Tag Archives: Holy Week

Worldview

Lent
April 10, 2017

Scripture Reading: Acts 10:34-43

Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. –Acts 10:34-36

The above scripture makes a remarkable statement. It was astounding in the first century and remands so today. We humans have great difficulty accepting it and more trouble living it even though it is built into the very fiber of our creation stories. Its truth was initiated when the Creator breathed into us the breath of life after shaping us in God’s own image.

We begin the journey through Holy Week being challenged with this great broadening of our worldview. Acts is the story of the beginning of the church as we know it today. With the gathering at Pentecost and the disciples speaking in such a way that all could understand them in their own language, the gates of God’s people were thrown open for all to enter. It is Jesus Christ who determines who is worthy to cross the threshold, not me and not you.

As we stumble through the Last Supper, the Garden prayer, the arrest of Jesus, the Crucifixion, and the burial, let us keep our vision firmly fixed on what is next for followers of Jesus that is the message of Acts. Holy week was not an end, it was a beginning.

Prayer: Lord, guide us through this week opening our hearts and minds to your vision showing us our mission. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Observing the Holy

TrangBangLent
March 21, 2016

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 65:17-25

They shall not labor in vain,
   or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—
   and their descendants as well.
Before they call I will answer,
   while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
   the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
   but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain,
says the Lord. –Isaiah 65:23-24

The pictures are so tragic. Small children being carried out of harm’s way, with even the fleeing being extremely dangerous. The picture of our day is of the lifeless body of a three-year-old little boy drown while trying to escape terror in an overcrowded boat. The inerasable picture from my college days, the late sixties, was of a naked twelve-year-old girl drenched in Napalm as she ran from the pain, she could not escape that seared her gaunt body. Too many children have been and are being lost to calamity of adult creation.

It was this sort of injustice Jesus faced down during what we now call Holy Week. I somehow do not think we would have called it set apart by God at the time had we been there, but with hindsight Holy Week is an apt descriptor.

Let us, too, set this week apart as a time when we can grow closer to God. The injustices of our world will still be there next Monday ready to reclaim our concern. Now is our time to rekindle our love of God for the gift of the Incarnation in Jesus. Now is the time in the face of all that says otherwise to acknowledge that God has indeed overcome the world. Now is the time to prepare once again to answer Jesus’ call as partners in creating a just and peaceful world bound by love.

Prayer: Lord, reinvigorate our whole being, bodies, minds, and souls to your service as we observe the Holy this week. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

The Day After Tragedy

Empty tombLent Silent Saturday April 4, 2015

Scripture Reading: John 20:1-18 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. — John 20:1-10

On the day after tragedy, those intimately involved are usually still in shock. Trips to graves and tombs, even taking flowers or other mementoes, helps in grasping the truth of what just happened–a truth not wanted. To arrive at the tomb and find the body missing had to have caused great consternation.

On the day after tragedy, memories often flood our minds and our conversations. I remember arriving with a group at the home of one of our friends the evening after his father’s death. After visiting with the family a bit he pulled someone aside and said, “I have to get out of here” and we friends all left in the middle of the night and went to a 24 hour pancake house, drank coffee, and told wonderful stories about my friend’s dad. He was a great guy. At times we laughed so hard we cried. Did Peter and the other disciple believe that the body had been stolen or did they remember and wonder about the times Jesus told them he would rise again?

On the day after tragedy, the lives of all involved are changed forever. We all need to grieve loss, but how we cope, how we pick up the pieces and move forward is a choice. The impact of Jesus’ love, from every day encounters to death on a cross, mattered. The seeds of love he had planted and nurtured in each of his followers mattered.

On this Silent Saturday, let us each contemplate how much God’s love matters to us. Let us remember the acts of God in our lives and through our lives that mattered to us and to others. And let us prepare for the rest of our lives today, for a mighty wind is blowing and the story is not yet over.

Prayer: Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary
             Pure and holy, tried and true
            With thanksgiving,
I’ll be a living
 Sanctuary for You.* Amen

*From Sanctuary by Vineyard see at http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/v/vineyard/sanctuary.html All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Radical Thinking of Love

We've a story to tellLent
Holy Week
March 31, 2015

Scripture Reading: Acts 10:34-36 Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. — Acts 10:34-36

It was the kind of radical thinking in these few verses that contributed to getting Jesus killed. A few decades ago these words would have not seemed so radical to we citizens of the United States of America. Recently, I had the privilege to attend the presentation of Ellis Island: The Dream of America by Peter Boyer at the Oklahoma City Philharmonic. It tells the story of seven randomly chosen immigrants who came to the USA through Ellis Island during the first half of the 20th century. It told the story that I was taught as a child that the greatness of America came from its diversity. It did not whitewash the story. It told of people being rejected from entry. It told of people being shuffled together into the ship’s third class compartments.

As I watched and listened, I wondered how long ago the orchestra had planned to present this work at this time, probably a year or more. It came at an ideal time for we in the USA seem to be cowering in fear at welcoming the stranger. The command to be a blessing to the nations was given to Abraham and all his descendants in faith. It is the responsibility of each of those faith communities to work within their nations and within their various forms of government to effect policies that reflect being a blessing to one another.

I also must confess I was a little surprised to find this scripture in the lectionary for Holy Week and then I realized this scripture describes the whole purpose of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, and resurrection. He came to save the whole world, to share the love of God with all God’s children, and to enlist all who choose to follow him in this quest. I thought they meant it when they taught me this song as a child:

We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations 

We’ve a story to tell to the nations, That shall turn their hearts to the right, A story of truth and mercy, A story of peace and light, A story of peace and light. 

For the darkness shall turn to dawning, And the dawning to noonday bright; And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth, The kingdom of love and light.*

Prayer: O Lord, let it be so. Amen.

First verse and refrain of We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations by H. Ernest Nichol, See all verses at http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/w/a/wasttttn.htm
All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Testing the Boundaries of Love

No greater loveLent
Palm Sunday
March 29, 2015

Scripture Reading: John 12:12-16

His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. — John 12:16

Do we understand now what Jesus was all about, what the prophets may or may not have said about him, who this man really was, and most importantly what that means to you and me? Some—I think at times I grasp some of this Jesus. I remember loving him as a child. Jesus, loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so*. Jesus, loves the little children, all the children of the world**. Jesus wants me for a sunbeam to shine for him each day***. At times, I think that relationship is the relationship. Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 18:3) Other times I need to make it more complicated. Adults are supposed to understand life at a more complicated level aren’t we?

The ability to think in abstractions has certainly moved our world further and faster than once would have been thought possible. After all, it was God who gave us our brains in the first place. God who imprinted us with God’s own image.  I think God wants us to test the boundaries of understanding, to use every bit of every resource with which we have been endowed. We do that in many areas of life, but the most important gift God gave us was his love and we have had its full capacity forever. Have we even begun to test the boundaries of our gift of love?

This week, Holy Week, we enter into the journey where God’s love was fully applied. Once again we ride into Jerusalem with Jesus, eat his last supper with him, go to the cross and watch him die, all in an attempt to increase our understanding of God’s love. Are we ready?

Prayer: Lord, walk with us as we once again walk with you so that our love may grow exponentially as we attempt to understand your love. Amen.

*Jesus Loves Me by Anna B. Warner, 1860 see at http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Jesus_Loves_Me/

**Jesus Loves the Little Children by William Bradbury, Anna Warner, Tom Fettke see at http://www.metrolyrics.com/jesus-loves-the-little-children-lyrics-veggie-tales.html

*** Jesus wants me for a sunbeam by Eugene Kelly and Frances Mckee see at http://www.metrolyrics.com/jesus-wants-me-for-a-sunbeam-lyrics-vaselines.html

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Cornerstones

CornerstonLent
March 23, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

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! — Psalm 118:21-25

Jesus was most likely skilled in carpentry. When he said in John 2:18, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ He probably was more aware than most in his audience of how absurd such a challenge was in practical terms.  He, of course, was not talking about the building of wood and stone that was visible to the crowd. Jesus was actually teaching something far more radical. He was saying that the presence of God through his death and resurrection was being moved outside the structure of the temple and into the hearts and minds of people everywhere. He was challenging the religious leaders of the day to step out of their comfort zone and the safety of the temple walls.

In point of fact, 20 or so years before the book of John was written the temple had been destroyed by the Romans. During that same time, the followers of Christ had continued the process of taking his message from Jerusalem to much of the known world.  These Christians still faced great persecution and hardship but they had heard the call and acted. The writer of John may have been reminding them of this history as encouragement in their present situation.

Two thousand years later we still need that same encouragement. It is so easy to get caught up in the everyday challenges of being the church, we can forget our role in being the Body of Christ in the world today. Holy Week exist to remind us.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.