Sunday, March 27, 2016

Holy Week: It is on the Sunday!

It was on the Sunday
That He pulled the corn.

They arrived with flowers,
shuffling through the dawn
as the dawn snuffed out
the last candles of the night.
Their faces betrayed the belief
that yesterday would always be better 
than tomorrow
despite what he said.
He would not say it again,
So why bother to believe him on that score?

And the flowers,
They were also silent witnesses to disbelief.
Like the grass, 
they were cut to be dried to death,
cut off from the root,
The bulb, the source of life.
He was the flower they cherished,
The flower now perished.
whose fate the lilies of the field,
no tight in hand,
would re-enact.

So when they passed the crouched figure
at the edge of the road,
They thought little of him,
scarcely seeing his form through their tears.
Had they looked even a little
They would have seen a man
Letting grain fall through his fingers,
Dropping to the earth
To die and yet to rise again.
It was on the Sunday
That he pulled the corn.

John 12:23-24
Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very 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..."
Jesus' death bears much fruit in Resurrection!
Life and death are both transformed.

The Lord is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed!

adapted from Stages on the Way, Worship Resources for Lent, Holy Week & Easter by the Wild Goose Worship Group

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Holy Week: It was on the Saturday

It was on the Saturday
that he was not there.

Those who don't like corpses
can't stay away from graveyards,
unless there's some prohibition to stop them
revisiting the dead end
of their hopes and their dreams.

It's as if they think
that should the voice speak again,
it will speak there
or a sunbeam will dance
or a flower will shoot
and give a sign of misinterpreted life.

But close the cemetery,
or confine, through custom or constraint,
the wailing ones to the house
and it looms larger ...
the loss,
the lostness,
the losers.

Men shiver in an upstairs room,
warm though the day is.
Women weep in an uncharmed circle.

Memory is forced on memory.
The mind's eye tries to trace
the profile and the face,
the smile,
the gentle twitching of the nose ...
and fails.
And a panic sets in
because it seems he can't be remembered.
Was he ever known?

It was on the Saturday
that he was not there.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Holy Week: It was on the Friday

It was on the Friday
that they ended it all.
Of course, 
they didn't do it one by one.
They weren't brave enough.
All the stones at the one time 
or no stones thrown at all.

They did it in crowds.... 
in crowds where you can feel safe
and lose yourself 
and shout things 
you would never shout on your own, 
and do things 
you would never do 
if you felt the camera was watching you.

It was a crowd in the church that did it,
and a crowd in the civil service that did it,
and a crowd in the street that did it,
and a crowd on the hill that did it.

And he said nothing.

He took the insults, 
the bruises, 
the spit on the face,
the thongs on the back, 
the curses in the ears.
He took the sight of his friends turning away,
running away.

And he said nothing.

He let them do their worst 
until their worst was done,
as on Friday they ended it all....
and would have finished themselves 
had he not cried,
"Father, forgive them all."

And the revolution began.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Holy Week: It was on the Thursday

It was on the Thursday
that he became valuable.

He hadn’t anything to sell…
not since leaving his hammer and saw three years earlier.
Needless to say,
he could knock together a set of trestles
or hand a couple of shelves at the drop of a hat,
no bother at all.

But he wasn’t on to making things.
Not now.

He was into…
well…talking, I suppose.
And listening
and healing
and forgiving
and encouraging…
all the things for which there’s no pay
and the job centre has no advertisements.

So his work wasn’t worth much.
Nor, indeed, was he.
For, not being well dressed
or well heeled or well connected,
he wouldn’t have attracted many ticket holders
had he been put up for raffle.

But he had a novelty value…
like the elephant man or the fat lady
or the midget at the circus.
Put him on a stage and he might be interesting to look at.
Sell him to the circus
with the promise of some tricks
and there could be a silver penny or two
or thirty in it. 

It was on the Thursday
that he became valuable.

adapted from Stages on the Way, Worship Resources for Lent, Holy Week & Easter by the Wild Goose Worship Group

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Holy Week: It was on the Wednesday

It was on the Wednesday
that they called him a waster.

The place smelled like the perfume department
of a big department store.

It was as if somebody had bumped their elbow
against a bottle
and sent it crashing to the floor,
setting off the most expensive stink bomb on earth.

But it happened in a house
not in a store.

And the woman who broke the bottle
was no casual afternoon shopper.
She was the penniless poorest of the poor,
giving away the only precious thing she had.

And He sat still
while she poured the liquid all over his head…
as unnecessary and extravagant as aftershave
on a full head of hair and a bearded chin.

And those who smelled it
and those who saw it,
and those who remembered
that he was against extravagance,
called HIM a waster.

