Beneath the Cross of Jesus — Lenten Hymns

Scripture Focus: Luke 15:3-6
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’”

Reflection: Beneath the Cross of Jesus — Lenten Hymns
By Jon Polk

In her childhood, Elizabeth Clephane took a keen interest in poetry. As a teenager, she first revealed some of her own compositions to her sister. She drew from a vivid imagination, utilizing imagery, both biblical and natural, as displayed by one of her familiar compositions, the hymn “Beneath the Cross of Jesus.”

Beneath the cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock
Within a weary land

A home within the wilderness,
A rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat
And the burden of the day.

Using beautiful, comforting images of home and rest to describe the cruel, brutal cross reveals the compassionate heart of this lovely servant of God.

Elizabeth Clephane was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1830, daughter of the county sheriff. She was frail and in poor health for most of her life and died at the young age of 38 in the nearby town of Melrose.

Even though frail, she was known to have a cheerful outlook on life and spent most of her short years helping the poor and ailing. Elizabeth and her sister contributed much toward charitable causes to benefit the poor, even going so far as to sell their own carriage and horses to give the proceeds away.

She found meaning in life by giving herself for the sake of others in need, reflecting the light of Christ’s love.

Content to let the world go by,
To know no gain nor loss
My sinful self, my only shame,
My glory all the cross.

In Clephane’s famous narrative poem, “The Ninety and Nine” (later set to music by evangelist Ira Sankey), the compelling reason for her compassion is clear in the retelling of Christ the Shepherd pursuing the one lost sheep. “Lord, whence are those blood drops all the way? They were shed for one who had gone astray.”

The season of Lent reminds us that not only do we find rest in the cruel cross of Jesus, but his sacrifice compels us to give our own lives away for others. The “ninety-nine” may not need our care as much as “the one.”

Elizabeth Clephane made a difference with her brief life by giving it away. Her hymns were mostly published posthumously, with the editor describing them, “Written on the very edge of life, with the better land fully in view of faith, they seem to us footsteps printed on the sands of time, where these sands touch the ocean of eternity.”

Elizabeth was so beloved by the people of her community, the townsfolk gave her the nickname, “the Sunbeam.”

I take, O cross, thy shadow
For my abiding place
I ask no other sunshine than
The sunshine of his face.

Music: Beneath the Cross of Jesus by Indelible Grace Music
Lyrics: Beneath the Cross of Jesus from Hymnary.org.
Poem: “The Ninety and Nine”

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Show me your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long. — Psalm 25.3-4

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle


Today’s Readings
Exodus 12:22-51 (Listen – 7:31)
Luke 15 (Listen – 4:19)

Read more from Jon Polk: Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Wretched
Lent purposefully reminds us that we are mere dust, that without the work of Christ and the grace of God, we are all sinners, poor and wretched.

Read more about Involving Christ
Christ is lovingly interested in helping, lovingly interested in knowing, lovingly interested in being involved in our embarrassments, difficulties, and failures.

Waking Up With Pigs

Scripture Focus: Matthew 19.7-10
7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 
8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” 
10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” 

Genesis 21.13
13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” 

Luke 15.16-17
16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!

Reflection: Waking Up With Pigs
By John Tillman

Moses (not God) “permitted” divorce and Abraham sent his “slave wife” away (in tomorrow’s reading) for the same reason. This reason was explained by Jesus generations later:

“Because your hearts were hard…”

God offers grace even for our worst, hard-hearted mistakes in which we misunderstand or disobey him. Abraham and Sarah sought solutions from their own culture instead of relying on God’s promise. They twisted God’s plan to justify sexual exploitation and their sin produced a “slave wife” and a “son of a slave.” 

Their hearts were hard. They did not believe God fully and they rationalized that the ends justify the means. Then their hearts became harder. When they realized their error, they rejected the evidence of their sin by sending Hagar and the child away. Though they hardened their hearts, God did not. God saved Hagar from her situation and blessed the child produced from her victimization.

Each time a person rejects God’s heartfelt invitation, their heart grows a little harder. Each time they look away from his outstretched arms, their sight dims. Each time they tune out his calls and cries to repent, their sense of hearing diminishes.

