Friday, December 5, 2014
This Christmas Season Christ has already come and is coming anew. Our Messiah will do more than we ask or can even imagine. Too many times, as Advent (year after year) seems to come and go, I get wrapped up in my so-called busy life, and don’t take the time for Christ. This year I am going to make sure I am not “too busy” to answer God’s call and to prepare a place for him. This year I am going to raise my expectations and not simply reflect on Christ’s past comings, but to remember that Christ is alive and present here and now. This Advent I am going to stop, pause,
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Though stores have had Christmas decorations up since the day after Halloween, though the world seems more focused on good sales than good news, though exams and performances and traditions and parties make this one of the busiest times of year, our faith invites us this week to be still and know that God is near. - From D365.org
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Monday, December 1, 2014
It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town
And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold
It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love
For little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
It was a labor of loveLabor of Love -- Andrew Peterson
I'm sure Josef Mohr meant well when he wrote the words to Silent Night back in 1816. It is after all a lovely Christmas carol. Trouble is - it's just not real. The idyllic scene he painted was certainly lovely. But what happened on that first Christmas night was anything but perfect. This Christmas when life gets messy and loud and chaotic - remember that Joseph and Mary and the newborn would also have been surrounded by noise, from barnyard animlas to the clamoring cries of childbirth. In a way I'm glad it wasn't a silent night long ago in Bethlehem. After all we live in a noisy chaotic broken world which is why Christmas happened in the first place. God was invading our space with the light of his love. Jesus: love with skin on it!GHT
Friday, April 4, 2014
Station 14 - Jesus is Laid in the Tomb
Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock. This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation, as the Sabbath was about to begin. As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. (Luke 23:53-56 NLT)So they take his lifeless body down and lay it in a borrowed tomb. He is gone. In fact they take the limp 33 year old body and wrap it in haste. The Sabbath is fast approaching so they only take time to partially embalm it. They'll come back on Sunday morning to finish the job. He's not going anywhere. Sadness descends.
So Lord Jesus - even though we know this is not really the end of your story - we will leave you here for now. Humanly speaking we would like to rush on to the events of Sunday morning but just for now - we'll wait. We choose to feel the searing pain and loss - the sting of death. For all you did for all of us - we give you glory and honor and praise - now and forever. "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." Amen.
By this time it was noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last. When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.” (Luke 23:44-47 NLT)It had been almost six hours now. Jesus has been hanging in the searing afternoon sun long enough for the cross to do its horrific work. The hour has come. The prisoner has no strength left. None. His legs and arms are now useless and there is no way he can no longer catch oven - one - more - breath. So with one last gasp he tells his Father he is coming. He gasps and breathes his last and his head drops and his life is gone…
Lord Jesus - my Savior - who by your sacrifice provided the one full perfect payment for the sins of the world - I am in awe of the price you paid for my sins. I will never be able to repay you. Except with my love. When I see the cross I cannot help but love you back! "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." Amen.
Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27 NLT)It is amazing really. This moment on the cross when wracked in agony of body and mind Jesus stops to talk to his Mom. Clearly he has enough time and energy left to be a good son. With these simpe words he provides for the care of his only earthly parent before his last breath. The people on and near the cross are all real human beings. We are watching a family take care of business as Jesus passes the care of his Mom to his best friend John. Here near the end, Jesus is making sure the one who nursed and nurtured him and stayed nearby when virtually everyone else hid - was properly cared for. What a good son.
Lord Jesus we remember that not only were you the Son of God, but you were also the son of Mary. She loved her boy and she was loved in return. May we show our love for You, in the way we love the family with whom you have blessed us. "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." In your name Amen.
One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43 NLT)There are three crosses on the hill that day. One condemned criminal taunts Jesus with his dying breath, the other speaks in his defense and simply asks that the Lord will remember him. Not much of a sinner's prayer really. Barely a gasp of hope. But it is enough for Jesus. "Sure. You can come with me today to Paradise." What a promise - to a desperate criminal who only had a few hours of life left in him. This man has no time to pay Jesus back or to live a life of noble service as restitution for his crimes. But still his desperate cry was good enough for Jesus.
