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

Some places, moments and people in my life where I see the glory of God.
What about you?

2 Corinthians 3:7-18, New Living Translation

The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! 

Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand. 

But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 


“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord.”
We can SEE it.
And we can REFLECT it.

The glory of the Lord is all around us, and it shines out of us – if we open our hearts to see, to receive, and to release it. 
My goodness gracious sakes alive.
That is fantastic. 
And just the teensiest bit overwhelming on some days. 
Usually on the days when I’ve closed my eyes,
     when I cannot see the glory,
          when I’ve forgotten about the glory,
               when I try to make it on my own steam,
          forgetting to stop.look.listen.rejoice.
So, look through some old photos of your own.
Walk in your neighborhood.
Look at your family, especially those older saints you know.
Or the tiny ones.
And celebrate the glory around you.
And in you, too.
The veil is gone because of you, Jesus. Thank you. Remind us, even before our feet hit the floor each day, to use the ‘eyes of our eyes’ to see your glory, the ‘ears of our ears’ to hear your glory. And then empower us to live it, from one minute to the next, one task to the next, one person to the next. Because you’re there – waiting for us to notice.   

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

Watching for the morning on the island of Kauai, July 2008

Psalm 130 – A Psalm of Ascents – 
Today’s New International Version 
Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD; 
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
   to my cry for mercy. 
If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,
   Lord, who could stand? 
 But with you there is forgiveness,
   so that we can, with reverence, serve you. 
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,
   and in his word I put my hope. 
 I wait for the Lord
   more than watchmen wait for the morning,
   more than watchmen wait for the morning. 
Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
   for with the LORD is unfailing love
   and with him is full redemption. 
 He himself will redeem Israel
   from all their sins. 


That’s my word for this year.


I don’t wait very well. That’s a fact. I am a restless person by nature and learning to be still, to live in patience –
    this is extraordinarily difficult for me.

Which is probably why this is the word that came when I asked God about it near the end of 2011.


But what I don’t think I’ve thought about very much is that this song about waiting…
     waiting for God,
          waiting for mercy,
               waiting for forgiveness,

…is also a song about moving.

This is a pilgrimage song, not a sitting under the palm tree song. 

This is a song of hope, not resignation.

This is a song of long-term relationship, 
     of hope borne of history, 
          of promises fulfilled over time.

“For with the Lord is unfailing love,
     and with him is full redemption.”
     So…follower of Jesus…

Can I do that today? Can you?
Just for today.

And then we can sing this song again tomorrow.


God of the morning, I am thankful beyond words for signs of your mercy, your forgiveness, your faithfulness over time. Help me to stand with confidence on the foundation of your loving-kindness, to trust that today will be okay because you are in it with me. Thank you for all my yesterdays in which this has been so very true, even when I couldn’t quite see you ‘in the moment.’ Thank you for all my tomorrows, in which this will continue to be true. But most of all, thank you for today, in which this IS true. Help me to wait for you all day through, to wait while I follow this road to Calvary. Just for today. Amen.

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to the Cross – Day THIRTY

Psalm 126 – A Song of Ascents – Today’s New International Version
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
   we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
   our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
   “The LORD has done great things for them.” 
 The LORD has done great things for us,
   and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, LORD,
   like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
   will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
   carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
   carrying sheaves with them. 

I love this song.

And I think it’s a perfect song for climbing.

That’s what it is, you know. It’s a song to be sung while climbing the steep hill road to Jerusalem.

One of fifteen psalms sung at the time of each festival celebration, sung as the pilgrims returned to Zion for feasting and worshiping and remembering.

So this is a perfect song for us, at day thirty on our climb to Calvary. We’re heading into the home stretch, nearer and nearer to the heart of the city and to the heart of our story.

And it’s feeling like a climb about now, isn’t it?

Walking along with Jesus as he takes his friends to the end of the road, as he prepares for his own exodus – we can get weary in this walking. Unsure as to whether or not we really want to make that last steep ascent up the hill.

