Spirit Led, Spirit Filled

As we approach Pentecost, the fruits of God’s Spirit working among us are wonderfully evident. Each day for the past couple of weeks the Narthex has been busy with people working on our stained glass window. I love visiting with people as they make careful cuts or fit colorful pieces of glass together. We are celebrating our love for God as we create this prayer in glass and light.

Another fruit of the Spirit is our new Care Teams ministry. Care Teams and the Care Teams list allow us to pray for and support one another. What a gift it is to be able to give love and support, and to know when love and support are needed. If you know of or have a prayer need, call the office and get that need onto the Care Team list. If you would like to be on one of the Care Teams, talk to Dennis Beals, Karen Tynes, or me.

Pentecost falls on June 12th this year and we are again planning a celebration and experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit among us at St. Dunstan’s. The first service, 8:00am at the Henry Chapel, will start our celebration. This service has grown wonderfully this year, both in attendance and in fellowship, with the new “coffee hour” after the service.

The second service, starting at 10:00am at St. Dunstan’s, will begin with an introit that draws from the ancient tradition of monastic chant. The service will be dramatic, beautiful and moving. Like our Palm Sunday Service and the Easter Vigil, we will incorporate movement, drama and music. Our stained glass window, “The Light of God”, will be installed in time for this service (God willing) and we will dedicate the window at this service.  Then, gathered under the new window around our Baptismal font we will baptize a new member of our congregation.

This Sunday, Memorial Day Weekend, many of us will be enjoying the traditional beginning of the summer season with family gatherings and events. At St. Dunstan’s Church we are planning a service that will include some of our most beloved music. “Joyful, joyful we adore thee!” Patricia Yeager will grace us with her harp before, during and after the service.

God is certainly working among us and through us. I thank God for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, giving us the will, courage and strength to do God’s work in and through our lives.

Your brother in Christ,

The Rev. David Marshall

Pilgrims at Prayer

Throughout the ages pilgrims have engaged in spiritual practices. There is the central act of worship that Jesus gave us of breaking bread and sharing wine. There is the ritual initiation of baptism that makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. Perhaps one of the most basic and important practices of spiritual pilgrims is that of prayer. This week I want to commend to you the practice of praying intentionally throughout your day.

Prayer connects us to God in a personal and intimate way. When my children were very young we had a ritual for bedtime. Each night, bedtime started with putting on pajamas and brushing teeth. Then came a bedtime story. Finally, and most importantly, came the kiss goodnight. I would tuck their blankets in snugly and give them a kiss. That time together each night was precious. When they were older my children knew that I loved them deeply because of the bond we formed over the years, including that good night kiss. When their lives became more complicated, and their problems more challenging, we had the strength of our love, formed by years of care expressed in part through that bedtime ritual.

Our relationship with God needs the same kind of attention. We pray to God each day to form and strengthen our relationship so that when life gets hard, we will have the assurance of that love. Like a good night kiss, daily prayers give us the experience of God’s love for us and our love for God.

There are lots of different ways we can pray but I recommend starting with something simple. Say grace before eating. Thank God for the food that you are about to eat and for the people you are eating with. Another simple and effective practice is to say the Lord’s Prayer at noon each day. Set a reminder on your phone or computer. When noon comes, take a minute to pray. Make that a priority. Let your prayer remind you that you are a pilgrim seeking to know God. Finally, at the end of your day, try thanking God for all the blessings of the day. What could be better than to end the day recalling all the good things that happened?

Let your prayer be the practice that connects you to God each day. Let your prayer be the good night kiss that forms your love and your relationship with God the Father. Let your prayer be the practice that makes your life a pilgrimage.

Your brother in Christ,

The Rev. David Marshall

Christian Pilgrimage Begins with Baptism

You may have noticed something new as you came into church. At the Easter Vigil we placed a font in the entry to our church. This font was used at the vigil for the renewal of baptismal vows. We will use the font again on Pentecost to baptize a new member of God’s family.

Our walk with Christ begins with baptism. As we reach out to welcome new pilgrims to join us in our walk with Christ, the font is an appropriate symbol to have in our entryway. Traditionally, the entryway is the place for a font because we enter into our faith through baptism and we enter into our worship space by walking past the baptismal font. When you visit St. Mark’s Cathedral, the Font is right inside the main doors to the sanctuary.

On Pentecost we will use this font for the first time to baptize baby Iris. The baptism will begin with a procession of the entire congregation to surround the font. Everyone will have a great view of the font and the baptism. The newly baptized child will be surrounded by her new brothers and sisters in Christ, and we will all be able to see the baptism take place.

