St Mark’s Lenten Meditations From Our Members

Holy Week—Wednesday
Isaiah 50:4-9 Psalm 70 Hebrews 12:1-3 John 13:21-32
Matthew 26:39 quotes Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” This
passage has always resonated with me. I was reminded of it when I read today’s passage from Isaiah about him being spat on, struck, and insulted. David also speaks in Psalm 70 about others who desire to hurt him, and David needing help. In John, Jesus seems to state so simply that His betrayal is coming.  Growing up in church, we learned about Christians around the world being persecuted.  We were challenged to prepare for any kind of persecution, although we knew it was unlikely many of us would face jail, physical injury, or death for our faith.  With age, I’ve realized it is practically inevitable that each of us will face pain; it just isn’t usually as a direct result from other humans. I’m thankful that despite all our struggles, we have the Word to turn to for comfort, so we do “not grow weary or lose heart.” If Christ was able to endure “such hostility against himself from sinners,” may we also be able to “lay aside every weight…, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” The first time I read these passages, nothing seemed to touch me. Yet, the next morning I reread them, and they jumped off the page. We cannot let Satan or our sorrows cloud our ability to receive God’s message. As Rowena tenderly recites her favorite verse with emphasis and hand motions, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). Keep coming back to scripture and Our Father in prayer to soak your heart in God’s love.
– Lauren Thibodeaux

St Mark’s Lenten Meditations From Our Members

Holy Week—Tuesday

Psalm 71: 1-14       Isaiah 49:1-7    1 Corinthians 1: 18-31     John 12: 20-36

The psalmist gives us a wonderful model for dealing with times when a situation becomes stressful.  He acknowledges his need for God’s help, and then expresses his trust in the One who “took me from my mother’s womb” and upon whom he has depended since his birth!  When the psalmist remembers the stories of his dependence on God, he proclaims “my praise is continually of you” and “my mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all day long!” (V. 6-8)

Praising God opens our hearts to God, helping us to remember God’s goodness and grace.  It also helps us to realize that we don’t have to remind God continuously of our needs, for “God knows our needs before we ask” (Matt 6:8). In praising God, we are lifting our hearts to God and becoming more aware that, as Scripture says, “God is pouring love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”  (Romans 5:5).   This awareness increases our joy, and “The joy of the Lord is our strength!”  (Nehemiah 8:10).  

Our greatest joy of course, is in knowing Jesus as the light of the world.  In our gospel reading for today, Jesus invites us to believe and follow Him in walking as children of the light!  This invitation seems closely connected to another promise of Jesus to those who are walking in the light: “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”  (John 7:38) In conclusion, it would seem that praising God can keep our hearts open and free so that God can make us instruments of God’s peace and joy through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Rowena White

St Mark’s Lenten Meditations From Our Members

Holy Week—Monday

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

The theme throughout today’s readings is the wideness of God’s mercy, but the salient point made over and over again is that God’s mercy extends not to one nation or one people but to all.  Isaiah 42:1-9 shows God speaking into the pain of exile (physical and spiritual) his assurance of a servant who will bring justice not only to Israel but to all nations. 

In contrast to human wickedness, the psalmist of Psalm 36 sings of the Lord’s “steadfast love” and faithfulness. In contrast to secretive deceit and iniquity, he speaks of God’s righteousness, which is high as the mountains and deep as the seas (5-6). This amazing grace extends to all of creation (verse 7).  The words of verses 5-9 are words of praise and of trust in the wideness of God’s mercy which extends not only to all peoples of the world but also to the animals (6). God’s steadfast love is “precious.” His wings provide shelter for all who seek refuge. He is a fountain that provides life; He is light in a world of darkness. In concluding, the psalmist acknowledges the wideness of God’s mercy by praying for its continuance.

 The reading from John further defines the contrast between human wickedness and faithfulness in the juxtaposition of Mary and Judas.  Mary is honoring Jesus physically and spiritually by anointing him with something precious, precious as the love of Christ.  Judas, however, sees her gesture as a waste of money.  It is an image as evocative as it is timeless. “Leave her alone,” Jesus tells Judas.  Where Judas sees waste, Jesus sees love and devotion.

