Monday, March 30, 2015

Lenten Reflections: Holy Week


"The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest heaven!" 

Matthew 21:9

Saturday night, the lights of the city were in view. 

JERUSALEM: Next Exit

We stretch our legs and cast off the dust that we had been carrying for 40 days.

Our long journey will soon come to an end.

It's been a "long and winding road", hasn't it?

Palm Sunday. The embodiment of Lent and all that we've been through and experienced. Utmost joy and deepest pain rolled into one. Celebration and mourning. Two birds killed with one stone.

The overwhelming welcome for Jesus and His followers would soon give way to a roller coaster ride of events and emotions that would leave Jesus rejected, beaten and killed, and the disciples scattered, confused, dejected and terrified. They had no idea what was to come.

A joyous "Hosanna!" would soon morph into a bitter and cynical "Crucify!"

The one they called "Messiah" and begged, "Save us!", would soon become someone that they saw no salvation in whatsoever.

We are no different. Standing at the gates of Jerusalem, cheering with self-righteous cries of group-think, we change what and where we find our salvation.

Yesterday morning we shouted, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." 

This week we'll join the crowds: "Crucify Him!"     

Lent will soon come to an end. We will cast off the dust that we've carried since Ash Wednesday. Our mourning will turn to joy. Celebration. Culmination. Long awaited redemption.

But reality stares us in the face with those who rejoiced over 2000 years ago. Rejoicing is short lived and transparent.

We join the crowds. We condemn. We spit. We beat and torture. We crucify.

Let's not kid ourselves. We still have a few difficult days ahead of us. Have we learned enough from Lent to carry us to Golgotha? I can see it in the distance. Can you? Does Christ look better to us on his thrown, or on the cross?  

Lord, as we join with the crowds in declaring, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.", help us to not turn our backs. Help us not join the crowds. Help us to stand on our own if we have to. We know how easy it is to follow others, even when it means betraying You. Keep us close. Let us suffer with You as we celebrate as well. Because it is in our suffering that we find our perfect joy. Amen 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lenten Reflections: Naked

"...just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too.."

Romans 6:4 

Resurrection

Redemption

Hope

Restoration

Life eternal


These truths stand naked in front of us, just as Christ stood naked before our eyes on Easter morning. In truth, there is no room for covering up. We create spiritual clothing. Coverings to shield the world from who we really are. Coverings act as barriers between God and humanity. Coverings act as barriers between ourselves and others. A shirt of pride. Pants of arrogance. A dress made of fear. Shoes of selfishness. A suit of individualism. 

Coverings conceal our shame so that the true self is kept from being revealed. 

Within the Kingdom of God we all stand naked. Truth becomes obsolete because we no longer need to seek it's definition. Truth simply is what is: Truth is truth.

Through Christ truth is simply reality. Coverings fall to the floor and we stand completely unashamed before God and others. Complete unity exists when there is nothing between us. 

Just as Christ stood naked, raised from the depths of the earth, we too will one day stand naked, raised from the earth. 

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

Lent reveals to us the coverings that we adorn. As we make our way through the Lenten season, we hope to loose these coverings, one by one. As we approach Easter, we embrace more truth about ourselves and others, so that as the sun rises on Sunday, we will rise with Christ; naked and unashamed. 

Lord, we cover ourselves with spiritual clothing. Coverings that hide the true self. Coverings that lie and avoid the truth. As we move closer to Easter Sunday, enable each of us to shed any coverings that hide the true person that we are in you, so that with you we may stand naked and resurrected. Amen     

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lenten Reflections: Truth?


"What is truth?" Pilate asked" - John 18:38

A lie brings satisfaction. Somewhere deep within the recesses of our soul, a carefully crafted lie will appease the deepest desire that screams to be filled. Lies inflate our ego. Lies fill us with pride. Lies transform us into something that we're not. A Lie is existence lived in reverse. Backward reality.  

Lies create a false reality in exchange for the living breathing life that surrounds us. Lies reject the positive in exchange for the negative. Lies feed us, but we remain starving.

Satisfaction, but still longing. 

Filled, but empty. 

Selfless, but selfish.

