Easter Sunday–The Stone Is Rolled Away

By Mary Etta Copeland

This is the final post in our Lent/Easter series. To read past posts in the series, click on “Lent” in the tag cloud at the right.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance…. As she wept…she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus… but after hearing his words “Mary”, …she went to the disciples with the news ‘I have seen the Lord!’” (Selections from John 20: 1 – 18)

JESUS MAFA. Easter - Christ appears to Mary, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48389 [retrieved March 6, 2017].

JESUS MAFA. Easter – Christ appears to Mary, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48389 [retrieved March 6, 2017].

Throughout my just-completed 50 years as a choral director at the high school level, students became acquainted with my many quotations from a variety of sources. One with lasting impact comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Today we’ve arrived at a most significant point in our annual Christian pilgrimage, and while we celebrate amid great joy, the question to consider is what difference will this make in the coming year.

“Oh, my gosh! Look at all those Easter eggs,” said my four-year-old grandson, Jonny, as he looked out the window of a high-rise hotel. What those young eyes were seeing was not Easter eggs, but rows and rows of silk flowers marking graves in a cemetery. This memory from almost two decades ago brought two insights to my mind for this day of Resurrection: the excitement of what a child thought he saw, and the symbolism of the egg that we now recognize on this most holy of days.

While not specifically portrayed in the resurrection account, the egg has come to represent that huge stone blocking the tomb’s entrance and rolled away by the angels. I’m moved to recognize and admit to those stones which might be blocking the entry to living out God’s plans for our lives: stones of negative thoughts, such as “we’ve always done it this way,” or “what if it doesn’t work?” I am reminded of the distrust and fear we sometimes have of what God can and will do in our lives, churches, and AB Women’s Ministries Ministries groups; our blinded eyes and deafened ears to meanings of God’s plans and calls on our lives. I am reminded of the negative thoughts such as “I’ve done my share;” self-pride; indifference; selfishness…on and on come the echoes of stones blocking the living out of God’s call on our lives.

When we can actually recognize these stones blocking the fulfillment of God’s plans for each of our lives, in obedience to God’s call and with God’s leading, we can “roll the stones away!” With the same awesome excitement seen in the eyes and voice of a child, our lives can live forth that same echo…not just on Easter Sunday, but 365 days a year!

Mary Etta CopelandMary Etta Copeland is president of American Baptist Women’s Ministries of the Central Region.

Palm Sunday–Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

By Renée Langley

This is the sixth in a series of posts for Lent. Click on “Lent” in the tag cloud on the right to see other posts in the same series. Be sure to subscribe to the blog to get updated posts delivered straight to your inbox or feed reader.

Morgner, Wilhelm, 1891-1917. Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54247 [retrieved March 6, 2017]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wilhelm_Morgner_001.jpg.

Morgner, Wilhelm, 1891-1917. Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54247 [retrieved March 6, 2017]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wilhelm_Morgner_001.jpg.

Matthew 21: 1-11; Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29

“Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” This shout of praise is found in Psalm 118, as well as in the Gospels. In Matthew the people proclaim this when Jesus enters Jerusalem. It is a celebratory moment when the people recognize and receive their King. It is the culmination of the sentiment found in Charles Wesley’s Advent hymn, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”:

Come, Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.

For all of us who have waited to hear from God, who have longed for a sign of hope in troubled times, it is a word of liberation to be able to say, “Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

But we who are followers of Jesus Christ also know that the joy of Palm Sunday will be followed by challenges to Jesus’ authority, his arrest and trial, his crucifixion and death – all in the space of less than a week from the cheers of this glad day! Such is the sad story of humanity, that joy can be turned to sorrow, that victory can be turned to defeat, that life can turn to death.

Of course, Good Friday is not the end of the story, either! Beyond the seeming defeat of Jesus comes the great good news that he is triumphant even over death. Perhaps we judge too quickly the people who shouted, “Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” on Palm Sunday. They did not fully understand who this “prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” really was. None of us comes to faith in Jesus fully mature, completely understanding what Jesus means to us. The development of faith and comprehension always takes time.

So, as imperfect followers of Jesus, let us lift up our praises this day to the One that came gently into Jerusalem, and let us celebrate that this day is filled with joy for the coming of the Savior, the King, into his own. Like the people that saw Jesus over two thousand years ago, we do not understand everything that he is and that he represents. But we can shout with others across time and space, “Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”

renee-langleyRenée Langley is president of American Baptist Women’s Ministries of Michigan.

