Steve Macchia Blog

The Deeper Life

Hands Holding a Seedling and Soil

 

The winter of 2015 was Boston’s snowiest on record. From late January until early March, we had 108.6 inches of the white stuff fall from the sky and blanket all corners of our landscape. The snow was incredibly deep everywhere…roadways, walkways, driveways, and pathways, curtailing most (sometimes all) forms of transportation. It also consumed our lives, which came to a near standstill for those debilitating 6 weeks as the snow became our daily focus of attention…and obsession.

 

When I finally got someone to help me shovel about 4-6 feet that had accumulated on our roof, it took a strapping young 25 year old (and me!) the better part of a day to clear just the back of the house. We struggled to make our way from the driveway to the side of the house where we could place the ladder, inching our way through waist high snow one laborious step at a time. We chopped ice dams, raked high points, and hand shoveled the rest. The piles below were ginormous, and we worried further about the net negative impact on our home. With little sunshine and very few above freezing temperatures, it took forever to melt. Today we’re getting insurance estimates and contractors to repair the damages inside and out…it’s been quite the ordeal.

 

What’s interesting about the depth of this year’s snow is that it became deeper and deeper because of accumulation. And, the more it piled up the deeper it became and the greater the distraction it created for most aspects of our lives.

 

So it is in our world today: depth is encouraged by the pursuit of accumulation of “more, more, more” as the ongoing goal. It’s also become true in the church world. We’ve succumbed to the belief that the more people we serve, the more programs we sponsor, the more dollars we raise, the more hours we labor, and the more buildings we erect, the greater our chances of success. Deeper pockets occur by accumulation; and accumulation of wealth (in any form) is what tends to create the most distraction. The end result: the more the distractions, the greater the distance we experience with God.

 

Therefore, we need to look carefully at the term “the deeper life” and define it biblically. Depth of soul, or the deeper life, has nothing to do with accumulation of the tangible. Instead, it has everything to do with simplifying our lives down to the “one thing” that matters most, which is the intangible affection we have for God and God alone.  If you continue to pursue more and more accolades, accomplishments, achievements and the accumulation that follows, you will not experience the deeper life. If God chooses to encourage you with any form of tangible blessing, that’s his choice and not of your making.

 

When Jesus walked planet earth he had his followers and his detractors. Those who chose to listen, obey and submit to his love and leadership entered the inner circle of intimacy with Christ. In that inner circle they were taught to love with their whole heart, die to their false selves, and release the ways of this world that hinder complete access to the love of God. In other words, they were wholeheartedly urged to walk away from worldly aspirations for accumulation and embrace instead a Kingdom mindset focused on sweet surrender to the extravagant love of God.

 

The deeper life is what we’re asked to consider each time Jesus teaches about the Kingdom of God. And the deeper we go with God the deeper we enter into the geography of the soul via hiddenness, humility, submission and wholeness. These places are activated by a longing for more of God’s empowering presence, more of the spiritual practices that lead us into a life of prayer, more of the Sabbath rest he commands, and more of the fulfillment of our God-ordained purpose for which we’ve been placed on this earth to fulfill. What is your response today? Will you reconsider a life of accumulation and distraction, and instead pursue a life of intimacy, love, and the delightful inheritance that awaits you now and forever?

 

Behold the deeper life Jesus lived with every breath he took and every word he spoke, and believe once more that what he asked of his disciples then he requires of us today. Belong to the inner circle community of the faithful ones and become a Christ-follower who is willing to abandon the pursuit of accumulation and embrace instead the one thing that matters most to your soul and the Kingdom of God.

 

 



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Remembering Dad

your-dad-did

 

Today (4.14.15) my father would have turned 100 years old. Instead, he’s enjoying eternity with Jesus. His name was Italo Macchia…no middle name. Italo means “son of Italy” – it doesn’t get much more Italian than that!  When I was born, he wanted me named “Italo Oscar Macchia” (Oscar was my much beloved maternal grandfather). Thankfully, Mom said no to that idea. I’m profoundly grateful. I can’t imagine how different my life would have been if I wasn’t Stephen Anthony.

 

Our names mean so much to us. They are indeed a big part of our identity. Try renaming yourself just for fun and you’ll see what I mean. Imagine yourself as a Julia or a Joseph, a Rachel or a Rueben. Something about being called a wrong name simply makes you twitch! Instead, let’s be glad we have the names we have. They fit us well…or, we fit them well.

