Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.
Reading: Mark 9
Thoughts from Lent for Everyone by N.T. Wright
Jesus was trying to explain to his disciples that the kingdom would come through his own death (verses 31–32). But they didn’t get it; and the sign that they didn’t get it was that they were arguing on the road as to, yes, which of them was ‘the greatest’. If they don’t understand plain speech (‘the “son of man” is to be given over into human hands’, and so on), maybe they’ll understand a symbol.
Here is a child. Utterly present in the moment; utterly unconcerned about tomorrow, about status, about hierarchy. What, after all, would ‘greatness’ in God’s kingdom look like? Wouldn’t it mean being the sort of person through whom God’s powerful presence would become real? Wasn’t that what had happened back at the start of chapter 6 when they went out and healed people and announced that God was becoming king? Well, yes. But if you want to know how God’s powerful presence comes most easily into the world, go and welcome a child in Jesus’ name. You will be welcoming Jesus himself – and, by doing so, you will be welcoming ‘the one who sent me’ (verse 37).
Here is, as it were, the hot line into the powerful presence of God. It isn’t a matter of senior, seasoned leaders going off with their noses in the air and making it all happen. It’s a matter of the least of all, the servant of all, being the greatest.
This passage is a vital warning now, as it was then, about the danger of imagining that God can and will only work through the people ‘we know about’. This isn’t just a matter of modern denominations. Here we are talking about the disciples trying to rank themselves, both one against another and, as a group, against ‘outsiders’. How can that embody the childlike humility of a group who follow a Master who is going to the cross?
Reading: Mark 8
“Who Do You Say I Am?” by Cynthia Ownby
Just because you know who someone is does not mean that you know them.
I can imagine what it would be like to be Peter on this day. He has just witnessed Jesus feeding four thousand people and healing a blind man. As the disciples are walking through Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks, “Who do people say I am?” The question seems simple enough; after all, they have heard the rumblings of the crowds for weeks. Perhaps this is John the Baptist, or Elijah, or some prophet.
But then Jesus turns to the disciples and says, “Who do you say I am?” I can imagine darting eyes. No one wants to answer the question, because what does one say? But Peter, speaks up, fully confident, and says, “You are the Messiah.”
Messiah. The Anointed One. The One God would send to gather the Jews back to Israel and bring a time of peace.
Peter has the right answer, and Jesus affirms this response. Yet next – as Jesus begins to teach that the Son of Man will suffer, be rejected, killed, and rise after three days – Peter stops Jesus and pulls him aside. “You are the Messiah! What are you talking about – suffering, death, resurrection? This isn’t possible.” And Jesus turns and rebukes Peter.
Knowing who Jesus is and knowing Jesus are two different things. Peter got the name right, but he missed the meaning. If you want to know who Jesus is, you only need to read the Bible. But if you want to know Jesus, you must follow him.
Who do you say Jesus is?
Prayers of St. Ignatius of Loyola
May it please the supreme and divine Goodness
to give us all abundant grace
ever to know Your most holy will
and perfectly to fulfill it.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To You, Lord, I return it.
Everything is Yours; do with it what You will.
Give me only Your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve You as You deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward
save that of knowing I am doing Your Will.
Reading: Mark 7
Call to Confession by Blair Gilmer Meeks
God of grace, you call on us to repent, to endure, and to hope: strengthen us that we may work always for the common good.
We confess that though we look for sin in others, we are reluctant to examine ourselves; we are caught up in worldy wisdom and forget your words; we complain about troubles and fail to see your good gifts.
Have patience with us and nurture us hat we may grow in love, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ.
Reading: Mark 6
“Amazed” by Clay Harryman
Have you ever been truly “amazed”? The grandeur of mountains, childbirth, a sundog, tide pools. Life and nature can provide some of the most amazing experiences. Bring about a true miracle, however, and people turn away.
As we journey through this season of Lent, we prepare to celebrate the most wonderful miracle of all, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet so many turn away from the miracle because our every day lives are so, so consuming.
Throughout Mark 6, Jesus also showed us how to be amazed. Apostles were amazed at the ability to cast out demons. King Herod was amazed (and terrified) at the teachings of John the Baptist. A multitude was amazed at being fed by a couple of fish sandwiches. The disciples were amazed at Jesus walking on the water. The gentiles across the lake were amazed at the healings.
