Thursday, March 26, 2015
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
Holy Week has been set aside since the early centuries of the church as a special week for Christians. This time is an opportunity to remember our Lord's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his Last Supper with the Disciplines, his Passion, his days in the grave, and ultimately his Resurrection.
More than a memorial, however, Holy Week is an opportunity for us as believers to enter into the divine mysteries. The events of two millennia ago are not simply over and done. Rather, they live on and invite us to enter into them.
As we sing "Hosanna!" on Palm Sunday, we both celebrate the Messiah's entrance into Jerusalem and begin to mourn his coming trial and crucifixion.
As we partake of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, we join with the Eleven Apostles--and all the Christians through the ages--as we partake of our Lord's Body and Blood.
As we observe Good Friday, we contemplate the cross on which he died. Some of our crosses in church are gold or silver; others are rough wood, like the one on which Jesus died. As we look on the cross in the front of church, we reflect on the utter love shown us that day. More than this, the Christian life means to be "crucified with Christ." We reckon ourselves as dead, for "it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).
As we go through Saturday, we feel the awful emptiness that the Apostles, Mary, the other women, and the many other disciples must have felt.
I find that the more I enter into the days leading up to Easter, the more I fully realize the truth of Resurrection. My prayer is for all Christians this Holy Week, that we would indeed enter into the Paschal Mystery of our Lord’s Passion and Resurrection.
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” –Philippians 3:10-11 (TNIV)
Lent is an extraordinary opportunity for us as Christians—as members of Christ’s body—to join with Christ in his sufferings. The forty days of Lent come from Jesus’ forty days of fasting in the wilderness before he began his public ministry. Since the early church, believers have set aside the forty days leading up to Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter as a time to participate with Christ in preparation for his passion and resurrection.
Participating with Christ
Writing Philippians toward the end of his life, Paul exclaims: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (3:13-14). In the opening quote from Philippians, the Apostle tells us what that straining looks like: it means “participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (3:10).
To join Christ’s suffering, then, is something to which we are all called. Paul labels it a honor! He tells the Philippians—and us be extension—that we have been accorded such a privilege: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (1:29).
To be a genuine Christian is to die with Christ, as Paul explains at length in Romans 6:1-14. Paul saw his own suffering as united with Jesus’ passion: “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24).
Following in Christ’s Footsteps
Jesus makes it clear: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). The Apostle Peter—whose, according to church history, was crucified upside down on a cross—says that we are to “suffer for doing good” because “to this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1Peter 2:2-21).
Lent is all about following in Christ’s footstep. This is called the “imitatio Christi,” the imitation of our Lord in the sense of joining with him and following in his very footsteps.
While few of us will be martyred for our faith, we are able to participate in some small sense in Lent as we set aside our desires through some form of fasting, turn our focus away from our selves by giving to others, and center ourselves afresh on the Lord through prayer.
As we do so in Lent, we somehow enter into—participate in—the Pascal Mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. These are not simply events two thousand years ago to be remembered. Much rather, they are realities into which we have been invited to participate and share with Christ!
© 2015 Glenn E. Myers
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength.” -Isaiah 30:15
Over the years Lent has become one of my favorite seasons of the year. It is the time of the church calendar that provides focus—focus on how I am doing with God, reflection on things that need to change in my life, fresh assessment of areas where I need to draw close to the Lord.
Lent is a time to return to God. If we have drifted apart or simply become preoccupied with many things in life, the Lord bids us come. If we have rebelled and walked away in sin, he calls us to repent and offers us forgiveness. God welcomes us to return to him and to rest in him. He bids us to trust him and wait quietly upon his loving but powerful presence.
One way that I focus during Lent is that I keep a small wooden cross next to my bed, which I pick up and contemplate Jesus’ sacrifice for a few moments each night before retiring. It is a plain wooden cross I received at church camp when I was in elementary school or junior high, so it has a lot of memories for me. I started this bed-time tradition four years ago, and really look forward to it each year as Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent. Somehow it offers me focus—and fresh meditation on what it means to die to myself and live for Christ—during this season. Ultimately, it helps me draw close to the Lord afresh in these weeks leading up to Easter.
© 2015 Glenn E. Myers
Friday, January 23, 2015
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” -Ephesians 5:13-14 (ESV)
Attentiveness is key to living a spiritual life.
Opposite of Preoccupation and Dull Numbness
Attentiveness is the opposite of Preoccupation. We spend so much of our time preoccupied in the back of our minds without even being aware of it. Sometimes we are engrossed with the past, either regretting something negative that happened or daydreaming about something good—trying in our minds to return to that time and the joy we experienced then. Other times we are obsessing about the future, worrying about something that might come up, fearful about what could happen, or desiring some accomplishment, possession or person that we are inwardly clinging to.
Attentiveness is also the opposite of sleeping our way through life. How often we become dull, half-awake or numb in life, just going through the motions day after day. This is why Scripture calls us to “Awake!” (Ephesians 5:13), and to “Arise and shine, for our light has come!” (Isaiah 60:1). This is why the Psalmist exhorts himself, “Awake, my soul! . . . I will awaken the dawn!” (Psalm 57:8)
What are we to be attentive to in this New Year?
1. Attentive to the blessings at hand—everything from food and home to friends and family, from creation that surrounds me to great books to read. The more aware I am to all of God’s favors, the more I want to be careful to return thanks and praise to God for his many good gifts!
2. Attentive to the responsibility at hand, the duty of the moment! Teaching at a college, I too often see students who cannot wait to become teachers or nurses or pastors or missionaries, yet they neglect the homework at hand. They have not made the connection between diligence with today’s work and reaching their goals. As a result, some destroy the possibility of ever reaching the very thing they desire. We need give time and attention to obligations in front of us.
