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.

 

Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Thirty-Three, Fifth Sunday

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Jeremiah 31:31-34, NRSV

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord:

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

 

The Rose of Sharon,
the Lily of the Valley,
the one who brings
the law down to size,
small enough to fit
within our hearts.

Forgiven.
Sins forgotten,
we are among people,
most blessed.

And yet again,
I cry:

Hallelujah!

 

 

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

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John 12:1-11, The Living Bible

Six days before the Passover ceremonies began, Jesus arrived in Bethany where Lazarus was—the man he had brought back to life. A banquet was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus sat at the table with him.Then Mary took a jar of costly perfume made from essence of nard, and anointed Jesus’ feet with it and wiped them with her hair. And the house was filled with fragrance.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples—the one who would betray him—said, “That perfume was worth a fortune. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor, but he was in charge of the disciples’ funds and often dipped into them for his own use!

Jesus replied, “Let her alone. She did it in preparation for my burial. You can always help the poor, but I won’t be with you very long.”

When the ordinary people of Jerusalem heard of his arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus—the man who had come back to life again. Then the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus too, for it was because of him that many of the Jewish leaders had deserted and believed in Jesus as their Messiah.

 

Let her alone.’
An extravagant act,
welcomed by 
the very one
who defines 
extravagance.

Mary knew something.
She intuited it,
she understood it,
she acted on it.

She knew Jesus was leaving,
he was dying.
And she wanted to 
show her love.

I am sure she helped the poor,
over and over again.
But this day,
she saw ‘the poor’ in Jesus,
her master,
her friend,
the one who was dying.

And she made the truest
possible response.

Ah, help me be true, Lord.
To you.
And to the poor.

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

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Psalm 51:1-12, NRSV

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
    and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
    a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from your presence,
    and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Another rich set of words.
Truth,
inward,
secret,
clean,
new,
right.

We all have secrets.
We all are secrets,
to everyone but
One.

And that is how the truth
comes in,
and makes us 
clean,
new,
right.

Even so,
come, Lord Jesus.

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

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Isaiah 30:15-18, NRSV

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
But you refused and said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”—
therefore you shall flee!
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”—
therefore your pursuers shall be swift!
A thousand shall flee at the threat of one,
at the threat of five you shall flee,
until you are left
like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
like a signal on a hill.

 

I do believe
this is the key.

The key to everything.

Returning and rest,
quietness and trust.
That’s where strength
is found.

When Jesus came,
he put flesh and bones
around Isaiah’s words.

And this place hasn’t
been the same since.

Yet we resist this key . . .
we do not rest.
We do not know how.

Maybe, just maybe,
that’s because 

we do not know how
to return?

Oh, turn me, Lord!
Turn me,
that I might
return.

 

 

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

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John 18:12-20, The Message

Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.”

The Pharisees objected, “All we have is your word on this. We need more than this to go on.”

Jesus replied, “You’re right that you only have my word. But you can depend on it being true. I know where I’ve come from and where I go next. You don’t know where I’m from or where I’m headed. You decide according to what you can see and touch. I don’t make judgments like that. But even if I did, my judgment would be true because I wouldn’t make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me, the Father. That fulfills the conditions set down in God’s Law: that you can count on the testimony of two witnesses. And that is what you have: You have my word and you have the word of the Father who sent me.”

They said, “Where is this so-called Father of yours?”

Jesus said, “You’re looking right at me and you don’t see me. How do you expect to see the Father? If you knew me, you would at the same time know the Father.”

He gave this speech in the Treasury while teaching in the Temple. No one arrested him because his time wasn’t yet up.

 

He fairly radiates light,
doesn’t he?

The Light of the World,
he said.
That’s me.
The truest reflection
of the Father in heaven
you’ll ever see.

And all that light
gives him a wider,
much wider,
space in which to
move,
think,
act,
decide,
save.

And then he said,
YOU are the light of the world.’

Say what?

 

 

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

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Psalm 107:1-16, The Living Bible

Say thank you to the Lord for being so good, for always being so loving and kind. Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has saved you from your enemies.

He brought the exiles back from the farthest corners of the earth. They were wandering homeless in the desert, hungry and thirsty and faint. “Lord, help!” they cried, and he did! He led them straight to safety and a place to live. Oh, that these men would praise the Lord for his loving-kindness, and for all of his wonderful deeds! For he satisfies the thirsty soul and fills the hungry soul with good.

Who are these who sit in darkness, in the shadow of death, crushed by misery and slavery? They rebelled against the Lord, scorning him who is the God above all gods. That is why he broke them with hard labor; they fell and none could help them rise again. Then they cried to the Lord in their troubles, and he rescued them! He led them from the darkness and shadow of death and snapped their chains. Oh, that these would praise the Lord for his loving-kindness and for all of his wonderful deeds!For he broke down their prison gates of brass and cut apart their iron bars.

 

I will speak out.
I will.

Tomorrow, okay?

Why not today.

Really?

Yes, why not?

Good question.
Because I’m lazy,
otherwise occupied,
sometimes thoughtless,
easily distracted
by difficulty.

