A Prayer for Those in Need of Goodness and Mercy

Whenever I am invited to pray in public, I try to post those prayers in this space. Sometimes, people ask me for a copy and this is the easiest way to make that happen. In our church community, we find ourselves in a surprising season of discord and misunderstanding. We’re working on it! And the sermon for the day helped, as did the song that just preceded this prayer, “Psalm 23,” with the chorus that begins with, “Surely goodness, surely mercy” Yes, indeed. Please, Lord. (Our primary teaching text was Zechariah 8)

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Oh, Good Shepherd, we gather together in this place,
at this time in our history and in the history of the world, to acknowledge —
out loud and with all of who we are —
that we stand in need of goodness, we stand in need of mercy.
Every last one of us as individuals, and all of us together as your people at Montecito Covenant Church. All of us.

We need to remember, and to give thanks for, the truth that You are on our side,
even though the valley be dark and the way ahead, uncertain.

Lead us, O Lord, into green pastures. Restore our souls, refresh us with the water of life, remind us that we belong to You, and remind us that You are good.

Even as we acknowledge that goodness in You, O God, we must also own the truth that we are sometimes not so good.

We step on toes, 
we say harsh things,
we talk about others when they are not present,
we make judgments with incomplete facts,
we make assumptions,
and stand on entitlement,
and fail to practice grace and peace.

Forgive us, O God. Forgive us. And help us to forgive one another, too.

The climate in the world around us right now is not particularly conducive to forgiveness, nor to goodness and mercy. So it seems even more important than usual that we — as members of Christ’s body — practice what we preach. Will you help us to do that, please?

The text before us today reminds us of some of those things we preach, and we need to hear them, we really do. Bless Pastor Jon as he brings us your word for today. Give us ears to hear, O God, give us hearts to understand, and give us feet that walk out that truth into our world, beginning with the patio, and then the lunch tables we will share together a little later today. May your grace and joy infuse every conversation, guiding us into wisdom, and good decision-making.

Most of all, Lord God, will you help us to let your goodness and mercy inform what we say and do in our day-to-day living? That is not always easy for us. Some of us are in the throes of deep grief during these days of summer —

loved ones die,
relationships dissolve,
circumstances take a nosedive,
hard decisions must to be made,
ugly voices rise to the top in too many dialogues,
children suffer,
politicians seldom tell the truth,
poverty of all kinds surrounds us,
wars never end.

To us, the world feels a shambles, and we forget about goodness and mercy.

But we are not YOU, O God. Help us to look around us and see what you see — a world in need. . . yes. But a world that is also deeply loved, a world held in place by a Good and Merciful Sovereign, a world in which we are invited to partner with that Good Sovereign in the necessary work of restoration, reconciliation, recovery, and renewal.

We give you thanks this day for the evidence of that good work in the lives of those graduating from Bethel House and the Rescue Mission last night, celebrated right here, in our sanctuary. And we give you thanks for the changed hearts in thousands of teenagers, including some of our own, who were at the CHIC conference in Tennessee this past week. Thank you!

Bless and encourage every hurting heart in this room, O God. And use each of us to make that blessing real. Help us to be good neighbors — to each other, and to all those we meet day by day. Because everybody, from the grocery clerk to the rude driver behind us, needs a little goodness and mercy in their life, too.

They need the truth that we already know: that all of us belong to you — every last, mixed-up, weird and wonderful one of us.

Glory be.

In the name of Jesus — who loves us, who died for us, and who, by the power of the Spirit, was raised to new life, the One who dwells today in the church, including this one, in that name, we, together say,

AMEN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Redefining Terms — For SheLoves, May, 2018

Anyone who has read my work for any length of time will know that the content of this month’s essay at SheLoves has appeared, in slightly different form, here and in an ebook I put together about five years ago. It’s a BIG topic for me, essential to my spiritual and emotional health and sanity and I’m happy to have another venue in which to speak it true. I believe this to be one of the most important truths of our faith, one that can help us navigate any misguided theological input from our past. I’d love it if you would click over and join in the conversation at SheLoves.

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When I was a little girl, faithfully attending Sunday school each week, we had a little saying that went like this: “Jesus, Others and You – that’s how you spell JOY.” And I inhaled that sentiment like it was the sweetest of perfumes. YES! We should always be last on the list, giving ourselves away to Jesus and to other people. That’s how you live like Jesus, right? That’s how you are a good girl, a truly good girl.

As I got older, that simple phrase became a little more complicated, and the scent of it a little more cloying. This time, it went something like this: “He must increase, I must decrease,” lifting the words directly out of the mouth of John the Baptist near the end of chapter 3 in John’s gospel. From there, it morphed into, “More of Jesus, less of me,” and the older I got, the more terrified I became when I heard those words.

I didn’t recognize it as terror initially. In fact, I didn’t know how deeply this message had affected me until I began to be interested in spiritual direction. I first learned about direction by reading a series of novels, of all things. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, British author Susan Howatch wrote a great bunch of stories about priests in the Anglican church and I devoured those books when I was in my 40’s. They were earthy, to be sure, but they were also rich and filled with beautiful tidbits of theology and ecclesiology. Throughout the entire series, some of my favorite characters were spiritual directors.

So I began to look for a director, and the first woman I interviewed handed me the beautiful Prayer of Abandonment by Charles de Foucauld. It’s a beautiful prayer, filled with love, joyful submission, and trust. But I could not pray that prayer.

I tried, but I’d get to the word ‘abandon,’ and start gulping great gasps of air. I prayed about it, I talked it over with the woman who had given it to me, and her immediate response to me was this: “Diana, you need therapy. Not direction.” (Did I mention I was in seminary at the time and beginning to hear God’s call to professional ministry? What??? Pastors might need therapy? Well, that’s a great big YES.)

I spent the next twenty years trying to unpack what happened inside me as I read that prayer and, in the process, I have taken a long look at that old Sunday school saying and the use (or mis-use) of that verse from John 3. And I’ve done a TON of personal work on all kinds of important things. . . all because I gagged on the word, “abandon.”

There is lots more to these thoughts — come on over and join us at SheLoves!

Easter! — Journey’s End!!!

If you’ve traveled along this road with me from the beginning of our time in the wilderness — thank you. If you’ve checked in now and again — thank you. This has been a rich and humbling experience for me to immerse myself in these good words for these 47 days. And now, we enter into the Great Feast of Easter! He is Risen! He is Risen, indeed!

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Acts 10:34-43, The Message

Peter fairly exploded with his good news: “It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel—that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone.

“You know the story of what happened in Judea. It began in Galilee after John preached a total life-change. Then Jesus arrived from Nazareth, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, ready for action. He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil. He was able to do all this because God was with him.

“And we saw it, saw it all, everything he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem where they killed him, hung him from a cross. But in three days God had him up, alive, and out where he could be seen. Not everyone saw him—he wasn’t put on public display. Witnesses had been carefully handpicked by God beforehand—us! We were the ones, there to eat and drink with him after he came back from the dead. He commissioned us to announce this in public, to bear solemn witness that he is in fact the One whom God destined as Judge of the living and dead. But we’re not alone in this. Our witness that he is the means to forgiveness of sins is backed up by the witness of all the prophets.”

 

The hummingbird re-emerges
from the sleep of death.
The Messiah walks right
out of that tomb.

And the women see him.
And the women carry the word.
THEY are the first apostles,
the first witnesses,
the first to share the glory of Easter
with the world.

Go and do likewise!

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Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Forty-Six, Holy Saturday

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Matthew 27:57-66, The Living Bible

When evening came, a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, one of Jesus’ followers,went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,and placed it in his own new rock-hewn tomb, and rolled a great stone across the entrance as he left. Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting nearby watching.

The next day—at the close of the first day of the Passover ceremonies—the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate, and told him, “Sir, that liar once said, ‘After three days I will come back to life again.’ So we request an order from you sealing the tomb until the third day, to prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he came back to life! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.”

“Use your own Temple police,” Pilate told them. “They can guard it safely enough.”

So they sealed the stone and posted guards to protect it from intrusion.

 

The women were there.
The women were always there.

And yet, we so often read
right over them.

What a pity.
And a grave loss to the church
for far too long.

But like the hummingbird,
which in the cold climes
of the Andes mountains
hibernates to preserve
energy,
the women wait for the light.
And the warmth of day.

Surprises await.

Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Forty-Five, Good Friday

We are almost at the end, my friends. Almost. And today’s passage is very long. It is the entire Passion Narrative, which is traditional reading for Good Friday. I encourage you to read it all the way through, in its entirety, and maybe do what I did — note the details. There are always details that I’ve missed, no matter how many times I’ve read or meditated on any biblical narrative, this one more than most. You’ll see the details that spoke to me — I’ve bolded them, just as I’ve done for the past 44 days.IMG_0176

John 18:1-19:42, The Living Bible

After saying these things Jesus crossed the Kidron ravine with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees.  Judas, the betrayer, knew this place, for Jesus had gone there many times with his disciples.

The chief priests and Pharisees had given Judas a squad of soldiers and police to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons they arrived at the olive grove.

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him. Stepping forward to meet them he asked, “Whom are you looking for?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. And as he said it, they all fell backwards to the ground!

Once more he asked them, “Whom are you searching for?”

And again they replied, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

“I told you I am he,” Jesus said; “and since I am the one you are after, let these others go.” He did this to carry out the prophecy he had just made, “I have not lost a single one of those you gave me. . . . ”

Then Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the High Priest’s servant.

But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword away. Shall I not drink from the cup the Father has given me?”

So the Jewish police, with the soldiers and their lieutenant, arrested Jesus and tied him. First they took him to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the High Priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who told the other Jewish leaders, “Better that one should die for all.”

Simon Peter followed along behind, as did another of the disciples who was acquainted with the High Priest. So that other disciple was permitted into the courtyard along with Jesus, while Peter stood outside the gate. Then the other disciple spoke to the girl watching at the gate, and she let Peter in. The girl asked Peter, “Aren’t you one of Jesus’ disciples?”

“No,” he said, “I am not!”

The police and the household servants were standing around a fire they had made, for it was cold. And Peter stood there with them, warming himself.

Inside, the High Priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them.

Jesus replied, “What I teach is widely known, for I have preached regularly in the synagogue and Temple; I have been heard by all the Jewish leaders and teach nothing in private that I have not said in public. Why are you asking me this question? Ask those who heard me. You have some of them here. They know what I said.”

One of the soldiers standing there struck Jesus with his fist. “Is that the way to answer the High Priest?” he demanded.

“If I lied, prove it,”Jesus replied. “Should you hit a man for telling the truth?”

Then Annas sent Jesus, bound, to Caiaphas the High Priest.

Meanwhile, as Simon Peter was standing by the fire, he was asked again, “Aren’t you one of his disciples?”

“Of course not,” he replied.

But one of the household slaves of the High Priest—a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off—asked, “Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?”

Again Peter denied it. And immediately a rooster crowed.

Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas ended in the early hours of the morning. Next he was taken to the palace of the Roman governor. His accusers wouldn’t go in themselves for that would “defile” them, they said, and they wouldn’t be allowed to eat the Passover lamb. So Pilate, the governor, went out to them and asked, “What is your charge against this man? What are you accusing him of doing?”

“We wouldn’t have arrested him if he weren’t a criminal!” they retorted.

“Then take him away and judge him yourselves by your own laws,” Pilate told them.

“But we want him crucified,” they demanded, “and your approval is required.” This fulfilled Jesus’ prediction concerning the method of his execution.

Then Pilate went back into the palace and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the King of the Jews?” he asked him.

“‘King’ as you use the word or as the Jews use it?” Jesus asked.

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their chief priests brought you here. Why? What have you done?”

Then Jesus answered, “I am not an earthly king. If I were, my followers would have fought when I was arrested by the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of the world.”

Pilate replied, “But you are a king then?”

“Yes,” Jesus said. “I was born for that purpose. And I came to bring truth to the world. All who love the truth are my followers.”

“What is truth?” Pilate exclaimed. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime. But you have a custom of asking me to release someone from prison each year at Passover. So if you want me to, I’ll release the ‘King of the Jews.’”

But they screamed back. “No! Not this man, but Barabbas!” Barabbas was a robber.

Then Pilate laid open Jesus’ back with a leaded whip,  and the soldiers made a crown of thorns and placed it on his head and robed him in royal purple. “Hail, ‘King of the Jews’!” they mocked, and struck him with their fists.

Pilate went outside again and said to the Jews, “I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.”

Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Behold the man!”

At sight of him the chief priests and Jewish officials began yelling, “Crucify! Crucify!”

“You crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”

They replied, “By our laws he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. He took Jesus back into the palace again and asked him, “Where are you from?” but Jesus gave no answer.

“You won’t talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or to crucify you?”

Then Jesus said,“You would have no power at all over me unless it were given to you from above. So those who brought me to you have the greater sin.”

Then Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders told him, “If you release this man, you are no friend of Caesar’s. Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.”

At these words Pilate brought Jesus out to them again and sat down at the judgment bench on the stone-paved platform. It was now about noon of the day before Passover.

And Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your king!”

“Away with him,” they yelled. “Away with him—crucify him!”

“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests shouted back.

Then Pilate gave Jesus to them to be crucified.

So they had him at last, and he was taken out of the city, carrying his cross to the place known as “The Skull,” in Hebrew, “Golgotha.” There they crucified him and two others with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them.  And Pilate posted a sign over him reading, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and the signboard was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people read it.

Then the chief priests said to Pilate, “Change it from ‘The King of the Jews’ to ‘He said, I am King of the Jews.’”

Pilate replied, “What I have written, I have written. It stays exactly as it is.”

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they put his garments into four piles, one for each of them. But they said, “Let’s not tear up his robe,” for it was seamless. “Let’s throw dice to see who gets it.” This fulfilled the Scripture that says,

“They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my robe.”

So that is what they did.

Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, Mary, his aunt, the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside me, his close friend, he said to her, “He is your son.”

And to me he said, “She is your mother!” And from then on I took her into my home.

Jesus knew that everything was now finished, and to fulfill the Scriptures said,“I’m thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so a sponge was soaked in it and put on a hyssop branch and held up to his lips.

When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished,” and bowed his head and dismissed his spirit.

The Jewish leaders didn’t want the victims hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath at that, for it was the Passover), so they asked Pilate to order the legs of the men broken to hasten death; then their bodies could be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus; but when they came to him, they saw that he was dead already, so they didn’t break his. However, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out. I saw all this myself and have given an accurate report so that you also can believe. The soldiers did this in fulfillment of the Scripture that says, “Not one of his bones shall be broken,” and, “They shall look on him whom they pierced.”

Afterwards Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jewish leaders, boldly asked Pilate for permission to take Jesus’ body down; and Pilate told him to go ahead. So he came and took it away. Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night, came too, bringing a hundred pounds of embalming ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Together they wrapped Jesus’ body in a long linen cloth saturated with the spices, as is the Jewish custom of burial. The place of crucifixion was near a grove of trees,where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because of the need for haste before the Sabbath, and because the tomb was close at hand, they laid him there.

 

Evocative,
chilling,
painted thoroughly
with details.

The weather,
the time of day,
the key players,
the word play,
the secret disciples,
the love of a son
for his mother.

These are what jump
into my spirit this day.
These are what sober me,
settle me,
make me grateful,
make me ponder,
and wonder.

These are the things of life.

And death.

Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Forty-Four, Maundy Thursday

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John 13:1-17, 31b-35, The Living Bible

Jesus knew on the evening of Passover Day that it would be his last night on earth before returning to his Father. During supper the devil had already suggested to Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that this was the night to carry out his plan to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. And how he loved his disciples! So he got up from the supper table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his loins, poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him.

When he came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Master, you shouldn’t be washing our feet like this!”

Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now why I am doing it; some day you will.”

“No,” Peter protested, “you shall never wash my feet!”

“But if I don’t, you can’t be my partner,” Jesus replied.

Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well—not just my feet!”

Jesus replied, “One who has bathed all over needs only to have his feet washed to be entirely clean. Now you are clean—but that isn’t true of everyone here.”For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After washing their feet he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Master’ and ‘Lord,’ and you do well to say it, for it is true. And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow: do as I have done to you. How true it is that a servant is not greater than his master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends him. You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing.

As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “My time has come; the glory of God will soon surround me—and God shall receive great praise because of all that happens to me. And God shall give me his own glory, and this so very soon. Dear, dear children, how brief are these moments before I must go away and leave you! Then, though you search for me, you cannot come to me—just as I told the Jewish leaders.

“And so I am giving a new commandment to you now—

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John 13:1-17, 31b-35, The Living Bible

Jesus knew on the evening of Passover Day that it would be his last night on earth before returning to his Father. During supper the devil had already suggested to Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that this was the night to carry out his plan to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him everything and that he had come from God and would return to God.And how he loved his disciples! So he got up from the supper table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his loins, poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him.

When he came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Master, you shouldn’t be washing our feet like this!”

Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now why I am doing it; some day you will.”

“No,” Peter protested, “you shall never wash my feet!”

“But if I don’t, you can’t be my partner,” Jesus replied.

Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well—not just my feet!”

Jesus replied, “One who has bathed all over needs only to have his feet washed to be entirely clean. Now you are clean—but that isn’t true of everyone here.”For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After washing their feet he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Master’ and ‘Lord,’ and you do well to say it, for it is true. And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow: do as I have done to you. How true it is that a servant is not greater than his master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends him. You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing.


As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “My time has come; the glory of God will soon surround me—and God shall receive great praise because of all that happens to me. And God shall give me his own glory, and this so very soon. Dear, dear children, how brief are these moments before I must go away and leave you! Then, though you search for me, you cannot come to me—just as I told the Jewish leaders.

“And so I am giving a new commandment to you now—love each other just as much as I love you. Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

 

Love leads to
partnership
as well as
salvation.

And love will be
the mark of
the true church.

Not numbers,
not programs,
not theology,
not doctrine,
not music style,
not potluck meals,
Sunday school,
or Bible studies.

No.

Love.

And Love will be 
the surest
and truest
means of evangelism
in the history
of the world.

Not spiritual laws,
not waylaying strangers,
not confrontation,
not finger-pointing,
not Bible-thumping.

No.

Love.

Only Love.

 

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.