Liturgy of the Palms: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Luke 19:28-40 Liturgy of the Passion: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 22:14-23:56

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”

Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the LORD.

This is the gate of the LORD;
the righteous shall enter through it.

I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the LORD’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we beseech you, O LORD!
LORD, we beseech you, give us success!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD.
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God,
and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God; I will extol you.

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; NRSVue

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus, and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. Now as he was approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,

“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Luke 19:28-40; NRSVue

The Lord GOD has given me
a trained tongue,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens,
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord GOD has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious;
I did not turn backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.

The Lord GOD helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand in court together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord GOD who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?

Isaiah 50:4-9a; NRSVue

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief,
my soul and body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery,
and my bones waste away.

I am the scorn of all my adversaries,
a horror to my neighbors,
an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many—
terror all around!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.

But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.

Psalm 31:9-16; NRSVue

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
assuming human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God exalted him                                                                                                                         even more highly                                                                                                                                   and gave him the name
that is above every other name,
so that at the name given to Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11; NRSVue

When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves, for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.

A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, “The kings of the gentiles lord it over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather, the greatest among you must become like the youngest and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

“You are those who have stood by me in my trials, and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail, and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”

He said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing.” He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.” They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied, “It is enough.”

He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me, yet not my will but yours be done.” [[Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.]] When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”

While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as though I were a rebel? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour and the power of darkness!”

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant servant, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him, for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it who struck you?” They kept heaping many other insults on him.

When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us.” He replied, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” He said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”

Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man inciting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to Caesar and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.”

When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”

Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified, and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by watching, but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed, and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching these things.

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.

On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Luke 22:14-23:56; NRSVue

Season after Pentecost: Job 1:1; 2:1-10; Psalm 26; Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16

There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LordThe Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord, “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.”

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Job 1:1; 2:1-10

Of David.

Vindicate me, O Lord,
for I have walked in my integrity,
and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
test my heart and mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
and I walk in faithfulness to you.

I do not sit with the worthless,
nor do I consort with hypocrites;
I hate the company of evildoers,
and will not sit with the wicked.

I wash my hands in innocence,
and go around your altar, O Lord,
singing aloud a song of thanksgiving,
and telling all your wondrous deeds.

Lord, I love the house in which you dwell,
and the place where your glory abides.
Do not sweep me away with sinners,
nor my life with the bloodthirsty,
those in whose hands are evil devices,
and whose right hands are full of bribes.

But as for me, I walk in my integrity;
redeem me, and be gracious to me.
My foot stands on level ground;
in the great congregation I will bless the Lord.

Psalm 26

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,

“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
or mortals, that you care for them?
You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned them with glory and honor,
subjecting all things under their feet.”

Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying,

“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Mark 10:2-16

Revised Common Lectionary

focus on God

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me.

John 14:1

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

I’ve been enjoying the new hymnbook entitled Voices Together. Reading through new hymns and new songs (to me), as well as familiar hymns. And readings in the back, including morning, evening, and night liturgy, with prayers. Other than a Bible, this is the book I have in hand now every day.

What I’ve found is that it helps me get my focus on God, the same way Scripture does. Well, it’s meant to do that, as we raise our voice in songs, hymns and spiritual songs. With helpful readings and prayers in the back. The present day liturgy of the denominations Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.

On the eve of his crucifixion Jesus was telling his disciples some quite heavy things, not only more than they could wrap their heads around, but more than their hearts could bear. But he told them to believe in God, to believe in him. And to realize that in the midst of their troubles, he had overcome the world.

Scripture is replete with this theme. Trouble real and imagined. There is no end to that. But God wants us to lift our eyes up, off our troubles and onto God and God’s promises. We’re to be transfixed there. We can be either looking at our problems, or at God, one of the two, not both. I am speaking of focus here. It’s not like we’re oblivious to reality. But that’s not where we’re to live. We’re instead to live in God.

God will take care of it. Christ has won. What that means for us is that God wants us to learn to live above circumstances, so to speak. Still owning proper responsibility, but doing so in a way which puts God front and center. A matter of both perspective and expectation. Seeing everything more as God does, and finding God’s priority as well as God’s help. Learning to live in that. In and through Jesus.

the dangers and possibilities of each new day

Listen to my words, Lord,
consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.

Psalm 5:1-3

Listen, God! Please, pay attention!
Can you make sense of these ramblings,
my groans and cries?
King-God, I need your help.
Every morning
you’ll hear me at it again.
Every morning
I lay out the pieces of my life
on your altar
and watch for fire to descend.

Psalm 5:1-3; MSG

We as humans are very experiential creatures. And the psalms are lock stocked with the language and sentiment of experience. We often go from lows to highs and then back to lows. Some of us experience this quite pronounced, others of us not that much variation, and probably most of the rest of us somewhere in between.

Psalm 5 is a good passage to remind us how to start each day. I think both the evening before we go to sleep, and the morning when we arise are important in how we do this. To read Scripture, maybe a liturgical prayer book for night (Compline) is good. To arise and be in Scripture and prayer, morning prayer and reading is good. We can’t take for granted that a good day at least in how it worked out will carry over into the next day.

It’s not about us having a good time, and that’s it. Instead it’s about living in God’s grace and all that means in terms of forgiveness of sins and new life, and having the vision to see what God might have us do, or be pleased to help us do in the new day. And even if it’s just filled with the routines of what we have to do, to do that in the breath and love of God.

At any rate, for some of us this is a matter almost of survival, at least of experiencing and living out this salvation from God well. Growing in that. So we have to take this seriously. Every day is God’s and for us that’s a good and ultimately happy prospect. We bring ourselves to God each new day, and look to God for his answer and help to us. In and through Jesus.

Holy Week upon us

We have been taking attending a church which does not practice the church calendar, except for the highest of holy days such as Easter, so that we neither had an Ash Wednesday service, nor is Lent on our radar. I think that’s a loss myself, though I appreciate the church, just the same.

Now Holy Week is upon us, beginning tomorrow with what is traditionally known as Palm Sunday. We remember the Passion, meaning Suffering of our Lord, the way to the cross which was coming to its culmination, followed by the resurrection.

For me it is the most special week of the year. Christmas is just as special in its own way, as we remember the incarnation and birth of our Lord. And actually the entire year is important with reference to the church calendar, just as all in the gospels is important, our Lord’s life and teachings complementing and fulfilling God’s call to Israel as the light of the world. So in a sense there are no non-holy days. And yet there are special times when we remember certain key events that took place, like the Passover followed by the crossing of the children of Israel across the Red Sea.

So today for me will be a preparation for tomorrow, the beginning of Holy Week. We intend to go to a Good Friday service within the tradition we are now a part of. I do miss the traditional liturgy and regular partaking of the Lord’s body and blood. I appreciate the strengths of the church we now attend, but miss the ceremonial aspect of things. And yet, by faith we can enter into a kind of watching and listening, as we meditate from the text of scripture, from the gospel accounts on our Lord’s suffering. And as we pray for ourselves and for those around us, for the world, that we might know this great grace from God in and through Jesus, our Savior and Lord.

the place of the inscripturated word

As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11

In Christian creeds, Christians don’t say they believe in the word of God, in scripture. That’s a given. The heart of the Christian message is the gospel, the good news in and through Jesus, which brings in the kingdom of God in the new creation, and begins now through faith and baptism, and in the church.

I believe in more of a sacramental understanding than what I was raised with, which I think is clear enough from scripture, and is at least the dominant position of the tradition of the church, of Christianity through the centuries. However I also identify with a strong emphasis on the word, on scripture, and in teaching the word.

It’s interesting at this point in our lives, we pulled up stakes from the new Anglican church plant in our area, regretfully so for myself, but for good reason, I think. Prompted by my sisters, and encouraged by others, we are now taking our oldest granddaughter to an evangelical church not far from where she lives, which has a good program for the kids year round, teaching them the gospel and from scripture week in and week out.

I have to remember to take my earplugs, but at least the songs present a certain liturgy in themselves in pointing us to God in Jesus. And the church excels in teaching from scripture, even if at this point I’m not (yet) entirely convinced their teaching is Christ and gospel-centered enough. It likely is more than what I might think. Churches with traditionally liturgy by that alone keep the worshiper centered in Jesus and the gospel, pointed as well to the Triune God.

So for the foreseeable future, we are embarked in this new way, which, by the way is in sync with where I work, at Our Daily Bread Ministries. And that is rather fitting in that this is where I’ve lived and grown for years even into decades, and where I largely live now. With a bent toward the gospel in everything, and all that means (not that I understand that, but working toward that), in and through the inscripturated word.

the body and the blood

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Whether we see it as only a memorial, or in some sense an actual participation in the body and blood of our Lord (1 Corinthians 10:16), this is a practice which the church made central for centuries, and I would argue ought to be practiced in some form, weekly in our churches. Due to a needed (I think) emphasis on scripture, and an interpretation which denied anything of the Real Presence of Christ in the bread and the wine, one of the unnecessary, even unfortunate (in my opinion) outcomes of the Reformation, especially so later was to decentralize the Lord’s Table, so that the preaching of the word became central.

The proclamation of the word, and always so in relation to the gospel ought to be central in our church gatherings, as well as in our lives and witness. We are people of God, under God’s authority through the word given through and to the church. The word is essential for our life in God and in this world.

But the point of the word is what must always be kept front and center. The church has been led by God, I believe, or at least has wisely chosen to make the gospel front and center through the Lord’s Table being the climactic end of each service, after which the church is given it’s mission: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”

Good liturgy helps keep the gospel/good news of God in Jesus central, and that is why I can appreciate a liturgy driven service. The sermon contributes to that, but is not the centerpiece itself. We need to hear the word proclaimed and taught, of course. And its context is always the gospel, as well as our response to the gospel in faith, hope and love.

And so this institution which the Lord established on the night he was betrayed, is to go on until he returns, as a proclamation of his death, as well as a participation in his life. At the heart of our faith and witness.

when we’re tired and worn down

Sometimes we either feel on the edge or pushed over the edge at least a bit. The pressures of life can seem relentless with little or no place to turn. That is when we probably need to slow down, to stop, to be still and quiet. To know that God is God.

Also to read. For me reading scripture and meditating on it, and remaining in it is so key. But just as key is the weekly service of liturgy which includes the scripture readings along with prayers, including corporate confession of sin along with the priest’s absolution, confession of the creed, and together partaking of the Lord’s body and blood in the Eucharist.

Sometimes we simply need that extra physical rest. Maybe a break from normal activities to sleep. We always like those occasional, or in the case of some of us, periodic, but not often enough for most of us get aways. And we need to learn how to do it when the normal routine is still pressing up against us. Not easy, but we do need to find our bearings, our strength in the Lord, learning to wait on him so that we are both strengthened and ennobled. To not only go on, but go on well in and through Jesus.

the need for a greater place in Christendom for Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount

I know this is a tall claim and order, one put out by a person who is not steeped enough in the knowledge of Christendom. In this case what I mean by Christendom is wherever there’s an organized church or group of churches which confess the faith that is in Jesus, the gospel. I think there are exceptions to my complaint here. One such might be the Franciscan Order within the Roman Catholic Church. And of course the Mennonites and Amish along with some other groups like them have done much better in this.

My complaint is that the Sermon on the Mount ought to have a much greater place in our liturgy and thinking. Instead we exalt the psalms, and I’m all for that. I read them once a month. But I’m saying to myself, shouldn’t I be reading Jesus’ words on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7); also note Jesus’s Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17-49) just as much? It is central according to Jesus in how the old covenant is fulfilled in terms of how one lives because of Jesus.

I don’t think this sermon is much on our radar in our thinking. Ever since the church was taken up into worldly power (think, Constantine), at least some of these words, as I read (or heard) somewhere recently, don’t resonate or make sense at all. And so we’re at a great loss. Of course there’s much more to the Sermon on the Mount than its push against worldly power. And I say we need all of scripture along with it. But I would argue that it ought to be front and center in our thinking. And to go over it once a year at best, just doesn’t do.

doing the same thing (day after day)

Life does call for some changes at times, and there are seasons of rest, relaxation and recreation, or at least spots of that in the summer on vacations. But by and large life consists of everyday things, doing much the same thing day after day. The escape of course is weekends, when you can at least do something different, even if you are still busy.

It has been said that the reason the Beatles were so good when they were discovered at least outside of Great Britain is that they had played music together, and played and played again (some 1,200 live performances). And by the time they reached arguably their creative peak, they had likely practiced for 10,000 hours which is said to be the amount of time needed for one to master their craft.

I think there’s a lot of strength in the same liturgy Sunday after Sunday in church. Every church does have its liturgy, even if that consists primarily only in the songs and hymns which are sung, but I refer here to churches which are liturgically oriented, whose service is scripted in accordance with and from scripture as well as tradition. And I also think there’s strength in doing the same thing day after day. For some it’s to do the morning and evening reading from the Book of Common Prayer. I think this can be a great benefit and I would like to do that someday myself. For others of us it is to regularly be in the word of God and prayer. What we do shapes us and in a way what we do is what we become. If we sit and take in inane entertainment day after day, we might even get good at it, but that is what we become in some way, shape or form.

I am a believer in doing the same things day after day, year after year, perhaps making some helpful modifications along the way, but doing those things regardless of how we feel or what our circumstances are. And for me, going through scripture, both the Old and New Testaments both through reading and meditation are essentials. From that practice I pray. And more and more I appreciate tradition and prayers of the church.

Many in the evangelical tradition have their “personal devotions.” A quiet time with the Lord every day, usually the morning or whenever it suits or works best for someone. It is vitally important that what we do in terms of the faith is centered on God himself, and God’s will for us in Jesus by the Spirit. Such a practice should never replace the reading of all of scripture. . We need to read and keep reading and then read again. We have to work at not drifting away from this on weekends or during vacations, when we are free from our everyday routines, the things we have to do. We have to figure out how we can carry on during those times, perhaps in a modified form.

That is who we are and why we keep doing those things. From the fact that we became that in large part from doing them regularly in the first place. All in the grace of our God in and through Jesus.