Passion Week: Vigil

We wait through the day and the darkness for the Lord and His promised return. He told us but we didn’t understand that he would rise and leave the tomb, overcoming the final fear of humankind, death. With this miracle He alone would change all of history; we would mark the time which he created by His presence among us. Those at or near the Cross that Friday afternoon were filled with despair as their Lord gave up His spirit, crying out to the God of the Exodus and the Immaculate Conception “Why? Why have your forsaken me?” Was their last hope given up in that breath also? They could only spend the days in their personal darkness.

3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom 6:3-11)

The clarity brought by standing distant from the event still does not preclude us from our own moments of vigil. Where is God in our lives? Has he forsaken us? Is the separation temporary, brought about by our own rebellion or is it meant to strengthen us in our trust? These questions race through our minds but can be quieted by the promise of the new day’s sunrise: He was risen and He will rise again in our hearts. We must simply trust through this day.

Passion Week: The Great High Priest

The author of Hebrews exhorts us with this passage of promise:

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb 4:14-16)

On this day of Holy Week we consider the sacrifice of our Lord. He gives His life so that we might gain ours. In giving His life to rise again, Jesus shows that His dominion extends beyond our greatest fear – death – while not dismissing our lesser fears of failure in sin. He stands on our behalf knowing the human struggle against temptation and offering His strength in place of our own to overcome the weakness of our will. In every time of need, His grace is available to us if we will only reach out and take hold of it. As we reflect this Good Friday, we can consider how this confidence that he builds in us can lead us to make a similar sacrifice in our own lives. Be blessed.

Passion Week: The Year of the Lord’s Favor

Bookending the ministry of the Christ are the events of Holy Week and the announcement of His ministry:

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Lk 4:16-21

Preaching the good news and healing the broken, the essence of the Lord’s holy ministry and, by extension, our own. When we look to the heavens for a fresh vision for the fulfillment of our calling our eyes and hearts are drawn back to the utter simplicity of our mission: love others as the beloved of the Almighty King. You and I can proclaim the good news of freedom in Jesus Christ in myriad ways. We can heal the broken and shine a light so bright that sight for blindest can be attained. Our lives with each breath and act can proclaim again and again that we live in the year of the Lord’s favor. We can do all of these things if we put aside our fears, trusting in the miracle of the Risen Christ. Do you believe?

Passion Week: A Face Set Like Flint

The Suffering Servant speaks:

The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue,

to know the word that sustains the weary.

He wakens me morning by morning,

wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.

5 The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears,

and I have not been rebellious;

I have not drawn back.

6 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.

7 Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,

I will not be disgraced.

Therefore have I set my face like flint,

and I know I will not be put to shame.

8 He who vindicates me is near.

Who then will bring charges against me?

Let us face each other!

Who is my accuser?

Let him confront me!

9 It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.

Who is he that will condemn me?

Isaiah 50:4-9a

The Servant moves a day closer to the Cross with the rising of the sun this morning and yet, knowing the travail that He faces, fixes his unturning face toward Golgotha. He sets the example for our own journey in God’s will. We can let the world see the shine in our face though it may be spat upon. We can turn an unscarred cheek toward our attackers. We can do all of this without concern because we are secure in God’s grace. We are adopted as co-heirs along with our Servant brother. If the Lord is for us, who can be against us?

Passion Week: I’ll Never Deny You

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

(Jn 13:36-14:1)

How many times have we been in Peter’s sandals? We have committed and recommitted to our Lord thinking that somehow He is not privy to the alternate plans that lie within our hearts. As Holy week progresses toward the history changing events of the Easter weekend, we see the definition of full commitment, unwavering and unswerving. Our Lord expects nothing short from us though He is fully aware of our duplicitous natures. For this He gave us the Holy Spirit, a presence that transfers the full Kingdom commitment to us if we are surrendered to His will. Let this be the week we surrender in full.

Passion Week: The Servant of the Lord

Monday of Holy Week begins with a passage from the passionate prophet Isaiah

The Servant of the Lord

42 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen one in whom I delight;

I will put my Spirit on him

and he will bring justice to the nations.

2 He will not shout or cry out,

or raise his voice in the streets.

3 A bruised reed he will not break,

and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

4 he will not falter or be discouraged

till he establishes justice on earth.

In his law the islands will put their hope.”

5 This is what God the Lord says—

he who created the heavens and stretched them out,

who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it,

who gives breath to its people,

and life to those who walk on it:

6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;

I will take hold of your hand.

I will keep you and will make you

to be a covenant for the people

and a light for the Gentiles,

7 to open eyes that are blind,

to free captives from prison

and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

8 “I am the Lord; that is my name!

I will not give my glory to another

or my praise to idols.

9 See, the former things have taken place,

and new things I declare;

before they spring into being

I announce them to you.”

The Servant Lamb has obediently faced Jerusalem, redolent of the nard poured over His feet by Mary, the sister of Lazarus. In this singular action, she followed the example of her Lord in costly devotion, not only pouring the expensive perfume over his feet but in letting her hair down in public and gently drying the feet that would carry Him to the Cross later in the week. Isaiah tells of a similarly humble servant who will nonetheless shake the world of injustice, not through shouting or violent display, but through the consistent  display of righteousness. Peace be with you as you discover your own humility and consider what costly sacrifice the Lord calls you to.