Moment for Meditation for Lent, Week Six – Easter, The Resurrection of Our Lord

The events of the Resurrection bring hope in the knowledge that Christ is alive, and he remains in us. Risen, he shows the light on his face, he is with us and never abandons. However far we may wander, he is always there to restore our strength and our hope, calling on us to return to him and to start afresh.

The Resurrection of Christ is the principle of new life for all of us and begins with conversion of heart and conscience. May this time of renewed hope to respond to the needs of our community and our world. May the Risen Christ be hope for victims of on-going conflict to which we are at-risk of becoming resigned to. May the Lord of hope not find us cold and indifferent. May he make us builders of bridges, not walls.

May the Risen Christ, who flung open the doors of the tomb, open our hearts to the needs of those whom He referred to “the least of these.” Christ is alive! He is hope for each of us and the entire world. May we be renewed by him!

Susan van Zyl, of the Aquinas School, New Zealand, recalls a poem which told a story of the strength and importance of hope called “Four Candles.” The candles represented peace, faith, love and hope. The first candle, which was peace, went out because the world was so full of violence and fighting. The second candle said, “I am faith, but I am no longer needed in this world” and with that it went out. Then the third candle began to speak saying “I am love. People don’t understand my importance, so they put me aside and they even forget to love those closest to them” Love’s flame then went out too.

A child then entered the room, saw the four candles and wondered why only one was lit as they were all meant to be aflame until the end of time. The fourth candle responded, “Do not be afraid, I am hope!” and while I am still burning, we can re-light the other candles. The child’s eyes were shining at they picked up the candle of hope and re-lit the other candles. The child was told the greatest of these is love but the candle of hope should never go out in your life. With hope each of us can live with peace, faith and love!

Moment for Meditation for Lent, Week Five

In our Gospel reading for March 17 is John 12:20-33 and its context of is the final days of Jesus’ ministry. It’s a fascinating passage and it’s interesting that we’re not told if these Greeks (meaning—more or less—non-Jews) actually get to see Jesus. It’s almost as if Jesus hearing that some Greeks want to see Him, triggers something within Jesus. He actually says: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. The days that the prophet said are surely coming are now here!

This is a new section of the Gospel. The world has begun to see Jesus. Something is about to happen. The Greeks approach Philip and request to “see” Jesus probably to have a meeting with him. Maybe, they want to know more of who this Jesus is. Maybe, they just want to talk to him. Maybe, they want to become disciples.

I’m not sure the reason’s all that important because regardless of why they’re here their arrival points to the fulfillment of the church’s future mission its “Great Commission” to make disciples of Christ for the redemption of the world. This is the decisive dividing line between Jesus coming as a purely Jewish Messiah and his being the fulfillment of God’s promise for the renewal and redemption of ALL of Creation. The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

Now, we get that part, but what’s all this stuff about wheat needing to die so that it can grow and bear more fruit? We know, thanks to the benefit of hindsight that this has something to do with Jesus’ death. But we’ve got to wonder how His disciples heard this which’d be confusing if you didn’t know much about wheat.

Now, I’m no farmer, but I did a little checking and learned something fascinating. Wheat—like rice and corn—is a caryopsis. In caryopses, the outer seed and the inner fruit are connected which essentially means that the seed has to die so that the fruit can emerge and grow. If you were to dig around and uproot a stalk of wheat, there’s no seed, it’s dead and gone. In essence, the grain must allow itself to be changed. The point is that in order for something new to happen in order for a “new” or “renewed” creation to come about we must allow ourselves to be changed. So, what’s Jesus trying to tell us?

I think it’s this: He’s trying to tell us that the more we try to protect our lives the more we try to hold on to the way things are, continue to resist change the new things that God is doing the greater chance that we’ll lose not just the new thing, but everything that we’d tried so hard to keep in the first place! It’s like trying to hold onto a handful of sand. The more you close your fingers the less sand you’re able to hold as it slips between your fingers! Without death there can be no resurrection. Either for Jesus—or us.

Moment for Meditation for Lent, Week Four

Early in this passage of Scripture we find a verse which is possibly the most well-known and frequently cited passage in all of Christian Scripture, John 3:16. While this verse cannot be read outside of the reality of Good Friday and Easter, it is noteworthy that neither the death nor the resurrection of Jesus is directly addressed. At its heart, the Lenten Season is about both remembrance and preparation. Yet, even in the midst of both remembrance and preparation, Lent is neither about the past nor the future. Lent is the present embodiment of both the past and the future, the point at which the events of the past and hope for the future intersect. 

Eric D. Barreto writes: “John Gospel reminds us that God’s love is not reciprocated by a world that lives in darkness. The light shines, but some will refuse to see God’s love. How do we know the world has not heard? How do we know that the darkness continues to fight against the encroachment of the light of God’s gospel? We know because the raw exercise of power dominates the world. We know because warfare continues to tear us apart. We know because peace is fleeting and suffering too easily inflicted.

“We need to remember that John and his community hears this comfort and this admonition from a place on the margins. Theirs was not a place of power or privilege. To them, the promise of God’s love was not just another boost to their self-esteem, not another accomplishment along many others. Instead, God’s love was the sole anchor of life, the only source of hope in a hopeless world.

“How do we receive this then as people in power and privilege? How do people who have so much experience a love so great that everything else pales in comparison? How do people of privilege receive this word of judgment intertwined with God’s love for the crushed and the suffering? Let’s receive God’s love this morning as an exhortation to step out into a world that may accept or reject us, that may accept or reject Christ. Let us step into that world simply and only because God loves the world. God never ceases reaching out to the world in love and thus our call is never done as long as the world has not heard of God’s love for all. Let us step in the world with humility and love. Let us be willing to relinquish our privilege, no matter the costs. Let us embrace that God’s love covers us all.

