Daily Prayer :: Water

Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

April 19 – Darkness covers the land

The Crucifixion, seen from the Cross, by James Tissot

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Luke 23:26-43

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

More thoughts for meditation

This is a guide for how to observe our Tenebrae (“Darkness”) observance held at 2007 Frankford Ave. tonight or at home. As we followed Christ through his last week, we now remain with Christ through his final hours on the cross.

As Christ hung on the cross, the gospel writers record him making seven final statements, each of which we will spend time with today. We will descend with Christ towards death. We’re dying with Jesus today.

Light seven candles and prepare to extinguish them. Try to do it in a dark room. If that’s not possible, draw seven squares and prepare to blot them out. If you can do it in a small group, that’s better.

Read from Luke 23:26-3:

As they led Him away, they seized Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, and laid the cross on him to carry behind Jesus. A large crowd of people followed Him, including women who were mourning and lamenting Him. But turning to them, Jesus said,

   “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and your children. Look, the days are coming when they will say, ‘The women without children, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed, are fortunate!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us! For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Two others—criminals—were also led away to be executed with Him. When they arrived at the place called Golgotha [The Skull], they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left.

Then Jesus said,

ALL TOGETHER:

“Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”

And they divided His clothes and cast lots. The people stood watching, and even the leaders kept scoffing: “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One!”  The soldiers also mocked Him. They came offering Him sour wine and said, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”

PAUSE

Read: Join us in this litany as we are reconciled with and through Christ: The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,

All: Father, forgive.

The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,

Father, forgive.

The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,

Father, forgive.

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,

Father, forgive.

Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,

Father, forgive.

The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,

Father, forgive.

The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,

Father, forgive.

[ Extinguish first candle ]

Reader Luke 23:26-43:

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

 

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

[ Extinguish second candle ]

We’ve extinguished two candles, and walking closer to Jesus’ death and our death with him. Imagine what needs to die in you as you lay in the grave with Christ. But also mourn the death of your Messiah on this solemn day; Jesus said this would happen, but it’s hard to believe. For his friends, for his Mother, and for us today, even. The backwardness and upside-downness of Jesus’ death might still haunt you. Let it haunt you. Hold your suffering and let God hold you. It’s OK if it doesn’t make sense to you. We’re now moving into the second act, two words, two candles, two steps closer to inevitability.

Read John 19:26–27:

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

[ Extinguish third candle ]

Read: At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice: “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”.

Psalm 22:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

  Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,

  and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,

  enthroned on the praises of Israel.

In you our fathers trusted;

  they trusted, and you delivered them.

All: I believe, help my unbelief (Mark 9:24)

 

To you they cried and were rescued;

  in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,

  scorned by mankind and despised by the people.

All who see me mock me;

  they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;

“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;

  let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

All: I believe, help my unbelief

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;

  you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.

On you was I cast from my birth,

  and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

Be not far from me,

  for trouble is near,

  and there is none to help.

All: I believe, help my unbelief

Many bulls encompass me;

  strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

they open wide their mouths at me,

  like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,

  and all my bones are out of joint;

my heart is like wax;

  it is melted within my breast;

my strength is dried up like a potsherd,

  and my tongue sticks to my jaws;

  you lay me in the dust of death.

All: I believe, help my unbelief

For dogs encompass me;

  a company of evildoers encircles me;

they have pierced my hands and feet—

I can count all my bones—

they stare and gloat over me;

they divide my garments among them,

  and for my clothing they cast lots.

All: I believe, help my unbelief

But you, O Lord, do not be far off!

  O you my help, come quickly to my aid!

Deliver my soul from the sword,

  my precious life from the power of the dog!

  Save me from the mouth of the lion!

You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

I will tell of your name to my brothers;

  in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

All: I believe, help my unbelief

You who fear the Lord, praise him!

  All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,

  and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

For he has not despised or abhorred

  the affliction of the afflicted,

and he has not hidden his face from him,

  but has heard, when he cried to him.

All: I believe, help my unbelief

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;

  my vows I will perform before those who fear him.

The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;

  those who seek him shall praise the Lord!

  May your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth shall remember

  and turn to the Lord,

and all the families of the nations

  shall worship before you.

All: I believe, help my unbelief

For kingship belongs to the Lord,

  and he rules over the nations.

