Lent 2016

http://www.bmfchurch.net/reflections.htm



Lent




Reflections on passages from
the Holy Gospels.



February & March 2016


by Br Luke EFO




Copyrights and Credits

Scripture
The translation we have used in this booklet is the “World Messianic Bible British Edition”.  This is a public domain translation of the Bible. This translation was selected because, it is freely available and it is a translation that we are not used to reading.  This “newness” will, I think, assist us in reading what may be familiar passages in a new light.
The website offers this explanation of the translation.
“The World Messianic Bible is an edition of the World English Bible that uses a dialect of English closer to what Messianic Jews normally use. It is just like the World English Bible, except:
·         God's Proper Name in the Old Testament is rendered "LORD" or "GOD" instead of "Yahweh".
·         Many proper names in the New Testament are given in their Hebrew forms instead of the common Greek/English forms.
·         "Baptize" is rendered "immerse" for a more clear connection between Jewish purification rituals and the meaning of the Greek word.
·         The books of the Old Covenant are listed in the traditional Hebrew Bible order.”
The Bible may be downloaded at the following web address: http://ebible.org/engwmbb/


Images
·         Cover
The cross on the cover was created by Br Luke in 2010.
·         Page 3


The image of Jesus’s crucifixion on page 3 is from the Codex Bruchsal. Evangelistar von Speyer, um 1220; Manuscript in the Badische Landesbibliothek, Karlsruhe, Germany, Cod. Bruchsal 1, Bl. 31r. Date: circa 1220. Sourced from https://commons.wikimedia.org.
·         Page 4

The image on page 4 is entitled “St Francis Rejecting the World and Embracing Christ”.  It is by Bartolom√© Esteban Murillo (1617 to 1682) who was a Spanish Baroque painter. The original is in Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany.

Copyright
© Br Luke Koller efo 2016. Except as provided by the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced, communicated to the public without the prior written permission of the publisher.
The right of Br Luke efo to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by him.






















Introduction

The next pages contain the Gospel readings for the Eucharist/Holy Communion services during Lent, as set by the 2016 Australian Anglican Lectionary (An Australian Lectionary 2016).

Each passage of Scripture is followed by a reflection.  And each reflection is then followed by a space for you to record your thoughts, musing or intentions of how you respond to the passage or its reflection.  Please remember that there is no right or wrong response to the passage of Scripture or its reflection.  Each of us will react differently, and indeed our responses to the same passage or reflection may vary from day to day.

I pray your journey through Lent will be one of renewal and growth.

Br Luke EFO
Winmalee, 10th February 2016

10th February
Scripture: Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21
“Be careful that you don’t do your charitable giving before men, to be seen by them, or else you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Therefore when you do merciful deeds, don’t sound a shofar before yourself, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may get glory from men. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you do merciful deeds, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand does, so that your merciful deeds may be in secret, then your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
“When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most certainly, I tell you, they have received their reward. But you, when you pray, enter into your inner room, and having shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
16  “Moreover when you fast, don’t be like the hypocrites, with sad faces. For they disfigure their faces, that they may be seen by men to be fasting. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17  But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; 18  so that you are not seen by men to be fasting, but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
19  “Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; 20  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal; 21  for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Reflection:
Jesus contrasts the public displays of piety and those done quietly "in secret". The desire for glory and praise is a self-centred quest. If we have a "service to others" as a focus for our lives, then most likely we will not seek and will thus avoid the spotlight.  Preferring to do our work quietly. It is in shunning the ego driven desires of seeking fame, honour and riches, that leads us to seek a better way for ourselves and those we serve.

Your thoughts:


11th February
Scripture: Luke 9: 22-25
22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up.”
23 He said to all, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for my sake, will save it. 25  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits his own self?


Reflection:
We may think that carrying a cross is difficult, perhaps something to be avoided at all costs.  So we pursue our own agendas.  Perhaps we decide to carry a cross which isn’t really the cross, a disciple of Jesus would carry.  Remember that Jesus is telling us we can’t carry our cross and also pursue our own objectives.  They are mutually exclusive. 
When we try we carry our objectives as a cross, then we risk losing ourselves in a quest for more, wealth, power, prestige and fame.  We forget about what we are forfeiting? What type of cross are you carrying?

Your thoughts:


12th February
Scripture: Matthew 9: 14-15
14 Then Yochanan’s disciples came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples don’t fast?”
15 Yeshua said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.


Reflection:
Jesus tells John's disciples that his followers will fast, but not just yet. We perhaps need to be mindful of the reasons why we do things like fast. Simply doing it, because it is expected, or because everyone else is doing it may suggest that we have lost sight of the purpose of the act. When we do this, we run the risk of focusing our attention on how well we accomplish the act, or pride ourselves on the accomplishment and not on the "why".

Your thoughts:


13th February
Scripture: Luke 5: 27-32
27 After these things he went out, and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the tax office, and said to him, “Follow me!”
28 He left everything, and rose up and followed him. 29 Levi made a great feast for him in his house. There was a great crowd of tax collectors and others who were reclining with them. 30 Their scribes and the Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Yeshua answered them, “Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick do. 32  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”


Reflection:
Notice how Levi gathered a very diverse group of people for the banquet. Some would have been considered sinners and others as righteous. All were made welcome at the table, even if some present did not like it. Surely an example for us today. Are we as welcoming to those who perhaps don't fit our image, or ideal, of who should be at the table?  Do we exclude and marginalise those who perhaps Levi, or Jesus, would have invited?  Are we falling into the trap of the Pharisees and judging others by our standards?

Your thoughts:



14th February
Scripture: Luke 4: 1-15
Yeshua, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. He ate nothing in those days. Afterward, when they were completed, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
Yeshua answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’”
The devil, leading him up on a high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. The devil said to him, “I will give you all this authority, and their glory, for it has been delivered to me; and I give it to whomever I want. If you therefore will worship before me, it will all be yours.”
Yeshua answered him, “Get behind me Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve him only.’ ”
He led him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,
‘He will put his angels in charge of you, to guard you;’
11 and,
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest perhaps you dash your foot against a stone.’”
12 Yeshua answering, said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”
13 When the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from him until another time.
14 Yeshua returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and news about him spread through all the surrounding area. 15 He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.


