Liturgy & Readings for Holy Wednesday (2014)


This is from the Liberti 2014 Lent & Easter Prayerbook. Download the book for free for poetry and extended reflections for this week and next.

WORSHIP

call to prayer.

Be pleased, O God, to deliver us;
O LORD, make haste to help us!
–Psalm 70.1

the Gloria.

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, so it is now,
and so it shall ever be, world without end.
Amen!
-the “Gloria Patri” !

the Psalm.
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Liturgy & Readings for Holy Tuesday (2014)


WORSHIP

call to prayer.

Be pleased, O God, to deliver us;
O LORD, make haste to help us!
–Psalm 70.1

the Gloria.

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, so it is now,
and so it shall ever be, world without end.
Amen!
-the “Gloria Patri” !

the Psalm.
Continue reading

The Darkest Week in Human History.


bosch-christ-carrying-the-crossIn our Holy Week reading of the Parable of Tenants, we see the startling revelation that the long-awaited Messiah—the One sent of God to accomplish salvation and liberation for his people—will be rejected by those very people.

And yet, this rejection was not limited to these religious leaders, or even to the ethnic group they represented. During Jesus’ Passion Week—which we meditate upon during this Holy Week—we see Jesus rejected at every level of his Creation.

On Palm Sunday, a large group accompanies Jesus, proclaiming his blessedness. This is not the group that later cries out to crucify him. Instead, it might be worse. These are people from the Jerusalem “suburbs” who have been receiving Jesus’ teaching for months. They accompany Jesus to Jerusalem, and then…. they just disappear, showing their ultimate apathy and indifference towards him.
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Palm Sunday: “The Emperor Has No Clothes” [POEM]


I feel far, Lord.
But I know you’re here.  I know it.
(Do I?)

(Can I?)

It’s the nature of the matter; a matter of nature, I suppose.
Perhaps only now I feel at the deepest existential depths:
“I believe! Help my unbelief!”

Or in a word: Hosanna

That cry.  That plea.

The certainty of uncertainty.
The pregnancy of a pause.
The pondering of a moment.

That moment.  The moment.  

The moment that dressed my doubt in assurance.
But that emperor has no clothes
(or so everything says).

So where does my assurance lie?
Where do my feet stand?

My body pelted with rain, snow, and hail;
I pray my heart rests beside a fire,
drinking tea,
rocking in a chair,
my shoulders draped in that most costly of quilts -
my Rest.

Clothe me–
with the coat I lay on your path–
for this emperor is naked

and needs his King.

[read my other Holy Day poetry here]
all writings licensed: Creative Commons License

Timothy’s Tears: A Holy Week Pre-Game [CASUAL FRI]


paul-and-timothy

This is part of our Lent series, “The Weeping Word“, where we look at different moments of crying, lament, and tears in the Scriptures.

To Timothy, my beloved child…

I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. (2Tim1.2-4)

Next week is Holy Week, the high (or low?) point of Lent, leading to the crescendo of Easter. It will be a time of darkness, reflection, lament, and meditation. But we’re not there yet. Before the seriousness of Holy Week arrives, I thought I’d share with you a funny memory that’s connected to our Lent series on tears in the Bible.

I was sitting in the little campus ministry Bible Study my junior year of college. Our style of Bible Study was simply sitting down with an eloquent, wise, and gifted pastor, and then walking verse-by-verse through a given book of the Christian Scriptures.

Having just finished nearly a year in the book of Romans, we were just starting our next book: 2 Timothy. Many scholars believe it was Paul’s last letter he wrote before he died. And he wrote it to the man he mentored more than any other we know about: Timothy, a young elder at the church in Ephesus who was still struggling to get this little church plant off the ground.
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The Tears of John: the Turning-Point of History


job-silohetteToday we continue our Lent series, “The Weeping Word“, looking at different moments of crying, lament, and tears in the Scriptures.

The Bible has 66 books. After 39 of those Old Testament books, God’s people are left with these words:

Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.

And the Hebrew Scriptures end. God’s people sit wondering what the heck is happening to God’s promises, all while God just gives them another promise: “I will send Elijah, and I will not curse the land”. That’s it.
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On alcohol, abstinence, & the “weak in faith” | Romans 14:1-4


philly-beer-resurrection-ale-house

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Romans 14:1-4

Look at that first line. What an interesting way to open this discussion. How might this apply today? Mainly, I think it shows that this goes a whole lot deeper than just “don’t drink around people that have a problem with alcohol”, or some such usual application. Growing up, this was the main way these verses were used in my life. People would say “you shouldn’t drink alcohol, because some people might have alcohol abuse problems and, seeing you drink, it might lead them into their alcoholism.” This introductory line shows us this is a lot deeper than mere behaviors or doctrinal superiority.

As for the rest of these verses, there a few other big takeaways (other than the hilarious swipe at vegetarians, haha).

First, it does not say that because some hypothetical believers out there might not feel comfortable with some things that others who otherwise feel free to do those things should abstain all together, always, in all places. The burden here is on the person who is “weak”, or who is bothered. They bear the weight to communicate this to the community. They are to let it be made known, and the body is to respond accordingly.

This is Paul teaching us how to respond to the realities and messiness of actual, particular members in the community, not to act generally in anticipation of possibilities.

