First Quarter


J Nichols Adams et al


February 25, 2018, 2nd Sunday of Lent



LectionAid 1st Quarter 2017-18

February 25, 2018, 2nd Sunday of Lent

No Hidden Agenda

Psalm 22:23-31, Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Romans 4:13-25, Mark 8:31-38 or Mark 9:2-9

Theme: Giving Oneself to God


Starting Thoughts

Jesus was certainly had no hidden agenda. He called for complete adherence to the peaceful and all-consuming following of the way of the cross. He called for absolute surrender to God. There is no question in our modern world of self-absorption such adherence to God would for some be a form of mental illness. Something that became a political item the very next day. But Jesus saw it as being necessary in our lives. Jesus saw always carrying the cross as a part of our everyday lives.
Jesus pulls no punches when he declares that following him involves giving our whole selves over to God. How different his words are from those of most televangelists who promise wealth and happiness to those who accept Christ! Or, for that matter, from the promises of most of our churches that membership in the church will help the family stay together or some other general promise of happiness and fulfillment!
"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
Such words were never found in Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. They certainly do not sound like something out of Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking. Nor would they be a favorite text for others who preach a gospel of success and wealth. As we see in today's gospel text, the words were spoken after outcome of a painful incident between Jesus and Peter. Jesus was walking with his disciples to the region of Caesarea Philippi, when he asked them to report on what the crowds were saying about him. After hearing the various misconceptions of the people, he asked the disciples who they thought he was. It was then that Peter outdid himself by declaring that Jesus was the Christ. Jesus orders them not to tell anyone this. Immediately after Peter's confession of faith Jesus, apparently wanting to disabuse his disciples of any triumphalist view of the Messiah, so prevalent among the people, begins to teach them that his destiny was to suffer rejection and death at the hands of the religious leaders. Not only would he suffer, but anyone who would follow him must be willing to suffer too. This was too much for Peter to accept, so he rebukes his master—and in turn is rebuked by Jesus.

Exegetical Comments

Jesus' words must have cut to the hapless Peter's heart. Equating Peter's attempt to dissuade him from accepting a ministry of suffering and death to the work of Satan must have confused as well as hurt the disciple. From our perspective of having the four gospels with their account of Jesus' wilderness temptation by Satan, we can better understand what Jesus means. Whereas Jesus has set his mind on "divine things," namely God's call to him to be the Suffering Servant described in the servant poems in Isaiah, Peter's mind is set on "human things," such as the reestablishment of an earthly kingdom that would include the bloody repulsion of the Roman occupiers. Also, as we see later in the gospels when some of the quarreling disciples seek places of honor and power in their master's kingdom, neither Peter nor the others understand that citizens of the new kingdom are to be servants, not masters.
Do we share in Peter's failure of vision when we tell people that faith will make them happy? That faith will earn them entrance into heaven, thus reducing Christianity to a matter of saving our souls? Are we so caught up in our consumption-driven society that we cannot see what a counter-culture Jesus' way of service and the cross is and leads those who would be his followers to do? I think it was Thoreau who said somewhere that few church members really understand the teachings of Christ, and that if they did; they would tear down their church buildings brick by brick. Dare we leaders of the church take that risk by preaching and living this radical call of Jesus to "deny" ourselves and take up the cross, when everything we see on television or read in our print ads encourages us "to treat yourself," and to believe that we are what we can buy? When even the birth of our Savior has been turned into the occasion for the biggest merchandizing campaign in history, can we say that all of our finery and gadgets amount to nothing in the kingdom, that it is not what we have and take, but what we give that counts? Time will tell whether our lives will proclaim the way of consumption or the way of giving, the way of self-indulgence, or the way of the cross.

Preaching Possibilities

Standing up as a Christian is hard. Whatever your views of the present administration the way the Christian faith is treated is disturbing to any Christian. Standing up for the faith is hard. Following the cross is hard. We are going to be criticized and mocked. But Jesus tells us straight out, there is only one way and that is to say I am a practicing Christian.


