March 27, 2016
Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!
Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!
But the pains which he endured, Alleluia!
our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
now above the sky he's King, Alleluia!
where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!
March 23, 2016
MEANS: look at or observe attentively, typically over a period of time; keep under careful, protective, or secret observation; observe and guard in a protective way; follow closely or maintain an interest in; exercise care, caution, or restraint about; look out or be on the alert for; be careful.
FROM: Old English wæcce watchfulness;’wæccende ‘remaining awake’
BIBLE VERSE: Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn't you keep watch for one hour?” (Mark 14:37)
THOUGHTS: This verse is familiar from the Passion narrative of Jesus in the garden before his arrest. He asks Peter, James, and John to watch and pray with him, but they fall asleep. Some churches hold an all-night vigil sometime during Holy Week (usually from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday) to commemorate this scene and allow us to sit and pray for an hour, or more. It is a moving time. Sitting in the silence of the church or chapel, you do find it hard to remain focused and prayerful. How much more would the disciples have found it hard to stay awake after the Passover meal and Jesus’ unusual words. “This is my Body…this is my Blood.” Weighed down by emotion and food, they slept, only to be roused by the Master’s sorrowful words, ‘could you not keep watch for one hour?’
If you have the opportunity to keep vigil with Jesus this Holy Week, I encourage you to do so. You might take the time to sit with the words we’ve looked at since January; and ponder what they mean in light of your life this Holy Week.
PRAYER: Blessed Jesus, help me to watch with you and walk with you this Holy Week along the path to the cross. Let me not fear my own cross, but to gladly follow you to victory.
o MEANS: produce or provide (a natural, agricultural, or industrial product); produce or deliver (a result or gain); generate (a specified financial return); give way to arguments, demands, or pressure; relinquish possession of (something); give (something) up; cease to argue about; give way under force or pressure
FROM: Old English g(i)eldan ‘pay, repay,’ of Germanic origin.
BIBLE VERSE: Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. (James 5:7)
THOUGHTS: As we come to the end of the alphabet and this series of meditations (there being no ‘x’ or ‘z’ words), I invite you to consider whether the discipline of looking at a few Bible words and citations has yielded any results in your heart. Is there any ‘payment’ of a new insight or two? Is there a new ‘crop’ of ideas to ponder going forward?
The citation says that the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop. In the same way, our Lord patiently waits for our faith to produce something, and that requires yielding ourselves to God's leading.
There is a story called the "Daffodil Principle" that encapsulates how small, daily efforts can result in great beauty. This is the story of one woman's quest to beautify a hillside, one daffodil at a time. It concludes by saying "It's so pointless to think of the lost hours of yesterdays. The way to make learning a lesson of celebration instead of a cause for regret is to only ask, 'How can I put this to use today?' "
PRAYER: May my heart be planted with your word to yield new life each day.
You might jot down thoughts that come as you keep vigil with God.
Draw a field or garden of flowers, and label some of them with the fruits you bear.
Consider how these words and others in this series have given you insight into yourself or God.
March 13, 2016
MEANS: confirm or support (something that has been questioned); maintain (a custom or practice)
FROM: Middle English up and hold (hold is partly from Old Norse hald: hold, support, custody)
BIBLE VERSE: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:1)
THOUGHTS: What do you ‘uphold’? Values? Rights? Freedoms? The flag? Virtue? I notice that the original Norse hald has the connotation of ‘custody’ as well as supporting. In that sense, when we uphold something or someone, we are in custody, in charge, or a steward of that thing.
Our verse is from Isaiah where God is talking about the one ‘I uphold…my chosen’. While in Isaiah this refers to the Suffering Servant, it also could refer to each of us. Every living thing is upheld by God’s love and chosen to act in the world. God has custody, charge, stewardship of our lives. We do not have to stress, because God has chosen us and loves us...no matter what!
PRAYER: Loving Father, help me to trust that you uphold me in all events of my life. You are there in things I think are ‘bad’ and those I count as ‘good’ or blessings. All are yours and we are in your hand.
MEANS: an act of defeating an enemy or opponent in a battle, game, or other competition
FROM: Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French victorie, from Latin victoria
BIBLE VERSE: But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15:57)
THOUGHTS: I don’t know about you, but I often think of victory more in terms of military might, than in a playful game. For others, even the contest of a game can be a struggle for ultimate ‘victory’. Currently there are men and women contesting to ‘win the victory’ and the prize of election.
