Re:Lent – Recreate

Sometimes, we need to be reminded that there is truth about the world that we simply cannot yet see.

This week, Pastor Aaron recounted a (hilarious) story of a rigorous backpacking trip with his family and some friends. The 9-mile hike to the lake was grueling and Aaron honestly told us that several miles in, he was ready to quit! Of course, the group persevered and discovered, when the tree line parted in front of them, the grand beauty of the mountain lake. And they were able to enjoy a couple of days of heaven-on-earth.

“The worst thing is not the last thing.” –Frederick Buechner
Jesus’ disciples had just endured the worst thing they could have imagined — not an uphill mountain hike, but an uphill death march to Jesus’ crucifixion. For centuries, Christ’s followers have tried to imagine what it would have felt like to see the one they called Teacher, Master, and Friend betrayed, shamed, and executed. No wonder, then, that they all had to process Jesus’ resurrection in their own way. The gospel of John spends ample time on a disciple named Thomas, and the way he responded to the news: “So the other disciples told [Thomas], ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe'” (John 20:25).

The question is: what did Thomas really need? Was he doubting the news the way we typically think of doubt? Or was Thomas a pragmatist, unable to simply take his friends at their word (and a seemingly outrageous word at that!), and instead wanting to experience this news first-hand? In any case, Thomas’s realistic view of his world is one that most moderns like ourselves can certainly empathize with. We live in a post-Enlightenment, “scientific” age that claims everything we can know and need to know is attainable by way of empirical evidence and sensory experience. Many of us are like Thomas. So we can learn, as he had to learn, that there are truths (even facts, gasp!) about the world we inhabit that we have not nor cannot apprehend without God’s gracious revelation.

This is why Thomas utters such a profoundly repentant statement when Jesus does give him the gift of first-hand experience. Having touched Jesus’ wounds with his own hand, Thomas said: “My Lord and my God!” Is there any more profound way of turning away from trying to occupy a place of omniscience and turning toward the freedom of faith?

This Easter, and really every day of the year, God invites us to new experience of the resurrection life Jesus began, and therefore to a much larger vision of the paths that each of us are walking along. Jesus even gave a blessing to you and me, and countless people that would follow him in the years to come: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). What is that blessing? It is to have our vision widened from the small and temporary kingdoms of this world, to the large, eternal, and life-giving reign of God as we await the completion of the new creation begun in Jesus’ resurrection.

For reflection:
– In what ways are you like Thomas today, facing obstacles to your belief in Jesus’ resurrection?
– Beyond intellectual “faith,” what obstacles might be standing in your way of letting go of your vision for your life and beginning to learn about God’s vision for your life?
– Is there a relationship in your life that needs to be reconciled?
– Is there a disappointment in your life that you need to confront God about?
– Is there a wrongdoing you’ve committed that you need to confess and be free of?

May you know new life this Easter!
Pastor Mike

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Re:Lent – Resist

I was thinking this week about the early-2000s TV show, “Supernanny.” Jo Frost visited parents struggling with extremely resistant children, even kids who got violent and screamed “I hate you!” Psychologist Dr. Deborah MacNamara writes that childhood resistance “stems from a human instinct called counterwill…when [we feel] coerced or controlled by others…Kids are only supposed to follow and obey the people they are attached to.  The only thing that trumps the counterwill is that of the attachment instinct.”

Mark 14:1-9 records a story about those who resisted Jesus and one woman who was truly attached to him. As this week brings us toward the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we’re going to look back to its very beginning, when he was subjected to three temptations in the wilderness, to see that Jesus resisted and overcame, because of the strength of his attachment to his heavenly Father.   

Jesus’ first temptation was for instant gratification. In today’s passage, the disciples were tempted to try and make Jesus their expectations of a messiah. The disciples needed to learn that as satisfying as it would have been to have Jesus gallop in on a stallion and retake Jerusalem by force, it would be a short-term reward, challenged sooner or later by whichever worldly king was next in line with bigger horses and  sharper swords. Immediate gratification is alluring.  But Jesus faced another temptation, too: the temptation of worldly success.

