Walking the Way of Pain

Scripture: Colossians 1.17-20
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Scripture: Luke 23:46
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Reflection: Walking the Way of Pain
By Jada Swanson

Poetry has a way of putting into language that which we are unable to speak on our own. It communicates poignant, intentional thoughts, feelings, and expressions of all that we hold dear, but, perhaps, have never uttered aloud.

On this Good Friday, we are sharing Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Way of Pain”, which shares a perspective of sacrifice and grief and pain.

Although our world tells us that we are to be in a constant state of motion and busyness and productivity, the season of Lent has been a time of preparation of remembering and waiting. Lent leads us and points us towards Holy Week, which culminates in the celebration of our Savior’s resurrection.

However, may we not be too anxious to move past the mourning and the grieving of what took place on Good Friday. For in this remembrance, we are able to grasp the magnitude of all that our Savior, Jesus Christ, willingly sacrificed on our behalf. As Wendell Berry so eloquently states, “Unless we grieve like Mary at His grave, giving him up as lost, no Easter morning comes.”

The Way of Pain
By Wendell Berry
1.
For parents, the only way
is hard. We who give life
give pain. There is no help.
Yet we who give pain
give love; by pain we learn
the extremity of love.
2.
I read of Abraham’s sacrifice
the Voice required of him,
so that he led to the altar
and the knife his only son.
The beloved life was spared
that time, but not the pain.
It was the pain that was required.
3.
I read of Christ crucified,
the only begotten Son
sacrificed to flesh and time
and all our woe. He died
and rose, but who does not tremble
for his pain, his loneliness,
and the darkness of the sixth hour?
Unless we grieve like Mary
at His grave, giving Him up
as lost, no Easter morning comes.
4.
And then I slept, and dreamed
the life of my only son
was required of me, and I
must bring him to the edge
of pain, not knowing why.
I woke, and yet that pain
was true. It brought his life
to the full in me. I bore him
suffering, with love like the sun,
too bright, unsparing, whole.
––Wendell Berry, 1980

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Know this: The Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. — Psalm 100.2

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 17 (Listen – 2:58)
Philippians 4 (Listen – 3:20)

This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 18 (Listen – 2:23) Colossians 1 (Listen – 4:18)
Proverbs 19 (Listen – 3:09) Colossians 2 (Listen – 3:27)

Dirty Feet

Scripture: Philippians 3.10-11
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Scripture: John 13:14-15 (CEB)
So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do.

Reflection: Dirty Feet
By Jada Swanson

If you knew that you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do? What would you say?

Imagine walking into a tiny upper room, crowding around a table, passing plates of food to eat, but knowing tomorrow was the day. This is the situation Jesus faced on the Thursday before he was crucified.

On this day, Jesus celebrated his final Passover with His disciples. However, on this occasion, he did something quite different. At the very beginning of the traditional meal, Jesus washed each of the disciples’ feet. Something he had never done before.

In the Old Testament foot washing occurs frequently (Genesis 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; 43:24; Judges 19:21; 1 Samuel 25:41; 2 Samuel 11:8; Song of Solomon 5:3; Psalms 58:10). In ancient times, foot washing was considered a tremendous act of hospitality, and was done before entering someone’s home or tent. One’s status (rich or poor) determined whether the guest washed their own feet with water provided by the host, or if a slave performed this act, which was considered the lowliest of services.

However, as often is the case with Jesus, he turned everything upside down. Surely, shouldn’t the servants be washing their master’s feet? According to customs of this time, this should have been the case. But, instead, Jesus washed each of the disciples’ feet, even Judas’ (John 13:2).

Jesus gathered the disciples around him, took a towel, poured water into a basin, and washed their feet. He served them with love and humility. As his followers, we are called to do the same.

Although we do not know the hour or the day of our final moments on earth, we do have an example of how to live our life. Jesus is our example, and his life demonstrates love and service to others. On the final evening with his disciples, he included an act of service. As his modern-day disciples, may we all continue to carry on his example by serving others each and every day of our lives.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your name. — Psalm 86.11

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 16 (Listen – 3:15)
Philippians 3 (Listen – 3:21)

Fasting and Feasting

Scripture: Philippians 2.3-5
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

Reflection: Fasting and Feasting
By John Tillman

The one biblical feast most Christians know about is Passover or Pesach. This celebration is a combination of fasting and feasting. Families abstained from specific ingredients and indulged in others. Modern Jewish Seders are large, celebratory meals intended to be shared with guests and specifically the poor.

Christians have stripped this feast down to a cracker and a thimble.

This isn’t to say Christians have completely abandoned feasting. Liturgical churches designate many feasts and times of fasting throughout the year. Evangelicals have not completely abandoned feasting or fasting but have abandoned any structure or organization to their observance.

However, many Christians still don’t think of “feasting” as a holy activity. As much as we love potluck suppers and dinner-on-the-grounds, they are rarely held up as anything other than a social event. Even when meals are institutionally celebrated feasts, Christians of all denominations tend to speak of these celebratory meals with apologetic tones. Many an honored deacon or pastor has publicly prayed, “Lord, bless our bodies despite that of which we are about to partake.”

We shouldn’t flagellate ourselves much for misunderstanding and misinterpreting feasting and fasting. They have always been topics of controversy and religious struggle.

John the Baptist came fasting and Jesus came feasting, and both faced harsh critique. John was damned for doing it and Jesus was damned because he didn’t.

Many of the condemnations of the biblical prophets concern violations of the spirit of, if not the actual practice of, the festivals and feasts that God had established.

