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Monday of the Resurrection – Prayer for the Week

O God, for our redemption You gave Your only-begotten Son to death on the cross and by His glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of the enemy. Grant that all our sin may be drowned through daily repentance and that day by day we may arise to live before You in righteousness and purity forever; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

There are two prayers for Easter morning. This is the second one. If you attended a virtual service yesterday, you might have heard a different prayer. I wanted to reflect on this one because of the clause in the second line “you…delivered us from the power of the enemy.” Earlier this week, my brother reminded me of a bit of familial lore. Our grandfather served in France in World War I. We have a picture of him and his 11 siblings which was taken just before he left. They wanted a picture in case he did not come back. It was not an unreasonable precaution. His troop transport, crammed full of men, became a cruise into terror when the Spanish Flu broke out. As they zig-zagged across the Atlantic to avoid German submarines, they were burying up to 90 men per day. My grandfather slept on the deck to avoid the cramped and disease-ridden conditions below, often huddling under a lifeboat to avoid weather and detection. He drove a truck in that conflict. Narrowly escaped death on several occasions and returned home to his family in South Dakota. 

We acknowledge that God delivers us from the power of the enemy today. The enemies seem to have grown in number and visibility in these past few weeks. They are never greater than God’s deliverance. My grandfather went on to marry, have children, and farm. He lost that farm in the great depression and eventually they settled in Wisconsin where he farmed and raised his sons through another great war. His was a life filled with many enemies who wanted to do him harm but through faith God delivered him. As his middle son, my father, was on vicarage in the early 1950’s, however, the world took one more swing at him and landed a punch. He died of cancer before my father’s vicarage year was over. I never met that grandfather who had stories of deliverance to tell. 

Jesus has risen from the dead. Baptized into his death and resurrection my grandfather and I will one day be delivered from that last and greatest enemy of all, death. Then perhaps we will get to hear the stories straight from him. More likely we will have better things to talk about. My father said that when he was a child the Lutheran parish which they attended always had another service on Easter Monday. We can sing again today, with angels, archangels, and with all the company of heaven, including my grandfather, because Jesus has delivered us from the power of all our enemies. Sing an Easter hymn today. 

Good Friday – Passion according to St. Matthew

This reading is the entirely of chapters 26 and 27 of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. What does one say by way of meditation on that? 

I suggest you watch and listen to a little video:

This is from the Bach Festival in Malaysia. Who knew such a thing existed? It was shared with me by a dear friend. It is a little disconcerting to see Malaysians singing in German, but that is the point I want to make. Pay attention to the words (they are printed in English at the bottom of the screen.) This Friday which we strangely label “Good” draws our attention to Christ serving the whole world. People in the ancient Roman Empire, people in modern day America, Germany, Malaysia, and every other corner of this benighted globe. 

A few chapters earlier, in Matthew 20, on his way to Jerusalem, we hear Jesus make this startling claim: 

25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

When we read his passion, we read the account of the Son of Man doing what he says in chapter 20: serving all and giving his life for the ransom of the whole world. 

Maundy Thursday – Philippians 2:5-11

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I think we often make a critical mistake about humility. We imagine that being humble is being down on ourselves, telling everyone that we are not very capable or good. But such mealy-mouthed self-deprecation is in fact often another form of pride. True humility is not denying what you are. True humility is owning what you are good at but bending low for the sake of another’s need. Imagine the star of the local basketball team, be it high school, college, or professional, it doesn’t matter. In a happier and less fearful time he walks by a bunch of young boys playing a game of basketball on a school playground. True humility is not the denial of his talent and ability. True humility is joining in their fun, playing with them, likely teaching them a few things, but not being above them. True humility, the good kind of humility, would not sneer at their ineptitude and mistakes. True humility lowers the self to them. 

Now ramp that up a million times and more. Jesus’ true humility does not loathe the contemptible and rebellious creatures that we are. He takes upon himself our frail and mortal frame. He is born and lives a life of service. He walks to Calvary’s brutal hill. He dies. But this is not a denial of his divinity or his perfection. This is in fact the assertion of those very things. He bends low in service because he is God and knows it. He makes himself nothing, takes on that servant form, becoming obedient even the torturous death of crucifixion because he owns his right to heaven’s throne. He is God. 

