February 23, 2018

Friday after the First Sunday in Lent

Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same. Mark 14:29-31


The disciples were with Jesus at the Last Supper when he startled them with these words: “…one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me”. We are told that “They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, Surely you don’t mean me?” Can you imagine being told that one of your intimates was about to betray the person around whom your life had centered for three years?

Yet there was a bit of the disingenuous about the disciples’ reaction. Their question was a denial; it wasn’t, “Well, it’s not me, Lord.” Rather it was, “You don’t mean me (do you)?” This subtle question reveals the reality that each of them understood that they were capable of the betrayal. While it was Judas who would betray Jesus to the authorities, the other disciples also betrayed him. Peter would betray him sitting around a blazing fire warming himself outside the High Priest’s house. His betrayal took the form of the threefold denial of knowing Jesus. All of the other disciples would flee from the authorities and leave Jesus abandoned to face his death alone.

In Lent we are asked to look at our lives and their estrangement from our Lord. It is a period of reflection and repentance. It is also a time of hope and mercy. Just as each of the disciples betrayed our Lord, so do we when we break the bond of love which belongs to God alone – “you shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength.” Yet we also ask the question, “Is it I, Lord?” afraid to admit the answer, “Yes it is I.” When I was in elementary school, the Dominican nuns taught that it was our sins that crucified Jesus, and that God’s love was so great that even if there was no other sin than mine, Jesus would have gone through with the Passion. In the great Holy Week hymn, “Ah, holy Jesus” we sing the words, “Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee? Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee. ‘Twas I, Lord Jesus,” I it was denied thee; I crucified thee.”

Lent is another chance our Lord gives us to make those changes which allow us to be reconciled to himself, but to do that requires us to look into the depths of our souls, to look into the mirror of our souls, because that will give us the honesty to answer the question the disciples posed, “Surely you don’t mean me?” Reconciliation requires change and that is frightening; yet it the only way forward. During Lent the refrain from the song, “Man in the Mirror”, sums up this inward introspection beautifully, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror/I’m asking him to change his ways/And no message could have been any clearer/If you wanna make the world a better place/Take a look at yourself and then make a change.”

Let us join Jesus at the rock and pray for the courage to change by reconciling our lives with God. This God who brought Jesus from his great ordeal to the day of resurrection and will bring us from the death of sin to a new life of grace. As the psalmist writes in Psalm 103, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins/nor rewarded us according to our wickedness./For as the heavens are high above the earth/so is his mercy great upon those who fear him./As far as the east is from the west,/so far has he removed our sins from us./As a father cares for his children so does the LORD care for those who fear him.”


The Rev. Frank Wallner
Saint John’s, Lower Merion


February 22, 2018

Thursday after the First Sunday in Lent

When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Mark 14:26-28


It struck me as rather odd that Jesus would be singing on this night, a night of betrayal, following a last supper, knowing the agony and abandonment that lay ahead. I don’t recall any other place in the Gospels that mentions Jesus singing. So, it caused me to research what he might have been singing following this Passover meal. I learned that throughout the meal portions of Psalms 113 – 118 (the “hallel” psalms) would be sung and that it is likely that Psalm 118 would be sung at the conclusion. That psalm begins with the words “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!” In my Bible, this psalm is entitled: “A Song of Victory.” Jesus’ life is a song about the steadfast love of the Lord and he sings it to the very end. It is his life’s composition and even in this very dark moment, his proclamation does not waver. He knew God’s love would be victorious.

We all find many reasons to doubt God’s love. We can become deserters, who flee when the crushing weight of life is too much, when our disappointments mount and our hearts are broken open by betrayal. Lent is a time to hear again Jesus’ song to “the steadfast love of the Lord.” For no matter what happens, his love is victorious and Jesus always goes before us to Galilee, to the places where we live and work and play and he will keep us close and be the shepherd of our souls.


I invite you to pray Psalm 118 sometime this day.


