Archive for category Lent
It’s actually true—less is more. Jesus tried to be a humble servant. In doing so, he was exalted and his name was lifted above all names. He wasn’t striving to be lifted up. He was striving to be obedient. All of us seek ways to be honored. “Do you know who I saw last week?” we ask our friend after an encounter with a celebrity. “May I have your autograph?” we beg, so we’ll have proof of our brush with greatness. We hope our status might climb if we connect with someone mighty. Jesus wasn’t looking for the limelight. He was looking for the hungry, the naked and the lowly. He was looking to serve. That’s why his name is above all names. That’s why he is worthy of our worship and praise.
Lord, let me serve you by being a humble servant to others. Amen.
It is easy to feel small and unimportant in the world, easy to believe that our small accomplishments cannot really make a difference. We see a big world, with all its trouble and woe, and wonder if our piddly contributions make any impact at all. We ask ourselves, “Does my life count?” At such times, we need to consider a candle. How small and quiet and unassuming is the light of one candle. Yet all the darkness in the world cannot overcome it. One candle’s light dispels all the darkness. Just one. You are a child of the light. Just one. Shine.
Lord, make me your child of the light and help me shine. Amen.
It was impossible for Jesus to be held in death’s power. Impossible. What a strong word. Death never stood a chance. There are times when it appears that death has the upper hand. We hear story upon story of death’s seeming grip on the human family. Everything dies: institutions, marriages, friendships, people. Judging from appearances, we could only conclude one thing: It is impossible to defeat death. Not with Jesus. No, Jesus is the life-giver. Jesus resurrects institutions, friendships, marriages and people. It is impossible for death to conquer Jesus. Impossible.
Lord, help me see your resurrection power at work in the world. Amen.
“How can young people keep their ways pure?” the Psalmist asks. It’s a very good question. When you stop and consider all the ways there are for young people to go wrong, it’s a wonder any of them goes right. Yet what young people seek is no different than what any of us seeks. They want to know that they belong, that they matter to someone, that they are loved. They want to make a significant contribution to the human family. What they need to know is that they are children of God. They do belong. They do matter. They are loved. Bring them into God’s family. Make them full members of the household of faith. Give them something important to do. And you will have them forever.
Lord, help us see the young people with your eyes and love them with your heart. Amen.
Jesus says to Martha, the sister of Lazarus, “Your brother will rise again.” That’s quite a promise. Can Jesus keep it? It should not surprise us if we are skeptical. For one thing, it is a very hefty promise. Also, we have heard our share of promises and had our share of disappointments. Promises, it seems, are far easier to make than they are to keep, and it’s up to the one making the promise to keep it. Jesus makes no empty promises, here or anywhere. He goes to the tomb where Lazarus has been laid and brings him forth from the dead, just as he said he would. Jesus makes promises. And he keeps them.
Lord, as you kept your promise to Martha so keep your promise to be the resurrection and the life of all who trust in you. Amen.
Jesus is not an innovation or detour in the story of God’s relationship with God’s many children. This is a basic thesis of each of the Gospel writers. Here, at the close of Luke’s narrative, Jesus helps his disciples understand the Scriptures to demonstrate that the seemingly shocking and shameful crucifixion was actually central to God’s plan. God’s promises have remained in effect and are wholly irrevocable. In these verses, Jesus prepares his followers for the difficult days ahead, too incredible to believe. They would be his witnesses even in those dark days. They would be bearers of God’s precious gift in the form of the Holy Spirit.
The images of Revelation are both fascinating and distressing. They emerge from communities of faith trying to make sense of a senseless world. Theirs was a world marked by the dominance of an imperial force that controlled every aspect of their lives. A distant power shaped every minute of every day, and could at any moment choose to end life as they knew it. Revelation confesses faith in a God who is ever present, ever powerful, ever just. This God might share some attributes with the powerful emperor, but they are as different as night and day. The powerful destroy the earth and oppress the people. God breathes life and justice at every moment.
The Greek term from which we get our word “apocalypse” means “unveiling” or “revelation.” As a piece of apocalyptic literature, Revelation reveals something to the world that could not have otherwise been known. Such revelation is so great that it requires powerful, mysterious images to communicate it. Much is revealed in Revelation, and yet when the seven thunders speak, John is required to seal those words away. Why include this moment of obscurity in a book of revelation? Perhaps here we see the very essence of faith as that powerful combination of hope and uncertainty.
Perhaps faith is believing the unbelievable. When two blind men approach Jesus, he asks them whether they think he is even capable of healing them. Their response is unequivocal: “Yes, Lord.” Jesus’ response confirms their faith: “According to your faith, let it be done to you.” How did they believe? After a lifetime of false promises and hope, after years of resignation, why would they now believe? Might doubt have crept into the back of their minds? I would imagine it must have—for faith is not the same as certainty. Faith is hope, not knowledge; trust, not mere assurance. Perhaps faith is believing the unbelievable and rejoicing when the unimaginable appears before us.
We live in a culture where authority is mistrusted. Too many times, those in authority have abused their power for their own gain, leaving us suspicious. Too often, authority is used to oppress and punish. Some things never change. Psalm 146 presents a sharp contrast between those transitory princes, those ephemeral powers that we ought not trust and the everlasting Lord on whom we can safely rely. A mere two verses summarize the flaws of mortal authority. Death guarantees an end to their power. In contrast, the attributes of the Lord take up the rest of the verses in this brief Psalm. The kings of earth pale in comparison.