Prayer and Reflections for Holy Saturday

holy saturday 2

Hymn text from the Holy Saturday Divine Office

Selection from Holy Week Message by Bishop Sue Harper Johnson, North Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (3/28/2018)
I have found that each year I tend to focus on one aspect of Holy Week, usually, one reflecting the current circumstances in my life. This year I have been fixated on Holy Saturday. Let’s face it, Holy Saturday doesn’t get much airtime in the Protestant church. No Easter vigils, baptisms, bonfires, etc. We tend to move quickly from the drama of Good Friday to the joy of Easter morning and often use Saturday for Easter Egg hunts and children’s events.

I don’t think we are giving Holy Saturday its due. It is a day of silence and waiting, a day when the disciples must have contemplated the horror of the crucifixion, agonized over their fear and betrayal and succumbed to the depths of despair. All must have seemed lost.

But while the disciples wandered around in a fog of despair, God was doing God’s finest work. Within the dark and silence of the tomb, God’s resurrection power was bringing life out of death. The tomb became a womb of new life and possibility. And Jesus, firstborn from the dead, laid aside his grave clothes and neatly folded up the cloth from his head. He then headed to hell to proclaim that death had been conquered. And that’s that. The mystery of the ages, the miracle of all miracles, completed in a Saturday.

Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience,
for to wait is often harder than to work. – Peter Marshall

Selection from Worship in the Light of the Cross by John Indermar
Holy Saturday awkwardly interrupts the church’s calendar. We read in Luke of the women who rest on this day in Sabbath observance. But we find it hard to replicate their rest in our day.

The prior week’s preparations for palm processions, Passion Week cantatas, and/or seven last word recollections leave little time for decorating sanctuaries and making ready for Easter breakfasts and final practices of brass quartets for Sunday’s alleluias – not to mention eggs to dye and family banquets to prepare. So much to do on Saturday and so little time.

But Holy Saturday offers this advice to activist-bent individuals and congregations and denominations like my own: Don’t just do something, stand there. Sometimes, our busyness cocoons and insulates us from a deep consideration of why we think our lives require constant motion. Busyness has often been a prescription for overcoming grief. Do this, do that, work your way out of it. But once the activity dies down, when exhaustion inevitably sets in, the questions and the pain remain, perhaps aggravated by delay in their contemplation.

The women in Luke [23:55-56] actively engage in the immediate aftermath of crucifixion. They follow to see where the body has been taken. They prepare spices and ointments for anointing the corpse. But instead of pressing ahead in a rush to get things done ASAP, they stop. They keep the sabbath. In Luke’s terms, they rest. Luke’s word Heschazo carries dual meanings of “to keep quiet” and “to cease from labor.” The women keep Saturday’s vigil in stillness and quietness.

Reflection on Waiting by Henri J. M. Nouwen
To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.

Prayer for Holy Saturday by Lisa Degrenia
Lord of the Sabbath, Lord of Hosts,
There are so many things we do not understand

Help us to trust you
even when the situation is desperate and out of control

Help us to follow you
even when the way unclear

Help us to wait and rest
even when every bit of us screams to act

Build in us a faith that perseveres
Even when we can’t see you
Or feel you near
Or understand

Your power and goodness are never diminished
Morning is coming

*************
Click Here for a video of an ancient homily for Holy Saturday, author unknown

Prayer for Holy Saturday © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
(by Lisa Degrenia, revlisad.com) Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

There’s More to Life Man at the Pool (John 5.1-9)

Sermon Series: There’s More to Life
Message 3 of 5: Man at the Pool

Scripture: John 5:1-9
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 4/7/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Prayer from Ephesians 3
Insert someone’s name to offer a prayer of blessing for him/her.

Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen ___________. Fill ___________’s soul with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in his/her heart. May love be the rich soil where ________’s life takes root. May it be the bedrock where ___________’s life is founded, so that together with all of Your people, he/she will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God may Your fullness flood through __________’s entire being. Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus the Anointed from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen.

Israel map temple bethesda

Israel Trip- The Church of Saint Anne

  • a Roman Catholic Church, located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem
    • A 45-minute walk from this location to the temple mount

DSC_0899

  • Saint Anne’s marks the traditional childhood home of Mary the mother of Jesus. It is dedicated to her parents, Anna and Joachim.
  • Crusader era church, built around 1140
    • you notice the coolness, plain stone, elegant simplicity, timelessness
    • Church has extraordinary acoustics. The notes hang in the air for at least 5 seconds. It flows. It ripples. It feels like you are being washed in the sound. We sang O Come, O Come Emmanuel; Holy Holy Holy; and Amazing Grace.

st anne jerusalem interior

Next to the church is the ruin of the pool of Bethesda, also know as Bethzatha and Bethsaida.

  • Literally means “House of Mercy”
  • This is the location mentioned in John 5, Jesus healing a man who’d been waiting there for 38 years.
  • On our trip, we read this story along with James 5 and offered each other prayers for healing. A profound worship experience, praying for healing in a place of healing.

st anne jerusalem exterior with ruin

DSC_0906

Prayers for Healing

  • I long for healing. Of all the prayers I pray, I pray for healing the most.
  • Watching over persons in need. This list is long, constantly changing and flowing.
  • Times I am overwhelmed by the need. Needs within the congregation, community, nation, and world.
  • When Jesus walks into the area around the pools of Bethesda, it is overflowing with people in great need. They have come in hope of healing.
  • We come into the presence of God, trusting God in Jesus is our Savior forever.

Where we are in the story

  • In John 2 and 3, Jesus is in Jerusalem. He preaches on the teaching steps and turns over the tables of the money changers in the temple, getting the attention of the Jewish leadership (Pharisees, Sadducees, Sanhedrin). He speaks with Nicodemus at night.
  • He heads back home to Galilee through Samaria, where he has the conversation with the woman at the well.
  • He makes it to Galilee to the city of Capernaum, his home base, where he heals some people.
  • Then it’s time for another Jewish festival so he’s back in Jerusalem.

Read John 5:1-9

He’s been waiting for 38 years

  • Two generations, a lifetime in the ancient world
  • Did family bring him and leave him? Did he come himself?
  • He’s lost everything. He has nothing.  “Sir, I have no one…”
  • He has an unknown condition – it’s the Greek word for weakness (body, soul, mind, etc.). Don’t we all have weakness?
Healing at the pool of bethesda by Carl Bloch

Healing at the Pool of Bethesda by Carl Bloch

Jesus asks, “Do you want to be well?”

He answers, “As soon as the water bubbles then I will get up off my mat. As soon as I get some help into the water my problems will be fixed.”

The pool was thought to be magical, miraculous. The water would bubble and someone would be healed.

How many of us are stuck in as soon as … As soon as ______________ happens life will be better. I’ll be happy. My problems will go away. I’ll be satisfied. All will be well.

This pool is a symbol of the strong attraction of As Soon As. We can drown in it. We can sit a lifetime beside it.

  • Children often say, “As soon as I’m big enough”
  • Teens- “As soon as I graduate from high school”
  • As soon as I get a job… I make enough money
  • As soon as I get married or get divorced
  • As soon as I have children or the children are grown
  • Retire
  • Lose 10 pounds
  • Get sober
  • Get over my grief
  • As soon as he/she apologizes or gets their act together and does right by me

As soon as is an illusion, a false promise, even a false God. We think it that this circumstantial change will be the magic bullet, the quick fix that we are longing for. It causes us to live stagnant lives.

Jesus offers us living water, a spring of life gushing up and overflowing to eternal life.

Stagnant water is not alive. Nothing can live in it. It smells. It’s where things go to die.

We stay stuck. We push the pause button on life. We put life on hold. It is self-imprisonment.

The imprisonment is so great that when Jesus asks, “Do you want to be made well?” We can’t even think about saying say, “Yes.” We just start in with the as soon as…

Bethesda/Bethzatha/Bethsaida means House of Mercy, but it is actually a house of despair, a house of lies and falsehood

  • the pool was an Asclepieion
  • a place where healing was supposed to take place by the power of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing.
  • The medical symbol with the snakes is connected to Asclepius.
  • Asclepius was called “savior” by his followers just like some call as soon as “savior”

The scene in a new context:
It is the time of a Jewish festival, so Jesus who is very Jewish, goes to Jerusalem. On the Jewish Sabbath, this Jewish Rabbi (and Messiah) goes to a local landmark dedicated to the Greek god of healing. He walks up to the person with the least chance of getting better (38 years!) and proceeds to heal the man, right there in the middle of the building

Jesus is the Savior. The Healer. Jesus brings salvation.

Salvation does not mean healed it means whole. There’s a big difference. 

You can have brokenness is your body, your family, your job, your mind, your heart, and still be whole. Paul had a thorn in the flesh that he went to heaven with and he was whole.

Jesus was broken and tortured, a victim of oppression injustice and corruption and Jesus was whole. In fact, in heaven, Jesus still has his scars as a testimony to the power of God in the midst of his brokenness. He wasn’t Savior as soon as he was resurrected. He was Savior in the midst of it.

We aren’t whole just when we go home to heaven. We are whole now because of Jesus. Salvation means wholeness.

I’m not suggesting that the circumstances of our lives are irrelevant or aren’t real or aren’t important. They are. We may be limited in some ways, but we are not limited in every way. We are more than our circumstances. Salvation means wholeness- not perfection or even healing.

Jesus is the true Savior- Not a change of circumstance, not your ability, not who you know. 

Nick Vujicic

Nick Vujicic (VU-Yee-Chek) an Australian man who was born with no arms and no legs, who after a deep bout with depression, decided that he didn’t want his life to be defined by his weakness or limitation, but instead he wanted his life to be defined by his worth as a child of God gifted and called to bring light and hope to others.

Nick has traveled around the world, sharing his story with millions, sometimes in stadiums filled to capacity, speaking to a range of diverse groups such as students, teachers, young people, business professionals and church congregations of all sizes. Today this dynamic young evangelist has accomplished more than most people achieve in a lifetime. He’s an author, musician, actor, husband, and father of 4. He has gone skydiving, surfing, and his hobbies include fishing, painting, and swimming.

Nick is whole and you can be, too.

When Jesus asks, “Do you want to be well?” What will you say? Will you say, “yes?”

Jesus’ invitation to us is to live into the fullness of God. Power made perfect in weakness. Infinite power. Infinite grace. Infinite mercy. Infinite love. There’s always more- more to ask for, more to discover, more to receive, more to grow into, more to become, because that more is beyond our circumstance. It is in the midst of the circumstance.

I pray you are filled with the fullness of God. I pray that you will leave behind the chains of as soon as. Freed from the shackles. That you will not be stuck waiting and trusting a false understanding, false fix, a false god to save you- the false never will. Say yes to the One True Living God.

I pray you will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. May the fullness of God flood through your entire being.

*****************
Man at the Pool Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer for Patience

looking forward

Holy One, grant me
Patience in the waiting

Raise me to be
Steadfast
Resilient
Persevering
A child of hope

New life takes time to root and grow and bear fruit
It takes trust and tending

Give me eyes to see beyond the now to the then
Give me your eyes

Psalm 130:5-6 (NIV) 
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word, I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life.
– Simone Weil

Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience, for to wait is often harder than to work.
 Peter Marshall

************
Prayer for Patience © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer and Reflections for Holy Saturday

holy saturday 2

Hymn text from the Holy Saturday Divine Office

Selection from Holy Week Message by Bishop Sue Harper Johnson, North Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (3/28/2018)
I have found that each year I tend to focus on one aspect of Holy Week, usually, one reflecting the current circumstances in my life. This year I have been fixated on Holy Saturday. Let’s face it, Holy Saturday doesn’t get much airtime in the Protestant church. No Easter vigils, baptisms, bonfires, etc. We tend to move quickly from the drama of Good Friday to the joy of Easter morning and often use Saturday for Easter Egg hunts and children’s events.

I don’t think we are giving Holy Saturday its due. It is a day of silence and waiting, a day when the disciples must have contemplated the horror of the crucifixion, agonized over their fear and betrayal and succumbed to the depths of despair. All must have seemed lost.

But while the disciples wandered around in a fog of despair, God was doing God’s finest work. Within the dark and silence of the tomb, God’s resurrection power was bringing life out of death. The tomb became a womb of new life and possibility. And Jesus, firstborn from the dead, laid aside his grave clothes and neatly folded up the cloth from his head. He then headed to hell to proclaim that death had been conquered. And that’s that. The mystery of the ages, the miracle of all miracles, completed in a Saturday.

Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience,
for to wait is often harder than to work. – Peter Marshall

Selection from Worship in the Light of the Cross by John Indermar
Holy Saturday awkwardly interrupts the church’s calendar. We read in Luke of the women who rest on this day in Sabbath observance. But we find it hard to replicate their rest in our day.

The prior week’s preparations for palm processions, Passion Week cantatas, and/or seven last word recollections leave little time for decorating sanctuaries and making ready for Easter breakfasts and final practices of brass quartets for Sunday’s alleluias – not to mention eggs to dye and family banquets to prepare. So much to do on Saturday and so little time.

But Holy Saturday offers this advice to activist-bent individuals and congregations and denominations like my own: Don’t just do something, stand there. Sometimes, our busyness cocoons and insulates us from a deep consideration of why we think our lives require constant motion. Busyness has often been a prescription for overcoming grief. Do this, do that, work your way out of it. But once the activity dies down, when exhaustion inevitably sets in, the questions and the pain remain, perhaps aggravated by delay in their contemplation.

The women in Luke [23:55-56] actively engage in the immediate aftermath of crucifixion. They follow to see where the body has been taken. They prepare spices and ointments for anointing the corpse. But instead of pressing ahead in a rush to get things done ASAP, they stop. They keep the sabbath. In Luke’s terms, they rest. Luke’s word Heschazo carries dual meanings of “to keep quiet” and “to cease from labor.” The women keep Saturday’s vigil in stillness and quietness.

Reflection on Waiting by Henri J. M. Nouwen
To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.

Prayer for Holy Saturday by Lisa Degrenia
Lord of the Sabbath, Lord of Hosts,
There are so many things we do not understand

Help us to trust you
even when the situation is desperate and out of control

Help us to follow you
even when the way unclear

Help us to wait and rest
even when every bit of us screams to act

Build in us a faith that perseveres
Even when we can’t see you
Or feel you near
Or understand

Your power and goodness are never diminished
Morning is coming

*************
Click Here for a video of an ancient homily for Holy Saturday, author unknown

Prayer for Holy Saturday © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
(by Lisa Degrenia, revlisad.com) Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Two Reflections on Jesus Praying in Gethsemane

christ-in-gethsemane-pExtended quote from Max Lucado, The Upper Room Disciplines 2010
It is a stark scene. Jesus praying in Gethsemane, saying, “My heart is ready to break with grief. …” Does this look like the picture of a saintly Jesus resting in the palm of God? Hardly. We see an agonizing, straining, and struggling Jesus. We see a “man of sorrows.” We see a man struggling with fear, wrestling with commitments, and yearning for relief.

We see Jesus in the fog of a broken heart.

My, what a portrait! Jesus is in pain. Jesus is on the stage of fear. Jesus is cloaked, not in sainthood, but in humanity.

The next time the fog finds you, remember Jesus in the garden. The next time you think no one understands, reread the fourteenth chapter of Mark. The next time your self-pity convinces you that no one cares, pay a visit to Gethsemane. And the next time you wonder if God really perceives the pain that prevails on this dusty planet, listen to the pleading among the twisted trees.

Seeing God like this does wonders for our own suffering. God was never more human than at this hour. God was never nearer to us than when God hurt. The Incarnation was never so fulfilled as in the garden.

Jesus, may I watch with you in your pain and so come to understand that you watch me in mine. Amen.

Matthew 26:40-41
Could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

We must have faith during the period of our grief. We think that our afflictions will be greater than we can bear, but we do not know the strength of our own hearts, nor the power of God. – François Fenelon

Stay Awake by Steve Garnaas Holmes
I slip into sleep,
a deadness I seek,
a trance of avoidance,
distraction’s pleasant coma.
I am numb to your world, O Christ,
to your suffering, your love,
unconscious of you here.

Awaken me.
Breathe yourself into me
and rouse me
from my fearful distance.

Let even pain keep me awake,
attentive to your pain
in all who hurt,
your love keep me alert
to love in all your forms.

Grant me this simple gift,
all you ask:
that I may stay awake,
trusting I am not orphaned,
and pray with you,
so earnestly praying for me
and all the world.
just stay awake my little time
and pray with you.

Let all my waking hours
be wakeful hours.