They forgot…
that he also was the poorest of the poor.

And they who had much
and who had given him nothing,
objected to a pauper
giving him everything.

Jealousy was in the air
when a poor woman's generosity
became an embarrassment to their tight-fistedness…

That was on the Wednesday,
when they called him a waster.

adapted from Stages on the Way, Worship Resources for Lent, Holy Week & Easter by the Wild Goose Worship Group

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Holy Week: Praying for victims of violence

God of grace and peace,
we pray for the city of Brussels
and the people of Belgium.

Help and heal the wounded,
receive the dying into your embrace,
and comfort those who mourn.

Strengthen rescue and relief workers
who protect and provide for others
in the midst of crisis and chaos.

Give leaders the wisdom and determination
to understand the causes of hatred
and prevent it from gaining force.

Put an end to all violence and war,
and restrain the impulse
to use injustice to seek justice.

Continue to pour out your mercy
upon the victims of violence in Bangladesh;
Istanbul, Turkey; Peshawar, Pakistan;
and all the places we forget or ignore.

Surround us all with your grace
and bring peace to our weary world.
This we pray in Jesus’ name.

This prayer shared from the Presbyterian Church USA.
Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly

Heath Rada
Moderator of the 221st General Assembly (2014)

Tony De La Rosa
Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Holy Week: It was on the Tuesday

It was on the Tuesday
that he confronted and confounded them.

If you had been there
you would have thought that a union organizer was being taken to task
by a group of Tea Party activists.
Or that the chairman of a multinational corporation
was being interrogated by left wing activists
posing as shareholders.

They wanted to know why
and they wanted to know how.

They were respectable men,
the influential men,
the establishment.
All men.
All powerful.

The questions they asked
ranged from silly schoolgirl speculations
about whether you would be a bigamist in heaven
if you had married twice on earth,
to what was the central rule of civilized behavior.

They knew the answers already…
or thought they did,
otherwise, they would never have asked the questions.
And like most of us
they were looking for an argument
with no intention of a change of heart.

So He flailed them with his tongue…
those who tried to look interested
but never wanted to be committed.

And that was on the Tuesday…
the day He confronted and confounded them…
and us.

adapted from Stages on the Way, Worship Resources for Lent, Holy Week & Easter by the Wild Goose Worship Group

Monday, March 21, 2016

Holy Week: It was on a Monday

It was on the Monday
that religion got in the way.

An outsider would have thought
that it was a pet store’s fire sale.
And the outsider, in some ways,
wouldn’t have been far wrong.

Only, it wasn’t household pets,
it was pigeons that were being purchased.
And it wasn’t a fire sale;
it was a rip-off stall in a holy temple,
bartering birds for sacrifice.
And the price was something only the rich could afford.
No discounts to students, retirees,
the disabled, the mentally ill or the unemployed.

Then He…
the holiest man on earth,
went through the bizarre bazaar
like a bull in a china shop.
So the doves got liberated
and the pigeon sellers got angry.
And the police went crazy
and the poor people clapped like mad,
because he was making a sign
that God was for everybody,
not just for those who could afford him.

He turned the tables on Monday…
The day that religion got in the way.

Excerpted from Stages on the Way, Worship Resources for Lent, Holy Week & Easter by the Wild Goose Worship Group

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Journey to Jerusalem: Hosanna! O God Save Us!

We made it!! The Journey to Jerusalem comes to an end. We arrive just in time to see Jesus riding on a donkey; the King of Peace comes to the city.

Luke 19:28-38
After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
When he had come near Beth phage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”

O God, save us!
Ride into our lives
of chaos and stress.
Ride into our lives
of busy and rush.
Ride into our lives
of division and distress.
Bring your peace, O Prince of Peace.

Lord, I am mindful
that some Bible scholars
have said that on Palm Sunday,
there were two parades:
1. You riding on a donkey
the humble King of Peace
from the Mount of Olives
surrounded by the symbols of peace
with palm branches and
shouts of HOSANNA!
Hebrew for O God, save us! 
2. Govenor Pontius Pilate
riding on a war horse
surrounded by the symbols of the Roman empire
swords, soldiers, & imperial banners
with shouts of praise to
Caeasar called the "Son of God"
and praise for the Pax Romana
peace made from forced submission.

O Lord,
times haven't changed too much.
As you ride into our lives
as the Prince of Peace this Palm Sunday,
our news media sings the praises
of the power and posturing of some politicians,
of war and terror and fear,
of promised well-being
through power and show of force.

Your Kingdom is not of this world.
And yet you teach us to pray:
"Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
on earth..."

