A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Praise and Thanksgiving

Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his surpassing greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD! ~ Psalm 150

Well, I am late again with A Friday Meditation. Something keeps getting in my way of getting it done on time, but I did want to write to you this week, because it is unlikely that I will be writing the next two weeks because of having surgery.

Morning gratitude:

I am grateful that my application to switch medical insurance over to Kaiser this year was messed up by the provider because I love my medical team at UCHealth. Well, love might be a little strong, considering.

I am so grateful for my medical team. Even though they seldom tell me good news. They are working for my best.

I am grateful for a friend who showed me that there is still good news in the midst of bad. Light still shines in the darkness!

Morning gripe:

So many doctors. So many procedures. I feel violated and that my body is not my own. It’s as if I have no say about what is being done to it and am required to let the assault continue. I really do need to do something other than going to the doctors and the hospitals, or staying home because I am not feeling well at the time. Hubby takes me to lunch often to get me away from the house and to tempt me to eat enough protein. He is a good man. I love him. And I do have a say.

The Morning Prayer Gospel lesson (Mark 5:21-43) is one that I have been holding on to for two or three weeks. It includes the story of the woman with the twelve-year hemorrhage who comes up behind Jesus and touches his clothes believing if she does so she will be healed. She is. Jesus tells her that her faith as made her well. I have adopted the image of hanging on tight to the hem of Jesus’ robe when I am feeling a bit lost.

The other story in this passage tells about Jesus raising the Pharisee’s twelve year old daughter from the dead. The father had received word while they were on the way that his daughter had died. Jesus said, “Do not fear; only believe.” The people had already started mourning by the time they arrived at the house. Jesus said to them that the child was only sleeping and he told her to get up. She did. This is a passage of scripture that is full of hope and healing. “Do not fear; only believe.” I repeat this to myself several times a day as well as staying tightly attached to Jesus.

When I remember the images in this story and listen anew to the words of Jesus, I am able to get back to grateful. “Practice Gratitude” is Element #7 in the Trinity Way of Life. This element is there for a reason. The reason is that we need to express our gratefulness to God no matter what is happening in our lives. Doing so helps us to see the light shining in the darkness even if it is very dark. Practicing Gratitude helps us remember that there is a God and we are not God. Practicing Gratitude reminds us who we are. We know how to do this.

And then there is praise. I used to have lots of trouble trying to understand the difference between praise and thanksgiving, but they are two separate spiritual exercises. They do resemble each other, however, and both are necessary to our spiritual health. Like expressing thanks, offering praise to God reminds us that we are not God. In offering thanks, we acknowledge to God what he is doing for us and what he has given us. When we praise God, we acknowledge and express who God is and not what he does.

A simple grace gives both. “God is great, God is good and we thank him for our food.”

Over and over words from the last few weeks – God, you are all good. You are all Love. You are creator. You are healer. And so on.

Thank you (practicing) for being in my life moment by moment. Thank you for being light to my darkness. Thank you for providing a hem to hang on to, and for saying, “Do not fear; only believe.”

You are God, and we praise you.
You are Lord, we acclaim you.
You are Eternal Father – All creation worships you
All creation worships you. Amen. – Unknown

 

HOLY SATURDAY MEDITATION – Love is in the Tomb, Today

A HOLY SATURDAY MEDITATION

Love is in the tomb, today.
Today is a sad day in the life of the Christian Church—Jesus has been crucified. He has died. This is the only day of the year when there is no reserved sacrament. No communions will be offered and no sacraments can be consecrated. (Until after sundown which, traditionally, is Sunday.) This day is for remembering that Jesus has died but is not yet raised.
For the disciples, who do not know the end of the story, it is a sadder day, still. All their hopes are crushed. Not only that, their dear friend has been savagely killed and they weren’t able to stay awake with him as he asked at the last. Some have betrayed him, and abandoned him, too, and their grief is intense. What will they hang on to, now? How can they remember Him? How can we? Love is in the tomb, today.

One Disciple’s Lament

Oh God! My God! Why have you forsaken us? They killed him. They have killed my Lord. Why? Why? When he was so kind and gentle? He was the one—the Messiah. How could they not know? Our Hope is gone. Were we all wrong? No! No! He was! I stayed there at the cross and watched this horrible thing. I can’t bear those images. I wanted to run away. My heart is broken in so many pieces and I cannot stop crying. Sobs come from the depths of me and tears run down my face like rivers.
Oh, his dear face. Blood! So much blood! He cried out to you, his father, God. And he forgave those who did this. How? He forgave me, too. He healed me with his love and now he is gone. There is a hole in me. How can I go on? Where will I go? Where will any of us go?
I can’t go on without him. If I could only touch him one more time. Maybe…? Why? They beat him again and again. If I had not gone there to be with him, but I had to go. I had to stay. I had to. He felt abandoned by you and betrayed by his friends. Why did you not save him? Why? He loved you. I will not abandon him, now. He said it is finished. Finished? What is finished? How can it be finished? I can’t leave him here in this tomb alone. I feel abandoned, too, but I am staying here in this place where he is buried. Help us. I am lost. We are all lost. How can I live without him. How can any of us?
Never again will I see his face, know his love, or hear him call my name….Love is in the Tomb, today.

