Easter Sunday: Resurrection!

Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mark 16:6-7   He said, “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He’s been raised up; he’s here no longer. You can see for yourselves that the place is empty. 7 Now – on your way. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You’ll see him there, exactly as he said.”

Resurrection!

He is Risen!  Today we join with Christians around the globe in celebrating Easter.  We join with our brothers and sisters in Liberia in celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.  Today, we are reminded of promise of new life, of Christ’s victory over death,  and of the power of God to make all things new.  As you celebrate with family and participate in worship, may the promise of God’s love for you be realized today.

Over the course of the past forty days we journeyed from Monrovia to Ganta.  We visited with children, doctors, missionaries, and explored the cultural nuances of Liberia.  Our prayer has been that you might experience through stories, sound, pictures, and video the heart of the Liberian people.  We also hoped to give witness to the ways God is at work in and through the United Methodist Church.

Our Global Outreach Ministries give us the privilege of partnering in misson with our brothers and sisters across the globe.  As we seek to share the love of Jesus with others, we are witnesses to the resurrection, not just on Easter, but every day.

May the promise of new life give you the hope to live into who God would have you be.  Every blessing to you this Easter Day.

You can find all 40 days, plus Sundays, here.  We leave you with four videos (below), giving witness  to the need and the love of God at work in Liberia.

We rejoice with you, Lord, as we offer our praise to you this day.  We join with others around the globe and proclaim, “He is Risen!” As we raise our voices in praise, remind us again of your power to defeat darkness in this world.  Because you are the Lord of new life, we stand in awe of your glory.  Shower the people of Liberia with your resurrection hope and remind us of our place in your story.  Grant this day, O God, that we might not only stand in awe of you, but be moved to respond to you.  We love you, Lord, and thank you for loving us.  We offer ourselves to you, in the name of the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, Amen.  

Make your reservation for the Liberia Dinner Celebration, April 27, 2012.

Give online to the Global Outreach Easter Offering

Day 40: 40 Days from Africa

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Luke 23:54-56  It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. 55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.

On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

“In Between”

Today we find ourselves on the day in between:

The day between death and resurrection,

The day between darkness and light,

The day between loss and hope,

The day between giving up and waking up,

The day between the cross and the empty tomb.

These are the days in between for our brothers and sisters in Liberia, too.

In between the civil war and neighborhood peace,

In between poverty and sustainability,

In between sickness and health,

In between destruction and restoration,

In between darkness and light.

Today we live in the day in between:

We wait with Mary and the other women, as they prepared spices

We wait with Peter and the disciples.

We wait.

While we wait, may we never wonder.

There is a promise: Sunday is coming!

Lord, today we live in the place in between.  We are still experiencing the weight of your death while holding onto hope for the promise of your resurrection.  We pray for the people in our city, country and world who are living in the place in between.  In between an empty stomach and a full stomach, in between work and paychecks, in between clean water and clear mind, in between threats and security.  Lord, may your church be a haven of hope for anyone living in the place in between.  Because you are the One who promises new life, we place our hope in you, so we might be a people changed by your goodness.  Renew us, restore us, reshape us today.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen. 

Make your reservation for the Liberia Dinner Celebration, April 27, 2012.

Give online to the Global Outreach Easter Offering

Day 39: 40 Days from Africa

Friday, April 6, 2012

John 19:1-3, 16-18   1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. 3 They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face.  16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; 17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.

Slave Trade 

Liberia knows the impact of slavery.  Joseph Jenkins Roberts (JJ Roberts), the son of a freed US slave, was the first President of Liberia.  A monument in his honor sits atop a hill, near the Atlantic Ocean in Monrovia. At the base of the monument is a sculpture titled, “Slave Trade.”

While Roberts was seeking to end the slave trade, his own life was impacted by slavery.  Born in Norfolk, Virginia, Roberts immigrated to Liberia with his family.  Roberts, the son of freed slaves, became a successful government official in Liberia, serving as sheriff, chief justice and lieutenant governor.  He served his first term as president from 1848-1856.  Among the challenges facing Roberts were negotiations with native Liberians.

From the beginning, immigrants from the United States sought to distinguish themselves from native Liberians.  The challenges brought violence as they struggled for land.  To facilitate a growing population of freed slaves arriving in Liberia, the new government was seeking to purchase land from natives.  The challenges that resulted turned violent, as divisions grew between the natives and the Amerio-Liberians.

The pictures tell the story without words. The slaves were beaten, whipped, and judged.  The world’s powers would not judge only the slaves, the slave traders, and the natives, but, Jesus.

Jesus offered us a “slave trade,” of a different sort. While the freed slaves from America knew the impact of freedom, Jesus would release us from slavery to sin and death. In Jesus’ death, we find life.  On the cross, Jesus extends his arms of love for us. 

When all seems lost, remember, there is hope! Jesus will prove he is the king who reigns.

For who you are, King Jesus, we humbly kneel before you at the cross.  We stand in awe of you, knowing the world judged you by the very name we exalt you.  Help us, Lord, to experience the fullness of your sacrificial love for us. 

Forgive us, Lord, for our voices can be found among the crowd shouting, “crucify him!”

Have mercy on us, Lord, for we can be found among the crowd mocking you. 

Forgive us, Lord, for we can be found bartering for our share of you.

Lord, have mercy on us, for we do not have the faith we need to live in response to your love for us.

For the people of the world enslaved this day, unleash your power to the church to reach out in love, to stand against the powers of child slavery, human trafficking, and any suppression of life you call precious. Thank you, Lord, for releasing us from slavery of sin and death. Reign over us, we pray, King Jesus, as we offer ourselves to you. Amen. 

Make your reservation for the Liberia Dinner Celebration, April 27, 2012.

Give online to the Global Outreach Easter Offering

Day 38: 40 Days from Africa

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Luke 22:54-62 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. 55 When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. 56 Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” 59 Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

A Second Chance

On our last evening in Ganta, Liberia the hospital staff invited us to a wonderful dinner. Our team, several doctors, and a few other invited guests were gathered around a table, seated in the center of the room.  The hospital staff and other guests were seated around us on the edges.  We were the center of attention it seemed.

After we had enjoyed a wonderful meal, our hosts presented each person on the team with a piece of traditional African clothing.  The men received a shirt and the women a traditional African dress.  We were grateful for their hospitality and their generosity.  However, after each one of us had been presented with their gift, the garments sat folded on our laps.

“No, no,” one of the women objected, “We want to see them on you!”  “We want to take a picture with you,” said another.

We were guests who received a gift and denied our hosts the only appreciation they desired:  for us to wear the garments. Each of the women soon had one of the Liberian women helping them put the dress over their head.  The men had an easier time slipping their shirts over their heads and clothing.

While perhaps a simple example, we were guests invited to a meal.  We were grateful for their generosity and hospitality. In our ignorance, we had denied our hosts the simple thanks of wearing their gift.  We were even more grateful for a second chance.

After Jesus had celebrated the Passover with the disciples, after he had broken bread and shared the cup, after he ushered in a new covenant, he knew there was one among the twelve who would deny him.  Peter, not once, but three times, denied knowing Jesus.  Peter received warning from Jesus this would happen, “Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied me three times.” (Lk 22:34)

It was a turning point in Jesus’ life. Judas had betrayed him and now Peter had denied him.  Jesus’ disciples, his closest followers, were beginning to scatter.  The intensity of the journey was increasing.  The crucifixion was at hand.

We deny Jesus whether our inactions stem from ignorance or intentionality.  Whether we are deliberate in our “no” or simply find the invitation inconvenient, the way of Jesus is not always easy. The way of Jesus comes with a price.

Our journey with Christ is always unfolding.  There is grace and mercy in abundance.  There may even be second chances.

As the journey unfolds, Jesus will offer Peter a second chance, too.

