Jesus’ burial on Friday was a hurried affair – the Sabbath was set to begin. Burying the body of Jesus also identified you as a sympathizer, a follower of a man convicted of treason and blasphemy. Yet some took the risk – Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, Nicodemus. None of these were in the inner circle of Jesus’ followers, the Twelve. None were his closest friends or confidantes.
These acts are reflections of the love that Jesus showed on Thursday evening and Friday. Their acts were based on their love for him. Not on their status or their role in the ministry. Simply love.
It is easy – and understandable – to miss the profound love shown in the burial of Jesus in Joseph’s own tomb. The glory of the Resurrection makes all else pale in contrast.
But consider the power of these simple acts of love for Jesus. They continue on Easter morning when the women return to finish what the short time on Friday would not allow. Their love finishes setting the stage on which the great drama of the Resurrection plays out tomorrow.
What does my love for Jesus invite me to do on this Saturday that remembers the day he laid in the tomb in which love had placed him?
Today is Good Friday. I have been tied up all day with life stuff and unable to post until now. On this day we remember the cross of Jesus, the sacrifice of Christ, the self-emptying love of God. And that God is not removed from our suffering human experience but lived it up close and at its worst. The God on the throne was also killed on a cross. And in that death we find life.
But this is a day that should also cause us to ponder that the One who said “It is finished” (John 19:30 NRSV) also said “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NRSV). As the theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” ( Cost of Discipleship)
We come to the cross in search of forgiveness and well we do. For we can find forgiveness, salvation, nowhere else. But if we forget or ignore that we also come to the cross to die, we miss the point. Or we miss the joy. For it is not only that we find eternal life, triumph over death. We find a new life in this life — just as Jesus was resurrected in the time and space of this world on a morning nearly 2,000 years ago.
Good Friday is a somber day. A day to remember the sufferings of Christ and the death of the One who was without sin. But it is also a day to ask ‘Where and how do I need to die anew… and trust in God for a resurrected life?”
God can’t clean the house of you when you’re still in it.
—Anne Lamott, U.S. author (1954—)
Today is Maundy or Holy Thursday. “Maundy” comes from the same Latin word that we get words like “mandate” and means “commandment.” Jesus’ commands the disciples to follow his new law of love and to remember him following the pattern of the Last Supper.
The gospel of John has quite an extended narrative of the Upper Room which, interestingly, says nothing about the Lord’s Supper/Holy Communion. At the end of the suggested reading for today (John 13:1-17, 31b-35) Jesus says
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35 NRSV)
I wonder… maybe John doesn’t mention the “religious” ceremony of the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper/Communion to focus our attention on the fruits or effects of faith. People will know I follow Jesus because I love others more than they will know by what rites I follow.
I have read other interpretations and explanations for the absence of the institution of Holy Communion from John. They make more theological sense than my explanation perhaps. But the fact that this explanation – the need to obey Jesus’ command to love rather than to remember – troubles me makes me wonder if I am on to something…
Today’s reading is from the scene in the Upper Room where Jesus announces that one of them will betray him — John 13:21-32. It is a perplexing story and full of perplexed people. All of them, with the possible exception of Judas, find it difficult to follow what Jesus is saying.
The most perplexing part of the story is this section near the end:
So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified,
and God has been glorified in him.” (John 13:30-31 NRSV)
How does Judas’ leaving to betray Jesus glorify the “Son of Man” (Jesus himself) or God? Huh?
I wonder if it is because Jesus has given himself into God’s hands… because he will not intervene to stop Judas or to direct events otherwise… because Jesus is willing to accept what happens because he knows in whose keeping he is?
I realize how often I am trying to direct events, to shift the course of things, to engineer the outcome of a meeting, a discussion, a plan to suit me and my needs. Or to accomplish what I want.
Am I willing to ask God “What is your will?” Not a defeatist mindset. Nor a listless passivity. But to throw myself again and again into the hands of God. To trust that God’s purposes are greater and deeper than mine. Even when they end at a cross.
Today’s reading for Holy Week (John 12:20-36) includes this interesting opening:
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.