Finished, but just beginning. 

Creation, but left with destruction. 

Life, but death.
 
We stagger around, in constant states of confusion, choosing whatever lie that will bring temporary satisfaction. Rather than embracing the truth of God that will bring lasting peace, we choose lies and accept the turmoil that eventually develops. This is the root of all rebellion. 

Like a drug, lies perpetuate a temporary existence in exchange for permanence. Chaos in exchange for peace. Life in exchange for death.

During Lent, we confront the lies that consume our lives and come face to face with the realization that we very often choose fantasy over reality. Lent produces for us a mirror that reveals to us someone we hardly know. 

Lent reveals to us that it was not only the Sanhedrin that condemned Christ unjustly, but you and I did as well. It was not only Pilate that rejected truth in exchange for lies, but we do the same thing on a regular basis. Lent is coming to grips with the unsettling reality that we sent Christ to His cross, and to this day, we crucify those around us, we're just more subtle about it.

Lord, as we continue to make our way through Lent, we realize that we often choose the lies over your truth; maybe more often than we know. We also realize that within the Kingdom of God, there are no lies. Help us this day to reveal the Kingdom, and in essence, reveal your truth to the false cultures around us. Amen.       

   

Monday, March 9, 2015

Lenten Reflections: Pilate

"Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” - John 18:37 

We offer cheap and ineffective defenses when we are threatened. Like scared little children, we defend our tiny little kingdoms and preserve what little control we have. The irony is that we are usually not threatened at all. The external factors that we consider threats, usually have nothing to do with us. The truth is, most of the world that revolves outside of our fortified cities doesn't really care about us and what we've built for ourselves. That's just reality. 
 
We are arrogant creatures at heart.

We defend what we don't have.

We protect what doesn't need protecting. 

What we defend is really not threatened.

Christ was no threat to Pilate, yet he chose to defend what needed no defense. Fueled by lies, deception and half truths, he chose to believe the propaganda that his kingdom might be destined for destruction. 

Pilate stockpiled pride.

He horded arrogance.

He was prepared for the future. 

In many ways, we're no different from Pilate. We believe the false threats and choose to put our faith in ourselves. We look our for #1. But what we fail to realize, is that while we build trust in ourselves, we diminish trust in Christ. Because.....

"I've got this God. You just keep the world spinning and me and my family will be just fine!"    

The world says THREAT. We defend.

The world says FEAR. We react.

The world says PREPARE. We stockpile and hoard. 

The world reveals the ENEMY. We shout CRUCIFY!  CRUCIFY! CRUCIFY! 

And wash our hands of the enemies blood. 

Lord, with our faith and trust rooted in You and You alone, we know that we have nothing to fear. No threat to our kingdoms. No reason to defend. No reason to protect. Help us to break down the cheap defenses that have been constructed. Yes, the world is a fearful place, Lord. It's easy to yield to the pressure. It's easy to believe the lies. Help us to be attune to You truth and only Your truth, as we make our way through this journey of faith. Amen   

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Lenten Reflections: Teardown

"The tongue also is a fire....no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison." - James 3:6,8

We love to tear each other down, don't we? We tear each other down because it elevates the self. The self then puffs itself up and stands proudly over the other, victorious because of the pain it caused. Blunt words without thought. Slamming insults. Verbal daggers. Wounds of war. Demolition. By one or two carefully chosen words, ones sense of worth can be reduced to nothing, while the other's worth skyrockets.  

"Loser!"

"You're really being a bitch!"

"You're weak."

"Fat ass!"

"Is that the best you can do?"

"You drunken whore!"

"I'm so ashamed of you."

"I hate you!"

"Faggot!"

"This is all your fault!"

"Man, you're so freaking stupid!"

"Libtard!"

"Teabagger!"

"Don't be a wimp!" 

"Shut up!"

"Crucify Him!"

"Hail, King of the Jews!" 

"He saved others, but He can't save Himself!"  

But among all the insults, the daggers that we thrust at one another, we stand and proudly declare, "I'm a Christian." 

Christ follower. Little Christ. Christ-like. Made in His image. 

