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Posts Tagged ‘Martha’


Luke 23:50-56Burial

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Yesterday we reflected on the two words Jesus says frequently to us: Follow me . . .

Today we take a look at what we are invited to do as a first step in the resurrection process.  We are invited to our own burial.

Van der Weyden: Descent from the Cross

Scripture – and in particular the New Testament story of Jesus – is full of inversion.  We see many paradoxes in Jesus’ words and actions: We must give up all we have in order to gain the world, those who are broken are strong, leaders are those who serve, we must be willing to die if we want to live.  What appears to be incongruous results in a reality we had not anticipated.

What looks like death is life itself.

I tell you the truth, Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John (12:24), unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 

What looks like burial is life itself.

The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, Jesus says in the Gospel of Mark (4:30-32)It is the smallest you plant in the ground; yet when planted it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches the birds of the air can perch in its shade. 

What looks like the end is really the beginning. 

The wallpaper image on my computer is the painting Descent from the Cross by Rogier Van der Weyden; I keep it there to remind me of Jesus’ words to us about life, death, and resurrection.  Each time I log on and see the image, I am reminded that we are always in the process of a necessary burial – the first step toward resurrection.  With that image in my mind, it is easier to remember that anything I do in the material world is a reflection of my belief in the spiritual world. As I travel about my digital universe, I carry with me the constant reminder that it is the spiritual world we seek rather than the material.

I am the resurrection and the life, Jesus says to Martha (John 11:25-27).  He who believes in me will live even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this? he asks.

Martha replies: Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who was to come into the world.

As we reflect on the verses in today’s Noontime and as we look at the expressions on the faces painted on the Van der Weyden canvas, let us take in what we have been told.  It is what those who loved Jesus well are about to fully understand as they lower his body from the cross.  It is the elemental truth that . . . Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

What looks like sorrow will soon be joy.  

The first step toward that joy is our eagerness to unfold the paradox Jesus has given us.  It is our willingness to submit to burial in the life of this world.  It is the full knowing that, like the kernel of wheat, we cannot live until we go into the soil . . . to burst forth again in the new life of Christ.


A re-post from September 1, 2011.

Image from: http://eastofthemoonwestofthesun.blogspot.com/2011/04/day-95-holy-saturday-preparation-for.html 

Further information about the Van der Weyden painting can be found at the following sites or sites of your choosing.  You may want to share some with us.  A good description of the symbolism represented in the characters we see. http://www.andrewgrahamdixon.com/archive/readArticle/197

A beautiful slide show through which the viewer can zoom in to see the detail in the cloth, even the tears glistening on cheeks.  http://www.slidingtime.be/ The show is a link from this blog.  http://writingwithoutpaper.blogspot.com/2010/04/rogier-van-der-weydens-descent-from.html

This link gives us more insight into the painting.  http://blogs.artinfo.com/secrethistoryofart/2011/05/06/inside-the-masterpiece-van-der-weydens-descent-from-the-cross/

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John 11Thoughts on the Raising of Lazarus

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

When we come across the story of the raising of Lazarus we may be tempted to skim through it or even skip over it altogether; we are thinking that we have heard this one before and yes, we have.  But if we set aside a quiet time and a quiet place to read this account of an event that took place two millennia ago . . . and when we pause to mediate on the meaning of the words beyond the story . . . we feel Christ’s presence through the questions that spring up from the pages.  And we are given new gifts of wisdom.  Here is one such gift I received this afternoon . . . you may want to offer up your own.

Verse 16: So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “let us also go to die with him”.  Thomas knows that if Jesus and his followers return to Judea – they have heard the news of Lazarus’ death – they may very likely be stoned, we understand, because earlier the disciples caution Jesus saying: Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?”  Thomas is usually remembered in John 20 as the doubter, the one who refuses to believe that Jesus has returned from the dead until he has seen the crucifixion nail marks and has put his own hand in the wound in Jesus’ side.   Perhaps John uses Thomas in this way to give us the opportunity to examine our own belief in the risen Christ.  Do we demand signs or do we willingly follow . . . even when danger is imminent?  Jesus has told us about the many ways in which he appears to us.  Do we willingly follow with enthusiasm as Thomas hopes to do?  Maybe we willingly respond as Thomas does when we realize that we have doubted Christ himself . . . My Lord and my God!   Today we have the opportunity to think about our readiness to respond as Thomas does when we encounter Christ in any form.  We are perhaps uncomfortable approaching the poor, the stranger, the needy and the imprisoned yet Jesus lives in them as he lives in us.  He is not only present in those who look like us and behave as we do . . . but in diverse others as well.  This gives us something to think about today . . . and it is an opportunity to draw nearer to Jesus.

