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Scripture

Matthew 26: 57-60  images (10)

57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered.  58 But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end.

59 Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death,  60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward.

 

Reflection

I had a great Aunt named Lillie Mae.   She grew up in Philadelphia and her father was an alcoholic.  Finally, her mother threw her father out of the house, so bad was his drinking.  When Lillie Mae became a teenager, she got a job at a retail store in downtown Philadelphia.  She had to work at night but she was afraid of making that trip each evening.  So she would run from her house until she reached the relative safety of the bus stop.   She would learn later in life that each night she worked, her father was waiting for her in the shadows.  And as she ran to the bus stop, he would run along with her from a distance behind.

Peter deserted his Lord, but not entirely.  He followed at a distance, walking in the shadows.  He could have abandoned Jesus altogether.  And as we know, he will proceed to deny Jesus three times.  And yet, there was a measure of faithfulness in him that night as he stood by, watching.

 

Prayer

Dear Lord,

Sometimes we can only muster up a small amount of faithfulness.

We may have failed you in many ways, but we still have that longing deep within to stick with you.

Take that mustard seed within each of us and nurture it, we pray, until our faith blossoms and we find that we can stand with you in broad daylight.

Amen

Scripture

Matthew 26: 20 – 25images (1)

20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve;  21 and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?”

23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.  24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”

25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

 

Reflection  by St. Francis of Assisi

I know things about you that no other person knows.  You committed many more sins than people imagine; you performed many more miracles than people believe.  In order to mount to heaven you used the floor of the Inferno to give you your momentum.  “The further down you gain your momentum,” you often used to tell me, “the higher you shall be able to reach.”  The militant Christian’s greatest worth is not his virtue, but his struggle to transform into virtue the dishonor and malice within him. 

 

Prayer

Dear Lord,

Surely not I, Lord?

Surely I have not offended you,

by any word or deed.

Surely not I, Lord?

Surely I have not done

what is evil in thy sight.

Surely not I, Lord?

Surely I have not

walked away from you

as you make your way to the cross.

Surely not I, Lord?

Have I?

Amen

Scripture

Matthew 21: 40 – 46download

  38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’   39 So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

40 Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’?   43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.  44 The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them.  46 They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

Reflection

“‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”   The piece that was tossed aside as insufficient, imperfect, was found to be the linchpin.

If you enjoy movies like me, that might sound like a familiar Hollywood plot line where a single outcast or group of rejects rise to conquer the day.  Think (way back) to “Bad News Bears” or  “Rocky”  (I – VI)!

But in a sense, it’s also the Christian experience.   It’s true of our Lord who, although perfect, was rejected and persecuted.  Nonetheless, he became “the Church’s one foundation.”   It’s also true of you and me.  Unlike our Lord, we have ample flaws.  Any builder might be wise to cast us aside when considering building the church.  But in spite of our defects, our Lord, who IS the master builder, can take each of us and find the perfect space that we uniquely fill.  Are we able to see the same possibilities in others?

Prayer by Sir Thomas More

O Lord,

Remember not only the men and women of good-will, but also those of ill-will.   But do not only remember all the suffering they have inflicted on us, remember the fruits we bought thanks to this suffering, our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this, and when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness.

Amen

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Matthew 21: 23-27

 23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.  25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?”

And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.”  27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”

And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

 Reflection

How often it is that opponents of Jesus put their finger on the heart of the matter.  “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

That reminds me of the retort we used to say as kids when we thought that a sibling, friend or another peer was taking too much control of a situation.  We’d say:  “Who died and made you King (or Queen)?”   On what basis are you claiming this authority?    Or,  as a parent (or grandparent), when a child protests a direction of some sort (“but WHY do we have to do that?),  you may have used the phrase “Because I said so!”  Which is another way of claiming authority.

Of course this is a key theme of all the gospels.  Jesus asks his disciples — “who do the people say that I am” and “who do you say I am?”   He is asking whether they recognize his authority.

Do we recognize Jesus’ authority in our lives today?   Do we step back and ask our Lord to lead our life?  Do we yield to his commands to love one another, to put others first,  to forgive, to be peacemakers?    Or, do we claim the authority over our lives to do as we wish?

