Tuesday Easter Week—True Love Reveals
Readings: Psalm 103 ◊ Exodus 12:28-39 ◊ 1 Cor. 15:12-28 ◊ Mark 16:9-20
The following devotional piece from Carlo Carretto provided me with much to reflect upon this day:
Marital love is an image, however, pale, of the reality which develops little by little between the Absolute and the creature, between God and humankind, between Yahweh and Israel.
In marital love it is not enough to study the beloved, write poems, or receive cards from far away. Couples must marry, say “yes” to one another, go behind the veil of intimacy, delight in one another—exultantly, become close, cultivate friendship, stay together as much as possible, coalesce their wills, make two things one, a scripture says.
But pretending to know the other just by studying him in books or photographs means remaining outside real knowledge, real mystery. Today, many persons who seek or study God do just that. They study him in books, make him an object of speculation, approach him from intellectual curiosity.
With what result? The more we study, the more our ideas become confused; the more we get caught up in discussions, the farther we go from him. I think this is the nature of the crisis in the Church today; it is a crisis of prayer, it is a crisis of contemplation. Study is no longer the light of spirituality, and curiosity has taken the place of humility.
Self-assurance and derision of the past are the false light which guides man’s pride in the labyrinth of God’s “unknowing,” pretending to seize the truth with the strength of intelligence only. But God’s truth is the same, truth is the secret of things “up there,” and no one can know it without revelation from God.
Has Christ not already said so? In the upper room, replying to the worried question put to him by Judas (not Judas Iscariot) about why he was not manifesting himself to the world, but only to this intimate friends, he replied with extreme clarity: “Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him” (John 14:23).
Only love brings God’s coming to us, his living presence within us, and his consequent revelation.
He who obeys the commandments he has from me is the man who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father. I too will love him and reveal myself to him (John 14:21).
—From The God Who Comes by Carlo Carretto—
Easter Tuesday Prayer
O God, who by the glorious resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ didst destroy death and bring life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen.
Monday Easter Week—Maintaining Our Center
Readings: Psalm 93, 98 ◊ Exodus 12:14-27 ◊ 1 Cor. 15:1-11 ◊ Mark 16:1-8
I was reading from a devotional last week that came back to my memory a little while ago as I was engaging in an Examen style reflection of my day…
I had some errands and odd chores today that needed tending to and found several times over the course of my day’s schedule that I was met with situations that dealt me frustration. In each case, the frustration was mostly from my inability to control the situation or “right” it to fit my need. In each of the circumstances, there were people directly involved that I came close to venting my frustration, but with God’s grace and the power of the Spirit of God within me, I was able to regain my center where the peace of God reigns. My boast is in the Lord, for he alone is the glory of my center.
The devotional writing I mentioned earlier talks about the still center; I’ll share an excerpt below.
Many persons, ordained or not, live in a fairly constant state of noise, with their unresolved past and the uncertain present breaking in on them. They lack a still center and it is only for such a quiet point that we can listen attentively. -From Spirituality for Ministry by Urban T. Holmes III
The connection with the devotional writing and my day is the still center and the point of listening attentively. I am learning, according to the words of Jesus and the ability to nurture and grow in my own spirituality that listening is paramount to every aspect of my faith and development in Christ (“Pay attention to how you listen…” Luke 8:18). Distractions, situations that spark frustration, others who are unfamiliar with my needs…and have needs of their own, and a myriad of a thousand and one variables are all contributors to the state of noise that exists in every moment of life that we are awake. All of it has potential to disturb and offset our center.
A centered center is a heart and spirit that is open and malleable to the unction and urging of God. I’m not happy that I was sparked to frustration on the occasions that I was today, but I will celebrate the urging of Christ to reset and maintain my center as my frustration was made evident to me as it was occurring. I am thankful for the moment of awareness that helped me to regain my composure and maintain my center.
Easter Monday Prayer
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we who celebrate with reverence the Paschal feast may be found worthy to attain to everlasting joys; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever Amen.
