Category: Lent

Lament over Jerusalem: FREE Prayer Resource

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often have I longed to gather your children as a mother hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.  Matthew 23:37Not long after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus' conflict with the religious leaders intensifies dramatically.  The closer he comes to the cross, the separation between those who Jesus has gathered and those who refuse to be gathered becomes markedly clear.  As tensions mount, Jesus reveals, again, the deepest longing of his heart - to gather us to himself in love.  As a mother, I know what it is to spread my arms wide and gather my children in - in moments of joy, fear, or comfort.  I also know the bittersweet moments when new-found independence, willfulness, or hurt feelings cause my children to resist being gathered.  As a chicken farmer, I know the way a mother hen spreads her breast feathers wide over a nest.  I have seen a newborn chick burrow into its mother's feathered cocoon, have felt with my own hands the warmth beneath her wings, the close, dark hidden-ness.  When I read this verse, I wonder what it means to be gathered.  I think of the intimacy - the safety, calm, and rest.  I imagine, even the darkness of that hidden place would feel welcome.  There is, in all of us, sometimes buried deep, a longing to be gathered.Yet, still, we often resist.  And even when we do allow ourselves to be gathered we are still painfully aware of the desperate, aching world just beyond our sheltered rest.  Gathered to God, resting against God's very breast, we cannot help but be shaped by the heartbeat we hear.  Gathered, we become gatherers; loved, we long to be lovers.  We become the kind of flock that follows God to the cross, through the cross, and into the kind of life that multiplies and makes manifest the longing love of God. God's longing love seeks to gather us ALL in.  Sit with that for a moment.  One strange fact about hens is that, when brooding, the mothering impulse is so strong that they will mother almost anything they can find - puppies, kittens, piglets.  It seems, with hens, the longing and love are wide enough to gather all who are willing.  The same is true, of God. As we wait and prepare for Easter morning, I want to invite you to spend some time with this verse: What do you imagine it would be like to be gathered by God?  Who do you long to see gathered into God's longing love?  What parts of you resist gathering?  To help you along, I'm including a simple coloring page/prayer activity I created just for you.  All you need to do is clink on the link: Gathering Love Prayer Resource and hit print, then follow the prompts on the page.  Jesus' words paired with prayer and coloring make a simple activity for you to enjoy alone or with a small group of individuals - kids will love it too. (If you do download the page, leave a me a comment below.)
Syndicated from This Contemplative Life


Holy Week – Monday: The Old Testament Passage – The start of an eventful week

“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.” (Isaiah 42:1)
I am pleased that after checking, I am on course for commenting on the correct topic for the correct scripture passage. Lately I have been getting lost in the days and weeks. But, I am also a little deflated that it is Holy Week that it is time to comment on. The sole reason is that I am still recovering from a cold, and do not feel up to “vigorous” commenting, and commenting for seven days in a row. It is good for me, I know, to turn to scripture and my focus shifted off of me and on to something else. I am afraid though I will give the task “short shrift” and not put forth a full effort. Other years I would intertwine and comment on several passages each day. Today I think I will be doing well if I can do one.
“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.” (Verses 2 – 3)
I have picked the Old Testament passage. The theme is one of Jesus not shirking the outcome of his ministry on earth. Sort of apropos considering my being tempted to but not shirking the task of commenting each day – even if I focus on just one passage. My other choices were Psalms 36:5-11, Hebrews 9:11-15, and John 12:1-11. The Psalm passage is the one where the opening verse is “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. “ The verse (and others in the passage) are used as song lyrics and when I hear/read the verse I hear the song in my head. Singing is not easy for me right now, so I set that one aside. The Hebrew passage is where Paul refers to Jesus as a high priest (a theme he devotes some time to) but it is early in the week to consider that motif. And the passage from John tells about Mary, sister to Lazarus, anointing Jesus. Some gospels “assign” this task to another woman, not Mary. It too brings to the beginning of the week considerations that are played out at the end of the week.All in all, I think this is a good passage to settle on.
“He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.” (Verse 4)
At the beginning of the week Jesus does not seem like he will ever “grow faint or be crushed.” The temple authorities are fit to be tied, and looking for a way to tie up Jesus and dispose of him. But at this point it does not seem possible that will happen. Jesus power and its source are getting to be pretty unquestionable.
“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)
Yes, Monday of Holy Week Jesus is still carrying forth the mission and message given to him without any problems or complications.
“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)
Yes, beloved reader, I know – I am turning a blind eye to the problems that have been roiling below the surface. Mary’s anointing of Jesus sets Judas’ teeth on edge and he is going to the temple authorities/chief priests. Paul talks about the shedding of the “high priests” blood; and the psalms passage is an ode to the Divine who is in heaven, while Jesus is still on earth. Yes, it is early in the week but things are starting to happen. Hold on – events are starting to unfold! Shalom!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Imagining Palm Sunday (from the perspective of Simon the Zealot)

