Holy Week Mini-Devotions: Easter Sunday

 

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Read: Psalm 118:1-2, Jeremiah 31:1-6

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
2 Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”

Listen: Blessed Assurance – Elevation Worship

Readings: John 20:1-18; Matthew 28:1-10; Colossians 3:1-14

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Pray:

Lord,
Today we stand in the Garden of Gethsemane to find it empty.
You are not there.
All that is left is the light of the moon, holding midnight at bay.

Lord,
Today we stand on the Hill of the Skulls to find it still empty.
You are not there.
All that is left is a sunrise, conquering the darkness of the night.

Lord,
Today we stand outside your tomb to find it still empty.
You are not there.
All that is left in it is darkness, conquered by your light.

Lord,
Today we stand in your light. We are no longer empty
because you are here.
You are what’s left. You live forever.

Holy Week Mini-Devotions: Palm/Passion Sunday

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Read: Psalm 118:1-2

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
2 Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”

Listen: All Glory Laud and Honor; The Passover Song.

Readings: Matthew 21:1-11, Matthew 27:11-54

8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”


21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

“Barabbas,” they answered.

22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Pray/meditate:

Lord, far too often it is we who cry “Hosanna in the highest!”
before demanding the release of Barabbas.
Far too often do we spread fronds over your path,
only to leave you naked on the cross.
Far too often we crown you king
with a crown made of thorns.

We are so fallen, Lord.

We started this Lenten season in ashes,
mindful of those things we value above you
and your service,
mindful of our weaknesses
made perfect in your strength,
mindful of the sinful world
and the light of your kingdom in it.
This week we end Lent in blood:
in your sacrifice given and found perfect,
in your victory over the power of sin and death,
in your restoration and our redemption
(undeserved, often unwanted, but freely given.)

You have risen, Lord.

As we walk this week between the “Hosanna!”
and the “Crucify him!”,
help us to remember all that we’ve forgotten about grace.
Help us to remember the service of your life,
the sacrifice of your death,
the glory of your resurrection,
the power of your ascension,
and the promise of your Kingdom.
As you died, may we die to ourselves;
as you rose, may we rise to life in you.

We are lifted up, Lord.

Amen.


I’ll be posting more devotions on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

#CoffeeTimePrayer: Listening for Jesus’ voice

 

 

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Today’s reading: John 10:3-5 (NRSV)

 

3 “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

For the past few weeks, our women’s Bible study has been working through Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind. One of the lessons we’re learning is just what Jesus describes in John 10:3-5: learning to listen to Jesus’ voice and not to follow the voice of strangers. But I think we can go one step further and commit to not even recognising strangers’ voices.

You’re not good enough. Things will never change. Aren’t you tired of hoping they will? God doesn’t care. You’re such a bad person – a bad mother/a terrible husband/a lost cause. If we recognise these thoughts or their variations it’s because we’ve grown familiar with the enemy’s voice. Often we assume these thoughts – these lies – are just our own voices swirling back at us; another lie!

Learning to recognise and listen to Jesus’ voice is the only way to “unlearn” our recognition of the enemy’s voice. When we focus only on the voice of our Shepherd, other, conflicting voices will fail to reach our ears.

How do we do that? By listening to the voice of our Shepherd through prayer, the study of the Word, contemplation, fasting and worship.

We’re about halfway through Lent. If you haven’t set aside anything special, now may be a good time to pick one of the above practices (or others) and commit to them for the remainder of this Lenten season with the intent of growing more familiar with Jesus’ voice.

We don’t seem to have a problem hearing out the enemy and his poisonous monologues. Similarly, we won’t be able to learn Jesus’ voice unless we listen!

Prayer: Dearest Shepherd Jesus, I listen for your voice. I confess that your voice is the only one I’m interested in hearing! Help me to learn to listen to you, to find your voice in my heart, my prayers, my study and my meditation. Amen.

#CoffeeTimePrayer: A bad case of the smarts

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A few years back I read a book by James Bryan Smith in which he recounts an embarrassing incident at an event of some kind. A man spoke to him at length about author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s books. Smith hadn’t ever read any of them, but his initial lie that he had kept compounding as he continued talking to this guy. He felt horrible that his ego – wanting to be perceived as clever – had tempted him into this kind of behaviour, and he later apologised.

I think it’s a safe bet to say that none of us want to appear foolish. We want to be seen as smart, capable, understanding people. We want to be wise; failing that, opinionated! But if we are to live as Christians, Paul thought we should take a different tack.

