Friday, April 22, 2011

The triduum and the whole universe

The biggest liturgy (order for worship) of the year started Thursday and continues until we celebrate Jesus' Resurrection. In these multiple services we remember: Jesus gave us communion that we could take him into us and be sustained by him in the world; Jesus cleansed us from sin and urges us to likewise wash other's feet; Jesus died for us; Jesus went to hell for us; and Jesus defeated death and conquered the grave when he rose from the dead on the third day.

But, in our personalized version of Christianity we often forget that the 'us' Jesus died for is not just me or my friends or even all the people in the world.

John 3:16 NASB notes "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

God loved the world (the Greek refers to much larger than our planet) and put people in a place where everything was subject to the consequences of human decision. God gave his only begotton Son so that by believing in Him: We won't perish; We'll live forever; We'll be a family of God's children; We're heirs of God who share his suffering and glory; and the universe is waiting for us.

Romans 8:19-21 continues "The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it in hope that hte creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God."

A couple of big questions as we await Jesus' resurrection:
What do you do to remember you live for more than yourself?
How does your life give hope to the world, even the universe?

Monday, April 18, 2011

The whole world - sins and all

Psalm 51:1-18(19-20); Psalm 69:1-23
Jeremiah 12:1-16; Philippians 3:1-14; John 12:9-19

John 12:19 "Look the world has gone after him"

Christians tend to fall into one of two extremes relating to the world. It is either hostile to God, like the sins of the flesh, all awaiting destruction. Or the other extreme of everything is so good that we're to seek comfort and prosperity often forgetting the clear direction of scripture of how difficult it is for those who have to receive the gospel.

We're to live a challenge somewhere inbetween where we are expecting a difficult journey and that all of the difficult journey is to be offered up to God. We're to live expecting a new creation with the old creation passing away yet somehow enduring. So how do we do it?

How do we be part of the 'whole world' that praises God even when people fall short of praising God? How do we be the people who leaders would point at and feel like all humanity has gone after Jesus? What do you do to avoid the traps and pitfalls of our materialist societal sin? How do you live expectant of something new and yet treasuring what God has given us now? How do you restore feeling and understanding where these two heretical extremes have left us numb to the power of the good news of Jesus Christ?

Palm Sunday: Jesus Cleanses the Temple

El Greco: Christ Cleansing the Temple

Psalm 24, 29; Psalm 103
Zechariah 9:9-12, 13:1, 7-9; 1 Timothy 6:12-16; Matthew 21:12-17
Church of the Apostles Palm Sunday Sermon
While the attention of the crowd is on Jesus, while people are looking to him for victory, while folks expected him to overthrow rulers... Jesus shows his concern for right worship and by seeking to make the temple into a place of prayer for ALL PEOPLE.

And I'm left thinking... Holy Week is consistantly the most important week of my devotional life... it is so full of memories of deep encounters with the Lord that I've set up patterns and ways I expect to experience God... are these things Jesus would clean out?

For your thought and comment:
Where might you expect (or if after the fact did you find) God met you in a new way this week?
What Holy Week practice would you deeply miss if it were removed this year?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thursday/Friday 5th Week of Lent

Relationships over things

(Sorry I had too much on my plate this week and a number of things slid in favor of maintaining intimacy with God).

Questions for reflection:
How did you learn to pray?
What is your earliest memory of prayer?

For me, I learned from the Book of Common Prayer. I would pour over the book looking for the prayer that addressed the situation I wanted to pray for because I believed prayers would only be effective if they had been made by someone holier than me. While I recommend praying words to God that are your own, this season with the prayer book served me well.

I learned to praise God first and now realize that in doing so I was usually recalling a testimony of what God had done in the past so that he would do something similar again.

I learned to ask for things that others had tested as part of God's heart and so by experience learned about praying within the will of God.

I learned to close prayer giving glory to God and expecting God to do God's will and not mine.

Eventually I learned to pray words straight from my heart, but in some ways because I'd sought so earnestly for prayers, the prayer book words were also prayers from my heart. So, the prayer book with the community that worshiped guided by it led me into relationship with God.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Recognizing Prayer as Essential

Psalm 119:145-176; Psalm 128, 129, 130; Jeremiah 25:30-38; Romans 10: 14-21; John 10:1-18

The challenge today is to think about our perceptions of our prayer life. If we, as most Christians do, believe that prayer is important and effective, not to mention modeled by Jesus, then we should take it more seriously than we often do. Most of us, probably, pray at least once a day, sometimes perfunctorily, sometimes for a long stretch.

However, speaking only from personal experience, I find prayer hard. I find it hard to concentrate, to stay on point, to stay focused. There are so many horrendous issues in the world, in our country, in my friends' lives, in my own life, that they are overwhelming. I can't pray for all of them, so often I don't pray for any. But I do, I really do, believe that prayer is important. That it is our lifeline to our Maker and Savior. So this question is for me, too: Why is it so hard?

How do your rate prayer on your priority list?

How do you move it higher?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Deep Words of Deep Trust

Psalm 51:1-18(19-20); Psalm 69:1-23
Jeremiah 12:1-16; Philippians 3:1-14; John 12:9-19
Psalm 23

Today's mediation from Henri Nouwen reflects on Psalm 23 and states "The deeper these words enter into the center of by being, the more I become part of God's people and the better I understand what it means to be in the world without being of it."

For me, Psalm 23 is one of a number of passages that helps me enter more deeply into being part of God's people. One of them is Jeremiah 12:5 where God challenges Jeremiah and his strength with words of powerful promise. (Here is a book that expands the mediation if you're interested).

What words help you experience deeper trust of God?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Source of Our Joy

Psalm 118; Psalm 145
Jeremiah 23:16-32; 1 Corinthians 9:19-27; Mark 8:31-9:1

Psalm 118 proclaims 'this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.'

When I led preschool chapel we sang this line every Wednesday and sometimes when we encountered eachother in the halls or on the playground. We developed a culture where seeing eachother called rejoicing to mind. So, whether we were down, up, tired, happy to be with friends, playing, missing Mommy and Daddy, fussy, tantrumy, bouncing off the walls... the songs we sang each week helped us have a way to return to joy in the Lord.

Nouwen writes: "The surprise is not that, unexpectedly, things turn out better than expected. No, the real surprise is that God's light is more real than all the darkness, that God's truth is more powerful than all human lies, that God's love is stronger than death."

An exercise like what I did with preschoolers risks a fake joy, putting on a face when things feel terrible. Yet, it points us to the truth of our rejoicing because Jesus overcame the world and its troubles. It required meeting a child where they were, letting it be okay to be however they were feeling. Then once they were sure it was okay to be where they were, smiling until they were naturally smiling before we could sing of joy and praise to God that was real in the face of troubles.

Questions for reflection and comment:
What is a place or time in your life you are so thankful for that you return to it to praise God again and again?
What is something today real joy in the Lord has shown up?