Devotional – 1 Corinthians 15.3-4

Devotional:

1 Corinthians 15.3-4

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures. 

Weekly Devotional Image

Worship had come to a conclusion and people were lining up on their way out of the sanctuary. While I shake hands with those who have come to worship the living God, I attempt to  really connect with them as they leave but I also listen to the conversations going on in the line a few people away. Yesterday I overheard a man saying to the person behind him, “I just don’t understand why we need to have services in the middle of holy week. Can’t we just show up for Easter?” With every fiber of my being I resisted the temptation to explain, in detail, the importance of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday when he came to shake my hand; without them, the resurrection loses it’s meaning.

A similar episode occurred last week when I was teaching our Preschoolers about Palm Sunday. I told the story about Jesus entering Jerusalem on the back of the donkey because he was preparing himself for the beauty and wonder of Easter. I was in the middle of a sentence when one of our 4 year olds shouted out, “I love Easter Pastor Taylor!” I said, “I do too, it’s my favorite day in the entire year.” She replied, “I love Easter because the bunny is going to bring me lots of candy and toys!”

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Chocolate, games, and Easter eggs are all important for the celebration of Easter in the way they fill us with joy and excitement, but they are not fundamental to the story. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about what he handed on to them. As a new and budding Christian community they were tasked with hearing, remembering, and retelling the fundamental aspects of Christ’s incredible gift: Jesus died for our sins, he was buried, and then he was raised on the third day.

If Easter is just another Sunday that we come to church to hear a message, if Easter is just about searching the yard for plastic eggs and having a meal with our families, then we are not properly handing on what we have received.

God came in the form of Jesus to dwell among us, fully God and fully human. Jesus ministered to those in need throughout Galilee and proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor. He went to the places where people needed to feel loved and he gave everything he had to serve others rather than himself. When the time came he made his way to Jerusalem and spent a final night with his friends feasting on bread and wine and washing their feet. That night he was betrayed, arrested, and sent to his death. He carried his cross with a crown of thorns adorned on his head and was hung in the air next to two thieves. Jesus died. But three days later he rose again and the the world was changed forever.

The story of Easter is one that was handed to us, and now we have the privilege to hand it to others. This week, this final week of lent, let us all remember to tell the whole story, to live through Jesus’ final days, so that we might live with him forever in the resurrection.

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Palms Beneath My Feet – Sermon on Mark 11.1-11

Mark 11.1-11

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back immediately.’ “ They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

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Weekly Chapel Time requires a willing and humble spirit. What we do here on Sunday mornings carries an air of sophisticated and focused liturgy. But when I bring the Preschoolers in during the week… there are no rules. When we worship together most of us have fairly decent attention spans, but the 2, 3, and 4 year-olds need to be consistently bombarded with images and ideas in order to stay focused.

I’ll freely admit that I treat our preschoolers the same way that I treat our worshippers (I’ll let you decide whether or not that is a good thing) because we are all working toward the same goal: a greater awareness of God’s love and mercy in the world.

Anyway, this week, in preparation for Palm Sunday, we gathered the children in the sanctuary for their lesson. They sat in the pews up here in the choir loft, with their little legs dangling in the air, excited and nervous to keep learning about this guy named Jesus. I love quizzing them on previous stories because they are fascinated by scripture. For instance: If I could get all of us to be as excited about Zacchaeus, the wee-little man, climbing up a sycamore tree, just imagine how faithful we would become.

I shared with the children that Jesus needed to get to a strange place called Jerusalem to do something incredible for his friends. They gathered together outside the city and Jesus sent two men to find a donkey for him to ride on. The closer the came to the gates, more and more people gathered palms from the surrounding area and waved them in the air, and placed them on the ground all while shouting “Hosanna!” which means “save us!”

I then had all the children line up with their own palm branches in the center aisle and we were going to recreate the story. I found a young boy to be Jesus and when I asked who they thought the donkey should be they all emphatically yelled, “You Pastor Taylor!” I’m not sure how I felt about them so quickly identifying me with that particular animal, but I let it go.

