Saturday, March 31, 2018

Praying the Passion, Part 7 - "Father, Into Your Hands..."

...darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.- Luke 23:46




My Lenten discipline has been to write a prayer for each of the 40 days of Lent. The last seven prayers center on the seven last sayings of Jesus uttered from the cross. Today's prayer is based on the final words he spoke.


"Father, Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit"

From the foot of the cross I can see you, my Lord. You are high and lifted up. And I can hear what you say. Every word.

Darkness has covered us.
Not because it is night, for it is only 3 o'clock.
Darkness has covered us,
  because the sins of the world have covered you.

You cry out,
  "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."

In your voice, I don't hear defeat.
I don't hear disappointment.
I don't hear sadness.

In your voice I hear the sweet surrender of trust.
And the tenderness of love.

Your work is done. It is finished.
You came to do your Father's will.
And you have done it.
And now you surrender yourself, body and soul,
  into the hands of the One you trust and love.

"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."


+ + + + + + +

Lord Jesus, into your hands I commit my spirit.

I have watched you on the cross.
I have seen your determination to forgive me,
  even me.
I have heard your promise of heaven,
  given without conditions.
I have received your gift of a new earthly family,
  the Church.
I have witnessed your experience of abandonment,
  which you went through because of me,
    but also for me.
I have felt the deep thirst of your soul,
  for it is my thirst as well.
I have heard you declare that it has been done,
  that you have done the will of your Father,
  and there is nothing left for you to do.
And I have watched as you entrust yourself
  into the hands of the One you love.

Lord Jesus, into your hands I commit my spirit.
How can I do otherwise?
Your love has captured me.
I give myself to you.

Into your hands I commit my spirit.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Praying the Passion, Part 6 - "It Is Finished"


Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.- John 19:30




My Lenten discipline has been to write a prayer for each of the 40 days of Lent. The last seven prayers center on the seven last sayings of Jesus uttered from the cross. This prayer is based on the sixth saying.


"It Is Finished"

Here I stand at the foot of the cross, my Lord.
I see you high and lifted up,
  as "sorrow and love flow mingled down"
and I hear what you say.
  Every word.

In words barely audible you speak:
  "It is finished."

I think to myself,
  "Yes, it is finished. Mercifully so, your suffering
          is at its end.
  Raise the white flag.
  Let death end it for you."

But that's not what you mean, is it?
  You're not surrendering in defeat;
    You're not capitulating to the darkness;
      You're not giving up.
That's not what "It is finished" means.
Not by a long shot.

No, "It is finished" are words of accomplishment,
  fulfillment,
    victory.
For when you breathe your last,
  you have completed what you have set out to do:


"For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him."

That's why you came, my Lord: to save the world.
That's why you hang in agony on the cross: to save the world.
That's why you suffer abandonment by God:
     to save the world.

When you breathe your last,
  you have done what you set out to do.
Only then can you say, "It is finished."

Say it, my Lord.
Say it for me.
Say it for the world.

"It is finished."


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Praying the Passion, Part 4 - "My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?"

At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ..."My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"- Mark 15:33-34



Scenes from the total solar eclipse, August, 2017

My Lenten discipline has been to write a prayer for each of the 40 days of Lent. The last seven prayers center on the seven last sayings of Jesus uttered from the cross. Today's prayer is based on the fourth saying of Jesus from the cross.

"My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?"

From the foot of the cross I behold you, O Lord,
  high and lifted up.
And I can hear you. Every word you say.

There is a moment -- a long, three-hour moment --
  when the sun is hidden.
Darkness is the prevailing reality.

You cry out: 
"Eloi, eloi, lema sabachthani?"
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

When I hear those words,
  darkness fills my heart,
  just as the darkness has covered the sun.

Since the day of your birth,
  you have walked with God.
     Completely.
     Perfectly.
     Unceasingly.

But now, God's back has been turned on you,
  God's face turned away from you,
    God's ears closed to your cries.

Why? Why has God forsaken you?

And then it strikes me. It pierces my heart:
On the cross, you are the Lamb of God,
  who takes away the sins of the world.
The only way you can take our sins away
  is to take them upon yourself.

God has forsaken you, because of me.
Because of my sins.
Because of the sins of the world.
Upon you, the sinless One, 
  the sins of the world have been placed.

You are God-forsaken, and it's our fault.

The truth of the realization breaks my heart.
Forgive me, Lord.

But, lo, another realization:
You are God-forsaken, so we don't have to be.
The penalty of our sin -- 
  separation from the Living God --
you are paying it at this very moment.
For us. For me.

Dear Lord, you suffered the ultimate agony
  so that I wouldn't have to suffer it myself.
I am the one who deserves to drink
  from the cup of abandonment;
I am the one who deserves
  to descend into hell.

