Darkness before dawn

Turn to me, God, and have mercy on me because I’m alone and suffering. My heart’s troubles keep getting bigger— set me free from my distress! Look at my suffering and trouble— forgive all my sins! Look at how many enemies I have and how violently they hate me! Please protect my life! Deliver me! Don’t let me be put to shame because I take refuge in you. ~Psalm 25:16-20 (CEB)

“You’ve heard the saying ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.’ Well, that’s not true, is it? Words can hurt . . . . They make us feel small and exposed. The make us feel shame.

Revenge is bittersweet- after the sweetness wears off, the bitter taste remains in your mouth. In place of revenge, civil rights leaders taught nonviolent ways of confronting people who are putting you down. Your first response to humiliating treatment needs to be claiming your own dignity as a person created in the image of God. This awareness sets you free to respond to injustice in creative rather than violent ways.” ~From “Justice” in Way to Live editd by Dorthy C. Bass and Don C. Richter

Thank You Jesus for coming into the world to show us the way. Thank You for modeling how we are to love others.  May I be an example of Your humility, love and forgiveness. Amen.

Death sentence

It was customary during the festival for the governor to release to the crowd one prisoner, whomever they might choose. At that time there was a well-known prisoner named Jesus Barabbas. When the crowd had come together, Pilate asked them, “Whom would you like me to release to you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?”  He knew that the leaders of the people had handed him over because of jealousy.

While he was serving as judge, his wife sent this message to him, “Leave that righteous man alone. I’ve suffered much today in a dream because of him. ”

But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and kill Jesus. The governor said, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”

“Barabbas, they replied.

Pilate said, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

They all said, “Crucify him!”

 But he said, “Why? What wrong has he done?”

They shouted even louder, “Crucify him!”

Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere and that a riot was starting. So he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I’m innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It’s your problem.”

All the people replied, “Let his blood be on us and on our children.” Then he released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus whipped, then handed him over to be crucified. ~Matt. 27:15-26 (CEB)

Is it possible that our world still knows better how to deal with a bandit, a murder, an insurrectionist than it knows to do with the Prince of Peace? There is a sense in which an assassin’s attempt on the pope’s life is less shocking to our world than the pope’s forgiveness of him. Is it possible that we would rather deal with raw power that rides on a stallion than with this one who comes on a donkey with the weapons of love, patience, suffering, and peace? Given the choice isn’t it possible that we would take Barabbas, too? ~From What Will You Do with King Jesus? by James A. Harnish

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen. (Psalm 130:23-24)

He came in peace

The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him. They shouted,

“Hosanna!

Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessings on the king of Israel!”

Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

Don’t be afraid, Daughter Zion.

Look! Your king is coming,

sitting on a donkey’s colt.

His disciples didn’t understand these things at first. After he was glorified, they remembered that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.

The crowd who had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead were testifying about him. That’s why the crowd came to meet him, because they had heard about this miraculous sign that he had done. Therefore, the Pharisees said to each other, “See! You’ve accomplished nothing! Look! The whole world is following him!” ~John 12:12-19 (CEB)

“The ass was the beast on which kings rode when they came in peace; only in war did they ride upon horses. The entry of Jesus was the claim to be King.

But at the same time it was the claim to be the King of peace. It was upon the ass of peace and not upon the horse of war that Jesus came. He came deliberately refusing the role of the warrior Messiah and claiming to be the Prince of peace. He was appealing for a throne, but the throne was in the hearts of men. In that entry into Jerusalem Jesus, in a dramatic symbolic action which spoke more loudly than any words, was making one last appeal to men, and saying to them: ‘Will you not, even now, even yet, accept me as your Lord and King, and enthrone me within your hearts?’

Jesus entry into Jerusalem was an action of supreme courage; it was an assertion of royalty and an offer of love; it was at one and the same time royalty’s claim and love’s appeal.” ~From Mind of Jesus by William Barclay

We miss the subtle things of life. The still small voice. The Prince of peace. The noises of this world grab at our attention more now than ever. The distractions of this world increase daily. Would we even notice a quiet entrance today?

Lord, Help me to see the small things in life and to hear You whisper my name. May I this day accept You as our Lord and King making a place for you in my heart. Amen.

