Lenten Meditations 2020
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.
By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.
—The Book of Common Prayer, 1979
Lenten Meditations is offered by the worshiping community, clergy, and staff of Trinity Church Wall Street to offer reflection and inspiration throughout this holy season. Provided by the Congregational Council, it is produced by congregational volunteers, the Faith Formation and Education Department, and the Communications Department, who express gratitude to all who contributed to this book and to all who are blessed by it. Thanks especially to Emory Edwards, Mildred Chandler, New Beginnings, Lynn Goswick, Rea Ackerman, and Valerie Smith for coordinating Lenten Meditations 2020.
Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020
Joel 2:1–2, 12–17; Psalm 103; 2 Corinthians 5:20b–6:10; Matthew 6:1–6, 16–21
At a conference this past summer, Dr. Maurice Stinnett, vice president of diversity and inclusion for the Brooklyn Nets, described the confusion that many people have between self-indulgence and self-care. His point was not lost on me.
Self-indulgence can be used as a justification for overeating, overspending, or engaging in unhealthy distractions. Sure, indulgences can be fun, but, long term, they do not contribute to our personal well-being or advancement. Self-care, such as meaningful reading, exercise, reflection, or taking time for loved ones, can lead us to self-improvement and a more lasting satisfaction.
As I read today’s lessons, my mind turned to Paul’s letter to the Romans: what shall separate us from the love of God? I think we separate ourselves. Jesus holds up a mirror of images to make the point. We separate ourselves through narcissism, pride, hubris, or insincerity. God sees us as we are, not through the elaborate constructs we make for ourselves or to impress others.
Lent challenges us to set aside unhealthy distractions and desires for something true. What is separating you from God’s love? We are called to put down those things and reunite with the eternal. God awaits, longing and urging for our return.
May this book from your fellow parishioners be a comfort, blessing, and guide during this Holy Season.
Chair, Lenten Meditations
Thursday, February 27, 2020
Deuteronomy 30:15–20; Psalm 1; Luke 9:18–25
Growing up, I had a bad habit of walking on the lawn. I also remember distinctly warning Spike, my childhood Shih-Poo, against playing in the garden because of the soil-manure-mulch mix messing up his coat. It may also have been because my mother would definitely hold me accountable, but that’s a think piece for another time. Needless to say, Spike wanted no part of my ironic advice and did his own thing. Eventually, I spotted the correlation and broke my habit, and so did Spike.
Lent for me has taken on new meaning as an adult. I’ve been prompted to think about how I can help the Spike in myself and in others. Sometimes that means doing some inspection on how I show up for others and myself, and taking actionable steps to some solution. I found that today’s scriptures not only remind us that we are not our own, but also that we have work to do.
As we progress over this Lenten season, let us remember that our actions speak louder than words.
Friday, February 28, 2020
Isaiah 58:1–9a; Psalm 51:1–10; Matthew 9:10–17
Read: Isaiah 58:1–9a | Psalm 51:1–10 | Matthew 9:10–17 (NRSV)
Desire closeness with God?
Do to Do:
Do for Me?
Do to Be!
Do for He!!
“Day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways”?
“Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight”:
“Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day and to strike with a wicked fist”?
“Truth in the inward being...Let me hear joy and gladness”!
“‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’...loose the bonds of injustice...undo the thongs of the yoke...let the oppressed go free...break every yoke...share your bread with the hungry...bring the homeless poor into your house...when you see the naked, to cover them...not to hide yourself from your own kin... remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil”!!
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
Saturday, February 29, 2020
Isaiah 58: 9b–14; Psalm 86:1–11; Luke 5:27–32
Prayer and following the teachings of God the Creator is not about mindlessly reciting memorized prayers or begging to be spared suffering because you pray every day so therefore are a “good disciple” and a “good Christian.”
We are part of God the Creator, therefore all that we do is a form of prayer and communication with God, which means our every action is a record of our prayers and our communication with God. If we are of service to each other, we are doing the work of God on this plane of existence, which keeps us in clear undistorted communication with God.
When we are not following our true path of service, that of care, love and compassion, but instead become self-serving and narcissistic, we have lost our way and are no longer communicating effectively with God; showing that we are in need of God’s guidance.
Sunday, March 1, 2020
Deuteronomy 26:1–11; Romans 10:8b–13; Luke 4:1–13; Psalm 91:1–2, 9–16
We are a few days beyond Ash Wednesday. We have prayed to our God to help us grow to be better persons and to follow through on the commands given us by our Heavenly Father.
This was the desire of Adam and Eve at the beginning of creation. God gave them the commands to follow—they tried! Their human instinct allowed them to be influenced by Satan into committing the first act of sinfulness. Sin entered! Sin continues! Humanity continues to try to correct itself. As we look at our world today, we see evidence of our attempt to follow God’s commands.
During our Lenten forty days, keep in memory and practice God’s commands—to portray love to one another, to practice justice in all we do, to follow God’s laws so that when God’s day of resurrection—Easter—comes we can look to our Father and say, we obey you, we have grown, we follow your commands. We give you thanks, we praise you! AMEN.
Monday, March 2, 2020
Leviticus 19:1–2, 11–18; Psalm 19:7–14; Matthew 25:31–46
“How will you see the face of Jesus today?”