Different Sermon Illustrations

The women of ABC News' “The View” took a shot a Vice President Mike Pence’s Christian faith on Tuesday, mocking the former governor of Indiana for talking to Jesus and even calling it a “mental illness.”
Hostin declared that Pence is a “hated figure” in Indiana, claiming she knows firsthand because she attended law school in the state.
“He’s not very popular at all,” she said. “I think when you have a Mike Pence who now sort of puts this religious veneer on things and calls people ‘values voters,’ I think we’re in a dangerous situation.”
Hostin said she is a “faithful” Catholic but doesn’t want her vice president “speaking in tongues.”
Joy Behar then said: “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you.”
Behar said hearing voices is a “mental illness” before Sherri Shepard offered a limited defense of Pence.
“As a Christian, that’s just par for the course,” Shepard said “You talk to Jesus, Jesus talks back. What concerns me is, how long is the conversation with Jesus?”
Behar, an ABC News star, uncomfortably joked, “Can he talk to Mary Magdalene without his wife in the room?” (

“We understood where she stood with [the vice-president],” she said. “It was important for me to watch that entire clip and not just pull the one thing out that Joy said … there are many people who think the way that Joy does when they aren’t believers.”
Bure, who is an outspoken Christian, added that it’s important for Christians to remember that non-believers find the sort of spiritual experience described in Behar’s comments as “foreign.”
“It was a tone-deaf comment, also an ignorant one, but you can’t blame her,” Bure said. “[For] someone who has no concept of the Holy Spirit, I think that that is a logical response to them.”
Bure also detailed how she would have responded if she was still sitting around “The View” table, noting that she would have drawn a distinction between a person stating that Jesus “talks” to him or her and someone explaining that he or she listens to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
“I think I would have clarified there’s a difference,” she said. “There’s a difference when someone claims, ‘Oh, Jesus talked to me’ or ‘I’m listening to the holy spirit.'” (

The cross is a constant reminder that Jesus chose to suffer death rather than respond to violence with more violence. The story of cyclical violence, though, has been a part of the human tradition since virtually the beginning of time. The ancient Babylonians had a creation myth, which involved Apsu, the father god, and Tiamat, the mother god, who proceeded to give birth to all the other deities. The younger gods, however, made such noise with their frolicking that the elder gods resolved to kill them, so they could get some sleep. The younger gods quickly became aware of that plot on their lives, and they conspired to kill Apsu. Tiamat then vowed revenge. Terrified of their mother, the younger gods turned to the youngest of them all, Marduk, to deliver them from Tiamat's vengeance. Marduk accepted their request, but with a price attached. The agreement was that if Marduk succeeded in vanquishing Tiamat, he would be recognized as the chief and undisputed head of all the gods. Having sealed that deal, Marduk captured Tiamat in a net, drove an evil wind down her throat, shot an arrow into her bloated belly and pierced her heart. From her corpse, the myth continues, Marduk proceeded to form the cosmos.

In The Universe Bends Toward Justice, Angie Gorman tells about how she was awakened one night when a stranger kicked open the door to her bedroom. She was all alone in the house. The phone was downstairs. She had no means of escape. At that moment, Gorman decided to take an unexpected, perhaps foolish, approach toward the intruder. She asked him if he knew what time it was. She inquired about how he had gotten into the house. The robber indicated that he had broken one of the windows. Gorman replied by informing him that repairing that window would be a real burden for her, because she was going through some financial difficulties. The intruder then began to talk with her about the financial and other problems he was going through. After talking for quite some time, she offered to provide him with some sheets and a pillow so that he could sleep on a couch downstairs. The next morning, they ate breakfast together, and then he left without incident.

