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Sharing the Promise: Easter!

By Dr. Linda Brupbacher
Mark 16: 1-7

As the women went to His burial place on Easter morning, they anticipated a problem:  moving the huge, heavy stone that sealed the tomb.  However, when they arrived, the stone had already been moved.  They needn’t have worried.  Sometimes we do that too:  worry about a problem that never actually materializes.  However, the message of Easter isn’t “don’t worry about things that may never happen”.  It is that the tomb was empty.  Jesus lives.  His power was and is sufficient to conquer even death.

Our children celebrate this day with colored eggs and candy bunnies:  symbols of new life.  That too is what Easter means:  the new life Christ offers us.  His love and power are present realities ­– not just things evidenced long ago.  He offers us much needed transformative power:  wisdom and strength to become more of what we ought to be (as Steve often prays).  The familiar hymn He Lives communicates the Easter message clearly and beautifully:

“I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy; I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart.
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian,
Lift up your voice and sing.
Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the king!
The hope of all who seek Him,
The help of all who find,
None other is so loving, so good and kind.”    CCLI #1763254

He lives!  This is the ultimate blessing that makes all other blessings possible. It’s easy to sometimes take His love for granted–and fail to recognize, appreciate and appropriate the transforming power Jesus offers.  Easter reminds us not to do this.  It’s Easter, our day to remember, to celebrate and to be renewed.    Rejoice.  Rejoice.  Lift up your voice and sing!


Dear God,

We thank you for Easter and all it represents.  Help us keep the message of Easter alive in our hearts and minds every day, not just on this holiday. Help us appreciate and be transformed by Your love.


Excerpted from a Holy Week Devotional Guide written for South Main Baptist Church in 2011

Good Friday

by Dr. Linda Brupbacher
Mark 15: 1-39

When I was a young child, I remember thinking. “How can anyone call the day when Jesus was crucified good?”  It all sounded pretty tragic even horrific to me.  I was right about the horrific part.  Crucifixion was an incredibly painful and humiliating way to die:  a type of death reserved for the worst criminals.  It’s hard to even imagine the kind of pain and humiliation Jesus endured.  He died for us.  However, his slow, torturous and degrading crucifixion went well beyond just dying.

I’ve sometimes wondered why He had to die in such an absolutely awful way.  Couldn’t our loving and all powerful God have figured out something easier and gentler:  something more humane?  Jesus expressed a similar notion in the Garden of Gethsemane.  In preparation for what He knew was to come, Jesus had taken time to be by himself:  to think and to pray.  It’s a good model for us when we are facing difficult challenges.  When He asked if He could be spared death on the cross, God’s answered, “No.”  Crucifixion was necessary.  It clearly and tangibly demonstrated the extent of God’s love for us, and it paid a steep enough price sufficient to redeem all of humanity.

As my young child’s mind questioned the goodness of Good Friday, I failed to realize that without His death, there could be no resurrection—no Easter and no eternal life.  Jesus suffered and died so that we might truly live:  now and forever.  But He didn’t just die.  He rose from the dead.  It is the reason for and result of His death that causes today to very appropriately be called Good Friday.  It is the essence of the promise we share this day and every day.

Gracious God, 

It is difficult to really comprehend the magnitude of what You suffered for us.  Help us be aware of, accept and truly appreciate the immensity of Your redeeming, transforming love:  all that You have done and continue to do for us and through us. Help us to follow Your model of taking time alone to think and pray as a way of preparing ourselves for whatever is next in our lives. Help us live each day with the sure knowledge of Your love, power and continuing presence in our lives.


Excerpted from a Holy Week Devotional Guide written for South Main Baptist Church in 2011

The Maundy of Maundy Thursday

by Dr. Linda Brupbacher
John 13

Most of us associate Thursday of Holy Week with the Lord’s Supper and Garden of Gethsemane events.  However, neither of these is the reason for the “Maundy” label.  “Maundy” comes from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the Latin phrase that is translated  “A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)    After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He issued this new command (mandatum).

Walking dusty roads in sandals often resulted in really dirty feet.  The custom was to provide foot washing water and towels just inside the entryway to a home. If slaves were available, the slave with the very lowest status was assigned the foot washing task.  Even among slaves, this was considered a lowly, undesirable chore.  However, that didn’t stop Jesus from washing the disciples’ feet.

