Saturday of Holy Week: Waiting for the Risen Lord

“A mortal, born of woman, few of days and full of trouble, comes up like a flower and withers, flees like a shadow and does not last. Do you fix your eyes on such a one? Do you bring me into judgment with you?” (Job 14:1-3)

It is fitting that this day of mourning we are first presented with Job. Job, who at the beginning of his story has all the things a man can want, and a good relationship to/with God. And suddenly it is all gone.

“Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one can. Since their days are determined, and the number of their months is known to you, and you have appointed the bounds that they cannot pass, look away from them, and desist, that they may enjoy, like laborers, their days.” (Verses 4 – 6)

Although on the first day of Sabbath after Jesus’ death there was little to hope for, from that day forward, there is hope.

“For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease.
Though its root grows old in the earth, and its stump dies in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth branches like a young plant.” (Verses 7 to 9)

The friends and family of Jesus had little hope, because still they thought in human terms. And Job was so “human” in his view of life. It took an encounter with God to break him free from that thinking.

“But mortals die, and are laid low; humans expire, and where are they? As waters fail from a lake, and a river wastes away and dries up, so mortals lie down and do not rise again; until the heavens are no more, they will not awake or be roused out of their sleep. Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath is past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If mortals die, will they live again? All the days of my service I would wait until my release should come.” (Verses 10 – 14)

Normally on the day between Good Friday and Easter, I do not post anything. But as I have said before, this year I want to give you, beloved reader, the full measure of what the Revised Common Lectionary has to offer. Not only are these (which I am posting today) scripture passages used, but other alternate ones as well. And for the Easter vigil that lasts until the morning of Easter there are countless other passages as well. I will not post those, nor make a list. The curious can seek those out for them selves. My focus for today is looking for and waiting for the Risen Lord.

“In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me. You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.” ( Psalm 31:1-4)

And why is it, one might ask, that I wait the Risen Lord? Let scripture answer for me.

“My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.” (Verses 15 to 16)

It is not often that the RCL uses Epistle Passages other than the ones that are attributed to Paul. But this day a different voice is heard. While it may not have been written by Simon Peter who came clumsily to God, stumbling over his humanness. But for me, it is because his humanness sometimes got in the way that appreciate him so much.

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” ( 1 Peter 4:1-8)

From the time Jesus was laid to rest in the tomb, at the beginning hours of the Jewish Sabbath, to the early morning hours after the Jewish Sabbath, the world waited. Waited at that time for they knew not what. Perhaps they did not even know they waited. Perhaps they thought all that Jesus had was a humanness, and like Job, thought that was all and once gone – all that was the person was gone. Can you imagine, beloved reader, thinking that the man you thought was your teacher and best friend was gone and gone forever? I cannot imagine such grief.

“When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate
and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”
So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.” ( Matthew 27:57-66)

At that is where things stood. Jesus was dead and gone. There was nothing left to do. Jewish tradition stated and demanded that nothing be done on the 7th day. And nothing happened at Jesus’ tomb except that there was guards insuring that nothing happened. And all things waited.

Throughout this day, do you know what you are waiting for?

Friday of Holy Week: Being reminded of who Jesus is, and what he did

“See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high.
Just as there were many who were astonished at him–so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals- so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.” (Isaiah 52:13-15)

It would be useless to point out that that the writer of Isaiah may or may not have been writing about Jesus at the time of his crucifixion – so firmly is it in our minds that this is Jesus. It is true, at the time of his death, he was all of this. Both marred and exalted.

“Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53: 1- 4)

In appearance Jesus was just a man, as were his companions and disciples. He did not have an aura or a glow that set him apart. That was a construct that was given to images of him after his death and resurrection. And perhaps the application of the writer of Isaiah’s comments is useful and helpful in this – that written from a distance of time and set apart from the foreknowledge of who/what Jesus Christ would become, we can see and recognize him as just a man.

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Verses 5 – 7)

But unlike most men (and women) he did not try to escape his fate and destiny but embraced it – sought it out, some would say. When good season and self-preservation would tell a person “run away from danger” Jesus journeyed towards it. This is another point that I longed to make concerning the long passage during the Liturgy of the Passion.