The author of Hebrews confirms that the servant promised in Isaiah has come.  Jesus is the Light in a world of darkness, the fountain of life, whose blood brings redemption to a world in exile. 15”For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”  

Every night, like the psalmist, I close my prayers by asking for God’s protection from the wickedness surrounding us (including our own) and for his continuing mercy not only for myself but for all people.

Laura McLemore

St Mark’s Lenten Meditations From Our Members

Palm Sunday

Liturgy of the Palms

                                                  Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29;       Luke 19: 28-40

The passage from Luke is familiar to us because we hear it every year, or at least we hear the story from the different perspectives of Matthew, Mark, or Luke every year. But Luke’s story is different; he leaves us at the crest of the Mount of Olives about two miles from the city and at verse forty-five jumps a whole day to record the cleansing of the temple. So, our picture of the residents of Jerusalem greeting their king and crowding the city streets is not a Lucan picture.

But it does make us wonder who the multitude that is with Jesus as he journeys from Bethany to the crest of the Mount of Olives might be.

Let’s look at the possibilities.  Certainly, the Twelve were there; they have been Jesus’ companions on his itinerant ministry for the last three years.  It is quite likely that Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, his friends with whom he stayed while in Bethany, were with him along with other townsfolk who knew Jesus well – not quite like the Twelve, but longtime friends and followers.  Perhaps some were fellow pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem for the Passover feast just as it seems that Jesus and the Twelve were doing; travelling with Jesus may have led many of them to listen to his teaching and become interested in the works and words of this young rabbi – new followers but perhaps not yet disciples.  Some may be hangers on who are travelling simply because they are buoyed by the energy of the travelers or because the crowd offers a chance to pick a few pockets.  Perhaps some came out from Jerusalem when they heard he was nearby to find out what was happening.  It was likely a very mixed lot.

But who are we in this crowd?  Are we the Twelve who, when they fell asleep while he was praying and could do nothing when he was arrested, ran away and hid in shame?  Are we the loyal friends who later stood at the foot of the cross perhaps wondering how it came to this?  Are we those new followers who, when they sense the tide turning against Jesus, will shout for him to be crucified?  Most likely we are three rolled into one.  But out his love for us, Jesus will weep over us and forgive us.

David Bieler

St Mark’s Lenten Meditations From Our Members

Lent Week 5—Saturday

                      Psalm 43      Exod. 10:21-11:8     2 Cor. 4:1318         Mark 10:4652

Lent is a time for reflection and forgiveness. Some look forward to it, some seek answers and change, some find solitude and peace with in, and some find it depressing and self-depriving. 

Growing up at St. Mark’s in both the church and school it was always a season we talked about at great lengths. When I was a child and young person I did not enjoy Lent. As a young adult, I didn’t have time for it, even though I had spent the previous weeks participating in all the festivities.  As an adult, I find that I look forward to it every year– particularly reflecting on my past year and years, decisions made or not made, and the people I have hurt along the way.  Trust me, it can be a slippery slope if I dwell on something too long. I try to review who I hurt, why I did and why I thought it to be justified.  Did I apologize, or did I try to explain? Was I accountable or did I take little to no responsibility for my actions?  Was the apology accepted or was it perceived as disingenuous? 

How do I know if I was forgiven or the person or persons I apologized too thought it to be lip service? In a world where we don’t forget, ever, can we really forgive? Celebrities and politicians who made poor choices in their college years are constantly reminded what they did thirty-plus years ago at a frat party. Good people who made a business decision that may have crossed a legal line struggle finding a job, and in most cases will never have a career again, relationships never restored because trust is no longer there even though apology was accepted.  

I think the real question is, do I forgive myself? Have I taken the steps to correct my actions, not just apologize and expect the other person to move past it as well. Have I changed my behavior, asked for help in understanding the other party’s side? Have I asked God to forgive me and guide me? If I can’t forgive myself and take the steps to change my behavior, how can I expect my apologies to be accepted and forgiven?  

I am my biggest critic. I am hard on others and harder on myself. I don’t forgive myself as easily as I forgive others, and I seem to never forget. 

During the season of reflection, I pray that I can find the strength to forgive myself, to change the behavior that hurts others and accept God’s grace.

Ashley Kisla