Sunday, March 31, 2013

easter sunday

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer:

Power of Love, shining through the risen Jesus, radiantly shine in the dark places of my pain.  Let their power to infect me be broken and drawn into your heart. (Feed My Shepherds by Flora Slosson Wuellner)

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 80

Scripture for the Day: John 20:1-18


Reading for Reflection:


     easter by Jim Branch

 the silence was deafening
that early morning as she stood,
gripped by a love that would not release her
everyone else was gone
back to their homes and their families
 
“how could they forget so quickly?” she thought
as she stood in the first light of dawn,
tears streaming down her cheeks
“did they not feel it too…the love?”
“if they did, how could they leave?”
 
her heart would not allow her to go
so she stayed—as near to him as she knew how
was she waiting?
was she hoping?
or was she simply doing the only thing she could—
to be near the place he was last near
she would rather be near him than anyone or anything
so she stayed…and cried
longing to hear her name from his lips once more
and then suddenly the voice…it startled her
looking through the tears she could not see who it was
 
“have you seen him?” she asked
“do you know where he is?”

it wasn’t until he uttered her name
that she recognized his voice
and at its sweet sound
everything in her was raised to life again
it was easter you see…and he had risen
and because of that
so had she


Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Song for the Week: Arise, My Soul, Arise

Arise, my soul, arise,
Shake off thy guilty fears:
The bleeding Sacrifice
In my behalf appears:
Before the Throne my Surety stands,
My name is written on his hands.

He ever lives above,
For me to intercede,
His all-redeeming love,
His precious blood to plead;
His blood atoned for ev'ry race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds he bears,
Received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers,
They strongly plead for me;
Forgive him, O forgive, they cry,
Nor let that ransomed sinner die!

My God is reconciled;
His pard'ning voice I hear;
He owns me for his child,
I can no longer fear;
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And "Father, Abba, Father!" cry.

Closing Prayer:
O God, who by your One and only Son has overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life; grant, we pray, that those who have been redeemed by his passion may rejoice in his resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord.  Amen.
                                                                ~Gelasian Sacramentary

Saturday, March 30, 2013

holy week, saturday

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer:

By your cross O Lord, you show the extravagance of your love for us.  Love than knows no limits…no boundaries.  Love that pours down upon us from every wound of your beloved Son.  More love than we could ever ask for or imagine.  When we are tempted to doubt the depths of your heart for us, let our eyes immediately look to Jesus crucified—and may all doubt be taken away.  In His name.  Amen. (JLB)

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 22

Scripture for the Day: Matthew 27:57-66


Reading for Reflection:


We have to be willing to acknowledge and expose our wounds to the healing balm that flows from the pierced hands and feet and side.  We need humbly and gratefully to accept this healing, with a gratitude that impels us to seek to sin no more.  Then our looking upon him who has been pierced will be for us a saving glance. (Seeking His Mind by M. Basil Pennington)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Song for the Week: Lift Up Thy Bleeding Hand

When wounded sore, the stricken heart
Lies bleeding and unbound,
One only hand, a pierced hand,
Can salve the sinner's wound.

When sorrow swells the laden breast,
And tears of anguish flow,
One only heart, a broken heart,
Can feel the sinner's woe.

Chorus:
Lift up Thy bleeding hand, O Lord,
Unseal that cleansing tide;
We have no shelter from our sin
But in Thy wounded side.

When penitential grief has wept
O'er some foul dark spot,
One only stream, a stream of blood,
Can wash away the blot.

'Tis Jesus' blood that washes white,
His hand that brings relief,
His heart that's touched with all our joys,
And feels for all our grief.

