Category: Biblical Studies

Second Sunday of Easter: The Epistle Passage – The story is also in our hands

“John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:4-8)
I remember or am reminded that the world we live in now is not the world we are destined for. While it seems as if we spend forever in this world – that is because we are here for our entire life time. If that sounds rather paradoxical, you can understand why it is not something that humanity carries around in its upper most consciousness.
What exacerbates our “forgetting” of this fact is that we are actually so far from the Jesus/God event that we are used to living at a distance from the Divine. The apostles and first century believers had it in the conscious mind that Jesus was “just here” and would be back “some time soon.” Now that the “Alpha” part had come and gone, the “Omega” should be showing up soon – shouldn’t it?
And if I am reminded that the world we live is only a precursor to the world to come – the other side is believing that the end of all things will be after my life is ended. While I may (and do) hold out hope for a better way in the future beyond this reality, the current world is the only one I can be sure I will be aware of. So if my life is to be lived well, I have to live it well now! And that leads to the question, what do I want my life to be like now? And what missteps am I willing to do in order to have an “enjoyable” life now, but by doing take a chance on messing up my “life” in the world that is to come (maybe). There is the even greater paradox. So it is actually a relief to me to remember that this world is “not my home – not where I belong”.
Because when I remember that the stress and disappoints in this life will not translate to the life to come, I find I can manage this world. Things may not be perfect on this side, but things will be perfect in the future. But what will that future look like? I do not know.
The next “natural” statement to make is that I am assured of the life to come because of Christ’s death – which is a strong theme in this passage. BUT is it Christ’s blood that “freed us from our sins”? Or is it our belief in Jesus the Christ and the Lord God who sent to the earth the Divine’s Own Son? Yes, still thinking about that theological statement. I am ready to lay it aside; we chose what we will believe in, informed by the Spirit who guides us. We hope that our beliefs are authentic and true to what Jesus taught. We study and discern, examining statements, theologies, and philosophies. And we pray! We pray mightily! I pray, beloved reader, that your story and journey in Christian faith provides what you need for this world. And prepares you for entry into the eternal world that has been promised to us. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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Second Sunday of Easter: Acts Passage substituted for the Old Testament – The story is in the hands of Jesus’ followers

“When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” (Acts 5:27 – 28)

In the days and weeks following Christ’s resurrection and accession the disciples had followed in his footsteps defying religious and civil authorities. And their rationale for disobedience pretty much echoed what Jesus the Christ had told them while he was on earth.
“But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” (Verse 29)
It is interesting to think about what the disciples, now the apostles, had absorbed watching Jesus interact with religious and civil authorities. Consider that the gospel tell us, in a side effects type of way, that they knew exactly what Jesus said and did when he was confronted with the high priests, Pilate and Herod.
“The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Verses 30 – 32)
Reflecting back on the issue of whether Jesus’ sacrifice was necessary and directly lead to salvation, I have to wonder what the writer of the book of Acts meant. In looking at the commentaries offered up for these passages I see that the salvation that is referred to a changing of one’s life and not a pardon for sins – as we often may think of salvation. I am going to probably be checking and double checking for at least the next week or two to see how salvation is defined and what the requirements are. What I know for sure, after having spent time pondering it, the idea of changing one’s life as part of salvation/redemption is something I am long familiar with. What I need to do is make sure I am keeping the theology of it straight and true. And keeping theology straight and true has long been a requirement of Christianity. I could digress . . . . but I won’t.
As we move from Easter forward may you think deeply and clearly beloved reader. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Holy Week – Easter Sunday: Gospel and Psalm Passages – Now the story is ours to continue

