Things Jesus Said . . . and meant (7)

In Luke’s gospel, the final words Jesus says are a prayer:

44 Lent--Holy Week--Words of Jesus--Father into your hands I entrust my spirit

“Father, into Your hands I entrust my spirit!”

In the bible the word “spirit” is sometimes closely associated with “breath.”  It is Creator God who breathes life into the first human by giving Adam life. It is the Holy Spirit who gave Jesus earthly life in the womb of Mary. The Holy Spirit was revealed in a form of a dove when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan and began his ministry.

And now, Jesus is breathing his last human-life breath. Luke tells us that Jesus’ last words were a prayer: “Father, into Your hands I entrust my spirit.” Luke says with those words, Jesus breathes his last breath.

Jesus’ mission is over–he no longer has any control over what will happen with the future (in the earthly, human sense). What does he do? Prays. And in praying, gives us a prayer that is also good for us to say:

“Father, into Your hands, I entrust my spirit.”

I have found this to be a good prayer, especially when I am worried or confused. I have discovered I can repeat it, slowly, in time with my breathing (sort of), in the middle of the night. It helps me to “let go” of things. I’m thinking it might also make a good prayer when one is being wheeled into surgery.

God is in charge. God has plans that are far better than what I can imagine. Jesus “lets go” of his spirit, his control, and God brings about something better than anyone could have imagined (as we will celebrate on Easter).

“Father, into Your hands, I entrust my spirit.”

Until next time, Amen!

Things Jesus Said. . . and meant (5)

The gospel of John tells us while Jesus was hanging on the cross, he suddenly cried out in a loud voice, “I thirst!”

42 Lent--Holy Week--Words of Jesus--I thirst

Pondering these words of Jesus, I think of layers of meaning. In a literal way, Jesus is losing fluids at a tremendous rate on the cross (to put it mildly). The life force is literally draining out of his human body. In this sense, it is natural that he is thirsty. So some view the bible verse this way.

I also think of the rich symbolic imagery in John’s gospel. This is the writer who tells us  the story of Jesus being tired and hungry after all his ministry work, sitting down at a well, and asking the Samaritan woman to give him a drink. In their conversation, Jesus says he could give her living water (water that is like a stream, clean and  moving, inner “water” of the Holy Spirit).

While Jesus is talking with the woman, the disciples have gone off to get food in the village–and when they return, Jesus is no longer hungry (or thirsty) and tells them that his food is to do the will of God. (John 4)

It also in John’s gospel we hear Jesus cry out to a great crowd:

Let anyone who is thirsty, come to me and drink.
Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said,
“Rivers of flowing water will flow from his heart.” *
 By this he meant the Spirit,
whom those who believed in him were later to receive.
Up to that time the Spirit had not been given,
since Jesus had not yet been glorified.  
(John 7:37-38) 

dscn6176--I thirst image from asinglgedropintheocean 3-17-2014Throughout the centuries, Christians have found the words “I thirst” to have deep meaning. Mother Teresa of Calcutta had the words written near the crucifixes in her convents. The words “I thirst” reminded her of many things: the way Jesus thirsts for others to come to him, the way Jesus thirsted in his sufferings in life and dying, the way her beloved poor people hungered and thirst, both in the literal sense and in the way people all over the world, including “the rich” thirst for love. 

Jesus thirsts to be close to us, to commune with us in the deep spiritual relationship of God’s love–even from the cross he thought of you and me. He was longing to bring about the reconciliation of heaven and earth, God and earthling.

And that is food and drink for further thought as we continue our journey through Holy Week.

Until next time, Amen! 

 

*  For example, see Isaiah 12:3.
** Read more about Mother Teresa’s “I Thirst” image, with thanks to “A Drop In the Ocean” website: http://asingledropintheocean.com/2014/03/17/my-week-serving-the-poor-of-st-louis-with-the-missionaries-of-charity-mother-teresa/

Things Jesus Said . . . and meant (4)

During Holy Week, I’m continuing to ponder the seven last words of Jesus. These seven words spoken on the cross are gathered from the four gospels. Today’s words are found in both the gospels of Matthew and Mark:  “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

41 Lent--Holy Week--Words of Jesus--Why abandonment (click on image to enlarge)

As others have pointed out, this one sentence is the only thing Matthew and Mark write about concerning what Jesus said while dying on the cross. I think this is significant in that these gospel writers viewed Jesus as being utterly forsaken by all while being crucified. Even God, Jesus’ Father, seems to have let him down.