So we thank you Lord that you offer eternal life to all who ask humbly in faith no matter how far gone we are. Heaven is for broken repentant people like me. So we pray once more "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." In the name of the name that is above all other names we pray. AMEN
When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” A sign was fastened to the cross above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.” (Luke 23:33-38 NLT)The cross is now laid on the ground and prisoner is lashed to it. Huge sharp spikes are hammered through his hands and feet. Shockwaves rack his body and the cross is slowly lifted upright and then suddenly dropped into place. Pushing down on his feet and pulling up with his arms the crucified one gasps for air. Until he has no more strength. Jesus - I cannot ever say thank you enough for all you endured for me. So I pray once more "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." In your holy name I pray - Amen
A large crowd trailed behind, including many grief-stricken women. But Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are coming when they will say, ‘Fortunate indeed are the women who are childless, the wombs that have not borne a child and the breasts that have never nursed.’ People will beg the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and plead with the hills, ‘Bury us.’ For if these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:27-31 NLT)I’m not sure how I missed this one. But Luke didn’t. He had a knack for pointing out the foreigners and the children and the women Jesus touched. Despite the culture of the day that didn’t see women as equals, Jesus did. Right up to the hour of his death he took time to listen to and speak with the weeping women. Amazing.
Lord Jesus though your word to the weeping women was a warning - may it remind me today that to you - everyone matters. May everyone matter to me too. So I pray "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." Amen.
Monday, March 31, 2014
As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, happened to be coming in from the countryside. The soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. (Luke 23:26 NLT)So Jesus the pain and agony was too much for you to take and still drag that cross. No one could blame you really. Loss of blood, the beatings, the ongoing agonizing pain combined to leave you too weak to go on. So the soldiers grab an innocent bystander, an African from modern-day Libya and make him do the dirty work. So I guess, in a sense, I ought to identify with Simon of Cyrene since in my following in your steps I too will be “crucified with Christ.” But it's different between us Lord. You invite me to carry my cross and follow you you don't force me. And then you give me the strength to do it.
For all this and more I thank you so much. So I pray once more "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." Amen.
Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus away. Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha). (John 19:16b-17 NLT)Now this long sad journey grows even harder as they lay that heavy cross on you and make you carry it. Some have said what they made you do was like Isaac in the older Testament carrying the wood for what was intended as his own funeral pyre. But as we shall soon see - it was too much for you to bear. Even so you took it. You began to carry it. Not just the weight of the cross itself but also the weight of the sins of the whole world - including mine. Please carry me and my sin. There truly is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. I love You because you first loved me. So I reiterate this timeless prayer "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." Amen.
The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship. (Mark 15:16-19 NLT)I've always felt so terrible about the mental torture inflicted on you Jesus. How those cruel soldiers mocked your kingship, with a scalp-piercing crown of thorns and a robe thrown over blood-soaked back. Indignity upon indignity and you in your love allowed it to happen. Not because you could not have stopped it - but because you chose not to. "Amazing love - how can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me" - And Can it Be. So Lord Jesus I remember your physical pain and your mental torture as the painful result of my selfish sinful ways. Every time I willfully transgressed your moral law it was as if I added one more lash. With my name on it. Forgive me Lord as I join this timeless prayer "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." Amen.
Then Pilate called together the leading priests and other religious leaders, along with the people, and he announced his verdict. “You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent. Herod came to the same conclusion and sent him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty. ...But the mob shouted louder and louder, demanding that Jesus be crucified, and their voices prevailed. So Pilate sentenced Jesus to die as they demanded. (Luke 23:13-15, 23-24 NLT)Pilate really blew it. He had a chance to do the right thing with you Jesus but he didn't. Pilate had a strong sense that you were innocent since he not only knew the law but his wife had told him about her dreadful dream. Still he caved. Pilate chose to placate the crowd who kept insisting on your guilt, rather than doing what he knew to be right. As we would say nowadays "Pilate had the gun." He was the only one with enough authority to sentence you to death, or to spare you, no matter how loudly the crowd yelled. Pilate alone made the decision to hand you over to be crucified. No wonder he is the only person other than God and your mother Mary mentioned by name in the Apostles Creed:"Suffered under Pontius Pilate..." So Lord help me to obey my own conscience and inner moral compass no matter what the voices around me a screaming. And when I don't - forgive me Lord. Forgive me. Once more I join in this prayer "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." Amen.
Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said. A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.” Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly. (Matthew 26:69-75 NLT)Lord Jesus, your word tells us that you predicted Peter's denial: he would deny you three times over. But of course Peter was sure you had overestimated his disloyalty. Now we know that it was he who had overestimated his courage and allegiance. So it all happened just like you said it would. Peter was tested three times and Peter failed three times. And then that rooster crowed. Peter's bravado was dashed and shame and sorrow gripped his heart. Finally he saw the truth about himself. He was not as noble and strong has he had thought. He needed you more than he realized. Which of course is the truth about us - about me too. So Lord whenever I get a bit too full of myself - when I think of myself more highly than I ought to think - bring me back to reality. There is a lot of Peter in me. I'm overconfident in my own goodness and under-confident (if there is such a word) in yours. Help me to be faithful when tested and humble always. So I join to pray "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." In Your strong Name I pray. Amen
Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” “Guilty!” they shouted. “He deserves to die!” (Matthew 26:62-66 NLT)Jesus - why do the religious leaders hate you so much? What did you do to offend them so deeply? The high priest tears his garments,because he cannot believe that this man standing before him is God-in-the-flesh. You try to reveal yourself but your accusers simply cannot - will not see. Lord Jesus, grant me the vision to see you for who you really are, in all your glory. Whatever preconceptions or limitations I have placed on you I lay at your feet. I too am somewhat 'religious' and I am sometimes tempted to make loving you into a duty. Forgive me. Help me never to miss your glory. So we pray with those who have made the Stations across the centuries and around the world: "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." In Your strong Name I pray. Amen
Saturday, March 29, 2014
Judas Betrays Jesus
And immediately, even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders. The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.” As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. “Rabbi!” he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss. Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. (Mark 14:43-46 NLT) 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?” (Luke 22:47-48 NIV)Devotional: In the ancient Middle East a man kissed his close friends as a sign of love and loyalty. Followers also kissed their master as a sign of respect. But still - wasn't this an especially mean-spirited act of betrayal? Judas - one of the Twelve who has just shared the Last Supper with Jesus - decides to use a kiss to signal the soldiers as to which one they should arrest. Much speculation has occurred across the centuries about the motivations behind this puzzling act. Was Judas really signaling to Jesus that despite his treachery he still really loved him? Or was his motive darker? Of course from where we sit it is very easy to condemn Judas completely. This action alone explains why Judas remains one of the most despised men in human history. But if we fixate solely on Judas' wrongdoing we'll miss what his actions might say about us. Have we ever betrayed Jesus, not in the obvious and literal way of Judas, but in our hearts and by our actions? Have we ever confessed Jesus as Lord, only to let someone or something else take his rightful place on the throne of our hearts? I hesitate to even mention the fact that sometimes I have worshiped Jesus with my own lips with words, songs, and prayers, only to reject him with my actions. Sadly there has been more than a little Judas in me. And for that I need forgiveness and grace. Don't you?
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.” Luke 22:39-46Devotional: Jesus agonized in prayer in the garden that evening. He did not quickly embrace the cross though he did eventually. Most of my Sunday School notions of Jesus were very different than this. I always put the emphasis on the God-part of Jesus. I wasn't comfortable with the Man-part. After all wouldn't that fact that Jesus was God sort of cancel out and override the fact that he was human? Apparently not. Three of the gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke all emphasize how much Jesus agonized in the Garden. The one physician among them, Luke, even tells us that Jesus prayed so intensely that his sweat became like drops of blood. So no matter how you look at it - the fact was that Jesus struggled in the Garden. I'm not sure how you feel about that. For me - it broadens and deepens my understanding of the verse in Hebrews that tells us that Jesus “in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). So we have a Savior who really understands us when we are tested and feel weak and afraid. It may be hard to get our heads around it - but the truth is that Jesus understand my struggles because he had at least one of his own.
Visit almost any Catholic church and you will find them somewhere. Typically around the perimeter of the main sanctuary. Fourteen plaques, small statues or paintings depicting the final hours of the life of Christ, known as “The Stations of the Cross.” To the uninitiated they just seem like random religious decorations, however to those who have experienced the power of walking through them in order (often called “making the Stations”) they can be a dynamic spiritual tool to deepen our appreciation of the sufferings of Christ. As a Protestant novice my first encounter with the Stations left me somewhat conflicted. I sensed the impact of walking systematically through the events of the final hours of Christ’s life on earth. But I was put off by the fact that several of the Stations were focused on non-biblical aspects of the story. I had never heard of Veronica (Station 6) and the legend of her wiping the face of Jesus. Nor did I ever read in the Bible that Jesus fell three times under the weight of the cross. I felt that something more true to scripture would have served me much better. So I was delighted to learn that someone else wanted to create Stations that were more Biblically based on the events of the final hours of Jesus’ life on earth. Back in 1991 Pope John Paul II instituted a new series of fourteen Stations of Cross, each of which was based on Scripture alone. This is the pattern I enjoy following most often.Since few churches use the New Stations I have begun making the Stations by reading about the significant moments of Christ’s last few days and then praying about them. I can do this anywhere. So for the next two weeks or so I am going to post my way through the New Stations of the Cross. You are welcome to join me on this walk toward Calvary.