The Apostle Paul dealt with this question. ( I could paraphrase but I won't, read 1 Corinthians 15) The truth that I know is Christ is in our worship time, Bible studies and most especially Communion.Whether gathered here at EOCC or through modern technology. He also come to us in personal prayer, our daily tasks, at the office or even quarantined at home. Jesus lives in the garden of our lives, enabling us to experience beauty and to bear fruit in creative living. Happy Easter and I hope you can join us with Facebook live at 5:45 ish in the morning and then again at 9 am on our web site eoccme.com. Both services will be left up for a period of time afterwards.
Almighty and Holy God, Bless this day as I seek to live Easter in my life daily. Lord thank you fro sending Your Son. Thank you for the people you have brought into my life as we journey together. Lord forgive my sins, give me what I need today. I ask you to bless my colleague and friend Pastor Wilbins Maginet. i ask you to bless the NACCC as they have decided to cancel this years annual meeting in Portland, Maine. Be with those who have worked so hard putting things in place only to see them vanish with a vote. Lord, bless this church family, the community and the world around us. Father, I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen
Holy Week Devotional
We should never lose sight of the amazing love God has displayed toward us.
As we are in the middle of Holy Week I think the phrase above has an even greater meaning than normal. Many of you know that I am married to a most amazing person. I can honestly say that I love her with all my being. Yet I know my love is limited. No matter how deeply or sincerely I love ,I am constrained by my own failings so that I cannot perfectly love another. Only God has this perfect love to offer I believe.
An example of this love is most clearly seen in His offer of salvation. It is not because we are good or lovable that He loves us, but because of His gracious love. The late Dr. John Rice, author and evangelist said, “Nobody ever deserves salvation, and no one ever will. I deserved Hell before I was saved, and I deserve Hell now. But bless God, through His infinite mercy I am saved and on my way to Heaven. Salvation is wholly by God's rich grace. Jesus died for sinners.”
Today we face a darkness, there is a lot of fear, misstatements, foolishness as well as kindness and goodness. No matter what is going on let us not lose sight of the amazing love God has for us. Let us live in it, share it and give thanks for it knowing that our God is an awesome God and our. God is good.... stay safe and stay connected. Pastor Carl
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Late Thursday afternoon I went down and checked on Nancy's blueberry bushes I planted late last summer. New buds were on each plant and the stems are looked healthy. I was thrilled. I did everything right to protect them and this time it payed off. Jesus told a story that reflects the nature of life. A man planted some wheat, good seed, he did everything right, but he had an enemy who wished him harm. The enemy caused weeds amidst the wheat. The workers wanted to pull them but the landowner stopped them for fear that the whole crop might be lost. (Matt 13:24-30)
This is life. In the process of trying to make our lives all they can be, we run into a lot of opposition. It comes in the evils and shallow values all around us: greed. self-seeking, fear and even natural problems like we are facing today. The tares in the scripture today were unwanted and harmful grasses that looked a lot like grain as they were growing, but were easily distinguished when fully grown. Money, social position and power look good and enticing, but we lose out, when they become the goals in themselves and lure us away from life's lasting treasures.
What do we do if we discover that some these tares have indeed invaded our life? Whether they are life's natural problems like illnesses; this virus or are more virulent societal evils like greed, dishonesty or gossip, how do we live in God. Certainly the things we can weed out, do so. However, this parable warns us against spending our time fretting about them and dealing only with the weeds.
What I see in the story is my God reminding me to use my time and efforts for cultivating what is good. Life is not perfect. We are not in the Garden of Eden. But we must resist the evil of skepticism, anger or giving up which threaten the good we do have. Reap the good things that still grow in out lives, showing the evil and the bad they cannot win against our spirit.
Folks, as we live through these times of uncertainty may we all focus on the good we do have. May we concentrate on the positives and the goodness of our God. May we reach out as we can to those in need. Most importantly, may we continue to give God all glory and honor as we bring our prayers to Him.