So there I was on my hands and knees with a child saddled across my back making our way into Jerusalem. I had instructed all the children to either wave their palms or place them on the ground and shout “save us!” to the boy on my back. The entire journey down the center aisle took longer than I thought because I did not want to drop the Jesus on my back, but as I walked forward and saw the palms beneath my feet I was struck by the Holy Spirit.

The children continued to scream and beg for their salvation, the Jesus on my back kept kicking into my rib cage to make me go faster, but all I could think about was what the donkey must have experienced when he carried Jesus into Jerusalem, what it must have been like to deliver the Lord to his death.

The following is an imaginative retelling of the story from the donkey’s perspective…

Palm-Sunday

With palms beneath my feet, Jesus, there are so many things I wish I could tell you. Carrying you while the crowds scream on our sides, I wish I could share all the things I have seen and heard. This might be the only chance I’ll get, and it already feels too late.

I was there Jesus. I was there in the manger when you were born. Your parents had come into the tiny room and your mother looked like she was about to burst. I was but a young foal back then, but I remember. They were so afraid and alone when they cuddled together holding you close. While they were filled with fear, I was filled with joy. I knew from the moment I saw you that you were special, that you were the Son of God. The other animals could feel it too, and while your family fell into the familiar rhythm of sleep, we gathered around you to share our warmth. I watched you sleep all night and I could feel that our lives were connected, and I knew that I would see you again one day.

You left from Bethlehem but as the years passed I heard stories about your life. I would be in the marketplace, or moving about the village and rumors would fall upon my ears.

When you were a child they said that you stood apart. Other children would spend their days running around and getting into mischief, but you would sit in the synagogue and teach the elders. Your command of the scriptures spread before you even started your ministry. I would watch the people while they talked about you and they were filled with such hope. Words like “messiah, lord, and savior” were used to describe you and I could tell that the Lord was among us.

Then it came to pass that you were baptized by your cousin John in the Jordan river. Witnesses said they saw the sky open up and they heard the voice of God. While others denied the claims, I knew it was true, I could feel that your ministry was about to begin and that everything would change.

You traveled throughout Galilee proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor. You healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and restored the outcasts to their families. Everywhere you went stories about your love and mercy traveled ahead and the crowds grew larger and larger. You fed the multitudes by the sea, you walked on water, and you brought Lazarus back from the dead. You spoke of mustard seeds, prodigal sons, and good samaritans. You ate with sinners, worked on the sabbath, and argued with the Pharisees. Some say that even just a few weeks ago you were on the mountaintop when Moses and Elijah appeared and you were transfigured.

This morning I was tied up near the door when two of your disciples came close. One of them spoke to my owner and said, “The Lord needs him” and they brought me to you. I knew the time had come when we would be reunited, but the joy I expected to feel has been mixed with trepidation.

Jesus, how I wish you could hear me, how I wish I could tell you all I have seen and heard. We departed early this morning and the crowds gathered around us. It feels as if the closer we get to Jerusalem the people grow louder and more eager to cry out. Do they know what they mean when they say, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”?

I’m beginning to worry Jesus. I don’t think they know who you really are. The people sound more like an angry mob waiting for you to overthrow the Romans than a faithful group waiting for the kingdom of God. They want another Moses to lead them out of physical bondage, they want another David who can lead them into battle, they want another Solomon to build a giant temple.

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These people have suffered but they believe in you. Did you see them take off their cloaks and place them in the road? I have been walking over garments for hours. Did you see them rush into the fields for palm branches to wave them in the air and create a royal pathway? The palms beneath my feet are a sign of how much these people believe in you.

What are you going to do Jesus? I can hear people murmuring about your coming mission, some are saying that you are going to the temple and you are going to overthrow the tables. Some are saying that you are going to lead the rebellion and kill the chief priests and scribes. Some are saying that you are going to destroy the temple and then build a new one.

Jesus I’m afraid for your life! These people don’t know who you really are and what you’ve come to do. They shout “Hosanna, Hosanna!” but I fear their shouts will soon turn to “Crucify, Crucify!” They are only concerned about themselves. Even your disciples on either side of us, I can smell their fear.

