March 28, 2018

Wednesday in Holy Week

And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”   Mark 15:38-39

 

What a sight to witness! Finally, the opposition has achieved what it wanted. This rabble rouser, who so upset the religious authorities, is dead! But who expected such a dramatic and immediate end – the holiest of holy portion of the temple utterly exposed. And with it the very being, the very essence of just who this Jesus the Christ is. His death has opened the way for us to God in a new way. God is no longer inaccessible, as the veil is torn in two from top to bottom, God is fully exposed, fully accessible. The full revelation of who Jesus the Christ is is made manifest. And of all the people who have attended or witnessed this crucifixion, only one, a centurion, a professional officer of the Roman army, was converted that day. He was immediately caught up in the revelation of Jesus Christ and can proclaim him the Son of God. Thanks be to God.

 


Let us pray for all who have not received the Gospel of Christ;
For those who have lost their faith
For those hardened by sin or indifference
For the contemptuous and the scornful
For those who are enemies of the cross of Christ and persecutors of his disciples
For those who in the name of Christ have persecuted others
That God will open their hearts to the truth, and lead them to faith and obedience. Amen.

 

The Rev. Jo Ann B. Jones
Church of the Redeemer, Bryn Mawr

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March 27, 2018

Tuesday in Holy Week

Then Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.   Mark 15:37

 

There is a particular power to the verb “to utter.” It conveys something more primal and raw than many of the other words we use to describe an act of speech. “To speak” already suggests the intervention of thought. When we speak what we say is considered. What we think is discerned. Our words fit within a certain grammar that is shared and understood. To talk, to discuss, to exclaim, or to declare all assume some degree of self-reflection. We choose to do these things and are aware of that choice even as we are doing them. But utterance is more immediate, as if it couldn’t be helped.

Mark doesn’t tell us simply that Jesus cried out; nor do we ever say that someone “uttered a shout.” By stating that Jesus “uttered a loud cry” Mark makes the instant of Jesus’ death the complete antithesis of the act of God’s creation, when, in Genesis, God spoke the world into being, bringing form out of chaos. God’s words in the beginning were more than statements or commands; they were primal utterances too, through which God gave his very life to the life of the world in all its beauty and variation. (Only after each utterance did God step back to declare an assessment.) And God’s culminating act was then breathing soul into the life of humankind.

In this one verse, Mark informs us that Jesus died on the cross. But he did so in such a way that we might realize what Jesus’ death signified. It was the undoing of everything, the triumph of chaos in the unravelling of all creation. And, as Jesus’ breath vanished, it was even the death of his soul.

One verb reveals the magnitude of this moment.

 

The Rev. Peter Vanderveen
Church of the Redeemer, Bryn Mawr

March 24, 2018

Saturday after the Fifth Sunday in Lent

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, ’E ‘lo-i, E’lo-i , la’ma sabach-th’na?’ which means, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Mark 15:33-34

At the conclusion of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, her affecting novel about the dark legacy of slavery and how it speaks to our national experience, she writes about two kinds of loneliness. “There is a loneliness that can be rocked. . . . It’s an inside kind – wrapped tight like skin. Then there is loneliness that roams. No rocking can hold it down. It I alive, on its own. A dry and spreading thing that makes the sound of one’s own feet going seem to come from a far-off place.” What kind of loneliness do we suspect has now overtaken Jesus? From the first moment of opposition to his ministry through the abandonment of his disciples, his solitary struggle to come to terms with the crucifixion that lies ahead, it would seem Jesus feels the roaming loneliness. It only appears so if we believe that he speaks these first words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” unmindful of the rest. In and out of consciousness, it is astounding that he has breath enough to utter these words. We are not privy to his innermost thoughts, distraught as they may be. It may be by rote that he remembers the rest of the psalm, particularly “Praise the Lord, you that fear him; stand in awe of him…give glory.” In the tradition of the prophets, darkness suggested the time of YHWH’s visitation. Therefore, in this seeming darkest hour, and in our darkest hours, if we through discipline live as upright people, who turn to God in the press of hostile opposition, we will find that failure does not await Jesus and us. God has not abandoned Jesus and will not abandon us. God alone is our source of consolation and triumph.