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.” (Luke 24:1 – 3)
Funeral practices vary from culture to culture, generation to generation, era to era – well, you get the picture. Ordinarily the body would have been prepared before burial, but time grew short before the Sabbath and expediency ruled. Now they had time, and wanted to prepare Jesus’ body properly. But as Jesus tried to tell them, he was bringing changes.
“While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again. Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.” (Verses 4 – 9)
Other than some brief appearances and final words, really, Jesus’ time on the earth was over. All that reminded was to prepare and commission the disciples and Jesus’ followers.
“Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.” (Verses 10 – 12)
Not that it was a simple task to prepare them and raise them up as apostles and missionaries for the Word of God. The work ahead was more of that of the Spirit than the flesh and blood man that Jesus had been.
“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.” (John 20:11-18 )
The books of the bible that follow the gospels tell of what happened after Jesus returned to the Divine. The letters that the apostles wrote and the accounts of faith and works that they record have been a guide to believers for, well, countless generations. The lessons were learn from those letters we apply to our lives in the best way we can. Not necessarily the most effective and correct ways, but the best we can. I become more and more aware of that as the years go by.
Preacher: “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!”
Seeker: “Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalms 118:1 – 2)
From the first books of the bible where the story of creation is given, through the calling of the first people of the Divine and their “wandering” story, to the formation of the Hebrews/Israelites/Judahites/Jews, and then to the prophets of the Lord God – there are lessons to be learned from the accounts and chronicles there. We take from them what our own intellect tells us and what the Divine inspires us to.
Preacher: “The LORD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.
Seeker: “There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly; the right hand of the LORD is exalted; the right hand of the LORD does valiantly.”
Preacher: “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.”
Seeker: “The LORD has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death.” (Verses 14 – 18)
The New Testament turns a corner and what was guessed it is more clearly explained to the reader. But still it with the hands, pen, and understanding of humanity that it is told. The Spirit inspires, but we discern. Do we discern correctly? Oh beloved reader, I have asked that a thousand times. Have we and do we discern correctly?
Preacher: “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.
Seeker: “This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.”
Preacher: “I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”
Seeker & Preacher: “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Verses 19 – 24)
When I was a youngster things were clear and absolute. As I grew to adulthood I became less sure, but more determined to discern and discover. I am still discerning and discovering. Easter Sunday, however, is one of the times when things are the most clear. Jesus has risen! And reigns for ever more! What we do with that news . . . . is up to us. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Holy Week – Friday: Epistle Passages and Gospel Passage – The story moves ahead with great speed

“Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)
I went back and read the complete article – that actually comes from a longer study that Blosser did. He says “Paul had to explain the death of Jesus to a religious culture that had sacrifice at its center. Thus Paul saw the cross as the ultimate sacrifice that once and for all negated the need for all further sacrifice. Paul does not argue the theological issue of whether salvation is achieved by sacrifice but only the divine status of Jesus as God’s ultimate sacrifice.“ [Let’s let Jesus speak for himself] I also went back to make sure my comments on previous days reflect accurately what Blosser said. If you read the article yourself, and you find discontinuity, that would be because I made a misstep. I must admit I was relieved to see that it was indeed Paul’s intent to explain Jesus’ death to “old school” believers that caused him to make the emphases that he did.
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,” he also adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:16-22)
I was also relieved to read that Paul’s basis his contentions and arguments on Old Testament scripture – that is, he basis his discussion on what was already established in the “old school” thinking. I think maybe I can move on now! And, because Paul has the Old Testament “covered” I can move on to the Gospel passage, which holds the essence of the story of Good Friday during Holy Week.
“After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”
This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” (John 18:1-9)
It is, beloved reader, a long story; it actually lasts from Maundy Thursday evening to Friday evening, the cusp of the Sabbath during Passover. While the Romans had all the time in the world to decide the fact of Jesus, the Jews who were pushing for his death and the disciples who were eager to discern what the outcome would be felt the rush to have this business completed. In other words, from the time Jesus was confronted in the garden onward anxieties were high. We know Peter was anxious because he drew his sword.
“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (Verses 10 – 11)
Jesus was taken from one location to another, which only added to the turmoil.
“So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.” (Verses 12 – 14)
For example, Peter got nervous and did the very thing he swore he would not do.
“Again Peter denied it [knowing Jesus for the third time], and at that moment the cock crowed.” (Verse 27)
Jesus was questioned, and his disciples witness the full brunt of the animosity that the Jewish leaders had against Jesus.
“Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” (Verses 19 – 23)
Then Jesus was taken to another place, and yet another confrontation.
“Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.” (Verse 24)
And from there yet somewhere else. And the whole situation escalated.
“Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.) Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him.” (Verses 28 – 38)
By this time the situation was getting quite chaotic. The Jewish leaders wanted action. The disciples, I would imagine, could not keep up with going from one place to another – not mention not being allowed in.
“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.” (Chapter 19, verses 1 – 7)
At this point the tide events carried things away. Pilate tried to reason with both Jesus and the Jewish leaders. Jesus knew what would eventually happen – had known for a long time – and did not try to make an intervention for himself. The Jewish leaders knew what they wanted, and would not be dissuaded.
“Then he [Pilate] handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” (Verses 16 – 22)
By this point the disciples had caught up with Jesus and were there for his death. They saw his clothes being divided. And faced the reality that Jesus was taken from them.
“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”
Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.” (Verses 23 – 27)
And they witnessed his death.
“After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (Verses 28 – 30)
According to what the disciples believed, this was the end of their travels with their Master. Final arrangements needed to be taken care of.
“After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” (Verses 38 – 42)
For the disciples this was the end. And from their perspective there would have been no reason to call this day “Good Friday.” The reason why it now is called that . . . . will be revealed in a few days. Shalom!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Holy Week – Thursday: The Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel Passage – Now with the story moving on, there is no going back

