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.

“Z” is for Zoe (March 20, 2013)

…Opening To…

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new. (John Donne)

…Listening In…

So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:1-2; context)

…Filling Up…

This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “Z” is for Zoe. I know, I know, I’m cheating again by using a Greek word like I did a few days ago. Honestly, I couldn’t think of a good English word that starts with “Z.”

“Zoe” (pronounced zo-AY) means “life.” We get the word “zoology” from it. For that matter, we get the word “zoo” from it. I remember visiting the zoo in Washington D.C. and feeling profoundly depressed as I left. The D.C. zoo is squashed into a tiny piece of the District, and the animals are squashed into tiny pieces of the zoo. The panda paddock was hardly bigger than the backyard I mowed every week when I was growing up. The elephants had no room to move. Everything was concrete and wrought iron. I couldn’t help but think what an inaccurate use of the word “zoo” I was witnessing.

You see, “Zoe” means “life,” yes, but the connotation of the Greek doesn’t stop there. The word from which we get “zoo” means expansive life, life without bounds, the kind of life that the creature is meant to live. Jesus uses this word when he answers Thomas’s question (John 14): “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” I Am the Life. It is in Jesus’ life – his zoe – that we find the kind of life that we, as creatures of God’s own Creation, are meant to live.

As the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Jesus Christ does not give us a rulebook or a series of tasks to accomplish in order to gain that zoe for ourselves. Rather, he gives us himself, he gives us his own footsteps, he gives us his own trail that he blazed through the hardships and joys of this life.

And all he asks for in return is us.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you sent your son to be the trailblazer of the path back to you. Help me to follow in Christ’s footsteps so that I may participate in the fullness of the life you would have for me. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, enlivened by your word, sustained by your grace, and filled with your love.

“Y” is for YHWH (March 19, 2013)

…Opening To…

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new. (John Donne)

…Listening In…

The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The guard at the gate opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Whenever he has gathered all of his sheep, he goes before them and they follow him, because they know his voice. (John 10:3-4; context)

…Filling Up…

This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “Y” is for YHWH. Collectively, these four letters (when written in their original Hebrew) are known as the tetragrammaton, which (conveniently) means “four letters.” But these aren’t just any four letters – these four letters when written in this order spell God’s name, the name that the ancient Hebrews wrote down but never uttered aloud.

This name comes from the Hebrew verb hiyah, which means “to be” or in the first person singular, “I Am.” This is what God says to Moses in the burning bush encounter when Moses asks God God’s name. God says, “I am who I am.” Thus, the word that the Hebrews chose to call God comes from the very word for existence itself. God is the great “I Am,” the great “Being,” who is the bestower of be-ing.

The ancient Hebrews did not say this name aloud, preferring to substitute the name Adonai whenever the tetragrammaton cropped up in the text of Scripture. The name stood for the One who is so holy that the name just wasn’t spoken. This makes sense. Names are powerful things. Naming something grants some measure of control over that something. Conversely, taking away a name does the same thing – think about the Jews thrown into concentration camps and branded with numbers during World War II.

When we keep silent where the name of God is concerned, we are confirming our position as God’s subjects. We are not the ones in power. We are not the one’s with a name on our lips. Rather, God is the one who calls us each by name, as Jesus says when he talks about the sheep: “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

…Praying For…

Dear God, your very name means “the foundation of existence.” Help me to find my place in that existence, help me discover my own being, which flows from the life you breath into me. Help me hear you calling my name. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, enlivened by your word, sustained by your grace, and filled with your love.

“X” is for Christ (March 18, 2013)

…Opening To…

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new. (John Donne)

…Listening In…

From Paul, called by God’s will to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, and from Sosthenes our brother. To God’s church that is in Corinth: To those who have been made holy to God in Christ Jesus, who are called to be God’s people. Together with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place— he’s their Lord and ours! Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:1-3; context)

…Filling Up…

This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “X” is for Christ. Hold on a second, you say. You’re trying to pull a fast one, you say. I promise, I’m not. I needed a word that begins with “X,” and Christ is one – just not in English. In Greek, Christ looks like this: Χριστος. That first letter is the Greek letter “Chi,” which has adorned many a fraternity house, including the one I frequented in college but never joined.

