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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
 
Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018
 
 
Mark 14:1-15, 47
 

It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, "Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people."

 

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, "Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor." And they scolded her. But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her."

 

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

 

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?" So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there." But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

 
 
 
 
 
 

On their journey from Bethany to Jerusalem, Jesus sent two of His disciples into town to borrow a colt. Fulfilling the prophesy, "…Behold, your king is coming to you: He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey..." This action to me, shows how Jesus was not only the Son of God but one of us. Even though he worked to present himself has one of the people, his followers "rolled out the red carpet" for Him by placing their garments and palm branches in His path. They greeted Him with praise and thanksgiving for His coming. Even though, it seems to me, He tried to blend in as humble and "one of us," the people knew He was different. They shouted, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!" Hosanna is an exclamation of praise that means, "save us." It is interesting to me that even though this man came riding into down on a donkey, wearing rags, and doing his best to be humble, the people recognized him as The One who would save us all. I wonder if we would be this open today? Will we recognize The One if he comes again riding in a beat up car, appearing far less glamorous than the images we see on T.V.? Will our hearts be open? Will we roll out the red carpet?

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Saturday, March 24, 2018
 
 
John 11:45-53
 

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, "What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation." But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed." He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

 
 
 
 
 
 

We know how this story ends, don’t we? Within these verses, Caiaphas and his council decide that one person must die to save their status and that of the nation they rule. We’ve experienced this in the history of nations since, whether it is one or many who are sacrificed for the leadership in place at the time.

 

We are at the threshold of Holy Week, which begins tomorrow with the Sunday of the Passion and threads its way to the Sunday of the Resurrection seven days later.  Wherever we are in our Lenten journey, these verses remind once more we have an opportunity to leave wherever we are, to immerse ourselves in the emotions of the week, arriving once more Easter morning where, “our sorrow will be turned into joy.”  Godspeed.

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Friday, March 23, 2018
 
 
John 10:31-42
 

The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, "I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?" The Jews answered, "It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God." Jesus answered, "Is it not written in your law, 'I said, you are gods?' If those to whom the word of God came were called “gods”— and the scripture cannot be annulled — can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, 'I am God’s Son?' If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.

 

He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, "John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true." And many believed in him there.

 
 
 
 
 

Alas, lawyers (or as in this passage, those who display lawyerly pedantry) do not come off very well in the New Testament. The scribes and the Pharisees often tangled with Jesus trying to trip him up with argument aimed at baiting him to blasphemy.  Here, Jesus turns the tables by using the literalism embraced by the religious leaders to confound his accusers and undermine their charges. Then for good measure, he urges all in his audience to judge him by his miracles and other actions rather than by tongue-twisting his words. This time, unlike Calgary, Jesus escaped the inflamed mob. He continued to lead by preaching and doing the work presaged by John the Baptist. The people who heard his message believed not because of any miracle performed by John but because he accurately forecast the power and love displayed by the One who was to come after him, the Messiah. Like the listeners on the banks of the Jordan, we too lack any personal experience of miracles of John or other acts of Jesus. We must rely on the believers’ record of Jesus’ life, his acts and most importantly, his words.

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Thursday, March 22, 2018
 
 
John 8:51-59
 

Jesus said, "Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death." The Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, 'Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.' Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?" Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, 'He is our God,' though you do not know him. But I know him; if I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad." Then the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am." So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Our hope and promise of everlasting life is: "Whoever keeps my word will never die." Or, "Whoever obeys my message will never die." Jesus preached God's word so his followers would have everlasting life. We must understand that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have always been with us. Without this, we would not know his Glory.

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
 
 
Mark 11:27-33
 

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, 'You will be made free?’"

 

Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father."

 

They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does." They said to him, "We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself." Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me."

 
 
 
 
 
 

I did some reading about this passage, and it appears to arise from the differences between what the Jews had been expecting from their Messiah, and who Jesus was and what he was actually doing. They had believed in him, but they were now challenging him, arguing with him, becoming sinful in the process, and planning for his death. For me, in the words, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free", he was offering hope..  This is a scary, scary world we live in, and we often fall short of being faithful disciples, but hope through Christ's words can always be found.

 

One of my most loved books is Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope, by Sister Joan Chittister. In the book she states, "There is beauty in the dark valleys of life. It is called hope." Another interesting note she included in the book is from W.H. Auden.  He says, "May it not be that just as we have to have faith in God, God has to have faith in us, and considering the history of the human race, so far, may it not be that faith is even more difficult for God than us." 

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
 
 
John 8:21-30
 

Again Jesus said to them, "I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come." Then the Jews said, "Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, 'Where I am going, you cannot come'?" He said to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he." They said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him." They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him." As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Can't you just hear Jesus' frustration? You know, too, he has to be exhausted by this time. And, unlike the others, he knows how this "story" ends. But, although we can see a hint of his exhaustion and perhaps frustration here, we also see the constant presence of His Father. "The one who sent me is with me: he has not left me alone…."

 

To know that we are never really alone in our life's journey is such a comforting thought to me. So many times in my life, circumstances conspired that made me feel isolated from others, particularly when my beloved mother — my dearest friend — passed away. Then, and at other times of emotional turmoil, I found that the support and love from my husband, siblings and closest friends, while helpful and uplifting, couldn't really touch the sadness and confusion I was feeling. We all know we never "get over" these life events, but that we must walk through them experiencing the sometimes overwhelming feelings they bring.

 

But, as followers of Christ, we know too, that we are never really alone during these times, for Jesus told us that, time and time again. And, I, for one, am comforted.

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Monday, March 19, 2018
 
 
John 8:1-11
 

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, sir." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again."

 
 
 
 
 
 

In Jesus’ day, those who participated in adultery committed a serious breech of the law, punishable by being taking outside the city and stoned to death. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, could have asked that this be done to Mary, when she was found to be pregnant. Joseph, as the “offended party”, chose to divorce Mary quietly instead of having her killed. The story of the woman caught in adultery has always intrigued me because the male in the formula was never mentioned. Theoretically, the male should have been caught at the same time, and taken outside the city with the woman. Where was he? Why did those who sought justice not bring forth the man? Many read this story as a tale of forgiveness, and it certainly is that. However, it does not negate the fact that sin affects others. The woman is forgiven, but she is told to go and sin no more. If we participate in sinful acts with the thought that we can do what we want since God forgives, we miss part of the lesson. We are called to live our lives with behavior that does not hurt others or ourselves. There are consequences for our actions. Forgiveness is given by Jesus, but the actions of this woman and her partner are far reaching. How is her family affected? How will her children and her partner’s children be treated by their peers? How will the relationships of those friends of the couples be strained? If the marriages of these individuals survive, where will the trust level be? I believe God wants us to avoid those situations that cause a disruption and pain in our lives. It would help if our behavior didn’t get us in trouble in the first place.

 
 
 
 
 
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