Good Friday, March 30, 2018 – Blessed Cross

Good Friday, March 30, 2108

good-friday-in-real-time-2-1

The Twelfth Station: Jesus Creates a New Family

Behold your son

John 19:25-27

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”  Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

The Thirteenth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

removal of the bodyLuke 23:44-47

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon,  while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.  When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”

 

The Fourteenth Station: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

188056-jesus-body-is-prepared-for-burial_mdLuke 23:50-54

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God.  This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning.

 

Reflection:

Today is Good Friday. We remember that Jesus Christ knew our human griefs. We acknowledge the pain of human loss. We recognize our need for the grace of God so that in pain we may find comfort, in sorrow, hope, in death, resurrection. We remember with praise, thanksgiving, and blessing to God that dying, Jesus Christ destroyed the power of sin and our death.

Amidst the suffering and death of Christ on the cross, we see people from all walks of life transformed, blessed and carrying forth the godly virtues of faith, hope, and love they first observed in Christ. For example, we see faith and love when a close friend assumes responsibility for the blessed care of Jesus’ mother, creating a new Christ-centered, non-biological family, and humanity. We witness the emergence of faith and hope when a centurion becomes a worshipper by the blessing of observing the strength, dignity, grace, and faith expressed by an innocent Jesus crucified. And, we observe the virtue of love when a man of social standing and financial means assumes responsibility for Jesus’ funeral arrangements, blessing the dignity of Jesus, and the spirits of Jesus’ family and disciples.

The blessings of family care and support, praise, proclamation, advocacy for the defenseless, and generosity powerfully show forth in these last three stations of the cross. Are not the fruit of blessings the marks of discipleship and marks of Christian character? Are not these blessings the marks of discipleship generated in people that have first experienced the blessed inward touch of Christ’s love, faith, and hope? Are not these people, touched by Christ’s holy grace, now desirous of patterning their lives after Christ’s who said to Peter after blessing him by washing his feet, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done to you; you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:14,17).

Something profoundly transformative, freeing, life-giving, and blessed generates deep within our soul and spirit when we pay attention to how Jesus submitted himself to the will of God and closely follow him on the path of the cross. First, we learn that we are blessed children of God and that nothing – hardship, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword – can separate us from the love of Christ. We are blessed with God’s wisdom that enables us to see a bigger kingdom picture and vision. By observing the courage of Jesus, we are blessed to have access to the same courage for living. By observing both the darkness and goodness of humanity, we can be self-aware of the darkness and goodness in us and seek the blessed goodness of Christ to be formed within us for the sake of a broken world in need of healing. We are blessed with the grace to entrust our lives to God’s love with hope in the difficult days and seasons of our lives. We can see the darkness of injustice and choose to live doing justice that blesses and uplifts.  And, we live with the blessing of a forgiving spirit that frees us from the captivity of hatred. And we are blessed to know that even in our Good Friday’s, Sunday is Coming! Because we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

Paz – Peace

 

The Grace We Need – The grace to more fully understand what Jesus means when he says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

Concluding Prayer:

Let nothing disturb you; nothing frighten you; All things are passing; God never changes; Patient endurance attains all things; Whoever possesses God is wanting in nothing; God alone suffices. Teresa of Avila

Thursday of Holy Week, March 29, 2018 – Compunction

Thursday of Holy Week, March 29, 2108

Holy-week

The Tenth Station: Jesus is Crucified

centurion

Luke 23:33-4, 47
When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”

 

 

The Eleventh Station: Jesus Promises Paradise to a Fellow Sufferer

GoodThief_960-960x350

Luke 23:39-43
One of the criminals who hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”  But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

 

Reflection: A centurion and a criminal experience spiritual and moral compunction, or conviction arising from an awareness of guilt brought about by observing the wrongful torture an innocent Christ endured by crucifixion.  By grace, they both perceive the mystery and depth of God’s redeeming mercy and love for humanity in and through the love and suffering of Christ on the cross. The centurion and the criminal are both justly under condemnation all be it in different ways and for different reasons. Their state of condemnation is exposed and brought to the forefront of their consciousness by their discernment of Jesus’ innocence. Both of them verbally proclaim the innocence of Christ. The centurion says, “Certainly this man was innocent.” The criminal says, “this man has done nothing wrong.”