(painting by John Dunn, available here.)(This piece of fiction is loosely based on Luke 19:28-40 and is told from the perspective of Simon the Zealot who I imagine being asked, along with Philip, to go to Bethany to get the colt for Jesus. Here's hoping you also find some time to wander around inside the gospel stories in the week ahead.) It felt like the first day of spring. Like everything we waited for was so close we could almost taste it. We were close to Jerusalem. The closer we got, the edgier we were. Jesus was quiet. When we reached the Mount of Olives, Jesus turned to me and Philip. He chose us, and told us to go and look for a colt in the next village, it would be tied to a post and we were supposed to just walk up and take it. How did he know this? We didn’t ask. He chose us, that was all that ever mattered.  Jesus and the others stayed resting in the shade of the olive trees. Philip and I walked alone. When you were with Jesus, walking beside him, it felt like the sun on your back – faith rose and blossomed. But with every step we took away from him, faith dimmed. Clouds of doubt rolled in, confidence wilted as we walked toward the village. We hardly dared think, much less talk about what might happen when we reached Jerusalem.  Instead, Jesus' stories ran through my head. Everywhere we went he spun stories, painting pictures with words. I tried to make sense of them, but I couldn’t. Maybe I didn’t want to. Bethany was small and dirty, like every other village, nothing special. The smells and sounds nearly knocked me out after the quiet walk through the countryside. It was hot, the sun unbearable. I envied the disciples left behind, resting under the trees. The village seemed to go on forever. Women stared as we passed. Children ran up to touch our robes, then scrambled away laughing. We felt strange and out of place. The further we walked, the more foolish we felt. Reason raised its head - why this village? Why a colt? And where? Where was it? At the far edge of town, we heard it. A donkey brayed. I stopped mid-thought, and put my hand out to stop Philip in his tracks. Again, we heard it, the screeching sound like metal grinding against metal.  It came from somewhere to the right. We followed a small path through a thicket. Our steps slowed, nervously. Then we came to the edge of a clearing. An ancient stone house stood silent, a fire smoldered in a pit. Chickens pecked the ground. Off to one side stood a young donkey tied, just as he had said. My heart leapt. Philip grabbed my arm and squeezed tight. Our eyes met wide with surprise and glee. It was all we could do to keep from laughing. Giddiness propelled me, I rushed toward the colt. It skidded sideways, stretching the rope taunt, and erupted in a string of screeches, its lips pulled back, teeth exposed. I lunged and wrestled the rope until Philip again grabbed my arm. “Simon,” he said. I followed his eyes toward the house. A small man slowly emerged from the shadows. I pulled my hand back from the colt immediately. Behind the old man a woman and a small child peaked out of the doorway. Chickens squawked and scattered as he crossed the open yard. I have never seen such a short man, he would’ve made Zaccheaus look like a giant. He had a grave and wrinkled face and seemed coated with a lifetime of hard work and dirt. My heart sank. He would never let us have this animal. I thought of the sword at my side, it wouldn’t take much to force the plan. But the woman and child watched from the doorway. Philip bowed in greeting and I followed. The little man bowed. Braced for anger, his simple question startled me. “Why are you untying the colt?” Why. Why not, I thought. Why shouldn't we take whatever we needed to overthrow the Romans? Why try to explain the unexplainable to this dirty man in his dark hut? Philip’s hand was still on my arm. I stared at the man, so solidly rooted to the ground, and remembered Jesus’ words, “If they ask why, tell them ‘the Lord needs it.’”Everything was always so unbelievably simple with Jesus, the simplicity itself was confusing. “The Lord needs it,” I said. The little man caught my eyes with his own and held them. I watched him measure the truthfulness of my words. I knew he likely guessed my thoughts about my sword, my urgency, and frustration. Something in my eyes satisfied and he turned to the colt. He reached out and patted the animal, murmuring into its long ears. “Take it,” he said simply, then turned and walked away. Our excitement grew with every step back through the village. We marched into the olive grove like victors returning from battle. The donkey brayed and bucked at the rope. Everyone gathered around shouting questions, slapping us on the back, startling the colt. “How? Where?” they asked. “It was just like he said, just like it,” I repeated, grinning and proud forgetting the doubt I’d carried across town. Then, Jesus pushed in to the circle. He smiled at our surprise and delight. His tired eyes crinkled in the corners. His robe was wrinkled and dusty from resting on the ground. “You did well, Simon,” he said, clamping his hand on my shoulder and fixing his eyes on mine. “You too, Philip,” he added. Like I said, he was like the sun, you know? And when he shone on you, it was something you never forgot. Jesus took the rope and leaned in quietly toward the donkey. He patted it, whispered in its twitchy ears like the old man had. I think in that moment, the colt felt just as loved as we did, just as happy and full of hope and excitement. It stamped a foot and brayed flicking Jesus’ face with its ears and we all burst out laughing. Peter pulled off his cloak and laid it on the donkey’s back. Nathan too, and Andrew, until the poor animal was draped with a rainbow of dirty robes. It was time for Jerusalem. I knelt right there in the dust and made a step with my hands. Jesus stepped and leaned while Andrew tried to steady the donkey. But the animal sidestepped and I teetered, pitching Jesus forward. His stomach landed with a thud on the donkey’s back.  