Our theme this year is: Knights of North Castle by Cokesbury Publishing. Last year, we had a fully virtual VBS. This year, we are excited to be able to present a hybrid online AND in-person VBS experience. Once again, the majority of VBS will be done taking advantage of the online resources provided by Cokesbury, but we have built in two opportunities to gather together. We will launch our VBS on Sunday, July 4th. To celebrate everyone participating is invited to FUMC Navasota to enjoy a catered meal at 11:30 AM in the Fellowship Hall! This will give us an opportunity to gather together in a time of fellowship before the online VBS activities begin at 6:00 PM Sunday evening. The online portion of VBS will be linked on our website and Facebook page. We will have VBS kits available for our kids at the FUMC office for pick up during office hours 8:30-12:30 Monday to Friday. Each kit has all of the material needed for each day of VBS. On Thursday, July 8th, we will invite everyone participating, and who feels comfortable, to meet together at First Presbyterian Church of Navasota from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM! Our final day of VBS will be a traditional day of fun, games, crafts, food, and Bible lessons… and the kids’ favorite, lots of dancing!
Scripture: John 19:38-42
38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
It is nearing night on this Good Friday. In less than an hour the sun will set and darkness will take over. Imagine the darkness that crept into the hearts of Jesus’ followers, friends, and family on their first night without him.
Walk outside and look toward the setting sun. As you gaze on the horizon consider the darkness that is a life lived without Jesus. While considering this let your mind rest on people in your life who are living in that darkness and pray that they might awaken to the living Light of the World, Jesus Christ.
Lord, you are the true light of this world and as this day ends I thank you for your Spirit alive in me that lights my spirit on fire. I pray that fire will sustain me until the great celebration of Easter Sunday and your victory over sin and death. Amen.
Scripture: John 19:31-37
31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”
The loss of hope can come quickly. For the followers of Jesus the end of his life on the cross marked a sure loss of hope in all they expected that Jesus would accomplish. The cross led to Jesus’ death and the death of their hope in him. When we find ourselves in a place of hopelessness it is important to remember the way that the cross opened up a greater hope.
On a blank piece of paper write a word or two that represent an area of life where you have lost hope. This may be in relationship to a person or circumstance in life. Now draw a circle around this lost hope and pray that God would reveal to you a greater hope. This time, draw a larger circle around this lost hope and again pray that God would reveal to you a greater hope in place of this one.
Jesus, don’t allow me to expect that everything about you makes perfect sense. Help me remember that faith in you is just that, faith, and not a math problem that can be proven. And when my hope is lost, replace it with something greater. Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 27:45-54
45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. 54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
The final words of Jesus on the cross are ancient words. Jesus was not the first to speak these words. King David wrote these words centuries before in Psalm 22. It is extraordinary to think that God’s voice, which came to David, is already speaking the nearness of God to Jesus on the cross. Seeing this foretelling of the suffering of Jesus shows us that God knows what we are up against in our own lives.
Read Psalm 22. As you read look at the detail with which the suffering of Jesus is described in this Psalm and recognize the ability of God to see the past, present, and future of your life.
Father, I confess that sometimes it feels like you have abandoned me and are distant from me. Help me to know that You are near the brokenhearted. Help me trust you today, knowing that You are aware of what the future holds for me. Amen.
Scripture: John 19:23-25
23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did. 25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
Think of the movement from Jesus taking off His outer garment, tying a towel around His waist, and washing the disciples feet – a picture of true humility – to Jesus being stripped of His clothes, watching as they are gambled off, with His mother, her sister, and Mary Magdalene witnessing the whole thing – a picture of utter humiliation and shame. Jesus understands what it is to be humiliated and shamed.
Remember a time you were filled with shame. This shame may have been caused by someone else’s action or your own actions. First, remember this event and time as you experienced it. Now, recognize that as you were going through this experience Jesus was beside you. Once again remember this experience and this time see yourself giving the shame you felt to Jesus and see how he accepts the shame you felt as an act of love on the cross.