“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:
This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.
Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.” (Exodus 12:1-14)

This is what Jesus and his disciples were celebrating when they had their shared meal, their Last Supper together. Since they were mostly probably single men, or at least away from their families this Passover season, they came together as a combined household/neighbors. I do not know whether they painted the doorposts and lintel of the house where they were – maybe the door frame to the upper room where they had their meal. Neither do I know whether the remains of the meal were burned. The New Testament – the gospel passage – does not tell us. Jesus and his disciples were far removed from the first Passover celebrated in Egypt. Also far removed from the Passovers in the desert. Generations removed from Passovers in the land that the Lord God gave them. And past history the years where kings ruled over Israel and Judah. What remnant remained of the Passover is recounted in the Gospel passage.
Paul, intentionally or not, started a new tradition – Communion. He recounts what Jesus did at the Last Supper, and for future generations sets a pattern of re-creating and reliving the Last Supper. For some faith traditions the Last Supper is celebrated yearly. For others, when the occasion seems right and proper for such celebrations. And still other faith traditions took on the celebration of the Last Supper as something done whenever the faithful are gathered.
“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
For Anabaptists another practice from the Last Supper was adopted and adapted. If some celebrations of Communion have been imbued with pomp, circumstance, ritual, tradition, and exclusivity – foot washing is just the opposite.
“Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)
Humility and servanthood were the important characteristics of foot washing. That, and the desire to replicate what Jesus Christ modeled for his disciples.
“The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.” (Verses 2 – 4)
With Judas determined to do what he felt compelled to do, the events of the next few days were set in motion. All that was left was to prepare his disciples for those events, and bring them into closer communion to himself, Jesus.
“Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” (Verses 5 – 11)
Jesus washed Judas’ feet. There is no other explanation possible. Jesus washed Judas’ feet and must have already forgiven Judas for what he will do in the near future. But note what Jesus said, that this foot washing is not absolution of sin. If one has lived such a life where thought and actions are pure and clean, one only needs to cleanse one’s self from the minor dirt of daily living.
“After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord–and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (Verses 12 – 17)
Anabaptists would wash each other’s feet to demonstrate that between fellow believers power and influence are not to be considered. All are equal; all equally need to have the dirt of everyday living washed away; it is as much a blessing to have someone wash your feet as it is to wash another’s feet. That is why footwashing is done in pairs; you wash each other’s feet.
I wonder, beloved reader, if Judas would have washed Jesus’ feet? Would Judas have washed the feet of the other disciples? And how much must Judas have been determined to betray his Lord if after having his Lord humbled before him – he still went out.
“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.
Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (31b – 35)
Tomorrow is Good Friday. For some periods of my life, Good Friday meant it was not a working day. Some years I attended a worship service. Some years I spent with family. For the past decade and a half I have written about Holy Week including Good Friday. In was already into my adult years when I discovered the traditions surrounding Maundy Thursday. It is good to keep learning about the seasons of the church year, and even better to practice them. As we come to the climax of Holy Week, may you think back on the traditions that were important to your Christian journey. And what has helped to form your faith beliefs. Shalom and Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Holy Week – Wednesday: The Gospel and Epistle Passage– Moving on in the story (or at least trying to)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Paul has moved in the letter to the Hebrews, no longer connecting salvation to Jesus’ death on the cross. Again, I want to assure you all beloved readers that while I have found the last two day’s inquiries interesting, it has not jostled my faith. And I am sort of ready to move on also.
We are now mid way through Holy Week. And the signs that something momentous and unlike anything else in Jesus’ ministry are being more profound. We like to assume the gospels relate the stories of Holy Week in fairly strict chronological fashion. And that each gospels relates the stories in the same way. But that is not always the case. Additionally the Revised Common Lectionary also tends to skip and jump around – but maybe you already know that beloved reader.
Today we read about Jesus revealing that one of the disciples will betray him. Tomorrow (Maundy Thursday) we hear about what happened before and after this.
“After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples–the one whom Jesus loved–was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.”
Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.” (John 13: 21- 30)
Often, quite often, and even most of the time – Judas is considered the villain of the Easter story. But without Judas quite possibly Jesus would have never been arrested or brought to trial. Judas knew Jesus’ habits and knew where and when Jesus would be in a dark secluded place away from the populace that followed him and adored him. Just as Jesus knew what “turning his face to Jerusalem” would mean, he knew what Judas meant to do. And even encouraged him to accomplish in a short amount of time.
When in seminary I was taught that Jesus’ death was inevitable. Not necessarily because it would accomplish salvation, but because Jesus so angered the Jewish leadership that only his death would appease them. . . . You know, beloved reader, I keep coming up again and again against Blosser’s article/statement.
“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.” (Verses 31 – 32)
I never once thought, having read the article, it would play such a large part in this Holy Week. Often times when The Mennonite has articles that resonate within myself and other readers there are a large number of comments and responses in the next issue. I find myself eager to read what others say about it. And if the comments also reflect the timing (that is, being so close to Easter) of the article. I could wish that I could/would just step back and not have the theme that was presented so prevalent in my mind as I write. But it is there, and will probably be there in the days to come. As each day moves forward in Holy Week, I am curious to see/experience how this will influence my reflections. For your sake, beloved reader, I could wish you would have the same curiosity! Shalom!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Holy Week – Tuesday: The (brief) Epistle Passage and the Gospel Passage– Continuing to look at the story in a different way