 

When I reflect on the Bible, and recount my favorite stories, I think of the names of people I revere. Adam. Noah. Joseph. Moses. Ruth. David. Isaiah. Nehemiah. Habakkuk. John. Peter. Barnabas. Paul. Mary. Each name brings up storylines and character traits, failures and accomplishments. And I thank God for each of them, windows into my own life story.

 

What about you? What is it about your name that defines who you are as a uniquely created child of God? Who in the Bible do you most appreciate, and why? What does the name Christian mean to you in this ever growing religiously pluralistic world we inhabit?

 

Behold the One who knows you by name and loves you with an infinite, matchless love. Believe once more that He holds your life safely in the palms of His loving hands. Belong to the lineage of generations who love their adopted name Christian. Become the fullness of your own name, as well as the meaning and purpose your life is designed to fulfill.



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Requesting your feedback!

Dear Friend,

 

Thanks for joining me on this 42-day Lenten blog journey. I truly hope you enjoyed receiving these short devotionals each day.

 

And now, I’d be grateful for your feedback…

 

If you could take a few minutes to send me an email at Macchia@leadershiptransformations.org please answer:

 

  1. Approximately how many of the 42 blogs did you get to read?
  2. How did these devotionals impact your walk with God during Lent?
  3. Would you recommend my blogs to your friends and family?

 

New postings are forthcoming, but I’m taking a break from “daily” reflections.  Look for new entries “as inspiration strikes” or at least weekly!

 

Your grateful brother in Christ,

 

Steve Macchia

Founder and President

Leadership Transformations



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Outstretched Arms of Love – Continued: Day Forty-Two, Easter Monday and Beyond…

Easter

Read Luke 24: 13-35

Behold him Living In and Through His Beloved Children All Along Life’s Journeys! Believe that he will continue to appear to you in the releasing of the Word and in fellowship with his Spirit! Belong to the ones who discern when their hearts are burning with every sense of his presence and peace! Become a beloved child of the Triune God who anticipates new life in Jesus with each new day!

For your prayerful reflection today, consider the words of this ancient Holy Week hymn, “I Cannot Tell…” by William Fullerton, 1929:

I cannot tell why He whom angels worship,

Should set His love upon the sons of men,

Or why, as shepherd, He should seek the wanderers,

To bring them back, they know not how or when.

But this I know, that He was born of Mary

When Bethlehem’s manger was His only home,

And that He lived at Nazareth and labored,

And so the Savior, Savior of the world is come.

 

I cannot tell how silently He suffered,

As with His peace He graced this place of tears,

Or how His heart upon the cross was broken,

The crown of pain to three and thirty years.

But this I know, He heals the brokenhearted,

And stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,

And lifts the burden from the heavy laden,

For yet the Savior, Savior of the world is here.

 

I cannot tell how He will win the nations,

How He will claim His earthly heritage,

How satisfy the needs and aspirations

Of East and West, of sinner and of sage.

But this I know, all flesh shall see His glory,

And He shall reap the harvest He has sown,

And some glad day His sun shall shine in splendor

When He the Savior, Savior of the world is known.

 

I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,

When, at His bidding, every storm is stilled,

Or who can say how great the jubilation

When all the hearts of men with love are filled.

But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,

And myriad, myriad human voices sing,

And earth to Heaven, and Heaven to earth, will answer:

At last the Savior, Savior of the world is king!



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Outstretched Arms of Love – Completed: Day Forty-One, Resurrection Sunday

Easter

Easter Sunday!

Read Matthew 28: 1-10; John 20: 1-9

Behold him Risen and Reigning Forever – Alleluia! Believe in the Gospel of Christ and be set free to love and worship him as forgiven, restored, and redeemed! Belong to the Church triumphant who will live together with Christ for all eternity! Become a new creature in Christ Jesus, who experiences breaking in your making, rising from your falling, and living from your dying – both now and forevermore!

For your prayerful reflection today, consider the words of this ancient Easter hymn, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today, Alleluia!” written by Charles and John Wesley in 1739:

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy pow’r to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

 



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Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Forty, Holy Saturday

HolyWeek.BlogImage

In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Holy Week: The Grand Finale

Read John 19: 38-42

Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. With his permission, he came and took Jesus to a tomb that had never been used. Before placing him there, another disciple Nicodemus brought along a mixture of 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes. The two men took Jesus’ body and wrapped it with the spices and placed him in and among clean strips of linen. They placed Jesus in the tomb. There his body lay, in a solitary cave with a large stone covering the doorway. Guarded well.  Sealed.  Protected.  Alone.

