Crucifixion was a form of execution which was meant to invoke fear and despair. It was one of the ways Rome tried to maintain their power over oppressed people. It was a form of execution which was reserved for the poor and the powerless. To be crucified meant that someone was nothing in the eyes of the Roman empire. In Mark 15, Jesus accepts his own cross and reveals that God does not forsake anyone, even those who have been judged and rejected in the eyes of the world. When Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” this is not a cry of despair but hope. He is quoting the first sentence of Psalm 22, which is a prayer that begins in lament, but ends in hope.
In the story of Jesus’ suffering and death, we see our Savior take his place among those who are in prison and to truly claim them as his own. I have had more than a few relatives who have served time in prison for all sorts of reasons, and it has always been heartbreaking for our family. It is no accident that prisons in the United States are often called “penitentiaries,” because our system was founded in a belief that prison was to be a form of penance for the guilty. Sadly, our system does not offer any type of redemptive suffering for inmates or their families, instead, it often leads people into despair, and even when people are released.
In our ministry with those who are in prison, we ought never lose sight of our common humanity, and our common need for God’s mercy. We are also called to notice Christ in our midst, and as Jesus says in Matthew 25, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Jesus you are our Savior and our Friend. Allow us to notice your loving presence as we care for those who are in prison. And as you comfort and forgive us, allow us to be merciful to others, that we may reflect your healing love for all people. Amen.
“On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’”
“Where do you want us to go?” That’s the question the disciples and we ask Jesus when we follow him. Where do you want us to go Jesus? Following God has always meant some level of going out into the unknown. Sometimes in a literal way – people are called to leave everything behind to follow Jesus. Sometimes we are called to leave other things that offer us the comforts of home – ideas, relationships, beliefs, careers, etc. It is when we leave home, that we find out who we truly are, or better said, we learn who God made us to be.
How is Jesus calling you away from the comfort of your home? How is Jesus calling your congregation outside the walls of its worshipping home to be with those who are homeless, those who have no worshipping home? How is Jesus answering our question of where he wants us to go and make preparations for our lives, our congregations, and our communities. It is when we are without a home that are most open to hearing where Jesus wants us to go. Open our ears and our hearts to listen to Jesus’ answer and to see others who are experiencing homelessness in our midst – whether they be literally without a home, or are homeless in other ways.
God who sends people, send us. Send us out of the comforts of our home and into community with others who are homeless – those without homes, those without community, those without hope. Let the warmth of your reign offer us and others the shelter from the storms of the world. Make us into a shelter for others. Amen.
Remember to visit lss-elca.org/about-us/justice-ministries for the newly updated web pages of our Lower Susquehanna Synod Justice Task Forces. Many of our task force members are available to facilitate justice related dialogues, offer temple talks, guest preach, or provide resource referrals.
“While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.”
Early in the Passion reading we encounter Jesus at the home of Simon the leper. We don’t know much about this Simon. He may have been someone that Jesus cured of leprosy. What is most interesting in Mark’s version of the encounter is that it is the disciples who complain about the woman who anoints Jesus with ointment. Mark records nothing about Simon’s reaction. Considering this takes place at his home, I have to wonder what he thought. Here was a woman who came into his house, uninvited, and proceeds to anoint Jesus, his guest.
Someone who was a leper would know what homelessness was – they would have had to camp outside the city, away from everyone. Their relationships would have been cut off. Human contact would have been cut off. And here Simon finds himself now hosting Jesus, who may have cured him of leprosy and restored him in community – all in his house. And it is Jesus’ followers who complain – the ones closest to him. The irony of a formally homeless leper hosting a homeless Savior while the disciples are upset by the “wasting” of resources is something that we still struggle with today. How many people experiencing homelessness have been turned away because we are worried about they will handle the resources they are given – as if we have our act together? How do welcome people into our homes, our congregations, our lives in ways that allow them to encounter Jesus?
God of the poor, you created each person value and worth. Our value and worth are not determined by what we possess or where we are housed. You welcome us into your reign – help us to welcome others in as well. And let us be instruments of your grace to those around us. Amen.