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

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March 14, 2018

Wednesday after the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.   Mark 15:6-11

 

Barabbas, probably a political dissident, apparently violent, and imprisoned by his political enemies, the Romans, suddenly finds himself a pawn in the political machinations of the chief priests and Pilate, the Roman governor. The name Barabbas means, “son of Abba” or “son of the father.” It is therefore a bitter irony that he is chosen for pardon, rather than Jesus, the true son of the Father. But, Barabbas is chosen for release by the crowds who are stirred up by the chief priests, who were themselves motivated by jealousy. Pilate’s simply wanted to defuse the situation, and appease the crowd. Where did all this leave Barabbas?

On his 2017 self-titled album, the country singer-songwriter, Jason Ealy, recorded a song written from Barabbas’ perspective. Ealy’s Barabbas is confused and disoriented by his sudden release. He had no sooner come to terms with “doing his time,” when he finds himself free at the expense of an enigmatic man he does not know. “On this side of forgiveness,” the cross that Barabbas must bear is to learn to live life well after getting a second chance; to learn to forgive himself; to learn to be free. This is our task, also. By virtue of his life, teachings, death, and resurrection Christ offers total forgiveness, infinite love, and limitless grace. As the Apostle Paul tells us, through the Spirit of Christ we are made children of the God—we are un-ironically made sons and daughters of the Father (Romans 8:12-17). Christ has set us free, not because of an insistent mob, nor because of the jealousies of religious leaders, but because of the unending mercy of the ever-living God. On this side of forgiveness, we must learn to bear the cross of accepting this grace, and this freedom.

 


Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

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

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

February 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday

It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”      Mark 14:1-2

 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ brings a new Light into the world and into our lives. It is a light that reveals the face of the God who is gracious and forgiving; the God who is present with us at all times and in all places; the God who rejoices with us in the goodness of our lives; the God who suffers with us in our brokenness and struggles; the God who offers a way of living that brings real life and the power to become the persons God created us to be; and the God who offers us life now and a new life beyond the door of death. It is a light that shines in the darkness of our lives and gives us hope.

The Light that has come into the world and into our lives also reveals the shadows. Like a lamp in a room that brings light, the light casts shadows wherever that light cannot reach. It is not the intent of the Light to cast shadows, but there are shadows wherever we block the light. And we all block the light in areas of our lives where we are unwilling to turn to the life that Christ is calling us to live, especially when it means we will have to surrender our lives more completely to God.

Like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who are looking for a way to arrest and kill Jesus, we, too, look for ways to block the light and to hold onto our power and our less Godly ways of living, choosing to live in the shadows rather than in the fullness of Light.

 


May God grant us the desire and the ability to surrender our lives completely so that the light of Christ may shine in us and through us, removing every shadow, and setting us on the path of the life that is truly life. Amen.

 

The Rev. W. Frank Allen

Saint David’s (Radnor) Church