Saturday, April 11
We serve a God of resurrection.
Life out of death.
Order out of chaos.
Light out of darkness.
Hope out of despair.
In the Gospel according to John, Jesus’ good friend Lazarus dies. Lazarus’ sisters send word to Jesus that Lazarus is sick. Jesus gets the word and does nothing, right away. He waits three days before heading to Bethany.
Jesus was quite close to this family. The sisters of Lazarus are Mary and Martha who appear in one very well known story about what is important. Mary hangs out with Jesus while Martha is busy getting things ready to serve a meal and offer hospitality to her guests. Jesus says to Martha that Mary had chosen the one thing that is worth worrying about. That which is at the heart of life. I take it to mean relationship with Jesus, and maybe also others, is life-giving and so important that even worrying about how the table is set doesn’t compare.
This is the same family who send Jesus word that their brother is sick.
When he arrives in Bethany, Jesus is told that Lazarus has already died. Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and I am life…”
After weeping, Jesus calls Lazarus out of his grave. Lazarus steps out, alive!
Before that, Jesus wept. The crowd said, “See how much he loved him.” Others think it was because of the lack of faith among the gathered crowd. I’m with the crowd on this one. I like to think that Jesus cried because Jesus loved this family so much.
I wonder when the last time he saw Lazarus was? Have you thought about that over the last few weeks? If I’d known that March 13 was the last time I’d see____... my friend, daughter, grandkids, etc. If I’d known I would not see you for weeks on end, when I saw you last I would have hugged you tighter, longer. I would have made sure to cherish the moment. I would have ordered pizza and left the silver unpolished.
Maybe Jesus’ followers would have those same questions and thoughts just a few days later. After Jesus’ crucifixion and burial, I wonder if anyone said, “If I’d known this was going to happen, I would have listened more closely. I would have let him know how much I loved him.”
When Martha heard Jesus was approaching Bethany, she ran out to meet him and said, “There you are! If you had come sooner Lazarus would not have died.”
Oh, but in this situation, God does God’s best work.
DO: This is our last day of this Holy Week experience. Today find a picture that represents LIFE. If you are able to share it on facebook, please do with #theopentable OR you can email it to email@example.com
PRAY as those who have hope as we wait for Easter celebration tomorrow:
Lord of love and Lord of peace
Lord of resurrection life
Through our lives
and through your power.
Friday, April 10
I am sharing with you two options for this Good Friday.
The first is a virtual Stations of the Cross which I found fresh and meaningful. Each station is 2 minutes or shorter and shows the central place of God's kingdom in Jesus' story and our story. CLICK HERE
The second is from Qspirit. "The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” is posted with commentary, prayers and short Bible passages. The paintings present Jesus as a contemporary gay man in a modern city as he lives out the dramatic events of Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, and his arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection. CLICK HERE
Do: Today, discover an old favorite or take a new picture depicting or representing LOVE. If you are able to share it on facebook #theopentable please do. If not you can email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
May you remember Jesus' life and death on this day.
Thursday, April 9
This day we remember the last dinner that Jesus ate with his disciples. That last meal was actually a very ordinary one. Yes, it was a Passover meal, so that was not like any other dinner, in that sense. What I mean is, it was a meal as beloved and comforting as Christmas dinner or an annual family reunion. There were rituals and traditions and familiar actions.
After the dinner was over, Jesus took some bread from the table and he said, “Let this bread remind you of me.” Then he reached for a cup of wine on the table and said, “This is a new covenant that is for all people.”
“Oh yes,” he continued, “whenever you eat and drink this remember me.”
In ordinary actions like eating a beloved holiday meal, we are to remember Jesus. When we share food, bread and drink, it reminds us of this new world he brings. This reminds us that in the ordinary things of life, like bread, Jesus is known. This reminds us that in the human act of sitting down together to eat, Jesus is present.
Ann Weems writes in her poem titled “Holy Communion” these words:
Eat. Drink. Remember
Who I am.
Eat. Drink. Remember
Who I am
So you can remember
Who you are.
Eat. Drink. Remember
Who I am
So you can remember
Who you are
And tell others.
Eat. Drink.. Remember
Who I am
So you can remember
Who you are
And tell others
So that all
In holy communion.
Do: Today, take a picture that expresses BREAD for you. It could be actual bread on this day we remember. It could express God in the ordinary. Share it in facebook if you can #theopentable OR you can email it to the email@example.com
Pray: God, may I see you in the ordinary. May I stop looking up and over for you in the big stuff. May I start to look around at eye level and below to see that you are right here. You are in the things of everyday life. You feed me on the journey with simple food. Help me honor those who need to eat nourishing Life-giving bread so they can see that God is in them too. Help us all to remember who we are. Amen.
Wednesday, April 8
Rev. David Bast writes the following and I could not say it any better.
In the opening verse of Genesis 12 the Lord tells Abram (later his name was changed to Abraham), “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you.”