And Jesus was amazed at the Nazarenes’ unbelief.
Jesus was amazed. The Creator of the entire universe. He made supernovae! He made snow! He made black holes! He made elephants and angler fish and people and microbes (and platypuses)! And He was amazed at the reaction of people in his hometown.
We are spending these 40 days preparing for the most amazing event in all of history. Will Jesus be amazed at your unbelief?
Reading: Mark 5
Thoughts by Henri Nouwen from The Return of the Prodigal Son
For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.
Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.
Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.
For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers.
My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food.
In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof.
All day long my enemies taunt me;
those who rail against me use my name as a curse.
For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears
because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside. My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.
But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever;
your renown endures through all generations.
You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favor to her;
the appointed time has come.
For her stones are dear to your servants;
her very dust moves them to pity.
The nations will fear the name of the Lord,
all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.
For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory.
He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
he will not despise their plea.
Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
“The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.” So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem
when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord.
In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days.
So I said: “Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days;
your years go on through all generations.
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded.
But you remain the same, and your years will never end.
The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you.”
Reading: Mark 4
“The Potential in the Seed” by Cale Ownby
I typically read this parable as a call to be Good Soil, and I don’t think this is incorrect. The good soil produces a crop, so let’s be good soil! Don’t get me wrong. I am not always the good soil. Sometimes I am the rocky soil, a day here, or a month there; and sometimes I am the soil with the weeds, a week here, or a year there. In different seasons in my life, I will identify as different kinds of soil. I think we all do.
I grew up in the suburbs of Houston, so I am no farmer, but I do know enough about business to know that a good farmer isn’t so careless with his seed. Seed costs money, money that was hard-earned from the previous harvest. For a farmer, each seed holds the potential of multiplying the investment. An important factor for if and how much a seed will yield is the time and location. Nowadays farmers have charts, graphs, pH readings, water sensors, and years upon years of statistics that advise the exact location and time to plant that seed. They know where to invest that potential so they get the best return on investment. Even in Jesus’ day, a good farmer would know enough that they wouldn’t try to plant seed in shallow soil, much less on a path where the birds eat.
But this farmer does.
This farmer invests all of this seed, this potential into ground that will not bear a crop. I’d like to think that the farmer knows something we don’t. The potential for this farmer is not the seed; the potential is the ground. Where there was rocky ground last season, a river may have risen and deposited deep, fertile soil this season. Weeds that grew in this soil last season may have died out and created well-fertilized soil this season. The farmer doesn’t pick and choose where to sow the seed; they sow it everywhere, because that is where the potential is. Jesus doesn’t pick and choose where to share his love, and where to share his word.
Reading: Mark 3
Store by Rob Bell
Anger is simply an emotion. It’s just your body’s way of telling you that your will has been blocked. What you want to happen isn’t happening. The problem isn’t anger; the problem is what we do with it. It’s where we take it. It’s where we go with it. The question is, why am I angry? Because my anger is going to lead somewhere.
There is a response to anger that’s essentially all about us. Our pride, our ego, all of the ways we work so hard to prop up and protect and defend our selfish little kingdoms. But that isn’t what’s going on here with Jesus. Jesus has identified himself with an injustice larger than himself. There is something divine about his anger because some things are worth getting angry about.
“Find somebody who is depressed, tired, exhausted; you get them angry and it’s like rocket fuel. I mean, it is unbelievable energy and stimulus. There is power within us when we’re angry that can frighten us.”
What does Jesus do with his anger? The Scripture says that he looks around at the religious leaders and then he says to the man with the injured hand, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And the man stretches out his hand and Jesus heals him. Jesus’ anger leads to an act of healing and restoration. His anger, it increases the peace of the world. It leads to this good deed that makes things better.”
When we’re talking about calling and mission and vocation and purpose, what we’re going to give our lives to, one of the questions we often ask is, ‘What do you love?’ But there’s another question that we can ask. ‘What makes you angry?’
We need to embrace the simple truth that we were made to give ourselves to a cause bigger than ourselves…a cause that increases the peace in the world… a cause, a purpose, a task that makes the world a better place. May you become aware of your anger. May you learn to channel it, to focus it, direct it into something beautiful. And may it fuel sacred acts of healing and restoration.