Category Archives: Lent through the Psalms

Holy Saturday

Readings for the day
Found at http://www.io.com/~kellywp/YearA_RCL/Easter/AEasVigil_RCL.html

Readings for The Great Vigil of Easter
Genesis 1:1-2:4a [The Story of Creation]
Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18, 8:6-18, 9:8-13 [The Flood]
Genesis 22:1-18 [Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac]
Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 [Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea]
Isaiah 55:1-11 [Salvation offered freely to all]
Baruch 3:9-15, 3:32-4:4 or Proverbs 8:1-8, 19-21; 9:4b-6 [Learn wisdom and live]
Ezekiel 36:24-28 [A new heart and a new spirit]
Ezekiel 37:1-14 [The valley of dry bones]
Zephaniah 3:14-20 [The gathering of God’s people]

Readings at The Eucharist
Romans 6:3-11
Psalm 114
Matthew 28:1-10

The Story Continues

by Marjorie George

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). Thus begins our story. Christ did not plop onto the scene unannounced in a stable in Bethlehem. He had been foretold throughout the Old Testament. In one of the Eucharistic prayers we hear, “Again and again you called us into covenant with you, and through the prophets you taught us to hope for salvation” (Book of Common Prayer, p 373).

There has never been a time when Christ was not. From generation to generation we have known this and remembered this. This is our story, kept alive in the telling by those who have remained faithful, those who have, as Paul puts it, “Fought the good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7).

The story is reiterated tonight in The Great Vigil of Easter. In the early Christian church, a major function of The Great Vigil was to receive converts to the faith through baptism, and the Vigil remains the most appropriate time for baptism into the life of the Church.

But not before we tell our story again. In The Great Vigil, we do what families have always done when they get together for a meal or a special occasion: we speak of our history, we pay homage to our parents and our grandparents, we tell the funny remembrances between brother and sister, we recall the hard times and the loss of those our family has loved. It is our stories that bind us.

In The Great Vigil we are reminded again of our salvation history. The Rev. Ted Mellor of Trinity Church, Los Angeles, describes it this way: “We sit around for a while and tell each other stories, old stories about our predecessors that tell us more about ourselves than we know, stories about creation, liberation, water in dry places, tired, dusty old bones coming to life again. There are many stories and we no longer use all of them every year, but they’re all there. And, of course, we punctuate them with the singing of old folk songs, freedom songs: ‘I will sing to the Lord for he is lofty and uplifted; the horse and the rider has he thrown into the sea’” (Exodus 15:1). (Read the full sermon at http://www.trinityla.org/753vigil.html)

Our salvation story is not ended. The crucifixion of Good Friday was not the end. Christ lying in the tomb, silent this day, is not the end. Nor is Easter the end of our story. It is the beginning, given not just for us but for the whole world. Easter is the culmination of Lent, but it is not the end. So, tomorrow, after the ham is eaten and the dishes are washed and the Easter baskets are put away, the work is just beginning — the most important work of our lives. We will carry the message, we will tell the story.

For reflection:

1. If you are not able to attend The Great Vigil of Easter at a local Episcopal Church, read it in The Book of Common Prayer, pgs 285-295. 

2. Take the time to read all of the Old Testament stories from The Great Vigil. Links are at the top of this page. 

3. Recall one of your family’s stories. Tell it to your children tonight.

4. Welcome Easter tomorrow as the greatest day of your life. It is.

Good Friday

The readings for today:
find them at http://www.io.com/~kellywp/YearABC_RCL/HolyWk/GoodFri_RCL.html 

Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Hebrews 10:16-25 or
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
John 18:1-19:42
Psalm 22

It is Finished. And it is Just Beginning

by Marjorie George

What does he mean it’s finished? What happened? It was going so well; five days ago the people welcomed him with palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna.” Four days ago he got the upper hand when he called out the temple authorities about their money-making schemes. A “den of robbers,” he said the temple had become. Last night we had dinner together and then went out to the garden to pray.

And then, suddenly, police and soldiers were surrounding us with their torches and weapons, grabbing at him, dragging him away. It was chaos, and it was all that Judas’ fault. We didn’t know where Jesus was for hours. And now he’s hanging on a cross like a common criminal saying it’s over. Is everything we worked for gone? Is the cause totally lost?

So many have believed and dedicated themselves to following him. The way he talked, how he encouraged people, even in the face of the ugliest of sins. The attention he gave to the outcasts. We were making such progress; people were beginning to listen and think about how they treated each other. They were beginning to visualize the possibility of a kingdom of peace and justice right here and right now. It was as if God himself had been guiding us.