“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
As I read the Epistle passage for the second day of Holy Week, I thought again of my former college bible professor’s statement about salvation not being a direct result of believing in the Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. I am still pondering that one in my mind. I am only noting the one verse from the Epistle passage for that reason. And I am not particularly drawn to the Old Testament passage either, much as I enjoyed the book of Isaiah. That leaves me with the Gospel passage. And Psalm passage.
“Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.” (John 12:20 – 26)
We know that Jesus is determined to head for Jerusalem. And we know that Jesus is aware that the Jewish officials (at least a large enough balance of them that Jesus was find great resistance) are determined to end his ministry and do not care how it is accomplished. In other words, Jesus knows his life is in danger.
“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say–‘ Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” (Verses 27)
But what hour is it that Jesus needs to be saved from? The result of his disputes with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes? Or the need for him to die in order to complete is ministry? I had quandaries like this in my earlier years – the whole issue of atonement, redemption, and salvation – and how it is to be accomplished. Blosser says that the gospels do not make the type of causal connection between Jesus’ death and salvation that some of the epistles may allude to.
“Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.” (Verses 28 – 34)
I want to assure you, beloved reader, that my pondering is only a theological exercise – a new way of reading and interpreting scripture. This is not a matter of me questioning my faith. And I am pretty sure that Blosser’s comments are from a theological perspective and not a rejection of Christ’s ministry and example. Theological inquiry can exist along side authentic faith.
“The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.” (Verses 35 – 36)
It would be easier if the Gospel passage was not from John. The Gospel of John presents Jesus as a spiritual mystic feature – Spirit given fleshly form. And this fleshly form must fall away for the true intent and purpose of Jesus’ life to be fulfilled. So I have to wonder how this into the Blosser’s discussion? I knew when I read the article that Blosser wrote that I might discover for myself some rubbing and sticking points with Paul’s letters. Especially within the story of Holy Week and Easter. I could have just set the article and my thinking aside. But something compelled me to pursue it.
There are nuances and delicate theologies that are distinct from the mainstream idea of resurrection equating salvation – I would like to take the time to look at them. Committing to the Christian life despite threats to one’s personal safety. It could be said that Jesus modeled this. That someone was willing to die rather than renounce their faith is an attribute of Christianity that is well known. But that attribute can be seen in other faith traditions. Christ’s glory was established before he died and rose again. He rose not because it was the only delivery route to salvation but because the Spirit was eternal. Walking in the light is another way of talking about living an authentic Christian life. And being children of the light is another way of saying children of God. Finally, being honored by God is just (or maybe even more so) as valuable as salvation. In fact, leading a life that gains one honor according to God’s judgment is a large component of Jesus’ teachings.
Oh beloved reader! I feel like I am trying to navigate some slippy slopes. But one of the things I have learned over the years is that the story of Jesus Christ and the Divine is large enough and diverse enough that everyone can find a home and a niche. Another thing I have learned is that it is not just one believer or one faith tradition that has the monopoly on truth and God-centered living; it is all of humanity coming together as a corporate body that reflects the fullest truth of the Divine. And that through conversation and caring dialogue that we can best understand it. Let us keep that in mind as we continue through Holy Week. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Holy Week – Monday: The Old Testament, Epistle, & Psalm Passage – Looking at the story in a different way

