Today is Sunday, the twenty-first of March, 2021. The Fifth Sunday in Lent.
Peace be with you!
Fourteen days until Resurrection Sunday
It was a great day, yesterday. As expected, C has obtained her Lifetime membership in WW (formerly Weight Watchers)! What this means is that, going forward, she only has to weigh in once a month, and, as long as she is within that two pounds of her goal (above or below), she will not be charged for her membership. It was a very exciting morning.
Somewhere around mid-afternoon, I began to feel what I can only surmise were the effects of that second Covid-19 vaccine shot. I was surprised that I began feeling effects that long afterward, but the way I felt line up with what other people had experienced. It wasn’t terrible, I will say that. But I felt on the verge of sick. Just an over-all sense of not feeling well, almost-but-not-quite-feverish (there was never any fever, I checked it several times, and it was always below 98), not quite aching, and just over-all “bleah.”
So I took some Advil and went to bed much earlier than I normally would on a Saturday night. I feel fine, this morning, after another great night of sleep.
We have our usual Zoom church gathering, this morning, at 10:15. For lunch today, we are planning something different. As part of my ten-year anniversary swag from my employer, I chose a sous vide cooker. I had been wanting to try one of those for a long time, and never purchased one. Well, this one cost me nothing buy work reward points. So we put some fresh chicken breasts in a ziploc bag, yesterday, along with some new seasoning that we bought at WW, yesterday morning (a BBQ flavor seasoning), and we will try cooking that, today, with the sous vide cooker, for lunch.
S may not be happy that we are not getting Applebee’s, but she’ll live. Maybe we will get that for dinner, or one night this week. I will try to remember to share how the chicken tasted.
Oh, I forgot to share my own WW results from yesterday. I lost .6 pound, which put me below where I was three weeks ago. I had one week where I remained the same, and then gained .4 on my birthday (boo!), but lost that back, this past week. So I am at my lowest point, so far, in this journey. But yesterday was all about C and her lifetime accomplishment!
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
I Am Bending My Knee
I am bending my knee
In the eye of the Father who created me,
In the eye of the Son who purchased me,
In the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me,
In friendship and affection.
Through Thine own Anointed One, O God,
Bestow upon us fullness in our need,
Love towards God,
The affection of God,
The smile of God,
The wisdom of God,
The grace of God,
The fear of God,
And the will of God
To do on the world of the Three,
As angels and saints
Do in heaven;
Each shade and light,
Each day and night,
Each time in kindness,
Give Thou us Thy Spirit.
(Alexander Carmichael, from Carmina Gadelica)
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
(Psalms 65:12-13 ESV)
Today I am grateful:
- for an almost overwhelming sense of peace, this morning
- that You were “broken and spilled out” for us, just like Mary’s vial of perfume
- that, though weeping tarries in the night, joy comes in the morning
- that Your faithful love never ends
- that C accomplished her lifetime goal, yesterday
Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year
FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT
The LORD is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
(Psalms 145:17-18 NIV)
I’m spending a moment in quiet meditation, considering the righteousness of God in all His ways.
A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.
I will exalt you, LORD,
for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.
You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.
Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
(Psalms 30:1-5 NIV)
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
(John 12:1-8 NIV)
DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION
As I enjoy the presence of the Father, this morning, I reflect on these passages. I find great comfort in the last four phrases of the reading from Psalms. “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
I keep returning to Dallas Willard’s definition of “joy” as “a pervasive sense of well-being.” Webster’s defines “pervasive” as “existing in or spreading through every part of something.” So, if that sense of well-being is “pervasive,” it is existing in or spreading through every part of my life.
And I feel that, this morning. I have experienced the weeping, but it always gives way to joy. There have been many times in my life when I thought that God was angry with me. Right or no, I still felt that way. But I know that His favor is eternal, and that will never change.
Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, displayed her joy, even though, in her act of worship and sacrifice, there were tears. I believe her tears were tears of gratitude and joy. We don’t see the tears in John’s version of this event, but in another gospel account (I don’t believe she is named in that one), she washes Jesus’s feet with her tears and hair. What a beautiful picture!
I’m going down a small “rabbit trail.” I sincerely hope that, when we reach our eternal Home, we can skip back in human time and watch certain events occur. One obvious one would be the moment of the resurrection of Christ, which no human being observed. But this event, when Mary busts open a vial of perfume that was worth a year’s wages (can you imagine pouring a $50,000 bottle of perfume out on someone’s head??) is one that I would definitely like to watch.