In the early church, the first two letters of “Christ” became a sort of unofficial symbol for Christianity. The “Chi-Rho” was written with the “Rho” (which looks more like a modern “p” than “r”) inscribed within the “X.” In the year 313, these two letters had a hand in converting the Roman Empire to Christianity. The soon-to-be emperor Constantine received a vision telling him to draw the Chi-Rho on the shields of his troops. He did so, won the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, and signed the Edict of Milan soon after. This edict allowed Christians to practice their religion openly within the Empire, which formally adopted Christianity as the official religion several decades later.

That history lesson aside, the word “Christ” serves as both name and title for Jesus, in the same way that folks in the Middle Ages took their profession as their surname (Smith, Miller, Fletcher, Carter etc). “Christ” means “messiah” or “chosen one.” But in the popular view of the day, Jesus would never have been the person cast to fill this role, considering he was a peace activist, not a military hero. The latter was what the people expected. But it’s not what they got, sort of like when you opened up this Devo and expected a word that starts with X.

In the convention of the day, Jesus’ last name would have been “Bar-Joseph” (son-of-Joseph) or “of Nazareth.” But over time, his identity as messiah overrode his origin and his upbringing. In the same way, our identity is informed by our origin and upbringing, but it is not enslaved to them. We can find our roles; hopefully, these roles will resonate with God’s call in our lives. And then, that’s how people will know us.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you breathe identity into me and call me into your service. Help me to claim the person you would have me be so I can be the best servant I can be. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, enlivened by your word, sustained by your grace, and filled with your love.

“W” is for Word (March 15, 2013)

…Opening To…

If we would follow Jesus we must take certain definite steps. The first step, which follows the call, cuts the disciple off from his previous existence. The call to follow produces a new situation. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship)

…Listening In…

But the word of the Lord came to [Abram], “…No one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” He brought him outside and said, “Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” (Genesis 15:4-5; context)

…Filling Up…

This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “W” is for Word. The word “word” crops up over and over again in the Hebrew Scriptures (commonly called the Old Testament). Take Abram for example. God has promised him offspring of his own, but his wife is well past childbearing years, and she ain’t getting any younger. Feeling desperate, doubtful, defeated, Abram questions God. And at that moment, the “word of the Lord” comes to him and gives Abram the strength to believe that God will fulfill God’s promise.

You may ask: “How can mere words give Abram such strength? What if the promises are empty? Where’s the action to back up the talk?” Okay, so translators do the best they can to render the original languages of the Bible into English, but sometimes a Hebrew word is just too deep and complex for a single English word to suffice. In these cases, the English is like looking at a picture of a cake. The Hebrew is like taking a big bite of the cake itself.

Such is the case with the word “Word.” In Hebrew, the “Word” is not simply speech or writing on a page. The “Word” happens to people. The “Word” is an event, an encounter, an action that calls for further action. In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, God spoke creation into being: “God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.” The Word of the Lord happened, and, as a result, creation came into existence. When the Word of the Lord happens to Abram, he finds the strength to go on trusting God in spite of all the reasons why God’s promise seems preposterous.

The Word can happen to us in this same way. In an encounter with the Word, we are aware that God continues to speak us into existence. And from existence into service. And from service into love. And from love into the transformation that happens when we follow Jesus Christ our Lord. You see, when the Word happens to us, we are changed. We may be changed minutely or momentously, but we are changed. We may be changed slowly or suddenly, but we are changed. We are changed into better lovers of God, better servants of other human beings, and better human beings ourselves.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you speak creation into existence and your Word sustains all life; help me to listen for that Word in my life so that I may be changed. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, trusting that you never leave me, trusting that you are above, below, behind, before, beside, and within me.

“V” is for Veil (March 14, 2013)

…Opening To…

If we would follow Jesus we must take certain definite steps. The first step, which follows the call, cuts the disciple off from his previous existence. The call to follow produces a new situation. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship)

…Listening In…

Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known. (1 Corinthians 13:12; context)

…Filling Up…

This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “V” is for Veil. Simply put, veils obscure vision. For example, a bride’s veil keeps the groom from seeing her clearly (which in turn leads to several of Shakespeare’s plots). For followers of Jesus Christ, the veil exists between our limited perception and God’s greater glory. We see a teeny tiny portion of the spectrum of light with our actual eyes, so it’s no wonder that our spiritual perception is similarly limited.

That’s where “revelation” comes in. Revelation is a translation of the word “apocalypse.” Now, before you start thinking that I’m talking about the end of the world, you should know that the word “apocalypse” doesn’t really have anything to do with the end times; however, that’s the linkage that exists in our present context. Here’s just a second of disentangling. “Apocalypse” literally means “to pull back a veil or curtain.” Revelation is about “revealing” what’s on the other side of the veil. Whether this revelation happened in the past, happens now, or will happen in the future is independent of the word “apocalypse.”

Okay, so our limited perception keeps us from seeing beyond the veil. There is some indefinable beauty on the other side, but we don’t really know what it is. The question then becomes: how do we know there is some indefinable beauty on the other side if we can’t see beyond the veil? Well, at some point or another, God pulled back the veil and gave us the gift of more expansive perception. Followers of Jesus believe this happened in the Incarnation, life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the “revelation” of God. In the person of Jesus, God pulled back the curtain.

The veil still hangs in front of our faces. But it is not opaque. It is porous because the glory of God can’t help but penetrate it. This is why we have hope. The veil will be pulled back fully, and then we will know fully, even as we are fully known.

…Praying For…

Dear God, your glory cannot fit into the limited understanding that I have. But I pray that you keep revealing your love to me so that I can reveal it to others. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, trusting that you never leave me, trusting that you are above, below, behind, before, beside, and within me.

“U” is for Unity (March 13, 2013)

…Opening To…

If we would follow Jesus we must take certain definite steps. The first step, which follows the call, cuts the disciple off from his previous existence. The call to follow produces a new situation. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship)

…Listening In…

Israel, listen! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; context)

…Filling Up…

This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “U” is for Unity. Yesterday, we talked about “Trinity,” so it seemed only appropriate to follow that up with some talk about “unity.” (Plus, it conveniently starts with the next letter in the alphabet. “Unity” comes from the Latin word for “one.” If you’re from the United States, you’ve seen this Latin word your whole life — on our money. E Pluribus Unum reads the phrase: “Out of many, one.”

So, if the Trinity is a perfect relationship of three persons (read yesterday’s post if that’s confusing; and I’m not saying it will stop being confusing, by the way), then what can we say about the “Unity” of God? Well, judging by the Latin root, we can say God is One. The relationship among Father, Son, and Spirit is so perfect, so seamless, so integrated, that God isn’t three. God is One. The old adage is “Trinity of Persons, Unity of Being.”

God invites us to love and serve God in a similar integrated fashion. Note the verse above in the “Listening In” section. “The Lord is our God, the Lord is one,” says Moses. And the very next thing he says is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength.” These two thoughts are connected — God’s “Oneness” and our internal unity.

So don’t just love God with a piece of yourself. Don’t compartmentalize by putting your relationship with God in an box on the shelf, which you take down only when you need something. Rather, love God with the whole of yourself, with you heart and being and strength — with the unity that is you.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you are the Mighty One who sustains the universe and the Intimate One who keeps me whole; help me to love you with my entire being and to dedicate myself wholly to you. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, trusting that you never leave me, trusting that you are above, below, behind, before, beside, and within me.

