Posts Tagged ‘Lent’
Holy Saturday: A God-Forsaken Silence of the Lamb
(My rambling thoughts on this holy reflection day…)
Holy Saturday. It’s a quandary for me. First, it’s not a day that I usually observed in the scope and sequence of my Protestant Evangelical upbringing. For that matter, neither was Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Good Friday, or any other traditional observance of the Christian Calendar. We covered Christmas Day (more Santa than Jesus) and Easter (more new Spring clothes and candies than a resurrected Savior). Fast forward… Over the last decade of my life, I’ve become more aware and studied in the traditions of the Church and found that my faith and my daily experience with the Godhead and the people of God have been enriched in ways that words cannot describe. As much as I enjoy this aspect of my spirituality, I often get caught between the tensions of intellectual understanding and the mysterious unknowing. Reflections during the Holy Triduum (evening of Maundy Thursday thru evening prayers of Easter Sunday), cause me great tension as I wonder and wander in my mind over the events that span these days… Here follow some of my thoughts over the past couple days, a Midrash of sorts maybe:
The crucifixion of Jesus and the subsequent events leading up to the resurrection of Jesus are a profound mystery to me. I say I understand, but it’s more some measure of assent of agreement to what theologians say it is and what it represents or does for humanity. Honestly, there is far more I do not understand than what I truthfully do understand. The gaps in the Holy Triduum narrative lead us to much conjecture and likely much misunderstanding, but still, I think the tension has healthy benefits…or it can have healthy benefits.
There are some aspects of these “things unknown” that I struggle with more than others. One thing in particular is the reasoning of God for choosing the instrument used in the killing of Jesus (the cross and the subsequent act of crucifixion). Yes, I’ve heard and studied much of the ideas, thoughts, metaphors, allegories, and like that gives us plausible reasoning for the cross, but all of it still falls short of registering in my simple little mind. I don’t get it. Why the cross? Why crucifixion? I simply do not know. Though speculation and theories abound, none of them satisfactorily answer the questions I have, nor do they sufficiently purpose this means of death over and above the sacrificial death of any other holy person—there have been other martyrs, there have been other gruesome, tortuous deaths, and others have given their lives as a ransom for others. We respond, saying, “Yes, but Jesus was the Son of God” and this sets apart the crucifixion as a singular event in the history of humanity. At this juncture, most Christian believers just mute up and solemnly nod in agreement and smother their questions. I do not. As I said, I give affirmation of belief, but that doesn’t mean I understand. I can parrot all the theories and doctrinal statements of belief, but I still don’t understand. For me, it begins to boil down to whether or not the cross is truly the seminal event of the Christian faith. Most of my Christian upbringing leads me to say it was what I was taught; “It’s all about the cross” “It’s all about Jesus suffering in my place” “It’s all about the blood” “There had to be a price for sin…and Jesus paid the price.” I honestly have a tough time nodding my head in agreement that these are the seminal events of the faith I profess. Don’t misunderstand my thoughts, I do think these are pieces of the whole, but the seminal event??? No. I don’t believe that.
Am I saying the cross is not central to the Christian faith? I don’t think I would actually say those words, but I don’t believe I place the same level of importance on this event as what I was lead to believe. The death of Christ is central to the faith…but the instrument of death, I’m not so convinced other than it is associated with Jesus. In other words, had it been a poison lance or a hangman’s noose, either of these might be the little golden charms we hang on our walls or around our necks.
What then, is the critical event of the Christian faith? I say it is the resurrection (The apostle Paul seems to affirm this in his 1 Corinthians discourse chapter fifteen). This begins one of my main points of contention. Many Protestants, especially in the circles that I have traveled, focus almost entirely on the cross, suffering, and death of Christ. All of these are not as much about Christ as they are about Jesus taking “my” place. He suffered for “me.” He died in “my” place. In effect, a translation of this focus can become so “me” centered it loses the focus of redemption and reconciliation entirely. This is not true of the resurrection. The resurrection remains “we” centered. Perhaps that is why so many humans lose focus on the resurrected Christ and want to keep their eyes fixated on the suffering Christ. Again, I don’t know, but I wonder. Regardless, hyper-focalization on the death of Christ inadvertently minimizes the most important aspect of the Christian faith, the resurrection.
But what about those days in-between the death and resurrection of Christ, that Holy, Silent, despondent day when Christ was silent, dead, and buried.
