Archive for March, 2015

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Lent Day 36

March 31, 2015

Mark 14: 10-11 (NRSV): Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

Judas. Not a name with a positive connotation. How could he do what he did?
I would never do that. Or, maybe I just wouldn’t be so blatant in my betrayal. Is it possible betray Jesus on a daily basis?

When I take His name in vain, am I betraying Him? I say yes.

When I ignore the ‘least of these,’ am I betraying Him? I say yes.

When I am impatient or angry with my loved ones, am I betraying Him? I say yes.

What about when I ignore opportunities to share the good news of God’s grace and eternal life? When I don’t take join into a discussion with a group about why I believe and attend church when they all say they don’t get it and won’t spend their time that way? When I skip my morning time for devotions?

Yes, I think all of those are examples of how I am a Judas, even though I don’t want to be a betrayer. As I finish this year’s Lenten journey, I again give thanks that God loves me no matter what. His forgiveness is endless and His grace is mine through only my faith. Thank you, God, and please continue to be with me to guide me and keep me from betrayal. Amen.

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Lent Day 35

March 30, 2015

Holy Week has begun. This final week of Jesus’ life some 2,000 years ago. The solemnity of Lent deepens as we move toward Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

It’s hard to fathom, isn’t it? That our loving God and Father would bring His Son to us only for him to die for us. It’s the opposite of what most human parents would do. We would give our own lives before we’d give up our children’s lives if we had the choice.

I wonder if that was a hard decision for God. Of course I can think only in human terms whereas God has a much grander vision. Still, for even a moment did He want to stop this course of action?

We know that Jesus, in his humanness, wanted to stop it at one point. “Remove this cup from me,” he pleads. Then, according to Mark, immediately returns to doing what God wants, not what Jesus wants.

Mark 14: 32-42 (NRSV): Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

32 They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34 And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” 35 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” 37 He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? 38 Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. 41 He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

If only my faith was always so strong. It is not. I say I want to do God’s will when in reality I want God to want (and provide) what it is I want. Thankfully, He knows better and does not listen to me. Our Almighty Father loves us all and protects us every minute of our lives.

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Sixth Sunday in Lent: Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday

March 29, 2015

This is one of my favorite Sundays in our church year, as is Easter Sunday. Only in recent years has the church started putting emphasis on both the joy of Palm Sunday and the pain of Passion Sunday. I liked it better when it was just Palm Sunday.

I like the palms and the celebratory feel. Jesus is coming! Riding into town on a donkey with crowds greeting him with cheers and waving their palms. Lutherans are a bit stoic so I don’t know that we truly celebrate Palm Sunday with the level of joy it is due.

My favorite scene in the movie, Jesus Christ Superstar, is the Palm Sunday scene. The Hosanna song is glorious and for me expresses the joy we should all feel today.

Of course, just a few days later, the same crowd calls for Pontius Pilate to crucify Jesus. As we remember all this, our joy is mixed with grief. Thankfully, we know now that Jesus will rise from the dead and secure eternal life for us all.

One of the songs in Jesus Christ Superstar that Judas sings, put the question in my mind about what would happen in today’s world if Jesus came to us now. How would we react?

Mostly I think that since God is omniscient and all of this was God’s plan, we would do the same thing they did some 2,000 years ago. I want to believe that we would not be so hateful.

Who am I trying to kid? Collectively, we’re hateful every day in today’s world. For just as many illogical and emotional reasons as they were then.
God loves us anyway and was willing to sacrifice His son for us. Weak and hateful sinners that we are.

On this Palm and Passion Sunday, I offer the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, Lord I Lift Your Name on High. For me, it captures the joy of Palm Sunday and the reality of Passion Sunday, in a prayerful and joyful way.

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Lent Day 34

March 28, 2015

Our 40-day Lenten journey will reach its end next week. It’s a little hard to believe and yet by writing daily, it seems longer in ways. God has been with me every step of the way because I wasn’t sure I would have something to write about and yet I have. Some have even liked what I’ve written – a bonus for me. Thank you.

Starting tomorrow with Palm/Passion Sunday, things began to change for Jesus. Instead of love and praise for him, people turned and began to call for his death.

It is usually an emotional week for me. Palm Sunday is so joyous and celebratory. It makes me happy and thankful. But then I remember it soon changes.

Isn’t that kind of how life is for most of us, too? Everything is going along great, just the way we ‘planned,’ and then bam, out of nowhere crisis or tragedy strikes.

