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It is Good Friday 2020 and, incredibly, the doors to most of our churches around the world are locked.

The same holds true for other houses of worship.

It happened easily and quickly.

All it took was a pandemic, media panic and speedy draconian emergency legislation.

—————————————

Now on to Good Friday.

CranachWeimarAltarCyberbrethren

The painting above is by the Renaissance artists Lucas Cranach the Elder and Lucas Cranach the Younger, father and son. Lucas Cranach the Younger finished the painting in 1555. It is the centre altar painting in Sts Peter and Paul (Lutheran) Church in Weimar, Germany. Read more about it below:

Meditations on the Cross

Here are my past posts, which might be helpful in understanding the Crucifixion:

Readings for Good Friday

The greatest reality show ends with a popular vote

Barabbas: an inspiration for liberation theology?

Reflections on the Crucifixion

Good Friday: in whom can we trust? (John 18:12-27)

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the false views

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the true views

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the comfort

Good Friday: the horror of the Crucifixion (John MacArthur)

Easter: the drama and glory of the Resurrection (John MacArthur, explains Jesus’s relatively short time on the cross)

Biblically focussed clergy, such as John MacArthur, often tell us how much God hates sin.

Yet, most of us, myself included, struggle to understand how much God hates sin.

One thing I learned from writing about the Book of Hebrews was that God hates sin so much that, from the beginning, He commanded that blood sacrifices be made for it. Under the Old Covenant, God’s chosen people had to sacrifice animals time and time again. Yet, all of those were insufficient.

Then God sent His Son Jesus Christ to Earth for the one, holy and perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world: past, present and future. The Crucifixion brought about the New Covenant, a ‘better’ covenant, as the Book of Hebrews tells us.

In Hebrews 9:16-23, the book’s anonymous author, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says that the sacrifices under the Old Covenant were but ‘copies’ of ‘the heavenly’ sacrifice that Jesus made on the Cross (emphases mine):

16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

Hebrews 10 explains the sufficiency of our Lord’s ultimate sacrifice for us, citing Jeremiah 31:33-34:

12 But when Christ[b] had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
    and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Therefore, we should be grateful for Christ’s perfect sacrifice for us, which reconciled us with God once and for all.

We can have assurance in our Christian faith, the promise of which is eternal life:

19 Therefore, brothers,[c] since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

You can read more about Hebrews 10 in my post from 2016:

Epistle for Good Friday Year C — Hebrews 10:16-25

May we remember that our Lord’s ultimate sacrifice for us is the reason that we profess the Christian faith.

He then rose from the dead to bring us to eternal life. We look forward to celebrating the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, even though we will be at home alone, instead of with our friends at church.

This Maundy Thursday afternoon I spent time checking the Twitter accounts of the Anglican and Episcopal priests I have cited here in past posts.

Nearly everyone was concerned about coronavirus and, for the Americans, the state of play for the Democrats now that Bernie Sanders has dropped out of the presidential race.

I, too, have been distracted by coronavirus and British politics now that Boris Johnson is in intensive care.

These past posts of mine may help make spending a Maundy Thursday at home more meaningful:

Readings for Thursday of Holy Week — Maundy Thursday

What is the Triduum?

‘One of you will betray Me’ (John 13)

Passover, the Last Supper and the New Covenant

Why some Jews celebrated Passover on Thursday and others on Friday (here and here)

Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper: Jesus’s words of comfort (John 14, alludes to Holy Trinity)

John MacArthur on Passover as celebrated at the Last Supper

John 17 — the High Priestly Prayer: parts 1, 2 and 3

Jesus foretells Peter’s denial (Mark 14:26-31)

This year, throughout Lent I have been thinking about the unending obedience and service that Jesus practised (John 13:14-17, emphases mine):

13:14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

13:15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

13:16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.

13:17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

He exhorted the Apostles — and us — to do the same: honouring God and honouring mankind (John 13:34):

13:34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

I cannot imagine what it must have been like to be Jesus during His time on Earth. He knew why He was among us. He knew what was in everyone’s heart and mind.

He knew one of the Twelve would betray him (John 13:10-11):

13:10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.”

13:11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

This particularly struck me when I read the Gospel for Palm Sunday for the Passion Liturgy.

He knew that Peter would deny Him three times before the cockerel crowed in the early hours of what we know as Good Friday (Matthew 26:33-34):

26:33 Peter said to him, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.”

26:34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”

He knew they would fall asleep during their final hour with Him before His arrest — a time when He really wanted them to be awake as a comfort before a day of unimaginable agony and death (Matthew 26:39-46):

26:39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”

26:40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?

26:41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

26:42 Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

26:43 Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.

26:44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.

26:45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

26:46: Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

How our Lord suffered for our sake. He obeyed His Father by making the one sufficient sacrifice of Himself as the oblation for our sins. That sacrifice also showed His unending love for us, even His enemies.

His is the true example to follow. I pray that I can follow it, especially when I do not wish to do so.

On April 15, 2019, Monday of Holy Week, Notre-Dame Cathedral was ablaze until the early hours of Tuesday morning.

