Fourth Sunday in Lent

March 26, 2017

Repent, Rebirth, Reconcile, Rejoice, Redemption, Restore

Scripture References:

1 Samuel 16:1-13 (11-12)
Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.”

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and you staff—the comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

Ephesians 5:8-14 (8-9, 14)
For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.

For everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”jesus_heals_a_blind_man_by_eikonik-d5u2a1i

John 9:1-41 (5, 7, 35-38)                                 
The Voice Translation

“Whenever I (Jesus) am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After He said these things, He spat on the ground and mixed saliva and dirt to form mud, which He smeared across the blind man’s eyes.

Jesus: “Go, wash yourself in the pool of Siloam.”

Siloam means “sent,” and its name reminded us that his healing was sent by God.  The man went, washed, and returned to Jesus, his eyes now alive with sight.

Townspeople and the Pharisees could not believe that the man had been healed by Jesus so they questioned the man twice. The man insisted that it was Jesus and that he had been healed on the Sabbath. The Pharisees became mad that the man was lecturing them and sent him away.

Jesus heard what had happened and sought out the man.

Jesus: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

Man: “I want to believe, Lord, Who is He?”

Jesus: “You have seen His face with your new eyes, and you are talking to Him now.”

Formerly Blind Man: “Lord, I do believe.”

The man bowed low to worship Jesus.

 

“The Peace of Wild Things”
Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where to wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

“Try a Little Kindness”
Glen Campbell

If you see your brother standing by the road
With a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Just stop and say, you’re going the wrong way

Don’t walk around the down and out
Lend a helping hand instead of doubt
And the kindness that you show every day
Will help someone along their way

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

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Third Sunday in Lent

reconcile
March 19, 2017

Repent, Rebirth, Reconcile, Rejoice, Redemption, Restore

Scripture References:

Exodus 17:1-7 (2, 5-6)
The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?”
The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink. Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Psalm 95 (1-6)
O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed. O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

Romans 5:1-14 (8-14)
But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

John 4:5-42 (10-15)

Jesus answered her (the Samaritan woman), “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it? Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

woman at the well“Moses”
Songwriter and Lyricist, Ken Medema

(God and Moses)

“What’s that in your hand, Moses?”

                                “It’s just a rod.”
“Throw it down, Moses.”

                                “Do you mean, like, on the ground?”
“Yes, I said, throw it down, Moses.”

“Lord, don’t take my rod away from me,
Don’t you know it’s my only security?
Don’t you know when you live here all alone,
A man’s gotta have something he can call his own;
Not me, Lord!”

“Throw it down, Moses.”

                        “But, Lord, I …”
“Throw it down, Moses.”

Moses throw the rod on the ground
And the rod became a hissing snake!
Well, Moses started runnin’.
Well, maybe you’d run.
You’d run.
Well, maybe I’d run.
I’d run.
He was a-runnin’ from a hot rod!
Runnin’ from a hissing snake!
Runnin’ scared of what God’s gonna do!
Runnin’ scared He’ll get a hold of you!
And the Lord said,

“Stop, Pick it up, Moses, by the tail!”

“Lord, you have not lived here very long!
Lord, you’ve got the whole thing wrong!
Don’t you know that you never pick up a hissing snake by his …”

“Pick it up, Moses!”

                        Oh, God, it’s a rod again, it’s a rod again!

“Do you know what it means, Moses?
Do you know what I’m trying to say, Moses?
The rod of Moses became the rod of God!


With the rod of God, strike the rock and the water will come;
With the rod of God, part the waters of the sea;
With the rod of God, you can strike old Pharaoh dead;
With the rod of God, you can set the people free.”

What do you hold in your hand today?
To what or to whom are you bound?
Are you willing to give it to God right now?
Give it up, Give it up, let it go, let it go,
Throw it down.

Second Sunday in Lent

March 12, 2017

Repent, Rebirth, Reconcile, Rejoice, Redemption, Restore

Scripture References:

Genesis 12:1-4a (1-2)

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

Psalm 121 (1-5)

I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.

Romans 4:1-5; 13-17 (13, 16-17)

For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith…For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in who he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

John 3:1-17 (3-5, 16-17)

Jesus answered him (Nicodemus), “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old?” Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born? Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

                                               

Just as the rest of creation, so too are we blessed with possibility and in the possibility, we have opportunity for growth, to be healthier, to let our souls shine through our outward appearance—to be created anew. And as we mediate the dialogical battles in our minds, we can be assured that there is newness and possibility in each day. Just as the chrysalis, we are in process.

God has seen you and you are good.

butterfly

Walden, “Where I Was and What I Lived For”

Henry David Thoreau

Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself…I got up early and bathed in the pond; that was a religious exercise, and one of the best thing which I did.

The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour. Then there is least somnolence in us; and for an hour, at least, some part of us awakes which slumbers all the rest of the day and night…That man who does not believe that each day contains an earlier, more sacred, and auroral hour than he has yet profaned, has despaired of life, and is pursuing a descending and darkening way.

All memorable events, I should say, transpire in the morning time and in a morning atmosphere. The Vedas say, “All intelligences awake with the morning.”…It matters not what the clocks say or the attitudes and labors of men. Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me.

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry.

“How Can It Be?”
Text, Mark Ryman (2005)
Tune, “ROSSETTI,” by W. Jeater (1907)

There was a man—a ruling Jew—
Who came to Jesus, saying secretly:
A man cannot go back into the womb.
How can it be?

Nicodemus would teach Jesus.
Christ turned the table on this Pharisee:
You must be born again; so readjust!
How can it be?

