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Lent Readings

Readings Begin February 18

Daily Lent Readings

"He is risen, indeed!" Lent has passed but that doesn't mean the daily readings have to go away. Some of you might be discovering this page for the first time. Others who participated during Lent might find it helpful to revisit a particular reading. For these reasons, we will leave this page up for a while.
We pray that you experience the wonder of interacting with our Savior in a personal, transformative way!
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"A New Light Shining" painting by Youngsung Kim from Havenlight
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Day 15


Caravaggio, The Taking of Christ. 1602, National Gallery of Ireland.

More than a third of each gospel concentrates on the last week of Jesus’ life. His faithful yet uncompromising ministry leads to his final clashes with the religious and political authorities. At the beginning of the week, a multitude hails Jesus as a king when he rides on a donkey into Jerusalem. But immediately and literally, he upends the business of the temple again. He continues to confront hypocrisy until the leaders take action against him. Day by day, the pressure mounts against Jesus to turn aside from his mission. He knows the suffering that is coming, but he pushes forward in obedience to his Father. 
We will see this week how some of the psalms would have given Jesus lyrics for the emotions he felt amid betrayal, denial and rejection. The psalms which press from trial to victory would have offered him the narrative of God’s faithfulness to see him through. And as he prepared his disciples for his departure, a psalm would give him words for turning the Passover into the Eucharist.
In Caravaggio’s vivid painting of Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss, we feel the sorrowful resignation of our Lord. Psalms 41 and 55 seem lived out on Jesus’ face. His own familiar friend, a man he had trusted for three years, now brought the soldiers to arrest him. Jesus clasps his hands together, offering no resistance, only prayer for the companion who has sold him out. Only such psalms of sorrow for could give solace to Christ in the sick, lonely feeling of betrayal. 
Palm Sunday: Blessed Is He Who Comes
Imagine standing with Jesus, right next to him, in prayer to his Father. Read this passage of praise aloud. As you do so, consider that you are praying along with Jesus, your two voices becoming one as you bless God.  
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
   and all that is within me,
   bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity
   who heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life from the pit,
   who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1-5)
Psalm 118:19-29
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
   that I may enter through them
   and give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD;
   the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
   and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone.
This is the LORD’s doing;
   it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made;
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us [Hosanna] we pray, O LORD!
   O LORD, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
   We bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God,
   and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
   up to the horns of the altar!
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
   you are my God; I will extol you.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
   for his steadfast love endures forever!
What Is This Psalm About?   
This hearty song celebrates the LORD’s deliverance of his people from their enemies. With God’s mighty help, the king and his people have prevailed in battle, so the worship leader calls the people to come to the temple to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Since the specific historical event that inspired this psalm is not given, it is useful for many commemorative situations. However, one instigating incident might have taken place in the days of King Jehosophat after a miraculous victory over an overwhelming invader. The warriors returned with the king at their head “to Jerusalem with joy. . . . 
They came to Jerusalem with harps and lyres and trumpets to the house of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 20:27-28). 
Another historical prompt could have been the celebration when, following the Israelite’s seventy years of exile in Babylon, the temple reconstruction was complete. We read, “And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.” The words recorded for the praises, accompanied by trumpets and cymbals, are the same as the opening of this psalm: “And they sang . . . giving thanks to the LORD, ‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel’” (Ezra 3:10-11). 
As the Psalter took its more permanent form, Psalms 113-118 became known as the Hallel or Praise Psalms, and they were sung at all the great national festivals in Jerusalem. Thus, the section of Psalm 118 we pray with Jesus today was always in the hearts and on the lips of the people.
What Might This Psalm Have Meant to Jesus?
A great crowd gathers as Jesus enters Jerusalem on the first day of Passover week. Although he rides on a young donkey, the people hail him as they would a king. They wave palms as a symbol of both victory and peace (John 12:13). They throw their cloaks on the road the way we would roll out a red carpet for a celebrity (Mark 11:8). All four gospels record the people shouting out lines from Psalm 118, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! 
Mark clues his readers into how the people understood this acclamation, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:10). The people were waiting for an heir of David to take the throne. This Messiah would, according to God’s eternal promise, drive away oppressors and restore Israel to glory. This direct rule of the LORD on earth would usher in a great day of salvation. On Palm Sunday, the people hail Jesus as the Christ. Jesus does not reject their praises. He even tells the Pharisees, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). This is a significant moment. The King returns to his city and makes his way to the temple of the High King to offer a sacrifice 
of thanksgiving. 
Later in the week, Jesus quotes from Psalm 118 as he directs a convicting parable toward the chief priests and Pharisees. He asks, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” (Matthew 21:42). Jesus understands himself to be the foundation of a new Israel, indeed a new humanity. He also knows that the religious leaders cannot tolerate him. Fossilized by their rigid adherence to religious traditions and interpretations, they refuse to see that the LORD has delivered his salvation in an unexpected way. But Jesus never retreats from being who he is, the Son of God incarnate. He is the marvelous thing God is doing in their midst. 
In just a few months, Peter will use this same verse to preach the meaning of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension: “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else” (Acts 4:11, 12). 
Palm Sunday is the brief moment when the people acclaim their true Messiah. We know that all too soon they will turn “Hosanna!” into “Crucify!” Jesus knows that too. So he finds in Psalm 118 a piece of the sacred script for his final week. He must be hailed. And he must be rejected. It’s all part of a plan wherein the king himself becomes the sacrifice taken to the altar of the LORD so that the new humanity in Christ might arise.
Praying with Jesus
What a day you have made! 
A day of rejoicing and rejecting,
A day of offering and return,
A day of deliverance and judgment.
I want to be part of the festive parade.
Lord Jesus, I want to hail you as the king,
To build my life on your foundation.
I want to see you do marvelous things
In the world, in the people I know, in me.
I long to go with you through the gates of righteousness,
Permitted to pass only because I am with you, in you,
All the way to the presence of the Father,
To the communion and bounty of his house.
I pray for you as you ride into Jerusalem,
To be hailed, and then to be crucified.
I send my love, my cheers, my hopes
That you can stay steady
And see this through to the end.
What a day you have made!
What a day you will make when you return.


Posted in: Lent