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Good Friday & Black Saturday


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The Harrowing of HadesSome people call it Holy Saturday, I prefer Black Saturday. And for the record, one of my least favorite things that churches do these days is to have an Easter service on Saturday night. I get it, I get it. I know why you do it but that doesn’t make it any better.

As I was sitting in my churches Good Friday requiem (which might have been the most amazing music I have ever heard in a church building) I was reflecting on the weekend, I even wrote a few things down in my journal. By Friday night Jesus would have been crucified, dead and buried. His words, “it is finished” would have been said and his last breath would have been breathed. Personally I want to sit there, in the darkness. I want to take in the forsakenness of it all. I want t know that darkness, the quite, that stirring chaos. I want to sit in and become familiar with this space, to become aware of the void and the despair.

Most times we want to jump to Sunday, to resurrection. I hate even speaking the word today. It’s still Saturday. Jesus is still dead. Doing his thing in hell while I sit in my own hell. I don’t want to jump ahead I want to take in this fierce silence.

There are many time in my life and in my struggles where I wondering where God is. I wondering if he has abandoned me. I read the early parts of many of the Psalms and want to stop just before the poet gets to the “but I remember” or “but I will praise you” parts. I can relate to the nagging questions “why have you forsaken me” but in those moments I have a hard time with the remembrance and the praise parts.

You see, I want to sit in the dark silence of Good Friday evening & Black Saturday because it’s here, as I remember this story, as I reenact this narrative that I experience true abandonment. Where with Jesus I can honestly cry out, “Why have you forsaken me.”

I want to be so aware and attuned to this absence so that in all the other moments of life that feel so dry and dark I can sense God’s presence even then. And I can sense it because I know what Black Saturday is like and in all of those other moments I will be able to say, “this isn’t that.”

 

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These thoughts are inspired by Ignatian meditation that encourages us to really live into the text and put ourselves, imaginatively into the stories. This type of thoughtful, imaginative scripture engagement had greatly deepened my life. Try it!

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Maundy Thursday — Reflection


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holythursday_15c_rusToday is Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday. A lot goes on here but the primary scripture i’ve been thinking about is John 13:1-15, the story of Jesus washing his disciples feet. Many churches will have a eucharist / communion service that will include a foot washing ceremony. When I was living in Nashville and attending Church of the Redeemer I was able to participate in a few Maundy Thursday service that included foot washing. It was uncomfortable! It was awkward! It was thought provoking. And when all was said and done it was beautiful and deeply moving.

We don’t wash peoples feet. We often don’t love people well. In our culture these things aren’t related but for Jesus he tied these 2 together. Wanting to profoundly love and serve his friends and show them how important it was going to be for them to receive that love and then go and do the same.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.45.29 AMPray As You Go engages this passage in John today and asked a few poignant questions…

“have ever known that kind of love?”

“Is there someone whose love you find difficult to accept at the moment?”

(image yourself in this story…)
“What do you want to say to Jesus, and what does he want to say to you?”

They close with these two pieces…

“‘I have set you an example’ says Jesus, ‘that you also should do as I have done.’  Speak to Jesus about what this invitation means to you, and how it might become a reality in your life?”

“We adore you o’ Christ and we praise you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

The medition today from Pray As You Go struck me and I wanted to share it. Take 12 minutes today, listen and engage, you won’t regret.

I hope you’re abel to find a good Maundy Thursday service today. Let it prepare you tomorrow, Good Friday and the darkness that follows and the light that is right around the corner!

Grace and epace
ERik

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LENT 2015 :: An Intro


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Lent has become my favorite liturgical season. Not because it’s fun and festive but because it has produced the most significant spiritual growth in my life. One of my proposals is that every liturgical season is a gift from God that enables a person to become fully human and experience spiritual growth in particular ways.

Lent is the space we are given that allows us to experience temptation, difficulty and dryness. We are reminded during Lent that God is not distant when God is quiet and that our difficulty isn’t necessarily because of a problem but rather it may be a preparation.

Either way, because you are human, because you are dust and to dust you will return, you will experience not only the good but the difficult and tempting parts of life.

Lent is God’s gift to us, creating space to experience this while affirming His love for us as He did in the life of Jesus.
So in all of this we share in His suffering and are prepared to participate in His resurrection.

There is a lot more to Lent but those are my thoughts for today. 
I wrote a little Lent devotional book if you want to read a bit more. 
Here is the intro to that book which will briefly introduce you, if you’re not familiar to some of the Lenten basics…
I also plan on blogging every Wednesday about Lent and my experience.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 11.25.50 AMFrom Lent…

Lent is the time in the Christian year that leads us to Easter and our celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. For most of my Christian life, I was aware of Lent but didn’t engage in the creative aspects Christians have participated in for hundreds of years. However, for the past several years, my engagement in Lenten exercises has provided water for my thirsty soul. Lent is usually a period marked by prayer, penitential activities, helping those in need and radical self-denial.
I have simplified those ideas in my own life focusing on three things. With the hope and expectation of participating in the resurrection, during Lent I will:
• add something,
• subtract something, and
• spend intentional time in self examination.

