Tagged in: Lent

Movements shake things up!  One moment, everything feels stable, secure, predictable. Then suddenly the ground shifts, the earth shakes, and what appeared steady and familiar before now feels…different.  Movements shake things up.  Movements change things.

Paul understood this all too well. He had heard about this new thing from Palestine, this Jesus Movement.  He heard how Jesus challenged so many things that were sure and certain, spending more time empowering people than propping up institutions.  When the keepers of the status quo arrested Jesus and threatened him with death, he simply stood before them, humble but unbowed.  When they killed him, this Jesus just didn’t seem to stay dead!  And his movement grew, even as Paul tried with all his might to bring it down. 

Then a funny thing happened on the way to Damascus.  Paul encountered the risen Jesus, and in that moment, the ground beneath him moved.  Suddenly the one who had tried to destroy the Jesus Movement now with equal zeal propelled it forward.  Indeed, it wasn’t long before Paul and his colleagues were described as those who, in the Name of Jesus, “turned the world upside down.”  

Throughout his life, Paul remained committed, always calling his friends—and all of us—to join him in that movement where everything we say and everything we do proclaims the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ until he comes again. 

Prayer

“Let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

Prayer for the Mission of the Church, from Good Friday, The Book of Common Prayer 1979,  The Episcopal Church

Movements shake things up!  One moment, everything feels stable, secure, predictable. Then suddenly the ground shifts, the earth shakes, and what appeared steady and familiar before now feels…different.  Movements shake things up.  Movements change...
Tagged in: Lent

How quickly the crowd gathered around Jesus as he entered Jerusalem and how quickly they dispersed as he was arrested, tried and crucified.  People were looking for a powerful figure to challenge the status quo.

As churches and as countries, we need to be aware of the ways in which we use power, even in the name of Jesus.  We have a painful history of being colonizers and oppressors. How can we who proclaim Christ as our King resist the temptation to build kingdoms and instead work for justice and freedom for all people?

Prayer

Blessed are you, Jesus, for in you we find strength and vulnerability.  As we enter Holy Week, keep us mindful of all who are in need or are vulnerable.  May your outpouring of love inspire us, in turn, to acts of deeper love. Amen.

How quickly the crowd gathered around Jesus as he entered Jerusalem and how quickly they dispersed as he was arrested, tried and crucified.  People were looking for a powerful figure to challenge the status quo. As churches and as countries, we...
Tagged in: Lent

Today we hear of the promise of a new covenant written not on stone but in our hearts.  We hear Jesus speaking of being lifted up from the earth, and then buried in it that he might become in truth the first fruit of a redeemed humanity. 

While these texts invite us to look ahead to Holy Week and Easter, the Psalm of the day actually calls us back to the very beginning of our Lenten journey.  “Create in me a clear heart O God,” cries the Psalmist.  “Renew a right spirit within me”. (verse 11)  At the heart of his prayer is this petition, “purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure, wash me and I shall be clean indeed.” (verse 8)

Lent is a time for purging all that mars our common humanity and our common home, the earth itself.

One of the worst crimes against humanity is the trafficking of women, men and children for labours in which their dignity and human rights are violated.  The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares, “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.”  Seventy years later to the shame of the world there are more than 40 million people who are victims of the sex trade, abusive domestic servitude, organized crime and exploitative forms of labour as migrant workers.

Lent is a time to forge partnerships with other Churches, people of other faith traditions and governments, local and national in purging our world of this crime, “to spot it and to stop it”.

Prayer

Give us faith to face the forces,
who line their pockets from this plague,
send us as salvation’s sponsors
willing servants to love

Refrain          

God of freedom,
Who leads us into life,
Deliver us from every evil:
And make us deliverers of others.

(Excerpt from The Freedom Prayer for Ending Human Trafficking)

Today we hear of the promise of a new covenant written not on stone but in our hearts.  We hear Jesus speaking of being lifted up from the earth, and then buried in it that he might become in truth the first fruit of a redeemed humanity.  While...
Tagged in: Lent

The story of the serpents in the wilderness is intriguing. The people of God had been rescued from slavery in Egypt and were making the long circuitous way to the promised land. The initial euphoria of freedom had worn off and they grew impatient. They spoke against God and Moses, trusting more in human sense than God’s faithfulness, trusting above all else their construct of reality. This never ends well.

In their panic and pain the people pleaded for deliverance. God rescued Israel, not so much from poisonous serpents, but from Israel’s own faithless and poisonous rebellion that had appeared long before the snakes. In that faithlessness, Israel had set itself against God.  Israel’s rescue was a restored relationship with God, not simply escaping the snakes.  The symbol of their salvation was a fiery serpent—a bronze serpent lifted up on a pole.  The very image of suffering and death was also the image of life and salvation.

I have read Numbers several times and there is no indication that the serpents ever left.  The plague of serpents remained an ongoing threat and the raised bronze serpent an ongoing reminder to turn to God’s healing power.  This is what intrigues me, the word for fiery serpents is seraphim. Seraphim – the same angels who, with the cherubim, attend God.  Could the snake angels be fiery guardian angels who bring us back to the truth that left to our own devices we are helpless and sometimes dangerous?