The Rev. John W. Sosnowski
Christ Church, Ithan

February 21, 2018

Wednesday after the First Sunday in Lent

And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Mark 14: 22-25


Our unbelieving, “impious” age tends to have a problem believing in the miraculous. This ought not to surprise us: The human mind, in its fallen state, generally has a problem believing in perfectly believable things. The deceit of self-love, our delusional attempts to make ourselves “as gods, knowing both good and evil” blind the mind and soul to the realities of God’s truth surrounding us in the order of his creation and those more perfectly revealed through the prophets and, in these last days, by His only begotten Son. Indeed the Son of God was incarnate to “destroy the works of the devil” whose aim, from our infancy, has been to convince us of this very lie: That divinity consists in rebelling against God; that in knowing something other than God, we can be “as gods”. And yet we are left with this simplicity of this truth: “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” If our end is to be the divine life, then it can only be by the measure of God’s righteousness, it can only be accomplished by our conforming to the image of God and not on the basis of walking apart from God. That God condescended to take our nature upon Himself to teach us this truth, to become our righteousness, is made all the more profound to us when we consider that though our vain attempts to be as God separate us from Him, yet his humbly becoming a man and emptying Himself of His Glory accomplishes the end of making us like Him.

Lent is the Church’s annual reminder to us of the truth of the fall in us; of the truth of our sin and the greater truth and reality of God’s love, witnesses in the redeeming work Jesus Christ on the Cross. George Herbert, that great master of Anglican divinity, reminds us of these two fundamental principles, these “two vast, spacious things” in his poem “The Agony.”

Philosophers have measured mountains,
Fathom’d the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk’d with a staff to heaven, and traced fountains
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sin and Love.

Who would know Sin, let him repair
Unto Mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man, so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skin, his garments, bloody be.
Sin is that Press and Vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruel food through every vein.
Who knows not Love, let him assay,
And taste that juice, which on the cross a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.


The Rev. Edward Rix
All Saints, Wynnewood

February 20, 2018

Tuesday after the First Sunday in Lent

When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’ He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’ Mark 14:17-21


One thought I have each Lent is how often the focus is on the “one” who betrayed Jesus. But reading between the lines, every one of the twelve were, in all likelihood, dipping their bread in the bowl as well as Judas, and all of them abandoned Jesus at the end of his earthly life. I find Lent puts the reader into the story, and forces us confront the realities that make us most uncomfortable. When did we see someone arrested unjustly? When did we see someone in trouble and run scared? When did we sell someone out for money? Our actions matter. The practice of being at the Eucharist each week takes on a new immediacy as we realize that we eat and drink with Jesus at least each Sunday, and then betray him throughout the week. This realization is not a guilt trip, but an opportunity to love and serve the Lord and recommit to the radical table fellowship we share, in worship, with one another.


Lord God of our Fathers: God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the world in his name. Amen.


The Rev. Michael Giansiracusa
Saint Mary’s, Ardmore

February 19, 2018

Monday after the First Sunday in Lent

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. Mark 14:12-16


This passage describes the events of the afternoon before Jesus was arrested and crucified. Jesus had somehow already initiated the preparations for the Passover meal, and here he instructs two of his disciples to complete the preparations for this last, crucial meal with his friends. In order to complete the task given them, the disciples had to keep their eyes open for the man carrying the jar of water, and carefully follow Jesus’ instructions.

As twenty-first century followers of Jesus, our task follows the same pattern. In Scripture, we have the general outline of Jesus’ instructions for us, summarized for us in our baptismal covenant. The general outline of the task Christ has given us includes continuing in the apostle’s teaching, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers…persevering in resisting evil…proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ…seeking and serving Christ in all persons, and striving for justice and peace among all people (BCP, 304-5). Yet, in order to understand how each of us is to apply this general outline to the specifics of our daily life, we must keep our spiritual eyes open. We must look for those mysterious signs indicating that the Spirit of Christ has gone ahead of us, preparing the way for us to do God’s will. Lent is a time to slow down and cultivate those spiritual senses that allow us to see where Christ is moving, what Christ has been preparing for us to do to further God’s kingdom. Through Scripture reading, regular participation in the sacraments, prayer, and other spiritual disciplines we are learning see what God is already doing in God’s world. When we can perceive that, all we have to do is get on board.