We will keep the font out, visible, accessible and filled with water from here on out. As you go by, you may want to touch the water or dip your finger in the water and touch it to your forehead as a reminder of your own baptism. Remember your baptism. You have been born anew into Christ’s family. You are an adopted child of God.

Your brother in Christ,

The Rev. David Marshall

Strength for the Journey

A bishop once told me the story of her walking pilgrimage through France and Spain. “I almost died in the mountains of France. It was snowing and sleeting. My feet were torn with blisters. I was so tired and sore. I stopped, freezing, wet and in pain, and collapsed on the side of the trail, ready to die.” She did not die of course. Instead, other pilgrims and people along the way gave her warmth, comfort, food, healing, prayer and love.

Every story of pilgrimage passes through pain, suffering and struggle. Yet, when we travel as pilgrims, what we inevitably find is love. We find that pilgrimage can only be accomplished with the love and support of others. When our shoes break and there is no space at the pilgrims’ hostel, we find a kind soul who knows of rooms we can use just down the street. When we are thirsty, someone offers water. When we are hungry, we find generous hospitality around a table.

When you give your heart to Jesus, trusting in his teaching and his life, you put yourself on the pilgrim’s path. As a follower of Jesus you will encounter struggles, conflicts, and disappointments. Jesus knew that this was true and would remain true through the ages. Jesus knew that the pilgrims that followed in his footsteps would need strength for the journey and so he gave us the Eucharist.

At the Last Supper Jesus took the bread, blessed it, and gave it to his friends saying, “Take, eat… Drink this. All of you…” The sharing of bread and wine is a central practice of Christians given directly by Jesus. The communion meal of Jesus’ body and blood binds us together in love and in caring for one another. When we gather at the Lord’s Table to share the bread and wine, we are strengthened and encouraged.

Our mission statement declares that we seek to provide a welcoming environment where individuals can come together to walk in Christ’s love and forgiveness through worship, prayer and service to the community. Living into this mission and working to accomplish this mission we become pilgrims. Even as we face our own struggles, we are working to aid and bless other pilgrims on their own journeys.

Sharing in the Eucharist as we worship together is both a primary way of being pilgrims and it gives us strength for the journey. We share communion together because we want to be pilgrims and because as pilgrims, we need strength for the journey. We invite others to share Eucharist with us because we want to encourage, bless and comfort fellow pilgrims.

Your brother in Christ,

The Rev. David Marshall

P.S. I find myself struggling this week with the news of and the reactions to the killing of Osama Bin Laden. A dear friend shared a quote that seems greatly appropriate today. Versions of this quote have been spreading around the internet as being attributed to Martin Luther King Jr. The quote does include a reference to MLK Jr. but the original quote comes from Jessica Dovey, a recent Penn State grad living in Kobe, Japan, who posted this as her Facebook status:

I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” MLK Jr.

Tourists becoming Pilgrims

Are you a spiritual tourist or pilgrim? If you are a tourist, St. Dunstan’s Church and Christianity have a lot to offer. You can have good experiences and make some good friends. If you are a pilgrim, Christ and St. Dunstan’s Church will change your life. That’s the difference between a vacation and a pilgrimage. Vacations are often fun, hopefully memorable, and mostly optional. A pilgrimage, on the other hand, can be challenging, may involve going places both literally and metaphorically that we are not comfortable, and can change your life forever.

Fortunately for us, our ancestors in the faith have a lot of experience with pilgrims. We have a rich tradition of Christian practices that support us in living as pilgrims. Over the Easter season as we lead up to Pentecost I will be writing on this theme.  I would also like to invite you to share your stories of pilgrimage. What has worked for you as you seek to follow Christ? What practices have been rewarding? Have you gone on a mission trip to serve the needy in another place? Have you engaged in a particular prayer practice? Have you participated in a ministry or program that was richly rewarding?

There are things we can do together that just work. There are ways of living as Christians that change lives and give joy and peace. One of the most basic practices that feeds and supports Christian spiritual growth is to gather, pray, and study the scriptures with fellow Christians. We do that on Wednesday mornings with out Bible study group, but that’s really just a taste of what is possible.

This weekend we are starting our Care Teams ministries. On Saturday we will have an orientation for the people who have signed up to be on care teams. Then, on Sunday, we will commission our care teams in our Sunday worship services. Care teams are one of the rich ways we can invest ourselves in our congregation as pilgrims.

Follow Christ and your life will be transformed. Put your faith in God as revealed by Jesus and you will experience resurrection life. Invest yourself in your faith as a Christian and you will receive the gift of eternal life now, in this lifetime. All of these statements are true but none will happen if we approach our faith or our participation in church as tourists.

If you invest yourself in the St. Dunstan’s congregation as a pilgrim you will experience new life. Join me over these next weeks as we look at the different ways we can become pilgrims together.