In the letter to the Corinthians, Paul specifies that God ‘gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’. What is this a victory from or over? In the verses before, Paul talks about our ultimate resurrection when “the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised…” (Echoes of the trumpets in this passage from Handel’s Messiah in my head!) He says that “Death is swallowed up in victory.” Verse 57 affirms that we have victory over sin and death in Christ. Christ’s Resurrection has ‘won for us the victory’. There are in fact at least 34 verses in the Bible telling of God’s work in bringing a victory for God’s people. As we enter the last couple of weeks before Easter, it is a reminder of the price paid so that the Love of God could win such a victory.
PRAYER: Victorious God, help me to remember that in You I have victory over all things that might make me afraid. You are in charge and lead us to victory over the ultimate enemy-death.
You may want to list in your journal some of the things you ‘uphold’ as important.
Are there things that make you afraid? Write them or draw them in your journal and then write VICTORY over them.Consider the idea that you are upheld by God and that gives you victory over all things.
March 6, 2016
MEANS: resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.
FROM: Old English stedefæst: standing firm
BIBLE VERSE: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10 NIV)
THOUGHTS: Other Bible translations of Psalm 51:10 ask for a ‘right spirit’ (KJV) or ‘loyal spirit’ (NLT). The sense of each one being that we need to have our hearts, our spirits changed. Psalm 51 is read on Ash Wednesday as a call to a holy Lent. The Psalm begins by reminding us that God is steadfast. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love…blot out my transgressions.” We, however, are in need of being re-created and made new with a relationship that is firmly fixed on God.
You may remember the story of the Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Anderson. The soldier is part of a set of soldiers created from a single spoon. He is missing one leg because the tin ran out. However, he falls in love with the ballerina doll. Through a series of adventures he gets separated from the ballerina and his home, until he is swallowed by a fish. This fish is bought in the market and brought home for dinner. Discarded and thrown into the fire, the soldier melts into a heart, still loving the ballerina, who herself blows into the fire and is consumed “except her spangle, and it was burned as black as a coal.”
Our own lives are a series of adventures that change and renew us so that what is left at the end is a heart for God.
PRAYER: Living God, renew a steadfast, unwavering spirit in my so that my heart may be fixed on you.
MEANS: grow or develop well or vigorously, prosper; flourish.
FROM: Middle English (originally in the sense ‘grow, increase’): from Old Norse thrífask, grasp, get hold of.’
BIBLE VERSE: May grain abound throughout the land; on the tops of the hills may it sway. May the crops flourish like Lebanon and thrive like the grass of the field (Psalm 72:16)
THOUGHTS: Thrive is a word that isn’t used much in the Bible. The word in this psalm citation is also translated ‘flourish’, which is one of the definitions of the word. If we read all of Psalm 72 we discover that it is a prayer for the prosperity of the king. “…So may he live, and may the gold of Sheba be given to him; And let them pray for him continually; Let them bless him all day long. May there be abundance of grain in the earth on top of the mountains; Its fruit will wave like the cedars of Lebanon; And may those from the city flourish like vegetation of the earth. May his name endure forever; May his name increase as long as the sun shines; And let men bless themselves by him; Let all nations call him blessed…” (Ps. 72:15-17)
This is also a prayer for those of us who are sons and daughters of the King of Kings. We are blessed by God to Thrive. A contemporary Christian song by the group Casting Crowns is called Thrive. The artists remind us that we are “Like a tree planted by the water We never will run dry. So living water flowing through…Fill our hearts and flood our souls with one desire Just to know You and To make You known… We know we were made for so much more Than ordinary lives. It's time for us to more than just survive We were made to thrive…”
PRAYER: Loving Lord of Life, Give us we pray that Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, and Love Unstoppable to know that Anything is possible. Help us to know You and make You known, for we know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives. We were made to thrive
Read all of Psalm 51 and journal about ways that God’s steadfast love is changing your heart this Lent.
Find an image that illustrates what it means, to you, to THRIVE in your relationship with God. Is it the ‘tree by the water’ that the song mentions? Is it a green field? Is it a cross?
God gives us, as the song says, “Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, and Love Unstoppable”. How does that prove God’s steadfast Love to you, and help you to thrive in your relationship?