Mar 27, 2024

Litany of the Hours

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The first few days of Holy Week are full of drama: Jesus’ triumphal ride into Jerusalem on Sunday, his cleansing of the temple on Monday, and the ensuing temple controversy on Tuesday. Wednesday is an off day on the surface. About the only thing that takes place is a clandestine meeting between Judas and the religious establishment. It has been called “Spy Wednesday” in some church circles, the day Judas Iscariot consents to spy on Jesus and betray him at an opportune moment. Jesus shares dinner Wednesday evening with his disciples. Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, surprises her dinner guests when she takes expensive ointment and anoints Jesus’ feet. Judas takes exception to her extravagant gesture, arguing the money could have been better spent on the poor. Jesus does not share Judas’ miserliness in the moment and lavishes praise on Mary (John 12.1-8). Her magnanimous act becomes the last straw for Judas. He leaves the dinner early, seeks out religious leaders, and arranges to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. It’s particularly galling that Judas has been one of Jesus’ most trusted followers, investing three years following Jesus around and listening to his teaching. Those of us (this may be everybody) who have been victimized by betrayal will appreciate the sentiments expressed in Psalm 55: “If an enemy were insulting me
I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
I would hide.
But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend
with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
at the house of God…
My companion attacks his friends,
he violates his covenant.
His talk is as smooth as butter,
yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
yet they are drawn swords.” (Ps. 55.12-14, 20-21)
Today’s prayer is included in a collection of time-honored Scripture readings and prayers, called Liturgy of the Hours:

Lord Jesus, you were rejected by your people, betrayed by the kiss of a friend, and deserted by your disciples. Give us confidence that you had in the Father and the assurance of our salvation, now and forever. Amen
Litany of the Hours

Rev. Dr. Peter James served 42 years as the senior of Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, VA — 21 years in the 20th century and 21 years in the 21st century. He retired in 2021 and now serves as Pastor-in-Residence at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Even as a pastor, prayer came slowly to Pete. Read Pete’s story.