Thursday, April 26, 2012


From today's reading:  Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came. . .  Matthew 4:1-3 

Jesus is lead out in the wilderness. . .  I'm not sure why we think that we can live our lives without temptation.  Satan comes at the lowest point in our lives - that time when we are the weakest - and his offers are oh, so attractive.  The truth is that temptation is a part of life.  It's going to happen - now how we respond to it is a different matter.  

The first temptation in Matthew is to use his power to satisfy the desires of the flesh - Jesus is hungry - turn these stones into bread so that you might eat and satisfy this need for food.  It is about using the power and skills God gives us for our own benefit rather than for the purpose God intended. 

The second temptation is a desire to control - to attempt to control God - bending God to do your will.  Some people think that's what prayer is for - to get God to do what you want him to do.  That's a common one for us - 'God, take care of this person. . . or God, take care of that situation.'  Too often people approach God with an arrogance - if I want it, God's got to do it.  That is a result of misreading or prooftexting scripture.  They forget the temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus says, 'yet not my will, but yours be done.' 

The third temptation is to gain power and wealth through ungodly means - all these will be your, if you bow down and worship me. . .  It is asking the question, 'will we use any and all means available to get what we want.'  For a lot of people in the world today, the answer is yes - they don't seem to mind stepping on people and destroying others to get what they want.

Most loving God, when I am faced with the daily temptations that come my way, let me remember that your love will be with me and sustain me and you will be my help in resisting those temptations.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mark the Evangelist

From today's readiing:  The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way.  Mark 1:1

Today's reading is from the Eucharistic Lessons for the celebration of Mark the Evangelist.  No one really knows who Mark is - supposedly John Mark from the book of Acts and mentioned by Peter in his first letter.  He is also believed to be the son of the family who owned the house where Jesus and the disciples had their last supper.

Mark is a messenger - proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Son of God.  There have been messengers in your life - people who told you about Jesus - who shared his love with you.  There have been messengers all the down the centuries and they have kept the name of Jesus alive.  Who is the messenger who will go today to proclaim Jesus Christ?  It is you?  Is it me?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Treasured Possession

Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.  Exodus 19:5-6

I love the idea that we are a treasured possession.  God is speaking to Moses and acknowledges that all the world is his, but God's love rests with us in a very special way.  He's speaking to the people of Israel, but as Jesus ministered to Gentiles and later Paul and other disciples began to preach and to baptize Gentiles into the family, that includes us.  We are a priestly kingdom, each of us with our own ability and authority to preach peace to the world.  As we strive to keep God's covenant and to obey the voice of God, we are a holy nation, the treasured possession of the Lord.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Shared Ministry

Moses' father-in-law said to him. . . "You should look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain. . .  Let them sit as judges for the people at all times; let them bring every important case to you, but decide every minor case themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you."  Exodus 18:17,21-22  

Now here's a concept - shared ministry.  Moses was just like so many of us - he was trying to do it all himself.  For most people, that's the easiest way to burn out in whatever the task is.  Moses was sitting in judgment, listening to all the people who came to him with complaints and disputes. The thousands of people who were traveling with him were overwhelming him with their needs.  He couldn't do it all by himself.  

There are times in our own lives that we feel this need to be self-sufficient, and that's okay up to a point.  But when the tasks of life or our job become overwhelming, then it's time to step back and allow (or invite) others in to help.  There is the old saying, "If you want something done right, do it yourself."  But what we sometimes forget, is that we can teach others how to do things the right way - and yes, that does take time and effort.  And sometimes, just maybe - someone else might have a new way of doing something that's even better than the way we have done it all along.

Just remember that we don't always have all the answers, and God has given us companions on the way who can help us and support us in whatever we do in His Name.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

When we have no control

From today's reading: If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:20-21

Well, here's something we don't want to hear. I remember when I was in Rockdale as the lay vicar of St. Thomas in seminary. This was the inspiration for my great yo-yo sermon - the one about being in high school and those of us who were seniors would get punished for "yo-yoing" in the halls. This was the result of an assembly when the "yo-yo man" came to town and after his exhibition, he sold yo-yos which most of us bought. The school quickly had to devise a new rule - no yo-yoing in the hallways between classes. The penalty was detention - and if we violated the rule, we had to suffer the consequences.

But there are people who suffer - from things they have no control over. And as Americans, or even just as human beings, we think it's unfair for good people to lose their homes to tornados or hurricanes or flooding or whatever, or it's unfair for people to suffer from cancer or copd or any other of the numerous diseases that make life so difficult, or to lose their jobs or means of support. But it happens all the time - it's part of the fallen nature of humanity.Whether we chalk it up to the fall in the garden or the opening of Pandora's box, or whatever, it's part of life in the here and now.