In the ELCA March 10th is the commemoration of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman.  Both women devoted their lives to dismantling the sinful human construct of racism.  Harriet Tubman was called Moses.  She led her people to freedom.  Sojourner Truth spoke with a fiery passion that bit deep into the false world order that propped up slavery.  They were seraphim.  We need seraphim today.

Prayer

Ignite your refining fire, O God. Burn away both the lie of one people’s supremacy and the lie that leads another people to doubt their worth.  Amen.  

The story of the serpents in the wilderness is intriguing. The people of God had been rescued from slavery in Egypt and were making the long circuitous way to the promised land. The initial euphoria of freedom had worn off and they grew impatient....
Tagged in: Lent

Some things just don’t make much sense.  Water doesn’t become wine, bread and fish do not suddenly multiply, the lame do not jump up and walk.  And most certainly, dead people stay dead, especially those who experience the horrific death of crucifixion!

And yet, where Jesus is involved, all kinds of things that don’t make much sense...happen.

In those earliest years of the Jesus Movement, his followers didn’t wear crosses around their necks or hang them in the homes in which they worshipped.  They had other symbols, certainly, but not crosses.  Crucifixion was not a historical curiosity, but a still-present reality, and an agonizing and shameful one at that.  To be crucified was to be executed as a common criminal.  Worse, according to the Hebrew Scriptures, cursed was one who hung on a tree, on the wood of a cross. 

So to speak of “Christ crucified” didn’t make sense to many.  It was a stumbling block, something foolish or offensive.  But Paul said otherwise.  Yes, Jesus could have avoided the cross, found some other way around it.  But instead he faced the worst the world could throw at him, and then broke through death itself, and leave an empty cross behind as witness to his astonishing victory.  

Some things don’t make much sense.  The cross is one of them.  But it stands now and forever as our rallying cry that God—not injustice, not suffering, not even death—has the final, victorious word.

Prayer

“Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace.”

(Prayer for Mission, Morning Prayer II, The Book of Common Prayer 1979,  The Episcopal Church)

Some things just don’t make much sense.  Water doesn’t become wine, bread and fish do not suddenly multiply, the lame do not jump up and walk.  And most certainly, dead people stay dead, especially those who experience the horrific death of...
Tagged in: Lent

“Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

A big part of taking up the cross of Jesus is being willing to speak out against injustice and hatred. In Canada, hate crimes against Jews, Muslims, indigenous people, black people, as well as against others, continue to grow. The year 2017 began with a violent mass shooting that left six men dead at a Quebec City mosque.

As a church and as individuals, we need to continue to speak out against all forms of hatred and to build bridges with people of all faiths. Following Jesus requires us to speak a clear message of love, respect, tolerance and understanding.

Prayer

Jesus, in the face of hatred and intolerance, give to us the courage and commitment to speak out for peace and love and stand with our neighbours. Amen.

“Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” A big part of taking up the cross of Jesus is being willing to speak out against...
Tagged in: Lent

In the midst of two stories we know so well, the story of Noah and the flood and the story of Jesus and his baptism we hear in the First Letter of Peter some teaching about the nature of our baptism.  He speaks of it “not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience through Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21)

Lent is a time for us to be especially mindful of any and every arrogance reflecting the thought that some peoples are superior to others.  I speak of the sins of racism, ethnic cleansing, and government-enforced policies of assimilation designed “to remake others in our image”. (The Anglican Church of Canada’s Apology to the survivors of the Indian Residential Schools in Canada, 1993)

Lent is a season to confess these sins against our brothers and sisters.  It is a time to correct attitudes, words, and actions, blatant or subtle that perpetuate them.  It is a time to forge new relationships grounded in our baptismal vow to strive for justice and peace among all people.

To quote First Peter, Lent is a season of “appeal to God for a good conscience”, cleansed of the sins of prejudice, and cleared for respect and affection, one for another in accord with the Gospel we proclaim.

Prayer

“For all false judgements, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbours and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,

Accept our repentance, Lord.

(The Litany of Penitence for Ash Wednesday, The Book of Alternative Services,  The Anglican Church of Canada) 

In the midst of two stories we know so well, the story of Noah and the flood and the story of Jesus and his baptism we hear in the First Letter of Peter some teaching about the nature of our baptism.  He speaks of it “not as a removal of dirt from...
Tagged in: Lent

We are created out of love and for love.  We walk the same earth and breathe the same air, and yet…

We proclaim that it is God’s will that all people live in equity and peace, that all have a share in God’s abundant life, that there is liberty and justice for all, and yet…

We have been claimed in baptism, buried with Christ in a death like his, to be raised with Christ in a resurrection like his.  We have already died the only death that really matters, and yet…

We do not recognize the full humanity of others.  There is not justice for all.  In our fear we doubt the resurrection.

