Daily Advent Devotional: WEEK of JOY: Day 20-Fri, Dec 17

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them … —Psalm 5:11

 What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?—Job 38:24

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Joy is fueled by the same source as hope and peace: it is fed by gratitude. As you light the three Advent candles, give thanks for the time and opportunity to reflect.  

            Re-framing each day through a lens of gratitude and appreciation is an excellent place for light to take hold. You perceive your world, your context, your life, and ideally yourself, with greater compassion and more perspective. You grow closer to connecting with those parts of your life that embody your values.

            Before you blow out the candles, give thanks for the presence of light in the world. Give thanks for the ways you find to share your own light.  — Rev Gail

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You show your humanity by how you see yourself not as apart from others but from your connection to others.—Desmond Tutu

When you show compassion, when you show caring, when you show love to others, do things for others, in a wonderful way you have a deep joy that you can get in no other way.—Dalai Lama

Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.—Yogi Bhajan

Advent Daily Devotional: WEEK of PEACE: DAY 12 -Thurs, Dec 9

Peace be within your walls. — Psalm 122:7

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. — Isaiah 60:1

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The two Advent candles create more light together. The pair of lights suggest a relationship.

            Peaceful relationships involve communication, reciprocity, and cooperation. People connected in such a way also recognize, accept, and trust each other.

            How do you spend time being present to people with whom you have relationships? How do you ‘show up’? How do they ‘show up’ for you? How do you share time and connection? What forms of communication do you choose? In what ways do you build trust between yourself and others?

            Clarity about being ‘okay’ yourself, so that you can be available to someone else, actually strengthens your ability to contribute to relationships. Think of it as the oxygen mask lesson on an airplane, when you are told to put on your own mask first, before assisting someone else. For instance, be sure you continue to be attentive to your own equilibrium via self-care: sleep, exercise, good nutrition, strategies for relaxation and renewal. Set reasonable limits to the way you offer your presence to others, whenever you can establish such boundaries, though sometimes caregivers are in situations that challenge self-care). Always check your boundaries within relationships.

            Sometimes, when you are connected to people who are struggling with circumstances outside their control, and beyond your capacity to change, showing up is the most significant contribution you can make. In caregiving circles, this can be called ‘bearing witness.’ Sometimes it takes the shaping of being a consistent presence or companion, perhaps it takes the shape of mentoring or coaching, or just being a friend who listens and hangs out. This attentiveness may often be the best, most significant response you can offer someone.

            Ultimately, peaceful relationships permit each participant to honor the light within other(s). Such a bond also enables you to shine your own light, too. Shine on! — Rev Gail

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No person, no place, and no thing has any power over us, for ‘we’ are the only thinkers in our mind.
When we create peace and harmony and balance in our minds, we will find it in our lives. — Louise Hay

Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset. — St. Francis de Sales

Holy Week Meditation: Wed, Mar 31

Text for Wednesday: John 13:21-32 Jesus Foretells His Betrayal

21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23 One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”[a] So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.[b] 27 After he received the piece of bread,[c] Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

Meditations on Trust & Betrayal

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. – Corie ten Boom

Trust starts with truth and ends with truth. — Santosh Kalwar

Trust but verify. – Ronald Reagan

Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time. – Maya Angelou

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible. – Anton Chekhov

Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved. – William P. Young

We’re paying the highest tribute you can pay a man. We trust him to do right. It’s that simple. – Harper Lee

People that have trust issues only need to look in the mirror. There they will meet the one person that will betray them the most. – Shannon Adler

Trust is built with consistency. – Lincoln Chafee

Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him. – Booker T. Washington

Betrayal

“It was a mistake,” you said. But the cruel thing was, it felt like the mistake was mine, for trusting you. David Levithan

For there to be betrayal, there would have to have been trust first. Suzanne Collins

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare. Brené Brown

To me, the thing that is worse than death is betrayal. You see, I could conceive death, but I could not conceive betrayal. Malcolm X

I’m not really sure why. But… do you stop loving someone just because they betray you? I don’t think so. That’s what makes the betrayal hurt so much – pain, frustration, anger… and I still loved … Brandon Sanderson

Commentary on Judas:

