Lent Project: Holy Tuesday 

  

While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”
Luke‬ ‭21‬:‭1-4‬ NLT

On Tuesday, Jesus continues to be incendiary. In the temple he argues with the cheif priests and teachers of the law. He tells the parable of the wicked tenants. He discusses taxes and resurrection and the line of David. 

Generally, these are referred to as the “temple controversies.” Jesus is controversial. He comes to embody God’s word, which has always been in direct opposition to the the priorities of the powers of the world. 

God’s way is not about power, prestige or wealth. Or at least, not as the world defines them. In God’s definition, power comes through weakness. Prestige comes through humility. And wealth can be found in a heartfelt gift, no matter how small its worth. 

So it is on Holy Tuesday, in the temple, Jesus points out the small donation of a poor widow. Though she gave little, in the eyes of Heaven, her gift is great. Because it was all she had. 

It was what Jesus  would give as he lays down all that he is as a sacrifice later in the week. For you. For me. For everyone. 

This Holy Week, may you know that God’s way is not the way of this world. May you know what it is to find power in your weakness, prestige through humility and wealth in the giving of your heart. May you be inspired to give all you have – mind, body, spirit – to the One who gave it all for you.   

  

My friend and co-VBS-leader, Kim, standing where Jesus was: the Temple steps.  

  

And a longer view…

 

Some of our pilgrims making their way up the steps. 

Lent Project: Holy Monday 

  

When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching.
‭Mark‬ ‭11‬:‭15-18‬ NLT

On Monday Jesus begins to get himself in trouble. In truth it was alway going to lead here. His way was in direct opposition to the powers of the day. He stood opposed to those who wanted to protect what they already had or were looking to get a little more. Eventually it was going to be a showdown. 

On Monday Jesus is in the Temple. Saying difficult words and overturning tables. I’ve heard many interpretations of this Scripture throughout my life, but the one that appeals to me most is the one that says that this wasn’t about money. Not really. Jesus wasn’t angry that people were selling doves for worshippers to sacrifice or exchanging currency so that people from away could buy a dove to sacrifice in worship. Jesus was angry because those selling the doves and those changing the money were making it difficult (sometimes impossible) for those who had honestly come to worship God. 

People could bring their own dove (or other animal) to sacrifice in worship at the Temple. But it had to be inspected by the priests to be sure it was without blemish, as the Scriptures commanded. There is evidence that the priests were in cahoots with the dove sellers. And they would reject the animals not bought on the premises, saying that they were blemished and unfit for worship. Then, if the person wished to continue with their act of worship, they would have to buy a dove on the premises. And if they didn’t have the proper currency, they would have to get it exchanged. The exchange rates would be inflated (convenience tax, we’d call it today) as would the cost of the doves (like buying candy at the movie theatre or a slice of pizza at a sporting event). The priests would get kickbacks from the dove sellers and the money exchangers. It was a rather nasty business. 

On top of that, many of the worshippers would not be able to afford the cost of the dove or the rates of exchange for their money, and they would turn away, unable to worship God this year (for Jews, the only true place of worship was in the Temple in Jerusalem, and many made the pilgrimage once a year…or once every few years if that was what they could afford). 

In this interpretation, Jesus isn’t angry that people are making money in a worship place, he isn’t even angry at the dishonest practices of the proprietors and priests. No, what truly makes him mad is the thought of anyone standing in the way of a person who truly wishes to worship, to draw closer to God, to give thanks for the good God has granted and to ask pardon for the bad they have done.  

Yes. That sounds like something that would make the Jesus I know, very angry indeed. At the end of the week, he will lay down his life in order to bridge the gap between God and humanity. As one of my favorite Christian singers puts it, He will tear the veil so we could sit with Him in person. He will lay down his life – in agony and in disgrace – to secure our right to come directly to God. Of course the thought of anyone standing in the way of someone wanting to get to God is going to make him angry. 

For the priests, and the dove sellers, and the money exchangers, though…for them, Jesus’ act of defiance and righteous anger represents a loss of income. A loss of power. A loss of wealth.

So, they begin to plot his death. Because those who hold money in that high esteem will always try to elimate any threat to their prosperity.

This Holy Week, may you know how important it was to Jesus that you be able to worship in freedom, without impediment. May you know that Jesus longs for you to draw closer to God. May you find comfort in a house of prayer for all nations. And may you worship in spirit and in truth. 

  

The unrestored Temple Steps in Jerusalem. 

 

 

Standing on the Temple steps, one of my favorite places in Jerusalem. Jesus would have walked up these very steps before overturning the tables.  

  

Mom and I on the Temple steps. 

 

Mom and Dad on the Temple steps. 

Lent Project: Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is different when you have walked the route that Jesus took from the Mount of Olives to the Temple. 