Thinking back to that childhood retort, someone of course did die and was made a king.  But it wasn’t you or me.

Prayer

Dear Lord,

Help us to know that you are our Lord, our Savior, our King.

Help us to turn our lives over to you,

and live!

Amen

018I drop my 5 tetri coin into the slot by all the buttons and ride the elevator in our building down nine flights to the street.   I am going out to explore for a few hours while Janet, Elyse and Doris share some time.

I walk thru some small streets, past apartment buildings and the Swedish, Romanian and Czech Embassies.   Off of one balcony, a rope is suspended over to a tree where a pulley is mounted so that the apartment owner has a good 30 feet to hang their laundry.

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On another clothes line, a couple of stuffed animals are hanging out to dry.

You might think that the buildings appear unfinished (which sometimes is the case) or as if they’re falling apart a bit.   But the outside of buildings don’t always reflect what’s inside.  Rough exteriors often contain beautiful spaces within.

???????????????????????????????I make the walk to the main boulevard – Chavchavadze Street.   Most streets in Tbilisi seem to have at least 4 syllables in their name!  That’s when you see the names, because street signs are scarce in many parts of the city.  You can go blocks and blocks without seeing any — a challenge for a map fiend like me!  And when you do encounter street signs (on the sides of buildings), they are often only in Georgian.  I think Georgian script is elegant.  It appears, to me, like a cross between the flowing sweep of Arabic and rounded curls of Korean writing.

Once I get to Chavchavadze, I take one of the underground pedestrian walkways to get to the other side of the street.  These underground passages are lined with shops selling vegetables, kitchenware, electronics, clothing, pharmacy items, and a host of other merchandise.   Old ladies and men often sit on the side of the steps to sell some produce.

139One generally doesn’t walk across the main boulevards at street level — which is wise.   Even Georgians admit that driving habits here are insane.  Taxis and regular cars  constantly jockey for that extra centimeter which they can then leverage to shoot ahead in traffic, swerving abruptly to avoid merging cars and on-coming traffic that may be straying across the middle line — all while traveling at break neck speed and maintaining a continual staccato of honking.   New York City taxi cab drivers might seem genteel in comparison.

110Given this state of affairs, it’s a bit alarming that, generally speaking, people only wear seat belts in the front seat.  In the back (including in taxis), the belts are usually tucked deep into the creases of the back seat, or removed altogether (despite signs which sometimes say “Please fasten your seatbelt”!).  When we take taxis, we try to be selective (minimal dents, etc.) but windshield cracks, as on a recent ride, are par for the course.

It is, however, pretty cheap to ride a taxi — generally 5 Georgian Lari (about $3) gets you anywhere in the center city.   The yellow buses, which are everywhere and run frequently, are cheaper yet (.5 Lari per trip); and they feel safer.   So on this day,  I hop on the 140 bus and head to the Old City.   As we move into traffic, it feels to me as though the bus is like a whale with all the taxis and other cars shooting around us like schools of kelp in the sea.

082As the bus travels down tree-lined Chavchavadze, we pass Ilia State University (“ISU”!) and long stretches of shops.  Much of the avenue has ornate lanterns and balconies.   Tbilisi is known for its balconies — in many locations, they reminds me of New Orleans.  Some are very ornate, others may be just concrete slabs.  But everyone, it seems, treasures these open spaces and lookouts to the street.

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Amidst these beautiful balconies and lanterns one may nearly stumble over a shocking site — a toddler left on a blanket on the sidewalk to beg.   It’s common to see older people asking 029for money (frequently around churches).   But I have been stunned to see what appears to be 2 – 3 year olds laying on small blankets in the middle of busy sidewalks holding a little cup.  The children are often asleep or look half dazed.    The added shock is that there’s no adult I see in sight watching over the children — although they presumably are somewhere close by.  I did observe one woman (at left — the mother?) one day smoothing out a blanket on the sidewalk for a child and then speaking with the child  before,  I expect, leaving them.   I have passed these children several times with my own 8 year old daughter, whom I know finds the sight disturbing.   How do you explain to a young child that a 2 year old might be left alone to beg?