This year, because of coronavirus, few Christians are allowed to go to church during Holy Week. Similarly, our Jewish friends are not allowed to attend synagogue for Passover.

Hmm. Two years of disrupted Holy Weeks.

Never mind, because, even during lockdown, abortions are allowed to go ahead and off-licences (liquor stores) are still open.

As Brother Alexis Bugnolo put it at From Rome:

The real reason behind the Corona Stunt is something much more than simple control. It has a purpose. Here in Italy, most every activity is prohibited other than those who work in necessary sectors of the economy …

At the supermarket, no one is afraid that in exchanging coins or bills, that they will catch Coronavirus. But we are told that the Catholic Mass is a possible source of contagion, so distribution of the Eucharist must be suspended?

Mammon is O.K. to handle? But the Eucharist is dangerous and unhealthy?

Something does not add up.

On Palm Sunday, April 5, he posted that Bill Gates recommends that churches remain closed for 18 months (video at link). Emphases in the original:

Ominously, at 17:40 in this Video, Bill Gates implies that the Catholic Religion will remain outlawed until all can be certified to have received a vaccine, if even then!

I know there has always been speculation about Bill Gates’ name having the ASCII value of 666, but his comments above are more ridiculous, they are diabolic!

Melinda Gates is a Roman Catholic, and Bill and Melinda have raised all their children as Catholics. However, I some how think there is something big missing in their lives, if they think like this: God.

This is what St Peter’s Square looked like yesterday:

It’s not only Catholics who cannot go to worship with fellow believers but all Christians and Jews.

Those of us living through Holy Week 2020 will remember it for the rest of our lives. The unthinkable — closing houses of worship — happened across the world in a trice.

In such circumstances, we should persevere in our prayers and meditations this week:

We have many people to pray for — those affected by coronavirus around the world.

I am grateful that President Trump called for prayer yesterday:

On Saturday, I posted the Gospel readings for this year and a brief sermonette on Pontius Pilate, who arrived in Jerusalem the same time that Jesus did.

One of my readers, Scoot, responded with a poem about Palm Sunday, which sums up the two entries into Jerusalem perfectly:

The poem “The Conquerors” by Harry Kemp is apropos, given the processions of Jesus and Pilate.

Begging your pardon in advance, here it is quoted below:

I SAW the Conquerors riding by
— With trampling feet of horse and men:
Empire on empire like the tide
— Flooded the world and ebbed again;

A thousand banners caught the sun,
— And cities smoked along the plain,
And laden down with silk and gold
— And heaped-up pillage groaned the wain.

I saw the Conquerors riding by,
— Splashing through loathsome floods of war —
The Crescent leaning o’er its hosts,
— And the barbaric scimitar, —

And continents of moving spears,
— And storms of arrows in the sky,
And all the instruments sought out
— By cunning men that men may die!

I saw the Conquerors riding by
— With cruel lips and faces wan:
Musing on kingdoms sacked and burned
— There rode the Mongol Ghengis Khan;

And Alexander, like a god,
— Who sought to weld the world in one;
And Caesar with his laurel wreath;
— And like a thing from Hell the Hun;

And, leading like a star the van,
— Heedless of upstretched arm and groan,
Inscrutable Napoleon went
— Dreaming of empire, and alone. . . .

Then all they perished from the earth
— As fleeting shadows from a glass,
And, conquering down the centuries,
— Came Christ, the Swordless, on an ass!

On his website, Scoot also posted a prayer for these dismal days:

Prayer in Times of Pestilence

Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, an answer to our hearty supplications; and, Thy wrath being appeased, turn away from us this pestilence, that the hearts of men may know that these scourges proceed from Thine anger, and cease by Thy mercy.

Amen

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is currently in hospital with coronavirus. He has been running a fever for several days. His fiancée, Carrie Symonds, also has coronavirus and with a fever. She is expecting their child. Please include them in your prayers. We need Boris as Prime Minister.

These past posts of mine might be helpful in our private meditations during Holy Week:

Monday of Holy Week

Readings for Monday of Holy Week

The righteous anger of Jesus towards the money changers

Jesus and the money changers

Tuesday of Holy Week

Readings for Tuesday of Holy Week

Contemplating the withered fig tree (2017)

The High Priests plot against Jesus

Epistle for Tuesday of Holy Week — 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (2016)

Spy Wednesday

Readings for Wednesday of Holy Week — Spy Wednesday

Judas offers his services

More on Spy Wednesday

More on Judas

Holy Week — the story thus far

Gospel reading for Wednesday of Holy Week — John 13:21-32 (2016)

Wednesday of Holy Week — Spy Wednesday (2017, Henry and MacArthur on Judas: bad hombre)

None of us knows what long-term effects coronavirus will have on our civil liberties around the world.

What follows is an American perspective from MorningStar Ministries, but let’s not forget that the Magna Carta was signed in England in 1215 (emphases in purple mine):

Our Founders feared the tyranny of the mob as much as they feared the tyranny of a king. The same crowd that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem declaring “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” were crying “Crucify Him!” just five days later. The Founders were devoted to establishing a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but also one that could ride out the wild swings of public opinion. These swings can create a social turbulence that tears a nation apart.

