Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Superman @ 84

Superman turned 84 yesterday, marking the anniversary of the publication of Action Comics #1 on April 18, 1938.  The series has been rebooted, the costume has changed and changed back, and Superman has died and come back (a few times), but the first superhero is still being published monthly and still fighting the never ending battle.

And boy do we need him now more than ever.

Think about it.  Everything Superman stands for seems to be under attack.

"To best be in a position to use his amazing powers in a never-ending battle for truth and justice, Superman has assumed the disguise of Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper."

The American Way was later added to Superman's fight, making the better-known phrase "Truth, Justice, and the American Way."

But what is truth when unpopular realities can be dismissed as "fake news" or a documented record can simply be denied.  When the images we see must be evaluated for their level of manipulation.  When scripted dramas are passed off as reality television.  What is truth when feelings and opinions matter more than facts.

What is justice when it seems to be applied unevenly at best.  When the color of ones skin can be the difference in a business meeting in a coffee shop and an arrest at a coffee shop or between life and death in a traffic stop.  When antisemitic, white power, and alt-right groups are on the rise.  When the gender pay gap still exists.  When affluenza is a recognized condition.  What is justice if it is not blind.

What does the American Way mean anymore.  Especially when our country is as fractured as it is.

Sadly, even the "reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper" part is going away in our society.

Superman has always existed to be our ideal.  The hero of heroes.  The greatest.  He has been a social-justice warrior before the term ever existed (look back to those initial comics where he was beating up slum lords and corrupt business men).  The Blue Boy Scout.  A father figure figuratively and literally.  The leader of gods and men.

He has been portrayed as a Messiah figure of late, though that is a little misguided in my opinion.  He is much more of a representation of Moses, the leader-deliverer.  A child sent away in a vessel, raised by adopted parents who discovers his heritage and becomes a leader and inspiration.  An important distinction given the heritage of Siegel and Shuster, two Jewish kids growing up in the Depression, with a war raging in Europe.  Into these dark times, these two guys created a beacon of hope.  A strong man who could stop all the bullies and protect the little guy.

Over time, Superman's character continued to solidify.  Powers and weaknesses came and went; some of them very, very strange.  But the core of the character remained.  Superman is honest, fair, and decent.  He is a paragon of virtue who knows and does what is right.  He is the strongest one there is, but uses that strength to protect only, not to intimidate or bully.  Strength with responsibility.

And through the years, we have seen him bubble to the surface when he is needed.  Christopher Reeves fully embodying the character more than any other actor, making us "believe a man could fly."  More than any actor, Christopher Reeve gave the character a lightness, a comfort in his own skin than shone brightly through the screen.  The movies may be a little corny and only two of the four really work, but there is no denying the sincerity of the portrayal that would define the character.

It's that character we need again.  Not the struggling, near-objectivist protagonist present in the more recent Warner Brothers films.  

We need that paragon, that beacon of hope to inspire us again.  The example that causes us to find a better way.  That figure that causes us to lift our heads and look...

Up in the Sky!

Monday, April 18, 2022

Resurrected Monday 2022

Easter is now officially over.

The question is, what now?

The Resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.  If Christ is not resurrected, then what hope do we have.

"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is worthless, and so is your faith.  In that case, we are also exposed as false witnesses about God.  For we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead but He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If our hope in Christ is for this life alone, we are to be pitied more than all men."
1 Corinthians 15: 12-18

The greatest hope of the Resurrection is not that Jesus was raised once.  It's that He remains alive.  He is alive and omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.  He is alive and at the right hand of the Father.  He is alive and reigning on high.

That is something we can and should celebrate each and every day of the year!

For far too many people, Easter is the one time of year that the Resurrection is given any thought.  It may be one of only a couple of times some people enter the church, likely as a responsibility to family.  It's the only time they hear the story of Jesus' death and resurrection.  And with the Monday after Easter, everything is back to normal.  Easter is over.  The obligations are complete.  Reality sets back in.

