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Father forgive us

Father forgive us. Too much we don’t know what we are doing.

Forgive us for putting politics above people.

Forgive us for bashing our politicians, government officials, police officers, the media, the really odd relative, and our neighbor close by.

Forgive us when we pass by the homeless person, looking the other way lest we make eye contact.

Forgive us when we are impatient with other drivers who do the unexpected or drive too slow or cut us off in traffic.

Forgive us when we react angrily rather than thinking first and responding appropriately.

Forgive us when we lash out at the ones we love most because we feel safest with them.

Forgive us for wanting things so much that we push people aside.

Forgive us for our pride, thinking we can manage on our own, that we don’t need anyone else, that we can do life by ourselves.

Forgive us for passing judgment on another’s heart when only You can see what’s really there.

Forgive us for holding on to hurts and grudges so long that they become heavy burdens we carry and bars that imprison us.

Forgive us when we wound others out of our own woundedness.

Forgive us for turning to idols of wealth, fame, addictions, and even people when our first devotion belongs to You.

Forgive us when we take for granted all Your good gifts and do not give You thanks all circumstances.

Forgive us for our hatred and our prejudice, failing to remember that you made each of us precious in Your sight and we are equally loved by You.

Forgive us for disregarding the unborn, the elderly, the disabled, the less than perfect.

Forgive us for turning our eyes away from You, for making any and everything our first love, giving away our devotion and worship.

Forgive us for not loving each other the way we love ourselves.

Forgive us . . .

Hanging on the cross, His life blood dripping on the ground, Jesus’ accusers and His executioners railed against Him. His friends were gone, running scared. The miracles and love He gave freely were forgotten by the crowds.

The blameless One was dying like the two criminals on either side of Him. He took all our shame and guilt and transgression, every misdeed and violation and offence. He bore it all Himself.

So He lifted His eyes toward heaven and said,

Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.

So it begins

The tradition of faith in which I was raised did not celebrate Lent. I hardly knew anything about it until in my fifties I was employed as pianist at the Methodist church in my home town.

It was a time of transition for me, a hard season when I carried a weight of sorrow. God sent me to that small congregation of loving people who built up my confidence, lavished me with love, and made me feel like a person.

While the traditional services were very different than my upbringing, I determined to enter into their style of worship with a whole heart. It was within this community that I learned about Lent.

The first year I was an observer. The second year I participated and gave up critical words, which I thought wouldn’t be that hard. I learned differently, finding my heart could be very critical even when I didn’t speak the words. It was a soul-searching experience.

I no longer attend that small church, but I carry with me a wealth of learning and love from my time there and the wisdom of the practice of Lent.

On this first day of the Lenten season for 2020, I contemplate how I can focus on Jesus’ journey toward Calvary’s cross. During the weeks leading us to Resurrection Sunday, I want to be intentional in opening my heart to the message that God was willing to pay my debt of sin, all because of love.

At Christmas we celebrate the God-man’s coming to earth with bright decorations, presents, family gatherings, and joy.

At Easter we celebrate life after death, defeat of the grave, miracles and wonders.

Lent is the in-between time, an arrow pointing us to Jesus’ determined journey toward Jerusalem, knowing His death was imminent. He would experience undeserved cruel and unusual punishment. He would be denied, abandoned, misunderstood, falsely accused, arrested, beaten, mocked, sentenced without a just trial, and led to his death.

The gospels give priority to the final weeks of Jesus’ life. There are details of the last meal with his close companions, the disciples. His trial and execution are reported thoroughly.

It would seem we should pay special attention. Can we do that together, pay special attention to what undoubtedly deserves our thoughtful consideration?

Each person will choose how to do that, whether by giving up something, adding to your daily spiritual practice, or simply noticing what is already a present activity. The purpose will be to remind us of the enormous and costly price our Lord paid for us, how His love for the souls of this world is beyond our comprehension, and that His sacrifice calls us to make a decision. The decision is to accept Him or not.

No other religion in the world offers grace like this. No other doctrine provides an eternal sacrifice for the sins of the world, for my sins. No one ever loved me like Jesus.

Will you join me on the journey to the cross?

We will meet here on Sundays and Wednesdays. I hope you will come along side. We can do this together.