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.” (Isaiah 42:1 – 4)
Today’s Gospel reading is the story of Jesus coming to the home of Lazarus and Mary anointing Jesus’ feet, preparing him as he said for the day of his burial. The Gospel story says it is six days before Passover – I am not sure that is directly parrallel to the first day of Holy Week. However, I have not included the Gospel passage here, so I wanted to orient you to that.
As you may well know, it is my contention that the Old Testament passages had existence and meaning before they were attributed to Jesus and the story of his presence on earth. But as you also know, during the high seasons of the church I see the wisdom of using these passages to inform our understanding,
“Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” (Verses 5 – 7)
When a person is called by the Divine and answers that call with affirmation, diligence, commitment and authenticity it calls them to a greater plane and a higher status. The prophets of the Old Testament were such people. But by the time the Israelites/Jews had come under the authority of the Romans such prophets were hard to find and did not come along very often. So when Jesus came along, he was a reminder of the prophets from the past. It is no wonder he reminded his disciples of them. He was like a prophet, and welcomed as one – but he was more than that. And that “more-ness” imbued the passages that described the prophets of old with an even higher status and moved the writings of those prophets to prophecy for the one who did come – or would come, when you retroactively apply the passages.
“I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.” (Verses 8 – 9)
If biblical commentators seem to retroactively apply passages to Jesus, it started a long time ago, by a man named Paul.
“But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!” ( Hebrews 9:11 – 14)
I read an interesting comment from a former biblical professor from my college years; he said, “If Jesus is saying killing an animal is not God’s way of achieving reconciliation, how can we justify the belief that God violated God’s own declarations by offering a human sacrifice in order to forgive us?” The Old Testament prophets wrote strongly that sacrifice was not to be the “agent of reconciliation” but “a celebration once the restoration had been experienced.” He also notes that by the time of Paul (the first century) sacrifice was the official method to restore one’s relationship to the Divine. (“Let’s let Jesus speak for himself”. The Mennonite April 2019, Vol 22, No. 4 pg. 32)
“For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.” (Verses 15)
For me, reading this on the cusp of writing about Holy Week calls into question a lot of the assumptions concerning salvation as a result of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Blosser (that is my former biblical professor) says that the important action for salvation is believe and obedience to Christ and his teachings. It was because of his teachings, beloved reader, that I came to see Paul in a different light than when I was a young child. Granted, as I matured I realized that Paul was a product of his time, and for his time he was revolutionary bringing a completely new type of message of belief in the Divine. I suspect it was also the influence of Blosser’s teachings (as I think on this) that lead me to have strong feelings about respecting the context in which the Old Testament prophets and writers wrote. Read the Psalms passage, keeping in mind the exhortation to hold to the teachings of the Divine.
“Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O LORD. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart! Do not let the foot of the arrogant tread on me, or the hand of the wicked drive me away.” (Psalm 36:5-11)
Adherence to the statutes of the Lord God is what is required. Celebrating the love that the Lord God has bestowed on us, and modeling that love by caring about and for others. As we move through Holy Week I want to be aware of these ideas and perspectives that speak to a different of considering the story of Easter. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Holy Week – Saturday: Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel Passages – The story stops for a short time