Tuesday, March 3, 2020
Isaiah 55:6–11; Psalm 34:15–22; Matthew 6:7–15
The Lord’s Prayer is probably the most revered group of verses in the Christian canon. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” These words are found in Matthew 6:13 in the King James Bible. In the New Revised Standard Version, the same verse reads “and do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.” Tradition is one of the three legs of the source of belief in The Episcopal Church, the others being the scriptures and our own common sense.
Although I am not a believer in Biblical inerrancy, I grew up with the King James Bible and am still most comfortable with the beauty of its language. Yet I could really never accept the idea of being led into temptation by God. “Save us from the time of trial” was a welcome change for me, and the Revised Lord’s Prayer became my default version.
In a recent Bible study class, the two versions of the prayer came up for discussion. It was suggested that neither “lead us not into temptation” nor “save us from the time of trial” was totally satisfactory. Do we really believe that God will save or spare us from life’s difficulties? The idea that our lives could be free from the chaos and challenges of the world is not realistic. During the class it was suggested that a more appropriate substitution might be “Be with us during the time of trial and guide us from temptation.”
Am I suggesting that the words of the Lord’s Prayer should be changed yet again? No, but I am suggesting that the words should not be used to deny the validity of our personal understandings. In keeping with this, I am encouraged by Psalm 34:22 which reads, “The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned”.
My prayer: Would that each one of us, created in the image of God, be enabled to fully blossom.
Wednesday, March 4, 2020
Jonah 3:1–10; Psalm 51:11–18; Luke 11:29–32
God had given Jonah the same message before and Jonah didn’t pay attention. God doesn’t give up and this time Jonah listened and acted. The people of Nineveh listened to Jonah and acted on what he said. I wonder if Jonah ever dreamed it would be so easy! God saw this reaction of the people, God changed God’s mind and forgave the people of Nineveh. Somehow I found it comforting to learn that God changed God’s mind. But what struck me even more is that God doesn’t give up on getting our attention and calling us to respond.
When I thought about God continuing to call Jonah, I remembered how God never gave up in calling me to the Religious Life.
Having been told more than once that I was a “born” teacher, I became one. By my third year of teaching, I was pretty sure that this wasn’t for me. So, while continuing to teach, I started in graduate school and also filled out an application for the Peace Corps. I really felt that God was asking me to offer my whole self. Still not finding the peace I was looking for, I finally said, “Okay, Lord. I can’t believe you are calling me to this—it’s crazy—but I need to go and see.” Well, that was in 1968 and I’m still a member of the Society of St. Margaret today.
What about you? Might God be calling you? God won’t ever give up, so keep listening!
Sister Ann Whittaker
Thursday, March 5, 2020
Esther (Apocrypha) 14:1–6, 12–14; Psalm 138; Matthew 7:7–12
I really struggle with Matthew 7:1:“Do not judge others or you too will be judged.” I know I’ll be judged; I’m the first one doing the judging. I try to keep my judgments of others to myself, but they simmer. Reading from the beginning, into the reading for today (Matthew 7:7–7:12), instead of breaking it into chunks like I usually do, the words of my favorite hymn come alive: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Ask and it will be given unto you; seek and ye will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
My goal this Lent isn’t to not judge. Like trying not to think of pink elephants, trying not to judge elevates my unspoken judgments in my mind. As I judge (and I probably will), I’m trying to put a mental bubble around it as a judgment, let it go, and seek first the kingdom of God. Like Psalm 138 instructs, praising the Lord, through finding gratitude in all of God’s creation, can help focus my mind.
Friday, March 6, 2020
Ezekiel 18:21–28; Psalm 130; Matthew 5:20–26
Waiting for the Redemption of the Lord
The psalm for today is a beautiful song of appeal to God for forgiveness. It’s hard to imagine what the supplicant could have done but obviously he is repentant and asking to be forgiven. Perhaps a high holy holiday is approaching; perhaps he will die soon. Perhaps his country and people continue to suffer and he is overwhelmed by helplessness. Whatever the circumstances, he wishes to rid his soul of these burdens that plague him. The interesting part of this song is the supplicant’s claim that God’s forgiveness induces fear in those whom God forgives. It seems as though once forgiven one would not want to incur God’s wrath again. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we acted that way today? We can sense the urgency with which he earnestly and anxiously awaits a response. Perhaps there is probably a little frustration also because the answer to his request is that he should continue to hope for mercy but, (and here is the real answer) God is always merciful and will ultimately forgive, when one is truly repentant. Therefore, it is also a song of hope even to us today, as we continue to ask forgiveness for our own shortcomings and those of others whose actions directly affect our well-being and those of our global neighbors.
Saturday, March 7, 2020
Deuteronomy 26:16–19; Psalm 119:1–8; Matthew 5:43–48
“You have declared this day concerning the LORD that He is your God, and that you will walk in his ways.”
—Deuteronomy 26:17 (RSVCE)
“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.”
—Psalm 119:1 (NIV)
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
—Matthew 5:44 (NIV)
In the passages chosen above we are reminded that the Lord is our God and we should walk in His ways.
It is sometimes difficult to walk always in His ways and that our way is blameless who walk in the law of the Lord.
Jesus taught his disciples how to walk in His ways. The disciples very often found it difficult. He taught them how to pray as He gave them the Our Father prayer.
Prayer: Blessed are they that fear the Lord and walk in His ways.