These children (and families) appear to me to be of a distinct ethnic group — and I’m told they are Roma — gypsies who live a somewhat nomadic existence across Europe.  Someone who works for a  local aid organization told me that the Roma often resist efforts of assistance, preferring to rely on their own established social networks.

075As the bus turns onto Rustaveli Avenue, we pass the Opera House, House of Parliament and other large buildings.  One of these is the National Georgian Museum.  Janet, Elyse, Doris and I went the other week and saw, among some Georgian treasures, an exhibit on “The Soviet Occupation of Georgia.”   This region, sandwiched between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, is a crossroads and has been conquered and reconquered over the centuries.  The Russians were the latest occupiers, controlling Georgia from 1922 to 1991, until they were expelled during the breakup of the old Soviet Union.  The exhibit in the museum traces the pattern of oppression which locals say persists today in two regions of Georgia (map below).

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Throughout the exhibit, there are poignant  descriptions of those who were persecuted, from artists, clergy, political leaders and other regular citizens.

066The red areas in the map indicate regions of Georgia that are under Russian control today, stemming from the 5 day war you may have read about in 2008.  Georgians consider these two areas a part of territorial Georgia, but the future status of the regions, as well as relations with Russia, remain unclear.

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One café owner has fun with the legacy of the Soviet occupation with a tongue-in-cheek restaurant theme!

Speaking of persecution, there was a gay rights march a couple days ago along this same stretch of  Rustaveli Avenue.  We were warned by Janet’s colleagues to steer clear as similar public demonstrations have been the scene of violence in the past.  As we heard and read later, 75 LGBT persons were peacefully marching when they were violently assaulted by a large mob.  (They were evacuated, somewhat belatedly, by police.)  We had taken a cab to another destination in the city that day and were tied up in traffic as streets were closed, sirens sounded, and the commentator on the radio spoke urgently (in Georgian) about the unfolding events.

098My bus approaches my destination, Freedom Square.  This used to be called Lenin Square, but the statue of Lenin is gone, replaced with a gold statue of the patron saint of Georgia, St. George, who is usually depicted, as here, on a horse and spearing a dragon.

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I took the bus to Freedom Square because that puts me right in the midst of the Old City of 014Tbilisi.  My goal for the day is to explore the narrow, winding streets as they snake around the hills.   A guidebook recommended getting lost as the best strategy for discovering the charms and history of this old section of the city.   As soon as I get a block away from Freedom Square, the din of the city falls away and I feel as though I could be in a small hillside town.   An old woman sells her vegetables on the sidewalk, brooms are stacked for sale, flowers are set out on display.

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The deeper I go into the Old City, the quieter it becomes. I often am the only person on the street.  I peek into courtyards and follow little alleys.   I don’t know that I’d do this in the evening, but in the daytime I feel totally safe.  (Tbilisi is generally a very safe city.)

033As I continue along, my eye catches a spire through the opening of a small street.   I’m in the Betlemi (Bethlehem) neighborhood of the Old City and turn into the street.  A dog (on a balcony) raises a ruckus as I walk by.  Ahead of me, the “Lower Betlemi Church” rises up against the hillside.

038There are a series of steep staircases leading up to the church.   It’s about 1:00 p.m. and it seems that people are beginning to gather for what I expect is a midday service.   I watch as a woman slowly makes her way up the steps.

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055I enter the church and my eyes take a second to adjust to the darker interior, lit only by light coming thru a couple open windows and the devotional candles that people are lighting and placing in front of the icons that hang from the church’s interior walls.   People continue to come in.  Those gathering are mostly women (middle aged and older) and a few men.  People move around the open sanctuary (there are just a few benches around the perimeter), lighting their candles, and touching or kissing the icons.   People also write notes, as I saw people do at the Easter service.  I’m still not sure if these are prayers or confessions — I expect the former.  (I have asked a number of people about them, but each time, the person did not understand English.)   The priests begin to move through the church and collect the notes, the crowd continues to swell.

A few minutes later, the priests take their position in front of the choir screen and begin reciting  prayers.  As they do, five women begin singing a capella in the rising and falling tones of Gregorian chants — all the while the priests continue  their reading.

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I have no idea how long this service will last.  I first thought that it might be a briefer midday service, but people are still entering the church.  Wanting to cover more ground that afternoon, I stepped out of the church into the sun.

