The Source of Life…a Guest Post

I am writing with the good folks over at today about some of the words in 1 John 5…

When you stop to think about it, the longevity of the church of Jesus Christ is pretty remarkable. Over 2000 years and the church still stands, proclaiming the miracle of transformation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus – who was, is and will always be the Son of God, embodying for the world the essence of God’s love. Just last week – churches all over the world walked through Holy Week, climbing to the cross in remembrance of Jesus’ sacrificial death. And just yesterday, we celebrated the glory of the empty tomb – the perfect picture of the new life found in Jesus. The vitality of our story is unchanged over time; the center remains.
Because let’s face it, without Jesus right there at the center of it all – the church is not the church. And the writer of 1 John wants to remind these early believers to hang onto to Jesus for dear life. He writes from the loving heart of a concerned pastor, someone who cares deeply about the believers in and around Ephesus. And he writes to remind them to be the church…
Joining the Community Bible Study series on 1 John today – over at The Bible Dude’s good space. Join me over there to read this whole reflection?  

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to Calvary – Day FORTY – HOLY SATURDAY

Romans 8:1-11, The Message

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. 
God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that. 
The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us. 
Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored. 
But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s! 

Do you know there is no Gospel reading for this day? 

When I looked for one – there was none to be found. 

How profound is that! 

On this darkest day of all – the day after death, the day before the stone is rolled away – there is literally no good news. 

So I went looking through the texts for small signs of light. One of the psalms for the day was hopeful. But we’ve done a psalm two out of the last three days. 

The Hebrews lesson felt slightly cumbersome for this unusual day. 

And then I checked out the evening reading – Romans 8. And I found Peterson’s rendition of those opening verses and I thought..
    …there it is. 
The Good News cannot be kept silent, even on this day. 
It cannot. 
It must be proclaimed. Slithering and sliding out from under that stone and bursting into daylight, Paul’s words ‘sing and shout the victory!’ 

Read them again. 

Hang onto them with all your might. 

Store up the singin’ and the shoutin’…
     ’cause Sunday’s comin’! 

Yes sir; 
     yes, ma’am – 
          Sunday is coming. 
We’re busy today, Lord. Family and friends are gathering, there’s food to fix, clothes to tend, children to wrestle to the ground to put on their bonnets and ties. But, oh Jesus – help us not to lose sight – even in the middle of all the early Easter celebrating – help us not to lose sight that you were IN THE TOMB all day long. Dead and gone – gone forever for all any of your friends knew on that lonely day. So help us to carve out a quiet corner somewhere to think about that, to reflect on the depths of your love for us, and to ready ourselves for the turning point in history. We wait with you, Jesus. Help us to wait in love and gratitude.

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to the Cross – Day THIRTY-NINE – GOOD FRIDAY

Psalm 22, Today’s New International Version

For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
   Why are you so far from saving me,
   so far from the words of my groaning? 
 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
   by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
   you are the praise of Israel.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
   they trusted and you delivered them.
They cried to you and were saved;
   in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
But I am a worm, not a human being;
   I am scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me;
   they hurl insults, shaking their heads. 
 “He trusts in the LORD,” they say,
   “let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
   since he delights in him.”
Yet you brought me out of the womb;
   you made me feel secure on my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you;
   from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Do not be far from me,
   for trouble is near
   and there is no one to help.
Many bulls surround me;
   strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
Roaring lions that tear their prey
   open their mouths wide against me.
I am poured out like water,
   and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
   it has melted within me.
My mouth  is dried up like a potsherd,
   and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
   you lay me in the dust of death.
Dogs surround me,
   a pack of villains encircles me;
   they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
   people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
   and cast lots for my garment.
But you, LORD, do not be far from me.
   You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword,
   my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
   save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
I will declare your name to my people;
   in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
   All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him,
   all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned
   the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
   but has listened to his cry for help.
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
   before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied;
   those who seek the LORD will praise him—
   may your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth
   will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
   will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the LORD
   and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
   all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
   those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
   future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness,
   declaring to a people yet unborn:
   He has done it! 
Sometimes there is a rare and ineffable beauty in desolation, a kind of purity that makes the breath catch, the heart skip. 