“In the end, we may find that in the light of God’s love, we are mere toddlers. We’re not sure of the words we speak. We’re not sure we know what we mean when we say love. But we sense it, we experience it, we know it but not in the way we know that two plus two is four. God has planted love in our hearts and called us to share that love with all we meet. So, go and love, even if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Moment for Meditation for Lent, Week Three: The Cleansing of the Temple

From around the world, first-century Jews came to the temple at Passover to sacrifice to the Lord. It was impractical to bring sacrificial animals long distances; so, they were available in Jerusalem – for a price. Most Jews also paid the temple tax at Passover, and money-changers were there to convert Roman coinage into appropriate currency: pagan mottoes on Roman money made it unacceptable for Yahweh’s house. Though not inherently evil, these practices became occasions for sin. Pilgrims paid exorbitant rates to change money, and sellers exploited those in poverty, overcharging for the poor man’s offering of pigeons and doves. To make things worse, these merchants set up shop in the Court of the Gentiles, making it useless as a place of prayer due to the hustle and bustle the buying and selling created.

Therefore, Jesus drove out the sellers. These merchants, and the priests who allowed their presence, cared nothing for true worship as long as they could make money and keep up the rituals. Our Savior hated this sacrilege, which kept the nations from learning about the living God in His sanctuary. We cannot underestimate the importance of this act. It showed Jesus as having authority to purify and take charge of the temple, a messianic task that only put Him more at odds with the Sanhedrin.

Our Redeemer’s cleansing of the temple at the very least illustrates how concerned He is with the purity of worship. Our corporate praise and prayer is something that is always in need of reformation, for it is easy for anti-Christian practices to slip in unnoticed. Consider the importance of pure worship from a devoted heart and make it your aim to show reverence and awe when you praise the Lord alongside His people.

Moment for Meditation for Lent, Week Two: The Message of Lent

The message of Lent is the power and possibility of the paschal (meaning, relating to Easter) mystery, and that the way of the cross, the way to Easter, is through death. To appropriate the new life that is beyond the power of death means we must die with Christ who was raised for us. To live for Christ, we must die with him. New life requires a daily surrendering of the old life, letting go of the present order, so that we may embrace the new humanity. “I die every day!” asserts Paul. Resurrection necessitates death as a preceding act. The church’s peculiar Lenten claim is that in dying we live, that all who are baptized into Christ are baptized into his death. To be raised with Christ means one must also die with Christ. In order to embrace the resurrection, we must experience the passion of Jesus. The way of the cross, the way to Easter, is through death of the “old self.” In dying, we live.

It is the power of the resurrection on the horizon ahead that draws us into repentance toward the cross and tomb. Through the intervention of God’s gracious resurrection, lifelong changes in our values and behavior become possible. By turning from the end of the “old self” in us, Lenten repentance makes it possible for us to affirm joyfully, “Death is no more!” and to aim toward the landscape of the new age. Faithfully adhering to the Lenten journey of “prayer, fasting and almsgiving” leads to the destination of Easter.

Moment for Meditation for Lent, Week One: What is Lent?

The season of Lent is a time of prayer, fasting and self-examination in preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of the Lord at Easter. It is a period of 40 days—like the flood of Genesis, Moses’ sojourn at Mount Sinai, Elijah’s journey to Mount Horeb, Jonah’s call to Nineveh to repent and Jesus’ time of testing in the wilderness. (The Sundays in Lent are not counted in this reckoning of the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter, as every Lord’s Day is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.) In the early church, Lent was a time of preparation for the celebration of baptism at the Easter Vigil. In many communities of faith it remains a time to equip and nurture candidates for baptism and confirmation and to reflect deeply on the theme of baptismal discipleship.

Therefore, at the beginning of Lent, we are reminded that our possessions, our rulers, our empires, our projects, our families and even our lives do not last forever. “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The liturgies throughout Lent try to pry loose our fingers, one by one, from presumed securities and plunge us into unknown baptismal waters, waters that turn out to be not only our death tomb but surprisingly our womb of life. Rather than falling back into nothingness, we fall back on everlasting arms. Death? How can we fear what we have already undergone in baptism?

Charge and Benediction given at the February 18, 2024 Worship Service

Charge: Do You Want to Fast This Lent? by Pope Francis

Do you want to fast this Lent?

Fast from hurting words and say kind words.

Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.

Fast from anger and be filled with patience.

Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.

Fast from worries and trust in God.

Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.

Fast from pressures and be prayerful.

Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy.

Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.

Fast from grudges and be reconciled.

Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.

Benediction:Rend Your Heart,” by Jan Richardson

To receive this blessing, this benediction, all you have to do is let your heart break. Let it crack open. Let it fall apart so that you can see its secret chambers, the hidden spaces where you have hesitated to go. Your entire life is here, inscribed whole upon your heart’s walls: Every path taken or left behind, Every face you turned toward or turned away…Every word spoken in love or in rage, Every line of your life you would prefer to leave in shadow, Every story that shimmers with treasures known, and those you have yet to find. It will take days to wander these rooms. Forty, at least. And so let this be a season for wandering… For trusting the breaking…For tracing the bursting… that will return you to the One who waits who watches… who works within the rending… to make your heart whole.

Blessed be God forever.

Go in peace. Amen and amen.