“T” is for Trinity (March 12, 2013)

…Opening To…

If we would follow Jesus we must take certain definite steps. The first step, which follows the call, cuts the disciple off from his previous existence. The call to follow produces a new situation. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship)

…Listening In…

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:13; context)

…Filling Up…

This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “T” is for Trinity. Folks in churches often shy away from discussing the “doctrine” of the Trinity. The old joke is that the head pastor of the church always gets the assistant to preach on Trinity Sunday. A lot of folks just don’t get what to do with the doctrine of the Trinity.

The funny thing is this: folks have a problem with the Trinity precisely because they use the word “doctrine” to describe it. Yes, the Trinity was a big part of the doctrinal disputes of the early church. Yes, contrary understandings of the Trinity was a contributing factor that led to the split between the Eastern and Western churches. This history notwithstanding, the Trinity is not a doctrine. It is a relationship. The moment I made this switch in my mind, the Trinity became a much more present reality in my life.

The relationship of the Trinity is the way our limited human minds can begin to grasp the edge of the corner of an understanding about God. We call God “Father,” but father is a relational word. There cannot be a parent without a child. So we call God “Son.” Thus, there is a relationship between God within God. This relationship is the “Spirit,” the love that the Father and Son have for one another. Of course, God is one, so all of this is God.

We don’t have to understand how the Trinity “works” to understand that the relational nature of God has always been. Never has there been a time when God was “alone” because God was with God before anything else was created. This gives me hope because God’s relationship with God tells me how God’s relationship with me happens. I am never alone because God is with me. Or to say it more precisely, I am with God.

…Praying For…

Dear God, your love has been the foundation of this universe since before time began. Help me to access this love in the relationships that I have with others. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, trusting that you never leave me, trusting that you are above, below, behind, before, beside, and within me.

“S” is for Sabbath (March 11, 2013)

…Opening To…

If we would follow Jesus we must take certain definite steps. The first step, which follows the call, cuts the disciple off from his previous existence. The call to follow produces a new situation. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship)

…Listening In…

As a result, the Jews were harassing Jesus, since he had done these things on the Sabbath. Jesus replied, “My Father is still working and I am working too.” (John 5:16-17; context)

…Filling Up…

This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “S” is for Sabbath.

Ever since the seventh day of creation, the Sabbath has been a day set apart. God rested on that day from the labor of creation. The Fourth Commandment that Moses brought down the mountain from God directed the people of Israel to “Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Just as God rested on the seventh day, so was the Sabbath a day to rest from the labor of the week. Over time, a set of rules was established for what constituted “work” on the Sabbath. The number one criticism from Jesus’ opponents in the Gospel is that Jesus healed people on the Sabbath. Jesus “worked,” which is a no-no. Such is the case in John 5, from which the verse above is quoted after Jesus heals the man who had been sitting by the pool of Beth-zatha for 38 years.

True, by healing the man at the pool, Jesus did do work on the Sabbath. And true, he commanded the man to pick up his mat, which is also considered work. These are not mere technicalities. Jesus’ opponents are not mere tattletales. The Sabbath was and is sacred, and violating it was and is an offense. But while Jesus violates the letter of the existing Sabbath laws, he also deepens the spiritual meaning of Sabbath. When his opponents confront Jesus with his Sabbath infraction, Jesus says to them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” In effect, he is saying: my Father and I are still creating. The Sabbath is a time to pause and rediscover what it means to be created. Sabbath rest brings rest, reflection, and recreation.

Re-creation.

Taking time every week (it doesn’t necessarily have to be Saturday) for observing the Sabbath reconnects me to the God who is creating me. When I pause to reflect, I notice more readily God’s movement in my life. When I pause to rest, I realize that I am capable of taking much deeper breaths of the Spirit than my normal level of distraction permits. And when I pause to engage in re-creation, I find myself connecting with creation in such a way that the glory of the Creator can’t help but shine through. By taking time for Sabbath, I relocate myself within this constant creation and rejoice in knowing that God is far from through creating me.

…Praying For…

Dear God, without your constant creation, this universe would cease to be. Help me to participate in your creation by making time to take in all the ways you are moving in my life. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, trusting that you never leave me, trusting that you are above, below, behind, before, beside, and within me.