Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

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April 2, 2023 — Jesus is condemned

This week we will explore 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 and takes us through — Love that changes everything. 

James Jacques Tissot (French painter and illustrator, 1836-1902), “The Morning Judgment (Le jugement du matin),” (1884-1896)

Today’s Bible reading

Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You have said so.” When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.  — Matthew 27:11-14

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by humankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. — Isaiah 53:2b,3, 6-7

More thoughts for meditation

The irony and injustice of this scene is striking. The murderous criminal Barabas is released, while the sinless One is detained and condemned. He refuses to bail himself out with words, even though he is the Word. He won’t rat anyone out; he even takes the lashes for his accusers and abusers. No wonder he told us to love our enemies.

The Roman Governor, and the Jewish High Priest who sentence Jesus to death demonstrate how God is often hidden and unrecognizable to those who aren’t looking for him. Pilot and Caiaphas are blinded by their selfish ambition, their interpretations of the law and religion. They don’t recognize Jesus as God because they are looking for theories and doctrine and the power of reason. But God is love and love is personal. It has a face. Jesuit brother and artist Marko Ivan Rupnik says, “This meek face of Christ becomes a place of encounter for those who are judged and condemned. In it they welcome the meekness and compassion of the One who was judged unjustly. Since judgment belongs to God alone, those who judge separate themselves from God. But if they contemplate this meek and good face, the gaze of the Judged One will embrace them too. He takes upon Himself even their condemnation.”

Jesus is still judged and silenced today when the poor and powerless are incarcerated, fenced in, walled off, and neglected, and He invites us into relationship with him there. Precisely where the world hates us, where we are not taken seriously by the powers that be, where we are pushed aside, laughed at and made marginal, there is Jesus, calling us into communion with God.

Suggestions for action


We are surrounded by mockers who do not notice your goodness and beauty.
Teach us to see You in the hidden and neglected places, to honor and care for You.
Be with all those who are falsely accused and incarcerated and detained today.
Let them know You identify with them. Show them the way through.
When we are accused, give us wisdom and courage and love.
Be our defense, by the power of your Spirit.
Thank You for winning our true freedom, freedom to know You and live with You forever.
May we use our freedom to suffer with You, where You still do.

March 27, 2023 — Only by love

Today’s Bible reading:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. — Ephesians 4: 2-7, 16

More thoughts for mediation:

One body and one Spirit makes us part of a people. We are no longer constrained to figure life out on our own. Hallelujah!

This is a very counter-cultural reality in an empire that literally banks on our individuality. Even some religious teaching seeks divine approval through individual goodness or enlightenment. But Jesus establishes a community of followers whose Spirit connects us intrinsically to one another through grace. So the cross is not just a vertical invitation but a horizontal, communal one. We have a place with Jesus and with each other. We are invited to continue to “die” to our habits of self-sufficiency during Lent and make new others-centered habits with our hearts, our time, and our resources. 

Suggestions for action:

Consider for a moment: in what ways are you still tempted to think that you are alone? Let Jesus in on your feelings of loneliness or rejection. See if you could reach out to another member of Christ’s body to let them know that that you love them.  Pray along with Jeana Master’s beautiful song, “Only by Love.”

March 26, 2023 — Remain

Today’s Bible reading:

Now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. — Colossians 1:22

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. — Romans 6:11-14

You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. — John 15:3-4

More thoughts for meditation:

The apostle Paul wrote those first two passages in a law-based society like ours, where the lens of law can divide people’s thinking into binary categories like good and bad, and label and divide everything accordingly. 

Jesus invites us to pause on our judgment and see humanity in its fullness, through him. The cross brings connection to the divides. Now grace is the point of reference and the new “rule.” It looks like radical acceptance over rejection. It looks like patience and hospitality in real time. It looks like Jesus’s outstretched arms on the cross. It looks like knowing that we’re on the journey to resurrection, and things aren’t all finished yet. It looks like the opportunity to see ourselves as God sees us: without blemish and free from accusation. The law constricts like anxiety; grace makes space for something new to grow into wholeness and maturity. Grace invites an embodied flow of service, participation, and expression.

Grace flows from Jesus and becomes who we are. The way to experience it is to keep offering ourselves to God and seeing our reflection there. This ongoing turning to Christ helps us understand and follow his way, and shields us from the accusations of our own hearts. We are already clean by the word he has spoken to us — his own self! Turning toward him again and again and again helps us know and live from the expansive Source of all life and love. 

Suggestions for action:

Listen to First, the Word by Andrew Yang to help you center in on the truth about you and God. Then pray:

Grace over grace out of you overflowing

Join in our body and make it your home.

Plan to be in a Sunday meeting today, to help us remain in the vine that is Jesus. Receive the gift of his life again at his table.

March 13, 2023 — Staying with Jesus

This week read and pray through the details of Peter’s denial of Jesus in John 18:12-27.

Today’s Bible reading

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in.  – John 18:15-16

More thoughts for meditation

Jesus has just been betrayed and arrested in front of his disciples. At that moment, Jesus said to the soldiers, “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” (18:8) The other disciples scattered but Peter did not. He and this unnamed disciple follow Jesus and the soldiers all the way to the courtyard of the high priest. 

Back at the arrest, Peter had impulsively cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant in defense of Jesus. Now here he stands at the high priest’s gate. This other unnamed disciple was permitted to enter; he had some kind of an ‘in’ that Peter did not have. In fact, he used his influence to go back to speak to the woman at the gate to get Peter in. 

Peter had nerve! He could have left when the other disciples did, but he stayed. He could have been a bystander when the mob came to arrest Jesus, but he intervened. He could have hovered at a distance to see how things turned out, but he moved in closer. 

Suggestions for action

Pray: Jesus, I want to be where you are. Help me to stay, intervene and move closer. Even when the risks are mounting and the tensions high, I want to be with you where you are. 

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