Engraved in the Rock Forever

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by Fr. Stephen Veselsky

Job 19:21-27

Oh that my words were written!  Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever!     Job 19:23-24 

History teaches us about different types of writing.  Starting with palm leaves, linen cloth, rock and metal engravement, tables from stone, wax, lead, animal skin, papyrus, and finally, printing on paper.  Job’s wish was fulfilled and his words were written, probably in all the mentioned forms.

However, there is another type of writing – a supernatural one.  In Exodus 24:12, God instructed Moses “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”  And also, we are reminded in the Book of Revelation 20:12, about the final supernatural writing, “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.”

The time span between these two supernatural writings is immense, generations and generations of people were born, lived and departed.  However, greater than the distance between these two writings in time is the distance made up of sin.  The distance of sin cannot be crossed in any other way but over the bridge made from the Cross of Christ.

Perhaps, the next time when you write a post card to your friend, or type an e-mail on your computer, you may recall this passage.  You may recall that Job had suffered so that you may learn from His suffering and accept your own.  It is a mystery of the Cross that we suffer, but on the end of this narrow and winding path of suffering is our face to face meeting with Christ.  And that meeting lasts for eternity.

Fr. Steve serves as a missionary in the Czech Republic

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Good Friday

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by Dcn. Skip Hill

John 19:38-42

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus.  Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.   John 19:38-42

What is so ‘good’ about Good Friday?  At the time it seemed to be the darkest day in history to those who had been with Jesus to the end.  It was a day of death; a day of sorrow.  But, without it, we would not know the joy of Easter morning.

Why do you think that Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus?  Perhaps because both he and Nicodemus did not come to realize who Jesus was until they saw how He suffered and died.  Both had been ‘secret ‘disciples, Joseph a wealthy man and Nicodemus a Pharisees, who up to this point had lived a ‘quiet faith.’ The death of Jesus brought about the realization that they both had to come out of their ‘spiritual hiding.’ Honoring Jesus by taking His body down from the cross and providing a place of burial was the least they could do.  Who else was going to do this?  The followers of Jesus had run for their lives after His arrest.  Those who were so close to Him did not stay around when they were concerned for their own lives.  Jesus’ mother, Mary, and the other women, could not have managed to take his body and bury it, even though they remained by His side to the end.  No….those would had been afraid to make known their faith found the courage to declare it in the end.  I am sure that Joseph and Nicodemus were cut to the core with their own grief and guilt….ashamed at how they had not stood up for Jesus until now!  But, it was ‘the least they could do!’

Perhaps they did not believe that He would conquer the grave!  Perhaps they could only see the horribleness of His death, and their own betrayal.  However, their act of courage must have been a catalyst that was needed to reignite the courage of the disciples!  Though they had all run for their lives in the garden, and though Peter denied Him three times on that fateful night…..after he was placed in the tomb, they were found to have gathered together again in one place….His disciples would have had no one else to help them in their grief than each other.

They may have ‘denied’ him by their actions that night, but, the actions of Joseph and Nicodemus must have had quite an impact upon them.  Now, in the darkness that was that ‘Good’ Friday, we find, though the evil, good began to win!  Those who had denied Him in life now claimed Him in death!  Those who had run in fear were strengthened to come together for support by the bravery of these two Pharisees. And…as we look back via the lens of history, we look back in hope and faith.  Up until this day, Death had always been the ‘final answer’.  However, on this Good Friday, the events that would come in three days would prove that Death was no longer the ‘final answer’, and the hope of life through Death’s defeat would introduce the world to a new reality.

Dcn. Skip ministers at St. Luke’s Anglican Church

Foot Washing

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by Dcn. Greg Statezni

John 13:1-35    

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  John 13:14

If we want to fully understand this passage we need to know a little of the background. The Lord may have waited for one of the disciples to choose to rinse feet because He had just instructed them about being great in the Kingdom, but it seems the message didn’t fall on any receptive soil. They were still arguing about who was or would be the greatest, with no one volunteering to rinse feet.

Usually the host or hostess of a supper would arrange for a hired servant to rinse everyone’s’ feet. At that time people wore sandals and walked on dusty, dirty roads, and their feet needed a rinsing before eating. They normally reclined rather than sitting on an upright chair before having a meal. This reclining position might have further enhance the hygiene of clean feet. We may only imagine why the Lord didn’t arrange for a hired servant. Did He know that none of the disciples would volunteer, because they continued to argue about who was greatest? This setting with Christ rinsing their feet serves as a great teaching tool for the disciples.

The Lord then laid aside His outer garment which was the symbol of fleshly pride.  Humility can only occur when we lay aside our outer garment of pride and serve with humility in the rinsing of dirty feet. Here we have a prime example of Jesus serving with a true attitude of humility. The entire emphasis of rinsing of their feet was to call attention to humble service.