In the waiting

Waiting. It’s not what I usually choose. I like a plan and the action that follows.

Yet, we all share time in the waiting room.

Waiting for Christmas as a tender child seemed interminable. 

Waiting my turn to give an oral report in high school was pure torture, wanting to get it over with while dreading it at the same time.

Waiting in the dentists office for the needle and the drill leaves me anxiously wringing my hands.

Waiting for the doctor to see me when I’ve already been there long is frustrating.

Waiting for the red light to change because I’m running late, I endure by counting the minutes.

We all wait for something. A phone call, a visit, a letter, a promotion, or a confirmation. We wait for a biopsy report, a positive on a pregnancy test, a return of strength after surgery, a healing of a broken heart. In the waiting, we wonder why it is taking so long.

After unexpected and unimaginable turn of events, a crucifixion that was mind boggling, Jesus’ disciples, friends and family huddled in fearful waiting, not knowing what they were waiting for.

All they knew for sure was that Jesus was dead. Some saw it happen. Some walked to the tomb where his linen-wrapped body was placed. Some heard the horrific details and could not comprehend how or why it happened.

They waited in their stupor of questions, uncertain of what lay ahead.

They were much like me when things don’t turn out the way I expected or planned or hoped they would. I am left wondering and waiting.

From my perspective I see the tomorrow that will come for Jesus’ followers, the empty tomb, the glory of His resurrection. If I could tell them anything, it would be this: It’s going to be alright. Just you wait and see.

And the message is the same for me. No matter my circumstances, as God’s beloved child, it’s going to be alright. I won’t necessarily understand at the moment. I may not fully know on this earth. But one day, things that hurt me will reveal their purpose. What I couldn’t understand will be made clear. I will see that the trials, the tears, and the pain had an objective and a goal, all in the mind of a sovereign and good Father, and all of it to conform me into the image of His dear Son.

The waiting room may not be the place I voluntarily go, but it is the place I will return to again and again. Perhaps I need to tell myself this right now.

It’s going to be alright. Just you wait and see.

Sunday grace

Very early in the morning while it is yet dark, I rise, remembering the words penned about  Mary. She made her heartbroken way to a garden expecting to offer the spices of death.

Instead, she was first to receive the hallelujah message and went to proclaim it with a glad and believing heart.

“I have seen the Lord!” she said.

When I was a small child, mother bought new clothes for me to wear on Easter morning, from socks and shoes to underwear and slip. Dress, hat and gloves were spanking and sparkling fresh. I was new from the hide out.

Today,  I reach for a skirt and top that’s been hanging in my closet for years. I add a purple sweater since it is a springy Easter-like color. I put on my mother’s vintage wind-up watch and the earrings my eldest granddaughter made for me when she was a child. I reach for two bracelets, gifts from good friends, adding the one that says “forgiven” and another with golden charms attached, words written on circles, “Messiah,” “King,” “Merciful,” “Jesus.”

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I’m not new from the hide out, but I am new from within, a new creation through Jesus.

What other philosophy, religious regulations, treatment plan, or heart surgery can make someone new? In the dark of a hidden meeting Nicodemus faltered at the idea of re-entering his mother’s womb to be reborn.

It was and is what Jesus offers to those who can believe He is who He says He is – Lamb of God, the Promised One, Redeemer, Mediator of a better covenant, intercessory Great High Priest.

No longer called a sinner, I am proclaimed saint, clothed in the righteousness of the One who is worthy of the title of Savior.

I once walked in darkness, but now I am in the light.

I once was lost, but now I am found.

I once wore the stained garments of my own sin, but now I am clean.

And like Mary, I proclaim, “I’ve seen the Lord!” He is alive forevermore.

Alleluia!

Sunday grace.

 

 

 

 

A Holy weekend

It is the last day of March, time for my March ending post, but the day seems too holy to be casual or frivolous about weather and a slow spring emerging.

Sweet William and I shared a Good Friday service last night with people of our congregation. It was solemn, quiet, thoughtful. We ate the bread and drank the cup, and I left the building with remembrance etched in my mind.