And here is a prayer to begin your Lenten season
(and I hope you will find a community to experience an Ash Wednesday service today. You won’t regret it.)

From the 1979 Book of Common Prayer
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The “Fridays” of Life….


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“On all the Fridays of our lives, when with Jesus we want to say, “God, where are you?” maybe He (Jesus) is just hanging there present and absent all at the same time, waiting for the subversion of your story and ultimately His story to be proclaimed. After all, Sunday isn’t far away.”

This is a little bit of a Good Friday reflection I gave awhile back. I put it in the Lenten Devotional I published and came across it today as I read and prepared for the current writing i’m doing. I needed to read it. Maybe you do to.
Resurrection & harrowing-of-hadesTrying not to let stress and stifles control my focus and joy.
It may feel like Friday but Sunday is coming.
(I think Tony Compolo has something to say about that as well.)

To read the rest of the reflection above pick up my Lent devotion for yourself and your community.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 18th, 2015.
(If you are curious about Lent and what it’s all about check this out [ CRI Voice on Lent ] or just know this, Lent is all about getting your heart and mind ready for Easter, the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.)

 

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Epiphany — Let’s keep it going!


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Advent seemed to gain some traction this year! Guys like Louie Giglio and others spoke and wrote about Advent, even calling for people to “bring Advent back.” Which among some of my friends was a bit humors. Our thought is that Advent didn’t really go anywhere, you did. But regardless, it’s great that communities are embracing the rich resource that the church calendar offers us.

Let’s keep it going!

At the end my Advent book that was published 2 years ago I left the reader with this though on Epiphany as a springboard to continue their journey through the year with the church and her calendar.

Epiphany

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The Season of Epiphany begins after the Twelve Days of Christmas and continues until Lent, 40 days before Easter. What exactly is it, and how do we observe it? Well, we’ve all had an “aha” moment when the lights go on and everything makes sense. That’s an epiphany. It can happen slowly, like when the lights are gradually turned up in a room, or suddenly, when everything goes from black to full color and light in a moment.

I’ve had epiphanies take place both ways but it’s always God who turns on the light! He reveals Himself and makes it clear that life will never be the same. This experience is different for every individual, but it’s all a revelation of God’s self.

Thus, Epiphany is the season in the church calendar when we watch and listen as God is quietly—or sometimes not so quietly—revealed before us once again. Sometimes, even when we try hard to do so, we just don’t see God in our everyday lives or in the events of our world. Epiphany gives us the time and resources to watch, wait, listen, look and be open to the revelation of God. Watching and waiting are practices we can intentionally carry over from our Advent journey because Epiphany is a season that reminds us God constantly wants to reveal Himself to us. He longs to turn on the lights, connect the dots and show us the way!

The Lectionary will guide us through three key Scriptures readings during Epiphany. We traditionally focus on the Magi, who literally had the bright light of a star turned on above them to reveal what God was doing in the world. We also consider the baptism of Jesus, which more fully reveals who Jesus is, the Son of God. The season concludes with pondering the story of the Transfiguration, the scene that gives us a glimpse at the pure radiance of Jesus, the light of the world, as He reveals Himself to some of the disciples. Epiphany is a season to really explore these aspects of Jesus’ story that reveal Him in new ways.

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So there you go! I hope this could be a great springboard to guide you through this next season of the church!
If you want more reading for flection during Epiphany check out these resources. And keep an eye out toward the end of 2015 for a new resource I’m putting together. I can’t wait to share it! More on that coming soon.

The Book of Common Prayer
(Of course! The reading and prayers are all here.)

A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God
(This is a great resource that follows the liturgical calendar. It includes explanations of the seasons, daily devotional liturgy with scriptures, prayers and reading for reflection. It’s a must have!)

Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year by Robert Webber
(Webber is the forerunner for all us “Evangelicals on the Canterbury trail.” This is a really good resource on the calendar and it’s significance. Less devotional and more informational but great nonetheless.)

Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross
(I haven’t fully got into this resource but it seems great and what I have read in it I really liked. Check it out!)

 

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Advent isn’t really about Jesus…


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Advent isn’t about Jesus
Advent is all about Jesus

Those statements seem contradictory don’t they. Well, they are both true. In a way…

You see Advent is more about the absence of Jesus and less about the presence of Jesus. So you might say Advent isn’t about Jesus at all, it’s about you!

Advent is about you and that hunger that lies at the core of your being. That longing that you feel deep in your bones. It’s about that edge of your seat anticipation that you just can’t shake.

