I had intended to post this devotion last week, but have been very busy working on the book, mostly, as well as other projects, so my apologies for getting this to you just now. And yet perhaps, on this Palm Sunday, as we begin Holy Week and the anguishing journey to the cross, this is as good a time as any to consider how to love our neighbors.
Jesus entered Jerusalem on a humble donkey, amidst the praises and loud “hosannas!” of the adoring crowd. But Jesus knew that these same people would be calling for his crucifixion and torturing him just four days later. Still, Jesus loved them, ministered to them, broke bread with them, and prayed for them, even asking God his Father to “forgive them, because they know not what they do.”
Jesus is a wonderful model for how we should love our neighbor and fulfill the third tenet of the Jesus Creed. He reminds us that our neighbor is anyone around us, whether we know that person or not. More importantly, he calls us to love those neighbors who betray us, hurt us, and persecute us. In other words, he calls us to love, pray for, and forgive our enemies, who are also our neighbors.
Using Scot McKnight’s book 40 days Living the Jesus Creed, we have considered how we can fulfill what Jesus says is the most important commandment. In doing so, we have learned how to more fully love God, ourselves, and our neighbor. And that is a fitting Lenten journey.
Cross: In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Invitatory Bead: “’Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29 – 31, NRSV)
1st Cruciform Bead: Lord, I confess that I do not always know who my neighbor is.
1st set of Week Beads: use each bead to consider who is your neighbor. Think beyond your friends, family, fellow church members, coworkers, etc. Think about the strangers who come across your path each day.
2nd Cruciform Bead: Lord, help me to know how to love my neighbor as myself.
2nd set of Week Beads: use each bead to consider the ways in which you can show love to your neighbor, given that he/she is an eikon of God.
3rd Cruciform Bead: Lord, help me to love my enemy, and to remember that they, too, were made in your image.
3rd set of Week Beads: use each bead to pray for your enemies. Take this time to remember that even your enemy is a beloved child of God, and has the opportunity for redemption and transformation. If this is difficult for you, use the beads to pray that God will guide you and open your heart to be able to pray for your enemies.
4th Cruciform Bead: Lord, help me to minister to my neighbors who are in the greatest need.
4th set of Week Beads: use each bead to ask God to help you identify the people who are in need and understand how to minister to them.
Invitatory Bead: recite The Lord’s Prayer
Cross: In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen