Day 37 of Lent: Lives Change

March 31, 2021

Mark now starts to bring closure to the Passion story.  The Centurion confesses, “Surely he was the son of God.”  The crowds seem to be gone except for the women who bravely stand a far grieving.  Joseph of Arimathea, though, the member of the Sanhedrin who visited Jesus by night to ask about being born again, moves into the place of family and does the audacious deed of going to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus so it can be buried by sunset (Mark 15:42-42). 

         Rome did not allow the burial of people convicted of high treason!  Would Plate have sympathy?  Joseph might be considered a friend, perhaps close friend, of Jesus by the Sanhedrin and so loose prestige.  Would those friends still accept him?  A plea for the body after the crowd had demanded crucifixion, a awkward moment for Pilate, might be dangerous.  Would this backfire and endanger him?  So many inhibiting doubts! We are seeing people not only deeply affected by a tragic scene but people changed in the core of their being and beginning to act in new ways.  Joseph steps forward and asks for the body.  The women refuse to run in fear.  The centurion professes belief.  Lives are changing.  The cross, the death of Christ, changes lives.

         It reminds me of the blind man who was healed and when cross-examined by the doubting priests who knew a man born blind is cursed,  the man confessed, “All I know is that once I was blind and now I can see.”  Perhaps there are two miracles at Calvary.  Christ dies for my sins and we will see him walk through death and be alive so that as we believe in him, we need not fear death either.  But secondly, as I grow in faith, I become a changed, a better person, not because of a shift in belief systems but because a new reality has claimed my life.  We call it a world-view shift.  Galileo experienced the falling apple and gravity was discovered.  Columbus did not fall off the edge of the world and we now know the world is round-ish.  Jesus dies but already the story is going on to something bigger.

         It is so easy to get in a rut in our thinking and Lent challenges us.  Nameless people step forward and become part of an epic experience.  Lives are renewed and refocused.  A new self, our “better self” as we now say, begins to emerge.  The pandemic cannot stop eternal life.  The party we don’t like is in power but that does not stop God from working.  “Others” move into our neighborhoods and challenge us to grow.  In the midst of the crucifixion, God is working.  In the midst of our struggles, God is working still, even when we don’t understand.  I do not know who your Pilate is or what favor you may need to ask today, but I do know that once I was blind and now I see – because of the crucifixion.

Day 36 of Lent: Love and Fear

March 30, 2021

Last but not least Mark mentions a group of women “looking on the cross from afar.”  Mark 15:40-41 lists Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and also Salome. Then he mentions “also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.”  The Gospel of John mentions that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was present along with the beloved disciple whom we understand to be John.  Jesus commits his mother to John’s care.  In the midst of this tragic drama, a group of women stand in solidarity with Jesus in his agony.  I have pondered this kind of loyalty.

         John in his first letter to followers talks extensively about love.   1 John 4:10 shares “This is love not that we love God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”   He continues in verse 18, “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment.”  Love gives us strength in times of great need.  People do amazing feats when their loved ones are in danger.  But John is talking here about a love that flows from God, that is not adrenaline based, but perhaps the deep compassion that has led to Christians organizing hospitals, orphanages, homes for the needy and many other enterprises.  It is a love that does not demand but that shows great strength in the presence of tragedy Love longs to assist.  I think of the many who are willing to work in the midst of the pandemic to assist people – employees at stores as well as medical people.  In the darkest hours this kind of love is a beacon of hope for the future.  We know the resurrection is coming but they did not.  They only knew their friend needed them.

         Perhaps we can spend a few minutes now remembering those who stood by us in our “ugly” times, encouraging us and loving us.  Prayers of thanksgiving are appropriate.  Likewise we can pray and ask God to put on our hearts and minds the name of someone who needs for us to reach out in love today.  Perfect love casts out fear – well, maybe our love is not so perfect and maybe we are a bit fearful, but we can still ask God for his love and we can reach out.  Pick up the phone and give someone a call!