Democracies are where the majority rules. Republics are where the people vote for representatives that rule on their behalf. The representatives ideally will not just try to please public opinion, which can so wildly swing from one extreme to the opposite extreme, but rather do what is best for the whole country. This is why our Founders formed a constitutional republic, not a democracy as many wrongly presume

All three branches of government have been prone to infringe on the authority given to the other branches, as well as the authority given to the states and the people. The military calls this “mission creep”—when a commander starts adding to their specific assignment. When this happens, very often the original assignment gets muddled and sometimes forgotten. This has happened in our Federal Government. It has taken on many purposes that are beyond its constitutional authority.

To remedy this, we must recover the fact that The Constitution was written to assign specific authority to the Federal Government and forever limit it to what was specifically given to it in order to preserve the authority of the states and the people. Therefore, the assignment of any purpose to the Federal Government not specifically named in The Constitution is a violation of The Constitution. A main purpose of The Constitution was to limit the authority of the Federal Government in order to keep it from becoming what it has now become

I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.  Thomas Jefferson

We are in a serious situation at the moment, no matter where we are in the world.

Please pray this week. We have no excuse not to do so.

Below are the Gospel readings for Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

I am posting only the Gospels, as the other readings are the same regardless of Lectionary year. They are in this post:

Readings for Palm Sunday — Year C

Here are my past posts on Palm Sunday:

The greatest reality story of all time begins on Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday and the Jesus watchers

Palm Sunday: Why palms?

Palm Sunday: Why a donkey?

There are two liturgies on Palm Sunday: one of the Palms and one of Christ’s Passion, as designated below. Emphases mine.

Gospel — Liturgy of the Palms

Matthew 21:1-11

21:1 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples,

21:2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me.

21:3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.”

21:4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

21:5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

21:6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them;

21:7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.

21:8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

21:9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

21:10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”

21:11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Gospel — Liturgy of the Passion

There are two options for this particular liturgy: Matthew 26:14-27-66 or Matthew 27:11-54. Note that only one blood sacrifice — Jesus’s death on the Cross — was sufficient to redeem our sins and reconcile us to God. See Hebrews 9:16-23 and Hebrews 10:1-3.

Matthew 26:14-27:66

26:14 Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests

26:15 and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver.

26:16 And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

26:17 On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

26:18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'”

26:19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

26:20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve;

26:21 and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

26:22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?”

26:23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.

26:24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”

26:25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

26:26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”

26:27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you;

26:28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

26:29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

26:30 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

26:31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

26:32 But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

26:33 Peter said to him, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.”

26:34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”

26:35 Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.

26:36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

26:37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated.

26:38 Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.”

26:39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”

26:40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?

26:41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

26:42 Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

26:43 Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.

26:44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.

26:45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

26:46: Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

26:47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.

26:48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.”

26:49 At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

26:50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.

26:51 Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

26:52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.

26:53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?

26:54 But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?”

26:55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me.

26:56 But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

26:57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered.

26:58 But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end.

26:59 Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death,

26:60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward

26: 61 and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.'”

26:62 The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?”

26:63 But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

26:64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

26:65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy.

26:66 What is your verdict?” They answered, “He deserves death.”

26:67 Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him,

26:68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?”

26:69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.”

26:70 But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”

26:71 When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

26:72 Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”

26:73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.”

26:74 Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed.

26:75 Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

27:1 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death.

27:2 They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

27:3 When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.

27:4 He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.”

27:5 Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.

27:6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.”

27:7 After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners.

27:8 For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.

27:9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price,

27:10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

27:11 Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.”

27:12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer.

27:13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?”

27:14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

27:15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted.

27:16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas.

27:17 So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

27:18 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over.

27:19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.”

27:20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed.

27:21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.”

27:22 Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!”

27:23 Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

27:24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

27:25 Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”

27:26 So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

27:27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him.

27:28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him,

27:29 and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

27:30 They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head.

27:31 After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

27:32 As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross.

27:33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull),

27:34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.

27:35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots;

27:36 then they sat down there and kept watch over him.

27:37 Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

27:38 Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

27:39 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads

27:40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

27:41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying,

27:42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.

27:43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.'”

27:44 The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

27:45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.

27:46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

27:47 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.”

27:48 At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink.

27:49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”

27:50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.

27:51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split.

27:52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.

27:53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.

27:54 Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

27:55 Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him.

27:56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

27:57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus.

27:58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.

27:59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth

27:60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.

27:61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

27:62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate

27:63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’

27:64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.”

27:65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”

27:66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

——————————————————————–

A few days ago, I learned something new about Palm Sunday.

At the same time as Jesus was entering Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate entered the city from the opposite side.