Some years I have not written on Holy Saturday. I had, in some writings, declared it a day of waiting. The lectionary uses verses for this day that underline suffering and our need for intervention because of our sins. Mindful of what my former college bible professor wrote, I am not connecting the blessing of salvation to his death (viewed as sacrifice) on the cross. But it is a theme that comes up quite often. It seems to me the connection between our having salvation and the need for some sort of exchange/price to be paid for that salvation is strong. There seems to be the need for someone or something to suffer and be offered up it seems.
“I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long. He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago. He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me; though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked.” (Lamentations 3:1-9)
The question came to my mind, do we suffer because of our sins? According to some types of thinking we do. Some readings/interpretations of the New Testament tells us that we do. But is it suffering in this life? Or in the life to come? The writer of Lamentations finds that being separated from the Divine, or at least separated from grace and not being in relationships with the Divine is suffering.
“The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Verses 19 – 24)

While the gospels may not draw a connecting line between the what might have been the sacrifice of Christ and salvation, many of the letters in the New Testament lead one’s thinking that way. I do wonder, now, what makes us think there needs to be sacrifice/suffering to atone for sins.
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.” (I Peter 4:1 – 5)
As I sit with these verses from I Peter I have to shake my head at the assumptions there are of non-believers, or more accurately the assumptions there are of people who do not believe as we do. If you read Blosser’s article in total you will know that is a strong theme in what he wrote.
“For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” (Verses 6 – 8)
Much has change since the time when the New Testament was written. We cling to it as the best authority of how to live a good authentic Christian life. What I fear is that we cling to the wrong parts. Jesus emphasized love, compassion, and caring. We seem to cling to the discipline, the giving up of old ways, and being prepared to be judged harshly. The days of Holy Week have seen me re-think and re-consider belief and living a good and authentic Christian life. I am not sure if my beliefs and faith traditions have changed or will change – but I am thinking. In the meantime, Saturday of Holy Week.
“When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.” (Matthew 27:57 – 61)
Good Friday evening gave way to Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. As I said yesterday, the followers of Jesus saw little good in the day. I don’t think we always appreciate or understand that sadness. You know, often when I am reading a book I will skip to the end, just to get a taste of the outcome of the story. So I can gauge when the story takes its turn toward the ending. It is, actually, not a very good thing to do. And I have ruined for myself several times the story line and the anticipation that builds up because I know how it ends. Now, apply that to Good Friday/Easter and I think you will see what I mean. We are, beloved reader, still on “dismal” Saturday. But, there is a little foreshadowing that we can appreciate.
“The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.” (Verses 62 – 66)
Now, we wait! Shalom!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Sixth Sunday of Lent 2019/Liturgy of the Passion: The Psalm Passage – Even when things are “bad” they are still “good”

