The Battlefield

Sermon for Sunday, February 22, 2015 || Lent 1B

TheBattlefieldWednesday 4:45am. My six-month-old daughter is screaming and has been for the last hour and a half. I’ve been doing what the method we’re using says to do: go into the nursery every five minutes and say the same script. Don’t pick her up. Just assure her you’re there: “It’s time for sleeping baby girl. Mommy and Daddy are right outside. We love you very much.” Then leave, start a new five-minute timer, and hope she settles down. Over the last six weeks or so, most nights have been pretty good. The twins are waking about once per night, but going back to sleep after a bit of nursing. We’ve been getting used to this wonderful new routine.

But Wednesday something is different. My daughter will not settle down. She just keeps screaming. With each five-minute check, my patience wears just a little thinner, which is bad because you’re supposed to be calm when you go in and say the script. During each five-minute interval, I sit at the top of the stairs, watch the timer, grind my teeth, and resist the urge to start banging my head against the banister.

By about the ninth or tenth interval, I am downstairs pacing the living room. And a new voice has joined the cacophony upstairs, a voice inside me telling me to let loose my frustration. “Stomp around. Punch the couch cushions. Kick over the laundry basket. It’ll help.” So I punch the couch cushions for a bit, swearing under my breath. And you know what? It doesn’t help at all. It just gets me more worked up. The only way to help my daughter calm down is to be calm myself, and punching couch cushions is not exactly the ideal definition of serenity.

So the questions I have are these: why do I perpetuate this pattern every time one of my babies has a bad night? Why do I give in to this irate voice time and again? And a final question, one which the voice does not want me to ask: where do you come from? When I’m calm enough to ask this last question, I see with sudden clarity my interior landscape. The demonic forces, of which the irate voice is ambassador, are marshaling to attack. They control a small, but strategically significant piece of my inner territory, and they want more. They want me to give in to anger and pride and the desire to isolate myself. Isolation, you see, makes me an easier target. And anger and pride are to these demonic forces like the marbling in a rib-eye steak. One look at their territory tells me why they want more. They’ve spoiled it: polluted the rivers, clear-cut the forests, and trampled the grass until all that’s left is mud sticking to their boots.

On the other side of the battlefield, the territory of God’s kingdom stretches to the horizon: Vast tracts of land waiting to be tilled and cultivated; fruit trees in blossom; rivers overflowing their banks with fresh, living water. But as my eyes scan this interior landscape, I’m horrified to discover no heavenly forces marshaling to defend God’s side of the battlefield. There are no walls to keep the invaders out, no minefield, no anti-infantry firepower of any kind. Surely the demonic hordes clamoring behind their pickets will overrun and despoil this good land.

I look again. Why aren’t the hordes charging? Why hasn’t the attack begun? And then I realize the horde has no leadership. No one down on the battlefield is in command. Demonic forces are experts, I’m sure, at disobeying orders, but you have to receive an order to disobey, and the horde hasn’t received one. They just stand there, calling out challenges and cruel taunts – to no one apparently, as the other side is empty.

But then, as I continue to survey this inner battlefield, two things dawn on me. First, their challenges and cruel taunts do have a target: Me. And second, they do have a commander. Me again. They won’t charge into God’s territory until I cede it to them. They will do all in their power to trick or persuade me to do so, but until I give in, they’re stuck in their own little cancerous kingdom.

Then a third thing dawns on me. My daughter is finally asleep again and the sun is rising outside. The sun rises over my interior landscape as well, and I look closer at God’s territory. It seemed so empty when I was focusing on the hordes clamoring for martial action, when all my attention was drawn by the demonic forces trying to force-feed me anger and pride. But now that I’m focusing on God’s territory I see the emptiness was just an illusion; a reverse mirage, so to speak.* God’s territory isn’t empty. It’s full of God’s love and grace: so full, in fact, that my normal narrowness of vision misses the fullness completely.

