Saturday, April 7, 2012

HOLY SATURDAY, APRIL 7, 2012--HOLY WEEK--EVENING MEDITATION


In the Darkness

Scripture:  Job 14: 5-7

Today is one of the darkest and saddest days on earth-- the day we sit by the tomb and wait.  If we are looking for companions in our waiting, Job is a good place to start. As a righteous man who has lived a God-fearing life, the book of Job tells us of what happens when "bad things happen to good people."   Job loses everything: his wife, his children, his home, his livelihood and later even his health. And, he has a choice in his personal state of darkness. Will he curse God and die? Or, will he keep hope alive? 

Job chooses to wait on the Lord, but does so not in a "holier than thou" fashion of singing praise songs and collecting roses for bouquets to give to the homeless. No, he tells God to leave him alone. He thinks about how nice it would be to feel cut down like a tree. He really wants the pain of his losses to stop.

As we wait with Jesus on this dark day, as many of us are surrounded by situations in our own lives which are full of suffering, sickness and injustice -- we wait with a God who can take whatever it is that we have to say to him. We can be honest. We can speak our minds and know that even as the darkness looms and the light seems far away, we serve a God who hears us no matter what. Nothing can separate us from God's love. Not even death!

DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL

You can pray with all your might
 Till your knuckles all turn white
 You can look the other way
 Hope it’s gone with each new day

You can do your best to hide
 You can hold it all inside
 You can curse and shake your fist
 You can ask why God why this

There is peace somewhere I’m told
 There’s a fire out in the cold
 There are wonders to behold
 In the dark night of the soul
You can give in to your doubts
 Try to figure it all out
 You can fight the fight alone
 Do your best to drink it gone

There is peace somewhere I’m told
 There’s a fire out in the cold
 There are wonders to behold
 In the dark night of the soul
Trust your spirit to be your guide
 You’ll come out on the other side

In the absence of the light
 Let the shadows hold you tight
 You can let your fear and pain
 Wash over you like rain

There is peace somewhere I’m told
 There’s a fire out in the cold
 There are wonders to behold
 In the dark night of the soul
In the dark night of the soul

By Kate Campbell & Walt Aldridge
 © Large River Music (BMI)
 Cross Key Publishing Co. Inc./Waltz Time Music Inc. (ASCAP)

Prayer:  God, we are overwhelmed by the sadness of this day and of what has been done to you, Jesus. We fall beside the tomb this night in grief, in despair and in solidarity with all those around our world who are living in darkness as we speak: those who do not know you as Lord of all. Hold us tight, O God, in the dark as we wait. Remind us somehow, someway that you are with us and have not left us to face our perils alone.  AMEN.

 The Reverend Elizabeth Hagan

HOLY SATURDAY, APRIL 7, 2012--HOLY WEEK--MORNING MEDITATION


Ponder and Wrestle

Scripture:  Mark 15:44-47
"When Pilate learned from the centurion that Jesus was dead, Pilate gave the dead body to Joseph." (Common English Bible, v.45)

It was Holy Saturday. The phone rang. What we feared had happened. The young mother we had anointed on Wednesday died. The day was a blur: driving to the hospital, calling out to God, holding family and friends, making phone calls, crying and wondering how anyone would dare to step into the pulpit on Easter Sunday.

But today is Holy Saturday and there are no answers, only wondering if this is just a bit of what the disciples felt on that first Holy Saturday, knowing that their Lord Jesus was crucified, dead and buried. Wondering if all we believe about resurrection, life after death, eternity, the communion of saints can carry us through this day. The Lord knows that this is not a place where we can stay for long, but today we need to be here and ponder.  We need to wrestle with the demons. We need to wrestle with God.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, our souls are clouded over with the knowledge of your death and the death of others. But do not forsake us, for we cannot do this on our own. Amen.

 The Reverend Gloria McCanna

Friday, April 6, 2012

GOOD FRIDAY, APRIL 6, 2012--HOLY WEEK--EVENING MEDITATION


Complete Surrender

Scripture:  Luke 23:46

If we read earlier in this passage, we know that symbols of this death were all around before Jesus spoke his last words. Darkness fell over the whole land. The sun literally stopped shinning in disapproval. Many signs of God’s presence in creation were gone. It was a shattering moment— a moment that people of faith or no faith at all were forced to recognize. Everything was changing. Everything had changed with those last breaths of the One who was called God with Us.