Jesus’ second temptation was for success. For Jesus, it was the temptation to prove his legitimacy as the Son of God by offering a mighty show of power.  For the disciples, it was the temptation to prove their legitimacy, by offering a mighty show of their own goodness. They had good intentions to feed the poor, I’m sure. Nevertheless, while the woman is devoted to Jesus himself, the disciples show that they are putting their work before their Lord.

Finally, Jesus was tempted with honor. Satan offered to let him be Lord of “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.” Now, I don’t think the disciples faced quite that same kind of temptation!  But if Jesus was who they thought he was — the king who would liberate them from Rome — then they would have seen honor coming in the near future.  James and John even made this audacious request of Jesus: ““Teacher…Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”  They wanted to be honored right alongside Jesus.  

In all three of the temptations we’ve looked at here, there is a stark contrast between the ways of God and the ways of the world.  These temptations may seem familiar, as we all face them at some point, in some form.  That’s why Jesus gives us the opportunity to have repentant hearts, and live repentant lives.  To resist the temptation to settle for anything less than the abundant life God wants us to experience.

For reflection:
1) When you think of “resisting temptation” was typically comes to mind?
2) Some things that tempt us are petty, while others are more important. Can you think of examples in each category?
3) Paul writes that our struggle is not against things of this world — what do you think we are we struggling against spiritually?

Many blessings,
MM

Re:Lent — Rethink

There is a sentiment in our culture that I find pretty fascinating, and it’s wrapped up in a brief little expression: “You do you.” (Or maybe, “Just do you.”) On one hand, I get it. We want to give people the space they need to live the way they need to live. And that personal freedom is a hallmark of American life. But “You do you” seems too general, too all-inclusive. It doesn’t leave room for wise discernment. And the irony is that most people who advocate for a “You do you” society can actually have some pretty strong opinions about just what “you do.”
Take a look at this recent Diet Coke ad for an example of “Just do you.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEpuN7tRFRU

I’m not the only person who thinks that there needs to be room for wise discernment. This parody of the Diet Coke ad suggests that there probably should be limits on our personal freedoms:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LI8AcL_LKME

Both the ad and its parody are trying to navigate the question of when we should or shouldn’t care about or comment on other people’s lives. In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus addresses this balance with one of his best metaphors: the ol’ plank-in-the-eye. People love to quote the first three words of this passage: “Do not judge.” And they’re right to quote it. There are times when it is simply wrong to pass judgment on someone. And it is probably always wrong to presume to pass ultimate judgment on someone. But did Jesus mean “Just do you, whatever that is”?

Whenever I’ve heard people cite Jesus’ command, “Do not judge,” I have never heard them follow up with his command at the end of the passage, in verse 5: “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s [or sister’s] eye.” The truth is that while we are forbidden to do what only God can do and “judge” someone, we are also forbidden to notice a speck in someone’s eye and ignore it like it doesn’t matter. To be hyper-aware of others’ sins or to ignore them are both off track. Jesus is calling us to repent of these easy paths and instead exercise “sound judgment” (Prov. 3:21). There are times when it is more loving to address the smudge on someone’s face. But the point is in how we should do it.

If we want to do good for someone, to “remove their speck,” we will be more Christ-like when we begin with the grateful attitude of a recipient of mercy. That is, when we remember that the source of our goodness is God. And because of God’s goodness in Christ, we are given mercy, sinners though we are. To identify ourselves this way is not “negative” or “shaming.” It’s just true. Acknowledging it can enable us to humbly “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) and earn a hearing with our sisters or brothers, because they know that while they may have a speck, we have had a plank in ours. So there’s no “judgment.” But there is help. And hope.

For reflection:
– Can you think of ways a “just do you” sentiment could be bad for a person, or even for a community?
– Can you think of any examples from world news in which someone is casting judgment without dealing with the plank in their eye? What is the “speck” they seem to be noticing? What is the “plank” they’re ignoring?
– Why do you think Jesus uses the comparison of “speck” and “plank?”
– Take a look at all of Matthew chapters 5 through 7 — in what other practices does Jesus accuse people of hypocrisy?
– Do you have a plank in your eye that you have been ignoring? What can you do to address it?