Day 35 of Lent: The Paradox

March 29, 2021

In Mark 15:39b, the Centurion at the foot of the cross, hears Jesus say with a loud cry, with his last breath, “It is finished,” thus exclaiming the victory won.  He is moved to say, “Truly, this man was the Son of God!”  At this moment, this Centurion perceives Jesus, “true man,” to be “true God”.  The paradox and tension central to our faith is most clearly perceived in this moment at the cross. 

         A paradox is a statement that “seems to say opposite things and yet is perhaps true. (Merriam-Webster)” Our minds tell us that God cannot die and yet it appears that Jesus does.  We who know the rest of the story know that Jesus conquered death, walked through death to eternal life showing that the love of God is not defeated by death but walks through death with us to eternal life.

         Science has taken much of the mystery out of the paradoxes of life we experience.  A caterpillar crawling on a branch will become a butterfly.  A baby does grow from a small egg and sperm.  It is possible to be very angry with a child we love very much.  It is possible that a job loss leads to the decision to change professions that is a wise move – the loss leads to gain.

         The centurion sees God in Christ’s death.  What do we see?  The impossible?  A sacrifice for our sins?  A defeat of death?   Perhaps it is all of these.  We would affirm with the apostle Paul in the book of Romans 8:36,

          “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, neither angels nor   demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither        height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to        separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The paradox also is that when Jesus feels most forsaken, God is present loving.  It seems contradictory and impossible. When we feel the most forlorn, God is right there loving us, holding us, and listening.  Nothing can separate us from his love.  May this eternal truth stay with us as we experience the paradoxes and struggles of life today.

Day 33 of Lent: Grasshoppers

March 26, 2021

Today we meet another nameless person whose deed of kindness is recorded and memorialized! Mark 15:34-36 shares that about 3 p.m. of Good Friday, after three hours of total darkness, Jesus cries out, revealing he is praying Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  One of the bystanders, a nameless man, hears the cry, hears the crowd murmuring that perhaps Elijah will come to rescue Jesus, but instead of speculating, responds to Jesus’ cry with kindness.  He runs for a sponge of vinegar that he can put on a reed and press against Jesus’ lips.  Not much but it is something.  Helpful?  We do not know.

         Sometimes in the face of tragedy we are immobilized by the enormity of the problem and our help seems so little and inconsequential in comparison.  We face problems like that today.  Is wearing a mask truly going to stop a pandemic?  Will my act of kindness curb the wave of racism?”  What difference will my dollar make in the plague of starvation facing places in the world?  We feel so small and the problem looms so big.

         Moses, leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land, is told by God to send out twelve spies, one from each tribe.  The men return impressed with the fruitfulness of the land, a land flowing with milk and honey, BUT are terrified by the size of the people.  “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them. (Numbers 13: 33b)  Modern communications makes it possible to bring news from all over the world and reports of the problems occurring.  We feel like grasshoppers.

         The man at the foot of the cross did not wait to talk it over with a friend.  He did not wait to see if the problem would resolve.  He did not look to the guards, government, to provide a fix.  He did not interview the man on the cross to see if he was worthy of help.  He ran.  He got that which was available at the moment and acted to alleviate the suffering of another.  It may be just that easy.  The whole problem is in God’s hand and wisdom but the sponge is in our hands.   It was not much but it was what was at hand and he acted.  History remembers. We are not grasshoppers.  We are people with hearts and hands that can reach out to relieve suffering.

         Joshua and Caleb, the two spies that believed God could take their little and do something entered the Promised Land but the others did not.  May we offer our little and not see ourselves as grasshoppers! 

Day 32 of Lent: Forsaken

March 25, 2021

Noon of Good Friday comes and the sky turns black.  Mark 15:33-34 shares that it is total darkness that can be felt like the plague in Egypt, total darkness for three hours.  This is not an eclipse that can be very scary if unexpected but it is darkness deeper and longer.  After three hours Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  He is praying Psalm 22:

1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
  Why so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
2My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer;
  by night, but I find no rest.
3Yet you are the Holy One,
  enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4Our ancestors put their trust in you,
  they trusted, and you rescued them.

11Be not far from me, for trouble is near,
  and there is no one to help.