Yet, if you have sat beside anyone as they lie dying, you know that the last of the last words are always hauntingly important. They are the words that stick with us, that we hear played in our heads over and over after a loved one has passed. We recite these words to others. We often remember them more than anything else the dying person had said previously.

So let us remember this: when Jesus uttered his last, we hear in this utterance an acceptance of his death. What we hear is not a combative last wish, or an “I wish I’d done more of this” or “Why really do I have to die this way?” Or, “Why aren’t there more people here mourning my death?” But, an, “I accept the fact that even though this all is so painful and uncertain- I WILL leave this earth in acknowledgement of my Father God.”  “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.” 

Even more so, what we hear in these words is a TRUST in the Father to handle what he could not—the outcome. In his last words, Jesus showed a surrender beyond what his human body could feel. Jesus showed a surrender beyond what his human mind could reason. He was able to let go of human life and what many would call his hour of defeat without trying to change anything. He was about his Father's business.

Prayer:  So, in the darkness of the night as we sit to wait for the light to come, let us trust God too as we say: ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit.” AMEN.

 The Reverend Elizabeth Hagan

GOOD FRIDAY, APRIL 6, 2012--HOLY WEEK--MORNING MEDITATION


No Answers

Scripture:  Mark 15:1-15
"Pilate questioned Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “That’s what you say.” The chief priests were accusing him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Aren’t you going to answer? What about all these accusations?” But Jesus gave no answers so that Pilate marveled."(Common English Bible, vv 2-5)

Just when answers would have saved the day, when answers would have saved his very life, Jesus clams up. And strangely, instead of Pilate ridiculing Jesus, he marvels at this one before him that has caused an uproar in the religious community.

The need to defend, explain or prove ourselves slips away when our confidence rests in God and not in ourselves. Though accusations may be hurled at us, they seem to fade into thin air, when we know that who we are and what we are called to do is embraced by God.

Is this what the Pilates of the world are waiting to see: a church confident, not cocky, and believers serving not demanding? Even in the face of death, Jesus calls us to model his behavior in a way that will cause the world to marvel and then believe the One who proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth and the light.”

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, though the questions are many, we seek to follow you. Help us in the hours that are too dark for us to bear, and remind us that the Light of the World has already come. Amen.

 The Reverend Gloria McCanna

Thursday, April 5, 2012

MAUNDY THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2012--HOLY WEEK--EVENING MEDITATION


Love That Doesn't Make Any Sense

Scripture:  John 13:1

When Peter’s beloved friend, teacher and One whom he has previously called the “Christ, Son of the Living God” proceeds to take off his outer clothing and wrap a towel around his waist, Peter freaks out. “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” And when Jesus said yes, Peter replies: “No, you shall never wash my feet!” 

Peter thought Jesus’ place was not on the ground. Didn’t Jesus know that the servant of lowest rank was given this task? Didn’t Jesus know that in this culture service and humility were despised as attributes of good slaves? Didn’t Jesus know that acts of humility like this were seen as signs of weakness? Didn’t Jesus know that his position and reputation as a man in society would be seriously damaged from this point on when word got out that he was now in the foot-washing business?

Jesus knew the disciples had no clue why he was humbling himself in this manner. When they recalled this night weeks, months and years after the fact, they still might be scratching their heads about it all. Yet, he did it anyway; he was showing them a love that didn’t make sense.
Jesus knew his act of love would be in no way paid back. Our text never tells us that any of the disciples washed Jesus’ feet. Yet, he washed their feet anyway; he was showing them a love that didn’t make any sense. 

Jesus knew that Judas, the one who would soon hand Jesus over to the chief priests and authorities, was sitting at the table. Soon Jesus would feel the pains of betrayal at their deepest level from Judas’ feet. Yet, Jesus washed Judas' feet anyway; he was showing his disciples a love that didn’t make any sense.