This song is like that for me. Laced with equal parts despair and hope, Psalm 22 shakes me to the core. 

It acknowledges all the devastating feelings of abandonment, isolation, and stark terror that rise to the surface when life is seriously threatened. 

And yet it circles around again and again to hope, to praise, to remembrance of rescue, to faithfulness over time, to God. 

The opening line pours out of Jesus as he hangs on the cross. Suspended against that darkening sky, enduring the jeers and angry retorts of bystanders, his breathing more and more laborious, Jesus speaks the holy words of his people, the cry of his ancestor David. 

Jesus cried out these words in his mother tongue, the weight of it all echoing through the centuries. Eloi, Eloi…WHY? 
There is no answer for Jesus. And there is not always an answer for us, either. 

Yet, there is beauty in these words. There is breathtaking beauty. 

As he died that day, he drew to himself all the brokenness, all the sinfulness wrought by our willfulness.

He knew, he KNOWS, that the only remedy is this outpouring of love, bright red love, in, around, through and over it all. 

And to show us that love, to offer us that love – 
     he had to feel what we feel, 
          to endure what we endure, 
               to suffer through what we must all suffer through:  

that stunning sense of being alone in the universe.

And his desolation is a thing of beauty – of raw, terrible, agonizing beauty. 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” – John 3:16-17
Beautiful Savior, thank you for pouring out our God’s divine love on the world through your very human body and blood. Thank you for sharing our pain, for subsuming our pain, for redeeming our pain. And thank you that you did all of that by enduring our pain. Completely. Your name be praised. Amen.  

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to Calvary – Day THIRTY-EIGHT – MAUNDY THURSDAY

Mark 14:12-25, New Living Translation

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go to prepare the Passover meal for you?” 

So Jesus sent two of them into Jerusalem with these instructions: “As you go into the city, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. At the house he enters, say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.” 

So the two disciples went into the city and found everything just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover meal there. 

In the evening Jesus arrived with the twelve disciples. As they were at the table eating, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray me.” 

 Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one?” 

He replied, “It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!” 

As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body. And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many. I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” 


“This is my body.” 
“This is my blood.” 
I wonder, how many times have you heard those words? 
They are deeply familiar to any person who counts themselves a follower of Jesus. 
Sometimes these words can lean towards rote and dead ritual.
But sometimes, many times, maybe even most times…
     they are the breath of life, 
          the cusp of hope, 
               the seal of redemption – 
                    the promise of the future.
Always, they are reminiscent of this event, 
     this strange evening meal with its co-mingling of the old and the new, 
     this mix of the expected and the bewildering. 

     A mysterious expedition…
     Gathering in a tight circle..
     Wishing his betrayer had never been born… 
     Blessing the bread, 
          tearing it to pieces, 
               parceling it out to his friends,
                    naming it his body… 
     Thanking God for the wine, 
          passing a single cup for them all to share, 
               naming it his blood.
A sober conversation, strange, and layered with portent and sadness. 
They were all in a liminal place that night, standing on the threshold of a new age, one that had not yet been seen in the entire history of the universe. 
I wonder, what did they sense? 

What did they guess? 

Were they as clueless as ever? Loving their teacher, but eternally confounded by his cryptic words and actions? 

I’ll admit to feeling more than a little sorry for them all. Because Jesus chose them, because Jesus loved them, I cannot judge them any more harshly than I would judge you or even myself. I’m pretty clueless a lot of the time.

But Jesus… well – Jesus doesn’t seem to be too concerned about their cluelessness.
He simply wants them near, all those muddle-headed friends. 
Jesus wants them around him that last night. He wants to do the traditional thing together – the special foods and the special prayers and the remembering of the story.

But he also wants to teach them, right up until the very end – taking those common, oh-so-familiar things… 
     the bread… 
     and the wine…
          breathing newness into them. 
     Breathing life,
          and hope,
               and redemption,
                    and covenant-keeping,
                         and LOVE into them. 

