Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: devotions (page 2 of 4)

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. 

 

Guest Post: An Insightful Question

by Rev. Andrew Taylor-Troutman

 

Read Matthew 26:6–13.

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comThere’s a scene in the baseball movie, Moneyball, where Brad Pitt (as the general manager of a professional baseball team) challenges a room full of veteran scouts by asking repeatedly, “What’s the problem?” (Be aware there is explicit language is this clip.) Pitt’s insight is that their solutions are inadequate because they have not grasped the fundamental nature of the struggle at hand. They need new ways of thinking.

Notice in our text that the disciples were angered by the woman’s actions (Mt 26:8). Those who were closest to Jesus couldn’t identify the problem either. Perhaps like veteran baseball scouts, many of us are likewise preferential to “what we’ve always done.” We are irritated by new ways of thinking and even threatened by the inclusion of other people. There is nothing wrong with tradition per se; but what prevents us from achieving new insight?

This question prompts reflection upon verse eleven and the famous (or infamous) maxim about “always having the poor among you.” Does this imply a grudging acknowledgement, even callous acceptance, of the reality of poverty? Does this mean that we should simply stop thinking about the problem? I don’t think so. Consider the full citation from which this verse is drawn: “Since there will always be the poor on the earth, I command you: ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land’” (Deut 15:11). The ongoing presence of those in need does not justify a lack of response; rather the exact opposite–it gives us a mandate to act. We need to think differently and the example of others can be our guide.

One scholar, Eugene Boring, characterizes this text in Matthew as the story of the “insightful” woman: she brilliantly illustrates a new way of looking at the problems of society. She recognizes that Jesus is worthy to be praised, even though he will be executed. She realizes that the glory of the God is manifested in death upon the cross–and, just as importantly, she acts upon her awareness. Some, like the disciples, might question whether she solved the problem; but the point, I think, is that she became a living sacrifice thereby transforming her understanding (Ro 12:1–2).

As we seek insight into the fundamental nature of society’s problems and their solutions for a new time, may we remember that simple acts of grace can open the door to the richness of worship. Instead of fear and anger, may we learn from those who give of themselves. And may the right questions inspire faithful actions.

Rev. Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of New Dublin Presbyterian Church and author of two books, Take My Hand: A Theological Memoir and Parables of Parenthood. He blogs and can be reached at www.takemyhandmemoir.com

Palm Sunday: Occupy Jerusalem

Read Matthew 21:1-11.

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comToday is Palm Sunday. It is a joyous and celebratory Sunday as we praise Jesus as the Son of God. We process into the sanctuary with palm branches waving high. It is a special time. But, Palm Sunday is also the hinge in the Jesus Story. Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week, when the story takes a dramatic turn.

History tells us that there were two processions that day into Jerusalem. From the east, Jesus entered on his humble donkey, and from the west Pilate entered with his array of imperial power. It was a visual reminder of who was in charge. The soldiers, the chariots, the swords, and the bows- all instruments of war – reminded the people of Jerusalem that Caesar was King.

And not just King. The imperial power came with an imperial theology that clearly stated that Caesar was Lord. Caesar was a son of the god Apollo. Pilate’s procession did not only bring a political reminder, but it also brought with it a theological reminder – that all this talk about a Jewish Messiah was nonsense because the people already had a son of god in Caesar.

Jesus’ procession, which we know from the Gospel text, was planned. Before arriving to Jerusalem, Jesus gives his disciples the instructions to prepare the donkey and her colt. Did Jesus know that Pilate was processing in from the other end of town? Assuming that he did (he is Jesus), it is yet another incident when Jesus turns the world upside down.

Jesus offers an alternative to Rome. Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem is one of peace. Jesus – the Christ – the long awaited Messiah – will drive out war with love and peace. The instruments of war will be replaced with instruments of peace.

Pilate’s procession represented the kingdom of Caesar, while Jesus’ procession proclaimed the Kingdom of God. This is the conflict that is Holy Week.

Some scholars have referred to the Palm Sunday procession as a political demonstration. A few years ago, the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations received a lot of publicity. There have been Occupy movements before and since then. These movements, according to Wikipedia are about “social and economic inequality.” Instead of the 1% getting all the good stuff, while the 99% struggle to get by, there should be equality across the board, rather than a hierarchy. Some of you may remember this image floating around social media at the time:

Jesus_Occupy Wall Street

No matter where you stand on the whole Occupy thing, Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem with so many people boldly proclaiming him as the Son of God (and not Caesar) was certainly seen by many of the day as a political demonstration. But when we read the rest of the story, we know that the proclamation and the praise turns into threats and cries for blood.

Palm Sunday reminds us of the tension that is the conflict between the earthly kingdom of power and war and the peaceful Kingdom of God.

Jesus Cried

tear1“Jesus cried.” (John 11:35)

Someone told me the other day that her husband’s favorite Bible verse was “Jesus cried.” It is known as the shortest verse in the Bible.  It was her husband’s favorite verse because when he was in confirmation everyone was required to memorize a Bible verse of their choosing.  So, he chose, “Jesus cried.”

It’s a little verse and easy to memorize. But it holds a lot of weight. It is one of those rare moments in the Bible when we see Jesus’ humanity. We almost forget that while Jesus was divine, Jesus was also human. And maybe because it makes us uncomfortable to think of Jesus as human. If Jesus cried and got angry, than does that mean Jesus had acne and farted?

Jesus was God and human.

So, why did Jesus cry?

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