Sunday, April 12, 2009

Day 46-April 12- Easter! Alleluia!

John 20:1-18
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

Day 45-April 11

Job 14:1-14
‘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.

Flickr photo.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Day 44-April 10-Good Friday

Psalm 22
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

Day 43-April 9-Maundy Thursday

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

Day 42-April 8

Hebrews 12:1-3
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

Day 41-April 7

Psalm 71:1-14
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

Day 40-April 6

Isaiah 42:1-9
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.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Day 39-April 5-Palm Sunday

Mark 14:1-15:47
The Plot to Kill Jesus
It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, ‘Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.’
The Anointing at Bethany
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’
Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
The Passover with the Disciples
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’ He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’
The Institution of the Lord’s Supper
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’
Peter’s Denial Foretold
When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters; for it is written,
“I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.”
But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though all become deserters, I will not.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ But he said vehemently, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And all of them said the same.
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’ He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’
The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.’ All of them deserted him and fled.
A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.
Jesus before the Council
They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, ‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.” ’ But even on this point their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’ But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said, ‘I am; and
“you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power”,
and “coming with the clouds of heaven.” ’
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?’ All of them condemned him as deserving death. Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ The guards also took him over and beat him.
Peter Denies Jesus
While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know or understand what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, ‘This man is one of them.’ But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.’ But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’ At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.
Jesus before Pilate
As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ He answered him, ‘You say so.’ Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, ‘Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.’ But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
Pilate Hands Jesus over to Be Crucified
Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
The Soldiers Mock Jesus
Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
The Crucifixion of Jesus
They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews.’ And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’ In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.’ Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.
The Death of Jesus
When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’ Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’
There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
The Burial of Jesus
When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.

There’s something haunting about the sheer length of the gospel lesson that captures the passion narrative. It’s no wonder that most Protestant churches shy away from reading the whole of Mark 14:1- 15:47 on Palm Sunday, even if the intent is to point toward the unfolding events of Holy Week. What can be said, in the face of this story? Perhaps just this: we perpetuate sin when we imagine or believe that sin is what other people do.
Our voices crucify Jesus, every time act in ways that separate us from God’s love and God’s intention for us to be loving servants. Really.

Dear God. Dear God. This is not our happy family story. This is a tragedy, and it is ours.
Help us to live in ways that illustrate and illuminate your transforming love, because you first loved us. Amen.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Day 38-April 4

Philippians 2:5-11
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

This striking passage, hotly debated by Pauline scholars (Are they Paul’s words? Are they a pre-existing hymn that Paul and his community already knew?) Whatever its source, this amazing, majestic, early hymn to obedience and self- effacement is a treasure. Paul Simpson Duke, pastor of First Baptist Church of Ann Arbor, has this elegant commentary to share: “This is the Christ mind: not to grasp at glory, but to live, to love, to die, an emptied self. Paul prefaces the hymn urging us to be so minded. How can we not be, if we are in Christ and Christ is among us?”

May it be so, O God, that we, too, can be servants, not victims, emptying ourselves, serving and humbling ourselves, a powerful selfhood that is a choice, as it was our Lord’s. Amen.

Cross art found here.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Day 37-April 3

Psalm 31:9-16
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief,
my soul and body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery,
and my bones waste away.

I am the scorn of all my adversaries,
a horror to my neighbors,
an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many—
terror all around!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.

But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, ‘You are my God.’
My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.

“My times are in your hand.” “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit” (Luke 23:46). Jesus knew the psalms. It’s no accident that Jesus’ words on the cross echo Psalm 31:15 and that these passages are so closely linked this week.
To what extent do we truly believe that God is present and in control of our lives?
What would that acknowledgement look like, feel like, sound like in your life?
How would you be freed to live? What fears would be lessened? Would you feel strengthened by embracing these words in your own life?

God of our lives, it is not always easy to trust that you are with us, especially when our lives feel out of our control. Come to think of it, were they ever in our control? To the extent that we play a part in the outcome of our days, please help us to be strong and focused and responsible. When we come to the edge of all for which we can bear responsibility and choice, allow us to rest in you, and to affirm the gift and the grace of affirming that our times are in your hand. Amen.

Day 36-April 2

Isaiah 50:4-9a
The Lord GOD has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord GOD has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backwards.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.

The Lord GOD helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord GOD who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
All of them will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up.