I have been struck by the religious devotion of the people here.  Not everyone attends church, but I regularly see signs of the faith from people, young and old, along the street.  When I was walking the other day, I saw a man suddenly stop and cross himself — a prudent step of protection I thought as he was venturing into the street.  But then I realize that he crossed himself because he was walking past a church.   Yesterday, I saw a young teen bopping down a street, his iPod jamming the latest tunes.  As he walked past a church, he suddenly paused, reverently looked to the church and crossed himself.  Then he was off again, leaving a trail of guitar and drum music as he went.   Even people riding the bus cross themselves as they pass churches in traffic.

077I make my way back to the staircase that brought me to the church and continue to climb.  This entire neighborhood rises sharply up the hill, and as I ascend, I find myself at a small plaza and the Upper Betlemi Church.   The church is locked and appears to be in need of renovation.  I wonder if it is in use.   The little plaza has beautiful views over the city and some artists have taken up position to paint.

065Behind the Upper Betlemi Church is a cliff face and then a set of stairs that lead to a switch-back path that winds up the hill to the top of the ridge that overlooks Tbilisi with the Narikala fortress perched on top.   I walk up halfway so I can look back down at the church and get a great view of the city.

(The Upper Betlemi Church at right)

042It’s a wonderful panorama of the Old City and across the river to the Presidential Palace and the new Concert Hall (the modern tube-like looking structures).   The new concert hall is a source of controversy as people question whether it’s placement in the old part of the city is appropriate.  Ironically, the biggest critic is the Prime Minister who lives in an enormous,  ultra modern mansion that sits on the hillside and overhangs the Old City.

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The Prime Minister’s abode.

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I return down to the small plaza.  I can hear the singing of the women coming through the windows of the lower Betlemi Church as the service continues.   To the right, a narrow alleyway invites me to continue my walk.

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Before long, there’s a bit of commotion as a class of school children come running past me and down the alleyway, their jackets flapping in the air.   As fast as they appeared, they’re gone, and I’m left in near complete quiet.  There’s only the occasional bark of a dog or the sound of a radio from inside a home.

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Further down the alley,  I walk by this home with the blue doors and vines growing overhead.

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The entrance to another home is adorned with flowers.  The vines are painted white near the ground to protect them from insects.

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I encounter more balconies.  This one, with clothes pins arrayed,  is ready for laundry.

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I loved the sweep of this balcony.

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And then there is the blend of the old and the new across the Old City as some modern homes have been built alongside the older ones.   Or, in this case, an old home has received an avant garde roof addition to its upper terrace.

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Further along, I pass a vendor with fruits and all sorts of Georgian delicacies hanging at the shop entrance.

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And then there’s this man enjoying a potato chip kebab!

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All of this food drives me to a café where I enjoy a cool Georgian beer and bite to eat.   When it comes to food in Georgia, it all begins with bread.   All across the city, there are small shops, often at basement level with just a window out to the street, where people make and sell bread.

baking breadThey use these large kiln-like ovens for baking.   I had seen the exteriors of several of these ovens and assumed that the bread sat on racks or shelves inside.  But when we went to a restaurant one evening (called the “Bread House,” appropriately), I was able to watch one of the bakers at work and saw how the dough is actually stuck to the sides of the oven.  Each long piece of bread that you buy here has a hole in it — which is from the prong used to pry it off the side of the oven.

The bread has a unique shape — flat, roundish  and wide in the middle, with long narrow “handles” on each end.  When you buy it from a shop, they wrap it in newspaper.   It’s a must to pull off pieces of hot bread to eat as soon as you get it.

206At a restaurant they serve bread in many forms, including this delicious cheese bread.

After bread, there is wine.  Georgia is purported to be the birthplace of wine.  We’ve sampled a number of vintages and have very much enjoyed them.

I’ve had to laugh a bit when we’ve gone to a local supermarket.  They have several aisles of wine and in each aisle are three women operating a tasting station.  You can never make it through the store (be it in the afternoon, evening or morning!) without several of the ladies approaching you and asking if you’d like to sample the wine.