Sadly, I think this is the case for far too many Christians as well.  

Oh, they can quote the verses.  They sing "My Redeemer Lives," "He Lives," and "Resurrecting."  They are in services every week, and they would say they believe every word of the Easter story.  They believe in Jesus' death and literal resurrection.

They just don't live like it.

For far too many Christians, the Resurrection is brought out at Easter and then celebrated, but then Jesus is put back in the tomb or back on the cross.

Others may only be celebrating this one time a year; gathering with family for the annual obligation.  Without being able to gather this year, what happened to that obligation?  Did many still view a service out of habit?

Jesus on the cross is marketable.  It's fashionable.  It can be worn on t-shirts and jewelry.  It can be put on Bible covers, hung on walls, and be used as an easily recognizable symbol.  And when Jesus remains on the cross, when he remains a savior that died for our sins, then we have been saved and our present obligation ends.  Likewise, with Jesus in the tomb.

The resurrection is something different.  If Jesus not just rose again, but is alive today, then we have obligations to him.  We have to recognize him as Lord.  As the ruling King of Kings.  And we have to live accordingly.  Jesus as Lord requires more of us.

"For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake.  For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death works in us, but life in you."
2 Corinthians 4: 5-12

Leaving Jesus in the tomb or on the cross misses out on the power that He can demonstrate in our daily lives.  On the mission that He has for us today.  Now.  On the blessings, the comfort, and the life that only He can provide.

This seems to be a great part of why the early church did not use the iconography of the crucifix.  The cross was too recent, too painful, perhaps too close to the reality of what the crucifix did.  It was seen as the instrument of torture that it was.  

Instead, the imagery was focused on the Good Shepherd.  Jesus with a lamb resting across his shoulders.  Jesus with the shepherd's crook.  

And to me, that really re-centers the focus of the Christian life.  Don't get me wrong, the crucifix is still powerful imagery and represents the greatest victory that we have.  There is, however, also a tendency to treat it as a one-time historical event, both in the life of Christ and in our lives.  It's too easy for us to leave Christ on the cross.  To stop at our salvation and not pursue sanctification - to just get "fire insurance" and that's it.  To treat Jesus as just Savior and not Lord.

Focusing on the Good Shepherd reminds us that He is still watching over us.  He is still guiding us and protecting us.  And that we are still required to be listening for His voice.  To follow His voice and His voice alone.  To go where the shepherd guides us and to graze there.   To lie down in good pastures, to drink still waters, to graze along the Paths of Righteousness.

It reminds us that the Good Shepherd is and should be a part of our daily lives. 

So don't let your celebrating end.  Don't let Easter be the end of your remembrance and celebration of the Resurrection of Christ.  Don't keep Jesus in the tomb.

He's alive!


Now let us live like it on more than just Easter Sunday.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Easter Sunday 2022

"Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.  But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.  Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.  Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen!  Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.'"

Luke 24:1-7

Today marks the greatest celebration of the Christian life.  The greatest news that could be shared.  He is not among the dead.  He's alive!  He's alive!  He's alive and I'm forgiven, Heaven's gates are open wide!

We have hope because He has won the victory over death and the grave.  No matter how dark Friday was, no matter how difficult the waiting on Saturday, it's Sunday and Christ is victorious!

May the joy and grace of the Easter season be on you and your family!  If you do not know the reason why we celebrate, I pray you find yourself surrounded with friends who exemplify the good news and are overjoyed to share. There are plenty of online opportunities today to join a celebration.

God’s blessings on you today and continuing through this year.