But take heart!

We do not go alone. 

We join with hundreds and thousands and millions of others – around the world and across time. 

And we go with Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, the divine/human one who bent low that we might be brought high. 

But it’s true that there is weeping along the way, isn’t it? The journey we take is fraught with danger, toil and tears – no doubt about that.

But always – always – amidst the tears and the struggle, there are these kernels,  these seeds of hope. 
And we know that as those seeds are planted – we will return singing songs of joy. Yes, we will.

Yes. We. Will.


Lord of the Road – this road of life, and this road to Calvary and the empty tomb – we join our voices to the throng, to the voices of the faithful over the centuries and all around this world. And we sing of hope, of promise, of dreams, of committed connection to our story and to you, the Author of that story. Give us courage to make this final stretch; steady our feet on the rocky road and lead us into life.

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to Calvary – Day TWENTY-NINE

Mark 9:30-37, New Living Translation

Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was there, for he wanted to spend more time with his disciples and teach them. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead. They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.
After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”
Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.” 


They are NOT getting it…

…these disciples, these friends of Jesus, the ones who’ve left home and livelihood to join him on the road.  

They’re moving ever closer to Jerusalem and Jesus is intent on teaching them the true meaning of the Kingdom of God. 

But…they’re clueless.

For example: when they’re out there on the road walking and talking and missing the point… 

…they seem to be spending the bulk of their time pushing and shoving and jostling, getting themselves into a heated discussion about who among them will be ‘the greatest.’

Ahem. NOTHING whatever to do with the message that Jesus is preaching here. Nothing.
Which is precisely when Jesus pulls a small child into the circle – into his arms, to be exact – and says, “THIS is what you’re supposed to look like, friends. This is whom you are to welcome as if you are welcoming me.” 
It seems you don’t get to be the greatest by pushing your way there. 

                  You get to be first by…being last. 

And in that time and place, there was no one more ‘last’ than
…a child. 
Bottom of the heap, 
     no legal standing, 
          no status, 
               no authority, 
                    no ‘leadership skills,’ 
               no priority seating, 
          no head-of-the-line,
     no pick-of-the-litter,
no nothin’. 
there is this – 
     a small child who is welcomed, 
          received with love, 
               hosted graciously, 
                    cared for, fed and sheltered – 
     such a one is exactly where Jesus can be found.

Not just ‘angels unaware,’ 
     but Jesus himself  
just might show up on our doorstep,  
     grimy and mischievous, 
     laughing or sobbing, 
     looking up at us with those eyes. 
Oh, those eyes. 

So, my friends, here is the big, BIG takeaway for today:

Any investment we make into the lives of small children is the single most important work we can do on this planet. 

So all you parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, teachers – oh, please – welcome the child.  
Welcome the child. 
For this is the work of the kingdom – to see Jesus in the least of these. 

Give us eyes to see you, Gentle Shepherd. To see you in the little ones we meet, the little ones we read about, the little ones we worry about, the little ones who still live and breathe inside of us, the little ones everywhere. For to such belong the kingdom of God. Oh, my.

Linking up with Michelle and Jen for this one – I think this is the first time I’ve linked up one of these daily posts – not sure why. But hey, there’s always a first time, right?


A Lenten Journey: Climbing to the Cross – FIFTH Sunday

Hebrews 5:5-10, The Message

No one elects himself to this honored position. He’s called to it by God, as Aaron was. Neither did Christ presume to set himself up as high priest, but was set apart by the One who said to him, “You’re my Son; today I celebrate you!” In another place God declares, “You’re a priest forever in the royal order of Melchizedek.” 
While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him. Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do. Then, having arrived at the full stature of his maturity and having been announced by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him. 

When you read the word ‘obedience’ in this passage, what picture comes to your mind? What kind of freight does obedience – the idea, the word, the process – what weight does it carry in your spirit? 