After the upheaval of the previous day, the shared grief of watching Jesus suffer and die, today is left for quiet mourning and reflection. How had the outstretched arms of love led Jesus to such a lonely place?

We wonder the same ourselves, now two millennia later. The Jesus we watched grows from the infant miraculously born to the virgin, under the watchful tutelage of his carpenter father, and among his siblings in a crude home in Nazareth. His wisdom and stature and favor with God and man expanded exponentially over the years until he was baptized, tested, blessed and sent out to fulfill his mission.

We noted with the gospel writers his calling of the disciples to cease being fishermen to become instead fishers of men. We watched with awe his miraculous turning of water into wine, making right that which was wrong, healing hurting bodies and troubled souls, welcoming children and strangers, teaching in parables, and ushering in the Kingdom of heaven.  We learned from his example of caring for the suffering, advocating for the weak, encouraging the broken-hearted, and restoring blind eyes, closed ears, and forgotten souls. We listened intently to his every word, and our lives are forever changed.

And now we walk with Joseph and Nicodemus to the tomb. And we wait and watch with those who are stunned and doubting, and yet hoping and praying for a miracle. It’s the day after we saw Jesus die so miserably on the cross. We can hardly get the sights out of our minds eye, the smell out of our nostrils, the sadness out of our hearts. It was horrible to stand by helplessly as the victim of such cruelty was our friend, our teacher, our mentor, our guide. We trusted him, walked with him, and now we mourn.

Is it all going to end in this tragic way? We’re no longer all together. We’re stunned and saddened. We’re not sure what’s next. We hope. We pray. We linger. We trust. We rest. We wait.

Behold Jesus in our memories and now in the tomb; believe in the words he once spoke as truth; belong to the ones who hold fast to his promises; and become a member of the family of Jesus who forever sing his praise as the One who came to life miraculously and will rise again miraculously once more. Amen.

For additional reflection today, prayerfully consider the words of this ancient Holy Week hymn, “Were You There?” written by African-American slaves in the late 19th Century:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?

 



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Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Thirty Nine, Good Friday

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In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Holy Week: The Grand Finale

Read John 19: 16-37

Jesus on the cross – the ultimate expression of his outstretched arms of love!

His arms could not have been stretched out any further than when they were extended for all humanity on the cross. Simply held back on the beam that far and for so long would have been enough to endure, but with the nails piercing his hands the suffering was all the more agonizing for Jesus.  The crown of thorns on his head and the nails holding his feet in place added to his injurious position. This humiliation and suffering went far beyond the washing of the disciples’ feet in expressing the fullest extent of love.

Carrying his own cross, he walked with the soldiers out to The Place of the Skull, known as Golgotha. He was crucified with two others – one on each side, with Jesus in the middle. Pilate’s notice was fastened above his head on the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews.” The soldiers divided his clothes among them, one share for each of the four attending him. But his seamless undergarment they did not tear, and instead cast lots for it.

Near the cross stood his mother and the other women. Looking down Jesus saw his mother and the beloved disciple. He said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son” and from that time on this faithful disciple took her into his home and cared for her.  Words came from his tired breathing, “Father forgive them” – “You will be with me in paradise” – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” –  “I am thirsty” – “It is finished” – “Into your hands I commit my spirit” and after a soaked sponge of wine vinegar was placed on his lips, he bowed his head and breathed his last, giving up his spirit into death.

Instead of breaking his legs to complete his demise, the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.  Not one of his bones was broken, as the prophet foretold, for those who search for the Living God “will look on the one they have pierced instead.” And that’s how it occurred. The death of Jesus was completed on the cross in the most wretched form possible.

It’s hard to fathom what it would have been like to witness such cruelty. In such a short time frame Jesus went from the highly acclaimed King to the lowly despised criminal. From “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” in a matter of days. Even though Pilate sought to set Jesus free, the Jews kept shouting about his demise. In handing Jesus over to the will of the people, he washed his hands of his death. The drama this act sparked would be exactly as God intended…amazing love, how can it be, that Thou my God would die for me? How many present could sing that hymn of praise? Would you?

