Thursday: Psalm 78; Jeremiah 26.1-24; John 12.1-26

From: Natasha Cassamajor

I get excited reading anything about what God has done for His people. Psalm 78 strangely begins that way for me, but quickly turns into a story of how quick we are to rebel against God. We see the children of Israel, turning from God over and over again and we see God making a way in the wilderness repeatedly.

Verses 2-4 say: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”

Remembering what God has done feels like a necessary part of my walk with God. It doesn’t take much for me to forget how good God was yesterday or the day before. In moments when we are being challenged in our faith walk, it’s easy to have amnesia and forget what He has already done. One of the amazing benefits of remembering God’s goodness is being able to pass it on. Someone is waiting to hear how God brought us through so they can be encouraged to hang in there. People showed up to see if Lazarus was really raised from the dead. John 12:10 tells us that some Jews were putting their faith in Jesus because they had heard that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. It’s a beautiful thing for people to see and hear what the Lord has done.

I pray that we would be encouraged in remembering what God has already done. He is faithful to continue what He has begun.

I’m a massage therapist who loves children. I hope to start acting (in plays and films). In the meantime, I write and watch great actors.

Tuesday: Psalm 73; Jeremiah 25.1-14; John 11.1-27

From: Jonathan Bailes

Today in our gospel reading, we read the first half of the story about the time Jesus’ friend Lazarus dies and Jesus goes to visit his sisters in Bethany.  In the end, it turns out to be a story with a happy ending (spoiler alert: Lazarus doesn’t stay dead) and we come away from reading it comforted in the knowledge that Jesus has the power to give life to the dead.  The first part of the story, however, is just plain strange, and the seemingly irrational behavior of Jesus it relates is less likely to comfort than to disturb us.  Perhaps most unsettling are verses five and six: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” 

Placed beside one another, these two sentences are odd enough, but what makes them really bizarre is the coordinating conjunction that relates the one to the other: “So”. “So” indicates a relationship of continuity and logical inference, like saying “therefore” or “and for this reason.” But surely this can’t be right?  Think about the logic that it implies.  Jesus loves Martha and Mary and Lazarus and therefore when he hears that Lazarus is sick, he just hangs around and does nothing?  This makes no sense.  After all, as we read on, it quickly becomes clear that Jesus’ delay results in Lazarus dying and the two sisters experiencing severe grief.  Both Martha and Mary later confront Jesus with this fact, and they’re right.  If Jesus had come, he could have prevented Lazarus from dying and saved his sisters from emotional trauma.  And yet, we are supposed to believe that it was love that prompted Jesus to hang around for two days while his friend was mortally ill? 
If I were an editor who had received John’s gospel in manuscript form, I would have suggested that he switch verse five with verse four.  Then the narrative would read, “But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death.  It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it’…So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” This sentence order would make it clear that, while Jesus loves his friends, he nevertheless allows them to suffer pain and grief because there is something more important at stake than their well-being.  This is an opportunity for the Son of God to be glorified, and if Martha and Mary and Lazarus must suffer a little for that to happen, well, then that’s simply a necessary sacrifice for a greater good.  Now, to be sure, my version does not provide significantly greater comfort, but at least its logic makes sense.  

But I was never given editorial responsibilities for John’s gospel, and that’s not what the text says.  Like it or not, John 11:5-6 says that Jesus delayed visiting his friends in Bethany when he heard that Lazarus was ill not in spite of his love for them and not for some higher purpose that overrode the obligations of that love, but because he loved them.  Because Jesus loved Lazarus, he let him die.  And because Jesus loved Martha and Mary, he let them experience the grief of their brother’s death.

This passage tells a story that is meant to express Jesus’ love for his friends, but the love that we meet in it is a strange, unsettling sort of love, a love that refuses to conform itself to our expectations or explain its seemingly irrational behavior to us.  Notice that, although Jesus does respond to Martha when she confronts him with the fact that he could have saved Lazarus, he never offers her any explanation for why he didn’t come sooner.  This love can be frustrating, particularly when we find ourselves in situations like Lazarus or Martha and Mary, when we or our loved ones are suffering and we can’t help but wonder, “Where are you, Jesus?  Why don’t you come?” When those times come, and they most certainly will, we can’t be guaranteed that Jesus will answer our questions, at least not in the way we would want or expect.  But, we can be certain that he loves us and that, if we believe in him, “though we die, yet shall we live.”

I live in Brighton with my wife and three kids.  We have been members of the community at Church of the Cross for almost six years now, and for that I am profoundly grateful. 

Advent Reflection | Sunday: Psalms 96-100; Isaiah 62.6-12; Luke 2.1-20

From: Megan Pinckard

“Do not be afraid.”
On bad days I’m in the bathroom for hours, curled under the white underbelly of the sink.
“Do not be afraid.”
I’m riven again. My hands shake like fish at my sides. I can hardly breathe but to mutter the same phrase as many as twenty, fifty, two-hundred times.
“Do NOT be afraid.”
I am terrified.
No human being is a stranger to fear. Why else would it be the most oft repeated command in all of scripture? “Do not be afraid.” Just how many times do we need reminding?
Yet there it is again, spoken to the lowest, the dirtiest, the undesirable: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Fear not. A baby is born.
Was that what Israel waited for? What the watchmen set their sights on? A baby! A baby. Could something—someone—so simple really be the answer to all their fears?
Yes. It is as simple as that.
Christmas reminds me that true peace often comes by means we label as mundane. It reminds me, too, that accepting joy is as simple as making space for Christ to come and overcome us.  
Christ, who came as a baby.
Christ, who gives us the breath to breathe and to say, “Welcome in.”
I use other peoples’ money to buy things for a living. I currently live in Watertown, but wherever settled I scribble down epic narratives from my daily commutes alone.