I’m guessing that you’re a lot like me, that the word ‘obedience’ connotes a list of do’s and don’t’s with some pretty hefty legalistic overtones. 
     Do this – or else. 
          Shape up or ship out. 
               Do the ‘right’ thing. 
                    Don’t disappoint anyone’s expectations.
                         Be good, now! 

And then couple those ideas with the idea of learning-through-suffering – and the whole concept becomes positively frightening.

But take a deep breath and think about this with me for a minute. Jesus came to be one of us, right? And we believe that he was exactly that – one of us…with one major difference: Jesus did not sin.

Yet these six verses describe something quite different than a moralistic list of things to do or things to avoid doing. These verses describe both a developmental process and a relationship of mutuality. 

First – Jesus learned obedience – over time and through suffering – ‘just as we do.’ And Jesus ‘arrived at the full stature of his maturity,’ in perfect time to become the source of ‘eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him.’ 
And second, Jesus lived his life in a relationship of mutual care and concern shared with God the Father –
     Christ ‘did not presume,’
          God ‘set him apart,’
               God celebrated Jesus,
                    Jesus cried out to God, openly and honestly,
               Jesus honored God and was answered. 

All of that in six short verses.

What it reminds me of, just the teensiest bit, is Adam and Eve before the apple and the snake. Complete openness between Creator and creature and a natural inclination toward both being and doing what we were designed to be and do.

In fact, I would argue that Jesus did successfully what Adam and Eve did not do, what we cannot do on our own. He remained in completely open communion with God. So much so that obedience was a natural and comfortable outpouring of that communion.

Jesus did not succumb to the lie, Jesus did not desire to usurp God’s role in his life, Jesus did what came naturally to him and no longer comes naturally to us: he lived in obedience, with no sense of coercion, legalism, overbearing moral coaching, or anything else that might carry negative valence. Like the birds of the air, Jesus did what he was designed to do.
And because he did, we can, too. Not perfectly. Not always. But often. And increasingly often as we learn to walk with God – minute by minute, day by day.

It’s a developmental process – and it happens in a relationship of mutuality. Thanks be to God!


Sometimes, Lord, we really distort things, you know? If we can learn, over time and with lots of grace, to live in you, with you, open to you – then obedience is no longer burdensome. It just happens. We learn to want what you want, we learn to see with your eyes, we learn to live with joy – in the middle of good times and tough times. Teach us to listen, teach us to still ourselves regularly so that we can truly hear your voice of love, singing over us. Such a sweet song! Thank you.

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to the Cross – Day TWENTY-EIGHT

Exodus 2:23-3:15, Common English Bible 
Moses was taking care of the flock for his father-in-law Jethro, Midian’s priest. He led his flock out to the edge of the desert, and he came to God’s mountain called Horeb. The LORD’s messenger appeared to him in a flame of fire in the middle of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was in flames, but it didn’t burn up. Then Moses said to himself, Let me check out this amazing sight and find out why the bush isn’t burning up. 
When the LORD saw that he was coming to look, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!”
   Moses said, “I’m here.” 
Then the LORD said, “Don’t come any closer! Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground.” He continued, “I am the God of your father, Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. 
Then the LORD said, “I’ve clearly seen my people oppressed in Egypt. I’ve heard their cry of injustice because of their slave masters. I know about their pain. I’ve come down to rescue them from the Egyptians in order to take them out of that land and bring them to a good and broad land, a land that’s full of milk and honey, a place where the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites all live. Now the Israelites’ cries of injustice have reached me. I’ve seen just how much the Egyptians have oppressed them. So get going. I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I to go to Pharaoh and to bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
God said, “I’ll be with you. And this will show you that I’m the one who sent you. After you bring the people out of Egypt, you will come back here and worship God on this mountain.” 

But Moses said to God, “If I now come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they are going to ask me, ‘What’s this God’s name?’ What am I supposed to say to them?”

God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am. So say to the Israelites, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” God continued, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever; this is how all generations will remember me. 
How wonderful that we should dive into the Exodus narrative these last two weeks of Lent. That great event of freedom and deliverance … and worship.

