Easter - The women came to the tomb in anticipation of experiencing death. There were no expectations of anything good, why would they think as such? In the limited thinking confined to this earth, death has the final word. When they discovered an empty tomb and were told that Jesus was alive; it would take some time to get their heads around that. But as they let the good news find a place in their soul, they could let go of old ways of thinking and embrace a whole new outlook on everything. Yes, there is plenty of evil in the world which seeks to destroy, but God has triumphed over the evil in returning His Son to life. It is a new day and a new thinking is now available, that in God there is hope despite what we are experiencing. We live in hope and expectation of God’s miraculous power undoing evil and raising all that has died to new life. How long will it take you to get your head around that truth; more importantly, how long will it take to get your heart around it? Alleluia! He is alive.
Holy Saturday– the day between a most awful day and a most glorious day. Thus, this day becomes a day of waiting on the Lord with anticipation of what tomorrow will bring. This is a great truth of our relationship with God. While we live, we are constantly facing death experiences in life and they are rarely pleasant. Something we hold dear, a season of life, a job, our health, a marriage, comes to an end. Or we lose someone, they move away or they pass on. These are some of the death experiences of life which bring great sadness. But we know tomorrow is Easter in which new life occurs and things will be better than what they were. So, too, is the power of God when we must pass through a death experience. Tomorrow will bring new life and it will be better than what it was before if we will let go of the past. So today we wait with anticipation of God’s intervention to raise up new life. As certain as tomorrow is Easter, is as certain as that great truth.
Good Friday – Last night ended with Jesus being deserted by everyone. The evening ended with Him being left alone to face what would transpire today. He went before the Sanhedrin alone to listen to all their false accusations against Him. He stood before Pilate alone and experienced Pilate’s indifference to His plight. He was stood before the crowd alone and listened to them scream for His crucifixion. He hung on the whipping post alone to feel the hostility of the soldiers who just watched someone who had killed one of their friends set free. He dragged His cross up the hill to Calvary alone though He did experience help from Simon of Cyrene and the sympathy of a few women. He was nailed to the cross and suspended to die alone though there was a person on each side of Him experiencing the same. Death was working its way through His body and there was no one to help. In the Garden of Eden, God said it is not good that man live alone. It made things all the worse that Jesus had to live this day alone. Though sometimes we may be called to solitude to experience God in a special way like Jesus did in the wilderness, yet even there in His loneliness the Devil took opportunity to try to distract Him from what He was all about. Today, the Devil was making one last effort in His loneliness to separate Jesus from God. “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” It almost worked. Be on guard in a time of loneliness, it can be the Devil’s playground with your soul. As He did in the wilderness, Jesus was using scripture, specifically Psalm 22, to reinforce His faith. May you find in scripture the companionship of the Holy Spirit to defeat the demons of loneliness.
Wednesday of Holy Week – On this day, Judas’ betrayal is the focus from Matthew 26:14-25. Betrayal is a grievous pain inflicted upon another. One opens one’s heart to allow someone in. It is an act of trust. It makes one vulnerable for an open heart has no defense. If the person who is trusted violates that trust, the one who trusted is deeply wounded and scarred for a lifetime. The physical body was created to heal when wounded, but spiritual wounds may never heal. Jesus loved Judas no less than any of the others. Judas’ betrayal hurt Jesus more than the scourging and being nailed to the cross. We, who hold the body to be of greater value than the soul, may have a hard time believing that. Jesus, who held the soul to be of greater value than the body, understands fully the violation of His heart by the betrayal of Judas. Violating someone’s trust is a very serious sin. There is a little Judas in all of us.
Tuesday of Holy Week – On this day, Jesus’ cleansing of the temple is remembered (Luke 19:45,46). Immediately before these verses, Luke tells of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and the destruction He foresees (and happened 40 years later). So, He enters the temple and encounters the primary cause for the downfall of Jerusalem. The temple which was supposed to be a place where people could encounter God had become a place where all people met were money hungry leadership. This weakened the faith among the people which would contribute to the downfall Jesus foresaw. Major truth here, when the institution that is created to represent God becomes sidetracked with self-serving issues, there is little opportunity for people to encounter God. When this happens, the institution becomes more of a determent to society for which it had been created to serve. If it is not leading people to God, then it is leading people away from God, there is no middle ground here. Any culture that does not encounter God is doomed as Jesus foresaw with Jerusalem and the institution with the responsibility of representing God is much to blame. Being the church is a major responsibility.
Monday of Holy Week (the anointing of Jesus) – An unnamed woman is so overwhelmed in her love for Jesus that she seeks a way to express that love. She takes a jar of expensive ointment and anoints Jesus, an extravagant expression of love in that time. She gave no thought to the value of the ointment, no thought of how she might use it for herself, nor did she consider what others would think of her. This was not a calculated act; this was an expression of love. True expressions of love take no account of ramifications of their act, they go into action and do what they are moved to do for another. The woman did not know the role this played in what was to come. She simply let love guide her behavior thus she performed an act with divine implications. When we act purely out of love for another, we are acting in the name of God.