The historical teaching of the Church proclaims Jesus descended into the underworld or place of the dead (the Harrowing of Hell) and defeated the captor of humanity. Exactly how this played out, I am unsure, but we profess similar in our confessions and creeds within the Christian Church. I have my own theory and piecemeal understanding—speculative I am sure—nonetheless, it is what I think I think for this season of my understanding.
In his death, Christ identified with humanity more intimately than at any point previously in his life. How? I think he identified with humanity more closely through his forsaken separation from God (the Godhead: oneness of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). Because Jesus was incarnate (born and lived as human flesh), because he agreed to become human and empty himself of his Divinity (Phil. 2:5-11), he was able to fully experience, understand, and identify with humanity what separation from God was truly like. Before this moment in time, God had never been separated from God. God agreed to break unity with himself for the sake of saving humanity. All his mortal life (Jesus) was readying him for this separation and preparing him for the moment it would take place. The tragedy and heartbreak of the Gethsemane prayers, pleading for the cup of sacrifice to be removed, all leading to this point. The travesty of separation was agreed to and accepted for the sole purpose of saving souls, the most wonderful creation of all of God’s created things, humanity. It’s all about the we…not the me.
This moment of “death” precipitated by the narrative of the cross, God-Forsaking-God, led to the Silence of the Lamb (Holy Saturday), but only in temporal time…only in what we could see and hear with our physically limited eyes and ears. In eternal time, happening at the same instance of death that Silenced the Lamb, eternity heard a roar from the Lion of Judah being born gloriously for all eternity, triumphantly redeeming and reconciling God’s greatest creation, human souls.
And thus… The God-Forsaken silence of the Lamb was eternity’s greatest triumph. This is why resurrection matters. It is why I adhere to proclaiming Christus Victor (Irenaeus) opposing a hyper-exaltation of Penal Substitution (Augustine). Christus Victor is all about the “we” while Penal Substitution can easily deteriorate into the age-old trappings of “me.” I have been crucified with Christ, so I might live eternally with Christ.
Saturday: Day 4 of Lent
Free of Guilt—Prayed for by God
I don’t know where the Spirit is leading me this Lent, but it is starting out with a very serious departure from my previous seasons of penance, contrition, and somberness. I have several devotional books that have been labeled specifically for Lent and I’m following the Daily Scripture readings from the Book of Common Prayer, providing evidence to me that I have not subconsciously planned or contrived the direction my heart is drawn. I will continue my practices and devotion, and follow where God leads.
I began my morning with reflection on Psalm 30 and 32. I came away from that reflection with the following as my prayer:
I will exalt you, LORD, for you rescued me—you restored my health, and brought me up from the grave. O LORD, you have kept me from falling into the pit of death. Weeping and my tears may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. You are the morning, my LORD, You are the Bright and Morning Star! You are my Joy! The Bringer of Light and the Giver of Life! You have turned my mourning into a morning of joy-filled dancing! I will sing joyful praises to you and not be silent. O LORD, my God, I will give thanks to you forever. (Personalized from my heart from Psalm 30)
My disobedience is forgiven. My sin is put out of sight. The LORD has cleared my guilt. He forgave me! All my guilt is gone! I will give thanks to you, My God and King, I will praise you forever! (Personalized from my heart from Psalm 32)
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything… God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds as we live in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7 NLT)
The past three days, the Gospel reading has come from John 17. This passage of Scripture is among the most influential passages found in the whole Bible for the context of my spiritual development and continues to be one of the most formative passages of Scripture no matter how many times that I read it. There is something mysterious and divine about the energy that soaks into my soul each time I encounter Christ Jesus, the Living God, through this text. It is the prayer of Jesus, perhaps that is part of its mystery. I find this prayer always challenging and always inspiring. The promise and intercessory petition of God (Jesus) for us, his disciples, is mind-blowing.
Excerpted from John 17:9-26
My prayer is for those you have given me… Protect them, so they will be united just as we are… Keep them safe from the evil one. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. I am praying not only for these disciples, but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message—I have given them the glory you gave me. I pray they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. I am in them and you are in me…May the world know you love them as much as you love me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so…
Simply an amazing passage of Scripture. This, prayer of Jesus, is this God praying to God… himself? And praying for humanity, not only for his immediate disciples, but all those who will believe in him/Jesus through their message. Yes, that will make me inclusive in that prayer!!! One of the things that I find so moving about this prayer is how it reveals the heart of God in it. Jesus says as much; “I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so…” (John 17:26). It seems safe, then, to me, to assume that what is happening in this narrative account of Jesus in the Garden is Jesus revealing God the Father, his heart for us, the loved ones who will follow him and believe in him.
I am so grateful for this “reveal” of God to me… it seems fitting for this season of my life. The “Type-A” personality I am, I can often be tempted to guilt over performance issues where I feel I am not ready, studying, writing, or praying enough (as far as Christian disciplines go). I sometimes feel my thoughts are dark, evil, and unholy… There is no shortage of stuff that can bring me down and I can be tempted by the darkness and doubt to accept a false image of God—not unlike the false image that was offered to Adam and Eve during their Garden Temptation, which they ultimately accepted. I can see where that has brought us. I don’t want that image or the catastrophe it brings; no thanks!
What I continue to learn and constantly affirmed is that the Father is far more loving that I can ever imagine. And this loving Father, according to the prayer of Jesus, loves me as much as he loves the Only Begotten Son (John 17:23). Out of this world AMAZING. How can I not praise HIM!!! How can my heart not be joy-dancing-Glad!??!
Here is what my heart sings today:
I am flesh, but I am Divine because Christ is in me.
I am mortal, but my soul is immortal, promised by God to be with Him forever.
I am broken, but in the process of being restored.
I was the son of Adam, but now am the adopted son of God through the Son of God
Glory be to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Thursday the day after Ash Wednesday
Entering into the Ash and Dust…
It’s only day two and this is already seeming a different Lent for me. It will be interesting to see where the Spirit of God leads and what the Work of God does with me as I offer myself in this act of contrition and surrender.
I have outlined several disciplines I plan to engage in this next forty days (not counting Sundays), and making time to write and journal my thoughts more often is one of them. Another exercise I plan to engage is meditation and reflection on a series of self-examination questions, which I plan to share on the blog. The past couple years have been pretty lean with regard to my writing time and blogging efforts. I’ve wrestled with trying to push through my lack of desire and shortage of inspiration, but did not feel like forcing myself to write. There have been other challenges and more profitable ways to use my energy in the most recent season of my life. I have felt a bit more inspired lately and hope that I am able to find the energy, inspiration, and time to share the songs of my soul once again. We will see where this season takes us.
I begin this Lent 2016 blog with a prayer and an examination question.
Lord, may your Spirit guide me to seek your loving presence more and more. For it is there I find refreshment from the busy world.
Question: “How do I see God at this point or season of my life?”
I sat with this question for some time before actually engaging it and writing out my thoughts. Actually, I’ve been sitting with this question for the better part of a month now as it is one of the questions that I’ve offered to some of the discipleship groups I lead. It is interesting that the idea to blog through the list of questions came to me as I began to step into the Lenten Season. It’s interesting because of my response… Lent brings with it a sense of somberness. We are called to recognize our mortality; “Remember, it is from dust you came and it is to dust you shall return.” We are called to contrition and penance. We are called to reflect upon and share in the suffering of Christ as he journeys to and through his Passion. As I pondered my response to this question about “how I see God…” I was a bit surprised at the incongruity of my thoughts with expected feeling this season often brings.
From my journal…
I sense God is my always-present Counselor-Guide. I am not overwhelmed as often as I once was by the Divine, but I do not consider that a negative or irreverent thing. I don’t mean to convey that I am apathetic or without awe, because that is not true. I believe that God’s Presence with me has become familiar in a very good way. I am still swept away by His Glory at times and I am in awe at the grand mystery of a God who would dwell with and within me—but I am equally comforted and pleasantly “relaxed” in His Presence as I abide with him and he abides with me. I think this is how it is supposed to be and I am grateful and humbled that God has allowed me to experience this relationship with such joy and peace.
I think one of the more joyful and wonderful changes in my relationship with God and how I see Him in this season of my life is this:
I no longer drown in a sea of self-doubt, guilt, and shame. I do not worry about whether I “measure up” to God’s expectations (or what I believe are God’s expectations) of me. I do not feel mired or marred by sin. The Word of God teaches those who believe, receive, and follow, that he will wash away and separate us from our sin—His Word also promises that perfect love, who is Jesus, will cast away all fear. I am fearlessly loved and in love with my God, Jesus the Christ! This very real realization has changed everything about me and the way I see and perceive God. The yoke I carry as a bondservant to Christ is very light. The confidence I have and the knowledge of who I am has never been more powerful or clearer than at any other time in my life. This is all due to how I have come to know and see God in this season of my life.