The light of Jesus’ innocence brings into question the lives of the centurion and criminal, forcing them to make a decision. Would they step out of their darkness and into the light now that their deeds were exposed? Or, would they love the darkness they were in and remain there instead?

By the grace of God, both the centurion and the criminal come into the light of Christ’s mercy, forgiveness, love, peace, and life. The centurion praises God! The criminal requests life in Christ’s eternal kingdom. The gospel records that Jesus grants the criminal’s request; “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” The gospel makes no mention of Christ’s response to the centurion. However, we can trust that whosoever comes to Christ will not be driven away (John 6:37).

Holy Week is a time when we are invited to examine the manner of our lives with the manner of Christ’s life and the glory of his light, truth, and innocence. What we find out about ourselves can be revealing, we may even experience spiritual and moral compunction. Let us take what we find out about ourselves and have it become our Lenten prayer, asking Christ for the mercy and grace to live in a manner worthy of his life and our calling.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  1. When did you discern the mystery of God’s love for you through the cross of Christ? How old were you? What happened?
  2. How do you understand what God is doing through Christ for the world on the cross?
  3. Do you examine, measure, and align your life with Christ’s or your neighbor’s?

 

The Grace We Need – For the grace to acknowledge the need for the gifts of Christ in our lives. 

 

Concluding Prayer:

Let nothing disturb you; nothing frighten you; All things are passing; God never changes; Patient endurance attains all things; Whoever possesses God is wanting in nothing; God alone suffices. Teresa of Avila

Holy Week, Wednesday, March 28, 2018 – Perspectives

Wednesday of Holy Week, March 27, 2108

Stations-of-the-Cross-3

The Seventh Station: Jesus Takes Up the Cross02-Jesus-takes-Cross

Mark 15:20

After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

 

 

05-Jesus-and-Simon.jpgThe Eighth Station: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus to Carry His Cross

Luke 23:26

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.

 

08-Jesus-SpeaksThe Ninth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

Luke 23:27-31

A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Reflection: Our Christian faith makes it clear that Jesus was not a passive victim of an unjust crucifixion. Christ chose to suffer, and he embraced the cross so that the nations and all peoples could be healed and made whole in every spiritual and relational sense, temporal and eternal. 1 Peter 2:24 reads, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds, you have been healed.” As we live our lives of faith, we do so “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 (Hebrews 12:2).

And while Jesus had a clear understanding of his mission to carry out God’s saving and healing will for the world through the cross, the people around him on that Good Friday did not understand the fullness of what was happening before them.

Some people thought they were controlling the outcomes. Other people were naïve to the plotting and scheming taking place behind closed doors. Others knew what was happening but could not control the outcome.

Some people participated in dutifully executing the verdict and sentencing of the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday. Others, pilgrims from afar to the Passover like Simon of Cyrene*, happened to be bystanders along the Via Crucis (The Way to the Cross) as Jesus passed by carrying his cross on that Good Friday afternoon.  Still others – “a great number of people” (Lk. 23:27) – followed Jesus along the Via Crucis, strongly opposed to and horrified with what was happening, like the women who accompanied him, wailing with cries of pain, grief, and anger.

Some people are intentionally making things happen on that Good Friday. Others are somewhat naïve to what is happening on Good Friday. And others are opposed to what is happening on Good Friday, bewailing the injustice, violence, and normalcy of it all.

Some people see Jesus as a threat to be dealt with on Good Friday. Some people are curious about Jesus and the why’s of Good Friday. Others know and love Jesus, openly identify with him, and are willing to follow him all the way to the cross on Good Friday.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. How have you experienced the salvation and healing of God through Christ?
  2. Who is Jesus to you? A threat? A curiosity? Or, someone you openly follow?
  3. What unjust normalcies do you bewail?

The Grace We Need – The grace to be ambassadors of Christ’s healing and saving grace in the world, even if it leads us down paths of righteousness fraught with shadows of hardship (Psalm 23).

