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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 18

The Last Supper: Even My Closest Friend
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 41:5-9
My enemies say of me in malice,
   “When will he die, and his name perish?”
And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words,
   while his heart gathers iniquity;
   when he goes out, he tells it abroad.
All who hate me whisper together about me;
   they imagine the worst for me.
They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him;
   he will not rise again from where he lies.”
Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
   who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
Psalm 55:12-14, 20-21
For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
   then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
   then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
   my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
   within God’s house we walked in the throng. . . .
My companion stretched out his hand against his friends;
   he violated his covenant.
His speech was smooth as butter,
   yet war was in his heart;
his words were softer than oil,
   yet they were drawn swords.
What Are These Psalms About?
With ruling comes turmoil. Monarchs know the tumult of envy’s schemes, the backstabbing of ambition and the sheer hostility of rivals. Many of David’s troubles followed his own disastrous decisions. However, others rose from the power-seeking surges of others. In Psalms 41 and 55, David presents lyrics for the distress of such conflict. He names the feelings and then offers them to the LORD. He cries out for rescue, healing and protection. He calls on the LORD for justice and the defeat of the enemies of God’s purposes.  
Most poignantly, these psalms express the sadly too-common human experience of betrayal by those close to us. A breach of trust saddens and sickens us. When someone lies to our face—someone who has shared food at the table, worked with us side by side for a common goal, or even shared the marriage bed—we feel unmade. We cry out to a God who understands. We confess our part in the breach. We pray longingly for the world to be set right.
What Might These Psalms Have Meant to Jesus?
Too easily we might consider the betrayal of Judas to be merely a necessary plot device. We figure Jesus knows it’s coming, so he’s not surprised and therefore not troubled. For that reason, we might miss the emotional distress Jesus feels as one of his inner circle turns on him. In John we read that in the closeness of the Upper Room, Jesus grows “troubled in his spirit.” That Judas will lethally turn against his master agitates Jesus. He has Psalm 41 on his mind as fitting the situation for Jesus quotes, “But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me’” (John 13:18). The other gospels make clear that Judas departs to fetch the authorities right after he has received from Jesus’ own hand the Passover bread that is now mystically Christ’s body.
Today’s excerpts from Psalms 41 and 55 pierce us. Our Lord takes them up as expressions of his own heart pain that an intimate has rejected him: “Even my close friend in whom I trusted. . . . For it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it. . . . But it is you, a man . . . my companion, my familiar friend.”
Betrayal shocks. Because trust includes the letting down of our guard, when such trust is snapped, we feel sucker punched. Violated. And that is what Jesus is now experiencing. For three years, Jesus has been safe around Judas and the other disciples. Now their fellowship unravels from the inside out. Yes, Jesus anticipated it. But experiencing the false kiss still shreds him. Knowing it was coming meant Jesus has already done what we usually do after betrayal: sadly recall the close times. These psalms companion Jesus and open a track along which his remembrances can run: “We used to take sweet counsel together . . . as we walked in the throng.” I hear him say:
Oh Judas! You saw me exhausted after a day of healing. I let you see the pain on my face when others rejected my message. You smelled the heat of anger on me when the self-righteous bound up the little ones in laws. You sat with us as we weighed decisions about where to go next. You heard me pray to the Father. When, when and why, did you quietly close an inner chamber to love for me?
Oh Judas! Bread multiplied in your very hands as you passed out the miraculous loaves and fishes. You thrilled to the words, “I am the bread of life.” We were so close I could dip your bread for you. I gave you all of me as we shared bread on the last night.
Oh Judas! Yet when Mary anointed my head with that extravagant oil, you snapped. You moralized that its value could have been given to the poor, but your soul was jealous. You felt envy. The decision was finalized. I can hear your heart speaking to me, “It’s over. I don’t know you anymore. We’re done. There is another to whom I will go. This is not what I signed up for.”
Oh Judas! You did not come to me with your conflict. You didn’t cry out against the devil’s temptation. You played your part willingly and invited him in. You looked me in the face and pretended you were with us right up to the end. You even made me command you, “What you are going to do, do quickly” (John 13:27).
Praying with Jesus
I’m so sorry, Jesus, that you had to feel 
The worst of what we do to each other.
I hurt to know you had to hear the terrible clang
Of heart-doors closing against you.
To be stunned as if a death struck the family circle
And then to realize “You are dead to me”
Is what Judas, what we, said to you 
As we handed you over to enemies.
You, Jesus, who had ever been true.
I’m so sorry that in Judas, I turned on you.
“You never really knew me,”
I said to the one who touched and tended my wounds.
“You’re not who I thought you were,”
I said to one whose steadfast love endures forever.
“I’d rather have another,”
I said to the only one whose loyalty is unto death.
I am here now, trying to keep watch with you,
Fearful of my own recurring faithlessness.
I know something of what you felt
And I am sorry I caused it.


Posted in: Lent