All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;

  before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,

  even the one who could not keep himself alive.

Posterity shall serve him;

  it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;

they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,

  that he has done it.

All: I believe, help my unbelief!

[ Extinguish fourth candle ]

Reader 3 John 19:28: After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said,

“I thirst.”

A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.

[ Extinguish fifth candle ]

Reader John 19:30:  When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

[ Extinguish sixth candle ] Reader Luke 23:44-46:

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

[ Extinguish final candle ]

Suggestions for action

 

On Friday between the hours of 12 and 3 p.m. we remember Jesus on the cross. We walk with Jesus from his arrest to being laid in the tomb on an imaginative prayer walk in the neighborhoods where each of our congregations meet. A vigil at each location is an opportunity to begin and end in prayer, to spend the three hours keeping watch with the women who waited. If you can’t make it during work hours, the guide around each neighborhood is available online.

 

If you want to experience this Tenebrae vigil (“Darkness”) with others come to 2007 Frankford Ave at 8pm tonight.  

April 18 – Eat, drink and remember

All over the world, Jesus followers are walking with Jesus through his last week, through death into life. Circle of Hope shares a literal and symbolic journey together to mark the most important week in history and to be of one mind and heart with Jesus as we share his death and resurrection.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Mark 14:12-31

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

More thoughts for meditation

There is no doubt that the Lord intends this nucleus of the church to remember and replicate this moment.  And it has been replicated and remembered all over the world ever since.

Breaking the bread and sharing the cup would not be unusual at a ceremonial meal or common meal among the Jews. But Jesus defines the elements as his body and his blood and asks the disciples to share it as such, participating in his death. When Jesus takes the cup he makes a symbolic reference to Moses when he says “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” Moses was the center of the Passover and Exodus, now Jesus takes his place. Moses was the mediator between God and the people, sprinkling people with half the blood of the sacrifice and pouring the rest on God, represented in the altar of the tabernacle. The Mosaic covenant is like a contract between an emperor (in this case, God) and a lesser king or a people (for instance, Israel or the disciples).  A mediator acts as a representative of the Emperor (Moses or, in this case, Jesus) and brings blood to establish an agreement between them. The agreement, or covenant, is that this people will now be under the rule of the Emperor and will receive of his blessings. The blood is to indicate that a sacrifice is made which symbolically says, “If I ever break this covenant, I will be like this animal, I will die.” Jesus is acting as the mediator, or the representative of God, but he also says that it is his blood that will establish the covenant.

In summary, what Jesus is saying is: “I am going to die, but my death is establishing the kingdom of God, of which you are now a part.”  He also says that many others, beside the twelve, will participate in God’s kingdom through Jesus’ death. He tells them that he will never feast or drink wine again until the coming of that kingdom.  After drinking wine with the disciples almost every night since he called them, this is a warning that his death will happen before their next meal.

The meal probably concluded with the hymn and the walk to the Mount of Olives. There Jesus noted they would all fall away with the prophetic words which identify the betrayal of the Son of Man: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” (Zechariah 13:7).  The shepherd will be struck down in crucifixion, but the promise of resurrection will gather the sheep: “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee”

Suggestions for action

It’s the last goodbye. Jesus offers us two enduring symbolic actions that the Church has practiced for thousands of years. The symbolic meal of the bread and the cup, and the supreme example of humility and servanthood in washing the disciples’ feet. Our celebration will go deep, just like Jesus’ did. Tonight at 2212 S. Broad, we share the final meal with Jesus and demonstrate our own humility and servanthood even as we witness him betrayed.

To be in Jesus is not just to be a part of a church, or to live according to new rules, or to have a new connection to God.  To be in Jesus is to be a part of a nation that has a unique government. Jesus is now our king, and we are now citizens in the kingdom of God.  Yes, there are new ways to live– the law of love, primarily– because we are living in a new kingdom. Yes, there is a connection to God, because God is the emperor and shepherd of the kingdom.  When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we are remembering that we are primarily citizens of Jesus. Our participation in his death and suffering also qualifies us to be co-heirs of the kingdom.

Consider being that citizen in the new world. Bearing a new identity, we bring that kingdom wherever we go. We live in the kingdom no matter what other nation we are in, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. This kingdom has no borders, except the artificial ones we put in our hearts or on the map.

