Brief reflections on the week’s Scripture readings
HOLY WEEK, 2021
Sunday, March 28: “The Lord GOD has given me a
well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary
“Oh yes Lord, we are weary. I imagine the whole world is weary.”
The Old Testament readings from Second Isaiah this week are a nice counterpoint to the sadness of the gospels. Even though the author (likely a disciple of the prophet) talks about suffering, the main message is the comfort and strength we find in God’s fidelity.
That “well-trained tongue” the author speaks of is, in Hebrew, “a disciple’s tongue.” As disciples of Christ, we are to use our voices to rouse the weary, not just with prophetic warnings but with love and hope. Yet before that, we need to make sure our ears are open to hear God’s message of hope. We cannot give what we do not have.
Today’s Provision: Open your ears. Open your heart. If we are to have “well-trained tongues,” “disciples’ tongues,” then we have to open our ears. We need to listen and discern. We need to study and understand and learn from true teachers. We need to be open to learning new things, things that call into question the way we are living or even what we believe. (That’s scary!) There are a lot of deaf ears and closed hearts these days, likely due to world-weariness; it’s hard to muster the energy to be open. And yet, this is part of our baptismal call as “priests, prophets, and kings.” To be a prophet is to have a disciple’s tongue. Open up to something new today.
Monday, March 29: “Here is my servant whom I uphold …upon whom I have put my Spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth.” (Is 42:1-7)
This is a good follow-up to yesterday’s reflection, one that I need to remind myself of constantly. I can get pretty riled up about things. My “disciple’s tongue” and open ears and heart can vanish into thin air when faced with what I see as gross injustice. But if I really claim to be Jesus’ disciple, I must learn from him to be honest, but gentle, to listen and respond, not react. There are bruised reeds and smoldering wicks among all of us, including those with whom I disagree. How about for you? Do you struggle with this as well?
Today’s provision: Say “I love you.” I read an amazing article yesterday from a secular e-zine. The author talked about the three words we should learn to say (silently) before we interact with anyone: “I love you!” The author suggests that if we start any conversation with the purposeful thought that we love the other person, it can change the whole course of the conversation. She also suggests that if things get heated, we step back, take a breath and repeat the words to ourselves again. I love this idea and I’m going see if I can make this an Easter “New Life Resolution!” Maybe you want to try it as well. It sure can’t hurt!
Tuesday, March 30: Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength. Yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God. (Is 49:1-6)
Anyone involved in ministry, whether it be a vocation, a job, in a volunteer role, or as a parent knows the sentiment expressed in this passage. It can seem that our hard work and dedication is for naught. In a world where most things are evaluated by “the numbers,” we can forget that the role of a minister (from the Latin for “servant”) is one of planting seeds. We don’t often see the fruits of our planting until much later, if ever. So it’s good to remember: the harvester is the Lord, the same Lord that sees and rewards the planter.
Today’s provision: Hang in there! We’ve probably all heard the beautiful parable about a boy who comes upon a shoreline filled with living starfish left by the tide. He begins to throw them back one at a time. A man walking the same beach says to him, “There are so many — you are not going to make any difference.” The boy looks at the man and then at the starfish in his hand. He throws it as far out to sea as he can, looks back at the man and says, “I made a difference for that one.” (I like to think the man then joined him in his task!) Whatever your ministry role, think about this image when you get discouraged. Burnout in ministry is a common problem, so each night, offer up to God all you have done to further the kingdom. Imagine God saying back to you, “You’ve done a great job! I’ll take it from here.”
Today’s Provision: Be a source of comfort and hope. Let’s reach out to those who are alone during this time, just to say hello and check in. There are wonderful stories about communities
Wednesday, March 31: “You who seek God, may your hearts revive!” (Ps 69)
This is a typical psalm that starts out with woe and misery and ends with praise and thanksgiving, with the requisite request for revenge thrown in the middle for good measure! It reminds me that if I truly seek God, my heart will revive, not with feelings of vengeance, but with love and mercy.
Today’s Provision: Be merciful. Are you looking for ways to revive your heart? Perhaps, like the psalmist today, you feel estranged from your brothers and sisters -- we know this has happened in many families. Mercy is the only antidote. It may be hard and those from whom you are estranged may not even want to hear you out. Be merciful anyway. Pray God will hear you, heal you, because “his own who are in bonds, he spurns not.”