Fifth Sunday of Lent: Focusing on What’s Important

By Meghan Cubbison

This is the fifth in a series of posts for Lent. Click on “Lent” in the tag cloud on the right to see other posts in the same series. Be sure to subscribe to the blog to get updated posts delivered straight to your inbox or feed reader.

Based on Romans 8:6 (NIV)

National Gathering for Girls 2016

Being a girl who ministers to girls in a society like ours comes with its own victories and challenges, especially when teaching others about self-confidence when you have none. Even when I was asked to apply for the convening position of the AB GIRLS National Leadership Team, I often compared myself to past convenors, convincing myself that “I could never do that.”

Growing up in a Christian home, Lent was always something I was aware of and at least thought I understood. But looking back on my later childhood, I see that it was more of a game to me to see what I could give up the longest, rather than using it to reflect on Christ and my personal relationship with him.

This year, I seemed to go down a road that is becoming more traveled than not, by taking something on rather than giving things up; because, let’s face it, I usually make it a week before giving into my normal cravings of chocolate or soda. Plus, being a senior in high school I wanted to do something that actually meant something to me. So, having been struggling with a lot of negative self-talk lately, I took on the challenge of trying to find a new positive thing about myself.

In all reality, I think many of us are guilty of falling short by trying to conform our minds and the way we see ourselves to the world’s standards. But I’ll tell you from personal experience, this rarely makes the case better. For instance, when I try to work out in order to fit into a certain piece of clothing my friends will like, I usually give up within the first 30 minutes; I have no true motivation. The same thing is applicable during the Lenten season. If we go with “norms” of giving up soda or chocolate because we feel obligated to participate, we aren’t taking advantage of this time set aside for us to grow in our faith. So, instead, it’s important that we focus on what’s really important during this time: our relationship and understanding of God, and then we will be transformed by God’s spirit.

Meghan Cubbison is the 2016-2017 convenor of the national leadership team of AB GIRLS, American Baptist Women’s Ministries. This is her second year of service on the team.

Fourth Sunday of Lent: Never Invisible to God

By Deneen Ray

This is the fourth in a series of posts for Lent. Click on “Lent” in the tag cloud on the right to see other posts in the same series. Be sure to subscribe to the blog to get updated posts delivered straight to your inbox or feed reader.

Anointing of David, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55312 [retrieved March 3, 2017]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paris_psaulter_gr139_fol3v.jpg.

Anointing of David, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55312 [retrieved March 3, 2017]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paris_psaulter_gr139_fol3v.jpg.

1 Samuel 16:1-13

Have you ever been in a meeting or class and asked yourself, “Do I really know these people?” Or, better yet, have you been a part of a task force or school government/club and wondered, “Am I invisible? Do they see me, do they know me, or does my presence even matter to this group? And what, if anything, do I have to give back?”

At some point, we all go through life on automatic pilot. Yes, there was a time when someone got you up in the morning, reminded you of your bathroom needs, reminded you to study, get home on time, dress warm, etc. But as you move into adulthood, there is not much reminding. We just do things, visible to ourselves but perhaps feeling invisible in the greater scope of the world around us.

For me, I never truly fit in anywhere. I was not a part of the “it crowd;” every fashion don’t, I probably did; I wasn’t the loudest, nor was I a loner. I was the one who, when given a task, completed it in a timely manner. I was Ms. Dependable. I was the one you never give much thought to, because I always pulled through.

But to God…

God the Creator has meticulously created each of us with a specific purpose and gift for God’s Kingdom-building. This was from day one! Or, more accurately, Scripture says “before you were in your mother’s womb, I knew you,” (Jeremiah 1:5). So, “day one” for real…like, an “in-the-beginning” day one.

My point is that in 1 Samuel 16:1-13, David was out in the field on automatic pilot, doing what he normally did every day; meanwhile, God was activating part of his plan on David’s behalf. There are multiple messages in the text: to Samuel, to David, to the people of Israel, and to you and me.

I can relate to the heartbreak Samuel felt, after Samuel invested long hours with Saul and Saul still couldn’t, wouldn’t, and didn’t get his act together. Saul was feeling himself too much and forgot who was really in charge. Sometimes we have to move into the new season God has set up in obedience, expectation, and excitement.

The strongest, smartest, or richest person may not always be the one chosen for leadership. One who is obedient, faithful, a protector, hardworking, and who doesn’t mind being alone—this may be the kind of person God is looking for.

