A DIARY OF DAILY PRAYER
28 May 2020
Opening Sentences (responsive) .
Blessed are the sorrowful; they shall find consolation.
In the tender mercy of our God the dawn from on high will break upon us, to shine on those who live in darkness, under the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
In God’s favor there is life.
Tears may linger at nightfall, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Prayer for Illumination
Lord of life, you are our help in every time of trouble. In the presence of death, you comfort those who mourn. We bow before you, believing you bear our grief and share our sense of loss. Give us grace to worship you, and to trust that because Christ lives, we shall live also. Amen.
Scripture Reading Mark 15:33-39
33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
What was accomplished for us by Jesus’ life? He was the human whose character was entirely defined by saying “yes” to God. This did not mean he lost his selfhood, but rather that it set him free to be his own true self. Set free for God, his life became a life of self-giving to others, which through the power of the Holy Spirit, was the pattern we are to follow in order to be fully ourselves.[i]
What was accomplished by his death? He was put to death because too many of his kinsmen couldn’t muster enough imagination or courage to see their God was in Jesus, giving the world a model for authentic human life.
The resurrection was an announcement that the life of Jesus was God’s intended way in the world after all. It was an announcement that God would not forsake those who are rejected, crucified, and forgotten by a shallow, selfish, and sinful world. It was an announcement that by fully identifying with us God would defy the will of a God-defiant world by the radiant and irresistible glory of his grace.
Writer Philip Yancey ponders… One of the things I find most astounding is that, though we think of the future life as something perfected, when Christ appeared to his disciples he said, ‘Come look at my hands,’ and he invited Thomas to put his finger into the print of the nail. Why did he want to keep the wound of his humanity? Could it be because he wanted to carry with him an eternal reminder of the sufferings of those on earth? Could it be he carried the marks of suffering so he could continue to understand the needs of those suffering…so he could be forever one with us?[ii]
Yancey is right. God’s intention for us is defined by his identifying and forgiving love. How might that inform/alter/etc. our close encounters with death?
(On Tuesday my brother’s wife, Beverly Ann, died, having dealt courageously with stage 4 cancer for 21 years. She was a fabulous person through and through. The following prayer came to me some years ago… and it came to mind with BA’s death.)
Lord, the many deep scars I bear heal so slowly. Each reminds me of a difficult boundary line – a border at which my identity was impressed through struggle – a frontier where I felt anxious, addled, and alone – even though you were near.
Attend to me now, dear Guardian, for I have come to another difficult border caused by the death of a beloved friend, my dear brother’s wife. As I ponder my grief and try to fathom the even deeper grief being borne by my brother and their children… grant us comfort in the awareness you are acquainted with grief. And though we wonder if this scar has gone too deep, help us know that you and not death have the last word. Amen.
The peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, guard our hearts and our thoughts in Christ Jesus.
And the blessing of God…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…be with us now and always. Amen.
[i] Johnson, Luke T. 2003. The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why it Matters. NY, NY: Doubleday Press, 163.
[ii] Bruderhof Foundation. 2003. Bread and Wine. Lent. Farmington, PA: Plough Pub. House, 322. Quoting Philip Yancey, “Jesus’ Reminders.”