Jesus, help me to know Your compassion, to bring my pain, my shame, and my loss to You, Who has experienced the fullness of pain, shame, and loss. Holy Spirit, fill me with hope and an assurance of Your love, that I may praise You even in the midst of suffering. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 23:32-43
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews. 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Nowhere else in Scripture do we see more clearly the opposing responses that can be made to Jesus. While Jesus is hanging on the cross dying we have recorded the two choices that we can make when it comes to accepting Jesus as Savior. We must make no mistake: THERE ARE ONLY TWO RESPONSES TO JESUS. The first is to reject his claim of offering salvation the second is to accept his claim of offering salvation.
Make your own decision about Jesus. This is much more than an ‘Activity’. This is the decision that marks our commitment of our entire life to the authority of Jesus. Family, vocation, money, it all falls under the authority of Jesus. What do we get in return when we make this commitment? A promise, “you will be with me in paradise.”
Lord Jesus, for too long I’ve kept you out of my life. I know that I am a sinner and that I cannot save myself. No longer will I close the door when I hear you knocking. By faith I gratefully receive your gift of salvation. I am ready to trust you as my Lord and Savior. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for coming to earth. I believe you are the Son of God who died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead on the third day. Thank you for bearing my sins and giving me the gift of eternal life. I believe your words are true. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus, and be my Savior. Amen.
Scripture: Micah 7:18-19
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. 19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
Jesus’ wounds remind me of the ways I’ve wounded others. His scars remind me of the ways I’ve been scarred by the consequences of my actions. His fall under the weight of the cross reminds me of the weight of my sin. Most times when I sin, I don’t grasp the seriousness of what I’m doing. Jesus took the weight of the world’s sin upon himself. Thank you for your mercy Lord. Thank you for your love.
With a spirit of thankfulness for the work of Jesus Christ for you; compose a thank you note/text/letter to someone in your life who has shown you mercy and grace. Simply thank them for modeling the mercy and grace of Jesus in your life. Now send this special message to that special person.
Prayer:Lord, when I really need mercy and grace from people who care about me, help me to accept it and respond with my thankfulness. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 23:27-31
27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’ 31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Jesus, while carrying the cross, takes time to console and compassionately reach out to these women who are mourning the loss of Him. This Man of Sorrows, Who is suffering immense pain and shame and loss, reaches out to these women, warning them and weeping with them. Even in His own suffering, He is still God with us.
As we have had to adjust our lives to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us have had to suffer through more isolation and loneliness than we are accustomed to. Walk outside and look across at the home of a neighbor; it is ok if you can’t actually see their home from yours. Now say a prayer for them as they are suffering through this difficult time of quarantine as you take a moment to put aside your own suffering to reach out to them.
Prayer: Lord, in the middle of my own suffering help me be more like you in the middle of your suffering. Remind me to pray for those who are hurting whenever I really can’t take other action. Amen.
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:23-24
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
When the day begins badly and then worsens, we feel like quitting. Jesus must have felt the same way, but he didn’t give up. He knew what had to be done and loved us too much to say, “I quit.”
Remember a time that others were depending on you and you didn’t give up. What was that victory like and what did it lead to in further hard times when once again others were depending on you? In the classic story of the ‘Little Engine that Could’, the little engine struggles to accomplish its goal while repeating the mantra, “I think I can, I think I can”. What would your mantra be that you repeat to yourself to keep you from quitting?
Prayer: Lord, when things seem unbearable and I feel like quitting, strengthen me, especially when others are depending on me to keep on going. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 23:26
26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.
Jesus is so weak that the Roman soldiers enlist a bystander, Simon of Cyrene, to bear Jesus’ cross to hurry things up a bit. Jesus – the Son of God, King of All the World – is so weak that he falls along the way and needs to be helped. The One who made others whole is Himself battered, bruised, and broken.
Find a quiet (or semi-quiet) place and read Matthew 25:44-46
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Consider this: In what ways have you been serving the ‘least of these’? Can you think of times in the past week that you have failed to act in service of the least in your life?
Prayer: Lord, Simon’s first reaction might have been, “That’s not my problem.” Oftentimes I react in the same way. Jesus, you said that other people are you when they come into my life. Sometimes, helping them seems like an unfair, thankless job. Help me be thankful for the chance to help. Amen.