I learned yesterday that doctors just diagnosed the 15-year-old son of one of my coworkers (a single mom) with cancer. I don’t know any other details, nor do I need to know, but it makes me feel sick and there’s nothing I can do to fix it.

It’s also a scary reminder that none of us have control despite our ‘plans.’ In all of that, it’s important to remember that God is with us. Even when it feels like we’re alone in this horrible thing. We are not alone and it’s important for us that we turn to God even when it feels hard to do.

The rest of us need to also turn to God for guidance and direction on what was can do in our limited human ways. We can pray. We can listen. We can give hugs (when appropriate and welcome). We can bring food or other supplies. We can raise funds. We can do yard work or housework or laundry or grocery shopping. We can just be there with them.

I pray my coworker’s situation will turn out to be less ominous than cancer always sounds. I pray that God will end all such illnesses. And I will celebrate both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday knowing that on the other side of the sadness coming next week, will be the amazing gift of Eternal Life.

Matthew 9: 18-26 (NRSV) A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

18 While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue[d] came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. 20 Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.23 When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. 26 And the report of this spread throughout that district.

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Lent Day 33

March 27, 2015

Spring storm season started this week with a vengeance. In Arkansas and Oklahoma, ‘tornado alley’ struck again.

I never understand why God lets these things happen. Moore, Oklahoma, got hit again this week. I can only try to imagine how frightening that had to be for all of them in that town.

I’ve seen tornadoes on stormy summer evenings in North Dakota. They scare me and thankfully my home and town never got hit. But I respect tornadoes. They are powerful.

I wonder how many people in Moore trusted in God as either of those monster tornadoes approached them. Would I? I know I forget to do that sometimes, especially in the midst of a crisis. I wonder how confident in God I would feel after what so many there experienced in 2013. I think I might feel that God abandoned us then so I wouldn’t want to count on Him now.

Maybe – hopefully – they also see that God was with them afterward. Through each other and through the others who provided resources to help them rebuild. Hopefully they see that God cares for us in ways we don’t understand and can’t imagine.

It doesn’t mean it will be easy or devoid of fear or struggle for us as we journey through our lives. But He is there – always.

Matthew 28:20 (NRSV): “and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

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Lent Day 32

March 26, 2015

Yesterday I blogged about Vanuatu and all the island’s food being gone. This morning I read a news story about a fight over food between brothers in Pasco County, Florida. I don’t know if that means the fight was over not enough food or one wanting something another had.

Regardless, two of the brothers are dead this morning. One of them shot two brothers and one died. The shooter then killed himself. All while their mom was at work.

Once again a tragic, sad story. Unfathomable to me. From what I know of Pasco County it is a poor county and the people are as hard as life is there.
It reminds me again that as Christians, God calls us to help and serve the needy. Do we respond? Not always. Many of us try but a few of us cannot help everyone.

I ask God to help us all to answer His call and serve when and where we can. I also pray that God be with what is left of this Pasco County family. Help the mother and remaining sons through their grief. Comfort them with the knowledge that You now have her sons in Your almighty embrace. Amen.

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Lent Day 31

March 25, 2015

It’s Thanksgiving and Christmas when we tend to think about helping others, at least in America. Yet this Lent offers us all an opportunity to help those in need.

Little more than a week ago, Cyclone Pam destroyed the island of Vanuatu and other South Pacific areas. I heard Friday on NPR that within just three days, the people of that island will have no food left. The cyclone destroyed all their gardens and food sources. That’s almost unfathomable in America, at least in my life.

We have food insecurity in our country yet the country still has food. If I understood the news story correctly, Vanuatu will have no food anywhere.
In my Lent Begins blog, I talked about ‘taking up’ rather than ‘giving up’ for Lent. Perhaps this is what that really means. Taking up the work to help an entire country now left with nothing.

I think that is what God expects of us. At all times. Not just at Christmas when we’re all in the holiday spirit. As Christians, helping others when and where we can is part of the discipleship God calls us to.

I’m not brave enough to go to places like Vanuatu as a relief worker. Some will and thank God for them. I can donate some money to try to help those families rebuild. Unfortunately, I don’t see anything on my church’s national website, http://www.elca.org (unless I missed it), about relief fundraising to help Vanuatu. I found this UNICEF website that is raising funds for Vanuatu. Please consider giving through your favorite source.