For here is a very true thing, something Jesus knew about us:       
     what we love, we consume. 
That’s who we are, we human creatures. 
We chew it 
     and we swallow it 
          and we take it into our very cells 
               and we find what we need to do the next thing. 

And these simple, elemental things, they are our very life, are they not? 

They are our very life. 
Holy Mystery, even as we take your body and blood into ourselves, we ask you to take us into yourself. We’re weary with walking, we’re trying to stay with you – but you know our frame. You know we are weak, that our steps falter, that our intentions are far from pure, that our motives are mixed. Any one of us could be that betrayer in the room with you.
But… but we want to be fed and nourished by the good food that is you. So as we tear the bread this night, as we sip the cup – fill us to the brim with your goodness. Nourish us, that we might stand with you tomorrow. Tomorrow at the cross, and Saturday at the tomb. We need to go the whole way with you, Jesus…the whole way.


A Lenten Journey: Climbing to the Cross – Day THIRTY-SEVEN

Psalm 55, Common English Bible
   For the music leader. With stringed instruments. A maskil of David.
God, listen to my prayer;
   don’t avoid my request!
Pay attention! Answer me!
   I can’t sit still while complaining. 
I’m beside myself over the enemy’s noise,
      at the wicked person’s racket,
      because they bring disaster on me
      and harass me furiously.
My heart pounds in my chest because death’s terrors have reached me.
Fear and trembling have come upon me;
   I’m shaking all over. 
 I say to myself, I wish I had wings like a dove!
   I’d fly away and rest.
I’d run so far away! I’d live in the desert.
I’d hurry to my hideout,
   far from the rushing wind and storm.
Baffle them, my Lord!
   Confuse their language
   because I see violence and conflict
   in the city.
Day and night they make their rounds on its walls,
   and evil and misery live inside it.
Disaster lives inside it; oppression and fraud
   never leave the town square.
It’s not an enemy that is insulting me—
   I could handle that.
It’s not someone who hates me
   who is exalted over me—
   I could hide from them.
No. It’s you, my equal,
   my close companion, my good friend!
It was so pleasant when together we entered God’s house with the crowd.
Let death devastate my enemies;
   let them go to the grave alive
      because evil lives with them—even inside them!
But I call out to God,
   and the LORD will rescue me.
At evening, morning, and midday
   I complain and moan
   so that God will hear my voice.
He saves me, unharmed, from my struggle,
   though there are many who are out to get me.
God, who is enthroned from ancient days,
   will hear and humble them
because they don’t change
      and they don’t worship God.
My friend attacked his allies,
   breaking his covenant.
Though his talk is smoother than butter, 
   war is in his heart; 
though his words are more silky than oil, 
   they are really drawn swords: 
“Cast your burden on the LORD—he will support you! God will never let the righteous be shaken!” 
But you, God, bring the wicked down to the deepest pit.
   Let bloodthirsty and treacherous people
   not live out even half their days.
      But me? 
I trust in you! 
Have you known people whose ‘words are more silky than oil’ but are ‘really drawn swords?’ 
I have. 

I imagine we all have. 

It’s a through-the-looking-glass experience, that sense of personal betrayal when someone we thought was a friend turns out to be anything but. 
This psalm feels tumultuous to me – filled with shifting emotions, feelings of betrayal juxtaposed with statements of trust in God, a sense of despair adjoining words of confidence and assurance. 
I’ve had experiences that left me feeling like that – real cognitive dissonance. I thought one thing was true…
           …but it turns out the opposite was true all the time. 
It’s an interesting and apt choice for Holy Week. The idea of betrayal is pervasive in this last leg of the journey to Calvary, steadily increasing as we move toward that meal in the upper room and the fatal foray out into the garden afterward. 
And this is most definitely a song about betrayal. That crazy-making flood of emotions that comes with the territory of such pain – the anger, the fear, the deep desire to hang onto trust even when it feels like all that is sensible is about to crash overhead. 
All of that is part of this story we’re telling these weeks of Lent. 

