Journey to the Empty Tomb - March 30

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:55 - 58

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
 

Easter is a season of great gladness for those who know Christ. But for those who are without “the light of the knowledge of God’s glory” (2 Corinthians 4:6), there is nothing to rejoice over.


Jesus left us with the great hope and certainty that He is going to return to bring a new Heaven and a new earth where, we are told, there will be no more sorrow, trouble, or death for those who have believed and followed Him. There will be trouble, sorrow, and suffering for those who have neglected or rejected Him.


As Christians, our great task is to obey the command to tell the whole world about Christ crucified, buried, yet risen again. My prayer for you during this season of the year, when we meditate on our Savior’s great sacrifice for us on the cross, is that you will be filled with great peace and hope, because “He is risen!” That is the Good News.


As you follow Christ, are you obeying His command to tell others that He is risen indeed?

"I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH & THE LIFE" - March 22

Scripture: John 14:1-6;11-15;27
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”


On Another’s Sorrow
by William Blake


Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief,
And not seek for kind relief?


Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrow's share?
Can a father see his child
Weep, nor be with sorrow fill'd?


Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan, an infant fear?
No, no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!


And can he who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small bird's grief & care,
Hear the woes that infants bear,


And not sit beside the nest,
Pouring pity in their breast;
And not sit the cradle near,
Weeping tear on infant's tear;


And not sit both night & day,
Wiping all our tears away?
O no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!


He doth give his joy to all;
He becomes an infant small;
He becomes a man of woe;
He doth feel the sorrow too.


Think not thou canst sigh a sigh
And thy Maker is not by;
Think not thou canst weep a tear
And thy maker is not near.


O! he gives to us his joy
That our grief He may destroy;
Till our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit by us and moan.

 


DO NOT LET YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED


Surrounding these words of direction and encouragement in John 14, Christ repeats a gentle command to his disciples—Do not let your heart be troubled. Do not let your heart be troubled. The hour of Christ’s arrest and crucifixion is almost at hand, and the deep affection He has for his disciples overflows from his words, affection as both their sovereign Lord and as their gentle Friend.
Victor Vasnetsov and William Blake each reveal a piece of this wondrous mystery of Christ’s incarnation: He is at once judge of the universe, yet He sits with a nest of sparrows; He orders the heavens, yet He mourns with us in our grief. Miraculously overall and in all, this same Christ said to his disciples, Do not let your heart be troubled—He who sees the whole and end of our pain, yet weeps with us while we are in it.


Throughout the Lenten season, we are invited to a time of reflection and repentance, where we are reminded of our mortality and where we confront our sinfulness. But, with this time of repentance may come feelings of discouragement, hopelessness, or shame, as the weight of our sin feels more than we can bear. Despite our best efforts, we just keep on sinning, and even repentance can feel wearisome, as we yet again confess the ways that we have failed. In those moments, we do well to remember the words of Christ—Do not let your heart be troubled. Do not let your heart be troubled. For Christ has overcome the world, and clothes the lilies of the field; He triumphed over death, and called the little ones to Him; He paved the road of our salvation, and forgives each sin, no matter how often we fail.


When the object of our faith is not before our eyes, when the cycle of repentance feels insurmountable, and when the burden of our sin is more than we can bear—Do not let your heart be troubled. Do not let your heart be troubled.


Prayer:


Sovereign Lord,

quiet our hearts,

bring us peace,

and show us the way of righteousness.

Christ Pantocrator,

forgive us our sins,

and have mercy upon us.

 

Savior,

give us the courage to repent,

and to make a habit of repentance.
 

