Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Forty-Three, Holy Wednesday

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Isaiah 50:4-9a, The Living Bible

Rescue me, O God! Lord, hurry to my aid! They are after my life and delight in hurting me. Confuse them! Shame them! Stop them! Don’t let them keep on mocking me! But fill the followers of God with joy. Let those who love your salvation exclaim, “What a wonderful God he is!” But I am in deep trouble. Rush to my aid, for only you can help and save me. O Lord, don’t delay.

 

Oh, how I love this small
passage, these words.

Right smack dab
in the middle
of a cry for help,
we find the word
JOY,
and an exclamation
of wonder
at our God.

Right smack dab.

And that is life.

At least, it’s my life.
There have been
so many situations
in which I have cried 
our for rescue,
an end to suffering.

And every single time,
I’ve been shown
reason for wonder,
for praise,
for minuscule moments
of praise.

Give me eyes to see,
O Lord.
Eyes to see the glory
hidden in the sorrow,
the beauty buried
in the ugliness.

Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Forty-Two, Holy Tuesday

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John 12:20-36, The Message

There were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: “Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?”

Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus. Jesus answered, “Time’s up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

“If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.

“Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’”

A voice came out of the sky: “I have glorified it, and I’ll glorify it again.”

The listening crowd said, “Thunder!”

Others said, “An angel spoke to him!”

Jesus said, “The voice didn’t come for me but for you. At this moment the world is in crisis. Now Satan, the ruler of this world, will be thrown out. And I, as I am lifted up from the earth, will attract everyone to me and gather them around me.” He put it this way to show how he was going to be put to death.

Voices from the crowd answered, “We heard from God’s Law that the Messiah lasts forever. How can it be necessary, as you put it, that the Son of Man ‘be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

Jesus said, “For a brief time still, the light is among you. Walk by the light you have so darkness doesn’t destroy you. If you walk in darkness, you don’t know where you’re going. As you have the light, believe in the light. Then the light will be within you, and shining through your lives. You’ll be children of light.”

Jesus said all this, and then went into hiding. All these God-signs he had given them and they still didn’t get it, still wouldn’t trust him. This proved that the prophet Isaiah was right:

God, who believed what we preached?
Who recognized God’s arm, outstretched and ready to act?

First they wouldn’t believe, then they couldn’t—again, just as Isaiah said:

Their eyes are blinded,
their hearts are hardened,
So that they wouldn’t see with their eyes
and perceive with their hearts,
And turn to me, God,
so I could heal them.

 

These words are so important
we’re getting them more than
once on this journey of ours.

But it’s the first image
that grabs me this time,
a new image thus far.

An image about death.
Life from death,
which is a distinctly
Christian motif.

In order to live,
we must die.
Truly.

But that scares us,
doesn’t it?
There is nothing about death
that sounds ‘good,’
desirable,
necessary.

We are also taught that
death foils the Plan.
In fact, the Plan
comes to rid us of death.

Ah, but only one kind of death
is defeated on that cross,
and through that empty tomb,
right?

Because we all die, don’t we?

These bodies will stop.
Every blamed one of them.

In fact, we must die . . .
if . . . we are to live.
A paradox.
A mystery.
A wonder.

Glory be.

Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Forty-One, Holy Monday

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Hebrews 9:11-15, The Message

But when the Messiah arrived, high priest of the superior things of this new covenant, he bypassed the old tent and its trappings in this created world and went straight into heaven’s “tent”—the true Holy Place—once and for all. He also bypassed the sacrifices consisting of goat and calf blood, instead using his own blood as the price to set us free once and for all. If that animal blood and the other rituals of purification were effective in cleaning up certain matters of our religion and behavior, think how much more the blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out. Through the Spirit, Christ offered himself as an unblemished sacrifice, freeing us from all those dead-end efforts to make ourselves respectable, so that we can live all out for God.

 

‘live all out for God. . .’

Again, words I nod agreement 
at hearing, reading.
But I wonder.

Am I capable of 
‘all out?’

No, probably not.

Therefore,
I choose to rely
on that unblemished
sacrifice.

To choose freedom
from trying to 
make myself
respectable,
qualified,
enough.

Lord, have mercy on me.
A sinner.

Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Forty, Palm Sunday

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John 12:12-16, The Living Bible

The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city, and a huge crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him, shouting, “The Savior! God bless the King of Israel! Hail to God’s Ambassador!”

Jesus rode along on a young donkey, fulfilling the prophecy that said: “Don’t be afraid of your King, people of Israel, for he will come to you meekly, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

(His disciples didn’t realize at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy; but after Jesus returned to his glory in heaven, then they noticed how many prophecies of Scripture had come true before their eyes.)

 

How hard it is to
see things as they happen!
We don’t get it.
Our brains are slow,
our spirits are sludge-like.

But afterwards?
Oh, yeah.
Afterwards,
we see it all.

I find this line
strangely heartening.
Even in their slowness,
these disciples
went on to believe,
to engage,
to join the journey
with all of themselves.

Help me to take the next step,
even when I don’t
fully understand
what is actually 
happening.

Help me to trust
that someday,
it will all make sense.

Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Thirty-Nine

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Mark 10:32-34, 46-52, The Message

Back on the road, they set out for Jerusalem. Jesus had a head start on them, and they were following, puzzled and not just a little afraid.

He took the Twelve and began again to go over what to expect next. “Listen to me carefully. We’re on our way up to Jerusalem. When we get there, the Son of Man will be betrayed to the religious leaders and scholars. They will sentence him to death. Then they will hand him over to the Romans, who will mock and spit on him, give him the third degree, and kill him. After three days he will rise alive.”

 

You know,
I want to listen.
At least,
I say I do.

But when push
comes to shove,
I’m lousy at it.

I have things to do,
don’t you know.
People to see,
places to be.

But really now.
What person, 
place,
activity
is more important
than 
listening.
Listening carefully.

No one,
nowhere,
nothing
is more important.
Even when what I hear
is hard
and painful.

Like this news,
right here.

The end of the road
is in sight now.
It won’t be long.

Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Thirty-Eight

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Philippians 2:12-18, The Message

What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.

Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.

Even if I am executed here and now, I’ll rejoice in being an element in the offering of your faith that you make on Christ’s altar, a part of your rejoicing. But turnabout’s fair play—you must join me in my rejoicing. Whatever you do, don’t feel sorry for me.

 

Energy.
That’s what we need.
Who knew?

But it’s a different kind of
energy, I think.
Not what we usually
picture
when we hear
the word.

And that word is coupled
with these:
reverence
and
sensitivity.

Now that’s 
my kind of energy.

You won’t find me
on the soccer field,
but you might 
find me
sitting and listening.

And you will
definitely find me
being awestruck
at the wonders that
surround us
in this place we call home.

Put those together,
and they produce
exactly the kind of 
‘fission’ that’s 
needed to
shine the light,
save the world.

At least,
that’s what Paul
seems to say.

Oh.
One other thing.
it’s not our
energy, actually.

Nope.
It’s God-sent,
originating
elsewhere.

 

Well, that’s a relief.

Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Thirty-Seven

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Philippians 2:1-11, The Message

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

 

Such a sweet relationship.
A small girl,
an older male cousin.
They picture for me
what the Body is
to be like.

Warm, affectionate,
open, loving, kind.
‘Deep-spirited friends.’

That’s an important piece
of this journey we’re on.
Becoming more sweet-spirited.
And opening to more friends, too.

Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Thirty-Six

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John 12:34-50, The Message

Voices from the crowd answered, “We heard from God’s Law that the Messiah lasts forever. How can it be necessary, as you put it, that the Son of Man ‘be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

Jesus said, “For a brief time still, the light is among you. Walk by the light you have so darkness doesn’t destroy you. If you walk in darkness, you don’t know where you’re going. As you have the light, believe in the light. Then the light will be within you, and shining through your lives. You’ll be children of light.”

Jesus said all this, and then went into hiding. All these God-signs he had given them and they still didn’t get it, still wouldn’t trust him. This proved that the prophet Isaiah was right:

God, who believed what we preached?
Who recognized God’s arm, outstretched and ready to act?

First they wouldn’t believe, then they couldn’t—again, just as Isaiah said:

Their eyes are blinded,
their hearts are hardened,
So that they wouldn’t see with their eyes
and perceive with their hearts,
And turn to me, God,
so I could heal them.

Isaiah said these things after he got a glimpse of God’s cascading brightness that would pour through the Messiah.

On the other hand, a considerable number from the ranks of the leaders did believe. But because of the Pharisees, they didn’t come out in the open with it. They were afraid of getting kicked out of the meeting place. When push came to shove they cared more for human approval than for God’s glory.

Jesus summed it all up when he cried out, “Whoever believes in me, believes not just in me but in the One who sent me. Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won’t have to stay any longer in the dark.

“If anyone hears what I am saying and doesn’t take it seriously, I don’t reject him. I didn’t come to reject the world; I came to save the world. But you need to know that whoever puts me off, refusing to take in what I’m saying, is willfully choosing rejection. The Word, the Word-made-flesh that I have spoken and that I am, that Word and no other is the last word. I’m not making any of this up on my own. The Father who sent me gave me orders, told me what to say and how to say it. And I know exactly what his command produces: real and eternal life. That’s all I have to say. What the Father told me, I tell you.”

 

Well, there it is.
Plain as day.
There is no rejection
cast upon any of us
by heaven and 
its inhabitants.

No.

The rejection happens
in us.

We are the ones who say ‘no.’

So yes, I think we will
be surprised.

And yes, we must walk
with the light that we have.
And that may be one of 
the biggest surprises of all —
just who has the light,
and how very little of it
is necessary to
reach our destination.

Time for another,
hallelujah!

Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Thirty-Five

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Isaiah 44:1-8, The Living Bible

Listen to me, O my servant Israel, O my chosen ones:

The Lord who made you, who will help you, says: O servant of mine, don’t be afraid. O Jerusalem, my chosen ones, don’t be afraid. For I will give you abundant water for your thirst and for your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit and my blessings on your children. They shall thrive like watered grass, like willows on a riverbank. “I am the Lord’s,” they’ll proudly say, or, “I am a Jew,” and tattoo upon their hands the name of God or the honored name of Israel.

The Lord, the King of Israel, says—yes, it is Israel’s Redeemer, the Lord Almighty, who says it—I am the First and Last; there is no other God. Who else can tell you what is going to happen in the days ahead? Let them tell you if they can and prove their power. Let them do as I have done since ancient times. Don’t, don’t be afraid. Haven’t I proclaimed from ages past that I would save you? You are my witnesses—is there any other God? No! None that I know about! There is no other Rock!

 

‘There is no other Rock!’
Indeed.

And the rocks of earth
pale in comparison.

Rocks are solid,
sturdy,
intimidating,
challenging,
BIG.

And, I imagine,
so is GOD.

But what I love
are these words:
‘Don’t, don’t
be afraid.’

That double negative
somehow carries
weight beyond
those few letters.

It tells me that
God means it.
God means for me
NOT to be afraid.

Why?
Because rocks are
also safe places,
sheltering places,
hiding places.

And some days,
that is exactly
what I need.

 

Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Thirty-Four

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2 Corinthians 3:4-11, The Living Bible

We dare to say these good things about ourselves only because of our great trust in God through Christ, that he will help us to be true to what we say, and not because we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success comes from God. He is the one who has helped us tell others about his new agreement to save them. We do not tell them that they must obey every law of God or die; but we tell them there is life for them from the Holy Spirit. The old way, trying to be saved by keeping the Ten Commandments, ends in death; in the new way, the Holy Spirit gives them life.

Yet that old system of law that led to death began with such glory that people could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For as he gave them God’s law to obey, his face shone out with the very glory of God—though the brightness was already fading away. Shall we not expect far greater glory in these days when the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the plan that leads to doom was glorious, much more glorious is the plan that makes us right with God. In fact, that first glory as it shone from Moses’ face is worth nothing at all in comparison with the overwhelming glory of the new agreement. So if the old system that faded into nothing was full of heavenly glory, the glory of God’s new plan for our salvation is certainly far greater, for it is eternal.

 

There it is again.
That word:

GLORY.

I love the word,
the way it sounds 
to the ear,
the way it feels
to the tongue.

And I love imagining
what the glory of God
is like.

The sky helps me,
it reminds me
of the glory we 
know now,
a foretaste of
what comes next.