The Beacon of the Cross

Easter Sunday is past, but the story remains. The mystical story of life over death gives us hope and victory and rests our souls.

Christ is risen!

                                  He is risen indeed!

Harry Emerson Fosdick tells this story: Some years ago a little church on the coast of England was ruined in a hurricane. The congregation thought themselves unable to rebuild. Then one day a representative of the British Admiralty came to the clergyman to ask if they intended to reconstruct the church. The clergyman explained why they could not do it. “Well,” said the representative of the British navy, “if you do not rebuild the church we will. That spire is on all our charts and maps. It is the landmark by which the ships of the seven seas steer their course.” A true parable, that! Never more than now, when the souls of men need divine help, stable and secure, strong, Cross and sreeplesustaining, and empowering, is the church’s message needed.

Though the hurricane of hell brought the sins of the world down upon the body of Christ, crushing the life from Him, that body was rebuilt on Easter. Today, the spire of the cross stands as our chart and map. Calvary’s cross is the landmark by which the church and its followers steer their course.

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Putting Others First

 

Amma sara 1Some monks of Scetis came one day to visit Amma Sarah. She offered them a small basket of fruit. They left the good fruit and ate the bad. So she said to them, “You are true monks of Scetis.”

—-Amma Sara

So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

—-Parables of Jesus


The clarion call of all followers of Jesus is self-denial. Without self-denial we are in a constant state of grabbing and competition for the chief seats. Over and over again Jesus the teacher told His disciples to be self-sacrificing and humble. One of the great sayings of the scripture is, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Is a person who calls himself a Christian but always puts self-interest first really legitimate?

Sara of the desert gives us some insight here. She lived the life of a desert monk, and a real monk knows the meaning of true sacrifice. She entertained some fellow monastics in her cell and offered them fruit, and they ate the bad fruit first. Her reaction was to call them “true monks.” Amma Sara knew that there were true and false monks, and declared that true monks don’t grab for the best but leave the best for others.

In this same way, true followers of Jesus must be willing to take a “back seat’ so that others may thrive and go forward. That sort of thinking is contrary to the norm of our day, but brings us closer to an understanding of the nature of God and His grace. By living out a life of self-sacrifice, we find the divine peace that surpasses all understanding.

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An Easter Poem

The day of resurrection?empty tomb
Earth, tell it out abroad;
The Passover of gladness,
The Passover of God.
From death to life eternal,
From this world to the sky,
Our Christ hath brought us over
With hymns of victory.

Now let the heavens be joyful,
Let earth her song begin;
Let the round world keep triumph,
And all that is therein;
Let all things seen and unseen
Their notes in gladness blend,
For Christ the Lord hath risen,
Our Joy that hath no end.

——John of Damascus

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The Perfect Gift

About 2000 years ago, God sent us the perfect love gift – Jesus Christ. From His miraculous birth to His miraculous resurrection, the life of Jesus tells humankind the greatest love story of all time. The heart of God and His awesome love for us is clearly revealed in the image of His perfect Son in a crude feeding trough and on a crude wooden cross. The forgiveness and freedom He accomplished there exacted a price that only God could pay. The extraordinary thing about God’s gift, is that it is freely given to all people – no favorites, no exclusions. Your name is on God’s gift list! You are included!

All that Jesus accomplished for you and me was intended to bring the abundance and delight of God’s love and grace into our lives. For Christians, every day should be a unique opportunity to revel in that freedom and show that grace to others.

Christ should bring to mind love images for those of us who are believers. An innocent virgin-born baby in a manger with the glow of heaven on His face. A savior – healing with His gentle touch, calming a storm with His mighty words, playfully cuddling children on His lap.

Christ_in_Garden_GethsemaneDuring this season of Lent, we must also see Christ heartsick and weeping in a garden, hanging broken and bleeding on a cross, and gloriously alive after the resurrection.

In response to this great gift of love, Christians should bring to mind love images to the world. Non-judgmental people with our hearts and arms open to all. People who practice peace and scatter hope. People who understand forgiveness and look for the good.