Many blessings,
MM

Re:Lent – Rebuke

“What is your name?” From the very beginning of creation, we have been given the ability to name things, including ourselves. Conversely, we have the opportunity to be known by name as well. Jesus was known by name. Known even by the demons.

In a memorable story from the book of Luke, Jesus traveled to a region called the Garasenes, a place where no respectable rabbi would ever go. And once there, he was accosted by a man Luke describes as demon-possessed. The man was naked and had lived outside for a long time, among the dead. Imagine that scene for a moment. What kinds of reactions or feelings would this scene arouse in you, were you in Jesus’ place?

Add one more element — this man knew Jesus by name. “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” Before Jesus answers, he insists on an admission of true identity.
“What is your name?”
And the demon’s response: “Legion.” (That always gives me the heebie-jeebies.)

How we define our identities matters much more than perhaps we think it does, and if we define ourselves based on untruths, we are bound to suffer. But when we are tempted to believe those lies, we can respond as Jesus did. And this kind of repentance is called “rebuke.” In contemporary culture, we rarely use that word (“Yeah, the boss totally rebuked me today.”) But it is the word that describes what Jesus does to Legion here. It is how Jesus responds to the lie that Legion was living out — and forcing one of God’s beloved people to live out too.

A few weeks ago we talked about the first miracle that Jesus did in the area of repentance — he called people to drop their nets. Nets for these fishermen were a symbol of identity. And long before they knew anything or had any reason to trust Jesus, they had to drop what and who they thought they were and let Jesus begin to re–create their identity based on the Truth.

One lie that makes it hard to “drop our nets” is that God is untrustworthy. Another lie is that God will make you do something awful, or make you sacrifice everything you love. And finally, another is that God cannot actually save you, so it’s a waste of time to give Christ your life. These are, of course, the same kinds of lies Jesus is tempted by in the wilderness.

And just as Jesus rebuked Satan in the wilderness, and just as Jesus rebuked Legion in the Garasenes, we too can rebuke the lies of God’s enemy. When we don’t, those lies can grow around us, slowly and invasively, like ivy climbing the trunk of an otherwise strong tree and sapping it of its life.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can rebuke the enemy and all his lies, and experience freedom to be the adopted daughters and sons of God through Jesus Christ that God calls us to be. We can live the truth that God redeems us to live.

For reflection:
1) Who are you? How do you define your identity? Whose influence over your identity do you allow into your life?
2) Legion tries to negotiate the terms of the exorcism — in what ways do we, even when rebuked in our own lies, still try to grasp at control?
3) Describe the man after the demon is gone. How would you describe his identity? How would you describe his experience in terms of “repentance” and “salvation”?

Many blessings,
Mike

Re:Lent — Release

Last week we looked at one of the common myths we tend to believe: “I am in control.” And of course, the way to answer or repent from that myth is to surrender. Today we’re jumping off from that point as we look at another step in the process of living a life of repentance: RELEASE. Repentance is best understood as a change of disposition, particularly toward God. When our disposition is to fight God, or perhaps flee from God, we’re beckoned to change that disposition and return to God, who is ready to celebrate our return.

One man who was with Jesus, both in person and disposition, was Peter. Jesus even tells Peter, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Mt. 16:18). Can you imagine how that would make Peter feel? So affirmed, right? But in the very next passage, as Jesus explains his perplexing death and even more surprising resurrection, Peter can’t conceive of it. Unable to release his own perception of God’s Kingdom, Peter refuses to believe it and Jesus rebukes him with one of the most memorably stunning lines in scripture: “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me” (Mt. 16:23).

From cornerstone to stumbling block. Not just a play on words, but all too true of any follower of Jesus sometimes. While Jesus calls us to enact God’s Kingdom, we are often in the way. Why? For the same reason as Peter — we can’t release our control.

It’s not that Peter’s objection to God’s plan for Jesus was unreasonable. We could imagine how ready Peter and the rest of his people were to have the oppressive Roman empire dealt with once and for all. Surely they were ready for that David-like king to usher in a new era of independence and peace. But God’s sights were set much higher — rather than defeating Rome, God would set us free from sin. Rather than worldly blessing, God would usher in eternal life. But no servant is greater than his or her master, so we find ourselves perplexed by God’s plan for victory when we can’t release our worldly measures of victory.

And so we’re called to repent. In this case, to repent of our need to control. If we can’t release ultimate control to God, then our religious exercises become caricatures. We cannot accept God’s gifts when our fists are grasping the controls. To receive what God is doing, we have to release.

For reflection:
1) We are meant to be wise with the lives God gave us, so what kind of “control” do you think we have to release to God?
2) Can you think of examples from history or current events when people’s need to be in control has been destructive or painful?
3) Can you think of examples from history or current events when religious people’s need to be in control has been destructive or painful?
4) When we let God control what we cannot, what might be the result? In what way might the world become better?

Many blessings,
MM

Re:Lent — Repent

Wednesday March 6, 2019 was known as “Ash Wednesday.” It is the official beginning of the season of Lent (from the word meaning “spring”) which is the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday (not counting Sundays). Lent is a season during which Jesus’ people recognize their mortality, their need for God’s grace and mercy, and prepare themselves to fully embrace Jesus’ gift — his own life for our sake (1 Peter 2:21-24). Since that time, Christians have been able to look back in the assuring knowledge that the cross would not have the final say, but sin and death themselves were defeated, and Christ’s victory was sealed in Jesus’ resurrection, which inaugurates God’s new creation and the inbreaking Kingdom of God.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This Lent, UPPC will engage in a teaching series called “Re:Lent,” a chance to contemplate the process and meaning of repentance. The word “repent” essentially means a change of disposition. Some might say a “change of heart” or “change of mind,” but more holistically it means both…and more.

When Jesus first called his disciples, they were in the middle of working their trade — fishing. This was likely a trade they had been handed down not only for generations, but even for centuries. But when Jesus called them to follow him, they “left their nets and followed him” (Mark 1:9-20).

What a powerful image for us to recall today, when Jesus calls us to follow him. It is a call, in essence, to change. And hey, everybody loves change, right? Wrong. Change is hard, everyone knows that. But change is what it takes to experience abundant life in Christ. What needs to change?

There are three myths that we tend to believe, and ways we can “repent” or “change our dispositions” toward them.
Myth 1) “You are in control of your life.” Yeeeah, no. Sure, you might get to choose what kind of breakfast cereal to buy. But look a little deeper. All it takes in the Seattle area is a dusting of snow for the whole Puget Sound to panic, realizing how little control we really have over, well, anything.
Repent with Surrender. When the Israelites had to survive only on God’s daily gift of manna, they learned how to surrender control and trust God completely. While we are called to be responsible and wise, when it comes to ultimate control, give it to the only One who has it.
Myth 2) “Your life is all about you.” This one is sneaky. Who else is my life about?! But anyone who has felt the joy of blessing someone else knows there’s a lot more to life than living it for oneself.
Repent with Service. Jesus said it, and it proves to be true generation after generation: anyone who loses their life for Jesus’ sake will save it (Luke 9:24).
Myth 3) You’ll live forever. Okay, no one really believes that, but we often live like we do, right? But while no one likes to dwell on it, the truth is that mortal death will come to us all.
Repent with Resurrection. Actively remember Jesus’ resurrection and promise that one day all who have given him their lives will live eternally in God’s new creation. And live like you believe it, that is, turn away from all that leads to death and turn toward God, who alone gives life. Repent.

For reflection:
1) When you think of the word “repent,” what is the first thing that comes to mind?
2) Which of the three “myths” is the trickiest for you?
3) Jesus is calling you to follow him — what “nets” do you need to leave behind?

Easter 2018: The Cross of Christ Saves

Are you good enough?

 

One of the most popular truisms of our time is the notion that “good people go to heaven.”  Of course there are dozens of subtly different takes on this idea, ranging from complicated systems of karma to the simple axiom that you get what you pay for.  But the core of the idea is the same: good people get rewarded, even in the afterlife.