(dlw 2014 – revised 2017)

A GOOD FRIDAY MEDITATION

 GOOD FRIDAY

John – Chapters 18 & 19

What can one say on Good Friday that has not already been said? The story is very familiar to all of us and there are so many great meditations already written, why should I write another? Well, for two reasons—because I can, but really because in order to get into the story, I need to meditate on it. Writing helps me do this.

Our children hated Good Friday. They thought it was gruesome so they didn’t want to go to church that day to be reminded. An old Johnny Hart cartoon comes to mind. In it, Person 1 says: “I hate the term ‘Good Friday!’” Person 2: “Why?” P1. “My Lord was hanged on a tree that day.” P2. “If you were going to be hanged on that day, and he volunteered to take your place, how would you feel?” P1. “Good.” P2. “Have a nice day.”

Perhaps, Person 2 should say, “Have a Good day,” but it doesn’t really look or feel like a good day, does it? A Good day almost requires standing on the other side of the cross from where the disciples are standing, and that’s not where we are today. Jesus and his disciples start in a garden. He asked that they stay awake and pray for him and for themselves but they couldn’t stay awake. They will fail again, today. Watch as the story unfolds.

Judas brings soldiers and police to the garden where he knows Jesus is so they can arrest him. Was that a glance between Judas and Jesus? Even though, Jesus knows what is happening, this must be a blow. We, his disciples have no clue. What are we thinking, now? We don’t understand all of his teaching, but we have seen the works of God that Jesus has done. Are we wrong about Jesus being the Messiah? Why is he being arrested? Why doesn’t he stop this? Peter, again, takes matters into his own hands, draws his sword and cuts off a slave’s ear. Jesus rebukes him and says something about drinking from a cup his Father has given him. What cup?

These, and more, are the stories of today—humiliation stories, rejection stories, abandonment stories, stories of torture, ugly stories. The disciples run away, Peter denies knowing him, the Jewish leaders that he had hoped to turn around rejected him. The women and maybe one or two other disciples watched him die. But, Jesus’ love and purpose transcends his disappointment and pain. And ours. Unconditional love has a way of doing this. This is the story of Love – the greatest Love Story – and this is our story, too.

Questions for reflection: If this is our story, too, what does that mean to me? When can’t I stay awake? What am I afraid will happen if I do? What will staying awake require of me? When do I take matters into my own hands instead of waiting for God’s purpose to unfold? When do I try to force into being what I believe God’s purpose to be? How have I failed Jesus, lately? Will I ever be able to love like Jesus does?

“And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—for me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? – Charles Wesley

(dlw 2014, revised 2017)

MEDITATION – WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

John 13:21-32

This a passage that has been discussed, meditated upon and discussed even again. Today, once more, we wonder.

“At supper with his friends, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’…….. ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘…the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ When he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’…. So, after receiving the piece of bread, [Judas] immediately went out. And it was night.” It is interesting, I think, that the writer of John makes the point that it was night. Is he trying to say that Judas was walking in darkness rather than light when he left the table?

What was Judas’ motive? Some say, he may have been trying to save Jesus’ life from crowds that were becoming agitated and likely to become violent. Others say that he was trying to force Jesus into His role as King over Israel and so overthrow the Romans. Some Orthodox churches call Judas a saint because he was the one who did what had to be done. None of these reasons or motives make any difference to the fact that Judas betrayed his Lord. Jesus wasn’t meeting Judas’ expectations. Whatever reason Judas had when he took the bread from Jesus, the tempter came and Judas made his decision.

“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.”—v. 31-32

The time has come and Jesus knows it. God is using what Judas is doing for his own purpose and Judas has no clue. These events would happen with or without Judas, but what sadness that it was a friend who brought it about.

I ponder. In the Eucharist, Jesus gives us bread and says, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.” And, often, we betray him, too. When, you may ask? Like Judas, when the tempter comes to us and we take matters into our own hands—when we tell Jesus that we’ll take it from here, we’d rather do it ourselves—when he isn’t working fast enough for us—when he is not the Messiah we want—when we want to do things according to our plan rather than waiting for his, etc. When we don’t live according to his teachings. When we distort his image. We know when.