To sit awhile with me

Jesus left and made his way to the Mount of Olives, as was his custom, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived, he said to them, “Pray that you won’t give in to temptation.” He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed. He said, “Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, not my will but your will must be done.” Then a heavenly angel appeared to him and strengthened him. He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. When he got up from praying, he went to the disciples. He found them asleep, overcome by grief. He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation.” ~Luke 19:39-46 (CEB)

“When Jesus was in his excruciating moment in the Garden of Gethsemane he needed his disciples to be with him while he prayed. He longed for the comfort of their presence and was pained by their inability to provide this for him. Jesus didn’t need Peter to slice off an ear of his enemy. He just needed Peter and the others to be there with him as he faced his enemies).” ~From The Cup of Our Life by Joyce Rupp

Heavenly Father, help me to remember that sometimes others just need our presence. They may not be looking for words of comfort or even affirmations. Sometimes friends may just need someone to be “with them” in the sorry. Help me to see this day how I might “be with” others this day. Amen.

God’s peace

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion. Sing aloud, Daughter Jerusalem. Look, your king will come to you.  He is righteous and victorious. He is humble and riding on an ass, on a colt, the offspring of a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the warhorse from Jerusalem. The bow used in battle will be cut off; he will speak peace to the nations. His rule will stretch from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. ~Zech 9:9-10 (CEB)

Peacemaking must be the primary focus of all political leaders, whether in or out of power. But the temptations to personal power are too intense to be overcome by our insistently self-centered egos. Therefore, the peace must be God’s peace, a peace that is freely available when we turn inwardly to Jesus. Jesus is the model of the ultimate peacemaker, always pointing to Abba as the ultimate source of peace, justice, goodness, mercy, love, and creativity. In order to claim peace, we must relinquish our own private agendas and let ourselves be claimed by God. ~Robert A. Jonas from Henri Nouwen: Writings Selected with an Introduction by Robert A. Jonas

Heavenly Father, let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. May all I do this day point back to you the Ultimate Peacemaker, our source of justice, goodness, mercy, love and creativity. Not my will but Yours be done. Amen.

A prayer

But you, Israel my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, offspring of Abraham, whom I love, you whom I took from the ends of the earth and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “ You are my servant; I chose you and didn’t reject you ”: Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand. ~Isaiah 41:8-10 (CEB)

“My God, in these quiet moments I caught a glimpse of your vision for me. Inspire me, my God, to carry into the everydayness of my life all to which I aspire at such a moment as this. May my faith have feet and hands, a voice and a heart, that it may minister to others- that the gospel I profess may be seen in my life.

I go this hour to encounter the routine of duty with a new vision. Equip me for my common tasks, that I may this day apply myself to them with fidelity and devotion. And not for myself alone do I pray:

Bless homemakers, mothers, and servants, who minister in the home and who maintain sacred sanctuaries to which tired persons return at the end of day.

Bless doctors and nurses. May their work reflect God’s love and pity to those who leave this earth today.

Bless the teachers, the school administrators, and those who labor to keep school buildings clean and pleasant for those who study and learn there.

Bless coal miners and all who toil in grime and darkness, that we may enjoy clean and pleasant lives.

May your blessing rest upon all men and women who minister to others. May each one come to know the joy of partnership with you.

I give this prayer to you who inflames my soul with vision and desire, that I may be a faithful laborer in the fields you have assigned to my stewardship. Help me to be a good and faithful steward.”  ~Norman Shawchuck

Help me to take a moment this day Lord to not take so much for granted. May I remember all who work so hard yet go unseen. Amen.

A bigger vision

This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you. You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. I give you these commandments so that you can love each other. ~John 15:12-16 (CEB)

“The church is the worshiping community. We are that body of people who are learning together to repent, pray, and serve in the light of our history and an imagination that is teaching us to do so. The focus of our history and imagination is Jesus Christ in whom we see what it means to live in repentance, prayer, and service. We seek to follow him, to be his disciples, and to undertake the disciplines that such a life requires.

As we follow him, we see that we cannot be the church and remain a closed system of intimate and exclusive social relationships through which we are protected from the world. To the extent that we actually are being transformed in repentance, prayer, and service, we find that we must continually strive to rupture our own boundaries. The church is just not the church except as it seeks to incorporate within its mutuality enemies and strangers. Its repentance, prayer and service is for all people, for the world as such, and not just for others as Christians. In the church we are impelled by the very dynamics of what it means to be the church to meet the enemies and strangers of our lives.” ~From Vision and Character by Craig R. Dykstra

Help me this day Lord to step out of my comfort zones and intimate circles of friends. Help me remember that we are called to take Your good news to the whole world not just to those we are comfortable with. Help me remember that I may be the only Bible some people will ever read or the only church they will ever see. Help me to remember what it means to be a Christian. Amen.