A prayer for mission, to be said after receiving the Eucharist
Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, we thank you for the Sacrament of your son, Jesus Christ, his body in this bread, his blood in this cup. We thank you that you sent your Holy Spirit to reveal the light of Christ’s presence to us in Word, in Sacrament, and in the prayers. May your Spirit kindle in our hearts, warmed by the Sacraments, the fire of Pentecost. Send us out now to do your will. As you have fed our spirits, feed also our imaginations to see you acting the world, so that we may witness to your great and mighty deeds. Amen.


The Rev. James Stambaugh
Church of the Holy Apostles, Penn Wynne

February 18, 2018

The First Sunday in Lent

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Mark 1:9-15


Lent is a season spent in the wilderness. In the Bible, “the wilderness” is thought to be a very remote and desolate place where people can get lost. It’s a place of danger. A place you shouldn’t travel alone. It’s a place where God’s people have always had to be lead OUT of, like the Israelites following the Exodus. And yet here we are—being lead INTO the wilderness of Lent just as Jesus was lead into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit after being baptized.

We might ask the question: why? Why spend a whole 40 days in a wilderness of fasting, in self denial, in prayer? Why follow the Spirit into a place of discomfort? Part of the answer comes from comparing the life of Jesus with the culture of today. We live in a time where the “wildernesses” are more dangerous than ever. Millions of advertising dollars are spent trying to get us to believe that we are not as happy, healthy, or whole as we could be if we but purchased whatever new product they are pushing. It is a wilderness of instant gratification that leads to debt and regret. Social media lets people portray a false front of perfectionism that has lead to a loneliness and depression. Every news cycle seems to bring a parade of racism, sexism, and injustice. A wilderness of human pain and despair. These wildernesses really are something to fear.

Yet, the wilderness we enter in Lent is a different kind of wilderness. It’s a time to simplify and be lead out of the wildernesses of society into a wilderness of self-discovery of our identity in God. It’s a time when we strip away all the excess stuff in our life that makes us nearly numb with comfort. It’s a time when we can admit that our lives are not perfect, but that we are not alone in Christ. It’s a time when we can look at the world in love so that we might be renewed in the hope that we can help God change it. These were the lessons Jesus learned, and it’s what we are invited to learn as well in Lent. We are lead by the Spirit into the wilderness. Let us journey with Jesus knowing that he will lead the way.


Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The Rev. Dr. Hillary D. Raining
Saint Christopher’s, Gladwyne

February 17, 2018

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.                                Mark 14:10-11


We cannot know light unless we have know darkness! I cannot help but think that this very brief, pithy pericope from Mark about Judas is all too relevant today. Many of us pray that we are never put to this test and yet so many of us are…every day: between money and faith, between betrayal and loyalty. And so I wonder whether after our initial feelings of anger at Judas and even our own shame, we too might have chosen material luxury over the abundance of God’s love, we might even be grateful for this reminder. If we are willing to put ourselves honestly into the story and not “rise above it,” we might rest in God and heal our own temptations. In Lent we fast and pray and adopt disciplines which will reorient us to our God of love. Today, early in this penitential season, we cringe that such good intentions might not produce deeper faith and trust. On the contrary, I would suggest that to live into Judas’ desperation, false ego and our own moments of betrayal against God’s will, however small, might render insight into forgiveness and mercy which will allow us to emerge ever more faithful. Judas’ betrayal was essential to the Paschal Mystery. It demonstrates the depths of human brokenness as well as the depths of God’s mercy. We know these depths because we have witnessed betrayal AND crucial tragedy which lead not to despair but to resurrection life! God uses everything that we might know eternal love! The forgiveness of sins is palpable and available to all.


The Rev. Dr. Martha Tucker
Saint David’s (Radnor) Church