Like the Israelites’ celebrations, which went from being a trumpeted memorial before God to being something God despised, our fasting and feasting can easily become meaningless rituals that make us feel good about ourselves but are despised by God.

To prevent this we can’t allow the purpose of these observances to become obscured by the details of their practice. To do so robs them of any spiritual power.

Whenever there is a form devoid of spiritual power, law will take over because law always carries with it a sense of security and manipulative power. — Richard Foster

As we engage in feasting or fasting, during the season of Lent and beyond, may we not grow secure in legalistic, moralistic rules, but stay insecure, relying on God and seeking him more fervently than legalistic perfection.

Prayer: A Reading
Just at this time, some Pharisees come up. “Go away,” they said. “Leave this place because Herod means to kill you.” He replied, “You may go and give that fox this message: Look! Today and tomorrow and the next day I must go on since it would not be right for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem.” — Luke 13.31-33

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 15 (Listen – 3:36)
Philippians 2 (Listen – 3:45)

Rejection

Scripture: John 19:15
But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

Reflection: Rejection
By Matt Tullos

Rejection: When walls go up, and you stand alone. Completely discarded and unwelcomed.

Away with him!

These heartless words are scattered across the landscape of a world full of religion, judgment, and bloodlust. And worst of all, the cruel apathy that pushes divine grace aside like a dead weed.

“Away with Him!” they shouted, as if this suffering Hero had the looks of last week’s garbage– vile and putrid under the haze of a bitter sun.

How often I have dismissed the precious Lamb of God from my life. I, like Pilate, have whisked Him off the throne at the slightest moment of inconvenience, seeking to please the masses by releasing the Lamb who knew no sin.

“Away with Him!” I’ve said, when life seemed unsure.
“Away with Him!” I’ve said in my exhaustion.
“Away with Him!” I’ve have said in times of pride and vainglory.

And we, the bride He so loved have said, “Away with Him!”
…from our culture,
…our schools,
…our homes,
…our values,
…our bank accounts,
…our futures.

We, like Pilate, have called out, faultless though Jesus is, “Away with Him!” We have washed our hands of this divine enigma.

Lord, Jesus Son of God, have mercy on us.

We have condemned you with our actions in exchange for the false security of our personal idols and jewels. Lord, have mercy on our country for we too have condemned innocent blood.

There was no one standing beside You that day.

You stood alone without a defender. And in this moment, I draw strength from the thought that through You, I too may stand alone in my desperate hour of need. When I am treated unfairly, help me to reflect on that moment in History when, under the greatest anguish known to man, You suffered rejection as a balm of hope on my behalf. You stood under a cascade of shame and rejection so that I may draw strength and help in my darkest hours.

Lord Jesus, Son of God, I thank Thee for the power to stand alone, defenseless.

Amen.

Rejection challenges you to discover the steadfast companionship of the One who walked through complete and utter annihilation to redeem to you.

Reflect upon a rejection you’ve experienced in your life and the effect it has had upon you.
Is there something about that experience that shapes your decision making today?
Does it still haunt your emotions?

*From a series Matt Tullos wrote called 39 Words. A few of these posts (including this one) are available in audio form via Soundcloud. — John

Prayer: The Greeting
Your statutes have been like songs to me wherever I have lived as a stranger. — Psalm 119.54

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 14 (Listen – 3:45)
Philippians 1 (Listen – 4:03)

Escaping Discontent

Scripture: Philippians 4:12
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Reflection: Escaping Discontent
By Jon Polk

A commercial pilot flying over the Tennessee mountains pointed out a lake to his co-pilot. “See that lake down there? When I was a boy, I used to sit in a rowboat and fish for hours. Whenever a plane flew overhead, I pretended I was piloting the jet.”

The co-pilot responded, “You must be proud that you have achieved your boyhood dreams.” The pilot replied, “Not exactly. Now when I fly over that lake, I wish I was down there fishing.”

Contentment is an elusive pursuit. We want to believe there is something out there that we can find or achieve or buy that will finally make us happy.

It is difficult to find contentment in a culture that works hard to foster discontent. Consumer economies are designed to ensure we are never satisfied, in essence, monetizing our discontent. Businesses do their best to keep us constantly longing for the latest and greatest “Shiny Objects.” Enough is never enough.

If we are never satisfied, we are not fully able to enjoy the life that God has given us.

Notice that Paul didn’t write, “I’m so glad that it is easy to be content in every situation.” No, he says, “I had to learn to be content whatever the circumstances.”

First, Paul learned we should rejoice in the Lord. Even in the midst of difficulty we can rejoice that God sustains and cares for us. Second, be known for gentleness, not insisting on our own rights, but instead striving for the welfare of others. Third, don’t be anxious about anything. Recall the words of Jesus, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Finally, pray with thanksgiving. When we give thanks to God, we acknowledge that everything we have is a gift, a result of His goodness and generosity.

If we are pursuing these things, what are we not doing?

We’re not congratulating ourselves for how great we are. We’re not being proud or selfish or stingy with our resources. We’re not complaining or comparing ourselves to others. We’re not consumed by the insatiable quest for more.

Instead, we are free to focus on the only one who can provide for us, God himself, and when we find joy in the Lord, we can let go of our discontent and find contentment in his love and grace.

The Call to Prayer
Sing praise to the Lord who dwells in Zion; proclaim to the peoples the things he has done. — Psalm 9:11

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 13 (Listen – 5:14)
Philippians 4 (Listen – 3:20)

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