Cross Sections: Lenten Videos

United Methodists and friends from across Western PA and beyond are invited to join together in this spiritual Lenten journey called Cross Sections. Each Wednesday from Ash Wednesday, February 17 to March 24 and every day during Holy Week, a brief video devotion will premiere on this page at 8am. You’re encouraged to watch and pray at that time.The video also will remain on the website for later use. A print version is available to download. You can use the videos in Lenten studies, worship and prayer services.

Resurrection: A Place of New Life

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Presented by: Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi
Scripture Focus: John 20:1-18
 


Thematic Focus:
A prayer: Holy Spirit, come and quicken both our imagination and our attentiveness. Enable us to see with a soul’s eyes the rolled-away stone and the empty tomb. Help us to hear with our inner perception the sound of Mary Magdalene’s hurried footsteps on that dusty road outside of Jerusalem and her wildly excited gasps for breath as she shares the astounding good news with the other disciples. Inspire us to add a passionate voice to the most history-altering and cosmically-significant proclamation ever rendered: “Jesus Christ is risen!”
 
The deepest joy within the Christian doctrine of resurrection is something far grander and more expansive than the hope of going to heaven when we die. In fact, resurrection’s deepest joy is the conviction that our shared and often broken history is headed somewhere purposeful and beautiful; that the entirety of creation is moving steadily toward the redemption for which it groans; and that every single day is a fresh opportunity to rehearse and reflect the eternity for which we have been created.
 
To believe deeply in the Resurrection of Jesus is to posture one’s entire consciousness toward the Way of Life in a world that skews toward the things of death. If Jesus is truly risen, after all, then he has the wherewithal to raise our thoughts from pathological cynicism to dynamic hope.
He can resurrect our relationships from morbid contempt to an enlivening eagerness to hear and to be heard, to love and to be loved, to forgive and to be forgiven. He can transform the grimness of our grief into a rejuvenating glimpse of eternity and transfigure the cruelty of our words into a far more restorative vocabulary. He can take hold of even a global pandemic and reshape its resultant suffering into an unanticipated opportunity for both a deeper compassion and a clearer vision for what the world can be at its best. To believe in the Resurrection of Jesus, in other words, is to place more and more of our lives into the hands of the One who will not rest until every part of what is dead about us is transmuted into vibrant life.
 
Questions for continuing reflection:
  1. What are you celebrating most about the Resurrection this Easter?
  2. Where is God bringing about new life for you? For your church?
  3. What stones are yet to be rolled away in our lives and in our churches?
Prayer Focus:
  • Gratitude for the Resurrection
  • Prayer for those who feel oppressed by the things of death and who long for new life
  • Prayer for Resurrection joy in our lives and congregations

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Cross: A Place of Death and Finishing

Friday, April 2, 2021

Presented by: Elisha Schoeneck
Scripture Focus: John 19:16-30
 


Thematic Focus:
A God who crawls onto a cross is a God who relates to our deepest pain and brokenness, not from a safe distance, but with a vulnerable closeness, an empathetic intimacy, and an insider's perspective. The cross illuminate’s God’s eagerness to meet us in the places of our deepest personal and corporate suffering—the crucified, dead, and buried parts of our lives—and to begin to roll away the imprisoning stone that prevents us from seeing the new life that awaits just beyond the edge of our affliction. That is what our God is like. Willingly crucified. Intimately familiar with our suffering. Determined to stand with us in the agonizing mess of it all. Stubbornly refusing to allow anguish and death to be the end of the story. When Jesus declared on the cross that "it is finished," consider the ample ground that his declaration covered. His earthly life was finished, to be certain. His work was finished, completed with integrity and obedience. His suffering was finished, and not a moment too soon. His ministry was finished, the fullness of God having been incarnated in the brokenness of our world. But, in addition to all of these important "finishes," might Jesus have had something even more cosmic in mind? Might he have been telling us that sin's stranglehold upon humanity was finished? That the crippling dominion of death was finished? That the alienation between divinity and humanity was finished? Perhaps Jesus was telling us that, through his death, he had finished construction on a supernatural reconciliation—a bridge, if you will, across the spiritual chasm that separates us from the One who created us. In the cross, we find a bridge. And the bridge is magnificently finished.
 
