Category Archives: Lent

Lent.30: Pray

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Mark 14:37-42

[Jesus] came and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you stay alert for one hour? Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.”

Again, he left them and prayed, repeating the same words. And, again, when he came back, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open, and they didn’t know how to respond to him. He came a third time and said to them, “Will you sleep and rest all night? That’s enough! The time has come for the Human One[e] to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up! Let’s go! Look, here comes my betrayer.”

[e] Or Son of Man

Mark 14:37-42, Common English Bible (c) 2011

From the entry into Jerusalem to the intimacy of the Passover meal, it has been an emotionally charged week.  I imagine the disciples being both exhilarated and exhausted.  Now they have a chance to sit down, to be quiet, and to reflect on all that has happened.  But it is too much.  Their eyes refuse to stay open.  They lean back and fall asleep.  They did not mean to.  They could not help it.  Jesus tells them they need to pray.  But the effort is too much.  They stumble and try to wake up as they scramble to their feet when Jesus says “Get up!  Let’s go.”

We know we need to pray.  It strengthens our relationship with God and helps us keep our priorities straight.  Regular times of meditation and conversation with God remind us that we are not alone, that God and others do care, and that we are loved beyond measure.   Too often our eyes will not stay open and we drift to sleep – as the apostle Paul says “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”

-Teressa Clark, 2012, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 30

 

Lent.29: Beyond Sad

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Mark 14:32-36

Jesus and his disciples came to a place called Gethsemane. Jesus said to them, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John along with him. He began to feel despair and was anxious. He said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert.” Then he went a short distance farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if possible, he might be spared the time of suffering. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible. Take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”

Mark 14:32-36, Common English Bible (c) 2011

Jesus is “sad..as if dying” (CEB), “deeply grieved” (NRSV), “sad and troubled” (CEV).  And so he turns to God.  I am struck by the sheer honesty and gut-wrenching feelings expressed.  Jesus names what is in his mind and on his heart.  He does not hold back, but tells God how it is with his soul.  It is not well.  The future does not look promising.   At this point, Jesus is fully human and definitely prefers a different cup to drink, another path to walk, an alternate route to follow.

I remember being a young, single, professional adult when neither work nor a relationship were going well.  The future looked bleak, dismal and discouraging.  I wanted to escape.  Instead, I went for a walk.  It was a rather dark evening and a cold wind was blowing.  Tears streamed down my face.  As I neared my home church, I screamed at God.  The exact words are long forgotten, yet I know I named the deep anxiousness, uncertainty and fear pervading my life.  I had my say and kept walking.  There was no reassuring voice from God.  Yet little by little a sense of calm enveloped me.  As I approached my apartment, I saw a friend – an angel – who had come to check on me.  And I knew deep within that God cared, I was loved, and it all would work out okay.  Professional counseling proved extraordinarily helpful as I sorted out my next steps.  More than a half a lifetime later, I can testify it all worked out.

-Teressa Clark, 2012, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 29

 

Lent.28: Prediction

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Mark 14:27-31

Jesus said to them, “You will all falter in your faithfulness to me. It is written, I will hit the shepherd, and the sheep will go off in all directions.[d] But after I’m raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Peter said to him, “Even if everyone else stumbles, I won’t.”

But Jesus said to him, “I assure you that on this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.”

But Peter insisted, “If I must die alongside you, I won’t deny you.” And they all said the same thing.

[d] Zechariah 13:7

Mark 14:27-31, Common English Bible (c) 2011

I have an urge to tell Peter to not be so sure of himself.  And not only Peter.  Everyone there that night agrees:  they will stand with Jesus.

Faltering in faithfulness is so very human.  Not that we intend to be unfaithful – at least not usually.  We get caught up in the moment, don’t want to be caught out, aren’t sure about the risk in remaining faithful.

Jesus knows.  He makes a promise:  I will go before you.  When you can’t help but to run away, I’ll be waiting to greet you wherever you go.  When you stumble, I’ll be beside you to help you up.  Though you deny me – and you will – I will never deny you.

-Teressa Clark, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 28

Lent.27: Poured Out

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Mark 14:22-26

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. I assure you that I won’t drink wine again until that day when I drink it in a new way in God’s kingdom.”

After singing songs of praise, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Mark 14:22-26, Common English Bible (c) 2011

What intimacy!  Jesus has just told the disciples one of the Twelve will betray him.  Now this … taking, blessing, breaking, and giving bread … feeding body and soul … sharing the one cup.

What strange words!  “My blood … poured out.”  Jesus has no doubt about how things will end.  He has associated with, stood up for and spoken out on behalf of nobodies – the sick, the lame, the deaf, the mute, the blind – and outsiders – women, Samaritans, tax collectors.  He is aware he has angered religious and political leaders.  He knows what happens to people like him, to those who stir up trouble.

And then …. songs of praise?  They sing.  Music, drawing the community close.  Lyrics, spelling out what is most important.  Melody, harmony, rhythm, descant – embodying complex emotion and scattered thought.

-Teressa Clark, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 27

 

Lent.26: Saddened

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Mark 14:17-21

That evening, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. During the meal, Jesus said, “I assure you that one of you will betray me—someone eating with me.”

Deeply saddened, they asked him, one by one, “It’s not me, is it?”

Jesus answered, “It’s one of the Twelve, one who is dipping bread with me into this bowl. The Human One[b] goes to his death just as it is written about him. But how terrible it is for that person who betrays the Human One! [c] It would have been better for him if he had never been born.”

