Pastoral Series

Prayer: one more day

   The Israeli psychologist Danny Kahneman, who along with Amos Tversky invented the field of behavioral economics and won a Nobel Prize, grew up in a Jewish family that just barely survived the Holocaust. When he was 9 years old, his family in desperate flight from the SS, Danny would lie awake and pray the…

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Prayer: I love you

   There is a marvelous statue on the shore of the Sea of Galilee that commemorates a remarkable moment recorded in John 21. The disciples have been out fishing all night, catching nothing at all. Then, “just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach.” But they didn’t recognize him. He hollered across the…

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Prayer: My Lord and my God

  If biblical prayers might be extended to include any words spoken directly to Jesus, we might pinpoint these from Thomas as fitting, and instructive to us: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). What prompted him to make such a ringing declaration, such an enthusiastic declaration of faith? Thomas somehow had missed Jesus’ first…

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Prayer: Stay with us

   On Monday we looked into the story of Jesus’ encounter with two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).  I want to probe a bit further.  As we think about prayer, the words the two disciples spoke to Jesus – at the turning point in the story – might be our wisest prayer:…

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Prayer: Disappointment

  It’s fascinating to me how many of the Gospel vignettes narrating Jesus’ resurrection involve disappointment – almost as if they anticipated one of the dominant moods of our culture.  Advertisers work overtime to instill, breed, feed on and expand a feeling of disappointment; they never say Be content! or Things are just fine!  Add…

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Prayer: Up-Rising

   A few days before Easter, I was on the phone to a clergy friend who asked What are you preaching on Easter morning? I asked him, and he mentioned the idea I hadn’t pondered for some time: the Greek word we translate as “resurrection,” anastasis, literally meaning “rising up” or “uprising.”  Jesus rose up. …

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Prayer: Good Friday

   On Good Friday, as Jesus suffered excruciating pain and the wrenching struggle of gradual asphyxiation, he prayed – probably even more prayers than the Bible records. What the Gospels do share with us is remarkable. One had to be startling and downright offensive to those standing by who loved Jesus. Looking down at the…

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Prayer: Maundy Thursday

Matthew 26:30 tells us that, at the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, the disciples sang hymns together. This always moves me. I try to imagine their voices, this small men’s chorus echoing around a stone floored room. Did Jesus lead? Did Simon harmonize? We know which hymns they would have sung: Psalm 113 through 118….

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Prayer: Holy Wednesday

We cannot be sure what happened on Wednesday of the original Holy Week. The Gospel of Mark’s chronology (check out chapters 11 and 14) indicates that Wednesday was the day Jesus’s dinner was interrupted by a woman pouring expensive ointment on his head. But the Gospel of John’s account of things (check out chapters 12…

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Prayer: Holy Tuesday

  On Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus – the day after leaving the authorities raging mad and plotting to rid themselves of his criticisms – walked right back into the teeth of danger and taught.  All day long, it seems.  Matthew 21:18 through 25:46 shares with us some of what Jesus had to say to…

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