The need for refreshing and the cleansing of sin is likened to a foot washing. There is only a need for bathing the entire body, but there is the necessity of daily rinsing and cleansing of our feet and soul. We must have our spiritual feet cleansed every day and this takes humility to set aside our pride–and then confess and repent with the washing of our soul by the water and His cleansing blood. This is the same blood which He shed for each of us on the cross at Calvary to make us completely clean.

Are we willing to wash another’s feet or have our feet washed?

Dcn. Greg ministers with Trinity Anglican Church

The Bronze Serpent

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by Fr. Joe Lawrence

Numbers 21:4-9

So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. Numbers 21:9

Biblical “typology” is the practice of reading a passage of the Bible, often from the Old Testament, that is about one thing and realizing that it is also about something else. To take a clear example: Genesis 22 is about Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, on mountain named Moriah. But for Christians this passage is also about the God’s willingness to give his only Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for us and our salvation on another mountain named Golgotha. The sacrifice of Isaac is a “type,” a rough sketch, of the later and greater reality of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. I find that my heart never fails to grow strangely warm when I catch a glimpse of my Savior, Jesus Christ, playing on the words of the Old Testament.

I caught another sight of him in Numbers 21:4-9, an admittedly unusual passage of Holy Scripture.

As the story goes, Moses is leading the people in a roundabout way through the desert, and the people once again grow impatient and start grumbling. From their perspective, the chips are down, they’re on the verge of dehydration and starvation, they’ve lost all confidence in Moses’ ability to lead, and worst of all, God has let them down. So, they complain against Moses, and against God, saying, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” This kindles God’s wrath, and he afflicts them with deadly, venomous snakes. Under the heavy hand of God’s judgment the people repent:  “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” Moses prays, and he is told to make a bronze snake and hoist it up on a pole so that anyone who was bitten can look upon it and live. As the people looked upon the very symbol of their affliction (i.e. a snake) they found healing. By looking at the curse, the curse was reversed. The many snakes killed with their venom, but the one snake that was lifted up took that venom away and gave life.

I’m not alone in seeing Jesus Christ in this passage. Jesus himself says it, too. He told Nicodemus one night, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). The snake that Moses hoisted up for the people to look upon and be saved, this is a “type” of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. Jesus himself says this!

Here is what St. Augustine says:

“What is the serpent lifted up? The Lord’s death on the cross. For as a death came by the serpent, it was now figured by the image of the serpent. The serpent’s bite was deadly, the Lord’s death is life-giving. A serpent is gazed on that the serpent may have no power. What is this? A death is gazed on, that death may have no power.”

A snake was lifted up to destroy the power of the snakes; Jesus was lifted up on the cross to die, and by his death he destroyed the power of death. By looking at the curse (the death of Christ), the curse is reversed.

This is precisely what we come to do in Holy Week. To gather and set our eyes upon the cross of Jesus Christ, by which he conquered the power of death. For “the Son of Man must be lifted up that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

Once again, I’ve caught a glimpse of my Savior, and my heart is strangely warmed.

Fr. Joe ministers at Trinity Anglican Church

Abide

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by Fr. Jack Estes

John 15:1-16

“Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine neither can you, unless you abide in me.”  John 15:4

Every winter at our house is tree trimming time. We have several fruit trees that need pruning in order to be fruitful in the spring. In the back corner grows a massive fig tree, planted over fifty years ago by the first owner of the house. The trunk of the fig tree is about two feet around, and the roots go down and out deep into the soil. In fact, figs and grapes put down roots into the substrata far below the topsoil. This makes them ideal to grow in hot climates where topsoil is sparse – like Israel.

Last week I completed the task of trimming the fig tree. The branches are cut off and piled high near the base of the tree: no longer alive; no longer growing upward from the trunk; no longer connected to the roots. They will never again produce figs. Now they are just a disposal problem.

This image of the branches and the vine is one Jesus chooses to make a profound point to his disciples. Their life depends on remaining connected to him. In order to continue to grow upward and be fruitful they must abide with him. He is the solid trunk that holds them up. He is the root that supplies the life-giving water from deep within the heart of God. Once they cut themselves off from him the substance of their lives withers.

Abide is an interesting word that Jesus uses to depict this principle of spiritual life. This is not a word in common usage in our time. I don’t often say, “I’m going to abide at my house on my day off.” Or “Why not come over for dinner, and we can abide for a while.” The fact that the word is unfamiliar gives us an opportunity to pause and reflect more deeply upon the meaning. Like the metaphor of the branches, abide carries a deeper meaning connected to a fruitful life.

Abiding in the Lord is something that takes time. We cannot have a five-minute abiding session and be nourished in the Lord. Abide has a living quality to its meaning, that is to say a sense of being at peace. To abide is to be unhurried, content, sharing each moment as they come. Abiding with Jesus means to remain connected to him in the sacrament of the present moment.