Reflection:
Jesus responded to passages quoted to him, with other passages which refuted the temptation.  In other words, Jesus knew and relied on God’s word to help in times of immense struggle.  Do we do the same?

Your thoughts:



15th February
Scripture: Matthew 25:31-46
31  “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32  Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33  He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34  Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35  for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. 36  I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’
37  “Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? 38  When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? 39  When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’
40  “The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 41  Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; 42  for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; 43  I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
44  “Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’
45  “Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ 46  These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”


Reflection:
In today's world it is relatively easy to see the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned, the naked - simply turn on the television, or walk through the suburbs of your town or city where the marginalised, the neglected and the homeless struggle to survive.  What is so much harder is doing something about it. Have you ever asked yourself “why”?

Your thoughts:



16th February
Scripture: Matthew 6: 7-15
In praying, don’t use vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their much speaking. Therefore don’t be like them, for your Father knows what things you need, before you ask him. Pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. 10  Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11  Give us today our daily bread. 12  Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. 13  Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.’
14  “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15  But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.


Reflection:
We all know that if we let it, prayer will help us to develop, and maintain, a close relationship with God. Like all relationships that we want to foster, we have to work at it.  We need to be attentive and diligent. Jesus gave us this model of prayer and we have come to know it as the Lord’s Prayer. It is probably the one prayer that we can all recite, with little thought, from memory. I wonder though just how many of us actually stop and think about. let alone put into practice, the words we are praying?

Your thoughts:



17th February
Scripture: Luke 11: 29-32
29 When the multitudes were gathering together to him, he began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks after a sign. No sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah, the prophet. 30  For even as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so the Son of Man will also be to this generation. 31 The Queen of the South will rise up in the judgement with the men of this generation, and will condemn them: for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, one greater than Solomon is here. 32  The men of Nineveh will stand up in the judgement with this generation, and will condemn it: for they repented at the proclaiming of Jonah, and behold, one greater than Jonah is here.


Reflection:
The people of Nineveh listened and did as Jonah preached. In order to repent, we must first be aware of how we have sinned, and then we must be prepared to do something about it. Put another way, repentance requires us to take some action after we gain the understanding or knowledge of the sin.
Of course we may choose to ignore, to become deaf to the knowledge we have been given. If we do this, then any repentance will have little importance or meaning.  It also follows then that when we do this we have not listened to the message, or followed the sign, that Jesus tells us we should.  What do you do?

Your thoughts:



18th February
Scripture: Matthew 7: 7-12
7 “Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or who is there amongst you, who, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, who will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 12 Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the Torah and the Prophets.


Reflection:
" Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the Torah and the Prophets ". I wonder how many of us only to think about, or want to follow, this instruction when we feel aggrieved? I wonder if we always treat others this way, or only when there is some advantage (however slight it may be) to us? Are there perhaps instances when we deliberately choose to do the opposite?

Your thoughts:



19th February
Scripture: Matthew 5: 20-26
20  For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
21  “You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not murder;’ and ‘Whoever murders will be in danger of the judgement.’ 22  But I tell you that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause  will be in danger of the judgement. Whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing!’ will be in danger of the council. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of Gehinnom.
23  “If therefore you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you, 24  leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25  Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are with him on the way; lest perhaps the prosecutor deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison. 26  Most certainly I tell you, you shall by no means get out of there, until you have paid the last penny.


Reflection:
"unless your righteousness exceeds". This surely is one of those passages we can take out of its context, and turn into a reason, or a list of judgement criteria, or justifications, which we can then apply to others. Particularly when they do not seem to agree with our perspectives. When we do this, perhaps we are simply demonstrating that it is we who are not yet ready to enter the Kingdom of God.

Your thoughts:



20th February
Scripture: Matthew 5: 43-48
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.


Reflection:
“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” (part of verse 43) We all have a tendency to be exclusive in some way or another. We are at times unable to help it. We may realise it at the time, or shortly after, or even perhaps before. By and large, we look to be with those who are like us, who think as we do, who see the world as we do. Yet when our world only revolves around this group of people then perhaps we are “loving those who love us”. In these passages Jesus asks us to think, to see and to act beyond ourselves. Do you? Can you? Will you?

Your thoughts:


21st February
Scripture: Luke 13:1-9
Now there were some present at the same time who told him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Yeshua answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all perish in the same way. Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them; do you think that they were worse offenders than all the men who dwell in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but, unless you repent, you will all perish in the same way.”
He spoke this parable. “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it, and found none. He said to the vine dresser, ‘Behold, these three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and found none. Cut it down. Why does it waste the soil?’ He answered, ‘Lord, leave it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilise it. If it bears fruit, fine; but if not, after that, you can cut it down.’ ”


Reflection:
Think of the Owner of the Garden as God, Jesus as the Gardner and ourselves as the Fig Tree. Sometimes in the way we live our lives, or our vocations, we can/could just be wasting the soil. Yet if we allow Jesus to nurture us, we will find that we can produce a harvest. It can be a plentiful harvest, but we will have to trust and allow the fertilising, the nurturing, to take place. This often means letting go of our egos, and this can be hard. Consider though, the alternative is not really a place of happiness.

Your thoughts:



22nd February
Scripture: Luke 6: 36-38
36  “Therefore be merciful,
even as your Father is also merciful.
37  Don’t judge,
and you won’t be judged.
Don’t condemn,
and you won’t be condemned.
Set free,
and you will be set free.
38  “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you. For with the same measure you measure it will be measured back to you.”


Reflection:
"Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful". When we want some rule, or our own sense of justice, to be applied, then mercy will not be seen or even considered. I'm sure we can all cite examples where mercy was viewed as unimportant when some dogma or doctrine was being defended or proposed. The impact this dogma/doctrine would have on human lives and relationships, was not considered, it did not matter than we were not being merciful?  Perhaps this is because we like to focus on the negative, on the bad, on the sensational, on the error, or failures of others. We don’t concern ourselves with what measure we may get, we just want to limit the measure given to the others. Notice anything wrong with that approach?

Your thoughts:


23rd February
Scripture: Matthew 23: 1-12
1 Then Yeshua spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sat on Moses’ seat. 3 All things therefore whatever they tell you to observe, observe and do, but don’t do their works; for they say, and don’t do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens that are grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not lift a finger to help them. 5 But they do all their works to be seen by men. They make their tefillin broad, enlarge the fringes of their garments, 6 and love the place of honour at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 the salutations in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi, Rabbi’ by men. 8 But don’t you be called ‘Rabbi,’ for one is your Rabbi, the Messiah, and all of you are brothers. 9 Call no man on the earth your father, for one is your Father, he who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for one is your master, the Messiah. 11 But he who is greatest amongst you will be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.


