Monday, March 18, 2013

Holy Week Meditations

Thought I'd share the Holy Week Meditations I wrote for the Middlesex Area Cluster Ministry churches: St. James, Higganum; Emmanual, Killingworth; St. Andrew's, Northford.

(If you would like, read the gospel passage twice then ponder it for ten minutes or so, then read my meditation and close with the collect for the day. A good discipline for Holy Week. jim)

PALM SUNDAY Luke 19.28-40

Just before things go wrong, they sometimes go oh so good. Jesus is welcomed by the cheering crowds, throwing palm fronds and their clothing in his way as he enters Jerusalem on a donkey. A strange parade at best. But strangely moving and powerful. A humble prophet welcomed into the city that murders its prophets on a regular basis. They welcomed a King on a donkey who would, in short time, become a criminal executed and dead. When you're on top, there's a long way to fall.

Ponder the 'good times' of your life and the 'bad times'. Notice the chronology of it all and ponder that. When the 'highs' are really 'high', sometimes the 'lows' are really 'low'. So it goes. Know that it all holds meaning....

Jesus has 'come home' in triumph to die. The "Hosannas!!" the crowds cry out will morph into "Crucify him!" in less than a week.

Life has a way of treating all of us to ups and downs. It is a roller coaster ride of sorts. But for Jesus (and for us!) as bad as it's going to get, the best is yet to come....

COLLECT: Almighty and everlasting God, in your tender love for the human race you have sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and the suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

HOLY MONDAY John 12.1-11

The English word 'anoint' derives from the Latin ungure--which means, 'to smear'.

The Greek word for 'anoint' is chrio and the noun Christos--'Christ' is English--means 'the anointed one'.

So, a few days before he dies, Jesus is 'anointed' by Mary for his burial.

And 'the poor' are always with us. Perhaps the most 'true' of all the sayings of Jesus is that: "the poor are always with us."

Spend today noticing what you eat and how full you are. When I say, "I'm hungry" there is no relationship between my hunger and the hunger of half the planet, including millions (mostly children) in this, the richest country in the world.

As Jesus is anointed for his burial by Mary, we need to remember those who will die from starvation or malnutrition on this day. Just hold those countless ones in your heart today. As we fill ourselves, we should always remember those who hunger and we should pray for them and pray that we may, day by day, hunger more and more for God.

COLLECT: Almighty God, whose most dear Son went up not to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking 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

HOLY TUESDAY John 12.20-36

Notice how difficult it is to hear the Voice of God? Some of them thought it was thunder while others heard it correctly as an angel speaking.

It was only when the Greeks, non-Jews came to him that Jesus announced that 'his hour had come". For a moment he wavers ("Father, save me from this hour...") then he embraces his destiny ("No, it is for this reason I have come to this hour.") The Greeks--non-Jews--were the key. Notice they came to Philip, who had a Greek name. And what they said was this: "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."

One of the interns, then deacons who worked with me was Michael Spencer, who was then chaplain to Taft School and is not chaplain at St. Paul's school in New Hampshire. When an Episcopal Chaplain dies and goes to heaven, it looks a lot like St. Paul's school!

At some point in his several years at St. John's in Waterbury, Michael taped a typed out piece of paper to the pulpit that said, "Sir, we would see Jesus." I don't think I ever used the pulpit after the first time I saw that little note. And I never removed it. He and the note were both right, when anyone preaches it should be so people could 'see Jesus'. But the request was too daunting to me. I simply couldn't live up to it Sunday after Sunday. But it did inspire me and humble me and give me hope that someday, somehow, someway I might say something that would allow someone to 'see Jesus'.

But for Jesus, he somehow knew that since even the Gentiles were asking for him, the hour had come for him to be 'lifted up'. His mission to 'all the world' was finished. Now it was time to die.

Ponder, if you will, how you would like to help people to 'see Jesus'. Don't be, as I often am, to embarrassed to imagine showing Jesus to others. You can, through simple acts of kindness, through just being there, through a hug and love and support. Ponder how you might help people 'see Jesus' through your life....Give it a go, really....

COLLECT: O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with  you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

John 13.21-32

This reading is out of time, out of space. Out of sync. Tomorrow we will read the 13th chapter of John from the beginning and hear this passage again. So we jump ahead 'proleptically' (one of my favorite words!) to a time before the time that we are yet to come to. 

But on this day we need to ponder the betrayal of Judas.

. What a bee's nest of problems that is. I ponder the betrayals of my life--and they are many, a multitude of betrayals.

When I was silent when protest was called for. When I misspoke in anger or confusion or to make myself look good at the cost to others. When I betrayed those who loved me out of self-serving instincts or desires. When I didn't flinch at a racial or ethic or gender demeaning joke.

Judas is my brother.

Your might, in this holy week, ponder your betrayals. It will be painful and full of angst--but worth it, because God will love you in the betrayer you are. Really. It is the dark places of our lives that God's love shows up most clearly. I'm not kidding. I truly believe that when Jesus said to Judas, "do quickly what you are going to do", he said it with love and forgiveness 'proleptically", even before his actual betrayal. So, ponder who you have betrayed, knowing that even before you betrayed them, God forgave you. Imagine accepting joyfully the sufferings of this present time, knowing your betrayals, when acknowledged are already forgiven.

How good is that? Forgiven before the act. Not bad, as things go.

COLLECT: Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and to be spit upon. Give us the grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen

(The rest of the Holy Week meditations are to follow)

Shalom, jim

(rest in next post)

Jim Bradley

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.