That word ‘exodus’ is used in the New Testament. Did you know that? In only 3 places and only once in a way not directly connected to the story we’ve just begun to read about.

It shows up in Luke 9:31 – in Luke’s version of the same Transfiguration scene we read yesterday in Mark. The heavenly visitors are said to have, “appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure (GK=exhodus) which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem…” The coming events in Jerusalem will tell this central story in an entirely new way – Jesus himself will be the ‘exodus’ for us all.

Here, in today’s reading, we are introduced to the whole concept of ‘departure,’ at its very beginning. We are told that God has listened to the cries of his people for help, for deliverance, for freedom.
And God has a plan to bring them exactly that.

And to do it, God enlists the help of an aging shepherd wandering with his sheep in the back of beyond.

Sometimes I think God is really, really strange. He chooses the most unlikely people, the most unexpected means of problem-solving. And so, in typical God-fashion, MOSES is selected. You remember Moses, right?

Moses – the Hebrew baby in the bulrushes.
Moses – the adopted grandson of the Pharoah.
Moses – the man who doesn’t know where he belongs – Egyptian or Hebrew? Hebrew or Egyptian?
Moses – the one who flees for his life after ‘choosing sides’ with an act of violence and murder.
Moses – the 40 year wanderer, lost in the shadows, content to stay there forever.
Yup, that’s the one. Captured by a bush that burns without being consumed, warned about holy ground, given a task that must have seemed next to impossible.
Are you kidding me? Just waltz up to Pharoah, who wanted to HANG me the last time I lived nearby, and say to him – Hey there, Pharoah, mind if I borrow my people for a while? No way, Jose!

This is, of course, a loose translation. 

But the conversation that follows is fascinating on multiple levels. First of all, this is a little tete-a-tete between an old man in the desert, looking after sheep – and Almighty God, Creator of the universe and everything in it. That in and of itself is surprising.

Then there’s the giving of the Name at the end of this chunk. The Name – that fluid, non-defining definition – reminding us that God will not be put into a box of our making but will always and only reveal Godself in bite-sized pieces.

But what’s really most interesting to me today comes just before that revelatory piece, in this part of the conversation:

God says, “Get going!”
Moses says, “Who, ME?” 

And then God makes this declaration: “I will go with you. And here’s how you’ll know it’s me. Once you’re out – you’ll all come right back to this here mountain – the one where you and I are conversing – and you all will worship me.”

Talk about a circular argument. Literally.

But here’s what I take from it – let me know what else you find as you reflect on this powerful and unusual interchange:
God is to be known first and foremost in worship.
God remembers that we need rescuing.
God will use anyone and everyone to make that rescue possible.
If we choose to step onto holy ground, perhaps we should be ready for…
     just about anything.
     Most especially, ready…
          for a challenge,
          for an unexpected journey,
          for an invitation to whole-life worship,
          for our own opportunity for exodus.


You-Who-Are-What-You-Are, I have to admit that this whole story scares me. I want to be willing to take off my shoes and face into the mysteries of life, like burning bushes that are not consumed, like calls to move on out, like invitations to find rescue and deliverance. But I get so used to the way things are. I resist risk, I fear change. Help me to answer when you ask, to take you at your word, to trust that you go with me, wherever you may ask me to go. Embolden me, Lord God. Make me hungry for the fire that does not consume!

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

 I have chosen the gospel text for the 2nd day in a row – the first time I’ve done that since we started this journey together. I chose it because it is one of my all-time favorite gospel narratives, one of the ones I chose when Nancy Owens Franson asked us a while back to pick one or two narratives into which we wished we could insert ourselves as an eye witness. 
The top picture was taken just before a massive rainstorm hit southern CA, as we were leaving our wonderful desert hideaway for the trip home. These mountains and the ubiquitous presence of palm trees all around them always make me think of old Bible pictures of the Holy Land. (Of course, that would be minus the golf courses/casinos/resort hotels.) The 2nd picture is actually what I sort of imagine the transfigured body of Jesus to vaguely look like – radiant, sunshiny brightness against clouds and a blue, blue sky.
Mark 9:2-13, Common English Bible
Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus. 
Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified. 
Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them. 
As they went back down the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept it to themselves, but they often asked each other what he meant by “rising from the dead.” 
Then they asked him, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?” 
Jesus responded, “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready. Yet why do the Scriptures say that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be treated with utter contempt? But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they chose to abuse him, just as the Scriptures predicted.” 

