A MEDITATION – Tuesday in Holy Week

TUESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

John 12:20-36

Our Holy Week journey continues. The scriptures for the day record the events. Some Greeks, in Jerusalem for the festival, came to Philip, one of the disciples. They say to him, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”

We aren’t told if the Greeks ever saw Jesus but when Philip and Andrew told Jesus about it, his comments seem a bit odd. Its almost as if Jesus was waiting for this event. Perhaps, they did get to see Jesus and the very fact that they, the Gentiles had come precipitated Jesus’ comments. He says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit…whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also…” It is almost as if Jesus is talking to himself. Pondering. Maybe thinking that no one has any idea who he is, not even his friends, knowing they really don’t get it. Thinking that maybe the Gentiles will. I wonder, “Do we?” Do we really get it?

Jesus is wrestling with what he knows is about to happen. He wants his followers to understand. He says, “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.” Perhaps, Jesus wonders, “WHAT am I doing, again? What am I thinking?” But then he prays, “Father, glorify your name.” A voice comes from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there [maybe including the Greeks] heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said an angel had spoken to Him. The events taking place now were planned from before the beginning. They were never an alternative “Plan B”.

Then Jesus says, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John says that Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. Now, the time is right. Everything is in place. The crowd responds, “How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” I can almost see Jesus shake his head. He says, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you….”

What are our thoughts as we listen to Jesus today? Do we ask, “Who is this Son of Man?” Do we really understand what he has said to us? Do we know who he is? Is there darkness that clouds our knowing? Do we really want to see Jesus?

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, open the eyes of my heart.
I want to see you. I want to see you. ~ Michael J. Smith

(dlw 2015)

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MEDITATION – MONDAY IN HOLY WEEK

John 12:1-11

 What does Jesus do the day after he was proclaimed King at the procession into Jerusalem?  It is different now, but Jesus goes about business as usual.  He attends a dinner party in his honor at the home of Lazarus, and while they are eating, Mary pours costly perfume on Jesus’ feet and wipes them with her hair.  Judas, the one who was about to betray Jesus, is upset because the perfume was not sold and the money given to the poor, or so he says.  Jesus defends Mary.  “Leave her alone,” he says.  “She bought it for the day of my burial.  You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

 They are all confused, except for Mary, maybe.  She seems to be aware that something much bigger is happening here. She bought perfume for Jesus’ burial and she used it, today, at this dinner party. Why? He did raise her brother Lazarus from the dead.  Does that help her believe Jesus’ story about dying and rising again in three days?

 We are confused with the rest.  What does Jesus mean by these words?  Burial?  What burial?  What he said before about his dying – could that be true? But he is the King; he can’t die now. Doesn’t he care about his people?  Doesn’t he care about the poor anymore?  Something has changed.  But what? Why?  We don’t understand.  Is it all about Jesus, now?

 Is it? 

 “Simply Jesus Son of Man – Simply Jesus spotless lamb….

…Simply Jesus Living Word – Simply Jesus says it all.

Jesus Christ our Lord – Jesus Christ is Lord.”—Paul Kyle

 (dlw 2013)

A PALM SUNDAY MEDITATION

The end is beginning. Or is it the beginning that is ending? The lessons we read today are filled with images—with contrasts.  At first we cry, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”  When the Pharisees told Jesus to stop the palm-waiving disciples who were crying, “Hosannas”, he told them that if they didn’t cry out, the stones would have to do it.  Jesus must be proclaimed King on this day.  The coming events must take place.  They were planned from the beginning, and Jesus has chosen to take this path.

Then we read, and also cry, “Crucify, crucify him!” Must we always betray and get rid of that which we do not understand? It happened then and it happens today.  And so, we watched him die.  Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”    A Holy Week hymn says, “Who was the guilty?  Who brought this upon thee?  Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.  ‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee:  I crucified thee.”

 “But we did not crucify Him,” we say, “they did—a long time ago.”  If not then, how about today?

 We are sorry, Lord. We repent.  Please hear our prayer.

 “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.”—The Book of Common Prayer

 Blessed are you, Jesus, who comes in the name of the Lord.

  (dlw 2013)

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Sounds of Silence

Umm, I didn’t ask you to give up coffee. I asked you to surrender your life.” ~ Eugene Cho

“Pay Attention,” the first element of the Trinity Way of Life, is about prayer. Especially prayer to listen for the voice of God.  As a corporate Lenten discipline, we, if we choose to accept it, are to focus on listening to God through all of the eight elements of the Trinity Way. We are listening specifically for God’s vision for us — His desires for us as a community.