203A staple on every Georgian menu is ‘beans in a clay pot.’  These come with the beans in a mouthwatering sauce which is boiling as the pot is placed on your table.  And of course, it’s perfect for dipping your bread!

Fish (mainly trout) is another feature on the menu, with grilled vegetables or a pomegranate sauce.   Janet ordered that one night.  The fish came served on a plate and was literally swimming in the pomegranate sauce.  At first glance, we thought, “Oh, that’s a dish ruined!”  Who wants THAT much sauce?  But it was absolutely delicious.

204Walnuts are perhaps the single most distinctive (as well as ubiquitous!) dietary element in Georgian cooking.  Walnuts are added to a broad range of dishes, including this cold eggplant appetizer with walnuts.

Meat figures prominently on menus — with grilled pork, chicken and beef — on kebabs or in a garlic or a (light)barbecue sauce (not like KC).   And the new potatoes, as the saying goes, are to die for.

But to describe a traditional Georgian meal by just talking about the food is to miss the essence of the experience.   Dining at a long table with Georgians is a free-flowing, warm, unhurried and completely delightful occasion.   Wine is placed on the table in decanters along with mineral water and juices, and then the food begins to arrive, and arrive, and arrive!    As dishes are passed around, the conversation easily meanders among matters of family, things local and international.     We have been included in a number of meals with Janet’s Georgian colleagues from the Free University of Tbilisi as well as aid organization partners, and they have been just wonderful gatherings.   The hospitality is unparalleled.

One adjustment when one dines in restaurants is the smoke.   Several people have commented to us that in some respects, Tbilisi resembles the United States in the 1950s when smoking was commonplace and seatbelts were unheard of.   Sometimes, it verges on the comical.   You can ride in a cab with a “no smoking” sign in the back seat, and then the driver lights up.   Or, I was walking down the street the other day and saw a man wearing one of those surgical masks that people sometimes wear to ward off pollution.  He stopped, pulled his mask down below his chin, and lit up a cigarette!

065We have enjoyed many kindnesses over the past couple weeks, from Janet’s colleagues as well as complete strangers.   My daughter Elyse, mother-in-law Doris and I were entering a church the other day.  To follow the local custom, Doris and Elyse began to fasten their head scarves before entering.   Since Elyse doesn’t usually do this, she was struggling a bit to secure the scarf.  A young girl who was standing nearby stepped forward to give her a hand.

On another day, we walked to a bus stop to try to catch a bus to a certain destination.   I didn’t have a bus map so I asked a man who was standing at the bus stop if he knew which bus we needed.   While many  Georgians  speak some degree of English (expertly in professional circles), in the general population English fluency is hit or miss.  (My Georgian vocabulary, needless to say, is exhausted in a few phrases.)   The man at the bus stop did not speak much English, but understood my question and showed me by pressing his cell phone buttons that we should take the 124 bus.   “Does the 124 bus stop HERE?” I asked.   He nodded ‘yes’ and then he hopped on his bus and was gone.   We waited.  5, 10, 15 minutes, but we didn’t see the 124 bus.   I began to wonder if the man had understood my question of whether the 124 bus serviced this bus stop.    Just as I was about to ask another person, the same man came up to us out of the crowd on the sidewalk and pointed to an approaching bus with the markings “124.”   “Your bus” he said, “your bus.”

I was so struck that this person had taken his bus, went about his business, and upon his return was still bearing us in mind.   Had he doubled back just to check on us?  Believe it or not, this exact scenario has happened to us twice.

201I finish my lunch and make my way back toward Freedom Square.   Along the way, I pass a sculpture of some lovers underneath an umbrella, which is actually a fountain.   There are wonderful sculptures all across Tbilisi.

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Another favorite sculpture of mine depicts a Georgian tradition where people sing, dance and try to trick each other!   The sculpture leaves a space that seems to invite you to join in!

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Back in Freedom Square, a bit exhausted from all the staircases and hiking, I climb onto the 140 bus and make my way back up Rustaveli and Chavchavadze Avenues to go back to our apartment.   As the bus lumbers along, taxis squirt ahead, veering left and right, and keep up their non-stop conversation of beeps and honks.

White Flower near Christian CrossScripture

Luke 24:1 – 12

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.   They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.  

While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.   The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.   Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,  that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”

Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.   Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.   But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.  