But you have taken my place, out of love.
  Now I know what you meant when you said,


Greater love has no one than this,
to lay down one's life for one's friends.

Your cry of ultimate agony from the cross --
  it was because of me. And my heart aches.
Lord, have mercy. Forgive me.

Your cry of ultimate agony from the cross --
  it was for me. And I am full of gratitude. And love.
Lord, I thank you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Praying the Passion, Part 5 - "I Thirst"

Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty."- John 19:28



My Lenten discipline has been to write a prayer for each of the 40 days of Lent. The last seven prayers center on the seven last sayings of Jesus uttered from the cross. This prayer is based on his fifth saying from the cross.


"I Thirst"

From the foot of the cross, I behold you, Lord:
  high and lifted up.
And I hear what you say from the cross.
  Every word.

Almost inaudibly, the words flow 
  from your cracked, bloodied lips: "I thirst."

Thirst. 
It is the most primal longing a human experiences.
You have joined our struggle, Lord.
You have experienced the most basic need
  any of us will ever experience: thirst.
As you hang on the cross,
  there is no human agony foreign to you.

Thirst.
It speaks to more than our physical longing.
It speaks, even more vividly, perhaps,
  to the longing of our soul:

O God, you are my God, I seek you;  my soul thirsts for you,my flesh faints for you,  as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Forsaken by God,
  you thirst.
You are experiencing the condition that I deserve,
  in order to redeem me. From my own thirst.

But may I be so bold as to consider another thirst, Lord?
Can it be that on the cross 
  you not only experience human thirst for God,
but also, maybe, are you expressing a thirst
  that God has for us?
For you have told us of the father who scans the horizon
  as if thirsting after reconciliation with his lost son;
and you have told us of the shepherd who searches
     high and low
  in deep longing to find the one lost sheep.

Could it be, dear Lord, that your thirst
  is for us to turn to you?

Either way, your thirst draws me to you.
Your thirst arises from your love.
And it makes me thirst for you,
  and for the life only you can give.

And so I thirst, too. Because you thirst.



Praying the Passion, Part 3 - "Dear Woman, Here Is Your Son"


When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother."- John 19:26-27




My Lenten discipline has been to write a prayer for each of the 40 days of Lent. The last seven prayers center on the seven last sayings of Jesus uttered from the cross. Today's prayer is based on the third saying.

"Dear Woman, Here Is Your Son"

From the foot of the cross I behold you, Lord.
And I hear you. I hear every word you say.

As you speak words of tenderness to your mother,
  and to the disciple you love,
I am amazed.
I am amazed that in the midst of unthinkable agony,
  you are more concerned for others than yourself.
It is not your pain that you seek to relieve,
  but the pain of your mother and your friend.
Even in your own suffering,
  you are mindful of the suffering of the world.
I am deeply humbled by the knowledge of your compassion.

"Dear woman, here is your son."
"Here is your mother."

In these words, you have given us something special;
  you have given us each other.
All who gather at the cross -- 
  we are not orphaned by your death;
  we become family. 

And now I realize that forgiveness of sin
  isn't the only gift of the cross,
  for at your death you also created the church.


"Dear woman, here is your son."
"Here is your mother."

In the sanctuary, when I gaze upon the cross,
  and then when I look at all who gather with me,
I realize what you have done for us:
  these are my brothers and sisters;
  these are my mothers and fathers;
  these are my sons and daughters;
  these are my family.

We are not orphaned by your death.
We are not left alone.

Thank you, Lord, for your amazing love.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Praying the Passion, Part 2 - "Today You Will Be with Me in Paradise"


Jesus answered [the second criminal crucified alongside him], "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."- Luke 23:43






My Lenten discipline has been to write a prayer for each of the 40 days of Lent. The last seven prayers center on the seven last sayings of Jesus uttered from the cross. Today's prayer is based on the second saying.

"Today You Will Be with Me in Paradise"

From the foot of the cross I can see you, Lord.
And I can hear you. I can hear every word you say.

I heard what you said to the criminal crucified at your side:
"Today you will be with me in paradise."

Are you kidding, Lord?
Don't you know what he did?
Don't you know the evil he did?
There's a reason he's hanging on the cross, you know.
He's bad. Real bad.

Are you really going to forgive him, just because he asked:
"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."?
Is that all it takes?

Then I remember that you once said, 
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you."

And you also said, 
"...I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners."

And most your most famous words of all:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

So maybe you meant it, after all.
Maybe the criminal's faith was enough for your forgiveness.
Maybe all he needed to do, is ask in faith. 
Maybe your forgiveness even extends
  to the really bad people, too.

Maybe your work on the cross
  covers all sins. 
Every.one.of.them.
Including my sins.

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.