Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday, Batman!

We have finally arrived at the last day of Lent, Holy Saturday.  Like yesterday, I ask you to not jump ahead to Easter just yet.  Let us take today as a sabbath day to rest and rejuvenate ourselves as we remember the day the crucified Christ lay in the tomb.  Easter will be here soon enough, and we can rejoice together in the resurrection then.  For now, let us wait with anticipation of the glory to come.

Collect for Holy Saturday
O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Also, stay tuned for an Easter post tomorrow.  I know I stated earlier that I would not do any posts on Sundays, but I believe that Easter presents a special occasion.  Until then, enjoy this list of things Robin thinks are holy:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Earth Friday

Today is Good Friday.  We have been in the season of Lent for almost the full 40 days now, and we finally arrive at the foot of the cross.  We remember this day as the day that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us.  Today is also Earth Day.  I think honoring both of these days together is rather appropriate.  As we remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, we should also strive to follow in his example by making sacrifices for that over which we have been given dominion.

I know this is a little late, but Pyllis Strupp has given some ideas on how we can celebrate Earth Day and Good Friday together. If you have time, I invite you to try as many of these as you can with what little time there is left in the day.  I also invite you to take the time to not jump ahead to Easter just yet.  Remain at the foot of the cross for a while longer.  I'm sure that, if you do, Easter morning will be that much greater.

Collect for Good Friday
Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why Is Monday On Thursday?

Holy Week is coming to its close.  Tomorrow is Good Friday, when we take even more time than usual to focus on the sacrifice Christ made on the cross.  Today, however, we remember the events that took place the night before. We recall the some of these events every Sunday in the Eucharistic Prayer:
On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, "Take,eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me."

After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, "Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me." -BCP pp. 362-363
What many of us will be remembering in the Maundy Thursday services tonight is something else that Jesus did that night.  Jesus washed the disciples' feet and, in so doing, gave us an example that, in order to be like Jesus, we must seek to be servants, not masters.  

I do not recall the sermon preached at last year's Maundy Thursday service, but I do remember, with distinct detail, a sacramental moment from that service.  We had last year's confirmation class serve as t the foot-washers.  One of them in particular sticks out in my mind.  His mom had come up and gone to him to have her feet washed.  When she went back to her pew, he noticed his father had not come up.  He immediately started making large gestures in front of the entire church in order to convince his father to come forward so that he could wash his father's feet.  How special it was to see this young man so enthusiastic about becoming a servant for his parents.

This Thursday, remember that we are called to serve others and that we can continually come back to the gift Christ instituted for us that night every time we gather around the altar.

Collect for Maundy Thursday
Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Maybe I Just Need to Pray More...

Have you ever heard that, if you're a good Christian, you'll have an easy life?  If you were to pray more, attend services more often, tithe the right amount, your life would be without any suffering?  I know that I have heard this message far too often, and, if you've also heard this message, forget it.

I don't know where this message came from.  Unfortunately, suffering is a part of life.  Being "better" Christians won't save us from suffering.  In fact, being a better Christian means, sometimes, we must face our hardships and not run away from them.  "I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting." -Isaiah 50:6.  "But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also." -Matthew 5:39

There is no time better than Holy Week to see the truth of this.  This week, we focus on the suffering that Christ endured on our behalf.  He was beaten, mocked and killed.  Our hope lies in our knowledge that neither suffering nor death is the end of the story.  When we face hardships in our lives, we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus suffers with us and is continually able to raise us to new life in him.  "Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart." -Hebrews 12:3.  This Holy Week, acknowledge the hardships of your life and allow the knowledge of the glory to come carry you through them.

Collect for Wednesday in Holy Week
Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Glory in the Cross

Have you ever thought about how odd it is that, as Christians, we wear an ancient symbol of execution as jewelery?  I remember having a conversation about this when I was in high school, and I know that many others have asked that question as well.

St. Paul said it best in his first letter to the church in Corinth: "For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians:18)  According to the "wisdom" of secular society, trying to find hope in an instrument of death simply does not make sense.  We know something different from society, though.  We know that, though the cross was used as the execution device that killed Jesus, death was not the end.  This tortuous, shameful form of execution was only another part of the story.  We know that, even in death, hope is not truly lost.  Life is not truly lost.  In fact, Christ's death and resurrection is where we find our lives.