Concluding Prayer:

Let nothing disturb you; nothing frighten you; All things are passing; God never changes; Patient endurance attains all things; Whoever possesses God is wanting in nothing; God alone suffices. Teresa of Avila

Tuesday of Holy Week, March 27, 2108

 Stations-of-the-Cross-3

The Fourth Station: Peter Denies Jesus

peters-denialLuke 22:54-62

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

 

Fifth Station: Pilate Judges Jesus

xjesus-before-pilate.jpg.pagespeed.ic.7pnAJB1PffLuke 23:13-25

Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people, and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will, therefore, have him flogged and release him.” Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will, therefore, have him flogged and then release him.” But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified, and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

 

Sixth Station: Jesus is Scourged and Crowned with Thorns

Stations-6-crucify-7

Luke 22:63-65; John 19:2-3

Luke: Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” They kept heaping many other insults on him.

John: And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face.

 

Reflection: Peter, Pilate, and the soldiers charged with executing the sentence of scourging all have their way of dealing with and distancing themselves from Jesus. Peter denies knowing him, Pilate hands him over, and the scourgers mock him. Each one distances themselves from Jesus in different ways and for various reasons. Life preserving Peter protects himself from potential harm that may come to him because of his association with Jesus. Politically savvy Pilate seeks to preserve his seat of power and privilege.  And, the emotionally detached Roman soldiers are just doing their job, carrying out their orders from on high, no hesitancy, no questions asked. None of the three do the right thing by or for Jesus in the white-hot crucible heat of the moment. The closer Jesus walks to the cross through the stations of suffering, the further people distance themselves from him, self-justified in their reasons and actions for doing so.

 

Reflection Questions:

  1. Think of a time when you distanced yourself from Jesus to preserve your self-interests. What happened?
  2. How would you describe your relationship with Jesus? Are you standing in nearness to the mind and heart of Christ and his way of life? Or, are you standing at a distance, afraid of negative personal, political, and economic implications that being known as one of his disciples may have for you?

 

The Grace We Need: For the grace to stand by and for Christ in white-hot crucible moments.

 

Concluding Prayer:

Let nothing disturb you; nothing frighten you; All things are passing; God never changes; Patient endurance attains all things; Whoever possesses God is wanting in nothing; God alone suffices.  Teresa of Avila

2018 Holy Week – La Via Dolorosa – The Way of Grief

I first became awakened to and appreciative of the mystery, power, and beauty of the Stations of the Cross when I worked on a seminary research paper on the life of Franciscan Antonio Margil de Jesus, an early missionary of Texas, born in Valencia, Spain, in 1657. Antonio Margil founded the San Jose and San Miguel de Aguayo missions in what is now known as the city of San Antonio (St. Anthony), Texas. He had a humble opinion of himself and a high reverence for God. He closed all of his letters with the signature, “El Nada Mismo,” or “Nothingness Itself.”

Antonio de Margil traveled to San Antonio from Mexico City on seven occasions on barefoot. He began each day with an early morning devotion of the Stations of the Cross, developed in large part by the Catholic Order he belonged to, the Franciscans. The Holy Week passion of Christ served to strengthen and encourage Margil on his arduous missionary journeys through the rough terrain and the dangers he encountered along the way.

I integrated the Way of the Cross or Via Crucis (Latin, way of the cross) or Via Dolorosa (Latin, way of grief) into our Holy Week devotion experience when I served congregations in El Paso and Edinburg, Texas. The purpose of introducing the Way of the Cross to help the congregations focus on the key events of Jesus’ last day.

As a Wesleyan Christian, my main source of spiritual devotion is scripture, so I used the 14 Stations of the Cross based on scripture. Over the next five days of the Holy Week, I’ll post three Way of the Cross scriptures on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and two scriptures on Good Friday, bringing our total scriptures to 14. I’ll also include personal devotions and prayers.