Taking up the cross often involves acting in ways that others might consider foolish. Dorothy Samuel, an advocate for nonviolence, did. One night as she was walking alone on a dark street carrying her groceries, she suddenly heard footsteps behind her. She quickly spun around, handed her bags to the man and said, "Thank God you showed up! I hate to walk alone in these streets, and the packages are so heavy." The man, who had originally planned to rob her, ended up safely escorting her home.

Early Christians had to confront the contention that was sometimes made that Jesus never really died on the cross. In response, church leaders often pointed to the fact that many people and churches possessed actual pieces of the cross. Cyril, in 350, declared, "The whole world has been filled with pieces of the wood of the cross." Fragments of the cross are reported in Cappadocia and in Antioch during the second half of the fourth century, and by the beginning of the fifth century, pieces of the cross were carried to Gaul. During the middle of the fifth century, Patriarch Juvenal offered a fragment of the cross to Pope Leo I in Rome. Pope Gregory I, who died in 604, offered a piece of the cross to the queen of the Lombards and to the king of the Visigoths.

During the middle Ages, a legend developed that said that the sign of the cross provided protection in times of war. As a result, the symbol of the cross was widely used by the throngs who participated in the Crusades. In fact, the phrase "to take the cross" was understood to mean, "to go off on a crusade."

The pain involved with crucifixion is widely understood. The pain was so intense, though, that a new word had to be invented to convey how excruciating it was. "Excruciating" literally means "out of the cross."

Has the church continued in the way of the cross, or have we at times pursued some other course? In The Secular Mind, Robert Coles observes that the Christianity that emerged in the generations after Jesus was markedly different from the kingdom that he preached. Rather than railing against the status quo, as Jesus had done, the church, particularly as it entered the Middle Ages, became one of the main enforcers of the status quo. The church became its own earthly empire (i.e., the Holy Roman Empire), complete with crowns, wealth, and temporal power.

The cross exemplifies the great reversal in the way that God operates—how life emerges from death. Two brothers in New York were named at birth Winner Lane and Loser Lane. A feature in a July 2002 Newsday detailed how Loser Lane had become a winner. He is now a respected police detective in the South Bronx. Winner Lane, however, has turned out to be a loser, having a history of petty crimes. Their sister says their parents chose those names for the boys because the late father was such a big baseball fan—a sport, like most others, where a team's status is measured in terms of wins and losses.

Can we find beauty in something as revolting as the cross? A Michigan photographer has decided on a rather unusual specialty. Townsend Artman takes pictures of roadkill. When he spots dead animals on the side of the highway, he stops and records the image with his camera. He says that he got interested in doing that a couple years ago when he saw a dead skunk alongside the road while he was taking his daughter to the day care center. Artman admits that his artwork are not big sellers. In part, that's due to the price he puts on his work—the photos range in price from $5000 to $10,000.

We live in an age where scientific fact is preferred over faithful foolishness. In 1900, there were 9000 scientific articles published that year. In 1950, 90,000 were published. By 2000, more than 900,000 scientific articles were produced.

The cross is a sign of God's abiding faithfulness to us. In our personal relationships, though, we don't always experience that kind of steadfastness. The Brazilian edition of the May 2002 Reader's Digest researched men and women's attitudes toward marriage. The poll found that only one in four Brazilians expects their spouse to remain faithful to them throughout their entire married life. A separate poll found that 63% of Brazilian men and 23% of Brazilian women admit to having had at least one extramarital affair.

Jesus expects that our discipleship will include not just a portion, but also the entirety, of our lives. In The Bureau and the Mole, David Vise tells the story of Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent who sold top-secret information to the Soviets. His actions led to the deaths of overseas American intelligence workers, made expensive new technology obsolete before its time, and enabled enemy nations to crack U. S. codes. While Hanssen was doing all that, however, he was actively involved in the Roman Catholic organization Opus Dei. Founded in 1928 by a Spanish priest, Opus Dei was established to encourage lay people to live holy lives of service. Among other things, the order requires its adherents to follow a strict set of spiritual disciplines, including daily mass, prayers at noon and in the afternoon, weekly confession, and retreats for spiritual reflection. Hanssen devoutly followed all those practices on a regular basis. But even so, apparently there was a disconnection between the inner life that he was cultivating and the outer life that he was actually living.