Advent is best experience in all of these moments, when you roll over, gasp for air, grit your teeth, and hold your breath… when in those moments the only words you can get to slip through your angst are the words, “Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

This Advent cry, “Come, Lord Jesus, come” is what also makes Advent all about Jesus.

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I was doing some reading today and this was my Psalm,

Psalm 35:22-25

“Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. Vindicate me in your righteousness, Lord my God; do not let them gloat over me. Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!” or say, “We have swallowed him up.””

You see, this is an Advent Psalm!

AWAKE! Come, help a brother out! Nothing is going right and there are all these people about to crush me!

That’s the Psalm. And that is an Advent cry! That’s a familiar cry!

We cry out for Jesus to come in his birth.

We cry out for Jesus to come again.

We cry out for Jesus to come in all the moment in-between.

Advent is the time God gives us to remind us how to wait. How to be patient. How to be honest in those moments, like the Psalmist, when God seems absent and ruin seems immanent. We’ve all been there. We’ve all cried out, “COME LORD JESUS!” or maybe “HELP ME JESUS!” 

It’s during Advent that we, the Church, practice together the art of longing and waiting and preparing. It’s during Advent that we learn to live faithfully instead of extravagantly because we are reminded that all the toys and goods are not what we really want or need anyway.

So we learn to wait for the right thing, not just the thing I want right now.

We learn to pray, hope, want and wait faithfully. 

This is the gift of Advent. 

This is all about Jesus!

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Feast of the Transfiguration


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Today was the feast of the transfiguration. I wanted to write and post this earlier but I didn’t get to it. So here’s goes.

The the transfiguration is an amazing event in the gospels and is worth pondering anytime. It’s definitely one of my favorite stories, I find it absolutely fascinating.

This is my favorite icon of the transfiguration. I like it so much I have it with me always! Just ask to see my arm!

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware says, “It [ the transfiguration ] reveals to us the highest potential of our created nature, our ultimate vocation as human beings.” Very much in line with Fr. Roberts Barron’s capture to the above icon from Word On Fire Ministries, “[ the transfiguration is ] a preview of our own destiny!”

I love it! I think they are right on! The transfiguration is an event where the curtain is pulled back and we see how things are, how they fully are in the realm we call the kingdom of heaven. We see this same thing in the life of Jesus but it’s during the transfiguration that we see a scene where everyone is wrapped up and living into the reality of God’s kingdom, the living and the dead.

When Jesus says in the Gospel of Mark, “the kingdom of heaven is near.” That word near is often translation “at hand” because the kingdom has come so close in the person of Jesus that we see and experience this heaven, this realm where God rules and reigns as we see and experience Jesus. In the transfiguration the curtain is pulled back to ware these two realms, the kingdom of heaven and this present age collide or overlap or intersect. Hmmm… it’s kinda hard to explain it. I always think of the TV show Fringe. Yea, it’s kinda like that! Or maybe the Matrix if you’re looking for a pop-culture reference here. ;-)

Either way, welcome to the story!

Fr. Andreas Andreopoulos in his book “This is my Beloved Son: The Transfiguration of Christ” helps us to see that this is an event that keeps happening. We keep seeing the kingdom break into our world and into our lives. We live with this reality in mind, we participate in it’s in-breaking from time to time and we pray for it to happen often and finally.

“Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is the prayer Jesus taught us to pray and it’s a prayer for his people to live lives shaped by the transfiguration and participating in the transfiguration story – transfiguration reality. We pray for God to act and answer this prayer and we open our lives for God to use us to be answers to this prayer. This is transfiguration kinds of stuff — kinds of prayer!

Bishop Todd Hunter gave a stellar message a few months ago on the transfiguration. Here’s a link ::
Todd Hunter | The Transfiguration: Unseen Reality.
Go listen to it ASAP. He nails it! Here’s a quote from the message, “There is always this glorious reality that sits behind the seen world that is always and already there.” #TRUE, this is the reality we see and experience in the transfiguration.

I could go on and on here. It’s absolutely fascinating and if we’ll let it this is a story that really can shape our lives here and now as we follow Jesus and live as he calls us to live.

Pray-As-You-Go is a great prayer resource. They provide little 10-12 minute audio meditations for folks to listen to as they go about their day. Today’s meditation was on the Matthew passage (17:1-8) on the transfiguration. Here’s a link if you’d like to pray a bit with the transfiguration in mind.

 Pray-As-You-Go | The Feast of the Transfiguration

I’ll probably write about this more in the future but for now, I hope you can have some thoughtful, prayerful moments guided by this story we’re given and this challenge we all have to live with the reality that the kingdom of heaven is near, always it’s near!

One last icon. This is a picture I took when I was at the Getty in LA.

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Holy Week Prayers :: Easter


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Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Holy Week Prayers :: Holy Saturday


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O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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