"And the morning that You rose
All of heaven held its breath
Till that stone was moved for good
For the Lamb had conquered death

And the dead rose from their tombs
And the angels stood in awe
For the souls of all who’d come
To the Father are restored

And the Church of Christ was born
Then the Spirit lit the flame
Now this gospel truth of old
Shall not kneel shall not faint

By His blood and in His Name
In His freedom I am free
For the love of Jesus Christ
Who has resurrected me

Praise the Father
Praise the Son
Praise the Spirit, three in one
God of glory, Majesty
Praise forever to the King of Kings"

Words and Music by Jason Ingram, Brooke Ligertwood & Scott Ligertwood
© 2019 Hillsong Music Publishing CCLI: 7127647

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Holy Saturday 2022

Here the whole world (stars, water, air, and field, and forest, as they were reflected in a single mind) like cast off clothes was left behind in ashes, yet with hopes that, in lenten lands, hereafter may resume them on Easter Day.
-  C.S. Lewis - 

Holy Saturday reflects on an interesting period of time in human history.  The day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  That period between death and resurrection.  The period between the event that causes suffering and the event that brings deliverance.  The eternity between sorrow and joy.

In the Easter week, Friday is definitely a difficult day.  It's the infliction of pain.  It's the day where the death occurs, the suffering is inflicted.

But to me, Saturday, that next day has to be the worst.  It's that period of waiting.  Of reality setting in.  The shock wears off, and everything is real.

On Friday, they were experiencing everything as it was happening, perhaps holding out hope for a miracle to completely change their circumstances that day.  Perhaps in complete shock through the whole experience.

Saturday is the day everything sharpens.  Jesus died.  And for all the disciples know, he is not coming back.  It's that period we all find ourselves in, where all we can do is just wait in our suffering.  And I do not know about you, but I'm terrible at waiting.  I want solutions. I want action.  I want to change things, now.   And the fact always remains that you cannot rush this time.

Saturday is when grief begins.  

The good news is that we know it does end.  It does get better.  "Every storm eventually runs out of rain."  Especially, for those that follow the Way, for those truly living the life He has called us to, we know the end.  Even if we do not see the victory here, we know who holds it in His hand.

It's Holy Saturday.  But Easter is Coming!

Today Thou dost keep holy the seventh day,
Which Thou has blessed of old by resting from Thy works.
Thou bringest all things into being and Thou makest all things new,
Observing the Sabbathh rest, my Saviour, and restoring strength.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Good Friday 2022

"It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.  But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
The Burial of Jesus

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.  Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body.  Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.  It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it.  Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

Luke 23: 44b-56

Today, for those of faith, represents the darkest day in human history.  The day where it seemed all hope died.  Good Friday remembers the day when Jesus Christ, Son of God, was crucified by the Roman government and died a criminal's death.

He suffered through the mockery of a trial, in which the prosecution presented trumped up charges to a judge who found no fault but still sided with the mob and gave into their demands.  He was beaten, tortured, and jeered.  Stripped and dressed in a costume designed to mock the charges against him.  He was forced to carry the beam of his cross in a walk of shame through the city where the same people who cheered his arrival now gawked at the parade of criminals as they worked their way to the site of their execution.  He was then nailed to that beam, in both his hands and feet, raised between two criminals and left to die.

Crucifixion was one of the most cruel forms of death that humans have ever created.  It was public and designed to dissuade its witnesses from perpetrating similar crimes.  Victims were sometimes left on display after death as a warning to any other potential criminals.  The death it provided was particularly slow and painful, leading to the term excruciating, or literally "out of crucifying."  The person executed was usually attached to the cross by a range of methods including rope and nails.  The executed could be tied to the cross such that the ropes would cut into his skin.  To support the weight of a body, nails would be driven into the arm just above the wrist, between the two bones of the forearm.  Nails would also be driven into the feet, also to support the weight of the body, usually without the foot-rest or the seat that is placed on our decorative crosses.  The entire weight of the body would be placed on those nails as the body would continue to pull downward in gravity, keeping the person in continual pain.