Jesus Christ – God’s perfect gift for all people, for all time. You are on the gift list.


PRAYER: Father – Thank you for the perfect gift of Christ. Thank you for including us all.

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Remember

Many are familiar with the beautiful poem, “Footprints.” In this story, a man dreams that he has a talk with Jesus about his life. Like all of us, this man had a life full of triumphs and tragedies, love and loneliness, happiness and sadness. And like all of us, he had a lifelong relationship with God that was at times close and committed and at times distant and unclear.

FootprintsThe man and Jesus were walking along a sandy seashore and having a conversation that reviewed that man’s life. The man noticed that many times there were four footprints in the sand as the walk of life progressed. Jesus explained, “These are the times when we walked together. The times you shared your life with me, and I stood beside you every step.” But the man became troubled when he noticed that in his most painful, dark times of life there was only one set of footprints. He questioned the Lord as to why he had been abandoned and left to walk those times alone. Jesus explained these times, also. “My child, the reason that you see only one set of footprints is because those were the times I lifted you into my arms and carried you because you could not walk alone.” All was explained to the man except the occasional places along life’s walk where there seemed to be many footprints going in all directions in a hectic pattern in the sand. Jesus smiled and replied, “My son, these are the times when we danced!”

On this God Friday, remember those marvelous occasions when you have rejoiced in life. Those overwhelmingly happy moments of life when your Lord “danced” with you! Take every opportunity to put on your dancing shoes!


PRAYER: Father – Help me to remember with joy marvelous moments in life, and help me now to “dance” with wonder at the blessings you give me.

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Maundy Thursday

John 13:1-15

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

T his passage says it all for this day of Holy Week.
Whose feet are you washing, and just as important, why?

Prayer: Loving Provider, you gather me in this upper room with your son, to be fed by your love. At that supper, Jesus told us to “love one another” and I know that is the heart of his gift, his sacrifice for me. I ask that I might find the source of my own heart, the meaning for my own life, in that Eucharist. Guide me to the fullness of your love and life.

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LESSONS FROM THE PASSION

The last hours of Jesus’ life bear powerful truths for our daily living. Lessons and principles for following Christ are to be learned in almost every event of those last hours. Watch and learn…

On Thursday night, Jesus ate the traditional Passover meal with His disciples.Cross That night, He performed an act of great humility. The Messiah washed the feet of His apostles. He taught them that to be great, you must be small. The way to lead is to serve. Remember Jesus washing the disciples’ dirty feet if you feel unimportant, unempowered, or small.

Peter didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet. He declared his loyalty, even to the death. But Jesus sadly informed him that he would vehemently deny knowing the Savior three times before the rooster would crow in the morning. Remember Peter as he heard the rooster crow early Friday morning if you feel self-sufficient or confident in your own resources alone.

After the meal, Jesus went to the garden to pray. His followers chose sleep, not prayer. In the loneliness of those hours, Jesus’ heart was in great agony as He accepted death for our salvation. Remember Jesus kneeling alone in the garden if you find it hard to do the right thing.

Then, came the trials. First, Christ stood before the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin; then, the Roman governor, Pilate; next, Herod, the Jewish puppet king; and finally back to Pilate again. In cowardice, Pilate let the people choose: Jesus or Barrabus, a convicted criminal. Remember Jesus as He heard the crowd shout, “Crucify him. Give us Barrabus!” if you feel wrongfully accused.

The Roman soldiers beat Him, crowned Him with thorns, mocked Him and made Him carry His cross. Remember the humiliation of Jesus on the Via Dolorosa if you feel rejected or excluded.

Jesus was nailed to the cross with huge spikes that cut through His flesh. In the midst of His torture, He prayed for His executioners. Remember Jesus’ words, “Father, forgive them,” if you find it hard to forgive

Those same soldiers gambled for His clothes. Remember how Jesus must have felt as the soldiers played games at the foot of the cross if you feel discouraged by power struggles, feel used or feel misunderstood.

There are lessons to be learned from all suffering, but the passion of Christ shows us the true heart of God. The Lenten season gives us 40 days to ponder Christ’s passion and learn from it.