Jesus, I was there when you were born. I felt God’s presence in you and I knew you would save the world. But please Jesus, let me take you away from this place. Jerusalem can only bring about your death. We still have a chance to turn around and head home.

Or is it too late? 

The crowds are starting to thin Jesus. The people are beginning to head home. We are stepping through the gate and the palms are no longer beneath my feet. I want to believe in you and what you are doing. I want to believe this is God’s will. But I’m so afraid.

Jesus, I am an old donkey and I don’t know how much further I can carry you.

It’s just us now and the sun is beginning to set.

What will happen? What are you going to do?

If this is the last time I will see you, I wish I could talk to you. I wish I could warn you about what is to come. I wish I could stop you.

You swing your legs around and are standing right before me. Your eyes contain the same hope they did the day you were born in the humble manger. As you pet my old matted fur I can feel all the people you have already touched and healed. I can feel the sick children and parents, I can feel the blind and the lame, the last, least and lost.

What a privilege it was to carry you today my Lord. I knew that we would meet again, I only wish I could do something to warn you.

You’re now leaning in close to whisper in my ear. Is this goodbye? Is this the end?

You said, “No my old friend. I know exactly what I am doing. And this is only the beginning.” Amen.

“A Stick, A Carrot & String”

In preparation for Holy Week…

mewithoutyou – “A Stick, A Carrot & String”

The horse’s hay lay beneath His head our Lord was born to a manger bed, that all whose wells run dry could drink of his supply.

To keep Him warm the sheep drew near, so grateful for His coming here: You come with news of grace, come to take my place!

The donkey whispered in His ear: Child, in thirty-some-odd years, You’ll ride someone who looks like me (untriumphantly).

While the cardinals warbled a joyful song: He’ll make right what man made wrong, bringing low the hills, that the valleys might be filled!

Then Child, asked the birds, well, aren’t they lovely words we sing? The tiny Baby lay there without saying anything.

As a distance stood a mangy goat with crooked teeth and a matted coat, weary eyes and worn, chipped & twisted horns.

Thinking: Maybe I’ll make friends some day with the cows in the pens and the Rambouillet, but for now I’ll keep away – I got nothin’ smart to say.

But there’s a sign on the barn in Cabbagetown: “WHEN THE RAIN PICKS UP AND THE SUN GOES DOWN, SINNERS COME INSIDE! WITH NO MONEY, COME AND BUY. NO CLEVER TALK NOR GIFT TO BRING REQUIRES OUR LOWLY, LOVELY KING. COME YOU EMPTY-HANDED, YOU DON’T NEED ANYTHING.

And the night was cool and clear as glass with the sneaking snake in the garden grass, as Deep cried out to Deep, the disciples fast asleep.

And the snake perked up when he heard You ask: If You’re willing that this cup might pass we could find our way back home, maybe start a family all our own… but does not the Father guide the Son? Not my will but Yours be done! What else here to do? What else me but You?

And the snake who’d held the world, a stick, a carrot and a string, was crushed beneath the Foot of Your not wanting anything.

Devotional – Psalm 118.22

Devotional:

Psalm 118.22

The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 

Weekly Devotional Image

We were in the middle of the woods during a Boy Scout camping trip. Our leaders were known for coming up with activities that would help us to grow our wilderness skills, but this particular challenge was driving me crazy. Scattered throughout the clearing were areas with dry wood, tinder, and two stakes connected by a string holding up a water balloon. The challenge was to create a fire under the dangling water balloon using the natural elements until the balloon would pop and put out the fire.

The leaders separated us into groups of four and sent us to our different areas. I don’t remember everyone from my group but there was one boy who was known more for his love of books than his love of the great outdoors. Without intending to I basically ignored his presence while trying to organize the other two boys to begin working on our fire. We collected the tinder in a pile and tried rubbing sticks together. We went searching for some rocks that would hopefully create a spark when we slammed them together. Throughout the wooded area audible frustrations could be heard from each group as they struggled in vain to pop their balloon.