If one were considering the lectionary readings for a Sunday emphasizing the passion of Christ, rather than his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, this passage would certainly focus one’s thinking. This passage leads off the “liturgy of the passion” and it certainly invites us to think about what it means to think about Jesus’ suffering in light of the Old Testament tradition. It makes such a difference to think about the voice of the Servant, 2nd Isaiah, in this passage, not as a disgruntled and weary prophet, but one who is passionately in love with God and God’s people. A prophet who is willing to reaffirm God’s goodness and hesed (steadfast love) and set his face like flint is all about what it means to stand up to hate with love.
So, this is the message here as we move into Holy Week. Love that sustains even in the midst of suffering is a remarkable example. It’s the example of Jesus. To what extent is it the example of our lives?

God, forgive us when we give up easily or meet hatred with hatred. Help us to find the delicate, yet powerful balance between wearing suffering like a crown and being willing to suffer, because love is that deep and true. Amen.

Flikr photo

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Day 35-April 1

Mark 11:1-11

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethpage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’ They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.


All four gospel writers agreed that this is a foundational story, because they all include it.
Mark’s version is clear in its irony and juxtaposition of a triumphal entry, befitting a king, but on a donkey, a beast of burden. Some commentators suggest that it’s really not that big a deal. Some might have recognized this as a fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophesy (Zec. 9:9), and others share the insight that a colt or an ass was the animal prices rode when they wished to signify peaceful intentions, and still others point to the inclusion of the donkey and Jesus’ instructions regarding its use as the suggestion that everything is happening in accordance with God’s will and intent as its significance.

So much will change, and so quickly. This festive, almost humorous and special scene will go bad so quickly. Shame and suffering will take the place of the carnival-like atmosphere. We know how this is going to turn out, and it’s intolerable to think about it if all one considers is the humiliation and the shame. But, as commentator Margaret Farley suggests, the shadow of Good Friday transforms the light of Palm Sunday, for only with both of them together do we learn that dignity is sustained with integrity; that the forces of false judgment and suspicion, servile fear and violence will be transformed because of the love that was not broken.

It is a bittersweet thing to reflect upon the highs and lows of your Son’s ministry. The festival atmosphere of Palm Sunday, soon to arrive, will so swiftly change. Life is fragile, O God, we know you know that. Help us to sing you praise, speak a word of truth and justice, act with compassion, knowing that you are a part of each day’s joys and challenges. Amen.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Day 34-March 31

Psalm 118:19-29
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the LORD.

This is the gate of the LORD;
the righteous shall enter through it.

I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the LORD’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we beseech you, O LORD!
O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD.
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God,
and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God, I will extol you.

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures for ever.

The verses of Psalm 118 for us today are some of the most familiar verses found within the psalms. "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!" "O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, God's steadfast love endures forever." Five times within this psalm we are reminded of God's steadfast love, which is a message for any day, and for every day. whatever life's circumstances might be, it's always a beautiful and worthwhile thing to be reminded that we are loved and cared for unceasingly and without condition.
When we set all of our experiences within the context of gratitude, we're doing something faithful, and yet counter cultural. It's not a cultural inclination to be grateful for gifts-- so much of our culture is built upon success being earned and prosperity as entitlement.
But it's gift, and the psalmist reminds us that thanksgiving is not a polite rejoinder; it's the first and the last words. This the hallmark of who were are as we worship a generous God.

Because of your goodness, O God, we can recognize goodness around us. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Amen.

Flickr photo.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Day 33-March 30

Psalm 118:1-2

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever!

Let Israel say, ‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’


Eugene Peterson writes in Praying with the Psalms, "When every incident in the experience of the people under God was discovered to be an exposition of God's steadfast love, then every gathering of those people came to be an expression of gratitude. "In this is love, not that we loved God but that God loved us and sent the Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins." ( I John 4:10) This psalm is all about God. It's always a good thing to pause to give thanks, to remember that for which we are grateful, and this sentence, which is a balm and a blessing: "His steadfast love endures forever."

Help us to be loyal and grateful to you this day, O God. Hear us from the depths of our souls: we give you thanks for your unfailing love. Amen.

Photo from a website about Yoga alignment. Looked liked gratitude to me...

Day 32-March 29

John 12:29-33
The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Here's the heart of the message for this, the fifth Sunday in Lent.
There is no way to Easter by detour. We cannot avoid the cross. It is heart wrenching and heartbreaking, and Jesus' message makes one point: he has come for us and will draw all people to himself. Jesus life is not his own, but as one author points out, humanity is his own, and we abide in his life. Can we hang in there with Jesus?