Reflection:
"The greatest amongst you will be your servant." To be a servant requires at least 2 things: someone to serve and a willingness to serve others - to be the servant. Have a look around you, how many servants do you know? Can you see how, and who, they are serving? Are you serving with them? Is there, perhaps, someone serving you?

Your thoughts:


24th February
Scripture: Matthew 20: 17-28
As Yeshua was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18  “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, 19  and will hand him over to the Gentiles to mock, to scourge, and to crucify; and the third day he will be raised up.”
20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, kneeling and asking a certain thing of him. 21 He said to her, “What do you want?”
She said to him, “Command that these, my two sons, may sit, one on your right hand, and one on your left hand, in your Kingdom.”
22 But Yeshua answered, “You don’t know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be immersed with the immersion that I am immersed with?”
They said to him, “We are able.”
23 He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, and be immersed with the immersion that I am immersed with, but to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it is for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
24 When the ten heard it, they were indignant with the two brothers.
25 But Yeshua summoned them, and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26  It shall not be so amongst you, but whoever desires to become great amongst you shall be your servant. 27  Whoever desires to be first amongst you shall be your bondservant, 28  even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


Reflection:
Here is the command to serve others. To set aside the ego that wants to always be first, at the front, in charge, in control, with the power. The ego often does not want to serve, to be subject to the needs of others. When we allow our egos to remain unchecked, we start to believe that others should serve us. We make demands on them that are intended to only meet our needs and our desires. When we do this then we have forgotten that Jesus focused us on the need to serve others and not to rule over them.  How is your ego?

Your thoughts:


25th February
Scripture: Luke 16: 19-31
19  “Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day. 20  A certain beggar, named Lazarus, was taken to his gate, full of sores, 21  and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Yes, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22  The beggar died, and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried. 23  In Sheol, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his bosom. 24  He cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue! For I am in anguish in this flame.’
25  “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good things, and Lazarus, in the same way, bad things. But here he is now comforted, and you are in anguish. 26  Besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that those who want to pass from here to you are not able, and that no one may cross over from there to us.’
27  “He said, ‘I ask you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house; 28  for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, so they won’t also come into this place of torment.’
29  “But Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them listen to them.’
30  “He said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
31  “He said to him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.’ ”


Reflection:
‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.’ Sometimes no matter what we say and do, people will still not want to listen or indeed to hear. They will not see or understand that the chasm which separated the rich man from Lazarus existed in life, and continued after death. While the rich man ignored the chasm in life, he could not do so in death. When he was alive, the rich man had a chance to be compassionate, to help Lazarus - but he chose to do the opposite. While it can be incredibly frustrating and distressing to see people ignore this chasm and ignore compassion, we can’t force them to listen and act.  So hand them over to God and allow the Spirit to do the work.  Can you?

Your thoughts:


26th February
Scripture: Matthew 21: 33-46
33  “Hear another parable. There was a man who was a master of a household, who planted a vineyard, set a hedge about it, dug a wine press in it, built a tower, leased it out to farmers, and went into another country. 34  When the season for the fruit came near, he sent his servants to the farmers, to receive his fruit. 35  The farmers took his servants, beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36  Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they treated them the same way. 37  But afterward he sent to them his son, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38  But the farmers, when they saw the son, said amongst themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and seize his inheritance.’ 39  So they took him, and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40  When therefore the lord of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those farmers?”
41 They told him, “He will miserably destroy those miserable men, and will lease out the vineyard to other farmers, who will give him the fruit in its season.”
42 Yeshua said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures,
‘The stone which the builders rejected
was made the head of the corner.
This was from the Lord.
It is marvellous in our eyes?’
43  “Therefore I tell you, God’s Kingdom will be taken away from you, and will be given to a nation producing its fruit. 44  He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but on whomever it will fall, it will scatter him as dust.”
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he spoke about them. 46 When they sought to seize him, they feared the multitudes, because they considered him to be a prophet.


Reflection:
There are probably times in our lives when we are like the “wicked tenants”, And other times when we are the vineyard owner’s servants. What moves us from one group to another? The people we are with, some event that causes us to doubt/believe, an experience of grace, a loss, a miracle? The list is probably endless. Look back on your journey, see if you can find the times when you were a “wicked tenant”. Do you know why?

Your thoughts:


27th February
Scripture: Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming close to him to hear him. The Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.”
He told them this parable.
11 He said, “A certain man had two sons. 12  The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of your property.’ He divided his livelihood between them. 13  Not many days after, the younger son gathered all of this together and travelled into a far country. There he wasted his property with riotous living. 14  When he had spent all of it, there arose a severe famine in that country, and he began to be in need. 15  He went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16  He wanted to fill his belly with the husks that the pigs ate, but no one gave him any. 17  But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to spare, and I’m dying with hunger! 18  I will get up and go to my father, and will tell him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. 19  I am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.” ’
20  “He arose, and came to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21  The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22  “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe, and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23  Bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let’s eat, and celebrate; 24  for this, my son, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’ Then they began to celebrate.
25  “Now his elder son was in the field. As he came near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26  He called one of the servants to him, and asked what was going on. 27  He said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and healthy.’ 28  But he was angry, and would not go in. Therefore his father came out, and begged him. 29  But he answered his father, ‘Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed a commandment of yours, but you never gave me a goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30  But when this your son came, who has devoured your living with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’
31  “He said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32  But it was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’ ”



Reflection:
We have come to know this passages of scripture as the parable of the Prodigal Son.
The father was moved by compassion, by forgiveness and celebrated the return of the son he had thought was lost.  Notice the eldest son was still to inherit everything, the younger son was not going to have part of his brother’s estate given to him.  The father was not focused on material possessions- but the eldest son was.  The father had responded from love, the angry, eldest son from what he thought was his entitlement.
Are there times when we behave like the eldest son?