Lord, thank you for never giving up on us.  Thank you for pursuing us when we are unaware and even ignorant. We need your mercy more than ever.  We find it easy to live by what we know. Our calendars and bank accounts give us the comfort and convenience we desire.  We look to you, Jesus, to guide our actions and help us to continue growing in love for you and our community.  We love you, Lord.  Thank you for loving us, even in the moments we’ve turned from you.  We offer ourselves to be shaped by you, Lord,  and to be used for your purposes, Amen.

ps. Yes, the rooster pictured in both photos is from our time in Monrovia.  We heard the rooster crow AFTER the sun was up while we were in Monrovia.

Make your reservation for the Liberia Dinner Celebration, April 27, 2012.

Give online to the Global Outreach Easter Offering

Day 37: 40 Days from Africa

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

John 14:27-29 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

The Voice Of Peace and Love

One of the ministries of the Liberia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church is the United Methodist Radio Station ELUM 98.7 FM. Radio ministry is one of the many ways the church shares the good news of Jesus with the country. ELUM 98.7 FM presently broadcasts from the central office of the conference in Monrovia, Liberia.

Bishop Innis arranged with Cedrick W. Kpandeh, Program Coordinator at ELUM 98.7 FM to interview Dr. Timothy Bias.  It was not the first time for Tim to be interviewed at ELUM 98.7 FM.

Listen to a portion of the interview between Cedrick and Tim as you watch images from our time in Liberia.

Tim was asked, “What is America saying about Liberia?” and, “What do you [Tim] want to say to Liberians and United Methodists?”

There was only one person at the center of Tim’s faithful response: Jesus.  At the center of the ministry of the church, our global outreach ministry, and our caring for one another is Jesus.

We engage in ministry because we are people who believe in Jesus; we are people of faith.  From our faith comes a response to the love we know in Jesus Christ.  The faith we have in Jesus places us in relationship with One who healed the sick, ate with sinners, and offered forgiveness.

All this, and much more, is unfolding as we journey with Jesus to the cross.

Whether it is radio ministry, health care, or education, the United Methodist Church in Liberia is living in response to the good news of Jesus Christ.

The disciples, too, need to decide how they will respond to Jesus as the events of this week unfold.  As Jesus was preparing his disciples for his impending death and resurrection, he desired for them to know of his love. Jesus had been the center of their lives.  Much changed in their lives because of him.  The twelve who journeyed with him will have a variety of responses.  We will hear the voice of one who denied, one who betrayed, and a crowd demanding Jesus be crucified. In the end, the voice of peace and love will win.

How will you respond to Jesus today?  Hear Jesus’ words of peace, hope and love for you.

Lord, when all is said and done, it is your voice we want to lead the way.  We do not know how to listen for your whisper of goodness and grace in our lives. Tune our ears to your will and your way, then align our hearts with you, so we might be a people changed by your love.  Because of your sacrifice, instill in us the depth of mercy you give so willingly.  Forgive us when we have joined the crowd and turned away from you.  Use your power to work in our lives so we might reflect your peace and love in the world.  We offer ourselves to you, in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Make your reservation for the Liberia Dinner Celebration, April 27, 2012.

Give online to the Global Outreach Easter Offering

Day 36: 40 Days from Africa

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

John 13:34-35 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

“Love One Another”

We had the pleasure of sharing several meals Bishop John Innis and Irene Innis.  During one of our meals we found ourselves in a discussion about the role of the church as the country seeks restoration following the civil war.  One person on the team asked specifically about the current governmental leaders. We were aware President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was a member of First United Methodist Church in Monrovia.  The conversation was not about politics.  Rather, we were seeking to understand how faithful people participate in leading post-civil war Liberia.

As the discussion unfolded, we came to understand the full impact of one of Irene Innis’s statements.  She said, “I pray for the heart of our leaders.”  Irene named the real issue at hand:  how was the love of God realized in the country?  The matter at hand was not a political issue, but a heart issue. Irene’s faithful prayers were prayers for hearts to be formed in Christ.  Her witness and was one of a heart formed and shaped by Jesus’ love.

The heart of Christ was present in the people we met.  Whether at the Ganta United Methodist Hospital, the Bishop Judith Craig Children’s Village, or the new school in West Point, we witnessed the church in acts of love.  We witnessed the love of God overflowing in the worst slums in the country and in the tropical forest region of Ganta.  There are no boundaries to God’s love.