Intertwined opposites

Unless it is the LORD who builds the house, the builders’ work is pointless. Unless it is the LORD who protects the city, the guard on duty is pointless. It is pointless that you get up early and stay up late, eating the bread of hard labor because God gives sleep to those he loves. ~Psalm 127:1-2 (CEB)

“This enlargement of the human person cannot be achieved solely by our own efforts. Under our own steam, we cannot contain and bear the deep coincidence of opposites that we are. But they are borne within us when we give ourselves to God. For Henri, the Eucharist is the inspiration and source of all self-giving. The Eucharist carries us into and beyond ourselves so that we can give happily and gratefully even when our egos press upon us to hold back. The Eucharist, he often said, means thanksgiving, and thanksgiving means celebration. Without the Eucharist, we are preoccupied with personal survival, categorizing our experience into pleasure and pain, and doing whatever we can to extend our life-spans, to maximize pleasure. The communal eating of bread and wine is a celebration in which we realize that life and death are intertwined, that ‘fear and love, joy and sorrow, tears and smiles exist together, Life and death kiss each other at every moment of our existence.” ~Robert A. Jonas from Henri Nouwen: Writings Selected with an Introduction by Robert A. Jonas

I love you, O Lord, my strength. You are my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. You are my God whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Amen. (Psalm 18:1-2)

Faithful with little

 

“Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much, and the one who is dishonest with little is also dishonest with much.  If you haven’t been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? If you haven’t been faithful with someone else’s property, who will give you your own?  No household servant can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. ” ~Luke 16:10-13 (CEB)

“Faithfulness is consecration in overalls. It is the steady acceptance and performance of the common duty and immediate task without any reference to personal preferences- because it is there to be done and so is a manifestation of the Will of God. It is Elizabeth Leseur settling down each day to do the household accounts quite perfectly (when she would much rather have been in church) and saying, ‘The duties of my station come before everything else.’ It is Brother Lawrence taking his turn in the Kitchen, and Saint Francis de Sales taking the burden of a difficult diocese and saying, ‘I have now little time for prayer- but I do what is the same.’

The fruits of the Spirit get less and less showy as we go on. Faithfulness means continuing quietly with the job we have been given, in the situation where we have been placed; not yielding to the restless desire for change. It means tending the lamp quietly for God without wondering how much longer it has got to go on.” ~From The Fruits of the Spirit by Evelyn Underhill

Day to day life can sometimes be tiring. 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” reminds me that I can serve God in my everyday ordinariness. Phillippians 2:14, “Do everything without complaining or arguing,” reminds me that I should do all things with a happy heart. Everyday life is often glamorless but the Bible tells me to still “rejoice always.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

May all I do this day give glory to You O Lord. Help this day to remember not to grumble in the days ordinariness but to rejoice, always. Amen.

 

The gentle way

Jesus knew what they intended to do, so he went away from there. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them all. But he ordered them not to spread the word about him, so that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled:  Look, my Servant whom I chose, the one I love, in whom I find great pleasure. I’ll put my Spirit upon him, and he’ll announce judgment to the Gentiles. He won’t argue or shout, and nobody will hear his voice in the streets. He won’t break a bent stalk, and he won’t snuff out a smoldering wick, until he makes justice win. And the Gentiles will put their hope in his name. ~Matthew 12:15-21 (CEB)

Sometimes we think that there are only two ways to respond to things in life, either with violence or passivity. But Jesus came to earth to show us that there is a third way to respond that is neither submission nor assault, neither fight or flight. This third way is gentleness which allows us to oppose without mirroring the evil we see, resist without emulating the oppressors and neutralize without destroying. Living out this gentle way requires imagination and creativity. Living out gentleness sometimes requires that we look between the blacks and whites of this world to see all the shades of grey.

Challenge me this day O Lord, to live in the shades of grey. Help me to remember to stop and doodle in the sand in the midst of heated conflict. If I must carry a load give me the strength to go beyond the required mile. Help me to woo others with Your love through creativity and imagination, not by force and by strength. Amen.

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