The season of Lent, which we began the same day as my daughter’s early morning wakefulness, offers us the invitation to expand our normal narrowness so that God has even more interior space to fill. We accomplish this expansion, paradoxically, by doing its opposite – by fasting. A fast is a series of intentional choices not to partake of something that has power over us. Most often we think of fasting as having to do with food, but that’s only if food has power over you (and it does over many Americans). But each of us has those things – the correct term is “idols” – to which we cede God’s territory within us. Whatever your particular idol is, that’s the thing from which you should be fasting. Right now mine is my anger at my own frustration when my babies don’t sleep when they’re supposed to.

I found the phrase “anger at my own frustration” in the Litany of Penitence, which we pray on Ash Wednesday. The Litany gave me the language I needed to put my idol into words. If you have trouble discerning what your idols are, take a look at the Litany. You can find it on page 267 of the Book of Common Prayer. I invite you, during this season of Lent, to take an honest look at your interior landscape, see what demonic forces are marshaling at the edge of God’s territory, and then choose each day to fast from whatever the horde is persuading you to do – or not do.

Fasting is our way of telling those demonic hordes that there won’t be a battle today so you might as well go home. The more we (their commanders) fail to issue the attack order, the less interested those forces get in standing sentry at the battle lines. They get bored. They retreat, not because they have been beaten, but because the internal violence they so revel in never occurs. As they retreat, God’s territory nips at their heals; replants the trampled, muddy ground with fresh orchards; and reclaims the land as God’s own. And the little cancerous kingdom diminishes.

I commit this Lent to fast from the anger my own frustration causes me. I hope you will join me in your own fast, whatever it may be. Don’t listen to the voices urging conquest. Instead, allow God’s territory to grow rampant across your inner selves. And then be part of the same rampant growth of God’s territory out in the world.

*I’m pretty sure I got this idea from C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, which I just read again, but I can’t find where it is in the book.

The Ash Remains

Sermon for Ash Wednesday, February 18, 2015 || Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 103

ashremainsThe twins are six and half months old. They’re sleeping pretty well, waking either zero or once during the night. They’re beginning to crawl and sit up by themselves. Their hair is really coming in. And they have the absolute softest skin imaginable. I could spend all day kissing their cheeks and foreheads and want to do it again all day tomorrow. So when I think of offering them the imposition of ashes, when I imagine scraping two coarse lines of grit on those smooth foreheads, I shudder. I recoil. How could I sully such perfect skin?

As this question hangs in the air, I think back to last week, when I was blessed to go up the street to Mystic Healthcare and offer prayers by the bedsides of two women who were actively dying. They had lived long, long lives. Both passed away over the weekend, one in her mid-nineties and one who was 105 years old. I prayed by their bedsides as they breathed the short, staccato breaths of those who are living their final days. I touched and kissed their foreheads during the prayers, and I found them to be spotted and wrinkled and dry, more like wax paper than skin. Surely, these were the foreheads made to receive the imposition of ashes.

And yet the ashes are made to adorn the newborn infant and the dying elder both the same. No matter how much or how little of this life we have left, the ashes are made for us to wear. This thought might make you shudder, like it does when I think about offering them to my babies. But if we take another look at the ashes, we might come to a new understanding.

You see, more often than not we associate ashes with death. I think we make this association for two reasons. First, when a fire dies out, the ashes remain. Second the rate of cremations in the United States has risen from three and a half percent in 1960 to over forty percent in 2010.* And this number will continue to rise. We are closing in on half of all funerals in this country involving the deceased person’s ashes.

So it’s only natural to associate ashes with death. Even the words I will pray in a few minutes before the imposition of ashes speak of them being a “sign of our mortality.” Then when I scrape the ashes on your foreheads, I will say, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” All of this seems to be pointing to our deaths.