Thursday, April 1: The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. (Jn 13:1-15)
This may seem like a strange verse on which to focus. On Tuesday, we hear from John’s Gospel the passage that actually follows this one. It tells us “after Judas took the morsel (from Jesus), Satan entered him.” I find it an interesting depiction of how temptation works, and it reminds me of what God says to Cain in Genesis 4:7 before he murders Abel: “If you act rightly, you will be accepted; but if not, sin lies in wait at the door: its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it.” The idea is brewing in Judas’ mind, but if he chooses, he can rule over it. Instead, he lets it enter his heart. Some scholars say Judas is a role-player, essential to the fulfillment of Scriptures, but I think there’s a good lesson in this for us as well.
Today’s Provision: Pay attention to subtle temptations. I’ve talked in the past about C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters and its masterful and imaginative portrayal of how Satan (“the Accuser” in literal Greek translation) operates within the minds and hearts of humanity. The topic of Satan can be uncomfortable, and yet we need to be aware of the evil that surrounds us. Unfortunately, we see so much evil and that makes it even more important that we pay attention to how subtly and quietly it can enter into our minds and then into our hearts. But we can choose, and with God’s help, we can defeat it. Pay attention today to those innocent little temptations or inklings of anger or prejudice that seem to pop up. See if you can address them head-on. And remember my favorite saying from a Baptist preacher friend: “When the devil comes a-knockin’ at your door, just turn around and say, ‘Jesus…will you get that for me?!’”
Friday, April 2: “I am forgotten like the unremembered dead.” (Ps 31)
“We die twice: once when we physically die, and again when our name is uttered for the last time.” In the US, there is a ceremony held every year on December 21 -- National Homeless Persons Memorial Day -- in many of cities throughout the country to remember the homeless who have died. Some names are known, but many are not. One source estimates that in 2019, 40,000 bodies went unclaimed this country. I can only imagine what that number will be post-COVID.
Today’s Provision: Remember the Dead. On this day of the Lord’s Passion, spend quiet time in prayer remembering the dead, those whose memories we treasure every day and those who have died without a name. Remember especially all those who died without the comfort of family. “‘There is no death, daughter. People die only when we forget them,' my mother explained shortly before she left me. 'If you can remember me, I will be with you always.’” (Isabel Allende)
Saturday, April 11: “Rend your hearts, not your garments, and turn back to the Lord your God.” (Jl 2:13) “Metanoia” is our theme for the whole year, but particularly in Lent. The Greek word has a few nuances. It refers to changing our hearts which involves turning away from sin and back to God. But the focus of the prophets was not so much on individual sin – the people had the commandments to which they could refer in their personal relationship with God and others. The prophets preached about societal sin, just as our current-day prophets do. Let’s ask ourselves this Lent, “Where am I complicit in the sins of society?” A much harder task indeed.
This is the challenge we posed for ourselves six weeks ago when Lent began: “How are we complicit in societal sin?” The past year has shone a bright light on the disparities and gross inequalities that exist in our communities, our countries, and globally. For some, the pandemic has made them more self-centered, but despite that, we have been graced by the willingness of so many in the medical profession to literally lay down their lives for strangers. I hope we NEVER forget their sacrifice, or the courage of other essential workers who braved the pandemic and the elements to continue to assist with climate and humanitarian disasters.
Recognizing and acknowledging our role in societal sin is an important first step. Very few of us can claim innocence. It is mostly ignorance of our complicity that condemns us. It’s overwhelming to think about our everyday activities, most of which we take for granted, and how they can and do have detrimental impacts on the earth and her creatures; how our overconsumption, wastefulness, and need for immediate gratification can directly affect our communities.
Holy Saturday is a day set aside for quiet contemplation. Spend time today reflecting over what you’ve learned and pondered this Lent. Have you been able to consider your role in societal sin? Sins like racial and economic injustice, the degradation of the planet, the lack of respect for human life from womb to tomb? Remember, this is not just about charitable actions; it also involves actual changes in behavior, participating in advocacy, working to improve the lives of the oppressed, not just for day but for the longer term.
Easter is a great time for new resolutions. Commit to a few small things you can do to make a lasting difference in God’s Kingdom. Blessings of health, comfort, and consolation be yours this Easter. Rise again.
We hope you enjoy "Come and See!" and we welcome your input. Please contact Elaine Ireland at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, comments, and responses.
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