1 When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NRSV)

Paul was a clever guy. He was a Pharisee, trained under a rabbi, well-known in Jerusalem even before his conversion to the Way. A zealot. A patriot. He wasn’t the kind of guy you’d idly pick an argument with in a bar. But in the second verse he writes that he consciously, deliberately stepped away from all that knowledge and status: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” To him, knowing Jesus and knowing that he’d died and risen was enough. Paul stopped putting faith in his own knowledge and ability, instead reserving that faith for God.

Do we rely on our own smarts, or do we rely on God’s?

I ask because being a Christian often means not doing the “smart” thing, “smart” by worldly standards at least. It would be smart to be cynical about the world, knowing what we do of it; but that’s not Christian. Christians live in hope. It would be smart to be more circumspect about who receives our care; after all, there are people out there who might take advantage of it. But that’s not Christian. Christians live in love. It would be smart to be anxious about our future, faced as we are with a plethora of problems on local, national and international levels. But that’s not Christian – Christians have peace.

First century Christians in the Roman world, like those in Corinth, lived in a time where their behaviour was seen as strange and foolish. Caring for the sick, the poor, the abandoned, for discarded children and ailing grandparents, for prisoners and outcasts – these things weren’t actually the norm back then. Welfare was a foreign concept. But the Way freely admitted women, slaves and foreigners into communal worship. They cared about and for each other. In a class-based society, this was weird, even dangerous. They went against the grain of their day.

Why abandon the wisdom of their societies? “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,” Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18. “But to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Like Paul, many of the first century Christians had found God in the very things their world considered foolishness.

Folks, we still find ourselves in a world where we need to go against the grain, perhaps now more than ever. Our world needs a whole lot of foolish love, foolish hope and foolish peace. A world where gender, nationality, race, religion and culture aren’t borders to draw but borders to cross. Will we decide to know nothing but Jesus Christ and his cross? Are we willing to risk being seen as fools – fools who love God and love their neighbours?

Lord, though the world faces many challenges, I choose to follow your wisdom of love, hope and peace every day. Amen.

#CoffeeTimePrayer: The good fats

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Today’s reading is from the third chapter of Leviticus (I know, but try to contain your excitement! 🙂

1 If your offering is a fellowship offering, and you offer an animal from the herd, whether male or female, you are to present before the Lord an animal without defect. 2 You are to lay your hand on the head of your offering and slaughter it at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Then Aaron’s sons the priests shall splash the blood against the sides of the altar. 3 From the fellowship offering you are to bring a food offering to the Lord: the internal organs and all the fat that is connected to them, 4 both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, which you will remove with the kidneys. 5 Then Aaron’s sons are to burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering that is lying on the burning wood; it is a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. (NIV)

Unlike sin offerings, thanksgiving or fellowship offerings weren’t obligatory. They weren’t mandated. They were simply a way for the Israelites to show their gratitude toward God. And so God’s altar got the kidneys, liver and the fat around the entrails – the choicest bits, according to my study Bible! The law declared that “all fat belongs to God” (v5).

Martin Luther once commented, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Psh, we say, only three?! Sit down back with the average kids, Martin Luther! But honestly, when I’m busy, prayer and devotions are the first things that get shunted a few slots down my to-do list. Googling “devotionals”, there’s a bunch of quick devotions for hectic schedules. In fact, that’s how #CoffeeTimePrayer started out – the idea was to have devotions that are a cup of coffee long.

But is God really worth so little of our time and our attention? What do we give him instead of the “choice fats” of our lives? A drumstick of prayer every now and then?

Working through Isaiah, I got a jolting answer to that question. In Isaiah 43:22-24 God reprimands the Israelites:

Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob;
but you have been weary of me, O Israel!
You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings,
or honored me with your sacrifices…
You have not bought me sweet cane with money,
or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices.
But you have burdened me with your sins;
you have wearied me with your iniquities. (NRSV)

That made me pause. Unlike the Israelites, we no longer have to pitch up to the tabernacle or the temple with an oblivious goat in tow – instead, in Christ, our lives become the thanksgiving offering. Whatever we do, good or bad, is laid on God’s altar, waiting for fire to descend:

Every morning
I lay out the pieces of my life
on your altar
and watch for fire to descend. (Psalm 5:1-3 MSG)

The question is, then, what are we putting on God’s altar? What is our thanksgiving offering? Is it all the choice bits of fat – our love and obedience – or is it all the cast-off bits – our sins, our ingratitude, our distance from God?

If like me your answer to this question wouldn’t get you any gold stars in Sunday school, be comforted by the fact that even as our frankly terrible thanksgiving offerings turn to smoke, God forgives us:

I, I am He
who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins. (Isaiah 43:25 NRSV)


Lord, I choose to make You my priority each day. Amen.


Have a good week,

Lee