Pentecost Sunday; The Old Testament Passage – Pentecost is coming!

It will be a busy week – the Spirit is coming! But that is really not anything new. The Spirit of God has always been accessible; just not in as apparent a way in the Old Testament as it is in the New. Or, maybe it is just that people after Jesus’ ministry on earth craved the type of intimate relationship that they had with Jesus, and that Jesus exemplified between himself and the Lord God.

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.” (Numbers 11:24 – 25)

Just as Jesus said to Nicodemus, the Spirit blows where it will, and we have a hard time seeing it. But we can feel it and know it. And welcome it.

“Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” (Verses 26 – 28)

I am not sure what Joshua son of Nun was so concerned about. Was it fear? Was it unfamiliarity with the ways of the Spirit? Or was it as Moses suggested, that he felt prophesy was only the purview of Moses?

“But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!” And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.” (Verses 29 – 30)

I have to think about what Moses said and agree. Would it not be wonderful if all people everywhere had the Lord’s Spirit in them. It would make life on earth like heaven. And that, I am afraid, is the exact point. We live in a fallen and fallible world. Many say they are guided by the Lord and the Lord’s Spirit. But there are also people like Joshua son of Nun who want to contain and quantify/qualify the gifting and blessing of the Spirit. The Spirit is not under control of any person but is part of the Divine. And even if we, as devote followers of the Lord God Jesus Christ, would love to be imbued with the Spirit it does not happen that way. Of course, we need to be and remain open to the indwelling of the Spirit.

As I said and to better explain, the day that celebrates the first Pentecost is coming. Let us yearn for that experience for ourselves! Selah!

Fifth Sunday of Easter: The Substituted Acts Passage – What was old becomes new

During the Sundays of Easter passages from Acts are substituted for the Old Testament passages. I have said this multiple times, and usually I say it to help you, beloved reader, know why it is a passage from Acts. Today I tell you because this passage from Acts is as informative about faithful practices as any Old Testament passage. Let me show you why.

“But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55)

The prophets from the Old Testament are said to have been filled with God’s Spirit, and acted according to that guidance and inspiration. Here we see a new believer who is filled with the exact same essence of God and testifies to it.

“Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him.” (Verses 56 – 57)

But he is ignored and set upon just like any prophet from the Old Testament.

“Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.” (Verse 58)

Unlike the Old Testament, however, unbelievers do not stop at just threatening his life but actually take it. Remember, beloved reader, how many times the Lord’s prophets had to flee in fear of their lives? It as if the reactions of those times were exacerbated with the killing of Jesus Christ. Taking a life is no longer an unthought of act, but one that is gaining acceptance.

“While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.” (Verses 59 – 60)

But just as Jesus’ death was the beginning of a wave of persecution, so was Jesus’ willingness to give up his life. And even in death remaining faithful to the Lord who was followed and served. It was one thing for Jesus the Son of God to be willing to give up his life, but such faithfulness in humanity was new and unheard of, except maybe in Old Testament times.

And do not think, beloved reader, I have overlooked who was present at Stephen’s death. Here we have the foundation of the Lord getting ready to call a new prophet who would carry forth the Lord’s word and Jesus’ work. No, beloved reader, we have missed out on nothing by not having an Old Testament passage. May we learn lessons from scripture where ever we may find them. Selah!

Second Sunday of Easter: The Substitute Old Testament Passage – Peter, another man after the Lord Jesus’ heart

[Beloved reader, sometimes an Epistle Passage is used instead of an Old Testament Passage on certain occasions and certain reasons. This week is such an occasion. Read it as if it were an Old Testament prophet, but testifying to a new reality. ]

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them,
“You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know- this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.” (Acts 2:14a, 22 – 24)

It occurs to me that Peter is making good on identifying and claiming knowledge of Jesus Christ. How far Peter has come in his beliefs. It is one of the reasons I hold him in great esteem. Not one to shy away from anything, when he knows what is truth he speaks it with no restraint or hesitation.

“For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ “Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.” (Verses 25 – 32)

For the rest of his life, Peter spoke of Jesus, spread the word about his life, death, & resurrection, and did not fear the consequences of it. He clearly followed the path that Jesus Christ lays out for all of the Lord God’s followers. May we do so also. Selah!