All of it. 

And all of it is part of our stories, too. We have all been betrayed – in matters both great and small. 
And we have all been betrayers – turning on those we say we love, including ourselves. 
But there is hope on the horizon. The key to it is found in the last line –
“But me? I trust in you!” 
Hard to do in the midst of such overwhelming emotions – but oh-so-necessary, oh-so-important. 
I’m going to try to trust. 

You, too? 

Trustworthy God – there are days (sometimes even weeks) when I’m not at all sure about you. Can you be trusted? Horrible things have happened. Horrible. And I feel betrayed and abandoned. Are you there? Do you care? 
And then…I remember Jesus, who surely had reason to distrust everyone. But he always held onto you, didn’t he? Even at the very end, even when he felt what we all feel sometimes – that he was abandoned and alone. Even then, he committed himself to you. Will you help me to hang on when it gets dicey? Because I need help to do this trusting. Truly, I do. I need you most of all – help me to remember that, and to hang on. 

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to the Cross – Day THIRTY-SIX

 Cathedral in Haarlem, The Netherlands
Perhaps reminiscent of the Temple? Perhaps not…

Mark 11:27-33, The Message

   Then when they were back in Jerusalem once again, as they were walking through the Temple, the high priests, religion scholars, and leaders came up and demanded, “Show us your credentials. Who authorized you to speak and act like this?” 
   Jesus responded, “First let me ask you a question. Answer my question and then I’ll present my credentials. About the baptism of John—who authorized it: heaven or humans? Tell me.” 
   They were on the spot, and knew it. They pulled back into a huddle and whispered, “If we say ‘heaven,’ he’ll ask us why we didn’t believe John; if we say ‘humans,’ we’ll be up against it with the people because they all hold John up as a prophet.” They decided to concede that round to Jesus. “We don’t know,” they said.
   Jesus replied, “Then I won’t answer your question either.” 
Day Three of Holy Week – and score one for Jesus. 

Perhaps the last ‘score’ of this kind that Jesus will make until Easter Sunday morning. 

It’s a very good thing that Jesus is not really playing the same game as the religious leaders during this momentous week.

Not at all. 

He is not into word games. 

He is not into power struggles. 

He is not into self-defense, 

He is also not into answering questions that border on insult,       
     that seek to quibble and quaver over fine points,           
          that imply he is out of turn, 
                                       out of place, 
                                       out of his element.

Because he most definitely is not. 

Jesus is very intentionally – 
     and most especially in John’s gospel – 
          very confidently 
     striding to his final triumph, 
          his complete and utter victory over all those forces which seek to 
               detract, or 
                    deny who he is and why he has come. 

He will not be swayed. 
     He will not be used. 
          He will not be distracted. 
               He will not be anyone but who he is. 

Thanks be to God. 


Striding Savior, help us to keep step with you, to keep up with you, to keep company with you…right to the end of this journey of yours, this journey of ours. Thank you for your devastatingly adroit response to those who sought to trap you in your own words. And help us – oh, help us! – to never make that mistake. Help us to remain open to the whole truth of who you are and to bow in adoration and gratitude for your humble magnificence. Even though those two words seems oddly juxtaposed – they are so, SO true. Thank you that they are true – that YOU are true.

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to Calvary – Day THIRTY-FIVE

2 Corinthians 1:1-7, New Living Translation

   Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
   To the church of God in Corinth, together with all his holy people throughout Achaia: 
   Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 
   Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 
Nine times. 

Nine times Paul uses some form of the word ‘comfort,’ both noun and verb. 

That’s a lotta times in seven short verses, don’t you think? Maybe, just maybe, this is an important idea. 

Maybe, just maybe, Paul knows that the church in Corinth – and the church anywhere, anytime – needs to see that word printed out a whole lotta times. 

And seeing it here reminds me of that verse in the Shepherd’s Psalm – “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me…” 

The same word – but used in a way that makes me stop for a minute. Stop and wonder if maybe some of the ideas in that psalm might be applied to Paul’s writing – and to our own lives. 