When the whole body weight was supported by stretched out arms, nailed to that cross, the typical cause of death was asphyxiation.  The executed would have severe difficulty inhaling and would have to draw themselves up by the arms, leading to exhaustion and pain at the nail sites.  This process could be sped up by the soldiers breaking the condemned's legs, preventing them from pushing up, leaving them to die choking for air.  The executed could further suffer cardiac rupture, heart failure, hypovolemic shock, sepsis, acidosis, arrhythmia, and pulmonary embolism.  The scourging before the crucifixion would exacerbate the potential for sepsis.  Add in dehydration and you have a slow, agonizing death on display for all to see.

And Jesus willingly chose that path.  He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, willingly going to cross to redeem his creation.

To his followers, this day marked a feeling of hopelessness.  It was the day hope died.  Their hope in change for the future.  The possible hope for revolution.  They saw everything they had hoped for vanishing in an instant.

For Jesus, this was also an unprecedented day.  The day when Jesus, the pure, spotless lamb would bear the sins of the world, past, present, and future.  It would be the one time Jesus was completely separated from His Father.  Where God would turn His back on him, for he could not see his son stained with sin.  Eloi; Eloi; Lama; Sabachtha.  My God; My God; Why have you forsaken me?

The first time Jesus experienced despair.

Many of us today on this Good Friday might be experiencing despair.  Might be feeling hopeless.  The physical isolation.  The loss of a job.  The loss of income.  This might indeed be the darkest night.

But we - we know dawn is coming.  We celebrate that Friday is not the end of the story.  Things may look at their absolute darkest, but morning is coming.  Friday may be death, but Sunday is resurrection.

No matter the outlook, it gets better.

It's Friday, but Sunday is coming!

Praise the Lord!

Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross.
He who is King of the angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the Heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He who in Jordan set Adam free receives blows upon His face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails.
The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear.
We venerate Thy Passion, O Chris.
Show us also Thy glorious Resurrection.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Maundy Thursday 2022

"On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’”  So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.  And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Matthew 26:17-30

Today marks Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday.  The fifth day of Holy Week, it is truly a day of remembrance.  Remembering Jesus' service.  The way he prepared for his sacrifice.

By washing his disciples feet.

By breaking bread and sharing wine.

In service and in fellowship, with those closest to him.

We still love to gather. To enjoy a meal together and to break bread.  Servants' hearts long to get back out and be a blessing to those around them, helping in any way they can.

Remember this feeling.

Just before the darkest hour of his life, Jesus valued service and fellowship above all.  He spent time with those closest to him and showed them how much he cared for them by stooping down and washing their feet.  He took care of his friends.  And what he asked of them, was to remember him.

To remember him when they drank.  To remember him when they ate.  To remember him when they were gathered together.

That's our duty today.  To remember Him.  To remember His sacrifice.  Partake in your own Lord's Supper at home.  Do it in remembrance of Him.

And then, serve in every way you can.  Serve in your local church body.  Serve remotely and virtually.  Put that remembrance into action.  Follow his new commandment, from which we get the word "maundy" (mandatum).

Make the day count.  In remembrance of Him.

Of Thy Mystical supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies, neither will I give Thee a kiss like Judas.  But like the Thief will I confess Thee:  Remember me, O Lord, in Thy kingdom.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Spy Wednesday 2022

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.  And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste?  For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”  But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman?  For she has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.  In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.  Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?”  And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.  And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

Matthew 26:6-16

Today marks Holy Wednesday or Spy Wednesday.  The point in the Holy Week that really begins the transition from Triumphal Entry to betrayal, torture, and death.  The events of the day reflect two disparate treatments of Jesus: lavish praise and betrayal.  Two responses to Jesus we still see today, the differences being quite literally night and day.

The passages for today open with Jesus at the home of Simon, identified as a leper.  Likely someone who has previously been healed by Jesus.  It is into this scene a woman enters, bringing an alabaster jar containing spikenard, a very expensive perfume or essential oil.  The alabaster jar in itself is significant.  It was an expensive jar to hold an expensive oil.  It was special to signify the special contents inside.  And it had to be broken and cracked to pour out the contents inside.  This woman took probably the most precious thing that she had and poured it out to anoint Jesus's head and feet.  Lavishly adoring him.  Her praise, her love literally spilling out because she had been forgiven.