Ride into our lives
and teach us to join in
your kingdom work
on earth.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Journey to Jerusalem: United Along the Way

More than 100 different people traveled with us on this year's Journey to Jerusalem, the 6,150 miles from Elizabethtown, NC to Jerusalem, Israel! Wow!

Along the way, we have traveled with friends & family across various states, a women's basketball team, a cycle club, and even one pet dog. Pilgrims are always quite a mixed group, a motley crew, the people of God's own choosing.

Isaiah 43:5-7
Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
I will say to the north, “Give them up,”
and to the south, “Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
you choose us;
you call us;
you gather us together.
And we are a diverse group:
athletes & musicians,
business leaders & workers,
addicts & academics,
lawyers & the convicted,
doctors & the sick,
teachers & students,
mentors & apprentices,
at work, at rest, & at play,
parents, grandparents & children,
every color of the rainbow,
men & women,
young & old,
entitled & resentful,
rebellious & obedient,
hard working & lazy,
doubters & devoted,
poor & rich,
oppressed & powerful,
generous & stingy,
the good, the bad & the ugly.
we are all here.

All following you.
All loved by you.
All claimed by you.
All invited by you.
All yours.

All made in your image.
All in need of forgiveness.
All in need of grace.
All in need of love.
And all here,
in your kingdom.
All here
with our eyes toward you.

Made one Body in your suffering love.
Made one Hope in your resurrection.
Made one Church by your Spirit.

we had no idea
just how far reaching your love is.
Thank you for including us.

We journey together
in life and faith
with our eyes focused
on the Cross of Christ and his Empty Tomb
that which makes us One.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Journey to Jerusalem: We Made It!!

We made it!! The Journey to Jerusalem comes to an end. The 6,150 miles from Elizabethtown, NC to Jerusalem, Israel ends with us standing within the walls of the great city.

In some ways, yes, we have come to the end; we have reached our destination. And yet, we are beginning again, a new phase, a new journey.

I'm reminded of a great hymn that ends:
In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
that's the hopeful news
of Easter, of faith, of life.
One end is really a new beginning.

Your death, Lord Jesus,
is an end,
but it makes way for
your transforming RESURRECTION!

We watch and wait.
We hope and wonder.
We walk into Holy Week
very aware of its pain and suffering.
But we do so knowing
the new beginning that comes
after the Silence of Holy Saturday.

Lord, you are our end --
the goal toward which our lives move.
Lord, you are our beginning --
the hope the sends us forth to join you
in transforming the world
for Christ's sake.

Together we made it all 6,150 miles.  Thank you to all who journeyed with us. Now let us take up the journey that leads from the Good News into the world!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Journey to Jerusalem: Up Hill All the Way

The Journey to Jerusalem is up hill quite literally. Pilgrims to Jerusalem must ascend from the valleys that surround the city.

During Lent, we are mindful that the Journey to Jerusalem leads to another hill near Jerusalem -- a hill called Calvary. Jesus is very clear that his path to Jerusalem is a path to betrayal, suffering, death -- and resurrection!

Luke 18:31-34
Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
Lord Jesus,
I still do not understand:
Why was it necessary
for you to die is such a way?
I mean --
Is God really so blood thirsty
that only Your blood shed would win my salvation?
Since all the earth belongs to God,
to whom did a ransom need to be paid to win my salvation?

Don't get me wrong:
I know very clearly I need a savior!
I CANNOT save myself;
Lord, you know I've tried.

But did it have to be YOUR suffering and death?
Or is my salvation even won in death?
Salvation comes not from your death alone,
but salvation comes in death and RESURRECTION!
Those two always come as a pair in your story don't they.
Death and resurrection!
Gruesome cruel death and glorious victorious resurrection!
Good Friday's cross and Easter Sunday's empty tomb!
Lent's Kyrie and Easter's Hallelujah!

this Journey to Jerusalem
is up hill all the way.
It's a hard path,
like a runner pushing through the hardest mile,
keep our eyes focused
on the cross ahead
and the empty tomb.

At Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church, we are committing to journey the 6,150 miles from Elizabethtown, NC to Jerusalem, Israel in our walking, running, swimming, cycling, etc.

Track your miles, share them here, and join us on the Journey to Jerusalem.

We will post those miles online and on our banners in the sanctuary and in our fellowship building. Together we will make our journey to Jerusalem!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Journey to Jerusalem: Lift Up My Eyes

The Journey to Jerusalem is an up hill journey. No matter which direction you come from in Israel, Jerusalem is a city built on a hill surrounded on all sides by valley. For those who built Jerusalem, being situated on a hill top was a great defensive strategy. Attacking armies would have to cross over the valleys and then climb up the hill to the walled city.