Dr Chris Perry has an excellent post on Palm Sunday, ‘Two Processions — Thoughts on Palm Sunday’, worth reading in full. I’ve never read anything like it, and it will give a new perspective on this bittersweet day in the earthly life of Jesus. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

On the entries of Jesus and of Pilate he writes:

Jesus entered the city from the east, riding down from the Mount of Olives out of Bethany (which is exactly how the Messiah was supposed to come, from the east and the Mount of Olives and into the city). But, on the western side of the city Pontius Pilate rode into the city in full procession, riding a horse at the head of Roman imperial cavalry and soldiers. Pilate entered the city proclaiming the power of the Empire. Jesus’ procession proclaimed the Kingdom of God. Pilate’s military procession was a demonstration of both Roman imperial power and imperial theology. It was the standard practice of the Roman governors of Judea to be in Jerusalem during major festivals, not because they cared about their Jewish subjects, but to handle business in case of trouble. Pilate normally lived in Caesarea Maritima (Caesarea on the Sea) but he had brought his soldiers in to reinforce the Fortress Antonia.

Another important point is that the Roman emperor was deemed to be the son of (the) god (Apollo). Jesus is the Son of God. This produced tension and mockery at Jesus’s trial because they both made the same claims:

Other than Imperial power, Pilate was also making a show of Imperial theology. The emperor was not just viewed as the ruler of Rome, but also declared to be the son of god. It began with Augustus who ruled from 31 BC to 14 AD. His father was said to be the god Apollo. Inscriptions refer to him as son of god, lord, savior, and one who had “brought peace on earth.” His successors had continued to take on the divine titles

This procession was one of the primary pieces of evidence used against Jesus later in the week which forced Pilate to crucify Jesus. Without the procession, without the obvious references to kingship Jesus intentionally undertook, Pilate might not have gone through with it. Jesus chose the cross and maneuvered all of the pieces necessary to get him there. Jesus’ procession deliberately countered what was happening on the other side of the city. Pilate’s procession embodied the power, glory, and violence of the empire that ruled the world. Jesus brought an alternate vision of the Kingdom of God.

The people who cheered Jesus as He entered Jerusalem expected that He would be an earthly King of Israel who would save them from Roman rule. Jesus knew the people misunderstood the role of the Messiah:

Jesus knew everyone was completely missing the point. That’s why Luke 19:41-44 records Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. Here they have their Messiah in front of them, but they don’t recognize him for who he truly is.

Hence, the crowds turned on Him only a few days later and demanded that He be crucified.

Are we any better? We are Christians, however …

How often does God appear to us, speak to us, lead us, but we ignore it or turn away from him because it’s not what we want or expect God to do. We’re no better than the people of Jerusalem that day. God calls us to one thing but we want to do another and we get mad when God doesn’t act the way we want.

Finally, a note on the religious and political system in place in Jerusalem during that time. It was antithetical to God’s kingdom. Jesus came to prepare His fellow Jews to return to a sincere love and worship of God, but they refused to see it:

Jesus’ passion was not a protest against the Temple or animal sacrifice. Rather, his protest was against a domination system legitimated in the name of God, a system radically different from what the already present and coming Kingdom of God would be like. The domination system set up by the Temple priests and the Roman governors meant that rule was by a few, economic exploitation was commonplace, and there was religious legitimating of the system, basically saying if you’re against this you’re against God. So, it was not Jesus against Judaism, or vice-versa. It was a Jewish voice about what loyalty to God truly meant. And, as the Messiah, his is the decisive voice.

Most of us will be unable to attend church tomorrow because of coronavirus lockdowns around the world. I hope that Dr Perry’s historical insights help to explain the mystery of why so many people cheered Jesus on Sunday only to violently shout for His death on Friday.

May God bless everyone during Holy Week. As most of us are at home, let’s use the time wisely in contemplating our Lord’s Passion and death for our sins and our redemption.

What follows are the readings for the Fifth Sunday in Lent — Passion Sunday — March 29, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Traditionally, the Fifth Sunday in Lent — Passion Sunday — begins a two-week season called Passiontide, which encompasses Palm Sunday (next week) and Holy Week.

Some traditionalist churches cover crosses and images with dark or black cloth from this Sunday throughout most of Holy Week. Crosses and crucifixes can be uncovered after Good Friday services. Statues remain covered until the Easter Vigil Mass takes place on Holy Saturday.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

Here we have the dramatic account of the Lord instructing Ezekiel to blow life into bones, which come back to life as His remnant of believers. This is one of the Bible’s best accounts of God’s omnipotence. This theme of resurrection is also seen in today’s Gospel reading, that of Christ’s raising Lazarus from the dead. The 20th century spiritual, Dem Bones, was inspired by this story and uses verse 4 in the refrain.

Ezekiel 37:1-14

37:1 The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.

37:2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.

37:3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.”

37:4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.

37:5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.

37:6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

37:7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.

37:8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.

37:9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”

37:10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

37:11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’

37:12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.

37:13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.

37:14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD.

Psalm

This Psalm ties in well with the reading from Ezekiel. Many readers will recognise the first verse. Matthew Henry’s commentary says that this is a Psalm of the soul, expressing the desires of the penitent towards God: repentance, reconciliation, hope and redemption.

Psalm 130

130:1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.

130:2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!

130:3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?

130:4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.

130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;

130:6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.

130:7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.

130:8 It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

Epistle

Matthew Henry says that these verses offer comfort and refreshment to the faithful, as Paul reminds the Romans — and us — that we received the Holy Spirit to turn us away from sin.

