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Good for the Worst

God Almighty, Lord of Heaven & Earth, God-Who-Sees, God-Who-Provides, Judge & Counselor, our sinful lays before You revealed, nothing is hidden, everything is known to You. The darkest corners of our hearts & the false impressions we put on to impress others are exposed for what they are in Your sight. There are no secrets we can keep from You, nowhere we can run or hide from Your gaze. You know our going in & our coming out, our lying down & our rising up again. Grant us this mercy today, remind us of Your best, the good You have provided because of our worst. Let us see You & be reminded of our own condition in the light of Your glory. Let us remember today, pace ourselves with the footsteps of Jesus along the Way of Suffering & the Hill of the Skull. May we be present there today & turn our hearts heavenward. Remind us, sweet Jesus, of Your love, mercy & grace over us. Forgive us our deep failings, every one & restore our hearts with Your blood & Spirit. We pray this in the power of Your precious Name, Jesus, amen.

Read slowly.
Close Your eyes & imagine at the paragraph breaks.
Be present, an observer in the crowd today.
Walk through today aware of what He did for you as your day progresses.

Luke 22:54-23:56

(Friday, Early Morning)
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance.
And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”  And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.”  And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.”  But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.  And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”  And he went out and wept bitterly.

 Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him.  They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?”  And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.

When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer.  But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”  So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.”  Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”

(Friday, Morning)
Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate.
  And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.”  And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.”  Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.”  But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”

When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.

Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. I will therefore punish and release him.”

 But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”— a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!”  A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.

 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 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?”

(Friday, About 9am)
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.
And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

(Friday, noon)
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour,
while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

(Friday, 3pm)
Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man,
who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.

On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.”
(Friday, ~6pm)

Remember.

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The Rhetoric for Life in the Heart of God

Father, today we find set before us life and death. In everything we do, may we choose life. Amen.

“On January 22, 1973, the US Supreme Court decided in Roe v Wade that a mother has the legal right to end her pregnancy up until the point at which the baby can live outside of her womb. We lament the death of each child lost to abortion. We pray for each parent who has chosen to terminate a pregnancy. And we commit to become a people who welcome life in a culture of death.” – Jonathan Hartgrove

“The world is going mad in mutual extermination, and murder, considered as a crime when committed individually, becomes a virtue when it is committed by large numbers. It is the multiplication of the frenzy that assures impunity to the assassins.”
– Cyprian of Carthage

Ephesians 2:1-10
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We can argue points and policy until we are blue in the face. When it comes down to it, as a Christian, we must seek the wisdom and direction of God in all things, in every occasion. For those who walk with Christ, then, it should be no surprise that we will always have a strong rhetoric for life and the preservation of life, because that is what we see at work in the heart of God.

Paul repeats what we have all felt before. We were dead. Dead in our sin. Dead because of our offense against God. We were doomed, damned and determined for hell. As Paul said, “We were, by nature, children of wrath.” Destined to stand before God, facing extermination because of our sin, we had no hope within us, nor strength to change our situation. And while it may have been easier to finish us off, we find a different impulse within the heart of God.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved”

This is the heart of God. For His glory and for the preservation of the life He created, He drew us, who were dead, into life. He redeemed us from the heap, and returned to us the joy that comes with life & salvation. He raised us up from that state of destruction and placed us somewhere we did not deserve, seated in a place of favor in His presence. This gift of God comes because of His grace, and with an intention, that we would do good works, walking the path prepared for us.

Since this is the case, there should always be a strong rhetoric for life at work in the hearts of those who follow Christ. There should always be a drive to protect and preserve life, whether in the womb or stretched out somewhere along the years that follow. Every life matters, every person is deeply loved and cared for. And despite living in a culture that worships and celebrates death, we stand for life. We are -for- life in every way imaginable, with all of the implications that come with that stance. We agree and say ‘Yes & Amen!’

Because of what God did for us, because of the drive for life that He has shown to us, because of the lengths that He went to to preserve our own lives, we can never look at another human being, inside or outside the womb, and agree to their destruction. God saw us, lost, broken and deserving death and He provided a way for life instead…and so we are a people of life, echoing the heart of our Savior.