Lord, often, we don’t know what we do, either. We confess the times we betray you. We are sorry. Please forgive us. Amen.

(dlw 2015)

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – And there was Light

These are the days of Elijah declaring the word of the Lord And these are the days of Your servant Moses righteousness being restored These are the days of great trials of famine and darkness and sword. Still we are the voice in the desert crying, Prepare ye the way of the Lord! Behold He comes, riding on the clouds shining like the sun at the trumpet’s call. Lift your voice, year of Jubilee out of Zion’s hill, salvation comes. ~ Days of Elijah, att. Robin Mark

Here we are at the end of the Epiphany Season, Ash Wednesday being this week.  Have you decided what you are going to do for spiritual practices during Lent – giving up something, taking on something, both?

Two things caught my attention today – The Gospel reading for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, coming up; and today God said to me, “Let there be light” straight out of Genesis 1.  What do these have to do with Lent? I do not know.

The Gospel: From Matthew 17:1-9 – Jesus takes three of his closest friends, Peter, James, and John with him on a hike up the mountain.  While they were standing atop, Jesus’ face changes and shines like the sun and his clothes become as white as the light. Suddenly – it’s always suddenly, isn’t it – Moses and Elijah appear and have a conversation with Jesus. Peter is so excited that he wants to build dwellings for Jesus, for Moses and for Elijah.  But then a bright cloud surrounds the three and a voice from that cloud declares that Jesus is his Son and the disciples (we) need to listen to him. This terrified the disciples the Bible says. You think?! But Jesus touches them and says, “Get up and don’t be afraid.” They look up and Elijah and Moses are gone. Then Jesus says a very strange thing. He says, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Whiplash!  What?

“Get up and don’t be afraid.” Why does this story hold my attention so much this week?  Why does the above song by Robin Mark do the same? Especially here at the almost beginning of Lent. Why did God say to me this morning, “Let there be light?” Isn’t Lent about darkness, repentance, sacrifice, and maybe some groveling?  And isn’t it about Ashes?  Those that will be marked on our heads on Ash Wednesday with the spoken words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return?” Yes.  Well maybe Lent is not about the groveling, but listen to the words of the service this Wednesday.  If you can’t attend, read the words from The Book of Common Prayer beginning on Page 265.

Thoughts:  Lent is mostly about turning around which is what repentance means.  The Ash Wednesday service reminds me that I am not God.  When God said, “Let there be light”, I remember that in the beginning, God intended and created light, which is probably the same thing, and we were to live in that light in a constant relationship of love with him. “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5 tells us.  Light shows us when we have gone off course – when we have decided to take our lives into our own hands rather than follow God’s plan for us.  Lent gives us a time to rethink and repent of our decisions to do our own thing. Light reveals to us those things that we do that lead us away from God instead of toward him in a relationship of Love.  The light of Jesus helps us stay on the path and is what we are given to share with others.

Question: What Lenten practices will help me to notice when I do my own thing and help me to return to all that God wants for me and for others? What will help you?

Lord God of signs and wonders, when sin has silenced our song, sing about the good you still see in us. Great Son, friend of all who stray, when shame has broken our best, create a new and living way for us. Wild Spirit winged with healing power, when lies destroy our standing, remind us that you share this road with us.

Therefore, we’ll run, stagger, and bow, then kneel, In penitence because you care for us. Amen – Russ Parker, Prayer Poems for the Journey

 

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – A blessing year

Perhaps everything terrible is, in its deepest being, something that needs our love.”—Rainer Maria Rilke

There are so many images and thoughts coming to mind today.  I don’t know how or if they will fit together. We will begin a new year in two days.  I hope and pray that it will be a much less chaotic year than this passing one.  I think if I were asked what I wish for this next year, I would be likely to answer, as many contestants in beauty pageants do when asked, “World Peace.”  An aside – my granddaughter tried to get her daughter, then two, to answer this way when asked what she wanted for Christmas.  I don’t know that she ever convinced her to say it. But seriously, isn’t that what we all want?

Perhaps, though, we could answer that we want a year of blessing.  We, in our congregation, have been studying about the power of blessings. We have had teachings and sermons about this. Our Sunday book study read and discussed Russ Parker’s Book, Rediscovering the ministry of Blessing. So did Trinity’s chapter of The Brotherhood of St. Andrew.  I recommend it, highly.

Early in our presidential campaigns, I suggested that we bless both of our candidates whether we liked them or not. I believe that those blessings meant something.  I believe that blessings have power. I believe that is what we need to do.  I believe it makes a difference.

Another aside – In a few days, we will have a new president.  Some of us are delighted and some of us are not. That doesn’t matter. We are told in the Bible to pray for our president – 1 Timothy 2:1-4, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior…” See, World Peace!