You ask a lot, and you offer a lot, O God. We are not worthy, but your love empowers us in countless ways. Help us to to be faithful to you and to your Son. Amen.

Day 31-March 28

John 12:27-28
‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’
Wouldn't it be great to have one's message affirmed and confirmed with a voice from heaven? Remember the voice at Jesus' baptism? Once more, God offers an affirmation of Jesus' prayer that God would glorify God's name.
To be sure, there is a "stay tuned" quality to this message, but it is hopeful, and it is an abiding voice, of One who is well pleased with the Son.

Dear God, anytime we sense your presence, it is a wondrous thing. Thank you for your word, made real to us in Jesus Christ. Amen.

This colored pencil art, entitled Voice of Heaven and Earth, is by the artist Grimm. More information can be found here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Day 30-March 27

John 12:22-26
Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

Jesus is telling the Greeks and his disciples about himself, about the joureny that is unfolding for him.

The image of dying in order to live is something anyone who farms or gardens can understand. Simone Weil once wrote,
"Except the seed die...It has to die in order to liberate the energy it bears within it so that with this energy new forms may be developed. So we have to die in order to liberate a tied upenergy, in order to possess an energy which is free and capable of understanding the true relationship of things."
Where do you see pent-up energy, waiting to be freed? How can the choices we make today free us for service in Christ's name?

Go with us, this day, O God. It is hard for us to imagine hating this life, but within our imagination to see ourselves freed for service. To the extent that we guard and protect that which we love, free us from fear and help us to abandon that which separates us from a deeper, richer, fuller relationship with you. Amen.

Weil quote is from the Collection, Resources for Preaching and Worship, Year B, Ward and Wild, 2002.
Seed falling from here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Day 29-March 26

John 12:20-21
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’

"Sir, we wish to see Jesus." I stepped into a pulpit in a country church and looked down. Engraved on a brass plaque mounted to the pulpit were exactly those words: "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Over the years, I'd encounter those plaques and signs in other pulpits in other places.

We know that the "sir" in this passage is Philip, but it's clear that the brass plaque version of a WWJD bracelet was meant to convey a message other than a desire to see and speak with Jesus.

It's a good spin on this portion of the text. As people of faith, our words and actions are a demonstration of the faith we profess. In this passage from the 12th chapter of John, times are tense. The responses of others to the events previously described (Jesus' raising of Lazarus, Mary's anointing of Jesus' feet, and Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem) are mixed. The Greeks who wished to see Jesus provide Jesus with the opportunity to address all people, as we'll see. But for now, perhaps this verse can serve as a reminder that all kinds of people wish to see Jesus, and that we have many opportunities to share a word of hope with a world in need.

Gracious God, help others see your Son in our witness this day. Amen.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day 28- March 25

Hebrews 5:5-10
So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,
‘You are my Son,
today I have begotten you’;
as he says also in another place,
‘You are a priest for ever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.’
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.


There's no book in the Second Testament quite like Hebrews. The author's primary interest seems to be a portrayal of Jesus as a high priest, a discussion taken up in much greater detail in Hebrews 7. An interesting but somewhat obscure reference to Melchizedek, the priest who blessed Abraham and bore his tithe to the altar is not the only example that leaves us wondering whether this section is accessible and helpful to us. It's troubling think that the author of Hebrews is suggesting that God deliberately caused Jesus to suffer. It's odd to think about a priest who doesn't offer up the expected sacrifices (animal or sacramental...bread and wine. In this passage, Jesus the High Priest offers up the lament of all people with loud crying and tears. Could it be that this author wants us to focus not on the "accessories" of priestliness or sacrifice, but rather to spend time reflecting upon Jesus' deep, deep compassion? A priest forever, Jesus cries out on behalf of all people, forever. Perhaps we can relate to a Jesus who weeps for us and on our behalf, and calls us to hear and echo that cry on behalf of all who suffer.


Hear our prayers, O Lord, for those who suffer, for those who weep, whose conditions break our hearts, and yours. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world. Have mercy. Amen.
Sculpture: "Love and Anguish" found here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Day 27-March 24

Psalm 119:9-16

How can young people keep their way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
do not let me stray from your commandments.
I treasure your word in my heart,
so that I may not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes.
With my lips I declare
all the ordinances of your mouth.
I delight in the way of your decrees
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts,
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.