And yet the one in which we claim to follow came to live among us only to be torn down, so that we would not need to tear each other down ever again. 

"Hypocrite!"   

Lord, You came to be torn down, so that we would no longer feel the need to tear each other down. You came so that words would not destroy us; that death would not destroy us. Help us to realize that within the Kingdom of God, there are no verbal daggers. Teach us, Lord, to live our lives following Your better example. Amen   

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Lenten Reflections: Guilty

 
"I offered my back to those who beat me,
    my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
  from mocking and spitting."

Isaiah 50:6


The Roman soldiers were not the only ones who rejected Christ. Their actions may have been the most obvious, but they certainly didn't stand alone. They were just more honest in their rejection. They were blatant in their denial. There were many who beat with words under their breath. Pulled hairs from the proverbial beard. Mocked. Spit. But just far enough away from the crowds to remain anonymous. Group-think is a powerful enabler for the coward.

Lent reveals to us that we are no different in our corporate rejection of Christ. We choose to deny Christ incognito. Covert denial disguised in a system that we call American Theology. The "Church" has become the "Christians" favorite hiding place, and the the most effective manner of justification. But no matter how well we hide it, we deny Christ each and every day.  

We deny Christ by the way we live our lives, under the banner "CHRISTIAN".

We deny Christ when we wake up each day, and ignore God's divine presence.

We deny Christ when we rush to work in anger and self-absorption. 

We deny Christ at work when we work endlessly to control every aspect, refusing to rest.

We deny Christ when we treat others as if we're better, and they are less.

We deny Christ by our faith, because we refuse to trust. 

 We deny Christ when we refuse to reveal our true selves to others.

We deny Christ when we hate our enemy and refuse to forgive. 

We deny Christ when we celebrate war and cheer for "our team".

We deny Christ when patriotism trumps righteousness and spirituality. 

We deny Christ when we consume more than we can afford.

We deny Christ when we consume more than we give.

We deny Christ when we ignore the homeless and deny justice to the less fortunate.

We deny Christ when we shut ourselves inside and refuse to know our neighbors.

We deny Christ when we take pleasure in death of any kind. 

 We deny Christ when we refuse to build community with others.

We deny Christ when we lose our tempers and belittle others.

We deny Christ when we drink too much, smoke too much, eat too much, sleep too much, buy too much, work too much, want too much.....we deny Christ too much.

We deny Christ when we ridicule Him, spit on Him, beat Him and crucify Him.

We deny Christ by ______________________________.

We deny Christ.

Guilty as charged.     

Lord, we stand before You guilty; guilty as those that ridiculed You, spit on You, beat You and killed You, because we are those people as well. We deny You each and every day by the lives we live. In our guilt, forgive us, Lord, and lead us to live humble lives under Your merciful Lordship. Help us to forgive ourselves and receive Your forgiveness with joy. Amen  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lenten Reflections: Second Sunday of Lent

"Open my lips, Lord,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise."


Psalm 51:15-17


There is a profound dichotomy in Lent. Points of light shrouded in darkness. Our week is a dark and cluttered hallway. Sunday is the light beckoning us forward. 

During Lent, we take pause to reflect on the sin in our lives, and yet we open ourselves up for times to rejoice. On Sunday, we turn our focus to the expectation, hope, joy, and restoration brought about through the transforming work of Christ; both individually and corporately. We come together in unity, realizing that we are on this journey together. Sunday is the light. Tomorrow the dark will return. We enter another dark hallway, filled with the junk that is our life.  

Sin reminds us to rejoice. We look to the light. 

Rejoicing reminds us of sin. We look to the darkness.

Today we rejoice. Today we bath in light. Tomorrow we walk back in the dark to reflect once again on the filth that lies within. Another long hallway awaits us, with yet another dim light beckoning to us from the end.  Just enough to illumine our way. 

Today we rejoice. 

Today we feast.

Tomorrow we lament. 

Tomorrow we fast. 

Today we embrace.

Tomorrow we sacrifice. 

Lord, today we embrace the presence of your Spirit. Today we celebrate. Today we rejoice. But as we continue our journey of Lent tomorrow, fill us with anticipation of the hope we have in You through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen