Week of March 30–April 5, 2015 – Trusting in God’s Presence by Claire McKeever-Burgett
Read Psalm 36:5–11
Meditation: the psalmist speaks truth yet again. For who on this Holy Monday, after Jesus enters Jerusalem, after Mary publicly prepares Jesus’ body for burial and for death, who does not need a reminder of the protective, present love of God?
We know where the road to Jerusalem leads. We know that the hosanna shouts and palm-branch waves quickly fade into the background. We know the authorities meet in secret, making deals, sacrificing lives. We know Judas betrays and Peter denies. We know what lies ahead. It was a long week then, and it is a long week now.
Which is why the psalmist’s words sing in our hearts, offering us hope, offering us love, offering us light.
Biblical scholars tell us Psalm 36 is a hymn of rejoicing in the Temple. The Israelite people were a people of pain. They knew their share of heartache and betrayal, yet they also knew how to testify to God’s love and to celebrate Yahweh’s victory.
The ancient songwriters, much like the poets of today, looked to the mountains and the sky, to the sea and to the forest, to the birds of the air and the animals of the land, trusting that in all things God was present with them.
The psalmist trusts in the strength of God’s love and the vastness of God’s protection and turns to the natural world to tell the love story of God.
Is it any wonder that Jesus quoted the Psalms so often? Is it any wonder that Psalm 36 is part of our reading for this Monday of Holy Week?
Today, help us, O God, to trust in your vast love. May we follow the way of Jesus—the way of salvation, trust, and life.. Amen.
Week of April 6–12 2015 – Practice Resurrection by Eileen R. Campbell-Reed
Read John 20:19–23
Meditation: In the twentieth century, US Christianity placed the accent of faith on belief rather than practice. For many Christians right belief opens the door to salvation, and communal belonging becomes a way of defining identity as a religious person, a Christian. The New Testament commands readers “to believe” rightly in Jesus. Historically Christian theologies teach that no amount of action or work can achieve salvation: It is God’s gift.
The concern about “right belief” can lead to a briar patch of doubt and misgiving when it runs up against scientific ways of seeing. Quickly an unresolvable debate emerges over what can be legitimately “believed,” what constitutes evidence, and how beliefs fit logically or coherently into a worldview. We can ponder such thoughts endlessly.
Jesus commends to his disciples the kind of believing that leads to life—not more arguments about who is right or how to justify one’s position. Belief in Jesus is participation in an embodied, practiced, incarnate (in the flesh) knowing.
Wendell Berry, poet, author, and farmer, asks his readers to reach beyond belief and “practice resurrection.” Jesus invites you to reach out your hand: Experience the presence of peace, the incarnation of God, the resurrection of the dead—unbelievable things in our day and time. Hold a child’s hand. Listen to your neighbor. Look into the eyes of the man selling papers on the street corner. Ask yourself: This Easter season, how shall I practice resurrection?
God of peace, you are reaching out now, inviting us to the hope of believing. Help our unbelief. Amen.
Week of April 13–19, 2015 – A Double Take by Maria Kane
Read Acts 3:12–19
Meditation: By now, I imagine most everyone has put away Easter decorations. Any remnants of Easter in the stores are in the clearance bin. To the naked eye, Easter is over.
Except that the celebration of Easter, of Christ’s miraculous resurrection from the dead, lasts fifty days. We remain in a season of awe, surprise, delight, and life—and not just at the blooming flowers and greening grass. Often, however, busyness, cynicism, and fear cloud our faith in God’s power in the world and in us. We allow ourselves to speak of coincidences and accidents instead of grace, mercy, and the Spirit.
Other times we find ourselves dumbstruck, as did the crowds outside the Temple doors. They stand in disbelief upon discovering that a man they are accustomed to see begging for money is now walking without assistance. Is it magic? Is it a trick? Is it a coincidence?
For Peter and John, this is the work of God prophesied in scripture and now made manifest through Jesus’ followers—ordinary men and women. We elevate the apostles to a level of excellence and authority we could not imagine ourselves bearing without acknowledging that Peter is the one who denied Jesus three times. God can use all of us to bring God’s reign on earth.
The world news headlines can deaden our souls to the truth that God has not abandoned us. The fifty days of Easter remind us that resurrection happens more than once. New life and new possibilities can be realized despite our fears, doubts, and skepticism—perhaps even amidst them.
God, help us remember Peter’s story and your endless mercy Amen.
Week of April 20–26, 2015 – Knowing the Shepherd’s Love by Eradio Valverde Jr.
Read Acts 4:5–12
Meditation: The biblical image of people of faith as sheep resonates throughout this week’s readings. The central theme is that of God as good shepherd. We may be tempted to compare ourselves literally to the animal in less than flattering ways, but the intent of scripture is that we, like the lamb, are creatures with much the same needs. We have a loving and protective shepherd to watch over us, talk and walk with us, guide us away from harm and danger, and provide the best for us. We also find ourselves drawn to the image of Jesus as the good shepherd, who during his earthly ministry performed incredible deeds, not least among them healings.
In Acts 4, we read about the ramifications of Peter and John’s healing—in the name of Jesus—a man born lame. Peter and John employ the name of Jesus to heal one man, convert a multitude of five thousand, get themselves in deep trouble, and anger the religious council that oversees the Temple. Not bad for a day’s work done in the name above all names.
In the midst of a people who had maintained religious commitments to God comes a new way, a relational commitment to a God who wants to be seen as shepherd—and a healing one at that. To this time and place comes a mass conversion, a healing, and a clear message of God’s loving concern for all people, even us. The Good Shepherd invites us to accept or recommit to the love that God so freely offers us.
Good Shepherd, lead me to fullness of life. Thank you for inviting me into a meaningful relationship with you. May I share that invitation with others. Amen.
Week of April 27–May 3, 2015 – Abiding in God by Jennifer Moland-Kovash
Read Psalm 22:25–31
Meditation: We turn to the psalms during times of sorrow and grief, during times of joy and delight. They provide words for our hearts when we cannot form them on our own. Today’s psalm sings praise to the Lord who rules over the nations and garners remembrance from all the ends of the earth. The psalmist reminds us that this praise doesn’t belong only to us in our hearts or homes or congregations or cities or countries. All the ends of the earth, all the families of the nations will worship. Praise to the Lord comes from corners of the earth we’ve never seen and from the hearts and voices of those we do not know.
This all-encompassing praise does not stop with the current generation either. It reaches back to those who sleep in the earth and forward to those future generations who will be told about the Lord. Those whom we never met? They praised the Lord. Those who will come after us, whom we might never meet? They will praise the Lord. Everyone will bow down to praise.
From these verses we glean three reasons for such praise: The poor shall eat and be satisfied. The Lord rules over the nations. The Lord has delivered the Lord’s people. The expansiveness of this praise can overwhelm our mortal minds. So big! So many! So much! But the gift of this psalm’s message comes in the reminder of our connection to one another in our praise of the One who calls us together. In all that we do and all that we are, with all that we have, we praise the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Lord, along with those from every corner of this magnificent world, I praise you. Raising my heart and voice with those from the past and the future, I praise you. Amen.