Listening to God can be difficult because we have so many distractions, but it gets somewhat easier the more we practice.  I say somewhat, because there are days, or periods of days, when the distractions take over.  Yet I try. I will most likely say more about this later, but for today, I ran across a meditation that I wrote four years ago during one of these periods.  I decided to send  it again today. Also, I was talking with a couple of friends about being still and quiet this week so it seems appropriate.

By the way, wasn’t the rain last night wonderful? We really needed it. We are grateful.

“Listen to this song: Jesus.  Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.  Jesus.

“I wish you could hear this simple meditative song because I think it is beautiful, but sometimes we can hear with our hearts what we cannot hear with our ears.  There are other verses, I think, “He died….”  “He rose….”  “He lives….”  Maybe that is one of them.  I can’t exactly recall nor do I remember who wrote this.  Maybe you have heard it, too. And maybe you remember.

“This song came to me, yesterday, [and today] when I couldn’t still my mind for even ten seconds in my prayer chair.  There are times when there is too much stuff on my mind and it darts back and forth between things.  Prayer/work/emotions/physical pain/what’s for dinner.  Prayer/work. We struggle with the story of Mary and Martha – between prayer and work.  When Martha complains that Mary isn’t doing her part, Jesus said, ‘…there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’ We have tried to make sense of this.  What does this mean? How would we do this? Why?

“It is all about Jesus. Isn’t it?  We who are apprentices of Jesus know this and yet we also know that we are Jesus’ hands and feet in the world.  It’s Prayer and Service.  And, without “at least” ten seconds of listening prayer, without this conscious connection with Jesus, we might miss what work it is he has for us to do.  We might spin our wheels doing our own thing or what we think Jesus wants us to be doing.  When we listen, when we hear, when we follow, the work that we then do becomes prayer.

“Some days your mind is probably like mine and it won’t be shut up.  Then, how can we be still and listen?  There are ways that may help. This song came to me.  Some focus on their breathing to quiet their minds. Some use prayer beads—rosary or other.   Some use a single word to quiet their minds such as ‘Jesus, Peace, or Love or, …etc.  Others use the Jesus Prayer; ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’  Or perhaps the Kyrie ‘Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy, Lord have mercy.’ What we choose is repeated until we are still. [I repeat this word in my mind rather than saying it aloud.  Aloud for me is a distraction.]

“The words and melody, ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus’, started to float in between and around the many thoughts, concerns and feelings darting around in my head.  Soon there was only, ‘Jesus.’ Finally,…  Still.

“’Be still and know that I am God.’—Psalm 46:10

“’Be still and know.’ ‘Be still.’” – (dlw 12 April 2013)

Listen. I hear His voice in the sounds of silence.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Anything Can Happen…

 

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the Gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. John 4:10

 

 “Those who have ears to hear, hear this story. Those who have eyes to see, see this scene. Anything can happen at a well.” – John Shea, STORIES

 

Today, while reading the Gospel Lesson for this coming Sunday – John 4:5-42, a story, The Woman at the Well, by John Shea came to mind.  It is a wonderful story of the interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman who comes to the well, alone, for the day’s water.  She didn’t come with the others because she was living with a man not her husband and had already been married to five.  She was considered a sinner which caused her to be ostracized by the other women. She didn’t want the humiliation of going to the well with them.

 

I wanted John Shea’s story be my Friday Meditation, but it is four pages long, over 1600 words, and I don’t have permission to include it here.  Bummer.  It is a beautiful story.  However, since it impressed itself upon me this morning so strongly, I should pay attention.  

 

 She could see him sitting on a ledge of the well from the distance.  It seemed as if he was waiting for her.  He appeared to be a traveler, not a Samaritan, and she considered turning around to go back to the village.  But, of course, he could catch her if he wanted to. Although she was panicky, she could tell he was a Jew and would probably walk away as she approached. If not, she knew how to make him leave.  She had practice.

 

  I’m thirsty,” he said.

 

 Well, it was certainly hot enough. “Who isn’t”, she said.  But he asks her to give him a drink. Jews don’t ask for a drink from a Samaritan, let alone a Samaritan woman, so she thinks he is probably not right in the head, but she draws water and gives him one.  He says to her, “If you would ask me, I would give you living water.” I’m not going to relay the whole story but you might want to review it again for yourself. Or pay close attention when it is read on Sunday at church.