This Lent, let us enter into a time and space of honest and unflinching examination.  We offer these devotions as a means, a starting point for prayer and reflection.  The hard work of truth telling and truth hearing is set before us.  The painful reality that racial equity does not exist in our countries our churches cannot be ignored.  We must resist any rush to reconciliation before repentance.  Return to the Lord.

Prayer

In your love, compassionate God, keep us in this tension.  In your severe mercy see this pain to bring action and change.  We pray this through Christ our Lord, in whom the dividing wall of hostility has already been broken down.  Amen.

We are created out of love and for love.  We walk the same earth and breathe the same air, and yet… We proclaim that it is God’s will that all people live in equity and peace, that all have a share in God’s abundant life, that there is liberty and...
Tagged in: Lent

There is a common saying in Tamil (a South Indian language) that it is alright to pardon an enemy or an oppressor, but one should never forgive a betrayer. I think that this proverb makes sense as it is indeed very difficult to accept betrayal, especially as betrayal fundamentally means that it comes from a friend or a trusted person, rather than a stranger or a foe. Few experiences in life could be more hurting or traumatic as to come face to face with a betrayer, even more so with the awareness of what the person has done or is doing.

In a way, this is how Jesus must have felt in the Garden of Gethsemane. Let us try to imagine and re-visualize the situation Jesus was in. With his now-unavoidable death looming around the corner, and the humiliating nature of that death, having to meet this brutal end through the betrayal of his close follower – his disciple – could have only increased the hurt and pain of Jesus. In other words, I believe that Jesus’ suffering was not limited to the actual act of crucifixion, but also included the pain of being betrayed. Remember that Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus Christ, according to the gospels was the one who had the money bag; he was the group’s ‘Treasurer,’ a job normally given to a trustworthy person! And yet, it is this trusted person who decided to switch sides for the sake of ‘money,’ or perhaps more money, to be precise. And the means of his betrayal is equally interesting, a kiss which is a common sign of love! It seems ironical that Judas chose a sign of friendship as his signal for the armed crowd (meaning the state police machinery) to capture Jesus. In such circumstances, given Jesus’ emphasis on love and his closeness with his disciples and his followers, we can understand the unbearable sorrow Jesus must have felt in the Garden of Gethsemane. No wonder that he desperately calls upon his closer circle (or possibly the remnant) of disciples to stay awake and pray!

The disciples though, were too tired to stay awake and Jesus had to rely on his Father for comfort and strength. In fact, the synoptic gospel writers mention that he prayed thrice – numerically signifying perfection of his prayers. And each time, despite his prayer pleading for the possibility of avoiding the cross, the scripture is clear that Jesus did not seek to escape the impending suffering.  Rather, Jesus’ prayer was of total surrender to God the Father, completely trusting and depending on his Father’s love and support. After the prayer(s) we can see that there is a marked and significant change in the attitude of Jesus, from the “distressed and troubled,” “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow” (Mark 14: 33 – 34; NRSV) to “Look the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Mark 14: 41 – 42; NRSV). It appears that his sincere and self–surrendering prayer had a profound effect on Jesus, so that he was able to ‘go’ and meet the realities of life, notwithstanding their painfulness.

I believe that these words of Jesus Christ continue to speak to us today as we often come across the reality of betrayals, of being stabbed by those whom we consider as friends, abandonment and so on in our lives. Amidst these realities, Christ’s courage inspires us to rise up and say to ourselves and others, “Let’s go!” But as we see in Jesus, such courage and strength is not possible without prayer. We are reminded of this truth especially during the season of lent, that spending time in the presence of God and praying is imperative for us to face the struggles of life. Too often for many of us, prayer is a pile of words that is uttered mechanically without paying attention to the content. During this lent, may we make a commitment to say our prayers consciously, entrusting our lives in the hands of God. And on occasions when we don’t find words to pray, we may just remain silent and quietly rest in God assured of his ever enduring grace that – in the words of St. Paul – it would be sufficient for us and God’s strength would empower us in our weaknesses. In prayer, may we receive courage and determination like Christ, to ‘arise and go’ and take on the challenges of life!

There is a common saying in Tamil (a South Indian language) that it is alright to pardon an enemy or an oppressor, but one should never forgive a betrayer. I think that this proverb makes sense as it is indeed very difficult to accept betrayal,...
Tagged in: Lent

“Go.”

“Go into the city.”

“Go into the city to a certain man.”

Go into the city to a certain man, and say.”

Jesus sent two of his disciples into the city with clear instructions to seek a certain man that goes un-named but who both Jesus and the disciples knew. The purpose was to give this certain man a message from Jesus – that his time was near and that he and his disciples would be observing the Passover at his house.  The verbs in this passage are “go” and “say”.

As you consider this powerful biblical verse ask yourself: where does Jesus call me to go and what does Jesus call me to say?

“Go.” “Go into the city.” “Go into the city to a certain man.” Go into the city to a certain man, and say.” Jesus sent two of his disciples into the city with clear instructions to seek a certain man that goes un-named but who both Jesus and the...