Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Author: Circle of Hope (Page 1 of 631)

April 9, 2023 — Resurrection Sunday

Today’s Bible reading

Read Luke 24:1-12 –  On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.

More thoughts for meditation

On this resurrection Sunday let’s celebrate by following the women. That morning they came together for a common purpose. They rose early to go to the body. They made their way, spices in hand, heavy with all that they had witnessed and experienced, for one last touch to anoint him.

Follow the women. They took action to move towards Jesus even when their hopes were crushed. With so many unanswered questions, they went. And through their action they found a boulder moved, an empty tomb and an angel with a message.

Follow the women. They remembered and they shared the story. They had walked with Jesus. They had the memory of his words in their hearts. They had love for him in their bones. They remembered who he was and they believed. They ran to share the news, to tell the others. He had not left them. He had risen!

Suggestions for action

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Celebrate Christ’s resurrection today by following the women. Gather with others, take action to move toward Jesus and remember your own story.

Together we pray, “Resurrection is here. We see your life in our life.”

April 8, 2023 — In the grave

Today’s Bible reading

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.

Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. – John 19:38-42

More thoughts for meditation

In the gospel of John, the setting for Jesus’ tomb is unique from the other gospels. It is in a garden (19:41). This was also the scene of Jesus’ arrest and it will be the setting for Jesus’ first resurrection appearance to Mary. This place where his body is laid is significant; it is foreshadowing what is to come.

A garden calls to mind new life and new creation. But at the same time, every gardener knows that death is part of the life cycle in a garden. They go hand in hand. Jesus himself spoke of this when he predicted his death. “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain: but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

With new spring plants and flowers coming up around us, and weariness of the toll of life, it might be easy to bypass being with Jesus in the grave today. We can busy ourselves with preparations, or simply move on like any other day. But today could be a time to be buried and still, waiting in the dark of the earth for transformation. It could be a time to acknowledge the tension of transition, unresolved loss, death of expectations, unanswered questions and the weight of grief.  Let them all be with Jesus in the tomb. And wait.

Suggestions for action

Pray: Help us, Oh God, as we live in the tension between this death and resurrection. We long to be risen but we carry in our bodies the weight of death. Give us the patience and trust of a gardener, allowing Christ’s death at work in us to make way to new life and new creation.

In the name of the crucified one, Amen.

April 7, 2023 — Jesus is nailed to the cross and dies

This week we we’re exploring the Stations of the Cross, inspired by Marko Ivan Rupnik’s Contemplating the Face of Christ, and Henri Nouwen’s Walk with Jesus. Meditating on the way of the cross invites us to identify with Jesus’s suffering and death that leads to resurrection. His final hours were full of all the choices, temptations, and invitations we face today. It was Love that took him through; love that changes everything.

Today’s Bible reading

I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. –Isaiah 50:6-7

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” — John 19:31-37

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. — Isaiah 53:12

More thoughts for meditation

The nails in Jesus’s hands and feet signify the end of liberty. He is no longer free. But freedom inhabits love from within. Love renders him free enough to choose to become an object in the hands of violent people. Humanity finally got what it thought it wanted — to kill God. But God brought about what God wanted — for love to overcome. The gaze of Christ crucified is the gaze of God’s relentless love for us. Christ gave himself up because he loved us so much that he considered us worthy of his trust.

Henri Nouwen writes, “Jesus was nailed to the cross and for three hours he was dying. He had done nothing wrong; he lived his dying completely for others. The total exhaustion of his body, the abandonment by his friends…all became the gift of self. And as he hung dying…there was no bitterness, no desire for revenge, no resentment. Nothing to cling to. All to give. By being given away for others, his life became fruitful. Jesus, the one without guilt, died an excruciatingly painful death in order that death no longer would have to be ignored, but could become a gateway to life and the source of a new communion. The way we die has not only much to do with the way we have lived, but also with the way that those who come after us will live. As he hangs stretched out between heaven and earth, Jesus asks us to look our mortality straight in the face and trust that death does not have the last word. We can then look at the dying in our world and give them hope; we can hold their dying bodies in our arms and trust that mightier arms than ours will receive them and give them the peace and joy they always desire. It was into this dying humanity that God entered so as to give us hope.”