 

 Shea’s story is such a tender love story. If you ever get a chance to read it, do.  There is a bit of word sparing between the two when she asks Jesus how he plans to fetch such water since he has no bucket. Jesus draws her in. He says, “Yokes and buckets are always the problem, aren’t they?” He asks about her husband, says he knows that she has had five and this man is not her husband.  Here it comes.  Now he will insult her.  Just as she was starting to enjoy herself and feel somewhat at ease. But he doesn’t. They spar some more and she says, “You are very hard to get rid of,” but she is not sure that she wants him to go. “Everyone says that,” he replies.

 

 She tries one more time. By talking about the temple, he will finally spurn me, she thinks.  But he caught hold of her hand and said, “God is not on the mountain, but in your thirst.  God is not in the Temple, but in the scream of your spirit, and it cries to me.  Ask me, ask me for a drink.”

 

 Who is this man?  Not just another man.  I don’t ask.” She said, but…such yearning… “Even without a bucket—if you ask me, I will give you living water.” (Some of this is in John Shea’s words and some in mine.)  Finally, she whispered, “Give me a drink.” He does and after some tender words back and forth between them, she leaves and runs to the village where she relates the story to the villagers. She couldn’t wait to tell it.

 

I am always changed by an encounter with God. Always. We all are. This story speaks to the hungering deep in me. Maybe that is why it is recorded in the Bible.  So many times, I need a fresh drink of living water.  Jesus wants to give it.  According to Shea, and in my own experience, he woos me.  He woos us. He doesn’t go away and he doesn’t give up trying to draw us to him, into his arms, so that he can refresh us. Yokes and buckets are so often the problem, but Jesus is so very hard to get rid of.  And I’m so grateful.

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION -Lent about Love?

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.  If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love…My command is this:  Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this:  to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” – John 15:9, 10, 12-14

This past week, a thought popped into my head that Lent is the most love filled season of the whole Christian year. I’ve been considering this and I believe it might be true.

When I first became an Episcopalian in the mid-sixties, I loved all things liturgical and I still do.  I loved Lent.  I didn’t eat meat for 40 days, and for years, I observed a fairly strict fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. I believe this did my spiritual life some good, even though I did it because it was expected and I loved the ritual.  I came to realize that Lent wasn’t helping me get rid of what I called my “worm theology”.  I thought being dust meant that I was bad, as low as the worms wiggling around in the dirt. The Ash Wednesday service tells us, “Remember [O human], that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Somehow, I got the wrong idea about that.  I didn’t know that Lent was supposed to help change my life, not only for 40 days not counting Sundays, but for the days after Easter, as well. So, I still love Lent, but…

But I’ve been thinking (hmm…maybe I should give that up for Lent.), what if Lent is all about Love.  What if it’s about loving God and loving your neighbor.  What if it’s about … but wait!!  Isn’t Lent about repentance and sacrifice because Jesus gave up his life for us in a horrible way?  Isn’t it always about this?  Yes, but what does that mean? This – to repent means to turn around.  It means to return to the way of Jesus in this case.  Sacrifice means to consecrate or to make holy – ourselves in this case. Sacrifice means to give up our rights to our holy selves for the love of others because Jesus did.

There is nothing wrong with giving up chocolate or coffee or dessert, or whatever else we choose for Lent. I, for one, am going to return to eating in a healthier manner hoping that it will help me feel better. I hope Lent will be a motivator. Honoring God by taking care of our bodies is a holy spiritual exercise.  However, giving up a single food item stopped working as a Lenten discipline for me several years past.  I realized that it wasn’t making me a better person who was becoming more like Jesus.    There is nothing wrong about doing so if we remember what Lent is about and get the order strait – “Love God, love your neighbor, lay down your life for your friends.”

What would our Lenten disciplines be if we remember that Jesus’ sacrifice was, and is, part of a great love story? How would we love God?  How would we love our friends? How would we love our neighbor? How would we love even our enemies?  Love lays down its life for friends, neighbors, and enemies. How would we use our precious time? Would we be willing to give up some of it for the purposes of God? Would we make that our spiritual exercise? “Will I,” is the real question.

What Lenten discipline will help? The very first thing “I will” by giving up my time is to turn and return to the arms of my Lover who waits, who aches to spend alone time with me/with us. We are created for this. God is lonely for me when I’m not there.  I’m lonely, too.  If this is my priority, if I love God first, if I pay attention to God first, If I spend time with him just being together first, then I will begin to know how it is that I, personally, am called to lay down my life in love for my friends, my neighbors, and even my enemies whom God already loves, by the way.

Perhaps Lent is all about love…

“Come! Spirit of Love! Penetrate and transform us by the action of Your purifying life. May Your constant, brooding love bring forth in us more love and all the graces and works of love. Give us grace to remain still under its action and may that humble stillness be our prayer. Amen.” ~ Evelyn Underhill

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