I am sure the criteria used in appointing Saul king were the same criteria that Samuel was using as he looked upon David’s brothers. But Saul was the king the people wanted; David is the king God wanted. I am sure the job description had changed based on the One now directing the process.

So, why is this important today, for you and me? It’s just a simple reminder that those of us who think we are invisible need to heed this reminder: You are very visible to a wise, meticulous planner who knows just when to step in and activate your purpose and gifts. Are you ready? Have you been studying your pre-purpose exercises? Are you open to the creative and innovative ways God is going to use you? Live life in full expectancy: God will reveals the plan when God is ready, so be prepared and be open. What things look like to us are not the same as what they look like to God. Trust the process, and don’t become impatient in the wait.

Turn that sleep mode off, wake up, and do you, girl! And if anyone has anything to say, you hit them with a “But, God…,” and drop the mic.

 

????????????????????????????????????Deneen Ray is national coordinator of AB GIRLS for American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

Third Sunday of Lent: Sacrifice and Turmoil

By Emilie Rodriguez

This is the third in a series of posts for Lent. Click on “Lent” in the tag cloud on the right to see other posts in the same series. Be sure to subscribe to the blog to get updated posts delivered straight to your inbox or feed reader.

Chagall, Marc, 1887-1985. Moses Striking the Rock and Bringing Forth the Water, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54659 [retrieved March 3, 2017]. Original source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/abeppu/3815912913/.

Chagall, Marc, 1887-1985. Moses Striking the Rock and Bringing Forth the Water, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54659 [retrieved March 3, 2017]. Original source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/abeppu/3815912913/.

Exodus 17: 1-7

Lent is meant to be a time of reflection and sacrifice, to reaffirm your faith while you put your life into perspective. It can be a difficult time because, more often than not, sacrifice creates inner turmoil, even if it’s as simple as giving up chocolate for the time being.

The Israelites were in a state of exile, giving up their not-exactly-comfortable yet familiar lives for a promise of a new land. Much like during Lent–although, I’ll admit, to another extreme–they had to sacrifice what they knew and trusted in, and trust in God that something better would come. But, like the rest of us, they were only human and eventually grew tired of making sacrifices. Moses saw this, as he also grew tired, yelling at God. But God did not get mad in return; instead, God answered their cries.

What we take from this story is that sacrifice never comes easily. And Lent is not to be something taken lightly, not a whim to see if you can be vegan for a month but rather, a time to make a commitment to yourself and to God. It’s not a time to test God like the Israelites did, but it’s a time to test yourself.

Our country is in a state of chaos. No matter what you believe in, no one can call this peaceful times. Much like the Israelites, it’s easy to lose hope, especially when the leader of our country says such hateful and misogynistic things about women and girls. With Lent comes a chance to strengthen ourselves both spiritually and mentally, sharpening our faith and putting on our spiritual armor to fight the prejudice that will come in the following years. It will be hard and, like the Israelites experienced, there will be dark times where we want to give up and yell our frustrations, and hope that God does something about it. But it’s in those moments that we must never forget that we are God’s greatest tool, and that God will provide for us the water that will save us just as God provided it to the lost souls crossing the desert all those years ago.

We are women, we are girls. We are God’s warriors. It’s time to raise our voices and be heard.

Emilie Rodriguez 2013-2015Emilie Rodriguez, a former member of the national leadership team of AB GIRLS, is now a student at University of California, Davis, California.

Second Sunday of Lent–Overcoming Fear

By Merletta Roberts

This is the second in a series of posts for Lent. Click on “Lent” in the tag cloud on the right to see other posts in the same series. Be sure to subscribe to the blog to get updated posts delivered straight to your inbox or feed reader.

Mountains at the confluence of the Irawaddy, Myanmar, Dec 2014. (c) Sandra Hasenauer 2014, used by permission

Mountains at the confluence of the Irawaddy, Myanmar, Dec 2014. (c) Sandra Hasenauer 2014, used by permission

This psalm begins, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where shall my help come? My strength comes from God, who made heaven and earth.” As I read these words, I travel back to my childhood years in Indiana and a very limited experience of mountains.

A family vacation to the Smoky Mountains was my first encounter. I was terrified as my exuberant Dad drove the curves around those giant “hills” at the same speed he was used to traveling on relatively flat, straight roads back in Indiana. I learned that mountains were real obstacles that had to be overcome and I had no interest in learning more about them.

When I met my future husband while in graduate school in California, I often pointed to what looked like a mountain to me, only to hear him say, “Oh, you mean that hill.” He had grown up in the west and northwest and, therefore, was accustomed to “real” mountains. That provided the beginning of a new experience for me.