So, I enter this season of penance and contrition feeling a bit lopsided. My heart sings and I want to continue my shouts of Alleluia, but I will honor the tradition of the Church and keep my alleluia quiet until Easter. I will offer the joy that God has given to me as an offering of sacrifice during this next forty days. I will share in his suffering and share in his Passion. This sacrifice will be part of my Lent.
One of my Scripture readings today came from the prophet Habakkuk. It was interesting to me as I read (Hab. 3:1-18), I found what I thought was a parallel of my own spiritual paradox of emotions with Habakkuk who writes the following:
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even when the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me sure-footed as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. (Hab. 3:1-18 NLT)
I love this from Habakkuk. I’d love to say I really identify with his words, but seriously, I’ve not been where he was. I’ve had a pretty easy life compared to most of the inhabitants of this world…even on my worst days. Nonetheless, I can identify when I look at the big picture that includes the realm of spirit and eternity. This life cannot compare to what God has intended for us. We are His children! We are stardust! We are comprised of the Mystery of the Divine! Made in the Image of God!
I love my faith! It is wholly a gift from God, and fully rooted in Him. I love the narrative of the Holy Scriptures that God has provided for those who will believe Him and believe in Him. I love the wisdom of God’ word and O love how it awaken my soul and affirms that God is with me, with me, and eternally for me. Praise Him. Amen!
My Prayer excerpted and personally modified from Psalm 37:1-24
I will trust in the LORD and do good. I will live safely in the land and prosper. I will take delight in the LORD, and he will give my hearts all its desires. I will commit everything I do to the LORD. I will trust him and he will help me. God will make my innocence radiate like the dawn. I will be still in the presence of my LORD, and I will wait patiently for him to act. I will not worry or be angry about evil people or their wicked schemes. I am learning that it is far better to be godly and have little than to bee evil and rich. Day by day the LORD takes care of the innocent—they will receive an eternal inheritance. The LORD directs my steps and delights in every detail of my life; though I stumble, I will never fall, for the LORD holds me in His hand.
Glory be to God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
I’ve take a “less is more” approach to my Lenten Season this year. I am still active in my participation and devotion, but most of my devotional practice is quiet, still, and intimate. It has taken some getting used to and there is still some awkwardness I’m having to work through, as my normal practices are heavy on “do-practices” rather than “be practices,” especially during the season of Lent. I think it is working well overall despite my occasional feelings of awkwardness.
Today is the Third Sunday in Lent. My devotions the past few weeks have been powerful, intimate, and very clear. This morning as I was meditating and praying through my Scripture readings, an uprising of gratitude and praise bubbled up out of soul, over my lips, and spilled out onto the pages of my journal.
God, I am thankful for the truths you reveal to the hearts and minds of those who seek you. But why should I be surprised? It is something you promise and we see those promises delivered again, and again, and again. We see them delivered throughout Scripture, we see them delivered through the writings of your saints through the ages and we see them delivered in the verbal-audible confessions of our spiritual brothers and sisters today. Breathlessly amazing is what it is. Life-giving assurance is what it is. The power of God unto salvation is what it is.
Thank you and praise you, O Lord my God, for rescuing me and showing yourself to me. Thank you for moments of inspired clarity that bring into focus the mysteries of the universe that are the tapestry of your eternal kingdom. To you I ascribe all glory and honor as I tremble with delight to know that I am yours, truly and eternally yours.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, world without end. Amen.
Book Review: On the Way to the Cross
Author: Thomas C. Oden & Joel C. Elowsky
Publisher: InterVarsity Press ISBN: 9780830835676
I used this devotional for my part of my Lenten experience this year (2014). It is not necessary for it to be relegated only to this period, but should be considered for anytime through the year as a wonderful tool for re-centering one’s soul. I found it very much effective in this regard.
I have long enjoyed the writing of Thomas Oden and particularly the Ancient Christian Devotional Series of which this devotional book, On the Way to the Cross, patterns itself.
Each daily reading begins with a confessional statement from the Book of Common Prayer. Following the daily confession is a Scripture reading and reflections from the Church Fathers concluding with closing prayers also from the early church fathers and the prayer books of the early church.
For those unfamiliar with the writings of the early church, this can serve as a wonderful and very accessible introduction. The language is easy to understand and each day’s devotional reading requires a minimal time investment.
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