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 12, 2018

Monday after the Fourth Sunday in Lent

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ He answered him, ‘You say so.”   Mark 15:1-2

 

There was a pious and faithful Rabbi who lived on the edge of a town. He spent his days in prayer and communion with God. One day a harsh knock on the door jolted him and he greeted several angry men, one of whom said: “Rabbi you will pay for impregnating my daughter!” To which the Rabbi calmly replied: “Is that so?”. They left still angry and bewildered. Many months later after the birth of the daughter’s child, the Rabbi was awakened by another loud knock and greeted the same gang of men who seemed somehow less agitated. “Rabbi I apologize you are not the father of my grandchild” And the reply was stunningly the same: “Is that so?” We humans ask so many questions, especially before we commit to an action. And we often ask those questions hoping for an answer which will clarify or get us off the hook or prove our own misguided point. And so it is with Pilate. Whatever construction Pilate, and the chief priests and elders, has determined is the truth is simply not the Truth. Jesus is! Say what you will; the answer is Always the Same. May we be a people who ask questions which point us to the Truth, which point us to God.

 

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

March 4, 2018

The Third Sunday in Lent

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for thy house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he spoke of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. John 2:13-22

 

The most remarkable aspect of this story is the verse that is probably least noticed. It appears to be merely an afterthought appended at a much later date: “When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this.”

What actually captures our attention is the unexpected violence of Jesus’ actions. His outburst seems out of character — a rare moment of exception, when anger gets the best of him. And we wonder then what to make of this and how to justify this very physical manifestation of his fury. Our focus often remains fixed on the particulars of his reaction and what it was about these mundane transactions that caused his eruption. It’s easy to imagine grounds for complaint or postulate some kind of injustice whenever business is negotiated. But Jesus’ violence should not be taken as a form of social protest; it was, quite differently, a moment of revelation.

Violence is a mode of communication. It happens when “I want to say something to you that really cannot be said to you, that you are not in a position to hear, and when, yet, I insist that you are going to hear it.” More pithily, violence declares the “alienation of what is to be from what is.” Jesus’ actions disrupted not just the trade that was happening that day; they were his declaration that the very logic on which any transactions depend have no place in the economy of God. In the temple there could be no room for any manner of quid pro quo. Jesus was not just overturning tables. He was “overthrowing everything” — even the very “way in which God will create the future… in utter contradiction of every standing order.” And this violence is as good a description of resurrection as we can get.

All quotations from Robert Jenson: Essays in the Theology of Culture

 

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

February 28‬, 2018

Wednesday after the Second Sunday in Lent

And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. Mark 14:39-40‬

 

The presence of a friend is a gift that not only makes our life sweeter but also helps make difficult pain easier to bear. Companionship – fellowship with another that helps us know we are not alone – that we are with someone who knows us and loves us – can be a balm and comfort in the journey of life.

As Jesus prayed in the garden, he wanted and needed his companions. He needed them at his side – to watch, to wait, and to pray, together. But every time Jesus turned to his friends, every time he reached out for their presence, they abandoned him for sleep. ‬

This isn’t the only time Jesus finds himself reaching out to his friends with no response. He is constantly reaching out to us, too, his beloved friends, to gift us with the grace and gift of companionship. He reaches out to be a presence for us, to hold us through whatever situation life has to offer. But we are not always ready or responsive. Sometimes we are distracted. Sometimes we are asleep.

The good news is that even though we don’t always turn toward his outstretched hand and take his offer of companionship, his presence and offer are never rescinded. They are always there for us. God never gives up. Not in this life, nor the next. Jesus is always our companion, is always waiting for us to turn and respond, to take his hand. And even if we don’t, even in our darkest hour, in our death and beyond the door of our death, Jesus outstretched hand touches us and holds us, softly, until we turn, and meet his grace.

 

The Rev. Amanda Eiman‬
Saint David’s, Radnor‬

February 24, 2018

Saint Matthias the Apostle

They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” Mark 14:32-34

 

Jesus is moving closer to the hour. In these few words we can feel his emotions, his human emotions, as the full impact of submitting to God’s will hits him. While he invites the companionship of his disciples, he also seems to be distancing himself from them at each step. First, he leaves most of the disciples to just sit – no other command or thought was given. He takes a few disciples further along the path and the command to them is to stay in that place and keep awake as he moves into a solitary place – literally and figuratively. But at the same time, he knows that the disciples need to prepare themselves. What was going through the minds of the disciples? I’m sure they had no comprehension of the brutality that was about to happen. Jesus did not ask them to pray, just to sit and keep awake. If I put myself in this space, I would like to think I’d be concerned about Jesus’ words “I am deeply grieved,” words uttered by the man I had come to believe was the Messiah. Would I have gone after him? Would I have stayed awake in prayer? Would I not have sensed anything wrong – to the point of being able to quickly fall asleep? I don’t know what I would have done, but I can engage in this deep need for prayer for Jesus as he comes to realize the full impact of submitting to God’s will; and for each of us as we experience (and accept) God’s will in our lives. Lent allows us the opportunity to do both.

