Thursday, March 26, 2015

Let me be like Judas

Mark 15:10-11, 
Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” All of them desert him and fled.

if it hadn't been for Judas
they wouldn't have known it was you.
If it hadn't been for the kiss,
they might have gotten the wrong man.
If Judas hadn't pointed you out,
who knows how it would have ended.

But Judas did point you out. 
To those who did not know you
he guided the way.
To those who could not recognize you
he gave a sign.
To those who had come to find you
he showed them who you were.

let me be like Judas.
In a world of hurt and betrayal,
help me point to you Jesus.
In a world of swords and violence,
help my kiss of love on your cheek be proof of who you are.
In a world of division and despair,
help my witness reveal who you are.

let me be like Judas.
The world can't recognize you.
But I know who you are.
Help me point you out in a crowd
so that they will know who to the Rabbi really is.

let me be like Judas.

Many ideas in this prayer based on a sermon by Rev. Dr. Brian Blount.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hosanna! O God, save us

Psalm 118:21-29
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the LORD’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we beseech you, O LORD!
O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD.
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God,
and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God, I will extol you.
O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

how many times
have I read this passage
and missed it.

So many of these verses are remembered
by the Gospel writers in connection with Palm Sunday.

"Save us, we beseech you!" in English is
"Hosanna!" in Greek and Hebrew!
And quickly followed by,
"Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!"

The crowds on that first Palm Sunday
and we who echo their refrain
are crying out from Psalm 118!

Lord Jesus,
we confess
you are the Stone the builders rejected.
Indeed you are our very Cornerstone,
the foundation on which we stand.

We join the ancient cry:
"Hosanna! Save us, we beseech you, we beg!"
"Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!"

We bind up our festival procession this Sunday
with branches of palms and our very lives
paving the way for the Price of Peace to enter
all the way to the altar that is the Cross of Calvary.

This IS the day that the Lord has made,
Let us rejoice and be glad!
We give thanks to you, O God,
for your always faithful, self-giving love
endures forever and ever --
not even death can break it.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

We wish to see Jesus

JOHN 12:20-21

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
I remember seeing that statement:
"Sir, we wish to see Jesus."
It was written on the preacher's side
of the pulpit in the chapel at my seminary.

Only the preacher could see it
written on a brass plaque at eye level
as I sat preparing to preach my senior sermon:
"Sir, we wish to see Jesus."

There it stood as a reminder
to everyone who took to that pulpit:
show us the Savior,
point us to the Prince of Peace,
reveal to us the Risen Christ,
tell us again the Truth of God's love.

Still today, Lord,
I hear those words echo in my mind
Every Sunday
as the people of God gather for worship
"Sir, we wish to see Jesus."

But not only in church, Lord
every time I walk down the street
everyone I meet those echo words:
"Sir, we wish to see Jesus."

In every store,
in every greeting,
in every stranger,
in every friend,
in every co-worker,
in every hurting heart,
in every hospital room,
in every nursing home,
in every new birth,
in every death,
in every prison cell,
in every student,
in every child,
in every adult,
in every language and nationality,
the words still echo:
"Sir, we wish to see Jesus."

Today, Lord,
and everyday
the world calls to us Christians:
"Sir, we wish to see Jesus."

My prayer is the same today
as it was the first time I read that plaque:
help me,
help us,
show them Jesus."

Monday, March 16, 2015

Written on our Hearts!

JEREMIAH 31:31-34
The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It 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. But 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. No 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.

thank you for writing
your covenant on my heart.
I'm not one for tattoos,
but your covenant love etched on my heart
is a tattoo I wear boldly.

Your covenant love is amazing to me.
No matter how many times,
I fail to love you with my whole heart, soul, strength, and mind.
No matter how often,
I fail to love others as I love myself.

No matter how often,
I break my part of the covenant,
there on my heart
the marking of your love still beats.
And that makes me want to love you, Lord,
all the more!!

So today I pray, 
Lord Jesus,
make me wholeheartedly
willing and ready
from now on
to live for you
confident of your covenant love
etch on my beating heart.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Teach us to love in enduring ways

Psalm 107:1-9 (NRSV)
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to an inhabited town;
hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
he led them by a straight way, until they reached an inhabited town.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.

The below prayer and thoughts are NOT mine, 
but I found them powerful. Shared from:

Describe a time 
when what was happening to someone else
also felt like it was happening to you.

When have you felt “steadfast love”? 
What does it feel like? 
When have you been able to offer 
that kind of love to someone else?

What landscape 
could you use to describe your own faith? 
Does the desert described in the Psalm 
resonate with your experience? 
Or a choppy ocean? 
A field of wildflowers? 
A jagged-toothed city skyline? 
A vast expanse of rolling hills? 

Holy One,
we give thanks that you are God of our whole lives –
When we are young and when we are old,
When we are hungry and thirsty, and when we are full,
When we are sad or scared or angry, and when we are loving and free.
We give thanks for your steadfast love,
that surrounds us in every setting.
Teach us to love in enduring ways.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

God be in my head...