My face reddened with embarrassment, but Jesus pulled himself up laughing and swung his leg over the side. When he laughed, it unleashed something inside of us. We were like boys again, free and happy. Here we were, caught up in the biggest adventure of our lives, with Jesus at our side, and the wonder of it carried us all along.  Jesus turned the colt toward Jerusalem, leaning to whisper again in its ear, scratching the coarse hair where the rope hung around its neck. Moving forward, a nervousness settled over the crowd of us again. Then, we followed, and with each step our excitement grew. Thomas started the singing. His deep voice rose and the others joined in following the words of the psalm we all knew. The psalm of victory. I heard the words entirely new as we sang them there in the dusty streets, under the open sky. I waited all of my life for a king. Here he was and here we were together, marching into Jerusalem. But not marching, nearly dancing. As much as I wanted it to be different, as much as I remembered the sword at my side and my dreams of a mighty king on horseback leading me into battle, I was happy. Happy with this fool of a man plodding along on a donkey’s back, this man who loved me. I felt my love for him surge in my chest as we repeated again and again the chorus of the psalm, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his steadfast love endures forever.” I wasn’t the only one off pitch. Philip had no rhythm, not an ounce of tune, and we were an ugly bunch weaving our way into town, drunk on good news and friendship and the love we all needed. They heard us first (probably smelled us second) and women and children wandered out to watch us. Such a strange parade. We sang at the top of our lungs, jostling each other, slapping shoulders and backs. Peter reached out and grabbed a boy in the crowd, swung him on his shoulders and Andrew jumped to reach a palm branch. Breaking it, he placed it in the boy’s hand and the boy cheered and waved like mad. There’s something about a people, so beaten down with sorrow and fear, there’s little left to lose. Maybe this is what made them join us, welcome us, break branches of their own and join the singing, the dancing and shouting. Some stripped off their robes and laid them in the street and Jesus was there in the middle of it all, steady and solid as the sky.Things got a little out of hand. But that never seemed to bother Jesus. He got tired sometimes, needed rest and space, but he didn’t try to control us. He let us be however we were, welcomed us and that day we were happy and he didn’t bother to contradict. But the Pharisees did. It was one of the things they hated the most about him, the way he refused to control us. He didn’t seem to need to control anyone and therefore refused himself to be controlled. It bothered me too, if I’m honest. I couldn’t figure out how he might overthrow the Romans without taking for himself some measure of the power and control they exerted over us. But it bothered me less when I was with him, then it felt like I could believe anything and, if I’m honest, I thought he would change when we got to Jerusalem. To the Pharisees, it was blasphemy, all of it. The way we sang and danced in the street, the image of Jesus on the donkey like some kind of street urchin playing king, it was all offensive. But mostly it smacked of disorder and freedom, two things they feared and fought tooth and nail. “Rabbi, tell them to stop, make them stop!” they shouted. Jesus turned from watching the dancing children, the singing men. I watched him meet the Pharisees’ eyes. My hand involuntarily drifted to the hilt of my sword. Jesus held the donkey still while all around him the crowd rose and swelled. There was amusement in his eyes and he smiled a sad smile. “If I tell them to stop,” he said, “the stones you walk on will rise up singing and dancing. You cannot stop joy, my friends, cannot stop praise that flows like a river. Heaven and earth are being un-damned. We will sing and dance while we can.”If we ever needed permission, we had it. We cheered and sang all the louder, “Give thanks to the lord for he is good, his steadfast love endures forever!”It felt like the first day of spring, I tell you. Like everything we waited for was so close we could almost taste it. It was glorious.//It’s harder now, to talk about the rest. When we reached the inner edge of the Jerusalem, Jesus burst into tears and the words he spoke terrified and confused us. Confusion and fear followed us everywhere that week; it hunted us, hounded us. For a long time, when I remembered Palm Sunday, I felt regret, embarrassment.  I see how little we really understood. But Jesus, he loved it. Now I know he carried our praise with him through the darkness that lay ahead. He focused on the memory of our singing when the crowds cried out for his death. Jesus’ first desire wasn’t to change us. It was to be with us.And his being with us, changed us, slowly into something closer to who he was, what he was. I like to think of it like that – he carried us with him, our joy, our love, to the cross and we carry him with us, his joy, his love through every week ahead, singing and dancing or weeping in sorrow.  We carry him, he carries us. 
Syndicated from This Contemplative Life