When Jesus died on the cross, people were left to wonder if things were truly going to turn out all right as Jesus had said. In A Rumour of Angels, Peter Berger tells of a child who wakes up in the middle of the night, scared by a bad dream. His mother goes to him to comfort him and says, "It's all right." Is that parent telling the child a loving lie? In a world of disease and crime and war, is everything really all right? Or do those mother's words speak of a greater truth? Is that mother speaking of the greater truth that in the end, everything truly will be made right by God? At the moment of Jesus' crucifixion, things did not appear to be all right. But as time passed, we witnessed that God is able to change evil into good.

Beulah Lund was from Washington state, where she lived with her family in a comfortable farm home. But over the years, she developed a real concern about the homeless people in our nation. So she began to talk with her husband and family about the idea of her going to Washington, D.C., and living on the streets with homeless people for a while, so that she could better understand what their lives were like. On the condition that she call home each evening, her family agreed to support her in that decision. For six weeks Beulah Lund lived with the homeless people on the streets of our nation's capital. During that time, she learned what it meant to be poor, hungry, and lonely. She learned about the dangers of robbery and rape that were constantly around her. When the six weeks came to an end, Beulah Lund then became an advocate for homeless people. She started going on radio and TV to let people know what homeless people are really like, and what the problems are that they face each day. Some people might say that Beulah Lund was foolish for doing what she did. But her willingness to enter into a situation of suffering made her more aware of God's will for her life.

The cross forces us to re-evaluate what greatness truly is. Peter Gomes, the chaplain at Harvard University, observes, "Excellence seems a rather abstract and cold virtue, for simply to be the best at what one does without reference to what one does empties the term of any moral content. Al Capone was an excellent gangster, but...we would not hold him as an example to be emulated...." (Peter J. Gomes, The Good Life: Truths That Last in Times of Need [New York: Harper Collins, 2002], p. 20).

"If a rabbinic scholar is beloved by the people of his city, it is not because of his superiority, but because he does not reprove them concerning their responsibilities toward God" (Talmud).

"The world is drowning in religion.... Therefore, the first test of any new form of the church must always be: Is it sufficiently unacceptable to the world? Is it non-religious enough to get the church out of its twenty-century-long love affair with religious respectability?" (Robert Farrar Capon, The Astonished Heart [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996], p. 105).

"The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard" (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

"Men and women can endure any amount of suffering so long as they know the way to their existence" (Friedrich Nietzsche).

I once heard a friend say at the installation of a new pastor that it is important for clergy and all Christians to remember "the title of Alpha and Omega is already taken." Jesus here does not ask us to take up every cross in the world, but our particular cross. The challenge is not to sacrifice ourselves to save the whole world, but to discover that place where, to paraphrase Frederick Buechner, our gifts and God's needs in the world intersect.

Dr. Nevlaton, a surgeon at Emory University Hospital while I was in seminary, once said," If I had only four minutes in which to perform a procedure upon which a life depended. I would take the first minute to pray, gather my thoughts, and consider how best to accomplish it." Even as talent and skill reach the highest human levels there is the need to pause before one proceeds.

There was a prescribed way for a slave to gain his freedom in ancient Greece. He would take a job in his spare moments. He had to give a portion of what he earned to his master. The little he kept he gave to the priest at the temple of some god. It would take years to save enough money to buy his freedom. When sufficient funds were in hand, he would take his master to the temple and the priest would pay the money of redemption to the master. The result was that the slave became the property of the god and, therefore, free from all men. Jesus brought us to the Temple and paid the price of Redemption once and for all.

Everyone thought Francesco Bernadone was crazy when he publicly stripped off his fine clothing in front of the Bishop of Assisi and gave them to his father. He renounced his earthly heritage in order to gain a spiritual heritage. Wearing a robe of coarse cloth, he set out to rebuild the little crumbling Church of San Damiano just outside the walls of the city. His fellow bon vivants came to scoff at their former friend, but some, won over by his simple, but intense faith, stayed to help. They formed the nucleus of the small band of believers that was to change the face of the medieval church by their devotion to serving the poor. The Franciscans, as they came to be called, took literally Jesus' call to deny oneself by taking a vow of poverty, as well as celibacy. Yet, as is shown in Franco Zefirelli's film Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Francesco did not expect everyone to go this far. When one of his brothers comes to him in shame, confessing that he could not keep his vows, Francesco did not chastise him. He released him from the order and blessed him, encouraging him to live in society yet remain faithful to Christ. From such arose the Third Order, lay people who subscribe to Franciscan teachings yet are not expected to take the vows and live apart from their families and society. In a sense there has grown up a Fourth order, consisting of Protestants, as well as Roman Catholics, who admire Francesco and are pledged to simplify their lives as much as possible.

The life of Toyohiko Kagawa resembled that of Francis of Assisi in that they both accepted a life of poverty in their desire to become as Christ-like as possible. The Japanese Christian called himself "Christ's fool" and "a slave of the cross." Kagawa, born in 1888, was the bastard son of a profligate man who was the head of nineteen villages. However, his father died when the boy was quite young, so he was sent back to be raised by a mother and a grandmother who treated him more like a servant than the son of his father. The boy worked in the rice fields and sought escape from the scoldings and beatings at home by wandering along the seacoast and communing with nature. When he was sent away to boarding school, he came into contact with Christian missionaries, many of whom welcomed him into their homes. Adopting their faith, he came to embrace Christ as his savior and the friend of all who had been oppressed like him. He was disinherited because of his faith but was still able to enroll in seminary, thanks to scholarship aid from Christian friends. Upon seeing the desperate plight of the poor, he left the seminary dormitory and moved into one of the six by six feet shacks of the city slums. He took in all kinds of people, even though he had barely enough money for his own needs. Always somewhat frail in health, he contracted many of the diseases associated with slum dwellers. His friends thought him mad or foolish, but he persevered, even during periods when he was incapacitated by his illnesses. When his writings were published, he used all the proceeds for the poor. Later in life he set forth to help organize urban workers and rural peasants so that they could negotiate for better conditions with their employers and landlords. He became the voice of the silent masses who could not speak for themselves. In one of his Meditations, after describing some of the persecution and ridicule he has endured, he goes on to say, "But these things move me not. I am Christ's captive! A slave of the cross! The world's fool! I am determined to abandon everything that bears the mark of this world, and, naked, sally forth along the road which leads upward to the state of the sanctified. If to others this seems foolish, there is no help for it." (Kagawa's Meditations, quoted on p. 70 of William Axling's Kagawa {New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers: 1932}) Note how the line about abandoning everything of this world and sallying forth "naked" evokes the picture of the Italian saint's stripping off his clothes and leaving them with his disapproving father, even though Kagawa does not mention St. Francis' name.

The hymn "Christ of the Upward Way" might well serve as a description of the discipleship of Kagaw and Francis of Assisi. Written by Walter John Matthams for youth around 1915, the hymn is a prayer to Christ in three stanzas. The author seeks to be able to place his own feet where Christ "the guide divine" has placed his. His discipleship is not a long-face affair, but one, which seeks Christ's "purpose with a glad and holy zest." The "upward way" in which the author sets his feet leads on to the very end when he may face death calmly and serenely with the answer, "Lord, I am here." In correspondence with a friend, Matthams revealed that the last phrase was suggested by the students' answer in Latin when the class role was called, "Adsum," "I am here." Walter John Matthams was born in London in 1853, apparently living a colorful life. He was a sailor, then a Baptist pastor, and for a while, a convalescent in Australia when he fell ill. Returning to England, he served two small churches, and then as an Army chaplain in Egypt. Early in the 20th century he was ordained in the Church of Scotland, serving two churches in that country. He published three books, but it is his great hymn, set to the stately music of George Lomas that is remembered today.

