The Story of the Covenant

Deuteronomy 6:20-25

It’s interesting how knowing more about our past informs our present, and even our future.  When I was in high school, I didn’t understand why the study of history was interesting; it seemed like a bunch of irrelevant black-and-white photos and phrases like “Federal Judiciary Act of 1789.”  Ugh.

Thankfully, I later learned more about how history impacts the present, and that intersection is really where knowing our history becomes not only interesting or relevant, but crucially important to our identity and future.

And Moses knew this.

That’s why he commanded the budding nation of Israel to never forget who they were.  As J.A. Thompson notes: “The original covenant [with Moses at Mt. Sinai]…was not simply an event of the past which concerned Israel’s ancestors only, but was the concern of Israel in every age.  The original Israel held within it all later Israelites.”*

What’s interesting is that, anticipating the need to “pass the baton” of nationhood from one generation to the next, Moses gave instruction about how to explain the “stipulations, decrees and laws” of the people.  The answer: Learn our story.  Tell our story.  

The connection between ancient Israelites and today’s worldwide community of Christians is, of course, Jesus Christ.  Jesus fulfilled the original covenant, and thus established a new covenant in himself, rather than in the Law.  Those who are in Christ therefore also share in the story of the covenant people, all the way from the beginning.

For reflection:

  1. What are some of the stories from your personal life that still inform who you are today?
  2. What do already know about the Bible and the story it tells?
  3. What do you still need to learn about the Bible?
  4. Learning and telling the story of our faith is always done better in COMMUNITY.  Are you connected to “Group Life” at UPPC?

 

 

 

 


*J.A. Thompson, Deuteronomy: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove: IVP, 2008) 128.

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Between Two Fires

There are two things every human being needs:

Belonging and Purpose.

In John 21:7-17, after having denied even knowing Jesus only a few nights beforehand, a despondent Peter goes fishing with a few friends.  And because of the overflowing grace of Jesus, Peter and his friends are stunned to experience Jesus, now alive in his resurrected glory, cooking breakfast for them on the shore.

What follows is one of history’s most…awkward exchanges.  Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?”  (Note: if you have to be asked three times, you must not be showing the love too well.)  Of course, these three times echo the three times Peter had denied Jesus just a few nights earlier.  Jesus is reinstating Peter as an apostle.

Jesus is taking a dead relationship and resurrecting it, by giving Peter a renewed sense of belonging and purpose.

Even in this moment, Peter must have felt like a fraud.  He knew what he had done, and how he had failed.  But if we’re honest with ourselves, we should all feel like frauds to some extent.  All have fallen short of the glory of God, Paul reminds us, so we rely on the grace of God for giving us a seat at his table.  Because of Jesus, we know we belong.

But belonging is just the beginning.  Belonging exists to strengthen and empower one’s purpose.  One doesn’t belong on the football team just to talk about football, or on the fire department just to watch movies about fires.  Jesus gives Peter his purpose: “Feed my sheep.”  Because of Jesus, we know we have purpose.

For reflection:

  1. Where do you find a sense of belonging and purpose?
  2. Do you see yourself as having the ability to help other people find belonging?
  3. What role can you play in helping others find purpose?
  4. The apostles catch 153 fish — far more than they needed in that moment.  What does that tell you about God’s plans for the world?

Blessings,

MM

 

 

 

Easter 2018: The Cross of Christ Saves

Are you good enough?

 

One of the most popular truisms of our time is the notion that “good people go to heaven.”  Of course there are dozens of subtly different takes on this idea, ranging from complicated systems of karma to the simple axiom that you get what you pay for.  But the core of the idea is the same: good people get rewarded, even in the afterlife.

The problem with the idea is that the definition of “good” is so blurred that one can never know if one is good enough.  Where is the line?  How much good must outweigh the “bad?”  How much lawfulness outweighs lawlessness?  And what happens if you were 49% good, but 51% bad?  Does it seem fair to be 100% condemned if you weren’t 100% bad?  And even then, what if just tipping the goodness scales (i.e. 50.1% “good”) still isn’t good enough?  What if dwelling in the presence of God requires 100% goodness?

Well here’s the bad news — it does.

So here’s the good news — Jesus was.

And here’s the truth — good people don’t go to heaven.  Forgiven people do.

