Wednesday, December 24, 2008
On this cold morning, remind me of your warmth and love. Remind me of the only place that I am truly safe, the only place where I can find true hope. All good things come from you and you alone.
You gave the world the gift of a Savior, a gift we have rejected, time and time again. But the gift is still there; Mary had the child, and he grew into a man and showed us how to love and worship you. We fail in our attempts, but we know the light and we look to it, hoping that we will be able to steer our feet to walk that path. We know you and love you, even though we fail.
Remind us of our savior, Jesus Christ. Remind us that our hope is in him, that our life is in him. May we cherish and celebrate the gift of a Savior this and every day.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
You are everything. You are my hope, my joy and my life. You are the sun that filters in through the window and warms me, bringing a smile to my face as I recall all that is possible through you. You are the song that I begin to remember as I see beauty and wonder and my soul bursts forth in singing at the thought of you and your love. You are laughter upon my lips and thanksgiving in my heart. You are incredible.
And you change everything. You challenge and push me outside of my comfort zone to go and love as you loved. You constantly force me to consider how I am living and what I am really doing here. You are alive and at work within my soul, and I praise you for that. You have conquered sin and death, and you continue to work in me so that I might be entirely yours forever and ever.
I love this quote because it levels the playing field; it brings to mind the notion of priesthood of all believers. It doesn't say the one who is righteous will own the biggest house, cook the finest meal, pray with the loudest voice, memorize the most passages of Scripture, condemn the most people for sinning or give the most in church. It says that the righteous one will live by faith. What are the outward signs of faith? Love and service to God and neighbor. Now for some this may mean cooking a fine meal or giving a lot of money, but it will mean something different for each person, for each one of us has different gifts, and using those gifts to love and serve God and neighbor is different for each person. Do not be afraid to be different, to be unique, and to use the gifts you are blessed with to serve each and every child of God on this earth.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Money cannot solve all of our problems. We cannot buy our way out of loneliness and the emptiness around us. We have to invest our time and our energy, but by investing ourselves in each other, in society, in actively working towards taking part in God's mission around us, shouldn't that change how we spend the money we have?
You are the rock beneath my feet, even when I choose to run. You are the arms that encircle me, even when I am restless and cannot be still. You are the living water for my soul, although I often turn to alternatives to try and parch my ravenous thirst. You are the bread of life, but I seek out other vendors to curb my endless appetite.
You are all that I need and yet I often turn from you to seek out other desires. You are love, joy, peace and grace, and yet I fail to know you, to love you, to treasure you like I should. I forget your grace and love, and remember the empty gifts I have been given by the world. I seek after those treasures first, forgetting what will be around last.
Remind me of your grace and love, throughout the day, and may each reminder, each brush on the cheek by the wings of your angels, be a renewal of my love and devotion to you.
First, what do you do? What is the first thing you do in the morning? The first thing you do at work? At school? What comes first? Do we pray first? Do we rejoice first that one more day has come and we have the opportunity to go forth in joy and thanksgiving? Or do we simply accept the reality of another morning and go about our business as though this was no miracle, no gift of God, but another day to slog through? I believe strongly in miracles, and that each day is one. May we be a people of thanksgiving, of rejoicing, of praise and prayer, first thing in the morning and all the day long.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
You are grace and peace. You are Lord and King. You reign supreme in heaven and on earth. You are above all and in all. You are the source and reason for our joy. May we celebrate you in our lives. May all we do point to you, and as we spread the word of your amazing joy may we do so filled with grace and peace. May you give us the strength to set aside our quarreling, lay down our anger, push aside our differences, and agree on your grace and peace, starting from that point and going out into the world to share your love. You spent your time with strangers and sinners; we spend our time with friends and those we hold in high esteem. Send us out into your world to love, to share, to proclaim the good news of your coming kingdom, and of the salvation that has already come to me, a sinner, a man of unclean lips made new, washed in the blood of the lamb.
Grace and peace. May you each be filled with it this Saturday. May you be so filled with it that it sloshes around, overflowing the rims of your lives and splashing into the life of your neighbors and friends. May grace and peace be so tangible in your life that you know the sound of peace flowing like a river, and you know the way your soul lifts when you remember the grace you have been given. May grace and peace rise like the morning sun and stay aloft, the guiding star in the days and nights of your lives, a beacon, shining for all to see, that leads your forward as you serve Christ the King. Grace and Peace.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! We’ll pick back up on the 9th. Safe travels to all who will be heading out of town.
The PW are putting on a luncheon in appreciation of the choir and their gifts after church this Sunday!
The Christmas Eve candlelight service is at 7 PM!
I am never sure what to do about the cascade of violence that seems to rain down upon Africa. So I pray.
Curious about why we celebrate Christmas on December 25?
I don’t remember if I included this link yet or not. La Paz De Dios is a local agency working to connect the Hispanic community to the Chattanooga community.
The cleansing of Stalin’s legacy.
Who else would you have picked to lead the charge?
Fighting sex trafficking.
Church History Quiz (Answer Below)
Q: What was the crime Joan of Arc was found guilty of?
Text for Sunday, December 21
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
A Reading from the Confessions
THE SECOND HELVETIC CONFESSION 5.226
THE FESTIVALS OF CHRIST AND THE SAINTS.
Moreover, if in Christian liberty the churches religiously celebrate the memory of the Lord’s nativity, circumcision, passion, resurrection, and of his ascension into heaven, and the sending of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, we approve of it highly.
Did you know Christmas is not mentioned once in the Book of Confessions? I learned that today.
The Monastic Moment (from The Monastic Way.)
We are made in the very image of God, so we are mystery. We are question, infinite question. We can avoid living in the question only by avoiding our true self, devoting ourselves to building up a false self made up of what I do, what I have, what others think of me. We want to have ‘the answer’—the answer that will answer all, so that we can have everything under control, so that we can sense the power.
God is the answer. And God is mystery, God is the question. (Basil Pennington OSB)
Church History Answer
She was accused of heresy for claiming to receive orders from heaven, for insisting that these orders were given to her in French, and for dressing as a man. She had visions of Saints Catherine and Margaret and the archangel Michael ordering her to lead troops to break the siege of Orleans. She convinced Charles VII to allow her to bring in supplies and lead sorties to take enemy camps. Once the siege was broken all of France rallied around her and she stood by Charles’ side when he was crowned in Reims. The king would not allow her to return to her village, and so she continued fighting until she was captured by the English and sold to the bishop of Beauvais, who wanted to try her as a heretic and a witch. She initially agreed to recant her statements, but the Saints spoke to her again and rebuked her for this. As a consequence she was taken to the Old Market Square in Rouen and burned alive.
(Answer taken from Justo Gonzalez’s The Story of Christianity, Volume I, pg. 326-7)
My feet are moving slowly this morning. Grant me your strength to continue in the ways you would have me walk. Grant me the strength to be even stronger, Lord, and go from my feet to my knees, so that I might spend more time in prayer. You have promised to hear our prayers, and yet I disregard this promise and try to tear through life on my own terms. Help me realize your strength and your love and to call upon these throughout the day. Make me a servant of your peace, connected to you in all I do. May my words call out to you and offer my very self to you and your ways.
22-23Jesus said, "If I want him to live until I come again, what's that to you? You—follow me." That is how the rumor got out among the brothers that this disciple wouldn't die. But that is not what Jesus said. He simply said, "If I want him to live until I come again, what's that to you?"
24This is the same disciple who was eyewitness to all these things and wrote them down. And we all know that his eyewitness account is reliable and accurate.
25There are so many other things Jesus did. If they were all written down, each of them, one by one, I can't imagine a world big enough to hold such a library of books.
*************Isn't that exactly what we believe? That Christ is so much bigger than what we conceive, and yet even this Christ was not too big to come to earth, to hear our individual thoughts and prayers, and abide with us. No matter how big God is, we are not lost in the crowd. This is the Jesus who, in the midst of a giant crowd, turns and speaks to the bleeding woman who touched the hem of his cloak. This is the Jesus who, even when he was busy dying on the cross, was not too busy to save a thief. This is the Jesus who is with us now, each and every day.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Thank you. For the gift of today. For the Gospel quartet that sang last night. For the warmth of a hug. For the love of a kitten. Thank you.
You alone are God. I still try to find ways to make myself God. I replace You with empty idols, with worldly comforts and monetary rewards. Still You remain.
You alone are the light. I hide in the shadows, ashamed of my ways, uncertain of your love, unaware of your presence. Still you abide, you love, you illumine.
You are the path. I make my own maps, blaze my own trails, create my own empty diversions and convince myself that entertainment is more important than faithfulness. Still, like a rock along the shore, you remain strong and faithful to me, gentle, yet stern, loving, yet powerful.
You are the way. I expend so much time and energy trying to create my own ways, my own life, my own little world, forgetting all that you have given, and not realizing how great your promises for the future are. Still, you are true. You are good, gracious and loving.
May I not forget your goodness, your grace, your love and faithfulness. Grant me the wisdom, courage and guidance of your Spirit so that, day by day, I might grow a little closer to you.
"Yes, Master, you know I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
16He then asked a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
"Yes, Master, you know I love you."
Jesus said, "Shepherd my sheep."
17-19Then he said it a third time: "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, "Do you love me?" so he answered, "Master, you know everything there is to know. You've got to know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I'm telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you'll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don't want to go." He said this to hint at the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And then he commanded, "Follow me."
How would Peter answer this? Jesus tells him how Peter will die, and then commands, 'follow me.' Most of us would run the other way given the opportunity. Perhaps Peter thought about it. Jesus questions his love and then hints at his death. This was Peter's chance to save himself.