But I would suggest the ashes are not about our deaths at all, despite all this evidence to the contrary. The ashes are about our lives. The ashes remind us how transient this life is; how impermanent. The eighth century monk and historian known as the Venerable Bede compared this life to a sparrow fluttering into a brightly lit banqueting hall, flying the length of the room, and then disappearing into the night. The psalmist speaks the same truth in today’s psalm: “Our days are like the grass; we flourish like a flower of the field; When the wind goes over it, it is gone, and its place shall know it no more.”

If our lives are so transient, so fragile and brief, then we have to wonder why God would bother with us at all? We scratch our heads in wonder at the 105 years of the woman at Mystic Healthcare, but even that is less than a breath when we zoom out the camera to geologic time. So why would God bother with us? Why would the psalmist say, “As a father cares for his children, so does the LORD care for those who fear him?” It all seems a bit daft in the grand scheme of things.

But remember, I said the ashes were about our lives, not about our deaths. While this life is transient, yes, and while we aren’t more than vapor on the wind (as the Bible so often reminds us), there is more to the story. Because death is not the end, just as birth was not the beginning. Have you ever looked at an infant and seen a hidden wisdom hovering just behind his wide-eyed wonder? Have you ever held the hand of a dying elder and realized that she was excited to see what comes next? Both of these instances speak to the “something else” or “something more” that we feel in our gut when we meet the beginning or the end of life. We call this “something more” eternity. We call this “something else” the promises of God made real in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If God made us for eternity, then we can in all faithfulness zoom out the camera again and see geologic time fade away.

This is the true life that God invites each of us to live: the expansive, abundant, eternal life, which fuels the fires of our souls. This is the life we have, but it is rarely the life we live. And so we return to the ashes and our new understanding. When I burn last year’s palms to make the ashes, the fire gives off light and heat. The process changes the material of the palms into the energy of the fire. What’s left over when the fire goes out is the ashes. The keyword here is “change.” Each of us is on fire for God. We are burning our whole lives long, shining God’s light into the dark recesses of this world. But like the burning bush in the Exodus story, we are not consumed. The fire does not annihilate. It purifies. As we live, all that will not burn for God filters away. All that keeps us from shining with the love and grace of God filters away. All that separates us from God, what we call “Sin,” filters away. And becomes ash. When we are done burning and God has gathered us home like those two blessed women at Mystic Healthcare, the ash remains behind. All that separates us from God remains behind.

We scrape the ashes on our foreheads each year to remember that we are still burning. God is still calling us to shine the light of God’s reign on the darkness of the world. Today the prophet Isaiah gives us a blueprint for how to shine: “Loose the bonds of injustice…share your bread with the hungry…bring the homeless poor into your house…cover the naked when you see them…let the oppressed go free.” When we burn for God doing these things, our ashes filter away, and we live the promise Isaiah offers next: “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.”

* Source: National Funeral Directors Association http://nfda.org/about-funeral-service-/trends-and-statistics.html: accessed, 2/17/15.

Industry Standard Temptation

Sermon for Sunday, March 9, 2014 || Lent 1A || Matthew 4:1-11

If you asked a certain subset of people to describe in one word how they relate to you, what might that word be? Your child might say, “Daddy” or “Mommy.” Your wife might say, “Husband.” Your husband might say, “Wife.” Your boss might say, “Employee.” But there’s one description that tends to override all the others, especially here in the United States. That description is the one given you by the Marketing Department. That description is “Consumer.”

5guys(featured)We consume about a quarter of the world’s energy, and yet we make up only one twentieth of the world’s population. Several of our most popular ways to die involve over-consumption of food or drink or drugs. I mean, have you seen how they deliver French fries at the restaurant Five Guys? They fill a cup with a fairly generous, but not outrageous, serving and then dump three or four more scoops into your bag! Who could possibly eat all those fries?

In our society, we fill ourselves up with fast food and fast cars, all the while buying stuff that we tell ourselves we need, but we really don’t. We fill ourselves up with anxiety over making sure our lives and livelihoods are secure, all the while ignoring the vast majority of people who will never have security. And we fill ourselves up with the sensational, yet banal, details of the lives of the rich and famous, all the while daydreaming about what we would do if the paparazzi followed us into a restaurant.