It is possible to feel totally abandon by family and friends and life can feel like a dark sink-hole with no bottom and no end.  That is the feeling of  abandonment, of despair, and of depression – the feeling of being totally alone to carry the weight of your world.

         The psalmist, though, goes on to describe not the feeling but the reality:

24For the Lord does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;

neither is the Lord‘s face hidden from them;
  but when they cry out, the Lord hears them.

         During our darkest hours is when our souls need the truth of Scripture. We are in the midst of our agony, despairing in prayer, our soul crying out to God, and our world seems cloaked in darkness.  Often our feelings cannot access God’s love and we need Scripture, prayer, music to remind us that God is there carrying us and holding us.  Even as Jesus cried out on the cross, so we are free to cry out our despair to God. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:3         

When we face situations that drive us to despair and make us feel abandoned, forsaken, may we cry to God for he does not despise us nor abhor us but is there with us in the silence, listening.  Thank you, Lord.

Day 31 of Lent: Passers-by

March 24, 2021

Yesterday we saw the soldiers at the foot of the cross, casting dice to see who would get Jesus’ clothes.  They were just “passing time.”  Today, in the next verse in Mark 15:29-31, the author comments on “the passers by.”  They see Jesus and “deride” him for not doing one more miracle to prove himself – come down from the cross!  Even the chief priests “mock” – save yourself like you saved others!  The two robbers hanging next to him “”revile Jesus.  Passers by deride, revile and mock.  In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul says, “For our sake he (God) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  Jesus became sin.  He was not an innocent person crucified for our sins.  He became sin.  Guilty as charged.

         When I think of “passing by,” I think of the parable of the Good Samaritan.  A man is beaten up and robbed on the road to Jericho and left to die.  A priest sees him and passes by on the other side of the road.  A Levite sees him and passes by.  But a Samaritan, a foreigner, stops and cares for the man, carrying him on his donkey to safety.  Many debate what causes people to pass by others in need.  Too busy?  Might get sick?  Don’t speak their language?  No time right now!  There is a definite sense of superiority when we deride, revile or mock.  Jesus asks  then and now, and us, who is the true neighbor?  The one who has compassion is the conclusion and we are charged to go and do likewise.

         As we “pass by” others between now and Easter, let us pray for eyes that see their struggle and how we can help.  May we have ears that can take time to listen to the other with an open heart, not focusing on our watches.  And if necessary, Lord give us the wisdom for when we can lend a helping hand.  May we not be guilty of looking for one more miracle, one more good deed by the other so that the person deserves our compassion.  May we give freely as we have freely received.

Day 30 of Lent: Passing Time

March 23, 2021

After Jesus’ epitaph, “They crucified him,” Mark pulls back in Mark15:24-28. He starts to describe the scene. The soldiers are neither longer mocking nor actively carrying out their duty.  They are casting lots to divide Jesus’ clothes.  They are passing time. Mark notes that Jesus is being crucified between two robbers, two common thieves.  The one interesting thing he notes is the plague on the cross, “The King of the Jews.”

         This year, we too are passing time as we wait for Good Friday and the crucifixion.  For many there will only be the waving of the palms of their hands and not palm branches because of the pandemic this Sunday.  Easter celebrations will probably be curtailed. No sunrise pancake breakfast by the youth.  Many churches will not celebrate Maundy Thursday or Good Friday together but possibly by zoom meetings or streaming.  There is a certain flatness, a feeling of just passing time.

         How do we “pass time”?  Some put on DVDs.  Visiting friends and family is not as automatic now.  Even shopping is not whipped into a furry yet.  The heaviness of the Passion story matches some of the heaviness in the air.  We are hoping that the vaccine will do the trick and yet some are talking of a third wave.  Some have received stimulus checks and others will claim rebates on their income tax.  And yet again April 15 is postponed.

         In the midst of all the serious thinking, though, I can look outside.  The baby ibises are walking through the yard and their original brown plumage is beginning to turn white.  The weather is warming up and some flowers are coloring the landscape here in Florida.  The grass was even mowed today.  Water skiers are beginning to be on the lake and crews of rowers are warming up.  Bicyclers stream by, exercising their muscles.  Life goes on.

         Today is day 30 of the 40 days of Lent and we are ¾ of the way through Lent.  How will you pass the remaining time?  Instead of casting lots to win a prize like the soldiers, why not think of a gift you could give someone? It need not cost money.  Who might appreciate a surprise hug or a phone call?  Homemade “thinking of you” cards are usually appreciated.  Smiles are always a good bet. May we pass time not wanting to win a “used garment” but giving a surprise. We know that “The King of the Jews” while written by Pilate as mocking, was true and we know that King lives and cares about all the things that weigh us down!  God is not passing time but active in our world today.  Let us “pass time” encouraging others!

Day 29 of Lent: Grief

March 22, 2021

Mark 15: 24a, “And they crucified him.”  Jesus was led to Golgotha by the soldiers. He refused wine offered to dull the pain. Then we read this four-word sentence. “And they crucified him.” Mark does not go into the gory details that often are depicted in movies.  Some things are too painful to describe. 

         In the movie, “Australia” when someone died the news was shared, “We can’t say her name anymore.”  It was the same in Kenya.  Witnesses at an accident often have difficulty relating details and often contradict each other, grief.  My sister and I have had more than one conversation around when our grandmother died as we each tie it to a different event in our high school years.  Death is hard for many to talk about.

         I have heard the advice that one of the best ways to face death, and life, is to write your epitaph.  People do not object to Jesus being called a great teacher, a good shepherd, or a healer.  The epitaph, “Christ was crucified for my sins,” is the memorial that causes people to stumble.  It is the central truth of the life of Jesus that causes divisions.  Crucifixion could have ended his story but it didn’t.  It became the central truth that defines Christianity for many. It becomes his epitaph.

         As we journey through Lent, as we read about Jesus’ crucifixion, we ponder too the meaning and value of our lives.  Will I be a name that is never spoken again or what is the epitaph I want to leave?  The soldiers did not know about the resurrection. They observed a crucifixion. People grieved.  They didn’t know they were only half way through.

         Perhaps you are not grieving a death of a dear person today but there are other things that bring grief – political arguments, marriage misunderstandings, broken relationships with children or parents, economic burdens, misrepresentations.  Healthy grieving is important.  Naming it – he was crucified – is the first step.  Spend five minutes pondering what griefs your soul carries and seek to understand what is the root of that grief.  Maybe you handle it by not talking about it but writing in a journal, writing an apology letter, or making a difficult phone call are all ways to heal breaches before it is too late.  Honest prayer can also be helpful.  We know this is not the end of the story of Jesus.  I pray as you look at what grieves you, you can also celebrate what was so precious about the relationship.  Relationships are gifts and worth grieving when separation occurs and worth repairing when broken.  Grieving is ok.  Thank you Lord.

Fifth Sunday of Lent: “We want to see Jesus.”

March 21, 2021

First Reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34

31The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Psalm: Psalm 51:1-12

1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
  in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
2Wash me through and through from my wickedness,
  and cleanse me from my sin.
3For I know my offenses,
  and my sin is ever before me.
4Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
  so you are justified when you speak and right in your judgment. 
5Indeed, I was born steeped in wickedness,
  a sinner from my mother’s womb.
6Indeed, you delight in truth deep within me,
  and would have me know wisdom deep within.
7Remove my sins with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
  wash me, and I shall be purer than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
  that the body you have broken may rejoice. 
9Hide your face from my sins,
  and blot out all my wickedness.
10Create in me a clean heart, O God,
  and renew a right spirit within me.
11Cast me not away from your presence,
  and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation
  and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit. 

Second Reading: Hebrews 5:5-10

5Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,
 “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”;
            6as he says also in another place,
 “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”

  7In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Gospel: John 12:20-33

20Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

  27“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.