Maybe this is what he was trying to tell us when he said things that didn’t make any sense to us. Like, “I am going away, and where I am going you can’t go.” We didn’t want to understand that. We couldn’t imagine being without him.

But what was it he said about sending an advocate? The spirit of truth he called it, sent from the Father, who will testify that Christ was indeed the Son of God. He told us that we also are to testify because we have been with him from the beginning. Our pain will turn into joy, he said. And God the Father will lead us and protect us. He said he was sending us into the world in his name so that the whole world will know that God-in-Christ loved us, all of us, and loves us still.

Yes, it is finished. But it is also just beginning. For as many as believe in him, them he will call sons of God and inheritors of the Kingdom.

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

For kingship belongs to the LORD;
he rules over the nations.

To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship;
all who go down to the dust fall before him.

My soul shall live for him;
my descendants shall serve him;
they shall be known as the LORD’S for ever.

They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn
the saving deeds that he has done. (Psalm 22:26-30)

For Reflection:

Pause today to think about the sacrifice and your part in what began this day and continues still. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maundy Thursday

The Readings for the Day
found at http://www.io.com/~kellywp/YearABC_RCL/HolyWk/MaundyTh_RCL.html

Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Psalm 116:1, 10-17

Final Instructions

by Marjorie George

We are down to the last hours now. Jesus has only a little more time to instruct his disciples. Soon they will be going it alone without his earthly presence. Christ speaks to them as a mother on her daughter’s wedding day, trying to cram in a lifetime of advice before the young woman leaves home for the last time. 

On these 12 disciples, Christ’s church will be built. If they fail, the entire mission fails. And what does Jesus choose to leave with them? “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (Jn 13:34). Not the Ten Commandments, not the several hundred laws from Leviticus, not even the Great Commission (go and make disciples . . . Matthew 28:16-20)  No. The most important thing Christ wants to say is, “love each other.” The very name of this day – Maundy Thursday – comes from that verse. The word “maundy” derives from the Latin mandatum meaning mandate or commandment.  

A family member of mine is active in an organization that seeks to end the death penalty in Texas. Members of the organization frequently testify before the Texas legislature. The testimonies that have the most impact are not the political argument, not the moral argument, not even the religious argument. The testimonies that resound are those given by family members whose loved ones have been killed: the young man whose father was murdered in a robbery, the mother whose daughter was raped and killed, the father of an abducted child. Those witnesses are unassailable; they tell of what they know.

So it is with the Church; we are Christ’s witnesses. Why was Christ so concerned that his disciples, and we, love each other? Because, “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). That is the church’s mission statement, the core value, the secret to evangelism, the way to “grow” the church. Just love each other; everything else follows.

So what does the world see when it looks at us as a church and as individual Christians? The Episcopal Church is imploding in divisiveness — what is the witness we are making? Our families are falling apart. Do our children see that we love one another? Children in Honduras and dozens of other third-world countries die regularly of dysentery because their water is not potable. Do we respond in mercy and love? What witness do we give as we live out love for others?

Soon the disciples will be in charge; they must love each other to survive. Even when they disagree. Even when they have to deal with a contentious one like Thomas. Even when they are frightened. The legacy with which the new church is to be imbued is a legacy of love.

Twice the writer of Psalm 116 vows to “fulfill [his] vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people” (vs 12 and 16 in the lectionary version; vs 14 and 18 in the NRSV).  The disciples vowed to carry on the work of Christ, and that is our vow also. We owe it him to be faithful to his final admonition and love one another.

Questions for reflection:

 1. Think of the people you find it most difficult to love. Ask God to help you love them anyway.

 2. Read again Paul’s great treatise on love, I Corinthians 13 (Find it at http://bible.oremus.org/)

 3. What one thing can you do today to express your love to someone?

 4. What one thing can you do today to express God’s love to someone?

As you continue to live out Holy Week, plan to attend a Good Friday service tomorrow. For a list of services in Episcopal churches, go here.

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday of Holy Week

The Readings for the Day
found at http://www.io.com/~kellywp/YearABC/Easter/EasWed.html

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Hebrews 12:1-3
John 13:21-32
Psalm 70

The Problem of Judas

by Marjorie George

I didn’t mean for it to come to this. I thought I was doing the right thing. But I pushed too hard, I demanded too much, I was oblivious to the effect my actions were having on you, on us. I got stubborn.

