Father, Forgive Me

Holy Saturday. My contemplative day. The day of limbo. The day of reflection, of sadness. The world has just finished murdering Jesus. He has not yet risen. The day that he is absent from the world because of the world. The day I wonder whether He is absent from me because of me.

It is easy to read the story of the crucifixion and blame those involved. How could Judas who walked with Jesus betray him? How could Pontius Pilate, who knew it was wrong, allow it to happen? How could Peter, who Jesus chose to build His church upon, who had followed Jesus for three years, deny Him? How could the people choose a murderer over Jesus? How could the soldiers and people along the way mock Him and chant things like: “he saved others; he cannot save himself.” “Let him come down from the cross now and we will believe in him.” “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him.”

I used to look down on all of these folks. I would surely do better. I would not be so stupid. And yet the story of the crucifixion is the story of all of our sins.

Judas knew Jesus for three years, I have known Him my whole life. And yet, I too choose silver, screens, and other earthly “treasures” over Jesus at times (more times than I would like to admit). I too provide lip service at times, providing a kiss in public, but betraying Jesus behind closed doors.

Father, forgive me. I wish I could say I know not what I do, but sometimes I do and I do it anyway. Father, forgive me. I do not want a world without you. I do not want my life without you.

Pilate knew that crucifying Jesus was wrong, but he didn’t want to get involved. He didn’t want to go against the crowd. If I had the power to save Jesus from the pain and torture, would I have? I would like to think so, and yet my sin contributes to His pain. I, too, have followed the crowd. I have decided not to get involved when I knew wrong was occurring, because it was easier for me.

Father, forgive me. I wish I could say I know not what I do, but sometimes I do and I do it anyway. Father, forgive me. I do not want a world without you. I do not want my life without you.

What I wouldn’t give to be Peter. To be able to sit with Jesus, talk with Jesus, learn from Jesus, embrace Jesus. He had it all! And yet he denied Him three times. I always blame Peter the most. Maybe that is why I sometimes struggle with the Church, with the priests and bishops, who have it all and still seem to turn so far away. Surely, I will not deny Jesus. Though others may have their faith shaken, mine will never be… And yet… it is. Peter had three years. I have had my entire life. Peter may have been with Jesus in the flesh. But I have weekly and daily communion available to me. Peter did not know or understand the resurrection. I know about the resurrection. I know the Truth. I can read the written gospels and have the benefit of two thousand years of church teaching. Why do I still deny? Why do I still hide my faith? Peter was afraid. Despite all that I know, I too am sometimes afraid, even though Jesus tells me not to be. Even though I know everything on earth is temporary, even though I know that if I have faith, I have nothing to fear.

Father, forgive me. I wish I could say I know not what I do, but sometimes I do and I do it anyway. Father, forgive me. I do not want a world without you. I do not want my life without you.

I am no different from the villains in Jesus’ story. I have betrayed Him, ignored Him, denied Him and turned my back on Him. I have mocked or doubted and I have been afraid. I may not physically nail Him to a cross, but my sins are just as painful. My rejection of His love is just as hurtful as those mocking him on the road. Father, forgive me!

I know it is easy to be remorseful as we are painfully reminded of the Lord’s crucifixion on Good Friday and as we sit today and are assured of the resurrection tomorrow.

Lord, help my heart and mind and spirit be resurrected this Easter. I want to always turn to you. Help me turn away from silver and the fake “treasures” that this world tries to offer. Help me to be strong in my faith. Help me not be turned by the will of the crowd. Help me to lead, not to follow. Help me to share your love and your word. As I look around, I see a world that is run by fear. I know that when I am focused on you, I have no fear. When my faith is strong, I have no fear. Lord, I know that in your hands, I am safe. I know that safe does not mean free from suffering, but that there is a resurrection promised. Lord, give me the strength and faith that I need. I do not want to turn away any more. I don’t want to contribute any further nails, I don’t want to be distracted by silver, I don’t want to live by fear and have my faith shaken. I know that I cannot promise, like Peter tried, that my faith won’t be shaken. I know that I am not strong enough to overcome fear on my own. And I know that I am a sinner and will continue to cause you pain. But I know that Your love is stronger than all things, including nails, silver and fear. Help me Father to always turn to you, to always return to you. Help me to remember you passion for me every day not just during the Easter season. Help me to follow you and not the crowd. Help me to love, as you do. Forgive me when I fail.