The Woman who Anoints Jesus

Matthew 26:6-13 Lent is the time in the church year when we move toward the cross and, ultimately, to Easter. Lent is 40 days (not counting Sundays) of preparation for the holy celebration. Days to, perhaps, give up something in your life that is getting in the way of your relationship with God. Days to,…
Syndicated from Spacious Faith

How to Read Half the Bible for Lent (and Still Take Days Off)

Two years ago for Lent, I decided to read a book of the Bible every day. It was more manageable than it sounds, mostly because you don’t realize how many short books there are until you start reading them. I more or less kept to my reading plan, which included Sundays off, as Catholics do in their Lent observations (the theory being that “each Sunday is like a mini-resurrection celebration”). I worked my way through two-thirds of the books of the Bible…. which left me with 23 very long unread books.
This year, I’m picking up where I left off. Coincidentally, these unread books fit well with the Year B lectionary theme, which is all about covenanting. It’s a good time to dwell in the Abrahamic promise; the covenants the Israelites developed in the wilderness; the failed covenant of kingship; and the somewhat obtuse covenant expounded in Hebrews.
I’m posting my reading plan here partly for accountability, partly as an invitation to join the fun. If you’re still looking for a Lent discipline, the more the merrier! There are no assigned Sunday readings, for a day of rest or catch up. I find Sundays are a practical day to skip, because as a pastor my Sundays are typically hectic and I don’t get the same reading time. If you find a different day is tough to juggle, adjust the schedule accordingly—but I recommend keeping a consistent day of rest throughout.
If you want to know why I arranged things the way I did, here’s a brief summary. If you’d rather just dive in, mark your Bible for Genesis 1… and I’ll see you there tomorrow. I’ll also try to Tweet a favorite/intriguing verse from each day’s reading.
The reading begins in Genesis because, as Lewis Carrol says, it is always a good idea to “begin at the beginning.” From there, it dives into the rest of the Pentateuch, minus Deuteronomy, which for some strange reason I lumped in with the shorter books on my last go around. 1 Samuel through 2 Kings follow in rapid succession, with a breather of poetry and prayer before heading through the Chronicles’ recap of the kingly history. The fall of Judah (again) is followed by Jeremiah’s fraught account of the same. Finally, after Nehemiah’s reconstruction, we get the New Testament holdouts, ending in Mark. Mark was included in the first go-around, but I wanted to sneak at least one Gospel into this set. Mark was the winner because (1) it’s the primary Gospel of year B and (2) it’s the shortest Gospel.
Happy Lent, friends!
Wed., Feb. 14: Genesis 1-15
Thurs., Feb. 15: Genesis 16-28
Fri., Feb. 16: Genesis 29-41
Sat., Feb. 17: Genesis 42-50
Mon., Feb. 19: Exodus 1-20
Tues., Feb. 20: Exodus 21-40
Wed., Feb. 21: Leviticus 1-16
Thurs., Feb. 22: Leviticus 17-27
Fri., Feb. 23: Numbers 1-17
Sat., Feb. 24: Numbers 18-36
Mon., Feb. 26: Joshua 1-12
Tues., Feb. 27: Joshua 13-24
Wed., Feb. 28: Judges
Thurs., Mar. 1: 1 Samuel 1-16
Fri., Mar. 2: 1 Samuel 16-31
Sat., Mar. 3: 2 Samuel 1-12
Mon., Mar. 5: 2 Samuel 13-24
Tues., Mar. 6: 1 Kings 1-22
Wed., Mar. 7: 2 Kings 1-12
Thurs., Mar. 8: 2 Kings 13-25
Fri., Mar. 9: Job 1-20
Sat., Mar. 10: Job 21-42
Mon., Mar. 12: Psalms 1-50
Tues., Mar. 13: Psalms 51-100
Wed., Mar. 14: Psalms 101-150
Thurs., Mar. 15: Proverbs
Fri., Mar. 16: Ecclesiastes
Sat., Mar. 17: Isaiah 1-39
Mon., Mar. 19: Isaiah 40-55
Tues., Mar. 20: Isaiah 56-66
Wed., Mar. 21: I Chronicles
Thurs., Mar. 22: 2 Chronicles
Fri., Mar. 23: Jeremiah 1-25
Sat., Mar. 24: Jeremiah 26-52
Mon., Mar. 26: Nehemiah
Tues., Mar. 27: 1 Corinthians
Wed., Mar. 28: 2 Corinthians
Thurs., Mar. 29: Hebrews
Fri., Mar. 30: Revelation
Sat., Mar. 31: Mark

Syndicated from gathering the stones

DAMN. and the Crucified Christ

This week, Rev. Greg Henneman returns to BTSF, partnering with his son, Noah, as they review Kendrick Lamar's new album, DAMN.
So I was takin' a walk the other day, and I seen a woman—a blind woman—pacin' up and down the sidewalk. She seemed to be a bit frustrated, as if she had dropped somethin' and havin' a hard time findin' it. So after watchin' her struggle for a while, I decide to go over and lend a helping hand, you know? "Hello, ma'am, can I be of any assistance? It seems to me that you have lost something. I would like to help you find it." She replied: "Oh yes, you have lost something. You've lost... your life." [sound of a gunshot]
This is the story of Good Friday.

Christians remember Good Friday as the day that Jesus was executed. Fully divine and fully human, Jesus entered human history amongst its struggle and sought to lend a helping hand by modeling a new way to live centered around love of neighbor. Jesus offered assistance. For this, Jesus was killed.

On Good Friday, 2017, these words introduced the release of Kendrick Lamar’s newest album, DAMN. Lamar’s normally aggressive and quick words are countered with softness as the song BLOOD. serves as the album’s preface. At the end of this metaphor, the man offering assistance is killed.

Throughout this album, Kendrick aligns himself with the Crucified Christ. In the song, DNA, Kendrick is both “Yeshua’s new weapon” and seen as “an abomination”. His very DNA places him amongst a minority culture, thus making him a threat, described by the soundbite voice of Geraldo Rivera as being a part of hip hop music which has done “more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years.”  Ironically, the song Rivera criticized, Alright, is one in which Kendrick offers hope and encouragement, that against the struggles of life he repeats “we gonna be alright.” “Alright” has become an anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet, despite the song’s claim of assurance, Black DNA makes him a threat to dominant American culture, just as Jesus’ words of inclusion threatened the political and religious powers of the Roman Empire.

Within popular music, there may not be a more powerful voice in 2017 than Lamar. When Beyoncé had to cancel her Coachella music festival appearance, it was Kendrick that replaced her with a lauded performance. A recent survey of music reviews came to the conclusion that Kendrick is the highest rated performer of the 21st Century.

Despite all of the critical and commercial success, Kendrick does not exalt himself in praise, but places himself amongst struggle. He does not see himself as exalted, but views himself from his Compton roots. He aligns himself more with the Crucified Christ than Glorified God. He wonders if success will last and asks in the song FEAR., “All this money, is God playin' a joke on me? Is it for the moment, and will he see me as Job?”

Just as Jesus found disciples asleep in the garden and found himself abandoned on the cross, Kendrick’s repeated cry echoes across multiple songs on the album “aint nobody praying for me.”

But while Kendrick often feels trapped within his Compton roots and culturally alienated, he finds unity with God.

The song GOD. unites God’s and Kendrick’s shared perspectives. The song begins with God saying, “this what God feel like.” Kendrick responds that “ever since a young man” God has been watching over him for his whole life. After describing the behaviors Kendrick used to and is still doing Kendrick says “don’t judge me”. and God responds “who are you talking to, do you know who you are talking to”. And then he says all of the things that God says like “everything I touch is a gold mine.” The song finishes with both God’s and Kendrick’s perspective talking with each other.

Kendrick’s struggle, unified with that of the Crucified Christ, is powerful, but is not a lone voice.

The most noteworthy winner at this year’s Grammy’s was Chance the Rapper who despite being a self-published artist without a record label won best new artist, best rap album, and best rap performance. Chance’s lyrics mix unashamed praise for God with the reality of his experience growing up in Chicago. In the midst of singing about praises and blessings, Chance makes the same connection as Kendrick between contemporary struggle and the Crucified Christ with the statement, “Jesus black life ain’t matter.”

The latest album by Logic, “Everybody” is also filled with theological questions. The album includes an exchange with the voice of Neil deGrasse Tyson as the voice of God in which the meaning of life is explored. But as noted in Kendrick Lamar and Change the Rapper, these are not mere philosophical wonderings, but connect to modern life. In the song “Confess” Logic asks: “Dear God, I just wanna know why, Why do you put us here? Why do you put us below? Why do you put us subservient?”

Across the spectrum of modern rap music, questions of where God can be found are being asked. Most often, God is found amongst the struggle. God’s voice is speaking from the streets. The prophetic voice is not only coming from the pulpit, but from the microphone.

Syndicated from By Their Strange Fruit

To Experience Resurrection (a Poem for Holy Week)

You have to return to the tomb

to experience resurrection. 
Return to the place where once
you knew without doubt
all hope was gone, the last
dying gasp of breath expelled.
Then silence, stillness
and the great tearing open
of sky and earth. 

The first sign of spring
is the revelation of all
that’s died.  Snow’s clean
slate hides decay,
but when the sun’s warmth rises
its first disclosure is the depth
of loss – the grass,
brown and trampled, barren
broken limbs scattered, earth
exposed and the empty stretch
of field filled with brown stalks
of decomposition.

This is the time of waiting,
the time in which we grow
weary and lose heart. 

You have to watch the barren
earth, pull back brown leaves,
lean close scanning the hidden
places.  You have to stand beside
the stone, Martha would tell us,
your trembling hand pressed against       
its cold, hard surface.  You have to enter
the dark cave, Peter whispers, not knowing
what you’ll find. 

You have to sit through the long,
dark night to see the first light of morning,        
to feel the sharp intake of breath
as the sky’s closed eye, cold and gray,
cracks open slowly, then with growing
determination.  This is what you must do
to experience resurrection. 
Syndicated from This Contemplative Life

The Savior we Want

Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good. God’s steadfast love endures forever. . . . Save us—Hosanna in Hebrew—Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success! Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. (Psalm 118) This is the hymn that…
Syndicated from Spacious Faith

Waiting for Resurrection

I love to connect with readers, and was thrilled to receive this email comment recently from Shelley K. Hill of Second Baptist Church in Chester, Virginia, reprinted here with her permission:
I am one of the teachers for our Lenten Season this year and we are excited about your book, Christ Is for Us and the journey you are leading us through….We have two Bible study sessions–12 noon and 7pm, both of which have doubled in size since we started this series. We are conducting our evening class in the sanctuary due to the number attending. Thank YOU!!

I am teaching “Waiting for Resurrection” and would love to share any additional insight with the class directly from you….I would be thrilled and honored to hear from you….