This Holy Week we find our worship distorted and our lives upended. Your church is probably offering you a chance to worship virtually. Do it. Listen and partake. It would be easy to feel cheated or to be disdainful of such worship. But that would be self-centered. Christ could have said the same about Mary’s ministration to the infant Jesus. She was a first-time mother who might not have known exactly what to do with a newborn infant. His friends were sometimes not very good friends. His creatures were terrible at praising him; instead, they killed him. But he bent low for their sake, enduring the cross for their sake. We are at home this Holy Week because vulnerable people need us to be there. 

But also hear the second half of this song which the Philippians sang. God raised him up. Christ has gathered our lives into his own. He has met us at the very lowest but most common point of every human life – death. No one fails to die. But when we die, we fall into Jesus’ capable hands. He has been exalted to a place above every other. Every knee bends at his name. There is no humiliation, no, not even death, which surpasses God’s ability to reverse. 

Wednesday of Holy Week – Psalm 31:9-16

(Again, many thanks to Rev. Dr. Phil Brandt for the use of his devotions in this time)

9 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eye is wasted from grief;
    my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
    and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
    and my bones waste away.

11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
    especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
    those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
    I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
    terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
    as they plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
    rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16 Make your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your steadfast love!


I visit a man in my parish who lives in nursing care facility. Until a few weeks ago he lived there with his wife. She died of cancer in the hospital bed next to his. Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, almost no one can visit him now. Even his own children, because of a sick granddaughter, were kept from him for a while. They are making an allowance for a pastor to visit, if he is properly masked, screened for a fever, and promises not to touch him or anything else. I cannot even hold his hand as we pray. We cannot conduct a funeral yet. 

These words are read in this Holy Week because they speak to Jesus’ passion, the fact that his disciples all fled and left him alone, the plot against his life, and so much more. They convey the emotion of Holy Week for Jesus: Terror on every side (vs. 13). As I read them, however, I cannot help but think of my friend in his room, alone with his grief. Sometimes we watch the news on TV or on our devices and hear numbers of the sick and those who have died. But they are numbers and don’t feel like real people. This man does not have the Corona virus, but he suffers from it all the same. Indeed, all of us do. I walk my streets and see my neighbors keeping appropriate distances from one another: I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors…those who see me in the street flee from me (Vs. 11). 

My parishioner in the care facility has a hard time hearing me. But we say the Lord’s Prayer together. I loudly bless him with the benediction he heard in church thousands of times. The psalmist’s final verses were Jesus’ hope as he came to the bitter hours of trial, crucifixion, and lying in a tomb. And they are our hope as well. I trust in you God because you are my God. My times are in your hand. Rescue me from my enemies and persecutors. Make your face shine upon me and save me in your steadfast love. 

I remind myself of these words as I walk out of that room and into the world where I get to live with my family. This man’s times and all our times are in God’s hands. I walk out of that room, but Jesus does not. He does not walk out of your life either. He has experienced the whole of humanity so that his face could shine on you and so that he could save you in his steadfast love. 

Tuesday of Holy Week – Isaiah 50:4-9a

4The Lord GOD has given me
   the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
    him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
   he awakens my ear
   to hear as those who are taught.
5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear,
    and I was not rebellious;
   I turned not backward.
6 I gave my back to those who strike,
   and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
   from disgrace and spitting.

 7But the Lord GOD helps me;
   therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
   and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

 8 He who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
   Let us stand up together.
Who is my adversary?
   Let him come near to me.
9 Behold, the Lord GOD helps me;
   who will declare me guilty?

This reading from Isaiah, written many centuries before Jesus’ birth, gives us a glimpse into the mind of Christ as he approaches his suffering and death. Do you remember the prayer we prayed yesterday, when we asked God for the same humility and patience that Christ evidenced? Today we get to see that humility and patience from the inside, as Jesus experienced them, and as we experience them in Him.

Isaiah sees first a listening obedience. Morning by morning God awakens my ear to hear. God’s creative and redemptive Word speaks to us and calls forth the faithful trust which we need. This leads to the obedience. The prophet sees that Jesus will endure many hard things. His back was given to those who struck him, his beard pulled, he was mocked and humiliated. As we read the passion narrative this week, keep in mind that Jesus does this obediently. The Father has sent the Son to die for the sins of the world. The Son has obeyed the Father’s request. 