Do you remember the closing words of yesterday’s passage? That promise that some of those gathered would not die before seeing the glory of God? 

Well, here it is. 

I find this dramatic vignette one of the most powerful in all the New Testament. It pictures for me two realities: the fullness of the divinity of Jesus – and the fullness of the humanity of Jesus. 

The first is perhaps a bit more immediately obvious: the transmogrification of Jesus’ clothing, the heavenly visitors, the covering cloud and the voice of love – all of it overwhelming in their capacity to stun and inspire awe. 

The second requires a little more work, some pondering, some placing of this incident on the time line of the narrative thus far. Think with me for a minute on this. 

Jesus has just asked that critical question: Who do you say that I am? 

He has answered it in completely unexpected ways and he has made sure that all those within hearing distance have listened. 

Yes, I am the Messiah. No, my role is not what you think it is, not even what you think it should be. 

He has had one of his closest friends deeply disappoint him, lecturing him about ‘stickin’ to the program.’ 

He is headed to Jerusalem and he has prayerfully figured out exactly what awaits him there: suffering and death. 

I can imagine that maybe – just maybe – our very human Savior needed some encouragement, some reminder that he was on the right track, some validation of his journey. 

And I cannot imagine a better one than this. 

At the very beginning of his active ministry life, Jesus heard the voice of love from heaven. And right here – on the way to the end of that ministry and that life – he hears it again. 

And so does Peter. 

Listen to him. 

And there’s the rub for all of us. Listening to what Jesus says about himself and his true identity, his role in the plan of salvation. 

Instead, we’d like to join with Peter when he asks to preserve this moment of glory – to build some garden sheds for each of the three radiant beings he sees before him. To fix-in-place the triumph of heaven. Ah, but this is something neither he nor we can ever do.

And just like that, it is all gone – the visitors have disappeared; Jesus looks like himself once again. 

Peter was given a glimpse of glory, yes, indeed. But only a glimpse. 

Now the hard part comes into focus. Jesus talks again about suffering. About dying. And about rising from the dead. 

And Peter and the others are mystified. What does it all mean? 

What does it all mean?


Radiant Savior, how it gladdens my heart to read these words. To see how you found encouragement for the rest of the journey. To be reminded that even you needed help to make it to the cross. We’re walking this road with you, Jesus. Will you help us get there, with our hearts softened, our minds open, our hands ready to receive the gifts of Holy Week, Good Friday…and Easter Sunday? Thank you for making that walk for us. Thank you.

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

Mark 8:27-9:1, Today’s New International Version 
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” 
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” 
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. 
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” 
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? Or what can you give in exchange for your soul? If any of you are ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” 
And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
There are two really important things in these words that I have never really seen before this instant.

Jesus is walking with his disciples, not yet on his way to Jerusalem and Holy Week, but getting ever closer.

And he asks them a key question – probably the most important question in all of scripture:
     Who do you say that I am?
Peter jumps in with a blisteringly accurate and perceptive and even surprising response: “You are the MESSIAH!”

Peter? Is that really you?

Well, yes. It turns out it is. Peter the Blunderbuss is alive and well, as we shall very soon see.

Building on that answer, Jesus begins to teach his friends what it means to truly be the Messiah. And it doesn’t look at all like what Peter thought he meant.


So Peter takes it upon himself to lecture The Teacher – he rebukes him, the scripture tells us.