After Palm Sunday we enter into Holy Week. For me and writing of this blog, it means there is something to write on each day – at least each day of Holy Week. And I full the compulsion and obligation to write something each day of Holy Week. Even if it is in the midst of other events, and (more importantly) I write this the week BEFORE Holy Week as I write one week ahead. It is at times a mad scramble to keep events and obligations in line and moving along.
“Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.
I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many– terror all around!– as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.” (Psalm 31:9 – 13)
Even “Preacher” feels a bit pressed upon and rushed. Surely if she had the time she would sit with “Seeker” and the two of the might reflect on this passage. But the minutes and hours tick by too quickly. Or, time moves by slowly and too little accomplished in that time. Rushing about and moving slowly towards the goal seem to be the only two speeds. No time to reflect or rest in the Lord. The only solace, as the psalmist recognizes, is this . . .
“But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.” (Verses 14 – 16)

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Sixth Sunday of Lent 2019/Liturgy of the Palm & the Passion: The Gospel Passage – Good things have “arrived”!

“After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.” (Luke 19:28)
As I quietly but firmly told the RCL, this week/Sunday is Palm Sunday and NOT the eve of Good Friday as the gospel passages for the liturgy of the Passion leads us to. Moreover (and probably more importantly to me) this portion of Luke fits into my theme for the week.
“When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.'” (Verses 29 – 31)
I have other years commented on the fact that Jesus “somehow” knew where the colt was and what would transpire. But it should be no surprise that the Divine knew all these things in advance, and it had been arranged for Jesus in advance. It does lead me to ask, however beloved reader, if you have made your arrangements for Lent? And just as importantly for Holy Week and Easter Sunday. In the realm of worship planning and leading services during Lent and Easter are planned out months in advance. Because the services are special and tied so intimately to a theme, care is taken and people are asked to prepare. There is value in last minute planning and trusting to the inspiration of the Spirit; but such “winging it” tends to run counter to some faith traditions. The RCL is proof of such meticulous planning and adhering to patterns laid down centuries ago. But I digress . . . . on to my theme
“So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.” (Verses 32 – 35)
Palm Sunday can be seen as the culmination of Jesus popularity amongst some sections and people of Jerusalem. It is also the phenomenon of group-think and impulsive behavior. The disciples were celebrating Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, maybe thinking he was going to finally face down the Pharisees and such ilk who have been hounding Jesus throughout his ministry. Or maybe it is just that many people in era like a good parade!
“As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” (Verses 36 – 38)
Or maybe it was, as I spoke of earlier, the movement of the Spirit that swept through the populace – the “winging it” impulse that cause things great and momentous to spring forth and happen. I have some of my own “winging it” experiences in my history. But the truth is beloved reader, when we think we are acting in the moment and without any foundations laid out, the Spirit has already gone ahead and made holy preparations. We are just following in the footsteps that were destined for us.
“Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” (Verses 39 – 40)
Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem. And the end of things is coming. We know in another week things will look pretty grim. But today is a day of celebrating! Jesus has come into His Holy city and is welcomed with palms and praise. The Pharisees who tried to shut it down were silenced. Good things, in the form of Jesus Christ, have arrived. It is all celebration for now.
But we also know, beloved reader, that this arrival heralds even deeper and greater things are destined for the weeks ahead. Maybe not what all were expecting – but what all needed! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Sixth Sunday of Lent 2019/Liturgy of the Palm & the Passion: The Epistle Passage – Good things to come as the season of Lent draws to a close