Holy Week – Easter Sunday: Just all sorts of scriptures passages telling of and celebrating the Risen Lord, and what comes afterwards

There is a long list of passages that are to be used for the Easter vigil. But if I were to use all of them, or even the portion that is recommended – a minimum of three for the Old Testaments and Epistle, Psalm, and Gospel readings – I doubt there would be time for you beloved reader to read through it all. And then there are the passages that are for the Easter Service, and even more for Easter Evening. Being the high point of the church year, it has many scripture passages appropriated for it. So instead, let me lightly and briefly list a few.

But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14:13 – 14)

The passage from Exodus the lectionary highly recommends. It comes from where the Hebrews newly released from Egypt stand by the Red Sea as the Egyptians are racing towards them. Their deliverance comes from the Lord, and only through the Lord. Without their Lord God they would be helpless.

Another Old Testament passage cited is from Genesis, the creation story, where the Lord created the heavens and the earth, and kept creating, up to and including the creation of humanity. Passages from the stories of Noah and Abraham are also cited, as well has some beloved passages from Isaiah. Passages also from Ezekiel, Baruch (from the Apocrypha), Zephaniah, and Proverbs to recount the prophets and wisdom. And passages from the Psalms, singing and praises and celebrating the Lord. And there is also a passage from the Epistles, Romans to name the book.

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:3-11)

And finally, a passage from the New Testament, Matthew, telling a slightly different story of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary seeing an angel of the Lord who told them of Jesus’ resurrection, and then seeing the Risen Lord who tells them to tell his disciples to go to Galilee. The passage from Matthew is also cited for possible use during the later Easter service. You can see there is a great deal of fervor, excitement during the Easter vigil time.

It has been many, many years since I have kept Easter vigil – the early morning hours of Easter Sunday. As a youth, when I had much more energy etc than I do now, our youth group made a practice of gathering together early Easter Sunday morning, many times outdoors, to have an Easter Sunday service. I remember one year I was up late the night before baby sitting, and got up early the next morning for the Sunrise Service. How I did that, went to regular church and did not crash-and-burn, I attribute only to the vigor of youth. But youth gives way, and fortunately in its stead comes (hopefully) wisdom, maturity, and deeper understanding. In a way, the first-coming-to-faith that evolves into the coming to deeper/wider/broader faith that is so intense it feels “all new”.

The disciples and followers of Jesus must have felt that same way when Good Friday turned into Easter Sunday – that is, the faith they had in Jesus their teacher giving way to Jesus their risen Lord.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.” (John 20:1 – 10)

As much as I have fondness and affection for Simon Peter, and for the other disciples in their turn, sometimes it takes a woman to get to the core and center of things.

But Mary [Magdalene] stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.” (Verses 11 – 18)

As I said, about a page back, it has been a long time since I kept a true Easter vigil. A long time since the first-coming-to-faith time. Youth has given way to seasoned experience. And I know that quite often the first brush with faith gives way to a more sustaining experience. It was that way with Simon Peter. Throughout the time Peter was with Jesus, he had many insights but it was only after the coming of the Holy Spirit that Peter came into his own. And even then, Peter came to a deeper and broader understanding of Jesus Christ’s message of good news.

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:34-43)

The apostle Paul, who came to faith through his own encounter with the risen Lord, speaks also to making plans and living out an authentic Christian life.

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)

If you were wondering, the under girding thrust of my thoughts are this. Jesus’ resurrection set into motion a whole new way of seeing and understanding how to live. When we first realize that, it is like coming to new faith. We feel it, but do not know or understand the deeper implications. New faith gives way, over time, to deeper faith. Because we are realizing things for the first time, it feels like first time faith. Not faith that we are recommitting to, nor coming back from going astray. But coming to new bends, twists, and turns in our faith life. Each year during Lent we journey the same ground, but many times come out at a different place, a different understanding. Now that we are on the other side, let us journey forth into new dimensions of faith. Selah!

Holy Week – Maundy Thursday: The Old Testament, Gospel, and Epistle Passages – The Last Supper, and the beginning of a new way of living

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 )

I was planning on having the entire section from Exodus stand with out comment – but I wanted to draw your attention to the provision about small households. I suspect this is one of the reasons that Jesus wanted all the disciples gathered together; singly they would not be a large enough household. But all together the Passover meal would be like close neighbors joining together. And in the years to come, who would be closer neighbors than fellow believers?