3. Attentive to myself! If I honesty look at myself—my thoughts, attitudes, words and actions—I discover that I am not so unlike those students who dream about the future but miss the duty right under my nose! As Richard Foster has said: “We are capable of infinite self-deception”! I need to be attentive to the issues in my own life if I am to grow personally and spiritually. I must face my inner fears and procrastination, allowing God to transform me from the inside out.
4. Attentive to opportunities of the moment—ready to serve the Lord, whatever, wherever, and with whomever he places before us!
5. Attentive to the Lord! Interestingly, the more I become aware of what is around me in the visible world, the more attentive I am to the invisible realm. As I attend to the Lord’s presence, peace pervades my life. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3 KJV).
Attentive this Year
As I move through this year, I want to establish a habit, a lifestyle, of attentiveness. More than ever before, I want to remain attentive to, and thankful for, God’s blessings. Likewise I desire daily to be ever more attentive to what I need to be learning and doing, and attentive to God’s presence permeating my life!
© 2015 Glenn E. Myers
Friday, January 9, 2015
“Return, my soul, to your rest;
the Lord has been very good to you.”
the Lord has been very good to you.”
-Psalm 116.7 (NABRE)
As the New Year begins, I have started to be more diligent than ever to guard my mind from worry and anxiety. There will always be more than enough issues of life offering stress; I simply want to decline that offer on a daily basis. In reality, I need to refuse stress and anxiety pretty well every hour!
A few months ago when I was doing my daily Scripture reading, Psalm 116.7 jumped out at me as never before. The Psalmist speaks to himself with the exhortation: Return, my soul, to your rest! Why? My soul can be at peace because God—in his goodness, power and providence—has been so good to me. I need to remind myself of this!
Toward that end, here is a prayer that I’ll be praying in the months ahead.
Return, My Soul, to your Rest
Gracious Lord, like Martha in the Gospels,
I have become anxious about so many things.
Projects to do, problems to solve, and people to serve—
everything to be done is overwhelming!
Inside I am scattered, disquieted, unsettled;
my thoughts dart about in my head.
I’m afraid of missing opportunities or losing what I have;
worry fills my heart more than I dare to admit.
Return, my soul, to your rest;
leave behind your anxious thoughts and cares.
The Lord has been so kind to you,
providing for all that you need.
Be at peace, O my heart, in God’s goodness,
providing your needs and caring for you.
Dwell secure in his power and protection,
surrounding and guarding you in all your ways.
Be at rest, O my thoughts, free from all worries
that distract you and weigh you down,
For God has gone before you and prepared the way,
which will be opened to you in his time.
© 2015 Glenn E. Myers
Friday, November 28, 2014
Although I love the change of seasons, Minnesota winters can be long and hard. Minus 30 degrees pierces many a layer of clothing, and the blanket of white for five months leaves one longing to see just one patch of grass again come April.
Hardest of all for me, however, is the lack of light. The higher the latitude, the longer the winter darkness. Every year I brace myself for the dark months of November, December and January. During this long gray season, whenever the sun is shining outside I try to get out for a few minutes’ walk if the temperature is above zero. But many days I go to work in the dark and return in the dark, hardly seeing the sun.
Into these dark months comes Advent. The beginning of the church year, Advent affirms my longing for light. It embraces the empty place in my heart and redirects the inner pining of my soul toward the Uncreated Light of God. My natural need for brightness and color uncovers my deeper longing for “the true light that gives light to everyone [who] was coming into the world” (John 1:9 TNIV).
This One, whose coming into the world we celebrate soon, is:
God from God, Light from Light,
True God from true God,
begotten, not made,
one being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man. (Nicene Creed)
Yes, Uncreated Light came crashing into our desperate, dark world!
Advent, then, is our celebration of the weeks leading up to Jesus’ nativity. It is our participation in this cosmic Drama of Salvation. We join with Mary and Joseph as we move toward the birth of the Savior.
More than a reenactment, however, Advent is a pilgrimage for each one of us here and now. Although Christ came into the world two millennia ago—and although he has come into our hearts—there are still rooms of our lives where his light needs to shine. There are lonely places only he can fill.
As we journey through Advent, longing for physical light, let us allow that deeper yearning to draw us ever forward toward a fresh encounter at Bethlehem. Every time we find ourselves looking out the window during these weeks of Advent—heaving a sigh for springtime, green-ness and light—let us channel that earthly ache into the spiritual yearning that it reflects.
By doing so, the dark days of December are transformed into a personal pilgrimage that moves toward a new encounter with Christ. Focus is turned toward Immanuel. We wait with expectation as we look longingly toward the horizon of the dark northern sky and anticipate the coming of the Light of the World!
2014 © Glenn E. Myers
Saturday, November 22, 2014
“You crown the year with your bounty,
And your carts overflow with abundance.” –Psalm 65:11
A Thanksgiving Prayer
How great are your works, O Lord,
extending to the ends of the earth!
How good are your deeds, O Creator Eternal,
giving food, drink and breath to all that lives.
Day after day your kindness enfolds us,
unseen and unheard, your goodness surrounds us.
Season upon season you remain faithful and true,
never leaving us or forsaking us, your presence is near.
You crown the year with bounty, O God,
and cover the hills with golden harvest.
With abundance you supply all our needs,
your provision blankets the earth.
How can we repay you, Lord, for all you have done—
for your goodness, providence and care?
Our words of thanksgiving can hardly express
our hearts full of gratitude for your lovingkindness!
Please accept our expression of thanks, O God,
but a token of all you deserve.
Hear our heartbeat of thanksgiving and praise:
you are good—oh, so good—God of bounty, grace
and love! Amen.
2014 © Glenn E. Myers