Peace be with You

THIRD WEEK AFTER EASTER

duccio_doubting_thomas_2-1-e1454807042795-960x250Reassuring Thomas (Fragment), 1311 by Duccio.

Scripture: Luke 24:36b-48

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance and forgiveness of sins are to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

Reflection:

I checked my silenced cell phone for messages after this week’s Monday morning meetings at the conference office and discovered that had I missed three calls from my 27-year-old son who is a pastor at a UM church in San Antonio. Several voicemail notifications showed on my phone screen, but I did not bother to listen to them. Instead, I called him immediately thinking that he either had some good news and could not wait to share it with me or there was an emergency he was calling about.

My son shared that he was calling me earlier to ask for prayer and guidance as he raced to the church to minister to the surviving family of a long-time member who was in a tragic and fatal auto accident as she was turning into the church parking lot for a Monday morning bible study. The family members had all gone their separate ways by the time we spoke. We have had several conversations during the week to process his experience. He called yesterday to share some of his thoughts on the sermon he is preparing for the memorial service this Saturday morning. I’m sure the Lord will give him the right words of comfort and assurance the family needs to hear in their time of need.

The faith of the family of the deceased in Christ’s promise of eternal life has left an indelible impression on my son who has been around the deaths of friends, several church members, and students. He shared how the family while grieving, expressed gratitude to God for the life of their loved one. He said, “Dad, I was expecting to minister grace to the family in their time of sorrow and loss, and instead their faith in the resurrection and eternal life ministered grace to me.” He continued, “The good news of Jesus conquering death through the resurrection is meaningful and real for people of faith. Their witness in the hope of the resurrection and eternal life strengthens my faith.”

The main point of Luke’s post-resurrection appearance story is that the peace of the resurrected Christ drives out doubt and fear. Christ’s peace becomes the basis for the proclamation of the marvelous news of the resurrection to all nations. The disciples found in the resurrected Christ sustaining peace, hope, and joy for their troubled hearts. The family my son ministered to this week found in the resurrected Christ sustaining peace, hope, and joy for their troubled hearts. Like the disciples, we also find in the peace of the resurrected Lord, sustained joy and hope for our troubled hearts. In turn, we desire that our peace, hope, and joy in the risen Christ will find its way into the troubled hearts of people in our communities and in our frightened and disbelieving world.

Paz – Peace

 

The Second Sunday of Easter, April 7, 2018 – The Ministry of Accompaniment

walk-to-emmaus

Scripture: Luke 24: 13-16

Now on that same day, two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

Reflection: The beautiful and touching story of the Walk to Emmaus is a familiar post-resurrection story (Luke 24:13-35). The Scripture does not say why Cleopas and another unnamed man are walking away from the disciples in Jerusalem, but they are. They are despondent, disappointed, and devastated by everything that happened during the Passover festival in Jerusalem.  Jesus of Nazareth, the one who was going to redeem Israel, was betrayed, crucified, dead, and buried. They had heard that Jesus had risen, but for some reason, they cannot accept consolation much less see how God was at work in all that happened. They sadly walk away from Jerusalem to Emmaus, rehearsing their disbelief and disappointments, the eyes of their hearts unable to see hope.

Suddenly Jesus accompanies them, listening to them, talking with them, walking alongside them. He does not walk ahead of them. Jesus does not walk behind them. He walks with them and listens to their narrative account. He converses with them and helps them to see a larger, hidden narrative of God’s saving activity and presence in all that happened. Jesus encourages the faith of the walkers in the breaking of the bread and reveals himself as the crucified and risen Lord! The two men, hearts burning with joy and hope, return to Jerusalem. They find the Eleven and those with them and tell them how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

There are times in our lives when we experience traumatic events that leave us wounded, disappointed, devastated, and despondent. Our grieving hearts wonder, where is God in all of this? Suddenly, the Risen Christ walks alongside us sharing in our pain and grief. Christ walks alongside us in Spirit, and through the accompaniment of loving and supportive family members, close friends, a loving church community, and through the strength we receive from worship, bible study, and prayer. Suddenly, our wavering spirits are encouraged. Our grief blinded eyes see things in a new way.  We find God’s presence and strength in hopeless situations. We can sing a new song of faith with joy. As we experience Christ’s accompaniment and power in our time of need, we are enabled to encourage and point others on their journeys to Emmaus to the source of all hope, Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord and Savior.

Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018 – Consolation and Commission

  Why do you weep?

He is Risen!

Go and Tell!

 

Easter Pic

Click on the link: Easter Message

Isaiah 25:6-9 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will
make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged
wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines
strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the
shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread
over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the
Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the
disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this
is our God; we have waited for him so that he might save us.
This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad
and rejoice in his salvation.

CHRIST THE LORD IS RISEN TODAY

1 Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

2 Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

3 Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!

    4 Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!  Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

5 Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

6 King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

By Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

 

Holy Saturday, March 31, 2018 – Awaiting the Dawning of the Third Day

 

giphy.gif

PRAYER

Merciful and ever-living God, Creator of heaven and earth: As the crucified body of your Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy day, grant that we may await with him the dawning of the third day as he promised, and rise with him in newness of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

READING

1 Peter 4:1-8 – Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.

RESPONSORY

In the midst of life we are in death; from whom can we seek help? From you alone, Lord, who by our sins are justly angered. Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and merciful Savior, deliver us from the bitterness of eternal death.

On this Holy Saturday in which Jesus passed from death to life, we pray and watch for the dawning of his triumph and resurrection. We join the whole company of God’s people in heaven and on earth in recalling and celebrating his victory over death, and our deliverance from the bondage of sin and darkness to everlasting light.

“In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God … In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1,4-5).

            Adapted from The New Handbook of the Christian Year by Hoyt L. Hickman, Don E. Saliers, Laurence Hull Stookey, and James F. White. (Abingdon, Nashville: 1992) pp. 192-193.

 

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.