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Good Friday Meditation

At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.  And at the night hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani?” - which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  - Mark 15:33,34
For Jesus and his disciples, it was impossible to discern where Thursday ended and Friday began.  But they knew when things shifted.  They knew it instinctually.  There in the darkness of night still, a group of torches marched towards the Mount of Olives, and danced upon the narrow street leading to the Garden of Gethsemane.  The torches – of course – were marching towards Jesus, and under the torches moved the clank of metal and heavy feet.

Soldiers!

But in front of all the soldiers was a familiar figure.  It was Judas.  His mouth twisted in a painful expression - half smile and half worry – and his eyes constantly moving under the shadows that dance on his forehead.  Awkwardly he approached Jesus.  He stumbled towards him trying to prove his since…
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Holy Week @ GPC & The Fire at Notre Dame

The images truly are sad to see.  I saw where several friends had posted pictures on Facebook of a visit to Paris and the cathedral of Notre Dame before the fire:  a married couple holding each other with the spire in the background, a young man with his students with the impressive structure off in the distance.

Perhaps most tragic of all to me was a 360-degree image of the beautiful interior before the fire, it's stained-glass windows bathing the stones with purple-light from floor to ceiling. 

In a matter of moments, a project that was intended to preserve the beauty of this holy place became a terrible nightmare as the fires engulfed the old wooden beams and blasted out the rose window.

The tragedy is only multiplied as a result of this being Holy Week.  A rumored piece of Jesus' crown of thorns was housed in the spire that collapsed yesterday.  I haven't heard of its fate yet, but it's likely gone now.

I see another connection to Holy Week in this sad story. 

For all s…

What You Really Need to Give Up for Lent

I had my normal cup of coffee this morning.  For the briefest of moments, I thought, "maybe this is what I should give up for Lent?"  I could go without coffee for a month, and probably not suffer too much.  I can't vouch for those I see in the morning.  They might suffer a bit more as a result of my Lenten discipline.

If people are aware at all about Lent, it's usually this matter of "giving something up."  The Christian practice is based in the wisdom that by forsaking certain "attachments" like chocolate or wine or jumping on Facebook we can become more aware of God in our life.  There's a lot of value in practicing such discipline.

This year, though, I challenge you to give up something less tangible but even more important.  This year, I encourage you to let go of the negative emotions that are creeping in and driving your behavior.  Take up - instead - those things that lead to greater spiritual and emotional vitality.

Afflictive, Inflict…

Two Things We Need to Give Up

There are some things we know we want to keep with us in life.  Pictures.  Treasured heirlooms from our family.  And maybe most importantly, those richest of memories at the high points of our lives.

But, there are also some things we need to leave behind.

In Luke's retelling of Jesus calling the first disciples (Lk. 5:1-11), the story ends with a poignant moment of separation:  "When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him."

Later, they would learn what things they would need to pick up - including an attitude of humility and deep love embodied by the symbol of a cross.

But, first this.  They have to let go.

As we make our journey through life, we must learn what is essential to "take up."  But, we also must learn what of which we must "let go."

Often times, this "letting go" is practical, detailed advice.  With Lent coming up quickly, we realize that our Christian tradition has - indeed - invited us to…

The Other Side of Comfort

The Other Side of Our Comfort There will be two packages on my porch this evening when I get home.  I know that because I - like many of you - am an Amazon Prime member, and two days ago I ordered some books as gifts.  Ten years ago, such a luxury would have been unimaginable.  Now, it's just a given.  By luck and by fate, I'm on the fortunate side of this incredible, complex, and unequal global economy.
But, that's the thing about luxury.  There's always another side to the story.
Exodus Details & Exodus Patterns We've been venturing into the story of Exodus as we start 2019.  And though the story is dominated by the theme of God and God's people, it starts somewhere else.  It starts with an unequal economy and a plague of anxiety in the hearts of a culture.
In his book Exploring Exodus, Nahum Sarna details how the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians.  In all likelihood, "the Pharaoh" of Exodus was none other than Rameses II, and like the r…

The Great Inversion

Most modern scholarship agrees that Jesus was an actual historical person.  They can vouch for him gathering a rag-tag group of disciples in and around Galilee - largely as a counter-movement to the harsh treatment of the Romans and the excesses of the elites down south in Jerusalem.  But, when Jesus finally made the long journey down to the center of the Jewish people in the city of David, things did not go well.  That's an understatement.
Arrested for sedition and charged with blasphemy, Jesus was beaten severely.  Then he was crucified, which wasn't anything out of the ordinary for those stringent Romans.  In six hours he was dead.  They came by to break his legs, but there was no need.  This hero of the people from Galilee went like so many other messianic-figures, only with even less of a roar.
Just like that, three years of budding hope seemed a total loss.
Jesus was dead and buried.
Historians, of course, can't vouch for what actually happened next.  What they care…

Notes on Galatians - Introduction

In the opening of his book Stages of Faith, James Fowler tells of driving to a conference where he was set to speak.  His goal was to get his audience thinking about the direction of their lives.  He wanted them to contemplate where they were currently spending their best time and energy, but he also wanted to challenge them to go deeper.  What did they really want to be focusing their time and energy upon?  Where did they want to give their best?  What did they want to devote their lives to?  What did they want their most important work to be and what legacy were they going to live?
Mentally, he came up with his list of questions, but in doing so, it hit him.  The questions hit him.  What did he want to give his life to?  What work did he want to focus upon and pour his energy and talents into?
When we pick up Paul's Letter to the Galatians, two things become very clear.  First off:  for Paul, there is absolutely no question in his own heart and mind what work truly deserves his be…