A New Day :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture: Matthew 28.3-8
His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

May we enthusiastically follow the example of the resurrected Christ’s first witnesses: the women who were more faithful than those who betrayed and abandoned Christ, who were braver than the fainting Roman soldiers, and who were the first to believe in and spread the gospel of the resurrected Christ.

Christ’s resurrection marks a new day. This new day dawns both globally and individually. It is an event in history, but is also an event that recurs in the life of each person to whom Christ reveals himself. — John

Reflection: A New Day :: Worldwide Prayer
A prayer of invitation to worship from Germany

Almighty and compassionate God
Our Father in heaven
We thank you for this new day
We know
Every day is a new beginning
Every day is a new challenge
Every day is a new opportunity
Every day is a new invitation to trust you…

To trust your Word, to put your promises to the test, to embrace your inexhaustible love and peace.

Lord, we come to you.
We open our hearts and hands and invite you.
Come our Savior Jesus Christ,
The door of our hearts is open to you.
O move in with your grace,
Let your kindness be manifested towards us.
Fill us with your Holy Spirit,
Who shows us the truth and
Who shows us the way to heaven.

Your name be honored in heaven and on earth and among all people.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
O God of hosts, show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. — Psalm 80.7

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 14 (Listen – 3:51)
Matthew 28 (Listen – 2:39)

Additional Reading
Read More about Not Abandoned :: Worldwide Prayer
Yet you were there, in the midst of my despair,
You did not abandon me the way I did you.

Readers’ Choice
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Tomb of the Unknown Savior

Scripture: Matthew 27.63-66
“Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Reflection: Tomb of the Unknown Savior
By John Tillman

Christ’s mission and calling were a secret hidden in plain sight.

He spoke about everything else in parables and spoke about his death in plain language, so perhaps we can forgive the disciples for not realizing that he meant what he said about his death literally.

Mary of Bethany may have been the only disciple who realized Jesus was about to die a sacrificial death. But it seems only his enemies remembered that Christ also promised to come back to life.

No one else seems prepared for this scenario quite as extensively as the chief priests and the Pharisees. Their concern is so urgent that they risk being made unclean for the remainder of the Passover week’s celebrations by going to Pilate on the Sabbath, the day after Preparation Day.

They outline the details of what they believe will be a conspiracy to fake a resurrection. (This is a conspiracy they will bribe the soldiers to maintain later.) Pilate grants their request, giving them a selection of the highest paid, best trained, best equipped soldiers in the world to guard a tomb.

Guarding the tomb of a penniless, itinerant prophet, with the equivalent of US Navy Seals might seem like a little overkill when the sneak attack you are expecting is from untrained tradesmen like the disciples. But the enemies of Christ knew how explosive his message was.

Fear of the political fallout of Christ’s message was one of the main reasons the religious elite had sought his death. For them, a violent, idolatrous, pagan government that allowed them to continue in power was preferable to following Jesus and losing their wealth and influence. In our heart of hearts we can certainly identify with their concerns.

When it came to Christ’s teaching about death and resurrection these corrupt men, who were Christ’s harshest critics, knew him better than his followers.

Jesus was a man even his closest friends didn’t fully know. He lay as a guest in a tomb belonging to a secret disciple. His followers, once considered so dangerous they were an existential threat to the state, scattered, abandoned him, and hid.

This is Jesus in the grave. He is the unknown savior. And what happens next will change the world forever.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field… — Matthew 13.44

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 13 (Listen – 4:11)
Matthew 27 (Listen – 8:45)

Additional Reading
Read More about The Importance of Resurrection
If there is no resurrection, neither is there any God nor Providence, but all things are driven and borne along of themselves.

Readers’ Choice
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The Fragrance of Faith

Scripture: Matthew 26.13
Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.

Reflection: The Fragrance of Faith
By John Tillman

Mary of Bethany’s anointing of Christ on his last trip to Jerusalem is intimately connected to the gospel—Christ said that it would be.

What makes Mary’s extravagant offering in any way related to the gospel?

It was a sacrificial gift. The most obvious reason is the extravagance of the gift itself—it was worth a year’s wages. (2016 median earnings for men in the United States were $51,640 and $41,554 for women .) This jar was very likely an heirloom given to Mary to ensure financial stability and independence. It may even have passed to her when Lazarus died as a part of his provision for her.

Many would give $50,000 to a practical need, like a loved one’s surgery, to feed the homeless, or to dig a well. But few would give so much to bless an intentional loss—to anoint a dead man walking.

But Mary’s gift wasn’t practical. It was prophetic.

In John’s gospel, Jesus makes clear that Mary has fulfilled the prophetic purpose of the gift as, “It was intended…for the day of my burial.“ Mary alone among the disciples has understood Christ’s prophecies. She anoints him with the same fragrance that is offered before the Lord in the Temple, because she knows that he is the the final priest, the final offering, the final sacrifice.

It was a lasting gift. Nard in this form, especially when applied to the hair and body is a long lasting fragrance. Throughout his ordeal over the next 48 hours, the gift of Mary’s faith would hang about Christ—the fragrance of her faith.

When they ripped out his beard, they would stir up the perfume. When they flogged the skin from his back, the scent would rise as his blood fell. When they pressed the thorns into his head, his hair would release more of the fragrance. When he choked on vinegar to drink, the smell of her gift would still be there.