Evidently the disciples didn’t wash their own feet as they entered the upper room–so sometime early that evening Jesus knelt and washed their feet.  Scripture offers no indication of prior conversation about the need for clean feet or discussion about who would or should do the foot washing.  Jesus simply noticed the need and acted to meet it.  It was an act of humility and service.  And, it clearly illustrated the new commandment:  love each other as I have loved you.

This commandment is so consistent with Jesus’ life and with His other teachings that its label as “new” seems somewhat surprising.  However, its content isn’t surprising at all.  Jesus consistently advocated and modeled loving people. 

Loving one another is one of those things that sounds simple– but isn’t always easy.  Jesus cared, He noticed, and He acted—and we are expected to do likewise.  How to actually do this is one of the challenges of Maundy Thursday and of everyday.  Choosing whether or not to do this isn’t really presented as an option.


Heavenly Father,

Help us follow Jesus’ model of humility and service—of truly loving others.  Erase any self-centeredness, pride or fear that might keep us from doing this.  Help us notice the needs of others and act to help meet those needs.  Please give us humble, compassionate, servant hearts that compel us to live this commandment.   Amen

Excerpted from a Holy Week Devotional Guide written for South Main Baptist Church in 2011

The Last Supper

by Dr. Linda Brupbacher

Matthew 26: 17-30

People gathering to eat and talk is common here at HBU.  It was common during Jesus’ ministry too.

Sharing meals was a regular part of Jesus’ ministry.  Scripture contains many stories about Jesus eating with His disciples and with sinners, teaching at meals, and teaching through parables that centered on meals/banquets.  Thus it seems only fitting that on the evening before His crucifixion, Jesus shared a meal, the Passover meal, with His disciples.  

The first Passover involved Jewish slaves in Egypt killing a lamb, smearing its blood over their doors to prevent the deaths of their firstborn children, and then eating the lamb as part of their last supper in Egypt.  Much as Jesus does for us, the sacrificed lamb provided both protection from death and sustenance for their upcoming journey. Much as the Lord’s Supper does for us, their annual ceremonial reenactment of that last supper in Egypt provided a tangible way to trigger memories of what God had done for them in the past and to help them recognize His continuing power and presence in their lives.  Like the Lord’s Supper, their Passover meal included bread and wine as symbols of what God had done and continued to do for them. 

It’s unlikely that the disciples truly understood His words declaring the bread and wine to be His body and blood.  We know what happened on Good Friday and on Easter so we do understand His words.   For us, the bread and wine (grape juice) symbolize his sacrifice.  At each Lord’s Supper, we reenact that Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples.  It is a time to remember and appreciate Christ’s sacrifice – and to rededicate ourselves and our lives to His service.


Heavenly Father,

Unlike the disciples, we know the whole story.  Help us to appreciate the gift of eternal life that comes through Christ’s body and blood.  Help us re-dedicate ourselves and our lives to You–today and each time we participate in the Lord’s Supper.   Amen


Excerpted from a Holy Week Devotional Guide written  for South Main Baptist Church in 2011

A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Mark 14:  27-72

Sometimes when I read the children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, I think: “Me too.”  Some days it seems like nothing goes right, I don’t get even the absolutely essential items on my things-to-do list accomplished, and I feel like the impossible is everyone’s minimum expectation for me.  Then I think about what Thursday of Holy Week must have been like for Jesus.  That puts even my worst day in perspective.  In one twenty-four hour period, Jesus was betrayed by those closest to Him:  Judas, Peter who denied even knowing Him, the inner circle of disciples who fell asleep when asked to wait and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, and His entire band of disciples who scattered rather than standing by Him when He had to face the authorities.  He was arrested and condemned by a type of “kangaroo court.”   He was ridiculed, spit upon and beaten—all in one day.   And He knew that the next day would be even worse.  Wow!

                When I think about all that Jesus endured, it evokes all kinds of feelings within me—humility, sadness, awe, appreciation…  It is not just “when I survey the wondrous cross,” but also when I consider what His Thursday must have been like that I appreciate the enormity of what He suffered for me/us and the immensity of His love.  His sacrifice was a different order of magnitude than any misfortune or difficulty I encounter:  any sacrifice I’m asked to make.

