Provisions for the
Journey to Jerusalem
Brief reflections on the week’s Scripture readings
Sunday, March 26:
“Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have
you rise from them"
(Ez 37:12-14). “But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered”
(Ps 130). “Lord, if you had been here,
Several of the readings this week have to do with “what have you done for me lately?”—God having to prove himself again and again. The verse from Ezekiel struck me as funny: “OOH,” say God’s people, “so that’s when we will know you are the Lord, as if we haven’t had any other opportunities to know this over the past, say, 800 years!” The psalmist extols God’s mercy as a reason God will be revered as if there are no other reasons for our reverence! And Martha, in her grief, doesn’t necessarily lay a guilt trip on Jesus, but laments that he did not arrive sooner. At least she acknowledges his power to call upon God now that he has arrived.
Today’s Provision: “I do believe. Help my unbelief.” Do I sometimes question God’s presence when things are dark? Do I ever adopt the “what have you done for me lately” attitude? Do I look to Jesus for what he can do for me when I find myself in some dire situation or when I am in need of forgiveness? Or do I acknowledge and give thanks for God’s presence in my life regardless of my state of being. Do I love God simply for being God? I think of Jesus’ words to Thomas we will hear in a few weeks: “Blessed are they who have not seen, but believe.”
Monday, March 27: Jesus said, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more” (Jn 8: 1-11).
When imagining this scene in prayer, it’s interesting to consider what happens next. Does this woman stay among the people and the elders who accused her? What happens when her “partner in crime” shows up, expecting the same? What is her life like after this event? Will she continue to be shamed by the townspeople? Probably. She might even get more heat since her transgression called to light everyone else’s sinfulness. Does she take enough strength from Christ’s forgiveness to forgive herself? Or does the hardness of heart in the community beat her back down?
Today’s Provision: Fast from having a hard heart. We human beings rarely forgive and forget. Our darker side loves to hear about “the dirt” on other people and their pasts, as if no one is capable of growing and changing. When you think about it, as Christians, doubting the possibility for change in the case of someone who has made amends is, in effect, denying the power of God’s forgiveness. Does lack of self-forgiveness hold you down? Do you hold old grudges against another? Let the power of God’s mercy soften your heart and lead you to let go of the past.
Tuesday, March 28: “The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.” Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him (Jn 8:21-30).
Jesus claims that” I AM,” equating himself with the Father. Most every Jew in the crowd recoils at such blasphemy. But it says here many came to believe in him as well, specifically “because he spoke this way.” Not because of any miracle he performs there. Not because the assembled crowd is united behind him. They come to believe because he is unafraid and confident in the Father’s protection. The gift of faith is given to these disciples, their ears and hearts opened to the truth; a faith that, yes, would falter, but ultimately prevail. Faith that just was. Faith that just is.
Today’s Provision: Faith in Jesus’ Words. The late U.N. Secretary, General Dag Hammarskjöld, a brilliant man of deep faith, writes in his (posthumously published) diary, Markings: “We act in faith—and miracles occur. In consequence, we are tempted to make the miracles the ground for our faith. The cost of such weakness is that we lose the confidence of faith. Faith is, faith creates, faith carries. It is not derived from, nor created, nor carried by anything except its own reality.” On what is your faith based? True faith is based on experiencing Christ’s words deep within. Experience not based on someone else’s truth or interpretation of “proof,” but on our own ears and hearts open to God’s grace. Pray today that if you hear God’s voice—Jesus’ words—your heart will be open.
Wednesday, March 29: Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples” (Jn 8:31-42).
Scholars say the debates in John 8 Jesus has with the Jews “who believed in him” are among the most confusing dialogues in the New Testament. John’s Gospel was likely the last to be written, and by the end of the first century, some of the Johannine communities were grappling with discord about what constituted belief. These sorts of rabbinical debates in the gospel helped to provide some context. But the big question for these “believers”—and the question for us as well—can be found in a short essay by Søren Kierkegaard entitled, “Followers, Not Admirers” (https://www.plough.com/en/topics/culture/holidays/easter-readings/followers-not-admirers).
Today’s provision: Fast from insincere belief. “[Christ] never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for.” I wonder how many of these “believers” (and the Jews referenced here were not the poor, but some elders and scribes) were among the throng calling for Jesus’ crucifixion several chapters later. Admirers, even loyal ones like the Apostles, tend to bail when the going gets tough. Our faith in Jesus may give us great spiritual consolation, but comfort may be another story. Reflect on and give thanks for times when you have chosen the more difficult path of a follower, not just of an admirer.
Thursday, March 30: “The Lord remembers his covenant forever” (Ps 105).
In his book, Stories of God, John Shea offers an interesting insight into the Israelites’ relationship with God: “The Israelites are never submissive, never resigned to their oppression and exile. They expect rescue and expect it from the very God under whose judgment they are suffering. Yahweh keeps his promises.”
Today’s Provision: Accept God’s Mercy. Looking upon ourselves as unredeemable contradicts God’s promise to all of creation, and unchecked, can become a perverse source of pride that we are beyond God’s reach. No one, not any one of us, is beyond God’s merciful hand. Allow God the opportunity to breathe new life into you. Call upon God’s name each and every time you withdraw from his presence. “The Lord does not delay his promise, but he is patient with you.” (2 Pt 3)
Friday, March 31:
me witness the vengeance you take on them, for to you I have entrusted my
This reading always pulls me up short. I am so happy for and grateful to Jesus who has shown me a forgiving and compassionate God who loves me and has mercy on me in the face of my sinfulness. But when it comes to someone who has wronged or hurt me? Well, I can slip right back into that image of a vengeful God! “And, oh Lord, let me witness your vengeance too, so that I can get the satisfaction of revenge without having to do anything wrong myself!”
Today’s Provision: Fast from revenge. In the city near where I live, the homicide rate is high, and it is estimated that 50% of the murders are revenge killings. I know the story of one of them very well. As Christians, our words are to be those of Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” I’d hope, for most people reading this, our acts of revenge are no where near as violent, but do we pray for those who have wronged us? In my nightly examen, I look at what drained me that day. If I can truly say it was the actions of another person (and not my expectations or defenses), I say a prayer for that person and for myself that I will forgive. Feast on forgiveness.
Saturday, April 1: The Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem to purify themselves. They looked for Jesus and said…"What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?" (Jn 11:56)
Never a doubt: Jesus always comes to the feast. No matter the danger, no matter the grief; no matter the joy or love. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” doesn’t specify an occasion or a mood. It doesn’t mean Jesus shows up only when things are happy and going smoothly. On the contrary, Jesus does his best work, his best healing when we are in most need of his presence.
Today’s Provision: Fast from doubt. “Is the Lord in our midst or not,” we hear the Israelites ask at Massah and Meribah (Ex 17:7). If you are suffering through a rough time, questioning the presence of God in your life, I encourage you to consider two things: if you can, venture out of your darkness to find a counselor, pastoral minister, or trusted friend to help you uncover God there in the darkness. Or, sit with the growth that can only happen in the dark. Begin to work the “nutrients” of your sadness into the soil of your life. Ask Moses to tap his staff on the rock and let living water flow. Then invite the light of the Son into your life and let your darkness blossom in the Light.
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