Do you remember that scene near the beginning of “Chariots of Fire” when Abrahams, new to the Cambridge campus, prepares to challenge the 700 year old record for racing around the quad at the college?  He has put on his racing outfit, is wearing his racing shoes, takes the proper position crouching down and listens for the bell to strike noon.  Before the 12th gong, he must circumvent the quad.  A fellow student joins him “to push him along” and comes in a close second.  The bell rings once and the race is started.

Let us pray:  Lord may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.


Today Jesus gives his last public discourse.  He has come to Jerusalem for the Passover.  The chapter before Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead and so people are excited.  The Messiah has come!  He has been welcomed like a triumphant King by the masses in Jerusalem.  The text starts with Greeks who came to Jerusalem to worship, going to disciple Philip with one request, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”  Let me ask you, we have come to worship today and what is our request? Are we like the crowds in the narrative, hoping to see a Messiah making Israel great again? Making Bethany great again? Are we like the disciples, following but a bit confused by the agenda?  Next Sunday is Palm Sunday and we will enter Holy Week, ending with the crucifixion on Good Friday.  What do we need from Jesus today to make it through the next two weeks?  At the beginning of the race, at the beginning of the week, we don’t know the outcome.  We can only stand and echo the words of the Greeks, “We want to see Jesus.”  This seems to be the gong that signals the start of the Passion story.

Philip and Andrew go to Jesus with the Greek’s request and Jesus responds, “The hour has come for the son of Man to be glorified.”  When we think of “glory” or “be glorified”, perhaps we think of Abrahams standing on the winner’s platform and receiving the gold medal for his country and for his effort.  We might think of the inauguration of our president.  After 45 years of government work, President Biden has been elected.  He has reached a long desired goal.  Perhaps we think of a wedding and seeing the groom and bride smiling at each other.  Glorious.  We remember that moment of birth, seeing a new life – a miracle!  Jesus does not talk about a moment of exaltation, crowds cheering, our emotions overwhelmed with gratitude, but rather talks about a single grain being buried in good soil, to produce a yield, – productive and glorious.  He is talking about the seeming death he and we will experience that precedes glory.  Glory comes at the cost of death.  If we want to see Jesus, we must be willing to fall like that grain so that God can raise a harvest.

““25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” 

         “Chariots of Fire” traces the training of two very different men as they prepare for the Olympics.  They will both run for the United Kingdom but they train differently.  Harold Abrahams hires a trainer and we see his hours of dedication.  Near the end of training, he tells his girlfriend that he cannot even spare energy to focus on her.  He risks the wrath of Cambridge by hiring the trainer and he risks the rejection of his girlfriend.  He sees his goal and its glory but like that grain he must die to personal desires.  On the other hand, there is Eric Liddel who has returned from China as a student at University but is helping his sister run the mission.  To train for the Olympics he must put aside his studies, turn over responsibility for the mission to his sister, and ultimately decides he cannot run the Olympic trials on Sunday as he believes it is against God’s will.  We see him training with his friend and we see the agony of the decision to not run on Sunday.  There is a kind of death to self.  Death to self is the cost of glory.

         Even we make decisions when we decide to follow Jesus.  I do not know what choices you made but I had to choose between my newly acquired scuba diving license with weekend adventures promised and how I would use my time on Sunday.  I love the ocean!  I love Sunday worship!  The choice was mine.  I believe I have mentioned before the struggle with Friday after school TGIF times with fellow teachers at a local bar that I finally gave up.  Today there are still choices about Sundays, gossip, integrity on IRS reports, and spending money and time.  Following God and seeking his glory will involve turning eyes from self to him and involve a sacrifice of my agenda, a willingness to loose my life.  We keep our eyes on the goal, the big picture.  We choose God’s glory over our momentary pleasure.  Seeing Jesus involves choices that feel like death.

“26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”

         As we look at Christian history, there are certainly actions for which we hang our head.  The Crusades are not a proud moment in our history.  As we confess in our opening, “we have not loved you with our whole heart.  We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves.”  Serving Jesus is not a call to success but a call to faithfulness and following.  Jesus goes to some of the horrible spots in our world – disaster zones, sick zones, uneducated areas – many of the places Christian organizations have gone. Serving means following Jesus to places of death to bring glory to God.  To see Jesus means following him to some of the ugly places of life.