Theologically it meant the temple in Jerusalem was also built on the hill -- often called the "temple mount". On the Journey to Jerusalem pilgrims to the temple must ascend the hill. There is a whole section of the Psalms called the Psalms of Ascent, Psalm 120-134. They cover a whole range of human emotion; these psalms would be sung, recited, prayed on the pilgrims climb up to Jerusalem.

Psalm 123
To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
As the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
until he has mercy upon us.
Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than its fill
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud.
O Lord,
to you
I lift up
my eyes.
For too long have I my eyes
studied my feet in shame.
I lift my face to you.
Daring to look in your eyes
expecting to see disappointment,
I am surprised to see delight --
love, mercy, laughter --

You know don't you.
You understand.
For the first time ever,
I see it now.
In the eyes of Jesus,
I see my eyes.
In the hurts of Jesus,
I see my hurts.
In the laughter of Jesus,
I hear my own voice.
You know. You do.
You understand.

That's what the whole
coming to earth in flesh and blood was about.
You wanted us to know
that you know,
I mean really KNOW.
Emmanuel -- God is with us.
God is ONE of us.

So when I pray,
you get it.
When I falter and fail,
you understand.
When I do amazing things,
you cheer with me!

I see it now in your eyes.
Then you invite me to keep walking,
and you walk beside me
not ahead, nor behind,
but right beside me --
a companion on the way.
Thank you, Jesus.

At Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church, we are committing to journey the 6,150 miles from Elizabethtown, NC to Jerusalem, Israel in our walking, running, swimming, cycling, etc.

Track your miles, share them here, and join us on the Journey to Jerusalem.

We will post those miles online and on our banners in the sanctuary and in our fellowship building. Together we will make our journey to Jerusalem!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Journey to Jerusalem: Are we paying attention?

The Journey to Jerusalem is with others. We meet others along the way -- friends, companions, strangers. Jesus walks with us, but do we recognize him? Are we paying attention?

Luke 24:13-27
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?”
They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”
Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

Below is a link to a video reflection on our Journey to Lent.
What is God doing in our midst?
Who walks along with us on the way?
Are we paying attention?

Journey to Jerusalem from Etown Presbyterian Church on Vimeo.

At Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church, we are committing to journey the 6,150 miles from Elizabethtown, NC to Jerusalem, Israel in our walking, running, swimming, cycling, etc.

Track your miles, share them here, and join us on the Journey to Jerusalem.

We will post those miles online and on our banners in the sanctuary and in our fellowship building. Together we will make our journey to Jerusalem!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Journey to Jerusalem: Share the Uncomplicated

The Journey to Jerusalem is one of questions. I am learning that often on the path of life it may well be that the answers are not as important as the questions. Indeed Jesus often responds to questions with another question.

I love this prayer website:
One of the prayer times from last week keeps coming back to me. More specifically one of the questions:
Are there uncomplicated ways in which you can share your sense of God with others?
Lord Jesus,
my faith is so nuanced.
It really cannot be reduced
to a sound bite for the media,
nor the 140 characters of a tweet.

Indeed, Lord,
when I used all my words
to express my sense of God,
they fall far short.

Perhaps the best I can do
is to surrender my words
to an awe-filled silence.

And yet, I must say something.
How, in an uncomplicated way,
can I express my sense of God?

my faith ancestors found stories to be best --
66 books of the Bible worth of stories.

My story?
I am a well loved younger son, the baby.
Raised in a loving congregation.
While not a preacher's son,
my family was often
among the first to arrive and last to leave church.
Living 4+ hours away from relatives,
the congregation became like my family.
They demonstrated God's love to me --
a growing son, loved and welcomed,
challenged and encouraged by the congregation.
They taught me:
to love God and God's people of all kinds,
to search the scriptures and listen for God's voice,
to pray and not stop praying,
to serve with joy,
to follow wherever God leads.

I heard God's voice calling me
through that congregation and others
to give back by loving and welcoming,
challenging and encouraging,
other sons and daughters,
the children of God of all ages,
and doing that as pastor.

that's my story.
It's your story too --
you at work for me,
you at work in spite of me,
and most amazingly
you at work through me.

Thank you for weaving your story
through my story.
Emboldening me to share that story.

I wonder:
  • What's your story?
  • In what ways is God's story woven through your story?
  • What are some people in your circle of influence who need to hear your story?
  • When will you tell them?

At Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church, we are committing to journey the 6,150 miles from Elizabethtown, NC to Jerusalem, Israel in our walking, running, swimming, cycling, etc.

Track your miles, share them here, and join us on the Journey to Jerusalem.

We will post those miles online and on our banners in the sanctuary and in our fellowship building. Together we will make our journey to Jerusalem!