And in response, what do we see?  The disciples quarreling because of her lavishness.  Because the gift could have been put to better use.  Because the money could have been spent "better" in their estimation.

How often do we do this?  How often does our inner voice question the extravagance of someone else's worship?  Of someone else's gift giving?  While I'm not calling for us to put aside all scrutiny, perhaps we should start from a place of granting the benefit of the doubt more often.  To start from a place where we assume the best intentions of other people more often than not.

By night, we see Jesus's greatest betrayal, when Judas decides and confronts the chief priests to discuss handing Jesus over to them.  Selling Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver.  We can debate Judas's motives, whether he was a zealot trying to force Jesus into action or whether he fully believed Jesus had become too dangerous to allow him to continue his ministry.  Either way in Judas, we see that it is possible to be so close to the truth and completely miss the point.  Judas had the best pastor, the best teacher, the best leader, the wisest and best friend, and an incredible small group of friends to help provide guidance, but still ended up betraying Jesus.  

Our reflection for today should be how often we miss the point.  How often we are in it for our own motives, our own pursuits, our own desires?  Where is our heart at? Are we disappointed because following Jesus hasn't turned out exactly how we wanted it, how we had planned it?  We may not rise to the level of turning Jesus over to be killed, but we still betray him with our own desires.  Remember, by the end of the week, all of the disciples will desert Jesus in one way or another.

Where are you this holy week?  Are you one lavishing praise on Jesus today?  Are you questioning someone else's motives?  Or are you pushing your agenda through your Christian life?

Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the meditation of those mighty acts through which thou hast given unto us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Holy Tuesday 2022


Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.  For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.  As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.  But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom!  Come out to meet him.’  Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.  And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’  And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.  Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’  But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’  Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Matthew 25:1-13


Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks.  So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life I this world will keep it for eternal life.  If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.  If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.  Now is my soul troubled And what shall I say?  ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  But for this purpose I have come to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.”  Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”  The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered.  Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”  Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.  So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever.  How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up?  Who is this Son of Man?  So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer.  Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.  The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.  While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.

John 12:20-36


After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit , and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”  The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke.  One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.  So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?”  Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread hen I have dipped it.”  So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.  Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him.  Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”  Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.  Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.  So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out.  And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.  If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.  Little children, yet a little while I am with you.  You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’  A new commandment I give to you, that you loved one another:  Just as I have loved you, you are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?”  Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”  Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now?  I will lay down my life for you.”  Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?  Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow until you have denied me three times.

John 13:21-38

After the cleansing of the temple, and the questioning by the chief priests and elders, Jesus spent a substantial portion of his time in the Holy Week preparing his followers for the events that would occur at the end of the week.  Liturgy for this Holy Tuesday, depending on your orthodoxy, focuses on the parables of the Ten Virgins and Ten Talents in the Gospel of Matthew, or Jesus predicting his death and betrayal in the Gospel of John.  Both offer insight into Jesus’s care for his disciples and us.

The parables of the Ten Virgins and Ten Talents come as part of a longer sermon that Jesus delivers to his disciples from the Mount of Olives.  Following the events of cleansing the temple and Jesus foretelling the destruction of the temple, Jesus retired to the Mount of Olives.  Matthew recounts that as he sat there, the disciples came to him privately to ask for more information about when the destruction would occur.  Jesus then began to outline most of the things that we look for as signs of the end times (ones we often erroneously attribute to Revelation).  At the end of his description of the signs, he then reminds us that none will know the day or the hour but the Father himself. 