But is there good?

Yes, yes.
There is good.
Much good.
There is light,
much light.

Then let it shine! 
Sing about it,
even when the darkness
creeps in.

And so I sing.
I hold my candle into the dark,
and I sing.

 

 

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

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Hebrews 3:1-6, The Message

So, my dear Christian friends, companions in following this call to the heights, take a good hard look at Jesus. He’s the centerpiece of everything we believe, faithful in everything God gave him to do. Moses was also faithful, but Jesus gets far more honor. A builder is more valuable than a building any day. Every house has a builder, but the Builder behind them all is God. Moses did a good job in God’s house, but it was all servant work, getting things ready for what was to come. Christ as Son is in charge of the house.

Now, if we can only keep a firm grip on this bold confidence, we’re the house! That’s why the Holy Spirit says,

Today, please listen;
don’t turn a deaf ear as in “the bitter uprising,”
that time of wilderness testing!
Even though they watched me at work for forty years,
your ancestors refused to let me do it my way;
over and over they tried my patience.
And I was provoked, oh, so provoked!
I said, “They’ll never keep their minds on God;
they refuse to walk down my road.”
Exasperated, I vowed,
“They’ll never get where they’re going,
never be able to sit down and rest.

 

Jesus is the centerpiece.
That’s why the table is
front and center
in every house of
Christian worship.

Because
HE
is at the center.

Oh, Lord!
Help me to keep you
exactly there.

Exactly.

 

 

Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey — Day Twenty-Six, Fourth Sunday

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John 3:14-21, The Message

In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

“This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”

 

The finger-pointing God.
That’s the one we too often
see in our minds,
and send out into the world
with our words.

How about a picture
more like the little boy
up above?
A smile,
just a hint of mischief,
delight in the moment.

THAT’s the kind of God
Jesus seems to know.
Jesus’ God ‘came to help,’
not tell us how bad we are.

Now there’s a mind-blowing sentence.

 

 

A Prayer for the Table — Second Sunday in Lent, 2018

IMG_0684A Prayer for the Table
offered on the Second Sunday in Lent, March 4, 2018
Montecito Covenant Church
coming out of a powerful sermon from Jeremiah 29,
preached by Pastor Jon Lemmond

Lord Almighty, you are our God in the midst of life —
in good times and in hard times,
in beauty and in disarray,
in success and in failure,
in life and in death.
Thank you.

Thank you that you know our names,
that you care about our story,
and that you invite us to make our home in you.
Thank you most of all, on this day, on this Lenten Sunday,
that you take the broken pieces of our hearts
and weave them together to make art,
in ways we cannot now imagine.

Even so, Lord, empower our imaginations —
give us glimpses of the possible,
even when everything around us feels decidedly the opposite.
And help us to begin . . . always, to begin . . . with gratitude.

Thank you for today,
for safety through the storm,
for comfort in grief,
for inspiration from the Word.
Thank you for friends,
for beautiful spaces in which to sit,
for music that stirs our hearts and lifts our spirits.

Thank you for faithful leaders who try to listen well
to the movement of your Spirit and who hang onto you
when it gets murky out there.

Thank you for gray heads, and newborn baby heads,
for the laughter of children, and the tears of caring adults,
for the sturdy curiosity of adolescents,
some of whom are traveling back from winter camp today,
and for the burgeoning maturity of college students.
Thank you for the community we enjoy today,
in the here and now, and for the communion of saints,
all those who have moved ahead of us to life eternal.

Special thanks today for the multiple beauties of divine and human creation
all around us in this beat-up-but-not-defeated town we call home.

Thank you most of all on this day, for the table — this tangible reminder 
that even the most horrific event is not beyond the redemptive power of your love. Thank you for the beauty of broken bread and poured out grapes,
for the grace of saying and hearing the words, for the way you,
O God of the Broken Beautiful,
can take the most common, ordinary things and transform them
into nourishment for body and soul.

Thank you for feeding us well.

We began with gratitude, Lord, but we need to also make space for lament today.
Our hearts are broken for the Gross family,
in the loss of Jordan this past week. 

Surround them with your love, help them to find peace
in the midst of their pain,

to find their way to a completely new definition of life
as they have known it for the past 22 years.
Lord, have mercy.

There are others of us in the throes of grief, too, Almighty One. 
We are people who always hold some kind of pain, even as we smile and nod. 
For some of us, the pain comes from the loss of loved ones; 
for some, it comes from dealing with our own illness.
Others are dealing with job loss, or with financial insecurity,
or troubled relationships.

Many of us wrestle with hard questions about faith or about the future.

Hear us now, as we offer names to you,
names that represent some kind of story of need and uncertainty.
Help us to trust that you hear and answer as we lift them to you:

Prepare us now, O God, to receive you anew.
Help us to rest in your healing power and in your forgiveness.
Teach us the truth of Jeremiah — that there is life to be lived,
there is beauty to be found, 
even though we may feel overwhelmed, defeated or abandoned.
Even in exile, you are here, the God who can be found.
Help us, dear God, to make our home in you.

Amen.

.

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