Almighty God, I praise your Holy name. As I face this climate of fear may I bring into it hope found in Your son Jesus. May I remain faithful to my belief and see the good. I see people helping people however they can. Food still being delivered to others, calls being made, prayers being shared. Lord, may my fear keep me vigilant to the dangers but let it not Lord, consume me. Keep me Lord focused on the good for I know the day will come when the good and bad will be separated for all to see. May my faith remain strong. Lord, I pray for our medical professionals, first responders, social workers, politicians and now our military. I pray for their safety as they combat this virus, I pray for your peace and wisdom to lead them. Father, I pray this in Your Son's Holy name. Amen
Third Sunday of Lent
Thinking about gardens during the lenten season, we come to a parable of jesus that concerns not an entire garden but one plant within the garden. Its seeds are tiny but the plant can grow to be the largest plant in the garden by far.It of course ifs the mustard seed, an herb, a condiment, seasoning that adds spice to life, w well at least the hamburger. Jesus said, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed , you will say to this mountain; "move from here" and it will do so. Matt 17:20. He also uses this symbol fro the growth of his whole mission. "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed- smallest of all seeds, but when grown it becomes tree and birds make nests in its branches. Matt 13: 31-32
Creative use of the lenten journey can be like planting a mustard seed. I believe each of us has so much more potential than we ever realize and Lent is a time for considering how we can live more fully. I have heard it said, in all of history only Jesus ever lived up to His fullest potential. Even if that is true and we cannot measure up to his example, his life is a wonderful guide for us in terms of trust in God, understanding of life's meaning and heartfelt compassion fro those around us.
But Lent is also a time for the Church worldwide to celebrate as one. Christ's followers are called to bring the reign of God into fulfillment. Jesus did not simply come for the twelve or the hundreds that heard Him speak. His message and His life are the mustard seed that can grow and spread throughout the earth. In this time of worry, even panic, we as children of Christ Holy Church are called to offer shade, hope and a vision. We have a story to tell the nations. It is not only a story of Jesus, but an insight into the abundant life God blesses us with. Through faith, through our Lenten journey and by the grace of God may we be a place of rest for those who are struggling. Our world can become so much greater if we allow our seed of faith to grow. God bless you and be safe, use common sense in these uncharted waters.
Almighty God, as I continue to journey this Lenten season may I not be distracted by outside concerns and remain focused on the relationship I want/need in you. Father, guide me and the church I serve as we look and make decisions that will affect this family and the community which I live. Lord, forgive me my sins, my tresspasses against others and lead me and those I love through the adversity that lies ahead. father, bless us today and always in the name of Your son I ask. Amen
Second Sunday of Lent
As we continue in Lent there is parable that seems almost tailor made for Lent. It is about gardening. Gardeners know that that seeds grow better in some spots than in others. In the same way, lent can be a very productive time for some people,while others gain little from it. The parable suggests some reasons for this.
Jesus describes how a man went out to plant his field. Some of the seed fell on the road where the birds came and ate it. other seed fell among the rocks; even it they started to grow they would soon wither and die. Some fell into soil, but the thorns crowded the good ones out. Other seed fell on fertile ground and produced a rewarding harvest later on. ( Mark 4:1-9)
Many of us as we approach the Lenten Season have our appointment books already full and our routines down. Our minds are cluttered in the everyday doings of life. Unless we make a special effort, thoughts of enriching our inner life and nourishing our souls meet the same fate as the seeds. Seeds among the thorns lose out because of our busyness. Rocky soil is our cluttered mind etc... If we do not make the effort the Lenten journey is just another time of year.
In gardening terms, we have to put down the hoe for a bit to enjoy the beauty that is growing. In life, we must put away our schedule, the busyness and the clutter and take time for quiet reflection to make our remaining time more productive. Jesus came that we might have abundant life.I know this in my life. It took me a long time to discover Jesus was not talking about material things or jobs but an inner life that supersedes everything. An undercurrent of peace, hope and love that makes our soil fertile. It is said, "today is the first day of the rest of your life." Perhaps this Lenten season can be the beginning of a new style of life, full of purpose, productivity and beauty. Yesterday at men's group one said: this Lenten season I am taking time to see Communion in a deeper and more meaningful light. He has set aside the hecticness of life and decided to focus on what is most important; his relationship with God.
Hope to see you this morning as we continue our Lenten journey.