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; believe the Gospel of grace poured out in the shed blood of Christ on the cross; belong to those who know Him as Savior, Lord and King; and become a fervent and faithful follower of Jesus the One who left heaven to come to earth to die so that you can have life eternal.

 

For additional reflection today, prayerfully consider the words of this ancient Holy Week hymn, “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” by Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153 (an alternative hymn to consider today is “Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended?”):

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!

Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.

Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.

My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.



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Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Thirty Eight, Maundy Thursday

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In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Holy Week: The Grand Finale

Read John 13: 1-17

Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. So, having loved his own who were in the world with him, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

As the evening meal was being served, he got up from the table and took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After preparing himself to serve his brothers, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with a towel that was wrapped around him.

Peter didn’t quite understand what was happening and initially denied Jesus the privilege. But after Jesus explained that “unless I wash you, you will have no part with me,” Peter not only presented his feet, but asked that his hands and head be washed as well. To Jesus, simply holding and washing their feet was enough of a bath for his faithful followers…including the one who would deny him and even the one who would betray him. Here again we see the Lord extending his outstretched arms of love.

When he was finished washing their feet, he explained why he had done this simple act. As their Teacher and Lord, having washed their feet, he now requested they wash one another’s feet. “No servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” And then he proceeds to predict his upcoming betrayal and denial by two of them who had just experienced the full extent of his humble love.

By far one of the most intimate moments, the washing of the feet was one of Jesus’ final expressions of love to his disciples. To hold their dirty feet in his gentle hands, pour water over them to soothe and bathe as with a cup of salvation, was all he needed to do. He simply wanted his disciples to know that his love was genuine, and his desire for them to do likewise was pure. The ministry of soul hospitality at the table, surrounding this meal, was rich and abundant for all, even for his confused betrayer. Jesus knew his time had come. His days were numbered. His legacy would live on in love.

If you’ve ever had your feet held and washed by another you know how meaningful it is. Imagine Jesus stooping down in front of you, holding your worn and weary feet, looking up at your face with loving affirmation, looking down at your faithful feet, and praying blessing over your walk of faith. He knows your need for cleansing and forgiveness. He is fully aware of every heartache you hold, every pain you’ve suffered, every joy you’ve experienced, every longing your desire. Will you let him love you?

Behold the Savior kneeling lovingly and prayerfully before you; believe in the gifts of grace and mercy he delights to bestow; belong to the fellowship of foot-washed disciples; and become a disciple who is more than willing to wash another’s feet in Jesus’ name.

For additional reflection today, prayerfully consider the words of this ancient Holy Week hymn, “What Wondrous Love Is This O My Soul” (Anonymous, 1811}:

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb Who is the great “I Am”;
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on.



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Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Thirty Seven, Wednesday of Holy Week

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In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Read Mark 14: 1-11

Silent Wednesday. Known more for darkness than light. Many will gather tonight for Tenebrae service, when darkness will descend upon them through the hymns, readings and reflections calling for their heart’s focus on this mid-week turning point to the drama of Holy Week. The lights are extinguishing, as the earthly life and ministry of Jesus is coming to dramatic conclusion.  From Wednesday we descend even further into the dark days of denial, humiliation, and ultimate death on the cross. No turning back.

What we do know is that on this day Judas is preparing to betray Jesus. He agrees to thirty silver coins from the chief priests in return for directing them to Jesus. From then on Judas is on the watch for an opportunity to hand him over. Darkness is personified in a man with a dastardly deed to complete.

The account of Judas’ preparation for betrayal is preceded by the story of Jesus in Bethany, reclining at the table of Simon the Leper. A woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were indignant with the waste, and she was rebuked harshly. Judas was one who objected; not because he cared for the poor who could have benefited from selling the perfume, but selfishly for him as a greedy thief.

Jesus honors the woman for pouring perfume so extravagantly, calling it “a beautiful thing…to prepare for my burial.” Jesus knew her heart and was pleased with her offering of love. He also knew the heart of Judas and the eventuality of his betrayal. To both Jesus extends his outstretched arms of love, as a recipient of loving worship and as inheritor of Judas’ projected duplicity and disloyalty. His freedom and faithfulness to offer love no matter what will transpire is a wonderful portrayal of the true Jesus.

We are left to presume how the remaining hours of this day are used by Jesus and his followers. One might project him walking peacefully, reflecting prayerfully, watching and waiting, noticing, listening and preparing himself for the turning points yet to come.  While the plot to arrest, convict and crucify is unfolding all around him, we can only imagine how he’s getting prepared for what’s to come.

That’s why the picture of contrast between expensive perfumes being poured out on his head is so diametrically juxtaposed with his friend selling out to the authorities in order to hand him over to death. Both are essential to his pending death. Both are crucial to the story line of this dramatic week. Both are hinges to what’s to come. Both acts are indispensable to his final sacrificial drama on the cross.

Behold him resting peacefully amidst a brewing caldron of exploitation; believe in the power of the cross to stampede over death into eternal life; belong to the ones who know the full story and will mourn only so long; and become transformed from the inside out by the life-changing unconditional love of Jesus.

For additional reflection today, prayerfully consider the words of this ancient Holy Week hymn, “My Song Is Love Unknown” written in 1664 by Samuel Crossman.

My song is love unknown, My Savior’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown, That they might lovely be.
O who am I, That for my sake
My Lord should take Frail flesh and die?

He came from His blest throne Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none The longed-for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend, My Friend indeed,
Who at my need His life did spend.

Sometimes they strew His way, And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.

Why, what hath my Lord done? What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run, He gave the blind their sight,
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
Themselves displease, and ’gainst Him rise.

They rise and needs will have My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save, The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
That He His foes from thence might free.

In life no house, no home, My Lord on earth might have;
In death no friendly tomb, But what a stranger gave.
What may I say? Heav’n was his home;
But mine the tomb Wherein he lay.

Here might I stay and sing, No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King! Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.



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Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Thirty Six, Tuesday of Holy Week – Just another ordinary day?

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In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Holy Week: The Grand Finale

Read Matthew 21-25

Tuesday of Holy Week is one of the fullest days for the teaching ministry of Jesus.  It’s one of the quieter days for religious ceremony in our day, but for Jesus it was chock full of significant work.  Therefore, if you have the time to reflect on all five chapters of the Gospel of Matthew, you’ll see this for yourself.

Starting in the early morning, we see him traveling and hungry, and noticing a fig tree by the side of the road, but there were no figs just leaves. So he pronounces it barren and immediately it withers. Then, he stumps those who question his authority to do such things with a quiz they fail to answer…so neither does he tell them by what authority he is doing these things. Brilliant, Jesus! I marvel at his approach.

Then, we read on to discover some of the most poignant parables: the two sons, the tenants, and the wedding banquet. All of them are about the Kingdom he is ushering in with his presence, but to those who “did not believe” (Matt. 21: 32) or “who killed the heir and took his inheritance” (Matt. 21: 38-40) or “did not deserve to come to the banquet” (Matt. 22: 8) did not make it. Each is a withered fig tree!

He continues on with exposing hypocrisy about paying taxes (“give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”) and misinformation about the Scriptures and the resurrection (“you do not know the Scriptures and the power of God”),  followed by a question of an expert of the law, “Which is the greatest commandment?”  Jesus replies with precision, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind…” with the second like it, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Perfect answer, Jesus.

And if that wasn’t enough, on Tuesday he also proclaims to the crowds the seven woes to those who do not practice what they preach. Each of them directed specifically to the Scribes and Pharisees.  These are followed by teachings about the signs of the end of all things, the day and hour remaining unknown, and underscored by three parables about “keeping watch” – the ten virgins, talents and sheep/goats.

Yes, nothing very ordinary or sublime about the Tuesday of Holy Week! It’s full to overflowing, expressive of the urgency of Jesus’ presence in their midst and his final words to them about why he came and the importance of the Kingdom of heaven. Reflecting on these firm teachings is yet another reminder of the outstretched arms of love coming from Jesus: don’t miss out on eternity and the explicit nature of the Kingdom of heaven. Keep watch; seize the day; say yes; remain faithful; be blessed; love!

Behold Jesus living abundantly, maximizing every possible moment; believe his warnings and embrace his teachings; belong to those who love rather than judge; and become wise, vigilant, faithful, and true.

For additional reflection today, prayerfully consider the words of this ancient Holy Week hymn, “Jesus Lover of My Soul” by Charles Wesley, 1740 (an alternative hymn to consider today is another Charles Wesley hymn, “And Can It Be That I Should Gain”):

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.



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