Romans 8:6-11

8:6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

8:7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law– indeed it cannot,

8:8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

8:9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

8:10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Gospel

This is the marvellous account of Jesus’s raising Lazarus from the dead. This was His last miracle before His triumphal entrance into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday). It foretells His own Resurrection to come in the days afterwards. This ties in well with the aforementioned reading from Ezekiel.

John 11:1-45

11:1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.

11:2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill.

11:3 So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

11:4 But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

11:5 Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,

11:6 after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

11:7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

11:8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”

11:9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world.

11:10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.”

11:11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”

11:12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.”

11:13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep.

11:14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.

11:15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

11:16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

11:17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.

11:18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away,

11:19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.

11:20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home.

11:21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

11:22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”

11:23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

11:24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,

11:26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

11:27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

11:28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”

11:29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.

11:30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.

11:31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

11:32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.

11:34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”

11:35 Jesus began to weep.

11:36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

11:37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

11:38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.

11:39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”

11:40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

11:41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me.

11:42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.”

11:43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

11:44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

11:45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

John’s Gospel is the only one that tells us about Jesus resurrecting Lazarus.

The King James Version has a superb rendering of verse 39. Once you read it, you will never forget it:

39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

As we are unable to attend church because of international coronavirus shutdowns, below is a brief exposition on today’s Gospel reading.

Last week, we read John’s account of Jesus curing the man who had been blind since birth.

Matthew Henry explains what Jesus meant when He said that the two men presented Him with the opportunity of glorifying God by curing the one and bringing back the other from the dead:

It was for the glory of God, for it was that the Son of God might be glorified thereby, as it gave him occasion to work that glorious miracle, the raising of him from the dead. As, before, the man was born blind that Christ might have the honour of curing him (John 9:3), so Lazarus must be sick and die, that Christ may be glorified as the Lord of life. Let this comfort those whom Christ loves under all their grievances that the design of them all is that the Son of God may be glorified thereby, his wisdom, power, and goodness, glorified in supporting and relieving them; see 2 Corinthians 12:9,10.

Jesus waited two days before visiting Mary and Martha to test their faith and patience, despite His love for them and Lazarus. A deferred visit made the raising of Lazarus to life that much more meaningful, not only to the three concerned but also to the Jews who were at their house.

Henry says:

If he had been there time enough, he would have healed his disease and prevented his death, which would have been much for the comfort of Lazarus’s friends, but then his disciples would have seen no further proof of his power than what they had often seen, and, consequently, their faith had received no improvement; but now that he went and raised him from the dead, as there were many brought to believe on him who before did no (John 11:45), so there was much done towards the perfecting of what was lacking in the faith of those that did, which Christ aimed at: To the intent that you may believe. [3.] He resolves now to go to Bethany, and take his disciples along with him: Let us go unto him. Not, “Let us go to his sisters, to comfort them” (which is the utmost we can do), but, Let us go to him; for Christ can show wonders to the dead. Death, which will separate us from all our other friends, and cut us off from correspondence with them, cannot separate us from the love of Christ, nor put us out of the reach of his calls; as he will maintain his covenant with the dust, so he can make visits to the dust …

Also:

Promised salvations, though they always come surely, yet often come slowly.

He was also returning to Judea, which was dangerous for Him. Nonetheless, He returned out of mercy, compassion and love for the three. Even more importantly, He took that risk to a) glorify God and b) bring others to believe that He is the Messiah.

Henry explains why Jesus used the word ‘sleep’ in referring to Lazarus, because the word refers to refreshing rest:

He calls the death of a believer a sleep: he sleepeth. It is good to call death by such names and titles as will help to make it more familiar and less formidable to us. The death of Lazarus was in a peculiar sense a sleep, as that of Jairus’s daughter, because he was to be raised again speedily; and, since we are sure to rise again at last, why should that make any great difference? And why should not the believing hope of that resurrection to eternal life make it as easy to us to put off the body and die as it is to put off our clothes and go to sleep? A good Christian, when he dies, does but sleep: he rests from the labours of the day past, and is refreshing himself for the next morning. Nay, herein death has the advantage of sleep, that sleep is only the parenthesis, but death is the period, of our cares and toils. The soul does not sleep, but becomes more active; but the body sleeps without any toss, without any terror; not distempered nor disturbed. The grave to the wicked is a prison, and its grave-clothes as the shackles of a criminal reserved for execution; but to the godly it is a bed, and all its bands as the soft and downy fetters of an easy quiet sleep. Though the body corrupt, it will rise in the morning as if it had never seen corruption; it is but putting off our clothes to be mended and trimmed up for the marriage day, the coronation day, to which we must rise. See Isaiah 57:2,1Th+4:14. The Greeks called their burying-places dormitories–koimeteria.

I will leave it there. Everlasting life is ours, my friends. Let us, therefore, prepare ourselves now — in this life — equipped with His infinite grace and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, for the life to come.

The following are the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Lent — Laetare Sunday — March 22, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

This Sunday is Mothering Sunday in the United Kingdom. Centuries ago, people returned to the church they worshipped in as youngsters and visited their mothers afterwards.