Gracious Father I seek Your peace. Help me slow down enough to learn and find the abundance you speak of. Help me Lord to focus on the good and how I can play a roll in Your kingdom. Father, forgive me of my sins and wipe away my transgressions. I pray this in Jesus' name, Amen.
First Sunday of Lent
In the beginning....The Bible tells us that life began in a garden. In today's world with all the bickering about the nature of God's creating we often miss the beautiful and rich symbolism of the creation story. I believe God intended and still does for our world to be like a beautiful garden. God has provided everything that is needed for the human population to be nourished in body and spirit. We have been given wisdom, wealth and much more to develop ways for this to happen even today.
But like it is told Adam and Eve disobeyed God's instructions to them and out of greed ate from the forbidden tree. How well does this still play out in human greed today and disobedience to God's love. How often do we convince ourselves this won't really matter in the life of things.
Working in my garden at home this kind of thinking produces much less crop in the end. Oh, I don't need to water today or weed or feed. The truth is I need to keep up daily with the work that needs to be done. Vacations, while they are wonderful and needed is most disastrous for the plants, yet with hard work and prayer they can be healed. This is no different in our life with God. If we spend time everyday feeding, watering and weeding our lives before God we too remain much more healthy than we would be otherwise. Yet we know too many neglect this obedient care. Many reading this may be on vacation and that is okay because God is still ready to renew and replenish the health of the soul missing.
I believe God's garden was to be a place for all people to be. Where each plant was cared for and loved, fed and nourished daily. I believe our Father is calling us this Lenten season to look carefully at our own gardens. Are we loving each other as commanded? Are we sharing as Jesus shared? Are we committed to regaining the beauty and the peace in the garden as God intended? I believe It is going to require a great willingness to share our bounties. To ask God to become the focal point of our lives trusting and relying on the nourishment He alone can provide. Join with me this Lenten season and let us work side by side, digging up the old soil, cultivating the new and being part of the beauty God intended from the beginning. Hope to see you this morning as we gather at the Table to partake of the bountiful harvest of God's grace.
Almighty God as I reflect upon the gardens of life may you walk with me. Lord, it is many times in the garden that I come and hear your voice in this loud world. May this journey of Lent bring me back to your garden of love and hope and reveal to me where I am the weed. Help me Father, to see my short comings and how through Your grace and tenderness I am not simply pulled and discarded but nourished to be more productive and more like Christ. Father, I ask for the strength to let go of what is Yours and freely give to others as You have called me to do. Help me examine the life you have blessed me with and know that I belong to You as do the ones I love and want to protect. Lord God, forgive me for doing as Adam did; disobedient to Your Word. Restore me to Your garden so I can be useful and fully engaged in this world today. Lord, I pray this in Your Son's Holy name. Amen
Gardens can certainly be a source of joy. They can also be a source of disappointment. You can relax and take a breath in a garden. You can also strain your back and become exhausted under the hot sun. Gardens can provide food for our bodies and beauty for our souls.
Looking at the garden Lent can be a gardening time. Coming as spring draws near, it offers an opportunity for thinking how our lives can be more productive and satisfying. We have come a long way from the Advent/Christmastide season's hope and promise to a far different place. This is a time for "digging in", because it takes work to reap a rich harvest.
As winter snow melts and freezing temperatures moderate a bit, fields and gardens often look pretty bleak and baron. Old remnants of bushes and skeletons of leaves provide only memories of things that once grew. In our personal lives, we may feel that we have come a long way from the Garden of Eden. The ashes of Ash Wednesday, the 26th, symbolize some of this deadness-lack of vitality so to speak.
Lent is a time to work on our personal gardens. One of the wonderful things about faith is its reminder that we can always make a fresh start. Human lives are a lot like perennials. They may look dead at times, but there is life within them waiting for renewal. The sun of God's wisdom awakens us. The shower of God's love start our juices flowing again. A new day, season begins from the ashes of bleakness.
Whatever our age or position we hold in life, growth is possible. we need to weed out those things that hinder us, that absorb our time and energies, but are not productive nor of God's call. Loosen up the soil around us, so that we are open to receive the goodness of God's providence. Please don't let the lenten Season simply happen. Use it for starting new growth, new thoughts, a new way in letting God nourish your spirit!