Questions for continuing reflection:
  1. What about the crucifixion of Jesus strikes you as being particularly important on this Good Friday? How is Jesus speaking to you through the cross, all these centuries later?
  2. If someone asked you to explain why Jesus’ death on the cross is so significant, how would you respond? What would you highlight?
  3. As you stand at the foot of the cross on this Good Friday, what prayers are you praying? What are you prepared to let go of, and what are you prepared to embrace? What needs to die in your own life and ministry so that resurrection might take place?
 Prayer Focus:
  • Gratitude for Jesus’ willingness to suffer and die for the sake of a fallen world
  • Prayer for a deeper experience of the power and significance of the cross
  • Prayer for churches, that they might know the power of Jesus Christ and him crucified
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​Download the devotion in Word (.docx)




Garden: A Place of Prayer and Radical Commitment

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Presented by: Rev. Roger Howard
Scripture Focus: Matthew 26:36-56
 


Thematic Focus:
In Gethsemane, the One through whom the garden had been made now prays in it with a desperation and urgency that reflects both his deepest heart and his understanding of the agonizing journey before him. His prayer is raw and honest, reminding all of us that prayer is a durable relationship with the Divine Heart that is strong enough to accommodate even our deepest anger, fear, and doubt. When Jesus arrives, through prayer, at his governing conviction (“Yet not my will, but yours be done”), he incarnates a radical commitment to the way of carrying the cross. In his commitment, we glimpse how far God was willing go for the sake of the world’s salvation. Jesus’ commitment stands as a tangible exclamation point upon God’s scandalous love for us—a love that would take him all the way into suffering and death. The church is fueled by the courageous and radical commitment of Jesus. How does the depth and vulnerability of his commitment shape us, individually and congregationally?
 
Questions for continuing reflection:
  1. Reflect upon Jesus’ experience in the garden. What about the experience speaks to your heart on this Maundy Thursday? What about Jesus’ prayer in the garden resonates for you?
  2. Spend some time in prayer about God’s will for your life, your circumstances, and your decision-making. Remembering that there is often a sense of mystery about God’s will, where do you sense any misalignment between your will and God’s at present? Where do you have your strongest sense of convergence between your will and God’s?
  3. Where is God calling you to make a new and radical commitment in your journey? Where is God calling you to practice a risky obedience in a new way?
 Prayer Focus:
  • Gratitude for Jesus’ commitment to the way that led to our salvation
  • Prayer for a heart to listen to God’s call
  • Prayer for the faith and courage to make the commitments God is calling us to make
  • Prayer for our churches, that they will listen to God’s voice and live more deeply into a radical obedience to God’s direction

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​Download the devotion in Word (.docx)




Basin and Towel: A Place of Incarnated Love

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Presented by: Rev. Rebekah Swineford Clapp
Scripture Focus: John 13:1-20
 


Thematic Focus:
Jesus’ controversial impulse to wash the feet of his disciples stands as a timeless revelation that the politics of his kingdom are grounded, not in a spirit of entitlement or self-aggrandizement, but in a radical servanthood that revolutionizes both social dynamics and accepted notions of upward mobility. If the only motivation behind doing a good and sacrificial thing for another person is a desire to appease guilt or meet a need or generate gratification, it can quickly become an act of charity offered to a pitied recipient from a position of power and privilege. By contrast, if one allows oneself to be consistently shaped by the idea that, when one serves another person, both the server and the one served reflect the face and heart of Jesus for one another, the moment of serving carries us beyond a spirit of charity and into an enlivening engagement with the very character of God. Consider, for example, the unique opportunity you have today to serve the people in your network of relationships through your ardent and specific prayers, your well-timed phone calls, your sacrificial generosity, and your tangible acts of compassionate ministry. No one else can serve the people in your life in exactly the same way you can and with the same perspective. Whose tired and hurting “feet” might you wash this Holy Week with the outpoured water of your servanthood?
 