This isn’t a political issue. This is a sin issue. We ourselves have been defended, we ourselves must stand to defend. We ourselves have been loved beyond measure. We ourselves must stand for love, life and equality of value for every human being on this planet. It doesn’t matter how loud the voice of death becomes, we find life granted to us, and so we strive and fight to see it maintained. This is love. This is what God would have us echo to everyone, everywhere. There is a rhetoric for life & love, intimately folded within the fabric and patterns of the rhythms of grace.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved”

Father, today we find set before us life and death. In everything we do, may we choose life. Amen.

Mark 15:42-47 // Silent as the tomb

“42 When it was already evening, because it was preparation day (that is, the day before the Sabbath), 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin who was himself looking forward to the kingdom of God, came and boldly went in to Pilate and asked for Jesus body. 44 Pilate was surprised that He was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him whether He had already died. 45 When he found out from the centurion, he gave the corpse to Joseph. 46 After he bought some fine linen, he took Him down and wrapped Him in the linen. Then he placed Him in a tomb cut out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. 47 Now Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were watching where He was placed.”

Mark 15:42-47

Mark records no dialogue from the moment when Jesus died until the morning the women go to the tomb. He narrates the goings on, but no words are audibly spoken. The fast-paced nature of his writing slows and we are left to examine the situation on our own. We are left watching, anticipating but not interacting. The tomb is silent. 

Here we find:

A dead man

A faithful, caring man

A surprised man

A man who confirms 

Two women watching

The tomb is silent.
Here we find: 

Ritual

Government

Hope

Sympathy

Resignation 

Shock 

The tomb is silent.
Here we find:

A religious leader

A military/political leader

A military follower/leader

Two regular people

The tomb is silent.
Here we find: 

A day closing out

Desire turning to introspection

Devotion being lived out

Uncertainty spectating 

The tomb is silent.
There are still a lot of things going on, even though we hear nothing. Hearts and minds are louder than any words might be, more incessant and numbing than any conversation could possibly accomplish. In the silence, activity still happens, hearts still beat and the machine rolls on. Disciples are hidden, leaders feel justified and the masses are left wondering. 

The tomb is silent, but only from an audible perspective. There is no physical noise coming from within, in reality, the tomb is screaming at us, jumping around, waving its hands in the air. It draws our hearts, minds and eyes. It focuses our will on itself and it begs us to pay attention to it. There is no noise, but the silence is deafening. We are forced into confrontation with it, we are demanded to answer to it all. 

The tomb is anything but silent. And as Christians, the tomb still speaks through us today. As we GoLove in the Name of Jesus, the tomb continues to find its voice through us all. It speaks loudly in us, to us and through us. It’s not a point to pass over on the way to Easter morning, it is the vehicle for the ressurrection. We must examine it, we must speak for it. Death and the grave are ever hungry and they do not give back what they have taken, but this tomb stands forever as testimony to the fact that they have been beaten…

But that comes tomorrow. 

Scared of a dead man? // Matthew 27

“The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
Matthew 27:62-64 NIV

As the disciples waited in hiding, the Pharisees and religious leaders were still conspiring against Jesus and those who followed Him. Death wasn’t enough for them. There was something to Jesus and His life that led them to believe He may actually be able to make good on His claims to rise from the dead.

Maybe it would be His disciples to come and do this, and stage a fake resurrection. Maybe they would hide the body and claim He had been in one place and then another, always eluding the grasp and eyes of His persecutors. And then again, there was Lazarus and reports of others whom He had brought back from the other side of death.

So, better safe than sorry, they went to Pilate and brought the Romans in one last time to make sure the job was done.

A beating, flogging, crucifixion, blood loss and exposure finalized with a spear through the heart wasn’t enough for them. There had to be one more effort.

And while the disciples wonder if they’re next, the Pharisees were wondering if there was one more shoe to drop. Both of them were right.
The disciples would one day face death in the Name of Jesus, but not this weekend. Some sooner than others, but not this weekend. No one else dies.
The Pharisees did have another shoe that was already in mid-air and getting ready to make impact when the sun rose and the Son rose the next morning.

Was there something to watch out for? Absolutely!
Jesus had already shown His authority over life and death. He could restore the broken and heal the sick. He proved His authority over and over again, even though He didn’t need to…

Like He said at Lazarus’ tomb, He was saying and doing all this for our benefit that we might see and believe. For 11 or so men and a handful of devout women, there was joy to come from this day of waiting. For the Pharisees, a personal confrontation with the truth of just who Jesus was and who He continues to be…

Today we wait as we remember, but we also hold the distinct privilege of knowing that Sunday morning is coming and that victory is already secured!
So, GoLove in that victory! GoLove in that hope! GoLove in that assurance that Jesus is victorious! GoLove someone else in His Name and share the joy you have found in Him!