“By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the LORD shall prosper. Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Verses 7 – 12)

If the writer of Isaiah was NOT writing about Jesus (and I always reserve for myself the smallest of doubt that he was) I must confess that I do not know who ELSE he might have been writing about. There was no one else like Jesus – not before and not since.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1)

The gospel writers have put these words in Jesus mouth – not that I am saying it was an invention or construct. But simply that the words appear in this psalm and on Jesus’ lips at his crucifixion. But never had the words been said with such anguish. I do have to wonder how applicable the verses of the psalm that follows are to the life of Jesus. Let us read further.

“O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.” (Verse 2)

This may be true, in that Jesus was on the cross for hours.

“Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.” (Verses 3 to 5)

Theses verses seem in sharp contrast to the first verse, that the writer feels forsaken yet extols the virtues and faithfulness of his God.

“But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people. All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;” (Verses 6 – 7)

If we, beloved reader, ever feel that we are looked down upon, let us remember that Jesus Christ was also mocked and tortured. He endured much, and we can go to him with all our grievances.

“Commit your cause to the LORD; let him deliver– let him rescue the one in whom he delights!” Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast. On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.(Verses 8 – 15)

Shall I continue, beloved reader? Can it be doubted that this psalm is so applicable to Jesus’ experience on the cross? This psalm may have been written by the psalmist concerning his experience; but the opening verse is but a brief prelude to Christ’s experience on the cross.

“For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled;
I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me; they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O LORD, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.” (Verses 15 – 21)

But there was no rescue for Christ. No reprieve from those who sought his death. Yet . . .

“I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD. May your hearts live forever!” (Verses 22 – 26)

Jesus, in his lifetime praised his God. His death brought glory to God. If Jesus Christ, in the midst of his suffering did not abandon God (but then how could the Divine abandon the Divine?) but persevered, how much more should we in our “minor” suffering remain faithful to God?

“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.” (Verses 27 – 31)

In life and in death, Jesus Christ is our example. And God sees this desire in our heart, and the Lord’s faithfulness is made clear to us.

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,” he also adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.” ( Hebrews 10:16 – 18)

This is why, beloved reader, we should confess and make amends. This is the type forgiveness made available to us.

“Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:16-25)

Again, beloved reader, the Gospel Passage is along one and recounts what happened to Jesus from the time he was taken from the garden to his being laid in the tomb. It is a sad and riveting story, and a very familiar one. Again, I am not inserting any comments. You have been presented with scripture for five days now, and long postings of scripture so as to see the full breadth of what the Revised Common Lectionary uses and cites for this Holy Week

If it is your desire, read the entire passage. You know the outcome. But remember, beloved reader, this is not the end of the story. In fact, in the most basic and substantial way, it is only the beginning. As you read it, if you do so, may you learn even more about our Lord Christ. Selah!

“After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.”
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him.
First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people. Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in.
The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.
Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.) Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face.
Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.” Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever.
He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.” When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.
Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'”Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” And that is what the soldiers did.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” (John 18:1-19:42)

Thursday of Holy Week: Getting Ready

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.” (Exodus 12:1-4)

Each year after the Jews were delivered from Egypt they remembered and celebrated the passing of them of death and being released from slavery. The instructions were very clear as to what they were to do. The RCL does not specifically include the instructions there were given in verses 5 to 10, because they are not germane to the celebrating of the Passover in Jesus time.

[“Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.” (Verses 5 to 10]

Neither do I think they ate the meal in anticipation of leaving soon on a journey – although Jesus took it as the last time he ate a meal with his disciples. So in that, it was like Jesus at least was getting to leave for a journey. And the disciples would have death – that is, death as it separates one from God – passing over them.

This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.” (Verses 11-14)

Many of us have memories of realizing we needed God, coming to God, accepting God in our life, and then moving forward in new life and relationship with God. But there are, I think, buried in those memories other events that prepared us for each step and stage in our journey to and with God. While we all come to God, we do not come without preparation.