We must have worked for thirty minutes before I noticed the book-boy offering me a piece of advice. He was remarkably shy and I could barely make our what he was trying to say, though I could tell that he was serious. He quickly took off one of his hiking boots, removed a shoe-lace, curved a long stick, and created a make-shift bow. He then demonstrated that if we wrapped another stick around the string, we could move the bow like a saw and it would spin the stick for us with an incredible amount of friction. We quickly went to work and within 10 minutes we were the only group with a fire at all, and a few moments later the balloon popped and put out the fire that we had struggled to ignite. After congratulating ourselves I made a point to thank the boy for his idea and asked where it came from. He said, “I read about it in the Wilderness book that we were all supposed to read before this weekend.”

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The palmist writes about a stone that builders rejected becoming the chief cornerstone. Those who are familiar with the New Testament will quickly identify Jesus as someone rejected by the elders who then became the foundation for the church. Yet, this is not something that can be applied to Jesus alone. I quickly rejected the help from a boy in the woods because I made a ridiculous assumption about his inability to help. In him I saw little value worth assessing. However, without his help we would probably still be in the woods trying to pop our balloon. God can, and does, use some of the least likely people to change the world. Everyone has value and worth, we need only a new perspective to realize it.

In the remaining days of Lent let us open our eyes to value in people around us. Instead of making quick and unjustified assumptions, let us take a moment to reflect and remember that those who we reject are often the ones who are here to save us.

Living in Harmony – Sermon on Romans 12.9-18

We tried something different in church this week. Instead of the typical ~15 sermon, I broke the church up into 6 groups (each bulletin contained a number between 1-6) and sent them to different rooms throughout the building. Below I have included the directions for the group leaders in addition to the questions used for discussion. After the groups had spent a significant amount of time together, I invited them back into the sanctuary for a brief homily to connect the scripture with our activity.

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Living in Harmony

Directions for Group Leaders:

Thank you for agreeing to help facilitate conversation during worship. Below you will find step-by-step instructions to guide each group through their time together. In light of your willingness to help lead I will share with you the reason for our activity, but I ask that you do not share it with your group: Many of us attend church on a regular basis, we see the same familiar faces, and yet we don’t have an intimate knowledge about those we call our brothers and sisters in Christ. Each group will be asking and answering questions in order to learn more about our community. My hope is that we will begin to know more about one another than just where everyone sits in the sanctuary. The quality of the answers should be emphasized over quantity. I would rather you only get to one of the questions and really learn about each other than getting to answer all of them without really soaking up the answers.

  1. Reread the following scripture to set up the activity:
    1. Romans 12.9-18
    2. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 
  2. Ask everyone to share their name.
  3. Say: “For the next 15-20 minutes we will be speaking casually with one another about our interests. This is not going to be a densely theological conversation about “the last time you experienced God’s presence” or “sharing moments of great sinfulness from your lives.” Instead it will be focused on what makes you, you. By no means is this mandatory, and if there is a question that you do not want to answer, all you have to say is “pass” and let it move on to the next person. However, if you can answer the questions, it will allow for greater growth and fruitfulness in our church and in our community.
  4. Below are a list of questions to ask of the group. You may read one aloud and then ask everyone to respond in a circle, or at random (the choice is yours). I have written more questions than you will probably be able to answer in the time allowed but that’s okay. I trust you to know what questions are working and which ones need to be left behind. Emphasis should be placed on giving everyone ample time to respond so that everyone will learn a little bit about everyone else. If a natural conversation begins in response to an answer please allow it to continue so long as it fits with the general nature of the activity. However, if someone becomes long-winded please ask them to conclude so that we can move on to the next person.
  5. Questions:
    1. What was the last good movie you saw (on TV or in the Theaters) and why?
    2. What is your “go-to” restaurant in Staunton, and what do you usually order?
    3. What is one of your most memorable birthday presents? How did you feel when you opened it?
    4. If you could have one super-power what would it be, and why?
    5. If you could recommend one book for all of your friends to read, what book would it be and why?
    6. When was the last time you felt pure joy and what were the circumstances behind it?
    7. When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
    8. What is your favorite thing to do in the summer and why?
    9. If they made a movie of your life, which actor would you want to play you?
    10. If you could have an endless supply of any food, what would you get?
    11. Who is your hero (a parent, celebrity, writer, etc.) and why?
    12. What is one thing that you are extremely proud of?
    13. If you had a time machine, where and when would you travel?
    14. If you could have a conversation with one person from the entire history of the world, who would it be and why?
    15. If you had an entire vacation paid for, where would you go and why?
    16. What do you think is the greatest invention from your lifetime and why?
  6. Wrapping Up
    1. At 11:50 we need everyone back in the sanctuary. When your group comes to a time that naturally allows for a conclusion I ask that you pray the following words out loud, and then lead your group back to the sanctuary:
      1. Prayer: “Almighty God, you know us and have called us by name. In the midst of this community, we give you thanks for everyone in this group. We praise you for providing interests, opinions, and observations. We pray, Lord, that you might instill in each of us the beauty of community. Give us the strength to live in harmony with one another, and allow us to be people who can extend hospitality toward strangers. Amen. 