In Luke 23:39-43, the thief that hung on the cross beside Jesus fully admitted his own guilt.  Still, he hoped Jesus would have mercy on him.  Unfortunately for him, he was long past any chance to be good enough for it, and he knew it.  So when he asks Jesus to remember him, what would be a “just” response?  What would have been fair for Jesus to say to him?

The Cross of Christ is scandalously unfair, in fact.  Good thing it’s unfair in our favor.  Just as Jesus’ crucifixion was unfair against him.  But he was willing to endure that injustice so that he could give the thief the answer that we would all want to hear: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The glory of Easter is simply this — Jesus is the first born of the resurrection life, never to die again.  And by his mercy and grace, he invites us to partake in it with him by faith.

For reflection:

  1. Have you ever heard that “good people go to heaven?”  Where did you hear it?  Did you believe it?  How do you feel about that idea today?
  2. If we do have to be “good enough” to be saved, what does that imply about the character of God?
  3. Many people have heard the gospel before but choose not to believe and follow Jesus.  What might be standing in their way?  Is something standing in your way?

For meditation:

Imagine that you are the thief on the cross.  There is no longer any denying that your mistakes have caught up with you.  And Jesus is so close you can speak to him.  What would you say?

A blessed Easter to you,

Pastor Mike

 

 

 

Lent Prayer Guide, week 6

Week 6, March 25th, Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week

The Cross of Christ: The Treasures that Come from Suffering

Silence

Close your eyes and take five deep breaths.  In this moment of silent time, let your daily concerns fade into the background of your mind.

 

Pray

(Pray the following slowly, intentionally, and in silence)

Loving God,

I am just beginning to realize how much you love me.

Your son, Jesus was humble and obedient.

He fulfilled your will for him by becoming human and suffering with us.

I ask you for the desire to become more humble

so that my own life might also bear witness to you.

I want to use the small sufferings I have in this world

to give you glory.

In your grace, strengthen my life by the example of Jesus.

He was never apart from you, and knew the treasures for which he died:

The salvation of this world you love.

Help me to feel how close you are.

To remember the treasures you promise in spite of suffering,

and to live in union with you.

Amen.

 

Read

(Read the following passages slowly, intentionally, and aloud)

 

Matthew 26: 6-13

6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. 8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked.9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 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.”

 

Romans 5:1-8

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.

 

Reflect

  1. It is easy to consider the “waste” of the extravagant material value of the perfume the woman anoints Jesus with.  Why did Jesus defend her choice to use it the way she did?
  2. What does Jesus’ reaction tell us about the value of money from God’s point of view?
  3. What does this memorable event tell us about the “treasures that come from suffering?”
  4. Early Jesus followers knew full well that their lives would entail hardships.  What kinds of hardships might you endure as a Jesus follower in your context today?

 

Read

(Read the passages above again, aloud)

 

Pray

(Pray the prayer above again, intentionally, and now aloud)

 

Action

What can you do, this week, to courageously endure a hardship for Jesus’ sake, remembering the treasures that Jesus promises those sufferings will lead to?

 

About Lent: Lent is a season during which we remember the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.   This guide is designed to be a guide for those who wish to wholeheartedly enter into the story behind Lent, just as Jesus’ disciples did.  You may have been following Jesus for decades.  You may have never set foot in a church.  At the foot of Christ’s cross, none of that matters.  All that matters is that God gave his only begotten Son to save the world.  To save this town.  To save you.

For the season of Lent, I’m going to pause my normal routine of summarizing and reflecting on the sermon, and offer this resource for guided prayer and scripture reading.  To use this guide, simply follow the instructions for each part, giving yourself enough time to absorb the content and enter in with your body, mind, and spirit.

Lent Prayer Guide, week 5

Week 5: The Cross of Christ Reconciles Us to One Another

Silence

Close your eyes and take five deep breaths.  In this moment of silent time, let your daily concerns fade into the background of your mind.

 

Pray

(Pray the following slowly, intentionally, and in silence)

Loving Lord,

it’s so hard to love the world sometimes

and to love it the way Jesus did seems impossible.

I am far too inclined to seek comfort,

And stay as comfortable as possible.

Help me to be inspired by Jesus’ love and

guided by his compassionate example,

journeying with those who are suffering.

I need you, God, to give me support in this journey.

Show me how to unlock my heart.

Let me be less fearful of the pain and darkness

that will be transformed by you into Easter joy.

Amen.

 

Read

(Read the following passages slowly, intentionally, and aloud)

Matthew 27: 45-46

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

Hebrews 5:7-9

While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.