He didn't take it. He followed Jesus, and indeed he died for it. How could he have stopped following a man he knew had just been raised from the dead? Jesus had been flogged, beaten and crucified, and yet here he sat, commanding Peter to follow him. Peter wasn't perfect; he was emotional and didn't always think before he spoke. But Peter loved Jesus. Jesus knew that; so Jesus asked a lot of Peter.
Jesus asks a lot of us as well. Jesus knows our love for Him. He knows our weaknesses as well. But He keeps coming to us, commanding us to follow Him, knowing full well the consequences and our fears, but coming back, asking about our love and commanding us to serve Him in all we do.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
3-4The rest of them replied, "We're going with you." They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. When the sun came up, Jesus was standing on the beach, but they didn't recognize him.
5Jesus spoke to them: "Good morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?"
They answered, "No."
6He said, "Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens."
They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren't strong enough to pull it in.
7-9Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, "It's the Master!"
When Simon Peter realized that it was the Master, he threw on some clothes, for he was stripped for work, and dove into the sea. The other disciples came in by boat for they weren't far from land, a hundred yards or so, pulling along the net full of fish. When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire laid, with fish and bread cooking on it.
10-11Jesus said, "Bring some of the fish you've just caught." Simon Peter joined them and pulled the net to shore—153 big fish! And even with all those fish, the net didn't rip.
12Jesus said, "Breakfast is ready." Not one of the disciples dared ask, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Master.
13-14Jesus then took the bread and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus had shown himself alive to the disciples since being raised from the dead.
This is one of my favorite Bible stories. I love the mental image of Jesus sitting on the beach, with some fresh fish over a fire. Peter is so excited he can't wait for the ship to come to shore; instead he puts on his clothes and hops overboard. The last time Peter had done this (In Matthew) he ended up flailing around in the water while Jesus was walking on it! Breakfast is ready. Jesus is serving.
Jesus does not only give us spiritual strength. Jesus provides for us in real ways as well. We do not always recognize them as miracles, but they are. Jesus sends people in and out of our lives who help us after those long, rocky nights in the turbulent seas of our lives. When I was in a boat that seemed ready to sink, just before I plunged to the depths a man came into my life and helped me understand what hope in Christ was. When I needed something steady to hold on to, he showed me how to anchor life to Christ. He wasn't preachy or harsh, but rather strong and kind. He gave me what I needed; an example to live by. May we realize that Christ uses us in miraculous ways, and may we be grateful for the gifts God sends into our lives.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Thank you for the stars across the sky and the love within my heart. Thank you for the ability to hope in today and the freedom to work for you. Thank you for the people you have surrounded me with and the mentors I have had through the years. You have been, and still are, preparing me to work for your kingdom. Give me the strength to do that work with joy.
Lord, we all pray for wisdom to understand where you are leading us. Help me to understand what you are calling me to do. Help me to hear your voice, that still, silent voice, and to work tirelessly in pursuit of its call. Lord, teach me to be patient, not to try and grasp you, but to allow you to work in your time, and in your ways. You are the Lord of all; I am your creation. Help me remember that.
In my times of temptation and weakness, teach me your ways, strengthen me by your word, and lead me in your footsteps so that I might testify to you and your truth.
24-25But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, "We saw the Master."
But he said, "Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won't believe it."
26Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, "Peace to you."
27Then he focused his attention on Thomas. "Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don't be unbelieving. Believe."
28Thomas said, "My Master! My God!"
29Jesus said, "So, you believe because you've seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing."
30-31Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.
Believe. It's a giant leap of faith to get from a great teacher/healer to the resurrected Son of God. Thomas kept coming back, kept showing up, so he had curiosities, questions, interest. He didn't give up on the idea, but it took some struggling inside for him to come to faith.
So go ahead, ask your big questions. Don't be afraid of being cast out into the outer darkness because you're not sure of the answer; instead use them as an opportunity to grow and understand. Faith seeking understanding is a theological term meaning we believe, and yet there is so much more we need to learn. As the the big questions and learn from the conversations that follow; Jesus Christ, the bedrock of our faith, will be there for us as we search.
Monday, December 15, 2008
You speak and creation begins. Your words are more powerful than we can ever imagine. You rule over such broad expanses that to begin to comprehend it all sends my mind spinning and I am overcome by vastness that I cannot understand. You are God; your ways and thoughts are not my own, and I struggle to begin to think about you. I want to know your ways and your will for my life, but I cannot remove myself from my human ways of thinking. For that I depend on you revealing yourself to us, which you have done in Jesus Christ.
I praise you for the gift of Christ, the babe in the manger, the teacher in the streets, the healer in the gutters, the Savior on a cross. He is God with us, and we are tripping over ourselves as we try to crowd around him to see him, touch him, speak with him. Our lives are given over to the service of you, and we rejoice at the gift of a Savior, a leader, a shepherd. I can now understand that you are grace and love because that is what I have seen in Christ. I can now know you because I know Christ. I can go forth in love because I have seen what you are calling us to do. I can rejoice and praise your name because I know how great and powerful you are. Thank you, Lord, for coming down and showing us what it means for you to be God.