"I treasure your word in my heart...." It's such a helpful thing to have a verse, a phrase, a passage from scripture that one can call upon when needed. Do you have one?
"I am fearfully and wonderfully made..." "Rejoice in the Lord always...." "I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the Lord..." "In all things, we are more than conquerors, through Him who has loved us..." "What does the Lord require of you..." "For we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses..."

Ideally, we have more than one verse or passage that means the world to us. For starters, one is good. Think on yours today...

To have treasures from your word to call upon, count upon, think about, is a gift, O God. Thank you for your Word. Amen.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Day 26- March 23

Jeremiah 31:31-34

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband,* says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Several years ago economist Paul Romer quipped, "A crisis is a terrible thing to waste." it's the prophet Jeremiah who accuses Israel of having broken covenant with God, a crisis, to be sure. And that same prophet offers a word of hope, which is surely the mission of God's people in times of crisis. "The days are surely coming.." "...I will remember their sin no more."
Here, more than halfway through the demanding season of Lent, we, too, receive a message of hope, a balm in Gilead, for all who are needy, hopeless, lonely, bereft. "Surely the days are coming..." They are not here yet, according to the Lord, but they are on the horizon.


Soon and very soon, dear God, we will see your face. One day, we will understand fully what we now know only in part. Until then, let us claim your promises, rely on your prophets and messengers, and live into the hope that you offer, because of the gift of your Son and the transforming love he offers. Amen.

Photo from wikimedia, found here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Day 25- March 22

John 3:14-21
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’


Hooray for the days when the lectionary fits like a glove, when all of the passages for the week complement each other in an obvious and very whole and holy way. But do they? Just consider the parallels for a moment: "Look at the serpent and live" (Numbers 21) and "Believe in the Son of Man and live eternally." (John 3). "By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8)"For God so loved the that the world might be saved through him." Hmm...which is it? Are we saved through Christ, or through faith? the whole of scripture, knit and woven together like beautiful fabric, invites us to think about the mutual interaction of God's grace and human faith. Both are important, and both comprise the heartbeat of faith-- the in/out quality that is vital and never mutually exclusive. That's really the genius of this passage that is so central to our Christian faith: the grace, love and communion of the trinity is found here, and grace and faith both play integral roles in accepting faith and living it out.

This day, O God, let me live reliant upon you and eager to serve out of gratitude for your gifts to all people. Amen.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Day 24- March 21

Ephesians 2:8-10
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.


“We have been fascinated by the exploration and conquest of space in our time. We have been made aware of that vast world of planets now being reached.
There is another conquest in the realm of faith that fills us with wonder. St. Bernard describes it: ‘Boundless in time and space he loves us. Shall we set boundaries to his love?’ His words express a challenge and open up to us a vision of God who reveals a love without limits.
In the life of Jesus on earth even a couple of examples express his boundless love. There was no road he would not travel to hand on his message. “To other cities” he must go. No malady that his healing hands would not reach…His final proof of limitless love came when he expended his arms on the cross, from east to west, to heal the whole family of God.
The love that touched St. Bernard and made his life a love-song, evoked a like response from the heart of a young girl from the same region of France eight hundred years later. Elizabeth of the Trinity was entranced by the thought of the limitless love of Jesus. “How rich God is in mercy. With what an excess of love he loves us!” (Ephesians 2:4) St. Paul’s phrase “excess of love: became the theme that directed her life. She said, “There is a word of Paul that is life a summary of my existence, that could be written over each moment of my life: ‘because of his excessive love.’ Yes, all the graces of my life—they arise from his having loved me all too much.”
For Bernard, love, boundless; for Elizabeth, excessive. Shall we set limits?”
Watch how this passage is linked with our gospel lectionary text tomorrow…

Lord Jesus, make my heart ever more generous in responding to your boundless love of me.

Reflection and Prayer from John Moloney, The Time is Now (Dublin: The Columba Press, 2001), p.36.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Day 23-March 20

Ephesians 2:3-7
All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.