 

The Rev. Karen Kaminskas
Saint Mary’s, Ardmore

February 16, 2018

Friday after Ash Wednesday

But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’ Mark 14:6-9

 

It’s not that taking care of the poor is no longer important. This obligation will always be important. But time and context are everything. The context is that in Mark’s gospel, every moment is precious and ever since his baptism in the river Jordan, Jesus has been on the path that leads straight to Jerusalem and the cross. And the time has finally come for Jesus to complete his work on the cross. The backdrop is in the shadow of the Temple during the annual Passover festival. As this unknown woman bathes Jesus’ feet with an expensive ointment of nard, there were many looking on questioning the wisdom of wasting such resources in light of our obligation to the poor.

During Lent, we Christians are challenged to make choices and take on disciplines that will help us come closer to God. Many embark on a fast; a fast of alcohol, or maybe screen time, or some other things that get in the way of a holy relationship with God. As we shed ourselves of these bad habits and unhealthy wants, we make space for God to enter. Similarly, others decide to take on a discipline. The aim is not the mortification of the flesh, but rather to take on the healthy habits that lead to a stronger relationship with God. Remember, time and context are everything. Our context is a busy life as a Christian in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. The time is Lent. The time is now. The question is, will we watch and judge as the world does? Or, this Lent, will we take the time to make room for God in our busy lives?

 


A Prayer for Self-Dedication
Make us channels of your grace, O Lord, that our wills may conform to your will and our choices reflect your love to your people; so that your law may be fulfilled on earth as it is in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
taken from A Time to Pray, compiled by George Cobbett

 

The Rev. Joseph K. Smith
Saint Mary’s, Wayne

Piety in an Impious Age

The Challenge and Opportunity of Lent

In the Ash Wednesday liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer, the priest invites the congregation “to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.” There was a time when the Church took this invitation very seriously. We saw in Lent an opportunity to reclaim our faith in practical ways. This inclination has become less common. In 2014, the Barna group discovered that while 72 percent of U.S. adults were “aware” of Lent, only 17 percent planned to observe it in any meaningful way. There are probably many reasons for this loss of interest in Lent. For one, we are so obsessed with the idea of self-improvement that the central conceit of the season, that we are wholly dependent on God’s grace, seems irrelevant to us. Thus, for many of us, Lenten disciplines have become “New Year’s Resolutions 2.0,” a chance to recommit to whatever self-improvement scheme we abandoned during the doldrums of January instead of an opportunity to recommit to our faith. Perhaps more significantly, we live in a culture that regards any spiritual practice skeptically. By our society’s standards, the idea of devoting ourselves to prayer or the study of Scripture feels like a waste of time. All of this begs the question: why should we heed the invitation to a “holy Lent”? What does it mean to read and meditate on God’s holy word and engage in prayer, fasting, and self-denial in our increasingly secular society?

Il_Pordenone_-_San_Marco_-_BudapestThe answer to these questions can be found in the gospel according to Mark. Once considered the “black sheep” among the evangelists, Mark has undergone something of a renaissance over the past few decades. Historically, scholars dismissed the shortest gospel because it appears to be a mere summary of its counterparts. Recently, however, Christians have begun to rediscover the distinctive and eloquent witness of Mark’s gospel. No longer considered a “black sheep,” Mark has taken his rightful place as one of the true geniuses of the Christian canon. The gospel according to Mark provides a unique and riveting account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. More importantly, it speaks powerfully to today’s Church. More than any other evangelist, Mark’s gospel is suffused with a profound awareness that the good news of Jesus Christ represents a significant disruption of the status quo. Moreover, the gospel according to Mark challenges us to live lives shaped by what God has accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Like Mark’s gospel, Lent disrupts and challenges us. It forces us out of our self-centered, impatient routines and invites us to look at the world in a new way. In this spirit, the Merion Deanery will be using the season of Lent to explore the ways the gospel according to Mark speaks to us today. Every day, one of the clergy of the Deanery will offer a reflection on an excerpt from the Passion Narrative in Mark’s gospel. These meditations on the events leading to Jesus’ crucifixion and death will help us appreciate the gospel’s true power. Indeed, these reflections will reveal that heeding the invitation to a “holy Lent” can transform our experience of the world. We hope you will make this journey through Mark’s Passion part of your Lenten discipline and consider how this holy season and Mark’s unique perspective can shape our lives of faith.