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.” (Psalm 116:1-2)

Every soul and spirit has within it the urge to call on and connect to God. I believe this because in some way or another we are in the image of God, or at least capable of reaching out to the Divine. But things happen, and issues and agenda get in the way. Call it the human will, or defiance, or the evil one. But SOMETHING gets in the way of our connecting to God. Those of us who had parents or mentors who modeled Christian living to us were in some form or another prepared for connecting to God. For others it was the Spirit interceding to prepare us to connecting to God.

What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord,

I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.” (Verses 12 – 14)

And these preparations do not only ready us for coming to God, but also for us to continue walking with God. Living in God is not a “static” or unchanging thing. We grow and mature in our Christian life and walk; being readied for the day when this life ends and an even closer life with God begins.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.
O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl.
You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!” (Verses 12 – 19)

God in the Old Testament and Christ in the New Testament prepares the Lord’s people for what is ahead, readies them for the actions they must take, and fortifies them as they live out their live in the Lord. Jesus prepared his disciples as best he could for what was ahead.

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

We re-enact the Lord’s Supper at important occasions in life. And we re-enact the Lord’s Supper at common ordinary times to remind us that even if there is nothing special in our lives at that moment, God is continuing to work in us.

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” (John 13:1 – 11)

In the church I grew up in, we had foot washing at least once a year and sometimes more often. Watching my elders and mentors do this prepared me to enter into this sacred act myself. And washing another’s feet and letting my feet be washed prepared me for the give and take of ministry and Christian life together.

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” ( Verses 12-17)

If you were here with me, beloved reader, I would wash your feet. I do not know how I would wash the feet of all of you – the basin would have to be quite large and the source of water a flowing stream, and the towel . . . larger than any I have ever seen. But it would be a task I would willingly and lovingly undertake!

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Verses 31b-35)

Love prepares us, beloved reader. Love of God and love from God prepare us to live out this life and God instructs and Christ modeled. And love prepares us to go from this world into the next. May the love that is God prepare you for the year that is yet to come, and for the life that you are called to lead. Selah!

Wednesday of Holy Week: Planning God into our lives

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens– wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?” (Isaiah 50:4-9a)

If you have read through, with great courage and fortitude, all that I have quoted and said so far this Holy Week – I thank you. Not being able to chose what to use and what to set aside, I have used all the the Revised Common Lectionary provides for each day of Holy Week. We have reached mid-week, and some of the passages are very familiar – ones that I have spoken too not so long ago, like the passage from Isaiah 50. It was featured in the Liturgy of the Passion, and as I look back I see that I dealt with it pretty thoroughly. So instead let me pen a few lines as a teacher, if I may. The style of scripture commentary I am doing this Holy Week is a sort of stream of conscious writing. It is modeled after the “Lecto Divina” which a four step of reading the passage, meditating (or pondering on it) , praying about it (or talking to God concerning it), and contemplating it (or discerning how it fits into one’s life). The idea is to NOT study it, but experience it taking one’s time.

What I do is read the passage until something in it speaks to me; I pause and think about that and then right out my reflections on it, offering it both to you, beloved reader and God.

“Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O LORD, make haste to help me! Let those be put to shame and confusion who seek my life. Let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire to hurt me. Let those who say, “Aha, Aha!” turn back because of their shame. Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. Let those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!” But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!” ( Psalm 70)

We have talked so far about Jesus entering into his final week of life on this earth, and how we journey while on this earth. We have talked about knowing who we are, and knowing who God and Jesus are, and our place in God’s kingdom. Today we are thinking how plan for God to be in our lives. The passage from Isaiah confirms that God is with us, guiding us, fortifying us facing what comes in this life. The passage from Psalm confesses that we need God in our lives. And the Hebrews passage instructs us as to what to do in our lives because of what Jesus did for us.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

But to plan for God being in our life does not necessarily mean that we are planning to follow and honor God. Many acknowledge the existence of God; a smaller part of that many allow God to impact and influence their lives. And still yet a subset of that group have taken up God and Jesus Christ’s example as a model for their lives.

“After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples–the one whom Jesus loved–was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.” ( John 13:21-27)

What place do you think Judas considered Jesus to have in his life. It seems like whenever Judas is mentioned in the gospels, there is a foreshadowing of what he will do. Judas did have a plan; or most accurately, Judas willingly took on a plan concerning Jesus.