20-21The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: "Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you."
22-23Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. "Receive the Holy Spirit," he said. "If you forgive someone's sins, they're gone for good. If you don't forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?"
Jesus enters our locked doors. We think we can close ourselves off from the world, safe and secure on our own. Then Jesus barges in, and before we can think to protest, He gives us peace and sends us out on a mission of forgiveness and love. What are we going to do with those grudges we are holding on to? Those wounds we keep, reminding ourselves of how another has hurt us, aren't helping us move forward in life. What are we planning on doing with those? To all of our situations, Jesus wanders in, filled with power and might, and rather than yelling at us and telling us how we've got it all wrong, he gives us peace first, then hands out our mission. The God we love speaks grace and peace first. May we do the same.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Thank you for the gift of this morning. I look outside and there is ice covering everything, and I am so grateful to be inside. So many are stranded outside, forever in search of a warm place to live and a fire to warm their feet by; remind me of how grateful I am called to be, and what I am to do with that gratitude. Turn my thankfulness into holy living, living devoted to you.
Your beauty hangs from the trees this morning, and it is written across the handrail on our deck. It sparkles as the light dances across its surface, and from somewhere deep within it is singing your praises. You are the one who writes love into the ice, who speaks through the lingering fog, who creates and enjoys. You are the one who has written your name across the stars and through the grass; you are the one who has left your calling card in the nook of every tree and in the song of every bird. You are the one to whom I cry out, "Praise and joy and wonder and thanksgiving and power and might!" You are the one to whom I cry out in my silent prayers. You are the one to whom I pray, sing and dance. You are the one I am grateful for, now and forever.
13-14"They took my Master," she said, "and I don't know where they put him." After she said this, she turned away and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn't recognize him.
15Jesus spoke to her, "Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?"
She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, "Mister, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him."
16Jesus said, "Mary."
Turning to face him, she said in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" meaning "Teacher!"
17Jesus said, "Don't cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, 'I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.'"
18Mary Magdalene went, telling the news to the disciples: "I saw the Master!" And she told them everything he said to her.
One of the interesting arguments I've heard about Christianity is that part of the reason/evidence for the truth of the resurrection is the fact that women are the messengers of the resurrection. In those times, women would not have been as reliable sources as men, so if the early Christians were going to fabricate a story it would have been far more likely for them to have men be the ones who spread the news. But Jesus never works in the ways we expect Him to work. He eats with sinners, spends time with the hurt, the poor and the ill, and appears to Mary, the one who stood weeping outside the tomb. She needed hope, joy, light in her life, and Jesus brings all those things. I cannot imagine what that must have been like to have the world beneath your feet shattered and then suddenly pieced back together by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but that is exactly what happens to Mary on this joyous Easter morning, when she comes to face to face with the risen Christ, just as in our baptisms we die to our sins and are joined in the resurrection of Christ. The question is, how do we help one another see the joy we have? What do we do with the knowledge of the risen Lord? How do we share the news?
Friday, December 12, 2008
You offer us the sun so that we might bask in its light, just as you offer your Son so that we might see and understand the Light. Thank you for the gift of today, this opportunity to learn more about you, to grow closer to you, to worship and adore you. Thank you for blessing me with another chance to proclaim your name, the name above all names. Thank you for this time, these prayers, this love that knows no ends. You have promised to hear my voice when I cry to you, and I take advantage of that, because what a gift it is to be able to talk to the Almighty God of the universe.
You are the one who has set my feet in motion, giving me the urge to live for you. Help me find the strength to do the things I am afraid to do. Help me find the wisdom to ask you when I do not know what to do. Help me find the humility to accept the leadership of others when I overwhelmed and exhausted.
You are the ruler of the sun and the sky, and I bow before your Almighty throne, praying glory to God in the highest, and peace here on earth.
3-10Peter and the other disciple left immediately for the tomb. They ran, neck and neck. The other disciple got to the tomb first, outrunning Peter. Stooping to look in, he saw the pieces of linen cloth lying there, but he didn't go in. Simon Peter arrived after him, entered the tomb, observed the linen cloths lying there, and the kerchief used to cover his head not lying with the linen cloths but separate, neatly folded by itself. Then the other disciple, the one who had gotten there first, went into the tomb, took one look at the evidence, and believed. No one yet knew from the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. The disciples then went back home.
He went in and believed. We are told that the linen cloths were neatly folded because if grave robbers had taken the body, they wouldn't have bothered to fold the cloths, but rather would have thrown them about. Regardless, even with this evidence, it is a giant leap of faith to say that he believed Jesus was risen from the dead. How many other thoughts might have rushed through his mind, I don't know. But he saw and believed.
We are called to take the same leap of faith. We often find ourselves staring into a tomb. It might even feel like we are standing in one. But we see evidence, through the outreach of a church or the love of a friend, that points to a greater love, and we are called to believe. We need to believe. We need to recognize and understand what is at work in our lives, and realize that the tomb in which we are standing is not a permanent place for us. Only by seeing and believing can we burst forth from the tomb and go tell others what we have seen, that Jesus Christ, Lord of Heaven and Earth, has raised us from the dead.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
You alone are the master of this world. You are our God and King, and when we lift our voices to the heavens, you have promised to hear them and to be present with us. You know our hopes and our dreams, and you have your own hopes and dreams for us. Yet in the darkness of our lives, we struggle to see and understand your dreams. We fail to see through the veil we erect to separate our lives from you. We want comfort and security; with you there is challenge and growth, new life and new creation. That terrifies us. We are not ready for you and the lifestyle you call us to.
Make us new, Lord. From the inside out, renew our thoughts and our ways. Guide our feet along the path. Walk with us, night and day, and help us see how your ways are better than ours, how your thoughts are bigger than ours, how your love is truer than ours. Help us understand who you are, and whose we are. May we see the truth and love in you, and help us to train our eyes to better understand how to seek that in our own lives.
38After 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. 39Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41Now 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. 42And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
There would be no story if it ended here. There would have been wailing, and grieving, and it would have been the end of Jesus of Nazareth. Today we would not read a Christmas story to our children; we would not wonder how the wisemen took such a journey of faith; we would never imagine water would become wine; we would not have the words of Jesus to push us and challenge our comfort. As long as Jesus was in the tomb, humanity wept at its loss, just as His followers wept. It was the darkest day of their lives, as this man they had invested everything in had been killed.
What are the dark corners of your life? What are the things that cause you to weep, to mourn? Do not believe that you are weak because of them. Do not believe that you must ignore or defeat them. Christianity, a religion filled with hope and joy, acknowledges the pains and agonies of life. They are a part of our story, and while we know how the story ends, that does not mean that pain and grief will not be a part of our walk. It simply means that our God will be with us and understands our pain. Weep and mourn, but do not believe that God abandons you in those times, for God never abandons us.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
It has been a long day. It has been filled with stress and moments of grace, and I am weary. I am tired and yet my day is not over; there are still steps to take before I complete this lap of the race you have set before me. Grant me your strength and courage to proclaim your word as I go forth for the remainder of the day. Grant me your wisdom and peace to have confidence in myself because I have confidence in you. Grant me your silence so that I may not hear the crashing cymbals of the outside world, but that I may hear the still, small voice whispering to my soul assuring me that you are here, now, and will be with me always.
Surround me as I go through this wet and rainy day. As the drops cascade down upon my head, upon my back, before and after me, may your grace do the same, anointing me in your love. You are the God who gives beyond our ability to recognize, the God who offers more than we can ever imagine--stretch my mind to consider your grace, your love and your faithfulness. Help me to understand your ways, so that my life might be transformed by your Holy Spirit so that I might more fully take part in your mission here in this world.
On rainy days I love to sit inside and watch the rain beat down upon our deck. Thank you, Lord, for a dry place to sit in the rain. Thank you, Lord, for the chance to be indoors, safe from the cold and the rain. Thank you, Lord, for the blessings you have given. So many in this world are homeless, with no place to hide from the elements. Open my eyes so that I might see how the world around me suffers when it rains.
As I go into this world today, Lord, may I go forward and speak words of grace and love. May I reach out to others, may I offer myself, may your words form my words and guide my feet so that I might be used by you for your service. May I do all things in love and peace.
They took Jesus away. Carrying his cross, Jesus went out to the place called Skull Hill (the name in Hebrew is Golgotha), where they crucified him, and with him two others, one on each side, Jesus in the middle. Pilate wrote a sign and had it placed on the cross. It read:
jesus the nazarene
the king of the jews.
20-21Many of the Jews read the sign because the place where Jesus was crucified was right next to the city. It was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. The Jewish high priests objected. "Don't write," they said to Pilate, "'The King of the Jews.' Make it, 'This man said, "I am the King of the Jews."'"
22Pilate said, "What I've written, I've written."
23-24When they crucified him, the Roman soldiers took his clothes and divided them up four ways, to each soldier a fourth. But his robe was seamless, a single piece of weaving, so they said to each other, "Let's not tear it up. Let's throw dice to see who gets it." This confirmed the Scripture that said, "They divided up my clothes among them and threw dice for my coat." (The soldiers validated the Scriptures!)
24-27While the soldiers were looking after themselves, Jesus' mother, his aunt, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene stood at the foot of the cross. Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her. He said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that moment the disciple accepted her as his own mother.
28Jesus, seeing that everything had been completed so that the Scripture record might also be complete, then said, "I'm thirsty."
29-30A jug of sour wine was standing by. Someone put a sponge soaked with the wine on a javelin and lifted it to his mouth. After he took the wine, Jesus said, "It's done . . . complete." Bowing his head, he offered up his spirit.
Can you imagine standing at the foot of the cross, watching your friend and teacher die? Can you imagine the horror of watching him suffer through a slow and agonizing death? Can you imagine the tears that were shed, the cries for mercy, for peace, that echoed from the heavens? The pain and agony would have been too much to bear.
And yet can you imagine life without this day? Can you imagine what we would hope in if our sins were not washed clean in the blood of Christ? Can you imagine what we might think of God if we had no Christ to show us who God is? Can you imagine what we would make of life if we didn't understand how God was calling us to live? The pain and agony were not too high a price for God to pay so that we might live in right relationship, in love and freedom, free to choose to live for God.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Your beauty overwhelms me as I watch the sunrise through my tiny bathroom window, catching a glimpse of the pink and red hues escaping from the trees and bursting forth into the skies. I am stunned by the range of colors that trace their ways across the skies and I pause for a moment and wonder what it might look like to you. What is beauty to your eyes? Do you erupt with joy at the sunset? Do you weep as the sunrises and the light streams into my world, the light that you created? Do you notice the way the light catches the edges of the leaves on the trees and gives them its brilliance? Or do you miss the light because you are so focused upon the lives of your creations, your children, we who laugh and play and work and live in this world you have made?
As I sit and ponder your vastness, I am filled with one thought: grant me the strength that I might be faithful. Give me your love, so that I might serve my neighbor. Give me a mind that is singularly devoted to you. Give me hope and peace and light and joy so that whatever I do is directed towards you. My paltry acts can in no way give you the recognition that bursts from my heart, but your Spirit enables me to live and pray in such a way that I might have the courage to believe that my acts and my thoughts display my love and affection for you. You are my beginning and end, my love and my goal; grant that I may live these days in such a way that you are aware of my deep and steadfast devotion to you.
As for my failings? I weep over them. I shed tears that I have strayed from what you would have me do. I watch with sorrow as I replay those opportunities that I have missed to serve you. I mourn for time wasted without you. May my life be lived in service, in worship and in the presence of the Holy Spirit, constantly seeking out ways to glorify and proclaim the Good News of Eternal Hope that we have in Jesus Christ our Lord.
8-9When Pilate heard this, he became even more scared. He went back into the palace and said to Jesus, "Where did you come from?"
Jesus gave no answer.
10Pilate said, "You won't talk? Don't you know that I have the authority to pardon you, and the authority to—crucify you?"
11Jesus said, "You haven't a shred of authority over me except what has been given you from heaven. That's why the one who betrayed me to you has committed a far greater fault."
12At this, Pilate tried his best to pardon him, but the Jews shouted him down: "If you pardon this man, you're no friend of Caesar's. Anyone setting himself up as 'king' defies Caesar."
13-14When Pilate heard those words, he led Jesus outside. He sat down at the judgment seat in the area designated Stone Court (in Hebrew, Gabbatha). It was the preparation day for Passover. The hour was noon. Pilate said to the Jews, "Here is your king."
15They shouted back, "Kill him! Kill him! Crucify him!"
Pilate said, "I am to crucify your king?"
The high priests answered, "We have no king except Caesar."
The words of the high priests are the words of us all; we freely swear our allegiance to those who do not deserve it, who have not earned it, who have no real power in this world. We promise to be loyal to those who protect our lives, rather than the One who has created our life and seeks to enrich it with the Spirit. We are led, easily, by promises of riches and success, when the One who loves us would offer us faithfulness and endurance. We have our choice before us; who will be our King? To whom will we swear our allegiance? Who will hear our thoughts, have our time and our prayers, and be the One upon whom we shower our affections? Will it be the temporary powers of this world, or the timeless God of heaven and earth?
Monday, December 8, 2008
4-5Pilate went back out again and said to them, "I present him to you, but I want you to know that I do not find him guilty of any crime." Just then Jesus came out wearing the thorn crown and purple robe.
Pilate announced, "Here he is: the Man."
6When the high priests and police saw him, they shouted in a frenzy, "Crucify! Crucify!"
Pilate told them, "You take him. You crucify him. I find nothing wrong with him."
7The Jews answered, "We have a law, and by that law he must die because he claimed to be the Son of God."
To think they only properly identified Jesus as a King in mockery! He deserved a crown, but not one we could make with our hands. He was more kingly than we could have imagined, while Pilate and other leaders showed an inability to take a stand. Pilate passed off responsibility for the life of Jesus, while the Jews did not want to punish him by their own laws. They wanted him dead, and the Romans needed to do that. The followers of Jesus could do nothing but weep. It often feels like we are in similar positions, watching as those in power make decisions that affect us all, that change our lives, and we can do nothing but wait. As we wait, as our lives change, let us remember our King, our Lord of Lords, the one who holds true power in his hand. As we wait, let us pray, and serve one another in humility and faithfulness.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
30They said, "If he hadn't been doing something evil, do you think we'd be here bothering you?"
31-32Pilate said, "You take him. Judge him by your law."
The Jews said, "We're not allowed to kill anyone." (This would confirm Jesus' word indicating the way he would die.)
33Pilate went back into the palace and called for Jesus. He said, "Are you the 'King of the Jews'?"
