Sunday, April 12, 2009
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Saturday, April 11, 2009
‘A mortal, born of woman, few of days and full of trouble,
comes up like a flower and withers,
flees like a shadow and does not last.
Do you fix your eyes on such a one?
Do you bring me into judgment with you?
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?
No one can.
Since their days are determined,
and the number of their months is known to you,
and you have appointed the bounds that they cannot pass,
look away from them, and desist,
that they may enjoy, like laborers, their days.
‘For there is hope for a tree,
if it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
and that its shoots will not cease.
Though its root grows old in the earth,
and its stump dies in the ground,
yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth branches like a young plant.
But mortals die, and are laid low;
humans expire, and where are they?
As waters fail from a lake,
and a river wastes away and dries up,
so mortals lie down and do not rise again;
until the heavens are no more, they will not awake
or be roused out of their sleep.
O that you would hide me in Sheol,
that you would conceal me until your wrath is past,
that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me!
If mortals die, will they live again?
All the days of my service I would wait
until my release should come.
‘For there is hope for a tree,
if it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
and that its shoots will not cease.
This is the lamentation for this day. No wonder that people shy away from any more liturgy or religious observance, for it is almost too much to bear. And yet, is it any wonder that the Easter Vigil, with its quiet reminders of our baptism and the closeness of community that seems to happen in the darkest parts of the night would offer so much solace to those who would risk its observance? As you complete this Lenten journey—and indeed we have—we have arrived at the end of Lent—consider what are your spiritual responses to pain and suffering?
Where is your hope? Where is the release for which you are waiting?
O Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Here, in the darkest hour, you remind us that we are never alone. We cannot say thank you enough. Help us to speak words of gratitude. Always. Amen.
Friday, April 10, 2009
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
‘Commit your cause to the LORD; let him deliver—
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!’
Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
Many bulls encircle me,
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shrivelled;
I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
But you, O LORD, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion!
From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the LORD.
May your hearts live for ever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.
To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.
Eugene Peterson wrote that “Prayer is strengthened immeasurably when it acquires a memory.” This psalm, a prayer, remembers God having responded to cries for help. Now God feels far away, just as his heavenly Father must have felt so far away from Jesus when he uttered these words from Psalm 22 on the cross. It does not take much to imagine the agony and sorrow of Jesus. Re-reading Psalm 22 provides so many reminders: the shame of being treated abusively by others is contrasted with the dear experience of being treated with tenderness by God. Person again: “The way people deal with us matters enormously; the way God handles us matters even more, and will finally make all the difference.”
Dear God, let us see our lives with your eyes of love, and so be able to discern what you think of us and what you do for us in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Remarkable found art here.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
The New Commandment
When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
This heart-rending farewell discourse is hard to bear. Some, however, might call it a love letter. This passage from John introduces Jesus’ love, shows, embraces and understands servant love, reveals God’s glory in Jesus’ love, and enacts Jesus’ love in the community. To the end, Jesus was loving and self-giving. Today offers us a chance to reaffirm our love for God and to recommit ourselves to be servants in his name.
Loving God, you offer so many gifts to us and the example of Jesus’ life is an enormous one. Help us to live transformed lives, with our hearts, with our words, and with our actions. Amen.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.
This is Wednesday of Holy Week. In one sense, there is a weariness in this passage from Hebrews that reflects the long journey that is this Holy Week, and yet there is also a dynamic and hopeful sense, like that of a runner just short of the goal.
We recall that the author of Hebrews has argued in other places that Christ is the great high priest. Here, he is right before us, enduring, weathering, persevering through a struggle that seems unendurable. Hope will win. Joy will prevail. It’s a good focus, for anyone who understands the weight of suffering….and who doesn’t?
This is a long week, O God, and a hard week, in Jesus’ life and in our lives as followers of him. Run with us, so that we can run this race, and, like the prophet Isaiah, proclaim that you renew our strength. Amen.
Photo from here.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a rock of refuge,
a strong fortress, to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.
For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from my birth;
it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.
I have been like a portent to many,
but you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with your praise,
and with your glory all day long.
Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
do not forsake me when my strength is spent.
For my enemies speak concerning me,
and those who watch for my life consult together.
They say, ‘Pursue and seize that person
whom God has forsaken,
for there is no one to deliver.’
O God, do not be far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
Let my accusers be put to shame and consumed;
let those who seek to hurt me
be covered with scorn and disgrace.
But I will hope continually,
and will praise you yet more and more.
It is Tuesday of Holy Week. What better day, as Thursday and Friday loom on the horizon, to read a psalm of praise and petition that recalls God’s unending love?
Like the children’s books “Love You Forever,” “The Runaway Bunny” and “Guess How Much I Love You” the psalmist is describing boundless love. “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always; as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” “If you run away, I will come and find you.” “I love you right up to the moon…and back.” But here’s the thing: we’re not always so sure. The foundation of God’s love does not always feel as firm.
The psalmist understands that, and reminds us that suffering and pain are real, but that God will not fail us, and we are called to hope. Even if our hearts hold doubts, God’s love is great, greater, the greatest.
In your light, we see light, O God. Hasten the day when we will never doubt your unfailing, untiring love. Amen.
Quilt found here.
Monday, April 6, 2009
Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the LORD,that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to idols.
See, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
I tell you of them.
It is the Monday of Holy Week. The richness of another passage from Isaiah greets us, with a message that people who are committed to justice never give up. Justice is God’s cause, and, persuaded by that truth, we’re renewed…like eagles, like rivers… God is present. God is in control. God is faithful.
Faithful God, instill in us a heart for justice, and a well of faith from which we can draw when we grow weary. Source of life, take our efforts and turn them to a greater good. Amen.