At home as we prepared for bed, I spied the Passover moon out the window, brilliant in a darkening sky. I’ve missed it during the grey days of March, it hiding behind layers of cloud. The moon beckoned me into a season of the holy.

This morning I searched for a hymnal with the song sung a capella at the end of the service. O Sacred Head Now Wounded is mournful, an appropriate ending to last night’s reverent gathering.

Two millennial ago, those who loved Jesus and watched Him die were been grief-striken on the Saturday following. Death in the most cruel and painful form was pressed upon One who’s only crime was doing good on the Sabbath and claiming equality with God.

Did they huddle in homes, no words spoken, for what could be said that would relieve their hearts, broken with the sadness of finality.

We call it Good Friday, not because of any earthly good that transpired but because an eternal good was at work, what would only be apparent in days to come.

There is hope today because of that Good Friday. Death is not the end of life. For those in Christ Jesus, it is only the beginning.

Take time to think of the reality of Jesus death and resurrection. It changed the world. It changed me. It can change you.

If you want to read a post about Good Friday from 2013, you may find it here.

See the source image

 

 

Sunday grace

The new day dawns grey again. Snow and rain this week kept Maisie and me indoors more than we like. I hear birds in the early morning, and from the upstairs window I see trees blooming white in the little woods.

But spring feels illusive.

This chilly day is Palm Sunday, the pivotal day in history when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. More than just an ordinary ride, He was fulfilling the promise of old, giving the onlookers one more sign of who He really was.

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
— Zechariah 9:9

Some recognized Him. Some did not. Some wanted to believe. Others choose to remain in their small world of skepticism.

There is so much to this simple story, the day of palm waving.

As people gather in churches to hear sermons about the one called Jesus, some will wave palm branches, some will wave away their boredom, some will wave at their friends, and some will wave away thoughts of tomorrow’s business.

All the gospels record Jesus entrance into the city and the beginning of His final week before the cross. The Jewish people were looking for a messiah, someone to save them from the tyranny of Rome, the cruelty of soldiers, the hopelessness of living without freedom.

They were looking for a king to rescue them.

Today we are still look for a rescuer.  Someone to make things better.  Someone to relieve our poverty.  Someone to raise our salaries.  Someone to give us what we want.  Someone to promise a better tomorrow.

No matter our nationality, our affiliations, our political persuasions, we want someone to come and save us, someone who will show us the way to a better life.

That Someone arrived in humble fashion on a Sunday two thousand years ago.  He came bringing peace.  He offered love.  He was hope.

But He didn’t fit the criteria of a king.  He was not the one they really wanted though He was the only One they desperately needed.

The One we are looking for is still Jesus.  He is the hope of all nations.  He is the answer to our questions.  He is the redeemer of our families.  He. Is. The. One. We. Need.

Wave the palms branches.  Lift your voice in praise.  Shout hosanna because blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

The King has come to save us.

Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.  Who is he, this King of glory?  The Lord Almighty – he is the King of glory.”

Sunday grace.
palm-sunday

 

Revised and reposted from March 2015

Sunday grace

Very early in the morning . . .

The night is over and the promise of a new day infringes upon the darkness. Just a glimpse of dawn-breaking at first light, but the sun will have its way.

Mary and the women came expecting death wrapped in linen. They found an empty tomb.

Peter, who denied three times, wondered where he would go from here, but he was found by the Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep.

Disciples, fearfully hiding behind closed doors, could not believe the reports they were told until He gloriously appeared to them.

Thomas, waiting a full week later, sees, believes and proclaims, “My Lord and my God.”

Evil did not triumph. Death was not the end. A tomb could not contain and hold the majesty of Heaven.

On the first day of the week, a new day dawned, a new covenant completed, the law of love becoming the seal of commitment.

Nothing in history equals it. No other man ever consummated such a magnificent plan. It was conceived in the mind of the God-head, designed before creation, predicted by the prophets, and accomplished through a Savior.

The Suffering Servant became the Victorious Champion, the Great High Priest who invites unto the very presence of a holy God.

 “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” — John 20:31

He lives! Celebrate His victory over death, hell, and the grave. Believe and accept the life He offers to whosoever will.

There is life in Jesus’ name.

Sunday grace.

Sunrise by MaRanda Green[photo by MaRanda Green]