Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Darkness

Scripture: John 12:20-36
Holy Tuesday
March 31, 2015

Jesus replied, “The light is with you for only a little while.  Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you.  Those who walk in the darkness don’t know where they are going.” John 12:35

Jesus shared his last meal with his disciples under the cover of night, took them to the garden to pray in darkness, was arrested and taken into custody all under the cover of night.  He was then placed into a cell, which was most likely a hole in the ground that he was lowered into, dark and isolated.  According to Luke, darkness descended upon Jerusalem at noon on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. So much of holy week happens in the dark.

I find when the internet is down either at my home or at my office I feel like I am in the dark.  I rely so heavily upon it that is has, in a way, become an appendage for me.  It is a lifeline to the world outside of me.  When it is down I am put into a holding pattern and I end up feeling disconnected and disjointed.

We all have something that we rely upon and when it is no longer there or gone temporarily we can feel the effects of our loss.

I wonder if Jesus worried for the crowds and for his followers after he would be gone.  In the growing shadows he reminds us to walk in the light and not in the darkness.  But I am reminded in passages like this one of Psalm 139 which says “surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night, even darkness is dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

Blessing:  Let your light shine in a dark world.  May your light illumine paths for others and may God bless you as you go and serve Amen.

Monday, March 30, 2015

An Extravagent Gift

Scripture: John 12:1-11
Holy Monday
March 30, 2015

Then Mary took an extraordinary amount, almost three-quarters of a pound, of very expensive perfume made of pure nard.  She anointed Jesus’ feet with it, then wiped his feet dry with her hair.  The house was filled with the aroma of the perfume. John 12:3

When was the last time you gave someone a gift worth your yearly salary?  Perhaps never? Mary offers this extravagant gift and not in some holier-than-thou way, a sort of hey look at me and what I can do way, but she presents it and gives it in the same way a slave would do something for his master.  The way you would honor someone who is the very presence of God.

She gets down on her knees and offers this gift to Jesus in the same way a slave would wash a master’s feet.

It’s like out of everyone in the room, Mary gets it. She understands that in order to follow Jesus she must become a servant to all and that devotion begins with her Messiah.

And she unleashes this powerful scent into the room, that over takes it so that her act cannot go unnoticed.  The smell permeates everything, perhaps even changing the taste of the food they are eating, because it is so overpowering.

 And while this odor is powerfully pouring into the room,
there sits Judas, counting, analyzing, dissecting, attempting to draw attention away from himself.  But we can smell a rat, even when there is noxious perfume in the air.

“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denari and the money given to the poor?”

Oh Judas, how easy it is for us to determine what should be done with someone else’s money and not our own.  It is much easier to give away someone else’s resources or to think when we see such extravagant gifts, “if only I had the resources to be so generous.”

While Mary acts, Judas talks and perhaps his words fall on deaf ears for even John clues us into the reality that his words are empty,
he is much more likely to steal from the treasury than to give to the poor.

Yet what he says captures our attention.  It’s not like what he has said,
what he has broken the silence with, is nonsense.  Before we start pointing fingers, let’s admit that there is present within all of us,
maybe just a very small part of us the curiosity to ask: “Why this waste?”  Maybe we are just relieved that Judas asked it
and we didn’t have to.  Maybe we would rather not be seen
as someone who is calculating and analyzing while this gracious act brings us to a point of emotional overload. 

You see there is a time and a place for the sort of conversation that Judas tries to start.  There is a time and a place for that kind of intellectual adventure, for asking difficult questions and calculating resources and response to great need.  As Jesus reminds us
we will always have the poor with us, the best use of a gift of 300 denari need not be argued about here.

Holy Week is not that time:  Because our mathematical skills
cannot quantify the cost of the cross.

And while we may be caught between the duality
 that John presents let us remember that both in their words
 and actions prepare Jesus for the road to the cross:  Mary with her anointing and Judas with his betrayal.

And Jesus recognizes and proclaims what Mary has done. 
“She bought it so that she might keep if for the day of my burial.”

You see Mary unleashed this gift, a gift which pales in comparison to the gift that Jesus offers to us all.  A gift which,
if we spend our time trying to calculate, will miss the larger scene unfolding:  because her actions foreshadow the death
and resurrection of Jesus, which unleashed the power of the Holy Spirit, whereby God’s love and forgiveness is unleashed on the whole world, permeating everything, saturating our world, so that we are unable to put it back, it cannot be reversed.
Thanks be to God. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday

Scripture: John 12:12-16
March 29, 2015

Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Don’t be afraid, Daughter Zion.  Look! Your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.” John 12:14-15

The passage for today brings into Holy Week.  It sets the stage for a dramatic culmination of events.  The crowd that joyously waved branches and cheered “hosanna” quickly turned against Jesus as the tension in the city mounted.
Perhaps they wanted Jesus to come in and save them from the Roman Empire, in a way that would radically change the political landscape.  Throughout the gospels we see this contrast between God’s Kingdom and the earthly kingdoms.  The more Jesus exhibits it by healing and restoring wholeness we see greater push back.
Instead of turning over the Roman Empire, Jesus sheds more light on God’s Kingdom.  It is a kingdom of love rather than hate, a kingdom of peace rather than war, it is a kingdom of presence rather than isolation.

Prayer:  God I sing my praise to you today.  Help me to hold tightly to that praise throughout this week.  Amen.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

In or Out

Scripture: John 11:47-56
March 28, 2015

Therefore, Jesus was no longer active in public ministry among the Jewish leaders.  Instead, he left Jerusalem and went to a place near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. John 11:54

Even before Holy Week begins the tension builds.  We know through the gospel writers that there were many that questioned what Jesus said and his actions.
It is so easy however to jump to conclusions about why the religious insiders wanted to silence Jesus.  As a people living under oppression conditions by a government that occupied their country, it is hard to imagine the amount of tension that existed in trying to keep the peace and not bring about too much attention to their somewhat limited ability to worship God.

What I prefer to focus on when reading passages is “what areas in my life do I resist the teachings of Jesus?”  When do I think it is fine for someone else to be loving, when I desire to cling to hate?  Or for someone to be generous and I hold on tightly to what I have?  When do I not make time to welcome in the outsider and prefer to remain comfortably inside?

Prayer:  God help me to see your presence throughout my day and help me to recognize and claim the ways that I fail you.  Amen.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Son of God

Scripture: John 10:31-39
March 27, 2015

So how can you say that the one whom the Father has made holy and sent into the world insults God because he said, ‘I am God’s Son’? John 10:36

What does it mean to call Jesus the Son of God?  

Most of us have learned some doctrinal answer to this question.  But at the heart of it is a request not to see if we can repeat some memorized statement but to know what it means to claim Jesus as God’s Son.  And that takes more than reading our bibles, it also takes experiencing the presence of God in community, it takes time in prayer and in growth in God’s Spirit.

It especially means even in the face of threatened persecution, to remain steadfast in your claim of who Jesus is.

Prayer:  God I thank you for the gift of your Son in my life.  Amen.

Easter ... ready ... set ... go!

Matthew 28:1-10 About three years ago I committed to the Narrative Lectionary.   It is a four-year cycle that takes the congregation t...