Palm Sunday – A growing stage of faith development is to come to the realization that in choosing to follow our Lord Jesus Christ, life will not be easy. As we look at the life of Jesus through the gospels, He never had it easy. From the struggles of the incarnation to His Passion that we will witness again this week, working for the glory of God will be challenging in many ways. Reason is because we are still living in a world in which sin has not been completely removed. Defeated yes, but not yet destroyed. Therefore, to choose to follow Jesus will be to experience continual conflicts. Jesus final words to His disciples in the Upper Room were, “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33b)
Saturday of the Fifth Week in Lent– in 930 BCE, with much tribal discord and political unrest, ten tribes of God’s chosen people broke away from the nation and established their own holy city of Shechem. They selected their own leadership and practice of religion all in the name of God. They built great walls around their cities and had fine homes within the walls. The impression was that all was well. To those tribes, the prophet Amos was sent to deplore the false sense of security the people had in their resources and how corrupt they had become spiritually. Needless to say, he was not received well. Critical words spoken in a time of affluence are never received well. This is a sad scenario that still plays itself out in the Church today. When any people spend most of their time finding fault with others rather than looking internally at the faults within themselves, there will discord, unrest, and division. Sin divides and scatters. Sin drives us from the home that God has built for us in the depths of our hearts and in the Church. Good News – in the saving mystery of Jesus Christ, God gathers and reunites. Thanks be to God!
Friday of the Fifth Week in Lent – The word that dominates Paul’s admonition to the church at Corinth found in II Corinthians 5:16-21 is reconciliation. It is a word that is frequently used in religious jargon. We know what it means right? Or in our frequent use of it, have we lost sight of the depth of the word? To be reconciled to God means to be restored to God’s favor which was lost in our failure to love God as we were created to do. But the Lover (God) restored to His favor the Beloved (us). The way has been opened for us to get back to what we should have been about all our lives, to be in a perfect relationship of love with God. That becomes fully manifested in all efforts to return to a state of harmony and friendship anyone we have fallen out of relationship with or any two people who have become at odds with one another. The Church exists today to promote the harmonizing of human relationships. This is the message of the passage cited above. But if the Church is to be successful with the message of reconciliation, it must start with itself. This is not easy as will be witnessed again next Friday. But it is so very good and right. It is the essence of God.
Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Lent – As Jesus made clear when He read the scriptures in His home town of Nazareth, His role is to fulfill God’s intent originally spoken through the prophecy of Isaiah, The Spirit of the Lord is up me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Lent: Betrayal of trust is devastating in any relationship be it marriage, family, or the community of the believers. No human being can heal a heart that has been wounded by unfaithfulness, only God can. The beginning verses of Psalm 40 acknowledge it is God who must pull us from the miry bog into which human sin casts us. God saves His deeply wounded children because the act of unfaithfulness cuts deepest against everything that is of God. God is love; love that is buttressed by trust and faithfulness. This aspect of love must be respected at all costs and when it is not, only God can save us...and God will.
Monday of the Fifth Week in Lent: Today’s devotion addresses the time of which St Mark is in, the time of transition. The time between ministers is not a static time but a time for a church to take a good look at itself. To deal with the past and bring any issues to rest. To deal with changes both in the life of the church and in new leaders that are called. To reexamine its ministry considering changes in the community where it exists. To have hope for God’s work when a new shepherd is sent to lead the flock. There is much going on in a time between ministers. Thus, the term for the minister who serves in that time has changed. He/she was commonly called an interim minister, but the term often implies that someone is merely filling the gap. Recently, the term transitional minister was adopted which implies that the church is going somewhere and that minister has been specifically called by God to lead the church to where God wants the church as a new day of ministry is dawning. No, St Mark is not sitting on its hands waiting for the new minister, it is busy preparing to move into the future to which God has called it.
Fifth Sunday in Lent – the crossroads of the fifth week in Lent are those that are encountered in the Church, both universal and local. The verse of the day speaks of what the Church is set aside to be. The devotional sights the lofty status of the Church in I Peter 2:9, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. This is what God has made the Church. But the rest of the verse is critical, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of Him who called You out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Saturday of the Fourth Week in Lent – As this week’s focus has been on vocation, what does it have to say to those who are retired? The devotional concludes this week with blessed thoughts to the retirees. There was a couple in the church I served in Michigan who modeled for Marsha and me healthy retirement. With the freedom of schedule, they picked their spots where they wanted to serve. They volunteered at the hospital, they joined a banjo club who raised money for charitable causes, they faithfully served the church, they were available to their family. People that retire often will hear someone say, “enjoy your retirement.” That couple truly enjoyed their retirement by picking ways to serve others. As the man said to me once, “the joy of retirement is that I get to choose where I serve.”