Your thoughts:


28th February
Scripture: Luke 13: 31-35
31 On that same day, some Pharisees came, saying to him, “Get out of here, and go away, for Herod wants to kill you.”
32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I complete my mission. 33  Nevertheless I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the next day, for it can’t be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem.’
34  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, like a hen gathers her own brood under her wings, and you refused! 35  Behold, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ “


Reflection:
Jesus would not be deterred from his task. He knew what he was to do, and where his earthly ministry would come to its end. We often are not so clear. We often adjust our ministries, to fit the situation, to fit the people, or perhaps to fit the community. I wonder, when we do this: Do we sense that we are fulfilled? Do we feel we have met our vocations, our call to the gospel life? Or do we feel we have “fallen short” somewhere?

Your thoughts:



29th February
Scripture: Luke 4: 24-30
24 He said, “Most certainly I tell you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25  But truly I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land. 26  Elijah was sent to none of them, except to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27  There were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed, except Naaman, the Syrian.”
28 They were all filled with wrath in the synagogue, as they heard these things. 29 They rose up, threw him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill that their city was built on, that they might throw him off the cliff. 30 But he, passing through the middle of them, went his way.


Reflection:
A prophet calls out to us. The Prophet asks us to face, and look at, that which we do not want to see, or hear. A prophet will make us uncomfortable, perhaps even angry. But these are our reaction to the prophet – not the prophets. When we strive to live a gospel centred life our actions can be seen as prophetic and we will then naturally present a challenge to those who see us. No wonder then, that as prophets we are often not welcome.  Do you agree?

Your thoughts:


1st March
Scripture: Matthew 18: 21-35
21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times?”
22 Yeshua said to him, “I don’t tell you until seven times, but, until seventy times seven. 23  Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants. 24  When he had begun to reconcile, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25  But because he couldn’t pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26  The servant therefore fell down and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!’ 27  The lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
28  “But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him one hundred denarii, and he grabbed him, and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’
29  “So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you!’ 30  He would not, but went and cast him into prison, until he should pay back that which was due. 31  So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were exceedingly sorry, and came and told their lord all that was done. 32  Then his lord called him in, and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt, because you begged me. 33  Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?’ 34  His lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors, until he should pay all that was due to him. 35  So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you don’t each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds.”


Reflection:
"This parable speaks of forgiveness and of mercy. We see forgiveness given, and then forgiveness refused. We have it within ourselves to forgive - to act with mercy or not. Often what drives us to choose one over the other is our ego - our sense of self importance. If we forgive, as we are forgiven, then we set aside our self interest and our ego and we act with mercy. This is very hard to do, (especially in a world which seems to value self interest & ego above all else), but not impossible.   When we seek God’s grace to forgive, we realise that it has already been given. And what joy comes with that realisation

Your thoughts:


2nd March
Scripture: Matthew 5: 17-19
17 “Don’t think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the Torah, until all things are accomplished. 19 Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.


Reflection:
Most of us, have a tendency to think in absolutes. That before the new can start the old must be dealt with, perhaps disposed of. Jesus asks us not to think of endings, but of new beginnings. Notice also that the doing is before the teaching. We need to live (or practice) our beliefs if we are to teach them honestly. It is our actions, the deeds we do, that reveal to those watching, and learning, just how much we really believe the words we speak. Let us not forget that hollow words will echo painfully in a fractured world.

Your thoughts:


3rd March
Scripture: Luke 11: 14-23
14 He was casting out a demon, and it was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the multitudes marvelled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of the demons.” 16 Others, testing him, sought from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation. A house divided against itself falls. 18  If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19  But if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20  But if I by God’s finger cast out demons, then God’s Kingdom has come to you.
21  “When the strong man, fully armed, guards his own dwelling, his goods are safe. 22  But when someone stronger attacks him and overcomes him, he takes from him his whole armour in which he trusted, and divides his plunder.
23  “He that is not with me is against me. He who doesn’t gather with me scatters.”


Reflection:
“He who doesn’t gather with me scatters.” (part of verse 23) Notice there are two parts to this statement? We have to be with Jesus. Working alongside, in the work of the kingdom. If we are not with him, then we are not simply being idle, we are working to the opposite purpose. We sometimes think that it is OK if I don’t do such and such. Or that doing nothing is not doing any harm. Jesus says the opposite, there is no room for complacency in the work of the kingdom.

Your thoughts:



4th March
Scripture Mark 12: 28-34
28 One of the scribes came, and heard them questioning together. Knowing that he had answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the greatest of all?”
29 Yeshua answered, “The greatest is, ‘Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one: 30  you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31  The second is like this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
32 The scribe said to him, “Truly, Rabbi, you have said well that he is one, and there is none other but he, 33 and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 When Yeshua saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from God’s Kingdom.”
No one dared ask him any question after that.


Reflection:
“The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (part of verse 31). It is probable that we can all identify who our neighbours are. We can also probably say, with the knowledge we have of the gospels, how we should treat them. Yet we often fall very sort of this commandment.  Have we, in our hedonistic western culture centric view, forgotten how to love ourselves, (without being narcissistic or ego-centric) and so our neighbour has no hope? Or is that we now simply don’t care?

Your thoughts:



5th March
Scripture: Luke 18: 9-14
9 He spoke also this parable to certain people who were convinced of their own righteousness, and who despised all others. 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of men, extortionists, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”


Reflection:
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (part of verse 13). The tax collector knew himself. He knew his failures, he was honest with himself and then he was honest before his God. No vain glory, no prideful attempt to gloss over his faults by listing his piousness, there was just an open and honest admission. When was the last time you went to God like the tax collector?