Beloved parishioner Gabriel Bonadie died January 4, 2020 at the age of 94. A member of Trinity Church for 46 years, he was a co-founder of Trinity’s Task Force Against Racism, a Vestryman, an Epistoler, and a friend. Rest in peace and power, Gabriel. We will miss you.
Sunday, March 8, 2020
Genesis 12:1–4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1–5, 13–17; John 3:1–17
The quotidian phrase of “taking a leap of faith” is an elegantly simple way of ascribing an active image to the practice of faith. As Christians, having faith requires jumping beyond where our material knowledge ends, accepting the skepticism/doubts/fears we hold, and consciously making an intentional choice to bridge that cognitive gap to trust in God.
In the Genesis and Romans readings today, we see that God calls upon Abraham to leave behind everything he knows to settle in a new land. Abraham obediently abides and is justified by faith through righteousness. God’s difficult ask and the example modeled by Abraham is tempered with Psalm 121, which reassures us of the closeness of God in every part of our lives. This sense of proximity that melds into a oneness creates a virtuous circle that should embolden us to exercise our faith through action when presented with life’s myriad of circumstances.
Where is the Spirit moving you, and how will you respond?
“Christ be within us to keep us, beside us to guard, before us to lead, behind us to protect, beneath us to support, above us to bless” and may we always find comfort and shelter in your loving care. Amen.
Alan Baker Yu
Monday, March 9, 2020
Daniel 9:3–10; Psalm 79:1–9; Luke 6:27–38
We are living in a time of division unlike any I’ve known in my lifetime—even the time of the Vietnam War. I have friends and family I haven’t spoken with since the 2016 election. It’s hard to imagine finding common ground with them on life’s important issues.
In today’s readings, Daniel and the psalmist call out the people’s failures to fulfill the terms of their covenant with God. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus gives a further command: “love your enemies.”
I should add this to my daily prayers (especially the part about “what have left undone.”)
Almighty God, heavenly Father: I have sinned against you, through my own fault, in thought, and word, and deed, and in what I have left undone. For the sake of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, forgive me my offenses; and grant that I may serve you in newness of life, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
Isaiah 1:2–4, 16–20; Psalm 50:7–15, 22–24; Matthew 23:1–12
Jesus Denounces Scribes and Pharisees
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:1–12)
This scripture reminds me of a very memorable sermon I heard here at Trinity Church by our former Rector, the Rev. Dr. Dan Matthews. He preached on how much we love to be members of loyalty programs such as airline and hotel Gold or Platinum programs because of how they make us feel important with all their privileges, elite lounges, and faster check-ins.
Matthew’s scripture is as relevant for us today as it was back when it was written. We as a society haven’t changed much from the days of the Pharisees. We still like to dictate what others should or shouldn’t do, while not doing the same, and we love to feel and look important, often “more important” than others.
So, in today’s scripture we are told, do not be like “them” or try to be better than each other, but to remember that there is “One” rabbi, instructor, Father, Messiah, who is greater than all of us. And that this greater one will be our servant.
Imagine trying to get members for this “loyalty” program, where “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Jeremiah 18:1–11, 18–20; Psalm 31:9–16; Matthew 20:17–28
Reflection on Matthew 20:17–28
Christian principles can often be forgotten in the tumult of life, however Jesus never fails to remind us of them. The apostles, due to their relationship with Jesus, felt entitled to a seat next to God in heaven. Jesus reminded them that only their actions of servitude can make them worthy of such. Much like the apostles, we may feel more holy or worthy than others at times. This often makes us chase things such as money, higher social status, or promotions in order to strengthen this feeling. However, Jesus reminds us of the Christian doctrine that for one to be great and exalted one must serve others—anything else, we do for ourselves and not for the Lord. Being great is not about who we are but what we do for the Lord. Being Christian is not what makes you holy but living in a Christian way is.
Thursday, March 12, 2020
Jeremiah 17:5–10; Psalm 1; Luke 16:19–31
Today is my 27th birthday and next month it’ll be one year since my baptism. In Christian years I’m still a baby, so hell terrifies me. The story of the rich man and Lazarus especially does, even though I do listen to what a man who rose from the dead said to me. For him, I hand cash to people who ask for it and I’m becoming a nurse to take care of peoples’ wounds, feet, and babies.
But I eat unclean animals. I fornicate. On my way home, I walk past people who have none. I judge others harshly. I deny the goodness in the world.
The heart is deceitful and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
Psalm 1’s road helps me. What are some ways of the wicked that lead to destruction? For-profit medicine, extractive economies, white supremacy.
What would it feel like to be plants bearing fruit near streams of water? The sun warming us, like Lazarus at Abraham’s breast; healthy creatures with enough to keep ourselves and others hydrated and fed. What will be the fruit of our doings?
My delight is in the law of the Lord. I bet yours is, too. May you have a meaningful Lent.
Friday, March 13, 2020
Genesis 37:3–4, 12–28; Psalm 105:16–22; Matthew 21:33–43
The Long Game of Love and Forgiveness
Genesis tells us about the world’s first dysfunctional families. Adam and Eve didn’t listen and didn’t obey God, to their peril. Cain killed his brother Abel. Jacob tricked his dying father and defrauded his twin, Esau, with his mother’s help. Jacob loved Joseph more than his other children and provoked hatred in them toward his beloved Joseph. These children hated Joseph more than they loved their father and plotted to kill him. The list of dark deeds goes on.