As he came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So they went and found the colt, just as Jesus had said. And sure enough, as they were untying it, the owners asked them, “Why are you untying that colt?” And the disciples simply replied, “The Lord needs it.” So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on. As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him. When he reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen. “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!” But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!” He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”
Luke‬ ‭19‬:‭29-40‬ NLT

The crowds cheered, and it bothered the Pharisees. They wanted him to tell them to quiet down. But Jesus wouldn’t play by their rules. He told them that if he did as they asked, the very sones would cry out. 

Because God will not be denied. The King had arrived, and his praises would be sung by humanity or by the very stones that were created through him when the world was begun. 

In worship at St. A’s today, Geoff encouraged us to make certain it isn’t necessary for the stones to sing. To instead use the gifts that God has given each of us to sing the praises of the King. 

When we were in Israel, we were constantly surrounded by stone. If the stones had sung, I am certain that the sound would have been overwhelming. Maybe they would have done a better job than us. 

But that was not what God wanted, that’s not why Jesus went to Jerusalem, knowing he would be persecuted and executed. God wants us to sing. With him, for him and in his honor. 

As we head into Holy Week, may your life song sing for God. May you praise him so well that the sones need bever make a sound. And I pray that your life may be continually transformed by the King riding on a donkey. 

   

Mom and Dad together as Mom reads the Palm Sunday passage on the Mount of Olives with the temple in the background. 

  

Mom reading the Palm Sunday passage on the Mount of Olives. 

 The Temple Mount as seen from the Mount of Olives. 

A wider view of the Temple Mount as seen from the Mount of Olives.  

Lent Project: On we go…

Seems I just can’t stop thinking about how God never abandons us. That’s what my last entry was about, and as I perused the Scriptures for a verse that might inspire tonite’s entry, I was caught by this verse in Philipians:

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭6‬ NLT

Two things struck me here – one that God has begun a good work in you and in me. That’s encouraging. Some days it might feel like not much has happened. You got up, went to work, ate when you were hungry, made your way back home and will head to bed soon. But what actually happened? Where was God in all of that?

Sometimes it will be hard to feel as though God were there. But the Scripture tells us that God has begun a good work in us. Even when it might not be obvious. Even when we might not feel like it. 

The second thing is that God is not going to give up working that good work in us until it is finally finished when Jesus comes back.  So if you are still drawing breath, if life is continuing as normal, then God is still working on you and in you. 

Sometimes, I need an encouragement like that. Especially when Lent has been going on for a long time and things seem a little flat-line-ish. 

This Lent, may you know that God is working a good work in you. And that he will not stop. Not until it is finally finished, when Jesus comes again. 

  

Lent Project: Sometimes a stumble…

I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
Psalms‬ ‭121‬:‭1-4‬ NKJV

Sometimes in the pace of life, I look up suddenly and am shocked to find I haven’t written a blog in a while. The days have passed almost unnoticed. 

The reality is that we all stumble at times. We get wrapped up in the things that are going on around us. We get distracted by this or that. We get tired. We get lazy. (This is confession!)

What I love about the journey of faith is that it IS a journey. It doesn’t end because of a stumble or a sojourn down a rabbit trail. The journeyman (or woman!) needs simply get back on their feet, find the road again, and the journey will continue. This is because God doesn’t give up on us. He is always ready for that moment when we realize what we have misplaced for a time. 

Indeed, the God who watches over us, who keeps us, will neither slumber nor sleep. 

We may stumble, we may sleep, but God does not. 

During these last days of Lent, may you know that the God who never slumbers nor sleeps is waiting for your return if you have stumbled or strayed away. May you know that the journey may continue at any moment you might choose, God is waiting to journey with you. And if your journey has been going well lately, may it continue unabated. 

  

Lent Project: Be still, my soul…

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.
Psalm‬ ‭62‬:‭5‬ NIV

During Lent, at St. Andrew’s, we’ve been in a conversation about our souls. Today, Geoff reminded us in the sermon that our souls are restless. That the world outside tends to distract and frighten us. That we long for a peace we seem unable to find. That the peace we long for is available to us if we would take the time to be still before th source of our peace: God – Father, Spirit, Jesus. 

It was one of those sermons that stays with you. You find yourself turning some of the ideas over in your mind as you go about the rest of your day. 

I am glad that it stayed with me because I have had the kind of week in which it was difficult to be still. While I cannot claim any horrible tragedies or any excessive stress during the week, there were several things that happened that caused disquietude in my soul. For the most part these were small things – a hectic schedule, an abundance of red tape during a seemingly simple process, too many change-of-plan situations. 

Each one on their own, no more than an annoyance – something I am capable of handling. All of them together, though, becoming a compounding weight, a growing storm, a rising tide of unrest in my soul. 

Today, I needed to be reminded to take time to be still before God. To seek my peace in the Prince of Peace. To find my rest in God. 

I found myself thinking that if this was a message I needed to hear today, then perhaps it was a message you also needed to hear. 

During Lent, may all our souls be still. May we trust that the Lord is on our side. May we leave it to God to order and provide. May we be good keepers of our souls. 



Lent Project: waiting

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, And in His word I do hope.
Psalms ‭130‬:‭5‬ NKJV

Waiting is not easy. We live in a rather instantaneous world. I can deposit a cheque to my bank account in a matter of seconds from my home, simply by taking a picture of it. I can download the new Imagine Dragons album in minutes (actually, I’m doing that as I write this blog). If someone recommends a book to me in a conversation, I no longer have to wait to find it in the library or in a physical bookstore, I can download a copy to my Kindle app as we speak. I can upload videos and pictures of my trip (say, to the Holy Land) in real time (ie as they happen). 

We are not used to having to wait. Waiting no longer comes easy to us. 

And yet, in the Bible, “waiting on the Lord” is a positive thing. It is an exercise of trust, an act of faith, a labour of love. If one waits on the Lord, one does so with sureness of His coming, with hope for His future, with love and respect for His timing. 

Lent, like Advent, is a time of waiting. It is a season in which we wait on the Lord. A season in which we do not rush to the end of the story, but willingly dwell in the in-between-time. We do this with patience and with confidence. We do this because there are things we can only learn in the in-between. There are things that we can only come to while we are waiting on the Lord. 

And we do this, because it reflects our belief that God is in control. That God is wiser than we are. That if God is making us wait, He has some very good reasons for it. We do this because we trust God. 

So may you wait on the Lord during Lent. May waiting strengthen your faith, teach you what you need to learn, and ultimately be a beautiful part of your journeying with the Lord. And may you always hope in His word.



Lent Project: Abundantly 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. ‭John‬ ‭10‬:‭10‬ NRSV

I love this verse. Always have. I’ve always found it strangely comforting that Jesus not only acknowledges that there is an enemy (here called “the theif”) and that his sole purpose is to make a mess of everything. This is, as far as I am concerned, the closest thing I have ever found to answer to the question, “why do bad things happen?”

Simply because the theif comes to kill and to steal and to destroy. 

That would sound like a fairly dark and pessimistic statement from Jesus, but he immediately contrasts the theif’s purpose with his own purpose – to give life and give it abundantly. 

As we journey through Lent may you know what it is to have life in abundance. May you draw close to the One who came that you might have life and have it abundantly. 



Lent Project: Personal…

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. ‭1 Peter‬ ‭1‬:‭18-21‬ NLT

One of the things I love about God is that he always makes it personal. Salvation isn’t just salvation. It’s MY salvation. It’s YOUR salvation. 

God’s plan to save  humanity isn’t some financial formula or theoretical idea. It’s blood and sacrifice. And not just anyone’s blood, not just anyone’s sacrifice. It’s his own son’s blood. It is his own son’s sacrifice. 

It’s painful and it’s intimate. It strikes at God’s own heart. 

I love that Andrew Peterson sings, “isn’t it love, to look down from the sky, to see your only son on the cross asking ‘why?,’ and somehow let him die that way and not call the whole thing off?” (Isn’t it Love, LIVE)

So…why didn’t God call the whole thing off? Because of love. Because of a deeply felt, personal love for you and for me and for everyone who has lived and who will live. 

Because you matter and because I matter, personally, to God. Enough that the pain of Jesus’ death was a worthwhile price to pay. 

Sometimes, that completely overwhelms me. I literally lose my ability to speak or write articulately about it. I, who communicates for a living, am left with no words. Just the slow drop of tears and a profound gratitude. Tonight is one of those nights. 

So, thank you, God. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Holy Spirit. 

For making it personal. 

 

Lent Project: Bent close…



I have a hearing problem. Always have had. I was born with it – an abnormal hearing pattern that is just within the bounds of the “normal” spectrum. 

Most days this doesn’t bother me at all. It’s just part of who I am. Part of the way God made me. But every once in a while (usually when I am over-tired or there is an abundance of “distraction” noise around), I feel my hearing problem acutely. Trust me, after the third or fourth time, “I still didn’t hear that,” stops being cute and just becomes irritating. 

I know it could be worse – as a kid I feared losing my hearing entirely, especially since ear infections were an incredibly frequent occurrence  for me – but I also know what it is to struggle to hear things that others hear easily. I know what it is to have to “bend close” to clearly hear someone speak. 

Because of this, a verse like this is dear to my heart. I love that God “bends close” to hear our prayers. God doesn’t bend close becase he has a hearing problem, he bends close because he cares. Because it is important to him to hear our prayers. Because we are his precious children – each and everyone of the billions of us on this planet – and he CARES to hear what we have to say to him. 

The Psalmist says because of this – because God bends close – he will pray as long as he has breath. Because God’s desire to hear the Psalmist’s prayers makes the Psalmist want to keep talking to God. That’s the way of relationship. 

This Lent, as we journey toward the cross, may you know that God’s ear is bent close to catch even your smallest prayer. May that sense of God’s attentiveness spur you on to pray more often. And may you find your relationship with God growing stronger because of it. 

Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!
Psalms‬ ‭116‬:‭2‬ NLT