Your thoughts:


6th March
Scripture: Luke 15:11-32
11 He said, “A certain man had two sons. 12  The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of your property.’ He divided his livelihood between them. 13  Not many days after, the younger son gathered all of this together and travelled into a far country. There he wasted his property with riotous living. 14  When he had spent all of it, there arose a severe famine in that country, and he began to be in need. 15  He went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16  He wanted to fill his belly with the husks that the pigs ate, but no one gave him any. 17  But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to spare, and I’m dying with hunger! 18  I will get up and go to my father, and will tell him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. 19  I am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.” ’
20  “He arose, and came to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21  The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22  “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe, and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23  Bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let’s eat, and celebrate; 24  for this, my son, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’ Then they began to celebrate.
25  “Now his elder son was in the field. As he came near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26  He called one of the servants to him, and asked what was going on. 27  He said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and healthy.’ 28  But he was angry, and would not go in. Therefore his father came out, and begged him. 29  But he answered his father, ‘Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed a commandment of yours, but you never gave me a goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30  But when this your son came, who has devoured your living with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’
31  “He said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32  But it was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’ ”


Reflection:
The prodigal son eventually realised that he had lost a lot more than just money and he returned home.  He no doubt expected that his father to react the way his brother did.  His angry brother did not expect their father’s compassion and forgiveness.  Which reaction do you practice: the elder brother’s or the father’s

Your thoughts:




7th March
Scripture John 4: 43-54
43 After the two days he went out from there and went into Galilee. 44 For Yeshua himself testified that a prophet has no honour in his own country. 45 So when he came into Galilee, the Galileans received him, having seen all the things that he did in Jerusalem at the feast, for they also went to the feast. 46 Yeshua came therefore again to Cana of Galilee, where he made the water into wine. There was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Yeshua had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to him, and begged him that he would come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Yeshua therefore said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will in no way believe.”
49 The nobleman said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Yeshua said to him, “Go your way. Your son lives.” The man believed the word that Yeshua spoke to him, and he went his way. 51 As he was now going down, his servants met him and reported, saying “Your child lives!” 52 So he enquired of them the hour when he began to get better. They said therefore to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour, the fever left him.” 53 So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Yeshua said to him, “Your son lives.” He believed, as did his whole house. 54 This is again the second sign that Yeshua did, having come out of Judea into Galilee.


Reflection:
John tells us that the nobleman believed Jesus had healed his son, and started his journey home.  To trust that what we ask for, we will receive, can be hard to do. We, like the people of Jesus' day, want proof. We look for some sign (in many ways like a receipt for an item purchased) to show us that we will get it. When we don’t (or it doesn't come fast enough) then, we are tempted to think asking is waste of time, or that it is not coming. When you think like this, remember the nobleman and his son.

Your thoughts:



8th March
Scripture John 5: 1-16
After these things, there was a Jewish festival, and Yeshua went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the sheep gate, there is a pool, which is called in Hebrew, “Bethesda”, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, or paralysed, waiting for the moving of the water; for an angel went down at certain times into the pool and stirred up the water. Whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had. A certain man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Yeshua saw him lying there, and knew that he had been sick for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to be made well?”
The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, another steps down before me.”
Yeshua said to him, “Arise, take up your mat, and walk.”
Immediately, the man was made well, and took up his mat and walked.
Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10 So the Judeans said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath. It is not lawful for you to carry the mat.”
11 He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’”
12 Then they asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your mat and walk’?”
13 But he who was healed didn’t know who it was, for Yeshua had withdrawn, a crowd being in the place.
14 Afterward Yeshua found him in the temple, and said to him, “Behold, you are made well. Sin no more, so that nothing worse happens to you.”
15 The man went away, and told the Judeans that it was Yeshua who had made him well. 16 For this cause the Judeans persecuted Yeshua, and sought to kill him, because he did these things on the Sabbath.


Reflection:
The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, another steps down before me.” (Verse 7) Imagine how you would feel if each time you tried to do something that would heal you, someone pushed you aside and took your healing. Imagine, if you will for a moment, the frustration and hopelessness he must have felt. We could say that we would help him, and not push him aside, but would we?  If we were there for another, would we really help him or those we were with?

Your thoughts:


9th March
Scripture John 5: 17-30
17 But Yeshua answered them, “My Father is still working, so I am working, too.” 18 For this cause therefore the Judeans sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath, but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God. 19 Yeshua therefore answered them, “Most certainly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things he does, these the Son also does likewise. 20  For the Father has affection for the Son, and shows him all things that he himself does. He will show him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21  For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom he desires. 22  For the Father judges no one, but he has given all judgement to the Son, 23  that all may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He who doesn’t honour the Son doesn’t honour the Father who sent him.
24  “Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and doesn’t come into judgement, but has passed out of death into life. 25  Most certainly I tell you, the hour comes, and now is, when the dead will hear the Son of God’s voice; and those who hear will live. 26  For as the Father has life in himself, even so he gave to the Son also to have life in himself. 27  He also gave him authority to execute judgement, because he is a son of man. 28  Don’t marvel at this, for the hour comes in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice, 29  and will come out; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgement. 30  I can of myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge, and my judgement is righteous; because I don’t seek my own will, but the will of my Father who sent me.


Reflection:
Notice that in hearing Jesus we can make a choice to also believe “him who sent me”. It’s a choice.  Jesus is speaking about his relationship with the Father. There are, I suspect, some people who, today, will be as uncomfortable with what Jesus claims, as perhaps the people of Jesus's day were. There are some who will hear and not believe, and others who will believe regardless. Some will explain the relationship away and others who will simply say the relationship is no longer relevant.  Yet Jesus's words serve as both an explanation and as a warning. Jesus makes it clear the relationship of him to the Father, is also a connection to judgement and eternal life.  Do you agree?

Your thoughts:


10th March
Scripture John 5: 31-47
31  “If I testify about myself, my witness is not valid. 32  It is another who testifies about me. I know that the testimony which he testifies about me is true. 33  You have sent to Yochanan, and he has testified to the truth. 34  But the testimony which I receive is not from man. However, I say these things that you may be saved. 35  He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36  But the testimony which I have is greater than that of Yochanan, for the works which the Father gave me to accomplish, the very works that I do, testify about me, that the Father has sent me. 37  The Father himself, who sent me, has testified about me. You have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his form. 38  You don’t have his word living in you; because you don’t believe him whom he sent.
39  “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and these are they which testify about me. 40  Yet you will not come to me, that you may have life. 41  I don’t receive glory from men. 42  But I know you, that you don’t have God’s love in yourselves. 43  I have come in my Father’s name, and you don’t receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44  How can you believe, who receive glory from one another, and you don’t seek the glory that comes from the only God?
45  “Don’t think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you, even Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46  For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote about me. 47  But if you don’t believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”


Reflection:
"You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and these are they which testify about me". The words we find in scripture can enlighten, teach, guide and strengthen us. They can open for us, help us understand, that which was for centuries, hidden. But for some they do a lot more. For some they show us, invite us to enter into, the essence of faith, of belief – they show us the path which enables us to experience the Divine. But we have to be willing to walk that path, to take the words and believe them.  For many today this seems impossible.  What about you?

