“Holy week. Sharing the walk with Jesus to the cross. I’ve been there for worship. God arranged for my week to be free from “work” which distracts me from Him. I’ve been waiting for the lesson of my heart which I knew would come this week. I’ve been reading my bible every night before bed. Reading about God’s love for us and His desires for us to love one another. Reading about all the different ways we sin and we are still forgiven provided we do not continue the sin and change our ways. I am awakening more.” Joy Levio
I spent the better part of this morning recounting the revelations I have had since the Ash Wednesday that I walked into Christ the King Church.
I had decided what I was going to do for Lent on that Ash Wednesday. It involved a big change of my daily eating habits. It was going to be a sacrifice for me of epic proportions.
I started reading the book that I have referenced for several weeks now. (I finished it!)
I received a handmade wooden cross that I was told upon receiving it, that I was supposed to give it away. (I did!)
What became of MY big plans to practice the “Daniel Fast” for not just three weeks as recommended, but for the entire Lenten season? My plans failed abysmally. I got the flu. Lost all of my strength and too much weight and I had to re think what I was doing. Was I fasting to show that I was in control or was I fasting for God? What did God want for me?
A church for my family…(God provided.)
New and renewed friendships…(God provided.)
Knowledge and understanding that my words that I “preach” to you and to all about God’s mercy and kindness and forgiveness and grace and love apply to me too…(God provided.)
A direction and outlet for my desire to minister…(God provided.)
And that is just the beginning of what I got…instead of what I gave up!
I have been to church my whole life, but I had never been to Holy Week services other than Easter Morning. Let me start by telling a little about Friday night. My children were all scattered here and there…so I went to the “Service of Light and Shadows” and sat with my new friend Joy. The first reading of the night was Psalm 143, A Psalm of David.
“Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land.
Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.”
I was done for after that.
I cried the whole rest of the service. My shirt was soaking wet. I used an entire pocket pouch of Kleenex that Joy had in her purse. It was not ok. I was in pain. My own pain…the pain of good people who I know who have enemies who try to harm them…the pain of all who love God and want good things for ALL people if ALL people would only choose God instead of evil.
Isn’t that what Easter is after all? God wants us so badly to be His that he did something drastic! Saying “I Love you!” didn’t get our attention. Making covenants with us got Him nowhere because we were too weak and pathetic to keep our end of the deal. But He would not give up on us. He NEVER gives up on us!
Part of the service Friday night was our Pastor coming into the sanctuary carrying a wooden cross over his shoulder and saying, “BEHOLD, THE LIFE-GIVING CROSS, ON WHICH WAS HUNG THE SALVATION OF THE WHOLE WORLD.” God in the form of a man left all of the “Father” and “Holy Spirit” parts at the door…and entered into our world as one of us. A baby…who had a mother and father and sisters and brothers and who grew. He had to learn. When he was hurt his skin bruised and bled. He knew hunger. He knew temptation. He felt deeply. He laughed and he cried. He was misunderstood and made fun of and criticized and betrayed and abandoned. His best friends left him. Just like us when we get so despairing, Jesus asked God if He was still there with him. But, of course God was…He always is.
The cross was not a place of death. It was and is LIFE- GIVING. We did not hang on the cross for all of the things that we have done, all of the pain that we have caused others and God…GOD saved us in a way that was certain to grab out attention. Mankind is not easy to impress. God desperately wants us to SEE and KNOW and UNDERSTAND the importance of choosing well…of choosing to be His.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
Not just any man laid down His life…but God himself… in flesh. And he didn’t just lay down his life for the people who were good to him…but for EVERYONE. To be His friend, we only need to acknowledge God’s constant attempts to tell us how much we are loved. And we do this by trying to daily live as He asks …to Love him, and to love each other.
The night before Easter, Saturday night, I went to church with my children and sat with Joy. This was a happy celebration that included an infant Baptism.
The little baby was squirmy and fussy…and then our Pastor put the first handful of Holy Water on the baby’s head. “I baptise you in the name of the Father”…next handful of Holy water “and of the Son”…next handful “and of the Holy Spirit”. The baby gasped audibly and stopped wiggling. She looked up above her head and there is no doubt in my mind that she was seeing something divine. It might have been a peek at heaven, or her Guardian Angels, or God’s radiance. Before I became an adult and my eyes adjusted to seeing so clearly the things of this worlds , I am certain that I would have seen the magnificence that newly baptised baby could see…but even though my worldly eyes prevented me from seeing God’s realm…I could feel it. I could feel God’s presence in that place.
I could feel what Easter is all about.
Hope. Life. New Life that can only be found when we lose ourselves to the Will of God and the service of others. What are we called to do? What are we saved to do? Love God and Love others.
If you think that I don’t know what David was feeling when he was crying out to God in Psalm 143, you would be VERY wrong. I know EXACTLY. But I try with all of my heart not to focus on the anguish caused by my enemies, although it is constant and never-ceasing. I try desperately to bless them and pray that they will let God work in them. I want to train my spirit to sing praises to God for my certain deliverance. I may know too much of the world, and be too entrenched in its ways to be at complete peace like that baby on Easter Eve…but I am not far away from God. He is with me. I feel Angel wings, and I sense the Sweet Spirit of love that surrounds me. I have chosen to be God’s child.
It is not a coincidence that the church where I was baptised reminds me of the church home I found a few short weeks ago… on the first day of my Lenten Journey…Ash Wednesday. And the church where I was Baptised was and is called “Mt. Zion.”
“Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. ‘I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass, that you forget the Lord your Maker, who stretches out the heavens and who lays the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction? For where is the wrath of the oppressor? The cowering prisoners will soon be set free; they will not die in their dungeon, nor will they lack bread. For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord Almighty is his name. I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand— I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” Isaih 55 :11-16
“The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1
It is my birthday. The day after we celebrate Our Savior’s victory for us all. You are invited to join me in light… as God’s child. You will be invited into my home and all things will be made right. Don’t continue to try to destroy and harm. Children of God will not be afraid. I will not be afraid. You can lie, steal, bear false witness, try to imprison the innocent. I will continue to pray for you. We are all God’s children. I hope you choose to acknowledge that. I hope you choose to act like that.
ALL PEOPLE ….HEAR the Word of the Lord. Please. It is a matter of Life.