Mid Week Update/Devotion 4/8/2020 “Imperfect”

Mid Week Update/Devotion 4/8/2020 “Imperfect”
We will get to the Mid-Week devotion in a moment.
I have a few announcements first.
• A reminder that no in person church services at Centenary until at least the end of April. Please watch Facebook for Holy Week Services, including Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
• I encourage you to send your prayer requests to us via email. I will share them with the church, but I will need further permission to share your personal information for the Online Church service since they will be shared beyond our church walls. You are also free to send information to the church by U.S. Postal Service or email. The physical office remains closed until further notice.
• Please remember that your church is still in need of your gifts and tithes so please send your gift through the mail or look for the ‘giving’ box on the churches website.
I remind you again that PayPal has removed the 3% surcharge on giving, so 100% that you give through the website comes directly to Centenary.
• The church staff has been mailing transcripts of both the midweek updates and the Sunday Services to church members who are not able to access the Internet. If any of you have information about any member who is not receiving this information please contact myself or Kevin Hinkle and we will make sure they are added to our list. We don’t anyone left behind during this crisis.
I want to extend a welcome to those of who who are joining in today, whether you are a member of Centenary United Methodist Church, or a friend or family member of someone who attends here. Maybe you have no connection to this church except through these video devotions. Welcome. My name is Pastor Mel Nielsen, but most folks around here call me PMel.
We have a few prayer requests today – The passing of Jan Shelburn. We had a nice graveside service on Monday. A full funeral will be held at a later date when we can all join together. Prayers for Al Showlater who suffered a stroke. He is in the hospital and recovering. Prayers for our extended families, some of whom are being directly effected by the COVID-19. Prayer request for teacher needing to teach online. Prayers for MacMurray College staff, faculty and students.

Gracious and loving God we thank you for this day. We are fast approaching Easter, the day you claimed victory of death. Thank you for the sacrifice you made on our behalf. This only one of these days, so let us make the most of it despite being under a quarantine. We have life, so let us share that life with others by making a phone call, writing a letter, chatting online or in prayer.
So many things have changed in our world, yet we gather together to praise you for being the unchanging God. We are in great need of your sustaining love this day, we thank you that your love is big enough to care for everyone in this world. Thank you for coming to be with us and teach us and demonstrate true love. Let us live in the love through these days of great challenge.
Lord this morning we continue to pray for the family of Jan Shelburn. We thank you for receiving her into your arms of mercy and grace. We pray for the health of Al Showalter who is recovering from a stroke. We pray for church members who have had surgeries or procedures postponed. We pray for our family and friends who have been further secluded in area nursing homes.
We know that there are families within Centenary who are concerned about loved ones far away, who are struggling with this virus. We pray for them. For all of us and anyone anywhere who have been effected by this virus, let us pray silently together today all the joys and concerns that are on our hearts or in our minds.
(Moment of silent prayer)
Loving God thank you for listening to our prayers, now be with us as we pray the words which you have given to us;
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on Earth
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
For ever. Amen.

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 53:1-6

1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2  He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,  nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3  He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. 4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

DEVOTION: “Imperfect”
These mid-week messages first began as a way to keep the congregation informed of what was happening at Centenary. I understood from my first days here, nearly two years ago, that this is a close congregation, a congregation that would really miss being connected. So I wanted a way to help us remain together spiritually, even though we are apart physically. So I turned to digital technology for help.
I had no idea there would be this much time involved. I felt it in the back of my mind this quarantine could go on for a while but not through the end of April! That was a hard hit. That feeling in the back of my mind is telling me that April will not be the end of this. Nothing official has been announced, that is just how I am sensing this might go.
So, here we are, and I am thankful we can still get together virtually. I have a brief message for you today that helps set up for the rest of Holy Week. I have this wooden image of Jesus for you to view. I purchased this in Israel during our recent trip. The company that organizes these tours has established relations with some very nice souvenir shops. We stopped at this one store with the most beautiful handcrafted wooden items.
We got a tour of the manufacturing plant downstairs and saw how the items are made, then we went upstairs to the showroom.
As Debbie and walked through we were stopped every few feet by amazing, beautiful art. All individual and all handmade. I wanted to bring back something memorable for family and friends as well as something for my office.
After finding something for everyone on my list, I found the one for me. Out of all the stunning things before me, this one stood out. Each item in the store is made out of local Olive Wood. As with all wood, there can be imperfections such as knots or discoloring. The really bad pieces of wood are discarded, the rest are used, “as is.”
Such was the case with this image of Jesus. As you can see there is some discoloring in the face. To some this may be an imperfection, to me, however, a reminder of my story. This is what drew me to this piece, the reason I had to have it. Not that Jesus is imperfect, no, it reveals how the shadow of my own imperfections, my sin, are cast upon my Lord. It was because of my sin that Good Friday needed to happen at all. My imperfections.
This image of Jesus is a constant reminder of my need for a savior. When I stood proudly in my moments of absolute uncleanliness, Jesus stood there with me; willing to take my imperfections upon Himself, to make me clean.
Because of Jesus, my stains have been removed. What I planted is harvested on the face of Jesus. This is my Holy Week Jesus, and I wanted to share this image with you. Once the quarantine is lifted I invite you to stop in my office and take a closer look or even touch. You might just see your own sinful stain upon Jesus as well.
The Good News for today is that those stains have been removed and so will this quarantine. I pray we are getting closer to the day, so we can all gather together. I invite you while we are apart to continue observing a Holy, Holy Week. I will have a service of healing for you on Maundy Thursday and a special message for Good Friday.
Until we meet gain, God bless you.