Here we are, with another heavy text, appropriate for Lent. I don't know about you, but it seems awfully daunting to be label folks as being, by nature, "children of wrath". One of my study bibles defines this phrase as meaning "powerless creatures subject to God's judgement." But look at the prior words within the text: "All of us...once lived..." So, once again, Paul is speaking to what it means to make an intentional move toward God, to turn to a grace-filled God. Here's the heart of the text: by grace you have been saved. So we're saved by faith--not good works-- and faith and grace are gifts from God, and not opportunities we construct on our own.
So, in fact, this is not only a Lenten text, but an Easter text, because what was once dead is now alive. So today, on the first day of Spring, how does your faith reflect liveliness and new life?

It is easier to gaze into the sun, than into the face of your mystery, O God, for such is your beauty and radiance. You say, "I am the supreme fire; not deadly, but rather, enkindling every spark of life." Kindle that spark in us today, O God, for your sake. Amen.

Prayer adapted from Gabriele Uhlein's work in Meditations with Hildegard of Bingen (Santa Fe, NM:Bear and Co, 1983, p. 25.)
Sname image from here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Day 22- March 19

Ephesians 2:1-2
You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.

This is the first installment in a series of reflections about Ephesians 2:1-10. This is a central text in our Christian faith and one that prompts a lot of thought and reflection…so stay tuned! Today’s verses provide a stark Lenten reminder that we walk through this life with many “dangers, toils and snares”, in the words of a familiar hymn. I’m not sure who the ruler of the power of the air is, though some scholars suggest it’s probably the devil (compare Ephesians 4:27, 6:11.) Perhaps the Ephesians would have been more familiar with this expression. At any rate, we’re offered a classic Lenten passage, inviting us to turn from that which separates us from God back to the God of rich love and mercy, as we’ll see in the succeeding verses. So, for today, what does it mean for us to make a choice for that which is living, compared with that which brings spiritual death? Coupled with our earlier text from Psalm 107, Paul reminds us here that we’re always faced with choices. What sorts of good, sound, life-giving choices are yours this day?

Loving God, walk with us. Help us choose life. Help us choose you. Amen.

Art: Green Lanscape, found here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Day 21-March 18

Psalm 107:17-22
Some were sick through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress;
he sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from destruction.
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.

What a Lenten passage! Notions of being sick with sin and turning to God and being delivered from distress and destruction sounds like the heart of the season of Lent to me…. Turning to God brings wholeness, and while we may be reluctant to think about our bodies being renewed, this passage indicates that wholeness is truly wholeness when both our spirits and bodies are renewed and regenerated.
What would it take for you, today, to be relieved of a great stress, to be delivered from something that’s harming your body and/or your soul? The psalmist’s answer is that seeking God, receiving God’s love and responding with praise is just the prescription…

God, your care and providence are great. May we trust in you, allowing your love to correct, guide, heal and restore us. May your healing power, and the model of your Son as the Great Physician, be real to us and to all who need you this day. Amen.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Day 20-March 17

Psalm 107:1-3
O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
This passage invites testimony, bearing witness, celebrating God’s redemption and love. “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those God redeemed from trouble and gathered in from all places.” It’s one thing to gaze in awe at a breathtaking sunrise, it’s another to speak to another about God’s goodness. If all our praise is internal, we’ve missed an opportunity to share God’s magnificence with others.
The late Irish theologian John O’ Donohue wrote, “When we awaked to the call of beauty, we become aware of new ways of being in the world.”1 Why not take the chance today, and speak your praise of God aloud to another?

Into a dark world a snowdrop comes, a blessing of hope and peace, carrying within it a green heart, symbol of your renewing love, O God. Come to inhabit our darkness, Lord Christ, for dark and light are alike to you. May your creations white candle of hope compel us to speak of you, and lighten our journey through Lent and beyond. Amen.2

1. John O’Donohue, Beauty,2004,Harper Collins. p.7.

2. Adapted from an invocation for Lent by Kathy Galloway in The Pattern of Our Days, 1996, Paulist Press.

Photo from here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Day 19-March 16

Numbers 21:4-9
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.’ Then the Lord sent poisonous* serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’ So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

People are murmering. The Israelites have been following Moses, and by now, they have complained, rebeled, argued or spoken against their wilderness leaders four times. In response to this fifth grumble, God moves to punsih folks with snakes. As one author remarks, "It's one thing to grumble against Moses and Aaron. It's another to complain about God."1 Never mind that Moses has led the people out of slavery. change is difficult and things just look better in retrospect. Moses prays, God responds, and Moses makes a bronze serpent to remind folks to have faith in God.
It's unsettling to think about God punishing or further scaring fearful people. Perhaps it makes sense to reflect upon this passage as we consider what causes fear in us, individually and collectively. How do our fears become our idols, and how does God respond to our fears, here in the wilderness called Lent and as we journey to the cross?

