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2018 Lent Reflections

Reflections on the Gospel readings during Lent, offered by parishioners and presented by the Center for Spiritual Formation.

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Lent Reflections
 
Easter Day, April 1, 2018
 
 
John 20:1-18
 

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

 

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord;" and she told them that he had said these things to her.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Each of the four gospels in the New Testament tells the Easter story with different details. Different people go to the tomb of Jesus at sunrise on Sunday. Different things happen; different things are said. I find those variations to strengthen the veracity of the biblical witness. What would be suspicious would be all the stories relating the same details. The same event is often reported by various people in various ways. The details are shaped by what we expect to see and what needs we bring with us.

 

No account of the actual resurrection is given in any of the gospels. Nothing is said about how it happened or even when it happened. There is nothing recorded about the time between Friday afternoon when the body of Jesus was laid in the tomb, and Sunday morning. What is consistent through all accounts is that the tomb was empty.

 

The story of the resurrection is told through the eyes of those who found the tomb empty. They came mostly looking for death. They came out of a sense of obligation. In some cases they came looking for an opportunity to mourn the loss of one they loved. What they found instead was the joy of life.

 

On Easter morning once again we will come to the tomb of Jesus. We know the story so well that maybe our sense of wonder and expectation is dulled. But the glorious good news is proclaimed once more. The tomb is empty. The message of resurrection, new hope, and life will be spread to the world around us by what we find, what we see. How will our lives be changed?

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Holy Saturday, March 31, 2018
 
 
Mark 16:1-8
 

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you." So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

 
 
 
 
 
 

This passage is saying to me, "Don't sweat the small stuff". Mary Magdalene, Mary and Salome were so concerned with rather insignificant things for Jesus, they lost sight of the miracle of Christ's being raised from the tomb. We, as they, in this day and age, tend to worry so much about the little things along our life's journey that we miss the important aspects of which we should be aware. Jesus is actually ahead of us leading us in the right direction, if we take the time and thought to know what our ultimate goal in this life really is.

 

It is frightening at times to do what we really know is right, to branch out and care for those who really need our love and care, instead of taking the easy way. In the end we will be rewarded as Christ has promised. What more can we ask?

 

Our journey is a little scary, as the women in this passage were afraid, but we have the advantage of knowing that Jesus is always there to guide us.

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Good Friday, March 30, 2018
 
 
John 18:1-19:42
 

Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, "Whom are you looking for?" They answered, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus replied, "I am he." Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, "I am he," they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, "Whom are you looking for?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go." This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, "I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me." Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave's name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?"

 

So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

 

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, "You are not also one of this man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not." Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

 

Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, "I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said." When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, "Is that how you answer the high priest?" Jesus answered, "If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?" Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

 

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, "You are not also one of his disciples, are you?" He denied it and said, "I am not." One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, "Did I not see you in the garden with him?" Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate's headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, "What accusation do you bring against this man?" They answered, "If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you." Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law." The Jews replied, "We are not permitted to put anyone to death." (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." Pilate asked him, "What is truth?"

 

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, "I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?" They shouted in reply, "Not this man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a bandit.

 

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him." So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him." The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God."

Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, "Where are you from?" But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, "Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, "If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor."

 

When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge's bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, "Here is your King!" They cried out, "Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!" Pilate asked them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but the emperor." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

 

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it." This was to fulfill what the scripture says,

"They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots."

And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

 

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), "I am thirsty." A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

 

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, "None of his bones shall be broken." And again another passage of scripture says, "They will look on the one whom they have pierced."

 

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

 
 
 
 
 
 

What is truth? The high priest questions Jesus about his teachings. Jesus responds that he has always spoken openly, never in secret. The high priest can question those who heard him if he wants the truth about Jesus.

 

Pilate interrogates Jesus about the charge against him, that he claims to be the King of the Jews. Jesus replies, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

 

"What is truth?" Pilate retorts. He calls Jesus an innocent man and offers to release him. But the crowd threatens, "If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor."