I asked Shelley if she might have a specific question for me to answer for her group, and even better than that she sent this reflection:
I am curious as to how you arrived at the title for the fifth Sunday of Lent, “Waiting for Resurrection.” I am fascinated by the word “wait” and all it implies for us on our Christian journey. Psalm 27 implores us to wait on the Lord. Revelation calls us to wait as it speaks to us of things to come. But what happens during the period of waiting? Are we waiting for Easter Sunday to be reminded of how Jesus suffered for our iniquities?  Or is it that God is waiting for us to be resurrected —revived to a new way of thinking and living so that He can shower us with His faithful love?
I appreciate Shelley’s question about the title, Waiting for Resurrection. Titles often come in the midst of my writing or even after a piece of writing seems otherwise finished. But in this case, the title emerged as I pondered the designated lectionary Scripture texts for the week and before I had written a word of this part of the book. In John’s gospel, Martha and Mary had clearly been waiting for Jesus to arrive, for each separately says to him:
Lord, if you have been here, my brother would not have died. – John 11:21, 32
Plus Martha’s response to Jesus indicated that she was waiting for a future resurrection:
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” – John 11:23-24
In Ezekiel, I imagined the valley of dry bones waiting for the Word of the Lord through the prophet:
Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord. – Ezekiel 37:5-6
As Shelley notes, the concept of waiting appears elsewhere in Scripture – waiting for the Lord in Psalm 27 and waiting for things to come in the book of Revelation as she mentions. In Genesis, Abraham and Sarah wait for a son; the prophets wait for the day of the Lord; all Israel waits for the Messiah; and the letters of the New Testament speak of waiting for Christ’s return. So waiting runs through Scripture–it’s a rich image, and a rich spiritual practice as well.

In Scripture, waiting is full of expectation, so in that way I think of it as an active time. Waiting as portrayed in the psalms includes praying, singing, lamenting, worship.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27:14

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
    and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? – Psalm 13:1-2

For Mary as the mother of Jesus, waiting included spending time with her relative, Elizabeth, and pouring over Scripture as in her song in the gospel of Luke.

My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name. – Luke 1:46-49

So we might well ask ourselves,

How do we wait for resurrection?
How are we to live in this time of waiting?
The Romans text for this week points to part of the answer, for Romans 8:6-11 contrasts a life based on selfishness with a life based on the Spirit. On the one hand, selfishness means hostility to God and leads to sin and death. On the other, the life of the Spirit means peace and a life pleasing to God. The text ends with a reference to the resurrection of Jesus:

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. – Romans 8:11

Just as the Spirit of God raised Jesus from the dead, God gives life to us through that same Spirit. Even while we’re waiting for resurrection, we can experience the resurrection power of God that transforms our lives in practical, daily living.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: How is the life-giving resurrection power of God transforming your life?
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Syndicated from April Yamasaki

Call to Worship for Lent 5A

This call to worship is based on Psalm 130: In the wilderness we cry out to our God. In the wilderness our souls wait. In the wilderness we hope in God’s word. In the wilderness we know God’s steadfast love. And so, in the wilderness we worship together.
Syndicated from Spacious Faith

Vlog 29: Lent

The vloggers discuss the season of Lent. After Ryan introduces the question with some inspiration from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Steve responds with why he is fasting from Lent (not fasting for Lent) this year. Deborah concludes by talking about the 40 Acts practice she took part in last year, learning from and participating alongside activists. Apple Podcasts | Android | Email | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS

First Sunday in Lent: The Old Testament Passage – “Look, but don’t touch?” It’s our choice!

It is another jam-packed week, beloved readers. Having had Transfiguration Sunday, we now move into Lent. And the first major day in Lent is Ash Wednesday. Before Wednesday, however, I want to put us in a frame of mind to understand what Ash Wednesday is, and why we need it. Then when Wednesday comes, we will consider some of the passages that make up that day.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2:15 – 17)

“Look, but don’t touch!” That is a caution that most parents give at least once. Because in the world of a toddler there is so much to see and experience, but also so much that small hands should leave alone. Even some adults have a hard time keeping their hands off of/out of things that they should not meddle in. And the warning from our Divine Parent is often not heeded.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman,”Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'”
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Chapter 3, verses 1 – 5)

“Look, but don’t touch!” Not everything in creation is for all people; some things are specially created for certain people. Not everyone is equally gifted and blessed. People vary widely in their abilities and skills. And while we can admire what another person has, or what they can do, not everything is for every person. Looking, admiring, and enjoying the sight of sometimes have to be enough.

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.” (Verses 6 – 7)

“Look, but don’t touch!” How can it be “sin” to take hold of something and claim it as one’s own? How can it be “sin” to incorporating items and understandings into our selves? How can that be “sin”? Well, technically it is not. But one decision leads to another, that leads to another, and before you know it we are down a path that has unfortunate consequences.

The philosopher might ask why God put something in the garden that was so dangerous? The theologian might ask was original sin inevitable? The psychologist might ask when does a person become self-aware? I am wondering why God created a sneaky snake?!

“Look, but don’t touch!” Free will – we would not be human without it. If there was not something in the garden that tested humanity, how would humanity learn? Just as the Lord God created a tree/fruit that was unhealthy and allowed a creature that personified temptation, the Lord God also sent a Messiah that we must deliberately chose to follow and emulate.

We can chose to hold onto disbelief; or we can believe in God. That is the primary task of new believers, who are the focus of this lectionary year. We can chose to keep sinning, however we are sinning; or we can chose to confess, do penance, and be forgiven. That was the focus last year. We can continue on our way, struggling with life and faith; or we can renew and recommit ourselves to the Lord God. That is the task of the lectionary year to come. All of these things are our choices; and Ash Wednesday is one of the pivotal days for these choices. May you chose well believed reader! Selah!

Filed under: Revised Common Lectionary Year A 2017 Tagged: Christian Journey, Christian Life, Discipline in the Church, First Sunday of Lent, Old Testament Passage, Reign of God, Revised Common Lectionary, Wisdom
Syndicated from a simple desire

How to Prepare for a Spiritually Enriching Lent

“How do you prepare for Lent?”
The question took me by surprise.

After all, I’ve always thought of Lent as a time of preparation for Easter, so hmmm, what might it mean to prepare for preparing?

For 2017, Lent begins officially with Ash Wednesday on March 1, then lasts until the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday or some say until Holy Saturday. Either way, the Lenten focus on repentance, suffering, and death gives way to the celebration of resurrection and new life on Easter Sunday, April 16.

While the dates for Lent and Easter shift from year to year according to the timing of the March equinox, the seasons of Lent and Easter come each year just as surely as Christmas comes on December 25. As I reflect on this year, I realize that I’ve been preparing for Lent in some specific ways.
Towards Springtime for My Soul
In my introduction to Christ Is for Us, I wrote:
For all of its focus on repentance, suffering, and death,
Lent points forward to springtime for the soul. (tweet this)
These are the ways I’m preparing this year:
Meditating on Scripture
A year and a half ago, I signed a contract with Abingdon Press to write a Lenten Bible study for 2017 based on the Revised Common Lectionary. For the next months, I steeped myself in the Scripture texts designated for the Sundays of Lent and Easter 2017. I wrote short reflections on the Hebrew people in the wilderness, Jesus’ temptation, the raising of Lazarus, Paul’s letter to the Romans, and other Lenten and Easter texts. I added in discussion questions and group activities. I loved living with those lectionary texts, and you can now order the book in time for Lent from your regular book store, or from one of the following for paperback, large print, and e-book formats:


Barnes & Noble

Forming Community
I was delighted to learn that one church in North Carolina has ordered 125 copies (!), and I pray that the book will deepen their relationship with God and their experience of community together. I’m also preparing to lead a Saturday morning small group experience for three weeks during Lent based on Christ Is for Us. If you’re in the Abbotsford area and interested in taking part March 11, 18, 25, 9 a.m.-10:15 a.m., please let me know. I’d love to hear from you!
Spiritual Practice
Instead of subtracting something, some choose to observe Lent by adding a simple spiritual practice. For the last few years, I’ve tried to add a walk to the mailbox as a daily expression of attentiveness and spending time with Jesus. I’m still not as consistent with that as I’d like to be even during Lent, so I’ve decided to re-commit to that again this year.
Giving Up
This year I’m also preparing for Lent by thinking about something to give up. I’ve thought about giving up listening to my car radio (which I’ve done before), potato chips (one of my favourite snacks, but I haven’t had any for weeks now), chocolate (which I tend to eat only on social occasions anyway). For now I’m still thinking about what I might give up for Lent. . . .
Writing/Reflection Prompt
How about you? Are you preparing for the coming season of preparation?How are you preparing for Lent this year?
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Syndicated from April Yamasaki


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