My hope is that you will grow in Christ’s love and take on holy courage this Holy Week as you meditate and draw from the love and courage of Christ, “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.” (Philippians 2:6-8)

The First Station: Jesus on the Mount of Olives

Jesus in the Garden of GethsemaneLuke 22:39-46

He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” [Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling on the ground.] When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”


The Second Station: Judas betrays Jesus with a Kiss

Judas Betrays JesusLuke 22:47-48

While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?”


The Third Station: The Sanhedrin Condemns Jesus

jesus condemnedLuke 22:66-71

When the day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us.” He replied, “If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” He said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his lips!”

Reflection: There come times in our lives when we have to put our desires and fears aside and commend ourselves and our lives to God with trust. Jesus prayed to God for another way to accomplish the mission other than going through the way of humiliation, suffering, and death. The words of Jesus’ prayer, “Not my will but yours be done,” consoles and strengthens Jesus to accept the journey ahead and the long night of the soul he would endure. There were times when Jesus could have opted out of his predicament by giving an answer that would exonerate him or by pleading for his life before his accusers, but he did not because of his obedience to the will of God and his trust in God’s ultimate deliverance.

Questions for Reflection: 

  1. Have you ever laid aside what you wanted or desired in life for the sake of obedience to God’s will?
  2. How do you respond when someone betrays or wrongly accuses you when you seek to do the right thing?

Prayer: 

Loving God, as we follow our Lord Jesus Christ on the way through the Via Dolorosa this Holy Week, we stand amazed and challenged by Jesus’ commitment to your redemptive mission in the world and his willingness to lay aside his human interests for your purposes. Show us your vision and hopes for our broken, divided, and warring world. Show us the way in which you would have us seek to carry out your holy and just vision on earth as it is in heaven and set our hearts and faces like flint toward your vision. Give us your strength each day, each hour, each moment. Help us in our weakness and moments of fear and assure us of your abiding presence and love that never forsakes us. Amen.

 

2018 Lenten Journey – Finish Strong!

Today is Wednesday the 21 March, in the Fifth Week of Lent

finish strong

Prayer of Presence: Plant me in your house, O Lord, so I may flourish for you. Amen.  Psalm 92:12

 
Scripture: Haggai 2:1-9
In the second year of King Darius, in the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: Speak now to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, and say, Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing? Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.
Reflection
Haggai was the first prophet God raised up after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon. The temple in Jerusalem, a symbol of God’s presence among them,  had been destroyed in 586 B.C. by the Babylonians.  King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jews to return to their homeland to rebuild their temple in 538 B.C. The temple was started but not completed. The book of Haggai opens with a charge against the people of Jerusalem who started the rebuilding of the temple but did not finish it. Haggai says, “Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? (Haggai 1:4) Under the ministry of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the temple was finished and completed (520 – 516 B.C.).
God’s word to the people through Haggai was a call to finish what they started. God liberated the Jews from the darkness of captivity in Babylon through King Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1-7). The people were grateful and thankful to God and they began to rebuild the temple when they returned to Jerusalem. But as their lives settled down and the years went by, their values and priorities shifted away from glorifying God to caring for their own needs. Spiritual apathy set in. Little energy or desire was left to devote to the things of God . With the onset of spiritual apathy, a shift in their values and priorities occurred. They shifted away from glorifying God to meeting their own needs, and they shifted in how they spent their resources, their time, their energy, and their talents. They focused more and more on meeting their own needs while God’s temple lay in ruins and increasingly empty of worshipers; an indicator of people’s waning spiritual vitality and relationship with God. God used Haggai as a catalyst to bring the people back to value and prioritize the things of God and finish the work of rebuilding the temple.
Gradually drifting away from God occurs when we begin to devalue and de-prioritize our relationship with God, the Christian community, and the Church. The stresses, pressures, and demands of daily living can certainly crowd our schedules and pressure us to reorder our lives so that the things of God get pushed to margins of our life, our concern, and our commitment. God gets less and less of us – less of our time, our talent, our strength, and our resources. Sometimes, all that is left for the things of God are the leftovers of our exhausted spent selves, lives, and resources. We start out serving God then stop, leaving unfinished work that only we can complete.
Lent is a time to examine our values and priorities and reorder them in accordance with God’s will for our lives and God’s prosperous purposes in and for the world.  It is deeply counter-intuitive, worrisome, and seemingly non-sensical, to order and center our lives around Christ. However, when we center our lives in Christ, when we seek first the kingdom of God, we get everything back in life that matters the most. We receive the treasures of God that moths or rust cannot consume and thieves cannot break in and steal (Matthew 6:19).
Perhaps you have some work you started for God but left unfinished. Resolve to finish the work you have not yet completed for God. You’ll be blessed with treasures of the things in life that matter the most as you reconnect with God through your endeavor to finish the work God has called you to. 
 