 

In John 17:17, Jesus says God's word is truth. But the truth of God's word is not always easy to follow. Some days I am like the high priest, questioning God's word, hoping for an answer more to my liking. Some days I am like Pilate, surrendering to worldly demands. Some days, I am like the crowd, wanting to be rid of the uncomfortable truth. Always, I want to belong to the truth. "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." My only help is to listen to the voice of the one who came to testify to the truth.

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Maundy Thursday, March 29, 2018
 
 
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
 

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean."

 

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord — and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

 

"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. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

 
 
 
 
 
 

Love is the heart of the message that Jesus has given us. In this passage from the Gospel of John we see a contrast between love and power. Jesus is a powerful figure in that “the Father had given all things into his hands,” and yet here he acts as a servant when he washes the feet of his disciples. Washing feet has become such a common practice on Maundy Thursday that the action has almost lost its meaning.

 

Peter, who frequently seems to represent our poor human inability to understand the message of Jesus, reminds us of the significance of the image of a master washing the feet of a servant when he says, “You will never wash my feet.”  Yet Jesus is setting an example for us when, in love and humility, he serves the needs of others. In our relationships with others the world encourages us to compare, compete, and judge and to attempt to control and dominate. Jesus calls us to love.

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
 
 
Mark 12:1-11
 

Jesus began to speak to them in parables. "A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watch-tower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture:

'The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone; 
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes?'"

 
 
 
 
 
 

I know I'm not alone. There is turmoil in my life…today. This parable reminds me of two truths.

 

I often wear the shoes of a tenant. I know what God wants, and, all too often, I fall short. I do what I want to do instead. Secondly, I am reminded that God is God and I am not. He shows patience and forgiveness over and over, giving me chance after chance. I pray I will develop this grace when people and situations let me down or turn away from me.

 

I pray. Thank you, God, for the many chances you give me to do your will. Grant me patience and forgiveness. Amen.

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Tuesday in Holy Week, March 27, 2018
 
 
Mark 11:27-33
 

Again the group came to Jerusalem. As Jesus was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, "By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?" Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me." They argued with one another, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say, 'Why then did you not believe him?' But shall we say, 'Of human origin?'" — they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."

 
 
 
 
 
 

"Should I have knee surgery or just try physical therapy?” Your doctors’ answers may differ. “Can I afford to support the church in the way I’d like?” Financial advisors may differ. We ask,“Should I take on the job that St. James has asked of me?”  Family members will definitely differ. We do need the opinions of these knowledgeable people, but it’s hard to know which expert to heed. We need a tie breaker.

 

These daily decisions as to how we live our lives are certainly not of the magnitude of those made by a Churchill or a Lincoln, but on occasion they can be life changing for us and sometimes to others. We need experts. But, how do we decide?

 

Lucky us - as Christians, we always have the expert. We know exactly who our authority, our tie breaker is, so we are able to turn to scripture, to study works of faith, to consult with caring friends and clergy, and most of all to pray fervently that we will hear as God sends His guidance.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Monday in Holy Week, March 26, 2018
 
 
Mark 11:12-25
 

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard it.

 

Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, "Is it not written,
'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations?' But you have made it a den of robbers."


And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

 

In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered." Jesus answered them, "Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

 

"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses."

 
 
 
 
 
 

Who has, recently or in the past, wronged you, that you need to forgive? While praying, many of us tend to name a list of things we have done wrong for the day, or week, and ask God to forgive us for them. This isn’t wrong, but as this passage points out, there is something we should be doing before we ask God to forgive us of all our sins. We are told to first forgive those we have something against.

 

 

When there is unforgiveness and bitterness, it causes division. Feelings are hurt, friendships are severed, or even churches split because of unforgiven wrongs. It might start out small and seem to be nothing, but soon it grows into bitterness and anger toward those whom we haven’t forgiven.

 

Make it a part of your daily prayers to think of any person who might have sinned against you and made you angry, sad or hurt, and forgive them. For many of us, this may happen multiple times throughout the day, and we neglect to first forgive others in prayer before we ask to be forgiven ourselves. Take time today to ask God to help you in your journey toward grace and forgiveness with others.

 
 
 
 
 
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