 

The Rev. Jo Ann B. Jones
Church of the Redeemer, Bryn Mawr

March 22, 2018

Thursday after the Fifth Sunday in Lent

Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!”  Mark 15:29-30

 

Are these the same people who sang, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” only four days ago? Are these same people who threw palm branches in the path of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem? I would hope not, but suspect that many who ridiculed Jesus as he hung on that cross in shame and suffering, many who had yelled “Crucify him, crucify him” just hours earlier where the same people.

It’s doubtful that there were two separate crowds in Jerusalem, one that shouted “Hosanna” and another that yelled “Crucify him!” Even given the possibility that the religious leaders may have hired some persons to manipulate the crowd, this speaks more to our fickle human nature.

A significant number of these people could have been at the Sermon on the Mount, and if they did not physically follow Jesus around, they aurally followed his teachings and healings. But as he hangs there in disgrace it is so easy to scorn him, to turn his teaching into mockery.

The bullies of this world do that. They mock those they perceive as less than themselves. They blow this way and that, always seeking the advantage. They laugh at compassion and call it weakness. They do all this to keep from realizing how empty they are, how lonely and how much they hurt. But, this trait is not far below the surface of all humanity. Just look at how Hitler manipulated the crowds.

It is for this reason that we need to look at the baseness of our nature in Lent, that we need to see how weak we can be. It is important for us to realize that Jesus must constantly pray for us, “Father, forgive them….”

 


Loving God, who holds us responsible for our neighbors, put a fire in our hearts and ignite our passion so that through our words and actions we may work with you in bringing about justice for all humankind; in the name of your Son whom you anointed to set us free. Amen.

 

The Rev. E. Edward Shiley
Saint David’s Church, Radnor

March 15, 2018

Thursday after the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’   Mark 15:12-13

 

Shouts of ‘Crucify him!’ coming from the crowd that was, only shortly before, hailing Jesus as a king, demonstrate how quickly we can be swayed. The values we hold as individuals can often be suppressed and supplanted by the loud cries of the crowd. We may fool ourselves into thinking we are above such peer pressure, but how often do we pause when writing a sermon because we start to think about who it might offend? How often have we heard or supplanted Jesus’ message of justice to one of mere charity because it fits more neatly and comfortably with our lifestyle? Lent allows us time to reflect on those “sins of omission” when we find ourselves looking more like the crowd than disciples of Jesus and we fail to act although we know better.

 


Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

 

The Rev. Michael Giansiracusa
Saint Mary’s, Ardmore

March 9, 2018

Friday after the Third Sunday in Lent

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself by the fire, she stared at him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” But he denied it, saying, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. Mark 14:66-68

 

One day many years ago, I was with a group of people at a dinner who began to gossip and say several misleading and hateful things about a friend of mine who was not in attendance. They attacked him, spreading ugly, vicious rumors about him. They were crucifying my friend right before my eyes.

I started to say something to defend my friend, to stop the verbal abuse and defamations, but I didn’t know these people all that well and, as a person who doesn’t enjoy conflict all that much, I kept silent. On my way home, I was kicking myself over my disloyalty and outright weakness, sad and ashamed that I hadn’t seized the opportunity to speak the truth and to speak out for my friend. Still today, I am ashamed and regretful that I didn’t speak out, afraid to lose my standing with these dinner partners, but not enough to love my friend in their presence.

You may have had some similar experience in your life when you didn’t stand up for a friend or something that matters to you in the face of opposition. You may have had a similar experience in not standing up for your faith and your relationship with God. It’s not easy some days to admit our Christian leanings, much less the experiences and life we have with God as an individual or as part of a Christian community. And it hurts our souls and our hearts when we realize that we have denied God before others. A rooster may not crow, but we know it when hidden from others the life that we know and are trying to live in Christ.

 


May God give us the courage and the strength to stand up for our friends, what matters to us and especially our life in God. Amen.

 

The Rev. W. Frank Allen
Saint David’s (Radnor) Church