Good Friday and silence // Luke 23

“And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God; And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes.

And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.”
Luke 23:50, 51, 53-56 NASB

Emotionally, the disciples needed a sabbath. As much as they had been through in the past 24 hours, their hearts were shattered. Minds numb, bodies exhausted from crying, they sat around in different corners of the room doing what all of us do when we mourn. They cried. They stated blankly at the wall. They tried to remember through the events and sift for clues to see what they could have done differently. They blamed themselves, they blamed others. They especially blamed Judas.

But for all their talk and ‘what if’s’ they still weren’t listening to the words Jesus had spoken to them.

Sure, they remembered His claims that He would be handed over and executed, but that never seemed right. Maybe He was just being dramatic or speaking in metaphors again. But it really happened. He was dead. Wrapped up, sealed away in the ground. Dead.

He had been the One to disrupt funerals and raise the dead. But never anything like this…

••••••••
‘I guess I get my boat out of dry dock and start fishing again.’

‘Maybe I can start back at the tax office.’

‘I hope my father-in-law has a job for me.’
••••••••

Friday night turns into Saturday morning and someone finally realizes they haven’t eaten since the Passover meal. Not really hungry, but not knowing what else to do, they share some matzah and cold lamb. They weren’t supposed to leave any of it after the meal, but Jesus didn’t even drink the fourth cup, they never finished the Seder…

•••••••
‘I guess we jut wait until the coast is clear and we all head home.’

‘Yeah, whatever “home” means now…’

‘I know, nothing’s ever going to feel right anymore.’
•••••••

And so they waited.
And we wait, too.

As Dr. Campolo is famous for saying (among other things),
“It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”

avoiding confrontation

so, while Jesus was talking and eating with levi and the other ‘sinners’ in his home, the pharisees pull aside a few of the disciples to ask them questions about their rabbi. they were undoubtedly curious about His choice of eating arrangements for the evening. they were probably also frustrated because of His complete disregard of their system for social interaction, or the lack thereof. also…He was making them look bad in a way they couldn’t cope with on any level.

i imagine that some of the disciples went right into the house with Jesus and levi, because they didn’t hold much regard for the pharisee’s rule either. they had never been in the ‘in crowd’ religiously speaking. the zebedee boys may have enjoyed it because it was something previously forbidden, and so it was kind of like rebelling. but a few of the other disciples must have been uncomfortable, and so they stood just inside the house where you could be near the door in case anything ‘bad’ happened.

so, the pharisees begin to question these few that are near the door about their rabbi’s behavior. they may have been looking for an opportunity just like this, so they could feel morally superior, according to their own standards, and look down their noses at Jesus. they were always on the hunt for an opportunity like this, to ask questions that made them seem better then others. their perception of their moral superiority, and their appearance of holiness to others was a driving factor about why they were who they were.

Jesus’ description of ‘white washed tombs’ was spot on. they were all about the look of spirituality with none of the heart. they couldn’t bear to see someone doing something against their own man-made rules, but they also couldn’t interact wit the people who needed the most help. it would have hurt their image to speak with them, or to make a house call. so they really made for lousy shepherds and blind guides. they were of absolutely no help to anyone.

their lives were inaccurate representations of God’s desire for us, and so they drove more people away from Him than they could drive to Him. they were counter-productive to their own cause. and so they were truly sad to see. like a made for tv movie of your favorite novel. they were ‘loosely based’ on something much better, but the production quality was low and there had been too many re-writes to the script. they were more flawed than the guys who were just out being regular ‘sinners.’ they had a whole series of mental blocks built up against God that had to be torn down, burned and disposed of before they could come to a point of repentance like levi reached by being told ‘follow me.’

they spoke to the disciples, because they knew that speaking to Jesus would have led to some sort of conviction in their own lives, and they couldn’t have that. it was easier avoiding confrontation, and staying on the fringes.

Father God, please forgive me when i stand behind my own ‘moral superiority’ or hide from confrontation. let me be willing at all times, and in all places to speak with and spend time with your children, no matter where they may be found. i don’t want to wear a mask of smug spirituality. i don’t want a calloused heart. forgive me, and mold me into who You want me to be each day.

Father, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Spirit, have mercy.

amen.

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