There was an ancient tradition of ‘clipping’ the church on this particular day, whereby the congregation would gather outside, hold hands and create a huge circle around the building. It was not only a group hug for Mother Church but also a symbol of protection by the faithful.

This is a joyful Sunday in Lent. The traditional Introit for Laetare Sunday includes the words

“Laetare Jerusalem” (“O be joyful, Jerusalem”)

Traditionally, priests wore rose coloured vestments to denote that joy. Easter is nearing and we look forward to celebrating and worshipping the Risen Christ.

On the subject of roses, for over 1,000 years, the Catholic Church has commissioned expert goldsmiths to fashion a golden rose, which the Pope then gives to a distinguished Catholic of high social standing. I do not know what the present Pope does, but, in the past, some of these golden roses have been very elaborate; one was fashioned in the shape of a Jesse tree, which is appropriate, given today’s first reading.

You can read more about Laetare Sunday below:

Laetare Sunday, Mother’s Day and the Golden Rose

Laetare Sunday is Mothering Sunday

The splendid illustration of Lent in the following tweet must be British, as it includes Mothering Sunday. This comes from an Episcopal priest in the United States:

How sad that our churches are closed for public worship because of the coronavirus pandemic. Mothers will have a quiet day at home, as restaurants are also shut, except for takeaway service.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

This is the marvellous story of Samuel’s divinely directed visit to Jesse in search of a future king. Jesse was reluctant to produce David, his youngest, who was tending sheep at the time. Matthew Henry’s commentary says: ‘Thus small are the beginnings of that great man’. This is an early ‘type’ of Jesus and the humble Holy Family.

1 Samuel 16:1-13

16:1 The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”

16:2 Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’

16:3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.”

16:4 Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?”

16:5 He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

16:6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the LORD.”

16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.

16:8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.”

16:9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.”

16:10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.”

16:11 Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.”

16:12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.”

16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Psalm

This enduringly popular and comforting Psalm needs little introduction. David, a former shepherd, names God as his shepherd.

Psalm 23

23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;

23:3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me.

23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

Epistle

Paul encourages the Christians of Ephesus to seek the light of righteousness.

Ephesians 5:8-14

5:8 For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light

5:9 for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.

5:10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.

5:11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

5:12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly;

5:13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,

5:14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Gospel

This moving account from John’s Gospel tells the story of the blind man, whom Jesus cured. The Pharisees were angry that Jesus had mercy on this man during the Sabbath; some said He was not from God. They had blasphemed Him. Jesus told them that they were spiritually blind. Sadly, they remained that way until the bitter end.

John 9:1-41

9:1 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.

9:2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

9:3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.

9:4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.

9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

9:6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes,

9:7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

9:8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?”

9:9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”

9:10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”

9:11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”

9:12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

9:13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.

9:14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.

9:15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.”

9:16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided.

9:17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

9:18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight

9:19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”

9:20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind;

9:21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”

9:22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.

9:23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

9:24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.”

9:25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

9:26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

9:27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

9:28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.

9:29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”

9:30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.

9:31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.

9:32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.

9:33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

9:34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

9:35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

9:36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.”

9:37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.”

9:38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.

9:39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”

9:40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?”

9:41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

What a powerful story.

Yet, who will hear a sermon today in this period of martial (France) or quasi-martial law (UK)? If you are among the deprived, Matthew Henry’s commentary on John 9 is excellent.

Below are the readings for the Third Sunday in Lent, March 15, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Faith and God-given water — for temporal as well as eternal life — are this week’s themes.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

The Israelites were angry at not having any water. God told Moses what to do. This was God-given water for temporal life, yet was a precursor of the water for everlasting life that Jesus Christ brings (see Gospel reading below). In verse 7, Massah means temptation (of God, in this case) and Meribah means strife (quarrelling with Moses).

Exodus 17:1-7

17:1 From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.

17:2 The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”

17:3 But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?”

17:4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

17:5 The LORD said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.

17:6 I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

17:7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

Psalm

This Psalm encourages us to glorify God and not to test Him as the Israelites did in the wilderness, e.g. over water.

Psalm 95

95:1 O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

95:2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

95:3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

95:4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.

95:5 The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.

95:6 O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!

95:7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!

95:8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

95:9 when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

95:10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.”

95:11 Therefore in my anger I swore, “They shall not enter my rest.”

Epistle

Paul gives us lessons on justification by faith through grace as well as endurance on our Christian journey.

Romans 5:1-11

5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

5:2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

5:3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

5:4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

5:5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

5:7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.

5:8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

5:9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.

5:10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.

5:11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Gospel

This is John’s account of Jesus’s two-day stay in Samaria, which lay between Galilee to the north and Judea to the south. Samaria was considered the land of infidels, as over the centuries they had created a syncretic form of Judaism mixed with pagan beliefs, Assyrian customs from the days of captivity. This is the story of the living water that Jesus provides, the fulfilment of the temporal water that God gave the Israelites (see the first reading).

John 4:5-42

4:5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.

4:6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

4:7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”

4:8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)

4:9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)

4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

4:11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?