And catch it – right there, just a short little phrase – important thing number one:  
     But when Jesus turned and looked at the disciples 

It matters to Jesus that his friends know the difference between the truth and a lie. 

     That’s when he rebukes Peter.
     That’s when he tells Satan to knock it off.
     That’s when he begins to talk about the cross-shaped life.
     That’s when he warns – 
          if you’re embarrassed by me now, in this life – 
          then I will be embarrassed by you when I come in glory.

Jesus sees right through to the heart of Peter’s critique, to the hard truth that Peter is embarrassed, and that he truly has no clue what the Jesus life looks like. And Jesus calls it like he sees it: Peter is talking lies…which is probably why he calls him Satan.

And important thing number two? 
All of these words about taking up the cross and losing your life to gain it –  they are said to an ever-larger group of people. Because right here in the narrative, Jesus opens wide the circle of listeners:
     “Then he called the crowd to him along with the disciples…”
I had always pictured this as a two-way conversation – between Peter and Jesus.

But Jesus….
But Jesus…
     does not will that ANY should be left out.
But Jesus…
     wants those who follow him to grasp the true nature of that following.
But Jesus…
     insists that the Kingdom life is the upside-down life, the back-to-front life, the are-you-sure-this-is-what-you-had-in-mind? life.
So…as we keep moving closer to that cross in our Lenten journeying, I wonder…
     what about Jesus embarrasses us? 
     how quickly do we see and name the lie?
     who else needs to be folded into the circle of good news?


Not-always-so-gentle Savior, I thank you today for the fierceness I see in you here. For your determination to tell the truth, no matter the cost; for your desire that we should all hear it, name it, own it. Help me never to rebuke you out of embarrassment. Help me to embrace who you are and to welcome opportunities to participate in your upside-down invitation to give it all away.

A Lenten Journey: Cllimbing to the Cross – Day TWENTY-FIVE

Genesis 50:15-26, Common English Bible 
When Joseph’s brothers realized that their father was now dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us, and wants to pay us back seriously for all of the terrible things we did to him?” So they approached Joseph and said, “Your father gave orders before he died, telling us, ‘This is what you should say to Joseph. “Please, forgive your brothers’ sins and misdeeds, for they did terrible things to you. Now, please forgive the sins of the servants of your father’s God.” ’ ” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 
His brothers wept too, fell down in front of him, and said, “We’re here as your slaves.” 
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I God? You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people, just as he’s doing today. Now, don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your children.” So he put them at ease and spoke reassuringly to them. 
Thus Joseph lived in Egypt, he and his father’s household. Joseph lived 110 years and saw Ephraim’s grandchildren. The children of Machir, Manasseh’s son, were also born on Joseph’s knees. Joseph said to his brothers, “I’m about to die. God will certainly take care of you and bring you out of this land to the land he promised to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Joseph made Israel’s sons promise, “When God takes care of you, you must bring up my bones out of here.” Joseph died when he was 110 years old. They embalmed him and placed him in a coffin in Egypt.
The Joseph saga comes to an end with these verses. 
And they’re quite a mixed bag of verses, seems to me.
Once again, they are filled with the criss-crossing emotions and experiences of family life, marked by both tenderness and frustration.
Bounded by deaths – Jacob’s recent one at the beginning and Joseph’s projected one at the end – these 12 verses hold a lot of our story in them.

     We don’t quite trust the goodness of forgiveness a lot of the time.

     We sometimes weep tears of despair over the failure of those closest to us to understand who we truly are.

     We know – despite the many ways we try to deny this truth – that we are all in the process of dying.

     We want our bones to land in the right place, too, don’t you think? Someone to care enough about us to carry us home, wherever that is.
But here’s where I most want to find similarity, to see myself in this passage. In these words of Joseph to his tear-splotched brothers:  
     “Don’t be afraid. 
          Am I God?”
Because I want to know – 
     I want to know – way down deep in both head and heart – 
     that I am not God, 
     that my recurring desire to act like I am 
          is a twisting of the truth that bears only bitter fruit, 
               that judgment of others, or even of myself, is not up to me.