Questions for continuing reflection:
  1. Reflect upon Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet. How does that experience speak to your heart this Holy Week? Why do you think the experience is significant? What does it reveal about the heart of God?
  2. Reflect upon your own ministry of serving and your church’s. What is God speaking to your heart this week about those ministries?
  3. Where is the Holy Spirit inviting you to “wash some feet” in new ways in a spirit of sacrificial generosity and servanthood?
 Prayer Focus:
  • Gratitude for Jesus’ stunning servanthood, offered in his beautiful love for the world
  • Prayer for a deeper servant’s heart, individually and congregationally
  • Prayer for people around us who are in need of compassionate ministry
  • Prayer for strength and courage to serve in new and risky ways
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Table: A Place of Shared Partaking

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Presented by: Sharon Gregory
Scripture Focus: Matthew 26:17-30
 


Thematic Focus:
At the Last Supper, Jesus’ dynamic re-imagining of seemingly ordinary food and drink illuminates the possibility that every meal can become sacramental if it is consumed with a grateful awareness of Jesus’ presence. To put it another way, even our most routine meals and moments have the potential for transcendence when they are experienced with prayerful attentiveness. As the church continues to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in its worship, a particularly powerful moment in the liturgy is known as the “epiclesis”—a word that means “invocation” or “calling upon.”
 
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here,
And on these gifts of bread and wine.
Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ…
 
Such a bold invocation of the Holy Spirit reminds the church that the Lord’s Supper is something more than evocative symbolism and poignant memorialization. It is, in fact, nothing less than a beautifully mysterious engagement with the Divine Heart—a mystical banquet in which the Holy Spirit makes real the living presence of Jesus Christ through the sharing of the bread and cup. Can we prove such a thing? Can we scientifically verify that Jesus is somehow uniquely present when the church consecrates the elements? No, we cannot. But our souls (and those of the saints who have gone before us) tell us the truth, do they not? They burn with the conviction that partakers are deeply nourished at this table and that hearts are transformed by its supernatural food.
 
Questions for continuing reflection:
  1. Reflect upon Jesus’ experience at table with his disciples. What speaks to your heart most about that meal? Why do you think Jesus wanted the meal? Why was the meal significant enough for the church to continue to celebrate it?
  2. Why is breaking bread with others so spiritually and relationally important?
  3. How might we come to the Lord’s Table more meaningfully this Lent, individually and congregationally?
  4. What have been some of your most important experiences of bread-breaking at table? What have been some of your most important experiences of Holy Communion?
 Prayer Focus:
  • Gratitude for the Lord’s Supper and for other significant experiences of bread-breaking
  • Prayer for the church’s sacramental ministry
  • Prayer for those who are hungry and thirsty in all kinds of ways
  • Prayer for new experiences of bread-breaking, reconciliation, and unity

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Parade: A Place of Worshipful Hosanna

Monday, March 29, 2021

Presented by: Jon Estrada, Pastor, San Juan United Methodist Church
Scripture Focus: Matthew 21:1-10
 


Thematic Focus:
What makes Palm Sunday such an odd and challenging observance in the life of the church is that, while we long to lose ourselves in the jubilance of the leafy branches and impromptu coronation parade, we cannot seem to forget about the forbidding cross that stands starkly at the end of the week. On Palm Sunday, we get caught between the exuberance of a cavalcade and the anguish of Calvary. Maybe that is part of the revelation. Perhaps the discordant emotions and rhythms of Palm Sunday and Holy Week teach us that life's moods and circumstances will often be wildly incongruous and unpredictable. Sometimes rejoicing and suffering will be just a few heartbeats away from each another. But here is the grand and reliable truth: Jesus is fully present through all of it. He is attentively at hand in both the shouts of "Hosanna!" and the cries of "Crucify him!" He is fully on-site in both our laughter and our weeping, in both our vibrant rejoicing and our profound suffering, in both life and death, fully experiencing every nuance of our celebration and every portion of our heartbreak. How amazingly good it is to know that his heart invests fully in our highest highs and our lowest lows, our palm branches and our crosses, our communal gatherings and our quarantines, so that nothing goes wasted in our journey, neither the rejoicing nor the suffering. Jesus is busy weaving the threads of both into his brilliant tapestry of redemption.
 