So what do we do when it befalls us? Or how do we help those we love when it happens to them? Christ gave us an example of suffering - without condemnation - accepting what came his way - forgiving others - living close to the Lord - never forgetting where his help came from. Why? We don't always know why. We simply trust the Lord that He will bring something positive out of our experience.

Lord, regardless of what happens in our life, hold us close and keep reminding us of your presence and your love for us, because we can forget so easily. Your promise is to be with us through everything that happens in our life - to never leave our side. Help us, remind us to call out to you in our hour of need that we may ever live in you, and you in us. Amen.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Of First Importance

From today's reading: For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

I received as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins and was raised on the third day. . . Why is that important? Because it means death no longer controls us. It means that sin no longer controls us. It means that we have the ability to consider first the love that God had for us in providing for our forgiveness. It means that we can live in the sure knowledge that God loves us and we have the opportunity to share that love with others. Everything else falls by the wayside compared to love. When love is the driving force in our life, we are more fully human, more present to those around us, both emotionally and spiritually. When love is our driving force, we are more able to live life to the fullest with the assurance that God is right there with us. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of your love and presence with us today. Amen.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

He lay in the tomb

From today's reading: So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. Matthew 27:59-61

I remember the day we buried my mother. As we drove from the church to the cemetery, the sky clouded up and as we arrived at the cemetary, the clouds opened up and poured down on us. One of my great nieces said, "It's like God is crying for Aunt Jimmie Lea." It was one of those summer showers that builds up fast and goes away quickly. The sky was already clearing as we left the cemetary.

My mind's eye sees the darkness that lays over the earth two thousand years ago. The body of Jesus lay in the tomb. The earth stood in silence because the light had gone out of the world. This was the darkest hour - when it seemed that even God turned away as He mourned for his son - for the earthly life he had lived and the death he had suffered.

And we sit and wait and watch.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Trial and Crucifixion

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him. Mark 14:55-56

Lord, if I ever feel someone is in my way, hindering my progress, let me remember what happened on the day of your death. Never allow me to place my good over the good of another. Never allow me to persecute another unjustly in order to advance my own position.

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times." And he broke down and wept. Mark 14:72

Lord, forgive me for all the times I have denied you: by not speaking out when I should have; by not proclaiming your name when I should have; by not turning to you when I am troubled.

He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. Mark 15:15

Lamb of God, when I hurt, let me remember the pain you suffered. Unite my pain with your very real physical pain and touch my broken body with your healing hand.

They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, "Hail, king of the Jews!" Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. Mark 15:17-19

King of kings, cover my fears by your strength and unite my feelings with yours. When I feel foolish, let me remember the undeserved mocking you suffered.

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. Mark 15:21

When asked to shoulder a burden for you, Lord, let me approach the task with gladness and joy, remembering always the burden you took on yourself for me.

And they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. Those who passed by hurled insults at him. Mark 15:25-26, 29

Suffering Servant, let me always remember the insult you endured. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, you submitted your will to the will of God. When faced with a task that I find unpleasant, let me bind myself to your obedience at the cross. When faced with insult, give me your strength to endure and to face it with the love you showed.

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"-- which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mark 15:34

Lord of Sorrows, in the hour of my pain and suffering, let me remember who saves. Let me call out to my God and my Savior and not curse the circumstances of my life.

Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid. Mark 15:40-41

Lord of Love, give me the faithfulness of these women, to follow you regardless of where the path leads. Help me to remember that in caring for the needs of the people I meet, I am doing your will and caring for your needs; that I am your hands on this earth.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Last Supper and Gethsemane

Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me-- one who is eating with me." Mark 14:18

Lord Christ, in all my dealings with my brothers and sisters of the world, never let envy, greed, or disappointment so rule in my heart and head that I betray anyone whom you have place in my presence.

Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many." Mark 14:22-24

Precious Bread of Life, fill my heart and mind with the sustenance of your love; with the sure knowledge that bread alone is not enough for my life, but let me partake of the very Word of God.

"You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written: "'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' Mark 14:27

Faithful One, unite my abandonment, both real and imagined, with that suffered by you. When I feel the pain well up inside me, be there by my side to comfort me and assure me that you will never abandon me. Allow me always to stay by your side, never abandoning you.