Collect for Tuesday in Holy Week
O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Holy Week Starts Now

I apologize again for the break in daily updates.  The last two posts on my favorite Bible stories have been posted.

Welcome to Holy Week!  Just yesterday, we remembered Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  He was treated like a king returning to the Holy City.  Of course, we crammed in the Passion narrative as well.  This week, we will go over Jesus' Passion again, but we will do so in a more deliberate manner.  We will take our time going down this road with Jesus and allow ourselves to be immersed in the events "about" to take place.  While we know that Easter is soon approaching, we are taking this time to more fully acknowledge all that happened before.

On Ash Wednesday, we were all invited to the observance of a holy Lent.  Now that Holy Week is here, we have but a short way to go.  Continue in the practice of self-examination and repentance.  Continue in your Lenten disciplines.  Continue in reading and meditating on God's holy Word.  This is certainly a busy time of year, but I invite you today to continue in observing a holy Lent.  Observe a holy Holy Week.  If you can, make time to go to a local church's services each day this week.

The path of Lent is coming to its close, and Easter is almost upon us.  Let us walk this road together and prepare for the great joy to come.

A Story of Gargantuan Proportions

Who doesn't enjoy the story of David and Goliath?  It's a true underdog story with a young boy pitted against a giant.  This story is even longer than the others I've posted, so you'll really have to just check out the full text here to get all of it.  I'll just be covering a few of my favorite sections.

I think the main reason I like this story is how easy it is for me to identify with David.  This is primarily due to David's size.  This may be difficult for those of you who have only known me for less than 10 years, but I used to be a very tiny person.  I was so small that my grandmother thought that I wasn't getting enough food to eat.  Growing up as such a small child and being surrounded by people so much bigger than me, hearing a story about the little conquering the big was, in a sense, a story of hope.

Another character trait that I love about David is his spirit.  David knew that he had a big task ahead of him, but instead of going out to meet Goliath with fear, he meets with these words:
‘You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.’-1 Samuel 17:45-47
David, who was so small he couldn't even wear battle armor to go up against Goliath, was certain of victory at the hand of God.  Hopefully we can all find this confidence when we are going up against what seem to be insurmountable odds.

That's Quite a DEN You're Making!

I have yet another story from the book of Daniel, and I'm fairly confident that you've already been able to guess what it is.  Daniel in the Lions' Den.  Again, the story is a long one, so read the full text here if you'd like more than my summary.

Daniel has already proven to be very wise and skilled in interpretation.  Though a foreigner, he constantly finds himself rising to the top of the current king's list of favorite servants/officials.  In Daniel 6, the same is true.  So much so, in fact, that King Darius plans to appoint Daniel as a president over the whole kingdom. This plan leads to the other officials seeking to find some complaint against Daniel.  Of course, they can find no complaint against Daniel, so they conspire to get the king to establish and sign an ordinance that would make it illegal to pray to anyone except the king.  Being the righteous man that he is, Daniel continues to pray to God.  The king, possibly realizing that these other officials had set a trap for Daniel, tries to defend Daniel, but cannot revoke the law he has passed.  The sentence for Daniel is that he must be thrown into a den of lions.  The end result, as I'm sure you already know, is that the Daniel came out of the den unscathed.  This leads to the king writing a decree to go out to the entire world:
I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: For he is the living God, enduring for ever. His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion has no end. He delivers and rescues, he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth; for he has saved Daniel from the power of the lions. -Daniel 6:26-27
This is truly what I like most about this story.  Yes, it's great that Daniel has such great faith and devotion that he continues to honor God even when it goes against the king's ordinance.  Yes, it's great that, because of such devotion, God spares Daniel from the lions.  What impresses me even more, however, is that all of this leads to King Darius honoring God and making a royal decree that everyone should do the same.  It is my sincerest hope that I can be that kind of example to others.  People who know me will know God, not because I have found some way to debate and convince them, but because of my faith and devotion.