After this passage, he then goes into the parable of the Ten Virgins, comparing five wise virgins and five foolish virgins at the time of the bridegroom’s coming. In Jewish society, a wedding was a lot more involved than we think of today and did involve an element of surprise and preparedness.  A father would typically chose a bride for his son and would seek the bride’s consent.  If the consent was obtained, the father of the groom would negotiate a bridal price with the father of the bride.  When that was agreed upon, the marriage contract would be signed and a glass of wine would be shared to seal the contract.  At this point, there was a legal bond between the bride and groom, but they would not yet live together.  The bride would receive gifts to remind her of the love her bridegroom had for her, while he returned to his father’s house to prepare a place for her, literally building on to his father’s home and adding a room for them to inhabit.  Once the bridal chamber was completed, then the son, the groom would wait for his father’s permission to go and get his bride.  The groom never knew the day or the time.  And the bride especially never knew the time or the hour.  Both had to remain prepared.  The groom to go and get his bride and the bride for the groom to arrive.   The groom would have an escort that would proceed him, trumpeting the groom’s arrival in the middle of the night.  The bride absolutely had to be aware and alert.  Bag packed and ready to go, with enough oil to keep her lamp lit.

This is the background upon which Jesus provides the parable of the Ten Virgins.  He is the bridegroom who is waiting to come get his bride the church.  We, the church, have to be ready and alert for his return, to go with him.  Likewise, the parable of the Ten Talents reminds us of being faithful with the provisions that he has given us here on earth.  We cannot just sit on our hands, put our heads in the sand, and shut ourselves in the church away from society and wait for Jesus to return.  We have an active responsibility while we live to be about the Father’s business and invest the talents that he has given us well.

He reiterates this same idea in the beginning passage of John, with the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified.  While this gets a little ahead of our timeline for Jesus’s week, it still proves a great parallel to the parables in Matthew.  To me, the interesting verse in this section is verse 36, urging them to stay connected with him while he still lives.  “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.”  He knows how little time he has left with them, and he wants them to maximize it.  To make the most of it.  Because it sets the stage for what he does next.

He reveals who will betray him and who will deny him.  To the group, he makes the pronouncement that one of them will betray him.  He’s just told them to stay in the light and now he is showing how one is going to choose darkness.  I love Peter and John’s back and forth.  “You ask him,” “No, you ask him.”  It humanizes the disciples in a way that we often forget.  Jesus makes an explosive statement, and they just have to know.  And though they hear, it is interesting that they don’t seem to pay attention to Judas’s actions following.  They would know he is the betrayer, but they don’t seem too concerned about it.

Likewise, Jesus will curb Peter’s bravado by revealing that Peter himself will deny him.  Jesus is speaking of his death, and Peter is just self-assured that he would go to death for Jesus in that moment.  And in the right circumstances, Peter might have.  Had it been in “glorious” battle, Peter might have fought to the death to protect Jesus, to fight alongside Jesus, to honor him.  But Peter wasn’t expecting Jesus to surrender, and he wasn’t prepared to die in such a way as that.

The beauty of both revelations is contained in the new command that Jesus gives.  Love one another.  That is how we will be known – by our love.  In the revelation to Peter, Jesus still gives Peter hope.  He tells him, even though Peter cannot follow now, he will follow in the future.  Despite the denial, despite the shame that will come from that, Jesus’s message to Peter in that moment still says, “I love you and I won’t give up on you.”  He’s showing that even though he will deny, Peter will still follow Jesus.

So what do we take from all this.  I believe it is simple, and it’s the message that Jesus was trying to convey to his disciples.  It’s still relevant to us today.  

There will come a time when all of this will be over.  No one will know exactly when it’s going to come, but it will come.  So be ready.  Don’t just bunker down and seclude yourself to wait until it comes.  You have to be out investing in and doing the work I created you for.  But be ready.  

And the best way you can do that, it to love each other.

God, may we live up to that.


Almighty, everlasting God, grant us so perfectly to follow the passion of our Lord, that we may obtain the help and pardon of his all-sufficient grace; through him who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, world without end.  Amen.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Holy Monday 2022

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.  “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.  But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

“‘From the lips of children and infants
you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry.  Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.  John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’  But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."
Matthew 21:12-27

On the first day after Jesus's triumphal entry, we have a couple of interesting events:  the cursing of the fig tree and Jesus cleansing of the temple.  The combination of the two events, leads then to the chief priests and elders questioning of Jesus's authority.  

