Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 13

The First Day of the Week

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took spices…” Luke 24:1


That first Easter morning was full of surprises. Nothing finished as it began. That was God’s plan. The result was more glorious than anyone could imagine. The disciples’ master and friend was truly who he said he was, Savior of the world – and he was ALIVE!

Today is Monday. It is “OUR” first day of the week. While we are still living under the “stay at home” order, memory can quickly remind us that Monday is to be a work day. Few of us are working, but that will ultimately change. For us, Easter is a holiday. It is a day of celebration, rest and time with family. But consider that the first experience of the resurrection happened on a work day. It was the first day of the week, Sunday, when many in Jerusalem would have been preparing to go back to work. Yes, this all occurred during the Passover celebration. But Friday was still a day of preparation for rest. Sabbath day, Saturday, was “thee” day of rest. And Sunday, for many, the essential workers, it was still a time to get back to work. But that work day was interrupted with the most incredible news the world would ever hear. The messengers of God declared the immortal words, “He is not here; he has risen!” There were surprises on that first day of the week that no one saw coming except for God himself.

Well, yesterday – on Sunday, our day of rest and celebration, we had a few surprises. Many of you went to our website looking to watch our Easter service – but just like Jesus’ body, it wasn’t to be found. Strips of linen cloths and pieces of worship could be found and heard, but the full body wasn’t there. Technology crashed at 4:30 a.m. that morning – it delayed our service being posted until 4:30 p.m. Sunday night.

As a side bar, have you ever wondered at what exact hour Jesus’ rose from the dead? I’m pretty sure only God knows. But if I were to wager a guess, I would choose 3:00 a.m. I would say 3:00 a.m. because it is at the fourth watch of the night, when Jesus comes to the disciples, battling the storm of their lives, walking on the water. It is in that moment that Jesus reaches down to save Peter from drowning and rescues the other disciples from the raging storm. He calms the storm with his hands. Then he joins them, climbing into their boat. He breathes peace upon them and over the situation. And in confused exhilaration, celebration erupts among them. That sounds like something that happened in another context on another day. Perhaps that rescue on the Sea happened on the first day of the week.

But one might also argue that Jesus’ resurrection happened the moment right before sunrise. Since the darkest moment is believed to be right before the dawn – it would seem appropriate that Jesus would overcome that darkness right with light, right at that moment.  Whatever the case, our own personal darkest moment occurred at 4:30 a.m. Shock, fear, disappointment – but thanks be to Sharon Hanson for her perseverance and saving the service for us.

Today, most of us think that Easter is now over. But if we follow with that first Easter morning, Easter would take place today, on Monday. And no one would expect it! People today, just like people back in the day, are preparing for their regular life to begin. Truthfully, no one is expecting something special to happen today. What about you? Are you expecting anything special on this first day of the week? Scripture tells us over and over and over (3 times? A hint from yesterday’s devotion) to be watchful, waiting, and on alert. We are told, many times, that the Lord will come on a day when we least expect.

Let it be known that the Easter message has arrived once again on the first day of the week. This Monday morning, the Good News is now available in complete form, on our website, on YouTube for anyone to watch.  Here is the link:

Early this morning, I received an email from Jannette Stoneman. She writes, “Pastor Mark, I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate all the effort you have put in to make this holy season meaningful. I have just finished listening and watching the Easter Service. Beginning with Michelle Rockwood’s solo on the French horn, the readers of the gospel, Kristen, Ava, Arnold, Erik, Sig, and you. Then the solo by Sonya Ronning, the sermon and the duet by Anna and Erik and finally the Ronning family; flute, violin, harp and trumpet. Absolutely beautiful. A BIG thank you to all. Love, Janette. (yes, I received permission to repeat this email.)

She watched the 45-minute service, and received the Good News on this first day of the week.

Perhaps it’s waiting for you too.

Let us not be caught off guard, looking at the days ahead, but rather look with anticipation where God will show his hand – full of surprises – whatever day of the week!

