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Scripture

Matthew 25: 14 -18shovel-dirt-13241054

14  [Jesus said,]  “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents.     17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

Reflection

Five talents.  Two talents.  One talent.  And that last talent went into the ground for safe keeping.  Of course, that last slave was just being conservative.  He didn’t want to risk his master’s treasure which had been entrusted to his care.

Do we have any treasure, any talents that we’ve squirreled away for safe keeping instead of putting them to use in God’s service?  Are there any gifts that we have, or suspect that we have, that we have kept under wraps?    Have we shied away from taking risks for our Lord?

What do we risk losing?  What might we gain?

Prayer

Dear Lord,

All that we have comes from you.   You know all our gifts and all our shortcomings.   And so you know if we are living boldly or with great caution.

Give us the courage and strength to use all that you’ve graced us with.  Nurture in us a willingness to take risks for you.

And then surprise us.

Amen.

Scripture

Matthew 25: 1 -13download (1)

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.   5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps.

8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’

9 But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’

10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’  12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’

13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Reflection

Lamps — check.

Oil — check.

Coffee to stay awake — check.

What’s your checklist to prepare yourself as we delve deeper into Lent?   We’re 15 days in.   Perhaps you’ve given up a favorite thing or two, and maybe you’ve made a positive commitment to DO something this Lent.   Whatever it is, I invite you to reaffirm for yourself how you’re preparing for the cross — and for the new life beyond.

Prayer  by William O’Malley

God, my Friend,

I offer You each moment of this day

whatever comes — the unexpected challenges,

diversions from my plans,

the need-filled glance,

the expectations and complaints,

the being taken for granted,

the slights and sleights-of-hand.

I’d be grateful if You could keep me aware of my pesky habits, like . . .

And, between us, perhaps we can enliven the spirits of those I live and work with, like . . .

Whatever else befalls,

I trust we can cope with it,

together.

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

Scripture —  Matthew 21: 33 – 39

“Listen to another parable.  images

There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34 When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce.  35 But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way.        37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

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.

Reflection

This is what I refer to as one of Jesus’ “in-your-face” parables.   If they don’t realize it immediately, the chief priests will soon grasp the symbolism that Jesus is using.  The vineyard was a common metaphor in Old Testament scripture for the nation of Israel.   God is the owner.   The first slaves sent by the owner (God) were the prophets,  and Jesus of course is the son.

This is a passage that reminds us during this Lenten season of the tremendous conflict that is brewing.   Jesus, as always, is aware of what lays before him — a grisly death.   He won’t shy away from it.  He has his work to complete, for you and for me, for the world.

Prayer

Dear God,

As we move through these Lenten days, help us to be mindful of the cost of your love.   Help us to remember how your Son confronted the powers of the day and did not flinch.   Help us to live, in our own circumstances and situations, with a touch of such bravery.

Amen

Scripture — Matthew 21: 28-32

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28 “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”

They said, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.   32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

Reflection

What matters most in this Christian life?  What we say or what we do?   Word or deed?  Neither son in this parable is without fault.  One is courteous and on the face obedient, but then doesn’t follow through.  The other is rude and disobedient on the face, but then ends up doing his father’s bidding.

How would our own lives fit in this parable?  Have we said yes to work in the Lord’s fields, but haven’t really followed through?   Or have we turned away from such calls, but then find ourselves in the fields at some point anyway?  How obedient are we to our Lord?

Prayer

Dear Lord,

There are many ways that you call us.   There are many ways to serve you.   Instill in us an obedience that springs from our lips as well as our limbs, so that we honor you by all we say and do.

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

Scripturedownload

Matthew 21: 18- 21

18 In the morning, when he returned to the city, he was hungry.  19 And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it,  “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.

20 When the disciples saw it, they were amazed, saying, “How did the fig  tree wither at once?”

21 Jesus answered them, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done.

Reflection

We’ve all heard that phrase “faith to move mountains” which comes from this exchange between Jesus and his disciples.  Does Jesus mean actual, geological mountains?  Perhaps.   But it seems just as plausible to me that Jesus means the seemingly insurmountable mountains that tower over our own lives — the mountain of guilt, the mountain of a broken relationship, the mountain of a destructive habit, the mountain of lost personal dreams.

Or maybe Jesus speaks of those mountains around us in our community and our world.  The mountains of hunger, racial division, violence, poverty.   What other mountains would you name in your own life, in your community, and our world?   This Lent, Jesus invites us to a greater faith in him, and then  to cast those heaping burdens and obstacles of granite and limestone into the sea.

Prayer

Dear Lord,

There is so much that seems beyond us.  Remind us that there is nothing beyond you.  Nurture in us a faith that finds strength in you.

Amen

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Scripture —  Matthew 21: 10 – 13

11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

12 Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.

13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.”

Reflection

Clean house.   That’s what Jesus chooses to do as soon as he enters the city of Jerusalem.  Set aside any notion of the docile, meek Christ.  This Jesus sends the pay day lenders and merchants packing.  Quite an entrance.

If we imagine Jesus riding the Palm Sunday procession into our own hearts and lives, instead of Jerusalem, where do we expect that he’d apply his broom?   What habits would he rout out of us?  What dirt would he sweep out from the corners that we keep under wraps?   What offenses would he expel from us?

Prayer

Dear Lord,

We often seek you for comfort and guidance.   Let us now open the doors and windows of our lives to you and ask you to help us rid ourselves of all that offends you.  Create in us clean hearts, loving spirits, and forgiving ways.

Amen

 

 

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 Scripture —  Matthew 21: 6-9

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them;  7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Reflection

Everyone loves a parade, or so the saying goes.   As Jesus approaches Jerusalem, the crowds awaiting him and following him are all shouting.   Some lay their cloaks on the road before him.

Can I suggest an image to you?  Wherever you are as you read this post, and perhaps you’re sitting on your own, I want to invite you to imagine that you are part of a grand parade.  You are either walking along with thousands, no, millions of other Christians who are following Jesus on this Lenten walk.  Or, perhaps you have found a good spot along the side of the road and are sharing the anticipation with those around you.   Wherever you are on the route, you’re in fellowship with other Christians in your church, your community, your state, the country, and the world.  But more than that, you’re in the company of all those people who over the ages have followed our Lord on this Lenten walk.   You’re walking with those who are dear to you who may have passed away.   You’re walking with all the saints of yesteryear.  And together with this multitude — or in the hush of the room where you are right now — you call out “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Prayer

Dear Lord,

Fill us with the anticipation and excitement of seeing you on this Lenten parade.  As we stand on tip toe, help us to see you through moments of prayer, through pages of scripture, through services of worship, or through services to others in need in our world.

Amen

 

 

Scripture — Matthew 21:1-5download

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me.  3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately. ”

4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Reflection

It’s a little thing.  Telling the disciples to go into the town and fetch a donkey which will be tied up.  But then it’s a big thing, a really big thing.  Because it shows how what occurs during the season of Lent doesn’t just happen to Jesus.  Instead, as reflected in this donkey errand in which all is known and pre-arranged, Jesus is carrying out God’s greater plan.    And he still is.

Prayer

Dear Lord,

We hunger to be used just like those disciples, dispatched by you for an task or mission.  Help us to realize that in fact we are summoned just as plainly as those two, dispatched to spread your gospel truth, love and grace.  This Lenten seaons, give us, we pray, that clarity of call and purpose.

Amen