Your thoughts:



11th March
Scripture John 7: 25-30
25 Therefore some of them of Jerusalem said, “Isn’t this he whom they seek to kill? 26 Behold, he speaks openly, and they say nothing to him. Can it be that the rulers indeed know that this is truly the Messiah? 27 However we know where this man comes from, but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he comes from.”
28 Yeshua therefore cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, “You both know me, and know where I am from. I have not come of myself, but he who sent me is true, whom you don’t know. 29  I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”
30 They sought therefore to take him; but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.


Reflection:
"They sought therefore to take him; but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come."  His listeners did not want to believe what they were hearing.  They had set their minds on another course of action and so were deaf to the message being proclaimed to them.  They actively looked for reasons not to believe.  We can be like this, but when we do, we are not listening to the message but to the voices that want to drown it.  Be diligent and look and listen to Jesus, not the loud competing, earthly voices.

Your thoughts:



12th March
Scripture John 7: 40-52
40 Many of the multitude therefore, when they heard these words, said, “This is truly the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some said, “What, does the Messiah come out of Galilee? 42 Hasn’t the Scripture said that the Messiah comes of the offspring of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So a division arose in the multitude because of him. 44 Some of them would have arrested him, but no one laid hands on him. 45 The officers therefore came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, “Why didn’t you bring him?”
46 The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this man!”
47 The Pharisees therefore answered them, “You aren’t also led astray, are you? 48 Have any of the rulers believed in him, or of the Pharisees? 49 But this multitude that doesn’t know the Torah is cursed.”
50 Nicodemus (he who came to him by night, being one of them) said to them, 51 “Does our Torah judge a man, unless it first hears from him personally and knows what he does?”
52 They answered him, “Are you also from Galilee? Search, and see that no prophet has arisen out of Galilee.”


Reflection:
The miracles and teachings were not enough, they needed proof that fitted with their expectations, their knowledge of the “law” or their painstaking studies. When they did not find what they expected to see, they judged and ultimately condemned him. When one sticks rigidly to one’s expectations, one will often miss what is all around. The people knew, but the people were treated with contempt. What about you? Do you stick rigidly to your expectations, or can you see beyond – into the mystery that is God?

Your thoughts:



13th March
Scripture John 12: 1-8
1 Then six days before the Passover, Yeshua came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, who had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. 2 So they made him a supper there. Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with him. 3 Therefore Miriam took a pound of ointment of pure nard, very precious, and anointed Yeshua’s feet and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. 4 Then Judah Iscariot, Simon’s son, one of his disciples, who would betray him, said, 5 “Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and given to the poor?” 6 Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and having the money box, used to steal what was put into it. 7 But Yeshua said, “Leave her alone. She has kept this for the day of my burial. 8 For you always have the poor with you, but you don’t always have me.”


Reflection:
Whenever we live a gospel life, or do something that shows our commitment to help others, there will always be people like Judas, who will find fault with our actions. Some of these people may even be close to us. We can give into their criticisms and stop living our lives. Or we can remain true to our calling, to our vocations, to our commitment and see the actions to the end. Which do you choose?

Your thoughts:



14th March
Scripture John 8: 1-11
1 but Yeshua went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Now very early in the morning, he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him. He sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman taken in adultery. Having set her in the middle, 4 they told him, “Rabbi, we found this woman in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now in our Torah, Moses commanded us to stone such women. What then do you say about her?” They said this testing him, that they might have something to accuse him of.
But Yeshua stooped down and wrote on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he looked up and said to them, “He who is without sin amongst you, let him throw the first stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground with his finger.
They, when they heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning from the oldest, even to the last. Yeshua was left alone with the woman where she was, in the middle. 10 Yeshua, standing up, saw her and said, “Woman, where are your accusers? Did no one condemn you?”
11 She said, “No one, Lord.”
Yeshua said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way. From now on, sin no more.”


Reflection:
Those gathered were looking for an excuse to condemn, both the woman and Jesus. Have you ever wondered what Jesus wrote with his finger? Could it have been the sins that the people standing around had committed? We are not comfortable when confronted by the reality of our sins? We often try to avoid taking the blame, always finding some excuse or reason why it happened? Jesus asks us to admit, face them, and then, filled with grace and forgiveness start again.  The crowd dispersed when faced with their own sins.  Jesus forgave the woman and us - if we let him! Will you?

Your thoughts:



15th March
Scripture John 8: 21-30
21 Yeshua said therefore again to them, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sins. Where I go, you can’t come.”
22 The Judeans therefore said, “Will he kill himself, because he says, ‘Where I am going, you can’t come’?”
23 He said to them, “You are from beneath. I am from above. You are of this world. I am not of this world. 24  I said therefore to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”
25 They said therefore to him, “Who are you?”
Yeshua said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. 26  I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you. However he who sent me is true; and the things which I heard from him, these I say to the world.”
27 They didn’t understand that he spoke to them about the Father. 28 Yeshua therefore said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and I do nothing of myself, but as my Father taught me, I say these things. 29  He who sent me is with me. The Father hasn’t left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”
30 As he spoke these things, many believed in him.


Reflection:
He who sent me is with me. The Father hasn’t left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” (verse 29) Jesus was talking about his relationship with the Father. Are we as confident in our relationship with God? In those dark times when we may know that we should turn to, and not away from God, do we say with such surety “he has not left me alone”? Given so many stumble at that time, I suspect the answer for many of us is no. We can be confident, it is hard work, but be strong and trust.

Your thoughts:



16th March
Scripture John 8: 31-42
31 Yeshua therefore said to those Judeans who had believed him, “If you remain in my word, then you are truly my disciples. 32  You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s offspring, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How do you say, ‘You will be made free’?”
34 Yeshua answered them, “Most certainly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is the bondservant of sin. 35  A bondservant doesn’t live in the house forever. A son remains forever. 36  If therefore the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37  I know that you are Abraham’s offspring, yet you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you. 38  I say the things which I have seen with my Father; and you also do the things which you have seen with your father.”
39 They answered him, “Our father is Abraham.”
Yeshua said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. 40  But now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham didn’t do this. 41  You do the works of your father.”
They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father, God.”
42 Therefore Yeshua said to them, “If God were your father, you would love me, for I came out and have come from God. For I haven’t come of myself, but he sent me.