Reflect

  1. When Jesus cries out the words of Psalm 22 (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) how does it make you feel?  What questions does it raise?  What questions does it answer?
  2. What can we learn from Jesus’ own prayers?  How did he pray?  Why was he heard?  Were his prayers always given a “yes” answer from the Father?

 

Read

(Read the passages above again, aloud)

 

Pray

(Pray the prayer above again, intentionally, and now aloud)

 

Action

What can you do, this week, to intentionally set aside your comfort and enter into someone’s struggle?

 

About Lent: Lent is a season during which we remember the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.   This guide is designed to be a guide for those who wish to wholeheartedly enter into the story behind Lent, just as Jesus’ disciples did.  You may have been following Jesus for decades.  You may have never set foot in a church.  At the foot of Christ’s cross, none of that matters.  All that matters is that God gave his only begotten Son to save the world.  To save this town.  To save you.

For the season of Lent, I’m going to pause my normal routine of summarizing and reflecting on the sermon, and offer this resource for guided prayer and scripture reading.  To use this guide, simply follow the instructions for each part, giving yourself enough time to absorb the content and enter in with your body, mind, and spirit.

Lent Prayer Guide, week 4

Week 4: The Cross of Christ Reconciles Us to One Another

Silence

Close your eyes and take five deep breaths.  In this moment of silent time, let your daily concerns fade into the background of your mind.

PrayPray the following slowly, intentionally, and in silence

Loving Creator,

I feel the pace quicken, the time draw near.

I am filled with anticipation as I move toward Easter

and the promised reconciliation with you.

And yet I know that as I am reconciled with you,

I must be reconciled with people.

Grant me the courage to reach out

To seek and give forgiveness.

Teach me to follow the example of Jesus.

Help me to live each day as he did,

turning hatred to love and conflict to peace.

I await the new life with eagerness, faith

and a deep gratitude.

Amen.

Read — Read the following passages slowly, intentionally, and aloud.

Matthew 27: 37-44

38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

 

Colossians 1: 20

20 Through him God reconciled to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

 

Reflect

  • There are three points of view in Matthew’s telling of this scene: the two rebels, those witnessing the crucifixion, and Jesus himself. Imagine the scene from each point of view.  How does it change the meaning?  Can you empathize with any, or all, of the characters?
  • In Luke’s gospel, Jesus is recorded as having prayed for the forgiveness of those who were mocking him. What does this mean about his ability to forgive you?

 

ReadRead the passages above again, aloud

 

PrayPray the prayer above again, intentionally, and now aloud

 

Action

What can you do, this week, to intentionally seek reconciliation with someone in your life?

 

About Lent: Lent is a season during which we remember the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.   This guide is designed to be a guide for those who wish to wholeheartedly enter into the story behind Lent, just as Jesus’ disciples did.  You may have been following Jesus for decades.  You may have never set foot in a church.  At the foot of Christ’s cross, none of that matters.  All that matters is that God gave his only begotten Son to save the world.  To save this town.  To save you.

For the season of Lent, I’m going to pause my normal routine of summarizing and reflecting on the sermon, and offer this resource for guided prayer and scripture reading.  To use this guide, simply follow the instructions for each part, giving yourself enough time to absorb the content and enter in with your body, mind, and spirit.  

Lent Prayer Guide, week 3

Week 3: The Cross of Christ Bearing Our Burdens

Silence

Close your eyes and take five deep breaths.  In this moment of silent time, let your daily concerns fade into the background of your mind.

Pray — (Pray the following slowly, intentionally, and in silence)

God of Mercy and Understanding,

I know that with your help

I can open my heart more fully.

More fully to the mysteries of the suffering and death of Jesus.

More fully to the suffering and death of people around the world;

Of people in my own country;

Of people in my own state;

Of people in my own town, even my neighbors.

Help me to be humble in this journey

and remember that any mercy and compassion I can give

is because of the mercy and compassion you have already given.

Amen.