Chorus



Closing Prayer:
Our God and Father,
     We thank You that You have delivered us from the dominion of sin and death, and brought us into the kingdom of Your Son: Grant we pray that, by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to eternal joy.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen. (adapted from Venite by Robert Benson)

Friday, March 29, 2013

holy week, good friday

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer:

By your cross O Lord, you show the extravagance of your love for us.  Love than knows no limits…no boundaries.  Love that pours down upon us from every wound of your beloved Son.  More love than we could ever ask for or imagine.  When we are tempted to doubt the depths of your heart for us, let our eyes immediately look to Jesus crucified—and may all doubt be taken away.  In His name.  Amen. (JLB)

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 22

Scripture for the Day: Matthew 26:47-27:54


Reading for Reflection:


     In the winter of 1968-69, I lived in a cave in the mountains of the Zaragosa Desert in Spain.  For seven months I saw no one, never heard the sound of a human voice.  Hewn out of the face of the mountain, the cave towered 6,000 feet above sea level.  Each Sunday morning a brother from the village of Farlete below dropped off food, drinking water, and kerosene at the designated spot.  Within the cave a stone partition divided the chapel on the right from the living quarters on the left.  A stone slab covered with potato sacks served as a bed.  The other furniture was a rugged granite desk, a wooden chair, a sterno stove, and a kerosene lamp.  On the wall of the chapel hung a three-foot crucifix.  I awoke each morning at two A.M. and went in there for an hour of nocturnal adoration.
     On the night of December 13, during what began as a long and lonely hour of prayer, I heard in faith Jesus Christ say, “For love of you I left My Father’s side.  I came to you who ran from Me, fled Me, who did not want to hear My name.  For love of you I was covered with spit, punched, beaten, and affixed to the wood of the cross.”
     These words are burned on my life.  Whether I am in a state of grace or disgrace, elation or depression, that night of fire quietly burns on.  I looked at the crucifix for a long time, figuratively saw the blood streaming from every pore of His body and heard the cry of His wounds: “This isn’t a joke.  It is not a laughing matter to Me that I have loved you.”  The longer I looked the more I realized that no man has ever loved me and no one ever could love me as He did.  I went out of the cave and stood on the precipice, and shouted into the darkness, “Jesus, are you crazy?  Are You out of Your mind to have loved me so much?”  I learned that night what a wise old man had told me years earlier: “Only the one who has experienced it can know what the love of Jesus Christ is.  Once you have experienced it, nothing else in the world will seem more beautiful or desirable.”
     The Lord reveals Himself to each of us in myriad ways.  For me the human face of God is the strangulating Jesus stretched against a darkened sky, vulnerable to the taunts of passersby.  In another of his letters from prison, Bonhoeffer wrote, “This is the only God who counts.”  Christ on the cross is not a mere theological precondition for the achievement of salvation.  He is God’s enduring Word to the world saying, “See how much I love you.  See how much you must love one another.” (The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning)


Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Song for the Week: Lift Up Thy Bleeding Hand


When wounded sore, the stricken heart
Lies bleeding and unbound,
One only hand, a pierced hand,
Can salve the sinner's wound.

When sorrow swells the laden breast,
And tears of anguish flow,
One only heart, a broken heart,
Can feel the sinner's woe.

Chorus:
Lift up Thy bleeding hand, O Lord,
Unseal that cleansing tide;
We have no shelter from our sin
But in Thy wounded side.

When penitential grief has wept
O'er some foul dark spot,
One only stream, a stream of blood,
Can wash away the blot.

'Tis Jesus' blood that washes white,
His hand that brings relief,
His heart that's touched with all our joys,
And feels for all our grief.

Chorus



Closing Prayer:
Our God and Father,
     We thank You that You have delivered us from the dominion of sin and death, and brought us into the kingdom of Your Son: Grant we pray that, by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to eternal joy.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen. (adapted from Venite by Robert Benson)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

holy week, maundy thursday

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer:

By your cross O Lord, you show the extravagance of your love for us.  Love than knows no limits…no boundaries.  Love that pours down upon us from every wound of your beloved Son.  More love than we could ever ask for or imagine.  When we are tempted to doubt the depths of your heart for us, let our eyes immediately look to Jesus crucified—and may all doubt be taken away.  In His name.  Amen. (JLB)

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 22

Scripture for the Day: Matthew 26:36-46


Reading for Reflection:


You might like to read one of the gospel accounts of the crucifixion, allowing the text to stimulate your imagination.  Or you may find the following prompts helpful:

* Build up in your mind’s eye the scene of the crucifixion.  There is a small hill outside the walls of Jerusalem.  There are three crosses.  Focus on the middle one, and see Christ stretched out on it.  He is there for you.