You must be born of the water
And of the Spirit too—why can’t you see?—
If you would be His son or His daughter.
How can it be?

Are we children of God above
Or do we teach Him like a Pharisee?
Will we come out into the light of love?
Will we believe?

First Sunday in Lent

March 5, 2017

Repent, Rebirth, Reconcile, Rejoice, Redemption, Restore

Scripture References:

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 (2:15-17; 3:6-7)
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Psalm 32 (5-7)
Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore, let all who are faithful offer prayers to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them. You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.

Romans 5:12-19 (18-19)
Therefore, just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Matthew 4:1-11 (1-4, 8-11)
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Again the devil took him to the very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you Satan! for it is written,‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came down and waited on him.bowing

From Clarence Jordan, Sermon on the Mount:

For unbelievers, Jesus had but one word: “REPENT.” It’s a tremendous   word. We must examine it. The Greek word from which it is translated means “to change one’s mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins” (Thayer’s Lexicon). So when he called on men to repent, he really demanded that they change their way of thinking, abandon their false concepts, forsake their wrong methods, and enter upon a new way of life. No one has a right, however, to call on men to change their ways unless he has a more excellent way to offer.

Forsaking the wrong way is only half of repentance; accepting the right way is the other half. The call to repentance, then, must always be accompanied by the glorious announcement, “for the kingdom of God is here!” Jesus proclaimed it as “the good news.” For him, it was the way, the only way, for men to live.

This week, instead of quickly passing through repentance, draw your attention this day to how you have lived till now. Live in the darkness, recognize your culpability, and hear your own voiced confession.

Ash Wednesday

March 1, 2017

Repent, Rebirth, Reconcile, Rejoice, Redemption, Restore

Scripture References:

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 (12-13)
Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.

Psalm 51:1-17 (9-12)
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

2  Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 (5:20b, 6:8-10)
We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God…We are treated as imposters, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 (1-4)
Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season. Palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service are burned and their ashes are drawn in the sign of the cross on the foreheads of those who would receive them. Genesis 3:19 is read during this exchange: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Death and repentance are themes of Ash Wednesday, two themes that we are not comfortable thinking or talking about. Marcus Borg writes:

Ash Wednesday, Lent, Holy Week, and Christianity itself are about following Jesus on the path that leads through death to resurrection. They are about dying and rising with Christ. We are to follow him to Jerusalem, the place of death and resurrection.

…Repentance is not primarily about feeling guilty about our sins, or about doing penance. The biblical meanings of repenting are primarily twofold. On the one hand, it means to “return” to God, to “reconnect” with God. On the other hand, it means “to go beyond the mind that we have”—minds shaped by our socialization and enculturation.

The result: dying to an old way of seeing and being and living and identity, and begin born, raised, into a new way of seeing and being and living and identity.

ash-cross

The Lenten Season

An Introduction

lent-cross

Lent is the church season that walks us through the 40 days (excluding Sundays) before Easter. Beginning today, Ash Wednesday, these 40 days represent the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and being tempted repeatedly by the devil.

The Church calendar for year A, or year 2017, looks like this:

March 1st:                           Ash Wednesday
March 5th:                           1st Sunday of Lent
March 12th:                        2nd Sunday of Lent
March 19th:                        3rd Sunday of Lent
March 26th:                        4th Sunday of Lent
April 2nd:                             5th Sunday of Lent
April 9th:                             Palm Sunday
April 10th:                           Monday of Holy Week
April 11th:                            Tuesday of Holy Week
April 12th:                           Wednesday of Holy Week
April 13th:                           Maundy Thursday
April 14th:                           Good Friday
April 15th:                           Holy Saturday
April 16th:                           Easter Vigil/Resurrection of our Lord

Who knew you were going to be so busy for the next couple of months! But really, why should we know about an old Church tradition; why should we care?

For some denominations, this church season of Lent is extremely important and their churchgoers fast, abstain, journey to the Holy Land, walk the road of the cross-bearing Jesus, pray intentionally and often, and go to church each day of Holy Week.

For others, the notion of “giving up” something for Lent has dribbled down to giving up items that they already needed to give up—sodas, desserts, fried foods, television/media, etc. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it shifts the purpose of our Lenten fasts from us working on our relationship with God to us working on our relationships with our addictions. If we are able to shift our cravings for food into a longing for God, then Lent can be a time of great spiritual enrichment.

Author Annie Dillard wrote in Teaching a Stone to Talk:

God needs nothing, asks nothing, and demands nothing, like the stars. It is a life with God which demands these things…You do not have to do these things [like give up sugar!]…God does not, I regret to report, give a hoot. You do not have to do these things—unless you want to know God. They work on you, not on him.

You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.

Apart from being a meaningful personal experience, also think about the connection that comes from tradition. When we experience spiritual practices that have been in place for hundreds of years, we are connecting ourselves and Haven to that history. In a world and time when we are fiercely trying to connect to the Gospel—2000 years have gone by—what will keep Jesus’ life and death relevant to us today? Spiritual practices help narrow the time gap by giving us insight into the emotion of Jesus’ experiences.

As we move through the Lenten season, short guides will be available for Ash Wednesday, each Sunday, and every day of Holy Week. You can find them in print as bulletin inserts and/or on the church’s website and Facebook page. These guides will highlight the words Repent, Rebirth, Reconcile, Rejoice, Redemption, and Restore. Read through the scripture passages for these words, using them as devotional pieces.

Please feel free to share any of your Lenten experiences!