“After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.” (Verses 27-30)

Have you ever considered, beloved reader, that Judas was actually a vital part of how Jesus’ mission on earth turned out? And have you considered how you might plan to be a part of God’s and our Lord Christ’s mission in the world?

“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.” (Verses 31 – 32)

Will it be to bring glory to God? Or not?

Important questions to ponder this Holy Week. Selah!

Tuesday of Holy Week: Know who you are, and who the Lord Jesus Christ is

Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The LORD called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” But I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the LORD, and my reward with my God.” (Isaiah 49: 1 – 4)

Who did the writer of Isaiah mean when he wrote these things? Did he mean himself? Was he giving dialogue to another who lived during his time? Or was this written at the time of the writer of Isaiah but meant to be applied to another? It depends greatly who you ask. Many bible commentators will say it applies to the one who was to come – to Christ. But since I am not strictly speaking a bible commentator, I don’t have to say or endorse that – so I don’t.

I think the writer of Isaiah meant it for himself. I do not think it is hubris or an inflated image of one’s self that prompted these words. I think it was the knowledge and acknowledgment of the burden that the writer felt, that there were things that he thought we expected of him, and he strove to fulfill those expectations.

“And now the LORD says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the LORD, and my God has become my strength- he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Verses 5 – 6)

But no human person could fulfill all that. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ, prophets from many generations back were in known and unknowing ways preparing God’s people for the One who was to come.

“Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” (Verses 7)

We need to know who we are, in God’s plan and the grand scheme of things. We need to know what our place and purpose is. We need to find that place in this lifetime and in this world, because if we do not, we will be lost in the life and world to come.

“In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me. Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. ( Psalm 71:1-5)

The Old Testament is filled with stories of people who found their place in God. And people who did not find their place in God. And, the laments and prayers of those who did both.

Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you. I have been like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all day long. Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent. For my enemies speak concerning me, and those who watch for my life consult together. They say, “Pursue and seize that person whom God has forsaken, for there is no one to deliver.” O God, do not be far from me; O my God, make haste to help me! Let my accusers be put to shame and consumed; let those who seek to hurt me be covered with scorn and disgrace. But I will hope continually, and will praise you yet more and more. (Verses 6 – 14)

Have you, beloved reader, heeded the lessons that are given to us in the bible? Do you know your place in the world, and in relationship to God? Is there a big difference in the way you relate to the world, and the way you relate to God? Do you think you should be worried about that?

“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Corinthians 1:18-21)

When the world demands on thing, and the Lord God is leading you towards another, which should you chose?

“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (Verses 22 – 24)

You do not need to be worldly wise to know God; and it does not take worldly wisdom to know yourself. It takes intent and determination, though, to know who God is and what your place is within the Kingdom of God.

“For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (Verses 25 – 31)

Those who wish to be wise in a Godly spiritual way seek out God. One of humanity’s highest purposes is to seek out God and Jesus Christ; the Divine has made the God-self to be sought by humanity. And according to the writer of John, Jesus being sought out was a sign of the next step of Jesus’ ministry.

“Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.( John 12:20-26)

If our purpose in this world is to accumulate wealth, possession, influence, and all those things that the world values – we have lost ourselves in the world and are captives of it. But if our purpose is to find out place in God’s Kingdom and accomplish those things that matter in the Kingdom, we will never be lost, and our place will be assured for all time. But let us not think or believe that Godly accomplishments we raise our stature or status in the world.

“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say–‘ Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.” (Verses 27 – 33)

The writer of the gospel of John thought and wrote deeply, accessing spiritual understandings that were apparent to him, but may be obscure to us. Do not worry, beloved reader; the way to God being through Jesus Christ is simple to understand, but difficult to live out. Not because of lack of wisdom, but because of human tendency to chose the easier way of life.

“The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. (Verses 34 – 36)

We know who the Light is – it is Christ. We know who sent the Light – it was God. The Light that may seem hidden to some is only hidden because they seek out the “darkness” that is wrong living. We are destined to become “children of the light.” That is what God created us for. And when we know Jesus, we will know how to be “children of the light.” May you, beloved reader, during this Holy Week come to know Jesus anew and come to know yourself as children of the light. Selah!