Reflection Questions
  • Who is your Haggai? That is, who is the person calling you to reorder your values and priorities around God, so that you can finish the work you started for God? 
  • Who are you a Haggai to? That is, who is God sending you to so that they can reorder their values and priorities around God, so they can finish the work God has called them to?
  • Why is spiritual apathy so difficult to overcome? What does it take to overcome spiritual apathy? 
 
Prayer: For the grace to reorder and prioritize my life around God’s will and the assurance that all other things that matter the most shall be added on to me. 
 
Concluding Prayer
 
​Have mercy on me, Lord, have mercy. Lord, show me your love and mercy; For I put my trust in you.
In you, Lord, is my hope; And I shall never hope in vain. 

2018 Lenten Walk – “The Lord’s!”

Today is Tuesday the 20 March, in the Fifth Week of Lent

Child-holding-Adult-hand-295x196

 

 

Prayer of Presence
Holy God, reveal your presence to me this day as I walk this Lenten journey. Help me through the power of your Holy Spirit to walk in the faithful way your Son Jesus Christ has set before me. 
Scripture: Isaiah 44:1-5
But now hear, O Jacob my servant Israel whom I have chosen! Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you in the womb and will help you: Do not fear, O Jacob my servant,  Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring. They shall spring up like a green tamarisk, like willows by flowing streams. This one will say, “I am the Lord’s,” another will be called by the name of Jacob, yet another will write on the hand, “The Lord’s,” and adopt the name of Israel.

Reflection: Today’s text from the prophet Isaiah assures us of a future with blessing and hope for our ensuing generations.  God’s everlasting and steadfast love toward us never fails even when we fall into sin, when we turn away and our hearts grow cold and unloving toward God, when we abuse God’s good gifts, and even after we fall short of magnifying God’s holy name with our lives. Even then, God’s is full of mercy and steadfast love for us and all people.  We need not be ashamed of our relationship with God who redeems and restores us, who promises to “help” us, and never to leave or forsake us. We can say to the world with confidence, “I am the Lord’s!”

 

Reflection Questions: 

  1. Recall a time when God helped you. What happened?
  2. Do God’s promised blessings on your descendants, including those you will never know or see, give you hope?
  3. Are you bold to proclaim you belong to the Lord?

Prayer: For the grace to proclaim with conviction that we belong to the Lord!

 

Concluding Prayer: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (Romans 15:13)

2018 Lenten Walk – Confidently Competent

Today is Monday the 19 March, in the Fifth Week of Lent

Competency Definition

Prayer of Presence

God of love, by the power of your Spirit enlighten us to understand your truth and inspire us to do your will in the name of Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for us so that we can abide in your love. Amen.

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 3:4-11 

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!

Reflection:

Paul attributes his hikanoi (Gk.) – adequacy, sufficiency, or competency – for his glorious ministry of proclaiming the gospel of peace and justifying grace to God’s equipping.

Humility for his privilege of serving as Christ’s ambassador of reconciliation was a mark of Paul’s ministry. He knew that he was the last person qualified for the work of ministry. It was by God’s grace and love that he was equipped to carry the treasure of the glorious gospel of Christ within his heart and mind. Paul was always stretching the limits of language to convey how Christ’s grace sufficiently met and exceeded all his physical, spiritual and temporal needs.  The best word Paul could find for the lavishness of God’s love, sufficiency, and equipping for ministry was “gift.” For Paul, everything he received from God was an unmerited gift. He knew it and he never took God’s gifts or equipping for granted.