Easter—Resurrection: Faith in Uncertainty
Readings: Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16 ◊ Lam 3:1-9, 19-24 ◊ 1 Peter 4:1-8 ◊ John 19:38-42
Resurrection in the Christian faith is a pretty big deal, without it everything we believe crumbles to nothingness. The Apostle Paul said as much; “if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless” (1 Cor. 15:12-19). I think many Christians acknowledge this about our doctrine, so we choose by faith to believe unwaveringly in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Believing in the resurrection, though, does not mean there are not times of uncertainty and question…and sometimes doubt. Mary, first to the tomb of Jesus, had trouble recognizing him. The disciples who traveled with Jesus along the road to Emmaus also had trouble recognizing him; their conversation with him along the way was laden with lament, grief, and uncertainty. When Jesus appeared to the disciples while they were hiding in a locked room, they were first fearful and a bit incredulous… Thomas refused to believe until he could touch the wounds of Jesus. Fear, doubt, and uncertainty were all present in the midst of the glory of the resurrection. I do not think circumstances have changed. As glorious as the resurrection is, there still exists the ever-present juxtaposition of inglorious uncertainty. I do not think this will change until Jesus returns for the final time. How we respond to these times of inglorious uncertainty makes all the difference in the world and determines whether our faith will flourish or we spiral into the proverbial tailspin of self, resulting in damage to ourselves or to those we love the most.
Kathleen Norris writes; “During times of uncertainty, we often want to get busy, doing something rather than nothing.”
A I consider Kathleen’s statement, I reflect on the nature of uncertainty and its very close friend fear. When a person, or animal, is stricken with fear, a biological event takes place we know as the “fight or flight” syndrome. Uncertainty, like fear, I believe, can propel us to this reactionary state. People become motivated to do something when they are uncertain and/or fearful…, but the Lord reminds us to “fear not” I am with you or better, I AM with you.
Fight or flight sends us to the land of frenzy and hyper-activity. Our attention is focused like a laser on survival and self-interest; we become less inclined to be surveyors of the big-picture… The time is not right to be entertaining options or paying attention to an invisible God. Uncertainty and fear demand an immediate response; once we exit survival mode, we can afford to take time and look to Jesus.
While this response seems natural and scientifically explainable, it is not the way of Jesus. In fact, it is more the way of Jesus for him to lead us to the land of uncertainty where we are served up a steady diet of “learn-to-trust-me” dishes. Again and again, we are tested with fight or flight situations and encouraged to “fear not” with hopes we might learn to trust the God who never leaves us.
It isn’t easy learning to tame the adrenaline rush of fight or flight—filling in uncertainty with “just do something” busy-ness, but if we can learn not to be fearful of the perceived absence of the empty tomb, we might just experience the power of the resurrection Jesus in uncertainty. When we learn this and practice it in truth, then we become people of the resurrection, living its eternally glorious power every single day…until the final and triumphant return of our Lord and King Jesus!
He says; Be still and know that I AM the LORD. Amen.
Easter Sunday Prayer
O God, who for our redemption didst give thine only begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection hast delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through the same thy Son Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Holy Saturday—Dark, Doubt, and Hopeless
Readings: Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16 ◊ Lam 3:1-9, 19-24 ◊ 1 Peter 4:1-8 ◊ John 19:38-42
I can’t even imagine what the disciples were thinking. I won’t even try. My imagination tells me it was a very dark, doubt-filled, and hopeless situation. Heartbroken, guilt-laden, and no direction…they sat hiding throughout the day and night.
Holy Saturday Prayer
O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of thy dear on was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
Good Friday—Paradox of Dark and Light
Readings: Psalm 22 ◊ Isaiah 52:13—53:12 ◊ Hebrews 10: 16-25 ◊ John 18:1—19:42
I’m a bit at a loss for words today… not in a somber way, but more akin to numb and empty. Today is one of the days Christians recognize as dark and solemn; it is a day we reflect upon the crucifixion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. My mind is all over it. I’ve got the narratives from the gospel accounts memorized and read again. I’ve attended a Good Friday service and participated in a Tenebrae service even on this day, but I’m seriously lacking with any connecting emotion or spiritual burden that announces some sensory acknowledgment of the Good Friday event that is the Passion of our Lord Jesus.
He was despised and we did not care.
It was our weaknesses he carried;
It was our sorrows that weighed him down.