Think of a challenging situation you face – something that tests your capacity to suffer. Ask yourself, “How does being a citizen of the Kingdom of God change how I relate to this situation?  What does it mean to be in it with Jesus, who knows all suffering, and to let him lead me?” Write as you reflect.

April 17 – Rest in this bittersweet moment

All over the world, Jesus followers are walking with Jesus through his last week, through death into life. Circle of Hope shares a literal and symbolic journey together to mark the most important week in history and to be of one mind and heart with Jesus as we share his death and resurrection.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Mark 14:1-11

She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.

More thoughts for meditation

The Gospel of Mark was written to evoke a lasting response in word and deed to the true identity of Jesus. In this wonderfully written scene we see that only one person really gets who Jesus is. Pay particular attention to the responses of those witnessing the action in this story, you might find yourself relating.

The bottle of costly oil was worth about a year’s wages. That’s a lot of money to pour out! Some onlookers thought (and said!) “What a waste! How much good could have been accomplished if only the oil had been sold and the money properly budgeted?” Matthew tells us that some of the disgruntled people were the disciples themselves (26:8).

Judas Iscariot was the designated treasurer of the Twelve and Jesus, according to John’s Gospel. The record of his betrayal of Jesus immediately follows the incident of the “wasted” perfume in Mark and Matthew, leading many to conclude that the two were related incidents. He, representing the disciples’ misplaced priorities, was overly financially minded. And they all failed to realize a person of Jesus’ true stature deserved more than flower petals in water. God-with-us was worthy of even more than this expensive oil!

The unnamed woman responds appropriately to the true identity of Jesus, though His closest followers did not. She was preoccupied with Jesus alone, evidenced by her eagerness to sacrifice such a valuable commodity for Him.

Suggestions for action

If you can make it, tonight at 3800 Marlton Pike is intimate. Jesus is in a house. We gather with him there to experience the perfume and tears and preparation for death.  Jesus is anointed by an unnamed woman whom he honors in opposition to her detractors. We let our hearts rest with Jesus in that bittersweet moment.

From wherever you are, consider this: There are many good things vying for our preoccupation. The disciples were preoccupied with the poor, wanting to sell the oil and care for the poor with the proceeds. What good things threaten to steal your preoccupation away from your Lord? Are you preoccupied with the poor? Your family? Education? Evangelism? The Bible? These are all very good things, but, as Christians, we have only one top priority: the Lord Jesus Christ. Preoccupation with anything else indicates that our priorities, like those of the disciples, need rearranging. Arrange yourself for quite a few minutes to be alone with Jesus – attending to Him and being attended to. Enjoy the intimacy.

April 16 – We are on watch

All over the world, Jesus followers are walking with Jesus through his last week, through death into life. Circle of Hope shares a literal and symbolic journey together to mark the most important week in history and to be of one mind and heart with Jesus as we share his death and resurrection.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Mark 13

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

More thoughts for meditation

All through these days Jesus speaks words that put him at odds with the powers that be, the words that will finally get him accused and executed for being a rival king.

As we heard in the temple yesterday, Mark does not leave any of the leaders out as he recounts the Lord’s teaching (Mark 12): the Sanhedrin who “keep the vineyard,” the Pharisees who appear to love money, the Sadducees who refuse to believe resurrection is possible, the teachers of the law who twist words and the rich, put to shame by a poor widow. When he turns to his disciples he gives a prophecy about their future and his return. People have been reading into it ever since Mark wrote it. But the essence is at the end: keep watch so that the Lord finds you alive in faith, on his side among the allegiances of the world and at work in his cause.

Suggestions for action

Tonight we gather at the foot the of the Comcast Center at 17th and JFK, the tallest tower in town.  Jesus gets prophetic. He unmasks all the powerful religious parties as the usurpers they are and lifts up those they ignore. He upends his disciples by speaking of tumbling towers, earthquakes, and wars–all right in the center of power. We’re seeing these things in our day too, so we are meeting here to do some prophecy of our own.

Take a moment to move around in the space you’re in. If you’re able to walk, silently and slowly walk around the room or building you’re in (or go outside). See if you can move at the pace that would take an hour to walk down a single city block. What do you notice about this familiar place that’s different at this overly vigilant pace? Jesus’ final words in Mark 13 were given to put us on watch and to stay alert.

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