In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death …(Hebrews 5:7a)
According to Dr. John Fairless, many rabbis taught that there were three levels of prayer:
1. Prayers – verbal or silent, thought out and controlled
2. Loud cries – shouting at God in anger or anguish
3. Tears – pure emotion and pain
I’d venture to say that most Christians believe #1, silent or verbal controlled prayers, are true “prayer.” Moreover, mature faithful ones among us may also see how #2 might be a form a prayer, too–though avoided as much as possible! But #3? Can pure, raw emotion and pain be a form of prayer? If so…then why do so many judge their tears to be a lack of faith, not proof of it?
Jesus was not ashamed of his humanity–his tears–his cries–his pain–so why are we?
Jesus our great High Priest, that we be assured that you are listening: as we pray in every form that exists, every moment, every day. Amen.
[Read full Second Lesson for Sun, March 25, 2012 here]
The title of this week’s devotion is a word you likely have not seen before. In the obscure world of Scripture interpretation, a hermeneutic refers to the presupposition one uses to interpret Scripture. The word hermeneutic is derived from a Greek word connected with the name of the god Hermes, the reputed messenger and interpreter of the gods.
To stretch the word outside of its common use in Biblical study, many of us use a hermeneutic all the time. For example, if your presupposition is that you are not worthwhile, you will interpret things others say to you in that light. If your presupposition is that you are worthwhile, and valuable, how you interpret the things others say to you will reflect that assumption, too.
But now, back to our Scripture study. What is the lens through which you view God? In the March 18, 2012 Gospel Reading from John 3, Nicodemus couldn’t quite catch the hermeneutic Jesus was using to speak of faith. Yet Jesus wasn’t content to leave Nicodemus in the dark; using a now-famous verse, John 3:16, Jesus offers Nicodemus a hermeneutic of inexhaustible love.
Imagine a life where God’s sacrificial love for you was assumed as a presupposition. What difference could that make?
Holy God: Heal us. Give us understanding. Reorient our hermeneutic. Amen.
Christ Instructing Nicodemus Crijn Hendricksz, 1604
There is a lot of emotion in this famous work of art, below. Based on the Gospel Reading from John 2 for this coming Sunday, March 11, the third Sunday in Lent, we are faced with the reality of Jesus’ emotions–and his actions. After reading the hyperlink [above] to Scripture, click on the artwork [below] to enlarge it.
What do you see in this painting?
What is the emotional state of the aggressor? Who is it? What is he feeling? Righteous indignation? Anger? Hate? Something else? And how does that make you feel?
And for the cowering group of victims: Who are they? Are they surprised? Annoyed? Scrambling for coins? Where will they go now?
If Rembrandt had widened the orientation of his painting a bit–that we might see to the sides, the entire panorama of the temple–what expressions and activities would be happening there?
Righteous Lord, emotions are powerful, especially when they lead to action. That we might look to you to understand our emotions, and therefore our actions and reactions: hear our prayer. Amen.
REMBRANDT Christ Driving the Money-Changers from the Temple c.1626 Pushkin Museum, Moscow
Jesus knew the basics of accounting. Not financial accounting, but life accounting. For those who were wasting the life they had been given, for those who didn’t want to believe nor follow his message of the cross, Jesus has a pointed question in Mark 8:
For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?
The value of one’s life is immeasurable. If tragedies, accidents, war, illness, and hardship teach us anything, it is that life is precious and fleeting and therefore is to be handled with care.
How and where is your life invested, and what does it profit you in the long run?
What is lost when one follows Jesus…?
…and what is gained?
Holy One, may my life be an open book to others, that they see what I value and whom I follow. Amen.