The Resurrection of Our Lord, Easter Day, Year B

Inspired by 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 

“Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.” 1 Corinthians 15:8-11 (NRSV) 

No matter what we’ve done, no matter how many horrible mistakes we’ve made, no matter how much we feel as though we’ve worked in direct opposition to God, we are never beyond his reach for salvation and sanctification. Paul was not a follower of Jesus with the original apostles. Quite the contrary, Paul worked to actively persecute and tear down the community of believers that the original apostles were working so hard to build up. Yet his conscious and active opposition against the church of God not only did not make him ineligible for God’s salvation, but God used Paul’s zealotry and reputation as tools for proclaiming the gospel of the Lord.

God knows we’re not perfect, and he doesn’t expect us to be. God knows our weaknesses and failings, and through his grace he is able to turn them into strengths and assets. The message of salvation is God’s message, and he uses all types of messengers to proclaim it. The people who still need to hear his message have weaknesses and failings of their own, and they’re more likely to receive that message from someone they can relate to, i.e. someone who can testify to the fact that they didn’t have to change into something they’re not in order to receive God’s grace. God’s grace enables us to become the people we’ve always wanted to be, the people we were meant to be, the people God created us to be.

Let us pray. Merciful God, you take our failings and turn them around for your good purposes. Help us to recognize your grace in our lives, that we may boldly proclaim your love to all who still need to hear it. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

The Resurrection of Our Lord, Vigil of Easter, Year B

Inspired by Mark 16:1-8 

“As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.’” Mark 16:5-6 (NRSV) 

When we lose something, it makes sense to look for it in the last place we remember seeing it. The women had lost Jesus; after the Sabbath, they went to look for him in the last place they’d seen him: in the tomb where he’d been buried.

Except they weren’t looking for the Jesus they knew. They were looking for what was left of Jesus—for his dead body. They had seen him die, they were certain he was gone forever, and they wanted to anoint the body in order to give it a proper burial. They were looking for what was left of the teacher they’d loved and followed in order to say goodbye.

But Jesus wasn’t there. The empty shell of his body had risen, full again of his life, and he’d left the place of eternal rest in order to continue his mission of offering eternal life. The women would have the opportunity to say many things to Jesus, but ‘goodbye’ would not be one of them.

Jesus lives even today. If we put him aside, out of sight and out of mind, he doesn’t stay there. He doesn’t hide out in churches and chapels, avoiding people’s workplaces, homes, and recreational spots. He is wherever people may need him, always willing to say ‘hello’ to those who seek him, but never ‘goodbye.’

Let us pray. Living Lord, you conquered death and offer eternal life. Help us to seek you in the ordinary places of our lives, that we may experience your extraordinary grace in all that we do. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Good Friday, Year B

Inspired by Psalm 22 

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.” Psalm 22:1-2 (NRSV) 

It’s not uncommon for people under duress to resort to scripture for their prayers; sometimes we’re just too emotional or distraught to verbalize what we need, so we use the words of others who have come before us, who have already said what we need to say now. This is what Jesus did when he was in agony on the cross; he quoted a verse from a psalm, since he knew the Hebrew scriptures very well.

But the verse he quoted was only the beginning of the psalm. The psalm, though it begins on a note of anguish, continues through hope to end with praise, thanksgiving, and joy. Verse 24 proclaims, “For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.” The final three verses declare, “To him, indeed shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.”

Though Jesus was experiencing anguish and abandonment on the cross, the psalm he clung to also tells of God’s deliverance of the one who cried out. It proclaims that God has dominion over all on the earth and under the earth, and that even death cannot stop God’s deliverance.

God is active in every part of our lives, and even when it feels like God is far away, know that he is still active, working for your deliverance. He has not forsaken you, but has redeemed you as his own.

Let us pray. God of hope, you will never abandon your people. Make yourself known to us in our darkest hours, that we may feel the comforting embrace of your eternal love. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Maundy Thursday, Year B

Inspired by John 13:1-17, 31b-35 

“Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’  Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’  Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’  Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’”  John 13:8-10 (NRSV) 

We live in a culture in which ‘more’ is equated with ‘better.’ We live as though there’s never too much of a good thing, and ‘enough’ simply doesn’t exist.

