Lenten Devotions 2017

Living Water Lutheran Church of Whitmore Lake   

Sixth Wednesday of Lent - The Thief

Crucified By My Hand?

For My Sake!

 

Look at your hands.  Hands are amazing in their versatility.  How soft a hand can be – conveying tender caresses and gentle hugs, brushing away a tear, or softly cleaning a fresh scrape.  Conversely a hand can become hard – dispensing punishment with quick ,stern immediacy.   Hands can push someone away with anger or disappointment yet those same hands can tenderly, lovingly, become a loved one home.
 
There was a hand, that fateful day at Calvary, that did just that – beckoned a loved one home.  Beckoned many loved one, in fact, not just to “home” but to paradise.  “My father’s house, He said earlier, “has many mansions.  I go to prepare a place…”
 
It is surprising that His hands, Jesus’ hands, performed this beckoning, not in the traditional way with a gentle, friendly wave, calling his love ones home.  No, His “welcome home” came with arms outstretched upon that tree, hands spiked and full of blood.  It was with the posture of humility and pain that Jesus pushed open the doors to paradise.
 
Those doors – flung wide at Calvary – invite all people, everywhere, to bask in heaven’s eternal splendor.  But… on that one day, so long ago, Christ took the time to offer a personal, one-on-one invitation to one special, repentant, forgiven soul. 
 
The thief (of all people) at our Lord’s right hand, who shared, that day Jesus’ humility and pain in a way that we will (God willing) never understand – that thief cried out to Him, “Remember me…” 
 
“Today,” the Lord responded, beckoning him home, “today you will be with Me in paradise!”
 
A thief, who was after something for nothing (that is what a thief is), receives the ultimate something for nothing.  Eternal life, forgiveness, gifts of grace, not taken by him but given to him - given by God Himself in the most fundamental act of grace recorded in all of Scripture. 
 
It is that selfsame grace that Jesus offers to each one of us, thrown into high and shocking relief upon that deathly mountain. 
 
In this thief, whom Jesus snatched from the hands of Satan, we see how much the Savior loves.
We see, first hand, the meaning of grace.  And we fold our hands in grateful prayer and raise our hands in joyous thanksgiving that we have been the recipients of such undeserved love.
 
Because of those nailed hands of Jesus, you and I can look forward to the day when He takes our hands in His as says, “Welcome home.”
 

Fifth Wednesday of Lent - Pontius Pilate

Crucified By My Hand?

For My Sake!

 

Look at your hands-so simple and small; ten digits, two palms, knuckles and sinews and skin. Who could imagine the wonders they can perform. Who could fathom the authority they can exercise. For they can exercise authority ... and plenty of it-from the hands of the crossing guard at school, who can stop traffic at a whim, or the hands of the one who holds the prison keys, who can proffer freedom at the turn of a wrist, to the hand that holds the gavel in a court of law. Look at your hands. What authority have they conveyed?
 
Pilate knew full well what his hands could do. He was acquainted with such authority in a way that none of us will ever understand. Pilate was the one, after all, who had final authority over matters of life and death. Thumbs up ... life. Thumbs down ... death.
 
So what did Pilate do?  He washed his hands of the whole deal.  He washed his hands!
 
I’m sorry Pilate.  I don’t think that was an option.
 
It can truly be said that Pilate did not do anything. He did not put Jesus to death. Jesus' blood was not on Pilate's hands.
 
But it is in what Pilate did not do that the condemning evidence against him lies. Pilate had the authority to free Jesus in his hands. Instead he washed his hands, shirked his responsibility. His silence condemned Jesus to death.
 
Sins of omission. That is what the Church has named them-sins of omission. They are the sins that show themselves not in what we do, but in what we do not do.
 
When we do not stand up for the right in the face of the wrong ... when we do not defend the defenseless ... when we do not speak the word of kindness that needs to be spoken ... when we do not visit the imprisoned, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, love the unlovable ... is not each of these another hammer-blow that drives the spike deeper into the hands of Christ?
 
It would have been easy for God to turn his back on humanity-to have reduced Adam and Eve to ashes way back in the garden of Eden. But God did not turn his back. God did not wash his hands of them ... of
us. No!  God got his hands filthy with dirt, and sweat, and blood.  Thank heaven for that!
 

Fourth Wednesday of Lent - Barabbas

Crucified By My Hand?

For My Sake!

 

All three synoptic Gospels record the events of Barabbas and Jesus.
You may read about the event in Matthew 27, Mark 15 and Luke 23
 
Look at your hands.  Watch what they can do, these miraculous living tools.  They can build up – creating wonders of architecture, sculpture and artistic expression.  Hands can be uised for warming others with hugs, greeting others with waves, comforting others with caresses.  Hands can also tear down – hitting and hurting, crushing and…killing.  Hands can cause all sorts of harm – much of it criminal; from the itchy finger of the gun-toting murderer to the delicate fingers of the safe-cracker.
 
It is rather telling that, when a criminal is captured, the first things bound are the hands.  Bind the hands, and you have bound the person.
 
Look at your hands.  Just look at them.  Consider the things that they have built, the care and tenderness they have communicated as well as the things those hands have destroyed.
 
Do you suppose that Barabbas considered such things?  Do you suppose that he saw in his hands the murders he had committed, the insurrections he had caused, the blood, the innocent blood,  that he had spilled?
 
 Or, do you suppose that all he saw whenever he looked at his hands, was the mark of missing manacles, the fact that against all odds, all reasonable expectations, any hope, his hands were free.  Hands that had been bound, waiting execution, were now free!!!
 
Someone had taken Barabbas’ rightful place that day.  A miracle-worker, a healer, a teacher, a gentle loving  man had been condemned by the crazed crowd and so there were no longer any manacles to bind the hands of Barabbas.  Nor were there any nail holes either.
 
Barabbas may come closer than any of us to the realization of what Jesus’ death on the cross in our place means.  More that any theologian, Barabbas knows truly, fully, wonderously the reality of the substitutionary death of the Christ. 
 
Barabbas deserved death.  No excuses.  No false claims of innocence.  The facts were overwhelming.  If it had not been for Jesus, it truly would have been Barabbas up there – naked, pierced, bloody, dying, dead.
 
The Bible clearly states “The wages of sin is death…” and the verdict has come down. We deserve death.  No excuses.  No false claims of innocence.  The facts are overwhelming.
 
Look at your hands.  Look at them.  And take note of this – there are no manacles there.  There are no nail holes either.  Jesus died in your place.  He died for you.

See also Romans 6:23
 

Third Wednesday of Lent - Judas

Crucified By My Hand?

For My Sake!

 

Look at your hands.  Those 10 digits, dancing and bending, twisting and clenching.  It is amazing, all of the things that they can do from balancing an account or counting coins, to writing a check or filling the shelves of a food pantry.  How do you use your hands in such matters?
 
Charles Dickens described the character of Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” this way: “Oh!  But he was a tight fisted hand at the grindstone.  A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!”  It is surprising to note that Dickens used hand language to describe Scrooge, and then followed up the description with a conclusion, calling Scrooge a “covetous old sinner”- as though his hands were somehow an avenue to his heart.  Look at your hands.  What do they say about you?
 
When Judas looked at his hands, what do you suppose he saw?  Nothing?  And that emptiness is his undoing.  Oh those hands had been full before – full of money, even as his heart was full of power.  Yet, it is a shame that Judas never quite got a hold on the point of Jesus’ presence in the world.  Even with Christ so close at hand, Judas never opened his greedy fists to the very power of God.
 
C.S. Lewis once wrote that every human heart has a God-shaped hole.  All of our lives are spent trying to fill that hole, with money, power, love, relationships…you can fill in the blank.  Idolatry, after all, is alive and well in this century.  Yet trying to fill that hollow space with anything but Jesus Christ is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole.  The result is unsatisfying at best and downright deadly at worst.
 
Perhaps the hole is not in our hearts.  Perhaps it is in our hands.  The empty space that is left in the middle of our fists, even when we clench them with all our might.  Maybe this is a good time to hold our hands up against Judas’ hands.  To examine our own wants and needs, and see how tightly we might be clinging to those things which fill neither our hands nor our hearts.
 
And then, to hold our hands, empty now, and open, up to those hands that were pierced for us so long ago on that cross.  We may find that until our hands are clasped with His, they will always be empty.
 

Second Wednesday of Lent – Nicodemus

Crucified By My Hand?

