LENT: a holy human shape
Calm me into a quietness
And molds my longings
Into a more holy
(Prayer poem by Ted Loder)
Readings: Matthew 21:1-11; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 27:1-54
Begin with the above centering prayer, by Peter Traben Haas, as you reflectively read today’s Scriptures.
As pilgrims swelled the population of Jerusalem, anticipating the annual Festival of Unleavened Bread that began with Passover, Jesus rode into the city of his ancestor King David. But instead of a general’s war horse, he rode in on a donkey—the symbol of humility and peace (Zechariah 9:9). The pilgrims who were singing Psalms (such as 118:25-26) began laying down their cloaks in his path (symbolizing submission to a king) and waving the palm branches of peace as they cried “Hosanna”—“Help! Save!” Some in this same crowd will shout “Crucify him!” by the end of the week. And so, we begin our Palm Sunday celebration praising this King of Peace, while being aware that in some ways we too are like the fickle crowd.
Reading: John 11:1-45
- The story of Lazarus is carried along by a dialogue of questions and assumptions. As you read, listen to the varying questions of the disciples, the sisters, the mourners, and Jesus. Notice how some questions are answered, some are not. With one Jesus gives a profound truth, with another he weeps. In deep distress, grief, and loss there are always questions we ask. What stirs in you as you observe and listen in on this dramatic event? What questions would you want to ask Jesus about areas of loss or darkness in your life? How do you respond when it seems as if God delays or answers you differently than expected?
- The author explicitly punctuates Jesus’ love for his friends in the narrative: Lord, he whom you love is ill (v.3); Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus (v.5); Our friend Lazarus (v.11); See how he loved him (v.36). In grief stricken moments of loss, illness or death of loved ones, it is often difficult to believe that God loves us. In your own life’s story, how have you experienced God’s love supporting you in dark moments of suffering or grief? Are there places in your life now that due to the circumstances you don’t feel God loves you? Talk to God about these things.
- In this intimate narrative we see Jesus’ own deep emotionally experience with regard to his friends, his loss, his distress. Out of a compassionate heart our Lord draws close, weeps with, and ministers to his friends in amazing ways. The miracle arises out of God’s compassion. Where in your life might you need God to do the impossible, unimaginable, unpredictable? Open to God in prayer, ask, believe.
Here’s a segment of a prayer poem by Ted Loder. It offers words of prayer for dark moments:
Lord I have so few ways to pray
but you have so many ways to answer.
Keep me alert to your unpredictable answers
to unexpected, unexplainable surprises
and by your grace, make me one of those surprises,
for the sake of the One who taught us the surprises of
moving mountains, healing touches, wondrous stories, great banquets,
first suppers, broken bread, crosses and resurrections.
– Elizabeth Khorey