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5 – 8)
I am trying to navigate my way, beloved reader, through the scripture passages for the Liturgy of the Palm and the Passion which combines highlights from both Palm Sunday and foreshadowing of the Holy Week. When planning a worship service with these passages one picks and choices the passages used depending on the emphasis and theme desired. When uses the lectionary for personal study and reflection the themes and emphasizes of the passages come forth individually as each person perceives them. I am doing neither.
I trying to present a theme the draws together all four types of passage (Old Testament, Epistles, Gospel, and Psalm) and that remains true to the season of the church year. It at times can be a heady experience – and other times a bit of a headache! What I am finding is that some of the passages (or more precisely the story they tell) used this week are used again during Holy Week. And having written blogs for multiple lectionary cycles I am mindful of not getting to far ahead in the story of Lent and Easter. It is a story we know quite well, and I try to find fresh approaches.
“Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Verses 9 – 11)
Paul, the writer of Philippians (and most of the other epistles) was probably mindful too that the story was a powerful one and needed to be told well. But for him that was an advantage. Paul raced headlong into the story of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection because for him that was the whole point – getting to the end and the promise of salvation. The church year, however, as it is constructs carefully makes its way through the story of Jesus’ annunciation to his birth through his (it seems brief) growing up years through his travels and ministry that lead to Lent and THEN slows down even MORE through Holy Week.
If we were approaching this story as “new” news, we would not yet know WHY “ at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord . . . “ And you, beloved reader, being patient move through the story all with me marveling at each step and revelation. (Don’t disillusion me by telling me you are just cooling your heels until the crescendo and denouement.)
You know this is going to be my 60th year of experiencing Lent – although to be far the first 20 or 25 years I probably did not realize the significance. But still, that is a good many “been aware” years of seasons of Lent to journey through and still retain a fresh perspective. And what is more, there are still many years to come of the seasons of Lent (not to mention the other seasons of the church year) to retain and reignite a fresh perspective. Maybe, beloved reader, that is a challenge for you too. If so, let us continue to journey together for whatever years there remain – appreciating the awe and splendor of each story and scripture passage. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Sixth Sunday of Lent 2019/Liturgy of the Palm & the Passion: The Old Testament & Psalm Passage – Good Things Now & In the Future

“The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens– wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.” (Isaiah 50:4)
The ironic thing is, beloved reader, I am at times the teacher and the weary – I sustain myself. I will not lay out for you all the details. At night I write on these passages using my background, experience, and training. And in the morning when a new day faces me that appears to have the same challenges as the day before, I am fortified and prepared by the experience of the night before.
“The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.” (Verses 5 – 6)
There is no striking, pulling, insulting or spitting – praise be to the Lord God the Divine! But some days are long and laborious. And I struggle. Each day I enter into the fray again. Mostly willingly!
“The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?” (Verses 7 – 9a)
Each and every day that I have felt buffeted by fate and misfortune is a day I have survived. Not by my own strength and might. The Lord God has pulled me through and the Divine has kept me upright. I give praise that I have made it through each day, and I pray that I might make it through the day to come.
“O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1-2)
And let Carole say it also!
“Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.” (Verses 19 – 21)
It is not just the salvation, beloved reader, that comes as we exit this world and enter the world to come. Neither is it just the forgiveness of sin that is salvation. Salvation also comes as relief and rest when one is weary. Salvation is a temporary respite from the trials and challenges in this life. Salvation is being picked up and dusted off by the Divine. Fortified and nurtured for the things to come by the Lord God who knew what it was like to battle in this world.
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!” (Verses 22 – 25)
When Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey it was a “soft entry”. Being saved does not mean escaping reality. Success does not mean victory as this world understands it. Salvation and success really translate to endurance and stamina. Not letting this world convert and corrupt us, leading us from authentic Christian life.
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (Verses 26 – 29)
Consider, beloved reader, that this psalm passage was written far before Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. (No, I am not going to take issue with its re-appropriation.) The writer of this psalm passage already saw the Divine as Presence that was worthy of praise and adulation. Already known as a loving Presence – even before Jesus Christ came as an example/exemplar of the Divine’s love. Already known as a Divine who will not end. I hope and prayer, beloved reader, that It is already a Presence in your life! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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