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 world...so 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.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Days Eleven and Twelve- March 7/8

Mark 8:36-28
For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’


Pardon the pun, but these verse really are the crux of the matter, when it comes to Jesus' message to us in this passage. Really, all our attempts to save our lives are futile. Discipleship really is a reflection of who the Messiah is, one who gives his live away. When we walk with Christ in paths of love and service, we find such meaning and purpose and depth of living. Love truly isn't love unless we give it away.

We praise you God, giver of live, who loves us and sacrifices in ways that offer us abundant life. Grant us the courage to give ourselves away...for you. Amen.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Day Ten- March 6

Mark 8:33

But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’


Poor Peter! Such harsh words of rebuke were directed at him. Don't forget that Peter had just confessed, moments earlier in verse 29, that Jesus was the messiah, and yet Jesus calls Peter Satan. It was Satan who set out to change Jesus' course at the beginning of his minstry with temptations galore. Peter was surely responding to Jesus from his loving heart. No one wants to see a beloved suffer.

Setting our minds on divine things rather than human ones is Jesus' word to Peter, and to us. Setting our mind on divine things, like love and grace, would certainly alter our perspectives and our days. It's easy to say, though hard always to do, but it's a compelling Lenten practice to work on setting our minds on divine things.


O God, when I cannot find the words and when I will not: when it is distracting and difficult to set my mind on divine things, embrace me in my humanness, hear my prayer, and help me to set my heart on you. Amen.

art: Wisdom's Path by Jan Richardson

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Day Nine- March 5

Mark 8:31-33

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’


"Get thee behind me, Satan!" are famous words from this passage. It must have been so embarrassing and so very troubling for all concerned to witness this scene.
The disciples learn from Jesus that he must undergo great suffering.
Peter rebukes Jesus. ("Say it isn't so!")
Jesus rebukes Peter. ("You just don't get it.")

I'm not sure we would "get it" either. Who would hear past suffering, rejection and death and catch the part about resurrection? And for those early followers of Jesus, a messiah or savior was a leader, almost like royalty.
The notion of a suffering savior was a new and seemingly unacceptable thing.
Perhaps these verses invite us to think about our own preconceptions, assumptions and predispositions. ("This isn't how I thought it would be!" "That's not how it's supposed to go!") Perhaps these verses invite us to think about the assumptions we make that get in the way of receiving news of resurrection...

O God, it's such an honor to be included among your co-workers that when you first invite us, it's hard to resist gasping, "You mean us? Why yes, we'd be glad to join in !" But your original approach is usually open-ended. You don't give us much idea of what we're really in for, except of course that we'll be coming alongside you. Then when you do get down to specifics, we're often so revolted that we want to get out of the whole thing. O God, thank you for sticking with us even when we run away. Convince us of your goodwill and wisdom. Enable us to be faithful to you. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.

(Opening to God: Childlike Prayers for Adults by Marilyn McCord Adams; Westminster John Knox Press, 2008. p. 43.)
Line drawing from worship works lectionary art.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Day Eight-March 4

Romans 4:13-25

For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations’, according to what was said, ‘So numerous shall your descendants be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith‘was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ Now the words, ‘it was reckoned to him’, were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Christianity, Judaism and Islam all recognize our deep ties to Abraham, so much so that all three faiths are called "Abrahamic" faiths. The reason is easy to see in Judaism:Abraham is literally the father of the nation. For Islam, the prophet Abraham was granted a revelation from God which Abraham accepts and obeys. Here, in this passage from Romans, we understand the sense in which Christians are "children of Abraham," too. In this passage, Paul makes the connection that Christians find in Christ's resurrection what Abraham found in the promise of God for many descendants.

So, for the second time this week, we're invited to ponder God's covenant with Abraham and its meaning for our own lives. Our response to god in faith is always literally that: a response to God, who is first faithful to us. This passage, like the Genesis passage from Monday, invites us to be as bold as Abraham, willing to go out not knowing exactly where we're going, but trusting the God who leads to a promised land. Surely Abraham had questions and doubts. We know that Abraham's journey is a very human one, but Paul wants believers to recall that Abraham really displayed trust in God by stepping out in faith. And it's the same for each one of us. We are not perfect, nor are we sinless. Stepping forward in faith implies that we will take risks, make mistakes, try to take matters into our own hands, fail miserably. And yet, if we do nothing, and become immobilized because of the mistakes we're afraid to make, that will not be a faithful expression of living. Trusting that God is at work in the hearts of us all is Paul's message here. May we all be empowered to take risks and trust, knowing that God is in control.

Lord Jesus, who died upon the cross:
You know this world's suffering,
You know this world's sorrowing,
You know this world's dying.

In your name, Lord Jesus, who rose again:
I will work for this world's healing,
I will work for this world's rejoicing,
I will work for this world's living. Amen.
(from A Child's First Book of Prayers by Lois Rock. p. 134.)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Day Seven- March 3

Flickr photo
Psalm 22:23-31
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.


One scholar has written that previous generations have found it too easy to proclaim "the fear of the Lord," and that we find it too hard. The lectionary verses for this psalm provide us with a creative tension between God's awesome power and God's tender care. Given that God is both powerful, striking fear in the hearts of followers and tender, offering compassion and love, how should we respond?
John Calvin suggests that praising and glorifying God through service are very appropriate responses. Surely a good way to respond to God's multi-faceted revelation is to respond in a variety of ways. God's faithfulness to people prompts people's faithfulness to God. Lent is a very good time to practice those habits of praise and service without rushing, something harder to accomplish in Advent, with a push to have Christmas arrive! Today, think for a moment about your spiritual practice: are you better at service in God's name or praise? How can you practice both? How will you, today?

"Sing praise to God, who reigns above, the God of all creation; the God of power, the God of love, the God of our salvation. With healing balm our souls God fills, and every faithless murmur still, to God all praise and glory."
(from the hymn "Sing Praise to God", Johann J. Schuttz)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Day Six- March 2

Genesis 17:1-7,15-16

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty;* walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.’ Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram,* but your name shall be Abraham;* for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring* after you.
God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’


Last week's text from Genesis offered us the covenant between God and humanity given to Noah. This week, it's covenant time again, this time with Abram, renamed Abraham (which may be read to mean ancestor of a multitude) and Sarai, renamed Sarah. You can find a different account of this same story in Genesis 15. Many scholars believe that these two different accounts highlight different historical perspectives and different attributes of God.

Covenants are about relationships. God's sign of faithfulness to humanity was the rainbow. Now the sign of the covenant between the God's special people (Israel) and God is circumcision (verses 9-14). For Christians, the sign of a believer's covenant is the cross, made at baptism, and part of our identity as we consider Christ's life and death in light of the cross, and our Easter faith that recasts the cross in a whole new light.

Here, at the beginning of Lent, we have a wonderful chance to consider promises made at the beginning of the relationship between God and Abraham and Sarah. Even the most faithful laugh at the promise offered them. Imagine how startling this news must have been to Abraham and Sarah and that it took years for them to live int those promises and see the promises of God fulfilled. What is challenging about living out your faith? Are there ways in which you see your life of faith as an adventure? Abraham and Sarah surely must have!


Living God, as Abraham and Sarah lived in faith, their relationship with you changed and grew and deepened...over decades. Allow us to be patient in understanding our relationship with you, and help us to see you, and our relationship with you as vital and living. Amen.

Abraham and Sarah- Marc Chagall

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Day Five- March 1

Mark 1:9-15
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;* repent, and believe in the good news.’

The gospel lesson for today offers us Mark's usual sparse description, with lots of details left out and lots of room for wondering. It's hard to imagine life in the wilderness for forty days; it's easy to imagine the multitude of ways in which temptation visited him. But without the description that other gospels provide us of his Jesus' wilderness experience, without the dialogue between Jesus and Satan of the way in which the tempter sought to bring Jesus down, we are left to imagine all of the ways in which Jesus' spirit would have been put to the test. Whatever your imagination might contain, we know that it must have been a time of tremendous challenge, even for the Son of God.
Eugene Peterson writes this about Mark 1:15, suggesting that the Kingdom of God drawing near or at hand is a prophetic word: "The prophetic world eliminates the distance between God's speaking and our hearing. If we make the prophetic word a predictive word we are procrastinating, putting distance between ourselves and the application of the word, putting of dealing with it until some future date." (Eugene Peterson, Living the Message, p.67-68)

Loving God, You remind us that your kingdom, your realm, your dominion is here and now, not later or in the sweet bye and bye. Help us to change our course, alter our lives, make space and time to believe your good news and to live it. Amen.

Jesus Tempted by artist Chris Cook