Left to our own devices, eons later, we spiritual descendants are still losing ourselves in aversion and attraction, greed and hatred, and getting embroiled in the messes of our own making.
On this Friday the 13th of March 2020, let us commit to looking at what habitual behaviors aren’t working for us anymore as spiritual seekers.
Prayer: May we be open to being present with love and forgiveness and accept the consequences.
Saturday, March 14, 2020
Micah 7:14–15, 18–20; Psalm 103:1–4 (5–8), 9–12; Luke 15:11–32
The Prodigal Son
I’m fond of saying that I am in Christianity for the forgiveness. Only part of that is about my own need to be forgiven. Much more is about my yearning to put down the burdens of anger, resentment, and misplaced feelings of injustice in the act of forgiving others.
In the parable, the younger son, who has come begging only for tolerance, instead receives full pardon and warm welcome from a father who surrenders all his hurt and rejection in a single moment of joyous reconciliation.
Only the older son doesn’t seem to get that his gift is knowing he, too, will be pardoned if he, too, strays. Nor does he understand that his bitterness is keeping him from enjoying a very nice party.
We worship a God who will “have compassion upon us” (Micah 7:19), who “forgives all (our) sins and heals all (our) infirmities” and crowns us “with mercy and lovingkindness” Psalm 103:3–4
This Lent, I am staying for the forgiveness. I am actively seeking opportunities to forgive and be forgiven, finding rifts I’ve caused and must mend, rooting out any grudges I might still be cherishing, and moving towards that place of mercy and lovingkindness.
Sunday, March 15, 2020
Exodus 17:1–7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1–11; John 4:5–42
On reading this passage my mind immediately leapt to last year’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Among the many churches and shrines which commemorate this or that event in scripture, relatively few can be reliably identified as being located on the site on which the actual event took place. The church at Shechem (Sychar in this passage) is one of the exceptions, and visitors can still drink water from the same well as Jesus and the Samaritan woman.
The teaching Jesus imparts in this story seems to be in sharp contradiction to the thoroughly earthly experience of slowly drawing up the bucket from what is indeed a very deep well, something the woman must have done many times each day. Jesus prioritizes spiritual nourishment (“living water,” and food that “is to do the will of him who sent me”). For me the use of these metaphors draws me into thinking of the need for constant nourishment of my soul. Just as every day the Samaritan woman hauls water from the well, it reminds me to come daily to Jesus for living water.
Quotes are from the NSRV.
Monday, March 16, 2020
2 Kings 5:1–15b; Psalm 42:1–7; Luke 4:23–30
After I read part of Kings, Luke, and the Psalm, I realized that maybe the point to life is to realize that there is a God out there. There must be more than just us here. Maybe we are all dying until we see the light. I am very sure that out of our 7.5 billion people in this world, only a few die happily. Even with the bad times we may go through, the diseases we encounter, if you understand what you have sinned for, you will live. The people who have died did nothing wrong. They just became frustrated that they couldn’t be healed. You must accept death. We are mortals, we will die. And that is how God heals me. I know that, if I do good and if I accept what has been given to me, I can change my path in life. And maybe I will.
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Song of the Three Young Men 2–4, 11–20a; Psalm 25:3–10; Matthew 18:21–35
In today’s Gospel Peter asked Jesus how often shall I forgive my brother if he sins against me? Until seven times seven? Jesus said no, until seventy times seven. Jesus was implying that there was no limit in forgiveness, we are to forgive. It was the Jewish custom in those days to forgive someone three times, and after that they would be thrown in prison. Peter thought he was being very generous in forgiving 7 times 7. Lord forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. We love to be forgiven for our sins, but we hate to forgive those who sin against us.
The reading continues on with the unmerciful servant who, after having been forgiven a great debt because he begged for mercy and said he would pay off the debt, went out and looked for someone who had owed him a small sum. When the servant told the debtor to repay, and the debtor asked for mercy and to give him some time, and he would repay his debt, the unmerciful servant was unwilling to show the mercy and the forgiveness that was given to him earlier. Rather he threatened to throw him in prison as was the custom in those days if you do not repay your debt.
The Song of the Three Young Men begins with “Then Azariah stood still in the fire and prayed aloud: Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors, and worthy of praise . . .” This is a well-known story about The Three Jewish Young Men. Azariah seems to have an abundance of faith that our Lord would deliver him from the fiery furnace, so he refuses to obey commands. Oh, if we could only have a little of the faith of Azariah, how great and awesome that would be.
In Psalm 25, David asks the Lord not to remember the sins of his youth and his rebellious ways. David, at this time, seems to be a mature person, and following in the footsteps of the Lord, and is therefore asking God to forgive him the sins of his youth.
In all three lessons there is a common theme of forgiveness.
Let us make this a Lent of repentance and forgiveness.
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Deuteronomy 4:1–2, 5–9; Psalm 78:1–6; Matthew 5:17–19
Spring brings about hope
Israel, heed the statutes
God’s glorious deeds
Thursday, March 19, 2020
2 Samuel 7:4, 8–16; Psalm 89:1–29; Romans 4:13–18; Luke 2:41–52
Today we celebrate St. Joseph’s Day. His faithfulness, obedience, and care for the holy family during Jesus’s formative years is a model we can emulate. His elevation to sainthood is an inspiration to everyone. It has left an example for others to follow and will continue as we move along. Other followers identify the quality of faithfulness and obedience in him. Mother Theresa most recently was one of them. She demonstrated care and compassion towards humanity.