He was pierced for our rebellion,
Crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole
He was whipped so we could be healed
He bore the sins of the many
And interceded for rebels. -Isaiah 53:3-5, 12
Something tells me I should feel a bit guilty for the way feel or more accurately, the way I don’t feel. I think that’s rubbish though; I don’t feel because I know Christ is victorious and He is not absent from me. I have felt, rejoiced, and enjoyed the presence and conversation with Jesus (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) all day today. I cannot fool the Spirit in me into believing something that is not true. It isn’t that I don’t feel it necessary to commiserate with others or commemorate the occasion of the season. I get it; I do, but I don’t feel it honest to contrive a false sense of emotion for the sake of “looking” right. No, I think it best to celebrate the victory of Christ instead—maybe quietly so as not to offend others, but celebrate nonetheless.
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? (Psalm 22:1)
He bowed his head and released his spirit… (John 19:30)
Today I can only imagine what Jesus’ closest friends, family, and his disciples must have thought. They saw him die. No matter what he might have told him about rising again, I do not think Scripture teaches or hints that even one, including the women and Jesus’ mother believed he was going to come back to life. Therefore, this day (the day Jesus was crucified and died) was the end of all they had hoped for. The promises, the miracles, the hope, the great teaching… all of it gone and now their own lives may be in jeopardy as well. I don’t know that I’ve ever been in that situation or anything close to it, so I can barely begin to understand what they were going through. Their darkness was going to explode like a super Nova into everlasting Light, but not just yet…
Good Friday Prayer
Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed and given up into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
Lent.43—An Example to Follow
Readings: Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 ◊ Exodus 12:1-42 ◊ 1 Cor. 11:23-26 ◊ John 13:1-17, 31-35
Words that are sticking in my throat and I find difficult to digest are found in today’s readings for this Maundy Thursday. Our Lenten journey is nearing its end and several culminating thoughts from Scripture are stirring my own resolve.
I read; “On the night he was betrayed…” (1 Cor. 11:23) and we know that the words are directed toward Judas and to some degree the disciples who left him…and maybe even there is a hint of the betrayal of Jesus’ own people, which would ultimately lead to his death by crucifixion. I wonder though; is there another betrayal to consider? Might we, even those who profess to be “washed” by him, qualify as his betrayers. I know in some abstract sense we might cast a nod of self-righteous agreement to that betrayal… standing firm on our knowledge of grace and redemption, but might we be mistaken? Could our betrayal be even more profound? Might our betrayal be closer to our immediate present? I think maybe…it could be we are real time betrayers still today.
He looked to his disciples and he told them; “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them. Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (John 13:15, 17, 34). What is the example Christ left us? Can we even recount that example? Can we tangibly say in actionable words what the example of Jesus’ life and model for us is, without qualifying those actions or watering them down to the point they no longer resemble the life of Jesus in the gospel accounts. I wonder. I am convicted that I am still a betrayer. I tell myself lies and try to qualify my own failure to follow wholly the life of Jesus by blaming my surroundings and the context of my culture. And I’m tired of it. I don’t want to be a betrayer anymore. I’m tired of fighting my own people. I understand tolerance and I understand grace and I understand patience…but I also understand selfishness and hard-heartedness and I do not want to live there anymore. I do not want to betray the things I know are true and life-giving… I do not care about culture. I do not care about demographics. I do not care about hard-hearted and self-centered people. I care about Jesus. I believe his teachings and I will live to appropriate them fully in my life no matter who else comes alongside. I know there are others who wish to follow this path and I will find them and I will love them…as Christ loves me. I will no longer be a betrayer.
My Psalm Prayer and Affirmation:
I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! I will lift up the cup of salvation and praise the LORD’s name for saving me. I will keep my promises to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Psalm 116:1-2, 13-14
Maundy Thursday Prayer
Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, did institute the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may thankfully receive the same in remembrance of him who in these holy mysteries giveth us a pledge of life eternal , the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
Readings: Psalm 70 ◊ Isaiah 50:4-9 ◊ Hebrews 12:1-3 ◊ John 13:21-32
What is it like to be betrayed?
