Monthly Archives: April 2011

He descended into hell…

Matthew 27:57-60

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.

We say it whenever we affirm our faith with the Apostles Creed.  He descended into hell.  Why?  Perhaps to redeem the souls of the dead.  Perhaps to complete the human experience.  Perhaps to fulfill the scripture. Today, Holy Saturday, I wonder if it really matters why.  Jesus did this for each one of us.  Perhaps the best prayer for today is acceptance that Jesus did this for us because he loves us as children of God.

Lord Jesus Christ,

who stretched our your arms of love in the hard wood of the cross

that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace :

So clothe us in your Spirit that we,

reaching forth our hands in love,

may bring those who live in tombs of darkness to knowledge and love

of our blessed freedom won for us

through Jesus Christ to whom be all honor and glory and dominion

now and forever.



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It’s Good Friday…but Love never ends…

Rembrandt, Descent from the Cross, 1634

John 19:38-42

[38] After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus,
though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him
take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and
removed his body. [39]Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also
came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.
[40]They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen
cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. [41]Now there was a garden
in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in
which no one had ever been laid. [42]And so, because it was the Jewish day of
Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

I had a great conversation about death with my eleven-year-old son today… as he was playing Black Ops.  We really bonded because we could talk about…death.  That sounds so strange.  But being in the teen and tween world, I will take any conversation I can get with my children when they are actually engaged and think I have something to offer.

As I reflected on our conversation, I came to a new place regarding death.  There was something about the playfulness of our conversation that was so alive and real.  Jesus conquered death so that we might live eternally.  Right!  But what do WE do in the midst of death?  It seems to me if we are silenced, death has the upper hand.  But if we engage, reflect, and witness in the process of death, we are moving toward a moment of resurrection.

Look at the care with which Joseph of Arimathea takes the body of Jesus.  Love remains.  It never leaves us.  One does not have to speak to love.  Look at the love in Joesph’s arms.

Before the Resurrection, love never left the loved ones waiting at the tomb, the disciples hiding in the upper room, or those wondering what comes next.  Friends, love never ends.


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Gospel – morning John 13:36-38

[36]Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered,
“Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.”
[37]Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my
life for you.” [38]Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very
truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three

Have you ever let down a friend?  Have you said you would be there…and didn’t show up?  I have.  And now as some time has passed, I don’t seem to remember what was so important at that time to abandon my friend.  Forgive me.

Relationships are so easily broken when we deny and abandon our friends and family: the very people we would lay down our lives for.  So why do we do it?  In Peter’s case: survival, self-protection, fear.  What about you: fun, better deal, possibility?

This is the human condition, my friends.  As people of faith, we deny, we abandon, we disappoint, we betray.

When I consider how Peter felt, how I feel when I deny and abandon, I wish I could take it back, go back, redo.  Perhaps maturity of faith and experience makes these occurrences less and less.  Yet it will happen again …as I will do the vey thing I do not want to do.

Jesus accepts us and loves us anyway.  On this day I consider the steps of betrayal, denial, and abandonment over this past year. I offer these confessions to Jesus, and I consider how you I will walk with Jesus in the coming year.  How will you walk with Jesus in the coming year?  Jesus will be there walking with you.

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Take up the basin and the towel…

John 13: 1-17

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 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. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

It is Maundy Thursday.  And in John’s Gospel, our message is just this:

Day after day we must take up the basin and the towel.

Yet, as we do this to one another, one day the basin and the towel will be washing our own feet.  How many of you just cringed and said like Peter, “Not me, Lord!”

I know I did.

Because being served means I am not in control.  It means I am vulnerable.  It means I am… human.  And being served is not acceptable in a “superhero” world.  In fact, it is downright AWKWARD to be served because we don’t accept grace well.

So let me just say right now, GET OVER IT!   We don’t accept grace, it is a gift.  We see the giftedness much later when we have distance from the situation.  And it is at that point of acceptance we know we have been blessed with the gift of grace.  Do you remember saying any of these words:

“I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

“You really saved the day.”

“I didn’t know how depressed I was.  Thank you for just sitting with me.”

“Thanks for taking the keys.  I shouldn’t have been driving.”

Each moment as awkward as the next has been transformed into a glimpse of grace through the power of the Holy Spirit.

What words describe the grace you have been given?

Jesus said something like this: Do this to one another and you will be blessed if you do them.

Go forth to serve and to be served.

Peace be with you this Maundy Thursday.

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Without a shadow of regret…

I am grateful for this message today from

Thou shalt understand that it is a science most profitable, and passing all other sciences, for to learn to die. 
– Heinrich Suso

As long as there is something we want to get out of life before we go – a little more money, a little more pleasure, a chance to get in a parting dig at someone we think has hurt us – there will be a terrible struggle with death when it comes. As long as we think we are the body, we will fight to hold onto the body when death comes to wrench it away. The tragedy, of course, is that death is going to take it anyway. So the great teachers in all religions tell us, “Give up your selfish attachments now and be free.” Then, when death does come, we can give him what is his without a shadow of regret, and keep for ourselves what is ours, which is love of the Lord.