Questions for continuing reflection:
  1. Reflect on Jesus’ triumphal arrival at Jerusalem and the worshipful “Hosannas” from the crowd. Why is it significant that Jesus entered Jerusalem in such triumphant fashion? Why is the gathered crowd’s response important?
  2. Reflect on your own shouts of Hosanna and your personal life of worship. What is it about Jesus that inspires your Hosanna? How might you deepen or intensify your worship of the God who came to us in Jesus?
  3. What do you celebrate most about your church’s ministry of worship?
 Prayer Focus:
  • Gratitude for a Christ who is worthy of our Hosannas
  • Prayer for those who desperately need Jesus to enter their hearts and lives
  • Prayer for a deeper spirit of gratitude, worship, and praise in my personal discipleship
  • Prayer for the church’s ministry of worship, that it might resonate with a fresh “Hosanna”

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Mountain: A Place for Transfigured Vision

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Presented by: Rev. Larry Homitsky
Scripture Focus: Matthew 17:1-9
 

 
Thematic Focus:
Interestingly, the Greek word that has traditionally been translated as “transfigured” is μεταμορφόω (metamorphoó), from which we derive the English word, “metamorphosis.” When the word is used in the New Testament (4 times), it describes, not the changing of an identity (as though something completely new comes about), but the heightened revelation of a glory that is already there—an illumination of a thing already present but perhaps hidden or unrecognized. When Jesus is transfigured, in other words, it is not a moment in which he suddenly BECOMES glorious. Rather, it is a moment in which his already-actualized glory finds grand expression in a manner that ushers his disciples into a revelation of the historical and cosmic significance of the Lordship of the One they are following. Do such "transfigured moments" still occur? Are there still occasions when God takes hold of ordinary circumstances and transfigures them so that the presence and glory of God (perhaps momentarily hidden beneath a blanket of pain and grief) find fresh revelation? Perhaps Lent is an opportunity to pay attention to the transfigured moments that God is presently initiating in our journey—moments when the reality and the glory of Jesus become vibrantly clear through circumstances and situations that, suddenly, become “mountains” of revelation.

Questions for continuing reflection:
  1. Reflect upon the experience of Jesus’ transfiguration. What about it speaks to your heart? What does it reveal? Why is it significant?
  2. Have you experienced personal moments of transfiguration in your journey—moments that, while perhaps not as dramatic as what the disciples experienced, made the reality and glory of Jesus dramatically clear to you?
  3. How might our experiences on the “mountaintops” impact the way we walk in the “valleys”?
  4. How are you experiencing the glory of Jesus Christ these days? How is that experience of his glory impacting the way you see the world and church?
Prayer Focus:
  • Gratitude for the Transfiguration and what it reveals
  • Gratitude for your personal transfigured moments
  • Prayer for those who are desperately in need of revelation and a “mountaintop experience”
  • Prayer for those who do not yet know the glory of God and the goodness of God’s salvation
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Temple Courtyard: A Place for Righteous Anger

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Presented by: Tracy Merrick
Scripture Focus: John 2:13-25