She sacrificed her only security in this world, for the security of the next. She placed her full self on the altar with Christ. She gave up her agency in the world, gave up her ability to provide for herself, and provided Christ with a remembrance of the disciple who understood.

May we make extravagant, prophetic, and lasting gifts to Christ and to the spreading of this gospel, like a fragrance, throughout the world.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit, and a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. — Psalm 51.18

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 12 (Listen – 3:06)
Matthew 26 (Listen – 10:01)

Additional Reading
Read More about Sacrifice of Self
Ultimately we have been called to imitate our self-sacrificing savior, Jesus, by giving of ourselves to do good for the benefit of others. 

Readers’ Choice
In August we will look back at our readers’ favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post
Tell us about a post and what it meant to you. What post comforted you?

 

Prayers of Woe and Weeping :: Guided Prayer

Scripture: Jeremiah 9.17-18
This is what the Lord Almighty says:

“Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come;
send for the most skillful of them.
Let them come quickly
and wail over us
till our eyes overflow with tears
and water streams from our eyelids.

Guided prayers and meditations are a common part of Christian spiritual practice. Return to this prayer through the day or over the weekend, as it will be a different experience based on your mood and surroundings. — John

Reflection: Prayers of Woe and Weeping :: Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

If prayer is relationship then when God weeps, we should join. What friend would weep, whom we would not join in weeping? Weeping for our own hurts and harms is one thing. Weeping for what grieves God is a prophetic task and a work of faith.

Weep in prayer with the weeping prophet. Jeremiah’s tears, just like his words, are not his own. They are as much a part of the revelation of God as the words he writes.

Oh, that my head were a spring of water
and my eyes a fountain of tears!
I would weep day and night
for the slain of my people. — Jeremiah 9.1

Jeremiah expresses our desire to escape evil—fleeing to the desert to be away from wrongdoers.

Oh, that I had in the desert
a lodging place for travelers,
so that I might leave my people
and go away from them;
for they are all adulterers,
a crowd of unfaithful people. — Jeremiah 9.2

We confess we are part of a culture that seeks out its own version of truth.
We confess that we live in echo-chambers of the lies we prefer rather than the truth. Any lie or obfuscation is acceptable as long as it can be weaponized to help us win.

“They make ready their tongue
like a bow, to shoot lies;
it is not by truth
that they triumph in the land.
They go from one sin to another;
they do not acknowledge me,”
declares the Lord. — Jeremiah 9.3

Weep with Christ prophetically. He weeps that our hypocrisy not only harms us, but blocks the path of redemption for others.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. — Matthew 23.13

“And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.” — Matthew 23.35-36

More specifically, judgment would fall within the next week. And more personally, it would fall on Christ himself.

Christ can weep with us and wipe away our tears because he took the just payment for their cause.

Prayer: The Greeting
For your Name’s sake, O Lord, forgive my sin, for it is great. — Psalm 50.3

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 9 (Listen – 4:38)
Matthew 23 (Listen – 4:53)

Additional Reading
Read More about Purpose
If only men and women viewed their call to suffer as Christ suffered, to live as Christ lived, and to serve as Christ served.

Readers’ Choice
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Tell us about a post and what it meant to you. What post made want to share?

 

A New Life, Not an Afterlife

Scripture: Matthew 22.30-32
“At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

 Reflection: A New Life, Not an Afterlife
By John Tillman

A key error that we often make regarding Heaven is thinking it will be the same as our lives now, but without without the worries and problems caused by sin.

We misinterpret Christ’s statement that we will be “like the angels” and imagine getting a halo and an angelic job to do—working under fussy supervisors and trying to earn our “angel wings” promotions.

The art we make confesses that our culture believes this misconception very strongly. Hollywood’s visions of afterlife trend toward squeaky clean neighborhoods and office buildings from idealistic 1950s television shows.

These kinds of ideas about afterlife as an extension or continuance of this life come more from Greek and Roman myth and other pagan religions than Judeo-Christian ideas.

Perhaps the Sadducees had these types of myth in mind when they challenged Jesus. The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection. The point of their hyperbolic, hypothetical story was to prove that resurrection was a foolish (and perhaps in this case, scandalous) concept.

But Jesus responded that the only foolish concept was that Heaven would be just like Earth.

When God says that He is bringing a new Heaven and and new Earth and that the old will pass away, he means both parts of that statement. The part we often forget is that the old will pass away. The new Heaven and the new Earth will be new—not recycled.

Christians don’t believe in an afterlife as most imagine it. We believe in a new life.

The new Heaven and Earth will be created for us by the same creator who made the beauty we see in the best of the earth we live in now, and the same creator who we see reflected in the best of the relationships that we have now.

Jesus is clear that even the “best things” of this life (like marriage relationships) aren’t the same in the new Heaven and Earth. They pass away and are replaced, reinvented, and changed. We, and everyone we know and love there, will be made new.

Thank God that Heaven won’t be more of the same! It will be new!

What earthly things might you have been, consciously or unconsciously, counting on being in Heaven?

Prayer: The Small Verse
My soul thirsts for the strong, living God and all that is within me cries out to him.

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 8 (Listen – 3:52)
Matthew 22 (Listen – 4:56)

Additional Reading
Read More about The Eighth Day
The day of the Lord will be like the scraping of an old canvas to repaint a new landscape, or the burning and tilling under of a harvested field so a new kind of crop can be planted.

Readers’ Choice
In August we will look back at our readers’ favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post
Tell us about a post and what it meant to you. What post made want to share?

 

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