For My Sake!

 
 
His encounter with Jesus is recorded in John 3:1-21
The effect of that encounter is recorded in John 7:49-51 and John 19:38-40
 
Hands raised in question, hands spread in supplication, hands folded in prayer,  hands lifted high in victory and celebration.  Hands, so much a part of who we are as human beings, but like all good gifts from God our Creator, they too are a part of our fallen human condition.
 
Scripture doesn’t give us much detail about Nicodemus, but we do know that he was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling religious council of the Jews in Jerusalem.
 
As such, he would be making judgments based on the Mosaic law and its interpretation.  Therefore he very probably had raised his hand in condemnation over against someone who had broken the law.  He would have shaken his fist against someone found guilty of blasphemy or pounded his hands on the table is disagreement or disgust during a religious debate.
 
But then one day he found himself standing at the edge of a group, with his hand cupped behind his ear in order to be able to better hear this new rabbi from Nazareth, whose name was Jesus.   He saw this Jesus reach out His hands to the blind, the leper, the lame, the palsied, and Nicodemus was changed.
 
At night (he wasn’t yet ready to raise his hand and be counted a disciple of Christ) Nicodemus comes to Jesus, hand raised in question, hands gesturing in bewilderment:
“Born again!!!  How can this be?”
 
Then hands folded on his lap he hears the master speak; “Be born of the Spirit…for God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have life everlasting!”  
 
Nicodemus was changed.  He would later raise his hand and then his voice in support of Jesus at a meeting of the Sanhedrin and then finally, as a devoted, sold-out disciple of the Lord, he used his hands to help carry the lifeless body from the cross to the tomb – a body that had been beaten and bruised and nailed to the cross by the hands of sinful men. 
 
“How can this be?” Nicodemus may have asked again, his hands covering his face in grief.  But Nicodemus would once more hear the truth from the lips of Jesus.  This Jesus, who took all the brokenness of the fallen human condition into his own hands,  that He might reach out and lift us up, and carry us home.
 
I wonder if Nicodemus was privileged, as was Thomas, to hear the resurrected Lord say, “See my hands; put your fingers in the nail holes; be not afraid, it is I, Myself!”   
May God grant that our hands hold tight to this One who holds onto us and has made all things good, yes even our hands.  Amen
 

Ash Wednesday

Crucified By My Hand?

For My Sake!

Ash Wednesday – Adam

 

Look at your hands.  Amazing things, really.  Ten digits, capable of working in harmony.  And with those two opposable thumbs we carry at the ends of our arms two miracles of nature, capable of wielding a mighty hammer…or a tiny tweezer.  Able to construct a colossal bridge…or the most delicate jewelry.  Miracles of nature, indeed.  Marvelously engineered by our creating God.  Look at your hands.  Just look at them.
 
I wonder what Adam saw when he looked at his hands.  After the incident with the fruit…after his banishment from the garden and his fall away from God…he almost certainly saw dirt in his hands.  “Cursed is the ground because of you,” God said that fateful day.  “In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.”  Dirt was what he saw.  Trying desperately to eke out a living from the earth, when only thistle and bramble came forth from his labor, Adam was accustomed to digging in the dirt.
 
But the dirt lay deeper still.  “Dust you are,” God reminded Adam that day, “and to dust…you shall return.”  Even if Adam could wash away the dirt from the fields, he would never get to the bottom of it.
 
Look at YOUR hands and think about dirt.  Because some day those hands of yours and these hands of mine, along with everything else that is us, will yield again to the dust.  We are born in Adam’s image.  We too are dust…and to dust we shall return.
 
But I also wonder whether Adam didn’t see more than just dust when he gazed into his hands.  Because if God molded Adam from the clay, I think I know enough of sculpture to say with certainty that Adam must have been covered with God’s fingerprints.  And I wonder if, as a final act in putting Adam together, God didn’t press His almighty hand into the hand of Adam.  I wonder if Adam bore on his fingers the very fingerprints of God.
 
Because, if that is so, then hands with those same marks, now marked as well, with prints from nails, would one day rise from the dust again.  And those same hands would beckon Adam and Eve and all children of dust to rise as well.  Good News will follow, children of dust.  Good News indeed.  But for now…consider dust.

 

Pages