34Jesus answered, "Are you saying this on your own, or did others tell you this about me?"
35Pilate said, "Do I look like a Jew? Your people and your high priests turned you over to me. What did you do?"
36"My kingdom," said Jesus, "doesn't consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn't be handed over to the Jews. But I'm not that kind of king, not the world's kind of king."
37Then Pilate said, "So, are you a king or not?"
Jesus answered, "You tell me. Because I am King, I was born and entered the world so that I could witness to the truth. Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice."
38-39Pilate said, "What is truth?"
Then he went back out to the Jews and told them, "I find nothing wrong in this man. It's your custom that I pardon one prisoner at Passover. Do you want me to pardon the 'King of the Jews'?"
40They shouted back, "Not this one, but Barabbas!" Barabbas was a Jewish freedom fighter.
This sure gets complicated. What is a King? What is Truth? Jesus Christ is both, but the kind that Pilate wouldn't recognize. His vision was so caught up in the world's view of power and truth he wouldn't have been able to see that Jesus was a different kind of kind, a different king of truth, one that loves without end and has mercy big enough for us all. Jesus is the kind of king who runs to us, rather than waiting on our being brought to him. Jesus is the kind of truth who is eternal, not relative to the here and now. Jesus is the answer to all of Pilate's questions, dreams and hopes, but he fails to see it, and hands him over. We often do the same, but we know the end of the story, and know that Jesus picks us up, sets us on our feet, and embraces us in his eternal and undying love.
Friday, December 5, 2008
25Meanwhile, Simon Peter was back at the fire, still trying to get warm. The others there said to him, "Aren't you one of his disciples?"
He denied it, "Not me."
26One of the Chief Priest's servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said, "Didn't I see you in the garden with him?"
27Again, Peter denied it. Just then a rooster crowed.
Perhaps this is one of the most hopeful passages in the Bible. Why? Peter doesn't appear again until John 20:2, when Mary tells him the stone has been rolled away. Peter rushes to the garden and goes into the tomb, finding nothing but the cloths that had wrapped the body of Christ. From a place of denial Peter is one of the first to see the empty tomb.
This passage gives me hope because there are too many times in my life when I have denied Christ, through words or actions. I have sought after worldly things and turned my back on Godly things. I have failed to study or pray, failed to grow and challenge myself. Yet there is hope for me. Even though Peter turned his back on Christ, just as all of humanity turned against Christ, just as I have turned from Christ, Christ never turns His back on us. Christ doesn't give up on us, release us from His loving arms, or allow us to wallow in despair or darkness. Christ is with us, Christ seeks us, loves us, pursues us and treasures us. Christ gives us second, third and fourth chances, and when we fail at those, Christ still is with us, holding our heads up so we can see the light. Even when we fail gloriously like Peter, there is still hope for us as disciples of the Risen Lord.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
15-16Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. That other disciple was known to the Chief Priest, and so he went in with Jesus to the Chief Priest's courtyard. Peter had to stay outside. Then the other disciple went out, spoke to the doorkeeper, and got Peter in.
17The young woman who was the doorkeeper said to Peter, "Aren't you one of this man's disciples?"
He said, "No, I'm not."
18The servants and police had made a fire because of the cold and were huddled there warming themselves. Peter stood with them, trying to get warm.
The Interrogation19-21Annas interrogated Jesus regarding his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered, "I've spoken openly in public. I've taught regularly in meeting places and the Temple, where the Jews all come together. Everything has been out in the open. I've said nothing in secret. So why are you treating me like a conspirator? Question those who have been listening to me. They know well what I have said. My teachings have all been aboveboard."
22When he said this, one of the policemen standing there slapped Jesus across the face, saying, "How dare you speak to the Chief Priest like that!"
23Jesus replied, "If I've said something wrong, prove it. But if I've spoken the plain truth, why this slapping around?"
24Then Annas sent him, still tied up, to the Chief Priest Caiaphas.
Our desire to tie up Jesus has been causing us problems since this event. We want to tame him, have him close by and able to fix our problems. We want Jesus under our control, so he will bless our actions and not push us any farther than we are willing to go.
We cannot bind up Jesus in our desires to live free of the demands of Christianity. If we live according to a Scripture that doesn't continue to challenge the way we live and think, the way we spend our time as well as our money, then we are trying to tie up Jesus. If we live in constant prayer, with an attitude of constant worship, and a constant awareness of the love of God that calls us to be Christians in every time and place, then we are allowing Jesus to be free in our lives, pushing and challenging us, while always loving us more than we can ever imagine.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
2-4Judas, his betrayer, knew the place because Jesus and his disciples went there often. So Judas led the way to the garden, and the Roman soldiers and police sent by the high priests and Pharisees followed. They arrived there with lanterns and torches and swords. Jesus, knowing by now everything that was coming down on him, went out and met them. He said, "Who are you after?"
They answered, "Jesus the Nazarene."
5-6He said, "That's me." The soldiers recoiled, totally taken aback. Judas, his betrayer, stood out like a sore thumb.
