Kyrie Eleison: Lenten Devotional for Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Psalm 107: 1 O give thanks to the LORD, for God is good; for God’s steadfast love endures forever.

At our Ash Wednesday service, we drew upon the wisdom of our Eastern Orthodox cousins in faith, who showed us a new understanding of the word “mercy.” In the words of Benjamin Williams in his book, Orthodox Worship:

“The word mercy in English is the translation of the Greek word eleos. This word has the same ultimate root as the old Greek word for oil, or more precisely, olive oil; a substance which was used extensively as a soothing agent for bruises and minor wounds. The oil was poured onto the wound and gently massaged in, thus soothing, comforting and making whole the injured part. The Hebrew word which is also translated as eleos and mercy is hesed, and means steadfast love. The Greek words for ‘Lord, have mercy,’ are ‘Kyrie, eleison’ that is to say, ‘Lord, soothe me, comfort me, take away my pain, show me your steadfast love.’ Thus mercy does not refer so much to justice or acquittal a very Western interpretation but to the infinite loving-kindness of God, and his compassion for his suffering children!”

How beautiful! What if we had a God who was less a judge, and more a divine doctor, tending to our wounds?

What space could we make for another source of healing in our lives? How could we be a source of healing to others?

Prayer: Oh, Divine Physician, may your divine mercy and lovingkindness heal our wounds. May we learn from your example and heal others and this world with the same mercy you show us. In the name of the most Holy Trinity, who has given us life, who has overcome death through the resurrection, and who has continued to sustain, provoke, and heal us, Amen.

–Rev. Shane Montoya

The Many Paths

Psalm 25:4-5 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

I get really frustrated when I’m lost.  When I’ve missed a turn on my GPS, or I can’t find a restaurant I’m supposed to be meeting a friend at, I get angry.

It would have been much worse for the ancients who wrote these psalms, who had no GPS, no iPhone, no maps and no compass to navigate with.  There was a reason people stuck to known paths and trails.  Robert Frost might have had the privilege of taking the path less traveled, but in ancient times, it could have meant death.

I think this is why there’s so much imagery in the Bible about God’s ways, paths and roads.  In a time and place where life was often chaotic and short, a well-made road was predictable, and could last a long time with the right maintenance.

For progressive Christians like us, sometimes sticking to the path can feel conformist, old fashioned, boring, traditional. Sometimes it is. Sometimes the road deserves to be torn up and made anew, because it was filled with bigotry or hatred.

But God reminds us in this Psalm that the road to God’s truth is not contained in one path.  It reminds us that God maintains many faithful roads, and has created many spaces where God’s truth is taught.

For a good and faithful road that leads us to where we need to be, we give thanks and praise.

Prayer:  Creator of Paths, we know your truth in Jesus Christ, and that there are many paths through him that lead to you. Sustain us on our ways, for we know that the roads can be rocky and full of traps and travails. Redeemer of the nations, be with all the travelers of the world.  Amen

Making Space for a Clean Heart

Note: This was first published on Ash Wednesday as a Devotional for Edwards Church’s Lenten Devotional series “Making Space”


Ash Wednesday- The First Day of Lent

Psalm 51:10

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Prayer: Oh God, I am before you in the midst of my faults, my false bravado and false humility. See me for who I am, and strip away from me all that separates me from you. Give me the strength to create space for you and your love in my life, and help me to be the child of God you want me to be. Amen.

Ash Wednesday is the day in the Christian liturgical calendar (our calendar of holidays and seasons, separate from the secular calendar) that begins the penitential season of Lent, which ends with Easter Sunday, this year on April 1st. In church services all around the world, Christians are being marked with Ashes in the shape of a cross on the forehead, as a visible reminder of God’s warning to humanity in the book of Genesis that:

“By the sweat of your face

you shall eat bread

until you return to the ground,

for out of it you were taken;

you are dust,

and to dust you shall return.”


Our Lenten theme this year is “Creating Space”, and Ash Wednesday is all about Creating Space.

Ash Wednesday functions as our once a year reminder of the great truth of humanity; today we are alive, but some day we will die. It’s not something we typically like to talk about in polite (or impolite) society. Reminders of this sort don’t help sell cars, or generate Youtube views. They don’t help win elections for politicians or pack people into megachurches.


No, instead, reminders of our mortality strip away all that we surround ourselves with to make ourselves feel safe, to feel comfortable. It strips away our technology, our false bravado and our false humility. We are vulnerable, totally and utterly exposed. All of our faults, our fears, our secret shames and our guilt are as an open book to our God.


This, of course, is utterly terrifying.


But one of the God’s miracles is that God see all of this, all of us, and not just in spite of our vulnerability, but because of our vulnerability and mortality, manages to love us dearly. Through Jesus Christ, we are God’s beloved Children, and God has felt firsthand our grief, pain, and loss. God has even felt the fear of death while he was on the cross, crying out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)The great irony, of course, is that God had not forsaken Jesus in that moment, just as Jesus Christ does not forsake us in our vulnerability and in our mortality.


As we make our spaces for God on Ash Wednesday, and throughout the year, we should keep in mind that this is not something we do alone. God has already made a space for us, a bountiful table spread before us, even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. (Psalm 23).


Thanks be to God!



A Meditation on the Acclamations

One of the traditional acclamations of the Christian faith is that “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”

This paradoxical, messy statement is at odds with the mostly human Jesus that many liberals and progressive Christians know. The Jesus who would vote reliably democratic, welcomes all to his table, and then goes back to heaven, leaving us to govern ourselves and make our own destiny.  A Jesus who would never confront us, only confirm  and love us, and who never suffered violence or hatred.

That is not the Jesus of the acclamation of faith.  That Jesus suffered as a scapegoat to political and institutional violence.  He broke through the emotional barriers of the people surrounding him, confronting and often confusing them.  He was scrappy, homeless, and was a loud personality. He cajoled, joked, cried.  His final words to his followers were to love each other fiercely as he loved them.  As he died, his mother and his friends wept around him, bringing their pain, frustration, and sorrow to the foot of the cross where he emptied the last of his ego, his humanity, even his God nature back unto his God.

That could have been the end of the story.

But it wasn’t.  It was only the beginning.  Jesus’ resurrection, physically and within the hearts and memories of his followers, started something new.  Hope would not be in domination, but in community.  Trust God before you trust your government or your master.  Things will not go well at times; in fact, they might be downright terrible.  But in those dark times, the steadfast love of the God of Israel and the God of the people of the new covenant would be with you always, leading you from the exile of loneliness and despair on eagle’s wings.

That could have been the end of the story.

But it’s not. Christ will come again.  I do not think it will be in fire and brimstone as described in the book of Revelation.  I think it will be something closer to a the way that the mystic Theresa of Avila tells us about Christ in the world today; that Christ has no hands, no feet but ours. I believe that when we as an individual and as communities become the embodiment of the living God, not dead and buried, but alive right here, right now, ever hopeful and faithful for the future, and ever present to our realities on earth, that Christ will have truly come again.