There are other small places that call us to examine our way of perceiving Christ in others.  We may want to explore the verses that describe Jesus’ encounter with Martha and Mary.  Why does Martha tell Mary secretly that Jesus has arrived?  Why does the writer describe Jesus as perturbedWhat causes Jesus to cry?  And what do we discover about ourselves when we read verse 48?  When we arrive at the close of Chapter 11 we are told how dangerous it was to even know Jesus’ location; and we understand that members of the Sanhedrin clearly prefer land and nation over following and coming to know one who might be the Messiah.  How do we react to these chilling words?

And so we read, we pause, we reflect . . . and then we pray:  Good and faithful brother, we read this account of how you comforted your friends and called Lazarus back to this life.  We also have read about your sadness and unease.  We have understood the danger you were in . . . and that you know we are often in danger when we follow you.  Yet we know that your words and your actions bring about the peace that all of us yearn to hold.  We know that you are our wise teacher and loving shepherd. 

We know that where you go there will be questions, yet we follow because we want answers.

We know that that where you go the old order will be questioned, yet we follow because with you we are unafraid. 

We know that where you go there will be peace . . . and so we follow for this is also how we wish to live. 

Guide us always, protect us always, be with us always . . . for we are trying to follow . . . you.  Amen. 


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 3, 2011.

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Resting in Bethany


Holy Monday, March 25, 2013 – John 12:1 – Resting in Bethany

Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 

Cornelis Engenbrechtsz: Christ in the House of Martha and Mary

Cornelis Engenbrechtsz: Christ in the House of Martha and Mary

We know that we must balance our lives with activity and reflection; Jesus teaches us this by his example and by his word. Too much work makes us anxious, resentful, and forgetting of God.  Too much reflection makes us indolent, uncaring, and forgetting of others. We must interweave our intent with our deeds and through Lazarus’s two sisters, Martha and Mary, Jesus shows us how we are to act and what we are to do.

He entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple area.  He looked around at everything and, since it was already late, went out to Bethany with the Twelve.  (Mark 11:11)

Jesus visits his friends before he goes up to Jerusalem – he knows what experience is about to unfold.  Jesus allows himself to be anointed – he knows that he will need special blessings to allow the coming days to teach humanity’s greatest lesson.  Jesus does not draw out his enemies – he knows that even he must adhere to God’s plan.

We have need of our rest in Bethany and so we must take it.  We must store up, revive, take stock, and recuperate from the work of the world.

We have need of balance and pacing and so we must execute it.  We must plan, reflect, pray, be still, and prepare for the next leg of our journey.

We have need of a circle of friends and so we must rest with them.  We must ask, we must listen, we must abide, and we must allow others to tend to us.

C_Werner_Bethany_525[1]We must rest and restore in Bethany for Christ awaits us there before he journeys to the cross.  Let us choose a chapter in Jerusalem’s story and abide awhile as we do with an old friend.  Let us relax and listen.  Let us revive and receive.  We have miles yet left in our journey . . . so let us rest awhile in Bethany in the arms of the one who loves us so well.

To rest with the painting and story of Martha and Mary click on the Engenbrechtsz image above or go to: http://www.awesomestories.com/assets/christ-in-the-house-of-martha-and-mary

For an interesting story about Jesus’ early life, click on the image of Bethany by C. Werner.

Or today you may wish to read about Solomon’s Jerusalem as you rest with another period in the Jerusalem story.  

For a Noontime reflection on Martha and Mary, visit the June 9, 2012  posting at: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/06/09/martha-and-mary/

For an essay that examines a Martha and Mary life, read Mary and Martha Revisited at:  http://caroleduff.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/mary-and-martha-revisited/

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