Tag: lent

Beacons of Hope: Palm Sunday

Psalm 122: 6-9

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
    “May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
    and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
    I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
    I will seek your prosperity.

As we enter Holy Week, this psalm invites us into prayerful wordplay. The Hebrew word translated as “peace” in the first line and “prosperity” in the final line is the familiar shalom, which means “complete” or “whole,” or “flourishing.” The verb here translated as “be secure” also means “rest tranquil,” from the Hebrew yishlayu—an alliteration of yerushalem, translated Jerusalem.

As we enter Holy Week, let us pray for the peace of the City of Peace. Literally.

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Beacons of Hope: Fifth Sunday of Lent

John 4:1-26

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

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Beacons of Hope: Fourth Sunday of Lent

As for me, I call to God,
    and the Lord saves me.
Evening, morning and noon
    I cry out in distress,
    and he hears my voice.

Psalm 55:16-17

Seven times a day I praise you
    for your righteous laws.

Psalm 119:164

At this point in Lent, many are weary. Forty days is a long time– more than a tenth of a year. At the beginning of Lent, some may come looking for spiritual renewal or novel self-discovery. And while many find it, others are left waiting.

Observing Lent in general may feel repetitive, or perhaps sticking to one’s fast or chosen practice feels mundane. While waiting in this season, I want to reflect on how God meets us in repetition. Liturgy is one repeated practice in which God meets us, and it takes multiple forms. Catholic and Orthodox churches have beautiful, highly developed liturgies for various feasts and seasons of the Church calendar. Some Protestants use similar liturgies, and others use heavily modified ones. Evangelicals may experience the repetition of a song or experiences in worship as liturgical.

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Beacons of Hope: Third Sunday of Lent

Luke 4:1-12

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,to protect you,’
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Dripping wet from his baptism, Jesus begins to fast. Lent is often understood as a meditation on Jesus’ 40 days of fasting and temptation in the wilderness, as narrated above (and in Matthew 4). I always admire Jesus’ narrow commitment to his values. It’s almost as if ruling the nations, turning stones into bread, and being saved by angels are not appealing to him! I often find myself scratching my head a bit when reading this story. Jesus is the God of the powerless. But don’t we need power to do good? What is advocacy and activism for justice without the political power Jesus denied? To genuinely love those with and in whom we find Jesus? What about those of us who already lack power and privilege? Why should we give up more than what’s already been taken from us?

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Pentecost: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

While staying with them, Jesus ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Acts 1:4-5

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Acts 2:1-4

Before ascending into heaven, Jesus told his disciples to remain in Jerusalem, for it was there they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Shortly after his ascension the day of Pentecost came, and the Holy Spirit descended, first like a violent wind, then as divided tongues of fire. As each tongue rested on them, they began to speak in other languages that were not their own. While this is miraculous in and of itself, it is also a profound statement of the power of the Holy Spirit to allow us to understand those who are other, those who are not like us. To speak another language is to catch a glimpse into another person’s mind. Read more

Easter Sunday: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Then Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
Luke 24:44-47

Hallelujah! He is risen! He is risen indeed! Throughout this Lenten season we have walked with Jesus as he performed miracles, taught in parables, and wept over the city of Jerusalem. We have also taken a closer look at the city of Jerusalem todaywhy it is considered holy by the three Abrahamic religions, and its contemporary political situation. It is only fitting that we reflect on Jesus’ command after his resurrection, when he appeared to his disciples. Read more

Holy Saturday: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:5

Today, on Holy Saturday, the sacred light or “Holy Fire”—the fire that lights the tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem—comes out into the world. The fire from the tomb is spread from candle to candle all over the church and throughout the streets of the Old City—a powerful symbol of the way that Christ’s light is spread into the world. However, many of us still feel as though we are in darkness, and that Christ’s light has not yet come to us. Read more

Good Friday: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Luke 23:44-49

A common African American spiritual sung on Good Friday goes, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Of course, none of us were there, yet we remember this event, today. Some of us will hear readings of Jesus’ seven last words found in the Gospels. Others will sit in candlelit churches and feel the darkness creep in as each candle is extinguished. Many will sing hymns, as music has a way of capturing the deep emotions we often struggle to articulate. Read more

Maundy Thursday: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Jesus came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.
Luke 22:39-44

Today marks the point in Holy Week when we enter more deeply into the Passion narrative, the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. As we continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, these devotions will turn our attention more directly to the Passion story, focusing on events as they are recounted in the Gospels, and how they are remembered and celebrated in Jerusalem today. Read more

Fifth Week of Lent: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Isaiah 58:6-7

During the Lenten season, Christians around the world partake in the practice of fasting. Fasting is the tradition of abstaining from food for a set period of time. While this custom is often a spiritual discipline which leads to greater faith in God, or allows space in one’s life for God to speak, that is not always the case. In the passage above, the community is being called out for the misuse of this practice. Instead of only requiring the abstaining from food, God reveals to them the kind of fasting required; the kind that changes society to be more just, brings freedom to the oppressed, and cares for the poor. Read more

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