The problem with the idea is that the definition of “good” is so blurred that one can never know if one is good enough.  Where is the line?  How much good must outweigh the “bad?”  How much lawfulness outweighs lawlessness?  And what happens if you were 49% good, but 51% bad?  Does it seem fair to be 100% condemned if you weren’t 100% bad?  And even then, what if just tipping the goodness scales (i.e. 50.1% “good”) still isn’t good enough?  What if dwelling in the presence of God requires 100% goodness?

Well here’s the bad news — it does.

So here’s the good news — Jesus was.

And here’s the truth — good people don’t go to heaven.  Forgiven people do.

In Luke 23:39-43, the thief that hung on the cross beside Jesus fully admitted his own guilt.  Still, he hoped Jesus would have mercy on him.  Unfortunately for him, he was long past any chance to be good enough for it, and he knew it.  So when he asks Jesus to remember him, what would be a “just” response?  What would have been fair for Jesus to say to him?

The Cross of Christ is scandalously unfair, in fact.  Good thing it’s unfair in our favor.  Just as Jesus’ crucifixion was unfair against him.  But he was willing to endure that injustice so that he could give the thief the answer that we would all want to hear: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The glory of Easter is simply this — Jesus is the first born of the resurrection life, never to die again.  And by his mercy and grace, he invites us to partake in it with him by faith.

For reflection:

  1. Have you ever heard that “good people go to heaven?”  Where did you hear it?  Did you believe it?  How do you feel about that idea today?
  2. If we do have to be “good enough” to be saved, what does that imply about the character of God?
  3. Many people have heard the gospel before but choose not to believe and follow Jesus.  What might be standing in their way?  Is something standing in your way?

For meditation:

Imagine that you are the thief on the cross.  There is no longer any denying that your mistakes have caught up with you.  And Jesus is so close you can speak to him.  What would you say?

A blessed Easter to you,

Pastor Mike

 

 

 

Lent Prayer Guide, week 6

Week 6, March 25th, Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week

The Cross of Christ: The Treasures that Come from Suffering

Silence

Close your eyes and take five deep breaths.  In this moment of silent time, let your daily concerns fade into the background of your mind.

 

Pray

(Pray the following slowly, intentionally, and in silence)

Loving God,

I am just beginning to realize how much you love me.

Your son, Jesus was humble and obedient.

He fulfilled your will for him by becoming human and suffering with us.

I ask you for the desire to become more humble

so that my own life might also bear witness to you.

I want to use the small sufferings I have in this world

to give you glory.

In your grace, strengthen my life by the example of Jesus.

He was never apart from you, and knew the treasures for which he died:

The salvation of this world you love.

Help me to feel how close you are.

To remember the treasures you promise in spite of suffering,

and to live in union with you.

Amen.

 

Read

(Read the following passages slowly, intentionally, and aloud)

 

Matthew 26: 6-13

6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. 8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked.9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

 

Romans 5:1-8

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.

 

Reflect

  1. It is easy to consider the “waste” of the extravagant material value of the perfume the woman anoints Jesus with.  Why did Jesus defend her choice to use it the way she did?
  2. What does Jesus’ reaction tell us about the value of money from God’s point of view?
  3. What does this memorable event tell us about the “treasures that come from suffering?”
  4. Early Jesus followers knew full well that their lives would entail hardships.  What kinds of hardships might you endure as a Jesus follower in your context today?

 

Read

(Read the passages above again, aloud)

 

Pray

(Pray the prayer above again, intentionally, and now aloud)

 

Action

What can you do, this week, to courageously endure a hardship for Jesus’ sake, remembering the treasures that Jesus promises those sufferings will lead to?

 

About Lent: Lent is a season during which we remember the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.   This guide is designed to be a guide for those who wish to wholeheartedly enter into the story behind Lent, just as Jesus’ disciples did.  You may have been following Jesus for decades.  You may have never set foot in a church.  At the foot of Christ’s cross, none of that matters.  All that matters is that God gave his only begotten Son to save the world.  To save this town.  To save you.

For the season of Lent, I’m going to pause my normal routine of summarizing and reflecting on the sermon, and offer this resource for guided prayer and scripture reading.  To use this guide, simply follow the instructions for each part, giving yourself enough time to absorb the content and enter in with your body, mind, and spirit.

