We call it Good Friday, but what’s good about it? When Jesus carried His cross up Golgotha to be crucified, no one was thinking of the cross as symbolic of a burden to carry. To a person in the first-century, the cross meant one thing and one thing only: death by the most painful and humiliating means human beings could develop. Jesus is betrayed by one of his own disciples. Roman officers and the Jewish police arrest him. Another disciple blatantly denies his association with him. He is sentenced to death, crucified and buried. Between the backstabbers, “authorities” and so-called friends, one would think what’s the use? Who will continue the good work that has already begun?
Less than a year apart, two very significant people in my life died. The first died after a battle with a serious infection and the second almost immediately, right around this season of the year. When they were well, both had struggles. Some might even say that it was the struggles that lead to the death. I can’t knowingly say, but what I do know is that their deaths changed my way of thinking. They were what we call “good people.” By this I mean people who did good things. Somehow I didn’t fully understand why they did what they did until they weren’t here to do it any more. Who will continue the good work that has already begun? It’s Good Friday once again and here am I Lord. Let the journey continue and the cross no longer a burden or imposed humiliation but rather a strength and shield.
We remember his death…(BCP 368)
Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. John 13:1-17, 31b-35 We don’t often talk about Peter’s reluctance to Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. It was a menial task usually left to servants, that is of course assuming that you had servants. Jesus’ act makes clear that this is exactly who we are – servants to one another. A friend of mine wanted to do something for me and I told her it wasn’t necessary believing that it might be a burden for her. She said something I will never forget; “Why would you deny me the opportunity to do what God has called me to do?” Who was I to determine the measure of her gift to me? No act is too small to give and no spirit is too great to receive. Jesus the perfecter of our faith has set the pathway. To lead is to serve and to serve is to lead.
You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you… I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ John 13:1-17, 31-35
After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit… John 13:21-32 Really there is nothing that can be said about a troubled spirit particularly when you know the inevitable is about to happen. To anguish over the physical is human. The triumph of those who believe is in knowing that there is a larger picture, the inevitable greater outcome that awaits not just our selves but the people around us as well. What appears to be the end physically for us is never the end for God.
…the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. John 14:26-27
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For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 There’s this thing about waiting for God that sometimes drives me “insane.” I desperately need a sign or I desperately need the waiting to make sense. Often, I get neither one and I am tempted to do something because I feel like I have to in order to “help” the situation along. Of course God’s glory doesn’t need any “help” from me. Sometimes in this journey only in retrospect do we understand the sense of it all and no sign is given specifically on behalf of ourselves. However, if we look closely enough we can see God’s glory taking seasons on everything he has created. When it is our season God’s glory will take place through us. As I wait I remember the sweet resurrection of life, as like Christ, is lived in faith and guided by God’s power and not by the power I perceive to be my own. God’s glory is being revealed every day, in every way and in every one of us.
‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’ Isaiah 49:6
Do not let the foot of the arrogant tread on me, or the hand of the wicked drive me away. Psalm 36:5-11 The “leaders” did everything they could to keep Jesus from making his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Bu his entry wasn’t about being a fearless leader of the people of Israel. It was about being undeterred in God’s will and purpose for a people he loved. Our triumph is in moving forward in the journey – physically and spiritually, with the confidence in knowing that God’s love is greater than our fears and that like Christ, we are moving from death to life.
For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God! Hebrews 9:11-15
‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ John 11:1-27 Jesus knew that Lazarus was going to die. Lazarus was in a tomb four days before Jesus returned to Bethany at the request of his sisters. I remember years ago my mother and aunt came up from Baltimore on their way to see their Aunt Florence. She was the oldest sister of their father and the last remaining sibling of five. They didn’t expect her to live past the year and wanted to be with her and asked if I wanted to go with them. Like a story out of Mark’s Gospel, immediately I changed my plans for the day to make that journey with them. My Aunt Florence had a lot of stories to share. She was the woman who loved and cared for everybody’s children including her own. Her house was always open and heart never judged. My own mother the youngest of five was the same way. On March 13th of this month, she would have been 68. My mother literally spent a lifetime in social service. She taught, healed and cared for people she didn’t know like they were family. She saved the preaching and rebuking for her three children. When she became ill it wasn’t long before things went from bad to worse. Nevertheless, I remember very clearly the point at which I knew her struggle was coming to an end. I was at her bedside everyday. People who new her from everywhere came to be with her because she had helped them in some way. Each person had their own story. Even as she was passing away, something new was being revealed about this woman I called Mom and nothing would me the same after she died. Because of those stories she lives. Because of those stories I am able to strengthen myself. Because of those stories I too experience a resurrection and glorify God every day.
Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. John 11:1-27
Again the Jews were divided because of these words. Many of them were saying, ‘He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?’ 10:19-42 Maya Angelou said that people will forget what you did but never forget how you made them feel. This can go both ways. Judging by the desire to stone Jesus, the Jews in this passage felt angry. It is very difficult to accept a truth about yourself that is unflattering and negatively judgmental. Criticism is sometimes used as a defense mechanism when people want to protect something about themselves. Although his words (scripture) were true, it didn’t change their minds about Jesus and it did not change their mind about who they believed themselves to be. Suffice it to say, the criticism and anger was not about Jesus as much as it was about them not wanting to accept straight talk concerning the scripture and life. No body likes to be criticized or judged negatively, but as we follow Christ, the Word of God should not only be our strength but our examiner as well.
If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’ John 10:19-42
The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. John 10:1-18 Troubles come and troubles go. It’s not the wolf we have to worry about it’s the hired hand. Discern the voice that’s calling you, and know the way towards the open gate that draws you in to abundant life.
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me… John 10:1-18
And when he was twelve years old…the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. After three days they found him in the temple… Luke 2:41-52 I’ve known several people who have consciously felt called in to the presence of the divine at very early ages. Why some and not others – who knows? What’s important is getting to the point of understanding that divine spirit does exist. Divine presence leads to truth about who we really are and to whom we really belong. Up until that point however we often go through struggles concerning obedience. To whom do we listen and follow? This passage however brings up a question for me to which I wrestle with its implications. At the age of 12 does Jesus dishonor his parents by not remaining with them or was he honoring God by remaining in the Temple?
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:1-17 As we near the end of the Lenten season, hopefully whatever we’ve focused our attentions away from in order to draw closer to God, we are better able to experience God’s plan and provisions for living. We begin to realize that what we perceive as dependence on God is more like natural instinct towards his presence within us. To define our relationship as dependence causes us to look for blame either within ourselves or someone else when things don’t work out the way we believe they should. The reality is that something is always being worked out. We are not the only ones to whom God is in relationship. While our decisions play some part in what does and does not happen, instinctively we praise, instinctively we repent, instinctively we reconcile ourselves and instinctively we know that God is working it out not just for us but through us as well.
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him…” John 9:1-17
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:16-21