Your brother in Christ,

The Rev. David Marshall

Saturday: Sitting By the Tomb

Today’s Reading: Matthew 27:57-66

The Burial of Jesus

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The Guard at the Tomb

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, “After three days I will rise again.” Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, “He has been raised from the dead”, and the last deception would be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.’ So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone. (NRSV)

Reflection

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. Jesus is dead and buried. Joseph of Arimathea has provided a good burial with linens and spices for the body. A new tomb, hewn from the rock holds the body and a large stone has been rolled against the entrance. All is set. All is well. All is as well as it can be when someone we love has died.

Mary and Mary sit by the grave. How often do we get this far and stop? The story of Jesus is great. There are twists and turns and intrigue. Jesus teaches with wonderful parables and he says the most enigmatic things. He was a great teacher indeed. But, if that is all we let Jesus be for us, we will always be sitting at the tomb.

To take your life to the next level you have to actually put your trust in Jesus. You have to cherish him as the revelation of God’s love. You have to trust that Jesus and the Holy Spirit will guide your life to great rewards if you just put your trust, faith and love in Jesus. Jesus offers us a new kind of life that is profoundly better than the life we already have. The life we already have is, at best, sitting at the tomb of a dead teacher. The life Jesus offers is resurrection life.

Give your heart to Jesus and devote yourself to following him and something new and wonderful happens. The earth quakes and the tomb rolls away and the tomb where the teacher laid is empty. If you are looking for meaning, purpose and joy, Jesus has all that to offer.

Don’t just wait at the tomb. Resurrection life can be yours.

Questions: What needs resurrecting in your life? What makes it hard to turn this over to God and trust that God will bring you, too, through death to new life?

Prayer: Lord God, remind us of your presence with us when we stumble, suffer, or are afraid in any way. Give us strength, courage, and peace, and help us to be an encouragement and sign of life to others. Amen.

Friday: The Altar is Bare

Today’s Reading: Matthew 27:32-56

The Crucifixion of Jesus

As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him. Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.’

Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, “I am God’s Son.” ’ The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

The Death of Jesus

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘This man is calling for Elijah.’ At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.’ Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’

Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. (NRSV)

Reflection

The altar is bare, stripped of all the vestments and implements of worship. The table is just a slab of wood now: A slab of bare wood, washed and standing empty. The altar looks less like a table and more like a tomb: a place where you might rest a body for burial.

Every year when we come to Good Friday I am shocked by the experience. Somehow, the bare altar, stripped of all the usual linens and candles is too much. Even knowing that Easter will come does not ease the pain. This is Good Friday. Jesus has died on the cross. In our worship today we will lament. We will look at the part we all played in this tragedy. I know we have to do this, but I do not want to. It is just too hard.

Maybe my brother will hold onto the hope. Maybe one of my sisters in the faith will lead the way forward, confident of what will come.

Yes,

that’s it.

There is hope.

This emptiness will not last.

 

Questions: How does Jesus’ death tell the truth about our lives and world? How does it give us hope? Where do you see God still at work to redeem and preserve creation? Where do you long to see God?

Prayer: Lord God, on the cross you suffered the very depths of our human life, even to the point of death. When we see the cross, let us remember that you become one of us and endured all elements of life to show us your great love and to give us hope. Amen.

Holy Days Leading to Easter

This is the most holy week of the year for those of us who have devoted our lives to Christ. The Gospel story is our story. We follow Jesus by allowing our lives to be shaped by and guided by the Gospel, by Jesus’ life. This year I have been posting installments of the Passion story on my blog, along with reflections, questions to ponder, and a prayer each day. This is just one way to enter into the story.

The Church has traditionally entered into the story with the three services of Holy Week: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. If you cannot come to these services, I invite you to read the blog entries so that you can move through this powerful story and come to Easter ready to experience the wonder and joy of resurrection.

Thursday night at 7:00 PM we will hold Maundy Thursday services with the ritual of foot washing. This practice, along with the Eucharist, comes directly from Jesus himself. We will experience, just as Peter did, the confusion and discomfort of a savior who humbles himself so that we might have the courage to humble ourselves.

On Friday, at both noon and again at 7:00 PM we will hold the solemn service of Good Friday. For many of us, this is the most powerful service of the year. This is the service where the power of the Gospel connects with the pain and sorrow of our lives.

The Easter Vigil, held this year at 7:00 PM on Holy Saturday, is an ancient tradition that deserves our attention. This year we will hold vigil for Jesus. We will re-tell the stories of salvation history with dramatic presentations of the Creation, the Flood, Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea, and Ezekiel’s dry bones. The service continues with a renewal of our baptismal vows and the first celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.