Reflection:
42 Therefore Yeshua said to them, “If God were your father, you would love me, for I came out and have come from God. For I haven’t come of myself, but he sent me.”  Jesus is highlighting the mismatch between what the people were claiming and what they were doing.  It is the same today.  Often what we say and what we do, do not connect.  Jesus reminds us to keep the connection between the two strong and to focus on God, not ourselves.

Your thoughts:




17th March
Scripture John 8: 51-59
51  Most certainly, I tell you, if a person keeps my word, he will never see death.”
52 Then the Judeans said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, as did the prophets; and you say, ‘If a man keeps my word, he will never taste of death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father, Abraham, who died? The prophets died. Who do you make yourself out to be?”
54 Yeshua answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is our God. 55  You have not known him, but I know him. If I said, ‘I don’t know him,’ I would be like you, a liar. But I know him and keep his word. 56  Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it, and was glad.”
57 The Judeans therefore said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old! Have you seen Abraham?”
58 Yeshua said to them, “Most certainly, I tell you, before Abraham came into existence, I AM.”
59 Therefore they took up stones to throw at him, but Yeshua was hidden, and went out of the temple, having gone through the middle of them, and so passed by.


Reflection:
Jesus was challenging their faith.  He confronted their understanding of God and then of who he was.  It was for them, blasphemy.  They became angry and wanted to be rid of him. Have you ever told someone about your faith and then found yourself facing an angry, perhaps violent person? Do you know why they became angry? What was it your profession of faith, the manner in which you told them, or a recognition that perhaps you had something they lacked? How did you handle their aggression?

Your thoughts:



18th March
Scripture John 10: 31-42
31 Therefore the Judeans took up stones again to stone him. 32 Yeshua answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of those works do you stone me?”
33 The Judeans answered him, “We don’t stone you for a good work, but for blasphemy: because you, being a man, make yourself God.”
34 Yeshua answered them, “Isn’t it written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods?’ 35  If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture can’t be broken), 36  do you say of him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You blaspheme,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God?’ 37  If I don’t do the works of my Father, don’t believe me. 38  But if I do them, though you don’t believe me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”
39 They sought again to seize him, and he went out of their hand. 40 He went away again beyond the Jordan into the place where Yochanan was immersing at first, and he stayed there. 41 Many came to him. They said, “Yochanan indeed did no sign, but everything that Yochanan said about this man is true.” 42 Many believed in him there.


Reflection:
But if I do them, though you don’t believe me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” (verse 38) It is in the way we live our lives that people will become to understand and believe we are followers of Christ. There are, or course, always going to be people who use our faith to accuse us, when they consider that we have fallen short of their ideals. Yet we are not asked to be perfect, just to believe and do.

Your thoughts:



19th March
Scripture John 11: 45-57
45 Therefore many of the Judeans who came to Miriam and saw what Yeshua did believed in him. 46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things which Yeshua had done. 47 The chief priests therefore and the Pharisees gathered a council, and said, “What are we doing? For this man does many signs. 48 If we leave him alone like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
49 But a certain one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is advantageous for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” 51 Now he didn’t say this of himself, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Yeshua would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but that he might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day forward they took counsel that they might put him to death. 54 Yeshua therefore walked no more openly amongst the Judeans, but departed from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim. He stayed there with his disciples.
55 Now the Passover in Judea was at hand. Many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. 56 Then they sought for Yeshua and spoke one with another, as they stood in the temple, “What do you think—that he isn’t coming to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had commanded that if anyone knew where he was, he should report it, that they might seize him.


Reflection:
The power and authority of the religious leaders had been threatened, and in some ways challenged, by Jesus. They had to act to re-establish, or enforce, their control. It is the same today. When our leaders feel challenged, they react by removing those they object to, often justifying their actions by first demonising the group or individual. Have you seen this process at work recently? How did it affect you?

Your thoughts:



20th March
Scripture Luke 23:1-49
The whole company of them rose up and brought him before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting the nation, forbidding paying taxes to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Messiah, a king.”
Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
He answered him, “So you say.”
Pilate said to the chief priests and the multitudes, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”
But they insisted, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee even to this place.” But when Pilate heard Galilee mentioned, he asked if the man was a Galilean. When he found out that he was in Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem during those days.
Now when Herod saw Yeshua, he was exceedingly glad, for he had wanted to see him for a long time, because he had heard many things about him. He hoped to see some miracle done by him. He questioned him with many words, but he gave no answers. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood, vehemently accusing him. 11 Herod with his soldiers humiliated him and mocked him. Dressing him in luxurious clothing, they sent him back to Pilate. 12 Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before that they were enemies with each other.
13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought this man to me as one that perverts the people, and behold, having examined him before you, I found no basis for a charge against this man concerning those things of which you accuse him. 15 Neither has Herod, for I sent you to him, and see, nothing worthy of death has been done by him. 16 I will therefore chastise him and release him.”
17 Now he had to release one prisoner to them at the feast. 18 But they all cried out together, saying, “Away with this man! Release to us Barabbas!”— 19 one who was thrown into prison for a certain revolt in the city, and for murder.
20 Then Pilate spoke to them again, wanting to release Yeshua, 21 but they shouted, saying, “Crucify! Crucify him!”
22 He said to them the third time, “Why? What evil has this man done? I have found no capital crime in him. I will therefore chastise him and release him.” 23 But they were urgent with loud voices, asking that he might be crucified. Their voices and the voices of the chief priests prevailed. 24 Pilate decreed that what they asked for should be done. 25 He released him who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Yeshua up to their will.
26 When they led him away, they grabbed one Simon of Cyrene, coming from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it after Yeshua. 27 A great multitude of the people followed him, including women who also mourned and lamented him. 28 But Yeshua, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29  For behold, the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30  Then they will begin to tell the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and tell the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31  For if they do these things in the green tree, what will be done in the dry?”
32 There were also others, two criminals, led with him to be put to death. 33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified him there with the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.
34 Yeshua said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
Dividing his garments amongst them, they cast lots. 35 The people stood watching. The rulers with them also scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself, if this is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”
36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming to him and offering him vinegar, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
38 An inscription was also written over him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
39 One of the criminals who was hanged insulted him, saying, “If you are the Messiah, save yourself and us!”
40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Don’t you even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 He said to Yeshua, “Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
43 Yeshua said to him, “Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 45 The sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 Yeshua, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Having said this, he breathed his last.
47 When the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous man.” 48 All the multitudes that came together to see this, when they saw the things that were done, returned home beating their breasts. 49 All his acquaintances and the women who followed with him from Galilee stood at a distance, watching these things.