Today’s readings emphasize obedience and faithfulness. One must be faithful in order to be obedient. In Luke 2:41–52, Jesus emphasized faithfulness. He remained in the temple without his parents’ knowledge. When questioned he displayed faithfulness at that young age; as he said, “I must be about my father’s business.” In like manner God demonstrates his faithfulness to us; so beautifully expressed in the hymn drawn from the Lamentation 3:23:
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father...
All I have needed thy hand hath provided
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to be faithful and obedient to thy will.
Friday, March 20, 2020
Hosea 14:1–9; Psalm 81:8–14; Mark 12:28–34
Mark takes us to the essence of faith in today’s Gospel passage (12:28b–31a).
When the scribe asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’”
But what happens when we fail to honor that commandment, placing ourselves, our wills, and our desires above the Lord our God? The readings from Hosea and Psalms add a beautiful nuance to God’s response, by showing how deeply the Creator yearns for us to reject any “foreign god” and stop following our “stubborn hearts.” The eagerness of God to forgive us is a joyful and amazing revelation:
“I will heal their disloyalty;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
he shall blossom like the lily,
...they shall flourish as a garden.”
“I am the Lord your God...
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
Therefore—Love God; trust that abundance and beauty will follow.”
Saturday, March 21, 2020
Hosea 6:1–6; Psalm 51:15–20; Luke 18:9–14
In today’s passages from the Hebrew Scriptures, we are called to allow ourselves to be molded by God towards personal and communal restoration so that “we may live in his presence” (Hosea 6:2). In worship, in prayer, and through participation in the life of the church, we grow in our faith by bringing both our joys and our shortcomings to God, who receives our whole selves when we approach with a “broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51). The Psalm reminds us that, above all, God looks to the intent of the heart. By encountering us in our brokenness, God renews us, so that we can both show compassion and mercy to others and prepare for the work of reconciliation and justice to which all Christians are called.
Sunday, March 22, 2020
1 Samuel 16:1–13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8–14; John 9:1–41
Shut the Door and Look for Wisdom in the Presence of God
Lent offers us the wonderful opportunity to close the door and experience an inward journey of meditation, silence, and prayer in God’s presence. Inspired by today’s readings, let’s feel encouraged to find wisdom in the presence of God by meditating over the following lines:
Looking with God’s Eyes
“The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
A Firm Conviction in Life
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me.”
“Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light.”
The Logic Taught by Jesus
“I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”
God lead me always to the real sources of happiness and fulfillment, make me able to appreciate what is valuable in life, give me love for those who hurt or dislike me, and wherever I go let me encounter the most humane people on earth. Amen.
Monday, March 23, 2020
Isaiah 65:17–25; Psalm 30:1–6, 11–13; John 4:43–54
For me, Jesus has been and always will be a healer. He has performed miracles his whole life. Jesus did not discriminate; he would not be Jesus if he did. In my own personal life, he has healed me and family.
As John 4:48 says, unless you see signs and wonders “you will never believe.” For us to believe, as people of Jesus, we need to understand that sometimes faith is received by seeing and just as much as not seeing. In the worst of times, I will always be a believer, even though (just as?) the Royal Official and his household became believers.
One of my favorite scriptures, Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want... even amongst my enemies He preparest a table before me anointing my head with oil.” That’s love, which is Jesus’ life, and also he wants from us—LOVE!!!!
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Ezekiel 47:1–9, 12; Psalm 46:1–8; John 5:1–18
Ezekiel and the man in today’s Gospel reading are at a low point. After 25 years in exile, Ezekiel yearns for a sign of hope from God, but he can’t seem to find one in his vision for a temple back home in Jerusalem, despite its intricate detail. In the Gospel, a sick man lies by a pool at Bethesda. After 38 years, he has never reached the waters where they could heal him.
When Ezekiel and the man at Bethesda take the initiative, they receive renewal. At the very end of his vision, Ezekiel wades into a tiny trickle of a spring flowing from the temple that quickly widens to a fast-flowing river where everything lives. The man at Bethesda stands, picks his mat up, and walks.
Both men trust God. Ezekiel finds himself stranded in the middle of the river, now too wide to swim across. The man at Bethesda takes his cure in public, at the crowded pool where he has been for 38 years.
God, lead us to seek Your renewing grace and power. Give us courage to wade into living waters when You call us.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Isaiah 7:10–44; Psalm 45; Hebrews 10:4–10; Luke 1:26–38
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God...For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Thursday, March 26, 2020
Exodus 32:7–14; Psalm 106:6–7, 19–23; John 5:30–47
“And the Lord changed his mind...”
God rescued God’s people from slavery in Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Almost immediately afterward—the people forget who their liberator is. They forget the good things God has done for them. God’s wrath burns hot against them.
But Moses talks to God. Moses intercedes on behalf of the people. Moses reminds God of who God is.
And so, God changes God’s mind.
This powerful exchange between God and Moses reminds us that we all need redemption. We all need forgiveness. But that ours is a God of liberation and justice, not of wrath and indignation. That God, whom Moses met on Sinai and we meet in Jesus Christ, offers boundless Love and Grace.