That ear, open to God’s instruction, however, also has become a means for God to impart a faithful trust. Jesus sets his face like flint before the Sanhedrin, Pilate, and the soldiers because God has made a promise. He shall not be put to shame. He shall be vindicated. We come to the events of Holy Week with the end in sight. God has promised you and me the same resurrection. It is still terrifying to stand at the abyss of death. It looks so terrible, long, and dark. But Christ stood there too and stands there today with us. He holds our limp hands in his strong and perforated hands and asks this question, “Who is your adversary? Who contends with you?” He has the answer too, “Is it not the death that I have already conquered, the accuser whose charges I have already cleared? Let them come near, we have already defeated them.” 

 Jesus knows what it is like to stand before the monster whom you fear. He prayed in the garden that this cup be taken from him. But he also trusted his Father’s promise to him. He set his face like flint and endured the cross. Today he has risen from the dead so that he can stand with you before that which causes you to go pale in fear. The LORD God helps you. Trust him. 

Monday of Holy Week – Prayer for the Week

Almighty and everlasting God, You sent Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon Himself our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross. Mercifully grant that we may follow the example of His great humility and patience and be made partakers of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

I sometimes wonder if people pay enough attention to these prayers we say on Sunday. If they did, would they still say “Amen” so readily? The prayer notes that God sent his Son, our Savior Jesus, to take up our flesh and to suffer death on a cross. So far, this sounds good. But read that next sentence carefully. We would like God to grant us to follow Jesus’ example of humility and patience. 

Are you sure you want to pray that prayer? Do you want God to say “Yes” to that request? I was driving through the strangely uncongested streets of Portland yesterday and heard a firsthand account by a middle-aged Italian man who narrowly escaped death from COVID-19. He spoke of the crushing loneliness of being in the busy hospital, but no one was willing to spend time with him. The nurses and doctors would come in, attend to him, but quickly leave, unwilling to be exposed longer than necessary. The rest of his hours were spent alone. Because of the sickness and the breathing equipment which saved his life, he could hardly sleep. The hours crawled by as he lay there for over two weeks with only the sounds of the ventilator to mark the moments. He was grateful to the staff who saved his life, but he felt that he had gone through a hellish loneliness. He said he would cherish every moment with his family for the rest of his life.

 We pray for patience in this prayer. Patience is necessary when bearing difficult things. I think I would rather pray that God keeps the difficult things away from me. That is not a bad prayer, Jesus prayed it in the Garden of Gethsemane, but it is not this prayer. This week, as we come to contemplate the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we pray not that difficult things be kept far from us, but that God give us the humility and patience of Jesus when such things draw near. 

Pray this prayer. God answers prayer. 

Friday - John 11:1-53

Again, we have not reprinted this whole chapter of John. It is another story that simply needs to be read from your Bible, out loud. Listen to the words wash over you and settle into your heart. Don’t be in a hurry. For most of us the busy-ness of life has subsided in these days of social distancing. 

I once was trying to be the first patient at an urgent care. I needed to be somewhere but really needed to see the doctor. I had injured my eye the day before and the doctor had told me I had to come back and let the physician see my eye the next day to make sure all was well. She was quite insistent. When I drove into the parking lot, I was disappointed to see that someone had beat me to it. He was standing outside the door. I got in line behind him; he turned around and asked why I was there. I explained that I had been directed to return so the doctor could assess my eye. I pointed to the patch covering much of my face. He said, “Take it off. Let me look.” I thought this was a little forward of him. “No,” I said, “I need to let the doctor do that.” 

He looked at me and said, “I am the doctor! I forgot my keys and I am waiting for the nurse to get here and let me in.” I took off the patch, he looked at my eye, and sent me home. It was the only medical appointment I ever had in a parking lot.

When Jesus asked Martha if her brother could live again, she piously pointed to the resurrection on the last day. Like me, she did not the see the Physician standing right in front her. The resurrection was not only to be found at the end of the world. The Resurrection was standing right in front of her. That same Jesus who called Lazarus from the tomb has risen from the dead in order that he might care for you and raise you to new life. There is no foe, not even death, which can thwart his great love for you. Rest in that love today.