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Responding to Prophets: The Holy Spirit Changes Everything | Acts 11:27-30


At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Acts 11:27-30

Sounds pretty Old Testament to me. But notice how the people of God respond. In the OT, when prophets spoke all of this, the people either barely responded, or responded in overdramatic wailing and (temporary) repenting. This group of God’s people, however, indwelt with the Holy Spirit, proceed to act in light of the prophecy to seek human flourishing and societal good. This is the response that the prophets of old were looking for and never got.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Our infinitely compassionate (and delegating) God | Exodus 3.7-8

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Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey….
Exodus 3.7-8

Notice the verbs hear that God uses to describe how he relates to his people. He observes, hears, knows, and comes down. How intimate, tender, and powerful. Also, it’s a little funny that he says that he has come down to save if his people right as he’s commissioning Moses to do it for him.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Let’s just finish Esther already (On Purim & History) | Esther 9 & 10


Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur—that is “the lot”—to crush and destroy them; but when Esther came before the king, he gave orders in writing that the wicked plot that he had devised against the Jews should come upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. Therefore these days are called Purim, from the word Pur. Thus because of all that was written in this letter, and of what they had faced in this matter, and of what had happened to them, the Jews established and accepted as a custom for themselves and their descendants and all who joined them, that without fail they would continue to observe these two days every year, as it was written and at the time appointed. These days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, in every family, province, and city; and these days of Purim should never fall into disuse among the Jews, nor should the commemoration of these days cease among their descendants.
Esther 9.24-28

Historically, I wonder: Is this it? Is this the reason for this story? As I said before, it genuinely doesn’t look like this story is historical, so it must have served some other purpose in the community. I wonder if the Jews were coming back from exile and had this random festival named after the plural of “lots”, and so they needed to write a story about how it came about. But if so, how do you go from the word “lots” to all of this story? Quite the stretch. So…what’s the historical core? This one’s tough.

King Ahasuerus laid tribute on the land and on the islands of the sea. All the acts of his power and might, and the full account of the high honor of Mordecai, to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the annals of the kings of Media and Persia? For Mordecai the Jew was next in rank to King Ahasuerus, and he was powerful among the Jews and popular with his many kindred, for he sought the good of his people and interceded for the welfare of all his descendants.

Esther 10

So… Mordechai is the hero here? I guess it could make sense, but he plays such a bit part in the story. He’s consequential, sure; he’s just not around that much, is all. This seems more like the mythologizing of a popular leader in the Jewish diaspora.

And lastly, one last “Christian” reading of this story. If we can analogize this a little, Mordechai “intercedes” for God’s people, for their good and for their descendants. And they’re enemies (like death and sin for us) are comprehensively and almost over-the-top-ly destroyed. And God is faithful to accomplish all of this, even when he seems absent. With this book, that’s the best I can do. I genuinely don’t like this story.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Matthew & Judas’ Repentance?! | Matthew 27.20-23

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When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.
Matthew 27.3-5

I can’t figure out what Matthew’s characterization of Judas is. He did all the things that a true disciple would in light of his sin. He repents, confesses, and tries to make right. Maybe this is meant to contrast Judas and Peter, perhaps? Both reject Jesus, both face conviction for their actions. Judas, though, runs away from God in shame, but Peter runs to Jesus. Conspicuously, though, there’s no “restoration” passage for Peter here like there is in John.

And yet, this word “repent” is still used here! I should check this another time, unless anyone out there knows: is that term “repent” ever used in a negative sense in the book of Matthew? What is repentance to Matthew?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Our Exile is for the world’s salvation | Acts 7.6-7

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And God spoke in these terms, that his descendants would be resident aliens in a country belonging to others, who would enslave them and mistreat them during four hundred years.‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’

Acts 7.6-7

Our exile/ambassadorship/pilgrim-nature as well as God’s judgment are all for the sake of the ultimate worshipnot condemnation–of the nations and the world!

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

When & How to Criticize Other People’s Pastors | 1 Corinthians 4.2-5

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Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.
1 Corinthians 4.2-5

What does this mean? At least right now, my instinct is to take it like this: outside of clear sin issues, we should not divide and judge other Church leaders (nor effusively favor them). If you can’t find clear sin issues in their lives, churches, or teaching, then don’t demean their doctrine, style, gifting, or missional emphases. In the same way, though, even if there are no clear sin issues going on, don’t exalt them because of their doctrine, style, gifting, or Missional emphasis.

If a church doesn’t fit for you, fine. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. But don’t bad-mouth, criticize, gossip, complain, or be overly-sensitive and judgmental at them. To both conservatives and liberals, neither of us should criticize other members of the family, no matter how kooky they are–not even for what we feel is “bad” teaching. “Sinful” teaching, however is another issue. Clear historical heresy, teaching that abuses and harms the dignity of humanity, and things like prosperity preaching are examples of things that should be judged harshly and criticized.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Why does Peter always get the shaft? | Matthew 26.33-35

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Peter said to him, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.
Matthew 26.33-35

What?! All the disciples said this?!  Why does Peter always get the shaft on this?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

God & Job | Job 2.11-13

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Now when Job’s three friends heard of all these troubles that had come upon him, each of them set out from his home—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him, and they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their heads. They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.

Job 2.11-13

We speak so harshly and sarcastically about these friends. But they really are amazing. And though their view is flawed, they represent the views on suffering that are still most common today. And they are sincerely felt and sincerely held. They are genuinely offering Job what they genuinely feel is the issue. They are being human. But right here, this is amazing. Who of us would do the same thing? As I’ve continued through the book, I’m seeing that we’ve greatly oversimplified and wrongly characterized the “advice” they give Job. Hopefully, in the days to come, we can explore this more through #Marginalia.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.