The below is NOT my writing,
but it is a prayer the moved me.
Thank you, Dad, for sharing it with me.

shared from:
God be in my head
and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes
and in my looking;
God be in my mouth
and in my speaking;
God be in my heart
and in my thinking;
God be at my end
and in my departing
-- a medieval prayer known as the Sarum Primer, which first appeared in 1514

God be in my head
and in my understanding;
  • Father, our minds are constantly fed from newspapers, tv and conversations with others. Help us to filter what we read about and what we hear to discern what you might be saying. Renew our minds and give us wisdom. Help us be more concerned to understand than be understood. Help us to bring your wisdom to bear in our conversations and dealings with others. Help us as we interpret the times we are living in. We pray for all those involved in leadership in our communities and in governments around the world. Give wisdom and understanding to all those involved in decision making – especially in those situations which will impact the most on the poor and the weak.
God be in my eyes
and in my looking;

  • Father, as we look around us we see all sorts of things, our senses are assaulted with so many images every day. Thank you for those things we see that bring us joy – like the first flowers of spring or the sunshine in the early morning or the birth of a baby. Help us to look at the world through your eyes. Show us the things we need to see. Show us the people and situations that need your help and prompt us to help if we can. Let our eyes be your eyes.
God be in my mouth
and in my speaking;

  • Jesus, thank you that you choose to use us to reach the world with your love. Help us when we speak to speak words that build up and don’t tear down. Guide us to think before we speak and consider our words carefully. We pray for all those who have been hurt by something someone has said to them – these wounds can often be more painful than physical wounds. We pray for healing where words have hurt and we ask forgiveness for the times when we have said the wrong thing. Thank you for the words of love you speak to us. Speak through us, Lord we pray, that people might know your love in their lives.
God be in my heart
and in my thinking;

  • Lord, lots of things dominate our thoughts. Many of these things are the worries we have for friends or family. We lift to you now those people and situations that are on our minds. We invite you to intervene in these situations. Help us to trust that you hear our prayers. Lift the burdens we are carrying in our hearts and help us to know that your burden is light. Help us to let go of our anxieties and hand over our lives to your control.
God be at my end
and in my departing

  • Father, we pray for all those coming to an ending. For those who are coming to the end of their lives – we pray for their carers and families. We pray for those who are finishing a project, or coming to the end of a job and for those preparing for retirement. Be with us in our endings and remind us that each day is a new beginning with you.
So as we go into a new week, let us pray together the prayer from the Sarem Primer:

God be in my head
and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes
and in my looking;
God be in my mouth
and in my speaking;
God be in my heart
and in my thinking;
God be at my end
and in my departing

Thursday, March 5, 2015

At the foot of the Cross of Christ

Mark 15:27-39
And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him. 
When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

Lord Jesus,
someone asked me recently:
Where do we, the church, find our unity?
Is it in our doctrinal statements?
Is it in our traditions?
Is it in our worship practices?

Where does your church find her unity?
At the foot of Your cross, O Christ.
There all divisions cease.
All wrangling --
over words, policies, doctrines,
traditions, statements, definitions --
comes to an end.

There at the foot of your cross, O Christ,
we find
equal footing,
equal kneeling,
equal prostrating before God
in humble confession,
in deep sorrow,
in need of transforming grace.

There at the foot of your cross, O Christ.
We are
united in our need
to be forgiven and to forgive,
to be humbled and to be self-giving,
to be compassionate and to be grateful.

How does the church stand united
when we are so divided?
We humble ourselves at the foot of your cross, O Christ.
For at the foot of the cross:
"There is no longer Jew or Greek,
there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male and female;
for all are one in Christ Jesus." -- Galatians 3:28

For at the foot of Your Cross, O Christ,
even the Roman guard, 
the centurion was compelled to confess:
"Truly this man was God’s Son!"

That is what unites us:
Your cross, O Christ,
gracefully Your cross.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Surprised by Grief

The news came today.
I didn't know she was sick,
And now she's gone--she died.
I've heard all the usual things like:
At least she's not suffering...
She's in a better place...

But none of that quiets my broken heart.

What about her two beautiful girls?
She was such a powerful role model for them-
a wonderful mother, a wonderful wife, a gifted woman,  a smart business woman.

And what of her son?
Who will remind him of what to look for in a spouse?
Who will be proud as only a mother can?

What about her husband?
I saw the way he looked at her,
Pinching himself that she said yes.
Thanking God for the gift she was to him each day,
A daily demonstration of God’s grace.

You understand our grief.
Let us lament.
Join in our song of tears.
Weep with us, Lord.
With your arms around our shoulders shaking with sobs,
Hold us close to your heart.

And only then remind us of your covenant love to the living and the dead.
Only in Easter hope do we dare to find comfort.
The Lord is risen!
The first among the dead.
Broken with grief we still put our trust in you.

A prayer written by Chris Denny upon the news of the death of Chris DeSantis, mother and wife and member of First Presbyterian Church of Myrtle Beach, SC.