Most of us probably have a picture that springs to mind when we think of the word ‘comfort’: 

     a favorite spot/blanket/person;
     a particular kind of food;
     an activity that makes us feel better, inside and out;
     a word or phrase that stills and centers us;
     a hug – a pat on the back – a sympathetic face. 

But I’m guessing our go-to picture probably does not include a ‘rod’ or a ‘staff.’ 

So that got me thinking. Maybe I’m stuck in my oh-so-comfortable rut when it comes to understanding just what this whole idea means. Maybe there are ways to be comforted that I’ve never dreamed of or experienced. Or maybe I have experienced them – but in a way I did not immediately recognize as comfort. 

Maybe Paul is talking about things like: 

     a friend/spouse/mentor who can say to us, ‘enough’ – encouraging us to set a boundary/say ‘no’/stop for a while;
     a verse/book/poem/video/movie/song/blog post that catches our eye, our ear and then our heart, reminding us there is ‘more to life than increasing its speed;’ 
     a skilled listener, who can – just by sitting quietly and asking a careful question or two – help us to realize where we have taken a misstep and offer us the gentlest of course corrections. 

Because sometimes I think we get so caught up in our own spinning wheels that we lose touch with the truth that we NEED comfort, we need someone to truly see us, to help us step out of the dis-comfort we’re drowning in without realizing it. 

Sometimes we need the breath of the Spirit – often delivered to us through the presence of another human person – to blow fiercely enough to stop us in our tracks, to remind us that we’re creating a regular lifestyle addiction to overdoing everything. 

Because sometimes the ‘trouble’ we find ourselves in is the result of… 
     our own driven-ness, 
     our inability to know our yeses well enough to say ‘no’ when we need to, 
     our eternal need to be needed. 

Maybe that’s when we need the comfort of a rod and staff. Maybe that’s when we need a different way of experiencing the ‘comfort that abounds in Christ.’ 


God of All Comfort, help us to keep our eyes open, our hearts pliable, our spirits willing to be comforted in exactly the way you desire us to be. And empower us, by the gracious breath of your Spirit, to be open to providing comfort – in all its permutations and colors – to others in need. For Jesus’ sake.


A Lenten Journey: Climbing to Calvary – PALM / SIXTH Sunday

John 12:12-16, New Living Translation

The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,
“Praise God!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hail to the King of Israel!” 

Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:

   “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.
Look, your King is coming,
    riding on a donkey’s colt.”

His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him. 

This opening to Holy Week has always made me feel a little bit queasy inside.

Such a welcome – a royal welcome. Well-deserved, but SO not understood by those who are offering it. 

They really want to see a King – a king like they were used to, a king like they prayed for, a king who would swoop in and rout out those Romans and restore the honor of Israel. And for a few brief moments, they thought they had found just the guy for the job. 

But we already know, from readings earlier on our journey, that Jesus has no intention of fulfilling any of those dreams. 


We know, from our vantage point on this side of Calvary and the empty tomb, that Jesus is indeed a king – and that he came to bring in the kingdom of God. 

But…it surely doesn’t look like any kingdom anyone has ever seen before. No, it does not. 

Just a few days away from the waving palm branches and the shouts of “Hosanna!” this same crowd of people will be shouting again. But it will sound dramatically different, it will be dramatically different. By Friday, the cheers will be jeers and Jesus’ very life will be demanded to satisfy their anger. 

Because everything in us resists the truth about Jesus. 

We all want a Super-Hero, complete with white charger, swooping in to save the day, to make life easier for us, to solve our problems and make us look good. 

What we get is an up-country carpenter on a donkey, slowly walking across the city gate near Bethany, an itinerant rabbi determined to show us what the Kingdom of God really looks like. 

Really looks like.

And it does not look like political victories. 
     It has not one thing to do with power. 
          It’s not about taking anything by force. 