There is great artistry in this. Death comes and growls something about how our time has come, and we just say, “Don’t growl; I’m ready to come on my own.” Then we stand up gracefully, take off the jacket that is the body, hand it over carefully, and go home.

What a great image to ponder this Holy Week!


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Water it! Save it! Don’t let it die!!

 John 12: 23-26

[23]Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for
the Son of Man to be glorified. [24]Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of
wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it
dies, it bears much fruit. [25]Those who love their life lose it, and those
who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. [26]Whoever
serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.
Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”

Water it!  Save it!  Don’t let it die!  Isn’t this our classic first response?

It is only after we realize we have no control over the situation that we let go and let die.  This is where fruit is harvested.  When we let go of control, we can see so much more in the situation.  We notice details.  We appreciate the smallest things.  Each moment of life becomes as precious as if it is the last.

That which we love in life we lose and grieve.  If we didn’t love, the loss would not be measured.  The day would pass with no recognition.

It is because Christ first loved us, giving his life for us, that we can love one another as we love ourselves.  If we are filled with hatred, we cannot love, because we have no love to give.

GIVE LOVE this Holy Week to those filled with hatred so they, too may see the love of Christ.

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House of prayer…or den of robbers…?!?

Gospel Matthew 21:12-17

[12]Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and
buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and
the seats of those who sold doves. [13]He said to them, “It is written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’;
but you are making it a den of robbers.”
[14]The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them.
[15]But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he
did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of
David,” they became angry [16]and said to him, “Do you hear what these are
saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise for yourself’?”
[17]He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

I think we must spend some serious time considering what our “den of robbers” is in the church today.  I am not looking for perfection here.  But a serious look at reality is necessary.  Some serious prayer is necessary.

Have you looked at the Book of  Common Worship lately?  Did you know there are morning, midday, and evening prayers?  What does the “house of prayer” look like in church today?

I wonder if the program-oriented infusion in church will stand the test of time.  It sure is fun for the kids, but are they really learning the important foundation of church?  Or are they just having fun? 

Perhaps one question to ask each time a new program begs to be born should be, “Does this program support a house of prayer, or does it support a den of robbers?” 

Blessed be the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!!

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What tomb encases you?

What tomb encases you?

John 11: 38-44

[38]Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and
a stone was lying against it. [39]Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha,
the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench
because he has been dead for four days.” [40]Jesus said to her, “Did I not
tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” [41]So they
took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, “Father, I thank you
for having heard me. [42]I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this
for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you
sent me.” [43]When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus,
come out!” [44]The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of
cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and
let him go.”

We experience death in so many ways.  Today is my birthday.  I am ….over 40.  Let’s just stop there.  I am so much more aware of my limitations today than I was just 3 or 4 years ago.  I have grief about that.  My tomb today is my body.  I feel a bit trapped sometimes when I can’t do all I want to do.  For example, several friends are training for a marathon.  I have autoimmune arthritis.  Doc says, “No way!”  So I accept my limitations…some days more gracefully than others. 

My best friend is quick to point out how active I am on the tennis court and in so many other ways.  “Think of how much time it would take for you to train for a marathon.  You would have to give up something else.”  WOW!  She just unbound me, helping me get out of my body, my “tomb”, showing me the light in the situation.  This is great news!

So, what is your tomb?

How can you see the light beyond?

Are you letting others unbind you?

You can’t do it by yourself.  This is the message from Jesus.

Others need to unbind you.

Jesus will heal you.  Others will unbind you.

Thanks be to God for others who are there to unbind us!!

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Create in me a clean heart, O God

Psalm 51

[10]  Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
[11]  Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
[12]  Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.

From the sun’s rising until the sun’s setting, you are faithful, loving God.  The beauty of your creation that surrounds us is a gentle reminder of your presence.  I pray that I will be your faithful servant this day.  Open my eyes, my ears, and my heart to be present to those you send in my path.  AMEN.

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Where is the BACK door?

Gospel John 10:1-5

[1]”Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. [2]The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. [3]The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. [4]When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. [5]They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of stranger.”

There is something that strikes me about this passage, reminding me I am a back door person. Going in the back door means there is a relationship with the people in the house. You know the people well who live inside the house. They recognize your voice when you say, “Hi, it’s me!”

This is what I imagine the gatekeeper to be like. Jesus doesn’t ask, “Who are you?” Jesus knows you when you come to the gate.   He calls you by name.  “Come in!” Jesus says.  “I have been waiting for you.”

As we approach Holy Week, Jesus is waiting for you to show up, fully present to experience once again the Passion.  So enter the gate, come in the back door, and share in the love of your family in Christ.

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