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Homily:

I have wanted to do this activity since I arrived at St. John’s. We do such a good job at welcoming and connecting with one another on Sunday mornings, and during other church activities, but I’m not sure how well we really know one another.

I once knew a man who said the loneliest times in his life occurred at 11am every Sunday morning when he was sitting in our packed sanctuary. For years he was a regular worshipper, and for year no one bothered to reach out; no one knew his name, where he was from, or what was going on in his life. Ever since I was appointed here I thought about breaking us into groups to combat the exact type of loneliness that man described.

I waited and waited and then last week something happened that made me realize how desperately we needed to do what we just did.

Our secretary discovered a man standing in our parking lot in the middle of the afternoon and approached to ask if there was anything she could help with. Without intending to, the man began to cry. He said, “I lost my wife a few months ago and today would have been our 49th wedding anniversary. 49 years ago we were standing in this church with hope for the future. These last few months have been the loneliest in my life.

I don’t want to be part of a church that does not know about a man’s 49th wedding anniversary. I don’t want our sanctuary to be the loneliest place on Sunday mornings. We did not ask and answer the questions today to just learn superficial facts about one another; we did so with the hope that these facts would spark new and lasting relationships. This church should be the place where we combat the terrible forces of loneliness. Amen.

 

Crucified Faith – Lenten Homily on John 14.1-7

John 14.1- 7

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

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Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life.

I know a lot of people who want the greatest amount of reward for the least amount of effort. They have a faulty perception about how much they deserve based on how much they work.

Its like the guy who lets his grass grow and grow until you can barely see his porch because he only wants to have to mow it once. Or like the woman I recently saw at Food Lion who was using every single finger and both elbows to carry all of her bags to the car instead of making multiple trips. Or like the foolish pastor (cough *Me* cough) who believes that so long as he picks a scripture and prays about it, that God will give him a sermon to preach that will having people jumping and shouting “Amen!”

Sadly, I have come across a number of people (even myself at times) who want God without Jesus. We believe on some level that so long as we show up to church, and live a decent life, that we are doing all that the Lord would have us to do. We want salvation without suffering. We want love without expectations. We want resurrection without crucifixion.

Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him.

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The disciples are confused. Jesus tells them that he will go and prepare a place for them because there are many rooms in his Father’s house and they know where he is going. Then Thomas asks the question that all the other disciples are thinking: “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus responds with hopeful and frightening words: I am the way.

The destiny in store for Jesus is likewise laid up for his friends, and for us. Those who want to save their life will lose it. If we want to experience the presence of God here and now, we can only do so by following the way, by following Jesus.

Sam Wells, the former dean of Duke Chapel, was appointed to a new church, and wanted to experience every single aspect of its mission. For the first few months he spent a couple of days each week going through the ins and outs of the church as if he was not the pastor; He toured the preschool like a prospective parent with a three-year old; He went to weekly prayer services and sat in the back like a stranger might if they randomly walked in off the street; He stood in line at the food pantry and patiently waited for his turn to receive some food.