* Now fill in the fine detail.  He is crowned with thorns, which are tearing his skin.  Blood is dripping down.  See his face, contorted with pain.  Let your eyes move to his hands, nailed to the cross.  The ugly wounds of the nails are slowly dripping with blood.  It is a terrible sight, and you find it difficult to take in.

* Hear the crowds shouting out “Come down from the cross!  Save yourself!”  Yet he stays there and saved us instead.  There is no limit to his love for us.  He gave everything so that we might live.

Once you have built up this mental picture, ask why this is taking place.  He is doing this for us.  He didn’t have to; he chose to.  We matter so much to him.  Anyone who suffers from low self-esteem needs to take this insight to heart.  You matter to the greatest one of all!  For Martin Luther, meditating on the wounds of Christ was a superb antidote for any doubt we might have concerning the love of God for us.  He was wounded for us.  Each of those wounds is a token of the loving care of a compassionate God.  Can you see how this changes the way we think about ourselves?  We are of such importance to him that he chose to undertake that suffering, pain, and agony.
     Form a mental picture of those wounds.  Cherish them.  It is by them that we are healed.  Each of them affirms the amazing love of God for us.  Each nail hammered into the body of the savior of the world shouts out these words—“He loves us!”  How can we doubt someone who gave everything for us? (The Journey by Alister McGrath)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Song for the Week: Lift Up Thy Bleeding Hand


When wounded sore, the stricken heart
Lies bleeding and unbound,
One only hand, a pierced hand,
Can salve the sinner's wound.

When sorrow swells the laden breast,
And tears of anguish flow,
One only heart, a broken heart,
Can feel the sinner's woe.

Chorus:
Lift up Thy bleeding hand, O Lord,
Unseal that cleansing tide;
We have no shelter from our sin
But in Thy wounded side.

When penitential grief has wept
O'er some foul dark spot,
One only stream, a stream of blood,
Can wash away the blot.

'Tis Jesus' blood that washes white,
His hand that brings relief,
His heart that's touched with all our joys,
And feels for all our grief.

Chorus



Closing Prayer:
Our God and Father,
     We thank You that You have delivered us from the dominion of sin and death, and brought us into the kingdom of Your Son: Grant we pray that, by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to eternal joy.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen. (adapted from Venite by Robert Benson)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

holy week, wednesday

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer:

By your cross O Lord, you show the extravagance of your love for us.  Love than knows no limits…no boundaries.  Love that pours down upon us from every wound of your beloved Son.  More love than we could ever ask for or imagine.  When we are tempted to doubt the depths of your heart for us, let our eyes immediately look to Jesus crucified—and may all doubt be taken away.  In His name.  Amen. (JLB)

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 22

Scripture for the Day: John 13:1-38


Reading for Reflection:


Reflect carefully on this, for it is so important that I can hardly lay too much stress on it.  Fix your eyes on the Crucified and nothing else will be of much importance to you.  If his Majesty revealed his love to us by doing and suffering such amazing things, how can you expect to please him by words alone? (Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila)


All grace flows from the pierced side of Christ on the cross, the passion of Christ is in fact the meritorious and efficient principle of our union with God and of our supernatural transformation. (Spiritual Direction and Meditation by Thomas Merton)


Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Song for the Week: Lift Up Thy Bleeding Hand


When wounded sore, the stricken heart
Lies bleeding and unbound,
One only hand, a pierced hand,
Can salve the sinner's wound.

When sorrow swells the laden breast,
And tears of anguish flow,
One only heart, a broken heart,
Can feel the sinner's woe.

Chorus:
Lift up Thy bleeding hand, O Lord,
Unseal that cleansing tide;
We have no shelter from our sin
But in Thy wounded side.

When penitential grief has wept
O'er some foul dark spot,
One only stream, a stream of blood,
Can wash away the blot.

'Tis Jesus' blood that washes white,
His hand that brings relief,
His heart that's touched with all our joys,
And feels for all our grief.

Chorus



Closing Prayer:
Our God and Father,
     We thank You that You have delivered us from the dominion of sin and death, and brought us into the kingdom of Your Son: Grant we pray that, by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to eternal joy.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen. (adapted from Venite by Robert Benson)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

holy week, tuesday

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer:

By your cross O Lord, you show the extravagance of your love for us.  Love than knows no limits…no boundaries.  Love that pours down upon us from every wound of your beloved Son.  More love than we could ever ask for or imagine.  When we are tempted to doubt the depths of your heart for us, let our eyes immediately look to Jesus crucified—and may all doubt be taken away.  In His name.  Amen. (JLB)

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 22

Scripture for the Day: John 12:20-26


Reading for Reflection:


Take this to heart and doubt not that you are the one who killed Christ.  Your sins certainly did, and when you see the nails driven through his hands, be sure that you are pounding, and when the thorns pierce his brow, know that they are your evil thoughts.  Consider that if one thorn pierced Christ you deserve a hundred thousand.
                                                                              ~Martin Luther
 
The more we lack everything the more we resemble Jesus crucified.  The more we cling to the cross, the closer do we embrace Jesus who is nailed to it.  Every cross is a gain, for every cross unites us to Jesus. (Meditations of a Hermit by Charles de Foucauld)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Song for the Week: Lift Up Thy Bleeding Hand


When wounded sore, the stricken heart
Lies bleeding and unbound,
One only hand, a pierced hand,
Can salve the sinner's wound.

When sorrow swells the laden breast,
And tears of anguish flow,
One only heart, a broken heart,
Can feel the sinner's woe.

Chorus:
Lift up Thy bleeding hand, O Lord,
Unseal that cleansing tide;
We have no shelter from our sin
But in Thy wounded side.

When penitential grief has wept
O'er some foul dark spot,
One only stream, a stream of blood,
Can wash away the blot.

'Tis Jesus' blood that washes white,
His hand that brings relief,
His heart that's touched with all our joys,
And feels for all our grief.

Chorus




Closing Prayer:
Our God and Father,
     We thank You that You have delivered us from the dominion of sin and death, and brought us into the kingdom of Your Son: Grant we pray that, by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to eternal joy.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen. (adapted from Venite by Robert Benson)

Monday, March 25, 2013

holy week, monday

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer:

By your cross O Lord, you show the extravagance of your love for us.  Love than knows no limits…no boundaries.  Love that pours down upon us from every wound of your beloved Son.  More love than we could ever ask for or imagine.  When we are tempted to doubt the depths of your heart for us, let our eyes immediately look to Jesus crucified—and may all doubt be taken away.  In His name.  Amen. (JLB)

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 22

Scripture for the Day: Mark 14:1-11


Reading for Reflection:


The heart of Christianity is a cross, the sign of a love unto death, and beyond into resurrection.  I am beginning to understand that there is no way of following Jesus except by undergoing what he underwent.  Unless I die, I can never bear fruit.
     No one in this world can escape suffering, but not all suffering is the cross.  Suffering cannot be avoided, but one can escape the cross.  The cross must be a choice, a free decision, or it is not the sign of Jesus’ love.  The cross is an invitation; each person must say yes.  No one becomes a disciple without saying yes to Jesus taking us, blessing us, breaking us open, and passing us around. (Gathering the Fragments by Edward J. Farrell)


Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Song for the Week: Lift Up Thy Bleeding Hand


When wounded sore, the stricken heart
Lies bleeding and unbound,
One only hand, a pierced hand,
Can salve the sinner's wound.

When sorrow swells the laden breast,
And tears of anguish flow,
One only heart, a broken heart,
Can feel the sinner's woe.

Chorus:
Lift up Thy bleeding hand, O Lord,
Unseal that cleansing tide;
We have no shelter from our sin
But in Thy wounded side.

When penitential grief has wept
O'er some foul dark spot,
One only stream, a stream of blood,
Can wash away the blot.

'Tis Jesus' blood that washes white,
His hand that brings relief,
His heart that's touched with all our joys,
And feels for all our grief.