4:12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”

4:13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,

4:14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

4:15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

4:16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.”

4:17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;

4:18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”

4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet.

4:20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”

4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

4:22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.

4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

4:25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.”

4:26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

4:27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?”

4:28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,

4:29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”

4:30 They left the city and were on their way to him.

4:31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

4:32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”

4:33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”

4:34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.

4:35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.

4:36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.

4:37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’

4:38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

4:39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.”

4:40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.

4:41 And many more believed because of his word.

4:42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

It is instructive that Jesus told His disciples that the time for the harvest of souls was at that very time (verses 35, 36).

From that, we should learn that, when it comes to gathering souls for the Kingdom of God, it is always harvest time, and no one wastes a moment.

Today’s post features the Revd Scott A Gunn, an Anglo-Catholic serving in a Midwestern city. He is also the executive director of Forward Movement in the Episcopal Church, a co-author of Faithful Questions: Exploring the Way with Jesus and a religious editorial writer for Fox News.

Last month, I posted his thoughts on respecting the Church calendar.

Scott Gunn loves Lent. What follows are his impressions of Ash Wednesday and the season as a whole.

Before delving further, unrelated to Mr Gunn, this was the street scene in Houston, Texas, last Wednesday. These Episcopal priests are associated with the city’s Christ Church Cathedral. Excellent:

Ash Wednesday

Last week, Scott Gunn was in Tokyo for Ash Wednesday:

He wrote an editorial about Ash Wednesday for Fox News, which was well received:

Excerpts follow from ‘Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent — here’s why it’s important’ (emphases mine):

The name Ash Wednesday comes from the tradition of marking people’s foreheads with ashes in the shape of a cross. The ashes are a sign of our mortality, and they are given with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

At first, it might seem depressing to contemplate our inevitable death. But Ash Wednesday is just the opposite. Today reminds us that our earthly life is very short, but it is a gift from God. We are meant to use this gift well. In that way, Ash Wednesday is hopeful, encouraging, and inviting.

Ash Wednesday, and the whole season of Lent, invites us to turn away from what doesn’t matter and turn toward what does matter. As Christians, that means we recommit to following Jesus and to sharing his love with the world.

For some, that will be a new way of contemplating Ash Wednesday.

He then discusses the spiritual disciplines that characterise Lent:

Lent begins with an invitation. In the Episcopal Church, the invitation tells us how to observe a holy Lent. We do this “by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”

Self-examination and repentance are counter-cultural. It’s much easier to go through life blaming everyone else and talking about how wrong they are for whatever they did. But Lent invites me to think about the ways I have fallen short, to say I’m sorry. Lent invites me to try again.

I am happy to see that he encourages fasting, accompanied by prayer:

Lent is a time for prayer and fasting. Prayer is pretty common, and most of us know what it is, and we have at least a vague idea of how to go about talking to God this way.

But fasting is much less common. Again, fasting is counter-cultural. In a culture that tells us our worth comes from what we have, we are always urged to acquire and to consume more and more. Fasting means we cut back on the most vital of activities, eating. We might avoid food altogether, or we might severely limit the kinds of foods we eat.

Fasting creates a void of sorts in us. Our hunger reminds us of what we are missing. The awareness of what is missing reminds us that we survive only by God’s steady provision for us. And in this fasting, we are also reminded of suffering — of Christ’s suffering for us and of those who suffer daily due to poverty. Fasting reminds us that the world isn’t about us. Amidst the glitter of this age, fasting teaches us we all need the basic stuff of life, and we all need God.

I was even happier to read that he encourages reading the Bible. There was a time when Episcopalians knew the Bible very well. That’s no longer true.

Therefore, Lent is the perfect opportunity to get reacquainted with the Good Book:

And, finally, we get to my favorite part of the Lenten invitation. We are invited to read and meditate on God’s holy word. Reading the Bible reminds us of God’s vast love for us. From the moment of creation until the end of time, the Bible tells the story of how God desires our redemption.

When we read and meditate on God’s word, we are reminded of where we fit into this love story. In a world that values short-term thinking, the scriptures remind us to think eternally. In a world that tells us to give up when it gets tough, the scriptures remind us that God never gives up on us and we shouldn’t give up on God. In a world that magnifies fear, the scriptures tell us to be fearless. In a world that tells us to look after ourselves, the scriptures remind us to look after others as we seek God.

Ultimately:

Two thousand years ago, Jesus showed us perfect love, in his life, in his death, and in his resurrection. This Lent I want to try to see that perfect love anew, so that I might share it with a world in need of hope, mercy, and grace.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Remember God’s grace, and by grace alone do we all live. Remember.

Lent

On March 1, the First Sunday in Lent, Scott Gunn was in Yangon (Rangoon, in days of yore):

Unfortunately, he had to cut short his stay:

He encouraged the faithful to begin Lenten disciplines, if they hadn’t already done so:

Excerpts follow from his brilliant explanation for Fox News: ‘What is Lent and why does it matter?’

Mr Gunn explains that, as far as he is concerned, Lent is the best season in the Church year for self-examination and self-improvement:

Before I try to convince you that Lent is the best season, let’s review where it came from.