Biblical scholars say that Jesus may have been attempting to pray Psalm 22, which begins like this:

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
    Why so far from my call for help,
    from my cries of anguish?
My God, I call by day, but you do not answer;
    by night, but I have no relief. 

In Matthew and Mark, all those passing by the cross on their way are mocking Jesus, including the chief priests, the scribes, and elders. “He saved others, yet he is powerless to save himself!” “He said he was God’s Son–let’s see him prove it! Come down off that cross, Jesus, if you are really the Son of God!” The criminals being crucified taunt Jesus. (No “good thief” here!)  Even Jesus’ followers–mostly women followers, it seems–are standing in the distance, unwilling or unable to come close to Jesus as he is suffering.

Although the rest of Psalm 22 does not appear in Matthew and Mark, I think it likely that the earliest readers would have recalled the rest of the psalm, including these words:

In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted and you rescued them.
 To you they cried out and they escaped;
    in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
 But I am a worm, not a man,
    scorned by men, despised by the people.
 All who see me mock me;
    they curl their lips and jeer;
    they shake their heads at me:
 “He relied on the Lord—let him deliver him;
    if he loves him, let him rescue him.” 

Cross in dry desert --Julie McCartyI cannot help but be amazed at how Psalm 22–written so very long before the life of Christ–describes the experience Jesus finds himself in while dying on the cross.

Jesus does not recite the entire psalm–he is too filled with pain, and besides, crucifixion steals the breath away by slowly suffocating people.

But Matthew and Mark clearly want us to see Jesus as the fulfillment of Psalm 22. Jesus feels totally forsaken, totally abandoned by all as he is dying.

And yet… there is more.

Even though Jesus felt abandoned by God, it is God who will ultimately save him. Later in the text, Psalm 22 turns from the message of abandonment and alienation to one of hope in God:

You who fear the Lord, give praise!
    All descendants of Jacob, give honor;
    show reverence, all descendants of Israel!
For he has not spurned or disdained
    the misery of this poor wretch,
Did not turn away from me,
    but heard me when I cried out.
 I will offer praise in the great assembly;
    my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him.
 The poor will eat their fill;
    those who seek the Lord will offer praise.
   ” May your hearts enjoy life forever!” 

“May your hearts enjoy life forever!”  Although Jesus cannot feel this during his death and descent into Sheol, the ultimate long-term gift of God will be life forever. 

The next time you or I feel hurt, forsaken, or abandoned by someone, we can be assured that Jesus knows the feeling–from his own experience.

Until next time, Amen! 

[P.S. Read all of Psalm 22 on Bible Gateway, along with footnotes: click here. Thanks to Bible Gateway for quotes in this text.]

Words Jesus said. . . and meant (2)

The gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus was crucified between two criminals, one who scoffed at him and one who respected Jesus. It was this second criminal who admitted his deeds deserved punishment–and then asked, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”

In that moment, while hanging on the cross, Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

39 Lent--Holy Week--Words of Jesus--This day paradise(click on image to enlarge)

 This story reminds me that Jesus reaches out to all, and welcomes all into his kingdom. The “bad thief” was also welcome, but he wasn’t interested. In fact, he mocked Jesus. It is the “good thief” who welcomes Jesus–and who is received into the kingdom of God.

I also notice that Jesus didn’t make special demands on the “good” thief, in this last moment of his life. Jesus forgave him right then and there–and promised him eternal life, communion with God forever in heaven.

As I think about this today, I think about the symbolism we can apply to our own lives today. Jesus is alive, present in our midst. Do we mock him? Stone him? Crucify him?  Or, do we welcome Christ, ask forgiveness, seek grace and the kingdom of God?

Something to think about.

Until next time, Amen!

 

 

Things Jesus Said…and meant

During this last week before Easter–often called Holy Week–I’m going to post words of Jesus. Here’s one thing Jesus said while being crucified: 

38 Lent--Holy Week--Words of Jesus--Forgive them (click on image to enlarge)

That anyone would say this while being tortured and cruelly executed is a truly remarkable thing. It reminds us that Jesus forgives our sins even in the most horrendous of situations. No sin you commit is so big that Jesus cannot forgive it. Christ’s love is more powerful than sin itself. 

This is a key message of Christ, and one that should make us think about how we treat others…Do we show mercy and forgiveness to others?

Something to think about…

Until next time, Amen! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whom do you trust the most of all?

While reading Psalms this morning, this verse caught my eye:

Some trust in chariots and
some in horses,
but we trust in the name
of the Lord our God.   (Psalm 20:7)

Whom do you trust--light blue image--Julie McCarty--April 7 2014This psalm is written for those experiencing a time of great trouble, a time of stress and fear. (The first line is “May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!”)  So I think that the chariots and horses are ways of defending the people, ways of keeping them safe in the time of attack.

The psalmist isn’t saying not to use chariots or horses, but rather that one’s ultimate trust, the One to actually worship and stake your whole life upon is God.

I wonder, if the psalmist wrote this for us today, living in our own culture and time, what would he or she write? There are many possible answers, but here’s one…  a bit of a stinging challenge to us all (Lent is a challenging time, isn’t it?!):

Some trust in private investment,
others in government programs,
but we trust in
the love and mercy of God.

That’s not to say we don’t need private investment or government programs. It’s that these things are not as important as placing all our faith in God.

Trusting in God doesn’t mean everything will “go my way”… That might be what some think, especially those who subscribe to the “gospel of prosperity,” but the God I believe in is much more mysterious and beyond my comprehension. God is not at my beck and call, like a servant waiting to answer my petty little whims.

For me, trusting in God means staking my whole life on the message of love and mercy that Christ taught.  It means being willing to go the extra mile or take the risk to try something new for the sake of others.

Trust means believing that, in the end, it doesn’t matter if I have wrinkles or the Vikings win or which political party has the majority in Congress. Trusting in God means believing that there is something more important and more valuable than any of these things–and that the love we practice here prepares us for the loving embrace of God in the next life.

And, yes, at times, we do this very poorly–but that’s no reflection on the truth of Christ’s message. The fact that we fail to follow through on parts of the gospel is one good reason for the season of Lent: to recognize our sins, faults, weaknesses, and ways we “miss the mark” in our relationship with God and others.

Trust means believing that despite these sins and failings of mine, Christ has overcome sin and evil–and that Christ will continue to overcome sin and evil both now and in the future.

Now it’s your turn:

How would you rewrite the psalm verse for today?
What is the Spirit of God leading you to think about today?

Lenten reflection--Some trust in -- by Julie -- April 7 2014

Feel free to share your answer in the comment section if you like.

May the good Lord bless you. . . Until next time, Amen!

 

 

Lenten reflection: Marc Chagall’s White Crucifixion

I haven’t had the opportunity to blog as often lately, but I thought some of you might like to revisit a reflection I wrote three years ago about Marc Chagall’s “White Crucifixion.” I really enjoy Chagall’s unique style, and the “White Crucifixion” is  an amazing work of art –and good for Christians to ponder as we draw closer to the special time of Holy Week.

The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways: this post was brought back into my awareness when Pope Francis said “White Crucifixion” is his favorite work of art

White Crucifixion--oil painting by Marc Chagall, 1938
White Crucifixion–oil painting by Marc Chagall, 1938

 

I have found that reflecting on the “White Crucifixion” is a kind of visio divina— that is, a prayerful meditation on a work of art. It brings my mind and heart into the realm of paying attention to God. To read that post, visit April 2011 on this blog.

May the good Lord bless you with awareness of his loving presence in your life in the days ahead. . .

Until next time, Amen!

P. S.  If you enjoy this blog, look for “Spiritual Drawing Board by Julie McCarty” on Facebook.