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.
Seven times a day I praise you
for your righteous laws.
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.
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?
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.”
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.
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
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.”
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 today—why 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
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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?
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
And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.
Then Solomon said,
“The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness.
I have built you an exalted house,
a place for you to dwell in forever.”
1 Kings 8:10-13
For the first three Sundays of Lent we will be focusing on Jerusalem as a city shared by three faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This week we look closer at the deep meaning Jerusalem holds for the Jewish people. In 1 Kings 8:10-13, we catch a glimpse of the dedication of the First Temple, built by King Solomon. Although the temple has since been destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again, this passage captures the significance of Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God. It is for this reason that the Western Wall has become the holiest site in Judaism today, as it is the closest Jews are able to get to the Temple Mount, particularly the Holy of Holies where the Presence of God dwelt. It is generally believed that praying at the Western Wall, either from the Jewish prayer book or by placing prayers in the cracks of the wall, is especially efficacious because of its proximity to the site of the Holy of Holies. Read more
by Natalie Wisely, World Vision
During this season of Lent, Christians around the globe are drawn into closer communion with God through worship, prayer, and fasting. During this time of reflection, we pray you are comforted by the knowledge that God is the one who provides peace, who creates beauty from ashes.
In Israel and Palestine, there have been decades of mourning due to the brokenness that comes from neighbors living in conflict and at times, it feels hopeless. But we are convicted that we cannot give up and must continue to work and pray for peace in this land.
Taking this into consideration, we ask that you join us in the prayer below – that there will be peace in the conflicts of the world, peace in the turmoil of our own hearts, and that we will have the courage and conviction to continue on in this effort until it is completed. Read more