 
Thematic Focus:
The overarching sin to which Jesus seems to be responding in the temple is not the sin of buying and selling per se. Rather, Jesus seems to be angry about a much bigger issue: specifically, the ease with which people of faith conform to the principles and priorities that govern all the other parts of our fallen world. What does Jesus find when he walks into the temple courtyard? He finds “business as usual.” He finds a superficial (and, presumably, corruptly dehumanizing) commerce between merchant and customer, masking itself as service but fueled by the same kind of interplay that one could find just as easily in the marketplace. Jesus’ anger reveals his demand that our temples and sanctuaries—both the literal temple of one’s place of worship and the metaphorical temple of the human heart—be transformed through sanctification, in order that they might become settings in which people practice a way of life and community that is unlike anything else the world has to offer. In the sanctified temple, sharing and sacrificial generosity take priority over buying and selling; repentance and forgiveness eclipse manipulation and exploitation; and the shared penchant for profit and pecking order begins to give way to transformational love and Christocentric communion. What about the temple of one’s heart (or one’s church) disheartens Jesus when he walks into it? What about the temple of one’s life (or one’s church’s sanctuary) inspires righteous anger in Jesus when he sees how frequently we have settled for attitudes, priorities, and patterns of behavior that dehumanize the very people he loves? It is not a hateful anger that Jesus practices. It is an anger emerging from his heart of relentless love for this fallen world and its misguided people. It is an anger over the very things that should make us angry.

Questions for continuing reflection:
  1. What do you think Jesus’ anger reveals? Why is it important?
  2. Reflect upon what inspires Jesus’ anger in the temple courtyard. Without a spirit of unhealthy judgment, what do you think might be inspiring anger in Jesus’ heart these days related to the church and world? 
  3. About what are you most angry at present? Reflect upon the nature of that anger. Is it a righteous anger (an anger that Jesus might share with you)? Or is it something else?
  4. How does one steward anger so that it remains righteous without becoming hateful?
Prayer Focus: 
  • Prayer for personal places of anger
  • Prayer for the transformation of the world’s or the church’s anger where it has become distorted
  • Prayer for discernment, that we might become angry about the right things
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Well: A Place for Transformed Relationship

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Presented by: Mollie Landman
Scripture Focus: John 4:1-26
 

 
Thematic Focus:
In the heat of midday, a Samaritan woman and Jesus meet up at a well—the kind of setting where water tends to be the main thing. They are two people who, according to the very clear boundaries established by the culture that surrounded them, had no business interacting with one another, let alone experiencing an extended and meaningful conversation. The woman’s soul may very well have been painfully dry, even parched, with the dehydrating anguish of a past that felt enslaving and a series of relationships that had left her with a sense of both brokenness and abandonment. What she experienced in Jesus, though, was a trajectory-altering saturation in the deep wellspring of a beautiful and thirst-quenching grace. It was an encounter that changed everything for her. Perhaps it changed things for the disciples as well. Perhaps the disciples saw in Jesus that day a love and a grace that enabled even Jews and Samaritans to see one another differently and to experience a transformed relationship.

Questions for continuing reflection:
  1. How are you spiritually parched these days? Where are you experiencing a thirst that can only be quenched by the living water that Jesus offers?
  2. What are the relationships in your life that need to be transformed? How might Jesus enable you to see that person differently? 
  3. Reflect upon the deep divide that existed between Jews and Samaritans. How might the love of Jesus change the way you manage deep divides in your current relationships? (Political divides? Temperamental divides? Philosophical or theological divides?)
  4. What does the image of “living water” mean to you? How does Jesus offer it? What does it mean to receive it?
Prayer Focus:
  • Prayer for the places where you are most dry and thirsty, that Jesus’ living water might become real to you
  • Prayer for those in your network of relationships who are parched in struggle, pain, or suffering
  • Prayer or your most troubled relationships where the divide is deep
  • Prayer for transformed relationships in our churches and world, that people might see one another differently, even across a variety of divides
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Wilderness: A Place for Hearing God and Clarifying Priorities

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Presented by: Rebekah Greenawalt
Scripture Focus: Matthew 4:1-11




Thematic Focus: 
Before beginning his public ministry, Jesus spends intentional time in a wilderness place—a place removed from ordinary rhythms and familiar routines. It is a time of prayer for Jesus; a time of saying no to demanding appetites for the purpose of clarifying that for which he was most hungry; a time of wrestling with Satan in order to ensure that his priorities and vision were aligned with those of the One who had sent him. The wilderness, for Jesus, seemed to be a place of discerning what to embrace and what to reject—what to affirm and what to resist—so that his ministry might become everything he wanted it to be.