Liturgy of the Passion: Gospel Passage – The Full Passion Story

[Because the New Testament Passage portion is so long, I am posting it just a minute or two after the Psalm Passage. I did not want to take the chance of being limited in posting length, nor did I want to overwhelm you, beloved reader, in one sitting.]

This year, beloved reader, the Liturgy of the Passion is the entire story from the Last Supper through to the Crucifixion of Jesus as told by the gospel of Luke. Other lectionary years one of the other gospels is used – either Mark or Matthew. The gospel of John is used during Holy Week. And abbreviated section may be used instead of the entire story. The point I think to the lectionary creators was to bring before the readers the story from each gospel within the complete three year lectionary cycle.

I could, as has been my practice numerous times, insert comments and reflections. But the passage is long enough. As I moved through it taking out the verse numbers as is my habit, it was tempting to insert small comments. I may regret not taking that opportunity. Let me add though, the headings are directly from the NRSV.

I could have chosen to use the abbreviated section which is Luke 23:1-49. But I want to honor the full intent of the lectionary. We will, of course, look more closely at each step and event of the passion story during Holy Week. So may be reviewing it as a whole would be helpful. If you would prefer, feel free to defer reading the entire story, and instead walk with me event by event during Holy Week.

The Institution of the Lord’s Supper
When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.”(Chapter 22 Verses 14-23)

The Dispute about Greatness
A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Verses 24 – 30)

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial
Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.” (Verses 31 – 34)

Purse, Bag, and Sword
He said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing.” He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.” They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied, “It is enough.” (Verses 35 – 38)

Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives
He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” (Verses 38 – 46)

The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!” (Verses 47 – 53)

Peter Denies Jesus
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Verses 54 – 62)

The Mocking and Beating of Jesus
Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” They kept heaping many other insults on him.” (Verses 63 – 65)

Jesus before the Council
When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. They said, “If you are the Messiah,[h] tell us.” He replied, “If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” He said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!” (Verses 66 – 71)

Jesus before Pilate
Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” (Chapter 23 Verses 1 – 5)

Jesus before Herod
When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11 Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.” (Verses 6 – 12)

Jesus Sentenced to Death
Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”
Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.” (Verses 13 – 25)

The Crucifixion of Jesus
As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Verses 26- 43)

The Death of Jesus
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.” (Verses 44 – 49)

The Burial of Jesus
Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.
On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” (Verses 50 – 56)

Did you read through it all beloved reader? There are so many things I could have and wanted to say. But I kept silent. I may yet find a way to give voice to what I was thinking. May you, beloved reader, in your own heart, ponder these events. Selah!

Liturgy of the Passion: Psalms Passage – Awash in grief, but never alone

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.” (Psalms 31:9)

The psalmist does not say, or at least has not said yet what is causing this grief. If the psalmist is indeed King David, then it could have been written in a time when David was experiencing grief; and that was several times in his life. But we are not doing a study on King David. We are moving through our own season of Lent; you, beloved reader, may have a variety of things you are grieving, as do I. Also worthy of grief is our relative conditions of sin, and our need for confession, penance, and forgiveness. Does all of this rise to the level of wasting away? That is something each person must decide for themselves.

“For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery,
and my bones waste away. I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.” (Verses 10 – 11)

Many years back I read a book that was formative in my life. It started out the statement, “Life is pain”; if those were not the exact words, it is a very close paraphrase. It was, for me, permission to realize and confess that life could be difficult and that there would be suffering. But that did not mean I was living incorrectly or unfaithfully, but the life is hard and there is suffering. We are not alone, however, because God and our Lord Christ journey with us.

“I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel. For I hear the whispering of many— terror all around!— as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.” (Verses 12 – 13)

If we do not or have not suffered as the psalmist has, or have not suffered as others around us have or do, that does not mean that God is not with us.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.” (Verses 14-16)

Psalmist knew, or came to know, what we know or should come to know – that, God is with us no matter what. And what evil, suffering, or sin that we might encounter our Lord Christ will shine us and save us with steadfast love.