A house divided: what side are you on?

A house divided cannot stand.  I have heard this saying many times.  But I am not sure I ever realized that it came from the Bible. Today as I read the Gospel reading, and then re-read it and re-read it again, I struggled to understand what Jesus was saying.

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,”* and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”

Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house.

Mark 3:22-27

We are a nation divided. Deeply divided. How can we stand?

Currently we do not stand. We do not stand together. We do not stand at all.  We cower behind social media.  We attack children who wear red hats and call them racists; we attack infants in their mothers’  wombs and call those who oppose it sexist.  We build walls that only divide us.  We oppose the death penalty for even our most heinous criminals but celebrate murder of our most innocent victims.  A house divided will not stand…  but are we standing now?

My first thought when I heard this passage, was a call to unity.  We must come together as a country, or we will fall.

But as I read the full passage, Jesus compares the kingdom and house to Satan.  At the end of the day, I am not sure it is necessarily about coming together as a country, although that would be a nice by-product.  It is about coming together as God’s people.  Kingdoms fall.  Houses fall.  These are human creations.  And when Satan gets a hold of them, Satan causes division.  Satan does not fight himself.  Satan will not drive himself out.  He will not go against himself.  Only God can defeat Satan.  Only God can drive him out.

But God gave us free will.  We can choose Satan.  We can choose division.  We can stay quiet and not stand.  We can choose not to oppose what we know to be wrong.  We can choose to take our fight to social media, instead of taking our plight to God.  We can be weak and allow Satan to plunder our house, plunder our country, because we are not strong enough, on our own, to stop him.  Or we can choose God.  God has the power to bind Satan.  God has the power to unite.  God and only God has the power to save, to destroy Satan, to destroy the division that Satan creates.  To heal our country.  But we have to choose.  God will not stop us from choosing Satan.  We have to choose.

I choose you God!  I am not strong enough to defeat Satan.  I am not strong enough to fix the division that permeates our country.  I need your help.  I want your help.  We are weak.  As a country, we are lost.  Guide us.  Lead us.  Show us your way.  Help our leaders find your way.  Help each of us, leader or not, seek you.  Help us come together united as your children. You are the Way, the Truth and the Life.  You are my Way, my Truth and my Life.   I reject Satan.  I choose you!

 

 

Let me cling no more!

Oh.  Today the Bible opened and hit me right where I feel most vulnerable.  Jesus’ words expose my weakness.

So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”  He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me;  In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.’  You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

Mark 7: 5-8

“You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”  It is amazing that 2000 years later Jesus’ words are still spot on.  Very few things survive the test of time or maintain their relevancy.  But God’s words do.  I should be in awe by this — but in my head my response is “Of course God’s words are still good.”  And my second thought is, why haven’t we learned this by now.

Jesus has hit right on the head where many of my failings start and where I sometimes get lost — following human tradition, following human ways.  It is easier to see and follow human rule.  God’s rules are not so easy and there isn’t always the immediate response to know when we are on the right path.  As humans though we receive money and praise and facebook likes when we have done “good” under human standards.

Wouldn’t it be great if God could send us a thumbs up picture when we do good.  And a quick thumbs down when we do wrong — or even better a big thumbs down right before we do wrong.

But as I think about it…  He kind of does.  It just may not be that blatant.  But I feel the guilt.  It is just easier to ignore.  Particularly when there is human reward.  Oh I am stupid.  I know that God’s reward is far greater.  But I do it time and again.

My hope in today’s verse, is that I am not alone.  For 2000 years this has been an issue.  I need God’s grace and forgiveness, just like everyone who has come before me.

Father,

I am a sinner.  I have disregarded you and your commandments more times than I can count.  Help me to fix my eyes on you.  Help me fix my eyes on the reward in heaven.  Help me to live as you want — not as the human world rewards.  Help me to cling no more to human traditions and human ways.  Help me put my heart into my prayers and into following you so they are not just words on my lips.  I need your grace.  I need your forgiveness.  Forgive me, Father.