I’ve met so many disciples of Christ who humbly deflect recognition from themselves to Christ, their Lord and Savior. All of them are quick to admit that they do not understand how or even why Christ would ever use them to bless and serve others. They admit that their success and fruitfulness is a gift from God who has equipped them. They are the ones who proclaim mew life in Christ, lift up the downtrodden, befriend the stranger, speak up for the voiceless and vulnerable, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners and then ask, “When did we see you or serve you, Lord?” 

Their words and actions are infused with Christ’s power and multiplied 30, 60, 100 times more than the energy they exert or the resources they offer. They are often not even aware of all the good Christ is accomplishing through them in the world, nor do they measure or seek credit for it. As they understand it, they are simply trying to live a life worthy of their calling in the Lord.

All this reminds me of a story I once heard about a woman that went out to fetch water from a nearby water well. She carried two clay jars tied to the opposite ends of a long wooden stick laid across her neck and shoulders. She filled the jars with water from the water well and headed back home along the narrow path. One of the clay jars was cracked so almost all of the water inside of it slowly and continuously dripped out along the way back home.

The cracked pot got home almost empty, as always. On this day, the cracked pot was feeling disappointed and sad because she lost most of the water, again. The other pot said, “Don’t be disappointed. Look back along the path and see all the beautiful flowers that are growing on your side of the path. You’ve been watering these flowers – helping them to come alive and beautifully flourish – every time we are taken to be filled up with water and walked back home.

That’s the way it is with the ministry Christ calls us to. We often feel inadequate in the ministry of bringing others to know and receive the greater glory of God’s justifying grace and peace through Christ – and we should because we are inadequate. But, when God equips us, the glorious news of God’s justifying grace spills out of us through our words and actions and God’s kingdom comes to life along the paths we walk. When other people commend us for it, we can honestly say that we are not competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has equipped and made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant with God that gives life to people and the world God loves and sent his Son Jesus Christ to redeem and restore.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. How has God made you competent for ministry?
  2. When was the last time someone acknowledged you for the grace and kindness you demonstrated to them or others? Did you give the glory to God? Why or why not?

Prayer: For the grace to offer the world the glorious ministry of grace and peace (justification) with God. 

Concluding Prayer:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33,36)

2018 Lenten Walk – Time to See

Today is the 18 March, The Fifth Sunday of Lent

live-so-others-see-jesus-in-you-shawna-lewellen

Prayer of Presence: 

Almighty God, through your only Son, you overcame death and opened to us the light of eternity. Enlighten our minds and kindle our hearts with the presence of your Spirit, that we may hear your words of comfort and challenge in the reading of the scriptures, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Adapted from a Prayer of Illumination, North United Methodist Church)

 Scripture: Today’s reading is from the Gospel of John 12: 20-33

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.” 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. “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.” 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.

Reflection:

Phillip and Andrew are caught off guard by the request of the Greeks who wish to see Jesus. Some biblical scholars believe the petitioners are dispersed Jews that have become culturally Greek. Other scholars believe that the petitioners are Greeks that are in Jerusalem for business during the Passover or who were “God-fearers” sympathetic to the Jews and open to Judaism. As far as Phillip and Andrew were concerned, Greeks were alienated from citizenship among the people of Israel, strangers to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

People were always asking the disciples for a private audience with Jesus. Phillip and Andrew confer with each other to determine how to respond to this request from a group of Greeks. They decide to tell Jesus about the request. The text does not mention whether Jesus grants the request for an audience with the Greeks.  Instead, the Gospel journals Jesus’ soliloquy after hearing about the request. Jesus knows that the hour is ripe and has come for his obedience, suffering, and servanthood unto death on the cross. His death will draw all people – Greeks and Jews – to himself. The life-destroying ruler of the world will be driven out. Christ’s glory will lie in the redemption of humanity who will come to believe in him and find life eternally abundant in his name.