PRAYER: Father – Give me the wisdom to learn lessons of service and humility as I consider Christ’s passion.

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Repentance

Close up of an 17th-century depiction of the 2...

Lent is a time for repentance. Repentance is far more that simple regret. Sorrow for sin is united with an unwavering decision to change. As the Holy Spirit makes us aware of our failures, repentance is our spiritual response.

Repentance for personal lack of obedience to God was addressed by Jesus. This repentance involves a regretful acceptance of your unrighteousness before God. This acceptance necessitates a transformation of your personal priorities, your attitude, and your behavior.

Paul wrote to the church at Corinth to affirm their repentance as a congregation. In his letter, Paul refers to repentance as “Godly sorrow,” and admitted that while the process was painful for the church, the result would leave no room for regrets for the pain endured. Repentance for the Corinthian church led to a renewed devotion to serve God.

The Old Testament prophets realized that as a nation, Israel had deviated far from the course set out for them by God. Repentance for the nation necessitated a “re-vision” of sight as a country with a new hope of God-centered living and priorities. Repentance for the nation gives us forgiveness for national selfishness and arrogance before God.

When repentance has occurred, a time of refreshing comes. Our lives have meaning, a clearer understanding of God, and hope for the future. God’s promise is that honest repentance brings its reward – the presence and blessing of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Use this season of Lent to experience the cleansing joy of repentance.


PRAYER: Father – I acknowledge my guilt and regret for my lack of obedience to you. Help me change those things in my life that do not honor you.

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Lent—A Time to Choose Direction

A great thought from Joan Chittister

Crucifixion_Icon_Sinai_13th_century.jpgLent is an opportunity to look again at who we are, at where we’re going in life, at how we’re getting to where we say we want to go. The Chinese say, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” But the aimlessness, the confusion, the anomie that go with it, wear us down, wear us out.

Everybody needs to know that they have lived for something. Everyone has a responsibility to leave this world better than when they found it. Everyone needs to carry light into the darkness of the world around them so that others, too, may follow and find the way.

To go through life with no thought of responsibility for anything other than the self is to live like a leech off the riches of the world around us. To not ask the questions: What is my life goal? What am I contributing to this world? and hear the answer in the echo of the soul, is to be living a hollow life indeed.
Lent does not permit us the luxury of such banality. Lent ends in the shadow of the empty cross and in the sunrise of an empty tomb. There are great things to be done by each of us and each of them takes great effort, requires great struggle, will face great resistance. But the way to the empty tomb goes through the mount of the cross.

Lent is our time to prepare to carry the crosses of the world ourselves. The people around us are hungry; it is up to us to see that they are fed, whatever the cost to ourselves. Children around us are in danger on the streets; it is up to us to see that they are safe. The world is at the mercy of US foreign policy, US economic policy and US militarism; it is up to us to soften the hearts of our own government so that the rest of the world can live a life of dignity and pride.
We must “set our faces like flint,” let nothing deter the Jesus life in us, continue the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, knowing that however our efforts end, the resurrection is surely on its way.

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A Thought for Passion/Palm Sunday

Some years ago a book was written by a noted American historian entitled “When The Cheering Stopped.” It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following WWI. When that war was over Wilson was an international hero, There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought and the world had been made safe for democracy.

On his first visit to Paris after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than their own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. In a Vienna hospital a Red Cross worker had to tell the children that there would be no Christmas presents because of the war and the hard times. The children didn’t believe her. They said that President Wilson was coming and they knew that everything would be alright.

The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. It turned out that after the war the political leaders in Europe were more concerned with their own agendas than they were a lasting peace. At home Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all the President’s health began to break. He suffered a stroke and in the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man.

It’s a sad story, but one that is not altogether unfamiliar. The ultimate reward for someone who tries to translate ideals into reality is apt to be frustration and defeat. There are some exceptions, of course, but not too many.

It happened that way to Jesus. They cried hosanna, He’s the son of David, but less than a week after the Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem, he would be dead. We enter Holy Week with that in mind.

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