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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!
All the readings are also available via podcast on Apple or Spotify. Click here for more information.
"A New Light Shining" painting by Youngsung Kim from Havenlight
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Day 32

He Shatters the Doors of Bronze
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 107:1-3, 10-16 
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
   for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
   whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
   from the east and from the west,
   from the north and from the south. . . .
Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   prisoners in affliction and in irons,
for they had rebelled against the words of God,
   and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
   they fell down, with none to help.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
   and he delivered them from their distress.
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
   and burst their bonds apart.
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
   for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he shatters the doors of bronze
   and cuts in two the bars of iron.
What Is This Psalm About?   
Psalm 107 begins with four vignettes about the LORD’s rescuing replies to people’s urgent pleas for help. Each time we hear “he delivered them from their distress.” So each time we’re called to worship: “Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man.” In the episode before us today, the ones crying out were prisoners. Criminals justly punished for rebelling against the laws of God, lived without light behind bars, shackled in irons, exhausted from forced labor. Though they had no merit, no good deeds from which to launch an appeal, they cried out anyway. Miraculously, the LORD in his enduring love heard them and set them free. 
What Might This Psalm Have Meant to Jesus?
We widen our lens from viewing how Psalm 107 might have expressed Jesus’ personal joy at his resurrection to considering how his rising liberated multitudes of prisoners from sin and death. Early church theologians identified the interval between the cross and resurrection as the “Harrowing of Hell.” Although not depicted in the Bible, the concept developed that Jesus descended into the realm of the dead and freed the souls of the righteous who had died before his redemptive sacrifice. Through the centuries, this episode accrued some fanciful mythic elements, but at its core, it speaks to the profound and pressing questions of early believers: What about those awaiting a savior who died before Jesus? Does his atoning death and victorious rising apply to them? Does Christ work backward as well as forward? 
In Revelation, we hear Jesus say, “I am the first and the last, and the living one. I [became] dead, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18). On Friday, Christ went down to the house of death, seemingly its captive. But on Easter, he came back with its keys! In between, Jesus took ownership of death. Could it be that before his resurrection in this world, Jesus announced his victory to the dead who had faith in his coming?
In the second century, Melito of Sardis, an early bishop and theologian, adopted the first-person voice of Christ when he preached, “I am the one that destroyed death and triumphed over the enemy and trod down Hades and bound the strong one and carried off mortals to the heights of heaven.” Melito of Sardis, On the Pascha, section 102. Jesus’ sojourn in the realm of the dead could thus be understood as a liberation march. He set free the spirits of those who awaited him, allowing them to leave Sheol/Hades and be with him in the heavenly realm. That is just the future we hope for after death while we await resurrection bodies (Philippians 1:23; 3:21). 
Imagine Jesus reciting this portion of Psalm 107 knowing his death and resurrection have set free the captives who had longed for him: “He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart . . . and cuts in two the bars of iron.” The resurrection has cosmic significance! This singular moment, when the dead Jesus arose, ripples backward in time to those who came before and forwards to all who come before his return. Its power presses on us right now: “For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
Of course, we don’t need to entirely agree with the idea of the “Harrowing of Hell” to sing Psalm 107 along with the risen Jesus. Believers paroled from sin’s incarceration testify to the liberating power of the Lord Jesus. So do those who have found Christ’s higher power to free them from the shackles of addictions. So do those who have broken free from the iron control of dominators, denigrators, even enslavers. So do those who have seen, beyond hope, tempers tamed, roadblocks dissolved, debts forgiven. Our experiences of such freedom rarely come in quick bursts but rather over months, even years, of daily trust and drawing upon Jesus. Yet, as we look back, we can pray Psalm 107 with the joy of Jesus who in so many ways commutes death sentences, gathers the discarded back into community, and brings beauty out of ashes.  
All the human race has been imprisoned in sin. We who were created for eternal life have been under the curse of mortality. We find ourselves unable to do the good we wish to do and constantly doing, saying and feeling what we do not wish to. We live in chains until the blessed Holy Spirit takes the journey of Jesus, descends into our dark hearts, shines light, and brings us to faith and so to life. 
Praying with Jesus
Today we pray with Jesus through the ancient Easter prayers of the Orthodox tradition.
When you descended to death, O Life Immortal, 
You slayed hell with the splendor of Your Godhead! 
And when from the depths You raised the dead, 
All the powers of heaven cried out: 
O Giver of Life! Christ our God! Glory to You!
On this day You rose from the tomb, O Merciful One, 
Leading us from the gates of death.
On this day Adam exults as Eve rejoices; 
With the prophets and patriarchs 
They unceasingly praise the divine majesty of Your power!
You descended into death, O my Savior, 
Shattering its gates as almighty; 
Resurrecting the dead as Creator, and 
Destroying the sting of death. 
You delivered Adam from the curse, 
O Lover of Man, and we all cry to You: O Lord save us!
St. John Chrysostom, Divine Liturgy According to St. John Chrysostom (South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 1967), 150-1, 153


Posted in: Lent