The middle verses, verses 5 to 10 are left out of the strict lectionary passages. They are instructions for Jews prior to the Last Supper and Passover that Jesus had with his disciples. Not that the disciples and early Christians would have ignored these important traditions; but for us, later believers the instructions do not apply as much.

“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 [which verses 5 – 10 refer to] 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)

The Last Supper (which is understood as the last Passover meal that he shared with them) that Jesus had with his disciples was eaten hurriedly or with staff in hand and sandals on feet. At least not has it has been painted and imaged throughout history. And the fact that there was reaching out and dipping of bread argues against it. But there was girding of loins as Jesus prepared himself for this last supper, and Judas prepared himself for where his thoughts went to.

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.” (John 13: 1- 2a)

From what we read yesterday, it was only after Judas was accused by Jesus and accepting the dipped bread that Satan’s sway took hold. But the writer of the gospel of John makes note of it here, earlier in the supper. That is significant for what happens next.

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.” (Verses 2b – 12)

Jesus washed Judas’ feet. Knowing full well what Judas was going to do, he washed his feet humbling himself as a servant to the man who was planning his arrest. Some may say Judas did not know it would lead to Jesus’ arrest. Some say Judas was trying to motivate or incite Jesus to act when it seemed as if Jesus was not fulfilling the role of Messiah as some Jews understood it. But Judas knew full well how much the Temple rulers and authorities, the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, hated Jesus. What did Judas think they were going to do? But, Jesus washed his feet.

“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 13 – 17)

Remember, it was not until a little later that Judas left. Do you think, beloved reader, this had any impact on Judas? And before you answer, consider and remember my questions from yesterday as to how isolated Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was, and how I set that along side other straying from the authentic Christian path.

I want to spend a little more time on this, and then we will move on. The reason I want to emphasis this is because in Year A of the lectionary we are focusing on coming to new faith – either that it is a new believer or someone coming to deeper or broader faith. If it is a new believer, then the sins that were there are absolved and redeemed in Christ’s death. That is one of the large messages of Easter. Coming to deeper or broader faith means that one’s understanding has grown, and things done in the past are seen in a new light. The other lectionary years are: Year B – renewal of faith; and Year C – confession, penance, & forgiveness. What I am talking about here is a greater understanding of faith in Christ and our Lord God. A realization of what it means to live an authentic Christian life; what must be set aside and what must be picked up and lived out. It means, for Judas, realizing what he has done.

I am not talking about all of you. I know the people I have chosen. But what the Scriptures say must happen: ‘The man who shared my food has turned against me.’ I am telling you this now before it happens. Then when it happens, you will believe that I Am. I assure you, whoever accepts the person I send also accepts me. And whoever accepts me also accepts the one who sent me.” (Verses 18 – 20)

After Jesus said these things, the above verses, it troubled him. And he told his disciples that one of them would betray him. That is the interlude we looked at yesterday. We continue from that point on today – with a little bit of overlap.

When he [meaning Judas] 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. [What follows is Jesus’ words to the disciple who would form the nucleus of the early Christian church.] 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)

And Jesus’ disciples were known. As the years past, other people became disciples of Jesus Christ. And those years past. The term disciples changed and evolved into being followers, which we are beloved reader. As we are able and as we understand, we pass along the Messiah Jesus Christ’s teachings. Some things we pass along clumsily, awkward and mutated through our own perspectives and understandings. Other things we pass along with the same clarity that they were taught by Christ.

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)

Holy Week – Tuesday: The Epistle, Psalm, and Gospel Passages – Entering into the passion of Holy Week

Tuesday. The writer of the gospel of John places Jesus statements in response to the Greeks wanting to meet him soon after his going to the house of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. In-between the two is placed Jesus entering into Jerusalem.

“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.” (John 12: 20 – 22)

I have to wonder a little why the message was passed along in such a manner, as if access to Jesus was limited and/or screened. Because of the murmur of threats against Jesus? Because it was Greeks as opposed to Jesus? Or maybe it is the writer of the gospel of John who felt there needed to be an explanation of the process, or a making a process of it.

“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.” (Verses 23 – 26)

And who is Jesus answering? His disciples? The Greeks? The questions or request to be seen by the Greeks? What is sounds like to me is angst whose purpose is to portray or dramatize the circumstances and coming events. It sounds somewhat like the writer of John who liked things cloaked in mystery and spiritualism.