The events are interesting because of their intertwined nature.  The fig tree was a symbol of Israel as seen in the works of Hosea and Jeremiah, and the age of the Messiah is seen as one where everyone would sit under their own fig tree without fear in Micah.  The cursing of the barren fig tree is seen as being directed at the Jewish people who have refused to accept their Messiah.

And so our question in this story, is are we part of those that are still refusing to accept?  Would we be part of the ones cursed for our continued lack of reception?

With the cleansing of the Temple, the sellers and money changers had set up in the area reserved for those outside the faith to come to temple.  They were literally blocking the access of non-Jews to the temple of the Lord.  The area was filled with livestock and merchants and money changers.  Selling animals and wares necessary for the sacrifice, and then exchanging money into the accepted currencies for paying taxes.  This was making worship a business for the faithful and blocking the seeking to be able to come in.  

My favorite detail in this story in found in the gospel of John, where it states that he took the time to braid a whip and then cleared the temple.  I think I've often heard it portrayed as an almost impulsive act, one where Jesus saw what the Temple had become, particularly at this time where there would be hundreds of thousands there to worship at such a great festival, that he then started flipping tables.  But with the single statement that he braided a whip, it indicates that this was not due to an overcoming of emotion, but a premeditated act.  It was deliberate and purposeful.  It was to cleanse his father's house.

How often are we trying to set up the tables that the Lord has already flipped over?  How many of your churches have spaces of commerce inside them?  Are they remaining a service or are they overwhelming the space?

In particular to the cleansing of the Temple, we see the chief priests and the elders question Jesus's authority for his actions.  We see that in some way, the cleansing of the Temple is likely the catalyst for the events that will occur later in the week.  Jesus sidesteps their question beautifully as he has done before, but their inner monologue reveals the fear of the crowd he has gathered.

Jesus knew this, he knew this event might be the catalyst for all of the suffering that he would endure, and he did it anyway.

I pray that we can cleanse out the parts of our "religion" that are incompatible with the Gospel.  The traditions we hold onto as if they are essential.  The tables we've set up in the temple.  I pray in this Holy Week, we can experience that cleansing and start this resurrection season renewed.

Grant, we beseech thee, almighty God, that we, who are in so many occasions of adversity, by reason of or frailty are found wanting, may yet, through the passion and intercession of thine only begotten Son, be continually refreshed; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Palm Sunday 2022

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.  If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them.  They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on.  A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Matthew 21:1-11

And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.
Luke 19:39-44

And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
Mark 11:11

His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.  The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness.  The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.  So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”
John 12:16-19

Today marks Palm Sunday, the day where we celebrate Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, marking the beginning of Holy Week.  The Triumphal Entry is one of the primary accounts in Jesus's life that is recorded in all four synoptic Gospels.  While each includes their own additional detail and color, the primary events remain consistent.  

Jesus approaches Jerusalem and instructs his disciples to get a donkey's colt.  If they are asked about it, they are supposed to say, "the master has need of it."  Jesus then enters Jerusalem on the colt, met with a grand reception.  The crowd lays out their garments and palms before him, proclaiming "Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."

From the consistency of the account, we can gather the historicity of the event.  All were recording an event they would have been eyewitnesses to.  But the beauty of the accounts also lies in the symbolism they contain.

First, we see the fulfillment of prophecy.  The disciples are able to locate a colt just as Jesus describes, so that his ride can fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah.  "Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem!  Look, your King is coming to you.  He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey - riding on a donkey's colt."  Zechariah 9:9 (NLT).  Matthew makes explicit reference to this prophecy in his account.