Jesus' command to "take up the cross and follow me" is not just for the able-bodied. Long ago an English invalid found meaning in it also. Charlotte Elliott, although related to many Low Church Anglican clergymen, lived a carefree, happy life, writing humorous poetry and painting portraits. However, when she was around thirty years old, her health began to fail, and soon she was confined to her bed. She became very despondent and filled with sense of uselessness. Fortunately, God sent her a friend in the Swiss evangelist Dr. Caesar Malan, who visited her in 1822. Realizing that her problem was as much spiritual as physical and psychological, he counseled her to come to Christ "as you are, a sinner." She did, beginning a personal relationship with Christ that enabled her to transcend the confines of her ailing body and bed. Ever afterward she regarded the date of the day of Dr. Malan's visit as her spiritual birthday. That she never forgot his words can be seen in the hymn that she wrote some 14 years later, "Just as I Am, Without One Plea." (More on this hymn in the Illustrations for March 30.) Miss Elliott wrote, "He (Christ) knows, and He alone, what it is, day after day, hour after hour, to fight against bodily feelings of almost overpowering weakness, languor and exhaustion, to resolve not to yield to slothfulness, depression and instability, such as the body causes me to long to indulge, but to rise every morning determined to take for my motto, `If a man will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.'" (Quoted in 101 Hymn Stories, by Kenneth W. Osbeck [Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1982], p. 147)

Graham Greene, in his novel The Tenth Man, tells the story of a man who loved things so much that he almost loses his soul. Anthony Hopkins, in the movie version, plays wealthy lawyer Jean Louis Chavel, who is caught in a Nazi round up of citizens in 1942. Joining a group of thirty others in a crowded Gestapo cell, he bemoans his fate, especially when told that they are hostages held in the event of any shooting of a German by the Resistance. A German soldier is killed, and sure enough, the Nazi commander tells the group that every tenth prisoner is to be shot. The prisoners themselves will select the victims. When Chavel is one of "the tenth men," he breaks down, sobs, and pleads for someone to take his place. He promises to turn over his mansion and his fortune to the heirs of anyone who will do so. A sick young man accepts his offer, and Chavel writes out the bequest on a scrap of paper that is witnessed by others. When faced with death, wealth and property lose their value. But how is one to live with oneself after making such a deal? The answer unfolds as we follow Chavel upon his release from prison when the Allies enter Paris. The now impoverished man wanders through the streets of Paris and eventually finds himself standing outside the gate of his mansion. He enters the grounds and rings the doorbell. Thence begins his dramatic road back to self-respect and humanity, but it will be a road that includes the cross. Only when he accepts it does he regain his lost soul.

I recall as a boy attending an evangelical church where one of the favorite songs of us boys was "Are Ye Able? Said the Master" The Master's question was one he put to his disciples, "Are ye able to be crucified with me?" The answer in the song was "Yea, the sturdy dreamers, answered, to the death we'll follow Thee!" As we see in the gospel, the disciples answered too faciley when Jesus, just before his betrayal and arrest, asked if they were able to drink from the cup of which he was to drink. Before the night was over, they had run away to safety. I suspect we sang that song too lustily without thinking what we were singing. Each stanza included the chorus. "Lord, we are able, our spirits are thine…" Now, we have all been told by the pastor and teachers thrilling stories of how the early Christians stood up to the persecution by the Romans, how many even sang as they went to their deaths. I still remember how one visiting preacher built up his exciting story of one of the early Christian martyrs as he spoke while playing slowly "Onward Christian Soldiers" on the piano. Hitting the base keys in a steady staccato that to us sounded like the marching feet of Roman soldiers, he told how a newly converted legionnaire refused to go on fighting or making a sacrifice to the statue of the Emperor. So vivid was his music-enhanced story that we could see ourselves stepping forward and saying "No!" to our commanding officer and then being led away to execution—and thence to be escorted by angels into the approving presence of God and Christ. I wonder if we really could have been so brave. We certainly succumbed to our childish temptations of Continued on page 19 March 23, 2003—3rd Sunday in Lent of legitimizing violence when they water down moral content and reduce faith to a cultural phenomenon. Volf claims that what we need "is not less religion, but, in a carefully qualified sense, more religion." We must practice our faith in an authentic way, instead of just being "card-carrying Christians." We must be apostles of peace and justice in the world, and not just hear about them in our churches.