It’s not surprising that the word abide is no longer common in our contemporary world. Who has time to abide! Instead we are driven, running, striving to get everything done, so we can keep up with the next thing on the agenda. This Lent take a moment to get reconnected with the deep roots of God’s love. Abide in the Lord, unhurried and unharried, until the life from the root revives you once again.

Lord teach me how to slow down and abide with you in every moment of the day

Like the branches on the vine, help me to remain connected to you,

So that my life will be fruitful in your kingdom. Amen.

Fr. Jack ministers at St. Luke’s Anglican Church

 

 

The Way, the Truth and the Life

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by Dcn. Ron Christolear

John 14:1-16

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  And you know the way to where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:1-17

As our reading begins, Jesus is addressing his coming death on the cross.  He no doubt senses the disciples’ fear, and he tells them, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Jesus is telling his disciples to trust in God and to trust in him.  This fear may be predicated on the fact that the typical Jewish believer, which most likely included the disciples, had expected the Messiah to be a King who would come into the world to free Israel from Roman oppression.  As time went on, the disciples began to see that this was not Jesus’ mission.

So it must have been both confusing and frightening to hear Jesus talking about death.  Jesus, sensing their fear makes a promise, “I am going to prepare a place for you.”  Jesus is giving them the promise that they are not being abandoned.  Jesus even tells them, “You know the way to where I am going.”  Thomas then exclaims, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”  Jesus answers Thomas’ questions with a declaration that should calm the hearts of every person who has come to faith in him. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is making a bold statement of exclusivity.  It is reminiscent of the Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  Just as God was declaring his exclusivity as God, Jesus is declaring his exclusivity as the only way to access to that same God.  Peter declares of Jesus in Acts 4:12, “and there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  When Jesus speaks the words “be not troubled,” he is not only talking to the disciples standing before him, but to all who would call on his name over the centuries.  We need not fear the future, in this life or the life to come.

Do you want to know the way to the Father?  Look to Jesus.  Do you want to know the truth of the Father?  Look to Jesus.  Do you want to have life, now and in the presence of Father?  Look to Jesus.

As we come to the close of the season of Lent and prepare our hearts for Holy Week, and as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, we can know that Jesus is The Way, and The Truth, and The life not only because he tells us, which in itself is sufficient, but because he proves it through his death, burial, and resurrection.

Dcn. Ron ministers at Trinity Anglican Church

Showers of Grace

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by Fr. Mark Hall

John 13

“Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”    John 13:8

Backpacking can really be a lot of fun if you enjoy roughing it.  Carrying all your gear for several days on your back as you traverse beautiful geography has its appeal.  However, for all the beauty you take in, the one thing that is priceless upon returning home is a hot shower.  Few things can replace that feeling of knowing you’re clean, especially after everyone who’s come within a few feet of you knows you’re dirty.

The beauty of nature is one way we can catch a glimpse of God’s glory, yet it ultimately leaves us with more questions about God than answers.  To get a clear view of God’s glory, the Bible points us to Jesus, and we get a technicolor portrait in today’s reading.  We see Jesus spending time with his friends on the evening he will be betrayed by one of them to his death.  How does he respond? By taking it upon himself to get dirty.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of stepping in a dog’s fresh droppings that stick to the soles of your shoes.  It gets worse when you don’t realize it until you’re with others and everyone notices a foul smell coming from your direction.  Well imagine walking several miles a day on dusty roads that are heavily traveled by animals who take the liberty to relieve themselves whenever and wherever – and you’re wearing sandals.  Most likely by the end of the day your feet would have a dark film coating them in unpleasantness.

This is where Jesus goes straight to the mess.  It doesn’t matter that the job of cleaning someone’s feet is considered beneath a Jewish slave, he intimately enters into the stench we all want to avoid.  Peter didn’t know how to take it, so he came up with a plan that seemed more utilitarian: “Clean my head and hands too.”  But Jesus didn’t come to take orders about what we think is best for us, he came to clean up the real mess in our lives.

How mind-blowing to think that the God who spoke the beauty of creation into existence, chose to reveal himself as one who kneels down to take the messiness of our lives into his hands and make us clean.  In order for us to become clean, Jesus had to become dirty.  The cross represents the dirt and stench of our sins being placed on Jesus.  Yet it was God’s love for the world, for us, rather than the nails that kept Jesus there with arms outstretched.

How glorious that even though we’ve all stepped in it, so to speak, Jesus did not declare that we have to clean up before he’ll bring us home.  Even now he is showering us with his grace to make us clean.  Will we let his love lead us out towards others, or will we keep our distance due to their messiness?

Fr. Mark ministers at All Saints’ Anglican Church