[b] [c] Or Son of Man

Mark 14:17-21, Common English Bible (c) 2011

Two disciples have gone ahead and prepared the Passover meal (see yesterday’s reading).  “Jesus and the Twelve” arrive that evening.  If nothing else, this tells us that there were more than twelve disciples!  Jesus’ disciples have always included the unnamed.  Whenever neither name nor gender is given, I’m inclined to think a woman is faithfully, boldly following Jesus.

Are they “deeply saddened” because one among them would betray Jesus?  Or because Jesus will be betrayed?  Are they saddened by their own doubts, their own level of willingness to remain with Jesus if things turn out badly, their own shaky commitment to his way of life?

When it comes to faith and life, what deeply saddens you?

-Teressa Clark, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 26

 

Lent.25: Preparation

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Mark 14:12-16

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, the disciples said to Jesus, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover meal?”

He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city. A man carrying a water jar will meet you. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks, “Where is my guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?”’ He will show you a large room upstairs already furnished. Prepare for us there.” The disciples left, came into the city, found everything just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

Mark 14:12-16, Common English Bible (c) 2011

Think of a significant annual celebration that involves a dinner laden with tradition.  Consider all the details:  from guests to menu to shopping to food preparation to setting the table.   Move the meal from the familiar place where it is always celebrated to a busy city crowded with people who are planning the very same thing.

The Passover is a celebration of God making a way when there seems to be no way.  A band of slaves in Egypt follows Moses’ directives (which had come from God).  Death, the tenth plague, passed over their homes while killing the first born of every Egyptian family.  The pharaoh finally wakes up and orders them out of Egypt.  A way is made to cross the Red Sea (Exodus 14); Moses, Miriam, and others break into song (Exodus 15).  The remembrance of it becomes an annual event.

Two of the disciples are ready, asking Jesus where they should prepare.  Surely someone among their traveling companions has relatives or other connections in the city.  To our surprise, Jesus doesn’t give them an address or even a name.  He tells them to follow a man with a water jar.  They do.  A way is made.

-Teressa Clark, 2012

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 25

 

Lent.24: Judas Iscariot

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Mark 14:10-11

Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to give Jesus up to them. When they heard it, they were delighted and promised to give him money. So he started looking for an opportunity to turn him in.

Mark 14:10-11, Common English Bible (c) 2011

When – or how – do we “give Jesus up”?

When – or how – do we step away from Jesus’ way, close our hearts, shut our eyes, stop up our ears, refuse to respond to a need?

Conversely, how do we boldly follow Jesus?

-Teressa Clark, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 24

 

Lent.23: Extravagance

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Mark 14:3-9

Jesus was at Bethany visiting the house of Simon, who had a skin disease. During dinner, a woman came in with a vase made of alabaster and containing very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke open the vase and poured the perfume on his head. Some grew angry. They said to each other, “Why waste the perfume? This perfume could have been sold for almost a year’s pay[aand the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her.

Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. You always have the poor with you; and whenever you want, you can do something good for them. But you won’t always have me. She has done what she could. She has anointed my body ahead of time for burial. I tell you the truth that, wherever in the whole world the good news is announced, what she’s done will also be told in memory of her.”

[aOr three hundred denaria; a denarion was equivalent to a day’s pay.

Mark 14:3-9, Common English Bible (c) 2011

I suspect, more often than not, we are like the guests in this story:  we think we have a better idea for what to do with someone else’s “treasure.”

But the story is not about perfume or treasure.  It is about a woman’s willingness to give away something precious without regard to financial cost.  Not only does the woman at Bethany act with extravagant generosity, she displays extraordinary kindness.  She willingly risked scorn in order to love lavishly.

It makes us nervous, causes us to question her motives.  We might even come up with a few cruel one-liners to zing her way.

Jesus says, “Back off.”  Her extraordinary kindness, extravagant generosity, and lavish love are genuine and welcome.

We would do well to imitate her actions.

-Teressa Clark, 2012, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 23

 

Lent.22: Cunning and Stealth

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Mark 14:1-2

It was two days before Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and legal experts through cunning tricks were searching for a way to arrest Jesus and kill him. But they agreed that it shouldn’t happen during the festival; otherwise, there would be an uproar among the people.

Mark 14:1-2, Common English Bible (c) 2011

The religious authorities are so afraid of Jesus (Mark 11:18), they plot to kill him.

They are so afraid of the crowd (Mark 12:12), they keep the plans secret.

Any time we find ourselves in the middle of doing something by cunning and stealth we should pause to consider our true motive.  A surprise celebration may be one thing, but plots and secrets we do not want made public are quite another.

Jesus lived with integrity and transparency.  Seems a reliable role model to me.

-Teressa Clark, 2012, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 22

 

Lent.21: Be Alert

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Mark 13:32-37

“But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the angels in heaven and not the Son. Only the Father knows. Watch out! Stay alert! You don’t know when the time is coming. It is as if someone took a trip, left the household behind, and put the servants in charge, giving each one a job to do, and told the doorkeeper to stay alert. Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know when the head of the household will come, whether in the evening or at midnight, or when the rooster crows in the early morning or at daybreak. Don’t let him show up when you weren’t expecting and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: Stay alert!”

Mark 13:32-37, Common English Bible (c) 2011

“Be a lert,” read the poster in Aunt Clara’s bedroom, “the world needs more lerts.”  (groan)

Pay attention.  Notice your neighbor.

Be compassionate.  Be kind.  Make decisions for the welfare of all.

Whatever your task in the body of Christ, the household of God, the neighborhood you call home, do your job well.  Make it your best effort.  Do it with intention, with thoughtfulness, with prayer.

Lest you think this is a command to work 24/7/365, I caution you to remember that even Jesus rested.

-Teressa Clark, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 21