Chorus



Closing Prayer:
Our God and Father,
     We thank You that You have delivered us from the dominion of sin and death, and brought us into the kingdom of Your Son: Grant we pray that, by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to eternal joy.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen. (adapted from Venite by Robert Benson)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

palm sunday

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer:

By your cross O Lord, you show the extravagance of your love for us.  Love than knows no limits…no boundaries.  Love that pours down upon us from every wound of your beloved Son.  More love than we could ever ask for or imagine.  When we are tempted to doubt the depths of your heart for us, let our eyes immediately look to Jesus crucified—and may all doubt be taken away.  In His name.  Amen. (JLB)

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 22

Scripture for the Day: Luke 19:28-44


Reading for Reflection:


I remember leading a retreat for pastors some years ago in which we talked about that place in the spiritual journey (variously called the Dark Night, the wilderness, the movement from the false self to the true self) in which there is a very profound kind of death and dying that must take place in order for something truer to emerge. We talked about the fact that it is a time when even those who have been faithful to the spiritual journey may experience loss and disillusionment, when we are humbled, confused and even begin to question those things that we used to be so sure of. It feels like dying because in some sense it is. We are dying to what is false within us—surrendering that which is passing and needs to pass—in order to be more completely given over to God.
     After that teaching, I walked to lunch with several young men who were in their late twenties/early thirties. They were elders at a hip and happenin’ church that was growing and developing in good ways and they had a question. I don’t remember the exact words now but it was something like this, “Does everyone have to go through this kind of death and dying?  How can we do ministry in such a way that we don’t have to pass through such a dark night?  And if we can’t, is there any way we can speed up the process so we can get it behind us?”   What they were really asking was, Isn’t there any way we can be good enough so we don’t have to die?
     Well, I had never been asked that question in quite that way before so it gave me pause.  And after falling in love with them for their earnestness and sincerity the only thing I could even think to say was, “Even Jesus had to die in order for the will of God to come forth in his life. If Jesus had to go through it, I don’t think any of us are going to get away without it.” I’m pretty sure that’s not the answer they were looking for.
     So here we are at the beginning of Holy Week—a week when we are invited to practice the most basic and most sacred rhythm of the spiritual life: the rhythm of death, burial, and resurrection. The paschal mystery. It is not a rhythm that any of us would willingly choose or even know how to choose; it is usually thrust upon us. Even Jesus admitted to having mixed feelings about the inevitability of it all. Now my soul is troubled.  And what should I say—”Father, save me from this hour?”  No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. (John 12:27)
     “Really?” we might say.  “We’ve come all this way, done all this work, become this good just to die?”  The answer to those young elders and to us is yes, always yes. But it is not something we surrender to easily; it is something we need to practice.  As Richard Rohr writes, “We all find endless disguises and excuses to avoid letting go of what really needs to die for our own spiritual growth…It is always our beloved passing self that has to be let go of.  Jesus surely had a dozen good reasons why he should not have to die so young, so unsuccessful at that point, and the Son of God besides! It is always ‘we”—in our youth, in our beauty, in our power and over-protectedness—that must be handed over.  It is really about ‘passing over’ to the next level of faith and life.  And that never happens without some kind of ‘dying to the previous levels.’”
     So let us enter into Holy Week as a way to practice the most holy and sacred rhythm of our faith—death, burial and resurrection.  Let us enter into Jesus’ passion by “handing ourselves over” to the events of this week–Mary’s costly act of preparation for Jesus’ burial, Jesus’ final teaching regarding the cost of discipleship, the tenderness of the Last Supper, the pain of betrayal, Jesus handing himself over to his enemies in the garden of Gethsemane, the arduous journey to the cross, the despair of Holy Saturday, the joy of resurrection Sunday.
As we begin this week together, let us ask Jesus what area of our lives at this time needs to be transformed through the rhythm of death, burial and resurrection. Let us ask him to be our teacher on the way… from death to burial to resurrection life. (Holy Week: Practicing the Most Sacred Rhythm of All by Ruth Haley Barton)
    

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Song for the Week: Lift Up Thy Bleeding Hand

When wounded sore, the stricken heart
Lies bleeding and unbound,
One only hand, a pierced hand,
Can salve the sinner's wound.