“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.” (Verses 27 – 28)

Here we have the pay off, the drama, the majesty of the time which is confirmed by the voice of the Divine.

“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.” (Verses 29 – 32)

You must understand, beloved reader, that for some Jesus’ death and resurrection was an event that (to them) commanded awe and sacredness. To dwell simply on the facts and simply chronological events was to miss out on the yearning and straining, the spirituality and mysticism that was there, or possibly there.

“He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 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 33 – 36)

Do not forget either that this lectionary year concerns coming to new faith and new believers. There is a depth and breadth to the passion story that must be taken in. There may be at times and in some gospels an emphasis on that which seems a little over done. But it is worth it to be able to take in full spiritual miraculous impact. And we are only at Tuesday!

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.”
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.”
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.” (Isaiah 49:1-7)

If you would set aside the fact that most likely the writer of the book of Isaiah did NOT specifically have Jesus in mind, but apply this passage from Isaiah directly to Jesus’ death and resurrection, you can get an idea of why/where the writer of the gospel of John wished to convey spirituality and mysticism to the days leading to Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.

And if we enter into that frame of mind where the Messiah and our Lord God does have a mysticism and awe that brings us to our knees, we can enter into spiritual worship of the Divine and say with the psalmist . . . .

“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.
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.” ( Psalm 71:1-14)

And, it’s only Tuesday!

Liturgy of the Passion: The Old Testament Passage – Being teacher and taught

We are getting close now, close to the end of Lent, and close to Easter. This Sunday coming up is Palm Sunday as well as Passion Sunday. One to indication Jesus coming triumphantly into Jerusalem and one it signal the start of Passion Week. I have chosen to start the week with “passion”. One of the tasks in my life away from the keyboard is to try to find a job. It is hard for me to promote myself, preferring to point beyond myself to other concerns. So I am making it a personal challenge to look at this passage in terms of how it does or does not describe me. Of course, the ideal is for it to describe the Messiah whose journey to the cross is coming close. And while it does a good job – a very good some biblical commentators would say – I am conscious of the fact that the writer of Isaiah might have had a different idea in mind when it was penned.

“The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens– wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.” (Isaiah 50:4)

Perhaps it is only this time, when I look at this passage that I see the writer is both a teacher and a listener. I do not know if I had seen/realized that before – being in a tizzy about whether I can claim the role of teacher. But if one both teaches and listens, that says something significant; that one does not know everything but needs to remain open to learning and understanding in new and deeper ways. That is something I have no problems claiming.

“The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward.” (Verse 5)

It has been hard, beloved reader, to go through this period of time. It has been seven years since I was not employed. My last period of time of unemployment lasted six months, and I am not sure how I made it through. At the two week point I find the inactivity weighs heavy on my hands and mind. Last time I used the days and weeks to write, and I wrote a great deal. This time, however, my writing is so incorporated into my other activities that this extra time is not needed for my current writing schedule. Maybe, maybe, I am being called into writing more. I know that this week being Passion/Palm Sunday and next week leading up to Easter Sunday, I will be writing daily. And it pleases me to know I will have the time. I think though, what about beyond that time?

“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.” (Verse 6)

It is hard too, because I am used to “earning my keep” and having the measure of income to show how my time is spent. I am not one for “domestic” chores; I do not find my challenge and satisfaction in cleaning, polishing, and dusting. And perhaps, if truth to tell, I find that to be my only challenge in a day, I would rather set that aside and find other pursuits. It is also the loss of position and place of my job. I was “somebody” and in my dark times I feel like “nobody”. It is not a far stretch, in these days and weeks, to feel as the writer of Isaiah feels – back struck, cheeks pulled, insulted and spat upon. If I am the “teacher” I would feign to claim to me, you would think that I should not measure myself against worldly measures and agenda.

The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?” (Verses 7 – 9a)

The writer of Isaiah’s words remind me, what was true for that person is (or should be) true for me now. I am not disgraced; no, not because of domestic chores or declining them, but because I have determined to persevere. But to look at my situation straight on and deal with it by opening my ear and listening to the Lord’s comfort and guidance.

This season of Lent has been a different one for me, fair different from other years. And I greatly suspect it will stick out in my memory. And that is not such a bad thing. Growth and new learning is hard, painful, and sometimes embarrassing. But far worse is refusing to grow and learn. A teacher may teach, but a teacher must learn also. So I say to my Lord, let the learning continue. Selah!