Is that the confession of Judas? Was Judas a scoundrel, a traitor, ambitious for only himself, the pawn of the devil? Was Judas willing to sell Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver because he was just plain greedy? Or was Judas pushing a plan that went dreadfully awry?

In today’s gospel reading, John implies that Jesus knew all along what Judas would do. Jesus identifies the traitor by giving him a special tidbit, a piece of bread dipped in sauce. John says that it was at that point that Satan entered Judas; this was the moment when Judas succumbed to his own misguided strategy. 

Some biblical scholars believe that Judas did not want Jesus to die at all. Judas was a fanatical nationalist and wanted an earthly king, someone who would ride in on a great steed with power to wipe out the Romans and free the Jews from their oppression. But Jesus didn’t do it that way. Judas must have grown increasingly distressed at Jesus’ slow and ambiguous way, those silly parables, all that time being spent with people who had no power or money to contribute to the revolution. Judas never did understand the way of Christ.

So in a last-ditch effort, Judas forced Jesus’ hand by delivering him to the authorities. Surely Jesus would save himself and his people. Surely he would not go meekly to a disgraceful death on a cross. But Judas underestimated the lengths to which God was willing to go to bring his people – all his people, not just the Jews – to himself. God was willing to take the harder route, the longer route, the route that may take millennia to fulfill.

Judas was wrong. When he saw clearly his part in the tragedy, he tried to redeem himself by taking the blood money back to the authorities. They had no patience for Judas and told him it was his problem, not theirs. Matthew says that Judas then threw the money on the ground and went out and hanged himself (Matt 27:3-5).

Most of us can say that we have made messes such as this. At times we have been so assured of our own rightness that we were unwilling to dig for – or wait for – the deeper truth. We have been oblivious to our sharp words and insistent manner. We have thought we knew the best way to do it. We were wrong.

I pray, Lord, that when I make a mess because I have insisted on my own way, I will have the grace to seek your forgiveness and ask for your help.  In the words of Psalm 70:

Be pleased, O God, to deliver me;
O LORD make haste to help me (vs 1).

You are my helper and deliverer;
O LORD do not tarry (vs 6).

Questions for reflection:

1. If you had been one of the disciples, what would you have thought about the way Jesus undertook his ministry?

2. When have you been tempted to take the situation into your own hands without waiting for God’s plan to unfold? How did that work out?

3. When you have made a mess of things, how do you make amends to those you may have hurt?

4. What stands out for you in the story of Judas’ betrayal?

 

 

Tuesday in Holy Week

The Readings for the Day
found at
http://www.io.com/~kellywp/CalndrsIndexes/Calendar2011.html

Isaiah 49:1-7
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
John 12:20-36
Psalm 71:1-14

How Do We Hear?

by Marjorie George

John’s gospel for today begins with some Greeks coming to Philip seeking an introduction to Jesus. One might think it strange to find Greeks in Jerusalem at the time of Passover. But the Greeks were seekers of truth. They were wanderers, driven by their desire to learn new things. Perhaps some of them had been at the temple’s Court of the Gentiles and witnessed Jesus’ overturning the tables of the money changers and sellers of doves. Perhaps they wished to meet this strange man who acted with unexplainable authority.

In response to the Greeks’ inquisitiveness, Jesus launches into a monologue about the reality of the situation. His hour has come, and those who would follow him must also be willing to “die” so that something new can be born.  It seems a peculiar response to the Greeks’ questioning, more than they wanted to know, but that is the way of Christ. There is nothing simple about the path he has chosen.

It is no secret, nor shame, that Jesus was anxious about what lay ahead. He tells us that his soul “is troubled” (Jn 12:27), even as he realizes that what he has come to do he must do. He is committed; he will go through with it to glorify God’s name. He announces this to his listeners. And then God himself confirms it – a voice comes from heaven, saying “I have glorified [my name] and will glorify it again.” This is not a voice for Jesus alone; the surrounding crowd hears it too. In fact, Jesus says the voice has come for the crowd, not for him.

God had spoken aloud to his son twice before — at his baptism (Mark 1:11) and at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:7). All three instances came just after Jesus had made a momentous decision about the direction of his ministry. God’s confirmation of those decisions was dramatic.

We long to hear the voice of God today. “Just tell me what to do, Lord,” we plead. We look for signs in Scripture, in sermons, in the words of friends who so freely lend their advice in the dilemma that faces us. And sometimes God is silent. We agonize, we pray, we implore God for direction. But even after all the searching, we seem to be left to figure it out for ourselves and make the best decision we can. And God honors that. God understands the human condition of fear and confusion. And God asks us to follow him even when we can’t hear his voice aloud. He asks us to trust him even when we are not assured of the outcome. Years later we realize that God was with us, directing us, all along. We heard his voice even when we didn’t know it.

