Violence and chaos in the Middle East have left many around the world hopeless and feeling helpless. As followers of Jesus, we refuse to be sidetracked by the temptation to despair.
Prayers for Peace (P4P) provides a way for Christians of diverse political and theological backgrounds to stand up for peace and unite in supplication to God with a special focus on prayers for the Holy Land. Prayers for Peace provides Jesus’ followers with the common language of prayer around which to mobilize their energy and passion for the land that gave birth to our faith. To combat the prevailing images of discord, Prayers for Peace will highlight peace-building organizations that we may pray for them as they live out the reconciliation offered in the Prophets and Jesus’ message of peace.
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 🌿Psalm 22 🌿 Hebrews 10:16-25 🌿 John 18:1-19:42
Any visitor to the Church of All Nations at the Garden of Gethsemane on the base of the Mount of Olives knows the color of the church’s stained glass windows. A dark rich purple represents the robe Christ wore just before his death. The light inside the church looks dark and somber. Built to commemorate Christ’s betrayal, the garden and holy site are a good place to remember and reflect upon the crucifixion.
So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. -John 13: 14 (NRSV)
In the Lenten season of the liturgical calendar, Maundy Thursday is a day to commemorate the last meal that Jesus ate with his disciples before his crucifixion. And it is a day, or evening, that is often commemorated with foot washing ceremonies. The act of washing the feet of those we are in community with is a practice that might be dear to some of us, off-putting to others, or perhaps for some, seemingly outdated.
As we wait upon the realization of God’s perfect peace, we can grow weary, worn, and wondering. As we wait for Easter Sunday, may we be heartened by the great cloud of witnesses of Hebrews 12, run with perseverance, and keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.”
It is Tuesday of Holy Week, just a couple days from Palm Sunday. It is interesting how Palm Sunday is often described as Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. And yet, what was triumphant about this humble Jewish man riding down the Mount of Olives, across the Valley of Kidron, and into the Old City of Jerusalem? The people cried out adulations to him, but the praise of humankind was temporary and fleeting. For in the days hence, that very same crowd would turn their backs on Christ and instead release the convicted prisoner Barabas into freedom. How could Jesus ever be reconciled to his people after such betrayal?
Already, this year has been filled with conflict, death, despair, and destruction. Memphis, Moon Bay, Jerusalem, Jenin, Ukraine, Armenia, Brazil, and on and on. May the words of Psalms 36:5-11 remind us of God’s steadfast love, faithfulness, righteousness, abundance, life, and light.
Liturgy of the Palms: Matthew 21:1-11 🌿 Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Liturgy of the Passion: Isaiah 50:4-9a 🌿 Psalm 31:9-16 🌿 Philippians 2:5-11 🌿 Matthew 26:14-27:66
Palm Sunday continues to be one of the most sacred days leading to Easter – especially in Jerusalem. Crowds start their procession on the top of the Mount of Olives. The sacred city of peace can be seen in the distance, with the golden Dome of the Rock glistening in the sun. The world’s holiest city to the three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – Palm Sunday exists as one of the holy days observed in Christianity.
Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Written about in the Gospels, we are told that if the people did not cry out to worship Him, even the stones would cry out (Luke 19:40). Words often sung on Palm Sunday include: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9)
A Palm Sunday hymn that has been sung for 14 centuries to commemorate Palm Sunday is “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” by Theodulf, Bishop of Orleans. Theodulf spent the last two years of his life imprisoned for treason against the King of France, and thus his declaration of Christ as the “Redeemer King” remains all the more bold.
During medieval times, and we can imagine later celebrating Palm Sunday in Jerusalem during the Crusades, this hymn was used as the procession where priests and people would gather outside of city walls and march toward the gates. Much like Palm Sunday is celebrated today, people waved branches and flowers, singing the words “All glory, laud, and honor.” During medieval times the procession would follow a living representation of Jesus seated on a donkey; then, before the gates were opened, a children’s choir would sign in Latin the refrain – echoed by the crowd. At the completion of the procession, the group would enter the cathedral for mass. On this Palm Sunday, sing or read through this historic hymn as a prayer of praise.
During election season, if you turn on your TV or flip through your mail, you will often be greeted through a commercial or a campaign mailer with the message “Washington is broken.” Capitol Hill, specifically Congress, is not often viewed as a place where good things happen. After living in DC for almost a decade, I admit to being annoyed by the often-flippant caricature of a city that is more vibrant than outside politicians would lead us to believe. I cannot dispute that Congress is a challenge to navigate, especially for those of us seeking an end to the occupation and a future in Israel/Palestine where all people can flourish. If I’m being honest, I sometimes wonder if there is any point in trying to move Congress. Even the positive steps seem too little, too late.
1 Samuel 16:1-13 🌿 Psalms 23 🌿 Ephesians 5:8-14 🌿 John 9:1-41
Select a Scripture passage to reflect on
Read the passage, preferably out loud, two or three times
Meditate on a word or phrase that stood out to you as you read; Perhaps it caused you to ask a question or wonder about something.
Respond to God who has been speaking to you
Settle yourself and rest in the presence of God as you prepare to go about the remainder of your day.
It can be a very enlightening experience to engage in this practice with others, as no two people will have exactly the same experience or insights from their time reflecting on the same scripture passage.
The Romans text for today acknowledges experiences we will all have at one time or another in our earthly life. While we’ve been justified by faith, and know peace with God, we will still learn much through suffering, trials, and tension. We must choose to be peacemakers and live in hope of the realization of God’s perfect peace.
In the Romans passage, we hear of Abraham’s being saved by faith, not by works. In John, we witness a conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. In both passages, the prevenient grace of God is on display as a testament to God’s initiation of a relationship with us – drawing humanity to Godself and through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. All were set in motion before we were even aware of our need for salvation and reconciliation with God.