As such, Peter’s behavior in this exchange with Jesus is completely understandable to us. At first Peter is reluctant to have his Lord wash his feet, a duty usually performed by the lowliest of house servants. But when Jesus tells him that he will have no share or place with him if Peter refuses, Peter goes the other way. If a foot washing will get him a share with Jesus, then a foot, hand, and head washing will get him a much bigger share! Peter wants the biggest share possible, so he wants Jesus to wash all of him.

But God in Christ offers us what we need, not necessarily what we want. God in Christ offers us enough—no more, no less. Jesus informs Peter that the foot washing will be sufficient, does what he needs to do, and goes about his business.

The grace God has given us in Christ Jesus is sufficient. The gifts God has given us in this life are adequate to the tasks set before us. We may need to grow and stretch somewhat, but we will always have what we need to accomplish what God expects of us.

Let us pray. God of grace, you give us that which we need. Help us to be satisfied with what we have, that we may not despise your gifts out of greed and vanity. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Wednesday in Holy Week, Year B

Inspired by Hebrews 12:1-3 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 (NRSV) 

We all have people who have inspired us and impressed us with their lives of faith. Some may be found in the bible (Abraham, Moses, Mary, and Paul are popular examples), and some have lived in the centuries since the bible was written (Saint Benedict, Martin Luther, and Mother Teresa make the short list of many). In every case, these were ordinary individuals who lived faithfully despite difficult circumstances and/or personal weaknesses. We look up to them because we recognize how difficult it is to maintain a living, guiding faith in the face of such hardship or apparent futility, and we believe that we probably wouldn’t have done as well in their place. That’s why they have our admiration.

It’s impossible to know whether or not we would have done as well in their places, but it doesn’t matter. Each of them had a path to walk, a race that was set before them, and each race was specific to each person. Would Moses, with his leadership abilities, have been as successful as Mother Teresa in her endless work with the poor? Would Saint Benedict, with his commitment to order and calling to establish community among like-minded Christians, have been as successful as Paul in his dynamic mission to the pagan Gentiles? Each ran with perseverance the race that was set before them, and they are now in the great cloud of witnesses cheering us on as we run our own races, races that require the unique gifts and abilities that God has gifted to each of us.

Be encouraged by the faithful who have gone before us, and use their encouragement to live your own life in a way that will encourage others.

Let us pray. God of the ages, you guide your people in the way they should go. Enable us to discern our own gifts and callings, that we may follow you faithfully as we run the race you have set before us. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Tuesday in Holy Week, Year B

Inspired by 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe…For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:21, 25 (NRSV)

Humankind has made great achievements and advancements over its history. We’ve used our God-given wisdom to solve many problems, and we have much to be proud of. But our wisdom is insufficient to provide us all that we need.

Our wisdom is shaped by our perspective here on earth, and, as such, it’s highly limited in its scope. Our earthly wisdom says it’s foolish to believe that one man can die for the sins of many. Our wisdom says it’s foolish for God to be eternally faithful to sinful humanity. Our wisdom says that the lowly son of a Jewish carpenter cannot possibly be the source of salvation for all. Our wisdom says that there’s nothing higher than our own logic. But our wisdom is foolishness compared to the wisdom of God, because one man did die for the sins of many, God is eternally faithful to sinful humanity, Jesus is the source of salvation for all, and God is higher than our own logic.

Consider all that we still don’t understand, and all that we’ve misunderstood over the centuries. One thing remains constant in the face of all logic and illogic; one thing remains true no matter what happens or how we perceive it: God is the source of all life in Christ Jesus, and it’s from him that we have our wisdom, our redemption, and our sanctification.

Let us pray. God of wisdom, you have chosen what’s foolish to the world to reveal your grace. Help us to put aside our reliance on our own abilities and recognize that all we have comes from you, that we may begin to accept and believe the great mystery that is your love in Christ Jesus. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Monday in Holy Week, Year B

Inspired by Isaiah 42:1-9 

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.” Isaiah 42:1 (NRSV) 

What does God want most from his people in the world? Not rigid adherence to antiquated laws or customs. Not a personal piety that focuses entirely on oneself and ignores the suffering of others. When God was preparing to send his Son to save the world, he put his own spirit upon him, and that spirit was a spirit of justice. God is a God of justice, and he sent his Son to bring salvation through holy justice to the nations.

