Archives for posts with tag: Easter

No delight  30.  No delight

“For you have no delight in sacrifice;”

– Psalm 51:16a

Perhaps you are among the 1.35 billion people around the world who actively use Facebook each month.  You may even be one of the 890 million people who use it every day.   (Don’t think this is a youth-only phenomenon — 31% of U.S. seniors are on Facebook!)   If you are one of these Facebook users, then you may be familiar with the concept of “liking” something that you see on Facebook by clicking on that little thumbs up icon or “Like.”   You can choose to Like almost anything on Facebook.   You may have even received messages from friends (or strangers) asking you to Like their page or a particular event.   Why, if you see the notice of this devotional on BRPC’s Facebook page, you could Like it too!

Ever wonder what earlier times in history would have been like if they had access to social media?  Could you imagine if Moses had a Twitter account?  (“People whining AGAIN today, want cheesy #manna.”)   According to our writer of Psalm 51, if those who promoted ritual sacrifice had a Facebook page, the Lord would not Like it.   There are several places in scripture, such as the passage below in Isaiah, where the Lord expresses dislike of sacrifices, wanting instead for people to dedicate their entire lives to God.              

Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations– I cannot bear your evil assemblies . . . They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.   When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood;  wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.   (Isaiah 1:13-17)

In other words, the Lord calls upon us to move beyond the merely symbolic and DO acts of love and mercy.  So you could Like this entry from God on Isaiah’s Facebook page.  But better yet, you could click on The Lord’s Twitter page where there’s another button you can click on — you can Follow.

 

Prayer

Dear God,

Draw us to you in reverence.  Hear us in our prayers.   Help us to meditate upon your holy Word.  But then stir us to get up and witness to you so that we embody and enact our faith in the world.

Amen

30a.  Like button

 

 

 

Restore to me

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation,”    – Psalm 51:12a23a.  Restore to me

Have you ever been to one of those restoration warehouses?  I’m not talking about the upscale Restoration Hardware, but those quirky stores that stockpile old things that people might choose to use in their homes.  My wife Janet and I had a good time nosing around such a warehouse in the crossroads district of Kansas City.  You could find old light fixtures, doors, claw-foot tubs, stained glass, and loads of other things that had been salvaged from old homes, offices or churches.  All that you need to restore something that was rusty or painted over is some tools, maybe some cleaning/stripping formula, elbow grease, patience and vision.

The verb “restore” is used a lot in the Old Testament.  One instance, in Psalm 85, makes me chuckle.  It goes:

You showed favor to your land, O LORD; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.  You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins.  You set aside all your wrath and turned from your fierce anger.  Restore us again, O God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us.  (Psalm 85:1-4)

Maybe I’m just feeling a bit punchy this afternoon, but it’s the “again” part that makes me laugh.  The psalmist recounts how God had already restored the people of Israel, but as we know the people continued to foul up.   So now the psalmist has come back before the Lord, another time, and has to ask for the lord to “restore us again.”     Grammatically I guess that would be re-restore!  I must say I appreciate the honesty of the psalmist.  How many times is it that we need to ask for God’s restoring grace?

The verb “restore” may be used most of all in the book of Jeremiah.  And that makes sense since that’s a book traces how the people are carried off into exile to Babylon.   Jeremiah’s plea and promise is for a restoration of the people back to their land:  “But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD . . . I will restore the fortunes of Jacob’s tents and have compassion on his dwellings; the city will be rebuilt on her ruins, and the palace will stand in its proper place.  From them will come songs of thanksgiving and the sound of rejoicing (Jeremiah 30:17-19).

Do you have any rust on your life?  Any nicks, scrapes or any other imperfections?  Any accumulated dirt, dust, old paint that is caking over your spirit and your soul?   It’s a good thing that God enjoys kicking around these warehouses too.  God spies you, lifts you up from behind a pile, blows off some of the dust, and in an instant sees what you can become again.

23b.  Restore to me  Prayer

Almighty God,

By your grace, mercy, forgiveness and love, reclaim us and make us a new    people (again).  Restore to us the beauty of your  image, and by the gift of  your Son and Holy Spirit, fill us with joy this day.