We fill ourselves up by hoarding stuff, by worrying about our security, by coveting fame. We fill ourselves up until there’s no room left within us for anything that we ourselves didn’t squash in there, until there’s no room left within us for God.

In the Gospel reading this morning, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness immediately following his baptism. After more than a month in the wilderness, Jesus meets the devil. And the devil can’t pass up such a juicy opportunity for temptation.

“See that rock over there,” says the tempter. “I bet you could turn that rock into bread and fill yourself up.”

“See the ground way below,” says the tempter. “I bet you could jump and be secure in the arms of angels who would never let you hurt even your foot.”

“See the kingdoms spread all over the world,” says the tempter. “I bet you’d be the most famous ruler of those kingdoms who ever lived if you first swore fealty to me.”

These three attempts at temptation make up the industry standard. Worrying about getting stuff, getting security, and getting fame – they’ve worked for centuries, thinks the devil. Surely, they will work on this Jesus fellow. Not to mention, Jesus has been out in this wilderness for forty days. I’ve got him right where I want him, thinks the devil. Surely, the industry standard temptations about stuff, security, and fame will work on a guy who has been living out in the elements alone with no food for forty days!

Of course, the industry standard temptations fail. Jesus isn’t worried about getting stuff or being secure or finding fame. Why not? Well, the devil has misinterpreted Jesus’ time in the wilderness. Rather than being a benefit to the devil in the tempter’s scheme, Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness help not the tempter, but Jesus himself.

You see, Jesus wasn’t just killing time during those forty days. He wasn’t twiddling his thumbs waiting for the devil to turn up. Jesus was fasting.

A fast is a way to make a space, to open up a hole within ourselves. A fast is an active and difficult denial of something that has influence over us (traditionally food, though fasts certainly are not limited to that area). When we fast, we forego the things that we usually use to fill us up, the things that we mistakenly depend on to keep us going. And when we cease to fill ourselves up with all the junk of the world and all the anxiety about our own security and all our envy of the famous – when we cease to fill ourselves up with these things, we make room within ourselves for God.

Fasting intentionally opens up a hole for God to fill. When we clear away the rubbish that has piled up in our interior selves, we make a space for God to come in and dwell. And the more interior square footage we devote to God, the better we will be able to listen and respond to God’s movement in our lives.

This is just how Jesus fends off the devil in the wilderness. After forty days of fasting, he’s not empty, but full – full of God. Notice that each time the tempter goes on offense, Jesus dredges up from within himself words of scripture that speak to the believer’s relationship with God.

“Bread alone can’t sustain you,” Jesus says. “But every word that God speaks gives sustenance to creation.”

“I’m not going to jump off the temple,” Jesus says. “I don’t need to test God to trust God.”

“I’m not going to bow down to you,” Jesus says. “I serve God, and only God instills in me the desire to worship.”

Jesus combats the industry standard temptations of stuff, security, and fame. He beats off the tempter by filling himself up with God. And he fills himself up with God by emptying himself through fasting. During our own forty days this Lent, how will we make spaces within us for God? How can we clear away the rubbish so that God can move in and walk around? We can make a start by choosing to fast.

If you tend to fill yourself up with stuff you don’t really need, then promise not to buy anything beyond basic necessity and you may find basic necessity is more than enough. If you tend to fill yourself up with worry about the security of your livelihood, then stop and pray when you find anxiety setting in and you may find new sources of blessing. If you tend to fill yourself up with desire to live as the rich and famous do, then skip the grocery aisle magazine racks and you may find enough fame within your own close circle.

As you deny yourself the things that normally fill you up, actively invite God to enter the newly cleared space. Choose to fast. Clear away the rubbish, hollow out your insides, and give God a place to fill.