Questions for continuing reflection:
  1. What are you designating as your “wilderness place” this Lent? In other words, what personal space, away from familiar rhythms, will you designate this Lent as a place of prayer and solitude? Will it be a different room than the one in which you normally pray? Or a different corner? Or a different chair? Or a different setting altogether? Where might God be calling you to establish a new wilderness space that might enable you to listen with renewed attentiveness?
  2. Where might God be calling you to practice the discipline of fasting this Lent? Is God calling you to abstain from a meal? Or a routine? Or technology? Where do you sense the Holy Spirit leading you to say a temporary “no” to certain appetites so that you might re-engage your deepest hunger for the things that matter most?
  3. What would you identify as the foundational priorities that determine your decision-making, your behavior, and your vision for the church’s ministry? Where do you sense that those priorities need to be clarified?
Prayer Focus: 
  • Prayer for you and your congregation to be hungry for the holiest things
  • Prayer for realignment with Christ-honoring priorities and a recommitment to the things that Jesus values
  • Prayer for a meaningful, healing, and transformational Lenten journey
  • Prayer for those whose “wilderness” is a place of pain and suffering at present
Download the devotion in PDF
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River: A Place for Baptism and Remembering Baptism

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Presented by: Bill Patrick
Scripture Focus: Matthew 3:13-17

 
Questions for continuing reflection:
  1. What does Jesus’ baptism mean to you? What does it reveal or initiate? Why is it important?
  2. Reflect upon your own baptism into Jesus. What role does it play in your daily living and discipleship? Why was it something significant?
  3. In terms of the promises made in the baptismal covenant, reflect upon what it means to “renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, repent of your sin, and resist evil, injustice, and oppression…” Where is the Holy Spirit inspiring you to grow in these commitments? Where are you being called to the work of repentance, rejection of evil, and resistance against things that are counter to God’s purposes?
  4. According to the promises made by you or the ones who presented you, a confession of Jesus as Savior, a trusting in his grace, and a promise to serve him in union with the church are fundamental parts of the life into which you were baptized. Where is God calling you to grow in your salvation, your trusting in grace, and your participation both in the church’s ministry and other works of ministry? 
Prayer Focus:
  • Gratitude for Jesus’ willingness to enter the baptismal water
  • Prayer for the church’s people to live out their baptism more vibrantly
  • Prayer for those harmed and hindered by the evil, injustice, and oppression that we are committed to stand against
  • Prayer for those who have been baptized but who have traveled far from the baptismal water and what it signifies
Download the devotion in PDF
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Dust: A Place for Repentance

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Presented by: Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi
Scripture Focus: Joel 2:12-19
Thematic Focus: Through the prophet Joel, God calls God’s people to authentic repentance.
 


 

 

Questions for continuing reflection:
  1. What are you hearing from God concerning the journey of personal repentance at the beginning of this Lenten season? Where is God calling you to allow Jesus to guide you away from distorted fixation, patterns of thought, and practices?
  2. Without a spirit of judgement, reflect on where you see the church most in need of repentance. What do you hear the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart about where the church needs to “repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6)?
  3. What might repentance look like in your life and in the church’s? What will it demand?
  4. Reflect on the fact that we always repent in the presence of a God who is eager to forgive and whose grace is always trustworthy. What does that awareness of God’s forgiveness mean to you and how does it impact the journey of repentance.
Prayer Focus:
  • Personal confession and repentance
  • Prayer for the church’s authentic repentance
  • Gratitude for the assurance of God’s mercy and forgiveness
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