St Mark’s Lenten Thoughts: Monday In Holy Week

Master of the Legend of the Magdalene active probably in Brussels, ca. 1480–1530

Holy Week—Monday

Psalm 36:5-11 Isaiah 42:1-9 Hebrews 9:11-15 John 12:1-11

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Imagine the range of emotion in the room as Martha and Mary made final preparations for the supper that had been prepared for Jesus. There was unimaginable joy as they saw Lazarus seated contentedly at the table. The simple act of enjoying a meal with family and friends is newly profound. Lazarus had, after all, died only to be brought back to life (and to the table) by Jesus.

There was immeasurable gratitude bolstered by a long-established, very human, love for Jesus the man. Those gathered also were no doubt awestruck by the grace they had received from coming into intimate relationship with Jesus, the Son of God.

For Jesus, this supper must have seemed like a port in a storm; a rare moment of respite from the rancor engulfing him just outside those walls. Mary makes a grand gesture anointing Jesus with precious oil. (We are told its value was equivalent to a year’s wages for the average person). The house was filled with fragrance, as it was with love and devotion; but soon the stench of betrayal wafted through the air in the person of Judas. He expressed disapproval of Mary’s actions, and the subsequent rebuke of his words by Jesus must have stung and embarrassed him.

In these moments, Jesus demonstrates his humanness and his divinity. The fundamental act of sharing a meal with close friends gives him comfort. All the while he is fully aware of the ordeal he will soon endure, speaking to Judas of “the day of my burial.” Yet, he will willingly submit himself to suffering and death, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world.

He is the anointed one, and we are to be bolstered by his resolve. We are to follow Martha’s example and serve Him with unity, constancy, and peace.

-Darrell Rebouche

St Mark’s Lenten Thoughts: Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

Psalm 31:9-16 Isaiah 50:4-9a Philippians 2:5-11 Matthew 26:14- 27:66

The Palm Sunday Liturgy and readings seem to me to sum up the whole of our theological understanding of Jesus’ life in a way unlike any other. We begin with the entry into Jerusalem. In many ways it is a sort of return to Bethlehem—we have the proclamation of the Son of David—a King returned! And yet, is this the king we were expecting? Just as the king proclaimed by angels in Bethlehem was the child of peasants who lay in a feeding trough, now this king proclaimed in Jerusalem is riding on a borrowed donkey, announced by the unwashed masses, and, before we know it, he is killed as a common criminal. Jesus’ incarnation is never as we expect it. The long-desired king who would restore Israel to its former glory is instead the suffering servant who by His suffering restores the glory of creation.

Today’s liturgy sends us from exultation to despair, and we ourselves move from being members of the crowd who hails his name to members of the crowd who seek his death. In the passage from Isaiah, it is as though we hear Jesus’ own thoughts—as one who has become “a reproach to all my enemies and even to my neighbors, a dismay to those of my acquaintance.” And yet the speaker will not abandon his trust in God, even as we see the crucified Christ commend his soul into His father’s hands, confident still in God’s power to save.

As we begin Holy Week, we are called to recognize the reality of Christ’s life and death and to recognize that our acknowledgement of this reality must define our Christian faith. It is too easy to be like Peter and to deny that we are followers of Jesus, the living and dying Son of God. We would rather follow Jesus the healer of the sick and teller of parables and ignore the messy unpleasantness of Holy Week. We want to jump straight to Easter and the joy of resurrection, but to do that without recalling Christ’s Passion is to be like Peter and fail to acknowledge the truth of our relationship; we need rather to be as the Centurion and acknowledge that here indeed was an innocent man.