Instead, it’s about dying. 
     It’s about the first becoming last. 
          It’s about the littlest, the least, the lost and the lonely. 
          It’s about reconciliation between God and humans. 
     It’s about wholeness,
          and healing,
               and learning to do the hard, hard work of love. 
     It’s about life with meaning, life with joy – despite the hardships that come our way – 
          and it’s about life with hope. 

I want to get this right. I want to get this. I want to be this. 

Do you? 


We’re almost here, Lord. We’re almost at the end of this particular Lenten road. Some days we’ve struggled to keep in step; some days we’ve wondered if this was such a good idea. And as we move through this week, I’m sure we’re going to wonder about that a lot. A lot. So as we stand on the sidelines, gently waving our own palm branches, grant us grace to see you, to walk with you, every step of this last week. Every.Single.Step. No matter what.

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to Calvary – Day THIRTY-FOUR

Mark 10:46-52, The Kingdom New Testament,
                                a contemporary translation by N.T. Wright

They came to Jericho. As Jesus, his disciples, and a substantial crowd were leaving the town, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the side of the road. When he heard it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out, “Son of David! Jesus! Take pity on me!”

Lots of people told him crossly to be quiet. But he shouted out all the louder, “Son of David – take pity on me.” 

Jesus came to a stop. “Call him,” he said. 

So they called the blind man. 

“Cheer up,” they said, “and get up. He’s calling you.” 

He flung his cloak aside, jumped up and came to Jesus. 

Jesus saw him coming. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 

“Teacher,” the blind man said, “let me see again.” 

“Off you go,” said Jesus. “Your faith has saved you.” And immediately he saw again, and he followed him on the way. 


It is a motley crew making its way up the road to Jericho. Very soon, they will be on the very outskirts of Jerusalem.

And we will, too.

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, the last week of our journey through Lent. 

And I can’t think of a better story to mark this important transition time than the one we’ve got right here, the one about Bartimaeus. 

Who is kind of a hero of mine. I really like this dude. He is bold to the point of pushiness and he definitely knows what he wants and goes for it.

And he wants Jesus. 

He wants Jesus to see him so that he can see Jesus. 

That’s how deep and real his faith is, his belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the one who can rescue him from darkness. 

Even Jesus acknowledges this truth, declaring him ‘saved,’ or healed, without so much as a touch. No mud. No saliva. No special word. Just a declaration, a fait accompli.

Maybe that’s why the early church adapted this man’s prayer and offered it as a balm, an ever-ready invitation into the very presence of God: the Jesus Prayer. 

It is my go-to prayer every single day, usually several times a day. The words are so true, so calming, so immediate. 

And it goes like this:
    Big breath in:    “Lord Jesus Christ”
    Big breath out:  “Son of God”
    Big breath in:     “Have mercy on me”
    Big breath out:   “a sinner.”

Or it can be shortened to the simple words, “Lord, have mercy.” There is something calming and centering about these words, this intentional focus on the Savior and our overwhelming need for mercy. 

Bartimaeus received that and more. His answered prayer changed his life forever; he picked up his beggar’s bowl and threw in his lot with the carpenter-teacher from the north. For he followed him on the way, the scripture tells us. 

He followed him on the way.


Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. That says it all, Lord, all that I want and need to say today. You are the Lord, I am the sinner, and mercy is what brings us together. Touch my eyes today, and walk with me that I might offer the mercy I have received to all those I meet, in Jesus’ name and for Jesus’ sake. Amen. 

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to Calvary – Day THIRTY-THREE

The storm is comin’, can you see it?