Marrying and moving to the northwest, I experienced several trips over the Cascade Mountain Range and began to be less fearful during such travels. Then came the big test: My husband Dave and I took a trip to Montana and spent time in Glacier National Park. One day the plan was that I would meet him at the top of the “Going to the Sun Road” after a day in which he hiked up the mountain and I explored in the camping area.

Not knowing what I was about to get myself into, I started up the “Going to the Sun Road,” appropriately named for sure. This is at least a two-hour drive, a 50-mile climb to Logan Pass, which is 6,646 feet. My childhood fears returned as I drove up this steep, narrow, winding road, often in the outside lane with the ability to see down, down, down the mountain side. I talked to myself the entire trip, saying, “Merletta, you can do this, you can do this, you can do this.”

I did arrive at the top at the agreed-upon time only to find out that the trail Dave was going to use to meet me was closed due to a bear sighting. After waiting for some time, I finally gave up and started for the parking lot to get the car. It was then that Dave arrived, having hitched a ride with someone else going up the mountain. Great! He could drive back down. However, this experience taught me that I could overcome the paralyzing fear I had of mountains.

We often have situations in life that bring about paralyzing fear, such as illness, job loss, financial instability, or grief. However, these experiences can be a testing ground where we can experience God and learn what it’s like to trust God.

merlettaMerletta Roberts is president of the American Baptist Women of the Pacific Northwest Region.

Why I Marched

By Virginia Holmstrom

Virginia Holmstrom at Women’s March

I first heard about the proposed Women’s March on Washington soon after the U.S. presidential election in November 2016. I admit . . . my first reaction was to forego getting involved. The people had voted. Let’s get on with life in an America that had, in my opinion, taken some giant steps backward. Everything will self-correct in the next election cycle, I assured myself.

My phone rang that very evening; one of my daughters shared her excitement about the planned Women’s March on Washington. “You’re going, aren’t you? Do you want to come with me and my friends?” I declined. A thunderstorm-sized cloud of guilt gathered over my head and pursued me into the night and the following days. “How can I lead a ministry organization that affirms God’s purposes for women and men alike and not march?” I sulked in weakness. Two weeks later, a friend invited me come along with a busload of women and men to D.C. for the March. I said yes. The relief was instantaneous, completely releasing me from my miserable self-doubt.

The “busload” filled two buses. The two busloads became a link in a long chain of buses heading down Interstate 95 toward Washington D.C. on the morning of January 21. I’ve never seen so many buses headed in the same direction. I multiplied the numbers of buses coming from exponential directions.

It’s a miracle we arrived on the Washington D.C. Mall before the day’s end, the roads were so flooded with traffic and people. I stuck like glue to five women from my busload and we slowly and methodically wormed our way about 25 feet into the edge of the crowd. We were still blocks away from the stage from which speakers’ voices were amplified and their images made visible on large screens that ran the length of the mall. I stood on tip-toes to catch an infrequent glimpse of the nearest screen, hidden by the crowds in front of me.

With one ear catching the wind-driven voices coming from the amplified speeches, I turned my attention to the people—primarily women—that were now my nearest neighbors for the next three hours. Surrounding me were women (and men) of all generations, some wearing pink knitted hats, some wearing hijab head scarves, most wearing something over their heads to stay warm. I read the hand-held homemade signs and posters that bounced above the heads in the crowd. The signs reflected no single issue, but a wide range of concerns held by women: affordable health care, gender equality, reproductive health and choices, religious freedom, equal pay, gay rights, representation in Government . . . . The issues were as plentiful as the faces in the crowd.

So, what were my issues? Why did I choose to march? I stood in support of the hard-earned advances that women have made in recent years, thanks to a growing coalition of women’s voices worldwide. I marched to quell my uneasiness that those slowly-won advances could disappear in the wake of election promises that had mocked and denigrated segments of our nation’s citizens, including women. I marched to protest the over-night removal of information from the White House website: information that had been helpful resources for persons with disabilities, for immigrants pursuing the American Dream just as my great-grandparents had done, and for gay and transgender persons. I marched toward a vision of the inclusion of all voices– respected and valued for their perspectives and giftedness and wisdom — that truly make America great. I marched on January 21.


Virginia Holmstrom is executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

This post is appearing on March 8, International Women’s Day. For more information about International Women’s Day, visit http://un.org/en/events/womensday. For more information about continued advocacy through the Women’s March, visit http://www.womensmarch.com.