And then we all go “SSSSSSSS” when Judas objects. Hahaha!!
It is said that there will be no tears in heaven. But does that include tears of joy? Because I do hope that there will be tears of joy. I choose to believe that it is only tears of sadness and pain that will be eliminated.
And just like that vial of perfume, Jesus, Himself was “broken and spilled out” for us, being of far more value than a little bottle of perfume.
Thank You, Jesus! My words of gratitude are far from adequate to express my gratitude for Your sacrifice for us. I do try to live my life in such a way that it also expresses such gratitude, even though it could never be enough. I want to live my life in a way that expresses my love for You and Your love for me. Help me to display that love toward everyone I encounter in my daily life. Thank You for the example of Mary, and for how much she devoted her life to You, being content to sit at Your feet and listen to Your words. May I share that contentment and hang on every word You speak, and every action You do.
Beautiful Savior, what can I offer to you for the lavish gift of your loving sacrifice? I joyfully offer you my life, my worship, my treasure, my time, and a willing delight to do every kind of good. Amen. (Heidelberg Catechism 90)
God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life.
(1 John 5:11-12 NIV)
On that day I will gather you together and bring you home again.
(Zephaniah 3:20 NLT)
The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT)
Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.
(Psalms 36:5 NLT)
No matter what comes our way today, this week, next week, the rest of this year, we can take comfort in knowing that our Father knows it all; He knows what was, what is, and what will be. And He will be there with us through it all.
(Thanks to Kim Taylor Henry in today’s reading from Daily Guideposts 2021)
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Pergamum. This is the message from the one with the sharp two-edged sword:
“I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city.
“But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching. Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.”
(Revelation 2:12-17 NLT)
The Christians at Pergamum had done a great job of persevering through the persecution. However, as John relates Jesus’s words to them, from his exile on Patmos, it is pointed out that there are some in their midst who would have them relax their standards a little bit.
Says Eugene Peterson, “Sometimes it is easier to die for the truth in a crisis than to live the truth through a dull week at work.” Remember, the chapter is called “The Test of Our Truth.” This test is played out through those “ordinary hours when we don’t know we are being examined.”
But be sure that people are watching, especially if they know you claim to follow Christ. “Truth is not just right answers but a right life.” It is far easier to join a crowd of protesters than it is to love your neighbor.
“Christ is our comprehensive, personal truth to be expressed in gestures, actions, and conversations when no one is watching.”
Balaam’s teaching, which we looked at yesterday, attempts to make things more easy and clear than the really are. They add to the Gospel and elaborate on “real truth.” “Gospel truth is always personal, direct, obedient – a way to live in love and courage and adoration.”
The Greek word for “truth” is “aletheia.” I have verified this with my own brief research. The literal meaning of the word is “the state of not being hidden; the state of being evident.” So, for example, in Matthew 5, when the woman pressed in to Jesus, through the crowd, and touched his robe and was healed, when it became evident who had done this, she told the “truth.” She became “unhidden.”
Eugene Peterson says, “The truth test bares our being before Christ’s being. We are seen in the concrete, not the abstract – as livers of this life, of my life as it is.” Who and what we are is revealed in the reality of the light of Jesus Christ. As it says in Hebrews 4:13, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.”
The test of truth asks not, “What do you think?” Rather, it asks “Who are you?” And this next statement is very interesting. “God is not nearly as interested with what we say about him to others as he is with what we say to him.”
The letter to the Church at Pergamum, just like all the letters, closes with a promise. “To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” (verse 17)
“The hidden manna is the food that God gives to his people, the nourishment that keeps them going.” And the white stone, the new name, is an identification that Christ will give to His people. “He will sustain us, and he will identify us as his own.”
(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)
Father, may my life express Your truth in all ways. Help me to not cave to the pressure of popular opinion. But at the same time, truth must always be expressed in a loving manner. So may that always be true, as well. I desire to be seen as one who loves, not as a “hater.” So let truth be my banner, but may it be held up by love, and, as much as possible for a human being, let that love be agape love, that which can only come from You.
May all in Your Church experience resurrection hope and joy, this morning, knowing Your presence, wherever they may be today. Help us all to be better harbingers of Your Gospel of peace, announcing that Your Kingdom is at hand, available for all, right here, right now.
I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
Grace and peace, friends.