Back to blessings, should we not also be giving blessings to our president? Some of us are delighted by this prospect.  Some of us are not. It doesn’t matter.  We just do it.  I have been since the election. My blessings for our president are especially for wisdom, for a discerning heart, and whatever else enters my mind at the time.  Will it make a difference?  I believe so.  I know it will in me. Giving blessing changes a person. (btw – the person we bless doesn’t have to be present.)

Giving blessing could bring light out of the deepening darkness of our world. It may be a tiny light, but it is light nevertheless. Of course, maybe it’s a flood lamp.  Years ago, we took a trip and went into a cave.  Once there, the guide turned out the lights. Talk about darkness.  After a few minutes, he lit a match.  One tiny match.  So much light, you wouldn’t believe. If we lit several matches, can’t you just imagine…

Barbara Brown Tayler tells a story about blessing in her book, Altars in the World. Briefly, she told of a friend of hers who had a nightmare so frightening that he didn’t sleep well for years.  He didn’t have it every night, but he feared that he would. In the dream, “a malevolent being showed up at the door of her friend’s house wanting something.”  Every time he tried to find something to kill it or try to kill it, every time he killed it, the monster got larger.

“On night, in the dream, it occurred to him that what the demon wanted from him was his blessing.”  That was the only thing that would end its agony and make it leave. So, in fear and trembling, he opened the door and began blessing the creature.  Once was not enough.  He had to say it repeatedly in as many ways that he could think to bless. Barbara writes, “It was as if the demon could not get enough…It was as if no one had ever blessed it before.”  Her friend finally said for the hundredth time. ‘I bless you in the name of the Christ, now go in peace.’ Making a sound like a kitten, the demon turned around and never came back.”

We all need blessing.  Every one of us. We all have our own inner monsters.  How healing would it be if we were to bless each other?   Perhaps, the demons inside of us would go away, too.

We can use Fr. Nigel’s blessing for a starter.

May you be filled with the very love of the Lord. May your heart be at peace.  May your Soul be content.  May your body and mind be without pain. May worry be a thing of the past.  May you have abundant life in and through our Lord.  May his healing Grace rest on your shoulders.  Amen. ~ Fr. Nigel W. D. Mumford+

Grace and Peace to you. Have a blessed and blessing New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Ready for Jesus?

God is coming! God is coming!  All the element we swim in, this existence, echoes ahead the advent. God is coming! Can’t you feel it? – Walter Wangerin, Jr.

  I woke up this morning. That’s good.  However, I have come down with a bad cold.  Not good.  Why do I have a tendency to do this at this time of year?  Maybe it’s the cold weather.  I have too much to do to get ready for Christmas.  It seems that there is always so much more to do than I have the time to accomplish.  That is not good for an apprentice of Jesus. He does not want us to be so stressed.  I think that this all means that I am trying to do more than what needs doing. Sigh. But as long as I don’t run out of Kleenex and cold pills, I may be able to write this meditation.

I remember reading a meditation by Sharon Jaynes a few years ago, where she says, “It seems like everywhere you go during the month of December people ask the same question. At the grocery checkout counter—‘Are you ready for Christmas?’ At the bank drive through window—‘Are you ready for Christmas?’ At the doctor’s office—‘Are you ready for Christmas?’”

               Well, my answer to that is always, “Nope. No way.”  I usually say that Christmas isn’t here until the 25th of December and I have 12 days after that, until Epiphany, to celebrate and finish up all that I have not managed to get done. (However, I still don’t get done.)  I am trying to simplify this year.  I always say that, too. What does “ready” mean? 

               Sharon said that a voice spoke to her in a dream and asked, “Ready for Christmas, what do you mean?” She said she would rephrase the question and ask, “Am I ready for Jesus?”  That puts the whole thing in perspective doesn’t it?  Are we ready for Jesus?  Am I?  Our Advent meditations and antiphons say, “Come, Lord Jesus.”  We aren’t only remembering the yearning of the Jewish people.  This is our yearning, too.  We are not only asking for Jesus to come at the end of time, which he will and we long for that. But, what we need, desire, and for which we pray is for Jesus to come, today, now.  We need Him to come into our hearts and lives.  Are we ready for Jesus to take over?  Transform us? Use us to spread His Kingdom?  Use us to accompany each other on the journey?  Use us as His hands and feet in a dark and hurting world?  Use us as light so that others can find the way?  Are we ready for this? If so, all we need to do is say, “Yes, Jesus, I am ready.  I am ready for Christmas.  Come.  Come, Lord Jesus.’”

Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.  We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day. We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.  We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.  We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.  We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.  To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!” ~ Henri Nouwen

Have a Blessed, Peace filled Christmas beaming with the Light and Love of Jesus.