Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
April 10th, 2022

that sanity will prevail and that all those suffering through the terrible conflict in Ukraine will find the comfort and resources they need.   

Excerpts from
A Pocketful of Sundays

The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced. Is 50:7

To be dis-graced is literally to lose one's grace or esteem. Derived from the Latin words dis (out of) and gratia (esteem/ grace), the word connotes the stripping away of all that gives us a good reputation or worthy "brand." Once disgraced, we lose our worth in the world's eyes and count for nothing. At such times, the only con-solation is that God sees beyond our shame and upholds us in the darkness.


When confronted by powerful opponents, it is easy to feel helpless and devoid of resources. What we forget, however, is that God's power far exceeds the power of politicians, corporations, princes, vast armies and "dream" legal teams. When we feel discouraged, we would do well to remember biblical stories in which the odds are stacked against the poor and lowly characters who eventually triumph-- David over Goliath, for example, or Moses over Pharaoh, or Joseph over his brothers, or Judith over Holofernes... The amazingly Good News is that with God's help, we can overcome all things-- even disgrace!


  • Why is Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem an essential prelude to the Passion Narrative?

  • If you were a guest at the Last Supper, what would you learn about discipleship?

  • To what "swords" do you turn when you find yourself in difficult situations?

  • In what ways might you become a better disciple?


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Greetings, SBT Readers!

Four window boxes of pansies and several hanging baskets presently occupy much of the floor in my living room. Planted "too early," they took refuge inside when temperatures plummeted, bringing snow and ice to the Chicago area. Happily, the pansies are thriving under a grow light, awaiting their day in the sun. And it shall come....

Spring has a habit of arriving just as night gives way to day and darkness yields to light. The physical universe reminds us that life is seasonal, that there is a time for planting and a time for harvesting, a time for birth and a time for death, a time for war and a time for peace... Life is cyclical and the completion of each cycle has the potential to bring us closer to being evolved as individuals, nations and as the collective human race. Along the way, there are disturbing events and glimpses of hope -- the historic appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, for example, is one such moment of hope in a nation divided by hatred and racism. Then, tragically, we are witnessing increasing atrocities in Ukraine with shocking images of butchered civilians constantly flashing across our screens. Where is the light, we might ask?

But despite the shadow of death, there is light and there is hope
-- of that I am convinced. In addition to images of destruction, we are seeing the amazing resilience and determination of the Ukrainian people as they defend their land, their values, their way of life. We are seeing the courage of relief workers rushing into danger zones to provide medical assistance or to distribute food and water; we are seeing the generosity of those providing assistance to the countless refugees who have fled their homeland and crossed foreign borders. Yes, this terrible war has shown the worst of humanity and the best.

The Paschal Mystery is being enacted right on the world's stage, with Ukraine being crucified on a daily basis; for those of us who believe in Resurrection, we know there will be a new day, a re-birth, a re-building. Until then, let us pray this new day into being, continuing to hold the people of Ukraine and all those who suffer from persecution and injustice in our hearts...

Blessings for Holy Week!


The Lord GOD has given me
           a well-trained tongue,
that I might know how to speak to the weary
           a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
           God opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled,
           have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
           my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
           from buffets and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help,
           therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
           knowing that I shall not be put to shame.

A kaleidoscope of texts captures the multi-faceted experience of Palm Sunday, and, by extension, of Holy Week. We begin this Sunday's liturgy with the Procession of Palms and with the reading of Luke's version of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Lk 19:28-40). All is joy and celebration as Jesus rides into the Holy City -- not on a war horse but on a colt, not flanked by soldiers but surrounded by jubilant disciples who proclaim God's glory, naming Jesus as "king." The colt treads the uneven path of trampled cloaks and palms, Hosannas resound, but the voice of opposition punctures the festivities:
"Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"

The Reading of the Passion continues the narrative. At the Last Supper table, Jesus breaks bread, shares the cup and predicts his
approaching death. In this poignant moment of intimacy, the disciples squabble over the identity of the "Betrayer" and over who among them is the greatest. This is when Jesus does indeed rebuke his followers, presenting them with a model of servant leadership: "Let the greatest among you be as the youngest,
and the leader as the servant." He shares his vision of the kingdom with his followers before predicting Peter's threefold denial; speaking in riddles, he warns them of the hostilities they will encounter in the future. The disciples, however, fail to understand: “Lord, look, there are two swords here.” But he replies, “It is enough!”

"It is enough." Does Jesus mean that two swords will be enough to protect the Kingdom of God and inaugurate a new era of peace? That he is endorsing violence? Isn't it far more likely that he says these words in frustration because he has heard "enough," that is, "too much"? After all, the disciples' squabbles around the table reflect their inability to grasp his teachings; far from understanding "servant leadership," they are still driven by aspirations to worldly greatness and a dependency on weapons. How disappointed Jesus must feel as he approaches his last moments on earth! After all he has said and done, his chosen Twelve still don't "get it"!

John's Gospel provides a very different perspective. In the Last Supper Discourses, Jesus comforts his disciples, assuring them of his love, promising that he will return and that he will send them the Holy Spirit as Teacher and Guide. Though for "a little while" they will not be able to see him, he will not leave them "orphans" --in fact, they will testify to the Truth, bearing much fruit in his Name. In this scene, the disciples listen intently and understand: "Now you are talking plainly and not in any figure of speech. Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God" (Jn 16:29-30).

As we enter Holy Week, it maybe helpful to see ourselves in both narratives. Like the disciples in Luke's Gospel, we don't always understand Jesus' teachings and, in fact, allow ourselves to be ruled by our baser instincts. We not only squabble amongst ourselves over trivial matters, but later doze off in the Garden of Gethsemane when we are supposed to be keeping watch; then, when the mob shatters our sleep, we draw our swords. In John's Gospel, the disciples seem to be better students; however, while there is no mention of them falling asleep in Gethsemane, Peter still clings to his sword, severing the right ear of the high priest's slave.

The message, it seems, is that no disciple is perfect. Like the Suffering Servant in Is 50, we need to listen to God's Word and respond. That Word will shape us and guide us, leading us to where we are called, teaching us how to respond to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We, too, can have a "well-trained tongue," a message of hope for a world in agony. First, however, we must put our trust in God and not in our own efforts-- that is the foundation of Christian discipleship.

This video explains my approach to this ministry, while my website provides further details as well. During COVID-19, sessions are by phone or on Zoom; I am also available to facilitate "virtual" retreats for groups and individuals.
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | |

C. All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart,