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.

.

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

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John 3:1-13, The Living Bible

After dark one night a Jewish religious leader named Nicodemus, a member of the sect of the Pharisees, came for an interview with Jesus. “Sir,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miracles are proof enough of this.”

Jesus replied, “With all the earnestness I possess I tell you this: Unless you are born again, you can never get into the Kingdom of God.”

“Born again!” exclaimed Nicodemus. “What do you mean? How can an old person go back into a mother’s womb and be born again?”

Jesus replied, “What I am telling you so earnestly is this: Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Humans can only reproduce human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven; so don’t be surprised at my statement that you must be born again! Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it will go next, so it is with the Spirit. We do not know on whom he will next bestow this life from heaven.”

“What do you mean?” Nicodemus asked.

Jesus replied, “You, a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I am telling you what I know and have seen—and yet you won’t believe me. But if you don’t even believe me when I tell you about such things as these that happen here among human beings, how can you possibly believe if I tell you what is going on in heaven? For only I, the Messiah, have come to earth and will return to heaven again.

 

One thing I’m getting
from this wonderful
collection of readings:
we are going to be surprised.

Surprised by who’s in
and who’s not.

Surprised by grace,
surprised by love,
surprised by God.

Are we open to surprise?
Even if it seems to fly in the face
of what we thought we knew?

I want to be.
I want to be.

 

 

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

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Ephesians 1:7-14, NRSV

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

 

The Seal,
the Promise,
the Comforter,
Counselor,
Paraclete,
Spirit.

The Holy Spirit,
who lives within us now,
preparing us for
the end of this journey.
Not this Lenten one,
but our earthly one.

It is the Spirit
who brings us 
Home,
through the work
of Jesus, the Christ,
into the presence
of the Eternal Father,
Three in One.

Another hallelujah?

 

 

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

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Ephesians 1:3-6, NRSV

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

 

Blessing upon blessing.
That’s what is ours.
A good, good thing
to remember,
as we travel through
the wilderness.

What are you blessed to have,
to see,
to hear,
to remember,
to become

at this point in our journey?

 

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

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Psalm 84, NRSV

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
    to the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
    my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house,
    ever singing your praise. Selah

Happy are those whose strength is in you,
    in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of Baca
    they make it a place of springs;
    the early rain also covers it with pools.

They go from strength to strength;
    the God of gods will be seen in Zion.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
    give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah

Behold our shield, O God;
    look on the face of your anointed.

For a day in your courts is better
    than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than live in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    he bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does the Lord withhold
    from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
    happy is everyone who trusts in you.

An early choral memory,
this psalm.
A soaring song by Brahms,
sung by high school students,
to the glory of God.
Even if they didn’t know it.

Sometimes we sing psalms
without knowing that’s 
what we are doing.
I hear birds doing it
all the time.
And the sea,
the wind through the
trees,
the cattle lowing
in the field.

And we do it, too.
Exclamations of delight,
sounds of pleasure,
even of grief.
They ring out to 
the heavens,
and the God who
reigns there.

Whether we know it,
or not.

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

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Hebrews 9:23-28, The Message

That accounts for the prominence of blood and death in all these secondary practices that point to the realities of heaven. It also accounts for why, when the real thing takes place, these animal sacrifices aren’t needed anymore, having served their purpose. For Christ didn’t enter the earthly version of the Holy Place; he entered the Place Itself, and offered himself to God as the sacrifice for our sins. He doesn’t do this every year as the high priests did under the old plan with blood that was not their own; if that had been the case, he would have to sacrifice himself repeatedly throughout the course of history. But instead he sacrificed himself once and for all, summing up all the other sacrifices in this sacrifice of himself, the final solution of sin.

Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences. Christ’s death was also a one-time event, but it was a sacrifice that took care of sins forever. And so, when he next appears, the outcome for those eager to greet him is, precisely, salvation.

 

‘The final solution.’
Usually,
that phrase carries
a decidedly
negative valence.

But not here.
Not ever again.
ONCE AND FOR ALL,
in every sense of those
words.

ONCE.

FOR ALL.

Wow.

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

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1 Corinthians 3:10-23, The Message

Or, to put it another way, you are God’s house. Using the gift God gave me as a good architect, I designed blueprints; Apollos is putting up the walls. Let each carpenter who comes on the job take care to build on the foundation! Remember, there is only one foundation, the one already laid: Jesus Christ. Take particular care in picking out your building materials. Eventually there is going to be an inspection. If you use cheap or inferior materials, you’ll be found out. The inspection will be thorough and rigorous. You won’t get by with a thing. If your work passes inspection, fine; if it doesn’t, your part of the building will be torn out and started over. But you won’t be torn out; you’ll survive—but just barely.

You realize, don’t you, that you are the temple of God, and God himself is present in you? No one will get by with vandalizing God’s temple, you can be sure of that. God’s temple is sacred—and you, remember, are the temple.

Don’t fool yourself. Don’t think that you can be wise merely by being up-to-date with the times. Be God’s fool—that’s the path to true wisdom. What the world calls smart, God calls stupid. It’s written in Scripture,

He exposes the chicanery of the chic.
The Master sees through the smoke screens
    of the know-it-alls.

I don’t want to hear any of you bragging about yourself or anyone else. Everything is already yours as a gift—Paul, Apollos, Peter, the world, life, death, the present, the future—all of it is yours, and you are privileged to be in union with Christ, who is in union with God.

Everything.
Everything is a gift.

Even those things
that don’t exactly
look like gifts
when we first
open them up?

Yes, even those.

Though, truth be told,
those are a bit
harder
to recognize.

How would my
worldview shift
if I truly believed this?

How would yours?

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