Way of the Cross: Stations 13-14 (March 29, 2013)

…Opening To…

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you;
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

…Listening In…

Now there was a man named Joseph who was a member of the council. He was a good and righteous man. He hadn’t agreed with the plan and actions of the council. He was from the Jewish city of Arimathea and eagerly anticipated God’s kingdom. This man went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Taking it down, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid it in a tomb carved out of the rock, in which no one had ever been buried. It was the Preparation Day for the Sabbath, and the Sabbath was quickly approaching.The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph. They saw the tomb and how Jesus’ body was laid in it, then they went away and prepared fragrant spices and perfumed oils. (Luke 23:50-56; context)

…Filling Up…

This Holy Week we are be meditating on the fourteen “Stations of the Cross.” The Opening and Sending sections of this week’s Devos, as well as the italicized verses at the end of each station come from the Episcopal “Way of the Cross” service found in the Book of Occasional Services. (If you’d like to hear the complete work, check out the music page.)

Station 13: The body of Jesus is placed in the arms of his mother
Daughter of Jerusalem,
Cradle your Son.
“My heart is poured out in grief,
My eyes are spent, but my sorrow’s just begun.
My name shall be ‘Mara.’
Bitter I have become.
O Death, I feel your sting,
But is it true that the grave’s
Power will be undone?”

Her tears run down her cheek:
And she has none to comfort her.

Station 14: Jesus is laid in the tomb
Grieving,
They pull the thorns from Jesus’ head;
Not quite believing
Their way, their truth, their live is dead.
The future looming:
A void where light is never shed.
Now they’re entombing
The bridegroom who will never wed.

You will not abandon me to the grave:
Nor let your Holy One see corruption.

Closing Antiphon

…Praying For…

Dear God, your holy Son relinquished his life to destroy death, and he died so I might live. Help me to die to self each day and live for him he rose again on the third day. As I wait and watch by the tomb, grant me the grace to remember his presence in my life, in whose name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, glorying in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, our life, and resurrection.

Way of the Cross: Stations 11-12 (March 28, 2013)

…Opening To…

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you;
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

…Listening In…

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that time on, this disciple took her into his home. After this, knowing that everything was already completed, in order to fulfill the scripture, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was nearby, so the soldiers soaked a sponge in it, placed it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed.” Bowing his head, he gave up his life. (John 19:26-30; context)

…Filling Up…

This Holy Week we are be meditating on the fourteen “Stations of the Cross.” The Opening and Sending sections of this week’s Devos, as well as the italicized verses at the end of each station come from the Episcopal “Way of the Cross” service found in the Book of Occasional Services. (If you’d like to hear the complete work before Friday, check out the music page.)

Station 11: Jesus is nailed to the Cross
They climb the Skull and fling him down
Like so much dross.
See him stretch his arms of love on the
Hard wood of the cross
That all might come within the reach of his embrace.
Hear the nail pierce his hand
Taste the heaving tang of fear
The unrelenting hammer strikes home.
They lift high the Son of Man
His broken glory now appears
As he draws all to himself.

They pierce my hands and my feet:
They stare and gloat over me.

Station 12: Jesus dies on the Cross
With the Beloved his mother stands:
To each other his final breath ties.
Darkness eclipses the surrounding lands;
“It is finished. It is finished,” he cries.
“My spirit, O Father, I give to your hands,”
With choking gasps he sighs.
Then my Lord bows to the grave’s demands,
Breathes his last, and dies.
He breathes his last and dies

Christ for us became obedient unto death:
Even death on the cross.

…Praying For…

Dear God, your holy Son stretched his arms out on the cross and drew the whole of Creation to himself. Help me to reach out my own arms in love to all I meet, especially to those in the most need. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, glorying in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, our life, and resurrection.