In July, 2002, some Boston Globe reporters published a book titled Betrayal: Covering the Church Crisis. Their findings were the result of investigations they did from January to May, 2002, on the pedophile priest scandal in the Catholic Church. The Globe originally broke the story in January of how the Boston archdiocese had protected Father John Goeghan for more than 20 years by keeping secret his sins and crimes of sexual abuse. Some accused the Globe of an anti-Catholic bias and of irresponsible sensationalizing. However, the Globe reporters' thorough research of priest scandals amassed considerable evidence of a long history of cover-ups, hush money, and ecclesiastical mistakes in dealing with the issue.
Father Andrew Greeley wrote this of Betrayal: "The investigative staff of the Boston Globe has done the Catholic Church an enormous favor….It has revealed to the Catholic laity the ignorance, arrogance, stupidity, and insensitivity of the hierarchy. It has bared a pattern of sinfulness that has been a cancer eating at the church and has forced the bishops to excise it." One can sense the moral outrage and "righteous anger" that Greeley, himself a Catholic priest, feels over the pedophile priest scandal.
R. Scott Appleby, a professor of history at Notre Dame, acknowledges that the authors were "largely successful in their attempt to achieve a balance and analysis of the events that caused the crisis," and in the way they handled the contested issues of celibacy and homosexuality in the priesthood. Nonetheless, Appleby thinks that the journalists "have not been entirely innocent of following their own agenda—one that has little or nothing to do with lingering anti-Catholicism but more to do with pushing a dramatic story." For example, Appleby found the book lacking "a credible account of what Catholics find vital and holy in Catholicism," and why Catholics continue to love and support their parish priests in spite of their pain, anger and embarrassment because of the scandal.
Outrage and anger can only be "righteous" if we keep a sense of proportion. The number of pedophile priests is an extremely small percentage compared to the very large percentage of priests who serve the church with great generosity, fidelity, and integrity. Also, a one-size-fits-all punishment of "zero tolerance" the U.S. Bishops proposed seems unjust and extreme. Some who are accused of sexual abuse are completely innocent. Others are guilty of sin and a lapse of judgment many years ago, but not all are guilty of crime. Lest the media turn the pedophile priest scandal an "anti-Catholic witch hunt," should they not also investigate rabbis and ministers, teachers and coaches, and social workers and therapists who molest children?
With God's grace, "righteous anger" over priestly sexual abuse, as opposed to vindictive anger, can turn out to be a blessing. We should expect positive outcomes in the form of healing and reconciliation for the innocent victims; breaking down the hierarchy's "culture of secrecy" that covered up the crimes; adopting new and effective guidelines for investigating charges of sexual abuse; and improving the way we recruit, screen and train candidates for the priesthood.

Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel, the health and wealth gospel, or the gospel of success) is a religious belief among some Christians, who hold that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one's material wealth. Prosperity theology views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity.
The doctrine emphasizes the importance of personal empowerment, proposing that it is God's will for his people to be happy. The atonement (reconciliation with God) is interpreted to include the alleviation of sickness and poverty, which are viewed as curses to be broken by faith. This is believed to be achieved through donations of money, visualization, and positive confession.
It was during the Healing Revivals of the 1950s that prosperity theology first came to prominence in the United States, although commentators have linked the origins of its theology to the New Thought movement which began in the 19th century. The prosperity teaching later figured prominently in the Word of Faith movement and 1980s' televangelism. In the 1990s and 2000s, it was adopted by influential leaders in the Pentecostal Movement and Charismatic Movement in the United States and has spread throughout the world. Prominent leaders in the development of prosperity theology include E. W. Kenyon, Oral Roberts, A. A. Allen, Robert Tilton, T. L. Osborn, Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, Reverend Ike and Kenneth Hagin.
Prosperity theology has been criticized by leaders from various Christian denominations, including within the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, who maintain that it is irresponsible, promotes idolatry, and is contrary to scripture.
According to historian Kate Bowler, the prosperity gospel was formed from the intersection of three different ideologies: Pentecostalism, New Thought, and "an American gospel of pragmatism, individualism, and upward mobility." This "American gospel" was best exemplified by Andrew Carnegie's Gospel of Wealth and Russell Conwell's famous sermon "Acres of Diamonds", in which Conwell equated poverty with sin and asserted that anyone could become rich through hard work. This gospel of wealth, however, was an expression of Muscular Christianity and understood success to be the result of personal effort rather than divine intervention.
E. W. Kenyon, a Baptist minister and adherent of the Higher Life movement, is credited with introducing mind-power teachings into early Pentecostalism. Kenyon taught that Christ's substitutionary atonement secured for believers a right to divine healing. This was attained through positive, faith-filled speech; the spoken word of God allowed believers to appropriate the same spiritual power that God used to create the world and attain the provisions promised in Christ's death and resurrection. Prayer was understood to be a binding, legal act. Rather than asking, Kenyon taught believers to demand healing since they were already legally entitled to receive it.

Top of Page prayers (WorshipAid)

Call to Worship (Based on Psalm 22:22-31)

Leader: Tell of God's wonderful works to all the world! Come, let us sing God's praises!
People: In our times of affliction and pain, God does not ignore us. In our times of need, God does not turn away from us.
Leader: The Lord hears our prayers. When we lift up our voices, God hears our cries.
People: The day is surely coming when sin and suffering will come to an end. The Lord is our hope now and forever. Praise the Lord!

Prayer of Confession

Eternal God, You command us to follow You, but we are not always willing to do so. During this season of Lent, as Good Friday approaches, You call us to follow You into the valley of the shadow of death. But we prefer to head directly to Easter morning and to rejoice in the brilliant light of that joyous day. You instruct us to deny ourselves. Yet we are a society that is used to satisfying only our every want and desire. You encourage us to follow You, even when that path involves suffering and hardship. But we confess that we prefer pleasure rather than pain, comfort rather than a cross. Forgive our lukewarm commitment. Make us bold disciples, so that we may follow wherever You lead. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication

Lord God, in giving us Your Son, You set no limit on the price You were willing to pay to show us Your love. As we offer our gifts to You, may we show our love by giving as sacrificially as You have given to us. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Pastoral Prayer

Everlasting Father, as we consider what it means to be a Christian, we discover that following in Your ways is not an easy task. You call us to forgive those who hate us. You command us to serve those whom we often would prefer to avoid. You demand that we act as peacemakers in the midst of a world that is often bent on violence and revenge. You call us to serve You not only with our words and with our minds, but also with our actions and with our lives.
Left to ourselves, O God, the task would be impossible. The challenges that You set before us are more than we can bear. The weight of the cross is greater than we can manage by ourselves. But as we look to You, heavenly Lord, we find the hope we need. You do not take away all our troubles and cares. But You do give us the assurance that even as we pass through the darkest of valleys, even through the valley of the shadow of death, You go with us to guide us and to lead us through those shadowy places. So, we trust with full confidence that the day will surely come when death will be swallowed up in victory, as the way of the cross leads us to the goal of life everlasting. These things we pray in the name of our crucified and risen Lord Jesus. Amen.