“Love one another,” Jesus said, as he prepared the disciples for his death and resurrection.  As we continue the journey of Holy Week, receive Jesus words to the disciples:  love one another.  Where challenges come, love one another.  As you gather around the dinner table, love one another.  As you travel, love one another.  Jesus’ love has the power to confront us and change us.  May we remember the heart of Jesus is one seeking love and unity.  May we celebrate Christ’s love for us. May we pray for the heart of leaders so our own hearts will be shaped by Jesus’ love.

Loving God, we stand astounded by your love for us; we are in awe of your mercy that overflows.  Guide us in our living so we might reflect your love to others, fill us with a vision of your love offered to us without price, then remind us the gift we have received in you.  We do not pretend to know how to love as we ought or even as we should.  Teach us, we pray, to walk with you.  Continue to shape the hearts of our leaders, in Cincinnati and Monrovia; in the United States and in Liberia; in our church and the church universal.  We desire to be your witnesses in the world, witnesses that testify to your love.  Make it so, through your love, Lord.  Amen. 

Make your reservation for the Liberia Dinner Celebration, April 27, 2012.

Give online to the Global Outreach Easter Offering

Day 35: 40 Days from Africa

Monday, April 2, 2012

Luke 22:39-42 He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. 40 When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” 41 Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”

“Not My Will But Yours Be Done”

Driving in Liberia was an adventure.  No one on our team dared to get behind the wheel. We were passengers in what sometimes appeared to be a live version of a video game.  We depended on wonderful drivers who helped get us from place to place.  Whether we were navigating the city streets of Monrovia or the “roads” between Monrovia and Ganta, our drivers ensured we arrived safely at our destination.

There were decisions the drivers made with keen instincts.  Most often they were unconcerned by the motorcycles driving between two cars.  As the motorcyclists made their way through busy traffic, often they simply created a lane between two cars going in the same, or opposing directions.

The motorcyclists appeared to make their own lane.

As we watched the traffic from our SUV, we noticed another common sight:  cars were filled beyond capacity.  The number of passengers rarely corresponded to the number of seatbelts available in the car.   Instead, vans were packed with people and goods. Trucks transported many people in the truck bed.

The passengers packed into tight spaces and made their own way to their destination.

There were even times when we noticed cars driving in the lane of oncoming traffic. These were not cars passing one another.  The cars drove to the left of the double yellow line forming three lanes of traffic heading in one direction.  The drivers were making their own lane.

Cars in the line of traffic created an additional lane when the road became crowded.  Our drivers explained not to be concerned.

We, too, want to make our own way. Like the motorcyclists, van and truck passengers, and average motorists, we find a way in the middle, push until something fits, and disregard the “rules” to have our own way.  When we think our way is the only way, or even worse the right way, we might need to remember the prayer Jesus prayed the night he was betrayed.

Jesus prays, “Not my will but yours be done.”  These are not easy words for a culture steeped in self to hear.  Not our will?  Not our way?  As Jesus prayed these words, he let go of his way.  As Jesus prayed, he listened for his Father’s will.  As Jesus prayed, he was aligning with his Father’s ways.  Was it easy?  Unlikely.  Was it necessary?  Absolutely.

The will of the Father leads Jesus to the cross. There is no way for Jesus to have his own way if he was going to follow the will of his Father.  Surely, it was not an easy way.   The will of God is the way of love.  The will of God is the way of peace.  The will of God fulfills a promise.

Jesus came to know God’s will in prayer.  So can we.  What might happen if we prayed, “Not my will but yours be done”?

Almighty God, It is hard for us to pray, “not my will but yours be done.” We confess we think we are the experts of what is best, right, and worthy. We have our preferences and personalities that overshadow your purpose.  Forgive us when we lose sight of you and your will.  We need you to see clearly the way of love. We need you to have the courage to live in obedience to you.  Guide us to align with you so we might continue to become who you would have us be.  We love you, Lord.  We want to be one with you.  In the name of Jesus, we pray, Amen.

Make your reservation for the Liberia Dinner Celebration, April 27, 2012.

Give online to the Global Outreach Easter Offering