Way of the Cross: Stations 9-10 (March 27, 2013)

…Opening To…


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you;
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

…Listening In…

When they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Skull Place, they gave Jesus wine mixed with vinegar to drink. But after tasting it, he didn’t want to drink it. After they crucified him, they divided up his clothes among them by drawing lots. (Matthew 27:33-35; context)

…Filling Up…

This Holy Week we are be meditating on the fourteen “Stations of the Cross.” The Opening and Sending sections of this week’s Devos, as well as the italicized verses at the end of each station come from the Episcopal “Way of the Cross” service found in the Book of Occasional Services. (If you’d like to hear the complete work before Friday, check out the music page.)

Station 9: Jesus falls the third time
By the waters of Babylon,
I hung my harp from the wall.
Darkness my only companion,
For the third time I see my Lord fall.
This strange land will hear no song of Zion,
This strange land that sees him crawl.
Remember, O Lord, my affliction:
The wormwood and the gall
The wormwood and the gall

He was led like a lamb to the slaughter:
And like a sheep that before its shearers is mute, so he opened not his mouth.

Station 10: Jesus is stripped of his garments
The stench of decay is all around
When the bloody procession slows.
At Golgotha the only sound
Is the cawing of a thousand greedy crows.
They stop and strip his clothes to the ground
And offer him wine he loathes.
The soldiers are slapping their wagers down:
They gamble for his clothes,
And they gamble for his clothes.

They gave me gall to eat;
And when I was thirsty they gave me vinegar to drink.

…Praying For…

Dear God, your holy Son was stripped of his clothes and his humanity, and he was reduced to a discarded piece of flesh hung on the cross. Yet he did not lose his dignity, nor his power, nor his conviction. In my dark days, clothe me with Christ and help me cling to him, in whose name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, glorying in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, our life, and resurrection.

Way of the Cross: Stations 7-8 (March 26, 2013)

…Opening To…

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you;
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

…Listening In…

A huge crowd of people followed Jesus, including women, who were mourning and wailing for him. Jesus turned to the women and said, “ Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t cry for me. Rather, cry for yourselves and your children. (Luke 23:27-28; context)

…Filling Up…

This Holy Week we are be meditating on the fourteen “Stations of the Cross.” The Opening and Sending sections of this week’s Devos, as well as the italicized verses at the end of each station come from the Episcopal “Way of the Cross” service found in the Book of Occasional Services. (If you’d like to hear the complete work before Friday, check out the music page.)

Station 7: Jesus falls a second time
Again my Lord falls to the ground,
Lays in the dust;
Underneath the cross’s beams he
Calls me to trust
That his words are true, despite his frailty.
Surely this humility
Is the true life-giving way
To serve as Jesus served.
He bears our iniquities
For we like sheep have gone astray
And have served only ourselves.

“But as for me, I am a worm and no man:
Scorned by all and despised by the people.”

Station 8: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
“Daughters of Jerusalem,
Weep not for me;
But weep for yourselves
For your children, let your tears fall freely.”
How vast is your grace, Lord?
As vast as eternity?
Blessed are you who wipe
Away every tear from our eyes.
Joy shall our children see.

Those who sowed with tears:
Will reap with songs of joy.

…Praying For…

Dear God, your holy Son took up the cross and in its weight bore the weight of the world. Help me to find the will to help bear the weight of some of this world’s suffering, for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, glorying in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, our life, and resurrection.

Way of the Cross: Stations 5-6 (March 25, 2013)

…Opening To…

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you;
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

…Listening In…

They led him away to crucify him. As they were going out, they found Simon, a man from Cyrene. They forced him to carry his cross. (Matthew 26:31-32; context)

…Filling Up…

This Holy Week we are be meditating on the fourteen “Stations of the Cross.” The Opening and Sending sections of this week’s Devos, as well as the italicized verses at the end of each station come from the Episcopal “Way of the Cross” service found in the Book of Occasional Services. (If you’d like to hear the complete work before Friday, check out the music page.)

Station 5: The Cross is laid on Simon of Cyrene
A stranger comes from the country,
Simon by name;
As they lay the cross on him,
He sees a flame
In Jesus’ eye which seems to say:
“Take my yoke and learn from me,
Take your cross and follow me,
And I will be with you.
Search your heart and yearn for me
And no longer hollow be
For I have already filled you.