During this Holy Week and every week, His model of strength and perseverance in the midst of adversity can enlighten and inspire us. The realization that He can and will help us have the same qualities He exhibited can empower us.   The enormity of His sacrifice can help us realize and appreciate all that He did for us—how much He loved and continues to love us.

Precious Savior,

Help me never take Your love for granted.  Help me realize and appreciate all that You suffered for me and the incredible enormity of Your love.  Help me learn from Your model of strength, perseverance, sacrifice and grace in the midst of adversity.  Please empower me to follow Your model.


Excerpted from a Holy Week Devotional Guide written for South Main Baptist Church in 2011

Doing the Father’s Business

Monday, March 25
Mark 11:12 – 14:11

During Holy Week, Jesus was once again in Jerusalem for Passover– a regular occurrence for Him and for other first century Jews.  The first account we have of Jesus visiting Jerusalem during Passover was when He was about 12 years old.  It’s a familiar story, and one of the few accounts we have of His childhood.  Jesus remained in the temple even after His parents had left the city to return home.  According to the King James Version, when His frantic mom finally found her lost child (after days of looking), Jesus responded, “I must be about my father’s business.”  With the 20-20 vision of hindsight, we probably understand His statement more and/or differently than Mary did.  Much of scripture describes how Jesus did His father’s business –through His life and ministry as well as through His death and resurrection.   I sometimes wonder if someone analyzed my life, whose business would they think I am doing?

During Holy Week, Jesus continued to do His Father’s business.  No special names (like Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday or Easter) are given to Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week.  However, scripture contains much detail about these three days.  In many ways, it was “business as usual” for Jesus.  He continued to be about His father’s business.  He continued to teach, to heal, and to courageously and assertively confront what He saw as wrong– using both words and actions. He seemed to live Holy Week as he did His entire life:  with a clear sense of direction and purpose.  Perhaps that was one of the keys to His grounded fearlessness, compassion and peace–even during days of betrayal, unjust treatment, pain, humiliation, stress and tragedy.

When we think of our businesses, we often think of our professions/jobs:  whatever it is that finances our lives.  Maybe we need to rethink that. During this Holy Week as we explore how to more deeply share the promise, it may make sense to contemplate what it would mean if we were to actively, consciously and consistently do the part of the Father’s business that He has called and equipped us to do.

Holy Father,

Help us realize and fulfill Your purposes for our lives.   Help us to be about Your business as we live this day and every day.  Amen

Excerpted from a Holy Week Devotional Guide written for South Main Baptist Church in 2011

Holy Week Devotionals: Palm Sunday

by Dr. Linda Brupbacher

Holy Week is a special time in many Christian traditions.  It begins today.  I’ll post a short devotional for each day during this Holy Week—beginning today.  Each is excerpted from a Holy Week Devotional Guide I wrote for South Main Baptist Church.  Each will include a reference to a scripture, a short reflection on that portion of scripture and a prayer.  I hope these will be meaningful to you.

Sunday, March 24, Palm Sunday
Mark 11, 1-11

Actually, two processions entered Jerusalem on what has come to be known as Palm Sunday:  a royal procession and Jesus’ procession.  Pontius Pilot had left his luxurious headquarters in Caesarea Maritima to help keep the peace in Jerusalem during Passover.   His entourage entered the city with all the trappings of power typical for an influential representative of the Roman government. This contrasted sharply with Jesus’ entry into the city.  Unlike Pontius Pilot, Jesus rode on a lowly donkey–not on a strong, regal stallion.  Accompanied by peasants, not cavalry and soldiers, Jesus’ procession represented the kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of Rome (the source and symbol of power and prestige in that society). 

As Jesus rode into the city, people shouted, “Hosanna!”  There was honor, hope and real joy.  For Jesus and for His followers, it was a time of celebration.   I marvel at His ability to celebrate on that day.  Jesus was entering Jerusalem–where He knew He would soon be arrested, ridiculed, tortured and crucified.  Surely He had already begun to feel some of the dread He expressed in the garden when He asked God to spare Him from death on the cross.  Yet, somehow He didn’t let fear and apprehension about what was coming destroy the beauty and joy of that Sunday.  Instead, He embraced the triumphal entry experience and celebrated with His followers.

Palm Sunday offers us two powerful and positive models: 

(1)   Jesus celebrating and enjoying the specialness  that Palm Sunday offered–and  not letting  dread and worry  about what would happen next poison His present (even when He knew tough times were coming);

(2)   His faithful followers choosing to be part of our savior’s procession rather than that of Pontius Pilot:  honoring Jesus’ way of humility, service and sacrifice rather than Pilot’s way of power, greed and self-protection.