Second, the donkey itself holds tremendous symbolism.  In Eastern tradition, the donkey was a symbol of peace, unlike the horse which was a symbol of war.  If a king came riding in on a horse, he was coming for war.  When he rode in on a donkey, he was bringing peace.  The entry on a donkey symbolized Christ's coming as the Prince of Peace.

Next, the laying of garments recognized the kingship of Jesus.  In the ancient Near East, it was customary to cover the ground in front of royalty, those worthy of the highest honor.  By throwing their garments down in front of Jesus in his entry the people were recognizing Jesus as someone worthy of honor.  The King of Kings.

{As a side note, royalty in those days was also known by their scent.  They would have worn the finest perfumes and been one of the few that would smell as such.  Scent alone meant instant recognition of royalty.  If Jesus was anointed before his entry, as John's gospel records, then the crowd would also have had the recognition of the smell of nard, denoting his status as royalty.}

The Palm Branch, in Greco-Roman tradition, was a symbol of victory, associated with the goddess Nike or Victoria.  It meant triumph.  And its use would have marked to the Romans in the crowd the victory of Jesus.  In Jewish tradition, it was likewise associated with liberation, the celebration noted in 1 Maccabees 13:51.   "And entered into it … with thanksgiving, and branches of palm trees, and with harps, and cymbals, and with viols, and hymns, and songs."

Finally, the shouts of Hosanna, pointed to Jesus as savior, translating as a desperate cry of "Save us!"  Found in only one place in the Old Testament, in the Psalms, "Save us, we pray, O Lord!  O Lord, we pray, give us success!"  The cry of Hosanna is immediately followed with "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," again from the Psalms.  So the crowd is crying for Jesus to save them, as the one who comes from the Lord.  The promised Messiah was here.

Kings of Kings,
Lord of Lords,
Prince of Peace,

Immanuel - God with us.

Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love toward mankind hast sent thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may both follow the example of his patience and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Lazarus Saturday 2022

"Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead."
John 12:1

Lazarus Saturday marks an interesting change in religious rites.  A joyous celebration carried over into Palm Sunday, sandwiched in between the penitence of Lent and the sorrow the latter half of Holy Week will bring.  The celebration of the Great Sabbath, Shabbat HaGadol (שבת הגדול) before the Passover.  A time in Jewish tradition where they read the prophecy of Malachi, prophesying the return of Elijah to announce the great and terrible Day of the Lord.  

We see in John's text, that Jesus celebrated this Great Sabbath with Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.  Jesus would have spent this upcoming holy week with Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha.  He would arrive there before his triumphal entry, and would later be anointed at their house by Mary on Spy Wednesday.  

In services recognizing this day, the focus is usually on the Gospel narrative of Jesus's resurrection of Lazarus, and His two competing natures in the act.  We clearly see the power of his divinity in the act of resurrection.  Of bringing life from the dead.  And in how Martha and Mary recognized Jesus's ability and authority to heal.  Both indicated that had Jesus arrived earlier they knew that their brother would have been healed, and even in their grief allowed Jesus to work his power, despite their doubts.  Jesus used this opportunity to show the immenseness of his power.  The greatness of his authority.  To do exceedingly great things.

We also see in that account the humanity of Jesus and his love for us.  His concern for us.  Jesus came to their house knowing full well what he was going to do, but he still wept with them and for his friend.  He took the time to speak with both Mary and Martha before he raised Lazarus.  And in coming back to their home on this Great Sabbath, to make their home his temporary refuge in what would be the most trying week of his life, we see the depth of his connection to them.  

Are we cultivating that level of friendship with Jesus?  Are we so strongly celebrating the resurrection he has accomplished in our lives, that we keep space for him?  Would we provide refuge?

Having completed the forty days that bring profit to our soul, we beseech Thee in Thy love for man: Grant us also to behold the Holy Week of Thy Passion, that in it we may glorify Thy mighty acts and Thine ineffable dispensation for our sakes, singing with one mind: O Lord, glory to Thee.