         Service to Jesus comes in many forms.  It is not a momentary decision about visions, but more a course of action.  It is possible to applaud pastors and missionaries but we can also acknowledge the love of parents for children with disabilities or dealing with elders who are cognitively challenged.  I think of my maid who worked for me day in and day out doing dishes, washing clothes, cooking and cleaning.  She did receive a very minimal salary by American standards and sufficient by Kenyan standards but I believe God sees the hours she put in and will reward her some day.  Following Jesus is not going to be in a triumphant parade following the newly elected but will be a challenge of obedience unto death.  Jesus does not sugar coat it.  But Jesus assures the Greeks, those listening and us that God sees and rewards, will glorify Jesus and honor us.

 Jesus then reflects, “What shall I say?” “Father, Save me from the trial?“

Jesus’ soul is troubled thinking of what he is going to pass through and it is not the Garden of Gethsemane yet!   Choice.  It would appear that even Jesus had choice about his destiny.  I do not think he was a programmed puppet of God, destined to live out a preordained plan.  Jesus agonizes over what is coming even as Eric Liddell agonizes over whether he should race on Sunday.  We know the outcome, resurrection, in hindsight but often the choice before us looks like a choice with a definite death outcome.  Jesus chooses to glorify God and not try and save his own life.  He will still battle the decision next week.  Decisions are not easy.  Jesus refuses the temptation to flee and says, no, his prayer is that God’s name be glorified.  To see Jesus is to embrace the unknown future, trusting God.

         “We want to see Jesus!” with the Greeks.  We want God to be glorified with Jesus.  And we will agonize with Jesus.  “What shall I say?” Following Jesus is not automatic because of a decision made during some mountain top experience like the Mountain of Transfiguration or made in our youth.  Following Jesus is an on going choice, it is a daily renewal of our baptismal vows as Luther says.  On Sunday morning of the trial race Eric Liddel was suppose to run, the movie shows him preaching in a church.   He quotes Isaiah 40: 29-31,   

         “Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting        God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or      weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength          to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youth grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

Liddell reflects through out the movie, “Where does the strength come from to see the race to the finish?”  “It comes from within.”

         Abrahams and Liddell both have the right shoes, the right running outfit, train hard and have natural talent.  Liddell tells his sister, “God made me to run and I feel his delight when I use my gift.”  But the outcome of the race will lay in the hands of God.  The Greeks want to see Jesus.  We want to see Jesus.  This signals the start of a race that looks like a grain falling in the soil, a seeming death to self, that produces the glory of bearing much fruit.  As Jesus dies and is lifted up, many will glorify God.  As we serve faithfully, God is glorified.  And that is what is important.  Making those choices to follow will not be easy.  Jesus had to go through the cross for God to be glorified. We too have to prepare ourselves to do the tasks on our plates.  But we are not alone.  God is watching and is walking with us and the Holy Spirit is interceding for us with deep sighs. “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”  Thank you Lord for the privilege of following you and serving.

Day 28 of Lent: The Old Rugged Cross

March 20, 2021

As a child, my most favorite hymn and actually the most popular Christian hymn for close to 100 years was “The Old Rugged Cross” written in 1912.  George Bennard who was a Methodist Episcopal evangelist was ridiculed at one of his meetings.  When Bennard preached, he loved to talk about John 3:16, “For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believed in him, should not perish but have eternal life,” and often would have a vision of the cross. But he struggled to tie down words forming in his mind for a hymn.  After being ridiculed, he went home and was able to write this favorite hymn.

         Our Lenten verses for today come from Mark 15:22-23.  Jesus is being nailed to the cross.  He is offered wine to ease the pain but he refuses.  He accepts the cross experiencing the full pain, and as we now know and will hear again tomorrow in service, it is in this humiliating experience that God is glorified.  The mocking of Bennard gave him voice for a hymn that has touched and formed many lives, even mine.  It seems an appropriate hymn to focus on today as we continue to ponder the depths of God’s love for us.