From ancient times, one of the ways Christians prepared for Easter was by providing a time to repent of grievous sins. While that sounds severe, look at it the other way. The church gave people a second (and a third, and a fourth) chance. You could mess up badly and still have an opportunity to make it right.

Lent was also a time for people to prepare for baptism. Those to be baptized had to be taught and prepared. They had to learn the important things about the Christian faith.

Lent has always been about renewal, about second chances, about new life in Jesus through the waters of baptism. Lent has always been about the important things.

Over the centuries, Lent evolved into the season we now keep. Beginning on Ash Wednesday and lasting until the week before Easter Sunday, the Lenten season is forty days (excluding Sundays). This echoes the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry.

Indeed, Jesus’s time in the wilderness was the Gospel reading on March 1.

Here is something I did not know:

The word “Lent” comes from an Old English word that means “spring season.”

Spring is a good time to clean not only our houses but also our souls:

Many of us do a spring cleaning of our homes, and I like to think of Lent as a spring cleaning for our souls. You don’t have to be Catholic or to be part of Christian church that observes Lent to make your own journey through the season. Lent can be for everyone. It is, quite simply, a time to remember and to practice the most important things.

There is something to be said for self-denial:

No one should give up something for Lent for the sake of misery itself. Misery is not God’s desire! Instead, we might give things up that take us away from Jesus to make more room for those things that bring us closer to Jesus

In so doing, I am reminded that I depend on God, not on things. In other words, giving things up can help me notice that it’s not all about me.

Some people like to add a new religious activity to their lives during Lent:

Lately, it has become more common to take things on for the season of Lent. People might decide to read the Bible or pray more. But we might also decide to focus on something like forgiveness. How can we practice forgiving others? Who do we need to forgive?

Best of all, Scott Gunn indirectly referred to Jesus’s words to the Pharisee about the greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) …

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

… and Hebrews 13:15-16:

15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

He wrote of Lenten sacrifices of love:

We have all that we need in God’s grace. We aren’t meant to look after ourselves alone, but rather to offer sacrificial love to our neighbors. We don’t need to fear anything.

Loving God and loving our neighbors are the most important things. And Lent is a wonderful way to remember that life is about love, not about our own desires. Lent is the best season, because it’s all about the best things.

That’s a splendid, positive way of thinking about Lent.

The following are the readings for the First Sunday in Lent, March 1, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

This is the story of Original Sin, elaborated on in Paul’s letter to the Romans in the Epistle.

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.

2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden;

2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

3:2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;

3:3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'”

3:4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die;

3:5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.

3:7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Psalm

It has been said that this Psalm might have been sung on the Day of Atonement. It sets forth how to repent and place one’s trust in the Lord.

Psalm 32

32:1 Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

32:2 Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

32:3 While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.

32:4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

32:5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah

32:6 Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.

32:7 You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah

32:8 I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

32:9 Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.

32:10 Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.

32:11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

Epistle

It would have been appropriate had the Lectionary compilers included the preceding three verses to Paul’s description of justification and salvation through the living Christ:

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Matthew Henry has an excellent commentary on this rather complex chapter in Romans, particularly this sentence:

We are reconciled by Christ humbled, we are saved by Christ exalted.

In any event, this refers back to the first reading about Adam, Eve and Original Sin.

Romans 5:12-19

5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned

5:13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law.

5:14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

5:15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.

5:16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.

5:17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

5:18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.

5:19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Gospel

This is Matthew’s account of the forty days that Jesus fasted and prayed. Those forty days are the reason Lent lasts this amount of time.

Matthew 4:1-11

4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

4:2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.

4:3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

4:4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple,

4:6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”

4:7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor;

4:9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

4:10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”

4:11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

In the oldest denominations the celebrant will be wearing purple (or dark blue), as on Ash Wednesday. This continues until Easter Vigil Mass for Catholics or, for Protestants, Easter Day services. There are two exceptions: Laetare Sunday, when the celebrant may wear pink as Easter draws near, and on Palm Sunday, when celebrants wear red in remembrance of the coming Crucifixion which took place days later.

Now that the season of Lent is upon us, below are suggestions and meditations for this time of solemnity and personal discipline.

My Ash Wednesday post discussed the directives from Jesus on the proper way to pray, fast and give to charity.

Here are more ideas for Lent:

Ideas for Lent

Different denominations observe this preparation for Easter in different ways:

Lent, denominational differences and freedom in Christ

These posts explore how Christians observed Lent in the past:

St Athanasius and the Lenten practices of the early Church

Lent in the early Church — not a pagan practice

Finally, these Lutheran reflections may be helpful:

Lutheran reflections for Lent

Lent is not particularly easy, and outside influences at work or at home can make the next 40 days more difficult. For many years, my Lenten seasons used to be highly fraught at work. They were more than enough to manage without piling on a ‘giving up’ or ‘doing more’.

Therefore, when life — including Lent — is difficult, focus on that instead of taking on any additional extras. Prayerfully seek a resolution to personal or employment issues and ask the Lord for His ongoing grace and help.

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