No matter who you are, no matter the things you have done or left undone, God’s Grace is for you. God will always show up. God will always love you enough to remind you who you are: a beloved child of God.
Where have you felt called to change your mind, to reorient yourself in relation to God’s vision of liberation and justice? Who are the people that have helped remind you who you are?
Fr. Matt Welsch
Friday, March 27, 2020
Wisdom 2:1a, 12–24; Psalm 34:15–22; John 7:1–2, 10, 25–30
In the book of Wisdom, they reasoned to themselves “Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.” And in the Gospel of John, the crowd profiles Jesus, and assumes it could not be him. They plot to arrest and kill him, to see if he would be saved. “... but no one laid hands on him because his hour had not yet come.”
Lent is a time for self-examination and reflection. A time to ask for forgiveness of our sins and pray for deeper understanding of God’s plan. A time to examine our own fears, sufferings, anger, and prejudices that can sometimes cloud our judgement; because in doing so, we can realize the fullness of God’s love for us. In the Gospel of John, Jesus was cautious; but realizing his purpose he stepped boldly out into the crowd seizing the opportunity to spread the word, in spite of and despite the threat against him. The crowd unfortunately in disbelief could not fully accept him or his words, “Yet we know where this man is from...” because they knew where he was from and did not believe that he was the Messiah.
O God help me to see the good in those you send. Amen!
Saturday, March 28, 2020
Jeremiah 11:18–20; Psalm 7:6–11; John 7:37–52
The Scripture tells the story of the prophet Jeremiah’s life as being threatened. He lived in a troublesome time as his own people in the city plotted to cause his death, and to end his days, but he outlived most of his enemies. God knows the secret designs of the people’s enemies and gives justice to them by remembering them as evil doers. God gives comfort to the godly, we have a God to connect to and it is our duty to connect to him. We should look at our own spirits and should not be overcome with evil. Pray for our enemies, be kind to them so that we may overcome evil. As we enter in the season of Lent as individuals let us reflect on our own life, by making a meaningful time of prayer, fasting, alms giving, to support one another in whatever way we choose to do, whether to volunteer in the community, or to invite family members to share their thoughts, hopes, and desires for Lent. As we journey through Lent let us remember that each step brings us closer to the welcoming arms of our loving God.
Prayer: Thank you God for all of your mercies, blessings, and protection, that you have given to us and our families; and continue to bless, and protect us, as we focus on the Core Value of Faith. (Matthew 17:20).
A blessed Lenten Journey to all.
Sunday, March 29, 2020
Ezekiel 37:1–14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6–11; John 11:1–45
Road map to “I Am the Resurrection and the Life”
These passages, from both the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, read together give us a clear road map to the revelations of Christ’s true nature. “Breath,” “Hope,” “Spirit,” and “Light” weave the readings together.
First is the “Valley of Dry Bones,” often read at the First Fire, a prelude to Easter Sunday. “I will put my SPIRIT within you and you shall live.” (Ezekiel 37:11)
“HOPE” is in the Lord. (Psalm 130)
“He who raised Christ from the dead will give LIFE to your mortal body through the SPIRIT which dwells within you.” (Romans 8)
And finally in the Gospel of John 11:1–45, Jesus is revealed as the giver of life through the crowning “sign” of the resurrection of Lazurus from the dead. He proclaims “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.”
Yet, paradoxically the gift of life leads to the decision of the Sanhedrin that Jesus must die, a decision that will bring about his glorious return to the Father. With this proclamation, Jesus comes to give an eternal life impervious to death.
Monday, March 30, 2020
Susanna 1–9, 15–29, 34–61; Psalm 23; John 8:1–11
As we make our Lenten journey with Jesus we are surrounded by shadows. The shadows of our debts, our fears, perhaps the shadows of people that wish us harm, like those that stalked Susanna in her garden. And, of course, the shadow of death, on us all our lives. But ask yourself, is not one of these shadows your own?
No man can read the story of Susanna or the adulterous woman in John without wondering where he would stand. Would I be quick to disbelieve the virtuous Susanna over the words of my elders? Would I again be behind them, stone in hand, as they sought to use the adulterous woman to test Jesus?
The Lord continues to remind us whose side He is on. We know who He speaks for. As Jesus calmly writes in the sand, he looks up at crowd of the righteous and the condemned, and he reminds us that we are all sinners. As Christians, we must also remember that this journey ends at the cross. While Jesus prevented one unjust execution, he also looked forward to his own, perhaps recognizing that by then all but the women will have abandoned him.
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Numbers 21:4–9, Psalm 102:15–22, John 8:21–30
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Daniel 3:14–20, 24–28; Canticle 13; John 8:31–42
“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31, 32)
False gods can be any lie or deception occupying a place in our lives. Anything to which we hold an allegiance, such as money, drugs, alcohol, guns, possessions, even ideas. Falsities can be seductive, piquing and engaging our eyes, ears, and sense of touch and smell. They appear full of promise but in the end can be devastating. We are often faced with temptations, false ideals, movements, and entities, made worse if we are dealing with insecurities or fears, because then false gods can take root and ultimately control us. With each enticement comes the challenges of distinguishing its genuineness. Distinguishing and not succumbing is challenging, but engaging core values can assist with distinguishing and resisting. Opening our mind to what is good, rejecting what is transitory, and praising the God who is consistent in love, can guide us towards the true decision. Although we have control over our lives, our decisions matter—and faith in God can help us discern the truth and set us free from that which is false.
Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers; you are worthy of praise. We will praise you and highly exalt you forever. (Canticle)
Oliva M. George
Thursday, April 2, 2020
Genesis 17:1–8; Psalm 105:4–11; John 8:51–59
In Genesis, the Lord promised Abraham that he would have more descendants than could be counted; that he would be the “father of many nations,” and that Abraham’s descendants would become great nations, IF Abraham obeyed him and always did the right thing.
The Psalmist affirms that the family of Abraham are the Lord’s chosen ones and that God’s promise to Abraham is eternal. “The Lord is our God, bringing justice everywhere on earth.”
In John, when Jesus confronted the descendants of Abraham and challenged them to obey his words, the people rejected him, asking “Are you greater than our father Abraham?” “Who do you think you are?” They even threatened to stone him.
Where are WE today, as Christians, in this narrative? Are WE a great nation? Do WE do the right thing? Are WE believers or disbelievers of the Lord’s promises to us? Is it possible for us to really know him and do what he says?
I personally take great comfort from the assurance of the Psalms: “The Lord is our God, bringing justice everywhere on earth.”
Prayer: “Our Father in heaven ... Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us....”
Friday, April 3, 2019
Jeremiah 20:7–13; Psalm 18:1–7; John 10:31–42
“I hear many whispering,
‘Terror on every side!
Denounce him! Let’s denounce him!’”
I recently vacationed in Ireland, a place I had long yearned to see. I based myself in Dublin, but took day trips to traditional villages, sea cliffs, and long-dormant castles and monasteries.
One excursion was to Belfast, Northern Ireland; a modern capital city, but one with a storied past. In researching prior to my trip, I did have some shallow knowledge of the political and nationalistic conflicts the city (and all of the country) went through during the 1960s-1990s, a time called The Troubles. But, reading about it did not prepare me for the reality of seeing remainders of that time in present-day Belfast.
My tour guide, Dave, a native somewhere in his 50s, showed us around while narrating personal and national tales of unrest, persecution, and death. He told us that Belfast has a clean shiny veneer in the parts tourists go, but residents know many parts are still struggling.
He took us to a ‘peace wall’, one of several: physical barriers meant to divide the city between nationalists and unionists and lessen violence between the two. The wall dominated the landscape, curving through the streets as far as I could see.
On the wall were art and phrases written in many languages and from the hands of both children and adults. While a few denounced who and what was on the other side, telling us to be aware of ‘them,’ most spoke of the want and need for unity. Most pleaded for us to love one another and realize we were more alike than different. Dave’s warnings about violence had admittedly scared me, but as I stood in front of this wall, I had the sense that this beautiful city would, most certainly, one day finally find its peace.
Saturday, April 4, 2020
Ezekiel 37:21–28; Psalm 85:1–7; John 11:45–53
What do you yearn for? Ezekiel spoke for an exiled people who believed their moral failures had caused God to abandon them. They yearned for wholeness, home, clarity, peace. The psalmist yearns for forgiveness, asking if God “will...be angry with us forever.” Jesus comes to broken humanity embodying God’s desire to make us whole, even at great cost. In John, the High Priest says it’s better for one man to die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed. His words are often interpreted as a willingness to scapegoat an innocent victim for the sake of Israel’s tenuous and compromised identity. But the text says Caiaphas saw that Jesus would die not only for the nation but to “gather the dispersed children of God.” Jesus himself would soon say, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” In a sermon after 9/11, Archbishop Desmond Tutu reminded us, “Jesus said ALL. Black. White. Gay. Straight. George Bush. Osama bin Laden.” Is it possible that the wholeness we yearn for may only be achieved when it includes everyone? Who would you have a hard time admitting?
Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020
Isaiah 50:4–9a; Psalm 31: 9–16; Philippians 2:5–11; Matthew 27:11–54
The Sunday of Passion
In Isaiah 50:4–9, as we enter the week of Passion, let’s reflect on the suffering servant in Isaiah 50:4–9. Many take this to be the third of the “Servant Songs.” In this passage we hear the language that implies the servant is not necessarily a leader, does not always need to be out front, but is necessarily one who can speak well when right speech is needed. Indeed, God’s gift of speech is given “that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word” (Is. 50:4b). The primary role of the servant is to pay special attention to the “weary,” those who are in desperate need of a word of encouragement and support, those perhaps on the margins of society who are neglected and are in danger of being forgotten. This role of listener and right speaker is given by God to the servant “morning by morning” (or “morning after morning,” i.e., again and again; compare with Is. 50:4c).
In Isaiah 50:6 the individual is persecuted like Jeremiah. The suffering servant reminds me of one of my heroes, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Imprisoned for 27 years; the most productive years of any human being. Out of prison in 1990, he said, “let bygone be bygone” and; “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is the ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
May the suffering of Jesus Christ call you to pay special attention to the weary, support those on the margins of society.
Fr. Benjamin Musoke-Lubega
Holy Monday, April 6, 2020
Isaiah 42:1–9; Psalm 36:5–11; Hebrews 9:11–15; John 12:1–11
Nard (spikenard) is fragrant oil that has long represented God’s special calling for ordaining someone or something for God’s glory. Genuine nard came from a distant place; plus, it was rare, which explains why it was so expensive.
Six days before Passover, Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair (John 12:3). While the King was at their table, she showed her sacrificial love for Jesus, lowering herself humbly; Mary did not care whether dirt or grime may have been on His feet.
Two days before Passover, as he sat at the table, Jesus is anointed again by a woman who came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head (Mark 14:3).
A subtle, yet noteworthy, difference happens when Jesus is anointed both times: In the first, the oil is rubbed into His feet; in the second, the nard is poured over His head. Both women were rebuked harshly for “wasting” expensive perfume worth more than a year’s wage instead of being sold and given to the poor.
Jesus told the criticizers to leave the women alone for they had done a beautiful thing to him before He entered Jerusalem: both women had prepared Him for his burial.
Holy Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Isaiah 49:1–7; Psalm 71:1–14; 1 Corinthians 1:18–31; John 12:20–36
Ruth Antoinette Foy
Holy Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Isaiah 50:4–9a; Psalm 70; John 13:21–32; Hebrews 12:1–3
As I reflect on the reading from Isaiah and Psalm I am reminded of the humility, vulnerability, reliance, and confidence that the writers had in God. The passages challenge me to go deeper in my relationship with God. What Scripture(s) challenge you to go deeper with God?
In John, I am reminded of God’s vulnerability as Jesus prepares to finish His journey on earth.
As I reflect on the Hebrews reading, I’m called to remember that Christianity is a journey; a long run which requires endurance and perseverance. I’m reminded that throughout the run men and women of the Old and New Testaments who trekked before me are my spectators. I like to believe they are cheering me on every step of the way. As expected, while training for any lengthy race weariness, doubt, and pain are inevitable but the more I push through and stay the course the stronger I become. Damaged muscles are repaired or replaced to support my new strength. As I continue training my body is conditioning itself to go the full distance, however long it may be. My training manual is the Scriptures. I ask, are you growing stronger for your spiritual race or have you stopped training?
Maundy Thursday, April 9, 2020
Exodus 12:1–14; Psalm 116:1, 10–17; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26; John 13:1–17, 31b–35
Today we initiate the Easter Triduum with Maundy Thursday services. Unlike other services of the year, two liturgical practices are part of tonight’s service. Both the Holy Communion and the ceremony of the washing of the feet.
It’s a profound invitation to explore our own willingness to humble ourselves as Jesus did. To do for others without regard for who they are or who we are or believe ourselves to be. With this unexpected gesture, Jesus upends the status quo as the Divine becomes the servant; humbling himself in service to others. He commands that we do the same and are blessed when we do so.
How do we serve others? Do we embrace the holiness of being humble?
Good Friday, April 10, 2020
Isaiah 52:13–53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16–25; John 18:1–19:42
“Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.”
Was he understood or even heard?
Did others deny him from fear or disbelief ?
Were they unprepared to know Jesus?
Sacrifice never completely cleanses but makes those who torture clean in their minds and sometimes capable of reflection.
In the face of suffering, glory blesses itself as a tortured stain.
Faith has an uncommon destiny. This time it came as the man of sorrows gave the transgressors his life and his strength.
Can suffering on wood surrounded by a bleak and hateful crowd lead to hope and peace and love?
Relief and salvation—they sound woeful in a way, yet there is dramatic mercy flanked by freedom in their promise.
There is a story. It is filled with a journey, compelling truth, soul healing, suffering, and death that chronicles a life and gives us grace. Despised and rejected but looked on by children with love.
There was no one to help, but God gave us freedom this way.
Holy Saturday, April 11, 2020
Job 14:1–14; Psalm 31:1–4,15–16; 1 Peter 4:1–8; Matthew 27:57–66
I am always amazed to see the interrelationships among various passages of scripture—passages which were obviously written at different times, by different people. These four passages are no exception.
The first from Job looks forward to “my release.” In faith, “my release should come.” The remark obviously refers to a release from the things of this world.
The second from Psalm 31 talks about a speedy “rescue” through the Lord who is “my refuge” and savior “in steadfast love.”
The third from Peter compounds this theme of rescue “by the will of God.” That rescue is otherworldly “in the spirit as God does.” Peter states the famous passage “love covers a multitude of sins.”
Finally, Matthew sums up these themes by alluding to the fact that no rock, no tomb can secure us from the Lord. Truly, He has risen!
Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020
Easter Message from Priest-in-charge and Vicar
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” (Matthew 28:5–6)
Just like that, the ending to the story changed.
The women had gone to the tomb, bringing spices to anoint Jesus’ body. They had seen him suffer and die, killed in the cruelest and most shameful way possible. It looked to all Jesus’ followers as if the story were over. This was not the glorious reign of a king, as they had anticipated; it was a time of fear, confusion, and grief.
But God turned this story on its head. Death was not the end. By reaching down to raise up his son, God changed the ending. Death cannot win, death will not win, God said – death has no dominion, no mastery, over us anymore.
On Ash Wednesday and during the 40 days of Lent, we are invited to confront our own sin and death. Today, on Easter Sunday, I invite you to confront your own life. What does it mean to live, believing that Jesus has freed us from the tyranny of death? How do we conduct ourselves when we have that kind of freedom? What fears and anxieties can we let go of, and how can we move in the world with love and grace instead?
In the light of the risen Christ, live without fear. Seek your encounter with the living Jesus. And may the blessings of Easter be with you and your loved ones today and always.