“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me:
Cannot be my disciple.”

Station 6: A woman wipes the face of Jesus
A woman walks out from the crowd,
Damp cloth in hand;
As she wipes his sweaty brow,
She beholds a man
Acquainted with grief, a man of sorrows.
His appearance is so marred
But intact is his soul,
Which bears our total rejection.
For our transgressions is he scarred;
By his passion we are whole,
And with his stripes we are healed.

“Restore us, O Lord God of hosts:
Show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.”

…Praying For…

Dear God, your holy Son walked the way of the cross with the help of a stranger. Give me the courage to invite the other into my life for our mutual benefit and for your greater glory. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, glorying in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, our life, and resurrection.

Way of the Cross: Stations 3-4 (March 22, 2013)

…Opening To…

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you;
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

…Listening In…

Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “This boy is assigned to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that generates opposition so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your innermost being too.” (Luke 2:34-35; context)

…Filling Up…

This Holy Week (as well as yesterday and today and tomorrow), we are be meditating on the fourteen “Stations of the Cross.” The Opening and Sending sections of this week’s Devos, as well as the italicized verses at the end of each station come from the Episcopal “Way of the Cross” service found in the Book of Occasional Services. (If you’d like to hear the complete work before next Friday, check out the music page.)

Station 3: Jesus falls the first time
Humbling
Himself, becoming most obedient;
And he is stumbling,
In human likeness was he sent
Now he’s falling,
The cross’s weight will not relent
And still he’s calling:
Return to God in love, repent

“Surely he has borne our grief:
And carried our sorrows.”

Station 4: Jesus meets his afflicted mother
Daughter of Jerusalem,
Handmaid of the Lord:
See your holy Son
Beaten, stricken, and deplored.
How vast is your ruin?
As vast as the sea?
Blessed are you who mourn
For in the light of the Lord
Comforted shall you be.

“A sword will pierce your own soul also:
And fill your heart with bitter pain.”

…Praying For…

Dear God, your holy Son knew the scorn of the world as well as the love of his mother. Help me always to remember there are people who love me, even during dark days. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, glorying in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, our life, and resurrection.

The Way of the Cross: Stations 1-2 (March 21, 2013)

…Opening To…

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you;
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

…Listening In…

Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere and that a riot was starting. So he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I’m innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It’s your problem.” All the people replied, “Let his blood be on us and on our children.” Then he released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus whipped, then handed him over to be crucified. (Matthew 26:24-26; context)

…Filling Up…

This Holy Week (and today and tomorrow leading up to it), we will be meditating on the fourteen “Stations of the Cross.” The Opening and Sending sections of this week’s Devos, as well as the italicized verses at the end of each station come from the Episcopal “Way of the Cross” service found in the Book of Occasional Services. My take on the Stations is not just poetic, it’s musical. So you can listen to an acoustic version using the music players. I hope these pieces deepen your Holy Week experience as writing and performing them has deepened mine.

Station 1: Jesus is condemned to death
Morning,
And Jesus stands condemned to die;
With thorns adorning
His bloody face and piercing eye.
The crowd is jeering:
“Away with him and crucify.”
And Pilate fearing,
Hands him over in reply.

“God did not spare his own Son:
But delivered him up for us all.”

Station 2: Jesus takes up his Cross
Bearing
His cross alone the way he treads;
While he is sharing
Our suffering, sorrow, pain, and dread.
The world is violent,
A place where sin and shame are bred;
And he is silent,
Like a lamb to slaughter he is led

“The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all:
For the transgression of my people was he stricken.”

…Praying For…

Dear God, your holy Son suffered unjust condemnation and bore the staggering weight of the cross on his back. Help me to accept the overwhelming love that Jesus showed in these humbling acts. In his name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, glorying in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, our life, and resurrection.