They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (John 12:20-21 NRSV)
It isn’t clear if the people are the same, but by the end of the passage the crowd is pushing back against what Jesus says. And they want to know who is the “Son of Man” to whom Jesus refers.
What strikes me on this Tuesday of Holy Week is how much God wants me to see Jesus – not to understand him, not to interpret him, not to explain him. Just to see him, as the Greeks asked to do. To see him for who he was and is. To hear what he says without layering on my own assumptions or questions or stuff. I come at him with so much of my own stuff that clouds by vision and interferes with my hearing.
Today, Lord, let me see and hear.
I didn’t post anything last week but plan to post something brief each day of Holy Week. Today’s suggested reading is John 12:1-11 which is the story of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet shortly before his death.
In the story, Judas says:
“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) (John 12:5-6)
It reminds me of the times I have been in conversation and someone, sometimes I, talk over top of someone else. Sometimes it is an accident but usually it causes the conversation to lapse. Sometimes it is on purpose and it tries to deflect attention or shift the subject. cu
During Lent I have been trying to not complain. And not very successfully I might add. I had no idea how deeply rooted in my habits and my thought processes and my speech it was. But this passage helps me see that my complaining sometimes is a way of talking over top of God, of shifting the subject from what God is unhappy about to what I am unhappy about.
It is easy to throw stones at Judas and forget how often my own words betray and my own actions undermine Jesus’ purposes in my life.
Lent is a time of discovery, a journey of learning about our hearts and souls. Including – and especially – what is in us that shouldn’t be there. What is displeasing to God. Evil. Wrong. Sin.
My Lenten discipline this year ( in case you are reading this for the first time) is to stop complaining. My progress has been mixed at best. But I have learned a great deal about myself. The other discipline I have started is exercise and better eating. And for the first time ever in trying to do so, I have made it a month and made some real if minor progress. But I am also learning some things about myself, my inner life, my assumptions, my blind spots.
One I never really considered is this – I can exercise and feel better and get healthier because I am privileged. I have health insurance that provides pretty comprehensive wellness benefits. I have a job that gives me some flexibility that allows me to make and keep personal fitness appointments. I can afford the monthly membership fee at the Y. I am far from wealthy. But I am something I am not sure I genuinely understood – I am privileged. Blessed. Favored.
And very little – probably none of it – because I am better or special or unique. It has to do with where I was born, the color of my skin, who my parents are. Things I can no more control than my gender or the color of my hair (or the fact that I have less hair than I did!).
I can’t say this is a profound learning – or something I should have known better. But every time I go to the Y and pull myself on to the elliptical or do another set of repetitions, I remember that I can do this because I have privilege and blessing that not every one has. And I am grateful. And I am convicted deeply at how careless and ungrateful I often am about this privilege and this blessing.
Earlier this week I saw a local news segment about an elderly woman who has been cheated out of $ 18,000 (essentially all she had) by mail and phone scams. It was a sad story and one designed to warn about these lottery and contest scams to which the woman had fallen prey.
Don’t misunderstand me – there is no excuse for those who prey on elderly or other vulnerable people. We need to protect those who cannot make protect themselves. But as I listened to this elderly lady she seemed coherent, even rational to me. The story left me wondering what in us makes us prey to quick money schemes and promises of great reward for a little investment? What opens us to these frauds?
God has been teaching me this Lenten season about my hungers – physical and spiritual ones. And they are not unrelated. This news piece has made me think about greed. There is something essentially greedy in our desire to win the lottery, to inherit a fortune, etc. It opens us to all kinds of hurts and problems. And to the exploitation of others (like this poor woman experienced). Again I am clear that someone took advantage of this poor woman. But they took advantage of a defect, a flaw in our human hungers that many of us share.
The Lenten discipline of fasting is about understanding and taming our hungers. What do we crave? What do we long to have? What makes us petty and irritable and angry when denied us? Are there things that, no matter how much we get, we never have enough? Affection. Food. Appreciation. Money. Acceptance. Praise. Stuff. Power. Love.
My hungers often control me. They lead me to places where I should not be, where God has warned me not to go. What hungers are eating away at my peace and joy this Lenten season? What chains still bind me, chains that Jesus the Great Liberator wants to break? What about yours?