Amen.

 

Scripture

images (17)61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. 62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said,

“Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.”

65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”

66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

 

Reflection

“Make it as secure as you can.”  Ever since Jesus began his earthly ministry, some people tried to contain Jesus, to pin him down, to limit his impact.   Now, even in death, Pilate sends soldiers to make sure that Jesus didn’t get loose.

Are there ways in our own daily living that seek to make the tomb secure by sealing the stone?  Do we seek to limit Jesus’ reach into our affairs, keep him out of certain transactions, exclude him from entire parts of our lives?

This is just Saturday.   The tomb is still sealed.  But Jesus will not be tamed by Pilate.   And with the light of dawn tomorrow, he will not be quarantined by whatever stones we might choose to keep him bottled up.

 

Prayer

Dear Lord,

We have walked with you these 40 days.  Sometimes we have followed closely.  At other times, we have watched only from afar.  Today, we remain in mourning from the blows of yesterday’s crucifixion, and from the draining, emptying effects of death.

In the wake of your death and that sealed tomb, this is a day absent hope.

It’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other.

Breathing.

And waiting to see what Sunday morning will bring.

Amen.

Scripture

Matthew 26: 69-75images (12)

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.”

70 But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”

71 When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

72 Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”

73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.”

74 Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed.   75 Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

 

Reflection

As we enter into this Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, tradition has us focus upon Peter’s denial of Christ.   This is the enthusiastic disciple — the one who leaped into the water to walk to Christ;  the one who professed to Jesus “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”;  the one who said that HE would never deny his Lord.

But then we have our own moments, moments when people effectively say “You are with Jesus” and we deny it.  Moments when someone makes an off-color joke at someone else’s expense, but it’s just a joke so we keep silent.   Or when someone suggests cutting a corner in some enterprise which is not entirely legal or ethical, but we go along and keep silent.  Or when someone asks us for some help and we pretend not to see or hear them.  Or when we cling to old hurts and grudges rather than practice forgiveness.

Or when . . .

 

Prayer

Dear Lord,

We want to follow you, but often we fail.   Sometimes we fail unwittingly, carelessly.  Sometimes we fail intentionally.  Forgive us for the ways that we deny you.  Forgive us and call upon us to be your disciples again.

Amen

 

p.s.  At some point along the way, I missed a day and so my devotions jump from day 36 to day 38.  Call today my “Leap Devotional”!

Scripture

Matthew 26: 65-68images

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your verdict?”

They [the council] answered,  “He deserves death.”

67 Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him,68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?”

 

Reflection

The verdict was in.   It didn’t take long.  Of course the religious authorities had been looking for a way to kill Jesus for a while.

The question of the High Priest still rings in our ears:   “Why do we still need witnesses?”   Per usual, the opponents of Jesus say something ironic.  Why do they still need witnesses?  Because they did not yet know the truth.   And yet, where were the witnesses for Jesus?  They were nowhere to be found.

 

Prayer

Dear Lord,

They condemned you to death and would then turn you over to Pilate.

They rendered their verdict of guilty.

No one stood up for you.

Not a one.

Help us, we pray, to stand up for you today.

Amen

Scripture

Matthew 26: 61-64images

At last two came forward  61 and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.'”

62 The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?”

63 But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

 

Reflection

How often it is that opponents of Jesus unwittingly say the most ironic things.   “I put you under oath before the living God,” says the high priest, “tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”   It conjures up images of George Burns on the witness stand in the movie “Oh God!” in which he takes the oath, saying “So help me, me.”

How many ways do we put God to the test?   How many times do we call on God to perform for us, so as to prove that God is God?    How do we put God on the stand when it is we who are to be judged?

 

Prayer

Dear Lord,

Forgive our insolence at times.

Forgive us for demanding explanations,

for putting you to the test,

for asking you to defend yourself,

for putting you on the stand.

 

We thank you for your patience,

forbearance,  and your mercy

as the one who is the judge,

and who rules with forgiveness

and love.

Amen

 

Scripture

Matthew 26: 55-56images (1)

55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me.  56 But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.”

Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

 

Reflection

I expect that Jesus knew it would happen all along.  Even when he called out to them along the sea of Galilee to follow him, I expect he knew that this night would come when all, not some, all of the disciples would desert him.   Did they go as a group, or did they slink away one by one — each making the choice, by themselves, to flee.  Some may have stepped away quietly, covertly walking among the shadows of night so as to avoid notice.   But I imagine some of them may have just run.

I expect we’ve “been there, done that” at one point or another.  Are you the slink-away type?  Or do you prefer to just flat our run from Jesus?

Of course he always gives us the option.  So which will it be?  Will we slink back to Jesus, or will we run back to him?

 

Prayer

Dear Lord,

Forgive us for our weakness.

Forgive us for our fear.

Forgive us for our lack of conviction

to stand with you.  To not run.

Make us disciples anew, call us again,

give us the hope, the mercy, the challenge, the joy

to be your disciples again.

Amen

Scripture

Matthew 26: 45-49images (1)

45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.  48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.”

49 At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

 

Reflection

A peck on the cheek — betrayal.   Isn’t it curious that of all the signs that Judas could have given to signal who is to be arrested, he chose a kiss.   Not a handshake,  not a wink,  not “it’s the guy I’ll stand next to”  nor the person to whom I’ll say “Hello Rabbi.”    But a kiss.

It underscores the personal nature of the betrayal.  The fact that Judas was one of the twelve, chosen as a disciple.  Why did we even need a betrayal in the gospel story anyway?  Weren’t there plenty of people eager to have Jesus arrested who could have arranged to make it happen away from the crowd?

But betrayal is in the heart of the story.  And of course not just on Judas’ part, but by all of the disciples.  All of the supposed faithful failed Jesus.  Intentionally.  Spectacularly.   And yet he went to the cross for them (and us) anyway.

 

Prayer

Dear Lord,

How many ways have I been untrue to you?

How many times have I allowed my temper to flare, gossip to govern, self-interest to predominate?

As we look back upon just yesterday, how many things would I have done differently had I lived that day with the intention to apply the gospel in my every word and deed?

Now we have a new day.

Amen.

 

 

Scripture

Matthew 26: 40-44   images

40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?  41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

43 Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.   45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?”

 

Reflection

You’ve that experience, I’m sure.   You’re sitting there, in a class room, a conference room, church (!) — and your head suddenly snaps back and you realize you’d been dozing.

Three times Jesus goes off to pray, three times he returns to find the disciples catching some z’s.   “Could you not stay awake with me one hour?”   We are nearing the beginning of Holy Week, a time when the temptation is great to think ahead to a glorious Easter service and resurrection, pretty dresses and hats, Easter Egg hunts and chocolate eggs.   But rushing past the darkness of Holy Week is akin to falling asleep in the garden of Gethsemane.   Instead, Jesus bids us to stay awake and accompany him as he walks toward the cross.    It seems the least we can do.

 

Prayer

Dear Lord,

Awaken us to your call this Lenten season.

If our eyes get droopy and our attention wanders,

shake us up,  refresh our devotion to you,

and lead us into the coming week of a triumphal entry,

an evening meal in that upstairs room,

and a dark Friday.

And only then, draw us forward to that first light of dawn

on a day the begins the rest of our lives.

Amen

 

gather us back

 

Scripture

Matthew 26: 6 -13yellow pouring out

6 Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. 8 But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste?   9 For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.”

10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

 

Reflection

I bet you can remember a time when you acted incredibly extravagantly.  It was a special occasion, and you went all out.   Perhaps it was a special birthday, a graduation, an anniversary, a promotion at work.    And to celebrate, you spent more, way more than you usually do.  Someone looking in from the outside might have said to you, “Really?  You’re going to spend THAT much on this?”

“Really?” said the disciples as they watched the woman pour the costly perfume on Jesus’ head.  “Why this waste?”

When was the last time that we did something extravagant for Jesus — something that others would look at and wonder if we’re a bit crazy?    What might we do next?

 

Prayer

Dear Lord,

You are so precious to us.

Perhaps especially so as we follow you in these Lenten days, knowing the path that you are taking and the cross that stands at the end.

May we find ways to shower you with our love and devotion.

Unreservedly.

Amen.