What is justice? It’s fairness, equity, legitimacy. To be just is to be honorable and fair in one’s dealings and actions, and consistent with moral right. And because it is consistent with moral right, it’s not cold and legalistic, but considers all the facts and circumstances in any given situation, and is tempered with mercy. When God envisions justice in the nations of the world, he envisions a world in which everyone acts honorably and treats everyone else fairly and equitably. He envisions a world that is committed to moral right, not in an impersonal, legalistic, arbitrary way, but in a gentle, empowering, dignified way. Being committed to moral right is not the same as being judged according to a specific moral code; being committed to moral right means being committed to the wellbeing and dignity of all people, over and above one’s personal gain.

We have been offered God’s salvation, and we have been shown how to live according to his justice. How much better would this world be if more people took God’s vision of justice to heart as the guiding principle in their lives?

Let us pray. God of justice, you desire all nations to live with fairness, dignity, and legitimacy. Enable your people to embody these principles, that we may proclaim your justice, love, and mercy to all the world. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Sunday of the Passion, Year B

Inspired by John 12:12-16 

“His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.” John 12:16 (NRSV) 

Throughout most of the gospels, Jesus is doing or saying amazing things, and those who are with him don’t really understand what’s going on. Even his disciples, those who saw and heard the most and who were also Jesus’ closest friends, privy to private teachings and explanations that Jesus didn’t share with the masses, didn’t get it. At least, not until after his death and resurrection. Then it all made sense: not only Jesus’ words and actions, but how he fit in with the whole story of God’s activity in the world as recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Although we don’t have Jesus Christ, the Son of God, living among us as a human being today, God is still active in the world, working through, with, and in ordinary people and events. And as was true in Jesus’ day with his followers, we often don’t understand the significance of what we’re witnessing while it’s going on. But we can have faith that the one who defeated death in order to make everlasting life available to all is working for the good of creation, and while things may not make much sense to us right now, we will eventually see the world in the light of God’s glory.

Let us pray. Mysterious God, you are working in ways that we cannot fully recognize or understand. Grant us the wisdom to seek you in all things, that we might discern your presence and your activity in our ordinary lives. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Lent 6, Saturday, Year B

Inspired by Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

 “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:22-24 (NRSV)

There’s so much that God does or allows that’s beyond our comprehension. We throw something away as worthless, only to discover that it actually has great value in a capacity we’d never imagined. We try to prevent something that seems terrible, only to discover that our intervention has led to far worse consequences than we were trying to prevent in the first place.

Our imaginations are limited, and therefore our vision for the world is limited. God’s vision, however, is limitless and eternal. Rather than fighting against the wonderful creativity of the Lord of all, let us marvel at his wondrous creation, and celebrate the glory of his world. And let us trust that God is doing wonderful things, creating new life and opportunities for healthy growth, even if we can’t see how, because he is all good, and he wills good things for his people and for his creation.

Let us pray. Creator God, you know your plan for your creation. Help us to trust in you, that we may work with you to bring your vision to fruition. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Lent 6, Friday, Year B

Inspired by Philippians 2:12-18 

“[W]ork out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world.” Philippians 2:12b-15 (NRSV) 

The world is full of turmoil and strife. Everyone seeks to benefit themselves, and they frequently don’t care who gets hurt in the process. Many are convinced that the world would be a better place if everyone thought, acted, and believed as they do, and they try to force others into that mold. Threats and accusations abound as we blame each other for the problems in the world.

Christians are in this world, but we are not of this world. We are called to be children of God, and as such we are to not engage in the threats and accusations that are the hallmark of this crooked and perverse generation. Each of us is called to work out our own salvation—not anyone else’s—with fear and trembling, listening for the will of God speaking to each of us in our own contexts and circumstances. As we discern God’s will for our lives, we’re to carry it out humbly, without calling attention to ourselves or condemning others for not being like us, and being freed from the sting of others’ condemnation of us. For God is at work in us, enabling us to will and to work for his good pleasure, and the threats and accusations directed at us by the rest of the world have no power over us as we shine like stars.

Let us pray. Father God, your Spirit is at work within us. Help us to be blameless and innocent in the world’s strife, that your love and mercy may shine through us. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.