“One of the things that might set Judas apart from the rest of Jesus’s disciples is that Judas is not from Galilee. Jesus is from the northern part of Israel, or Roman Palestine. But [Judas’s] surname might be evidence that he’s from the southern part of the country, meaning he may be a little bit of an outsider.” — Robert Cargill Alternatively, others have suggested that the name Iscariot identified Judas with the Sicarii, or “dagger-men,” a group of Jewish rebels who opposed the Roman occupation and committed acts of terrorism circa A.D. 40-50 on behalf of their nationalist cause. But there’s nothing in the Bible to link Judas to the Sicarii, and they were known to be active only after his death. — History Channel

Judas was an ultimate tragedy—probably the greatest tragedy that ever lived. He is the perfect and prime example of what it means to have opportunity and then lose it. He becomes all the more terrible because of the glorious beginnings he had. Judas followed the same Christ as the others. For three years, day in and day out, he occupied himself with Jesus Christ. He saw the same miracles; heard the same words; performed some of the same ministries; was esteemed in the same way the other disciples were—yet he did not become what the others became. In fact, he became the very opposite. — John MacArthur

‘… when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot”.’ Jesus’ answer to Peter and John was really a final appeal of love to Judas. “The morsel” was a piece broken from some of the unleavened cakes that would be on the table as a part of the Passover feast. Also on the table would be a dish called cheshireth, filled with bitter herbs; vinegar; salt; and mashed fruit, consisting of dates, figs, raisins, and water—all mixed together into a pasty substance. They would eat it with the unleavened bread like a dip. It was very special for the host to dip a morsel into the cheshireth and give it to the guest of honor. And Jesus, kindly, in a gesture of love toward Judas, dipped the morsel and gave it to Judas, as if Judas were the guest of honor. One would think that all Jesus had done for Judas that night would have broken his heart, but it didn’t. Judas was an apostate. His heart was hardened, and nothing Jesus could do for him would break it. — John MacArthur

But the name “Judas” became synonymous with treachery in various languages, and Judas Iscariot would be portrayed in Western art and literature as the archetypal traitor and false friend. Dante’s Inferno famously doomed Judas to the lowest circle in Hell, while painters like Giotto and Caravaggio, among others, immortalized the traitorous “Judas kiss” in their iconic works. — History Channel

Alternate Perspective from Gospel of Judas (Gnostic Gospel, 280CE)

Jesus utters his most startling instruction … “For you will sacrifice the man who clothes me” … Judas will carry out the sacrifice that truly counts, the sacrifice that will result in salvation: He will sacrifice the physical body of Jesus, thus allowing Jesus to complete his mission. In this way, Judas does indeed become the greatest of the disciples… There is no mention of a trial, execution, or resurrection. The Gospel of Judas has related what it wanted to relate: The obedience of Judas and how that obedience assisted Jesus in fulfilling his salvific mission. Judas has been transformed from villain to hero, from traitor to saint.
     The Gospel of Judas makes a meaningful contribution to our understanding of second-century Christianity, especially with regard to the question of diversity. We have here what may be a very early exemplar of Sethian Gnosticism, a form of Gnosticism that may have roots in Jewish pessimism that emerged in the aftermath of the disastrous wars in 66-70 and 115-117.8
 
     It is highly unlikely that the Gospel of Judas preserves for us authentic, independent material, material that supplements our knowledge of Judas and his relationship to Jesus … dismisses the Gospel of Judas as having no value for understanding the historical Judas. — National Geographic

Tuesday of Holy Week

A Seed grows with no sound but a tree falls with huge noise. Destruction has noise, but creation it quiet. This is the power of silence. Grow silently. — Unattributed

Text for Tuesday: John 12:20-36

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

Jesus Speaks about His Death27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people[a] to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah[b] remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

Meditations on a Falling Seed:

A seed neither fears light nor darkness, but uses both to grow.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo
 
Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed. — Robert H. Schuller

The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us in our minds wherever we go. — Martha Washington
 
We know we cannot plant seeds with closed fists. To sow, we must open our hands. — Adolfo Perez Esquivel

Meditations on Palm Sunday

The word endures. The Word endures. We who stand among the Palm Sunday crowds know that the Word will soon be beaten, mocked, and killed. We know, too, that that is not the end of the tale. — Jan Richardson

“Hey sanna, ho sanna, sanna, sanna, hey sanna, ho sanna sanna sanna , ho sanna, hey sanna, Hey, hey JC, JC won’t you smile at me. …” — Webber and RiceJesus Christ Superstar (rock opera)

Songs


Blessing of Palms
This blessing
can be heard coming from a long way off.
This blessing is making its steady way
up the road toward you.
This blessing
blooms in the throats of women,
springs from the hearts of men,
tumbles out of the mouths of children.
This blessing
is stitched into the seams
of the cloaks that line the road,
etched into the branches
that trace the path,
echoes in the breathing
of the willing colt,
the click of the donkey’s hoof
against the stones.
Something is rising beneath this blessing.
Something will try to drown it out.
But this blessing
cannot be turned back, cannot be made to still its voice,
cannot cease to sing its praise
of the One who comes along the way it makes.
—Jan Richardson

Hosanna: Help Us!

The Hebrew word Halleluia means “praise the Lord;” Hosanna means “save us!” or “save!” The Palm Sunday crowd falsely assumed that Jesus would bring political liberation.— Steve Vredenburgh

We think of “Hosanna” as a shout of praise, but the basic meaning of this Hebrew word is “Help!” It is an SOS cry. That appears to be the way the first Palm Sunday crowd used it. Having heard of Jesus’ ability to feed an army with a school boy’s lunch and His recent accomplishment of bringing a dead Lazarus back to life, they were convinced He was a candidate for the monarchy. “Jesus, Help! Expel our hated Roman rulers. You be our King!” How disappointed they were when Jesus, after riding into the capitol city on the wave of the crowd’s enthusiasm, merely looked around and walked back out. — Merwin VanDoornik

But what I didn’t know until this week is what the word “hosanna” actually means.  All these years, I thought it meant some church-y version of “We adore you!” or “You rock!” or “Go, king!”  It doesn’t.  In Hebrew, it means something less adulatory and more desperate.  Less generous and more demanding.  It means, “Save now!”  — Debie Thomas

“Hosanna” 
does come from an old Hebrew phrase, but one that was less praise and more desperate plea. “Save now!” It was a phrase stripped of all pretense of politeness. “Help!” Its insistent cry was one reserved for royalty or divinity. “Deliver us! Don’t wait!” The people are either calling Jesus “king” or “God” or both. … My own mind is drawn today to Anne Lamott’s book, which you have heard us reference a few times: Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. In it, Lamott says that all prayers boil down to these three simple words: help, thanks, wow. And more often than not, these concepts overlap and run together. … I think a truly holy Hosanna can hold these three words together, this help, thanks, and wow. Hosanna cries for deliverance. It calls out in gratitude. And it gives voice to holy awe. — Marthame Sanders

By Which Gate? 

Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan argue that two processions entered Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday two thousand years ago; Jesus’s was not the only Triumphal Entry.
    Every year during Passover — the Jewish festival that swelled Jerusalem’s population from its usual 50,000 to at least 200,000 — the Roman governor of Judea would ride up to Jerusalem from his coastal residence in the west.  He would come in all of his imperial majesty to remind the Jewish pilgrims that Rome demanded their complete loyalty, obedience, and submission.  The Jewish people could commemorate their ancient victory against Egypt and slavery if they wanted to.  But if they tried any real time resistance, they would be obliterated without a second thought. 
      As Pilate clanged and crashed his imperial way into Jerusalem from the west, Jesus approached from the east, looking (by contrast) ragtag and absurd.  Unlike the Roman emperor and his legions, who ruled by force, coercion, and terror, Jesus came defenseless and weaponless into his kingship.  Riding on a donkey, he all but cried aloud the bottom-line truth that his rule would have nothing to recommend it but love, humility, long-suffering, and sacrifice.  — Debie Thomas

The Rest of the Week

It seems reasonable to me that people choose to go from the Big Parade to the Empty Tomb and skip the stuff that makes them uncomfortable: stuff like how Jesus ate his last meal with the people he loved most, all of whom (perhaps like me) would betray abandon or deny him, that these friends (perhaps like me) couldn’t even stay awake while he prayed in the garden, that the crowd (perhaps like me) would strike and taunt him for not living up to their expectations, that the people would (perhaps like me) shout crucify him! And twist him a crown of thorns, that passersby would (perhaps like me) shout “for God’s sake, save yourself”.  Because we would save ourselves.  And the fact that Jesus got himself killed in a totally preventable way never once showing enough self-respect to fight back or get himself off that damned cross…well maybe he had it coming. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Five hundred years after that  … this story continues, the story of God’s decision to not hold back and watch to see what we might do on our own but instead to get involved, to take matters into the divine hands, to join God’s own self to us fully and completely so that we might live and die – and live again! – in hope and courage. That’s the story we tell, the story of this week’s dramatic reading, the story of God’s passionate and relentless quest to redeem each and all of us in love.  — David Lose

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