I think we’ve all experienced on some level in our lives; a good or cherished friend, a loved one, or perhaps a trusted colleague turns their back on us and becomes our betrayer. How do we respond? Are we capable of forgiveness? Can we put our trust in God and remain confident that His will be done? What was it like to be a betrayer? Can you remember a time where you have betrayed another soul? I wonder what went on between Jesus and Judas and I wonder what occurred to them as they pondered betrayal and betrayed respectively.
Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!” (John 13:21)
I have set my face like stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame. (Isaiah 50:7)
“We must have faith during the period of our grief. We think that our afflictions will be greater than we can bear, but we do not know the strength of our own hearts, nor the power of God. He knows all. He knows every folding of the heart and also the extent of the sorrow that he inflicts. What we think will overwhelm us entirely only subdues and conquers our pride. Our renewed spirit rises from its subjugation with a celestial strength and consolation.” -Francois Fenelon
Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
An Evening Prayer
Speak to our hearts, O Christ our overseer; say to us, “Hail, be strong and of good courage.” You who did this of old, can you not do the same now? You can, you can indeed! For you are almighty. You can, O most Loving, you can do what we cannot conceive; for nothing is impossible to you, almighty God! Truly, O Savior, for us your body is red with blood; you have “washed your garment in wine and your clothes in the blood of grapes;” for you are God alone, crucified for us, whom the old transgression gave over to death; by your wound have been healed the countless wounds of our sins. And now, O loving and crucified Christ, redeem us with your own; save us, O loving Goodness, O God, who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever, throughout all ages. Amen. Old Gallican Missal
Lent.41—We Want to Meet Jesus
Readings: Psalm 71:1-14 ◊ Isaiah 49:1-7 ◊ 1 Cor. 1:18-31 ◊ John 12:20-37
One of my all time favorite passages of Scripture has been John 12:24-26; I cannot recall how many times I have quoted it and used it in sermons or personal testimony…maybe hundreds. Today and tonight as I’ve been pondering this reading, I am making connections that I have not made previously—I’m hearing with different ears and seeing with different eyes—the gravity of these words has increased exponentially.
20 Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration 21 paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, “Sir, we want to meet Jesus.” 22 Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus.
23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. 26 Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.
27 “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! 28 Father, bring glory to your name.”
Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again.” 29 When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him.
30 Then Jesus told them, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate how he was going to die.
34 The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?”
35 Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going.36 Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”
After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them.
There is simply too much going on in this passage of Scripture to unpack in a single blog post, but there are a few highlights worth bringing to attention. First, the context is worth mentioning… for some reason I have not made this connection before, but Phillip’s friends want to meet Jesus. Phillip and Andrew ask Jesus if their friends can get a meeting and Jesus begins; basically saying, “You want to meet me? You need to be willing to lose your life, because I am the life you want to meet… And here’s how you meet me; You follow me. Where am I going you say? Watch and I’ll show you… It’s for this very hour that I came.” This commentary from Jesus might lead the persons hearing to conclude these are the ravings of some radical lunatic, but then… “A Voice from heaven” And we hear the affirmation of God pronounced over the words Jesus had shared.
An interesting note about the voice from heaven some heard it as thunder and others heard it as the declarations of an angel… interesting. Pay attention to how you listen (Luke 8:18).
Another point, Jesus had told his listeners (perhaps Phillip and Andrew’s friends) that to “meet him” or become his disciple, they must follow him and he further explains where he is going (vs. 32); “When I am lifted up from the earth…”
Next, Jesus puts down a few more cryptic lines and we are told, “After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them.” It almost seems the time for trying to figure Jesus out and discern whether his was Messianic truth or not was over. He was hidden from them…
Finally, these last words are bone chilling to me. I think because they mirror the heart of so many “friends of Jesus” today. People who profess to know Jesus, but are unwilling to become the kernel that falls into the ground first—unwilling to follow where Jesus is when he is lifted up. John writes; “but despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe him.”
Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.
All that we have today, and most of the people, even those who profess to know Him, do not believe. On what basis do I make such a broad generalization? There is far too much “self” existing in those who profess to follow; a clear indication that the crucial part of becoming a disciple, denying the self, has not taken place.
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone.