Lent Prayer Guide, week 5

Week 5: The Cross of Christ Reconciles Us to One Another

Silence

Close your eyes and take five deep breaths.  In this moment of silent time, let your daily concerns fade into the background of your mind.

 

Pray

(Pray the following slowly, intentionally, and in silence)

Loving Lord,

it’s so hard to love the world sometimes

and to love it the way Jesus did seems impossible.

I am far too inclined to seek comfort,

And stay as comfortable as possible.

Help me to be inspired by Jesus’ love and

guided by his compassionate example,

journeying with those who are suffering.

I need you, God, to give me support in this journey.

Show me how to unlock my heart.

Let me be less fearful of the pain and darkness

that will be transformed by you into Easter joy.

Amen.

 

Read

(Read the following passages slowly, intentionally, and aloud)

Matthew 27: 45-46

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

Hebrews 5:7-9

While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.

Reflect

  1. When Jesus cries out the words of Psalm 22 (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) how does it make you feel?  What questions does it raise?  What questions does it answer?
  2. What can we learn from Jesus’ own prayers?  How did he pray?  Why was he heard?  Were his prayers always given a “yes” answer from the Father?

 

Read

(Read the passages above again, aloud)

 

Pray

(Pray the prayer above again, intentionally, and now aloud)

 

Action

What can you do, this week, to intentionally set aside your comfort and enter into someone’s struggle?

 

About Lent: Lent is a season during which we remember the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.   This guide is designed to be a guide for those who wish to wholeheartedly enter into the story behind Lent, just as Jesus’ disciples did.  You may have been following Jesus for decades.  You may have never set foot in a church.  At the foot of Christ’s cross, none of that matters.  All that matters is that God gave his only begotten Son to save the world.  To save this town.  To save you.

For the season of Lent, I’m going to pause my normal routine of summarizing and reflecting on the sermon, and offer this resource for guided prayer and scripture reading.  To use this guide, simply follow the instructions for each part, giving yourself enough time to absorb the content and enter in with your body, mind, and spirit.

Lent Prayer Guide, week 4

Week 4: The Cross of Christ Reconciles Us to One Another

Silence

Close your eyes and take five deep breaths.  In this moment of silent time, let your daily concerns fade into the background of your mind.

PrayPray the following slowly, intentionally, and in silence

Loving Creator,

I feel the pace quicken, the time draw near.

I am filled with anticipation as I move toward Easter

and the promised reconciliation with you.

And yet I know that as I am reconciled with you,

I must be reconciled with people.

Grant me the courage to reach out

To seek and give forgiveness.

Teach me to follow the example of Jesus.

Help me to live each day as he did,

turning hatred to love and conflict to peace.

I await the new life with eagerness, faith

and a deep gratitude.

Amen.

Read — Read the following passages slowly, intentionally, and aloud.

Matthew 27: 37-44

38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

 

Colossians 1: 20

20 Through him God reconciled to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

 

Reflect

  • There are three points of view in Matthew’s telling of this scene: the two rebels, those witnessing the crucifixion, and Jesus himself. Imagine the scene from each point of view.  How does it change the meaning?  Can you empathize with any, or all, of the characters?
  • In Luke’s gospel, Jesus is recorded as having prayed for the forgiveness of those who were mocking him. What does this mean about his ability to forgive you?

 

ReadRead the passages above again, aloud

 

PrayPray the prayer above again, intentionally, and now aloud

 

Action

What can you do, this week, to intentionally seek reconciliation with someone in your life?

 

About Lent: Lent is a season during which we remember the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.   This guide is designed to be a guide for those who wish to wholeheartedly enter into the story behind Lent, just as Jesus’ disciples did.  You may have been following Jesus for decades.  You may have never set foot in a church.  At the foot of Christ’s cross, none of that matters.  All that matters is that God gave his only begotten Son to save the world.  To save this town.  To save you.

For the season of Lent, I’m going to pause my normal routine of summarizing and reflecting on the sermon, and offer this resource for guided prayer and scripture reading.  To use this guide, simply follow the instructions for each part, giving yourself enough time to absorb the content and enter in with your body, mind, and spirit.