Exodus 9:13-35, The Message

God said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh. Tell him, ‘God, the God of the Hebrews, says: Release my people so they can worship me. This time I am going to strike you and your servants and your people with the full force of my power so you’ll get it into your head that there’s no one like me anywhere in all the Earth. You know that by now I could have struck you and your people with deadly disease and there would be nothing left of you, not a trace. But for one reason only I’ve kept you on your feet: To make you recognize my power so that my reputation spreads in all the Earth. You are still building yourself up at my people’s expense. You are not letting them go. So here’s what’s going to happen: At this time tomorrow I’m sending a terrific hailstorm—there’s never been a storm like this in Egypt from the day of its founding until now. So get your livestock under roof—everything exposed in the open fields, people and animals, will die when the hail comes down.'”
All of Pharaoh’s servants who had respect for God‘s word got their workers and animals under cover as fast as they could, but those who didn’t take God‘s word seriously left their workers and animals out in the field.
God said to Moses: “Stretch your hands to the skies. Signal the hail to fall all over Egypt on people and animals and crops exposed in the fields of Egypt.”
Moses lifted his staff to the skies and God sent peals of thunder and hail shot through with lightning strikes. God rained hail down on the land of Egypt. The hail came, hail and lightning—a fierce hailstorm. There had been nothing like it in Egypt in its entire history. The hail hit hard all over Egypt. Everything exposed out in the fields, people and animals and crops, was smashed. Even the trees in the fields were shattered. Except for Goshen where the Israelites lived; there was no hail in Goshen.
Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. He said, “I’ve sinned for sure this time—God is in the right and I and my people are in the wrong. Pray to God. We’ve had enough of God‘s thunder and hail. I’ll let you go. The sooner you’re out of here the better.”
Moses said, “As soon as I’m out of the city, I’ll stretch out my arms to God. The thunder will stop and the hail end so you’ll know that the land is God‘s land. Still, I know that you and your servants have no respect for God.”
(The flax and the barley were ruined, for they were just ripening, but the wheat and spelt weren’t hurt—they ripen later.)

Moses left Pharaoh and the city and stretched out his arms to God. The thunder and hail stopped; the storm cleared.

But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he kept right on sinning, stubborn as ever, both he and his servants. Pharaoh’s heart turned rock-hard. He refused to release the Israelites, as God had ordered through Moses. 

The battle of wills between God and Pharaoh is positively epic. 

And we know who wins.

But, man alive – that Egyptian big shot is one tough cookie. With his stubborn refusal to acknowledge the God of Moses, he has already brought down sorrows untold for his own people:
     water turned to blood,
          frogs up the yin-yang,
               gnats in every crevice,
                    flies beyond belief,
               livestock laid waste by disease,
          boils by the bucketload on the skin of humans and animals,
     and now…a ginormous hail storm is promised/threatened.

Will he never learn?

… You know, I’d like to go on and on, railing against the stupidity and stubbornness of the guy, but I just can’t get there today.

Because I am too often a pharaoh (small ‘p’) all on my own, too often resisting the word of the Lord – even when I know it might get me in a heap of trouble.

     I too often say one thing – and do the opposite.

     I too often nod my head in agreement and at the same time determine in my spirit not to agree, not at all.

     I too often put my need to be the one in charge, the one ‘to whom attention must be paid’ ahead of my stated belief that God is God and not me myself.

     I can only imagine the amount of thunder/lightening/hail I’ve brought down on myself and innocent bystanders because I have gotten in the way of my own best interests and defied the call of God.

Not that I believe God sends all of that as particular punishment for my lack of faith and shortsightedness. But I do believe (and know) that the consequences of my own thoughtlessness and selfishness do rain down on me, all on their own. Oh my, yes.

So, I see myself in this reading today, brought up short and made painfully aware of my penchant for willfulness. 

And all I can do is fall on the mercy of God and cry out for forgiveness. 

And beg for a serious course correction!

How about you? Need a little time for confession as this day begins?


Mighty God, Author of Life and Redeemer of our souls, I confess to you my own pharaoh-like willful streak. I acknowledge my bent for choosing too often to go my own way rather than to seek the way of grace and freedom. As a result, I deal with storms of all kinds, storms that could have been avoided. I rely on your forgiveness, on your kindness and the work of your transformational Spirit to become a softer,  more pliable child of yours, willing to submit, willing to admit dependence. In my own strength, I’m going nowhere fast. But centered in your goodness – there is freedom, there is release, there is a way through the messes I create. Thank you, thank you.