God of love and God whose power evokes wonder and fear, keep us focued on what is possible through you. Center our hearts and minds on your wisdom and strength and allow us to rely on it as we move trhough difficult or fearful times. Amen.

1. Barbara Brown Taylor in Feasting on the Word,Year B., Vol. 2, p.99.
snake picture from msnbc.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Day 18-March 15

John 2:13-22
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Cleansing the temple
Is this the gentle Jesus
Whose healing touch is balm,
Consoler of the broken
And messenger of calm?
Is this the friend of children
At whom the tempests cease--
Are these his hands of blessing,
Is this his voice of peace?

His eye is bright with anger,
His workman's hand strikes clear--
The traders cringe and scatter,
Torn by unholy fear.
The mighty temple totters,
For all its golden wealth:
The Spirit blows a tempest
OF cleansing, of new health.

This is the day he promised
OF good news to the poor--
Cast out the old corruption,
That blocks the temple door!
Throw wide the gate of freedom,
Let all God's children come!--
Through Jesus' broken body
God's people shall come home.
(Mary Ann Ebert, in Human Rites: Worship Resources for an Age of Change, comp. Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild (London:Mowbray, 1995), pp.310-11.)

God of power and strength, you ask us in Jesus to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with you. Share your Son's courage with us as we speak up to right wrongs and to be faithful to you. Amen.

Art by Jared Barnes

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Day 17- March 14

John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

To exegete a passage presumes a knowledge of a text, and for biblical scholars, the context in which a biblical passage is found is one facet, of many, that helps to illuminate a text.
The message this passage is trying to convey about Jesus is that his action in the temple is prophetic. Jesus wasn't the first to criticize those who would make worship into a cultic act-- selling sacrificial animals to religious pilgrims. Jesus alludes to the prophet Zechariah (14:21) and gives us a clue to their meaning in John. On the day that the Lord comes to Jerusalem, there will no longer be traders in the house of the Lord. It's a new day, and it's a also an indication that the disciples will have a hard time with Jesus' words and actions and what will follow. Like most hearers, Jesus' words and actions cause both reflection and skepticism, but while the Jews turn hostile, the disciples, despite their lack of understanding, remain firm in their faith in him. John is looking back at these events, but so are we, and this passage provides us with a fine opportunity to think about what it means to trust in one who asks much of us and re-orders our understanding of what it means to be faithful.


Guide us, O God, in your ways. Teach us how to trust in you, even when we have questions and doubts. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Day 16-March 13

John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Today’s reflection takes up a pastoral perspective. Who is Jesus criticizing here, as he cleans up the act in the temple? One could certainly see this text as an opportunity to pull out one’s whip and rage against injustices that offend us. But consider this: when is Jesus displeased with us? When do we serve institutions unquestioningly? Surely this is a Lenten theme that warrants some serious attention from us. How should we be repenting of that which is service in something that is decidedly less than God?
O God, you know our hearts, and you know that sometimes we grow complacent and inattentive. Challenge us, inspire us, and empower us to mirror your values. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Carl Bloch's Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day 15-March 12

John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.


Get ready to experience a trend in the days to come. Today, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we’ll look at the same text (John 2:13-22- the story of Jesus “cleansing” the temple from four different perspectives. Various commentators treat this text for the third Sunday in Lent from theological (what does this passage say about God?), pastoral (what does this passage say to the believer?), exegetical (how does one read this text historically?) and homiletical (what are the preaching themes in this text?) perspectives. While they’re not mutually exclusive, we can certainly tease out these four themes…at least for this week!
So, theologically…this passage, found in John, occurs directly after the first of seven signs in John’s gospel that speak to the revelation of God’s glory found in Christ. The first sign reported is Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana (John 2:11) John places this story of the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry as a dramatic way of describing Jesus as Calvin (happy 500th birthday!!!) as a prophet, priest and king. Setting things right, “cleansing” the temple was one of the ways John understood Jesus as coming to do something very new…and radical. Do you think about Jesus as a prophet? What prophetic words of his rock your world? What prophetic words of Jesus prompt you to live differently in the world?