Abram went, and God blessed. But this isn’t the whole story. For that you need to read the rest of the sentence. Here’s how it continues: “I will bless you,” God says to Abram, “and you will be a blessing… and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” God’s promise to bless Abram is accompanied by a further explanation. God’s blessing of Abram is just the first step in a much bigger plan to extend that blessing through Abram to all the earth’s peoples.
Think in the first place about what this statement says to us regarding God’s intentions. The fuller expression of God’s promise points to God’s greater plan for the world. God certainly intended to bless Abram and his descendants, but God never meant this blessing to be exclusive. God singled out Abram (and later his physical descendants, the nation of Israel) as a first strategic step in what God always determined would be a world-embracing plan of salvation.
In other words, God’s selection of Abram (and Israel) – was a means to an end, rather than the end itself. The theological way of putting this is to say that election is for the sake of mission.
The biblical way of saying it is found in a passage like Isaiah 42:1, 6-7: Here is my servant…my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations…I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness…I will…make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
DO: Select or take a picture today that represents BLESSING to you. Then, if you are able, share it on facebook #theopentable. If not, you can email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
PRAY: God, forgive us for thinking exclusively of material resources when we refer to your blessing. You bless us with so much more. Reveal the reality that your blessing is for a purpose. You call us to follow you and to be part of your mission in the world. May the people in our lives, our neighborhoods, coworkers, friends, teachers, delivery persons, all people of this planet we call home, be blessed by you through us. Amen.
Tuesday, April 7
I want to change things about me. I want to fit into the shirts I haven’t worn for two years. I want to be more disciplined. I want to be more focused. I want to eat better. I want to exercise. I want to…
I have found that wanting to do something will not accomplish it. I must have a level of intentionality to invest time in new behaviors, or new reality just isn’t going to happen.
Real change, transformation, is about lifestyle changes. To maintain any goal takes a change in habit. I heard that it takes seventy times of repetition for a habit to become part of your new routine. Example: if I want to meditate regularly, I need to stick with it seventy times for it to be part of my life.
Romans 12:1-2 (The Message) 1-2 says: So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed (transformed) from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
What Paul writes about here is no different than any other new habit we are trying to acquire. Paul is saying, in your everyday life, your “walking around” life, you need to be intentional about reflecting Jesus. Do you pay attention to what God is up to and then discover how to join in? That takes discipline and practice. Maybe seventy times seven.
Paul also affirms that it is God’s work in you. You are not trying to do this all on your own. Trust that God is transforming you into a follower of Jesus that God desires you to be. Pay attention and open yourself intentionally.
DO: Find or take a photo today that expresses TRANSFORMATION for you.
If you are able, post the photo on facebook #theopentable or send it to email@example.com
PRAY: God, I take my life, my ordinary life and everything it entails today – sleeping, eating, working, and I place it before you as an offering. I embrace what you have done for me and what you continue to do in me. Help me this day to not simply go with the flow of the culture around me but instead to pay attention to you in all things. Change me Lord from the inside out. Help me to recognize where you want me to join your mission in today’s world and respond. Bring out the best in me today as you make me more like you. Amen.
Monday, April 6
Praise the Lord, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Praise the Lord, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
The above words are from Psalm 103. The psalmist has grand thoughts when it comes to praising God in this psalm. The writer of this ancient poem/song calls on the angels in the heavens to praise God. The writer invokes all heavenly hosts. Servants who do God’s will are invited to lift praise to God. Then as grand as it might ever could get, the psalmist says “all his works…everywhere…” praise the Lord.
This week always ends in grand praise when the Church gathers in beautiful sanctuary settings to lift voices and musical notes in praise to God for resurrection. Easter is a day when worship planners scramble to find brass, or timpani, or trumpet to add to the grand praise. Better yet, all three! Wow.
We start the week following Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem which included some grand praise as well. I think most of the praise that day was for Jesus who was perceived to be the overthrower of the Roman occupiers. The rest of the week wasn’t so crowd-pleasingly praiseful!
On this Monday of Jesus’ last week, what do you think of when the word praise is brought to mind? Even in the confines of homes, workers on the frontlines, during times of physical separation, even when we are afraid for the next few weeks, there is reason to praise.
God is grand, indeed. Yet, the God we serve and the God we praise is the God who is here. Already beside us, lifting the load with us, we don’t have to go far or call very loudly to get God’s attention.
The psalmist finally adds at the end, almost like an afterthought (“Oh, yeah, I can praise too, huh?!), “Praise the Lord, MY soul.” The everyday human being is included. Lift up your soul and praise the Lord.
Do this: Find a scene, item, moment, that speaks to you of PRAISE on this Monday. Take a picture or share a picture you already have. Post it on Facebook on your profile with #theopentable
If you can, share it to The Open Table page. If you don’t have facebook, email the photo to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll post it for you. Let us see each other’s pictures as a scrapbook of our holy virtual prayer walk this week.
Pray the opening line of Psalm 103: “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise (God’s) holy name.: