Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Criminals

Invitation to Prayer
Reverence stands in awe of something – something that dwarfs the self, that allows human beings to sense the full extent of our limits – so that we can begin to see one another more reverently as well. An irreverent soul who is unable to feel awe in the presence of things higher than the self is also unable to feel respect in the presence of things it sees as lower than the self (Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World, 21).

The Psalm (Psalm 34:8-10)
8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

9 Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

The Scripture Reading (Luke 23:32-34)
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

For Reflection
In his life Jesus kept company with sinners. And in his death he continued to do so. Executed between two criminals, Jesus’ death is a powerful reminder that he did not simply die for sinners. He died with them. And with his dying breath he spoke the same word of blessing that he had spoken in life: Father, forgive.

In what specific way do you need to know that Jesus is standing with you today?

Closing Prayer
We give you thanks, Lord Jesus, that you do not stand at a distance, waiting for us to pull ourselves together before we can receive your grace. Instead you stand with us, right where we are, speaking forgiveness and offering us life. As we move through this day, empower us to live that way: meeting others where they are, extending mercy and grace. Amen.


Nancy said...

I discovered your blog today, and you should know it was not by accident. I read your PPC Devotional email daily, and today, since it was about something I’ve been dealing with the last couple of days, I wanted more. So I Googled “Mark Crumpler blog” just to see if you had one, and violá! So in case you’ve ever wondered if anyone in cyberspace is reading your messages, and I want you to know that I, for one, am!

Now, for your question, “In what specific way do you need to know that Jesus is standing with you today?”

As I said, I’ve been pondering a variation of this very thing for the last couple of day. Matthew 16:23 reads “Jesus turned and said to Peter, get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of man.” While I’m not too afraid of disobeying God in the obvious ways, like breaking of the 10 Commandments, it’s become increasingly apparent that I haven’t looked at the common everyday things I do and consider how easy it is to inadvertently mess up. Like Peter, vowing to defend Jesus from his pending destiny, and blocking The Plan. And that it’s the work of Satan. These are the times when I need to know that Jesus is standing with me. When I do things like grab junk food instead of choosing something healthy that will nourish me and give me the strength to carry out God’s will. Or playing Freecell instead of doing the work that God’s given me to do. Stuff like that.

I’m not a big fan of horror. Given the frightening images of Satan portrayed in the Bible, I have to be honest. I’m too chicken to tell Satan to “Get behind me…”, even knowing that Jesus is standing beside me! I needed to become aware of how much power and control Satan had over me, and take it back. So yesterday I devised a plan. In an effort to dispel that frightening image, I gave him a nickname. I took it from Matthew 16:23 about Satan being a stumbling block, and call him “Stumpy”. Now when I’m being tempted, I say “Stumpy, not now, I’m busy!” or “Stumpy, go way. I have work to do!” Or “Stumpy, it’s too close to dinner”.

I can see Jesus rolling His eyes, but so far it’s working pretty well! I’m embarrassed to tell you how may times I’ve used it in the last 24 hours, but let’s just say lots! It’s easier to look at the day to day things I do and see where I’m out of step with God’s will knowing it’s the result of Stumpy being up to his mischief. And that I can order him to knock it off. I can actually feel Jesus by my side, guiding me in a different direction. And forgiving me.

Mark, you have to let more people know about this blog!

Victoria said...

"An irreverent soul who is unable to feel awe in the presence of things higher than the self is also unable to feel respect in the presence of things it sees as lower than the self" - I love this quote! It really made me think - if I am not in awe of God, how can I be in awe of other people? I am in awe of God when I think about Him, but I have to remind myself to keep my thoughts on Him every day.