He fell to the ground and prayed, "Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." Mark 14:35-36

Word of God, your prayer is always a perfect prayer. Teach me to pray for my needs, my hopes, my desires, but always ready to bend to the will of my Father in Heaven, just as you bent your will to His perfect will. You followed in obedience to allow His glory to shine through. Help me to remember your prayer, to follow in obedience just as you did. Help me to approach our Father with the same simplicity and child-like love and trust that you always demonstrated.

"Simon," he said to Peter, "could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Mark 14:37-38

Redeemer of the World, let me not be found sleeping in the day of your return. Help me to keep watch with those in pain, those whose lives are troubled, the dying, the lonely, those in prison, and the friendless.

Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Rabbi!" and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him. Mark 14:45-46

Teacher, when my friends betray me, unite that betrayal with yours. Unite my disappointment, my heartache with that of my Lord. Let me never be found guilty of betraying the trust and confidence you place in me.

Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Mark 14:47

Savior, when I am hurt, when I am scared, let me not lash out in fear. Give me grace to respond in love, just as you responded in love.

Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. Mark 14:54

Lord Jesus, plant in me the boldness to follow you, not at a distance afraid of the wolves, but walking along side of you, as a friend and a fellow sojourner in the way of truth and love. Let fear not turn me aside or make me hide.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mark 14:3-11 - Anointing Jesus for burial

A woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on Jesus' head. Mark 14:3

Not much is known about Wednesday in Holy Week. In the gospels of Mark and Matthew, after the statement that it was two days before the Passover, we get this odd little story of the anointing at Bethany. This took place in the home of Simon the leper which was odd, since lepers were usually outcasts living on the edges of society. But here were Jesus and his disciples dining in the home of an untouchable. An un-named woman came in with an alabaster jar, which was probably very expensive itself, filled with nard, a perfume made from the spikenard plant. She poured the ointment over his head anointing him, and some people at the table became upset at the apparent waste.

Jesus made that statement she had anointed his body for burial. There will be no time when the next morning dawns. The events will begin to unfold and there will be no stopping - no holding back - no rest.

Lord Jesus, grant that I might have the insight and discernment to see the needs of others n the same way this woman saw your need. Grant that in seeing the need, I might respond in love and compassion just as she did.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mark 11:27-33 - Two days before the Passover

As Tuesday dawns Jesus and the disciples head back to Jerusalem for a full day of teaching. As they pass the fig tree the disciples note that it has withered and Jesus tells them if they have faith, even mountains will move when they pray. Yes, we can read that as metaphorical mountains - those things that seem to stand in the way of our progress.

If you read through chapter 12 of Mark's gospel, you will find a mountain of teaching that took place in the temple that day. Many of the stories concern confrontations with the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the scribes. His teaching is questioned, and plans begin to take shape to arrest him and to kill him. The attempts by the authorities to trick him into some major blunder are all countered with the kind of finesse typical of Jesus.

In chapter 13, Jesus leaves the temple and goes to the Mount of Olives where he continues his teaching to the disciples. There are numerous olive groves on the Mount of Olives and in this modern day they are segmented and walled off. There are peaceful little gardens where you can sit and ponder the trees and the actions and words of Jesus. From many places there you can look across the valley and see the temple mount. All this took place 2 days before the Passover.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mark 11:12-25 - Monday in Holy Week

As we walk through Holy Week I am going to try to parallel Jesus' walk through the last week of his life. Yesterday we experienced the triumphal entry into Jerusalem when the crowds welcomed him with songs of praise and by lining the street with rushes they had cut in the fields. Since it was late in the day, he went out to Bethany to spend the night - probably at the home of Lazarus.

The next morning, as he and the disciples are headed into Jerusalem, he sees a fig tree with leaves and since he is hungry he looks for ripe figs. Not finding any because it was too early in the season, Jesus shows the very human trait of impatience and he curses the tree. They head on into town to the temple where he turns over the tables of the money changers and merchants who are doing business in the outer courts.

This action upset everyone, and the officials there started looking for ways to arrest him. They wanted to kill him because they were afraid of him, but the crowds were mesmerized by his teaching and the officials were even more afraid of the people. The big deal here is that the temple officials were allowed freedom as long as they kept the Israelites "in line." They are really afraid that the crowds will get so riled up by Jesus that they will start a revolution. A general revolt would mean that the temple worship would be shut down and the temple itself destroyed. (That's exactly what happened 40 years later.)

After teaching all day in the temple, Jesus and his disciples headed back to Bethany for the night. It was not until the next day that the disciples noticed that the fig tree had withered and died.