The psalmist also appeals to God for intervention. “Be not far from me; come quickly to help me, O my God,” says Psalm 71 (vs 13). “I have always trusted you,” (vs 1). “You are my hope; don’t fail me now” (vs 5, 9). The psalmist has been through this before. “I was sustained by you ever since I was born” (vs 6) he proclaims. “You are my hope . . . my confidence since I was young” (vs 5). Therefore, “I shall always wait in patience” (vs 14).

The Greeks sought, Christ committed, the psalmist waits in patience. Each in his own way hears the voice of God. Speak, Lord; your servant listens.

Questions for reflection:

1. God often speaks to us through that with which we are most comfortable – a book, scripture, words of others, nature. Through what medium does God usually speak to you?

2. Have you ever been told by someone that something you said or did long ago, of which you were not even aware at the time, was very meaningful to that person? Does it make you realize how important your words and actions are?

3. Hearing God speak requires that we listen for his voice. Do you take time to be still and listen for God? When and how?

4. On this Tuesday of Holy Week, Christ draws nearer to the anguish of the cross and the triumph of his resurrection. Take five minutes today to meditate on that.

 

Monday of Holy Week

The Readings for the Day
found at
http://www.io.com/~kellywp/CalndrsIndexes/Calendar2011.html

Isaiah 42:1-9
Hebrews 9:11-15
John 12:1-11
Psalm 36:5-11

For the full psalm: http://bible.oremus.org/ and search for Psalm 36.

How do You See It? 

by Marjorie George

 All three Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – have the story of the cleansing of the Temple as occurring on the same day as Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem or on the next day. (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-48. John gives the story earlier in his Gospel at 2:13-16.)

So in our Holy Week narrative, we will look at the episode known as the Cleansing of the Temple. Mark has the most complete account (Mark 11:15-19, search for the gospel at http://bible.oremus.org/ ) and tells that on the day following his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and was infuriated by what he saw. God’s house was to have been a “house of prayer for all nations,” but what Jesus saw was “a den of robbers.”

Specifically, Jesus saw pilgrims being taken advantage of. Every Jew had to pay a temple tax, so pilgrims came to the temple from all over, usually having with them the currency of their region. This had to be changed into the acceptable temple shekels, for which the money changes charged an exorbitant fee equivalent to as much as half a day’s wages.

Worshippers also had to make a sacrifice of an unblemished animal, often doves. Doves could be bought cheaply enough at the local market, but temple inspectors were sure to find a blemish; and worshippers were advised to buy only the temple doves, at perhaps 20 times as much as at the local market.

In his anger, Jesus was not condemning temple worship or Jewish laws; but he saw that what had been meant to be God’s sanctuary had turned into a commercial enterprise that, worst of all, took advantage of those who came to worship, often those with the fewest resources. That which God had given for good had become perverted.

In the words of Psalm 36, those who profited from the unjust system had “no fear of God” (vs 1). They flattered themselves with their cleverness, and in their words was “mischief and deceit.” They ceased “to act wisely and do good,” but were “set on a way that is not good” (vss 2-4). Why? Because they began to look at their actions with their own eyes, not with God’s eyes. They convinced themselves that their actions were justified, even sanctioned by God. They distorted the truth for their own benefit.

It’s so easy to justify our own truth. “I see it this way,” we say. But do we see the hurt in the eyes of those we offend but who do not have the authority to say so? Do we see those who turn away because they are not part of “our truth”? Do we see the walls going up between us when we disagree? Do we bother to discern if our truth is, in fact, God’s truth? Or would we just rather have our un-confronted comforts?

Psalm 36 reminds us that God’s love is available for everyone to take refuge under (vs 7). God desires to give us feasts of abundance and drink from the river of his delights (8). He desires for us to “see the light.” And he reminds us that we will only be able to do that when we look through his light (vs 9).

Questions for Reflection:

1. What decisions are you facing just now? Are you able to see the reality of the situation through God’s eyes instead of your own?

2. If you are in a position of authority – at work, in your church, in your family – think about whether you might be taking advantage of those with less power than you. Take a mental inventory.

3. Are you moved to anger when you see God’s gifts being distorted? What might you do about that?

4. Are you being called to confront a situation in yourself in which your truth has taken the place of God’s truth?

Take-with thought: If you want to see the truth, you have to see it through God’s eyes.