Suggestions for action

Jesus sets his face like flint toward death, knowing that in the end, he will not be put to shame. The same is true for you! In the end, you will not be put to shame if you follow him. You are loved.

Until you get to the Sunday meeting, enjoy CS Lewis’s poem about love being like nails:

Love’s as warm as tears,
Love is tears: Pressure within the brain,
Tension at the throat,
Deluge, weeks of rain,
Haystacks afloat,
Featureless seas between
Hedges, where once was green.

Love’s as fierce as fire,
Love is fire: All sorts–Infernal heat
Clinkered with greed and pride,
Lyric desire, sharp-sweet,
Laughing, even when denied,
And that empyreal flame
Whence all loves came.

Love’s as fresh as spring,
Love is spring:
Bird-song in the air,
Cool smells in a wood,
Whispering “Dare! Dare!”
To sap, to blood,
Telling “Ease, safety, rest,
Are good; not best.”

Love’s as hard as nails,
Love is nails:
Blunt, thick, hammered through
The medial nerves of One
Who, having made us, knew
The thing He had done,
Seeing (what all that is)
Our cross, and His.

April 6, 2023 — Jesus is stripped of his clothing

This week we’re exploring the Stations of the Cross, inspired by Marko Ivan Rupnik’s Contemplating the Face of Christ, and Henri Nouwen’s Walk with Jesus. Meditating on the way of the cross invites us to identify with Jesus’s suffering and death that leads to resurrection. His final hours were full of all the choices, temptations, and invitations we face today. It was Love that took him through; love that changes everything. 


Today’s Bible reading

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did. — John 19:23-24

See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness— so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. — Isaiah 52:13-15

Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce] my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment. — Psalm 22:16-18


More thoughts for meditation

We may not always think of Jesus as naked on the cross, but he was. He was not only completely exposed, he was so brutally disfigured that he no longer looked like a man and people were aghast. Henri Nouwen writes, “Nothing was left to him. He, the image of the unseen God, the firstborn of all creation, in whom all things were created in heaven and on earth, everything visible and everything invisible, thrones, ruling forces, sovereignties, powers — he was stripped of all dignity and exposed to the world in total vulnerability. Here is the greatest mystery of all time: that where all beauty is gone, all eloquence silenced, all splendor taken away, and all admiration withdrawn, there is it that God has chosen to manifest unconditional love to us…

The stripped body of Jesus reveals to us the immense degradation that human beings suffer all over the world, at all places and in all times. Often I think of life as a journey to the mountaintop where I will see at last the full beauty of my surroundings and where I will experience myself in full possession of all my senses. But Jesus points in the other direction. Life is an increasing call to let go of desires of success and accomplishment, to give up the need to be in control, to die to the illusion of greatness. The joy and peace that Jesus offers is hidden in the descending way of the cross. There lie hope, victory, and new life, but they are given to us where we are losing all. ‘Those who lose their life will gain it’ (Luke 9:24). I should not be afraid to lose, nor afraid for those who have lost much, if not all. Jesus was stripped so that we would dare to embrace our own poverty and the poverty of our humanity. In looking at our impoverished selves and the poverty of our fellow human beings, we come to discover the immense compassion that God shows to us. And there we know how to give and forgive, how to care and to heal, how to offer help and create a community of love. In the solidarity of poverty, we find the way to grow closer to each other and joyfully to claim our common humanity.”


Suggestions for action

Jesus gave up everything in order to clothe us with his love and righteousness. Let’s pray to put on Christ in our poverty, based on Romans 13:12-14:

The night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

We put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Where we are afraid to be exposed, free us. Show us that you know us completely, with great delight.

We put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Where we are afraid to lose and fail, give us courage to take risks for you.

We put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Where we struggle to forgive those who have hurt and misunderstood us, give us your love.

We put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Where we struggle to accept our own neediness and poverty, give us your Spirit of abundance.

We put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

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