Holy God,

Help us not ruin the positive possibilities of today with dread and worry about what might (or might not) happen in the future.  Help us have the wisdom, strength and courage to join Your procession rather than that of our secular society.  Amen. 

“…A time to plant and a time to harvest…” Ecclesiastes 3:2

By Dr. Eloise Hughes

ImageIt’s almost spring, and my thoughts turn to gardening, especially with my grandchildren, Ben, 7 and Madi, 4.  There are so many parts of gardening I enjoy, getting the soil prepared, planting the seeds, watering and removing weeds, and, of course, harvesting and eating the fresh produce.

And I wonder if this love of seeing the growth and harvest of my garden is a result of my becoming a teacher…because, you see, we as teachers prepare ourselves by working hard and long, developing our professional selves and spending many hours in prayer, asking God to bless our endeavors.  In addition, we prepare our classrooms to be the bestImage possible environment in which children can learn. Planting the “seeds” of knowledge and love of learning into our students is one of the most important elements of our job.  Along the way, we encourage, mentor and discipline our students so that the outcome of their time with us will be the most productive experience possible. 

Most of all, we love the maturing and growth of each child we teach. Some catch on to each new skill and quickly master the content; others take much longer and lots more work on our part to produce successful efforts.  I am reminded of my radishes; 15 days after planting, radishes are ready to harvest. The grandchildren love to pull these, not eat them, just pull them out of the ground; they are not very patient waiting for the other plants to produce…

Image…at the same time I remember a black-eyed pea that had hardened over the fall/winter months and worked itself down in between the bricks on our back porch.  A few weeks ago, during a rainy period, the life in that black-eyed pea finally sprouted forth to the amazement of all of us! Image But however long it takes, the fresh produce is always worth the wait!Image

Teachers have to exhibit that same kind of patient spirit, loving the quick learners and as well as the “light bulb” moments in those who struggle along the way, but finally succeed.



As I continue in my profession of working with young adults who desire a teaching career of their own, I have continued to enjoy seeing the wonderful harvest!

ImageI am very proud to admit that I continue to keep in touch with many, many students I have taught over the years, and, now I am at an age when memories of my time with them have become even more precious to me. Try to visualize your own life after 40 years of teaching, and think of the hundreds of children whose lives you will have touched and maybe even changed…it’s an absolutely wonderful  perspective to take even as you begin your career.

In 1 Corinthians 3:6, Paul states, I planted the seed, another (Apollos) watered it, but God has been making it grow.”   Teachers know the same is true of each student…we may plant a seed and see it grow, or we may plant and wait for what seems like forever for results, and sometimes, we plant and never know what eventually happens…but with God at our side guiding us along the journey, teaching continues the most rewarding profession of them all!

Suggested Bible reading: Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23

Photography courtesy of Jim Hughes Photography


Fresh Ideas for Cooperation in the Classroom

by Dr. Kaye Busiek

The use of cooperative learning as one of the ways to actively engage students in their own learning is the topic of an article by Palmer, Peters, and Streetman (2006) from the University of Georgia.  They cite the challenges of Mrs. Solomon, a ninth grade teacher, in her efforts to increase student motivation, decrease absences, manage discipline, and increase test scores.  Her Careers class consisted of a mixture of ESOL students with limited English proficiency skills, “average” students, and honors students. There were also several students with special needs, including learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders. The article addresses the problems she experienced with other instructional methods that she attempted:  lecture, computer-assisted curriculum, discussions, and group work without teacher-imposed structure.  Finding little success, she sought help from a colleague who suggested that she try cooperative learning, which utilizes the ideas of Vygotsky, Piaget, and Kohlberg.  The article is a treasure trove of information and practical suggestions for implementing cooperative learning.  The pre-implementation, implementation, and post implementation stages are discussed; the benefits for teachers and students are outlined; “structures” designed by practitioners such as Kagan, Slavin, and Johnson are presented; drawbacks and criticisms are explored.Image


Take a look at the results of Mrs. Solomon’s experiences with these strategies.  A PowerPoint presentation is provided for the reader as well.  Maybe it is time to bring cooperative learning to your classroom!  Read more at:

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