Loving God, you are always calling us to reform and reshape our lives, according to your Word. Help us, with believing hearts, to listen to your voice in scripture and respond in faithful ways. Amen.

Art: The cross. Interesting children's art found here.

Day Fourteen- March 11

I Corinthians 1:18-25

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.


What is more human that wanting to preserve ourselves in the face of unknown danger.
The crux of the matter here (OK, pun intended) is that we are being saved, but we are not doing the saving. God says no to the apparent logic that everything moves toward death. This new hypothesis from Paul suggests that God values every person, and each person, as God's own creation. What a remarkable thing-- and so worth our time and energy and meditation in Lent. Death is real, but in the end, there shall be new life. That's wisdom, wrapped as foolishness. It's not our doing, but God's in Christ. Amazing, this grace....


Thank you, God, for all of the ways in which you reorder our thinking, humbling us as you bestow lavish gifts of grace upon us. Thank you. Such small words in the face of such grace. Amen.

Day Thirteen- March 10

Psalm 19

The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and nothing is hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring for ever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
and drippings of the honeycomb.

Moreover by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from the insolent;
do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Reflection and Prayer

"This psalm is all about a message,Lord, a message you are sending that is no longer
getting through. If only people would stop, look, and listen, step aside out of their insane scramble after all the shoddy trinkets are dangled, glistening, before their eyes, and catch, again, the old world sounds of geese above the autumn fog, and feel the sharp, fresh wind across their faces, the rich soil beneath their fingers.
If we, your people, could only do all this, we might just reconnect with that earliest of ancestors who, venturing out beyond the mouth of his smoke-darkened cave, and exclaimed in wordless awe and wonder, groped toward thoughts of God.
What progress we have made since that cave mouth!
What inconceivable improvements in all the standards of our living! Yet I sometimes wonder what it all has cost, what has been lost along the way, how it is that we no longer hear the eloquent silence that speaks to us of you, Lord God.
There is, of course, another side to nature;
there are earthquakes, floods, disease, and human suffering. So the psalmist, in his delineation of your message, turns from nature to the marvel of your law. You not only gave a wondrous world to live in, Father, you have also showed us how to live in it. You have given us a Book, a set of clear directions, on how to take our place within this glorious setting. And this law is not a crushing, heavy burden, it is a blessing given us to cherish, to uphold, because it upholds us; because it is the framework, pattern, model of existence in relationship, in community, in responsibility, and therefore in the only true and worthwhile--lasting --freedom.
'The starry heavens above me and the moral law within'; open my eyes this day, Lord, to these signposts set within the world that point me toward you. Teach me reverence and obedience-- and faith, which is the fullest combination of the two. Amen"

Reflection and prayer from Praying the Psalms, J. Barrie Shepherd, 1987.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Day Twelve- March 9

Exodus 20:1-17

Then God spoke all these words:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation* of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

You undoubtedly remember the controversy from a few years back of an Alabama judge and others who wanted to display the ten commandments in public buildings and the state supreme court ruling to remove them.
There are a hundred ways to think about this text for the third Sunday in Lent. What does it mean to honor our loved ones? How can faithful 21st century people observe and keep the sabbath holy?
When political candidates portray their opponents in less than truthful manner, is that bearing false witness? Is there a way for to attend to the ten commandments, in all of their simplicity and cultural complexity, so that they provide not only a window into understanding Moses' era, but our own as well? Ten's a pretty simple, manageable number, yet these commandments remind us that our lives can get pretty complicated very quickly, and we should guard against trivializing something simply stated that represents a great deal of moral and cultural complexity.

Bruce Gillette, a Presbyterian pastor in Delaware and the spouse of the Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, a writer of new words for familiar hymns, has written these words, to recall the ten commandments in verse:

Above all else love God alone;
Bow down to neither wood nor stone.
God's name refuse to take in vain;
The Sabbath rest with care maintain.
Respect your parents all your days;
Hold sacred human life always.
Be loyal to your chosen mate;
Steal nothing, neither small nor great.
Report, with truth, your neighbor's deed;
And rid your mind of selfish greed.

They have also written a wonderful guide to teaching the ten commandments to children. It can be found here:

Enjoy these simple guides, while also remembering that the history of our faith is not simplistic.


Guide our feet and our thoughts and actions, O God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.
Guide us in your ways and help us always to be mindful, respectful and engaged int he world around us as we seek to do your work and your will. Amen.