When sorrow swells the laden breast,
And tears of anguish flow,
One only heart, a broken heart,
Can feel the sinner's woe.

Chorus:
Lift up Thy bleeding hand, O Lord,
Unseal that cleansing tide;
We have no shelter from our sin
But in Thy wounded side.

When penitential grief has wept
O'er some foul dark spot,
One only stream, a stream of blood,
Can wash away the blot.

'Tis Jesus' blood that washes white,
His hand that brings relief,
His heart that's touched with all our joys,
And feels for all our grief.

Chorus


Closing Prayer:
Our God and Father,
     We thank You that You have delivered us from the dominion of sin and death, and brought us into the kingdom of Your Son: Grant we pray that, by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to eternal joy.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen. (adapted from Venite by Robert Benson)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

lazarus saturday

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer:

     O Christ our God, Who by Thy voice didst release Lazarus from the bonds of death after four days in the tomb, restoring him again to life: Thyself. O Master, enliven us who are deadened by sins, granting life that none can take away; and make us who put our hope in Thee, heirs of life without end.
     For Thou art our Life and Resurrection, and to Thee belongeth glory: together with Thine immortal Father, and Thine All-holy, and Good, and Life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Scripture for the Day: John 11:1-45


Reading for Reflection:


     I don't know why, but for some reason I always find myself trying to defend Martha whenever I read one of these familiar passages containing her and her sister Mary's story.  Maybe it is because I feel sorry for the criticism she endures from various religious circles.  Maybe it is because I believe (or hope) she is simply misunderstood.  Probably it is because I am really trying to defend (and feel okay about) my Martha-like tendencies.  Whatever the case, something always seems to rise up in me--and really rise up in the midst of the folks I talk to from time to time--whenever the Mary/Martha discussion rears its head.  It is understandable; we live in a Martha-like culture that values and applauds performance and productivity, busyness and getting things done.  I too, through the years, have fallen into the "well Martha can't really help it, that's just the way she's made...it's her personality" way of thinking.  But after reading and reading and rereading these stories...I'm not so sure that's the case.
     For example, in this particular instance, if we look closely at the details of this interaction, it actually leaves me with a lot of questions.  On the surface, Mary and Martha's reaction to the death of their brother looks very similar, but the closer I look, the more and more different they seem to be.  For instance, as they hear of Jesus' arrival near Bethany, Martha immediately goes out to meet him, but Mary stays home.  Why is that?  And as they each approach him, Martha seems to march right up, while Mary falls at his feet.  And then there's the fact that Jesus asks Martha a question:  “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"  But for Mary he has no question...only his tears.  Instead of asking her about her belief (as he does Martha), He weeps for her.  Why are there no tears when Martha comes?  And even when He orders them to take away the stone, Mary is silent (I believe hopefully so) while Martha responds:  “But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”  Is this the comment of one who truly believes that Jesus is indeed the resurrection and the life?  Could it be that as Martha spent her time worried and anxious about many things, and distracted by all the preparations that had to be made, and Mary was sitting at his feet listening to what He had to say, that something happened deep in the heart of Mary that convinced her to her core that Jesus was indeed worthy of her trust, regardless of the circumstances of life?  Mary had developed both a posture (at His feet...Luke 10:39, John 11:32, John 12:3) and a practice (listening to what He had to say) that  seem to allow her to trust Jesus in a way that Martha was not yet capable of.
     Am I being too hard on Martha...maybe...probably.  But it has nothing to do with not being fully convinced of the fact that Jesus loved her deeply (see John 11:5) .  It has more to do with the quality--or lack thereof--of her relationship with Him.  I don't know about you, but I just want more than that.  There is so much depth and quality that Martha seems to be missing. I want so much more, and I'll bet you do too.  In contrast, Mary just seems to get it.  I mean, if you had to pick one of them to sit down with and talk deeply about Jesus, which one would you pick?  For me it's a no brainer.  I want the one who sat at his feet and listened to all he had to say; the one whose heart was totally and completely captured by Him.   
     So, I think there is something significant in all of this for me: that the difference between Martha and Mary is not simply one of personality, but something much bigger than that.  The difference is one of paradigm; the way the two of them see things.  It is a difference in the way they see themselves, and the way they see life, and the way they see Jesus.  When we begin to see with Mary's eyes; to see what the better part really is, and set our eyes and our hearts on that...on Him, then true transformation takes place.  Transformation that allows us to know God's heart so deeply that we are able to trust His heart, even when we can't see His hand.

                                                           ~Jim Branch, January 2013
    
Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Closing Prayer:
Dear Lord Jesus, until recently I never noticed the timing of your raising Lazarus from the dead. It was the very day before you entered Jerusalem to begin what we call “Passion Week”—your final days in this world. How fitting it is that you would raise Lazarus the day before Palm Sunday—the prelude to the resurrection of all resurrections, yours. Indeed, what a most glorious preview of coming attractions.
     But not long after you called out to a dead man, “Lazarus, come out!” you offered a much more passionate cry to your Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The price of Lazarus’ resurrection, and ours, was your death as the second Adam—taking our place, our guilt, and our judgment.
     Lord Jesus, we humbly and gladly acknowledge, you were pierced for our transgressions, you were crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brings us peace was on you, and by your wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on you the iniquity of us all. (cf. Isa. 53:5-6)
     How we praise you for the tragic, necessary and glorious cross, Lord Jesus. For on your cross you were made sin for us that in you we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). We honor, worship and adore you. We bow down—we fall down convicted of our sins and convinced of the unsearchable riches of the gospel. We sing with our loud voices raised…
    “Oh, to see my name, written in the wounds, for through Your suffering I am free. Death is crushed to death; Life is mine to live, won through Your selfless love. This, the pow’r of the cross; Son of God—slain for us. What a love! What a cost! We stand forgiven at the cross.” (K Getty)
     As “Passion Week” begins, we ask you to fill these next seven days with much boasting in the cross. Grant us more freedom to worship you as you deserve to be worshipped, Lord Jesus, that we might serve you as you delight to be served.
     As your already beloved, just and raised-in-you Bride, please remove even more of our grave clothes and set us free. Set us free, Lord Jesus, set us free to live and to love to your glory. So very Amen, we pray, in your holy and loving name.

                                                                          ~Scotty Smith
 

 

Friday, March 22, 2013

hunger and thirst, day 5

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer:

You called, You cried, you shattered my deafness.  You sparkled, you blazed, You drove away my blindness.  You shed your fragrance, and I drew in my breath, and I pant for You.  I tasted and now I hunger and thirst.  You touched me, and now I burn with longing for your peace. (Confessions by St. Augustine)

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 81

Scripture for the Day: Jeremiah 2:11-13


Reading for Reflection:


Each of us, for instance, carries around inside himself, I believe, a certain emptiness—a sense that something is missing, a restlessness, the deep feeling that somehow all is not right inside his skin. (The Magnificent Defeat by Frederick Buechner)

I speak to thirsty hearts whose longings have been wakened by the touch of God within them. (Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer)

    
Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Song for the Week: All Who are Thirsty

All who are weak
Come to the fountain
Dip your heart in the stream of life
Let the pain and the sorrow
Be washed away
In the waves of his mercy
As deep cries out to deep (we sing)

Come Lord Jesus come (3x)
 
Holy Spirit come (3x)

Closing Prayer:
O God of tender mercies, I know I’ve kept you at arms length.  I’ve kept you safe in heaven.  But heaven has leaned down to the earth and I’ve been touched anew.  Like thirsty ground I long for you.  Forgive my casualness about your Love.  Forgive my shallow life.  I am finished with shallowness.  I used to pray that I be saved from eternal death, but now I pray to be saved from shallow living.  Eternal death?  Shallow living?  Is there a difference?  O God, deliver me from shallow living! (A Tree Full of Angels  by Macrina Wiederkehr)