Even Christ’s disciples missed the point of his message. They thought the solution to the question about divorce was not to marry. 

“If we don’t marry, we don’t have to be soft-hearted.” 

How foolish. The solution is, instead, to become soft-hearted children like our soft-hearted God.

God deals with hard-hearted people throughout the Bible. God is consistently calling, pleading with the hard-hearted to return to him. He holds out love and kindness to coax them. He grants them mercy and grace if only they will return. 

Our hard-hearted errors can be redeemed by our loving God, but the better lesson to remember is that our hard hearts can be softened again. In humbling, shocking moments the hard-hearted can come to our senses like the prodigal among the pigs.

Have Christians awakened to find ourselves among a trampling herd of violent pigs? Are we shocked awake to the shame of our state? Have we recognized our hunger for the pods the pigs are eating? Perhaps, having a taste of the pods can finally turn our stomach and wake revulsion for our wrongdoing.

Let us return to our loving father, quitting the pig-sty, abandoning our stubbornness. Let us humble ourselves, soften our hearts, and return home.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Love the Lord, all you who worship him; the Lord protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily. — Psalm 31.23

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Genesis 20 (Listen – 2:39) 
Matthew 19 (Listen – 4:04)

Read more about Seeking Righteousness
There should be a clear and recognizable difference in the way that Christians interact with social and political unrest because we are not a people of unrest.

Read more about Leaders Against Oppression
May we work to ensure that the powerful are warned not to be abusive. May we live in such a way that others will not be dispossessed.

Prayer for Older Brothers :: Guided Prayer

Luke 15.31-32
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Reflection: Prayer for Older Brothers :: Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Mature believers must recognize the dual message in Christ’s parable of the prodigal son. In many ways it could be considered the parable of the prodigal sons. 

One son refused to stay in the home due to sinful rebellion.
One son refused to enter the home due to sinful unforgiveness.
One son squandered his father’s wealth.
One son coveted his father’s wealth.
One son was humiliated by his own scandalous behavior.
One son was humiliated by his father’s scandalous grace.

Beginning our faith journey, we struggle to understand how God could love us and adopt us into his family despite our sinfulness. But after living comfortably as a member of God’s family, we soon struggle to understand how God could adopt anyone else.

There are limits to what is restored to the son who returns. His inheritance is spent and will not be restored. He will be financially dependant on his older brother. But in every other aspect, he is restored. He is restored to full fellowship, full honor, and full trust. These things are indicated by the sandals, robe, and ring. His identity is restored. His authority is restored. He is not a second-class family member.

Pray this prayer for an older brother this weekend. God the Father will come out to you, and beg you to rejoice at the scandalous sinners he has adopted as his children.

Prayer for Older Brothers

God, your mercy is a mystery to me.
I see the sins of others and I am scandalized.
How could such a one be accepted?
How could such a one be loved?
How could such a one be forgiven?
How could such a one be trusted?

You come out and embrace me, Father.
You invite me to celebrate
The sinful repentant,
The wanderer returned,
The prideful humbled,
The scandalous purified.

Over your shoulder I see the celebration.
And I remember…
The day you celebrated me, repentant.
The day you celebrated me, returned.
The day you lifted me up when I was humbled.
The day you purified me from my scandalous sin.

The party is not for my prodigal sibling but for me.
The celebration is not for his sins but for your mercy.
Put your arm around my shoulder, Father.
Lead me in, to celebrate mercy shared.
Lead me in, to rejoice for sinners changed.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. — Psalm 85:10

Today’s Readings
Exodus 12:22-51 (Listen – 7:31)
Luke 15 (Listen – 4:19)

This Weekend’s Readings
Exodus 13 (Listen – 3:30), Luke 16 (Listen – 4:27)
Exodus 14 (Listen – 4:46), Luke 17 (Listen – 4:22)

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Read more about In the Face of the Impossible
In a very real sense, not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory.

Read more about The Focus of Christ’s Anger
Seek today for what in your life causes Christ to grieve, to be angry. Ask the Holy Spirit to soften your heart and cleanse you.

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