Reflection:
This is St Luke’s telling of the passion.  It is painful to read and moves us, like those who witnessed it, from bewilderment and anguish to grief.  Jesus’ death and resurrection is important for Christians and has been a focus of Christian art for centuries.  It is also the event that people who stridently reject the faith will deny, reject and perhaps even ridicule.  But these strident aggressive reactions simply mirror, echo, those of the people who centuries ago foolishly thought that by crucifying Jesus, they had removed Jesus and God’s message from the earth.

If we are seduced into seeing Jesus’s crucifixion as an ending, like the thieves and those calling for Jesus death did, or his resurrection as a beginning. then we completely miss seeing the path of salvation.  Jesus’ life and ministry on earth was, and is, not simply a unique event, but rather it is part of God’s relationship with us and with creation.

God’s love didn’t start or end with Jesus’s life on earth.  It started at creation and is still going.  In Jesus, God gave to us humans the practical example of how to live a life of love.  This practical example is something we needed to have.  Sadly, today it seems that we have forgotten the example.  We are being seduced into believing other journey’s and paths are more important, more meaningful, more relevant and more valid.  These other paths don’t speak of love but the opposite and strive to make themselves the predominant message, or way of life. 

Remember what Jesus said.  even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20: 28).  So, the practical way to live the two great commandments (love the Lord your God and love your neighbour) is through service.

Your thoughts:




21st March
Scripture John 12: 1-11
Then six days before the Passover, Yeshua came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, who had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. So they made him a supper there. Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with him. Therefore Miriam took a pound of ointment of pure nard, very precious, and anointed Yeshua’ss feet and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. Then Judah Iscariot, Simon’s son, one of his disciples, who would betray him, said, “Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and given to the poor?” Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and having the money box, used to steal what was put into it. But Yeshua said, “Leave her alone. She has kept this for the day of my burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you don’t always have me.”
A large crowd therefore of the Judeans learnt that he was there, and they came, not for Yeshua’s sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests conspired to put Lazarus to death also, 11 because on account of him many of the Judeans went away and believed in Yeshua.


Reflection:
Judas could not (or would not) see the act of love, he saw only a waste of money. So he castigated Mary, perhaps expecting Jesus, or the other disciples at least, to support him. Imagine then, his surprise when Jesus defended Mary. Have you followed a course of action, certain that yours was the “correct” interpretation, only to discover you were wrong? What caused you to be “wrong”? Pride, arrogance, stubbornness, or narrowness of mind? Would you do it again?

Your thoughts:



22nd March
Scripture John 12: 20-36
20 Now there were certain Greeks amongst those that went up to worship at the feast. 21 These, therefore, came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we want to see Yeshua.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn, Andrew came with Philip, and they told Yeshua. 23 Yeshua answered them, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24  Most certainly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25  He who loves his life will lose it. He who hates his life in this world will keep it to eternal life. 26  If anyone serves me, let him follow me. Where I am, there my servant will also be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.
27  “Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this time?’ But I came to this time for this cause. 28  Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came out of the sky, saying, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
29 Therefore the multitude who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
30 Yeshua answered, “This voice hasn’t come for my sake, but for your sakes. 31  Now is the judgement of this world. Now the prince of this world will be cast out. 32  And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 But he said this, signifying by what kind of death he should die. 34 The multitude answered him, “We have heard out of the law that the Messiah remains forever. How do you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up?’ Who is this Son of Man?”
35 Yeshua therefore said to them, “Yet a little while the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, that darkness doesn’t overtake you. He who walks in the darkness doesn’t know where he is going. 36  While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become children of light.” Yeshua said these things, and he departed and hid himself from them.


Reflection:
In verse 36, Jesus encourages us to be “children of light”. We can be swamped by the darkness that seems to be all around us. We can become confused into believing, and the world desperately wants to believe, that the light has been extinguished, or is very close to it. This is, of course, not true. The light has not gone out, it is still burning brightly. We see darkness when we take our eyes off the light. Look at the light, and draw strength, courage, confidence and love from its unquenchable source.

Your thoughts:



23rd March
Scripture John 13: 21-32
21 When Yeshua had said this, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, “Most certainly I tell you that one of you will betray me.”
22 The disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Yeshua loved, was at the table, leaning against Yeshua’s breast. 24 Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, and said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom he speaks.”
25 He, leaning back, as he was, on Yeshua’s breast, asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
26 Yeshua therefore answered, “It is he to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judah, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 After the piece of bread, then Satan entered into him.
Then Yeshua said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”
28 Now no man at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 For some thought, because Judah had the money box, that Yeshua said to him, “Buy what things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 Therefore having received that morsel, he went out immediately. It was night.
31 When he had gone out, Yeshua said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32  If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him immediately.


Reflection:
A betrayal is always painful, especially if it is done someone close to us. We ask questions that often have no answer, we can be left wondering, bewildered and hurt. Forgiveness is difficult, for some perhaps almost impossible. We can remain trapped in the emotions of the betrayal, or we can move beyond them. A difficult choice, but one we can make, remembering, of course, that Christ who knew betrayal, will accompany us on this life saving path.


Your thoughts:




Final Words:

We have reached the end of our Lenten journey with the Scriptures.

Through these past weeks, there have been challenges for us to face.  Perhaps some difficult questions that we’d prefer to avoid, or not think about.  Yet, our faith, like our lives, is never static.  It is fluid, constantly changing, reminding us of a flowing stream.

The Scriptures we explore will mould us. When we read them, we may get a new insight, or different perspective on what we have read, or experienced previously.  We may be reaffirmed in what we have read before.  We should not be concerned about this movement.  For when we open ourselves to the Scriptures, we open ourselves to the movement of the Holy Spirit.  When we give ourselves, space and time, then the eternal message of love will be renewed and reborn within us.

We rejoice, that we have the presence, the ever the revealing nature, of our loving God in our lives.


Reflection
Do you worry if you get a different perspective on the scriptures each time you read them?  If so, why?


Your thoughts:


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