A Time To Die

For everything there is a season…
A time to be born and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance…Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

This is the great mystery of God’s continual work of renewal in this world and in our lives. Jesus goes before us to show us the way.
For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross, disregarding its shame (Hebrews 12).

Perhaps something is dying away in your life right now. The grief may be unspeakable and unbearable. As you are able, allow Jesus to minister to you in this death and wait with him to instill hope that new life will come. Always, he walks with us toward wholeness.

John 19:28-37 (NLT)
Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

31 It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was Passover week). So they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. 33 But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. 34 One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. 35 (This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also may continue to believe.) 36 These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and “They will look on the one they pierced.”

For Reflection and Prayer:

What did you hear as you listened to the text? Did a word or phrase stand out in particular? Meditate on this word, phrase or picture. Is there more God wants to say to you?

This sacred passage is full of graphic details which engage all of our bodily senses. If and as you are able, notice which emotions and sensations arise within you as you dwell in the text. As part of your prayer, extend your compassion to Jesus, his companions and yourself however you are feeling in this moment.

Savor any comforting words or pictures God gives you. Simply rest in God’s presence.

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The Way of Trust and Surrender

Repeatedly through the Gospels, Jesus has candid conversations with those in relationship with him. He allows them not only to hear his words but also to actually live in the experience of them.   Some of what Jesus seems to be saying in this passage is...
 
I have shown and will keep showing you how I trust my Father's life in me, surrender to his initiatives and take action. It may look senseless, crazy or too hard to you at times but this is where life is so big that it can hold truth, reality and pain together while my Father continually works to bring renewal. Evil will not prevail. Vulnerable love is powerful. Are you willing to join me in what I am doing?

John 14:5-14 (NLT)
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

For Reflection and Prayer:
If something captured your attention - a word, a phrase, an image - let this simmer in you and allow the Spirit to expand its meaning for you. Journal what you hear and your response.

Meditate on one of the names of Jesus which has been particularly meaningful for you. What about that characteristic deepens your attachment to Jesus?

Quietly rest with God and any consoling words or images given to you in this time of prayer.

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Tender Presence

"Being" at the cross, we witness the tender presence and care of a few both named and gathered around Jesus. The entire scene, beyond the profound theological implications of Jesus' death, seems like a prophetic display of the transformation which occurs in those who gather around the Presence of Christ. Observing closely, we see that those gathered around Jesus recognize him for who he really is and act with tender compassion towards him and his body.

And we wait with them learning again and again that in dying comes new life...

Mark 15:33-47 (NLT)
At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 34 Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
35 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. 36 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. “Wait!” he said. “Let’s see whether Elijah comes to take him down!”
37 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
39 When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!”
40 Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph), and Salome. 41 They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. Many other women who had come with him to Jerusalem were also there.
42 This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.) 44 Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. 45 The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. 46 Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, a phrase, image, or feeling that stood out to you as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus.

Bring your own experience of abandonment / giving up / surrender / death to false self into prayer with Jesus. How is he with you in it? Does he have something to say to you?

Be with Jesus in his dying and death, either at a distance or by his side. Is there something you want to tell him?

Letting Go

The rich young man who wanted to gain eternal life seemed surprised by Jesus' command that he sell all his possessions and give them to the poor. Like him, we too likely have that “one thing” left to release. If only we could simply follow the law, obey the commandments, and keep our “one thing” tucked close to our heart too. But then we see that love look in Jesus’ eyes, and we know we need to choose. They can’t both be our deepest love.
It may sometimes be that we are not aware of what we are holding onto, but, if we become honest with ourselves, we begin to realize that something is holding us back from deeper intimacy with Jesus. If we could simply return Jesus’ gaze, rather than try so hard to become godly, perhaps our grip on that “one thing” would loosen as He lifts us into His arms and into greater freedom.
One thing you can be sure of is that no matter what it is you struggle to let go of, God will never let go of you.

Mark 10:17-31 (The Message)
As he went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, honor your father and mother.” He said, “Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!”
Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, “There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.” The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.
Looking at his disciples, Jesus said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who ‘have it all’ to enter God’s kingdom?” The disciples couldn’t believe what they were hearing, but Jesus kept on: “You can’t imagine how difficult. I’d say it’s easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for the rich to get into God’s kingdom.” That set the disciples back on their heels. “Then who has any chance at all?” they asked. Jesus was blunt: “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it.” Peter tried another angle: “We left everything and followed you.”
Jesus said, “Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land—whatever—because of me and the Message will lose out. They’ll get it all back, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land—but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life! This is once again the Great Reversal: Many who are first will end up last, and the last first.

For Reflection and Prayer:
1. Is there a word, a phrase, or an image that stands out to you? Stay with that and see what else Jesus may speak to you.

2.Take some time to name the “one thing/s left” that makes your heart feel heavy when you consider leaving it behind? Ponder this with Jesus for a while.

3. Are there any ways in which you feel you are vulnerable or tempted to try gain God’s kingdom on your own? If you are comfortable, ask Jesus some questions about this. Can you see how He is gazing at you? Listen to what He might have to say to you. 
Do you sense Jesus’ gaze upon you?  Do you notice what your hands hold closest to your heart? Are you ready to be free of the weight you carry?

A Healing Touch

Today's story is a poignant, intimate interaction between a village community, a blind man and Jesus. One could wonder about why these villagers were so desperate for Jesus to heal this man. One could wonder about the way and means Jesus used to heal this man. One could wonder at the vulnerability and surrender of the blind man towards Jesus. One could wonder why Jesus would heal this man at the pleading of his village community and then instruct him not to go back there on his way home. There is much to wonder about in these few verses. Notice again today how Jesus meets you in this story. Notice where wonder arises; wonder that does not demand an explanation yet wonder that opens your soul to possibilities. Let Jesus meet you there.

Mark 8:22-26 (NLT)
When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?”
24 The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.”
25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him away, saying, “Don’t go back into the village on your way home.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
As you listened to or read the text, was there a word, phrase or image which stayed with you?  Be still with it for a while. Ask Jesus, is there more that he says to you?

How have you experienced Jesus taking you by the hand, leading you away from the crowd and providing a healing touch? Would you desire Jesus to do that for you now? Have a conversation with Jesus about what you need right now.

What has been your experience of restoration? Has it come it stages like the man in this story? Perhaps you want to journal your own story of Jesus restoring you.

Is there anyone who you want to bring to Jesus for his healing touch? Bring that person to Jesus in your prayer.