When do you pray? Maybe it’s because I wasn’t raised in a church I never developed a set prayer time. For many years I would end my day with prayer, lying in bed and thanking God for the day. I still do this on occasion. Since I began running, much of my prayer practice has been a “while running” prayer time. I didn’t start running with this spiritual practice. I actually started running in an attempt to lose weight, but along the way things changed. This was quite the sup-rise and I am grateful.
Today is Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week. The day that we remember Jesus’ grand entry into Jerusalem. The entry is the fun and festive part of the day. It doesn’t stay that way for long. You see, then and now, things can change very quickly. So you are riding high one moment and in the next the world seems to have turned against you.
In my congregation (like many others) we enter the story of Jesus’ last week with a full reading of the “Passion” narrative. This year we read from Matthew’s gospel. I don’t usually preach this day, but today I had a “mini sermon” which centered on forgiveness.
We read/hear in the story that Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, that Peter denied Jesus, and that all the other disciples fled in fear. Nobody performed well on the tragic night of Jesus’ arrest.
Sometimes I hear people talk of Judas with the assumption that he was condemned. That assumption can be made because of Jesus words describing how difficult it would be for the one who would betray him. But I don’t think Jesus was describing condemnation. Rather, he was describing deep remorse, deep regret, deep despair. After Jesus’ arrest, Judas tried to give back the money, to no avail. And then, in his deep remorse, deep regret, and deep despair he took his own life. Tragedy upon tragedy.
I don’t believe that Judas was condemned though. I believe that had Judas not taken his life he would have heard the same message that Peter heard from the resurrected Jesus. I believe that one day, when I am in the presence of Jesus, I will have the honor of meeting Judas, and Peter, and all the others.
How can I be so sure of this? Because our God is a God of grace and mercy who offers us complete forgiveness. I also know this because of the blessed sacrament of Holy Communion. The meal of bread and wine…Jesus’ body given, and blood poured out expressly for the forgiveness of sin. Jesus began this tradition on the very night that he was arrested. He knew that Judas would betray him. He knew that Peter would deny him. He knew that the disciples would abandon him. And yet, he gave them forgiveness. He didn’t turn anyone away from his table.
That forgiveness is for you and for me. May you know this deep into your soul this day, this week, and all the days thereafter.
Today I am personally thankful for: the forgiveness that Jesus so graciously gives; for a nice after church lunch with my husband, daughter, and her best friend; and for a very refreshing nap this afternoon.
What started as a sharing of a photo and thought each day of Lent has devolved into the occasional post. Today’s word is “Thanks”.
This year I had the honor to participate in my third graveside service for a Veteran. This was for a long time and beloved member of our congregation. The ceremony in which representatives of our nation’s armed services express the thankfulness of a nation is very moving.
Almost three years ago one of our favorite hiking spots was devastated by fire. Today we went on a hike there and, thanks to recent rains, were treated to some beautiful scenery. I didn’t take any photos of all the wild flowers in bloom. But I found a perfect illustration of the theme of “restore”. There are some trees common there (unfortunately I don’t know what they are) and they burned in the fire. Black scarred trunks and branches adorn the landscape. But if you look a bit closer you can see the outer burned layer peeling away and new life beginning to show. This tree is farther along in its restoration than most of the others. Death and resurrection…in a tree…as we approach Holy Week.
As my word of the day for Lent has become a word every few days I have the ability to choose the words… Today’s word then is “remembrance”.
In the church calendar, November 1st is All Saints Day. At Our Redeemer we observe this day on the first Sunday of November. I know that many congregations light candles in remembrance of those members who died in the previous year. We do this too and it is always very moving for me as I say the name while lighting a candle. We also invite members of the congregation to share photos and light candles in remembrance of their loved ones. I’ve placed sand-filled trays in the shape of the cross as a reminder that we have the promise of new life through Jesus. It is always beautiful to see when all the candles are lit.
My son and I have decided that we will run/hike part of the Backbone Trail and La Jolla Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains this Saturday. The first time we did this hike was almost 5 years ago and we had just done the Backbone Trail portion (this is actually just the beginning portion of that long trail). Anyway, I vividly remember my first incursion here. As Matt and I hiked, I was huffing and puffing so much that I could barely talk. Then, much to my amazement, two women passed us while running and chatting.
For me, barely breathing at a slow walk, this was a major wake-up call. I decided right then that I had to get back into shape, to take a new path. I started running that very same week.If you can call huffing and puffing for 30 seconds, followed by walking for two minutes, running. I kept at it because it was actually easier than hiking up a hill. Slowly I made the transition from barely moving, to running marathons. That its taken me 5 years to get here is ok because I’ve realized the spiritual benefits of the physical exertion and that is far more beneficial than anything else. I’m looking forward to taking this path again on Saturday, noting that as I climb I’ll be huffing and puffing, but I’ll be going much faster!
When I think of the word, faithful, my first thought is influenced by the fact that I’m a pastor. For today though, I’m thinking of my pets. We were having a discussion at the church this morning about how our dogs (and cats and other animals) are part of our families. I then came home to the generous welcome of my three little dogs. It’s amazing that I can be gone for 10 minutes or 10 hours and they are always so happy to see me. Maybe we can learn from them about faithfulness.