Palm Sunday Reflection, 2018

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When I was studying the Palm Sunday story as told in the Gospel of Mark, I noticed that the only words spoken by Jesus were those instructing his disciples to secure a colt on which he would ride. During the procession itself and upon his arrival in Jerusalem, Jesus says nothing. Thinking about his silence sparked the following reflection.

The crowd is excited,
running,
laughing,
shouting:
“Hosanna, Lord, Hosanna!”

But the man at the center of the commotion is silent.
He sits still,
making no motion,
flashing no victory sign,
waving no arm to the crowd.
He rides on in silence,
focused,
eyes set on what lies ahead.

This is not a man who plays the crowd.
This is not a man seeking exaltation.
This is not a man needing praise.

This is a man who has come to serve,
to stand with and for the poor,
to feed the hungry,
to heal the sick,
to give life to the dying.

This is a man who seeks to shape a world
in which wealth is shared evenly,
in which no one lacks necessities,
in which everyone has enough.

This is a man who calls
for weapons to be set aside,
for love, not violence, to rule.

And this is a man who is aware that powerful people want no part of the world he seeks to create.
They would rather see him dead
than lose their wealth and control.
They would rather see him dead
than lose their power and status.

The man knows this.
And yet, he continues his approach to the city knowing that the coming days are fraught with danger.
He is not distracted by the shouting, the cheering, and the noise.
He is on a mission:
to bring life to the world,
a life of shared community,
a life of equal partnership,
a life of peace and non-violence.

This man is Jesus of Nazareth,
Son of God,
Messiah of Israel,
Savior of the world.

Lent Devotion, Saturday, March 24, 2018

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            (The gospel writer Mark is speaking to us.)

I recall the day Jesus approached Jerusalem. What a day it was! We disciples had ourselves worked up! We were in a frenzy! Looking back, I realize we should have known better. We were thinking that this was the day Jesus would claim his kingship over Israel. He rode on a donkey approaching the city. People cut palm branches, putting them on the road as a kind of “red carpet,” a sign of regal entry. We were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest!”

We were jumping and singing and dancing and laughing. We were excited; we could not be quiet.

But as I look back, I realize that Jesus showed no excitement. As he sat on the donkey, he was silent. He flashed no “v for victory” sign; he did not wave; he did not acknowledge the crowd. He was, I think, in his own zone, looking ahead with eyes fixed on the city.

Lord, keep us safe from the danger of misplaced enthusiasm. Keep us from getting excited about the wrong values. Instead, keep us focused on you. Amen.

Lent Devotion, Friday, March 23, 2018

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(The gospel writer Mark is speaking to us.)

Jesus asked the blind beggar Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus replied, “Rabbouni, for me to see again.”

It was a stunning reply, which both surprised and intrigued me. He didn’t call Jesus “Rabbi”(Teacher) but “Rabbouni”(My Teacher.) His choice of words implied a previous relationship; this was not the first time he had encountered Jesus. They had met before.

And Bartimaeus asked to see again, an implication that he had once been able to see. He was asking for renewed vision.

I began to realize that Bartimaeus was not only seeking physical healing, but re-awakening of faith. That’s why I included his story in my Gospel. We all stand in need of an ever-renewed trust in Jesus. Bartimaeus teaches us to cry our need and acknowledge our blindness. Faith is knowing that we are beggars. Faith is jumping up at the word of Jesus, rushing to Jesus, and leaving behind anything that might hold us back.

Lord Jesus, our Teacher, give us the gift of seeing again. Amen.

Lent Devotion, Thursday, March 22, 2018

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(The gospel writer Mark is speaking to us.)

Jesus told us to bring the blind beggar Bartimaeus to him. When we told Bartimaeus to get up, he left his cloak behind.  I couldn’t believe my eyes. You see, a cloak is one of a beggar’s few possessions; indeed, it’s his most important one. Not only did the cloak provide cover on chilly days, but it was the means by which he collected his money. He would spread the garment in front of him, hoping that passers-by would drop in a coin or two. All the livelihood he had was what he could gather in that cloak. And yet, to get to Jesus, he left it behind!

Bartimaeus gave up everything he had so that he might stand with Jesus. And as he stood there, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The answer of Bartimaeus surprised and intrigued me. Tomorrow I’ll tell you what he said.

Lord, I wonder. In order to be with you, what are we willing to give up? Amen

 

Lent Devotion, Wednesday, March 21, 2018

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(The gospel writer Mark is speaking to us.)

We were traveling with Jesus on the way to Jerusalem. As we walked along, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus was sitting by the side of the road. When he heard that Jesus was going by, he began shouting over and over, “Have mercy! Mercy! Have mercy!”

Those of us with Jesus were annoyed by Bartimaeus. So we told him to be quiet. We wanted him to stay in his place, and the proper place for a blind beggar was to stay silent and out of the way.

Bartimaeus ignored us; he refused to be silenced. He continued to cry out, “Son of David have mercy on me.” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” Reluctantly we said, “Bartimaeus, get up; he is calling you.”

As Bartimaeus jumped to his feet, he did something I’ll never forget. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

Lord, teach us to hear the voices of others. Amen.

Lent Devotion, Tuesday, March 20, 2018

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(The gospel writer Mark is speaking to us.)

When Jesus was in Capernaum, he had a good thing going. Because of his teaching and healing, he had become a real hit, a kind of super-star. People came out in droves to see him. But he decided to leave town and go through all the villages of Galilee. And he was just as popular there! He was so popular, in fact, that it would be difficult to enter villages because of the crowds and commotion. So he started staying outside, in deserted places. But they didn’t stay deserted long; the people heard where he was and flocked to him.

But then he decided to leave Galilee. And that struck me as kind of strange. After all, he was packing them in; he had, so to speak, a full church. Why mess with success; why pick up and leave? If your goal were big numbers and popularity, Galilee was the place to be; Galilee was the place to stay! But numbers weren’t the main thing with Jesus. Obedience to God mattered more, and this obedience moved him toward Jerusalem. As we traveled there, we saw a man by the roadside named Bartimaeus. Tomorrow I’ll tell his story.

Lord, teach us that following your way matters more than being popular. Amen.

Lent Devotion, Monday, March 19, 2018

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At the time of Jesus’ arrest, the Gospel of Mark says that “a certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and rain off naked.” (Mark 14:51-52)

Some have speculated this young man is the author of the Gospel. We have no way of knowing for sure, but for the purpose of these devotions, let us assume it is so. Beginning with the next paragraph, and continuing through the remaining days of Lent, it is Mark who is speaking to us.

My name is Mark. You may have heard of me. I wrote a story of Jesus; in that story, I included a word about my greatest failure. You see, I ran away from Jesus.

Along with his other followers, I abandoned him. I was too frightened to stay. That moment of shame is a bitter memory. And yet the shame has been wiped away by Jesus’ gracious mercy. For although we left him, he did not leave us. But if we are to follow him now——if his way is to become our way–it is necessary to know his story, and the life he taught. So let me tell a bit of his story. By doing that, I hope to inspire you to follow his way.

Lord God, thank you for the gospel writer Mark. Through his words, we know that when we fall you will lift us. Amen.