Some people say that Joseph is a kind of pre-Jesus Jesus figure. And I can see that in parts of this long story. Maybe nowhere more so than here, with these words:
“You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people…”

What happened to Jesus was bad – very bad, ugly, painful, humiliating. But from it came the greatest good the world has ever experienced – the lives of many people – SAVED – to live as forgiven, healed, whole persons…forever.

And that just cries out for yet another alleluia, don’t you think?

You are the God of lost causes – and lost people. Thank you for this story of Joseph, for the real-life issues it deals with and for the beautiful way in which you worked through the rotten intentions of a band of brothers to bring salvation to many. It wasn’t exactly a cake-walk for Joseph – at least for a while. But he was able to say, “It’s all GOOD,” at the end of the day. Help me to say that, too, Lord. Especially when I look at some of the hard stuff in my own story. Help me to trust you – to trust that you are already working good even in the middle of the muddle. Thank you.

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to the Cross – Day TWENTY-FOUR

Just a few scenes from my part of this glorious world that make me want to jump and shout. Let’s make today a day for jumping and shouting (quietly, of course {smile})
Psalm 100, English Standard Version

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! 
Serve the Lord with gladness!
     Come into his presence with singing. 
Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name! 
For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100, The Message 
On your feet now—applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter,
      sing yourselves into his presence. 
Know this: GOD is God, and God, GOD.
      He made us; we didn’t make him.
      We’re his people, his well-tended sheep. 
Enter with the password: “Thank you!”
      Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
      Thank him. Worship him. 
For God is sheer beauty,
      all-generous in love,
      loyal always and ever.
I have a confession to make.
At this point in Lent, I am tired of Lent.
There. I’ve said it. I’ve put it in black and white (or black on blue on this particular blog).
Lent is long.
It’s intentionally long.
And it needs to be long.
It’s just that…well, I don’t do long very well sometimes.

Which, of course, is EXACTLY why I need Lent in my life.
BUT…today, I’m breaking a ‘rule.’
Yes, I am. Proud of it, too. (Well, very humbly proud – in the true Lenten spirit.)
During the days of Lent – most especially the six Sundays of Lent – the church abstains from alleluia.
That’s what I said.
NO alleluias during this journey to Holy Week.
The idea behind it is a good one, I think.
We’re not supposed to be depressed during Lent (though sometimes I think that’s what people believe), but we are supposed to be thoughtful, quieter than usual and to reflect on the cost of the cross.
The joyful resounding praises are to be stowed carefully away, 
     put into safe-keeping – 
and then let loose with a loud AMEN on Easter Sunday morning.
And I LOVE Easter Sunday morning worship – with brass instruments, choirs (if you’ve got them), familiar hymns.
right about now, I could really use a little bit of alleluia in my life.
How about you?
So today’s selection of devotional readings included Psalm 100 – one of my favorites for lots of reasons, not least of which is – ta da! – it’s short. 
Short enough to memorize. 
Or to put to song.
And many have done that over the centuries. 
“Old 100th” is the familiar doxology tune and that’s a setting for this psalm. 
“All People Who On Earth Do Dwell” is another familiar hymn with its roots in this psalm, to say nothing of a whole lot of praise choruses of the last 30 years or so.
But one of my very favorite settings is a choral one, for women’s voices, by Rene Clausen. 
And I’m putting in a YouTube version (with no video – go figure!) for your listening and rejoicing pleasure. 
It’s just FULL of alleluias. 
And they go by very fast in lots of moving parts. 
So, just for today, we’re going to let the alleluias out of their box and sing with the psalmist. 
Because some days, you just gotta sing.


Let this song be your morning prayer today. Close your eyes and let your heart sing along. (And don’t be afraid to join the applause at the end of this particular version – that’s the way Professor Peterson begins his paraphrase of this beautiful gem of a psalm and I think he’s right on target):