Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Category: Lent Ponderings (page 1 of 7)

Guest Post: Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday in the life of the church. It is the beginning of the season of Lent, a season where Christians are called to repentance and self-reflection. A few years ago my friend and colleague, Rev. Alan Combs, an elder in the Virginia Conference, wrote the following post for this blog that I’m reposting as we enter Lent. May this season be a season of gut-checking. Peace, Jason

Photo by Ahna Ziegler on Unsplash

On Ash Wednesday, we hear the words “Remember you are dust, and to dust, you shall return” as ashes are placed on our forehead in the sign of a cross in order to remember both that we are mortals, and that we are creatures of a Creator.  We remember also that our death and our life are wrapped up in the One we are following to the Cross.

 

One thing I always find so fascinating and helpful on Ash Wednesday is the Gospel lesson for the day.  It comes from Matthew 6:1-6, and 16-21, which contains this admonition from Jesus:

Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven (Matthew 6:1). 

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Christ is Dead

Read Matthew 27:57-66.

The stone has been rolled in place.

Death has been sealed.

And all is silent.

The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is sometimes quickly breezed over. It is the bridge between the darkness of Friday and the light of Easter. The bridge between death and resurrection. And it is a day marked by silence.

Nothing is happening. Nothing, that is, expect mourning. The sealed tomb echoes throughout the hearts of Christians that death is final; that Jesus was as human as he was divine; and the eagerness of which we wait for the resurrection.

But before the resurrection – before the new beginnings – before new life – there is mourning. Change happens. It is built into the very fiber of creation. Yet, what will be will only be until we mourn what was. When we gaze upon the stone that has been placed at the entrance of the borrowed tomb, we gaze upon what was as we anticipate what will be.

The tomb gives us permission to mourn.

This is an important and gracious gift. Death makes us uncomfortable. We would much rather engulf ourselves with resurrection and new life than spend an hour, much less a day, surrounded by death. And yet, we mourn at the sealed tomb. We mourn what was, we mourn what was not, and we mourn who we were. With the resurrection, things change, things that were not will be, and we will never be the same again.

So, today, on this Holy Saturday, as we gaze at the sealed tomb, let us mourn what was and who we were in anticipation of the resurrection.

 

All Hope is Gone

the Light that had been sent to the earth was growing dim
love had been replaced with hate
peace replaced with war
the Light had been arrested and dragged away into the night
betrayed by a kiss
but the Light would not go out
the chains rattled as the Light was pushed and kicked
the Light was declared guilty
the people who were loved by the Light cried for the Light to be extinguished
those who loved and followed the Light denied ever knowing the Light
their hearts were filled with the darkness of fear
but the Light would not go out
insults and salvia were hurled at the Light
the Light was flogged and beaten
forced to hike the hill called calvary
mocked and stripped, the Light was left with very little
expect love for those who hated
but the Light would not go out
the Light is finally nailed in place, keeping it from spreading
the banging of the hammer causes the Light to flicker
pierced in the side, the Light continues to dim
until finally, the Light does out
and there is only darkness
and all hope is gone

Guest Post: Foot Washing

by Rev. April Casperson

Read John 13:1-20.

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comWhen I read this familiar narrative in John, I’m struck at how the author tells us how Jesus feels, what Jesus does, and how Jesus explains himself. It’s a fascinating glimpse of the consistency between the inner and outer life of Jesus Christ.

Jesus knew that his time on this world had come to an end, and he felt love for those who were in the world. He could have stopped caring, or begun to transition away from being in deep relationship with humanity. And yet, he chose to remain in relationship. Even more radically, he chose to continue to love those in this world until the very end.

Jesus even took his love a step further, demonstrating to the disciples what it meant to be a servant. He participated in a familiar ritual of foot-washing in the middle of a meal, knowing that the disciples would not understand what they were observing. Even so, he continued in the midst of confused questioning, making the ritual both a teaching moment and a tangible demonstration of his love.

Finally, after we read through Jesus’ explanation of the foot-washing ritual, the very next verse (verse 21) states that Jesus was troubled. How unexpected! For Jesus, following his call towards redeeming the world, demonstrating his role as a servant, and embodying his role as a teacher didn’t bring him peace. Instead, he was troubled about what was still to come.

What a striking reminder this is for us. How often are we troubled, even when we follow our calls, live as servant-leaders, and try to make our lives a teaching witness? Maybe we are troubled when we don’t see instant results. Or perhaps we let ourselves do these things in hopes that the actions will settle our souls, rather than the hope that the world will be transformed. And yet, God doesn’t call us to be comfortable or to do good works because they make us feel good in return. God calls us to live faithful lives, and to transform the world, because of the life, work and example of Jesus Christ.

This Lenten season, consider your motivations. Have you allowed your motivations to become of this world, rather than grounded in the call of God?

In this season, may be all be reminded of the One who calls us, and the One who is to be our motivation for service to the world.

Rev. April Casperson is an ordained deacon serving as the Director of Enrollment Management and Scholarship Development at Methodist Theological School in Ohio. 

 

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