An Evening Prayer:
We praise you, Lord, for the gift of wisdom that allows us to hear and obey your word. We thank you for the call you have given each of us, to spend our lives in your service. Help us to reject the folly that the world considers wisdom. God of Mercy, your Son Jesus chose suffering and the cross in place of the joy that was held out to him; teach us to carry one another’s burdens, that we may die and rise again to live in him who is our Saviour, for ever and ever. Amen.
Readings: Psalm 36:5-11 ◊ Isaiah 42:1-9 ◊ Hebrews 9:11-15 ◊ John 12:1-11
Today begins Holy Week, the final days of the Lenten season leading to the Paschal Tridium. The readings this week help us to focus on the servanthood and mission of our Lord Jesus, his holy sacrifice that provides the means of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration of humankind to God.
Christ brings justice to the nations; it is He who demonstrates the righteousness of God; it is He who is the Light that guides the nations; He opens the eyes of the blind and sets the captive free. Everything God has spoken through his prophets has and will come true. Christ will die… and Christ will rise again. Those who are found in him will die… and rise again with him. -Inspired from Isaiah 42:1-9
“He who obeys the commandments he has from me is the man who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father. I too will love him and reveal myself to him (John 14:21
We praise you, Lord, for the gift of trust. We thank you for the witness of so many people throughout the ages who have placed their trust in you and who now inspire us with their example of faithful and loving service. WE thank you for your unfathomable love revealed to us in the scriptures, in the law, and in the life, death, and resurrection of your son Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Book Review: Ecovillages
Author: Karen T. Litfin
Publisher: Polity Books ISBN: 9780745679501
I really liked this book and truly appreciated the broad-spectrum approach of Karen Litfin’s research and chronicle of her sabbatical adventure. Ecovillages is not an egg-headed, ivory tower, theoretical diatribe, which can often be the case when talking about the environment and sustainable living. No, this book is about thoughtful, studied, objective, and first-hand analysis of communities engaging in the process of living in community with different approaches to sustainability. This approach made all the difference in the world to me and kept my mind open, listening, learning, dreaming, and hopeful.
Chapters one and two set up Litfin’s year-long journey and exploration of sustainable communities. Here she describes her personal interest and how she winnowed her selection of ecovillages to visit. The next four chapters (Ecology, Economy, Community, and Consciousness) explore significant aspects of and different approaches to living together in sustainable community.
I have been intrigued by intentional communities for several years now and have explored mostly those communities centered around spiritual values. While this has been my core value, a strong second focus has been ecological sustainability, so Litfin’s journey was of keen interest to me. I was not disappointed in the least with her recounting of her experience. I appreciated the insights and diversity of the communities especially from the multinational perspective. Additionally, the glimpses into economy and logistical challenges were a helpful inclusion for details I may not have previously considered.
Because of my primary motives for interest in sustainable communities, I was most interested (and enjoyed) the chapters on community and consciousness. It was in these chapters that Litfin really digs into the people dynamic delving into issues of governance, charism of the community, and conflict resolution. I think Karen’s words nearing the end of the consciousness chapter kind of sums up the entirety of the book for me as it relates to the journey of human community on the whole; she writes the following:
As I spoke with ecovillagers around the world, I found my mind’s dichotomies softening into a bigger picture. Science vs. mysticism, Christianity vs. evolution, simple living vs. big-picture thinking, selfishness vs. altruism – these old antinomies were making peace in my mind. As my either/or categories dissolved into a more embracive, both/and perspective, my internal experience of myself and the world felt larger and more generous. I began to see my own foibles and those of others as transitory deficiencies of consciousness, rather than irredeemable character flaws. I came to view the story of separation as a means of creating individuals capable of consciously giving themselves to the whole. In framing our contemporary predicament as a developmental process, rather than the catastrophic consequence of human stupidity or God’ punishment for our sins, I could see larger possibilities for action and compassion – possibilities that grow exponentially in the context of community. I could see that each of us has the potential to become, quite literally, a force of nature (pp. 185-186).
If you have in interest at all in ecovillages, sustainable and/or intentional community living, this book will be a helpful and insightful read for you. I continue to be hopeful for my own journey into a community of some sort and this has been a great addition to my education and preparation for that day.