Amen
 

Ellie Martin
Assistant Director of Academic Programming
Torrey Honors College
Biola University

"Be Still" - March 16

Scripture: Mark 4:35-41
On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

 


The Real Prayers Are Not the Words,
But the Attention that Comes First

by Mary Oliver


The little hawk leaned sideways and, tilted, 
rode the wind. Its eye at this distance looked 
like green glass; its feet were the color 
of butter. Speed, obviously, was joy. But 
then, so was the sudden, slow circle it carved 
into the slightly silvery air, and the 
squaring of its shoulders, and the pulling into 
itself the sharp-edged wings, and the 
falling into the grass where it tussled a moment, 
like a bundle of brown leaves, and then, again, 
lifted itself into the air, that butter-color 
clenched in order to hold a small, still 
body, and it flew off as my mind sang out oh 
all that loose, blue rink of sky, where does 
it go to, and why?

 


For this year’s Lent devotion, I was immediately drawn to Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm painting. In part, because I have always loved this particular narrative from the life of Jesus—but also because our current pandemic has felt like weathering an unpredictable and unrelenting storm. The graphic image of frail human beings battling intense forces of nature resonated with my heart as an apt visual metaphor for the chaos of the past year. The undercurrent of anxiety, instability, and tumult that we’ve all experienced may have led some of us to ask the same question that these frantic disciples posed, “Jesus, do You not care that we are perishing?”  


Rembrandt’s astonishing ability to capture the interplay between light and dark immediately draws our attention to the powerful waves which are about to capsize the boat. The Gospel narrative tells us that “the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.” Yet, Mark adds the subtle detail that “Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.” I was surprised to learn that this event marks the only instance in Scripture where Jesus is said to have slept, and is also the only time the word "cushion" appears in the New Testament. I can’t help but wonder if Jesus, exhausted and weary, and found the only cushion available and went to sleep in the midst of the storm.


When awakened, Jesus simply told the raging elements to “Hush and be still” and it became perfectly calm. Reading Jesus’ words, “Be still,” immediately brought to mind the words of Psalm 46:10. In these days of uncertainty, upheaval and unrest, Psalm 46:10 invites us to “Be still and know that I am God.”


Be Still. A prayer in which we wait in silence before God, a moment of wordless acknowledgement, attention, and silent awe. And Mary Oliver’s poem invites us to do exactly that … to engage, not in the prayer that is composed of carefully chosen words, but the prayer of quietly paying attention. Pausing and allowing myself to honestly acknowledge that I do not know how to pray or what to pray, but in deep stillness, I open myself to God.


I believe that Mary Oliver and the psalmist are onto something very important. They recognize that our most genuine connections with God often come in the moments where we quiet ourselves enough to simply pay attention, when we take the time to notice what is taking place inside us and listen for His still, small voice.


In a conversation with Krista Tippet for an NPR Podcast, Mary Oliver said that “attention is the beginning of devotion.” Simone Weil says it like this: “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” In other words, attention requires us to exercise intentionally as we fully invest ourselves in something or someone. In so doing, our focused attention becomes an act of generosity—or even an act of devotion.


I’d like to close by recommending three practices that I’ve adopted during the long months of the pandemic, which have helped me to be more intentional about paying attention to God and what He might be doing within me and around me. 1. Reading a psalm every morning. Psalms are enduring prayers that address the full range of human emotions and I’ve found they often supply words when I have no words of my own. 2. Sitting silently for five minutes. Five minutes of silence can feel surprisingly uncomfortable and LONG! But the act of slowing down, listening, and taking the time to identify and reflect on my thoughts and concerns has been incredibly calming and restorative. 3. Taking a 15-minute observation walk. The experience of being outdoors and paying attention to the subtle changes that I see taking place in my surroundings has strengthened my gratitude muscle and deepened my appreciation for the ways God reveals Himself through creation.


Prayer:


Lord Jesus,
Just as You spoke peace to the raging storm and sea,
Would you speak peace to my troubled heart?
You commanded them: ”Hush, be still,” and immediately they were calm.
How I long for my anxious heart to cease striving and know that You are God.
May I find quietness and strength as I enter into stillness with You.
Cultivate within me a quiet heart, like a baby content in its mother’s arms. 
Amen.

 

Deborah Taylor
Provost and Senior Vice President
Biola University