7Jesus asked again, "Who are you after?"
They answered, "Jesus the Nazarene."
8-9"I told you," said Jesus, "that's me. I'm the one. So if it's me you're after, let these others go." (This validated the words in his prayer, "I didn't lose one of those you gave.")
10Just then Simon Peter, who was carrying a sword, pulled it from its sheath and struck the Chief Priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. Malchus was the servant's name.
11Jesus ordered Peter, "Put back your sword. Do you think for a minute I'm not going to drink this cup the Father gave me?"
Weep for a moment. Stop and let the tears fall for the Son of God; here we stood, before the purest gift that has ever been given. Here we were, before God incarnate, glimpsing through the holes of heaven into the eternal and trying desperately to understand what it means that God has come to us, and we betrayed him, turned him over, for being too different than what we expected. Weep for a moment. Let the tears fall for humanity, who didn't recognize a Savior and when it did, didn't want it. Those few who did ran for safety, but most were so opposed they stormed into the garden, ready to put an end to the Savior they didn't want, who gave them a glimpse into a life they weren't ready for. Weep for a moment, and as the ground grows damp with our tears of sorrow, weep with joy, for in spite of all of this, inspire of our best efforts to kill Jesus of Nazareth, we are saved by His blood today.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
13-19Now I'm returning to you.
I'm saying these things in the world's hearing
So my people can experience
My joy completed in them.
I gave them your word;
The godless world hated them because of it,
Because they didn't join the world's ways,
Just as I didn't join the world's ways.
I'm not asking that you take them out of the world
But that you guard them from the Evil One.
They are no more defined by the world
Than I am defined by the world.
Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth;
Your word is consecrating truth.
In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world,
I give them a mission in the world.
I'm consecrating myself for their sakes
So they'll be truth-consecrated in their mission.
20-23I'm praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they'll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they'll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you've sent me and loved them
In the same way you've loved me.
24-26Father, I want those you gave me
To be with me, right where I am,
So they can see my glory, the splendor you gave me,
Having loved me
Long before there ever was a world.
Righteous Father, the world has never known you,
But I have known you, and these disciples know
That you sent me on this mission.
I have made your very being known to them—
Who you are and what you do—
And continue to make it known,
So that your love for me
Might be in them
Exactly as I am in them.
This is a prayer of a God who aches for us, who longs to be near us, with us in our midst. When we talk about our God, we don't have to point high into the heavens; we can point to the cross, and to this prayer, and say that, yes, our God loves us so strongly that God comes to us, holds us and sustains us, loves us beyond measure, treasures us each and every day, prays for us, cries with us, laughs with us. Our God loves deeper than the ocean and higher than the highest mountains. God created us out of joy (Can you hear God's excitement: "It is good!") and sustains us out of joy (Can you hear God's joy: "The same glory you gave me, I gave them") and promises to be with us forever (Our God is joyful: "So they might be one heart and mind with us"). Indeed, we proclaim Good News of great joy in our God!
Monday, December 1, 2008
Father, it's time.
Display the bright splendor of your Son
So the Son in turn may show your bright splendor.
You put him in charge of everything human
So he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge.
And this is the real and eternal life:
That they know you,
The one and only true God,
And Jesus Christ, whom you sent.
I glorified you on earth
By completing down to the last detail
What you assigned me to do.
And now, Father, glorify me with your very own splendor,
The very splendor I had in your presence
Before there was a world.
6-12I spelled out your character in detail
To the men and women you gave me.
They were yours in the first place;
Then you gave them to me,
And they have now done what you said.
They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt,
That everything you gave me is firsthand from you,
For the message you gave me, I gave them;
And they took it, and were convinced
That I came from you.
They believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.
I'm not praying for the God-rejecting world
But for those you gave me,
For they are yours by right.
Everything mine is yours, and yours mine,
And my life is on display in them.
For I'm no longer going to be visible in the world;
They'll continue in the world
While I return to you.
Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life
That you conferred as a gift through me,
So they can be one heart and mind
As we are one heart and mind.
As long as I was with them, I guarded them
In the pursuit of the life you gave through me;
I even posted a night watch.
And not one of them got away,
Except for the rebel bent on destruction
(the exception that proved the rule of Scripture).
What were you thankful for this past weekend? What are you thankful for right now? I hope that one of the things you are thankful for is the prayers of Jesus Christ. He hasn't forgotten you. He hasn't abandoned you. He still prays for you. He still aches when you ache. He still celebrates when you are glad. He still longs to hear your voice directed towards him in prayer, in conversation. He loves you and wants you to be faithful to the Scriptures, for Christ knows the only way we can be fulfilled, the only way we can live up to our potential is to recognize how dependent we are on God and live like created beings, faithful to our Creator. Christ wants this for you, prays for this for you, works with the Holy Spirit to guide you so this might be true. Christ loves you more deeply than you can imagine. It's a wonderful thing to be thankful for.