But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Prayer for the Day

Dear God,

It is early Easter morning and we make our way, along with the women, to the tomb.  We carry spices, the dew on the grass is still wet, the morning light yet dim.   We speak in soft tones about the task that is before us.  The shock of crucifixion still hangs over us.   At last, we draw close to the tomb where we had seen him laid two days before.  We suddenly stop in our tracks.  Not a word.   The stone that had been there is rolled away.  Slowly, we creep forward – and then we go in.  We shriek as those two men appear.

Their bewildering question:  “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Their stunning proclamation:   “He is not here, but has risen.”

He has . . . risen?  He has risen!  He Has Risen!   HE HAS RISEN!

Praise God!  Praise God for new life!   Praise God for forgiveness of sin!   Praise God for making all things new!   Praise God!

We stoop to quickly pick up all the spices that we had thrown in our fright.  We scramble out of the tomb, breathing hard.

Whom shall we tell?

Amen

Silhouettes of Three CrossesSacred Writing

The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore.

On the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe.  It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium.  We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild,” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious ladies.

To those who knew him, however, he in no way suggested a milk-and-water person;  they objected to him as a dangerous firebrand.  True, he was tender to the unfortunate, patient with the honest inquirers, and humble before heaven;  but he insulted respectable clergymen by calling them hypocrites;  he referred to king Herod as “that fox”;  he went to parties in disreputable company and was looked upon as a “gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners”;   he assaulted indignant tradesmen and threw them and their belongings out of the Temple;  he drove a coach-and-horses through a number of sacrosanct and hoary regulations;   he cured diseases by any means that came handy, with a shocking casualness in the matter of other peoples’ pigs and property;  he showed no proper deference for wealth or social position;  when confronted with neat dialectical traps, he displayed a paradoxical humor that affronted serious-minded people, and he retorted by asking disagreeably searching questions that could not be answered by rule of thumb.

He was emphatically not a dull man in his human lifetime, and if he was God, there can be nothing dull about God either.  But he had “a daily beauty in his life that made us ugly,” and officialdom felt that the established order of things would be more secure without him.

So they did away with God in the name of peace and quietness.

by Dorothy Sayers,

from A Lent Sourcebook:  The Forty Days

 

Prayer for the Day

Dear God,

This span between the death of your Son on Good Friday and the promise of his resurrection tomorrow is a “no man’s land.”   We are adrift.  Our Lord is dead.  And so there is an emptiness to these couple days.  We are helpless to set it aright.

We are waiting for you.

Amen

Silhouettes of Three CrossesScripture

Luke 22:31 – 23:55 (excerpts)

[Jesus said,] “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” . . .

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.”

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 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.

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.

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, 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!”

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” . . .

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. 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 . . .

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.”

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.  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.

 

Prayer for the Day

Dear Lord and Savior,

What might we say this day?

This day when we fall asleep as you pray in agony.  This day when we betray you with a kiss.  This day when we say “I don’t know him.”   This day when we interrogate you, but you don’t answer.   This day when we shout “crucify him!”   This day when we wash our hands of you.  This day when we wonder why you just don’t just save yourself.  This day when we gather at the cross and wonder what we have done.

What might we say?

Amen

Silhouettes of Three CrossesScripture

Luke 22: 14-23

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.

 

Prayer for the Day

Dear Lord,

Gratitude.  We are filled with gratitude for how you feed and nurture us.  Even though you know that there will be times when we’ll turn away from you, still, you offer us your body, your all.  Today we remember how you gathered your disciples in that upper room.  What if we go through this day mindful that tonight, we will be having dinner with you?  What anticipation!  What joy! What gratitude.

Amen.

Silhouettes of Three CrossesScripture  

Luke 22: 7-13

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.  So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.”

They asked him, “Where do you want us to make preparations for it?”

“Listen,” he said to them, “when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”‘   He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.”

So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

 

Prayer

Dear Lord,

You have prepared the way for us.  You have provided a room for us to share the last supper and saved a seat for each of us.  As you walk towards the cross, we will watch helplessly, wondering what we could do.  But even then, as you are nailed to that cross, it is you who is preparing the way for us.  Thank you Jesus.

Amen