Read — (Read the following passages slowly, intentionally, and aloud)

Matthew 26: 57-68

57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.66 What do you think? “He is worthy of death,” they answered. 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him68 and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”

Isaiah 53: 3-6

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. 4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Galatians 6:2

Bear one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Reflect

  • In verse 5 above, the prophet Isaiah used the words “transgression” and “iniquity” to describe something that we are guilty of, but that we also need healing from. What kinds of actions do people sometimes choose, that later require “healing”?
  • Can you apply Isaiah’s words to any of your own actions? What choices might you have made in your past that you now need to be healed?
  • As a member of Jesus’ Body, the Church, we can be agents of others’ healing, too. Whom do you know, or know of, who needs someone to share their burden?  What can you do to share it with them?
  • In Matthew’s passage, Jesus refers to himself as both the “Son of Man,” and “coming on the clouds of heaven.” Consider the meaning of Jesus’ willingness to set aside divine power in order to endure human suffering.

Read — (Read the following passages again, aloud)

Matthew 26: 57-68

57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.66 What do you think? “He is worthy of death,” they answered. 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him68 and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”

Isaiah 53: 3-6

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. 4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Galatians 6:2

Bear one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ

Pray — (Pray the following slowly, intentionally, and now aloud)

God in heaven and in my life,

By your grace, you have guided and protected me.

I so often forget that you save me,

and instead I believe I can save myself.

I always end in failure of one kind or another.

Lead me as you always have, with your mercy;

Lead me to remember your guidance;

Lead me to repeat your love.

May your Spirit inspire the Church

and make us instruments of your

ongoing love and guidance.

Amen.

Action

What can you do, this week, to intentionally share in someone else’s burden?

 

About Lent: Lent is a season during which we remember the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.   This guide is designed to be a guide for those who wish to wholeheartedly enter into the story behind Lent, just as Jesus’ disciples did.  You may have been following Jesus for decades.  You may have never set foot in a church.  At the foot of Christ’s cross, none of that matters.  All that matters is that God gave his only begotten Son to save the world.  To save this town.  To save you.

For the season of Lent, I’m going to pause my normal routine of summarizing and reflecting on the sermon, and offer this resource for guided prayer and scripture reading.  To use this guide, simply follow the instructions for each part, giving yourself enough time to absorb the content and enter in with your body, mind, and spirit.  

Lent Prayer Guide, week 2

About Lent: Lent is a season during which we remember the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.   This guide is designed to be a guide for those who wish to wholeheartedly enter into the story behind Lent, just as Jesus’ disciples did.  You may have been following Jesus for decades.  You may have never set foot in a church.  At the foot of Christ’s cross, none of that matters.  All that matters is that God gave his only begotten Son to save the world.  To save this town.  To save you.

For the season of Lent, I’m going to pause my normal routine of summarizing and reflecting on the sermon, and offer this resource for guided prayer and scripture reading.  To use this guide, simply follow the instructions for each part, giving yourself enough time to absorb the content and enter in with your body, mind, and spirit.  

Week 2: Something Decisive Happened for Me

Silence

Close your eyes and take five deep breaths.  In this moment of silent time, let your daily concerns fade into the background of your mind.

Pray (Pray the following slowly, intentionally, and in silence)

God in heaven and in my life,

By your grace, you have guided and protected me.

I so often forget that you save me,

and instead I believe I can save myself.

I always end in failure of one kind or another.

Lead me as you always have, with your mercy;

Lead me to remember your guidance;

Lead me to repeat your love.

May your Spirit inspire the Church

and make us instruments of your

ongoing love and guidance.

Amen.

 

Read — (Read the following passages slowly, intentionally, and aloud)

Matthew 26: 30-35

Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.  On the way, Jesus told them, “Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’  But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.”  Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.”  Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”  “No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same.

Isaiah 49:15

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you.

Reflect (Reflect on the following in your own time, either silently, in writing or journaling, or in conversation with a trusted friend)

  • Matthew describes the deep bond of Jesus’ friendship with his followers, including their promises of loyalty. Have you ever made promises you could not keep, as Jesus’ followers did that night?  Bring them to God in this time of reflection.
  • God speaks through the prophet Isaiah and describes Himself as more loyal even than the mother of an infant. Take a few moments and imagine what that means in your daily life.

 

Read — (Read the following passages again, aloud)

Matthew 26: 30-35

30Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.  31 On the way, Jesus told them, “Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say,‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’  32 But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.”  33 Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.”  34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”  35 “No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same.

Isaiah 49:15

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you.

Pray — (Pray the following slowly, intentionally, and now aloud)

God in heaven and in my life,

By your grace, you have guided and protected me.

I so often forget that you save me,

and instead I believe I can save myself.

I always end in failure of one kind or another.

Lead me as you always have, with your mercy;

Lead me to remember your guidance;

Lead me to repeat your love.

May your Spirit inspire the Church

and make us instruments of your

ongoing love and guidance.

Amen.

 

Action

What can you do, this week, to repeatedly remember God’s grace in your life?


Many blessings,
MM

Lent Prayer Guide, week 1

About Lent: Lent is a season during which we remember the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.   This guide is designed to be a guide for those who wish to wholeheartedly enter into the story behind Lent, just as Jesus’ disciples did.  You may have been following Jesus for decades.  You may have never set foot in a church.  At the foot of Christ’s cross, none of that matters.  All that matters is that God gave his only begotten Son to save the world.  To save this town.  To save you.

For the season of Lent, I’m going to pause my normal routine of summarizing and reflecting on the sermon, and offer this resource for guided prayer and scripture reading.  To use this guide, simply follow the instructions for each part, giving yourself enough time to absorb the content and enter in with your body, mind, and spirit.  

Week 1: The Cross of Christ is Where We Find God

Silence:  Close your eyes and take five deep breaths.  In this moment of silent time, let your daily concerns fade into the background of your mind.  

 

Pray  (Read the following slowly, intentionally, and in silence):

Loving God,

you call us back to you with all of our hearts.

I feel your call for me deep in my heart

and I know you want me back

as much as I want to return.

Please, Lord,

give me the wisdom to know how to return.

Make my journey back to you this Lent

one of grace, forgiveness and gentle love.

Amen.

 

Read (Read the following passages slowly, intentionally, and aloud):

Matthew 26: 1-5; 14-15

When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”…Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Galatians 1: 11-12

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

Reflect (Read and consider the questions, reflecting in silence, speaking, and/or writing):

  1. In the passage by Matthew, there are three points of view to consider: the disciples’, the chief priests’, and Judas’s.  Imagine yourself seeing Jesus from each point of view.  What is the experience like?
  2. Paul insists that the good news he shared with the Galatian church was divine in origin.  What do you think it must have felt like for Paul to come to a knowledge he was convinced was from Jesus Himself?

 

Read (Read the following passages again, aloud)

Matthew 26: 1-5; 14-15

When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2 “As you know, Passover begins in two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

3 At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest, 4 plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill him. 5 “But not during the Passover celebration,” they agreed, “or the people may riot.”

14 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests 15 and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver.

Galatians 1: 11-12

11 Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. 12 I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.

 

Pray (Pray the following slowly, intentionally, and now aloud)

Loving God,

you call us back to you with all of our hearts.

I feel your call for me deep in my heart

and I know you want me back

as much as I want to return.

Please, Lord,

give me the wisdom to know how to return.

Make my journey back to you this Lent

one of grace, forgiveness and gentle love.

Amen.

 

Action

What can you do, this week, to make room for a personal encounter with Jesus?

 

Many blessings,

MM

When “I Do” Doesn’t Last

One of the most significant events in the life of an adult is the wedding day.

We dress in clothes we’ll never wear again.  People fly from all over to attend.  Photographers, videographers, DJs, bakers, chefs, musicians, and of course an officiant to facilitate.  Family and friends to bear witness…to witness what?  The bride and groom sharing a bite of cake?  Dancing the macarena?  No.  The entire event revolves around the wedding vows.

But if and when a couple cannot keep their vows, there’s no party.  No photographers.  Only the end of something that, when it began, was meant to last.

Divorce is one of the most painful of life’s crises, and yet it’s so common that I’d bet anyone reading this knows at least one person who’s been through divorce.  It’s not the way God intended relationships to end.  In fact, Jesus is one of the harshest critics of divorce in Matthew 19:1-10.

So it’s essential to health of any marriage to attend to some of the strongest realities that can lead to divorce: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.  And rather than giving up to these forces, to faithfully, prayerfully, and humbly address each if they’ve appeared in our marriages.

And our Lord, from whom we each receive grace beyond measure, promises to be with us always, by the power of the Holy Spirit, each step of the way.

For reflection:

  1. Which of the four forces that can wreck a marriage are the most familiar to you?
  2. What is a way to begin to actively reverse those forces in your relationship?
  3. If you are experiencing these destructive forces, what are some ways your relationship with God can help? Be as specific as possible.
  4. If you have experienced divorce, what is some wisdom you’ve learned that might help those who would like to avoid divorce?

Many blessings,

MM