The writer of Philippians sums up Jesus’ nature when he speaks of Jesus as being in the “form of God” and yet emptying himself into a human form which is then humbled to the point of death on a cross. It is Jesus’ very sacrifice in shameful death that causes God to exalt Him over every other name. Again, we see incarnation and suffering linked for our salvation, for which reason every tongue should “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”:

Therefore, God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

-Chris Carter

St Mark’s Lenten Thoughts: Saturday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Jewish soldier settlers dancing the Hora in Palestine, 1948

Lent Week Five—Saturday

Psalm 144 Jeremiah 31:27-34 Romans 11:25-36 John 12:37-50

This psalm is believed to be written near the time David became recognized as the king over all tribes of Israel and expressed David’s heart for the nation in war and peace. This passage strikes home with us symbolically. As we read it, we are touched by how closely it relates to something we are deeply praying about today. This passage gives us hope and strength as we pray for family and friends who are battling heath issues. A reminder that the Lord is the rock and foundation not just to lean on, but to learn from on how to prepare for battle—a humble reminder that humans are “like a breath” and our “days are like a fleeting shadow.” As David prayed for the lord to come down, show his might, scatter the enemy, shoot his arrows and deliver and rescue them; we pray. We pray to send forth the knowledge to the doctors, to enable healing medicine and to deliver resolution. Although the enemy is different, the prayer is the same . . . deliver them. After the portion of the psalm asking for delivery from war and battle, David expresses his heart for a peaceful blessed nation. Their barns will be full, their sons and daughters will be well-nurtured and like pillars. The flock will increase, the oxen will draw heavy loads. Although there is a significant time difference between David’s prayer and what we have been praying, David’s heart expressed ours’ now too. Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD.

-Brad and Lynn Massad

St Mark’s Lenten Thoughts: Friday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Lent Week Five—Friday

Psalm 141 Jeremiah 29:1, 4-13 Romans 11:13-24 John 12:1-10.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.” In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Psalm 141 is written by king David while in the wilderness. Unlike many psalms that center on joyful songs dedicated to God, this particular psalm is a combination of a cry, and a need. Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard, O Lord before my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips.”

David begins by calling for God’s attention, “Listen to my voice when I call on you.” I admire quiet folks. But sometimes one wonders what they will say in case they choose to talk. I like people who know what they want. I also like people that talk. But what are “we” talking? David knew well that the mouth is a major tool to use for so many things (to curse, bless, pray, sing, magnify, name it). And since he was running away from his enemies, he knew how his mouth would affect him, had he not used it carefully, thus he prayed.

May God help us to know (like king David) what to pray for, also who and whose we are. “But my eyes are toward you, O God the Lord, in you do I trust and take refuge; pour not out my life nor leave it destitute and bare.” We need to stay close to God and to trust Him at all times and in all situations because His promises are real. “For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. Then you will call upon me, and I will hear and heed you.”(Jeremiah 29:11 & 12).

Erinah E. Nsubuga.

St Mark’s Lenten Thoughts: Thursday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Homeless and orphaned children settle down to sleep in the air raid shelter at John Keble Church, Mill Hill, London during the Blitz in 1940.

Lent Week Five—Thursday

Psalm 133 Jeremiah 26:1-16 Romans 11:1-12 John 10:19-42

Following WWII in Europe, the Allied Forces found themselves responsible for hundreds and hundreds of hungry and homeless children, the orphans of war. The children were gathered into large camps and then they were given everything – food, clothes, toys, games, music, diversions of every kind. However, those caring for them were troubled. The children were restless, anxious, “oppositionally defiant,” at night when they should be sleeping. The camps were in a mild turmoil at night. Generally, no one was getting any rest. Finally, a military psychologist offered a solution. After the children were put to bed, each one of them was given a slice of bread, to hold in their hands. If they wanted more to eat, they could have as much as they wanted. But this piece of bread, this piece of bread placed in their hands, was just for holding. It was like a small miracle. The children would go to sleep, and most of them would sleep, and sleep, and sleep. These children simply did not know what they did not know.

They were learning a new thing. The children were beginning to know something they had not known, something they had not known for a very long time; they were beginning to know a new thing, that someone cared, and they were going to be safe. You see, with that piece of bread in their hands, they knew that someone was caring for them. They knew that they would be cared for in the morning. And because they knew they were loved, they could rest.

The children came to know a new thing. It is the very thing Jesus would have each of his children come to know, at least those who decide to listen to Him. I sometimes think of Jesus’s life and teaching as that slice of bread for the children. If we are still hungry in the midst of an abundant life, needing direction, encouragement, hope . . . it is not simply more information that we need; what we need is more love, compassion, and truth that comes only from God. “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life; and they will never perish.”

Alston Johnson