Lectionary: Maundy Thursday

by Terrance “Lil Bear” Plummer

Exodus 12:1-14

LAST INSTRUCTIONS

This is the instructional video that God gave to Moses and Aaron to give to those He calls His own (the congregation of Israel). These are the things that needed to be done to gain their freedom. As with Israel, God is often giving us instructions for our lives, things to be done, to set us free from the thing or persons that have us enslaved. When God hears our cry, we must be ready to move out to the places God wants to take us. Continue reading

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Saturday, Fifth Week in Lent

by Matthew B. Harper

Exodus 11:6 – Then there will be a loud cry throughout the whole land of Egypt, such as has never been or will be ever again.

The story of the Exodus is one of the foundational narratives of the Bible and the Jewish people everywhere. I have had the honor of being invited to share the Passover meal with a devout Jewish family, and it was a powerful ceremony of remembrance and deliverance.

But I have never been comfortable with the manner in which God delivered the Israelites. The Bible mentions repeatedly that it was God who hardened Pharaoh’s heart. God made his heart hard, and then punished him for having a hardened heart! And the final plague, the death of the firstborn of all Egypt, is a horror difficult to imagine.

But it is the punishment for their sinful state, and for the cruelty and oppression they inflicted upon God’s chosen people.

On this Day 2000 years ago Jesus prepared to celebrate the Passover meal. He remembered the sacrificial blood of the Lamb, even as he was about to become our sacrifice. The text of today’s reading reminds us that this great pain will never be again! The blood of their sacrifice saved the people of God in Egypt, and now all of us are kept safe by the blood of the eternal sacrifice – the Lord Jesus the Christ.

O Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world,

Have mercy upon us

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,

Have mercy upon us

O lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,

Grant us thy peace

Monday, Fifth Week in Lent

by Matthew B. Harper

Exodus 4:10-11 – But Moses said to the Lord “O my Lord, I have never spoken eloquently”… Then the Lord said to him “Who gives speech to mortals… Is it not I, the Lord?”

Moses had the same reservations that many of us have when we are called out of our comfort zone to serve the Lord. We are fearful and nervous. Our fear and our calling seem to be at war with each other. But, as one of our chaplains in here constantly reminds us “The Lord does not call the equipped, he equips the called.”

All to often we underestimate the gifts that we have been given, and we are afraid to step out in faith when we feel called. One of the greatest joys I have been a part of is when the leaders of the church can gather and discuss how to raise up new leaders, new teachers, and new readers. Many men feel called by God, but until we have a chance to call them forward, they remain silent. We underestimate the comfort and strength of the Lord that can speak through us.

And we underestimate how bad things can get. As a people we underestimate our ability to suffer, and we underestimate our ability to endure suffering. We do not realize what great strength we have to rely upon in the Lord.

God’s power isn’t coercive in our lives. God will call us, we must answer. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus tells us he is at the door knocking, but it is still we who must open the door and invite him in.

So when God calls you out of your comfort zone, trust and rely upon the Lord. When God calls you, God equips you.

That it may please thee to have mercy upon all mankind, We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord” BCP 152

Third Sunday in Lent

By Matthew B. Harper

Exodus 20:13 – You shall not murder

All of us have broken a commandment or two. We have lied, or coveted, and surely we have treated our parents with disrespect at one time or another. Some will even confess to adultery. But we console ourselves by saying that these are only ‘minor’ commandments. Well I write to you today as a murderer serving time in prison. That’s a major commandment by anybody’s standard.

But the truth is that there are no distinctions in the commandments of God. The Exodus story calls the last commandment as important as the first. In the eyes of God we are sinners, and all of us need the mercy of God through Christ.

Paul makes a distinction between our lives of flesh and spirit. In the flesh I serve my time in prison, so be it. But no time in prison can repay even a tenth of the crime that I have committed. It is only by the mercy of God that in the spirit I am justified.

And yet no mercy of God can still in me the nature to sin. Even Paul bemoaned the fact that he did those things that he did not wish to. Our flesh is weak, and we all succumb to temptation more than we ought. By the grace of God we are given the strength to overcome much of this nature and to become children of God.

Be careful how we judge others, for all of us are found wanting. We live in the world, and there must be justice and punishments of the world, but we cannot let ourselves think that this is the justice of God. All are found wanting in the eyes of God, and by the mercy of God all who ask will be forgiven.

Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to thy body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit. Amen” BCP167

8th Day of Christmas

by Matthew B. Harper

He said, “I am the LORD who heals you.”(Exodus 15:26)

Healing is a difficult subject for every Christian. We know that all of creation is God’s, and we know that it is fallen away from God. I do not believe the sickness of our lives is God’s intention, but I do believe that God allows it for a purpose – and we don’t always know what that purpose is. We pray for the healing that Christ brings, and we mourn and struggle when we do not see it come as we hope and expect.

I lost a friend to cancer one Christmas. Even on his death bed the prison would not parole him so he could go and die at home. Instead he died in the prison infirmary, after having spent over half his life behind bars. We prayed for his healing, and he did not get better. We prayed for his release, and he was not released.

But during his struggles with his sickness he finally faced some deep questions and struggles he had with God. He began to address again the serious issues of forgiveness and reconciliation. He was here in prison, but he was very much loved and prayed for from the inside and outside community. A lapsed Catholic, he returned to the church and frequently celebrated the sacraments with the community.

Bubba died, and before he died he was healed.

Yea, Lord we greet thee, born this happy morning; Jesus to thee be glory given; Word of Father, now in flesh appearing; O come let us adore Him. O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord. (Hymn 83)

6th Day of Christmas

by Matthew B. Harper

And Moses built an altar and called it, The LORD is my banner. (Exodus 17:15)

There are many battles that we fight as believers, and to hear God named as the ‘Battle Fighter’ is a powerful reassurance about what is truly going on. In this passage the Lord fights as Moses lifts his hands in praise, and when his arms grow weary it is his brothers who help hold them up.

The Christian community is a source of our strength and guidance, but it can often be the place of our battles as well. Some of the most hurtful and bitter battles that rage are the ones that tear us apart in our faith community. The Christian body can easily become divided over issues that work to pit us against each other, and tear at the fabric of our family of faith.

It is not wrong to fight and struggle for the truth of God to be known, recognized, and lived, but truth by itself becomes an empty law unto itself. A crusade of truth without love has given us little except a ‘Christian fundamentalist’ movement, just as the crusade of love without truth puts us on the edge of a dangerous liberalism. We cannot have one without the other. We cannot fight for anything if it is not the truth of God, but the only weapon that God has given us for the battle is love itself.

I am in prison, and my battles are many. They are battles of honesty, integrity, and faithful service. Battles of the spirit, heart, and mind. And for those on the outside the battles are the same. They are battles that are won by relying on our relationship with the Lord. They are battles where we can only stand in faith and let the Lord fight for us. And when the times are tough and we grow tired, there are times when we rely on the strength of our brothers and sisters to hold us up.

Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be, He is Alpha and Omega, He the source and ending He. (Hymn 82)