This is the love of Jesus that we are called to show to our community this day. How might a love that doesn't make any sense lead you in service to others?

Prayer:  Servant Lord, we thank you for your great outpouring of love for us both at the basin and on the cross. Teach us to get off our lofty stools and on to the floor, not so that others can abuse us or mistreat us, but so that we can be instruments of your love. AMEN.

 The Reverend Elizabeth Hagan

MAUNDY THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2012--HOLY WEEK--MORNING MEDITATION


Trust

Scripture:  Mark 14:13-16
"Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city. A man carrying a water jar will meet you. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house. ‘The teacher asks, “Where is my guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’’ He will show you a large room upstairs already furnished. Prepare for us there.” The disciples left, came into the city, found everything just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover meal. "(Common English Bible, vv 13-16)

Jesus does it again. He asks his disciples to go and do what seems to be so unreasonable. “Go,” he says to these 2 disciples, “just go and follow the guy with a jug of water and everything will be fine. Trust me.” 

It’s been almost 3 years for the disciples, and I’m guessing a bit longer for most of us.  We are called to trust Jesus and go into the city, the suburbs and the country, to find those who are already preparing places for us. We are invited to pull a chair up to the Table and receive from the Host the gifts of God for the people of God.

Do we trust that all things are now ready?

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, you ask us to trust and then you surprise us by working out even the most minuscule details. Today as we gaze upon The Table, we wonder, what does all this mean for the world? But we will trust you and dare to eat and drink with the hope that our hungering soul will be fed. Amen.

 The Reverend Gloria McCanna

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4, 2012--HOLY WEEK--EVENING MEDITATION


Be Quiet!

Scripture:  I Corinthians 1: 27-31

Wednesday of Holy Week is one of the quietest of them all. Biblical scholars aren't sure what happened on this day, as there is nothing explicitly recorded as happening. All we know is that Jesus was most likely in Bethany and spent the night there. In the storm of controversy which was to come, it was good for Jesus  to have a "quiet" day, don't you think? (When is the last time you took a day off for Sabbath?)

There's a popular notion in cultural Christianity that our worth is based on what we do for God. The more we do and the more people who know us and affirm our ministry, the more we are loved by God and the more blessed we are. Yet, even here in the midst of the holiest of weeks, Jesus reminds us that such an attitude is totally off-base. It is not the busy that God chooses to use; it is the foolish-- the foolish who take a day off in the middle of a busy week so that they have something of God to say at the end.

Though it is popular wisdom to go and "be all that we can be," it is good to stop and remember in quietness that ultimately life is not all about us. And, we are beloved by God in our resting, as much in our doing.

Prayer:  Lord God, as night falls this evening, remember me of the blessedness of rest. May my mind be cleared of every thought, every worry, every concern, and may those ideas be placed in your hands, so that when I rise in the morning, I may be filled up and able to take another step toward the cross again. AMEN.

 The Reverend Elizabeth Hagan

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4, 2012--HOLY WEEK--MORNING MEDITATION


Prepare

Scripture:  Mark 14:1-9
"During dinner, a woman came in with a vase made of alabaster and containing very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke open the vase and poured the perfume on Jesus head." (Common English Bible, v. 3)

It was three days after this young parishioner gave birth to her second child and she lay in a coma, unresponsive. The pain and suffering in the room was so thick it was hard to breathe. But on the other side of the hospital, a baby girl was being rocked, fed and loved. The sweetness brought tears to our eyes.

On that Wednesday of Holy Week, I anointed the mother and daughter with violet scented oil. And we prayed. We pounded on heaven’s door and begged for God’s blessings and grace in a way that many of us had never prayed before. And had there been a hundred alabaster vases, I would have broke everyone of them open and poured out the perfume on everyone present, for nothing would have been too costly on that day.

Prayer:  O Lord, as the woman with the alabaster vase prepared you for the days ahead, prepare us. Pour out on us your riches – your love and grace, your forgiveness and mercy, your peace and joy – that by your anointing we might see all in the light of eternity. Amen.

 The Reverend Gloria McCanna

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