The Word of God often says; Do not be afraid." Let us enter this Lenten season open to where God wants us both individually and corporately. God has blessed us. Hope to see you this morning as we look at the mountain top.
Almighty God, as I enter this Lenten season help my heart to be open to hearing and feeling Your Word in my life. Renew me Father. Lor, I pray the lenten services we share with our sister churches are full of others who want ot grow this Lenten season. Bless us Lord, as we walk htis road to calvary together. Lord I thank you in the name of Your Son, Amen
39 One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus insulted him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
40 Responding, the other criminal spoke harshly to him, “Don’t you fear God, seeing that you’ve also been sentenced to die? 41 We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”
In the most horrifying moment, a 24 hour period where he sat with his friends, shared a meal with the one who would betray Him, realized how weak those whom He loved were as He watched them flee and deny Him. Then being dragged away as a common thief, was beaten, flogged, spat upon, mocked and humiliated finds Himself on the cross between two criminals, rebels.
The cross, the meaning of the cross then was no place a person would find grace. A man that went through what Jesus went through would need no defense if He said nothing. But even there Jesus was willing to share the good news of love, grace and forgiveness. In the most loneliness time I could ever imagine a sinner reached out in faith and Jesus offered Him grace and promised Him eternal life.
This example He gave to us kind of eliminates our excuses, our bad days from doing Good and spreading the great news of Jesus Christ. Today is Good Friday; in Mark's gospel chapter 15 starting with verse 34 we hear that at 3pm Jesus cries out with a loud voice and breathed His last breath. We as Americans remember our history moments; 9/11, D-day, The Founding papers of this Country to name a few. But on a day that changed our lives forever what do you do. Today set your alarm for 3 pm. When it goes off take a deep breath in and out and give thanks. Let us not simply pass through this day as if it is just another day for it is not. It is the day that love poured out on that horrific cross, a blood offering so we might go free and death would pass over us.
God of the covenant,
in the glory of the cross
your Son embraced the power of death
and broke its hold over your people.
In this time of repentance,
draw all people to yourself,
that we who confess Jesus as Lord
may put aside the deeds of death
and accept the life of your kingdom. Amen.
First Sunday of Lent
As we come into our first Sunday in Lent we read the parable found in Luke 13:5-9
5 “No, I tell you, but unless you change your hearts and lives, you will die just as they did.” 6 Jesus told this parable: “A man owned a fig tree planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 He said to his gardener, ‘Look, I’ve come looking for fruit on this fig tree for the past three years, and I’ve never found any. Cut it down! Why should it continue depleting the soil’s nutrients?’ 8 The gardener responded, ‘Lord, give it one more year, and I will dig around it and give it fertilizer. 9 Maybe it will produce fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.’”
What is the ending to this parable? In truth it is an unfinished parable waiting for an ending. "Give it one more year" if it then does not produce fruit cut it down. Of course Jesus is talking about himself and when Jesus told this story he was on His way to Jerusalem where he would die on the cross. Jesus had been preaching, healing and ministering for about three years. The leaders became more insistent and determined to do away with Jesus than they were when he first began. This parable would have challenge those hearing him speak.
The gardener however pleaded to give one more year to bear fruit. This open ended parable should speak to all of us who are following Jesus. It begs the question during this Lenten journey; how will I finish the unfinished parable in my life?
This parable is the perfect parable to begin discernment as we journey toward the cross and then Easter morning. I hope it lures you into thinking a little deeper about the fruits you bear. God bless you and I really hope we see each other this morning as we look at Luke's Gospel.
Father, Abba, I come before you this morning asking you with trepidation and excitement to dig up the soil around me, to add the ingredients I need and water me. Help me in this my Lord so I may do Your work with You and my life may the bear the fruits that will please You. Father I ask you to bless my Lenten journey, to bless our Eccumenical services and our studies being offered here at EOCC. May they be true to Your Word. Father thank you for the gifts of fellowship that I have through this church, my family and the community in which I live. Forgive me when I get down and when I sin. I ask this in the name of Your Son jesus. Amen.
Meet the pastor
Rev. Pastor Carl Schreiber has been serving East Orrington Congregational Church (EOCC) since March 12, 2006