God Bless You All,

Pastor Mark

P.S. – Many of our people have expressed gratitude to me for the services throughout Holy Week. But let me express my heartfelt gratitude to Sharon Hanson for her tireless efforts in assembling and recording all the services – every week! As well as Arnold Ronning for reading and compiling the Gospel drama for each service. Thank you to the Ronning family for their wonderful music and reading. As well as Sig Hanson and Michelle Rockwood for their contributions. Delivering this Holy Week to you was a group effort and I am so thankful to be working with such wonderful people! I am blessed to be a part of it all!


Pastor Mark’s Devotional March 20


“Grace and Space”

“…All of you share in God’s grace with me.” Philippians 1:7

St. Paul begins his letter to the church in Philippi by sharing his heart with his people. He expresses thanksgiving, gratitude and love for the joyful opportunity of their partnership in the gospel.

Listen to his words, “I thank my God every time I think of you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.    It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.” Phil. 1:3-7

Like Paul, my heart is full of love and gratitude for all of you as well. I thank God for our partnership in the gospel. And whether we feel chained in our homes or not, I give thanks. I am convinced that when this pandemic subsides, we will quickly return together and share the joy that will carry us forth in power and love.

We have a crucial message to share. The world needs to hear it. For you and I share in the grace of God.

Watching Channel 13 News this morning, I heard about grace from an unexpected source. It reminded me about extending undeserved favor. We all need to be reminded about grace in this time and space – for ourselves, for others.

The story was reported in the New York Times. The article was entitled, “I Am Not Turning My Home into a Coronavirus Home School.” A woman explained that she was unprepared and overwhelmed trying to set up a school schedule and routine so that her children would learn.  Lesson plans, packets and snack time was just not going to happen. So, in these unprecedented times, she was going to bake cookies with the kids, watch movies, play video games and allow generous access to the refrigerator.

The News 13 reporter went on to explain that he felt compelled to do a google search on this woman.  Turns out that she has been trained at Harvard University. She has a Phd. In Education. She is a woman who teaches teachers!  She is an educator, but the reality is, she is also a human being. She is trying to manage life’s stresses and because of this she is giving herself and her children some grace.

Is she a terrible mom? Will the kids grow up illiterate, uneducated and living in poverty? Probably not. What I heard is that she is taking a deep breath and extending love and favor to herself and to her children. Will the projects need to be completed? Probably. But right now, she is giving herself and her family some grace and space.

Today, let us acknowledge that we live under a canopy of grace. God’s grace! God has recklessly thrown out the lesson plans with all its deadlines and expectations and has lavishly loved us through his Son, Jesus Christ. WE ALL SHARE IN THIS GRACE TOGETHER! Whatever expectations you might have of yourself and/or of others, take a deep breath. Jesus arrives wanting to give us a breath of fresh air. And then for us to breathe that grace filled air upon others – just stay 6 feet away from them or I’ll have to throw you in jail – just kidding – are you smiling.

Let us smile. Let us laugh. Let us enjoy this beautiful sunny day God has given us. Let us eat that chocolate cake for breakfast. Do you need to take a break from your exercise routine? Do it. Do you really need to vacuum the house again? Don’t do it. Let us take a break from reading, writing, doing whatever it might be. Maybe we just need to “be” today. Receive the grace. It is granted. Let us receive it. Let us share it. Heck, even the government is giving us until July 15 to file our taxes. Can you feel it? GRACE ABOUNDS!

We are in the midst of serious times that require serious action. Let us temper this intensity and allow for some of the grace and space we all share.

It is right for me to feel this way. As you have given me a thick slab of chocolate cake, and extended much grace and favor to my family and I. So, I hope to share that same grace with you, and make it alamode. Thanks be to God that we all share in God’s grace together. So, go ahead. Have a second piece!

Grace and Space through our Savior, Jesus Christ,

Pastor Mark