Phillip and Andrew heard the words and petition of the Greeks, and on the one hand, they treated the request like an item that needed vetting before inserting it into Jesus’ busy agenda.  To their credit, they brought the request item to Jesus for his final decision. However, I’m open to the possibility that they heard the heart of the Greeks through the question. I believe the Greeks had a deeper request in mind other than having an audience with Jesus. They wanted to meet Jesus, to believe in Jesus, the Son of God, so that they could have abundant life eternally. It was their time to see Jesus.  May we can be like the disciples, so familiar with Jesus so to be recognized as disciples and intermediaries that lead others to see Jesus and believe in him for abundant life, now and eternally.

Questions for Reflection:

  • What five steps would you take with a person who asked you to see Jesus?
  • Is your relationship and communion with Jesus so obvious that others ask you how they can know him the way you do?

Prayer Focus: For the grace to lead others to see Jesus and believe in him.

Closing Prayer:

Christ, lifted up, thank you that you have revealed Your love to me today. Send me out into this day in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Fan into flame the gifts and witness that you have given me,
Enable me to reveal Your grace and truth to other each day so that others may see and believe in you. For Yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory,
Forever and ever.

2018 Lenten Walk – Sympathizer

Today is Friday the 16 March, The Fourth Week of Lent

 monkimage

 

Prayer of Presence:

Spirit of the Living God, free my mind from error, teach my heart the living words of Jesus, and inspire my lips to share the Good News, in the name of the Blessed Trinity. Amen.

(Adapted from a Prayer of Illumination, North United Methodist Church)

Scripture: Today’s reading is from 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 also says in another place, “You are a priest forever, 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.

Reflection:

Several titles are used to describe the beautiful person and redemptive work of Jesus in the Bible. Some names and titles are God, Rock, Emmanuel, the Alpha and Omega, Light of the World, the Good Shepherd, the Rock, and the Bread of Life. Other titles are The Resurrection and the Life, Christ, the Bridegroom, Savior, Lord, Healer, Liberator, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Master, Son of God, Son of Man, Son of David, Lamb of God. Still, other titles are King of the Jews, Rabbi, the New Adam, and Messiah.

The author of the epistle to the Hebrews describes and titles Jesus as the high priest of the order of Melchizedek. A high priest functioned as a mediator between God and the people. They were understood to be holy people, set apart for God and careful not to become unclean through contact with people considered unclean such as the sick, sinners, and corpses. They were ministers of the Lord that oversaw the day to day operations of the worship sites. One of the primary roles of the high priest was to intercede for the sins of the nation before God by overseeing and performing the sacrificial rites that would atone for their sins. A high priest would also oversee aspects of the people’s lives; they would discern God’s will as expressed through the Torah, adjudicate legal matters, and pronounce blessings on the people (Numbers 6:22-27).

The uniqueness of Jesus’ role as our eternal high priest is that he understands and sympathizes with our human weaknesses and struggles. Hebrews 4:15 says, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus walked among the people in love, listening and sharing in their joys and hopes and their difficulties and sufferings. He preached good news to the poor, proclaimed release to the captives, made the blind to see, set free the oppressed, and proclaimed the kingdom of God had come near. He touched and healed the sick, fed the hungry, and ate with sinners. He prayed and made supplications to God for himself and for the people he served and loved. With tears, he cried out to God to save him from the hour of suffering. And in obedience, he tasted death for everyone (Heb. 2:9).

Because Christ lived our lives and suffered our deaths, he sympathizes with our human weaknesses. He does not condemn us but prays for us and helps us in our time of weakness and struggle. When we look to him in our time of struggle and suffering, we find a Savior, our high priest and our mediator, seated at the right hand of God (Heb. 1:3) interceding for us. Christ understands us, cares for us, prays for us, and helps us. He is the source of our salvation, now and for all eternity.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. How does your understanding of Jesus as your high priest interceding and praying for you in your times of testing comfort you?
  2. Do you come to Christ in prayer to ask for mercy and grace with a spirit of confidence and boldness or fear? Explain.
  3. Does Jesus’ sympathy for our weaknesses imply that He condones the continuation of our sins?

Prayer Focus: For the grace to approach Christ with boldness to receive mercy and find grace in our time of need (Heb. 4:16).

Closing Prayer:

Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

(Hebrews 13:20-21)