This is going to be a wonderful Easter at St. Dunstan’s Church. At 8:00am at the Henry Chapel we will raise our glad cries of Alleluia. Our main service will be at a special time, 10:00 AM, to allow as many people to attend as possible. Bring a flower with you to this service where we will “flower the cross” by putting flowers into a special cross at the Altar.  This is going to be a great celebration and you will want to be there!

Your brother in Christ,

The Rev. David Marshall

Are You the King of the Jews?

Thursday: Are You the King of the Jews?

Today’s Reading: Matthew 27:1-31

Jesus Brought before Pilate

When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

The Suicide of Judas

When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, ‘It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.’ After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.’

Pilate Questions Jesus

Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus said, ‘You say so.’ But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?’ But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Barabbas or Jesus?

Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.’ Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas.’ Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ Then he asked, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’

Pilate Hands Jesus over to Be Crucified

So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’ Then the people as a whole answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. (NRSV)

Reflection

Jesus was silent before them. They accused him of heresy and sedition, and he remained silent. For years Jesus had been teaching and healing openly. He debated with Pharisees and Sadducees. He taught with brilliant parables and miraculous signs. Now, standing before Pilate, Jesus is silent. What is Jesus doing?

I wonder if Jesus knew that he could not talk in any meaningful way in this context? Would any answer he could give have made any difference? Jesus is the perfect expression of God’s love. Jesus is the incarnation of God’s love. Love stands before power and power is blind. Power cannot see what stands there. Pilate can only ask Jesus questions of power. “Are you the King of the Jews?”

When we talk of salvation, if we speak of power, we are blind. Salvation is not about power. Salvation does not come from power. We cannot be powerful enough to be saved or rich enough or beautiful enough. Salvation comes when we participate in God’s love. Jesus stood before Pilate but he could not answer Pilate because they did not even speak the same language. What did Pilate know of love? What would the soldiers have said if Jesus spoke to them about love?

Questions: Where do you see the struggle for power and the easy resort to defamation and violence in our world today? In what ways does fear poison our relationships at home and at work as well as in the larger world? What one thing would you ask God to change about your life or the world? How can you contribute to making that happen?

Prayer: Use us, Lord God, as instruments of peace in world too often broken by violence and a thirst for power. Amen.

Wednesday: How Far Would You Go to Follow Jesus?

Today’s Reading: Matthew 26: 47-75

The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.’ At once he came up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you are here to do.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?’ At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Jesus before the High Priest

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered. But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, ‘This fellow said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.” ’ The high priest stood up and said, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’ But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, ‘I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you,
From now on you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of Power
and coming on the clouds of heaven.’
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?’ They answered, ‘He deserves death.’ Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, saying, ‘Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?’

Peter’s Denial of Jesus

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus the Galilean.’ But he denied it before all of them, saying, ‘I do not know what you are talking about.’ When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ Again he denied it with an oath, ‘I do not know the man.’ After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.’ Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know the man!’ At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: ‘Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly. (NRSV)

Reflections

How far would you go to follow Jesus? Peter went right into the courtyard of those who arrested Jesus. That’s pretty amazing. Peter went into the enemy camp and pretended to be one of them. He was willing to risk his own life to keep close to Jesus.

How far would you go? There is so much about living as a disciple of Jesus that is difficult to understand. When the “large crowd” came with clubs and swords to arrest Jesus, one of Jesus’ closest friends drew his sword. Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.’

Force, violence and power are not the way. Jesus confronts the power of the religious authorities and even the awesome power of Rome with love. How often do we draw a sword to make things right? We want to use power, influence, wealth and privilege to make the world right. That is not the way of Jesus.

How far would you go to follow Jesus? Would you take off your shoes and let someone else wash your feet? Would you take a towel and humble yourself to wash someone else’s feet? The foot washing ritual of Maundy Thursday is so uncomfortable for us. Did Jesus really do that? Did he really put a towel around his waist and wash the disciple’s feet? Is this the behavior of a savior?

How far would you go to follow Jesus? Are you willing to humble yourself? Are you willing to love those who would dominate you with their power? As uncomfortable and as humbling, or even humiliating, as the foot washing ritual is, the rewards are worth more. Jesus went this way and defeated death. Jesus went to the cross and there, love defeats death. The way is difficult, but the reward is life. True life. Eternal life. Life lived in the joy and hope of God’s love.

Questions: What strengthens us to keep faith with those we care about? What tempts us to abandon them? Where have you felt abandoned? Where do you need the support of good friends? Who needs you?

Prayer: Lord God, protect and preserve us in this world that we might keep faith with the promises and responsibilities we have undertaken, and when we feel alone remind us that you understand and are with us. Amen.