One of the last things he needed to experience was the homeless shelter. He had heard that it was frequently attended because they gave out the best food and had the nicest provisions and he wanted to see it with his own eyes and taste it with his own tongue. So, for a few days before the experience, he stopped showering and shaving, he found some of his oldest and rattiest clothes, and prepared to spend a night with others in the basement of the building.

He began by waiting outside in line with everyone else. He tried to keep a low profile, but most of the people spotted his costume immediately. For whatever reason they welcomed him into their little group anyway and spent most of the night talking and learning about one another. He asked about their pasts and what had led them to where they were, most of them had normal lives until some unforeseen circumstance sent them out to the streets.

However, before the night ended one of the men shared an important perspective with the pastor. “We don’t come here for the food or for the warmth,” he said, “we come here because this is the only place where we can be with other people like us. Sure the food and shelter is nice, but the community is what we really need.

I don’t think Sam would necessarily put it this way, but I believe he encountered the living God in those homeless men and women precisely because he was acting like Jesus. I don’t think Sam actively went out with the hope that he could walk around like Jesus, but in meeting the people where they were he followed the way that Christ set up for us.

Sometimes the hardest part of being a Christian is recognizing that we cannot have resurrection without crucifixion. More often than not we need to crucify a part of our lives before we can meet and encounter the living God.

Maybe we need to crucify our false assumptions about the poor and how they wind up living on the streets. Perhaps we need to crucify our ridiculous prejudices toward people who are of a different sexual orientation. Maybe we need to crucify our faulty self-perceptions. Perhaps we need to crucify our selfish desires to crave our passions. Maybe we need to crucify a program in our church that is no longer giving life to anyone involved. Perhaps we need to crucify our willingness to hold on to a grudge from the distant past. Maybe we need to crucify our love and obsession with money.

Jesus is the way and we have been given the precious opportunity to follow him, even to the cross. If we want to encounter the living God, we can only do so by crucifying our brokenness and seeking out ways to be resurrected here and now. Amen.

Devotional – Mark 14.36

Devotional:

Mark 14.36

He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” 

Weekly Devotional Image

“Let us now pray the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples: Our Father, who art in heaven…” The familiar introduction to the Lord’s Prayer is a regular occurrence in most churches. At some point during worship there is an opportunity to pray the same words that countless Christians have prayed together since the days of Jesus’ ministry. Through a simple, yet profound, prayer we are connected with the church universal as we pray according to the way that Christ taught his disciples to pray.

At St. John’s we print all the words to the prayer in the bulletin for anyone who might not be familiar with it. Most of the time, however, the gathered body prays without having to look down; whether they were here the week before, or it had been years since they entered a church, the Lord’s Prayer is something that most people remember forever.

The familiarity of the prayer is a blessing and a curse. For centuries it has brought Christians closer to the Lord, though sometimes the more familiar we are with the prayer, the less we think about the actual words we are praying. To sit amidst the body of Christ and pray “thy will be done” is one of the most profound acts in a discipled life.

Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry, the gifted essayist and writer, makes a similar point in his incredible novel Jayber Crow: “This, I thought, is what is meant by ‘thy will be done’ in the Lord’s Prayer, which I had prayed time and again without thinking about it. It means that your will and God’s will may not be the same. It means there’s a good possibility that you won’t get what you pray for. It means that in spite of your prayers you are going to suffer.”

On Jesus’ final night, after he shared an incredible meal with his closest friends, he prayed alone in the garden of Gethsemane. In many ways one of his last prayers to the Lord was simply “thy will be done.”

The season of lent is an incredible reminder that life does not become perfect and easy for us the moment we become Christians. With the current abundance of Prosperity Preachers/Churches it is important to remember, as Berry puts it, praying the Lord’s Prayer means that our will and God’s will might not be the same thing.

As we come closer and closer to Holy Week, let us take time to be with God in prayer. If you find yourself at a loss for words during your time with the Lord, follow the example of Jesus and offer up one of the most profound statements you can ever utter: “thy will be done.”